Daily Archive: 07/04/2014

Jul 04 2014

The Declaration of Political Independence

(My apologies to Thomas Jefferson)

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the citizen long guaranteed by our Constitution, a decent respect to the opinions of humankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to that separation.

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all humans are created equal, and that the People of the United States of America are endowed not only with certain unalienable rights, but also with certain rights and liberties given to them by the Founding Fathers via the Constitution of the country adopted at the birth of these United States, as well as via laws passed throughout the past 238 years. That to secure these rights and liberties, the Government has been instituted among people, deriving their power from the consent of the governed, and that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or abolish it.

Jul 04 2014

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”.

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Timothy Egan: Declaration of Independents

The election this fall will most certainly return to power the most despised Congress in the modern era, if not ever. The House, already a graveyard for common sense, will fall further under the control of politicians whose idea of legislating is to stage a hearing for Fox News. The Senate, padlocked by filibusters over everyday business, will be more of the same, with one party in nominal control.

The fastest-growing, most open-minded and least-partisan group of voters will have no say. That’s right: The independents, on this Independence Day, have never been more numerous. But they’ve never been more shut out of power. [..]

If you thought that the last election – in which 1.2 million more votes were cast for a Democratic member of the House, but the Republicans kept control by a healthy margin – was unrepresentative, the coming contest will set a new standard for mismatch between the voters’ will and the people who represent them.

Zoë Carpenter: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Was Right, and We Already Have Proof

Among the many questions raised by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby is how sweeping its legacy will be. Supporters of the decision have insisted that the ruling is “narrow,” as it explicitly addresses “closely held” corporations objecting to four specific types of birth control-including IUDs and Plan B-because the business’ owners consider them (inaccurately) to cause abortion. Besides, the Court argued, the government can just fill any coverage gaps itself, and it’s only women whom corporations are now permitted to discriminate against. “Our decision in these cases is concerned solely with the contraceptive mandate,” claimed Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority. “Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employers’ religious beliefs.”

Bullshit, is essentially what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had to say about the majority’s claim to have issued a limited ruling. In her dissent, Ginsburg deemed it “a decision of startling breadth.” She noted that “‘closely held’ is not synonymous with ‘small’,” citing corporations like Cargill, which employs 140,000 workers. Even more alarming is the majority’s endorsement of the idea that corporations can hold religious beliefs that warrant protection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In fact, it only took a day for the Court’s “narrow” decision to start to crack open. On Tuesday, the Court indicated that its ruling applies to for-profit employers who object to all twenty forms of birth control included in the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, not just the four methods at issue in the two cases decided on Monday.

Pail Krugman: Build We Won’t

You often find people talking about our economic difficulties as if they were complicated and mysterious, with no obvious solution. As the economist Dean Baker recently pointed out, nothing could be further from the truth. The basic story of what went wrong is, in fact, almost absurdly simple: We had an immense housing bubble, and, when the bubble burst, left a huge hole in spending. Everything else is footnotes.

And the appropriate policy response was simple, too: Fill that hole in demand. In particular, the aftermath of the bursting bubble was (and still is) a very good time to invest in infrastructure. In prosperous times, public spending on roads, bridges and so on competes with the private sector for resources. Since 2008, however, our economy has been awash in unemployed workers (especially construction workers) and capital with no place to go (which is why government borrowing costs are at historic lows). Putting those idle resources to work building useful stuff should have been a no-brainer.

But what actually happened was exactly the opposite: an unprecedented plunge in infrastructure spending.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: On This Fourth of July, Meet Your Unpatriotic Corporations

Years ago, I noticed that America’s major drugstore chains tend to utilize the same corporate color scheme. Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid-all patriotic in red, white, and blue. Even regional chains take their identity cues from Old Glory. But this July 4, American corporations-including one drugstore chain, in one recent example-are using tax loopholes to act in the most unpatriotic of ways.

Walgreens, The New York Times reported, is looking to relocate from Illinois to Switzerland, in the process merging with a Swiss corporation and reincorporating itself as a foreign entity. It is, bluntly, an old-fashioned tax dodge, aimed at trimming eleven percentage points off the company’s corporate tax rate. Americans for Tax Fairness estimates (pdf) that the move will cost US taxpayers more than $4 billion over the next five years. Using a procedure called “inversion,” an American company can reincorporate itself overseas as long as its domestic (US) owners retain no more than 80 percent of its stock. Walgreens, after merging with European drugstore chain Alliance Boots (itself a loophole-exploiter, having moved from the UK to Switzerland itself in order to lower its tax bill), will meet the criteria and legally become a Swiss corporation.

Kohn Nichols: Honoring the American Experiment With a Bipartisan Call for Restraint on Iraq

There are many ways to express patriotism. Yet there remains a common sense that the best expressions extend beyond ideology and partisanship to embrace the noblest ideals and deepest truths-of the American experiment.

On this July 4, in this time of deep division and money-driven hyper-partisanship, can that higher common ground still be reached?

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the California Democrat who has been the steadiest antiwar voice in the US House, and Congressman Scott Rigell, who served in the Marine Corps Reserve before representing Virginia as a very conservative Republican, have found it. They may disagree on many, perhaps most, issues. But Lee and Rigell are in absolute agreement that President Obama and Congress should resist “calls for a ‘quick’ and ‘easy’ military intervention in Iraq.”

Lee and Rigell recognize that while the rise of sectarian violence in Iraq is a serious concern, it cannot become an excuse for the casual redeployment of US troops to the country where so many Americans and so many Iraqis have already perished.

Anna Clark: Going Without Water in Detroit

A FAMILY of five with no water for two weeks who were embarrassed to ask friends if they could bathe at their house. A woman excited about purchasing a home who learned she would be held responsible for the previous owner’s delinquent water bill: all $8,000 of it. A 90-year-old woman with bedsores and no water available to clean them.

These are the stories that keep Mia Cupp up at night.

Ms. Cupp is the director of development and communication for the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, a nonprofit contracted by the state of Michigan to work as a human-services agency for Detroit. In August 2013, with a $1 million allocation, Wayne Metro became the only program to assist residents with water bills. Ms. Cupp quickly learned that this was “by far the greatest need.”

In January alone, Wayne Metro received 10,000 calls for water assistance, many of them referred directly by the Detroit Department of Water and Sewerage. It supported 904 water customers over 10 months before exhausting its funding in June. Ms. Cupp said Wayne Metro still gets hundreds of calls a day from residents. But it has no way to help them, and nowhere to refer them.

Jul 04 2014

World Cup 2014: Quarter Finals Day 1

Today start the Quarters Finals starting with the match between France and Germany in Rio de Janeiro. Naturally, the Germans think their team is better and will beat France

Toni Kroos reflected the confidence within the German ranks when he declared that his country had a better team than France and it was merely a matter of proving it in the quarter-final tie at the Maracanã.

The Bayern Munich midfielder, who refused to comment on reports linking him with a transfer to Real Madrid after the World Cup, believes that the game will be won or lost in midfield. However, he was rather more keen to advance the prospect of the former.

“France have a very strong midfield but if all of us deliver our best performance, then I believe we are the better team,” Kroos said. “But we have to show that. It’s going to be very important for us to have possession and to win the duels. Then, I believe we will really have a good opportunity to win.”

Some of the German players have come down with flu like symptoms.

Seven Germany players are suffering mild flu symptoms ahead of the quarter-final match against France on Friday, coach Joachim Loew said in a German radio interview without identifying the players.

“Seven players have somehow come down with slight cases of the flu,” Loew was quoted telling Germany’s ARD radio. He said that most had “throat aches” but did not reveal their names.

“As a result, it’s too early to make any final decisions about the line-up,” Loew added.

That is a problem.

At 4 PM EDT, Brazil and Columbia meet on the field in Fortaleza, Brazil. There has been some doubts about team Brazil having their hearts and souls in the game for a win:

Hosts Brazil barely made it out of Belo Horizonte alive, needing penalty kicks to get past Chile. They were beaten up and emotionally drained, evidenced by their tears after winning the shootout, and now they have to face a high-flying Colombian side. Led by James Rodriguez and his five goals, Colombia have been the most exciting team in the tournament. They will look to take the game to the Brazilians when the two teams meet in Fortaleza on Friday afternoon. [..]

Brazil has been less than impressive so far in the World Cup. While their defense has mostly held strong, allowing just three goals in four games, the team’s attack has been unable to possess the ball consistently and create quality chances. Up top, Fred has been unable to find his Confederations Cup form, and Oscar has only shown flashes of brilliance. Luiz Felipe Scolari will need to get those two clicking alongside Neymar and Hulk (or anybody else) if he hopes to take his team any further.

Meanwhile, American viewers have generated new interest in the game, thanks to team USA:

Combined with the 1.1 million viewers on the streaming service WatchESPN, the game exceeded 22 million viewers – despite being played in the middle of a workday.

The earlier game against Portugal pulled in about 18.2 million viewers for ESPN’s coverage, and 6.5 million on Univision – but that game was played on a Sunday afternoon, in traditional viewing hours for sports. The ESPN number alone again topped the average for this past year’s N.B.A. Finals and the baseball World Series on television.

Speaking of interest, the internet has gone viral with accolades for USA’s goal keeper Tim Howard and his record breaking 16 saves:

The Everton goalkeeper’s performance was so impressive that a White House petition was started to rename the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport after Howard and, if it receives 100,000 signatures, the US government must respond.

But the USMNT goalkeeper’s remarkable performance has been celebrated on the internet – with #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave trending – and here we show you the best virals of Howard’s feat.

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Jul 04 2014

The Breakfast Club: 7-4-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpg

This Day in History

Jul 04 2014

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:

   HERE WAS BURIED THOMAS JEFFERSON

   AUTHOR OF THE DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE

   OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

   AND FATHER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA.

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