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Posts Tagged ‘4th of july’

Wishing America a Happier Birthday

Friday, July 4th, 2014

democracy_a-challenge@TP. . . And Many Happy Returns

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. —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

—from ¶ 2 of The Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia, July 4, 1776

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Bloggers on politics and current affairs tend to welcome the Fourth of July not only for the fireworks and cookouts like everyone else, but also because America’s Birthday provides an occasion for a kind of midsummer Thanksgiving. It’s also a time when we cannot help but feel the contrast between the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and our nation’s present-day actualities. Of course the nation is inevitably found wanting—as any nation would be—but the holiday can be a time to take stock of our fitness, in the same way a person who wants to lose weight or build strength weighs herself, looks in the mirror, and resolves to strive harder and smarter at the gym and the grocery store.

America.2In the neighborhood cinema last week we saw a trailer for America: Imagine the World Without Her, the new film by Dinesh D’Souza (based on his book of the same title), which challenges audiences to imagine the world without the greatness that is the United States of America as we (conservatives) know it, or her. The film shows the Statue of Liberty and other national icons disintegrating as one what-if after another strips away the essential components of our national history.

Now, the film may or may not be worth seeing, but what these images of disintegration called to mind almost immediately was the ravaging effect of the Supreme conservatives and Tea Partiers in Congress and in state legislatures who are dismantling the New Deal, the Great Society, stripping away the social safety net, refusing funding for rebuilding roads, bridges, and levees, revoking hard-won voting rights protections, and blocking access to health care for women and the poor and to common forms of birth control. (See William Greider’s powerful essay “Rolling Back the 20th Century,” a survey that’s as illuminating today as when The Nation published it in 2003.)

Here are some things we are thankful for on the nation’s birthday:

Domestic affairs: Although the Labor Department’s reports are not to be taken at face value because their numbers do not indicate the nearly 6 million who have given up trying to find jobs, we are pleased to see that about 2.5 million jobs were created in the last year, and over 9.4 million jobs have been created over the last several years. A New York Times editorial today (“Jobs Rebound, Prosperity Lags”) reports:

The economy added 288,000 jobs in June, and tallies for April and May were revised upward, bringing job creation over the past year to 2.49 million, the highest level in five years. The unemployment rate also fell to 6.1 percent, the lowest level in nearly six years, and, even better, the decline was unambiguously good news. It resulted from people getting hired and not leaving the work force.

The editorial goes on to note, however, that

Job growth is still falling short by 6.7 million jobs, including government jobs that were lost and not replaced, plus jobs that were needed to keep up with the population but not created. The jobless rate would be 9.6 percent, if it counted nearly six million people who would be looking for work or working if the economy were stronger.

Regrettably (to put it lightly), much of this weakness could be avoided by aggressive congressional action—and it’s never too late. Many, many jobs could be created, and others kept, if another stimulus were to be enacted, a really robust one this time; or if congressional Republicans would allow a vote on the American Jobs Act that President Obama first proposed in a speech to a joint session of Congress in September 2011, and for which he campaigned vigorously. (Click here to see what that act would have provided for—e.g., $35 billion in aid to states and cities to prevent teacher layoffs, and $50 billion for investments in transportation infrastructure.)

Executive actions: We are pleased that President Obama, who for too long tried to be reasonable and conciliatory with an opposition party that had already resolved to block him at every turn and allow no legislative accomplishments, ever, has recently, and with evident relish, turned to executive actions to do what he can on issues that cannot wait—such as raising the minimum wage for federal workers and for workers employed by federal contractors, on making the U.S. better prepared to combat climate change, etc. Other executive orders can be found here. As President Obama remarked before a July 1 cabinet meeting:

. . . what I’m going to be urging all of you to do, and what I’m going to be continually pushing throughout this year and for the next couple of years is that if Congress can’t act on core issues that would actually make a difference in helping middle-class families get ahead, then we’re going to have to be creative about how we can make real progress.

Meanwhile, congressional Republicans offer no solutions of their own and continue to block all Democratic attempts at progress on creating jobs, on funding of badly needed infrastructure projects, on comprehensive immigration reform, on gun control, and other matters on which the Obama administration has pushed for legislative action. (See, for instance, “GOP Is Not to Be Trusted with Adult Responsibilities,” LNW 10/17/13, and “Jobs, Jobs . . . Senate Republicans Keep Vets Unemployed,” LNW 9/25/12.)

Foreign affairs: We are reassured (for the most part) that this president is secure enough in his own judgment about national security and the expertise of his advisers that he will not be rushed into a knee-jerk military response to the latest crisis in Iraq (or what used to be known as Iraq). We are relieved, for example, that he does not worry about what John McCain will say. Regarding Iraq and the ISIS crisis, we are writing to the White House and to the Democratic Senate leadership to urge them to keep diplomacy first, to keep U.S. involvement minimal, military action nonexistent if possible, and to use every opportunity to think long-term and use diplomatic pressure to try to bring about more equitable representation of Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds in Iraq’s national government.

We remain impressed that the president opted not to authorize military strikes on Syria, as he considered doing around last Labor Day—that was the right call, in our view, and a courageous exercise of restraint—and that he and Secretary of State John Kerry have worked to reduce Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile (nearly all disposed of now, we’re told), with cooperation from Russia. We also applaud Obama for being a vigorous supporter, since his days in the Senate, of nuclear nonproliferation efforts and of arms reduction agreements with Russia, particularly the New Start Treaty of 2010 (thanks also to former Senator Dick Lugar, Republican of Indiana, along with then-Senator John Kerry).

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“Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends”

vintage-flagWe continue to believe in the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution, and, as long as gross inequities and injustices exist, we expect never to be really satisfied with this nation that has such immense potential. Much has been given to this country, and much is expected of it. Perhaps it is only through our own individual efforts at cultivating peace and protecting liberty, including our neighbors’—the America within each of us—that the nation can be brought closest to its fulfillment.

This formerly (and ever potentially) great country deserves better, so much better, than what many of its elected officials are doing for it at present. (Country First, or Party First?) On this national holiday, the nation’s birthday, let us all, let each of us, recommit to do our part.

“Work as if you are in the early days of a better nation.” —Alasdair Gray

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Further Reading:

On July 4, Yearning for a Progressive American Revolution” (LNW 7/4/13)

Charles M. Blow, New York Times: “Barack the Bear

Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog: “Obama no longer cares whether the GOP is outraged

GOP Is Not to Be Trusted with Adult Responsibilities: Two-Week Tantrum Epitomizes GOP’s Recovery-Strangling Refusal to Share in Work of Governing (LNW, 10/17/13)

Review of Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution 

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Illustration credit: “Democracy . . . a challenge” found at Think Progress.

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On Independence Day, with Help from a Founding Mother

Monday, July 4th, 2011

“In the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could.”

Abigail Adams, letter to John Adams, then in Philadelphia, March 31, 1776

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On holidays we like to take a break from our often critical attitude about “what fresh hell” is breaking forth and to say something affirmative about the meaning of the day and why it is celebrated.

Everyone knows that the Fourth of July, which we prefer to think of as Independence Day, celebrates the new United States of America’s (declaration of) independence from Britain. This is true, and this is good.

But, today, after reading that the median pay for a CEO of the top 200 corporations in the U.S. is $10.9 million—$10.9 million for a single individual—up 23% since 2009 (how many jobs could that money create when the unemployment rate has exceeded 9% since May 2009, with at least 15 million lacking any job at all?) . . . and knowing that Congress in its wisdom recently extended the reduced (35%) rate of taxation for those millionaires (rather than let it return to 39%), a reduced taxation that continues for the 10th year to starve the national treasury of desperately needed revenues . . . and while as a related result “leaders” of a purportedly serious and fiscally responsible political party insist in budget deficit talks that revenue increases of any kind are “off the table” . . . Then we have to ask what freedom and what liberty do the ordinary people of this nation have anymore?

Are we the people free from corporate dominion? Are the press and the airwaves free? Are the 15+ million unemployed free to work and earn a living wage? Are the young graduates of our schools free to find jobs worthy of their skills and intelligence? Are workers free to negotiate with employers about their wages and working conditions? Are we citizens free to see a substantial portion of our tax dollars go to education and social safety net programs like health care assistance and Social Security? Are we free to say that the tax dollars we’re compelled to pay will not go to the wars that a majority of the population wants to end? Are women free to determine their own reproductive choices without shame or criminal prosecution? Are their doctors free to advise them simply on the basis of medical science?

Truly it seems that a different form of servitude—or maybe there’s another word for it—has taken hold of this country while a hypnotized, narcotized, War-on-Terror-ized populace is reminded constantly of “our freedoms.” Would these be the same freedoms for which American soldiers who can’t find a job anywhere else are sent to fight in tour after tour of duty in three simultaneous wars, then are brought home, if not in a box, to fend for themselves for jobs and health care?

Just askin’.

But on a more positive note, which we really do want to strike: We do sincerely tip our hats (we wear several) to salute those brave patriots of the Revolutionary War, and to the Founding Fathers who composed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States—but also to the Founding Mothers we rarely hear about, such as Abigail Smith Adams (1744–1818), aka Mrs. John Adams.

Particularly in a year that has seen, “from sea to shining sea,” systematic and relentless efforts by state and federal legislatures to strip away the rights of workers and voters, and rape-like assaults on women’s reproductive freedoms—and when a couple of women are campaigning for the presidency even though they appear not to believe in the idea of governing, or of learning—some passages from the wise Mrs. Adams are worth pondering, and practicing, enacting.

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Get in Barack’s Face @ my.barackobama.com: Hold Firm on Iraq Withdrawal

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

Let next year’s 4th of July be a celebration of America’s independence from war and Iraqi Freedom from American occupation

LNW_ProudAgainstWar2We are confident that despite the media reports and rumors that Barack Obama is thinking of ‘refining’ his plan to end the war in Iraq, this does not mean he is retreating from his commitment. People are asking if Obama is backpedaling to the center, willing to relax his positions to win votes. (Arianna Huffington details “Seven Things Barack Obama Should Do to Keep from Blowing It” in a recent post on Huffington Post.) Incredibly, yet predictably, the McCain campaign claims that Obama is now coming around to McCain’s position on the war. Not bloody likely. The Republicans want to blur distinctions, but the candidates’ positions are starkly different. As Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo lucidly points out:

One candidate believes the US occupation is the solution; the other thinks it’s the problem. John McCain supports the permanent deployment of US troops in Iraq. That is why his hundred years remark isn’t some gotcha line. It’s a clear statement of his policy. Obama supports a deliberate and orderly withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. It’s a completely different view of America’s role in the world and future in the Middle East.

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