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“On July 4, A Message For Patriots Of All Persuasions”: We Need To Remind Ourselves, There Is No Monoply On Patriotism

When the flags fly proudly on the Fourth of July, I always remember what my late father taught me about love of country. He was a deeply patriotic man, much as he despised the scoundrels and pretenders he liked to mock as “jelly-bellied flag flappers.”  It is a phrase from a Rudyard Kipling story that aptly describes the belligerent chicken-hawk who never stops squawking – someone like Dick Cheney or Rush Limbaugh.

Like many who volunteered for the U.S. Army in World War II, my dad never spoke much about his four tough years of military service, which brought him under Japanese bombardment in the Pacific theatre. But eventually there came a time when he attached to his lapel a small, eagle-shaped pin, known as a “ruptured duck” – a memento given to every veteran. With this proof of service, he demonstrated that as a lifelong liberal, he loved his country as much as any conservative.

Would such a gesture resonate today? Right-wingers have long sought to establish a monopoly on patriotic expression. On this holiday, when we celebrate the nation’s revolutionary founding, we need to remind ourselves just how hollow that right-wing tactic is and always has been. Only our historical amnesia permits the right – infested with neo-Confederates and other dubious types — to assert an exclusive franchise on the flag, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the whole panoply of national symbols. In the light of history, it should be plain that progressives are fully entitled to a share of America’s heritage; indeed, perhaps even more than their right-wing rivals.

Let’s begin at the official beginning. Although “right” and “left” didn’t define political combat at that time on these shores, there isn’t much doubt that behind the American Revolution, and in particular the Declaration of Independence, was not only a colonial elite but a cabal of left-wing radicals as well.

How else to describe Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, the revolutionary idealists who declared their contempt for monarchy and aristocracy? It is true that many of their wealthier and more cautious comrades in the Continental Congress disdained Adams as a reckless adventurer “of bankrupt fortune,” and Paine as a rabble-rousing scribbler. Of course popular democracy was a wildly radical doctrine in colonial times, only tamed in the writing of the Constitution by the new nation’s land-owning elites and slaveholders.

The right-wingers of that era were the Tories — colonists who remained loyal to the British crown, opposed to change, and, in their assistance to George III’s occupying army, exactly the opposite of patriots. Only after two centuries of ideological shifting can Tea Party “constitutionalists” claim that the republican faith of the Founding Fathers is “conservative.”

The Civil War was just as plainly a struggle between left and right, between patriots and … well, in those days the Confederate leaders were deemed traitors (a term avoided since then out of a decent concern for Southern sensibilities). Academics dispute the war’s economic and social basis, but there is no doubt that the 19th-century left sought to abolish slavery and preserve the Union, while its right-wing contemporaries fought to extend slavery and destroy the Union.

Reverence for the Confederacy remains an emotional touchstone for right-wing Southern politicians and intellectuals (not to mention the Ku Klux Klan, assorted neo-Nazis, and many activists in the Tea Party). All of these disreputable elements denigrate Lincoln, our greatest president, and promote nostalgia for the plantation, sometimes known as “the Southern way of life.” The latest example is Chris McDaniel, the defeated Tea Party candidate for the Senate in Mississippi, a flag-waver if ever there was one – except when he was delivering fiery speeches to the secessionist Sons of Confederate Veterans. At the risk of offending every “conservative” who runs around with a Stars and Bars bumper sticker, it is hard to see how his conduct qualifies as American patriotism.

Still another inglorious episode in the annals of the right preceded World War II. The “America First” movement that opposed U.S. intervention against Hitler camouflaged itself with red, white and blue but proved to be a haven for foreign agents who were plotting against the United States. (Philip Roth brilliantly depicted this sinister campaign in The Plot Against America.)

Although Communists and pacifists had opposed American entry into the war for their own reasons, the broad-based left of the New Deal coalition understood the threat from the Axis very early. After Pearl Harbor most conservatives honorably joined the war effort, but some continued to promote defeatism and appeasement. And the historical roots of postwar conservatism — the “Old Right” of Joseph McCarthy and Pat Buchanan, the Buckley family and yes, the Koch brothers — can be traced to those prewar Nazi sympathizers.

What does true patriotism mean today? Do you truly love your country if you are a corporate leader hiding billions of dollars in profits offshore or insisting on the declining wages that have ruined the American dream? Do you love your country if you demand the right to pollute its air and water and despoil its countryside, no matter the cost to future generations? Do you love your country when you scheme to deprive your fellow citizens of the right to vote, which so many died to preserve?

Somehow the wingers righteously wrap themselves in Old Glory, as if our heritage belongs to them alone. On this holiday, and every other day, it surely does not.

 

By: Joe Conason, Featured Post, The National Memo, July 4, 2014

July 4, 2014 Posted by | Founding Fathers, Fouth of July, Patriotism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Supreme Anointment Court”: Sheltered From Sun And Light In Our Nation’s Holiest Building

True Blood, the magic, devilish, vampire TV world of shape-shifters where blood is a bottled commodity to drink in a bar and extreme graphic violence and sex is recklessly paired will finally have the stake driven into its heart and exit at the conclusion of this seventh season.

I remember the show’s big surprise lesson from season one that no matter how scary and powerful, vampires cannot enter your home without being invited. However, there is no end in site of the bad true bloody struggles between the five conservative and four liberal justices of our Supreme Court, and no matter how societal changing a Court decision is, the public mostly never gets invited in, never gets to be witness to these omnipotent secret cultish figures dressed in robes sitting elevated and fortressed behind sacred wood protected in their house from uninvited intruders while drinking their own ideological dogmatic “blood.” We never get to see their clever shape-shifting after taking up the bar forever in residence chambered and sheltered from sun and light in our nation’s holiest building. We never get to experience these high priests of the constitution experiencing the life we live that they interpret for us. We never get to see whose influential blood and money they drink that becomes the magic elixir of their last words that toss the ingredients of our melting pot. We never get to see their expressions as indicators of how bad the blood between them might really be as they depart company after each session to take solace and recharge in their secluded coffined off chamber.

Throughout much of our history, we have mostly accepted, obeyed, revered and patiently waited with undying respect for the Court’s directives. We knew they knew better what was better for our society. For Americans, this was the place where evil, malice, patronage, cronyism, politics, and the compromising inducements of avarice and greed humans are so easily soiled by held to a higher standard that truly defined how great a system ours was. We hardly ever get to see this side of the court any more. Just as divided and unpredictable as the world depicted in True Blood, the Supremes on the Court dominated by extremist conservatives are driving the stake into the disunited states of America.

Recent polling supports the perception of a society absolutely at odds with all forms of government. The Supreme Court has lost the confidence of Americans. We are now adrift without a moral compass, without checks and balances, without a credible mandate voice in any of our three plus media equals four branches of government. A majority of voters elected President Obama twice with such a mandate. But increasingly, we are witnessing a court that has anointed itself as representative to its secreted world to drive The Stake to drain the blood of Obama-ism. What after-world can and will emerge in such a divided state and in what state of health and personhood will each of us be in at that time? As we do get to witness many hot spots around the globe descend into horror, can we save America and ourselves?

 

By: Allen Schmertzler, The Huffington Post Blog, July 3, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

July 4, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Supreme Court | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“This Just Shouldn’t Be Possible”: Job Creation Trips Up GOP Message Machine

The more America’s job market improves, the tougher it is for Republicans to explain what’s happening. According to GOP talking points, tax hikes, regulations, and “Obamacare” are dragging down the economy, making it impossible for employers to create jobs.

And yet, the unemployment rate is at a six-year low, we’re on track for the best year for jobs since the Clinton era, and we just broke the record for the most consecutive months of private-sector job gains. For the right, this just shouldn’t be possible.

So how do Republicans reconcile the reality and their rhetoric? At least at Fox News, the answer is to ignore the inconvenient truths. Dylan Byers noted:

We won’t do the screen shots this time, but per usual FoxNews.com is the one major news site downplaying Thursday’s positive employment report. CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post are all leading their sites with the news (in large fonts, no less). Fox News has it buried in fine print on a sidebar.

It’s hard to argue that such a decision is a matter of unbiased editorial judgment.

Ya think?

Given recent history – good news is ignored, bad news is trumpeted – it’s probably safe to assume the right’s not-so-subtle approach is intended to keep the bubble intact for conservative audiences.

But even funnier was House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) unintentionally hilarious statement in response to the new jobs report.

The headline clearly says the press released relates to the “June 2014 Unemployment Report,” but remarkably, the Speaker of the House managed to issue a statement that ignores the June 2014 Unemployment Report.

“The House has passed dozens of jobs bills that would mean more paychecks and more opportunities for middle-class families.  But in order for us to make real progress, the president must do more than criticize.  From trade to workplace flexibility, there’s no shortage of common ground where he can push his party’s leaders in the Senate to work with us.  Until he provides that leadership, he is simply part of the problem.  For our part, we will continue to listen to and address the concerns of Americans who are still asking ‘where are the jobs?’”

Look, it’s the day before a major national holiday. It’s quite possible that Boehner never even saw the job numbers and this statement was written days ago and released to the media by some poor intern stuck in a largely empty office.

But given the importance of jobs to the American public, is it really too much to ask that Boehner put a little effort into this? Let’s unpack the response to jobs data that managed to ignore jobs data:

* “The House has passed dozens of jobs bills.” Actually, it hasn’t. If you look at Boehner’s list of “jobs bills,” it’s primarily a bunch of bills written for and by the oil industry, encouraging drilling everywhere. Here’s the challenge for the Speaker’s office: put together a jobs bill, subject it to independent scrutiny, find out how many jobs it would create, and get back to us. We’ve been waiting for three years. It hasn’t happened.

* “[T]he president must do more than criticize.” Well, he has. Obama has sent real, independently scored bills that would create jobs. The House Republican majority has so far failed to even vote on them.

* “Until he provides that leadership, he is simply part of the problem.” Boehner is practically allergic to leadership, unable to convince his own far-right caucus to listen to him on most issues, making this a curious line of attack. Regardless, the president, unlike the hapless Speaker, has lowered unemployment and has presented real plans to expand on this progress. Can Boehner say the same?

* “For our part, we will continue to listen.” To whom? I can think of a whole lot of measures that Americans have urged Congress to pass, which Boehner has ignored entirely. Who exactly does the Speaker think he’s listening to?

* “[A]ddress the concerns of Americans who are still asking ‘where are the jobs?’” They’re right here. If the Speaker’s office looked at the jobs report before commenting on the jobs report, this would have been obvious.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 3, 2014

 

July 4, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Jobs, John Boehner | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Why The NRA Is Staying Silent On Target’s Gun Bun”: Idea of Public Being Safer If People Don’t Walk Around With Guns Is Spreading

Last week the mega-chain Target joined Chipotle and Starbucks in making their stores places where customers have a good chance of getting gunned down. At least this is what the NRA believes will happen now that the company’s CEO announced that Target shoppers should leave their guns at home. Everyone remembers the NRA’s reaction after Sandy Hook — namely, that schools that were gun-free zones invited kooks like Adam Lanza to walk in and start blasting away. But the notion that public space is safer if people don’t walk around with guns seems to be spreading and it’s interesting that the NRA’s response so far to Target’s new policy has been no response at all.

The gun industry is not only encountering some push-back to its notion of guns as being the best way for citizens to protect themselves against crime; they can’t even get their facts straight about whether there’s any connection between gun ownership and criminal activity at all. The NSSF (the trade association for America’s firearms industry) just posted a video which announces that “gun crimes have fallen dramatically over the past 20 years,” except the graphic that accompanies this statement shows that the entire decline took place between 1993 and 2000, which was before Obama went into the White House and gun sales soared.

Despite what John Lott says, there’s no proof that higher levels of gun violence occur in gun-free zones. And the evidence that protecting yourself with a gun may actually be less safe than using other protective methods to thwart a criminal attack — yelling, punching, running away — comes from, of all people, a scholar named Gary Kleck who first “discovered” that arming ourselves made us better able to stop crime. Kleck published a study in 1995 which, based on answers collected from interviews with 213 respondents, claimed that people used guns to prevent more than 2 million crimes from being committed each year. But in 1994 he submitted a report to the Department of Justice in which he found that defensive methods other than guns actually resulted in fewer injuries from criminal attacks. He didn’t mention these findings when he began touting the benefits of armed resistance the following year.

And neither did the NRA. Ever since the mid-1990s the gun lobby has been tirelessly beating the drums for expanding concealed carry, as well as for diminishing the list of locations where guns cannot be found. Their latest victory was Georgia, where a new law took effect July 1 which expands the right to carry a gun in locations that serve alcohol, houses of worship and government facilities, as long as the owners of the affected properties don’t object.

The campaign to promote carrying guns in public places took a big step backwards, however, with the decision by Target to ask gun-toting shoppers to stay out of their stores. The announcement was worded in a way that did not absolutely ban concealed-carry in states which, unlike Georgia, don’t give property-owners the right to restrict the presence of guns. But when Target said that guns are at odds with the “family-friendly” atmosphere they try to maintain, they weren’t just sending a message to gun owners, they were sending a clear message to the gun lobby as well.

Despite twenty years of unending appeals to fears of crime and the utility of owning guns, the NRA and its allies have failed to convince a majority of Americans that walking into a public place with a gun in your pocket is the smart thing to do. What they have done is to provoke a grass-roots backlash organized and funded by a guy with lots of bucks whose efforts to get Americans behind the notion of less guns equals more safety may just begin to pay off.

 

By: Mike Weisser, The Huffington Post Blog, July 3, 2014

July 4, 2014 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Lobby, National Rifle Association, Target | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ayatollah Alito”: Still Not Sure That Elections Have Consequences?

Ayotallah Ali Hosseini Khamenei, say hello to your new comrade, Ayotallah Samuel Alito. Supreme Leader meet Supreme Court Justice.

And, no, regrettably, this is not hyperbole.

With his pronouncement in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Supreme Court Justice Alito signaled to the world that America has joined the world’s theocracies.

This extraordinary nation, borne of the Enlightenment 238 years ago to the day, will now cloak power, policy and even what qualifies as facts in the vestments of religious belief.

Because, as Justice Ginsburg noted in her dissent (p. 65ff), religious beliefs cannot be questioned either for substance or sincerity. If one, for example, asserts scientifically that IUDs prevent implantation of fertilized embryos, the scientific response would be to explain that their mechanism of action is to prevent fertilization (the sperm cannot ‘swim in a dry lake’ to reach the ovum to fertilize it).

But, if one makes the same claim religiously, then that is the end of it, even if it determines the application of public policy. The Court cannot question the assertion nor whether you believe it, and now, post Hobby Lobby, if you are empowered to act upon it, your religious beliefs determines secular policy for other people.

The Koch Boys, for example, can now claim a religious belief that carbon dioxide is not a heat-trapping gas. So, they can now violate EPA regulations so that their “religious freedom” is not burdened. Post Hobby Lobby, the Ayatollah Alito may declare that, e.g., a carbon tax is a “less restrictive” way to “impose” a science-driven public policy upon the Kochs’ religious beliefs about carbon. Will Congress, under the influence of the Koch Boys, pass such a tax? Of course not. Game… set… match… and planet.

God probably reminded Art Pope this morning that the minimum wage is a sin. Is there a “less restrictive” way to establish adequate wages for his employees, so we do not “burden” the poor sot’s religion? The Ayatollah Alito could choose between the Earned Income Tax Credit and workers’ “freedom” to bargain in the free market to establish wages. (I kid you not… listen to JFK’s rally for Medicare, especially 14:36-16:50.)

As previously described, right-wing politics is not just pro-business, it is itself a big business. The more vitriol, the more money the right-wing groups can raise, and it is protected as political speech. By contrast, when a commercial enterprise raises money from investors, or makes claims about its products, it is subject to fines and/or imprisonment for false and misleading claims.

But, that is just speech. Now, post Hobby Lobby, a simple claim of religious belief, blessed by Alito, can be used to thwart public policy so long as there is any “less restrictive alternative,” real or imagined, that can be referenced. It is a full-employment ruling for the Right Wing Belief Tanks, such as Heritage, to concoct the alternatives.

What does this mean for America? Whatever semblance of democratic government has survived its purchase as a result of the Citizens United ruling is now snuffed out by the counter-majoritarian (see, e.g., Bickel, The Least Dangerous Branch) Supreme Court. Does it, should it, matter if the “less restrictive alternative” is even viable? Who decides these matter of public policy? Our new Supreme Leaders.

It means that “closely-held” corporations will have competitive advantages against all the others as they will not have to comply with federal or state law because they are now deemed to be capable of holding religious beliefs about public policy and, if those beliefs conflict with public policy, the beliefs win.

But, it may also have consequences Alito did not consider. For example, if religious beliefs can now stay the application of public policy, will they remain forever free from scrutiny? This is quite different from advocating a public policy position grounded in religious belief. Hobby Lobby allows corporations to thwart enforcement of public policy based upon unchallengeable religious belief.

Moreover, since corporations can now, apparently, hold religious beliefs, as creations of the State, does their very existence not now violate the First Amendment’s Establishment clause? The State, after all, provides corporations with special benefits such as limitations on personal liability, licenses to operate, and so forth. If such entities can themselves have religious beliefs of any kind, has the State not helped establish these religions?

Such considerations will, of course, require the return of some enlightenment to the Supreme Court.

One can almost hear the Founders weeping.

Still not sure that elections have consequences?

 

By: Paul Abrams, The Huffington Post Blog, July 3, 2014

July 4, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, Hobby Lobby, Samuel Alito | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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