I’m sure several of you are shaking your heads, wondering if I got the title wrong. But while American political figures officially declared their independence on July 4, 1776, winning it was another matter. And that came on a hot day in June, instead of a cold day in December.
There’s nothing wrong with your textbooks, of course. Emboldened by George Washington’s ability to maneuver the British out of Boston thanks to positioning his artillery at Dorchester Heights, America’s 2nd Continental Congress did declare their independence in Philadelphia. It’s all grandly captured in David McCullough’s book 1776 as well.
But what the texts often forget, but McCullough doesn’t, is what happened to the Americans after Independence Day. Washington suffered his worst defeat, at the Battle of Long Island. 1776 continues to be a year to forget, as Americans lose Ft. Washington and other key outposts. The army is in full retreat, and it looks bleak.
But while wins at Trenton (the famous attack on the Hessians after Christmas) and against a rear guard at Princeton give Americans a little hope, it’s dashed the following year at the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown. The British capture the American capital at Philadelphia in 1777. Many in politics want Washington replaced, by either Charles Lee or Horatio Gates.
While the British enjoy the homes and comforts of the City of Brotherly Love, Washington and his men suffer outside the town at Valley Forge. But they don’t just suffer. They train with Lafayette and Von Steuben in the snow, while the British take it easy, and the King’s officers party away. By contrast, the American officers share the miserable conditions with their men.
The next test takes place on June 28 of 1778 at Monmouth Court House (a battle reenacted every year), as the British march across New Jersey. Washington hits General Henry Clinton’s army in broad daylight, out in the open. This will be no holiday ambush, or hitting a small portion of a force. It means attacking British regulars at their full strength.
General Lee, who dislikes the plan, leads it poorly and produces a disorganized retreat. Washington relieves him of command on the spot, and organizes a rally. “Mad Anthony” Wayne, General Stirling, and Henry Knox’s artillery, the goats of Germantown, are ready to withstand an attack by General Charles Cornwallis.
The result is spectacular. Washington’s men stop Cornwallis’ attack cold, a combination of snipers and stiff resolve (and heroic stories like the legendary Molly Pitcher). While America’s cannon rake the enemy, the British guns are off on their timing. As temperatures climb to well over 100 degrees, Washington’s order for his men to leave their coats behind is brilliant. The “by-the-book British” keep the heavy items, and lose hundreds more than the Americans to heat stroke. And it’s clear who has been hard at work, practicing over the winter. Americans lose fewer soldiers in the pitched battle, and hold their ground, as the British leave the region for New York City.
But there’s a final piece that Monmouth battle archaeologists discovered, as seen on the History Channel’s Battlefield Detectives. They found, arguably for the first time, buttons issued with a simple pair of words: U.S. No longer would we see ourselves as New Yorkers first, or North Carolinians first, or Rhode Islanders first. We would be THE United States of America. And that’s a spirit the British could never beat. We’re still united, and can’t be divided.
By: John A. Tures, Professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga; The Blog, The Huffington Post, July 3, 2015
“There Is No Gosnell Coverup”: Blame Existing Policies And Public Indifference To Low-Income Communities
This week, the right wing has been working the refs, demanding to know why the press has been allegedly silent on the trial of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia doctor who allegedly committed horrific acts against his patients with impunity for years. Fox News’ Kristen Powers kicked it off with an Op-Ed in USA Today, claiming, “The deafening silence of too much of the media, once a force for justice in America, is a disgrace.” Michelle Malkin has helped spearhead a Twitter campaign. Breitbart.com calls it “a full-blown, coordinated blackout throughout the entire national media.”
And mostly, the campaign is working, generating a series of sheepish responses (and a near-instant BuzzFeed listicle). In an Atlantic piece headlined, “Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s trial should be a front page story,” Conor Friedersdorf admits, “Until Thursday, I wasn’t aware of this story … Had I been asked at a trivia night about the identity of Kermit Gosnell, I would’ve been stumped and helplessly guessed a green Muppet.” Slate’s Dave Weigel congratulated the tweeters for getting his attention and then filed a piece sympathetic to the coverup claim, lecturing pro-choice people that “You really should read that grand jury report,” and concluding, “Social conservatives are largely right about the Gosnell story.”
No, they aren’t right about the Gosnell story. If you’ve never heard of the Gosnell story, it’s not because of a coverup by the liberal mainstream media. It’s probably because you failed to pay attention to the copious coverage among pro-choice and feminist journalists, as well as the big news organizations, when the news first broke in 2011. There would be something rich, if it weren’t so infuriating, about these (almost uniformly male, as it happens) reporters and commentators scrambling to break open this shocking untold story. You know, the one that was written about here, here and here, to name some disparate sources.
I can’t speak for big news organizations like CNN and the networks, but let’s think about this question another way: How often do such places devote their energies to covering the massive health disparities and poor outcomes that are wrought by our current system? How often are the travails of the women whose vulnerabilities Gosnell exploited — the poor, immigrants and otherwise marginalized people — given wall-to-wall, trial-level coverage? If you’re surprised that in the face of politicized stigma, lack of public funding or good information, and a morass of restrictive laws allegedly meant to protect women, the vacuum was filled by a monster — well, the most generous thing I can say is that you haven’t been paying attention.
But since you’re here, guys — welcome. Here are some important things to know about the tragedies committed in Gosnell’s clinic, based on the sources you missed. This week, as Virginia-based pro-choice activist Michelle Kinsey Bruns noted on Twitter, “Fitting that the right is trying to whip folks into a frenzy over
#Gosnell the same day VA is trying to put safe abortion care out of reach.” She’s referring to so-called TRAP laws, which are regulations aimed at abortion clinics that have nothing to do with safety — say, the size of parking lots — to seek to drive them out of business, and which are expected to go forward in a vote today. According to Tara Murtha, a Philadelphia-based reporter who has been covering the Gosnell case from the start, in the aftermath of Pennsylvania’s own TRAP laws, the state went from 22 free-standing clinics to 13. As Murtha puts it, “The bottom line is that politicizing abortion led to Gosnell. Their answer? Politicize it more.”
After all, the question is not just why the state failed to respond to the complaints of women and advocates who visited the clinic, although that matters hugely. It’s why women kept going there anyway: because they felt they had no alternative. Read this account from Jeff Deeney, a social worker from Philadelphia, who points out that the lack of public funding for abortion is a big factor leading desperate women to Gosnell: “It’s worth noting for outsiders that Health Center #4 which serves the same neighborhood is the best in town, providing quality care for the uninsured poor. But Health Centers don’t do abortions, and Medicaid, where a TANF mom’s insurance coverage would come from, if she had any at all, doesn’t pay for them. And for these women the cost of paying for an abortion out of pocket breaks the budget, leaving mom scrambling to make next month’s rent or possibly wind up on the street.” Cost is also how women often get past the legal gestational limit, as they struggle to save up enough money — and Gosnell’s willingness to break the law was what made him their last chance. To everyone who thinks his case was a reason for more abortion restrictions: What he did was already illegal.
A new abortion clinic opened up recently in Kansas, a rare event that itself directly pointed to why there are ever-fewer legitimate abortion providers. It’s housed in a clinic that once housed the practice of Dr. George Tiller, murdered by an antiabortion extremist. As RH Reality Check reported, the clinic’s new providers are already being threatened, and in a jailhouse conversation with Tiller’s murderer, another extremist said of the opening, “It is a reckless act. It is not the act of someone who values their own safety. It is a gauntlet thrown down, by someone who wants a fight.” How much have you heard about that?
By all means, be up in arms about Kermit Gosnell. But blame existing policies and public indifference to low-income communities.
By: Irin Carmon, Salon, April 12, 2013
In 2008, Milwaukee, Wisconsin became the third city in America to guarantee workers paid sick leave, joining Washington D.C. and San Fransisco. These cities are stepping up to fill a void left by the federal government, which is content to leave America as one of the only countriesin the developed world that does not guarantee workers paid time off if they are sick.
The sick leave law was approved by referendum — with nearly 70 percent of voters in favor — and was upheld a few weeks ago by the state’s court of appeals. However, Republicans in the Wisconsin state legislature passed a bill preempting the city’s law and ensuring that no jurisdiction within the state of Wisconsin is allowed to decide it wants to mandate paid sick days. Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) — who gained notoriety for proposing a law stripping public sector workers of their collective bargaining rights and sparking mass protests — signed the anti-sick leave bill into law today:
Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill that prohibits local governments from passing ordinances guaranteeing workers’ paid sick and family leave…Walker, a Republican, says in a statement the bill removes another barrier to creating jobs.
But Walker’s concern about job-loss is overblown. The Drum Major Institute conducted a study examining San Francisco’s paid sick leave law and found “no evidence that businesses in San Francisco have been negatively impacted by the enactment of paid sick leave.” In fact, the U.S. economy as a whole loses $180 billion in productivity annually due to sick employees attending work and infecting other workers.
Despite Walker’s misguided action, as the National Association of Working Women noted, plenty of other cities are forging ahead with paid sick leave legislation:
In Philadelphia, a paid sick days bill was passed out of a City Council committee a few weeks ago, and in Connecticut, the state legislature is moving forward on a bill with bipartisan support. Paid sick days legislation in New York City has 35 City Council sponsors, legislation is about to be introduced in Seattle, and more than a dozen states have coalitions advocating actively for paid sick days and paid family leave policies. San Francisco and Washington, DC have already implemented paid sick days laws.
In the end, repealing Milwaukee’s paid sick leave law is simply one more way in which Walker is undertaking his assault on Wisconsin’s workers.
By: Pat Garofalo, The Wonk Room, Think Progress, May 5, 2011
By the time U.S. Navy SEALs shot Osama bin Laden dead in his Pakistan hideaway, he was already becoming a historical anachronism. During his 10 years of running and hiding, events had passed him by. In the end, he appeared more David Koresh than Hitler or Napoleon — a religious zealot imprisoned by his own homicidal delusions, and little more.
“I am confident that Muslims will be able to end the legend of the so-called superpower that is America,” bin Laden once said. Like most fanatics, however, he failed to grasp the resilience of our democracy. America had largely recovered from the terrible strategic blunders that fear and outrage over the 9/11 atrocity had driven it to.
Al-Qaida’s hope was to lure the United States into Afghanistan, where they imagined it would destroy itself like the Soviet Union. That the neoconservative cabal inside the Bush administration would use the attack to justify invading Iraq provided an unanticipated propaganda boost.
The U.S., bin Laden told a CNN interviewer in 1997, “wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources, impose agents on us to rule us and then wants us to agree to this … If we refuse to do so, it says we are terrorists.”
But images of Abu Ghraib faded as Iraq’s fratricidal strife yielded to steadfast military and diplomatic effort; America’s intention to leave Iraq became clear. Recent political tumult across the Arab world has owed nothing to bin Laden’s fever dream of a restored Islamic empire.
Writing from Benghazi, Libya, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen celebrated the liberation of “the captive Arab mind.”
“Bin Laden’s rose-tinged caliphate was the solace of the disenfranchised, the disempowered and the desperate,” Cohen added. “A young guy with a job, a vote and prospects does not need virgins in paradise.”
None of which should diminish our satisfaction at bin Laden’s death. I happened to be watching the Phillies-Mets game Sunday night when spontaneous cheers of “USA, USA!” broke out as fans got the news on their cellphones. For once, ESPN delivered a non-sports headline at the bottom of the screen.
My brother the Mets fan called the next day to express his feelings. Thirteen people from our New Jersey hometown, he reminded me, died on 9/11. I didn’t know any of them personally, but he knew several victims. Nothing can bring the victims back or erase their loved ones’ pain. Avenging those deaths, however, brought exactly what President Obama said it did: justice.
Bin Laden could have surrendered. Instead, he took the easy way out. Good riddance to him.
Everybody’s got their own way of remembering. Me, I get out my “Concert for New York” DVD and watch the Who turn Madison Square Garden upside down with a thunderous rendition of “We Won’t Get Fooled Again” — maybe the most powerful rock anthem ever written — for an audience of uniformed New York cops, firefighters and EMTs.
Announcing themselves honored to be invited, the English band played in front of a huge projection of the U.S. flag, the Union Jack and the World Trade Center. I can’t watch it dry-eyed. Everybody in the crowd looks like my cousin or somebody I grew up with.
No doubt you’ve got your own 9/11 memories. The question is: What to do with those thoughts and emotions now? Will the feelings of unity — those cheering fans in Philadelphia were Democrats and Republicans alike — bring about a lessening of partisan political anger?
President George W. Bush was quick to offer congratulations. Even Dick Cheney was gracious for once. It was Cheney’s classless accusation that President Obama was risking national security by dropping the “Global War on Terror” trope that set the tone for strident rejection of his legitimacy.
Soft on terror? Obama not only accomplished what the previous administration hadn’t done in eight years of trying, he’d put his presidency on the line. Had the SEALs’ mission in Pakistan failed like President Carter’s 1980 attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran, the recriminations would never have ended. Instead, it revealed Obama as one tough, shrewd cookie.
“For most Americans,” writes the New Yorker’s George Packer, “the killing of Osama bin Laden is the equivalent of a long-form birth certificate in establishing Barack Obama’s bona fides as commander-in-chief.”
Realistically, however, not much has changed except American self-confidence. The truth is that the nation panicked somewhat after 9/11. Anxious to find an opponent worthy of their own revolutionary romanticism, Bush administration neoconservatives turned Osama bin Laden into a virtual Hitler to suit their own Churchillian fantasies.
“Islamofascism” they called it. Enraged and distraught, many Americans bought it. Except that bin Laden’s deluded followers posed no military threat to the integrity of the United States or any Western nation. At worst they were capable of theatrical acts of mass murder like the 9/11 attacks.
And that was sufficient evil indeed.
By: Gene Lyons, Salon War Room, May 4, 2011
A meeting of the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops is scheduled for June. It needs to repair the gaping holes uncovered in their “zero tolerance” mandate for priests suspected of sexually abusing children.
A grand jury report in February found that the Philadelphia archdiocese, for all its announced safeguards, allowed 37 suspect priests to remain in parish work. The indictment of a layman and four church figures — including a monsignor accused of covering up abuse — is proof that the bishops’ system of local and national review boards isn’t strong enough.
Board appointees are supposedly equipped to scrutinize each diocese’s adherence to zero tolerance. But the grand jury in Philadelphia found that the hierarchy there continued to protect accused priests despite repeated scandals and vows for reform.
The leader of the Philadelphia review board pointed to one major weakness: currently, any allegations about rogue priests are first vetted by chancery officials working for the archdiocese. They rightly should go directly to the review boards. This should be a universal no-brainer, along with stronger outside auditing of safeguard programs. Both were initially required, but the bishops subsequently eased that to a policy of “self-reporting” with audits every three years.
The haunting question is how many other Philadelphias may be out there.
A church review panel of laypeople formed in 2002 looked beyond zero tolerance for priests and warned that “there must be consequences” for bishops who engineered cover-ups. More than 700 priests had to be dismissed in a three-year period. But there has been nothing close to an accounting of bishops’ culpability in protecting predatory priests and paying hush money to contain complaints. This is a fact for the bishops to ponder at their June meeting alongside the shocking grand jury report.
By: Editorial, The New York Times, April 1, 2011