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Fourth of July Open Thread: What does it mean to be an American?

I missed the parade. Which seems about right. Read below the fold...

WaPo starts Goring Hillary Clinton -- 29 months before election day 2016!

chezmadame alerts us to a new series from old-school blogger The Howler (Bob Somerby) who, for readers who came in late, owns the story of how our famously free press constructed a (false) narrative around Al Gore in 2000 -- remember "Al Gore invented the Internet"? Disinformation! -- and how they are using the same well-worn playbook against Hillary Clinton. I'm going to quote most of it so those of you who aren't familiar with The Howler can get the flavor:

Part 1—Balz on board: With the death of his mentor, the late David Broder, Dan Balz is sometimes considered the dean of the Washington press corps.

In yesterday’s Washington Post,
Balz affirmed the instant narrative his own newspaper created last week. In the process, he raised a question which can only be answered by the anthropologists who emerge, on the rare occasion, from within his own corrupt guild.

A pause to remind readers that the Howler originate the "media critique." He's the original, and still the best. (Media Matters, by contrast, is a funded Democratic talking shop, not some guy in Baltimore like Somerby.) Read below the fold...

Another blinding flash of the obvious

Hobby Lobby converted ObamaCare defender Michael Hilzick to single payer. Now, something -- general suckitude? -- has converted Ryan Cooper to the MMT position that deficits are too small:

Ever since 2009, when the recession and the stimulus package pushed the annual budget deficit to a peak of nearly $1.5 trillion, it has been falling steadily. Last year it came in at $680 billion; this year it is projected to total $492 billion.

This is an absolute disaster. It is President Obama's single greatest failure, representing the fact that he, and the rest of the American government, did not adequately respond to the Great Recession. It means that millions of Americans were kept out of work, that trillions in potential output was flushed down the toilet, and that the American economy was very seriously damaged, probably permanently, for no reason at all.

Simply keeping government employment on the Bush-era course would have directly created 1.5 million more jobs, and hundreds of thousands more through the multiplier effect, in which jobs beget jobs through increased consumer spending. Another stimulus would have had us at full employment years ago (and possibly would have even paid for itself in fiscal terms).

Instead, we've slashed spending and fired hundreds of thousands of government workers.

Of course, the situation is not entirely Obama's fault, given the pressure he was under from all sides to lower the deficit. His major failing was threefold: underestimating how dangerous undershooting the stimulus would be (despite being warned at the time), banking on a Grand Bargain to shore up his bipartisan credentials in the run-up to the 2012 election, and failing to understand how irresistible austerity would be to Washington insiders. Think of austerity as a big shiny bag of crystal meth, and D.C. elites as a bunch of jittery speed freaks who haven't had a fix in weeks.

As Mike Grunwald convincingly demonstrated in his book, it was "centrist" senators like Arlen Specter who negotiated the stimulus down to $800 billion for no reason. However, that Obama didn't even try to win a bigger stimulus through a much bigger ask, or implement other mechanisms like a trigger that would keep spending flowing so long as unemployment was high, demonstrates his commitment to fixing the economy was weak at best.

Because after the stimulus was passed, Obama pivoted immediately to austerity, trying repeatedly to strike a Grand Bargain with Republicans. It was only total GOP intransigence that repeatedly saved our threadbare social insurance programs from being slashed.

For my money, the crazed bipartisan panic over the budget deficit that swept the political class in 2010 is the single most contemptible [a very strong word] political event of the Obama era.

In a time of many, many contemptible events. Read below the fold...

In the garden: First Black-Eyed Susan

Soon there will be many, many!

Read below the fold...

Tweet of the day

In the garden: Wildflowers bloom

Perhaps not very thrilllng, but the whole sea of green is wildflowers, so perhaps there will be many more shortly! Read below the fold...

Tweet of the day

In the garden: Rose cuttings

OK, so where do I cut this stem so more flowers grow? I've always been confused about that, and the online images all seem to be well-bred roses, not my messy -- and very fragrant -- rosa rugosa.

Read below the fold...

Hysterical Democrats

I guess they must be bringing in the bucks. But ... Wowsers.

Read below the fold...

Why stay in college? Why go to nightschool?

Look at this chart from Reuters:

Productivity up, wages flat. So why bother to work harder or better? Oh, the title: Read below the fold...

One more thing to worry about: Ebola

A friend of mine has given up following "the Great Game" being played on the Black Sea and around the Mediterranean basin in favor of following an Ebola outbreak on the former Slave Coast of Africa:

Since March, medical professionals in western Africa have been battling a raging Ebola epidemic. Now, it has officially become the most deadly outbreak of the virus ever.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the epidemic has so far killed more than 390 people and afflicted more than 600 in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, where the current outbreak originated. That's deadlier than the virus's first outbreak in 1976 near the Ebola River in the current-day Democratic Republic of Congo which killed 280 people.

Resources are also wearing thin. "The epidemic is out of control," Bart Janssens, the director of operations for Médecins Sans Frontières (the French version of Doctors Without Borders) said in a statement. "We have reached our limits. Despite the human resources and equipment deployed by [Doctors Without Borders] in the three affected countries, we are no longer able to send teams to the new outbreak sites."

Here's a map; I've helpfully indicated the international airports: Read below the fold...

In the garden: Bring on the hummingbirds!

The bee balm popped today:

So I look forward my garden being put on the hummingbird nectar circuit forthwith. Actually, though, already is -- I saw the yellow honeysuckle across the garden shaking, and then saw the tiny fat jet fighter-like body of a hummingbird zoom away, metaphorical afterburners aflame. If I recall correctly, in past years hummingbirds tended to show up in the cool of the day, which makes sense: Minimal energy expenditure with respect to nectar yield.

And speaking of invasive plants: Read below the fold...

Goofball Roberts Court rules corporations can excercise religious liberty in Hobby Lobby case

How do they do that? Infant baptism? Adult baptism? Prayer groups? Damascene conversion? Reuters:

The justices ruled for the first time that for-profit companies can make claims under a 1993 federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

From the full text of the opinion:

In these cases, the owners of three closely held for-profit corporations have sincere Christian beliefs that life begins at conception and that it would violate their religion to facilitate access to contraceptive drugs or devices that operate after that point. ...

HHS argues that the companies cannot sue because they are for-profit corporations, and that the owners cannot sue because the regulations apply only to the companies, but that would leave merchants with a difficult choice: give up the right to seek judicial protection of their religious liberty or forgo the benefits of operating as corporations. RFRA’s text shows that Congress designed the statute to provide very broad protection for religious liberty and did not intend to put merchants to such a choice. It employed the familiar legal fiction of including corporations within RFRA’s definition of “persons,” but the purpose of extending rights to corporations is to protect the rights of people associated with the corporation, including shareholders, officers, and employees. Protecting the free-exercise rights of closely held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them.

Leave aside the court's curious theology that the practice of religion should not involve any "difficult choice." Read below the fold...

NY High Court upholds Town of Dryden's fracking ban

This is great news (for New York):

Monday, June 30, New York State’s highest court handed the town of Dryden a victory in its precedent-setting case versus Norse Energy Co., in which the gas and oil industry challenged Dryden’s zoning law banning heavy industry within the borders of the town. The case pitted this upstate town of 6000 residents’ right to zone out certain types of business against the gas exploration companies’ argument that only the Department of Environmental Conservation could issue permits. At stake were what Norse Energy deemed a $4 million investment in gas drilling leases in the town of Dryden.

The Court upheld, as well, a zoning law in Middlefield, NY, deciding that towns can use local zoning laws to ban heavy industry, including oil and gas operations, within municipal borders.

“Today the Court stood with the people of Dryden and the people of New York to protect their right to self determination. It is clear that people, not corporations, have the right to decide how their community develops,” said Dryden Deputy Supervisor Jason Leifer. “This would not have been possible without the hard work of many of my friends and neighbors and our lawyers Deborah Goldberg of Earthjustice and Mahlon Perkins. Today's ruling shows all of America that a committed group of citizens and public officials can stand together against fearful odds and successfully defend their homes, their way of life, and the environment against those who would harm them all in the name of profit. "

“Heavy industry has never been allowed in our small farming town and three years ago, we decided that fracking was no exception. The oil and gas industry tried to bully us into backing down, but we took our fight all the way to New York’s highest court. And today we won,” added Dryden Town Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner. “I hope our victory serves as an inspiration to people in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, North Carolina, California and elsewhere who are also trying to do what’s right for their own communities.”

Sometimes, the good guys win! Read below the fold...

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