Half a century ago the philosopher Leo Strauss remarked that the passage in which the Declaration of Independence proclaims its self-evident truths “has frequently been quoted, but, by its weight and its elevation, it is made immune to the degrading effects of the excessive familiarity which breeds contempt and of misuse which breeds disgust.”
I’ve had occasion to test this claim. The last few years, we’ve spent July Fourth at the house of friends who have had the assembled company read the entire declaration. It’s a longer document than one thinks; the charges against the king take quite a while to get through.
But I can report from firsthand experience that the declaration as a whole, and not just its most famous phrases, remains remarkably immune to the degrading effects of excessive familiarity. I was doubtful at first that reading the declaration would enhance the overall beer-and-hamburger experience of the day. But the effort has proved more thought-provoking and patriotism-stirring than I expected.
So this year, perhaps pressing our luck (and patience), I’m thinking of proposing the reading of an additional text: Thomas Jefferson’s letter to Roger Weightman of June 24, 1826.
One of the great July 4th speeches was delivered by a shy man who played baseball for a living. Lou Gehrig played every day, never took a game off, until he was told, at age 35, that he was dying. More than 60,000 fans and former teammates came out to Yankee Stadium to honor him. Between the two games of the doubleheader, he came out of the Yankee’s dugout and stood, listening as former teammates spoke into the microphones that had been set up behind home plate. He was embarrassed enough by their words that he teared up. Among those paying tribute was Babe Ruth, his old teammate. The two had been estranged over some thoughtless remark of Ruth’s but they patched it up on this day.
When it was Gehrig’s turn, he couldn’t manage the words and and asked announcer and baseball writer Sid Mercer to speak for him.
"Lou has asked me," Mercer said, "to thank all of you. He is too moved to speak.”
Gehrig began walking back to the dugout but the fans weren’t having it and shouted “We want Gehrig.”
Gehrig turned around and headed back toward the plate.
"Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.
Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn't consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day?
Sure, I'm lucky. Who wouldn't consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert; also the builder of baseball's greatest empire, Ed Barrow; to have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins; then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology - the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy?
Sure, I'm lucky. When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift - that's something! When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies - that's something.
When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles against her own daughter - that's something. When you have a father and mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body - it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed - that's the finest I know.
So I close in saying that I might have had a tough break; but I have an awful lot to live for … Thank you.”
That was 1939. Not quite two years later, Gehrig was dead.
Parades, fireworks, patriotic songs, 150 million hot dogs consumed, 41 million car trips of more than 50 miles -- and heightened security in reaction to Islamist terrorist threats to disrupt our celebration with murder and mayhem as part of their celebration of their holy month of Ramadan. That’s all part of the celebration of our independence from Britain, which at that time specialized in governing us by executive fiat. One day before the holiday weekend began, the government reported that in June the economy added 223,000 non-farm jobs, fewer than most had expected. Adding to the disappointment was
· a downward revision of 60,000 in the estimate of job creation in April and May,
· failures of hourly wages and the average work week to rise, and
· news that some 432,000 workers dropped out of the labor force in June, driving the share of working age men and women participating in the labor market to the lowest level in almost four decades.
Still, the economy remains on track to add 3 million jobs this year, as it did last year. Kevin Hassett, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, points out that the rate of U.S. job growth suggests that the economy is growing at an annual rate of about 3%, an estimate supported by several other bits of evidence.
Unfortunately the so-so jobs data provide little guide to what the Federal Reserve Board’s monetary policy committee might do to interest rates, or when they will do it. Job and economic growth are slow enough to justify holding interest rates at current near-zero levels, and fast enough to justify a slight upward move later this year.
My guess is that the Fed will hold at current rates until 2016, but the operative word in that sentence is “guess”. I base it on three facts. First, Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen wants to see a reduction in the two million workers too discouraged to seek work or involuntarily working short hours before making a move. Second, she and her colleagues want the current nil inflation rate to rise to something closer to the Fed’s goal of 2%, which it has not done for 37 consecutive months. Third, the International Monetary Fund is lending respectability to the hold-the-line advocates by calling for the Fed to keep interest rates at current levels until next year.
Oh yes, and only a Grinch would raise interest rates in the run-up to or during the Christmas shopping season. The Fed reminds economists at the Lindsey Group of St. Augustine. It “knows it should be virtuous, it just needs to wait a bit longer … constantly kicking the can, … [in] fear of ending the party.”
Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif has released a YouTube message aimed apparently at his American negotiators. In the video, Zarif even suggests his nation and the United States are int he fight together against terrorism: "Our common threat today is the growing menace of violent extremism and outright barbarism."
"I’m in Vienna to put a long overdue end to an unnecessary crisis. At this eleventh hour, despite some differences that remain, we have never been closer to a lasting outcome. But there is no guarantee.
"Getting to yes requires the courage to compromise, the self-confidence to be flexible, the maturity to be reasonable, the wisdom to set aside illusions, and the audacity to break old habits.
"Some stubbornly believe that military and economic coercion can ensure submission. They still insist on spending other people’s money or sacrificing other people’s children for their own delusional designs. I see hope, because I see emergence of reason over illusion. I sense that my negotiating partners have recognized that coercion and pressure never lead to lasting solutions, but to more conflict and further hostility. They have seen that 8 years of aggression by Saddam Hussein and all his patrons did not bring the Iranian nation – that stood all alone -- to its knees. And now, they realize that the most indiscriminate and unjust economic sanctions against my country have achieved absolutely none of their declared objectives; but instead have harmed innocents and antagonized a peaceful and forgiving nation.
"They thus opted for the negotiating table. But they still need to make a critical and historic choice: Agreement or coercion. In politics—as in life—you can’t gain at the expense of others; such gains are always short-lived. Only balanced agreements can withstand the test of time.
"We are ready to strike a balanced and good deal; and open new horizons to address important, common challenges.
"Our common threat today is the growing menace of violent extremism and outright barbarism. Iran was first to rise to the challenge and propose to make confronting this threat a global priority, when it launched WAVE – World Against Violence and Extremism. The menace we’re facing – and I say we, because no one is spared – is embodied by the hooded men who are ravaging the cradle of civilization. To deal with this new challenge new approaches are badly needed. Iran has long been at the forefront in the fight against extremism. I hope my counterparts will also turn their focus, and devote their resources, to this existential battle.
"A thousand years ago, the Iranian poet Ferdowsi said:
“Be relentless in striving for the cause of Good
"Bring the spring, you must; Banish the winter, you should.”
"My name is Javad Zarif, and this has always been Iran’s message.
One hundred and fifty two years ago, at 2:00 p.m., General Longstreet, who could not bring himself to speak the order, nodded to General Pickett that his division could begin the assault up Cemetery Ridge The South’s greatest – and most peculiarly southern – novelist wrote of how that moment lives. The past, after all, not being dead and, not really even being past:
For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet, it not only hasn’t begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances…
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will not find a home in France. The French government has announced today it will not grant asylum to the fugitive.
"France has received the letter from Mr Assange. A closer examination shows that given the legal elements and the material situation of Mr. Assange, France can not act on its request. The situation of Mr Assange presents no immediate danger. He is also the subject of a European arrest warrant," the French government writes in a statement released by the Elysee Palace.
In a brief statement sent Friday, July 3 by the Elysee Palace, the President of the Republic has raised an objection of inadmissibility to the open letter of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who asked Paris to host it because " his life is in danger " ...
In a long letter to François Hollande, published by Le Monde, Mr. Assange had indeed called on France to grant him asylum. He affirms in this text and physical and mental health is threatened, after more than three years in the premises of the Embassy of Ecuador in London.
The rejection of this request, which was not formally a political asylum - a long and cumbersome process - is not a surprise. The Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, had already hinted several times that he was not favorable to a possible home of Mr Assange in France.
A Baltimore man has finally been charged with arson for setting ablaze a CVS pharmacy during the Baltimore riots in April. The criminal complaint was announced by the Department of Justice.
"A criminal complaint has been filed charging Raymon Carter, age 24, of Baltimore, Maryland, with the arson of the CVS Pharmacy located at 2509 Pennsylvania Avenue in Baltimore, on April 27, 2015," reads the DOJ press release.
The criminal complaint was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William P. McMullan of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - Baltimore Field Division; Commissioner Anthony W. Batts of the Baltimore Police Department; and Maryland State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci.
“To paraphrase Winston Churchill, civilized people cannot remain impartial between the firefighter and the arsonist,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “There is no excuse for callously destroying property, endangering peoples’ lives and damaging their livelihood. We must never confuse peaceful protests with riots. Many honorable Baltimore residents are stepping up to hold vandals accountable and protect the city.”
“Those committing arson took advantage of our city when we were most vulnerable. Carter’s alleged actions caused over $1 million of damage to this community,” said Commissioner Anthony Batts of the Baltimore Police Department. “Thanks to the hard work of the ATF and our detectives our hope is that we will never have to do this again. We owe a tremendous debt to the community that helped us to identify him. Thank you to our residents.”
On April 27, 2015, the CVS Pharmacy located at 2509 Pennsylvania Avenue in Baltimore was looted and burned. On May 22, 2015, ATF released two still photographs of a suspect in the arson to the media and announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the suspect’s identification, arrest and conviction. According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, tips to the ATF Arson Hotline revealed that the suspect was Raymon Carter.
The criminal complaint was filed on June 25, 2015, and on June 29, 2015, the ATF released a “wanted” poster asking the community for information leading to the location and apprehension of Carter. Carter was arrested yesterday and the complaint was unsealed today.
In April, an administrative judge with the Oregon Department of Labor ordered Aaron and Melissa Klein, the owners of the now shuttered bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa, to pay a fine of $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian couple's wedding. While there's a case the couple violated the state's public accommodation laws, there's little doubt that the fine was excessive and the reasoning for it specious. (For more on the plight of Kleins, see THE WEEKLY STANDARD editorial, "Bake Me a Cake -- or Else.")
Despite losing their business and facing a hefty fine they can't afford, the Kleins continue to stand by their Christian convictions and fight the ruling. However, the state just finalized the ruling against the Kleins and added a new wrinkle. According to the state, the Kleins are now forbidden from talking about the ruling against them. Here's the relevant portion of the decision:
Hillary Clinton's communications director was spotted huddling with President Barack Obama. The meeting took place at the White House and was noticed by the pool reporter who was not able to identify the president's interlocutor.
"POTUS motorcade rolls out of the WH at 11:10 am en route to JAB Andrews for day trip to La Crosse (On Wisconsin!)," read the pool report.
"Weather is cloudy, muggy, damp, but cool for a July day in Washington. POTUS seen chatting with COS Denis McDonough and woman in green dress on south driveway before WH departure."
On Twitter, a Politico reporter identified the mystery woman as Jennifer Palmieri.
Spotted chatting w/Obama at WH (former¤t HClinton) comms dir @jmpalmieri (originally ID'd in pool rpt as just "woman in green dress")
“We are more likely to face prolonged campaigns than conflicts that are resolved quickly… that control of escalation is becoming more difficult and more important… and that as a hedge against unpredictability with reduced resources, we may have to adjust our global posture,”
Fewer resources, longer campaigns. Not a blueprint, one thinks, for victory or, even, long term security.
Hillary Clinton will be speaking to La Raza in a couple weeks in Kansas City.
"For the second time in a month, Hillary Clinton will speak to a huge gathering of Latinos, this time in front of 2,000 Hispanic activists and community leaders Monday, July 13 at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) annual conference in Kansas City, BuzzFeed News has learned," BuzzFeed reports.
“We are thrilled that Secretary Clinton will join us to speak to the thousands of Latino community leaders who will gather in Kansas City next week,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR. “We look forward to hearing about her vision for the country and her thoughts on the issues of greatest concern to our community.”
Clinton will be speaking to the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the country weeks after addressing Latino elected officials in Las Vegas, Nevada.
NCLR bills itself as nonpartisan but also came out strongly for immigration action by President Obama.
Vienna The Kurdish opposition was marching through one of the main streets and chanting anti-Iranian regime slogans. He followed me from the protest down a back street and called out. I stopped and he showed me a map and asked if I knew how to get to the destination he had circled. Weird he didn’t have Google Maps like almost everyone else in the city, I thought. It was only a matter of time before the city elders would carve out a separate pedestrian lane for tourists whose eyes were fixed on their phones.
I explained to him I didn’t know how to get to where he wanted to go. I wasn’t from here. “Where are you from?” he asked. “America,” I said, wished him luck and was on my way. He called out again and caught up alongside me. “Where are you from?” he asked again. “Argentina?” I walked off without answering him, eyeing my way back to the main road.
The next time a voice rang out behind me it belonged to an undercover cop who had the tourist by his shoulder. “Excuse me,” he asked. “What did this guy want from you?” “Just directions,” I said.
The policeman’s presence was sufficient evidence that my new friend was not, as I briefly suspected, an Iranian intelligence officer. Had he really been with the Ministry of Intelligence or the IRGC, there is no chance he would’ve been stopped by the Vienna police since Iranian intelligence works in the Austrian capital with impunity.
Ever since I arrived for the P5+1 and Iran nuclear talks earlier in the week, colleagues warned that Iranian intelligence officers were watching everyone and recording everything. “They’re shameless,” one pro-democracy advocate in town for the talks told me. “They come right up to you, stick a camera in your face and ask where you’re from. Last time I was here, I told a journalist to watch out and sure enough his picture was up on the Fars site within two hours.”
And it’s not just the American and other Western journalists they’re watching. In fact, the people they’re watching most closely are other Iranians, including the families of Iranian-Americans held hostage by the clerical regime like Amir Hekmati, whose sister and brother-in-law I met in the Marriott lobby, adjacent to where the P5+1 talks are being held.
Iranian dissidents and Iranian journalists based outside Iran are other popular targets. One European-based reporter who asked not to be named was convinced he was under constant surveillance and was indeed being watched as we spoke in the hotel. It seems that the main point the Iranian intelligence services want to drive home is not just that they want you to know they’re watching. They want you to think they’re always watching.