4th of July

One of the puzzles facing the film historian (amateur or professional) occurs when a child climbs upon the parental knee and asks, “Well, Dad, what was the black list?” The parent struggles to explain that, once upon a nervous time, the Hollywood movie was said to be rife with un-American suggestions and the energetic insinuation of socialist alternatives. The child blinks, and says, “Father, isn’t that preposterous?

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The 2012 campaign isn’t the first to be marked by rumors and distortions. But it’s already setting new land-speed records for the time it takes a tossed-off comment or flat-out falsehood to develop into a “fact” accepted by half the political world. The “report” that Obama would be traveling to Paris to hold a European fundraiser on the Fourth of July was just the latest example of partisan lying.  Every time it happens, supporters of the rumor’s target bemoan the gullibility of their partisan counterparts. How could anyone think Obama was born in Kenya?!

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Now that Conrad Black is no longer in jail, he is free to spread his ideas to the hungry masses. National Review, which is always pining for the glory days of imperialism, has taken Black under its wing, and apparently decided that July 4th was an opportune time for him to pen a piece about the glories of empire.

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Up in the Air

LATE ON THE MORNING of July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart climbed into the cockpit of her Lockheed Electra airplane on a small grass runway in Lae, New Guinea. She was 22,000 flight miles into her daring attempt to fly around the world, a journey that had captivated Americans since she lifted off from Miami a month earlier. Now Earhart was facing the most dangerous leg of the trip: a 19-hour, 2,556-mile flight to a tiny speck in the Pacific Ocean known as Howland Island. Earhart’s celebrity had grown formidable in the decade since her transatlantic flight, the first ever by a female pilot.

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Yesterday was the Fourth of July, a prime hot-dog-eating day for millions of Americans. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, on Independence Day Americans consume 150 million hot dogs—and none of them ate more than Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, the 230-pound, number-one-ranked competitive eater who yesterday was victorious for the fifth consecutive time at Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Contest. Chestnut downed 62 hot dogs in ten minutes—enough to take first prize, but still short of his record-setting 68 hot dogs in 2009.

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At least one of the Founders thought that Independence Day would become important. When the Continental Congress voted for independence on July 2, 1776, John Adams, who more than any other single Founder was responsible for that vote, was ecstatic. America’s declaring of independence from Great Britain, he told his wife Abigail, marked “the most memorable Epocha in the History of America.” He hoped that the day would be “celebrated by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.

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While most of you are watching fireworks on Monday night, I’ll be on a plane en route from Beijing to Detroit. This is the first time in my life I will be abroad for the Fourth of July and, yes, it feels very strange. But spending the last two weeks overseas has had the same effect it always does: It’s made me that much more appreciative of the United States.

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The upcoming Fourth of July weekend is prime barbecue time for just about everybody, but a new public service announcement (PSA) campaign from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) hopes to remind would-be grillmasters that food safety is paramount, even when you’re trying to simultaneously kick back a beer and show off the fireworks you bought across the state line. The PSAs advise Americans to Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill. Why prioritize this message? Because, the USDA says, there are about 76 million cases of foodborne illness in the U.S.

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Last week, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd aroused the ire of progressive activists when he wondered whether Elizabeth Warren, the former Harvard Law professor who is a leading candidate to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, would be “confirmable.” “There’s a serious question about it,” he said on NPR’s “Diane Rehm Show.” Dodd’s concern is legitimate given that a mere 41 votes can block action in the Senate, and that the GOP has been willing to filibuster even seemingly popular proposals.

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A string of recent statements by Republican elected officials have offered multiple insights into the party's priorities. For the moment, though, consider what those statements reveal--or, I should say, confirm--about the party's supposed commitment to fiscal responsibility. To review the relevant history: Early in the year, leaders of the Democratic Party called for a new stimulus program--a combination of public works spending, aid to states, and other measures that, they said, would create jobs and strengthen the weak recovery.

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