Independence Day Forum

Happy 4th!

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Jennifer Toon:

    After spending half of my life in a Texas prison, I learned how to make peace with locked doors. So when a global pandemic hit and the worldwide order to stay at home began, I was frustrated but prepared. I was accustomed to not being able to leave.

    Then I had an epiphany. The door wasn’t locked from the outside. I could go anywhere I wanted – excluding bars and crowded restaurants of course. For me, this meant a new opportunity for adventure.
    I put the flower in my pocket. I was about to turn around when I heard the familiar sound of trickling water. An old curiosity drew me deeper into the woods. My heart leapt at the sight of a creek. I resisted the desire to splash through the water and scoop up tadpoles. I had forgotten this feeling of abandon, and unadulterated happiness. I sat on the edge of the creek bed and watched the leaves bounce along the current. I closed my eyes. A flood of long-forgotten memories washed over me. Hunting arrowheads, picking blackberries, collecting caterpillars in a jar.

    With shutdown orders not lifting anytime soon in Texas, where Covid-19 cases are soaring, many Texans have been feeling closed in, but I feel like my heart is reopening. Before the pandemic, I had known prison for so long that I had forgotten the joy of the outside world. But nature was my first refuge from the growing anxieties and loneliness that eventually overtook me as an adult. How deeply I have missed it.

    And so, when I finally made my way home later that evening, I pulled the flower from my pocket and pressed it in my Bible, as my grandmother had taught me. She had said, “Jennifer, its beauty will never fade, we may forget it’s in there, but then suddenly one day it may fall from the pages, and what a nice reminder that will be for us!” She was right.

  2. Tyrell says:

    “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
    A Yankee doodle, do or die,
    A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam’s,
    Born on the 4th of July”
    (the amazing George M. Cohen)

    Happy July 4th. Enjoy the great food and fireworks. I am heading to the local pool to spend the day (free hot dogs and burgers).

  3. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Independence Day… not.

    Trumpists got their wishes: The borders are closed. Ironically, they are closed to Americans. Europe, Canada, and now even Mexico has closed its borders to prevent our unabated COVID-19 pandemic.

    Isolationism. You got it!

  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    Yup, we’re a shit-hole country.

  5. Sleeping Dog says:
  6. Teve says:

    You know, our nation is rife with brilliant, biased men, with incredibly racist men. But they were bright, and moved, advanced this country forward. Like, you know, Abraham Lincoln wasn’t a lover of Black people. Matter of fact, most of the people that America thinks of as great [were] probably, if provably, biased. But that didn’t detract from their brilliance. Now we have people who just think white is enough. Like Donald Trump, by any standard, is not even a very bright dude. Like, he’s the blue collar of presidents, by any standard. So it would be different if … you’re a white supremacist and you were actually an exemplary dude, like a bright dude, like a brilliant dude. But you’re not.

    -D.L Hughley

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    ruby weapon@clownpond
    this is Jonathan. he’s 188 years old today. everyone say happy birthday Jonathan

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Feste Fool@Feste451_60626
    Replying to
    I always thought hibiscus was what one got from using too much baking powder.

  9. Kingdaddy says:

    Happy Fourth of July, everyone. Here’s my favorite song for today, from Leonard Cohen:

  10. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Yup, we’re a shit-hole country.

    130,000+ Americans would likely agree, if they weren’t dead of COVID-19 since March.

    I can love my country, I can stand by it, I can fight for it. But I can also speak out when things are wrong. I can fight for change. THAT is why we remain a great country.

  11. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    I want to agree with you and when this nightmare passes we will be again. But if you’re looking from the outside, it is difficult to see that we are great. The diminished social capital, the bickering, the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities and the poor. The list goes on.

  12. CSK says:

    Since the Thursday a.m. arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell, one of the most frequently reproduced images in the press is one of her with Epstein. He’s got his arm hooked around her neck and is pulling/crushing her against him. This appears to be happening by her consent, since she’s grinning, but I find the photo very disturbing. Is it that Epstein’s handling her as if she’s some disposable commodity that belongs to him? Does the picture evoke mental images of George Floyd having his neck crushed by Derek Chauvin?

    I think it’s both. It’s very disturbing.

  13. DrDaveT says:


    Enjoy the great food

    I celebrated with the most American tailgate food I could think of: red, white, and blue corn nachos with pulled pork in salsa rojo. And an ice-cold IPA.

  14. James Knauer says:

    Some chief questions seem to be: “how did these statues and base names last so long? How was this enforced?” The militarized police of today only got this way for related reasons. They are all of a piece.

    And as the U.S. grapples with these questions, it inevitably leads to the conclusion that the foul compromise reached to found the U.S. that included institutional permission to beat and kill black and brown bodies was not worth the country it founded.

    Count me in that camp.

    For those who would grow despondent over such considerations, I would humbly suggest you let the Constitution and Declaration of Independence be your guide. If you still accept inalienable rights as a bedrock of human existence, then all the tools you need are at hand.

    Get your states to call a Constitutional Convention so that you may finally part ways with the electoral college, inadequate representation, and any whiff of “unitary executive.” Don’t be daunted by false claims of “impossible.”

    Because the statues are coming down, and vacuum will soon present itself. Tomorrow, despite some conservative protestations, is still coming. No one predicted any of this even six months ago.

  15. JohnSF says:

    A happy 4th of July to all; and hopefully a much happier one still in 2021.
    *waves Britishly*

  16. CSK says:

    If by that you mean the royal family wave, Gore Vidal once likened it to unscrewing the top of a jar of marmalade.

  17. Teve says:


    Trump should’ve started his speech with: Four whores and 7 lawyers ago.

    11:22 AM · Jul 4, 2020·Twitter for iPhone

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Teve: I only regret that I have but 1 thumbs up to give.

  19. JohnMcC says:

    @James Knauer: Since we have several foreign visitors, I take your question “how did those statues and base names last so long?” as an actual inquiry. If you’re making a rhetorical question of it, please forgive me.

    My specific memory goes back to the civil rights era (I have memories of the Montgomery bus boycott) and to the centennial of the Civil War. The way this particular youngster understood it is that the wounds of a four-year war with universal conscription, huge regional destruction and possibly a million deaths were so horrible that the anti-slavery forces expended their energy after a frightfully incomplete ‘reconstruction’. And then the events of the 20th century (and slightly earlier) such as the Spanish American and Great Wars, the Depression and WW2 made a unified national response so important that ‘binding the wounds’ between the local power structures of north and south took precedence over making justice for America’s former-slave peoples. This is a matter that brings shame to us all. And to the eternal credit of the African American nation, they have repeatedly called us back to that unfinished business.

    The period of the 1920s was therefore one of southern, neo-confederate triumphalism. The KKK had marches in NYC and filled the National Mall. They were national not regional. If memory serves the state of Indiana had more Klansmen than any other state. And that’s when the statue raising and base naming was done. I see Ft Bragg was named in ’22 for example.

    It was a way to ‘forget’ the Civil War and to minimize the crime done to African Americans. And the nation as a whole was happy to ‘forget’.

    The inner pedant is satisfied and moves on….

  20. Teve says:

    Bruce Schneier:

    The Security Value of Inefficiency

    For decades, we have prized efficiency in our economy. We strive for it. We reward it. In normal times, that’s a good thing. Running just at the margins is efficient. A single just-in-time global supply chain is efficient. Consolidation is efficient. And that’s all profitable. Inefficiency, on the other hand, is waste. Extra inventory is inefficient. Overcapacity is inefficient. Using many small suppliers is inefficient. Inefficiency is unprofitable.

    But inefficiency is essential security, as the COVID-19 pandemic is teaching us. All of the overcapacity that has been squeezed out of our healthcare system; we now wish we had it. All of the redundancy in our food production that has been consolidated away; we want that, too. We need our old, local supply chains — not the single global ones that are so fragile in this crisis. And we want our local restaurants and businesses to survive, not just the national chains.

    We have lost much inefficiency to the market in the past few decades. Investors have become very good at noticing any fat in every system and swooping down to monetize those redundant assets. The winner-take-all mentality that has permeated so many industries squeezes any inefficiencies out of the system.

    This drive for efficiency leads to brittle systems that function properly when everything is normal but break under stress. And when they break, everyone suffers. The less fortunate suffer and die. The more fortunate are merely hurt, and perhaps lose their freedoms or their future. But even the extremely fortunate suffer — maybe not in the short term, but in the long term from the constriction of the rest of society.

    Efficient systems have limited ability to deal with system-wide economic shocks. Those shocks are coming with increased frequency. They’re caused by global pandemics, yes, but also by climate change, by financial crises, by political crises. If we want to be secure against these crises and more, we need to add inefficiency back into our systems.

    I don’t simply mean that we need to make our food production, or healthcare system, or supply chains sloppy and wasteful. We need a certain kind of inefficiency, and it depends on the system in question. Sometimes we need redundancy. Sometimes we need diversity. Sometimes we need overcapacity.

    The market isn’t going to supply any of these things, least of all in a strategic capacity that will result in resilience. What’s necessary to make any of this work is regulation.

    First, we need to enforce antitrust laws. Our meat supply chain is brittle because there are limited numbers of massive meatpacking plants — now disease factories — rather than lots of smaller slaughterhouses. Our retail supply chain is brittle because a few national companies and websites dominate. We need multiple companies offering alternatives to a single product or service. We need more competition, more niche players. We need more local companies, more domestic corporate players, and diversity in our international suppliers. Competition provides all of that, while monopolies suck that out of the system.

    The second thing we need is specific regulations that require certain inefficiencies. This isn’t anything new. Every safety system we have is, to some extent, an inefficiency. This is true for fire escapes on buildings, lifeboats on cruise ships, and multiple ways to deploy the landing gear on aircraft. Not having any of those things would make the underlying systems more efficient, but also less safe. It’s also true for the internet itself, originally designed with extensive redundancy as a Cold War security measure.

    With those two things in place, the market can work its magic to provide for these strategic inefficiencies as cheaply and as effectively as possible. As long as there are competitors who are vying with each other, and there aren’t competitors who can reduce the inefficiencies and undercut the competition, these inefficiencies just become part of the price of whatever we’re buying.

    The government is the entity that steps in and enforces a level playing field instead of a race to the bottom. Smart regulation addresses the long-term need for security, and ensures it’s not continuously sacrificed to short-term considerations.

    We have largely been content to ignore the long term and let Wall Street run our economy as efficiently as it can. That’s no longer sustainable. We need inefficiency — the right kind in the right way — to ensure our security. No, it’s not free. But it’s worth the cost.

  21. An Interested Party says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Thank you for sharing that…it’s nice to read something that doesn’t have the doom and gloom of so much else these days…

  22. An Interested Party says:

    Are You Willing to Give Up Your Privilege?

    I have lived on both sides of American inequality. I began life in the bottom 1 percent but found my way to the top. And I know, all too personally, that the distance between the two never has been greater.

    Last winter, at a black-tie gala — the kind of event where guests pay $100,000 for a table — I joined some of New York’s wealthiest philanthropists in an opulently decorated ballroom. I had the ominous sense that we were eating lobster on the Titanic.

    That evening, a billionaire who made his money in private equity delivered a soliloquy to me about America’s dazzling economic growth and record low unemployment among African-Americans in particular. I reminded him that many of these jobs are low-wage and dead-end, and that the proliferation of these very jobs is one reason that inequality is growing worse. He simply looked past me, over my shoulder.

    No chief executive, investor or rich person wakes up in the morning, looks in the mirror, and says, “Today, I want to go out and create more inequality in America.” And yet, all too often, that is exactly what happens.

    Even before the coronavirus, before the lockdowns, and before the murder of George Floyd — during the longest sustained economic expansion in American history — income inequality in America had reached staggering levels. Social mobility, the ability for a person to climb from poverty to security as I did, had all but disappeared.

    This contributes to a hopelessness and cynicism that undermines our shared ideals and institutions, pits us against one another, and drives communities further apart. That’s why I am worried about our democracy, deeply and for the first time in my life.

    I still believe in the American idea and in the values to which we have always aspired. Our nation’s generosity of spirit made my life’s journey possible. It was expressed through the public schools I attended, and government programs like Head Start and Pell grants that helped me, along with private philanthropy. Without them, I might have been ensnared in poverty or a structurally racist policing and criminal-justice system.

    So I feel a profound obligation to state what has become clearer every day: If we are to keep the American dream alive, our democratic values flourishing, and our market system strong, then we must redesign and rebuild the engine that drives them.

    Inequality in America was not born of the market’s invisible hand. It was not some unavoidable destiny. It was created by the hands and sustained effort of people who engineered benefits for themselves, to the detriment of everyone else. American inequality was decades in the making, one expensive lobbyist and policy change at a time. It will take a concerted effort to reverse all of this, and to remake America in the process.

    In recent weeks, I have been invited to join dozens of conversations with many well-intentioned chief executives and generous philanthropists to talk about what they should be doing during an upheaval that feels like 1918, 1932 and 1968 all at once. The irony is not lost on me: Many of those who are eagerly extending Zoom invitations are complicit in a system that desperately needs changing.

    I do see progress. I see business leaders like Marc Benioff, Ursula Burns, Ray Dalio, Paul Polman and others acknowledge that we conduct our daily work in a system built on unfair incentives. This system puts the interests of capital over labor, while it compounds privilege at the expense of opportunity.

    The boardroom elite are beginning to recognize that these unfairly structured incentives have grossly distorted our economy. I see an evolving understanding that our twisted economy is an existential threat that has pushed our republic to a breaking point.

    This awareness is necessary. But it is not sufficient.

    The old playbook — giving back through philanthropy as a way of ameliorating the effects of inequality — cannot heal what ails our nation. It cannot address the root causes of this inequality — what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.”

    Instead, those of us with power and privilege must grapple with a more profound question: What are we willing to give up?

    If we, the beneficiaries of a system that perpetuates inequality, are trying to reform this system that favors us, we will have to give up something. Here are a few of the special privileges and benefits we should be willing to surrender: the intricate web of tax policies that bolster our wealth; the entrenched system in American colleges of legacy admissions, which gives a leg up to our children; and above all, the expectation that, because of our money, we are entitled to a place at the front of the line.

    I spent the first part of my career on Wall Street, and I believe that capitalism is the best means of organizing an economy. But capitalism must be reformed if we are to save our democracy.

    This will require rejecting Milton Friedman’s outmoded ideology: the dogma that a company must put shareholder value above all other objectives. It will require that corporations operate, in the words of the Business Roundtable, “for the benefit of all stakeholders — customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.”

    Reforming capitalism also requires policymakers to transform a financial system that favors short-term returns, gives companies incentives to take on huge amounts of debt, and protects the special tax treatment for carried interest, a gift for private equity.

    We must further ask: How can we create new policies that advance long-term, sustainable investment? How do we encourage investment in people and their skills, not just in automation and robotics? What does it mean to write a tax code that reduces inequality?

    Too often, public policy does just the opposite: In 1982, a Securities and Exchange Commission rule allowed corporations to repurchase their stock. This created an environment in which companies accelerated their use of stock options and equity as forms of executive compensation, especially after the 2008 financial crisis. This has encouraged companies to increase share prices, at the expense of wages and benefits for workers, and created perverse incentives for companies to authorize buybacks. In 2018 alone, American companies spent more than $1 trillion repurchasing their own stock.

    Our economy is unbalanced because conscious choices, in the aggregate, amount to a conscienceless capitalism. These choices erode democracy and foment distrust. We, the people, can make different choices. And we, the wealthy and privileged, should lean in to our discomfort.

    This is the most pressing work of our time, and it will be difficult. Our present is deeply rooted in historical inequalities that must methodically be rectified.

    But difficulty is not an excuse to allow American capitalism to grow more distorted, corrupt and unjust. It does not relieve us of our duty to strengthen and improve a system that, if rebalanced, could once again make America a beacon for upward mobility.

    Without hope, American dreams deferred or denied will continue, as the poet Langston Hughes wrote, to explode. With hope, and through it, we can reimagine the dream and invite many millions more to share in its promise.

  23. DrDaveT says:

    @Teve: Great article; thanks for sharing that snippet.

    The market isn’t going to supply any of these things, least of all in a strategic capacity that will result in resilience. What’s necessary to make any of this work is regulation.

    It’s important to note that what we need is regulation — the activity — not merely regulations, the noun. They have to be the right regulations, drafted by knowledgeable and impartial experts. They have to be enforced, by federal and local agencies with adequate funding and competent staffs. And they have to be defended against the unending onslaught of lobbying that will attempt to removed the regulations, eviscerate the regulatory bodies, and deliberately appoint coyotes to guard the chickens.

  24. Teve says:

    @An Interested Party: in America today, a kid who is born poor will almost certainly wind up a poor adult. And a kid who is born wealthy, will almost always end up a wealthy adult. The United States is 27th in terms of social mobility.

  25. DrDaveT says:


    [I]n America today, a kid who is born poor will almost certainly wind up a poor adult. And a kid who is born wealthy, will almost always end up a wealthy adult. The United States is 27th in terms of social mobility.

    …and the trend is in the wrong direction.

  26. James Knauer says:

    @JohnMcC: “If you’re making a rhetorical question of it, please forgive me.”

    Thank you, JohnMcC. Regrettably, I was not. I believe these conversations have been put off far too long at untold human cost. Nothing can be rhetorical because no one actually knows anything continuously useful. U.S. history has been so whitewashed you have people calling into NPR in tears crying, “why didn’t I know about Juneteenth? I feel like my schools failed me.”

    ” And to the eternal credit of the African American nation, they have repeatedly called us back to that unfinished business.”

    Indeed they have. The deep lesson is that it is, in fact, all our business, together, today, and until the nation is unmade. That is the duty. The false red/blue divide makes a mockery of inalienable rights, and it was all based on heinous lies perpetuated for so long, because, “heritage.” One of the biggest goddamned lies ever told was the tale of “american exceptionalism,” which means permission to continue to use militarized police at all levels of government to enforce a false, bloody compromise that allows black and brown bodies to be beaten and killed without consequence.

    That dog doesn’t want to hunt in 2020.

  27. Mikey says:

    If you don’t already have the Disney+ streaming service, get it now and watch Hamilton. You can’t do it with a free trial, you have to pay for a month, but it’s worth it, it really is. What an incredible production, and entirely appropriate for Independence Day.

    Seriously, watch it now. Don’t throw away your shot.