NPR, Twitter, and the Declaration of Independence

Note: I use https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/ for my construction of whether a news source is biased and what bias that news source may have. They have ratings for satire, pro-science, and conspiracy theory, as well. I will note the bias of the source of the article based on Media Bias Fact Check (if they’ve been rated.) If you use Chrome, you can download the official Media Bias Fact Check plug-in here

I about lost my self-righteous, descendant of an American revolutionary, cool today after reading about people losing their mind on Twitter because NPR was tweeting the text of the Declaration of Independence and people thought it was some commentary on the president.

My gut-level, knee-jerk reaction was wrong.

My gut-level, knee-jerk reaction was “Wait a minute. The people who think they’re going to ‘Make America Great Again’ can’t even recognize the document that made America in the first place? Give me a break.”

It took the Washington Post’s (Left Center bias) article on the topic, to make me stop and reconsider a moment. The Post article brought up that one of the people involved in the kerfuffle raised a valid question: in the context of Twitter, a format with 140 characters, would the average person know the document being presented was the Declaration of Independence?

I did. I saw the NPR presentation the one time I peeked at Twitter yesterday, which I don’t much use, and recognized the bit in my feed at the time. I made the assumption that any real patriot should recognize one of the most important documents in the history of our nation (if not the most important document,) but that’s not a fair assumption by any measure.

I recognized it, but I also got lucky: I saw the feed at a part that was memorable.

Even without that, though, my situation is unique. I’m not the typical American. I memorized the Declaration of Independence in childhood for a school recitation, and while I can’t do the whole thing from memory anymore, parts stand out. I memorized the Preamble of the Constitution and Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, too.

We did that kind of thing when I was in school. I’m old.

I had to memorize a lot of American history. My family has lots of pride about being descended from an American Revolutionary, from my most conservative cousins to my uncle the hippie, but probably most especially my dad. Dad was a gray iron master molder, a disabled Vietnam Veteran, and one the most patriotic and starkly individualistic people I’ve ever known.

I have fond memories of my dad very indulgently listening to me practice recitations and telling me these documents were very important because they were half of what made America the greatest nation on the earth. The other half was the American people themselves, some of whom have been failed by both our educational system and our consumerist society.

School was different back in the analog age, and an education was a way to claw up from the brink of poverty and to a better life then. The value of education was undisputed.

Now, the value of education is a crapshoot.

We have an educational system that rates as just hanging on to “above average” when compared to the rest of the world by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)‘s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). We’re rating below average in math and science, which has been reported by Forbes (Right Center Bias) and the Wall Street Journal (Right Center Bias) (this article is behind their paywall) since as early as 2013. (Both of these publications are right leaning.)

We have a “History” channel with almost no history on it, a plethora of “reality” TV shows that are as played for ratings as the majority of news media. We cheer on our political parties like they’re sports teams, especially if you trust CNN (Left Bias) for your news.

“The idea that politics is sport is undeniable, and we understood that and approached it that way.” —Jeff Zucker, president of CNN.

It’s not surprising that lots of people when they read out of context tweets from NPR, a left-center biased news source that they assumed the worst. We’ve got members of the news media actively trying to whip the American people into a frenzy.

Why wouldn’t people think the worst? Twitter is 140 characters at a time, lumped up in a feed with everyone else tweeting all at the same time. It’s simply not the right forum to share the Declaration of Independence.

I hope that in the future, NPR makes better choices about what material to share in which format. I hope that this incident will make people more interested in this historic document and the history of the United States in general. I’m sharing the full text of the Declaration of Independence, from the National Archives, because that’s how strongly I feel about the importance of this document.

In Congress, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Fat Woman at a Tweed Ride

A friend of ours has convinced us that we need to go to the Quad Cities Tweed Ride this year. It’s lots of fun, she said. It’s super laid back, she said.

I looked at photos from the website. They’re looking pretty seriously tweed. In most cases, they’re looking pretty seriously vintage and tweed in their attire. Yes, I realize they pick out the best-looking riders for photo opportunities to show off on the website, as the roommate reminded me, but I’ve been down the vintage costume path before and what it taught me is that there is a hierarchy to acceptance based on the perceived accuracy and beauty of your attire.

The roommate will be pretty easy to outfit. She’s tall and lean and looks fabulous in menswear. We’ve already sourced tweed knickers for her and a potential source for a vintage style wool jersey that she wants anyway. A newsboy cap and kneesocks and she’ll be too gorgeously tweed.

Me? I know I don’t have much (okay, any) budget for costuming, so I need to start building from what I already have.

Turns out, a toss of the closet yielded a not horrible starting point. I have a lovely A-line midi-length charcoal wool skirt with sky blue and tan plaid that’s very classic and could work with either the 1940s or 1950s as style inspiration.

I also have a black wool jacket with denim patches on the elbow. It has a more modern menswear vibe, so I don’t normally wear it with my skirt, but I think it will work with the skirt if I add a jacket cinch clip to the back to better define the waist. It would work with knickers if I decide to try to go that route.

I can wear either my white linen shirt or my white button up blouse and the overall look will be timeless blend in. My gut says that the blouse will work better because it’s got princess seaming which will give the illusion of being more tailored and body conscious.

black wool jacket next to plaid wool skirt

It’s amazing how much dust wool picks up in the closet.

Let’s leave off for a moment that I don’t have a step through frame bike and that I’ll need to practice mounting and dismounting in a ladylike way with this skirt. We’ll get back to that because I already have to do a modified tilt mount to get on my bike in the first place because of my hip. It just doesn’t move certain ways anymore. (Thanks, arthritis!) We’re going to pretend this is all just going to work for purposes of discussion.

That leaves the matter of accessories. I think I still have a pair of black leather Isotoner gloves that I can wear. If not, I’ll put “crochet gloves” on my list of things to do. Hat or head scarf for wearing when I’m not in my helmet also needs to happen, but that’s actually pretty trivial for me to find.

Where I’m really falling down is shoes. Normally I wear knee boots with this skirt and call it a day, but if I’m going for a more vintage look (as appropriate for a Tweed Ride), a pair of spectator pumps would probably be prettiest, if a little lousy to ride in. If I can find a lightweight twinset or sweater to replace the jacket, I could easily wear my a pair of coordinating crew socks and my loafers, like this picture. That’s currently a higher probability option.

The crazy part of me says “You have yarn. Knit a fair isle vest to go over your white blouse.” I call that part of me crazy because I’ve never managed to make a sweater I like for myself. Making something like this in the timeframe I have seems crazy pants, but if I did, I’d probably want to go completely crazy pants and make a Great Horn-rimmed vest.

Alternately, I need to find shorts like this picture from Life Magazine. That’s probably not a “find” option. It’s probably a “make” option, which is its own expense. Fabric. Pattern. Muslin. Time. Time. Also, it wants a short sleeved blouse, so I’d probably have to make that, too. More time.

Otherwise, I may have to search for a pair of larger men’s charcoal tweed pants at thrift to remake into knickers. If I get lucky and find the right pants to refashion, that solves both my shoes and my “how do I mount my bike” problems. It’s my preferred option. My jacket would work. I could wear a cute cloche for a hat. It would be super comfortable. It’s also my closest to least likely to happen option. I just never get that lucky thrifting.

If I could find a proper ’49er style jacket or pattern in my size, I’d throw it all out and start from there. I’d know my beloved loafers would be exactly the right thing to wear and I’d pair it with jeans and casual gloves and a 40’s style hairdo. That’s a total pipe dream. Pendleton still makes the ’49er in my size once in a blue moon, but I’ll have better luck if I track down a pattern with similar features and make one for myself and that’s well beyond my sewing ability.

Die Schnecke

Happy Fourth of July! I finished my 5K. 1 hour, 3 minutes (ish. I didn’t grab my unofficial time from the timing chip.) Approximately 20.32 minutes per mile. Not the fastest race in the world, but I wasn’t doing it for speed, unless you’re a snail. (Die Schnecke is German for “The Snail,” if you were wondering.)

On the other hand, I was just doing it for something to do on the Fourth of July while the roommate and one of our friends ran the 8K. It served that purpose quite well. I talked to lots of nice people along the route, mostly to assure them that neither was I dying nor did I think I was dying.The roommate ended up coming back for me after she finished because I was taking so long. It was nice to have someone walk with me for part of the race, other than the constant presence of the sweeper vehicle pushing me forward down the race route.

The roommate ended up coming back to me after she finished because I was taking so long. It was nice to have someone walk with me for part of the race, other than the constant presence of the sweeper vehicle pushing me forward down the race route.

I gave the beer tokens to another racer. I have tea in my Contigo.

My right hip has been really bothering me, and I know I’ve been relying more on my left leg than usual. So much so that at the half way point, I considered calling things done, but by that point, I was half-way done. No sense in taking a ride back to the finish line when I was already half-way there, right? That’s what I told myself anyway.

I didn’t realize how much I’ve been aggravating my left leg until I sat down and started writing this post while the roommate took her shower, then got up to go take a shower myself.

I’d been planning to write some inspirational “the last finisher still finished” thing. That’s not going to happen anymore. I still finished, but now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t have listened to my body more. Not entirely, mind you. I finished and that was a goal, and I feel good about that. Just more in the “did I actually do damage to my left ankle” sense. I’d feel pretty silly if I’d screwed up my ankle and couldn’t continue working on my walking goals.

At the moment, it’s not good.

Well, I suppose it is good because I don’t feel like my right hip hurts that much anymore. My left ankle, though? That’s another story. I haven’t had a day like this since deep winter when it got into the negatives for a high. It’s screaming at me quite fiercely. I’ve currently got it wrapped, but I have no idea how I’ll get shoes on tomorrow for work. Hopefully by then, it’ll be a bit better.

I’m going to go ahead and take something from the approved list of over the counter pain relievers and hope that calms it down.

Le Tour, Stage 3

The roommate and I started watching The Tour de France back in the days of the (now discredited and disgraced) US Postal team dominance of the tour with Lance Armstrong (circa 1999). Despite all the doping controversy in the sport of bicycling, the Tour has remained our July tradition. Normally we watch the replays, but today we have an extra day of vacation for the July 4 holiday, I’ve had the joy of a leisurely breakfast and watching the Tour live for a change.

In 1999, I couldn’t have predicted that I would have been able to talk even semi-intelligently about any sport, let alone the Tour, which has basically four different sub-races going at the same time. There’s the overall race (the yellow jersey), the sprinters’ competition (the green jersey), the king of the mountains (the polka dot jersey), and the overall team standings. There’s also a white jersey competition for best young rider, which is where you can see the new talent that will be dominating the general category in future years.

Today, Peter Sagan took the stage win today despite his cleat slipping out of the right pedal during the final sprint. He just clipped back in and kicked in a secondary sprint with a level of composure that made it look easy. The two-time world champion has become something of a favorite in the house because he’s generally charming in interviews and fun to watch race.

Nathan Brown took the polka dot “King of the Mountains” jersey from his teammate Taylor Phinney, which really won’t get going until the mountain stages of the race. They’re both Americans. Rooting for people from your own country, no matter where they are in the standings is very traditional for the Tour. There are only three riders from the USA on the tour this year, all on Team Cannondale-Drapac. (The third is Andrew Talansky.) This, of course, means that we’re rooting for Team Cannondale-Drapac this year (despite being a Specialized bicycle house.)

It wasn’t a sprinter day, so there were no real changes to the green jersey, which Marcel Kittel took yesterday.

Geraint Thomas took the Yellow Jersey yesterday and maintained it today for Team Sky, but that will likely not stay. Team Sky’s General Category contender is actually Chris Froome, so it’s not unexpected for Sky to ‘let’ Geraint Thomas ‘lose’ the jersey (so to speak.)

a grey tabby with white mittens snuggled against a woman's leg in denim shorts.

Sully-Cat remains unimpressed by my cycling knowledge.

With a little luck, I’ll be able to get my own cycle out this afternoon and do a little riding of my own. As much fun as watching the Tour is, ultimately it’s my own time on the bicycle that’s the best of all.