Mojo - July 2013

Meet Greg Abbott, the Man Who May Make You Miss Rick Perry

| Tue Jul. 9, 2013 10:38 AM EDT

During his tenure as Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott has developed a bit of a routine: "I go into the office," he told a GOP audience in San Angelo in Februrary, "I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home." It's a line he uses in virtually every speech he gives and it has the benefit of being basically true. Abbott has sued the Obama administration 27 times in five years. Now he might be getting a promotion.

After Gov. Rick Perry's announcement on Monday that he will not seek reelection for a fourth time in 2014—while leaving the door open, improbably, for another presidential run—Abbott, who is expected to announce a gubernatorial bid as early as Sunday, is now the favorite to be the chief executive of the nation's second-biggest state. (A recent survey by Public Policy Polling gave him a 8-point advantage over the Democrats' top prospective recruit, state Sen. Wendy Davis.) More than a few people will hail the departure of Perry, a politician who embraced crony capitalism, supported criminalizing sodomy, crushed abortion rights, and almost certainly allowed an innocent man die. That's about right. But in the hyperlitigious Abbott, Texas Republicans have a replacement who may just do the impossible—make progressives miss Rick Perry.

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Egypt in Turmoil: Images of Bloodshed After Army Fires on Pro-Morsi Protesters

| Mon Jul. 8, 2013 3:00 PM EDT

A river of blood flows down Salem Saleh street in Cairo.

Before dawn on Monday morning, the Egyptian army opened fire on a crowd of protesters gathered outside the Republican Guard building in Cairo where ousted President Mohamed Morsi may be being held, leaving at least 51 protesters and three soldiers dead. The clash—the deadliest incident since the 2011 revolution that toppled Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak—came as the army moved to clear the days-old sit-in protesting the removal of Morsi last Wednesday. The army has claimed that they were fired upon first; protesters say the army opened fire without cause, just after morning prayers.

The clash left more than 300 wounded and lasted more than three hours, with protesters hurling stones and Molotov cocktails as the military returned fire. Many of the wounded were brought to a field hospital near the Rabaa al-Adaweya Mosque, the site of another pro-Morsi sit-in where more protests reportedly were planned for later Monday. Outside of the emergency wards that have handled the wounded, dozens have lined up to donate blood.

Here are photos from the aftermath of the violence:

Wissam Nassar/ZumaPress

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood stand next to the bodies of fellow protesters killed in clashes with Republican Guards forces, at a hospital morgue in Cairo.

 

Ahmed Asad/ZumaPress

An Egyptian doctor attends to a man who was killed after clashes near Republication Guard headquarters around the Raba El-Adwyia Mosque Square in the Nasr City suburb of Cairo. The Muslim Brotherhood says its members were staging a pro-Morsi sit-in at the barracks, where he is believed to be in detention, when they were fired on. But the army said a ''terrorist group'' had tried to storm the barracks.

 

Ahmed Asad/ZumaPress

An Egyptian doctor holds bullet shell casings after clashes near Republication Guard headquarters around the Raba El-Adwyia Mosque Square in the Nasr City suburb of Cairo.

 

Wissam Nassar/ZumaPress

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood stand next to the bodies of fellow protesters killed in clashes with Republican Guards forces, at a hospital morgue in Cairo.

 

Amina Ismail

A man checks the list of the dead and injured posted at a hospital treating those wounded in Monday's clashes between Morsi supporters and the Egyptian Army.

Eliot Spitzer's Comeback—and Why It May Be a Good Thing

| Mon Jul. 8, 2013 11:38 AM EDT

A giggle or two about Eliot Spitzer's attempted comeback would be quite natural. With the news that he'll be running for comptroller of New York City, the former New York governor, who resigned after he was caught in an S&Mish prostitution scandal, invites the unavoidable comparison to Anthony Weiner, another former disgraced Dem currently seeking redemption by campaigning for NYC mayor. But when Spitzer reentered public life in 2008 as a Slate columnist, I noted that his return to the national discourse was worth a cheer or two—mainly because he had been and could once again be a well-informed voice regarding the excesses of Wall Street and Big Finance. Does that mean that he should be embraced by populist-minded voters and pundits, as he embarks on his make-over campaign? Judging politicians on morality is often a personal exercise, and reasonable people (prudes and non-prudes) can reach different but equally legitimate conclusions about the connection between a candidate's personal life and his or her public standing. In other words, that's up to you.

In any event, with Spitzer now water-cooler fodder, here's the post I wrote when he first stepped out of the shadows:

It's easy to snicker at Slate magazine for signing up Eliot Spitzer, former New York governor and onetime john, as a regular columnist. But judging from Spitzer's first outing, it was a master stroke.

The manner in which Spitzer crashed and burned has essentially wiped out the pre-prostitution portion of the Spitzer tale, which included his longtime stint as a critic of corporate excesses. But Spitzer's opening column in Slate is a reminder that in these days of multi-billion-dollar bailouts, there are few powerful and knowledgeable figures in government raising the appropriate questions and challenging the save-the-rich orthodoxy.

From his Slate piece:

What are we getting for the trillions of dollars in rescue funds? If we are merely extending a fatally flawed status quo, we should invest those dollars elsewhere. Nobody disputes that radical action was needed to forestall total collapse. But we are creating the significant systemic risk not just of rewarding imprudent behavior by private actors but of preventing, through bailouts and subsidies, the process of creative destruction that capitalism depends on.

A more sensible approach would focus not just on rescuing preexisting financial institutions but, instead, on creating a structure for more contained and competitive ones. For years, we have accepted a theory of financial concentration—not only across all lines of previously differentiated sectors (insurance, commercial banking, investment banking, retail brokerage, etc.) but in terms of sheer size. The theory was that capital depth would permit the various entities, dubbed financial supermarkets, to compete and provide full service to customers while cross-marketing various products. That model has failed. The failure shows in gargantuan losses, bloated overhead, enormous inefficiencies, dramatic and outsized risk taken to generate returns large enough to justify the scale of the organizations, ethical abuses in cross-marketing in violation of fiduciary obligations, and now the need for major taxpayer-financed capital support for virtually every major financial institution.

But even more important, from a structural perspective, our dependence on entities of this size ensured that we would fall prey to a "too big to fail" argument in favor of bailouts.

Spitzer has summed up the problem as well as anyone. He goes on:

Two responses are possible: One is to accept the need for gigantic financial institutions and the impossibility of failure—and hence the reality of explicit government guarantees, such as Fannie and Freddie now have—but then to regulate the entities so heavily that they essentially become extensions of the government. To do so could risk the nimbleness we want from economic actors.

The better policy is to return to an era of vibrant competition among multiple, smaller entities—none so essential to the entire structure that it is indispensable.

Spitzer, a populist in a suit, decries the "concentration of power--political as well as economic--that resided" in the Big Finance institutions that have dragged the economy down. He writes:

Imagine if instead of merging more and more banks together, we had broken them apart and forced them to compete in a genuine manner. Or, alternatively, imagine if we had never placed ourselves in a position in which so many institutions were too big to fail. The bailouts might have been unnecessary.

In that case, vast sums now being spent on rescue packages might have been available to increase the intellectual capabilities of the next generation, or to support basic research and development that could give us true competitive advantage, or to restructure our bloated health care sector, or to build the type of physical infrastructure we need to be competitive.

This is the opposite of Rubinomics. Spitzer is contemplating what must be done to rebuild our economy so that it truly competes internationally and, most important, generates wealth--not what must be done to rescue the high-fliers who have crashed and who seem to hold our credit lines and economy hostage. It's a perspective not heard within the mainstream too often these days. His views could have been influential when the first Wall Street bailout was pulled together in September--had he been part of the public discourse at the time and had he not been such a bad boy in the Mayflower Hotel.

I'm not often a fan of second acts for disgraced public officials. But in this instance, I'm glad Slate is sponsoring the Spitzer rehabilitation program. In fact, after reading his article, I'd be delighted if Barack Obama dumped Lawrence Summers and tapped Spitzer to be head of his National Economic Council.

Spitzer, after the fall he took, is not likely to rise so high. But he's demonstrated he deserves a platform. Let's hope the marketplace of ideas operates better than the marketplace of Wall Street and recognizes the merits Spitzer still possesses.

"Super-PACs May Be Bad for America, But They're Very Good for CBS"

| Mon Jul. 8, 2013 9:27 AM EDT
A screenshot of the Priorities USA Action ad "Donnie."

Ask the average American about super-PACs and I'd venture to guess he or she thinks of: those incessant negative political ads during the evening news, something about the Obama-Romney race, or the sheer amount of spending ($7 billion!) during the last election season. (That is, if they even know what a super-PAC is.) For the broadcasting business, though, super-PACs have come to stand for something altogether different: a big, fat payday.

The title of this post refers to something Les Moonves, the CEO of CBS Corporation, said at an entertainment law conference last year. Moonves was understandably over the moon about the rise of super-PACs: In 2012, he explained, the network's profits were expected to soar by $180 million thanks to political ads.

And it's not just CBS that's riding high thanks to political ad spending. TV stations in battleground states are magnets for ad spending, and they're driving a new wave of consolidation in the broadcast industry, leaving a handful of big media companies well-positioned to reap hundreds of millions during the 2014 midterm elections and, especially, the 2016 presidential race. Just in the past month, the Gannett company bought 20 TV stations for $1.5 billion, and the Tribune Company inked a $2.7 billion deal for 19 stations. Those deals included stations in battleground states.

Washington, DC's WJLA, owned by the Allbritton media company, the New York Times notes, which serves both the DC and the northern Virginia markets, banked $33 million in ad spending on campaigns and issues last year. Columbus' WBNS, owned by the Dispatch Broadcast Group, booked $20 million in campaign ad spending out of $50 million in total ad buys. Ad spending was also up at TV stations in Wisconsin and Colorado. Wherever there was a political fight, campaigns and consultants were gobbling up ads. According to the Times, WJLA could by bring in $300 million if the Allbritton media company decided to sell it (which, earlier this year, Allbritton said it planned to do).

So all this political ad spending is making the owners of these stations mighty happy. But someone's getting the shaft, right? Yep: local viewers and businesses. From the Times:

Analysts say the surge in station consolidation this year has also been driven by low interest rates and by an enormous rise in retransmission fees for stations, which are the equivalent of per-subscriber fees for cable channels like ESPN and MTV. Some stations now earn 40 to 50 cents a month from each cable and satellite subscriber.

But those fees currently account for about 10 percent of station revenue, and even if they double in the next five years, as the research firm SNL Kagan predicts, advertising revenue will remain the most important part of the station business. Thus, political advertising is a lifeline, even if the sheer volume of ads sometimes makes viewers want to hurl the remotes at their sets.

"We get complaints from viewers," Michael J. Fiorile, the chief executive of WBNS's owner, the Dispatch Broadcast Group, acknowledged. "The bigger complaints are from regular advertisers who really get pushed off the air."

"Don't get me wrong," he added with a chuckle. "It's a good problem for us to have."

There are a number of worries with the escalation of the TV political ad wars and the broadcast industry's consolidation. For starters, it's far less likely that TV stations will fact-check super-PAC ads, let alone yank misleading ads off the air, which political analyst Kathleen Hall Jamieson is trying to do with her FlackCheck.org project. (By law, TV stations can't censor candidates' ads, but they can vet and reject those of outside groups.) After all, super-PACs and dark-money nonprofits are a cash cow for broadcasters. Why bite the hand that feeds? When the public interest group Free Press analyzed political ads and newscast stories in six TV markets in battleground states, it found "a near-complete station blackout on local reporting about the political ads they aired."

The consolidation of the TV industry, meanwhile, can result in less local reporting and more shared content between various stations. And the decline in original, local reporting could worsen with more consolidation expected this year. "With the consolidation of ownership there's generally a decline in the quality in local news," Free Press' Tim Karr told the Columbia Journalism Review in May. "It is directly related to the staffing of local newsrooms."

Wall Street Dodges Financial Reform Again

| Fri Jul. 5, 2013 4:01 PM EDT

The Dodd-Frank financial reform act, the law designed to clean up the abuses that led to the financial crisis, celebrates its third birthday this month. But only about a third of the rules required by the legislation have been finalized so far, and even those are not going into effect as scheduled. This week provided a perfect example of why that is: The Federal Reserve granted Goldman Sachs a two-year extension to implement a key Dodd-Frank rule that would require banks to move risky trading into separate affiliates that are not backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Several other of the nation's biggest banks won the same exemption last month.

Financial reformers are not shocked. "Quelle surprise!" quips Bart Naylor, a policy advocate at the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. "The Federal Reserve decides to heed the crush of Wall Street lobbyists."

The Dodd-Frank rule, which Goldman Sachs was supposed to implement by July 16, requires FDIC-insured banks to move most of their derivatives trades into separate firms so that when a trade goes bad the bank will have to handle the fallout, not taxpayers. (Derivatives are financial products with values derived from underlying variables, like crop prices or interest rates; they were a major catalyst in the economic meltdown of 2008.) In its request for an extension, Goldman told the Federal Reserve—the main overseer of derivatives dealers—that complying with the deadline would mean the firm would need to either divest or stop a big portion of its swaps trading; a transition period, Goldman said, would be needed to ensure that the rest of the economy is not damaged by the shift. On Tuesday, the Fed agreed.

A Day in the Life of a Snowden-Chasing Journalist at Sheremetyevo International Airport

| Fri Jul. 5, 2013 2:39 PM EDT

Someone (probably a journalist) sleeping at an airport (probably in Moscow) while waiting for a flight (to Cuba, probably).

"Eighteen hours after their fools' errand of a flight landed in Havana, much of the Moscow-based press corps is still stranded continents away from the Snowden story they were chasing: sightseeing in the region, sniffing around the José Martí airport and wondering who exactly set them up." Washington Post, June 25.

"Moscow's main airport swarmed with journalists from around the globe Wednesday, but the man they were looking for, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, was nowhere to be seen." —Washington Post, June 26.

"Last week, journalists staked out a chain called Shokoladnitsa, hoping they would find Snowden drinking a $7 cappuccino or an $11 nonalcoholic mojito with $9 blini and red caviar." —Washington Post, July 4.

Since late June, reporters from some of the world's most prestigious news outlets have been holed up at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport, in the hopes of catching a glimpse of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is believed to be in diplomatic limbo in the airport transit zone. Or perhaps he's in Hong Kong still. Or he's on a plane. He's definitely somewhere. Provided he's not actually just a hologram. In the meantime, the journalists pursuing the story have become the story. So what exactly are those reporters doing in Moscow? Here's an exclusive look:

7:00 a.m. Rise and shine! Remind yourself that you're assigned to a major international news story involving diplomatic intrigue and espionage. You're in a foreign country. Some people would give anything to have your job.

7:20 a.m. Steal soap from hotel bathroom in case you have to catch a flight out today on short notice.

7:40 a.m. Arrive at Terminal F. Confidently inform your editor that you believe Snowden is likely to show up at a coffee shop with working power outlets.

7:42 a.m. Chase the story! Camp out at a coffee shop with working power outlets.

8:30 a.m. Survey of friends on G-chat concludes that drinking in the morning is okay as long as you're at an airport.

9:16 a.m. Reluctantly change "Alec Baldwin" Google alert from "once a week" to "as it happens."

10:45 a.m. Retweet story about Edward Snowden and Bitcoins.

10:46 a.m. Buy Bitcoins, "just to see what happens" and because "maybe there's a story there."

10:47 a.m. Sell Bitcoins.

11:15 a.m. Check Duty Free shop. Again.

11:35 a.m. Lanky bespectacled twenty-something white male spotted slouching through terminal F. This is it!

11:38 a.m. Bespectacled twenty-something white male is Dieter Hoefengarden, 27, a freelance ornithologist from Munich who's here on holiday and wants to know why you chased him through terminal F. He tells you you're the fourth reporter he's talked to today.

11:42 a.m. Dieter agrees to keep in touch and wishes you good luck in your job search. You say something clever about birds but it gets lost in translation.

12:05–2:05 p.m. Surf journalismjobs.com

2:20 p.m. Discover that the Russian Burger Kings are, disappointingly, nothing like the commercial, and no one laughed at your "Voppers junior" joke. Also your translator has quit.

3:15 p.m. See if Anna Chapman has tweeted anything recently.

3:22: p.m. OMG that duck with the prosthetic foot.

3:30 p.m. Discuss with colleagues at other outlets the legitimate possibility that Snowden might be on that next flight to Ibiza.

3:45 p.m. I mean seriously, this duty free shop is huge.

3:47 p.m. Have second thoughts about filing another story about the Sheremetyevo airport, but you'd rather not get scooped on the ladybug backpack at the Duty Free shop. You send it off to your editor.

4:00 p.m. It's five o'clock somewhere.

4:01 p.m. Relocate to Shokoladnitsa, a popular cafe for stranded foreign correspondents, on the theory that Snowden will will leave his hiding spot to consume a $9 blini with red caviar, and $11 nonalcoholic mojito.

4:45 p.m. $9 blini with red caviar, expensed.

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Missouri Gov. Vetoes Journo-Jailing Gun Bill

| Fri Jul. 5, 2013 2:27 PM EDT

Jay Nixon, the Democratic governor of Missouri, vetoed a sweeping pro-gun bill on Friday that received national attention earlier this year because it aimed to nullify all federal gun laws that state lawmakers decided were in violation of the Second Amendment. The bill also placed journalists in jeopardy of arrest for publishing virtually any information about gun owners—a measure far broader than the journalist-jailing bill signed into law last month by Louisiana's Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, and one that could still become law if the state legislature overrides Nixon's veto later this year.

The Missouri bill, titled the "Second Amendment Protection Act," would criminalize the publication of any information that identifies a gun owner or applicant by name by making this act a class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a year in jail in the state. Unlike Louisiana's new law, which only prohibits the publication of concealed handgun permit information, Missouri's would ban the publication of "the name, address, or other identifying information of any individual who owns a firearm or who is an applicant for or holder of any license, certificate, permit, or endorsement which allows such individual to own, acquire, possess, or carry a firearm."

"Under this bill, newspaper editors around the state that annually publish photos of proud young Missourians who harvest their first turkey or deer could be charged with a crime," Nixon said in a statement explaining the veto.

The bill opens with a long-winded states' rights discourse explaining why the legislation doesn't violate federal law. It declares the National Firearms Act of 1934, which restricts machine gun ownership, and the Gun Control Act of 1968, which restricts interstate gun transfers, "null and void and of no effect in this state" because they "infringe on the people's right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment."

Earlier this year, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, signed into law a similar bill that threatens federal agents with felonies for enforcing gun laws in the state. In response, US Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Brownback threatening litigation if the governor enforced the law, which Holder said was an unconstitutional defiance of federal law. Similar legislation has recently been introduced in about 30 other states.

Missouri lawmakers may receive their own letters from Holder before the end of the year: The state legislature can override Nixon's veto when it reconvenes in September if both the Senate and House choose to do so by a two-thirds vote. That could easily happen, because both chambers overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill.

Even Republicans Admit It: Politics Did Not Drive the IRS Tea Party "Scandal"

| Fri Jul. 5, 2013 11:20 AM EDT
Tea party members protest in front of the John Weld Peck Federal Building in Cincinnati, Ohio, during a nationwide protest at IRS offices on May 21, 2013.

With each passing week, the Internal Revenue Service's supposed targeting of tea party groups looks less like a scandal and more like a case of IRS staffers doing their jobs, albeit in an overzealous, at times clumsy, and narrow-minded way.

From the New York Times we now learn that IRS employees who vetted applications for tax-exempt status heavily scrutinized a Palestinian rights group, open-source software developers, and an organization trying to help musicians make money online. This comes on top of the news, as Mother Jones previously reported, that the agency also singled out for extra vetting groups with "progressive, "occupy," and "Israel" in their name.

That sound you hear is the last gasp of the tea party targeting "scandal," which some Republicans have tried mightily to hype into a Watergate-esque controversy. Make no mistake: As the agency subjected tea partiers and other conservative groups to an intense amount of scrutiny, it made those same groups wait for months, if not years, to learn whether they'd earned tax-exempt status. This is a big deal. Waiting around that long crimps the flow of donations that a nonprofit needs to survive. Tea partiers are right to be mad about that. But what the drip-drip of revelations in the IRS mess has shown is that it's not fair to say just tea partiers were singled out. Other nonprofits, partisan and nonpartisan, left- and right-leaning, politically inclined and not, got a grilling by the IRS, too. They also endured long wait times.

Economy Adds 195,000 Jobs, But Experts Say Fed Shouldn't Curb Stimulus Yet

| Fri Jul. 5, 2013 10:31 AM EDT

The economy added 195,000 jobs in June, according to jobs numbers released Friday by the Labor Department, and the unemployment rate held at 7.6 percent. The news was better than expected, and continues several months of generally positive employment news. But economists say that the joblessness situation in the country is not nearly sunny enough to justify the Federal Reserve reigning in the stimulus measures it has deployed since the recession, a move the Fed has hinted it may make in the coming months.

Employment growth in June was in line with the average monthly gain in jobs over the past year, and numbers for the past few months have been revised upwards—in April from 149,000 to 199,000, and in May from 175,000 to 195,000. More than 62 percent of the job increases last month were in leisure and hospitality, which picked up 75,000 jobs; retail, which gained 37,000; and temp services, which added 10,000. Low-wage service sector jobs have been a hallmark of this recovery; occupations paying less than $13.83 have accounted for 58 percent of the job gains since 2010. This follows a longer-term pattern of middle-income jobs being hollowed out by low- and high-wage jobs after recessions. Here's what that has looked like since the 2001 recession, via the National Employment Law Project:

And here's more grim news in June's report: The number of people working part-time because their hours had been cut back or were unable to find full-time work increased by 322,000 people to 8.2 million between May and June. Last month, there were 1 million discouraged workers—meaning people not looking for work because they believe there are no jobs available for them. That's an increase of 206,000 from a year ago. When you include these workers, you get an alternative June unemployment rate (which the Labor Department terms the U6 unemployment rate) of 14.3 percent. That's a significant uptick from May (13.8 percent), and the highest level since February.

In other bad news, the unemployment rate for adult women edged up to 6.8 percent, and the ongoing sequester accounted for a loss of 7,000 government jobs.

A total of 11.8 million Americans remain unemployed, and the proportion of people in the workforce remains at its lowest level since 1979.

For these reasons, economists are saying this is no time for the Federal Reserve to cut back on stimulus measures. In May, Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke hinted the Fed may begin increasing interest rates from their current near-zero levels, and cut back on its purchasing of tens of billions of dollars per month in government bonds. Dean Baker, director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, says that the proportion of people in the workforce should drive the Fed's stimulus policies, not the unemployment rate. Here's Baker:

Ironically Bernanke made this exact point about declining [employment-to-population ratio (EPOPs)] back in January 2004 when he was justifying the Fed’s decision to keep the [interest] rate at what was then considered an extraordinarily low 1.0 percent. Bernanke noted that the unemployment rate at the time was not terribly high, but pointed to a sharp decline in the EPOP from the pre-recession level. Since it was implausible that so many people had suddenly lost the desire or ability to work, Bernanke argued that the falling EPOP was strong evidence of continuing slack in the labor market.

Apparently Bernanke views the recent fall in the EPOP differently than the drop following the last recession.

Tea Partiers Explain How to Properly Celebrate the 4th of July

| Thu Jul. 4, 2013 5:00 AM EDT

A Member of the Tea Party during a nationwide protest at IRS offices.

The modern Independence Day celebration typically involves things like parades, fireworks, and backyard barbecuing. For the Tea Party Patriots, though, the 4th is a much more solemn occasion, a time for reflecting on all the history that the rest of us tend to gloss over while wilting in the summer heat over the grill. The group has helpfully provided an "Independence Day Tool Kit" with detailed instructions on how to celebrate the holiday, tea party-style. 

According to the Tea Party Patriots, a proper 4th of July celebration should naturally kick off with the reading of the Declaration of Independence (or, if time is an issue, just the important parts). A prayer might also be in order, and the program outline helpfully advises that "smaller families might want to invite another family to join them." The extra people are important because the tea partiers recommend that American families spend their day off acting out a play called Unite or Die, whose text on TPP's website is accompanied by a pattern for making tri-corner hats out of construction paper.  

unite or die
Unite or Die, an Independence Day play for the whole family recommended by Tea Party Patriots. Charlesbridge

For the kids, TPP recommends "colonial games" including leapfrog and hopscotch. Once they've worked up an appetite jumping over each other, the kids might be ready for a colonial refreshment, such as Swamp Yankee Applesauce Cake or 1776 molasses dumplings (recipes included). 

TPP's Independence Day toolkit also includes coloring books for the kids, which illustrate the great sacrifices made by the Founders and educate children on the birth of the nation—at least from the perspective of the National Center for Constitutional Studies. The group was founded by Glenn Beck's favorite anti-communist Mormon author, the late W. Cleon Skousen, whose work is quoted in an "Independence Day Message" that the toolkit recommends reading to holiday guests. The message conveys a rather different interpretation of the Declaration of Independence than most Americans might have come to understand. In it, for instance, Earl Taylor, the head of NCCS, declares that "Acceptance of the Declaration of Independence is Acceptance of God as Our King," and that the founding document is a "declaration of our individual belief that God is our one and only King." 

Viewed that way, of course, the 4th of July is no longer a day for fireworks, but a religious holiday, which sort of explains TPP's rather dour prescriptions for celebrating it. I'm guessing that not many Americans will trade their beer, burgers, and lounge chairs for colonial cakes and a few rounds of leapfrog. But hey, that's the great thing about living in a free country: The Declaration of Independence means that the tea partiers can tell the rest of us how to celebrate the 4th, and we are free to utterly ignore them.