The U.S. Constitution needs an overhaul. Here’s how California can help

“Go to my website or use the hashtag #LetsGetTheCalOuttaHere!” shouts Gwyneth Paltrow in the Netflix series The Politician. Running for governor a platform of leading California’s secession from the United States, Paltrow’s character wins 98% of the vote. 

This may be fiction, but California independence is gaining cultural currency and real-world urgency. Our own real governor, Gavin Newsom, frequently describes California as a “nation-state,” to make the point that the Golden State must act like an independent country to protect itself during the biggest pandemic in a century.

While conventional wisdom remains that California would never leave the union, who can put faith in conventional wisdom anymore? Polling suggests one-third of Californians support their state’s peaceful withdrawal from the nation. And there are relentless fights between the state and the White House over California’s attempts to protect its immigrants, women, healthcare, water, housing, environment, and elections. 

Those battles are partisan, but electing a Democratic president is unlikely to bring state and nation together. The cause of the rift between Californians and Americans goes well beyond the political to the structural, the cultural, and the constitutional.

California is a modern democracy with a powerful initiative process that allows its highly diverse population to amend its constitution directly. The U.S., in contrast, is a majority-white country that clings to a 1789 constitution that permitted slavery, is nearly impossible to amend, and prohibits election of the president by popular vote.

The power of the U.S. presidency is largely unaccountable; one person in the Oval Office can start nuclear war without anyone else’s permission. Other branches are also sheltered from democratic interventions. Too much power lies with a U.S. Senate that gives California’s 40 million people the same two senators as Vermont’s 625,000. Difficult controversies are decided by a Supreme Court of highly politicized, life-tenured judges.

None of this makes California’s departure from the union likely.  But it guarantees state-federal conflict, and more frequent California attempts to escape the union. How best to manage California’s independence bids in the years ahead? 

The essential answer is: peacefully. To ensure peace, Calexit must be something that majorities in California and the United States both want. To rea

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It’s not just about Washington—racist team mascots persist all over the country

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Activists and allies have long called for the Washington football team to retire their name, a word that in modern usage is defined as a racial slur. 

It now appears that call may be answered.

On Friday, the team issued a press release distributed via Twitter announcing a “thorough review of the team’s name,” which “formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks.” The statement cited “recent events around our country and feedback from our community.”

“This moment has been 87 years in the making, and we have reached this moment thanks to decades of tireless efforts by tribal leaders, advocates, citizens, and partners to educate America about the origins and meaning of the R-word,” said Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), in a statement of support. “NCAI looks forward to immediately commencing discussions with the league and team about how they will change the team’s name and mascot, and a prompt timetable for doing so.”

Part of the feedback mentioned by the team may have been financial.

On July 1, Adweek reported that Nike, FedEx, and PepsiCo each received letters signed by 87 investment firms and shareholders worth a combined $620 billion asking the companies to sever ties with the Washington team as it is currently named.

Two days later, FedEx, the title sponsor for the team’s home stadium in Landover, Maryland, issued a statement confirmed by NBC News, saying enough was enough. “We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name,“ FedEx said.

FedEx paid $205 million in 1998 for the team’s stadium naming rights to in a deal that runs through 2025, according to the NFL. FedEx founder, chairman, and CEO Fred Smith, is a team minority owner.

Nike has made no public statement but seems to have made a commercial one. Washington team’s apparel has disappeared from its e-commerce site, as has any reference of the team itself. “Furthermore, its shopping filters also omit Washington, and its search function pulls up other teams but no results for Washington,” reports NBC Sports. Nike is the team’s official uniform supplier, as well. 

If the team is renamed, it will be powerful victory for advocates and a dram

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How to watch the July 4 partial lunar eclipse

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Independence Day revelers who turn their gaze skyward for fireworks this weekend (assuming they’re not canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic) may notice another spectacle.

Late Saturday night and early Sunday, a partial lunar eclipse will take place. Across most of North and South America, the astronomical event will start at 11:07 p.m. ET on July 4 and last until 1:52 a.m. ET on July 5.

Variable weather conditions may obscure the sky, depending on people’s locations, but the best viewing time should be around 12:30 a.m. ET.

People across western Europe and Africa may be able to glimpse the phenomenon, though it will be harder to discern as morning twilight washes over those parts of the world. Elsewhere, in Eastern Europe, Asia, and the northernmost reaches of Canada and Alaska, the event will not be visible.

What you’ll see

The nighttime effect will be a subtle one.

The moon will appear slightly darker than usual as it passes through the outer part of Earth’s shadow, called the penumbra. Even for those with good vision, the faint shading of a corner of the moon—called a partial, penumbral lunar eclipse—can be hard to see.

The visual is less dramatic than a total lunar eclipse. During this other type of eclipse, the Earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the moon, and light refracted through the planet’s atmosphere casts a bloody, reddish hue on its surface.

At least two lunar eclipses happen every year. This will be the third lunar eclipse of 2020 and the first one visible in the Americas since last year. The next one, also a penumbral lunar eclipse, will take place on Nov. 30.

Coincidentally, Jupiter and Saturn will also be prominently visible this weekend. Look for the two planets, which will appear as bright star-like points of light near the moon in the southeasterly sky.

When’s the next lunar eclipse?

Lunar eclipses only occur during full moons. The full moon of July is colloquially known as a Buck Moon because it appears around the time that young male deer grow their antlers.

A lunar eclipse requires the Sun, Earth, and moon to form a straight line in space. Astronomers call this celestial condition syzygy.

The next total lunar eclipse will take place next year. On May 21, 2021, the mo

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The Statue of Liberty’s origin in photos

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This weekend is July 4th, and though it’s a time to celebrate—safely—the United States’ Independence Day, it’s also a time to reflect on what freedom and liberty means. The Statue of Liberty has been an enduring national symbol to personify that very abstract idea.

“Liberty Enlightening the World” arrived in the New York Harbor from its journey from France, disassembled in 350 pieces, on June 17, 1885. More commonly known as the Statue of Liberty, it was the largest statue at the time, towering over the Brooklyn Bridge and Trinity Church, and symbolized a message the country is still striving to attain today: liberty for all.

Rising 305 feet tall from its pedestal to torch, the statue weighs 450,000 pounds; 88 tons of brass were used in its structure. The length of one hand is more than 16 feet while her index finger measures exactly 8 feet. The colossal statue was a gift from France and the brainchild of French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi to symbolize America’s message of liberty to the world, something he constructed while depressed at the ruins and wretchedness in his native land after defeat by Germany in the Franco-Prussian War.

The New Ulm Review in Minnesota recounted, “’Liberty Enlightening the World!’ What a priceless blessing personal liberty is. It is the shrine at which people, ground under the heel of tyranny in the older worlds, worship with a fervency that Americans can scarcely realize.”

Liberty was still seen as a controversial topic in the 19th century. It suggested violence and revolution to many people, but Bartholdi used classical images of a powerful, honorable national authority to overcome the ideology.

The colossal statue was, and still is, a symbol of independence for all, but it’s an ideal that has seemed ironic and unattainable for centuries. 

In an early model, Bartholdi depicted Lady Liberty holding broken chains in her hand referring to the emancipation of slaves in 1863 . But in the final model, the chains were replaced with a tablet dated July 4, 1776 nodding to the Declaration of Independence. Bartholdi then placed the broken shackle and chains beneath Lady Liberty’s feet—they are basically impossible for visitors to see at most angles. Though it nodded to the emancipation of slavery in the U.S. and symbolized

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