And what are your plans this Fourth of July?
One U.S. senator hopes you'll grab an ice-cream cone, climb a tree, and watch the colors of the U.S. flag pass by.
In celebration of this nation's 227th birthday, it's worth repeating what West Virginia Sen. Robert C. Byrd said about Independence Day and how Americans "have become jaded, gotten away from the old-fashioned patriotism that used to mark our federal holidays."
Here in the nation's capital, he acknowledged, the Fourth of July celebration is like nowhere else - larger, louder, and featuring a fireworks display to amaze and delight.
"But, in all honesty, I must admit that it is not my cup of tea," said the 85-year-old senator from Sophia. "No, I prefer to recall a simpler time and smaller celebrations back in the hills and hollows and rural towns of New Hampshire, and Vermont, and my own native West Virginia."
What were they like?
"The high school band would don its very best regalia, shine up its buttons and march down the dusty small streets lined with moms and dads. Children perched atop shoulders so they could see and point fingers as the parade went by. The baton twirlers would twirl and step high. Young boys and girls would run alongside just to be part of the spectacle.
"Meanwhile, ice cream cones would drip, drip in the sultry heat (and) somewhere nearby, perhaps inside a church basement, cakes, pies, fried chicken, potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans and hot barbecue - and a cold Coca-Cola - awaited all who felt inclined to take part in the holiday feast.
"And in the evening," he continued, "a fireworks display, lasting all of 10 or 15 minutes, and boasting at least three different colors in the night sky, would captivate all who could stand in a nearby tree or climb the lower branches of a not-too-high tree."
We'll skip the chapter on the shocking number of Hollywood stars - most notably Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kevin Costner - who've traveled to Cuba and praised dictator Fidel Castro.
And how U2's Bono is able to secure billions of U.S. tax dollars from both major political parties for AIDS relief and other charities while living in tax-free Dublin.
We'll skip these particular "Tales From The Left Coast: True Stories of Hollywood Stars and Their Outrageous Politics" (Crown Forum, $25.95), and instead bring you a portion of author James Hirsen's hilarious, yet accurate, Political Glossary of Hollywood:
"Additional Democrat voter: 1. An existence-challenged individual who resides in a Chicago cemetery; 2. A senior citizen in Miami with election dyslexia; 3. An undocumented immigrant who's been bribed with a glazed donut and shuttled in so he can vote in a Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston or New York election.
"Big sleep: What overtakes you when you're listening to an Al Gore speech.
"Bill of Rights: 1: A collection of ideas drafted by old, dead white guys who owned slaves; 2: The stuff in the Constitution ... meant for actors, artists and other creative types only, and can mean anything a Hollywood celebrity wants it to.
"Diverse: The most important thing that an institution, community or locale can be, as long as it doesn't apply to ideas.
"Drugs: Substances that lead to an improved level of consciousness; used in ample amounts by celebrities whenever it strikes their fancy.
"Earth Day: A sacred, high holy day set aside to honor Gaia, the goddess of Earth, and to plant hemp seeds.
"Political jokes: The slate of candidates supported by Hollywood liberals.
"Political slogan: You can fool some of the people all of the time, so focus your attention on the ones you can fool easily.
"Sex: 1. The most essential thing to include in any screenplay, TV sitcom or music video; 2. The activity that takes precedence over everything else, except for drugs, and should be engaged in wherever, whenever and with whomever a celebrity so desires.
"Smoking: The most embarrassing thing one can be caught doing, unless the tobacco-related behavior looks cool and is featured in a movie that's designed for kids or teens."
GOOMBA TO MOOSE
Attorneys for Washington-area sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad are trying to stop publication of former Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose's book on last fall's string of shootings that left 10 persons dead, another three injured and millions more afraid to pump petrol.
Dutton Publishing Inc. already has forked over a $174,000 advance to Moose for "Three Weeks in October: The Manhunt for the Serial Sniper," a title already being sold on Amazon.com, although the book won't be available until Sept. 15.
What's interesting is that in promoting the book, Amazon says Moose "is the chief of police of Montgomery County" - rather misleading given he resigned his post on June 16.
It will be interesting to see when, if ever, Amazon realizes the Moose resignation, as it could affect book sales. The Montgomery County Ethics Commission ruled in March that Moose couldn't profit from the book (in addition to the advance, he is promised $4 for every copy sold) while he served as chief.
Also waiting to be paid is the book's co-author, Charles Fleming, whose most recent volume is titled "A Goomba's Guide to Life."
GIVE ME LIBERTY.
In five years the inflation-proof Liberty Dollar, an alternative to the Federal Reserve Note, has grown into the second-most-popular currency in America.
"We're not antigovernment, we just offer a superior currency," Liberty Dollar founder and economist Bernard von NotHaus tells this column, adding that contrary to popular belief the money Americans spend isn't "federal" at all, rather it is controlled by a consortium of international and private banking interests.
"After 90 years of producing this country's current currency, the U.S. government has performed extremely bad, extremely bad," says Von NotHaus, retired mint master of the Royal Hawaiian Mint. "The Liberty Dollar, unlike the U.S. dollar, is 100 percent backed.
"We're advertising that you don't have to use government money anymore," he says. "Now we've got a choice. We're very much like FedEx. What did they do? They brought competition to the U.S. Postal Service. And what happened? The post office improved dramatically, offering new products, becoming market-friendly. Similarly, we bring competition to the economy's most basic unit - money."
Von NotHaus said that if enough people used the debt-free Liberty Dollar, which is 100 percent backed by gold and silver, and 100 percent redeemable by bearer on demand, the national debt can be eliminated entirely.
Current estimates are that more than 30,000 people use the Liberty Dollar, which comes in three silver denominations (coins and certificates) of $1, $5, $10, and one gold denomination of $500. Millions of the dollars are in circulation - many being spent right under the nose of the U.S. Treasury.
"The last place I spent them was at the National Press Club," Bill White, a Web development consultant for political and corporate clients, tells this column. "You can spend them at 7-Eleven, Home Depot, anyplace you like. I spend them everywhere.
"My view is it is more legitimate than the Reserve Note, which is a worthless piece of paper being traded back and forth," adds White. "This dollar is backed by silver and gold."
Still, 30,000 Liberty Dollar holders aren't many, given the 300 million money spenders in this country. In addition, while the value of the U.S. dollar does erode, inflation has remained low since Jimmy Carter left town. Uncle Sam also offers Treasury bills and certificates of deposit, or CDs, which do earn interest.
"When we introduced the Liberty Dollar on October 1, 1998, we got an awful lot of [people saying] you can't do that, you won't last 30 days," answers Von NotHaus. "The long and short of it is we lasted 30 days ... and after five years we have millions of dollars in circulation. We're just here identifying the choir."