Friday, August 31, 2012

What If Jesus Had Been A Republican?

A sample of what the Scriptures might look like if Jesus had actually been a conservative.

This story was republished from Tikkun.
Editor's Note: This was sent to Tikkun on email from Cath News and a column called "The Not-So-Social-Gospel." It is a powerful reminder both of how far sections of the Christian world have strayed from the teachings of Jesus, and also a reminder of the tens of millions of Catholics who are deeply dedicated to social justice, peace, generosity and love (even though unfortunately they are stuck in a church whose leadership is more interested in demonizing gays and abortions and attacking American Nuns who take Jesus' teachings seriously than in carrying on the progressive elements in Jesus' gospel). It saddens us at Tikkun to see how twisted that Church leadership has become, just as we have been saddened by how twisted the Jewish leadership has become to give blind support to the oppressive policies of Israel toward Palestinians,  and reminds us to once again invite all Christians who do feel connected to the social justice, peace and love oriented Jesus to join our INTERFATIH  Network of Spiritual Progressives at so that we can work together to amplify these voices and provide comfort and support to those who are being "dissed" in their own religious communities for taking seriously the highest teachings of their God.--Rabbi Michael Lerner   Editor, Tikkun magazine and Chair, the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives.
The Lazy Paralytic
1. When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at his home.
2. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them.
3. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.
4. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.
5. When Jesus saw this he grew angry, “Why did you wreck my roof?  Do you have any idea how much that cost to install?  Do you know how many tables and chairs I had to make in my carpentry shop to pay for that roof?  The reeds alone cost five talents.  I had them carted in from Bethany.”
6. The disciples had never seen Jesus so angry about his possessions.  He continued, “This house is my life.  And the roof is the best part.”  The disciples fell silent.
7. “It’s bad enough that you trash my private property, now you want me to heal you?” said Jesus, “And did you not see the stone walls around this house?”  “Yes,” said the man’s friends.  “Are these not the stone walls common to the towns and villages of Galilee?”
8. “No,” Jesus answered.  “This is a gated community.  How did you get in?”  The man’s friends grew silent.  9. Then Jesus turned and said to the paralytic, “Besides, can’t you take care of your own health problems?  I’m sure that your family can care for you, or maybe the synagogue can help out.”
10. “No, Lord,” answered the man’s friends.  “There is no one.  His injuries are too severe.  To whom else can we go?”
11. “Well, not me,” said Jesus.  “What would happen if I provided access to free health care for everyone?  That would mean that people would not only get lazy and entitled, but they would take advantage of the system.
12. Besides, look at me: I’m healthy. And you know why?  Because I worked hard for my money, and took care of myself.”  The paralyzed man then grew sad and he addressed Jesus.  “But I did work, Lord,” said the paralytic.  “Until an accident rendered me paralyzed.”  “Yes,” said the man’s friends. “He worked very hard.”
13. “Well,” said Jesus, “That’s just part of life, isn’t it?”  “Then what am I to do, Lord?” said the paralytic.  “I don’t know.  Why don’t you sell your mat?”
14. All in the crowd then grew sad.  “Actually, you know what you can do?” said Jesus. “You can reimburse me for my roof.  Or I’ll sue you.” And all were amazed.
15. “We have never seen anything like this,” said the crowd.
The Very Poorly Prepared Crowd
1. The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve apostles came to Jesus and said, “Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.”
2 But Jesus said to them, “Why not give them something to eat?” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.”
3 For there were about five thousand men. And Jesus said to his disciples, “You know what?  You’re right.  Don’t waste your time and shekels.  It would be positively immoral for you to spend any of your hard-earned money for these people.  They knew full well that they were coming to a deserted place, and should have relied on themselves and brought more food.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s every five thousand men for themselves.”
4. The disciples were astonished by this teaching.  “But Lord,” said Thomas.  “The crowd will surely go hungry.”  Jesus was amazed at his hard-headedness.  “That’s not my problem, Thomas.  Better that their stomachs are empty than they become overly dependent on someone in authority to provide loaves and fishes for them on a regular basis.  Where will it end?  Will I have to feed them everyday?”  “No, Lord,” said Thomas, “Just today.  When they are without food.  After they have eaten their fill, they will be healthy, and so better able to listen to your word and learn from you.”  Jesus was grieved at Thomas’s answer.  Jesus answered, “It is written: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”  So taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and took one loaf and one fish for himself, and gave the rest to the twelve, based on their previously agreed-upon contractual per diem.  But he distributed none to the crowd, because they needed to be taught a lesson.  So Jesus ate and he was satisfied.  The disciples somewhat less so.  “Delicious,” said Jesus.  What was left over was gathered up and saved for Jesus, should he grow hungry in a few hours.  The very poorly prepared crowd soon dispersed.
The Rich and Therefore Blessed Young Man
1. As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to him and knelt before him, and asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
2. And Jesus said to him, “What have you done so far?”
3. And he said to Him, “Well I was born into a wealthy family, got into a good school in Galilee because my parents donated a few thousand talents for a building with a nice reed roof, and now I have a high-paying job in the Roman treasury managing risk.”
4. Looking at him, Jesus felt an admiration for him, and said to him, “Blessed are you!  For you are not far from being independently wealthy.” And the man was happy.  Then Jesus said, “But there is one thing you lack: A bigger house in a gated community in Tiberias. Buy that and you will have a treasure indeed.  And make sure you get a stone countertop for the kitchen.  Those are really nice.”  The disciples were amazed.  5. Peter asked him, “Lord, shouldn’t he sell all his possessions and give it to the poor?” Jesus grew angry.  “Get behind me, Satan!  He has earned it!”  Peter protested: “Lord,” he said, “Did this man not have an unjust advantage?  What about those who are not born into wealthy families, or who do not have the benefit of a good education, or who, despite all their toil, live in the poorer areas of Galilee, like Nazareth, your own home town?”
6. “Well,” said Jesus, “first of all, that’s why I left Nazareth.  There were too many poor people always asking me for charity.  They were as numerous as the stars in the sky, and they annoyed me.  Second, once people start spending again, like this rich young man, the Galilean economy will inevitably rebound, and eventually some of it will trickle down to the poor.  Blessed are the patient!  But giving the money away, especially if he can’t write it off, is a big fat waste.”  The disciples’ amazement knew no bounds.  “But Lord,” they said, “what about the passages in both the Law and the Prophets that tell us to care for widows and orphans, for the poor, for the sick, for the refugee?  What about the many passages in the Scriptures about justice?”
7. “Those are just metaphors,” said Jesus.  “Don’t take everything so literally.”

6 Right-Wing Zealots and the Crazy Ideas Behind the Most Outrageous Republican Platform Ever

They're breaking out the crazy down in Tampa.
comments_image 112 COMMENTS
Kris Kobach

TAMPA, FLA. -- The official 2012 Republican Party platform is a far-right fever dream, a compilation of pouting, posturing and policies to meet just about every demand from the overlapping Religious Right, Tea Party, corporate, and neo-conservative wings of the GOP. If moderates have any influence in today’s Republican Party, you wouldn’t know it by reading the platform. Efforts by a few delegates to insert language favoring civil unions, comprehensive sex education and voting rights for the District of Columbia, for example, were all shot down. Making the rounds of right-wing pre-convention events on Sunday, Rep. Michele Bachmann gushed about the platform’s right-wing tilt, telling fired-up Tea Partiers that “the Tea Party has been all over that platform.”
Given the Republican Party’s hard lurch to the right, which intensified after the election of Barack Obama, the “most conservative ever” platform is not terribly surprising. But it didn’t just happen on its own. Here are some of the people we can thank on the domestic policy front.
1. Bob McDonnell. As platform committee chair, McDonnell made it clear he was not in the mood for any amendments to the draft language calling for a “Human Life Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution and legal recognition that the “unborn” are covered by the 14th Amendment (“personhood” by another name). McDonnell is in many ways the ideal right-wing governor: he ran as a fiscal conservative and governs like the Religious Right activist he has been since he laid out his own political platform in the guise of a master’s thesis at Pat Robertson’s Regent University.
His thesis argued that feminists and working women were detrimental to the family, and that public policy should favor married couples over “cohabitators, homosexuals, or fornicators.” When running for governor of Virginia, McDonnell disavowed his thesis, but as a state legislator he pushed hard to turn those positions into policy. As the Washington Post noted, “During his 14 years in the General Assembly, McDonnell pursued at least 10 of the policy goals he laid out in that research paper, including abortion restrictions, covenant marriage, school vouchers and tax policies to favor his view of the traditional family. In 2001, he voted against a resolution in support of ending wage discrimination between men and women.” As governor, McDonnell signed the kind of mandatory ultrasound law that is praised in this year’s platform. When his name was floated as a potential V.P. pick, Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood decried his “deeply troubling record on women’s health.”
2. Tony Perkins. Perkins heads the Family Research Council, whose Values Voter Summit is the Religious Right’s most important annual conference, where activists rub shoulders with Republican officials and candidates. Perkins braggedin an email to his supporters how much influence he and his friend David Barton (see below) had on the platform. Perkins was an active member of the platform committee, proposing language to oppose school-based health clinics that provide referrals for contraception or abortion, and arguing for the strongest possible anti-marriage equality language. Perkins also introduced an amendment to the platform calling on the District of Columbia government to loosen its gun laws, which Perkins says still do not comply with recent Supreme Court rulings.
The media tends to treat Perkins, a telegenic former state legislator, as a reasonable voice of the Religious Right, but his record and his group’s positions prove otherwise. Perkins has been aggressively exploiting the recent shooting at FRC headquarters to divert attention from the group’s extremism by claiming that the Southern Poverty Law Center was irresponsible in calling FRC a hate group. Unfortunately for Perkins, the group’s record of promoting hatred toward LGBT people is well-documented. Perkins has even complained that the press and President Obama were being too hard on Uganda’s infamous “kill the gays” bill, which he described as an attempt to “uphold moral conduct.” It’s worth remembering that Perkins ran a 1996 campaign for Louisiana Senate candidate Woody Jenkins that paid $82,600 to David Duke for the Klan leader’s mailing list; the campaign was fined by the FEC for trying to cover it up.
3. David Barton. Texas Republican activist and disgraced Christian-nation “historian” Barton has had a tough year, but Tampa has been good to him. He was perhaps the most vocal member of the platform committee, and was a featured speaker at Sunday’s pre-convention “prayer rally.” During the platform committee’s final deliberations, Barton couldn’t seem to hear his own voice often enough. He was the know-it-all nitpicker, piping up with various language changes, such as deleting a reference to the family as the “school of democracy” because families are not democracies. He thought it was too passive to call Obamacare an “erosion of” the Constitution and thought it should be changed to an “attack on” the founding document. He called for stronger anti-public education language and asserted that large school districts employ one administrator for every teacher. He backed anti-abortion language, tossing out the claim that 127 medical studies over five decades say that abortion hurts women.
Progressives have been documenting Barton’s lies for years, but more recently conservative evangelical scholars have also been hammering his claims about American history. The critical chorus got so loud that Christian publishing powerhouse Thomas Nelson pulled Barton’s most recent book – which, ironically, purports to correct “lies” about Thomas Jefferson – from the shelves. Of course, Barton has had plenty of practice at this sort of thing, from producing bogusdocumentaries designed to turn African Americans against the Democratic Party to pushing his religious and political ideology into Texas textbooks. Barton’s right-wing friends like Glenn Beck have rallied around him. And nothing seems to tarnish Barton with the GOP allies for whom he has proven politically useful over the years.
4. Kris Kobach. Kris Kobach wants to be your president one day; until now, he has gotten as far as Kansas Secretary of State. He may be best known as the brains behind Arizona’s “show me your papers” law, and he successfully pushed for anti-immigrant language in the platform, including a call for the federal government to deny funds to universities that allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition – a plank that puts Kobach and the platform at odds with Kansas law. Immigration is not Kobach’s only issue. He is an energizing force behind the Republican Party’s massive push for voter suppression laws around the country, and he led the effort to get language inserted into the platform calling on states to pass laws requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration.
He also pushed language aimed at the supposed threat to the Constitution and laws of the US from “Sharia law”; getting this language into the platform puts the GOP in the position of endorsing a ludicrous far-right conspiracy theory. Kobach hopes that will give activists a tool for pressuring more states to pass their own anti-Sharia laws. In the platform committee, he backed Perkins’ efforts to maintain the strongest language against marriage equality. Even an amendment to the marriage section saying that everyone should be treated “equally under the law” as long as they are not hurting anyone else, was shot down by Kobach. Kobach also claims he won support for a provision to oppose any effort to limit how many bullets can go into a gun’s magazine.
5. James Bopp. James Bopp is a Republican lawyer and delegate from Indiana whose client list is a who’s-who of right-wing organizations, including National Right to Life and the National Organization for Marriage, which he hasrepresented in its efforts to keep political donors secret. As legal advisor to Citizens United, Bopp has led legal attacks on campaign finance laws and played a huge role in the issue of unlimited right-wing cash flooding our elections. Bopp chaired this year’s platform subcommittee on “restoring constitutional government,” which helps explain its strong anti-campaign finance reform language.
Bopp is also an annoyingly petty partisan, having introduced a resolution in the Republican National Committee in 2009 urging the Democratic Party to change its name to the “Democrat Socialist Party.” In this year’s platform committee, Bopp successfully pushed for the removal of language suggesting that residents of the District of Columbia might deserve some representation in Congress short of statehood. His sneering comments, and his gloating fist-pump when the committee approved his resolution, have not won him any friends among DC residents – not that he cares. He also spoke out against a young delegate’s proposal that the party recognize civil unions, which Bopp denounced as “counterfeit marriage.” In spite of all these efforts, Bopp has been at the forefront of Romney campaign platform spin, arguing in the media that the platform language on abortion is not really a “no-exceptions” ban, in spite of its call for a Human Life Amendment and laws giving 14th Amendment protections to the “unborn.”
6. Dick Armey. Former Republican insider Dick Armey now runs FreedomWorks, the Koch-backedcorporate-fundedMurdoch-promoted Tea Party astroturfing group – or, in its words, a “grassroots service center.” Armey has been a major force behind this year’s victories of Tea Party Senate challengers like Ted Cruz in Texas and Richard Mourdock in Indiana, both of whom knocked off “establishment” candidates. FreedomWorks also backed Rand Paul in Kentucky and Mike Lee in Utah in 2010. As Adele Stan has reported, FreedomWorks’ goal is to build a cadre of far-right senators to create a “power center around Jim DeMint,” the Senate’s reigning Tea Party-Religious Right hero.
To put Armey’s stamp on the platform, FreedomWorks created a “Freedom Platform” project, which enlisted Tea Party leaders to come up with proposed platform planks and encouraged activists to vote for them online. Then FreedomWorks pushed the party to include these planks in the official platform:
  • Repeal Obamacare; pursue patient-centered care
  • Stop the tax hikes
  • Reverse Obama’s spending increases
  • Scrap the tax code; replace with a flat tax
  • Pass a balanced budget amendment
  • Reject cap and trade
  • Rein in EPA
  • Unleash America’s vast energy potential
  • Eliminate the Department of Education
  • Reduce the bloated federal workforce
  • Curtail excessive federal regulation
  • Audit the fed
An Ohio Tea Party Group, Ohio Liberty Coalition, celebrated that 10 of 12 made it to the draft – everything but the flat tax and eliminating the Department of Defense. But FreedomWorks gave itself a more generous score, arguing for an 11.5 out of 12. FreedomWorks vice president Dean Clancy said the platform’s call for a “flatter” tax “opens the door to a flat tax” and said they considered the education section of the platform a “partial victory” because it includes “a very strong endorsement of school choice, including vouchers.”
Honorable mention: Mitt Romney. This is his year, his party and his platform. The entire Republican primary was essentially an exercise in Romney moving to the right to try to overcome resistance to his nomination from activists who distrusted his ideological authenticity. The last thing the Romney campaign wanted was a fight with the base, like the one that happened in San Diego in 1996, when Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition delighted in publicly humiliating nominee Robert Dole over his suggestion that the GOP might temper its anti-abortion stance. Romney signaled his intention to avoid a similar conflict when he named Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell to chair the platform committee.
Keeping Everybody Happy
The new GOP platform reflects Romney’s desire to placate every aspect of the party’s base. It also demonstrates both the continuing power of the Religious Right within the GOP, as well as ongoing efforts to erase any distinctions between social conservatives and anti-government zealots, as demonstrated by Ralph Reed welcoming Grover Norquist to his Faith and Freedom coalition leadership luncheon on Sunday

Where Is the Outrage over Money in Politics?

As the Republican National Convention roars on, the real outrage is happening behind closed doors--and no one is talking about it.
Bill Moyers / By Bill MoyersBernard Weisberger   64 COMMENTS

We might wish the uproar from the convention halls of both parties these busy weeks were the wholesome clamor of delegates deliberating serious visions of how we should be governed for the next four years. It rises instead from scripted TV spectacles — grown-ups doing somersaults of make-believe — that will once again distract the public’s attention from the death rattle of American democracy brought on by an overdose of campaign cash.
No serious proposal to take the money out of politics, or even reduce its tightening grip on the body politic, will emerge from Tampa or Charlotte, so the sounds of celebration and merriment are merely prelude to a funeral cortege for America as a shared experience. A radical minority of the super-rich has gained ascendency over politics, buying the policies, laws, tax breaks, subsidies, and rules that consolidate a permanent state of vast inequality by which they can further help themselves to America’s wealth and resources.
Their appetite for more is insatiable. As we write, Mitt Romney, after two fundraisers in which he raised nearly $10 million from the oil and gas industry, and having duly consulted with the Oklahoma billionaire energy executive who chairs the campaign’s energy advisory committee, has announced that if elected President, he will end a century of federal control over oil and gas drilling on public lands, leaving such matters to local officials more attuned to industry desires. Theodore Roosevelt, the first great advocate for public lands in the White House, would be rolling in his grave, if Dick Cheney hadn’t already dumped his bones in a Wyoming mining shaft during the first hours of the Bush-Halliburton administration.
We are nearing the culmination of a cunning and fanatical drive to dismantle the political institutions, the legal and statutory canons, and the intellectual and cultural frameworks that were slowly and painstakingly built over decades to protect everyday citizens from the excesses of private power. The “city on the hill” has become a fortress of privilege, guarded by a hired political class and safely separated from the economic pressures that are upending the household stability, family dynamics, social mobility, and civic life of everyday Americans.
Socrates said to understand a thing, you must first name it. As in Athens then, so in America now: The name for what’s happening to our political system is corruption — a deep, systemic corruption.
How did we get here?
Let’s begin with the judicial legerdemain of nine black-robed magicians on the Supreme Court back in the l880s breathing life into an artificial creation called “the corporation.” An entity with no body, soul, sense, or mortality was endowed with all the rights of a living, breathing “person” under the Constitution. Closer to our own time, the Supreme Court of 1976 in Buckley vs. Valeo gutted a fair elections law passed by a Congress that could no longer ignore the stench of Watergate. The Court ruled that wealthy individuals could spend unlimited amounts of their own fortunes to get themselves elected to office, and that anyone could pour dollars by the hundreds of thousands into the war chests of political action committees to pay for “issue ads,” clearly favoring one side in a political race, so long as a specific candidate or party was not named.
Money, the justices declared in another burst of invention, was simply a form of speech.
Then, just two years ago, the Roberts Court, in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission, removed any lingering doubts that the marvelous “persons” that corporations had become could reach into their golden troughs to support their candidates and causes through such supposedly “educational” devices as a movie trashing Hillary Clinton.
Meaningful oversight of campaign expenditure, necessary if representative government is to have a fair chance against rapacious wealth, was swept away. Hail to a new era in which a modestly-financed candidate is at the mercy of nuclear strikes from television ads paid for by a rich or corporate-backed opponent with an “equal right” to “free speech.” As one hard pressed Connecticut Republican, lagging behind in a primary race against a billionaire opponent outspending him twelve to one, put it: “I’m fighting someone with a machine gun and I’ve got a pistol.” When the votes were counted, even the pistol turned out to be a peashooter.
A generation ago, the veteran Washington reporter Elizabeth Drew warned against the rising tide of campaign money that would flood over the gunwales of our ship of state and sink the entire vessel. Noah’s Flood was a mere drop in the bucket compared to the tidal wave that has fulfilled Drew’s prophecy. The re-election of every member of Congress today is now at the mercy of corporate barons and private princes who can make or destroy a candidacy by giving to those who vote “right,” or lavishing funds on opponents of those who don’t.
Writing the majority opinion for Citizens United, Justice Anthony Kennedy would have us believe corruption only happens if cash passes from one hand to another. But surely as he arrives at his chambers across from Capitol Hill every morning, he must inhale the fetid air rising from the cesspool that stretches from Congress to K Street — and know there’s something rotten, beyond the naked eye, in how Washington works.
Senator John McCain knows. Having been implicated in the Keating Five scandal during the savings and loan debacle 30 years ago, he repented and tried to clean up the game. To no avail. And now he describes our elections as nothing less than “an influence-peddling scheme in which both parties compete to stay in office by selling the country to the highest bidder.”
For the ultimate absurdity of money’s role, we must look to another group of happy billionaires, the corporate owners of the television stations which reap handsome profits for selling the public’s airwaves to undisclosed buyers (also known as campaign contributors) who pollute the political atmosphere with millions of dollars spent on toxic ads designed to keep voters angry, dumb, or both. Every proposal is shot down or undermined that would make it a duty for those stations to devote free air time for public purposes in order to earn the licenses that they treat as permits to get rich. In one of the great perversions of the Constitution foisted on its subjects by their overlords, the public airwaves where free speech should reign have become private enclosures to which access must be bought. Free? It’s about as free as Tiffany pearls.
Money rules. And in the foul air democracy chokes and gasps, the middle class falls behind, and the poor sink from sight as political donations determine the course and speech of policies that could make the difference in the lives of ordinary people struggling in a dog-eat-dog world.
The Devil must grin at such a sorry state of affairs and at the wicked catch-22 at its core. To fight the power of private money, it is first necessary to get elected. To get elected it is necessary to raise astronomical amounts of private money from people who expect obedience in return. “That’s some catch,” says Yossarian to Doc Daneeka, and Doc agrees: “It’s the best there is.”
Where is the outrage at this corruption? Partly smoothed away with the violence, banality, and tawdry fare served up by a corporate media with every regard for the public’s thirst for distractions and none for its need to know. Sacrificed to the ethos of entertainment, political news — instead of getting us as close as possible to the verifiable truth — has been reduced to a pablum of so-called objective analysis which gives equal time to polemicists spouting their party’s talking points.
As ProPublica recently reported: “Someone who gives up to $2,500 to the campaign of President Barack Obama or challenger Mitt Romney will have his or her name, address and profession listed on the FEC website for all to see. But that same person can give $1 million or more to a social welfare group that buys ads supporting or attacking those same candidates and stay anonymous.” But when is the last time you heard one of the millionaire anchors of the Sunday talk shows aggressively pursue a beltway poobah demanding to learn about the perfidious sources of the secret money that is poisoning our politics?
At our combined ages we’ve seen it all; hope no longer springs eternal. We know the odds against reversing the hardening grip of the monied interests are disheartening. Those interests are playing to win the ferocious class war they launched 40 years ago with a strategy devised by the corporate lawyer Lewis Powell (later a Supreme Court justice) and a call to arms from the Wall Street wheeler-dealer William Simon, who had been Richard Nixon’s treasury secretary. Simon argued that “funds generated by business” would have to “rush by multimillions” into conservative causes in order to uproot the institutions and the “heretical” morality of the New Deal. He called for an “alliance” between right-wing ideologues and “men of action in the capitalist world” to mount a “veritable crusade” against everything brought forth by the long struggle for a progressive America. Business Week noted at the time “that some people will obviously have to do with less… It will be a bitter pill for many Americans to swallow the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more.”
This was not meant to be. America was not intended to be a winner-take-all country. Our system of checks and balances — read The Federalist Papers — was to keep an equilibrium in how power works and for whom. Because of the vast sums of money buying up our politics, those checks and balances are fast disappearing and time is against us.
We are losing ground, but that’s the time when, more than ever, we need to glance back at the progressive crusades of a century ago to take note of what has been forgotten, or rather what braying blowhards like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have been distorting or attempting to flush down the memory hole. Robbing a nation of its historical memory is the most devastating of all larcenies because it opens the door to far worse crimes.
We have been here before. The two of us have collaborated in studying the example of the populists and progressives who over a century ago took on the financial and political corruptors. They faced heavy odds, too — a Supreme Court that exalted wealth as practically a sacred right, the distortion by intellectual and religious leaders of the theory of evolution to “prove” that the richest were the fittest to rule, the crony capitalism of businessmen and politicians.
With government in the grip of such exploiters, child labor was a fact of life, men and women were paid pittances for long hours of work and left unprotected from industrial diseases and accidents, and workers too old to be useful to employers any longer were abandoned to starvation or the poorhouse. No model laws existed to protect them.
But these pioneers of progressivism were tough citizens, their political courage fueled by moral conviction. They sensed, as the Kansas editor William Allen White wrote, that their country had fallen into the hands of self-seekers, their civilization needed recasting, and a new relationship must be forged between haves and have-nots. When the two major parties failed them they gave full throat to their discontent by fighting from outside, and when Theodore Roosevelt’s breakaway Progressive Party held its organizing convention in l912 — exactly one hundred years ago — they shook the rafters with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Oh, for such defiance today!
From the fighters of that era came a renewal of the social contract first set forth in the preamble of the Constitution — the moral and political notion of “We, the People.” Equitable access to public resources was its core, so that when the aristocrat De Tocqueville came here from France in the l830s he marveled at the egalitarian spirit he found in the new country. Public institutions, laws and regulation, as well as the ideas, norms, and beliefs embedded in the American mythos pointed to a future of prosperity open to all. That ideal survived the fires of the civil war and then the hard, cold cruelties of the industrial era and the First Gilded Age because people believed in and fought for it. They neither scorned nor worshipped wealth but were determined it would not rule.
It was on these foundations that the New Deal built the structure now under attack, with the support of a Depression-stricken nation which realized that we were all in it together — as we were in the war against fascism that followed.
But in the succeeding fat years the nation forgot something — the words of the great progressive senator Robert LaFollette from Wisconsin: “Democracy is a life and demands constant struggle.”Constant struggle. No victory can be taken for granted, no vigilance relaxed. Like the Bourbon kings of France, the lords of unrestrained, amoral capitalism never forgot anything. They learned from their defeat how to organize new strategies and messages, furnish the money to back them, and recapture control of the nation’s life. And in the absence of genuine, fight-to-the-finish resistance, they are winning big-time.
Think of where we are now. One party is scary and the other is scared. The Tea Party, the religious right, and a host of billionaires dominate the Republican Party. Secret money fills its coffers. And in the primaries this year almost every Republican inclined to compromise to make government work went down before radical and well-funded opponents with a fundamental “anti-government” mindset.
Yet even now President Obama says he is sure the Republicans will be willing to negotiate if he is re-elected. Sure, and the wolves will sit down with the lamb.
Nor is that all. In Wisconsin, salvo after salvo of campaign cash for union-busting Governor Scott Walker defeated the effort to recall him. In Pennsylvania a hardline judge has given his approval to a voter ID law specifically targeted to making it harder for low-income would-be voters to register. And such laws are proliferating like runaway cancer cells in state after state. The Tea Party and right-wing Christians furnish the shock troops of these assaults, but those who could be counted on for sturdy defense are not immune to the grinding pressures of nonstop fundraising. Democratic incumbents and challengers, in national and state canvasses likewise garner corporate contributions — including President Obama, whose fundraising advantage is about to be overtaken by Mitt Romney and the Deep Pockets to whom he is beholden. And at both conventions, the prime time show is merely window-dressing; the real action occurs at countless private invitation-only parties where CEOs, lobbyists, trade associations and donors literally cash in their chips. Writing in the New York Times, for example, Nicholas Confessore reports how The American Petroleum Institute will entertain with a concert and panels, all the while promoting an agenda that includes approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, opposition to new transparency rules for American energy companies operating abroad, and the expansion of oil production on those public lands Mitt Romney is preparing to turn over to them.
Does this money really matter? Do owls and bats fly by night? Needed reforms are dead on arrival on the floor of Senate and House. Banking regulations with teeth? Mortgage relief? Non-starters when the banks’ lobbyists virtually own Washington and the President of the United States tells Wall Street financiers he is all that stands between them and the pitchforks of an angry mob. Action on global warming? Not while the fossil fuel industries and corporate-back climate deniers have their powerful say in the matter. Cutting bloated military expenditures? Uh-uh, when it means facing a barrage of scare stories about weakening our defenses against terrorism. Spend money on modernizing our rail system or creating more public transportation in our auto-choked city streets? What heavy artillery the auto, gasoline and highway construction lobbies would rain down on any such proposal.
All of which would make a Progressive Rip Van Winkle shake his head in disbelief and grind his teeth in fury. “Where is the passion we shared for driving money from politics?” he would ask. Where indeed? Not on the floor of either of these conventions. You are unlikely to hear the name of Theodore Roosevelt praised by Republicans or of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by the Democrats, except in perfunctory terms (It was FDR, after all, who said he feared government by money as much as government by the mob.)
Each party will sing the obligatory hosannas to the middle class, give the silent treatment to the working poor, and bellow forth the platitudes of America’s “spirit of enterprise and innovation” that will restore our robust economy and world leadership. If the stagnant recovery and sufferings of the unemployed and underemployed get any mention, it will be to blame them on the other party. As for taking on the predatory rich, forget it.
Our advice: Learn something from the emptiness of what you see and hear — and if it doesn’t make you mad as hell and ready to fight back against the Money Power, we are all in real trouble

Koch Party Time: Billionaire Brothers Show Off the Republican Politicians They Bought

On the day of Mitt Romney's acceptance speech, a gaggle of Republican politicians pay tribute to David Koch, who tells a reporter that he is a very good person.
David Koch mingling with guests at a party arranged in his honor by Americans for Prosperity in Tampa, Fla., on the final day of the 2012 Republican National Convention.
Photo Credit: A.M. Stan
AlterNet / By Adele Stan      50 COMMENTS
TAMPA, FLA. -- In a beautifully appointed meeting room overlooking Tampa Bay, David Koch, principal in Koch Industries and benefactor of Americans For Prosperity, basking in the glow of what, for him, has been a very good couple of years, now capped off by the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan, Wis., a favorite of AFP, as the vice presidential nominee of the Republican Party. Since 2010, when Tea Partiers swept the House of Representatives and state houses across the nation, Koch has been on a roll, moving the G.O.P. in line with his hard-core anti-regulatory, anti-labor, anti-health-care reform, anti-safety net, anti-environmental agenda -- thanks to a relentless effort to build a get-out-the-vote infrastructure and a torrent of backlash against the nation's first African American president.
But to hear Koch tell it, he wants nothing more than to benefit all of humankind through his largess. "I try to do things in life that make the world  better place, Koch tells a USA Todayreporter just before he stepped up to a microphone to deliver remarks to several hundred convention delegates and party dignitaries, who are grazing on a dazzling display of hors d'oeurves that includes beef tenderloin, sushi and a splendid cheese board.
"I'm very philanthropic," Koch continues, adding: "I'm a major contributor to cancer research, medical research. I'm a big supporter of cultural institutions and educational institutions. In fact, the smallest area of my activity is educational institutions."
Not content to leave it there, Koch adds: "[M]y brother and I have built a great company, which we think is a fabulous achievement. We employ 50,000 people. We're very successful, and we're proud of all of the employment we provide to so many people."
Translation: I'm a job creator.
The event at which Koch appears on the final day of the Republican National Convention is sponsored by Americans For Prosperity, and billed as a salute to entrepreneurs, a message in keeping with the Romney campaign's false accusations against President Barack Obama that he stands against business, especially small business owners.
"With all due respect to the president," says Americans For Prosperity President Tim Phillips, "we're calling this [event] 'They Did Build It: The Reception.'"
The invitation also tells attendees that both Koch, chairman of the Americans For Prosperity Foundation, and Art Pope, the North Carolina businessman who chairs the foundation's sister organization, simply known as Americans For Prosperity, will be honored at the event. Structured as non-profits under the tax code, neither group is required to publicly reveal its funders, though Koch and his brother, Charles, are presumed to be major donors.
In his remarks to the group, Koch speaks of his long involvement "in the public policy arena" with his brother, Charles, noting their work with institutions ranging from the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., to the Reason Foundation in Los Angeles. 
"The institution I feel the most closely attached to, and the most proud of, is Americans For Prosperity," Koch says. "And my brother and I provided funding to create this wonderful organization about 10 years ago. And when we started, it was very small, and we've grown enormously now to an organization that has 2 million grassroots activists -- we call them a citizen's army."
Any doubt that Koch has reinvented the GOP in his own image is easily dispelled by a check of the podium roster at this year's Republican National Convention, presided over by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who, as chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, was involved in a 2010 vote-caging scheme executed by Americans For Prosperity. The aim of the scheme was to suppress the vote of young people and African American voters in Milwaukee. 
One of the biggest stars of the convention's opening night was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who became a right-wing superstar when, last June, he turned back a recall effort by progressives and Democrats in the wake of the passage of his bill that gutted collective bargaining for the state's pubic employees, and slashed education funding. Americans For Prosperity spent $3 million on adssupporting Walker in the recall, in addition to launching rallies and other organizing events that aided Walker in his fight to hold onto his office. Another $7 million was spent by AFP on promoting the Walker agenda almost as soon as he took office, and the organization put 75 trained staffers on the ground to turn out the right-wing vote in the recall election.
But perhaps none are as beloved by Koch and his allies than Ryan, whose support from Americans For Prosperity helped propel him to the helm of the powerful House Budget Committee. In his remarks to his assembled admirers, Koch articulates a message on deficit spending that is echoed in Ryan's budget plans and rhetoric. In fighting deficits Koch said, Americans For Prosperity seeks to save America "from financial ruin."
Introducing U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson at the podium, AFP President Tim Phillips acknowledges the special role Wisconsin, where AFP has been organizing and building infrastructure since 2005, has played in his organization's success. Johnson is yet another example of that success; AFP's embrace of Johnson allowed him to best other, more authentic Tea Party-type candidates, much to the consternation of some local Tea Party groups.
Joining Johnson in the Koch-lauding parade of pols is Rep. Tom Price, Ga., and Sen. Jon Kyl, Ariz., along with state legislators from Kansas, the home state of Koch Industries, and North Carolina, home of Art Pope, the other honoree. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a popular speaker at AFP events, is also in the room.
Before his appearance at the podium before his fans, I caught up with Pope, who is believed to have been behind the takeover of the Wake County school board, which tried to end the county's desegregation program until the public voted those members out of office in October 2011. (For more on Pope, read this article by the New Yorker's Jane Mayer.)
Talking to AlterNet, Pope was gracious, saying he welcomed the Democratic National Convention in his home state next week, and hoped the Democrats would find the city of Charlotte to be as hospitable as the Republicans found Tampa. But unlike some Tea Party leaders who bray that the right has turned the tide of public opinion forever in its favor, Pope is more cautious. The Tea Party sweep of the 2010 congressional elections, he said, "does not signify a permanent realignment." Rather, he said, "It's an opportunity." An opportunity that he'd like to see Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan maximize, he said, "to fix the country's problems."
Pope added that he didn't expect to see Obama win North Carolina in the presidential race, despite the Democrats' choice of Charlotte for their convention.

As Republicans build their farm team, Latinos are in demand

TAMPA, Fla. -- Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will have a starring role at the Republican convention in Tampa Thursday night when he introduces Mitt Romney to accept the party’s presidential nomination.
Like many politicians who ascend to high positions, including President Obama, Rubio did a stint early in his political career as a state legislator.

John Brecher / NBC News
Republican candidate Hector Revoron, running for State Senate in East Hartford, Connecticut.
Not unlike a professional baseball team, a political party’s success in developing its future leaders in Washington hinges partly on how good a farm team it builds in state legislatures.
And with the Census Bureau projecting that Latinos will be 30 percent of the U.S. population less than 40 years from now, up from about 17 percent of the population today, Republicans were eager to introduce some of their Latino state legislative candidates at the GOP convention this week in Tampa.

John Brecher / NBC News
Republican candidate Martha Flores Gibson of Long Beach, Calif.
The Republican State Leadership Committee is trying to change that arithmetic with its $3 million Future Majority Project which it launched last year with the goal of finding and financing at least 100 new Latino legislative candidates.There are only 44 Latino Republican state legislators out of 3,975 GOP legislators nationwide.
In Indianapolis, Ind., one of them, AJ Feeney-Ruiz, is making a bid for an open state House seat that has been held by a Democrat. Indiana’s Republican-controlled legislature used redistricting to make the district friendlier to a Republican candidate. It also has the highest percentage of Latinos of any state legislative district in the state.
Feeney-Ruiz is part owner of a technology firm that helps connect nonprofit businesses and volunteers and he also works as a media and public advocacy consultant. He used to work as a spokesman for Todd Rokita, the former Indiana Secretary of State who’s now a House member.
In an interview at the GOP convention, Feeney-Ruiz said, “Because of the gridlock you see in the federal government, you see all the action happening at the state level: you see budgets being balanced, you see great educational reforms going through -- especially in Indiana: We’ve just been going gangbusters, setting the stage for future success for Indiana.”

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Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who will be introducing Mitt Romney before he accepts the Republican nomination, tells TODAY's Matt Lauer why he thinks the GOP candidate's commitment to his family and faith are "admirable qualities."
He said, “So when you’re talking about the ‘farm team,’ you’re talking about a lot of folks who are very passionate, engaged at the local level, creating these laws that should be models for the federal government – if they ever get over the gridlock.”
Feeney Ruiz is member of a party that includes Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed a law tightening enforcement against illegal immigrants, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, who wants more deportations of illegal immigrants – some of whom are the cousins, nephews and nieces of Latino voters.

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Day 2: David Gregory previews the kick-off the Republican National Convention in Tampa tonight including speeches by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ann Romney.
In June, President Barack Obama made an election-year appeal to those same Latino voters by announcing that his administration won’t deport illegal immigrants under age 30 who came to the United States, or were brought to the United States before reaching age 16. “That’s not a uniquely Obama idea – that was originally a Republican idea that was proposed by President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain,” Feeney-Ruiz said. “It’s unfortunate how the president went about it, but I think it’s an idea that’s been developing over years that the Republican Party has been trying to figure out and get its hands around it, how best to execute that in the most efficient and fairest way possible.” 

John Brecher / NBC News
Republican candidate AJ Feeney-Ruiz, running for District 97 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Another Future Majority Project hopeful, Hector Reveron, is running for a state Senate seat in East Hartford, Conn. Reveron works as a technician for jet engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.Asked about GOP leaders such as Brewer, Feeney-Ruiz diplomatically said, “I think there’s a learning process on both sides. I think Republicans need to understand that this is something that happened in the 1970s” – the influx of illegal immigrants and their children. “You don’t ever want people to live in the shadows. You don’t want to have a society that lives outside of mainstream society. From a fiscal point of view, you want to be able to collect that income tax (on the income earned by illegal immigrant workers) sufficiently; you want to be able to educate the children…”
If Reveron wins, he will be the first Latino of either party to serve in the Connecticut State Senate.
But why be a Republican in such a heavily Democratic state? “My moral values and my views on economic policy are more represented by the Republican Party,” he replied. “If the Democrat Party was more centered in Connecticut than they are now – they are so far left that the only thing they believe in is taxing us for any type of revenue that they can get. And it’s driving our companies out of the state. That’s what’s really hurting us, so I cannot be with a group that continues to push that kind of philosophy.”
Another Northeastern Latino who’s part of the Future Majority Project is Peterson Vazquez, running in a New York state Assembly district representing part of the city of Rochester and the towns of Henrietta and Chili. The seat is held now by Democrat Harry Bronson. Roughly 40 percent of the voters in the district are Latino.

John Brecher / NBC News
Republican candidate Peterson A. Vazquez in Tampa, Fla.
Vazquez, an Army veteran, founder of a firm called Simply Served Process Servers, Inc., and a former Internal Revenue Service revenue agent, left the IRS to run for office. His wife is an attorney.
Vazquez explained his run for office by saying, “I grew up in the neighborhood that I’m trying to represent. And when I got out of the Army in 2003, I was a single father, I bought the house I grew up in, I was excited to put my kid in the same school I went to – but then when I got there and I started getting my kid registered and looking around the community, I realized that the community go worse. And the representation just wasn’t been there and hadn’t been there.”
If the Republican State Leadership Committee’s investment in candidates such as Vazquez pays off, perhaps at some future GOP convention, Vazquez will be standing where Rubio stands Thursday night.He said as he goes door-to-door to meet voters, “A lot of people say to me, ‘If I elect you, you’re a Republican and we’re going to end up losing entitlements, we’re going to end up losing some of the benefits we have,’ and then it reverts back to the national politics and the people running on the Democrat side where a lot of promises are being made. And I remind them of one thing: I tell them, ‘I grew up where you are today.’ I try to do everything I can to make them understand that the control of their future, their success -- where they go and where their kids go -- is in their hands. What the Republican Party tries to do is remind them that it takes hard work to achieve goals. It’s not so much taking away entitlements; it’s using entitlements as a hand-me-up so that they can better themselves and the future of their children.”