We’re All In This Together

The Commons Moment is Now – How a small, dedicated group of people can transform the world—really by Jay Walljasper, CommonDreams.org, January 24, 2011- Introducing the Commons Paradigm -
There are emerging signs that market fundamentalism has passed its peak as the defining idea of our era….a group of activists, thinkers, and concerned citizens around the world who are rallying support for the idea of a commons-based society…These commoners, as they call themselves, see possibilities for large numbers of people of diverse ideological stripes coming together to chart a new, more cooperative direction for modern society…
In the truest sense of the word, the commons is a conservative as well as progressive virtue because it aims to conserve and nurture all those things necessary for sustaining a healthy society…
Now is the time to introduce a decisive shift in worldview. People everywhere are yearning for a world that is safer, saner, more sustainable and satisfying. There’s a rising sense of possibility that even with our daunting economic and environmental problems, there are opportunities to make some fundamental improvements. Everyone deserves decent health care. The health of the planet should take precedence over the profits of a few. Clean water, adequate food, education, access to information, and economic opportunity ought to be available to all people. In other words, a commons-based society. Let’s transform that hope into constructive action.

Five Lessons in Human Goodness From “The Hunger Games” By Jeremy Adam Smith
YES! Magazine, Posted on AlterNet.org, June 28, 2012

How the Common Good Is Transforming Our World by Douglas LaBier, HuffingtonPost.com, October 17, 2010


The Social Animal by David Brooks, New York Times, September 12, 2008  …Barry Goldwater, “The Conscience of a Conservative” Goldwater’s vision…celebrated a certain sort of person — the stout pioneer crossing the West, the risk-taking entrepreneur with a vision, the stalwart hero fighting the collectivist foe. The problem is, this individualist description of human nature seems to be wrong. Over the past 30 years, there has been a tide of research in many fields, all underlining one old truth — that we are intensely social creatures, deeply interconnected with one another and the idea of the lone individual rationally and willfully steering his own life course is often an illusion…What emerges is not a picture of self-creating individuals gloriously free from one another, but of autonomous creatures deeply interconnected with one another…

A Matter of Life and Debt by Margaret Atwood,Op-Ed Con­trib­u­tor, New York Times, Octo­ber 22, 2008we’re delud­ing our­selves if we assume that we can recover from the cri­sis of 2008 so quickly and eas­ily sim­ply by watch­ing the Dow creep upward. The wounds go deeper than that. To heal them, we must repair the bro­ken moral bal­ance that let this chaos loose. Debt — who owes what to whom, or to what, and how that debt gets paid — is a sub­ject much larger than money. It has to do with our basic sense of fair­ness, a sense that is embed­ded in all of our exchanges with our fel­low human beings. But at some point we stopped see­ing debt as a sim­ple per­sonal rela­tion­ship. The human fac­tor became diminished…The whole edi­fice rests on a few fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples that are inher­ent in us.We are social crea­tures who must inter­act for mutual ben­e­fit…Is there any bright side to this? Per­haps we’ll have some breath­ing room — a chance to re-evaluate our goals and to take stock of our rela­tion­ship to the liv­ing planet from which we derive all our nour­ish­ment, and with­out which debt finally won’t matter.

Reweaving the Fabric of our Society by Joan Blades Most of us agree that D.C. dynamics have got to change for the U.S. to solve the real challenges we confront and to retain our leadership role in the world. Political leaders and the media are failing us on so many levels…all Americans have a great deal in common. But our understanding of politics, economics, science and even basic facts is increasingly disparate. We cannot afford to continue on this path. A healthy democracy requires an educated electorate that shares basic truths and values — or at least is willing to sit down and listen to one another with an open mind, with mutual respect and civility…While the traditional media loves fights, the new and emerging social media loves connections. We can leverage the wisdom and creativity of crowds to find win-win solutions to our common problems. We can scale our efforts to tens of thousands of conversations, giving individuals the power to begin to reweave the social fabric of our communities…

The Prerequisite of the Common Good by Jim Wal­lis, Huff­in­g­ton Post, Novem­ber 9, 2012The results of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion showed how dra­mat­i­cally a very diverse Amer­ica is chang­ing; peo­ple are long­ing for a vision of the com­mon good that includes every­one.…peo­ple of faith aren’t going to be entirely happy with any polit­i­cal leader, and they shouldn’t be. Many of them feel polit­i­cally home­less in the rag­ing bat­tles between ide­o­log­i­cal extremes. But they could find their home in a new call for the com­mon good — a vision drawn from the heart of our reli­gious tra­di­tions that allows us to make our faith pub­lic but not nar­rowly par­ti­san. That requires a polit­i­cal engage­ment that empha­sizes issues and peo­ple above per­son­al­i­ties and partisanship.…Whether gov­ern­ment is serv­ing its bib­li­cal pur­pose of pro­tect­ing from evil and pro­mot­ing good, is more impor­tant than ide­o­log­i­cal debates about its size. How can we move from an ethic of end­less growth to an ethic of sus­tain­abil­ity, from short-term prof­its to longer term human flour­ish­ing, from the use and con­sump­tion of the earth to stew­ard­ship and cre­ation care? Pro­tect­ing “life” can no longer be restricted to a few issues, but must be con­sis­tently applied to wher­ever human life and dig­nity are threat­ened. The fail­ure of stri­dent and par­ti­san efforts by peo­ple like Franklin Gra­ham and Ralph Reed to nar­row those issues in the final stages of this elec­tion was very evi­dent and sig­nif­i­cant. More and more Chris­tians, espe­cially younger ones, now believe our con­gre­ga­tions will be finally eval­u­ated not merely by their cor­rect doc­trines, but by whether their mis­sions are serv­ing the “parishes” of this whole world; here and now, not just for the hereafter. The pre­req­ui­site for solv­ing the deep­est prob­lems this coun­try and the world now face is a com­mit­ment to a very ancient idea whose time has urgently come: the com­mon good.…


What voters are really choosing in November by Fareed Zakaria

Washington Post, July 18, 2012

The presidential campaign has gotten so heated over the attacks and counterattacks from the Obama and Romney campaigns that it’s easy to forget that larger issues are at stake in November. That’s unfortunate because, beneath the froth, there is an important ideological debate to be had about America’s future.

The attacks are, I suppose, inevitable. But let’s be honest: They’re largely untrue or irrelevant. Whatever the paperwork shows, Mitt Romney was not running Bain Capital after February 1999. Even if he had been, outsourcing jobs to lower a company’s costs — and ensure its survival — is not sleazy; it’s how you run a business efficiently. (Is President Obama suggesting that we put up tariff barriers to prevent outsourcing in the future?) On the other side, Romney’s recent claim accusing the president of shoveling government grants to his political supporters was so twisted it earned the Fact Checker’s highest score for distortion — “Four Pinocchios.”

Below all the mudslinging lies a real divide. Obama has been making the case that the U.S.economy needs investment — in infrastructure, education, training, basic sciences and technologies of the future. Those investments, in the president’s telling, have been the key drivers of American growth and have enabled people to build businesses, create jobs and invent the future.

Romney argues thatAmericaneeds tax and regulatory relief. The country is overburdened by government mandates, taxes and rules that make it difficult for businesses to function, grow and prosper, he says. He wants to cut taxes for all, reduce regulations and streamline government. All this, in his telling, will unleashAmerica’s entrepreneurial energy.

Both views have merit. It would make for a great campaign if our nation had a sustained discussion around these ideas. Then the election would produce a mandate to move in one of these directions.

In both cases, the candidates would have to explain how they would square their ambitions with long-term deficit reduction. If Obama plans to invest government funds in infrastructure, or if Romney intends to cut taxes, each needs a serious strategy of fiscal reform. Obama has been more specific than Romney, but neither has been entirely honest about what the numbers show are necessary to getAmerica’s fiscal house in order: cuts to entitlement programs and higher taxes (whether through higher rates or the elimination of deductions such as the one for mortgage interest).

On the broader economic strategy, I think that Obama has the stronger case. We need a tax and regulatory structure that creates strong incentives for businesses to flourish. The thing is, we already have one. The World Economic Forum’s 2011-12 Global Competitiveness Report ranks the United States No. 5 — and first among large economies. There has been a little slippage in this ranking the past few years, but it is modest and can be rectified. Overall, however, whether compared with our own past — of, say, 30 years ago — or with other countries, the United States has become more business-friendly. That’s why, just last week, the Economist magazine predicted an American economic renaissance.

Americais worse off than it was 30 years ago — in infrastructure, education and research. The country spends much less on infrastructure as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). By 2009, federal funding for research and development was half the share of GDP that it was in 1960. Even spending on education and training is lower as a percentage of the federal budget than it was during the 1980s.

The result is that we’re falling behind fast. In 2001, the World Economic Forum ranked U.S.infrastructure second in the world. In its latest report we were 24th. The United Statesspends only 2.4 percent of GDP on infrastructure, the Congressional Budget Office noted in 2010. Europe spends 5 percent; China, 9 percent. In the 1970s, America led the world in the number of college graduates; as of 2009, we were 14th among the countries tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Annual growth for research and development spending — private and public — was 5.8 percent between 1996 and 2007; inSouth Korea it was 9.6 percent; inSingapore, 14.5 percent; inChina, 21.9 percent.

In other words, the great shift in the U.S.economy over the past 30 years has not been an increase in taxes and regulations but, rather, a decline in investment in human and physical capital. President Obama has real facts and a strong case — which makes it all the more depressing that his campaign has focused on half-truths and weak arguments.



Truth – Uptown Neighborhood News Aug 2012

Commentary by Phyllis Stenerson – Uptown Neighborhood News, Minneapolis, MN – August 2012 

Truth. What a concept!

There is a direct correlation between the absence of truth and the tragic regression of Americain the past dozen or so years. It’s absolutely stunning to look back to where we were at the turn of the 21st Century and contrast where we are today.

By almost every measure,Americais sliding backward – fiscal stability, economic justice, number of children living in poverty, access to quality education, condition of infrastructure and on and on. Public trust in “elites” – the movers and shakers who wield power – is abysmally low. Corporations, government and major media are held in pitifully low regard. Politicians are probably at the bottom.

This headline sums it up: “US Running on Myths, Lies, Deceptions and Distractions – Republican Hypocrisy; Democratic Complicity; The Press’s Malfeasance” by John Atcheson (www.commondreams.org/view/2012/02/20-0).

However, there are bright spots on this otherwise bleak landscape.

Alternative media is developing and maturing into a highly creditable, accessible and prominent source of news, information and commentary. The internet is the primary delivery system for a broad range of voices and viewpoints.Minnesotahas two excellent examples of this new media – MinnPost.com and the Twin Cities Daily Planet at tcdailyplanet.net.

Web sites and blogs also provide platforms for smart people knowledgeable about almost anything who might not have otherwise been heard. Many sites select, compile and publish information from other sources. Some are general including the aforementioned CommonDreams.org, plus AlterNet.org and Salon.com. Others are focused on a particular topic such as ReligionDispatches.org, important at this time when religion is a driving force in public opinion and politics.

Organizations that research and report on the quality and veracity of news sources are consistently proving that FOX News viewers are the most misinformed.

Other studies show that a significant percentage of the public does not have the intellectual capacity or education to differentiate fact from fiction. Others are so bound by a particular ideology they cannot open their hearts and minds to find truth. Others simply don’t have time, take the time or care. And then there is celebrity trivia filling far too much space in American brains. And the size limitation of tweets precludes deep thoughts. And on, and on.

So, that puts a heavy responsibility on those of you who have critical thinking skills and a commitment to democracy to seek and tell the truth.

Since the beginning of civilization with the ancient Greeks, the use of reason and conscience in place of superstition and blind obedience have been recognized as essential to human progress. After a period of repression during the Dark Ages, the Enlightenment period brought the seeking of truth and wisdom back into prominence.America’s founders, particularly Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams and Thomas Paine, were strongly influenced by this philosophy in creating our democracy.

Conservative extremist leaders have for the past 30 years been deveoping and selling an opposing worldview that delegitimizes the core principles of American democracy including the right of conscience, freedom of thought, freedom of religion and value of education. Their revised version of American history and commitment to progress has taken hold in the public consciousness and is a primary cause of our country’s regression.

It’s time for truth. It’s time for intelligent people of every political inclination to participate in robust education, dialogue and truth telling. Our democracy depends on you.

To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead. Thomas Paine

We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left to combat it. Thomas Jefferson



Gar Alperovitz’s Green Party Keynote: We Are Laying Groundwork for the “Next Great Revolution” By Amy Goodman

Democracy NOW! 16 July 16, 2012

We’re proud to be serializing weekly installments of Gar Alperovitz’s visionary book “America Beyond Capitalism,” also available to order with a donation to Truthout. 

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the 2012 election. The Green Party has officially nominated Massachusetts physician Jill Stein and anti-poverty campaigner Cheri Honkala as its presidential and vice-presidential contenders. Dr. Stein’s ticket easily won with over 190 delegates, compared to 72 for her closest competitor, the comedian Roseanne Barr. Stein and Honkala are running on a platform called a Green New Deal.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Stein and Cheri Honkala accepted their nominations on Saturday, and then the keynote address was given by—-at the Green Party’s National Convention, in Baltimore—-by Gar Alperovitz. Gar Alperovitz is a professor of political economy at the University of Maryland, co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative, author, most recently of “America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy.”

GAR ALPEROVITZ: First I want to say is I am from Wisconsin. Some Wisconsin people back there. Wisconsin knows something about third parties. The Republican Party, original Republican Party, was a party to end slavery started in Ripon, Wisconsin and it got lost along the way, but it showed one big push on the really important issue of slavery in its early days. Fighting Bob La Follette from Wisconsin. Another historical issue that you may remember coming out of that state and starting very small and making a powerful impact. Third, if you look closely at what became the best parts of the New Deal, the labor law legislation, some parts of Social Security, some parts of health care and some parts of the other welfare programs, a lot that came up and was was incubated in Wisconsin. I am proud to be a Wisconsin guy, but the bottom line there is not about Wisconsin, it is about historical change. How you begin fighting small and you expand when the time is right, and you make an impact because the other things are failing. That is what has happened in many, many cases. Revolutions are as common as grass and world history, and they begin in rooms like this.

So, so I say that really as a historian, not trying to blow smoke in your ear. That is how it works. That is how it works. When I say I take you all seriously, first, I’m talking to the person in your personal seat. So when I say I take you seriously, you, maybe more seriously than you take yourself, I mean to say that the beginnings of the next great historic change come from a us taking ourselves that seriously. So, I urge—-and I think many people here do—-but I urge that you sit back and say, am I up to that or am I just doing politics, or am I really up to that. Now the that is transforming the most powerful corporate capitalist system in the history of the world. That is what it is about. And to say that I take you seriously is to say that that is what you’re stepping up to, not simply a gesture, not simply a new party, not simply a green movement. It is that, and that is the challenge. Now, I am very cold eyed realist. I did run House and Senate staffs, I’ve even done stuff for my pains and for my sins, planning U.N. policy in the State Department before I left that world many years ago. I have been involved in the nitty gritty of ugly politics. I am no naive guy. And I say again that we have the possibility, if we look at the stage we are at and what is happening to the era and who we are existentially—-I am talking to the person in your chair—-and if we know who we are and take ourselves that seriously, we have that possibility. So, let me go on. The second thing I want to say is, I don’t think that is always true. But I do think that the emerging era of history into which we are living our lives, the era into which we are living, may well be the most important period of American history bar none. Now, I say it as a historian and others would disagree, but I don’t say it lightly. And when I say bar none, I mean including the American Revolution and including the 1960′s and the Civil War. Whoa, that is a heavy rap, as we to say in the 1960′s. What I mean is that in many ways, the system is running out of options, and we are beginning to see more and more people aware of the difficulties that cannot be managed the old way.

Very briefly, all too briefly, in the 19th century when you ran into problems, you threw land at it, and took more and more land when there was a problem until you’d taken the whole continent, killing a lot of Indians and others on the way, but managing a system that was a tiny sea-board colony and then took over a continent as it tried to solve problems, and they ran out of land at the end of the 19th century. In this century, not by design, in the first quarter of the century there was the beginning of a major recession, probably a depression in 1914 and World War II solved the problem in the first quarter of the century. I am not offering a conspiracy theory, that is just what happened. In the second quarter of this century, it collapsed again, and World War II bailed out the system but not by design. That is how it worked in the second quarter of the century. And in the third quarter of the century, having defeated the Germans, having defeated the Japanese and having lost the productive power of many other corporate competitors plus the Cold War, plus the Korean War, plus the Vietnam War, plus high defense expenditures, that boom third quarter of the century was run that way. We are in a different era. Think about it this way. It is all but impossible to have massive industrial scale war like the first and second world wars, land wars, 42% of the economy spending on war expenditures, and the reason is, nuclear weapons now make that impossible. It isn’t going happen that way, we my blow ourselves up. But, we’re not going to have that massive injection of economic power into the economy to solve the problems. In fact, big/small wars are also getting less and less powerful; people don’t like them, they don’t like sending their kids, they don’t like spending money on that. It isn’t just us. And if you look at those expenditures, they are very big. But, as a percentage of the economy, they are declining to 3% already and going down. A lot of waste there. But you are not solving economic problems that way. I could go into great detail, but I won’t; globalization, etc., competitors, of all sorts of problems coming up that are economic. The bottom line is, you cannot solve the problem any more by throwing land at it, and we are running out of war, which means lots of problems grow because the political system can’t manage it the way it is structured, and the opposition that can’t get themselves together to make things happen, and the Republicans stopping and Tea Party stopping and you know all the contradictions, but the bottom line is, you can’t solve problems. That is obvious.

Most people know Washington is broken. They have not quite realized that the systemic problems are coming to the surface, that it’s a systemic crisis. You may get ripples of increased gain and jobs and so forth, but you can’t deal with climate change, you can’t deal with unemployment, you can’t deal with poverty, and we keep getting more and more decay. That’s light bulb time. That’s when people begin to asking very serious questions. Now, remember, when I say that I come at it as a historian. You got to throw a couple of decades of your life on the table, not a couple of weeks and not a couple elections. But, there is growing sentiment on all sides that either we transform the system or profound difficulties, violence, probably repression, possibly something like fascism when the violence begins, there is great danger. But lots of folks sense something is wrong. The first in my adult life that you find millions of people responding. Listen to the response; Occupy. Occupy was critical, far more important. The American people responded to Occupy. They got it, they know, they know who runs this game. It’s no secret, and it’s a new kind of awareness that something is going on with those big banks and something’s going on with these corporations that don’t quite know how to get a handle on it, but it is not like if we just elect a Democrat it’s all going to be fine and the progressive era will start again. There is a sense that is very deep, and in my view, given the inability to solve the problems, that’s going to be worse, and the pain is going to increase and the number of people saying, there has got to be a better way, something different has got to happen, somehow we’ve got to start in a different place, somehow either we build something new or this thing is a sham. That’s a big deal in history. That’s a big deal when people begin asking those kinds of questions. Now, it takes a long, painful process, but notice this system probably does not reform in the old liberal way for all the reasons we know including the labor movement has collapsed from 35% to down to 7% in the private sector. But, probably it doesn’t have a classic revolution, because government is 30% of the big floor under the economy. You get decay and stagnation, pain and difficulty. That is a very unusual moment in history because it goes on and gives time for people to be aware and to build democratically from the bottom up. If it collapsed tomorrow, the right wing would take over. And if it collapsed to the left, we wouldn’t be prepared. And above all, we wouldn’t know from the bottom of our own experience how to build and run and change and transform the system. This is an era where things are beginning to open up over time. Time for us. Including the person standing here and in your seat. Let me put it another way—-the third thing I want to say—-systems in history are defined above all by who controls the wealth; no secret. In the feudal era, land was the critical piece. If you had the land and you were the lord, you commanded.

In the 19th century, there was the kind of capitalism that was sort of free enterprise. Most of the free enterprise small business capitalists of the 19th century were actually farmers. They ran a small business called a farm. That was a different, maybe a free time in some ways, but a very different time. State socialism was a different way to own capital throughout the system. That is another way to go about it, and we live now in essentially what is called corporate capitalism. And if you look at who owns the system and the power, you all know the income number distribution numbers, they’re pretty obvious. It’s gone from about—-the top 1% has gone from about 10% to 22% and then bobbling around given the recession in the 20% range. Think of that, it’s gone from 10% to 20% in 30 years. Who lost that money? But wealth is even worse.

The way you define the system is who owns the capital wealth, and 1% owns just about half all the investment business capital, 1%. 5% owns 70%. And the top—-this is a number you got to get your head around, really odd and I checked many times—-think about this, the top 400 people, not percent, people, 400 own more wealth now than the bottom 185 million Americans taken together. That is a medieval structure. I don’t mean that rhetorically, I mean that technically that is the way you concentrated wealth in the medieval era, really. So, the question becomes—-and here is the third thing I think a lot about we do a lot with—-is there any sign if you don’t like state socialism, you don’t like corporate capitalism that we can build a democratic system from the bottom up that also changes the ownership of capital and is also inherently Green? How do we do that? We—-we. One of the things happening, and this is exciting stuff going on, and the press simply does not cover, they don’t have an interest. If they had any interest, they’d be able to look at the other way because they—-but they don’t have any money to do it. The press is being stripped of all capacity to report. But on the ground there are now, what, 10 million people involved a worker owned companies. Did you know that? 10 million, in America. 130 Million are involved in co-ops and co-op credit unions. 40% of society. Four or five thousand neighborhood owned corporations, thousands of social enterprises. Odd bits and pieces here and there like Sarah Palin’s Alaska; they use the oil revenues as a matter of legal right, everybody gets a piece; it’s a maverick country but there it it. They don’t do that in Texas. We’re going to do that a lot elsewhere when we get to where we’re going to get.

If you look carefully on the ground, there are these social enterprises popping up, credit unions, etc., etc. and there are many, many more experiments. Something like 20 states now have legislation before them like the Bank of North Dakota, a state owned bank, and many other states, another 20 approximately are considering single payer. And here is the issue, as the pain deepens—-that’s why the era is critical—-as the pain deepens and we have time to build, and we work to build, more and more people begin to see, you’ve got to come up with a new answer. My judgment is—-and I think I’m not blowing smoke—-those kinds of experiments are the only way to build the popular base with the politics and the projects, with the politics and the projects.

There is a really beautiful thing going on in Ohio in Cleveland, we have been involved with. I was involved with the Youngstown workers in 1977 when the first big steel closing occurred, the workers tried to take over and they got clobbered. But, they organized their politics and got a lot of people involved. So, in Ohio, the idea of worker ownership is a bigger idea. Lot’s of people understand it. And in Cleveland, building on the Mondragon model, we know about the Mondragon model and other ideas, there are a series of worker owned integrated co-ops in Cleveland in a neighborhood where the average income is $18,000 per family. And they have these co-ops not just standing alone, but linked together with a non-profit corporation and a revolving fund. The idea is to build the community and worker ownership, not just make a couple workers richer, to say the least, not just rich but to build a whole community, and to use the purchasing power of hospitals and universities, tax money in there, Medicare, Medicaid, education money, buy from these guys and build the community. That model, and it’s the greenest—-for one of the things—-the greenest laundry in that part of the country, that uses about one-third of the heat, about a third of the and electricity and about a third of the water. They’re on track now to put in more solar capacity that exists—-one of the other worker owned companies that exists in the entire state of Ohio; these are not little thinking co-ops.

There’s another one they’re just about to open which is a greenhouse; 3.25 acres. The greenhouse hydroponic will be the largest in the United States in an urban area, the largest in a worker co-op, worker-owned, in a community building structure, capable of producing something like 5 million heads of lettuce a year. A— capable of producing something like 5 million heads of lettuce a year. That’s happening. You could do that, and you could force the politicians to help you do that. They’re pointing out I’m getting limited time so I’m going to go quickly. All I wanted to say is there is a website, Community-wealth.org, put the dash in, and you will find thousands of things that are happening on the ground that change the ownership of wealth and begin to green the economy, and it is part of the new deal that we’re going to build forward as we go on through the decay. That’s the direction.

So, let me say a few—-given the time available—-just a couple of other things. Those are the kinds of things that are the prehistory of the next great revolution. That is how you build it. You generate the ideas and then you begin to protect national ideas out of real experience and out of real commitment. So, did you happen to notice, we did not nationalize the two big auto companies when those crises came, and we pretty much nationalized the banks before we gave them back. So when those crises come, and they will come, if we’re prepared with a highly democratic vision and if we know something and if we build the politics, I’m not just talking about communities, that’s is critical; if you don’t have democratic experience in local communities you’ve got nothing. But, the ideas like Wisconsin pointing to the New Deal, those ideas also generate vision for the long, larger scale when time goes on and we build forward.

So, now that’s also a heavy wrap. I am saying that we are laying the foundations bit by bit in an extremely unusual period of history, the most important moment in history because we’re running out of options, in my view. And mine is suggesting we can take it forward in a positive way. He says I got one minute left so let me tell you. I want to say something far more radical than I have said before. This is the most radical thing you’re going to hear. I think there is hope. I’m no Utopian. I don’t mean it is going to be hard and tough and a lot of stuff is going to go wrong and a lot of pain and a lot of difficulty, but I don’t think they’ve got all the answers and I don’t think that they’ve got all the power and I don’t think they can solve it. And I do believe—-the person in your chair, why I take you seriously—-can you wrap your heads around, really, I mean, really, that we are in a position to lay down the foundations for the next great transformation? Really? Not just doing token politics, not just building the party. All that is critical. Not just laying the foundations. But really laying the groundwork for transformation into a highly democratic new system beyond the old traditions, one that is sustainable, one that give a climate change, but also alters the ownership and democratizes wealth. That is our question.

One last thing, because she’s waving me down and I’m trying to be good about this. I give you just a little fragment more of the book. Two fragments, actually. this is a really interesting one. They have been polling under people, not people my age, but people in the range of 18-29. These are people who really will build the next politics; a lot of them in this room. Now, it turns out that in the latest polls, it turns out that when you look at it, about 45%, 43% have a positive reaction to the word capitalism and 49% of a positive reaction to the word socialism. I don’t know that any of those folks actually know what the word socialism means, but the idea that they understand something different really that has got to happen is embedded in those politics. But, one last one I saw just the other day, I did a piece for Sojourn Magazine, one of the real radical activists group of religious Christians. One of the pieces of poll data I saw was this, said that 36% of all Americans polled—-one of the big polling agencies, not a side one, not a biased one—-36% decided and were quite sure that capitalism, Christianity and capitalism cannot be reconciled. So, my urging, I am pleased to be here, but I don’t think anybody moves the ball like people in this room when they get serious. I urge you to remember this Wisconsin kid who has all this weird history of Gaylord Nelson and these parties that actually did something and all these precedents actually built and laid foundations, my suggestion to you is that we together are in fact capable if we rise to that level of existential self awareness; real hard, real hard. People want to do projects, they want to do politics, they don’t want to get as serious as it takes to really transform the system. So, that I think that is our challenge and I see a lot of people in this room up and ready to do it. Thank you for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Gar Alperovitz delivering the keynote speech at the Green Party’s 2012 national convention in Baltimore, Maryland where the party nominated Massachusetts physician Jill Stein and anti-poverty campaigner Cheri Honkala as its presidential and vice-presidential candidate. Visit democracynow.org for our interviews with Stein and Honkala. Gar Alperovitz is Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland and his latest book, “America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy.” In the coming days, we’ll look at the largest worker cooperative in the world, Mondragon, in Spain where Democracy Now! broadcasted earlier this month. Tune in Tuesday for our interview with Chris Hayes, host of the MSNBC show Up With Chris, and author of a new book “Twilight of the Elite, America After Meritocracy.”

There’s Still Hope for the Planet By David Leonhardt

New York Times, July 21, 2012

You don’t have to be a climate scientist these days to know that the climate has problems. You just have to step outside.

The United States is now enduring its warmest year on record, and the 13 warmest years for the entire planet have all occurred since 1998, according to data that stretches back to 1880.  No one day’s weather can be tied to global warming, of course, but more than a decade’s worth of changing weather surely can be, scientists say. Meanwhile, the country often seems to be moving further away from doing something about climate change, with the issue having all but fallen out of the national debate.

Behind the scenes, however, a somewhat different story is starting to emerge — one that offers reason for optimism to anyone worried about the planet. The world’s largest economies may now be in the process of creating a climate-change response that does not depend on the politically painful process of raising the price of dirty energy. The response is not guaranteed to work, given the scale of the problem. But the early successes have been notable.

Over the last several years, the governments of the United States, Europe and China have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on clean-energy research and deployment. And despite some high-profile flops, like ethanol and Solyndra, the investments seem to be succeeding more than they are failing.

The price of solar and wind power have both fallen sharply in the last few years. This country’s largest wind farm, sprawling across eastern Oregon, is scheduled to open next month. Already, the world uses vastly more alternative energy than experts predicted only a decade ago.

Even natural gas, a hotly debated topic among climate experts, helps make the point. Thanks in part to earlier government investments, energy companies have been able to extract much more natural gas than once seemed possible. The use of natural gas to generate electricity — far from perfectly clean but less carbon-intensive than coal use — has jumped 25 percent since 2008, while prices have fallen more than 80 percent. Natural gas now generates as much electricity as coal in the United States, which would have been unthinkable not long ago.

The successes make it possible at least to fathom a transition to clean energy that does not involve putting a price on carbon — either through a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade program that requires licenses for emissions. It was exactly such a program, supported by both Barack Obama and John McCain in the 2008 campaign, that died in Congress in 2010 and is now opposed by almost all Congressional Republicans and some coal-state and oil-state Democrats.

To describe the two approaches is to underline their political differences. A cap-and-trade program sets out to make the energy we use more expensive. An investment program aims to make alternative energy less expensive.

Most scientists and economists, to be sure, think the best chance for success involves both strategies: if dirty energy remains as cheap as it is today, clean energy will have a much longer road to travel. And even an investment-only strategy is not guaranteed to continue. The clean-energy spending in Mr. Obama’s 2009 stimulus package has largely expired, while several older programs are scheduled to lapse as early as Dec. 31. In the current political and fiscal atmosphere, their renewal is far from assured.

Still, the clean-energy push has been successful enough to leave many climate advocates believing it is the single best hope for preventing even hotter summers, more droughts and bigger brush fires. “Carbon pricing is going to have an uphill climb in the U.S. for the foreseeable future,” says Robert N. Stavins, a Harvard economist who is a leading advocate for such pricing, “so it does make sense to think about other things.”

Those others things, in the simplest terms, are policies intended to help find a breakthrough technology that can power the economy without heating the planet. “Our best hope,” says Benjamin H. Strauss, a scientist who is the chief operating officer of Climate Central, a research group, “is some kind of disruptive technology that takes off on its own, the way the Internet and the fax took off.”

Governments have played a crucial role in financing many of the most important technological inventions of the past century. That’s no coincidence: Basic research is often unprofitable. It involves too much failure, and an inventor typically captures only a tiny slice of the profits that flow from a discovery.

Although government officials make mistakes when choosing among nascent technologies, one success can outweigh many failures. Washington-financed research has made possible semiconductors, radar, the Internet, the radio, the jet engine and many medical advances, including penicillin. The two countries that have made the most progress in reducing carbon emissions, France and Sweden, have done so largely by supporting nuclear and hydropower, notes Michael Shellenberger, president of the Breakthrough Institute in Oakland, Calif.

The story of shale gas, a form of natural gas, is typical, in that it depends on both private-sector ingenuity and public-sector support. Halliburton first figured out how to recover natural gas from limestone deposits at a field in Kansas in 1947. But its technique proved ineffective in extracting gas from shale rock. For decades, geologists remained skeptical that the enormous amounts of gas in shale formation could ever be extracted.

“You’re using our retirement money on something that’s no good,” Dan Steward, a geologist at Mitchell Energy, the company that eventually succeeded, recalled hearing from colleagues. Mitchell Energy, however, kept attacking the problem, with help from both government funds and computer mapping that came from a federal laboratory.

Solar and wind power today fall into a category that natural gas once did: for all their promise, they cannot compete on a mass scale with existing energy sources. Wind electricity costs between 15 percent and 25 percent more than standard electricity. Solar power often costs more than twice as much.

Federal subsidies can help close the gap. More important, they can finance research that may lead to a technological leap that brings down their costs.

In relative terms, the sums for clean-energy research that many scientists and economists support are not huge. A politically diverse group of experts recently set a target of $25 billion a year in federal spending on research and development (some of which could come from phasing out ineffective programs). That amount is slightly below the budget of the National Institutes of Health and only 3 percent as large as the Social Security budget. Other experts put the ideal figure closer to $50 billion.

At the recent peak, in 2009, all federal spending on clean energy — including money for research and subsidies for households and businesses — amounted to $44 billion.  This year, Washington will spend about $16 billion. The scheduled expiration of a tax credit for wind, originally signed by the first President George Bush in 1992, would help reduce the total to $14 billion next year, and current law has it continuing to fall in 2014.

The combination of these expirations, which Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution calls a major, little-appreciated policy shift, and the latest temperature readings have not exactly left climate scientists brimming with cheer. This summer’s drought has affected as much of the country as the Dust Bowl drought. Large patches of Colorado have burned. Atlanta has recorded its hottest day in history this year. Dallas endured 40 straight days above 100 degrees last July and August — and this year so far has been even hotter than last year.

On the other hand, the weather has made the climate harder to ignore. And when you look closer, there are some reasons for hope — tentative, but full of potential — hiding beneath the surface.

David Leonhardt is the Washington bureau chief of The New York Times.


Mocking the Right’s ‘Free Market’ Agenda Is Almost Too Easy — A Real Problem Is That the Dems Don’t Challenge It By Elizabeth DiNovella and Thomas Frank

Thomas Frank inter­viewed about his new book — Pity the Bil­lion­aire: The Hard-Times Swin­dle and the Unlikely Come­back of the Right - inter­viewed by Eliz­a­beth DiNovella The Pro­gres­sive, posted on Alternet.org, July 20, 2012


Frank looks at the con­ser­v­a­tive argu­ments for aus­ter­ity in an eco­nomic down­turn. In the after­math of the col­lapse of Wall Street, the Repub­li­can Party mor­phed anger at big busi­ness into anger at big gov­ern­ment…
Even though dereg­u­la­tion played a major role in cre­at­ing our eco­nomic woes, con­ser­v­a­tives have been call­ing for more deregulation—and win­ning office on this plat­form. “The reborn Right has suc­ceeded because of its ide­al­ism, not in spite of it,” Frank says. “This idea that we can achieve a laissez-faire utopia, where every­thing will work per­fectly, is very attrac­tive to peo­ple.”…
…That’s how con­ser­v­a­tives actu­ally run the gov­ern­ment here in Wash­ing­ton: They run it by run­ning it into the ground. They sab­o­tage it. Sab­o­tage is the word for their gov­ern­men­tal phi­los­o­phy.…
The idea of my book is that this should not be attrac­tive to peo­ple in the mid­dle of a reces­sion that just won’t go away because this is the very phi­los­o­phy that got us into trou­ble in the first place. But in some ways, this is exactly what peo­ple reach for in hard times: A phi­los­o­phy that removes doubt and that offers you some reas­sur­ance in what is frankly a very fright­en­ing time.…
…but one of the only rea­sons that it works is that the Democ­rats let it hap­pen. They never seem to be able to fight back, never seem to be able to fig­ure it out. They really can­not talk about the phi­los­o­phy that moti­vates their actions and their leg­isla­tive deeds…. the Democ­rats, from Pres­i­dent Obama on down, have been almost com­pletely unable to tell us why it is that gov­ern­ment needs to get involved in these sec­tors of the econ­omy.

Full text

Cultural critic Thomas Frank loves a paradox. Why has the worst economic crisis in generations led to a resurrection of free market orthodoxy? How can Budget chairman Paul Ryan, Republican from Wisconsin, rail against “corporate cronyism” and then enjoy $700 worth of wine with hedge fund manager Cliff Asness?

In his provocative new book, Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right, Frank looks at the conservative arguments for austerity in an economic downturn. In the aftermath of the collapse of Wall Street, the Republican Party morphed anger at big business into anger at big government.

The GOP’s “anti-big-business message catches the bitter national mood,” Frank writes. “What the Right actually does is deliver the same favors to the same people as always.”

Even though deregulation played a major role in creating our economic woes, conservatives have been calling for more deregulation—and winning office on this platform. “The reborn Right has succeeded because of its idealism, not in spite of it,” Frank says. “This idea that we can achieve a laissez-faire utopia, where everything will work perfectly, is very attractive to people.”

And the Democrats? Where are they in this debate over government intervention in the market?

“The liberals could not grab the opportunity that hard times presented to advance their philosophy,” Frank argues, noting their technocratic talk turned people off.

Frank may be best known for his 2004 book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. His other books include The Wrecking Crew and One Market Under God. A columnist for Harper’s and a founding editor of The Baffler, he is also a former opinion columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He lives in the Washington, D.C., area. I spoke to him by phone.

Q: What are your thoughts on Occupy Wall Street?

Thomas Frank: I wish them success. They’ve brought a lot of ideas into the national debate that were completely outside the debate before, and that’s so important. Speaking from personal experience, I wrote a book twelve years ago where one of the main points began with the concentrations of wealth in this country. And that was regarded as an unacceptable, stigmatized topic back then. It was outside the consensus. Well, it’s inside the consensus today. The President is talking about it; even the Republican candidates are talking about it. We have Occupy Wall Street to thank for that. That is a great thing.

Q: Do you think that there’s a space for a populist alliance between the tea party and Occupy Wall Street?

Frank: No, I don’t think there is. You’re not going to get the tea party leaders to sign up for something that demands we re-regulate Wall Street. That’s just not going to happen. These guys are laissez-faire ideologues at the end of the day. But you can fight for the support of the voters that were swayed by the movement. You can do that, and you should do that.

Q: You covered many tea party rallies and one of the big mantras you heard early on was, “Let the failures fail.”

Frank: “Let the failures fail.” It’s attractive, isn’t it? It sounded good to me when I heard it at the very first tea party rally in Washington, D.C., in February 2009. A protester had that on a sign he was carrying. At that moment, people were infuriated by the bank bailouts.

The bailouts were just an outrage, straight up. An abomination. “Let the failures fail” was a good slogan for that anger. Let all the losers go down. Why prop them up? At a certain gut level, that sounded exactly right to me.

But if you look into it a little bit deeper, that’s actually the philosophy that the United States did not accept in the Great Depression. That’s the opposite of the road that we actually went. That’s what Hoover’s Treasury secretary wanted to do. Just let the Depression take its course. Let everyone get ruined. And then, people will recover and things will be fine on the other side. Hoover rejected that advice, and, of course, Roosevelt did the very opposite of that. But the leading protest movement was urging us to accept that advice.

Q: You write in Pity the Billionaire that the tea party’s actual function was to ensure the economic collapse caused by Wall Street did not result in any unpleasant consequences for Wall Street. We see that happening now. No one’s gone to jail and there’s little new oversight over Wall Street.

Frank: Look at what Republicans are doing. They’ve all sworn to reverse the Dodd-Frank law that set up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If they can’t overturn the law, they say, they won’t fund the office, they won’t appoint anybody to run it. They’ll disable it somehow. They’ve all sworn to do this.

That’s how conservatives actually run the government here in Washington: They run it by running it into the ground. They sabotage it. Sabotage is the word for their governmental philosophy.

Q: In 2008, the American right was supposedly finished, yet by 2010, the right was in ascendancy all over again. What happened?

Frank: That’s the big question of our times. You have this financial catastrophe that was directly a result of ideology as anything I’ve ever seen in my lifetime, with the possible exception of the collapse of the Soviet Union. You have this largely deregulated financial sector and these fly-by-night mortgage lenders who are outside anybody’s regulatory purview. You have this shadow banking establishment, and between them, they contrive to completely destroy the global economy.

When that happened, pundits here in Washington assumed this was the end of the road for conservatives, that they’ve had their thirty years and we did what they wanted and it ended in disaster. The pundits said that the Republican Party had to moderate itself or face irrelevance. The Republican Party didn’t do that; they did the opposite. They swung hard to the right, and enjoyed one of the greatest victories of all time in the 2010 elections.

They declared that conservatives had really never gotten a chance. We had never gone all the way with conservative ideology. We’d never completely done away with government, or the liberal state, so conservatism was in no way responsible for what happened, they claimed. Therefore, the only alternative was to double-down on our commitment to the free market ideal. This became a utopian faith on the right. You especially saw this at tea party gatherings.

Q: But the right also depicted itself as an enemy of big business. Can you talk about that?

Frank: This is the secret to conservatism’s success. The right was able to recast itself as a populist movement. Well, they’ve been doing that a lot in the past thirty years, but it was even worse this time around. They became a protest movement for hard times. Sometimes they pretend to be protesting the enemy—big corporations and big banks. If you read their literature, they say things like that all the time.

Congressman Paul Ryan wrote an article in Forbes magazine called “Down with Big Business.” If you read it, it sounds like he’s very critical of capitalism and the big corporations that run this country. But at the end of the day, he thinks the way to bring big business down is by going after big government. Very fascinating, this sort of twist that they always do. You can say all you want about how the banks screwed everybody over, but the culprit is the same as it ever was: government. That’s who you’re supposed to be rising up in anger against.

Q: Meanwhile, Ryan is raking in big money from these big corporations that he’s supposedly denouncing.

Frank: They fund him extravagantly. It’s not really a surprise to find out that these people who are doing all the denouncing are also the favorites of people like the Koch brothers, the oil billionaires in Wichita, Kansas.

One PAC that supported Newt Gingrich made a video attacking Mitt Romney for being a venture capitalist. It really went after him in a very strong, populist way, talking about how many workers’ lives Romney and Bain Capital ruined over the years. It’s very powerful, but what’s funny is that they also claim that this is not real capitalism. What Mitt Romney does is not real capitalism. [Laughing] You know, if we could just get back to real capitalism, the authentic thing, then we wouldn’t have Bain Capital out there buying up steel mills and firing everybody. Which is completely absurd.

Q: Ideology trumps reality.

Frank: That’s right. And all of that stuff is taken from the literature of the 1930s. There are a lot of cultural patterns that are repeating themselves.

One of the stranger ones is this ideological blindness that people would inflict on themselves in the 1930s. I’m specifically talking about the left here, the far left. We’re talking about the Communist Party. Either the Communist Party members or people who sympathized with it would go on trips to the Soviet Union, a famous set-piece of ’30s literature. And they would somehow never manage to notice all the disasters that were going on around them. They were completely conned. They would blow off all the reporting that they had seen when they were back home here in America. They would not believe anything bad about their heroes in the Soviet Union, right up until the day that Stalin went out and signed a treaty with Adolf Hitler. It took them all by surprise.

That ideological blindness is repeating itself. But you see it now on the right, which similarly has a utopian idea, a utopian political solution that we’re supposed to be working toward. Some of these guys deliberately mimic Communist language and Communist strategy from the old days, such as Dick Armey’s group, FreedomWorks, which is funded by the Koch brothers.

Their utopia is a different one. It’s a free market one. If we could just get to that point where government completely drops out of the picture and the business class is completely unshackled from the restraints of the liberal state, then we will finally reach economic utopia.

The idea of my book is that this should not be attractive to people in the middle of a recession that just won’t go away because this is the very philosophy that got us into trouble in the first place. But in some ways, this is exactly what people reach for in hard times: A philosophy that removes doubt and that offers you some reassurance in what is frankly a very frightening time.

Q: So where were the Dems when all of this was happening? The tea party spent the summer of 2009 talking about death panels.

Frank: It’s all well and good to sit around and make fun of the funny things that conservatives say and the hilarious gaffes that they make, but one of the only reasons that it works is that the Democrats let it happen. They never seem to be able to fight back, never seem to be able to figure it out. They really cannot talk about the philosophy that motivates their actions and their legislative deeds.

Look, I’m very liberal. I support a lot of the things that the Democrats have done. I want some kind of national health care. I don’t think they went anywhere close to far enough on that. I liked the stimulus. I’m really glad that the Obama Administration had a big stimulus package.

However, the Democrats, from President Obama on down, have been almost completely unable to tell us why it is that government needs to get involved in these sectors of the economy. They just can’t talk about it. And when they do talk about it, they always defer to the experts. “We need to do this because the economists say we need to do it.” That’s not going to convince anybody.

The politics of it, they think, will take care of themselves. People will naturally want a stimulus package. People will naturally be happy that they bailed out the banks and kept Great Depression II from happening. It never occurs to them that they have to go out there and fight for these things.
Elizabeth DiNovella is culture editor of The Progressive. This interview originally aired on WORT-FM, Madison, Wisconsin’s community radio station.

© 2012 The Progressive All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/156298/

A Long Hot Summer by Bill McKibben

Common Dreams, July 19, 2012

It’s turning into a hot climate summer in two ways, only one of which you can measure with a thermometer.

Amidst the deepening drought, the summer’s fourth heat wave, and the continued western fires, there’s something else breaking out: a siege of citizen uprisings at key points around the country all designed to keep coal in the hole, oil in the soil, gas… underground.

Ever since the mass arrests protesting the Keystone pipeline last summer (the largest civil disobedience action in the U.S. in 30 years) there’s been renewed interest in confronting the fossil fuel industry and its political enablers. Some have been following this path for years, of course — late next week, beginning July 25, opponents of mountain-top removal coal-mining will resume their long-standing (and increasingly successful fight), with a week-long Mountain Mobilization that will likely include civil disobedience.

A few days later, activists from around the country will descend on D.C. for a rally against fracking — perhaps the fastest-growing wing of the environmental movement. That gathering won’t lead to arrests — but others will.

Earlier this week, for instance, Ohio protesters chained themselves to the gates outside a so-called injection well, not far from where earlier this year disposal of fracking water had helped trigger a swarm of earthquakes. And just yesterday Josh Fox and Mark Ruffalo announced plans for an August 25 gathering designed to keep fracking at bay in New York State.

From August 10-20, Montana protesters will hold a multi-day sit-in designed to stop opening up of massive new coal mines — and across the Pacific Northwest others are joining in to fight the proposed ports that would send that coal to Asia for burning.

And just so oil doesn’t feel left out of the party, Texans in August and September are planning civil disobedience to block the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, the part that’s been given a green light by the Obama administration.

Taken one by one, these might seem like mosquito bites against the tough hide of the planet’s richest and most politically connected industry. But taken together, they show an ever-savvier movement that’s figuring out the choke points that make fossil fuel corporations vulnerable. If you can’t pipe tar sands oil to the ocean, there’s no reason to mine it in the first place; if you’ve got no port for your coal, you might as well leave it in the ground.

And here’s the thing — each of these actions is magnified by the temperature, multiplied by the humidity, underscored by the smoke in the sky. “Long hot summer” has two meanings now, and they amplify each other.

 Bill McKibben is Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and co-founder of 350.org. His most recent book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.
Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/07/19-1

Romney Meets With Leader of Radical Christian Group, Despite Extremism Exposed By Their New Hire By Peter Montgomery

AlterNet, July 17, 2012

When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney met privately this week with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, he sought the counsel of a leader who, just days before, selected as his right-hand man a retired general known for his extreme contempt for Muslims.

Romney, hoping to draw the same kind of help organizing evangelical voters that Perkins gave former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum during the primaries, sought Perkins’ input on potential running mates and “family” issues, barely 24 hours after FRC announced the hiring of retired Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin as executive vice president, in charge of day-to-day operations. It’s a bold move, and one that makes FRC’s extremism just a little harder to ignore.

Perkins and the Family Research Council have too often been treated by mainstream media as the reasonable and responsible wing of the Religious Right movement — maybe because the former state representative has the polished presence of a politician and the Rolodex of a Washington insider. Republican officials flock to the Values Voter Summit, FRC’s annual political gathering. But by hiring Boykin, FRC has dramatically undermined its claim to be an advocate for religious liberty as well as its efforts to position itself in the mainstream of the conservative movement.

While Perkins’ extremism has largely flown below the media’s radar, Boykin’s style is in-your-face intolerance. In April, for instance, Boykin told Glenn Beck that anti-tax activist Grover Norquist is a “Muslim Brotherhood facilitator.” That’s the kind of rhetoric that got anti-Muslim zealot Frank Gaffney kicked out of the Conservative Political Action Conference. Now it’s the kind of rhetoric that will define the Family Research Council.

Boykin may not be a household name, but he has in recent years become a folk hero on the far right. Boykin had a legendary military career as a leader of America’s special forces, but he was rebuked by then-President George W. Bush and by the Pentagon’s inspector general for giving speeches in uniform while dismissing the God of Islam as an “idol” and portraying the “War on Terror” as a spiritual war between “our God” (Christian) and Satan. That, of course, endangered members of the American military serving in armed conflicts and undercut the diversity of our armed forces.

After retiring, Boykin continued diving further into the deep end of Religious Right extremism. “Islam is evil,” he says;  Islam is not a religion but a “totalitarian way of life.” Boykin, a board member of the dominionist Oak Initiative, is a leader of the Religious-Right push to scare Americans into believing that the U.S. Constitution is under dire threat of being replaced by Sharia law. He is the co-author of Sharia, the Threat to America, popularly known as the Team B II report. Since, he has claimed, Muslims are under an “obligation to destroy our Constitution,” American Muslims are not protected under the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious liberty. (Muslims, by the way, are under no such obligation.) He even said no mosques should be allowed to be built in America, though he has since backed away from that outrageous statement.

And Boykin is, like Perkins, unremittingly hostile to President Barack Obama. Boykin has charged that Obama is creating a Hitler-like cadre of Brownshirts to force Marxism down Americans’ throats. No wonder Tony Perkins loves him! 

But what really made Boykin and FRC a match made in heaven is their shared expertise in portraying criticism of Religious-Right extremism as an attack on religious freedom. In March, AlterNet published “The Mythical Martyrdom of the Religious Right’s Favorite Islamophobic General,” People For the American Way Foundation’s report on the propaganda campaign to depict Boykin as victim of religious persecution.

Back in February, Boykin had been invited to speak at a National Prayer Breakfast at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, but a group of West Point faculty and cadets – mostly Christians – objected, along with advocacy groups familiar with Boykin’s record. 

One faculty member wrote that Boykin’s invitation would cause “horrible consequences” around the world: “The true price to be exacted, by granting this high-profile speaking engagement to the bigot Boykin, will shamefully be paid in blood, and the blood of innocents,” the faculty member wrote to the Military Religious Freedom foundation (which withheld the person’s name). As opposition grew, Boykin withdrew, and he and his allies on the Religious Right went to work portraying him as a martyr to anti-Christian bigotry. Boykin called on Christians to “draw a line in the sand” against efforts to “silence” people like him.

This martyrdom campaign may well have been his trial run for working at the Family Research Council, which constantly portrays the Christian majority in America, and politically influential Religious Right groups, as if they were a tiny minority on the verge of being persecuted into extinction. 

Perkins loves to make irresponsible claims about President Obama, who Perkins says “has created an environment that has become hostile to Christianity in this country.” Perkins alleges that the administration wants to “sweep Christianity off the face of military bases.” As Adele Stan has reported, Perkins has his own long and well-documented record of extremism, including a 2001 appearance at a gathering of the Council of Conservative Citizens and the purchase of a mailing list from KKK’er David Duke when Perkins was running a congressional campaign in the 1990s.

Boykin’s military record and his God-and-country appeal to far-right activists and donors may have proven irresistible to the folks at FRC. But the bluntness of Boykin’s bigotry may – and should – end up diminishing FRC’s ability to portray itself as the mom-and-apple-pie of the far right. If nothing else, Boykin’s demonstrated hostility to the rights of one religious minority should (but probably won’t) give Mitt Romney pause about his penchant for cozying up to the FRC at its annual Values Voter Summit.
Peter Montgomery is a senior fellow at People For the American Way and an associate editor at Religion Dispatches.

© 2012 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/156340/

Half Of American Households Hold 1 Percent Of Wealth by Dan Froomkin


WASHINGTON — The share of the nation’s wealth held by the less affluent half of American households dropped precipitously after the financial crisis, to 1.1 percent, according to new calculations by Congress’s nonpartisan research service.

By contrast, the share of total net worth held by the weathiest 1 percent of American households continued rising, hitting 34.5 percent in 2010. The top 10 percent’s share was 74.5 percent.

The bottom half’s share of wealth has declined since it reached a high of 3.6 percent in 1995. But the most dramatic drop occurred after 2007, according to the analysis of data from the Federal Reserve’s latest Survey of Consumer Finances.

Another staggering indicator of the concentration of wealth at the top in the U.S: When all household wealth is divided by the number of households, the mean household net worth in 2010 totals $498,800. But the median household net worth — the level at which half the households have more and half have less — was $77,300, meaning that the rich have so much that the average net worth in the U.S. is actually 6.5 times that of a typical American family.

The study found that the share of wealth held by the top 10 percent of households grew from 1989 to 2010. In every other segment of the remaining 90 percent of households — i.e. the middle and lower class — that share went down.

The study cites a recent Federal Reserve Bulletin article’s conclusion that “a broad collapse in house prices” was the main reason for the changes between 2007 and 2010. The decline in the stock market “played a considerable but lesser role” in part because stock prices, unlike home prices, have broadly recovered.

The report makes it clear that there is cause for alarm. “Inequality is the term commonly applied to the concentration of total net worth among the relatively few households at the top of the wealth distribution,” it states.

But — realistically — the report doesn’t include any policy prescriptions. Rather, it notes that within Congress there are “[d]ifferent views about the impact of redistributive policies on long-term economic growth.”



Dan Froomkin is the Senior Washington Correspondent for the Huffington Post. Previously, he wrote the White House Watch column for the Washington Post’s website. He began his journalism career as a reporter at the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal, the Miami Herald and the Orange County (Calif.) Register before being awarded a Michigan Journalism Fellowship in 1995. He then served as Editor of New Media for Education Week, and as Senior Producer, Metro Editor, and ultimately Editor of washingtonpost.com. He is also Deputy Editor of NiemanWatchdog.org, a website from the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University devoted to encouraging accountability journalism. Here is an archive of his White House Watch columns from the Bush administration. Dan welcomes your email and can be reached at froomkin@huffingtonpost.com.

Philosophic Clash Over Government’s Role Highlights Parties’ Divide By Peter Baker

New York Times, July 18, 2012

It took only a few days for it to become a favorite Republican talking point. President Obama told an audience that “if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that; somebody else made that happen.”

Suddenly his critics had proof that he does not believe in individual success or the free market. Mitt Romney scrapped much of his stump speech on Wednesday to focus on the line and sent surrogates to reinforce the point. Mr. Obama’s aides said he was taken out of context, that he was referring to the value of public structures like bridges and roads in the nation’s commerce.

Either way, putting aside the predictable partisan cross-fire and the inevitable Internet-fueled distortions, even in proper context the president’s remarks crystallize a profound disagreement that defines this year’s campaign. More perhaps than any presidential contest in years, the choice between Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney presents voters with starkly different philosophies about the role of government in American society.

Read in total, Mr. Obama’s comments make clear that he celebrates individual achievement and free enterprise while believing that they are bolstered by collective investment. At its core, the president’s argument is that the every-man-for-himself ethos he attributes to his opponents does not work. Instead, he advances a we’re-in-this-together creed born out of his days as a community activist. It is this belief that to him justifies government programs as necessary for American progress at a time when that is not fashionable.

Mr. Romney, for his part, has also been a believer in activist government at times, certainly when he was governor of Massachusetts and enacted a pioneering plan to expand health care coverage. But the lifelong entrepreneur in him hears words like Mr. Obama’s as a repudiation of the storied American tradition of rugged individualism and the self-made man. While he is pressing an argument as part of his campaign, he also reflects a deep strain in America that eschews the sort of communitarian doctrine espoused by the president.

“America has historically swung between an emphasis on individualism and an emphasis on community,” said Robert D. Putnam, a Harvard University professor who has written books on the role of community in America. “It may not feel like we’re having this big philosophical debate, but underneath, I think that really is what’s at stake.”

Professor Putnam, who got to know Mr. Obama during seminar retreats more than a decade ago where these issues were discussed, said individualism had dominated the national mood for much of the last 40 years. “This is a big swing of the historical pendulum, and he’d like to be involved in beginning the swing back the other direction,” he said of Mr. Obama.

But those on the other side said the president’s remarks were revealing because by arguing that the state or society had a role in creating individual success, they believe he is justifying the government’s taking a share. Kevin A. Hassett, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said Mr. Obama’s philosophy had driven Mr. Romney’s countervailing approach.

“Obama really has become the argument for redistribution, the argument for statism,” said Mr. Hassett, who has advised George W. Bush, John McCain and now Mr. Romney. “And so that’s shaped his opposition.”

Mr. Obama’s remarks reflect sentiments he expressed in a speech in Osawatomie, Kan., last December, previewing what he saw as themes of the campaign. They also resemble similar thoughts articulated by Elizabeth Warren, the hero of liberals who is running for the Senate in Massachusetts.

Mr. Obama’s latest comments came on Friday night in a fire station in Roanoke, Va. “Look,” he told supporters, “if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, ‘Well, it must be because I was just so smart.’ There are a lot of smart people out there. ‘It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.’ Let me tell you something, there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

“The point is, that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”

Within days, critics took notice, and the remarks became fodder for discussion on Fox News and in outlets like National Review. By Wednesday, Mr. Romney made it his topic for the day.

The phrase “really reveals what he thinks about our country, about our people, about free enterprise, about freedom, about individual initiative, about America,” Mr. Romney told supporters in Bowling Green, Ohio. He asked those who started or ran a business to stand. Some 30 to 40 people did, many holding signs reading, “I created a business. Not the government” or “I opened my own business.”

“I know that you recognize a lot of people helped you in that business,” Mr. Romney told them. “Perhaps the banks. Investors. There’s no question your mom and dad, your schoolteacher, the people who provide roads, the fire and police. But let me ask you this: Did you build your business? If you did, raise your hand.”

Many hands went up. “Take that, Mr. President,” Mr. Romney said.

David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, said in an interview that the president considers individual initiative “the principal driver in one’s success” but “it’s also true there are things we do as a country that contribute to that.”

For Mr. Obama, he said, this is nothing new. “This isn’t a revelation,” Mr. Axelrod said. “This is a fundamental article of faith.”

And a fundamental point of contention to be resolved, however temporarily, in November.

Trip Gabriel contributed reporting from Bowling Green, Ohio.