Thursday, September 06, 2012
05 September 12
The GOP's war on voting rights isn't new. It harks back to past efforts to alter the political process.
In states from Florida to Pennsylvania, Republican Party efforts to diminish minority voting strength for this year's presidential election are a sobering reminder that the struggle for full civil rights is not over. But it's not only black voters who should be concerned about Republican voter-suppression tactics. The GOP's war on voting is a serious attack on the fundamental workings of our democracy. It is, at its core, an attempt to negate the important victories of the early 1960s that laid the foundation of our modern representative democracy.
To understand the breadth of the threat represented by voter-ID laws and other new practices designed to suppress votes in Democratic districts, it's important to realize that the effort to dismantle obstacles to voting rights for black voters in the South during the early 1960s did more than just enfranchise African Americans. It exposed the myriad ways in which key aspects of the American electoral system were fundamentally unfair for all voters. In particular, the disproportionate power afforded to underpopulated rural jurisdictions over the more populous cities was corrected by the Supreme Court in a series of cases that dismantled the framework of unequal voting power that had existed in the South since the turn of the 20th century.
The door opened in 1962 when, in Baker v. Carr, the Supreme Court decided that it could rule on cases raising constitutional challenges to state apportionment practices. In that case, the challenge was to Tennessee's failure for more than 60 years to adjust its state legislative districts, despite massive changes in the state's population. A year later, in Gray v. Sanders, the court outlawed Georgia's county-unit voting system, a vote-counting scheme that benefited less populous counties in the state.
In the most important and influential of these decisions, Reynolds v. Sims, the court announced the now internationally recognized bedrock principle of voting equality: one person, one vote. These cases rooted out practices advanced principally in the South that, by weighting votes in favor of rural areas, gave land and cattle greater voting strength than people.
The principles announced in those cases are now such a part of our understanding of fairness in representative democracy that it's hard sometimes to remember that they are only 50 years old. In short, the fight to remove obstacles designed to keep blacks and the undereducated from voting - like the poll tax, theliteracy test and the understanding clause (in which a registrant would be asked to "interpret" a section of the state constitution) - should be understood within the context of the larger effort to bring equity to a voting system that had been fixed in favor of Southern, rural land-owning elites.
By 1966, after the last of these and other barriers had been removed by the Supreme Court and by the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we'd begun the decades-long battle - still under way - to ensure that state and federal officials would enforce the laws that the Supreme Court had upheld. Once these structural barriers to voting were removed, those Southern white Dixiecrats (who formed the base of the modern post-civil rights Republican Party) committed to maintaining their political power and shifted their tactics to adjust to the new normal.
Because black and urban voters now proved a crucial vote in elections throughout the country, the politics of race-based fear increased and spread rapidly to the North. There, entrenched powers also sought to marginalize the potential for new voters to change the political landscape.
Richard Nixon's political "Southern strategy" was nationalized. Candidates who promised "law and order" flourished after the urban riots in Los Angeles' Watts and in Newark, N.J. The idea of candidates who would "return" America to its former glory grew in currency. By the 1980s, Republican political operative Lee Atwater had turned the politics of race and fear into an art form, with Willie Horton launched as the poster child for how to manipulate white swing voters.
Despite the reference to Sarah Palin's vice presidential nomination as a game changer in HBO's titular movie, it was Barack Obama's campaign in 2008 that was the real political transformative moment. Obama's ability to peel off the support of voters in three states of the old Confederacy - Virginia, Florida and North Carolina - shook the very foundations of the Southern strategy and left the Republican Party reeling.
The party's initial instinct was to try to undercut the president's "postracial" appeal, with party leaders asking Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to provide the response to President Obama's first State of the Union address, and selecting former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele as chair of the Republican National Committee. Both of these decisions soon proved hasty and ill-advised.
Now, it seems, the Republican Party is done with politics. The party has, in effect, abandoned serious engagement with the essence of political activism: trying to persuade voters to support the candidates and viewpoints of one or another political party. Urban voters, blacks, Latinos, young people and now perhaps even a majority of women voters appear beyond the reach or interest of the GOP.
As a result, the Republican Party is now a minority party that still demands majority power. And perhaps this is why the party appears determined to shrink the majority, borrowing from pre-civil rights-era Southern states that used voting and election laws to manipulate the voting strength of the electorate.
This is the context in which we should understand Republican election officials' decision in Cincinnati last month to limit early voting in urban voting enclaves, while they guaranteed weekend voting and more flexible early voting hours in rural and suburban counties. Ending weekday early voting at 5 p.m. and canceling weekend early voting in Ohio's most populous cities would ensure that working voters in these jurisdictions became second-class citizens to their counterparts who live outside the metro areas. A recentfederal court decision requiring uniform early voting hours for all voters in the state may have reversed this plan.
This is why the Republican war on voting should not be viewed solely through the lens of race. Instead it should be seen as part of a larger attack on political participation, with deep historical roots that hark back to the darkest days of American democracy. Combined with the effects of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, Republican voter-suppression efforts are a sobering reminder that we are only half a century removed from the time when, in many states, voting strength was based on race, wealth and place. These new voter-suppression tactics bring us perilously close to reliving those days.
This is what voter fraud really looks like, and all Americans, not just African Americans, stand to lose.
Stepehen Lendman is my very left of center cousin and Progressive Radio personality. I do not agree with all his views BUT on THIS he was right on the money so to speak and exactly correct. It's long but worth it:
Mitt and Mormonism: Does It Matter?
by Stephen Lendman
Romney is America's first non-Christian presidential nominee. He's a Mormon (aka Latter Day Saints Church member - LDS). Does it matter? More on that below.
Before he entered politics, he spent years as a Massachusetts Mormon leader. He began in the mid-1970s. From 1986 - 1994, he was president of the Boston Stake. It's similar to a Catholic diocese. Before that he was a Belmont and Cambridge bishop. His duties involved organizational work and counseling.
Later he taught Sunday school and oversaw church programs for teenagers. He overstepped by lecturing women on their sex lives and roles as homemakers. A 1994 Boston Phoenix cited an anonymous woman. As bishop, Romney discouraged her from having an abortion vital for health reasons.
The same article mentioned an area professor. She urged him to address domestic abuse. He refused and wouldn't do it. He's an elitist. He surrounds himself in church, business, and political life with powerful white men.
He's insensitive about ordinary popular needs. He doesn't convince people he cares. He calls homosexuality "perverse and reprehensible." His dark side is largely hidden.
He believes in traditional gender roles. Male dominance is fundamental. Women should be child bearers and homemakers.
As Massachusetts governor, his style was imperial. He's aloof and patrician. He frowns on single parenthood. He follows hidebound Mormon rules. Obey or face excommunication. He ordered one single mother to give up her son or religion.
At times, he feigns understanding. He doesn't fake it well. Most often he's distant and indifferent. He's hardline about parishioners doing what they're told. His arrogance toward one church member made her feel like he "kicked (her) in the stomach."
Another parishioner called him racist and anti-Semitic. He's part entrepreneur, predator, church leader, politician, and now presidential aspirant. He combines the worst of each one.
Last May, Jodi Kantor headlined a largely flattering New York Times article "Romney's Faith, Silent but Deep," saying:
With presidential aspirations, he "speaks so sparingly about his faith….that its influence on him can be difficult to detect."
Friends "describe a man whose faith is his design for living." It's not his only influence, but "its impact cannot be fully untangled from that of his family, which is also steeped in Mormonism."
As a young entrepreneur, he was very "deseret." It's a Book of Mormon term. It means "industrious as a honeybee." He went all out recruiting colleagues and clients with Mormon like missionary zeal.
He's hardline on rules. They mirror his Mormon ones. As Massachusetts bishop and president he excommunicated adulterers. He discouraged mothers from working instead of being good wives and homemakers.
In private, he's "demonstrative about his faith." In church, he "belt(s) out hymns." He fasts on designated days. Wherever he is, most often he finds a congregation "to slip into on Sundays."
According to Mormon founder Joseph Smith and his successor Brigham Young, practitioners of other religions are wrongheaded, abominable, blind, damned, ignorant pagan heathens hatched in hell.
Romney buys this stuff. He follows church dogma and rules. Responding to critics about his religion, he once said:
"They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts."
"That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers. I will be true to them and to my beliefs."
Mormon temples are only for strict adherents and its leaders. Secrecy surrounding them is extraordinary. Before church members can enter a temple, they're interviewed to determine worthiness.
They're asked if they support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices differ from church dogma? Romney gained entry. Blockage denies it to heaven. Repentance can change things.
Church ordinances include the Law of Consecration. It requires members to pledge all their time, money, and abilities to establish the Mormon kingdom of heaven on earth. Absolute obedience to the church president is also demanded.
If Romney buys this stuff and abides by it, as president he'll be beholden to a higher power than his own office and must obey what he's told to do.
Political con men like having things both ways. Promise voters what they want to hear. Govern according to political priorities. Practice your religion as you choose out of public view.
Perhaps if elected, they'll be three Romney presidents. He's a chameleon, an opportunistic con man. He'll combine campaigner, office holder, religious extremist. He'll one up the worst of Obama enough to give his supporters pause or should if they take the time to find out.
His December 2007 GHW Bush presidential library speech was planned to allay fears about his Mormonism. He failed. He only mentioned it once. He said nothing about its beliefs or practices.
In September 1960, Kennedy removed the Catholic Question by boldly defending secularism. Romney preached the importance of "faith perspectives" in political life.
He claimed he and fellow Mormons are of like mind with evangelical Protestants and fundamentalist Catholics. He feels the same way now.
Perhaps he was wise not to defend what’s indefensible. It's less extreme now than originally but bad enough. The same goes for all religious extremism. It's one thing to be an adherent. It's quite another to govern by its dictates.
When asked "(w)ill all be damned but Mormons," founder Joseph Smith said:
"Yes, and a great portion of them unless they repent and work righteousness."
The Book of Mormon describes two churches: the church of the Lamb of God and the church of the devil. The latter is the great church. The other is "the mother of abomination….the whore of all the earth."
In the Journal of Discourses, Brigham Young said:
"Should you ask why we differ from other Christians, as they are called, it is simply because they are not Christians as the New Testament defines Christianity."
"The Christian world, so-called, are heathens as to the knowledge of the salvation of God."
"With a regard to true theology, a more ignorant people never lived than the present so-called Christian world."
"….the professing Christian world are like a ship upon a boisterous ocean without rudder, compass, or pilot, and are tossed hither and thither by every wind of doctrine."
"….the time came when Paganism was engrafted into Christianity, and at last Christianity was converted into Paganism rather than converting the Pagans."
John Taylor succeeded Young. In the Journal of Discourses, he said:
"We talk about Christianity, but it is a perfect pack of nonsense ...the devil could not invent a better engine to spread his work than the Christianity of the nineteenth century."
"What! Are Christians ignorant? Yes, as ignorant of the things of God as the brute beast."
"What does the Christian world know about God? Nothing ...Why so far as the things of God are concerned, they are the veriest of fools; they know neither God nor the things of God."
Other Mormon leaders expressed similar comments about Christianity and Mormon exceptionalism. Be wary when religious leaders demean other faiths for not being true believers.
Mormonism's dark side masquerades as wholesome, special, and benevolent. It's pernicious and malevolent and about non-believers. Adherents feel a Mormon is destined to become president and lead America. They stop short of explaining harmful policies he'll endorse.
The 19th century book titled "The Mysteries of Mormonism" is harsh. It condemns a religion it calls "the twin relic of barbarism." It was written by an unnamed "Apostle's wife."
New York-based Police Gazette Publisher Richard K. Fox published it. Books then cost around 25 cents. Times changed. So has Mormonism, but very much not in all ways mattering most. It's still hidebound, reactionary, intolerant and dangerous.
"The Mormon missionary goes abroad in the highways and byways of the earth, preaching his creed of the bagnio to the ignorant and depraved and gathering them into the fold."
"Mormonism was a swindle from the very start….Joseph Smith (was) the worst of a bad breed."
He established a church based on alleged divine revelations given him by God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and other angelic/divine visionaries. Flaws and contradictions define it. Adherents claim challenging them is heresy.
"The 'Book of Mormon' consists of sixteen books, professing to be written by as many different prophets. In it over three hundred passages of the Christian Bible are found, stolen without credit."
"Polygamy has no foundation either in the principle of faith promulgated by Joseph Smith and the founders of the Mormon gospel."
Brigham Young initiated the practice. He produced a document. He claimed it was a revelation given Smith. It allegedly commanded him to enter into polygamy. No such revelation existed.
After Young died, church governance changed. America grew up and expanded. Mormons no longer lived "entrenched beyond the reach of the government whose laws they violate…."
US President James Garfield campaigned against "Mormon infamy." So did his successor Chester Arthur. He called Mormonism "an evil calling out loudly for reform."
"(T)he black outrage of Mormonism cannot continue unmolested many years longer. The people are awakening and crying out for justice against it…."
"When it is hurled to ruin there will fall the most monstrous structure of fraud and infamy cemented by the blood of sacrifice ever reared in the history of the world and a creed of lust that transforms a vast stretch of our continent into a community of prostitution, and physical and mental debasement will become the by-word for iniquity it is still a triumphant monument to."
Mormonism today officially rejects polygamy. Thousands, however, still practice it.
Former Mormon practitioner Chris Tolworthy left the LDS church. He expressed anger and frustration. He moved on and explained. In 2006, he published "Ten Reasons to Protect Your Children From Mormonism."
He began saying it's "better than many alternatives." It's better than raising children "in an even worse cult….But Mormonism is not the best." It's "dangerous."
He belonged to the LDS church for 34 years. For the sake of his children he left. Why he waited so long he didn't say. His reasons include:
(1) Mormonism "destroys your integrity." It's based on "lies" and "sin."
(2) "It makes you covenant to do evil. Some Mormon teachings and practices are evil." They destroy integrity, put church before family, divide communities, preach racism and homophobia, lie, and endorse other harmful practices.
The church keeps its dark side well hidden. Methods it calls righteous are unethical. It also teaches honesty and other good things. Its virtuous side doesn't compensate for its harm.
(3) "It might kill your children. Utah is the Prozac capital of the world." It also the leading state for suicides among adolescents and young men aged 15 - 24. Many high school girls feel sad and lonely.
Teenagers are taught to feel different from other people. They're made to feel guilty about normal sexual feelings.
(4) "It limits their emotional development." The church teaches that "obedience is the first law of heaven." Children get very early indoctrination. Faith is force-fed.
(5) It's "divisive" because "it has so many core beliefs that can be proved false."
"The church puts itself before the family." Individuality and free choice get shut out.
(6) "The church teaches prejudice." It's racist, homophobic, and hardline. Church scripture says "black skin is a curse for wickedness."
It's on the wrong side of other social issues. Polygamy was finally abandoned but not entirely.
Millions of dollars are spent attacking gays.
(7) "It takes good ideas and makes them worse." Its Proclamation on the Family excludes singles and gay couples. Same sex marriage is called evil.
(8) "It is unethical." The Book of Mormon says Nephi kills Laban, steals his property, and is praised." Using gospel is a bad way to teach ethics. The "God said so" approach creates more problems than equitable resolutions. Parents are perfectly capable of raising children sans gospel.
The church wants your time and money "under false pretenses." Donating either or both should be personal choices, not mandates. It says "either you do it our way or the wrong way."
It wants control over "every aspect of your life." It's "totalitarian."
The church steals childhoods. Kids are forced to sit hours in church learning and worrying about sin. They don't have fun like others their age in non-Mormon households.
(9) "Poor decision making." Feelings and dogma guide them more than facts.
(10) "Empty promises." The church takes your time and money. In return, it doesn't make people better. So-called Mormonism benefits "are empty."
The church claims its way is righteous and good. Compared to dysfunctional lifestyles, it's true. Compared with better ones, it falls short. "If you want better for your children, you can protect (them) from the dangers of Mormonism." Exercise free choice and do it.
Modern Mormonism differs greatly from its original form. Critics, however, call it a longstanding elaborate fraud. Its scripture contains numerous contradictions and errors. Founder Joseph Smith was a convicted con man.
He was more huckster than prophet. A purposeful deceiver in his day was called a "juggler." In 1849, New York Herald founder/publisher/editor perhaps first used the term confidence man. Smith lived from 1805 - 1844.
Herman Melville titled his 1857 novel "The Confidence Man: His Masquerade." Some believe Smith was his archetype. "The Con Man is Devil and God," said Melville.
He preaches aphorisms like "Charity thinketh no evil." "Charity believeth all things," and "Charity never faith." Melville believed scamming represented everything wrong with America in the pre-Civil War decade.
Many of his confidence man's entreaties make perfectly good sermons. Smith filled the bill. His mixed messages reflected good and evil. Critics called him an impostor, a fake, a con man.
Conning the faithful to believe continues. Modern day leaders do it their way. They also created a vast business empire. In July 2012, Business Week headlined "How the Mormons Make Money," saying:
Last March, a $2 billion Salt Lake City megamall was completed. It's adjacent to the church's neo-Gothic temple and president Thomas Monson's offices. Adherents call him a living prophet.
The project features a retractable glass roof, 5,000 underground parking spots, and nearly 100 stores and restaurants. Luxury ones like Tiffany's are included.
At its grand opening, Utah dignitaries accompanied Monson. He cheered "one, two, three," cut the ceremonial ribbon, and said "let's go shopping!"
"Watching a religious leader celebrate a mall may seem surreal, but (this one) reflects the spirit of enterprise that animates modern-day Mormonism."
"The mall is part of a sprawling church-owned corporate empire that" church leaders say spreads its message, increases economic self-reliance, and builds "the Kingdom of God on earth."
Keith McMullin heads the church holding company. Deseret Management Corporation (DMC) is an umbrella organization for many non-profit church businesses.
"We look to not only the spiritual," he says, "but also the temporal, and we believe that a person who is impoverished temporally cannot blossom spiritually."
Mormonism combines religious fervor with money-making. Non-profit status enhances bottom line priorities. Church holdings are vast. Little is known about them. Financial transparency is absent. Even members required to contribute generously aren't privy to what goes on.
According to historian D. Michael Quinn:
"The Mormon Church is very different than any other church….Traditional Christianity and Judaism make a clear distinction between what is spiritual and what is temporal, while Mormon theology specifically denies that there is such a distinction."
Megamalls and multi-billion dollar enterprise profiteering is doing God's work. Quinn adds:
"In the Mormon's (leadership) worldview, it's as spiritual to give alms to the poor….as it is to make" millions of dollars.
Around six million Americans practice Mormonism. Globally it's around 14 million. Their influence outnumbers their numbers.
The church's business empire and wealth are vast. DMC alone has six subsidiaries. Its estimated annual revenue is around $1.2 billion. It runs a newspaper, 11 radio stations, a TV station, a publishing and distribution company, a digital media operation, a hospitality business, and insurance with assets worth $4.4 billion.
AgReserves is another for-profit Mormon umbrella enterprise. Together with other church-run agricultural affiliates, it owns about one million US acres. They're used for farming, hunting, preserves, orchards and ranches.
They include the $1 billion, 290,000 acre Florida based Deseret Ranches. It has 44,000 cows, 1,300 bulls, citrus, sod, and timber. Foreign based affiliates operate in Britain, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil.
The church also runs several for-profit real estate enterprises. They develop, own, and manage malls, parking lots, office parks, residential buildings, and other businesses.
Hawaii Reserves owns or manages over 7,000 Oahu acres with commercial and residential buildings, parks, water and sewage infrastructure, as well as two cemeteries.
Oahu's Polynesian Cultural Center is a 43 acre tropical theme park. It hosts luaus, canoe rides, and tours through simulated Polynesian villages.
Utah Property Management Associates is another operation. Its new megamall is part of a $5 billion downtown Salt Lake City makeover.
According to Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development official Spencer Eccles:
Church officials run "their businesses like businesses, no bones about it."
Given their vast enterprises and business expertise, Sociology Professor Ryan Cragun said it makes more sense to call them "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Holdings, Inc."
Like other churches, many of its operations and donations are tax exempt. They're also secretive. Religious operations aren't obligated to explain much publicly. In the early 1960s, the LDS church stopped reporting finances entirely.
In 1997, a Time magazine investigation estimated its total worth at $30 billion. It said about $5 billion flows into church coffers annually through tithes. It also owned around $6 billion in stocks and bonds.
A more recent Reuters/Professor Cragun investigation estimated a $40 billion net worth, including up to $8 billion annually in tithing.
Church finances are so compartmentalized that no single person, not even the president, has access to them all. They're vast, growing, profitable, and perhaps greater than estimated totals.
Modern Mormonism isn't just a religion. It's a money making machine.
GREAT, FABULOUS, convention the most wonderful I have ever in decades seen and I watched it all. ALL the speakers were terrific but special kudos to the First Lady and of course to President William Jefferson Clinton the Magnificant.
At first I was upset that they put the plank for religion and for Jerusalem as Israel's capital in the platform NOT because I don't support Israel because I do emphatically but because I wanted religion OUT of the state and Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a VERY incendiary issue. If our goal is peace we MUST appreciate and understand every side. Still the president rules and he does things that he KNOWS will be good for the Party and his re-election. The Repubicans would have made hay out of this. It takes the wind out of their sails as if their sailboat has not crashed on the rocks anyway.
I changed my mind. Glad they put it in. We need to win, the country needs us and the world wants us.
Kudos too to the MSNBC team -- they are the best of the absolute best INCLUDING even the conservative analysis of Steve Schmidt. Twer conservatives like he remenicinet of a time I could talk to a Republican. It is hard to do that now.
I was MESMERIZED by the convention. Thank you Democratic Party for NOT letting us down.
Work for and Re-elect the president and of course the great Elizabeth Warren for US Senate!