Michael Lux's The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be -- Thom Hartmann's Independent Thinker Review

Michael Lux's The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be -- Thom Hartmann's Independent Thinker Review

Thom Hartmann's "Independent Thinker" Book of the Month Review
It would not be an exaggeration to say that without Thomas Paine there may not have been an American Revolution. At the very least, it may well have been of a substantially different nature and character, and our government may be far more plutocratic than it was designed to be.
Yet Paine is often absent from broad-brush overviews of the American Revolution, or simply relegated to the title of "pamphleteer."
Part of the reason for this is that he wrote "The Age Of Reason," which was a finely-tuned attack on organized religion. After "Common Sense" and "The Rights of Man," two books that were massive best-sellers, "Reason" caused many Americans - then in the midst of a religious revival - to turn against Paine. Thus he died in relative obscurity in New York City, and today even the whereabouts of his body is unknown (an interesting story that Harvey J. Kaye tells well).
His critics notwithstanding, Thomas Paine was in many ways the father of modern liberalism, and thus one of the most important of the founders of what both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson referred to as that "liberal" experiment, the United States of America.
Liberals, after all, founded our nation. They were skeptical of the power of any institution - be it corporate (the Boston Tea Party was an anti-globalization protest against the world's largest transnational corporation, the East India Company), religious (Ben Franklin left Massachusetts for Philadelphia during his childhood in part because they were still hanging witches in the outlying regions), or governmental (the "kingly oppressions" such as the power of a king to make war, referred to by Madison and later quoted by Lincoln). It wasn't FDR who first seriously promoted the progressive income tax in the USA: it was Thomas Paine. It wasn't LBJ who invented anti-poverty programs by introducing Medicare, housing assistance, and food-stamp programs: Thomas Paine proposed versions of all of these. It wasn't Jack Kennedy who first talked seriously about international disarmament: it was Thomas Paine. And Teddy Roosevelt wasn't the first American to talk about the "living wage," or ways that corporate "maximum wage" wink-and-nod agreements could be broken up: it was Thomas Paine. Even Woodrow Wilson's inheritance tax, designed to prevent family empires from taking over our nation, was the idea of Thomas Paine, as was the suggestion for old-age pensions as part of a social safety net known today as Social Security.
Paine thought that the best way to build a strong democracy was to tax the wealthy to give the poor bootstraps by which they could pull themselves up. He proposed helping out young families with the expense of raising children (a forerunner to our income tax exemptions for children), a fund to provide housing and food for the poor (a forerunner to housing vouchers and food stamps), and a reliable and predictable pension for all workers in their old age (a forerunner to Social Security). He also suggested that all nations should reduce their armaments by 90 percent, to ensure world peace. Summarizing, Paine noted:
"When it shall be said in any country in the world, my poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am the friend of its happiness: when these things can be said, then may that country boast its constitution and its government."
In his marvelous biography of Thomas Paine, Harvey J. Kaye explores all these issues and much, much more. In truth, it's difficult to review this book as if it were merely a biography - it's really one of the very best histories of the Revolutionary Era in print, using Thomas Paine as the pivot point for telling stories that range from well before the Revolutionary War all the way up to the present day.
Kaye shows how Paine was a powerful influence not only at a national level, but also on the states. He writes about how Thomas Paine helped promote an early draft of the Pennsylvania constitution, wherein "they provided for a one-house legislature, annual elections, voting an office-holding rights for all taxpaying men, and term limits. (The drafters even entertained setting limits to the accumulation of property!)"
Later in the book, Kaye notes:
Observing that Monarchy and aristocracy entail "excess and inequality of taxation" and threw the "great mass of the community ... into poverty and discontent," Paine added the question of class to the brief. "When, in countries that are called civilized, we see age going to the work-house and youth the gallows, something," Paine declared, "must be wrong in the system of government." And he bluntly asked, "Why is that scarcely any are executed but the poor?"
It is positively refreshing to read history from somebody who understands the time and the era. By contrast, Thomas Jefferson's most recent biographer describes him as a hypocrite and implies he was an utopianist fool, and John Adams' biographer reinvents our second president - who tried his best to destroy American democracy with the Alien and Sedition Acts - as a modern and noble pseudo-Republican.

 But Kaye lays it all bare. Noting that Jefferson well understood the importance of Paine's contribution to Jefferson's anti-Federalist "Republican" movement (now known as The Democratic Party), Kaye notes:
In the spring of 1791 Jefferson had hailed the first part of Rights of Man. Then serving as secretary of state, he saw in it an antidote to the rise of antirepublican sentiments expressed in writings like Discourses on Davila, a series of newspaper essays penned anonymously by Vice President John Adams warning against the dangers of democratic politics and praising aristocratic governments.
In the next chapter, Kaye adds:
Outfitted with Paine's arguments, Republican newspaperman attacked the Fderalists for their "monarchical and aristocratic" ambitions and pretensions.
When Paine was attacked by British conservatives not as a liberal or a democrat, but as a staymaker (it was actually his father who helped make women's undergarments and dresses), Kaye points out that the Aurora - one of the more prominent of the pro-Jefferson anti-Federalist newspapers of the day - published a commentary in December 1792 that said:
It is well enough in England to run down the rights of man [speaking of Paine's book], because the author of those inimitable pamphlets was a staymaker; but in the United States all such proscriptions of certain classes of citizens, or occupations, should be avoided; for liberty will never be safe or durable in a republic till every citizen thinks it as much his duty to take care of the state, as to take care of his family, and until an indifference to any public question shall be considered a public offence.
After treating the pre-revolutionary, revolutionary, and post-revolutionary eras with extraordinary insight and detail, Kaye shows how Paine's influence continued in America. He chronicles the rise of the "workingmen's movement" through the latter part of the 1700s and early 1800s, leading to the creation in the mid-1830s of the National Trades' Union. "However, the Panic of 1837 devastated the economy and, with it, workers' capacities to organize," Kaye writes. "Still, the worker's ideals and aspirations did not die but persisted in the initiatives of a generation of democratic intellectuals who would continue to draw upon Paine's arguments."
By the 1840s, the battles between progressive Democrats citing Paine and conservative Whigs were heating up all over again. A group inspired in part by Paine, the Young Americans, were split in 1845 by debates over Manifest Destiny, but, Kaye notes, "The group's original Painite vision lived on, however, in the labors of the nation's greatest democratic writers, Melville and Whiteman. ...to both, Paine was democracy's first champion."
From here, Kaye carries us through the whole arc of the 1800s, up to and through the Wilson administration, Eugene Debs, through the Great Depression, the presidency of FDR, through WWII, and into the Vietnam conflict. At each step along the way, he finds the inspiration of Thomas Paine in the forward progress of Americans who believe in the deepest and most profound principles of democracy and liberty.
For example, from the Vietnam era:
SDS members of the early 1960s proudly conceived of themselves as renewing America's revolutionary heritage, with Paine standing at the heart of it. [Todd] Gitlin [SDS President] would recount of a November 1965 antiwar rally: "Carl Oglesby [then president of SDS] stole the show ... by treating the war as the product of an imperial history ... But Oglesby, the son of an Akron Rubber worker, also self-consciously invoked 'our dead revolutionaries' Jefferson and Paine against Lyndon Johnson and [national security adviser] McGeorge Bundy. He romantically sumoned up a once-democratic America against the 'colossus of ... our American corporate system.'"
Even many years later, SDS veterans would have recourse to Paine when recollecting their early activist days and what they were about. In his own memoir, Tom Hayden would write, "The goal of the sixties was, in a sense, the completion of the vision of the early revolutionaries and the abolitionists, for Tom Paine and Frederick Douglass wanted even more than the Bill of Rights or Emancipation Proclamation. True Democrats, they wanted the fulfillment of the American promise."
Bringing us to the present moment, Kaye points out that modern conservatives are undertaking a massive and well-funded effort to re-write history, characterizing anti-democratic men from the Revolutionary Era as Adams and Hamilton as true champions of democracy, and trying to recast the firebrand revolutionary and liberal Thomas Paine as a conservative. As noted early in the book, they even are stealing lines from Paine, such as Reagan's quoting a Paine line from Common Sense that: "We have it in our power to begin the world over again."
But Kaye won't let them get away with it:
For all their citations of Paine and his lines, conservatives do not - and truly cannot - embrace him and his arguments. Bolstered by capital, firmly in command of the Republican Party, and politically ascendant for a generation, they have initiated and instituted policies and programs that fundamentally contradict Paine's own vision and commitments. They have subordinated the Republic - the res publica, the commonwealth, the public good - to the marketplace and private advantage. They have furthered the interests of corporations and the rich over those of working people, their families, unions, and communities and overseen a concentration of wealth and power that, recalling the Gilded Age, has corrupted and enervated American democratic life and politics. And they have carried on culture wars that have divided the nation and undermined the wall separating church and state. Moreover, they have pursued domestic and foreign policies that have made the nation both less free and less secure politically, economically, environmentally, and militarily. Even as they have spoken of advancing freedom and empowering citizens, they have sought to discharge or at least constrain America's democratic impulse and aspiration. In fact, while poaching lines from Paine, they and their favorite intellectuals have disclosed their real ambitions and affections by once again declaring the "end of history" and promoting the lives of Founders like John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, who n decided contrast to Paine scorned democracy and feared "the people."
Thomas Paine and the Promise of America is not only one of the finest biographies of this great Founder ever written, it is also one of the best histories of the United States of America in print.
Read 65 times


Fact Check: Paul Ryan Exaggerates Marathon Claim : The Two-Way : NPR

Fact Check: Paul Ryan Exaggerates Marathon Claim : The Two-Way : NPR:

Last week, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan claimed he'd accomplished an athletic feat: He had run a marathon in under three hours. The claim came during an interview on radio host Hugh Hewitt's program.
"H[ugh] H[ewitt]: Are you still running?
P[aul] R[yan]: Yeah, I hurt a disc in my back, so I don't run marathons anymore. I just run ten miles or yes.
HH: But you did run marathons at some point?
PR: Yeah, but I can't do it anymore, because my back is just not that great.
HH: I've just gotta ask, what's your personal best?
PR: Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something.
HH: Holy smokes. All right, now you go down to Miami University ...
PR: I was fast when I was younger, yeah."
A "sub-3:00" marathon? The congressman is known for his athletic prowess, but that's still a blistering pace. According to a nifty calculator on the Runner's World website, in order to complete a marathon in, say, 2:59, the calculator suggests Ryan ran a mile in 5 minutes, 37 seconds on average. Then he'd have to sustain that pace for 26.2 miles.
The speed is so fast that Runner's World checked his claim — and couldn't find it. It did locate one marathon he participated in: "Grandma's Marathon" in Duluth, Minn., on June 23, 1990.
He finished in 4 hours, 1 minute and 25 seconds.
Friday, a spokesman for Ryan told the magazine the Republican vice presidential candidate has indeed run just one marathon. And, Ryan issued this statement:
"The race was more than 20 years ago, but my brother Tobin — who ran Boston last year — reminds me that he is the owner of the fastest marathon in the family and has never himself ran a sub-three. If I were to do any rounding, it would certainly be to four hours, not three. He gave me a good ribbing over this at dinner tonight."
Runners posting on the Runner's World website are outraged: Many are listing their own PR (personal records) with date and marathon name.
Incidentally, Ryan's marathon time is a little bit slower than former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the previous GOP vice presidential candidate. Her marathon personal record is 3:59:36.

Runner's World Fact Checks Paul Ryan's Marathon - Turns Out He's Not Faster Than An Endurance Horse, After All
Not impressed. How fast did you claim you ran that marathon, again ? Paul Ryan caught fibbing by Runner's World.

Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan made the startling claim in a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt that he had run a sub 3 hour marathon. About a 2:50 "something." Works out to 6 minute and 48 seconds per mile.

Not only would this have put him in the elite class of human runners, it would have made him faster than a lot of Tevis endurance race horses, which average about 7 to 8 minutes per mile, for the winning times, and at the slower rate of about 4.5 mph if they want to complete the race for the buckle.

Runner's World magazine took it upon themselves to fact check Paul Ryan's time claim for the marathon he supposedly competed in, searched 11 years of records, and found that there was exactly one recorded instance of a Paul D. Ryan finishing the 1990 Grandma's Marathon of Duluth, Minnesota, in 1990, with a time of ....

• 4 hours, 1 minute, and 25 seconds.

That means that the runner is traveling at the much more pedestrian rate of ... 9 minutes per mile.

By comparison, this year's Olympic marathon winner, Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda, ran the race in 2 hours, 8 minutes, and 1 second, which rounds off to one mile ticked off every....
... 4.88 minutes

At first, in response to Runner's World, a spokesperson for the Romney- Ryan campaign said "His comments on the show were to the best of his recollection."

Many of the comments at Runner's World were along the lines of this: "How could anyone NOT remember the details of their personal best like that ?" and "If you are a runner, the fastest way to lose your credibility among other runners, is to lie about your times."

Ryan finally issued a correction for himself, after the media outcry.

This follows the series of fact checks that were done following Ryan's now notorious RNC Convention speech in Tampa, where Ryan made claims that were not true about many things, such as:

1. The closure of the General Motors plant in Janesville, implying it happened under this administration. (Shut down in 2008, when Bush was President.)

2. Medicare. (Ryan's own budget called for drastic Medicare cuts).

3. Deficit. (Bush era tax cuts, Bush era foreign wars, and Bush era not putting the war funding IN the budgets, instead doing it on a contingency appropriations basis as a gimmick, to hide the fact that the wars were done on credit.) Ryan voted for those tax cuts and those wars.

4. Safety Net - Ryan quote - "The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves...." (Ryan budget performs 62% of its cuts to programs that benefit the people with the lowest incomes, such the working poor, and elderly poor nursing home patients who are on Medicaid. )

5. The world Credit Rating Downgrade, dished out by Standard & Poor. The Republican party threatened to shut down the Federal government on this issue of raising the debt ceiling, which also would have caused a default. You can't complain about debt, while voting to decrease government revenues (refusing to restore tax rates from Clinton era which did balance the budget) at the same time. If you perform a draconian cut to domestic programs, as was proposed by Ryan's Roadmap, you perform a draconian cut to consumer demand that is supposed to raise the GDP.

Ryan, to the best of the nation's recollection, can't remember what he's been doing in Congress for the past dozen years, if that is the same Paul Ryan who was giving the speech in Tampa. It's so bad, even the athletic and health worlds are noticing.

With 65 days to go before Tues, November 6th, if Paul Ryan told a lie every 2 hours and 50 minutes during the working day, that would be 208 lies, or "loss of recollections" before the election. Followed by the need to clarify the record 208 times, or issue another denial, and dig in further. Talk about a marathon... He's buff, he's tough, he's off the cuff, puffed and guffed. The Romney campaign will somehow have to reduce this to a more acceptable rate, (and forbid anyone from lighting a match anywhere nearby) while at the same time proposing more tax cuts.... good luck with that split !