Whoosh, Democracy Just Got Flushed

mccutcheonThe constitution is thorough in its structuring of representation to ensure the people get equal representation. Scalia and his thugs at SCOTUS violated all of that and put the people in a virtual serfdom by allowing huge donations to tribes of campaign candidates.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued one of its most significant campaign finance rulings ever, striking down the overall campaign contribution limits that currently prevented individuals from contributing more than $123,000 to candidates and party committees per election cycle.

The court did not strike down contribution limits per candidate (now $2,600) and per party committee (now $32,400), but the decision does overturn previous rules that restricted individuals from giving those maximum donations to dozens of candidates and several party committees.

This is worse than Citizen’s United which made a corporation have the rights of an individual. This means money the god of the wealthy can control politics creating a virtual contract for obeisance. Welcome to  political feudalism where a few  control politics by their vast wealth. A billionaire can now purchase an entire campaign, person by person, corporation by corporation.

If Clarence Thomas had had his way there would be no limits. Imagine if one billionaire could sponsor an entire political campaign. The worst justice ever.

Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with the outcome of the case, but wrote separately to say that he would have gone further and wiped away all contribution limits.

What will the people do? For now they will blame themselves and follow the mythic mantra they are to blame, mistakenly thinking that anyone if they really wanted could become as rich as the richest. And when that continues to fail they will seek a religion that celebrates the poor and numbs the mind.

 ”Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”

After all, anyone can afford wishful thinking. What then? When they become more poor, destitute, and the tribes of wealth own even your vote they will blindly revolt to no good ends because they do not have any resources left but their very lives.

Your vote just becomes worthless. Elections are now corrupted and controlled by the wealthy.

Jim Newman, bright and well


Closeted Atheists in Congress

Congressman Jeopardy ComputerI get it. Why would one come out atheist to hardships unless the benefits were great, integrity were important, or truth really did trump politics–or perhaps, atheism were becoming acceptable and to whom. Rush Holt is a good example and he is one of the most out.

Holt, a physicist, is the member who most pressed Darwin Day, a holiday celebrating evolution’s main man Charles Darwin. But does Holt’s love for science make him a nonbeliever? Is he part of Washington’s secret atheist crowd? Holt says no.

“I am a questioning believer, that’s probably the best way to put it,” he tells Whispers.

Holt wouldn’t even go as far to say that there should be more atheists in elected office. “I think Americans want to see skeptics involved in public policy, but not necessarily religious skeptics,” Holt told Whispers. “But people who think critically and skeptically, is what I’d say there.”

Holt’s reluctance to recommend that his colleagues be atheists, exemplifies the challenge of being part of that community on Capitol Hill. Edwina Rogers, the Republican lobbyist who turned heads in 2012 by taking over the reins of the Secular Coalition, says that there are indeed nonbelievers walking those halls. They just don’t talk about it.

Yet, they are coming out, in private.

“We did a survey, a one-on-one survey, where we went around and spoke in confidence to a number of senators and congressmen and about 32 told us, ‘well, yeah, I’m a nontheist,’” Rogers explained.

Oddly, this gives me hope. While I would prefer my politicians to be honest at least I am getting the feeling that there are more people sympathetic to atheism than admit it. Will these people, like unintending moles, surface when the time comes and support is needed or will this be one long extraction process where they come out in ones and twos?

Edwina Rogers is good person for this crowd as she is also a conservative and can speak to common ground. It will be interesting when atheists begin demanding discussion of conservative values. It really wasn’t long ago that being atheist didn’t mean being liberal.

Jim n

Obama On Roe v. Wade

ObamaWell said Mr. President…

“Today, as we reflect on the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, we recommit ourselves to the decision’s guiding principle: that every woman should be able to make her own choices about her body and her health.”

“We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her constitutional right to privacy, including the right to reproductive freedom.”

“And we resolve to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, and continue to build safe and healthy communities for all our children. Because this is a country where everyone deserves the same freedom and opportunities to fulfill their dreams.”

Can someone give me a fist bump!

The Christian Conviction to End the World

end of worldAmanda Marcotte brilliantly details in a series of articles the christian conservative will and desire to end the world if it can’t be the way they see is moral. They will lie, cheat, berate and perform every nasty trick possible to continue the decline as none of it matters once the war seems lost. They are like fighting boys until one side begins to lose and then cheating is mandatory, as after all who cares so long as the right side wins. In self-defense how do the rules matter? If total loss seems imminent blow up the ring.

Over and over again, right-wingers warn that all the things they hate, from pro-gay Broadway shows to immigration to multiculturalism, are not just signs of an evolving American society, but portend the actual end of it. The Roman Empire is often darkly alluded to, and you get the impression many on the right think Rome burned up and descended into anarchy and darkness. (Not quite.) But really, what all these fantasies of cities burning down and impending war and destruction are expressing is a belief that the culture of white conservative Christians is the culture of America. So it follows that if they aren’t the dominant class in the United States, then America isn’t, in their opinion, really America anymore.

I have been bingeing on Revolution on Netflix and what I see is constant play on violence, emotional content, and pretty people. It’s not overtly Christian but it does display many values we hold dear  in this country. I have also binged on Duck Dynasty on Hulu which is a celebration of family cohesiveness and more Southern Christian values such as loyalty, much more overt than in Revolution. In Revolution the bad guys become good guys and the good guys become conflicted with temptations of power versus familial and tribal loyalty, along with the necessity of situation mitigating morality. Revolution is nuanced but violent. Duck Dynasty is over the top but peaceful, in spite of the love of “killing things–those things are others, animals, food.”

It’s hard to underestimate how much of a crisis moment the election of Barack Obama for president was for the religious right because of this. And his re-election, of course, which showed that his presidency was not a fluke. Even before Obama was elected, the possibility that a black man with a “multicultural” background was such a massive confirmation of their worst fear—that they are not, actually, the dominant class in America–that the campaign against Obama became overwhelmed completely by this fear. The media frenzy over the minister in Obama’s church was about racial anxieties, but it was telling that it was his church that was the focal point of the attack. The stories were practically tailor-made to signal to conservative Christians that Obama was not one of them.

America was settled by groups of people seeking autonomy and isolation from other groups. Recently it has become a nation of individuals. This is a false description. It’s real roots are individuals within a group. Individuals in Europe were always considered part of a group and their conflicts always revolved around groups. It’s why Jews and Coptics are both nations and not religions. Religions are becoming the new nations in the news because  geographic boundaries do not define a community but religions. With enhanced mobility a fluid middle-class encourages moderation in religions simply because they have to go somewhere else where there are already people of a different ilk.

Sarah Palin’s campaign as the running mate to John McCain made right-wing fears even more explicit. On the trail, she notoriously described conservative, white, Christian-heavy America with these words: “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation.” McCain’s campaign tried lamely to spin it, but the subtext was text now. The Christian right believes their culture is the only legitimate American culture, and the election of Barack Obama was a major threat to it.

Like The Andy Griffith Show modern conservative America remembers a past and more cohesive time when even the outliers were still family. Strangers could be put in their place with a little pluck and ingenuity. Even an old-timey cousin (now called bro) could outwit outsiders that seemed to have the advantage but were in the end the greater buffoons. Hell, even the idiot deputy who couldn’t handle a pistol properly could occasionally win against the bad guys. Even though he started more trouble than he solved the inept deputy was still cherished as family and in some way oddly competent. Moonshiners and drunks might be jailed but always with a certain kindness and understanding they were really part of the family. Even the village idiot who would later star in Gomer Pyle, as played by Jim Nabors originally a singer, was morally kind but stupid or more accurately simple–a theme that was oft repeated in the Buck Owens show where being a country-bumpkin, idiot-savant was made acceptable if not normative.

The young son Opie played by the soon-to-be director Ron Howard was troublesome with his upstart questions but still familial in a way the Waltons would capitalize, where in the end everyone is pretty Christian to each other. Where Christian means accepting since everyone is still Christian as a basic ground rule. The way of doing this was a self-depracating humor where simple foibles were cherished in a way Garrison Keeler exploited in a Prairie Home Companion where even the worst of Lutheran traits, once again making national a religion, were cherished as somehow proper.

More that one could ridicule one’s self but not others. This allowed men to dress like women, whites like blacks, whites like mexicans, whites like italians, and so forth because no harm could be met because basically everyone was white and if you are going to act like anyone else you had to be white. Whatever minorities lived in these communities were white. This tribalism is now still evidenced even in minorities like blacks calling themselves niggers and women calling themselves whores for example to either renown the words or dilute their disphony. Though I have to wonder how it is still acceptable for men to dress as women.

Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, F-Troop, and much later Dukes of Hazard continued this continuity and homogeneity of white culture cherishing its own loyalty while dealing with an invading outside world where any manner of stupidity was accepted internally but outsiders merely had to look different or sound different to be excluded. The real fear was corruption and community corrosion. Outsiders are always the problem. Conversion was possible but even then at a distance with memory. You could live some place most of your life but you weren’t born there.

This hegemony of WASPS was always illusory but as long as those in power were white and POC or other nonWASP were either good singers, good dancers,  good workers,  good actors, good doctors, and good lawyers and everyone knew their place it was sort of Ok because at least it was predictable. This was beaten about in Archie Bunker an updated and more edgy version of the Milton Berle show and the Honeymooners–the latter one of the most mean shows to women imaginable, surpassed only by I Love Lucy which was at least a woman making fun of women. Bunker cherished blue collar idiocy and further hybridized urbanism with rural values. Nevertheless, arch enemies had to live with each but not so pleasantly as before and not so accepting of each other. Bunker really emblemized the disintegration of the WASP civilization and not just the reaction to the Vietnam war. And on and on. TV continues this disintegration of community where the ubiquity of vampires and zombies plays out fears of otherness and contamination where the other can be both brilliant and evil, sentient andy prurient, dead and alive. At least zombies and vampires aren’t actual people, right?

As it has become more clear there is no going back some have driven forward with the action of sinking the ship rather than letting it go. A hyper moral version of taking your toys and going home in this version home is another world, an afterworld, or a fantasy world of postapocolyptic rapture here.

If you ever want an explanation for why some Republicans have grown downright giddy at the prospect of shutting down the federal government, this helps explain why. It’s not a coincidence that some of the biggest Bible-thumpers in Congress are those who are most supportive of finding some way to shut down the government. If you believe America isn’t really America unless the Christian right runs it, it’s not a short leap to look to destroying the system altogether. “If we can’t have it, no one can,” seems to be the guiding principle behind the push to shut down the federal government. They like to frame their claims that America will collapse if they aren’t in charge as warnings. But really, a better word for what they’re doing is “threats.”

What 9-11 really seems to have done in the states is taught many people that suicide bombing is for amateurs and the really righteous take down their own country rather than let it go.

Marcotte ends positively though briefly. Are these really threats and not achievable? Already the recession has continued beyond belief simply because the poor actually think their brothers and sisters deserve to be poor, the really rich hoard their money, and the paranoid wanna-be-wealthy are sure austerity will allow them to rise upwardly.

Jim Newman, bright and well


What is Real Beauty?

beauty as perceptionThe current debate involving what is real or natural beauty is entirely artificial. While the medical industry has created a paradigm shift from disease control to lifestyle control the population reels in its distaste of its own bodies. We hate ourselves because we don’t look like we really should. We hate ourselves because we can’t make ourselves look really good. We hate our society because it doesn’t make us look really good.

In a perfunctory debasement of a pornographic obscenity of the amalgamated healthy body we pine for immortality and perfect beauty. The inability to even talk about health because it exacerbates the play of negative images versus personal freedom versus social coercion mocks the very freedom that is desired.

We can’t criticize people for being heavy and we can’t criticize for being healthy. This double-bind is our single largest neurosis today. Which is beautiful to you? Whichever you pick you’re damned.

In finding the image on top I searched “beauty” in Google and hit “images”. Only images of women were displayed, hundreds of them. Mostly sterile white women. Google should be ashamed.

Jim nvenus_statue