Entering its second week, the inspiring Washington University sit-in against Peabody Energy has already gone beyond its goals to cut school ties with the St. Louis-based coal giant, and forced the rest of the nation to ask themselves an urgent question in an age of climate change and reckless strip mining ruin: Which side are you on?

Will other schools, alumni groups -- and investors in Peabody Energy -- follow the lead of the Washington U. students?

Case in point: Tonight in my native Saline County in southern Illinois, the county commissioners genuflected to short-term Peabody coal dollars over the "negative impact on about a dozen homeowners who live near the site of the proposed mine," according to one cynical commissioner, and voted to allow the company to close off Rocky Branch road for a proposed strip mine expansion, despite the lack of EPA permits, and documented evidence of flooding, blasting and emergency access problems.

Facing financial ruin, grave heath problems and displacement, the Rocky Branch residents will fight on, thanks to the Wash U. students, and continue to tell the truth: We all live in the coalfields now, in this age of climate change, and it is no longer acceptable to allow anyone to be collateral damage to a disastrous energy policy.

As Rolling Stone recently noted, Peabody CEO Greg Boyce just might be one of the biggest obstacles to meaningful climate change action in the world.

And the historic legacy of those obstacles -- from the heartland to the far reaches of Asia -- should make Washington University end its shameless relationship with Boyce and Peabody immediately.

My family and communities in southern Illinois have literally been fighting the plunder of our communities, farms, forests and coal mining laborers by Peabody coal, along with various other out-of-state companies, since Mr. Francis Peabody himself sank his first historic mine in our parts in 1895.

When Wash U. students joined retired coal miners at Peabody headquarters last year, to reclaim promised health benefits lost in a bankruptcy scheme -- one southern Illinois miner died in 2012 in Peabody's violation-ridden mines -- we were reminded that our coal mining family members even had to pitch a veritable war against Peabody and its sycophants for a living wage, workplace safety and civil rights back in the 1930s, and earlier decades.

National Guard outside of Peabody mine, during Progressive Miners of America strike, Kincaid, IL, 1932. Courtesy of Greg Boozell.

But southern Illinois, despite its historic role in coal mining, has hardly cornered the market on suffering -- especially when it comes to Peabody coal plunder.

In the 1950s, when Peabody collapsed due to market pressures, and relocated its famous brand name to St. Louis under Sinclair Coal Company control, it began one of the most shameful chapters in American history by manipulating the relocation of thousands of Hopi and Navajos on Black Mesa in Arizona and carried out decades of strip mining ruin and water contamination.

In the meantime, Peabody also shifted its massive strip mining operations to central Appalachia, made famous by John Prine's "Paradise" ballad about the loss of his family's community in western Kentucky. "Mr. Peabody's coal train has hauled it away," go the chilling lyrics.

Today, recording over $7 billion in revenues, Peabody has taken its devastating plunder worldwide.

Peabody now operates the largest strip mine in the eastern states, in a controversial operation in Indiana.

With an eye to the spiraling and poorly regulated Asian market, Peabody is expanding its operations in Mongolia.

Despite the magnitude of climate change and the loss of Indonesia's forests and carbon sink for the world, Peabody is expanding operations in that country.

In Australia, Peabody coal miners have launched recent strikes, while religious, farm and environmental groups have called out its reckless mine expansion and lack of a moral compass.

Back in the Midwest, over 217 communities are outraged by their soaring electricity rates from a Peabody boondoggle Prairie state coal-fired plant.

How much longer should educational institutions and other civil rights-minded investors enable the Peabody mine disasters?

That's the big question the Washington University students have asked their administration -- and the rest of the nation.

And that is the big question we must all answer.

Meanwhile, for more information on the Rocky Branch strip mine showdown in southern Illinois, see:

Judy's Rock: More Road Blocks of Peabody's Dead End

Mr. Peabody's Coal Train Ain't Haulin' Away Rocky Branch

Residents Stand Up to Peabody Coal at Historic EPA Hearing

Illinois Strip Mine Showdown is Last Best Hope for Coalfield Justice

 

Was your "ex" violent and possessive? Did he drink too much? Was he emotional, unpredictable and prone to rages and anger management problems? When you tried to end the relationship did he threaten or stalk you? If you tried to date someone else did he intervene? Did you have to notify the authorities?

 

It is no coincidence that violent "exes" are so alike. There is a definite "domestic batterer" personality. The dark behavior begins with possessiveness and extreme suspicion and graduates into violence including violence against their partners' pets. Many domestic batterers say "you're never leaving me alive" and, despite orders of protection, their chilling prediction often comes through. No wonder one woman we know in New Orleans says the "best thing about my marriage was we didn't have children and we didn't have a handgun."

 

And no wonder the Oscar "Blade Runner" Pistorius trial is bringing back so many flashbacks to abused women.

 

Pistorius claims he loved Reeva Steenkamp the girlfriend he murdered, but emails presented in his trial do not profess love. They do criticize her for chewing gum and flirting with someone else at a party. Pistorius "loved" Reeva Steenkamp but did not check to see if she was in her bed (or in another safe place) before firing four shots into the bathroom to kill an "intruder" and killing her. Neighbors report hearing female screams before the shooting which Pistorius' defense said was him. Right.

 

Pistorius, reported to be a gun lover by witnesses, also has a lot of contradictions about the murder itself.  He claims to have heard the intruder but the prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, says a loud air treatment system nearby would have baffled the noise. He claims he was afraid of the intruder but ran toward the intruder rather than out of the house when an exit was close by. Nor did he intentionally fire four shots, he says.

 

Pistorius also denies firing a pistol in a restaurant in 2013, months before his girlfriend's murder. "The athlete said he could not explain how the gun went off," reports CNN.

 

Like many gun lovers in the US, Pistorius mentions instances where he "defended" himself against criminals and stopped crimes while admitting that he never reported the incidents to law enforcement officials. Like US cop wannabes, he is such a believer in "good guys" defending themselves that he lets "bad guys" get away to strike again…..Thank you gun lovers.

 

Obviously not all gun lovers are domestic batterers or bullies. But many domestic batterers and bullies are gun lovers as reams of police records reveal. In fact, women are three times as likely to be shot and killed by gun-wielding intimate partners than by strangers. Nonetheless, the NRA works hard for laws that allow such men, accused of domestic violence, to retain their weapons while under orders of protection.

 

Are you against the NRA's violent, anti-woman agenda? Sign NGVAC's free TELL AND COMPEL pledge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rejecting dozens of heroic characters, from Captain America to Underdog, Republicans last week chose instead a villain for their figurehead. 

They selected Prince John, the guy who coddled the rich and tried to crush Robin Hood. House Republicans voted to elevate Prince John as their champion when they passed a budget slashing taxes for the rich and decimating programs for workers and low-income Americans.

Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, who authored the anti-Robin Hood spending plan, said the budget “comes down to a matter of trust.”  Trust, Ryan believes, should be placed in the rich and Washington politicians like him, a Prince John man who devised a spending scam enriching the rich and depriving the rest. Ryan asked, “Who knows better: the people or Washington?” The GOP answer: Washington, of course. A place purchased by the very, very rich.

Ryan’s anti-Robin Hood spending plan takes health care from the poor and elderly and gives tax breaks to the rich and super rich. Really. Republicans voted to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires from 39.6 percent to 25 percent. Nice, right? Except for Americans who depend on Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare.

Republicans voted to voucherize Medicare, which would force senior citizens to pay thousands of dollars more each year. Ryan and his fellow House Republicans voted to kill Obamacare, which means the 7.1 million who got insurance on the exchanges would lose it; the 3.1 million young people covered under Obamacare’s extension of their parents’ plans would lose insurance, and the 3 million who got insurance under Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion would lose it.

That’s 13 million without health insurance, in addition to low-income seniors struggling to pay premiums as Ryan’s vouchers lose value. But, hey, billionaires get a tax break!

Ryan’s anti-Robin Hood spending scheme provides more money for guns and less for bread. Republicans would increase military spending by $483 billion above caps in the 2011 Budget Control Act while slashing non-arms spending by $791 billion. 

That works out well for Republican hawks like John McCain who want to “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.” Not so much for low income parents who want their children to eat. Republicans voted to cut food stamps, school lunches and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The GOP serenade to those Americans: “Starve, starve, starve, starve, starve poor kids.”

Ryan’s anti-Robin Hood spending plan robs low-income Americans of funding for Pell Grants, Head Start and special education while granting tax breaks to corporations so profitable that they are sitting on $1.5 trillion in cash. Republicans would hand corporations a tax rate cut from 35 to 25 percent, while ensuring that an uneven educational playing field prevents impoverished Americans from ever achieving those new, lower tax rates for the rich.

Ryan’s anti-Robin Hood plan would pierce Big Bird’s heart with an arrow while freeing corporations from paying taxes on overseas corporate earnings. Just to be clear, that would mean the death of Junior’s Sesame Street program and his daddy’s manufacturing job, since this tax system would encourage corporations to ship factories overseas where profits wouldn’t be taxed.

Ryan said federal subsidies for Big Bird’s nest – the non-profit Corporation for Public Broadcasting – “can no longer be justified.” But, Republicans believe, for-profit corporations that don’t provide public education should pay no taxes at all on offshore earnings – even while Americans supply the big military stick that protects these corporations’ foreign facilities.

Washington politician Paul Ryan’s priorities are not America’s. Seventy-nine percent of Americans believe corporations should pay the same tax rate on foreign profits as they do on domestic profits.

Forced to choose, the majority would pick Big Bird over a big bomb. Support for the war in Afghanistan has plummeted to 17 percent. Fewer than 13 percent support military action against Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

Some 70 percent of Americans oppose cuts to food stamps. Similarly, 69 percent want the nation’s education system improved. Sixty-one percent say the rich don’t pay enough taxes. Sixty-six percent believe corporations don’t pay enough taxes. Seventy-four percent favor the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare.

The Republicans’ priorities are all wrong. As were those of Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham. Ryan and his right-wing crew focus on the demands of the wealthy and ignore the values of the vast majority of Americans.

Ryan uses magical accounting to assert that his budget will balance in a decade. Eliminating the deficit is an urgent matter for Ryan and Washington Republicans, but it’s not among the top priorities of most Americans. Theirs are improving the economy and increasing jobs. Republicans ignored that, approving a budget that will reduce jobs.

Over decades, Americans created and strengthened social programs for themselves that they now cherish. These include Medicare, Medicaid, Pell Grants, Head Start, and public radio and television.

In polls, Americans have even said they are willing to pay more taxes to support beloved social welfare programs. Most believe, however, that if corporations and billionaires paid their fair share, these programs would not be threatened. For example, if millionaires paid the same percentage of their income into Social Security that minimum wage earners do, the trust fund would not run dry in 20 years potentially limiting benefits in 2033. 

In a principled budget process, elected representatives would fairly tax the rich, not steal from the poor. There’s even a partial antidote for Ryan’s anti-Robin Hood budget. It’s called the Robin Hood tax. It’s a tiny fee on financial transactions. Many experts believe it would discourage risky trading on Wall Street while raising billions for programs like Pell Grants and Big Bird. Eleven European Union nations, including the four largest, are moving toward levying it.

That tax is not in the Republicans’ anti-Robin Hood spending scheme. That’s because Ryan’s a Washington politician who believes he knows better than the American people.

Crossposted from TikkunDaily

By Uri Avnery

Poor John Kerry. This week he emitted a sound that was more expressive than pages of diplomatic babble.

In his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations committee he explained how the actions of the Israeli government had torpedoed the “peace process”. They broke their obligation to release Palestinian prisoners, and at the same time announced the enlargement of more settlements in East Jerusalem. The peace efforts went “poof”.

“Poof” is the sound of air escaping a balloon. It is a good expression, because the “peace process” was from the very beginning nothing more than a balloon full of hot air. An exercise in make-believe.

John Kerry cannot be blamed. He took the whole thing seriously. He is an earnest politician, who tried very very hard to make peace between Israel and Palestine. We should be grateful for his efforts.

The trouble is that Kerry had not the slightest idea of what he was getting himself into.

The entire “peace process” revolves around a basic misconception. Some would say: a basic lie.

Namely: that we have here two equal sides of a conflict. A serious conflict. An old conflict. But a conflict that can be solved when reasonable people of the two sides sit down together and thrash it out, guided by a benevolent and impartial referee.

Not one detail of these assumptions was real. The referee was not impartial. The leaders were not sensible. And most importantly: the sides were not equal.

The balance of power between the two sides is not 1:1, not even 1:2 or1:10. In every material respect – military, diplomatic, economic – it is more like one to a thousand.

There is no equality between occupier and occupied, oppressor and oppressed. A jailer and a prisoner cannot negotiate on equal terms. When one side has total command of the other, controls his every move, settles on his land, controls his money flow, arrests people at will, blocks his access to the UN and the International courts, equality is out of the question.

If the two sides to negotiations are so extremely unequal, the situation can only be remedied by the mediator supporting the weaker side. What is happening is the very opposite: the American support for Israel is massive and unstinting.

Throughout the “negotiations” the US did nothing to check the settlement activity that created more Israeli facts on the ground – the very ground whose future the negotiations were all about.

A prerequisite for successful negotiations is that all sides have at least a basic understanding not only of each other’s interests and demands, but even more of each other’s mental world, emotional setup and self-image. Without that, all moves are inexplicable and look irrational.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, one of the most intelligent people I have met in my life, once told me: “You have in Israel the most intelligent experts on the Arab world. They have read all the books, all the articles, every single word written about it. They know everything, and understand nothing. Because they have never lived one day in an Arab country.”

The same is true for the American experts, only much more so. In Washington DC one feels the rarefied air of a Himalayan peak. Seen from the grandiose palaces of the administration, where the fate of the world is decided, foreign people look small, primitive and largely irrelevant. Here and there some real experts are tucked away, but nobody really consults them.

The average American statesman has not the slightest idea of Arab history, world-view, religions, myths or the traumas that shape Arab attitudes, not to mention the Palestinian struggle. He has no patience for this primitive nonsense.

Seemingly, the American understanding of Israel is much better. But not really.

Average American politicians and diplomats know a lot about Jews. Many of them are Jews. Kerry himself seems to be partly Jewish. His peace team includes many Jews, even Zionists, including the actual manager of the negotiations, Martin Indyk, who worked in the past for AIPAC. His very name is Yiddish (and means a Turkey).

The assumption is that Israelis are not very different from American Jews. But that is entirely false. Israel may claim to be the “Nation-State of the Jewish People”, but that is only an instrument for exploiting the Jewish Diaspora and creating obstacles for the “peace process”. In reality there is very little similarity between Israelis and the Jewish Diaspora, not much more than between a German and a Japanese.

Martin Indyk may feel an affinity with Tzipi Livni, the daughter of an Irgun fighter (or “terrorist” in British parlance), but that is an illusion. The myths and traumas that shaped Tzipi are very different from those that shaped Martin, who was educated in Australia.

If Barack Obama and Kerry knew more, they would have realized from the beginning that the present Israeli political setup makes any Israeli evacuation of the settlements, withdrawal from the West Bank and compromise about Jerusalem quite impossible.

All this is true for the Palestinian side, too.

Palestinians are convinced that they understand Israel. After all, they have been under Israeli occupation for decades. Many of them have spent years in Israeli prisons and speak perfect Hebrew. But they have made many mistakes in their dealings with Israelis.

The latest one was the belief that Israel would release the fourth batch of prisoners. This was almost impossible. All Israeli media, including the moderate ones, speak about releasing “Palestinian murderers”, not Palestinian activists or fighters. Right-wing parties compete with each other, and with rightist “terror-victims”, in denouncing this outrage.

Israelis do not understand the deep emotions evoked by the non-release of prisoners – the national heroes of the Palestinian people, though Israel itself has in the past exchanged a thousand Arab prisoners for one single Israeli, citing the Jewish religious command of “redemption of prisoners”.

It has been said that Israel always sells a “concession” three times: once when promising it, once when signing an official agreement about it and thirdly when actually fulfilling the undertaking. This happened when the time came to implement the third withdrawal from the West Bank under the Oslo agreements, which never happened.

Palestinians know nothing about Jewish history as taught in Israeli schools, very little about the holocaust, even less about the roots of Zionism.

Recent negotiations started as “peace talks”, continued about a “framework” for further negotiations, and now the talks have degenerated to talks about the talks about the talks.

Nobody wants to break off the farce, because all three sides are afraid of the alternative.

The American side is afraid of a general onslaught of the Zionist-evangelical-Republican-Adelson bulldozer on the Obama administration in the next elections. Already the State Department is frantically trying to retreat from the Kerry “poof”. He did not mean that only Israel is to blame, they assert, the fault lies with both sides. The jailer and the prisoner are equally to blame.

As usual, the Israeli government has many fears. It fears the outbreak of a third intifada, coupled with a world-wide campaign of de-legitimization and boycott of Israel, especially in Europe.

It also fears that the UN, which at present recognizes Palestine only as a non-member state, will go on and promote it more and more.

The Palestinian leadership, too, is afraid of a third intifada, which may lead to a bloody uprising. Though all Palestinians speak about a “non-violent intifada”, few really believe in it. They remember that the last intifada also started non-violently, but the Israeli army responded by deploying snipers to kill the leaders of the demonstrations, and more suicide bombing became inevitable.

President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has responded to the non-release of the prisoners, which amounted to a personal humiliation, by signing the documents necessary for the Palestinian State to join 15 international conventions. The Israeli government exploded in anger. How dare they?

In practice, the act means little. One signature means that Palestine joins the Geneva Convention. Another concerns the protection of children. Shouldn’t we welcome this? But the Israeli government fears that this is one step nearer to the acceptance of Palestine as a member of the International Criminal Court, and perhaps the indictment of Israelis for war crimes.

Abbas is also planning steps for a reconciliation with Hamas and the holding of Palestinian elections, in order to strengthen his home front.

IF YOU were poor John Kerry, what would you say to all this?

“Poof!” seems the very minimum.

Note from Rabbi Michael Lerner: Uri Avnery is chair of the Israeli Peace movement Gush Shalom and was a soldier in the IDF (Israeli army) in the 1948 War of Independence. His analysis helps cut through the cloud of lies and distortions in the American, Israeli, and Palestinian media so we can understand and face reality.

To read more pieces like this, sign up for Tikkun Daily’s free newsletter, sign up for Tikkun Magazine emails or visit us online. You can also like Tikkun on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Crossposted from TikkunDaily

By Peter Gabel

We all long for mutual recognition, to see one another with full presence as I and Thou. This longing is in the heart of every living being in Russia, in the Crimea, and in the Ukraine. But we are also conditioned within long histories of relationships suffused with fear of the other. And one form of these conditioned identities is identification with ethnicity, sometimes also expressed through identification with nation-states. In the introduction to my book Another Way of Seeing and in several essays in my earlier book The Bank Teller, I refer to these “national” identities as “imaginary” in the sense that people develop a hyper-identification with national identity in proportion to the absence of an ability to experience the there-ness of the person right next to them, in proportion to their fear of the actual other.

At the same time, these very ethnic and national identifications are carriers of what connection there is–the forms of sensual and connotative (through language) bonding that manifest the really existing forms of recognition and realization of our social being. Thus the rituals of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Russia are simultaneously bonding expressions of spiritual community, and also patriarchal, authoritarian manifestations of fear and alienation of each from the other.

It is this double-character of ethnic and national identifications that are being played out in a symbolically complex way in the Ukraine.

However, the particular manifestations of this complex intersubjective history in the present areas of Western Ukraine, Eastern Ukraine, the Crimea, and Russia–and the “cathexis” with the other and fear of the other that are being enacted by each person within each group and subgroup, are supposed to be “contained” by the act of democratic voting…that is, on specific formalized occasions (election days) a vote is cast that declares for the next period of time how the totality of these intersubjective flows in conflict are to be consensually and democratically held in place or balanced.

In the case of the Ukraine, the most striking unbalancing fact in the whole recent crisis has been that Viktor Yanukovich was democratically elected in just this way. No one has alleged the election was the result of fraud or duress – in fact, Western monitors stated they were “free and fair.” According to the democratic norms in play to contain the ethnic and national flows that I’ve outlined above, those opposing Yanukovich should have awaited the next election (as agreed upon in the February 21 pact between Yanukovich and the opposition forces)…but the opposition instead abandoned this agreement, seized the state buildings in Kiev, and forced Yanukovich to flee the country.

The U.S. response to this should have been to participate with Russia to reinstate Yanukovich and use the UN to oversee fair elections within the year, the agreed-upon time in the Feb 21 agreement. But the United States didn’t do this; Putin legitimately felt the flow-calibration norms were no longer in place and that this fact threatened his ethnic identification group on or near his border; and Putin moved to protect “his” group, or sub-group.

Leaving aside the question of why Putin then “went too far” and annexed Crimea via an illegal process (the flawed referendum), the key point I want to note is the fact that the United States “forgot” about Yanukovich’s having been elected in a democratic process and has been sliding toward a dangerous, and my view mentally unbalanced and totally unnecessary re-starting of the Cold War.

Why?

Here I think we must recall that the internalization of the fear of the other characteristic of national identity (“We Americans”) leads to an ontological insecurity, an insecurity at the heart of our being, a sense of constantly being under threat from the person next to us. The defense against this Basic Fear (we might call it) is to seek opportunities to inflate the hyperidentification with our imaginary connection as “Americans”. We have a tendency, influenced by our internalized fear, the fear in each of us engendered by our culture of alienation, to inflate our hallucinatory national imago of “togetherness” and to intensify our demonization of the threatening other–to project that threat that is actually caused by our own prevalent and internalized fear onto the Bad Other and to symbolically or actually go to war with it. We seek to protect the false outer group-self (“America,” “our interests,” “the West” “the NATO countries”) against its own unmasking and the consequent risk of fundamental humiliation of the longings of the fragile true-self within. So we project out and split to protect what is actually our defensive false identity or collective image: Once again it’s the good United States (the idealized false group to be protected) vs, the bad Russia (the demonized false group to be warded off).

This dynamic is what is being elicited by the Ukrainian situation, and it explains why the United States has “forgotten” the critical fact of the legitimacy of Yanukovich’s election, has forgotten the terms of the February 21st compromise that included Yanukovich, the Opposition, and Europe as represented by the foreign ministers of Germany, Poland, and France, which established the framework for presidential elections. From the standpoint of the anxiety of the isolated self afraid of the fragility of its social existence, of whether its longing for authentic mutual recognition could possibly be recognized, the “bad” resonance of the Russian Bear was too tempting not to create the safety maneuvers of the false self, the inflation of the Good West against the Bad East. It’s an expression of the motivation of our fear of the other to express itself, like an awakened shadow, when an opportunity in the world, in actual world events, presents itself

What should happen?

The answer to that is that diplomatic steps should be implemented with the help of the UN to calm the entire situation down (which the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has every day of the last two weeks been trying to do), to decrease the level of fear in the flows in social space, and to gradually work our way together, including all actors in the situation and their leader-representatives, out of the crisis through reliance upon the underlying longing in all actors for mutual recognition. This means simultaneously working as one international community to appeal to one another at a universal level for authentic contact–through “surrounding” our hysteria and then “thawing” it (please see the essay in Another Way of Seeing called “Spiritualizing Foreign Policy”)–and also to address the need for safety within the historical particularity of the region, including balancing all of the prevalent ethnic and national identifications of Western pro-European Ukraine, pro-Russian southeastern Ukraine, and Russian concern about NATO expansion and EU presence on their borders. Obviously it is not possible to just call for universal love and instant social transformation of all past fear and all past particularist identifications, with their histories of bonds of ethnicity, language and the like, and also with their histories of the patterning and stabilization of their internalized fear of the other based upon how far (and no farther) the complex inter-cultural situation has actually developed to in real historical time. We can’t instantly transform everything and bring into being the future society based on love and mutual recognition of our common humanity. But it is nevertheless possible through a spiritually attuned foreign policy to connect the universal longing for mutual recognition with the stabilization and positive movement forward of the particular historical identifications of all involved, in including our own American community.

In other words, everybody calm down. Try to see each other.

 

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The Yellow King still has me. Jonathan Chait's new essay on race in the Age of Obama is even more poorly reasoned and problematic than its predecessor.

Obama, Racism, and the Presumption of Innocence is a rebuttal to his critics that finds its momentum in a "reasonable" claim that "evidence" must be provided for the"terrifying" accusation that (white) conservatives are racist. Moreover, Chait would like "liberals" to be fair to conservatives by giving them the benefit of the doubt that while the latter's policies may support white supremacy said actors are not in fact racists.

The second claim is easily dismissed. Why presume fairness in the treatment of movement conservatives on matters of race when their political outreach and strategy has, for at least four decades, been predicated on the unfair treatment of people of color, and the use of white racism to mobilize white voters? While they/we may be too generous and forgiving--this is a flaw of ours--black and brown Americans are not that stupid or gullible.

The Republican Party is a white racist organization.

As I alluded to in an earlier essay, by way of metaphor, the post-civil rights era Republican Party is comprised of political arsonists on matters of race and social equality. Because of a fundamental concern for personal and public safety, when I see a white conservative with a can of gasoline, matches, and standing in front of a burning building, I will not for purposes of "fairness" assume that this is just a coincidence.

Chait's first demand that "evidence" must be presented as a means of "proving" white racism (or racist outcomes or intent) is worthy of more attention. There, like many others who excuse-make for White Supremacy as a social fact and quotidian reality, Chait is asserting the opposite of reality in order to force a conversation based on an incorrect assumption which then leads to an erroneous conclusion.

Chait shows this intellectual sleight of hand in the following passage:

A few years ago, Melissa Harris-Perry — in a column ironically accusing Joan Walsh herself of racism — argued that those accused of racism should be considered guilty until proven innocent. “I am baffled by the idea that non-racism would be the presumption and that it is racial bias which must be proved beyond reasonable doubt,” she wrote. “If anything, racial bias, not racial innocence is the better presumption when approaching American political decision-making.” Just how a person so accused could overcome the presumption of racism, Harris-Perry did not explain.

A huge proportion of these intra-left debates concern establishing the boundaries of precisely when and how one liberal can fairly accuse another of racism. When it comes to making such accusations against conservatives, do liberals have any evidentiary standards at all? Reading the liberal objections to my piece, I fail to detect any.

In his defense of the White Right and their racial innocence, Chait is demanding a type of racial habeas corpus as a guarantee that white conservatives will not be victims of the "terrifying" power of racist accusations by liberals and progressives.

On the surface, this is a sensible claim; however, many apparently sensible claims are actually masks and smokescreens for the absurd and ridiculous.

The bodies and lives destroyed by white racism and White Supremacy litter the American past and present, the imaginations and futures that will or would not be, as well as the long-past and of today's moment. Jonathan Chait only has to open his eyes to see them. His racial privilege allows him to ignore them. Others are not so deaf or tin-eared to their cries and yearning.

White Supremacy and white racial animus are dominant social forces in American and world history. White supremacy and white racial animus are not opinions.

Chait's desire for some type of extraordinary proof regarding claims that conservatives (or others) are racist is the white racial frame working through a position of white privilege to create a set of conditions that excuse-make for, and sustain, White Supremacy.

Chait defaults to a position in which claims of racism are somehow exaggerated, made up, or simply not true as applied to white conservatives, is problematic in a subtle way as well: contrary to Chait's suggestion, people of color and others who dare to tell the truth about white racism are not crazy, delusional, hysterical, hyper-emotional, or confused.

Moreover, when a person of color dares to speak about white racism they do so at great personal and professional risk. Contrary to the imagined reality dreamed up by white conservatives and their allies in which white people are "victims" of "anti-white" or "reverse racism", truth-telling about white racism comes with no small amount of risk and cost.

Melissa Harris-Perry was correct. The reasonable working assumption, given the historical power of the colorline in American society, should be that racism and White Supremacy are default variables in the inter-personal and inter-group dynamics between whites and people of color until demonstrated otherwise.

The reality of how White Supremacy works to negatively impact the life chances for non-whites in the United States is one of the most documented facts in the Social Sciences.

The United States, created as a White Republic and Apartheid state, demonstrates its White Supremacist bonafides in the Constitution, a "glorious" pro-slavery and pro-Southern document.

African-Americans have been human property and suffered under Jim and Jane Crow racial terrorism for much longer than they have been full and equal citizens.

The Right-wing's deranged response to Obama's election from both the mouth-breathing Tea Party foot soldiers, and the herrenvolk Republican elite, has been a textbook example of how white racism is a toxin in the body politic of the United States--one for which "generational replacement" will hopefully provide a much needed remedy.

Chait's Obama, Racism, and the Presumption of Innocence, as well as his previous essayThe Color of His Presidency, are useful tools.

To point. The phrase "White Supremacy" has been frequently used in the conversations inspired by Jonathan Chait's debate with Ta-Nehisi Coates about "black cultural pathology".

However, there has not been a clear move to define "White Supremacy" as a foundational concept whose meaning influences the broader debate about the nature of racism and the colorline in post civil rights America.

I would like to remedy that oversight with the following (less than exhaustive) list.

What is White Supremacy?


1. White Supremacy is a complex social phenomenon. It is also a relatively new invention, one that along with the concept of "race", largely came into being with the modern European imperial and colonial projects.

2. White Supremacy is comprised of habits, actions, and beliefs. It is not reliant on the specific intentions of its actors, practitioners, or beneficiaries. White Supremacy also has the power to reorient and reimagine empirical reality for those who have consciously and/or subconsciously internalized and learned its principals and assumptions.

3. Images of terrorist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and Neo Nazis serve as outlier caricatures of racism in the post civil rights era. These cartoon versions of white racism do the work of White Supremacy as a social and political force because they present virulent white racism as an anachronism or the habit of somehow damaged and defective white people who should be ejected from the public square. In colorblind America, "polite" and "respectable" White Supremacy is far more dangerous to the life chances and safety of people of color than the overt racism of the Ku Klux Klan or other racially chauvinistic organizations.

4. In the most basic sense, White Supremacy is a philosophical, material, ethical, economic, scientific, religious, and political system that works to maintain the dominant and relative superior group position of those identified as "white" (and their allies) over those marked as "non-white". Other types of identities such as gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and class simultaneously support the White Supremacist project while also complicating it.

Thus, White Supremacy is the philosophical and systemic umbrella for white racism.

5. Racism is not necessarily the same thing as White Supremacy. Racism is prejudice plus power. Without group power there can be no "racism". In American society, racism by white people is the primary means through which White Supremacy is enacted and made real.

6. White Supremacy is an evolving political project. While American society's laws and practices along the colorline have certainly changed, the relative superior group position of whites over non-whites in the West remains a relative constant.

This is one of the primary fruits of the White Supremacist project.

7. White Supremacy works on an institutional and inter-personal level. Its ultimate goal is securing more resources, power, opportunities, and privileges--material, psychological, or otherwise--for the in-group over the out-group.

White Supremacy involves, both in the present and historically, the systematic transfer of wealth, income, and other resources from non-whites to whites as a general group, and a White elite, in particular.

8. White Supremacy is a racial ideology that works to maintain class inequality. White supremacy also creates a commonsense notion that black and brown Americans are "naturally" poor and disadvantaged.

The racial logic and commonsense of White Supremacy (and a White Racist society) is sustained by not asking about first principles.

For example, what public policy decisions led to white Americans having at least 20 times the wealth of black Americans? Why are urban black and brown communities economically disadvantaged and white communities, i.e. the suburbs, have been materially advantaged by comparison?

White Supremacy as enacted through public policy made those outcomes. White Supremacy creates historical amnesia and myopia in order to prevent those first order questions from being asked or answered in (white) mainstream American public discourse.

9. Colorblind racism is the most recent iteration in a White Supremacist order where it is possible to have "racism without racists", and a black American President, while social and institutional systems still privilege whites over African-Americans and other people of color.

White racial innocence, and a sincere belief by many white folks that they do not hold racist attitudes, or benefit personally or collectively from systemic white racism, is an example of how White Supremacy has evolved to make itself relatively invisible (to willfully ignorant white people) as a dominant social force in American life.

Consequently, one of the deep tensions and challenges surrounding racial discourse in post civil rights America is how to locate a given white person's relationship to a broader system of institutional racism.

10. Austerity, neoliberalism, globalization, and the Culture of Cruelty are some of the most powerful social forces in post civil rights America. White Supremacy does not exist separate or apart from those ideologies and practices.

Chait's effort to make excuses for the racism of contemporary conservatism is mesmerizing. The mental gymnastics are great: Chait is offering up a car accident and demolition derby of intellectual work as he tries to make sense of race in the Age of Obama.

Ultimately, Jonathan Chait is providing a teachable moment about the nature of White Supremacy in a colorblind era, one that may be quite contrary to the one he had originally intended.

A situation involving South Carolina legislators’ attack on two state colleges over lgbt issues has just gone nationwide.

And it doesn’t bode well for the state.

Originally, the controversy was about the SC State House taking away $70,000 collectively from the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Upstate. The amount adds up to the how much the two colleges spent on the gay-themed books which they assigned students. The legislators claimed that the books, Fun Home and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio doesn’t represent SC community value and were pornographic.

But now the situation is centering around a now canceled lecture at the University of South Carolina Upstate.  The lecture titled, “How to be a lesbian in 10 days or less” is a satirical and comedic one-woman show by Leigh Hendrix which dealt with coming out.

However, lawmakers raised a fuss about the lecture, claiming that it was “recruiting” students to be gay.  One lawmaker in particular, Sen. Mike Fair of Greenville, had this to say:

“That’s not an explanation of ‘I was born this way.’  It’s recruiting.”

So now, thanks to Sen. Fair, various nationwide media have picked up the story and few, including the Huffington Post, are tongue-in-cheek with their coverage. The majority of them are focusing on the ridiculous notion that a lecture could actually make someone gay.

And Sen. Fair, not unlike the main character in the fable The Mischievous Dog, continues to publicly comment about the lecture and homosexuality, totally oblivious as to how ridiculous South Carolina looks every time he opens his mouth.

Recently, he was interviewed by a local independent newspaper, The Free Times. During the interview, Sen. Fair had some very interesting things to say about lgbt South Carolinians:

Fair — a staunch religious conservative who believes homosexuality is morally wrong — says that while Americans have inalienable rights, glorifying homosexuality at taxpayers’ expense is not one of them. When Free Times pointed out that homosexuals pay taxes, too, as do the families of gay college students, Fair suggested they are also lawbreakers. He pointed to an antiquated state law against “the abominable act of buggery.” While the law is not enforced and homosexuality is not exactly illegal, Fair admits, he says it is still immoral and unhealthy.

Believe it or not, Fair continues:

Doesn’t morality extend to teaching tolerance of homosexuality in a free society? Isn’t that what USC Upstate and the College of Charleston were trying to accomplish? “I don’t believe that,” he says. Actually, he said, homosexuals “lack security in their conviction that what they’re doing is okay.”

When Sen. Fair talks about “what homosexuals are doing,” he is talking about sex. Or more specifically, what he imagines sexual intercourse is between two men because usually when folks like Sen. Fair start hinting about “gay sex,” men having sex with each other seems to always be the direction they head to. Apparently to them, lesbians never have sex.

And when folks like Fair hint that “gay sex” is “immoral and unhealthy,” they are usually speaking in vague terms about either cherry-picked Centers for Disease Control studies from anti-gay sites or junk studies – usually from the same sites – involving anal sex, poop, and gerbils.

That’s right. I said gerbils.

That’s what this issue is all about  – someone’s fevered idea of man-to-man sex and the indignity of having your life reduced to cater to that fevered idea.

If you really gave it some intelligent thought, Sen. Fair’s classification of lgbt South Carolinians is not only unfair and insulting. It’s downright bizarre.  I mean is that what he thinks of a segment of the population he has sworn to serve? That somehow in between wild, passionately immoral, unhealthy bouts of sex, gay male South Carolinians go into a state of suspended animation while normal things such as working, paying the bills, taking care of our families and children, or handling general crises is taken care of for us by robots?

Okay, I admit that’s taking Sen. Fair’s comments too far but it serves to prove my point. In this entire controversy, none of the fault lies with the colleges,  the gay-themed books, lgbt South Carolinians, or even the canceled lecture.

The fault lies with Sen. Fair and those who have his mindset. Certainly Sen. Fair and the rest of the warring legislators have a right to their personal religious beliefs. But that right shouldn’t shield the from criticism when their behavior makes them look like a bunch of braying jackasses and brings mockery on the state.

And there is something more which needs to be said. When any legislator has such an ugly and warped view of any portion of the people he/she has sworn to serve, he/she needs to be called out on it.

I seriously wonder does Sen. Fair or any of his colleagues know any South Carolina lgbt families? Have they spent time with these families? Do they talk to these taxpayers like they would heterosexual taxpayers?

The rest of the nation may be laughing at South Carolina, but I’m not. I don’t like it when those whose salaries are being paid by my money aren’t looking out for my interests because they are busy playing God and judging my life based upon their own ignorance.

Whether or not that ignorance is religiously based is irrelevant. It’s still ignorance and it’s wrong.

The only good thing that will come out of this entire situation is maybe folks will understand the need not only for the gay-themed books at the heart of the matter, but also the lecture.

Because now people can understand what lgbt South Carolinians have to deal with.

White racial terrorism in places like Tulsa and East Saint Louis was the tyranny of white supremacy in human form, bombing, killing, raping, and burning black people alive and their communities to the ground. Anti-racism has created no such terrors or blood-letting where white conservatives are victims.

I would like to develop my earlier thoughts on Jonathan Chait's bizarre feature for New York Magazine about race in the Age of Obama a bit more.

Tommy Christopher, writing over at The Daily Banter, kindly linked to my criticism of Chait's false equivalence excuse-making for white conservative racism.

He featured the following observation from a longer essay where I argued that:

Jim and Jane Crow were terrifying. Lynching parties that dismembered black bodies, cut them apart, forced black men to eat their own penises as the price for a “merciful killing”, or the white rampaging mobs that destroyed black wealth, life, and many dozens (if not hundreds of black communities) during the Red Summers of the American post World War one era, are terrifying.

The slave ship and the many millions killed during the Middle Passage are terrifying. The chattel slavery auction block is terrifying. The mass rape and murder of black men, women, and children on the charnel house plantations of the American slaveocracy, both after the seasoning process and in the hell that awaited the survivors of the Middle Passage, is terrifying.

Men like George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn who can kill black people at will under Stand Your Ground Laws are terrifying. Police who have the power of life and death, and can use that power to murder black people who are “armed” with house keys, wallets, phones, or their empty hands is terrifying. The “don’t get killed by the cops” lecture that responsible black parents give their children is terrifying.

The thought that how despite one’s successes and educational accomplishments that because they are identified, however arbitrarily, as “black” in America means that their resume will get thrown in the garbage, a mortgage will have higher interest, or how doctors will not give proper treatment or necessary pain medication, is terrifying.

It would seem that in some ways I "buried my lede".

The most troubling part of Chait's essay "The Color of His Presidency" is his suggestion that anti-racism is some type of "terrifying" social force in American life.

He wrote:

Few liberals acknowledge that the ability to label a person racist represents, in 21st-century America, real and frequently terrifying power. Conservatives feel that dread viscerally. Though the liberal analytic method begins with a sound grasp of the broad connection between conservatism and white racial resentment, it almost always devolves into an open-ended license to target opponents on the basis of their ideological profile. The power is rife with abuse.

Of course, such a claim is absurd. However, it is compelling for those who believe that white supremacy is a passing fad, something vanquished from American life, and how people of color--black folks in particular--are now the "real racists".

Shorter version: if black and brown folks would stop talking about racism the problem would go away. This is the central fantasy of aggrieved whiteness with its delusions of white innocence and black bullying along the colorline. American society was forged by white racism and white supremacy. The valiant resistance against the status quo by people of color and a few white allies helped to make America a more inclusive democracy.

I have read The Color of His Presidency several times. It has received praise from Isaac Chotiner at the New Republic as a "superb" piece of work. Others have also said kind things about The Color of His Presidency. I remain vexed and disappointed by it.

I generally like Chait's work. But, his latest essay makes me feel like I have watched some Lovecraft-inspired play that makes its viewers go insane. As a piece of work that purports to analyze the role of race in American politics, The Color of His Presidency is akin to the Yellow King: one cannot study it too much or they will go mad.

[I wonder how President Obama, who counts Chait as one of his favorite political essayists, feels about The Color of His Presidency? I worry that Barack Obama would agree with Chait's central thesis about racial "paranoia".]

Nevertheless, I have gleamed several conclusions from Chait's riddle.

The Color of His Presidency is the very type of writing on race by supposed "liberals" which makes people of color and serious anti-racists deeply suspicious of the commitment of the mainstream "Left" (who are really centrists and Left-leaning Republicans of another age) to social and racial justice.

The Color of His Presidency rings of a default type of white tribalism and an effort to understand and excuse-make for white racism across the political divide. As such, racism is just a bad habit or an outlier of bad behavior practiced by otherwise good and decent white people who we may happen to disagree with politically.

The centrality of white supremacy to American politics and history is lost and pushed away because it is inconvenient for how Whiteness (and White people) imagines itself as benign.

Chait's piece also seems to rely on a logic that racism in the service of politics is "just" politics as usual. Politicians will use any tool to gain leverage. If racism and white supremacy--or white racial animus and resentment--are part of the toolbox, then a given political actor should be judged not as a "racist" per se, but rather as someone who uses racism for political advantage.

Politics is about power, the allocation of resources and opportunities, and basic matters such as safety and security. For people of color, white racism and white supremacy are political projects that profoundly impact our life chances, health, sanity, and freedom from violence in negative ways.

America practiced state-sponsored racial terrorism and tyranny against non-whites for most of its history. Apartheid was not a crime against humanity only in South Africa. American Apartheid, de facto and de jure, was beaten back as a force of law, but remains entrenched institutionally as a type of day-to-day practice in the post civil rights era.

The victims of white racism, especially those people of color excluded from systems of white privilege and white advantage, cannot sit back and compartmentalize white supremacy as some type of interesting intellectual puzzle, or a footnote asterisk on public policy. That is a luxury allowed for those who do not have to deal with the lived consequences which result from excuse-making for white racism.

Chait's exercise in white victimology and excuse-making for Republican racism exhibits a common habit of white liberals and centrists among the American pundit classes (and likely of many white folks in their private lives) when the "race issue" comes up in conversation.

Racism is complicated and multi-dimensional. Nevertheless, we can develop a basic rubric for understanding it. We are what we do; our habits are reflections of our values and beliefs. As such, racists do racist things. As Chait concedes, for decades the Republican Party has relied on a concerted effort of white racist appeals, dog whistles, and other tactics under the guiding principle known as the Southern Strategy, to mobilize its base.

At present, the Republican Party is a White identity organization, a White People's Political Party, and the "polite" face of White Supremacy in America.

Conservatives who advance those interests are racists.

This plain on the face fact is dodged, avoided, talked around, and denied by the mainstream news media. Why? because to tell the truth is to risk career suicide by falling into the trap laid by the White Right and its propaganda machine wherein charges of racism are fuel for the rage engine.

Movement conservatism in the post civil rights era is functionally the same thing as racism. The Republican Party has developed this brand name. They should be held accountable for the decision.

White supremacy and racism are civic evils. By implication, those who practice, enable, support, or use white identity politics for political gain--such as the Republican Party in the Age of Obama--are practicing civic evil.

Why are liberal pundits like Jonathan Chait afraid to hold conservatives and the Republican Party accountable for their racism as opposed to making excuses for it? 

While coal mining families in West Virginia and across the country mourned the fourth anniversary of the tragic Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster last week, hailed by US Attorney R. Booth Goodwin II as "a conspiracy to violate mine safety and health laws," the Illinois state legislature rolled out the red carpet for Big Coal and voted to keep a notorious "coal education program" for schools that has been widely denounced by former coal miners and educators as inaccurate industry propaganda.

It's really hard not to get jaded about the state of corrupt coal politics in Illinois.

Sadly enough, last fall former coal miners and citizens groups from southern Illinois, working with national education organizations, waged a successful campaign to take down the state's cringe-worthy "kids coal" website -- but environmental groups in Chicago caught up in the twisted state Democratic politics didn't even bother to contact them.

Last week's episode in the "coal education" fiasco, called out five years ago for unleashing dime-bag coal pushers into our classrooms, places Illinois into the shameless ranks of last decade's Kansas board of education decision to teach creationism.

Here are some Orwellian coal nuggets for the Prairie State's youngest minds:

While the uncritical media reported that Illinois House members "bemoan the decline of the Illinois coal industry," it's a fact that Illinois is in the throes of an unprecedented and unmatched coal mining rush in the nation. Do the frickin' math: In 2010, Illinois coal mined 33 million tons; in 2013, Illinois coal mined 52 million tons. Last summer, Gov. Quinn celebrated a 5-fold increase in coal exports.

While uninformed House members beat their chests and claimed, "the Elkhart mine is clean -- sulfur is not emitted in any measurable amount," whatever that odd comment means, the truth is : 1) black lung disease for coal miners is increasing, 2) Illinois has one of the most disastrous coal slurry enforcement programs in the nation, 3) Illinois ranks as the worst coal ash contamination offenders, 4) strip mining operations have left communities in ruin, destroyed cherished forests, and covered residents in toxic coal dust, 5) untold numbers of abandoned mines continue to discharge toxins, and 6) union-busted coal miners have had to fight for health benefits, 7) prime farmland is being lost to longwall mining, and 8) Peabody Energy even had to shut down a southern Illinois coal mine for a fatal accident and violations.

Check your facts: Coal is dirty, deadly and costly.

While Democrats continue to pander to Big Coal contributors and hail the chimera of "clean coal," even Peabody Energy admitted last fall that carbon capture and storage "clean coal" is "simply not commercially available."

While House members waxed nostalgia about the coal industry, they never teach our kids the historical fact of African-American slavery in the mines, the century of mine disasters and death, or the reality that some of our most historic communities have been stripmined and destroyed.

And here's the best lesson of all, kids: According to a state audit, Illinois has defiantly remained in violation of the law for failing to hire the required number of mine inspectors.

Oh well, at least the summer break is not too far away.

Perhaps instead of the state bankrolling a taxpayer slush fund for a Big Coal education conference in June, teachers might want to contact citizens groups in southern Illinois -- or even visit the extraordinary movement by Rocky Branch farmers and residents to stop a devastating strip mine expansion in Saline County.

The billionaire-hugging right-wingers on the Supreme Court, who began poisoning the American political process in 2010 with their Citizens United decision, dumped a truckload more Zyklon B into voting booths last week with their McCutcheon ruling.

While in Citizens United they awarded corporations the right to secretly shower political groups with unlimited cash, in McCutcheon they enabled each billionaire to dump a total of $3.6 million on candidates and party organizations every two years instead of limiting themselves to the previous maximum of $123,000. 

Squelching political corruption was the purpose of the campaign spending finance laws that the right-wing justices gutted. The spending limits shrank billionaires’ ability buy politicians.  The right-wingers on the court asserted that billionaires have a First Amendment right to spend as much as they want on politics. The court said that right supersedes the right of the non-rich majority to a democracy in which their elected representatives’ attention and positions can’t be purchased by a tiny wealthy minority.

Joe Six-Pack can’t compete for politicians’ time with Joe Six-Figure-Check. Just think about how quickly Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, jumped on the phone when he thought billionaire right-wing funder David Koch was on the other line. The caller actually was Ian Murphy, editor of online weekly the Buffalo Beast, punking Walker, who agreed during the taped conversation to accept a vacation trip, which was offered as a reward for the governor breaking the state’s unions.

Or, just think about the “Adelson primary” conducted last month by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the world’s eighth-richest person, the guy who shelled out $150 million to influence elections in 2012. Joe Six-Pack knows better than to put out a big spread if he invites to lunch the front-runners for the Republican presidential nomination – say Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Wisconsin’s infamous Gov. Walker, New Jersey’s even more infamous Gov. Chris Bridgegate Christie, and Bush dynasty next-in-line Jeb. But when Sheldon sent them gilded invitations, they all flew right over.  Under investigation in two countries for possible corrupt practices, Sheldon has a lot to gain if he can buy himself a president.

The problem isn’t limited to Sheldon purchasing immunity or GE procuring tax breaks, enabling the nation’s largest corporation to force taxpayers to give it money instead of it paying taxes. The problem also is that the rich are different from the 99 percent.

That’s what three university professors found in a study of the political views and activities of the one percent. It’s called, “Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans.”

Of the tiny percentage of Americans who are very rich, the researchers wrote:

“We find that they are extremely active politically and that they are much more conservative than the American public as a whole with respect to important policies concerning taxation, economic regulation, and especially social welfare programs. Variation within this wealthy group suggests that the top one-tenth of 1 percent of wealth-holders (people with $40 million or more in net worth) may tend to hold still more conservative views that are even more distinct from those of the general public. We suggest that these distinctive policy preferences may help account for why certain public policies in the United States appear to deviate from what the majority of U.S. citizens wants the government to do. If this is so, it raises serious issues for democratic theory.”

This difference explains why the vast majority of Americans cherish programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and public education while wealthy right-wingers condemn them, calling them “collectivism” and government attempts to control citizens’ lives, as billionaire Charles G. Koch did in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last week. Koch, worth $40 billion, won’t ever need Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid or public education. No wonder he claims he’d have more liberty if a smaller government would kill off those programs and people would “help themselves” instead.

He has no idea what it feels like for the 43 percent of Americans who have less than $10,000 saved for retirement and depend on getting Social Security and Medicare to stave off a diet of cat food.

The wealthy, like Koch and Shaun McCutcheon, who along with the Republican National Committee sought to end the limit on aggregate campaign contributions, intend to use their money to buy a government that does their bidding. McCutcheon said his goal in spending more money on politics was to encourage enforcement of conservative principals, which are, as Koch said, small government and more freedom – that is, more freedom for the rich to kill Social Security and Medicare.

In earlier rulings on the issue of campaign finance, the Supreme Court has acknowledged that money can corrode democracy, finding “an indisputable link” between big cash gifts and opportunities to speak directly to Congressmen and noting the threat that the money obliges officeholders to vote based on large donors’ demands rather than on the needs of constituents. 

Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the right-wing majority opinion in the McCutcheon case, asserted that’s not corruption any more, writing: “government regulation may not target the general gratitude a candidate may feel toward those who support him or his allies, or the political access such support may afford.”

Roberts also insisted that only the First Amendment rights of one percenters may be considered, not any adverse effect on America’s democracy. “The whole point of the First Amendment is to protect individual speech,” he wrote, adding, “the degree to which speech is protected cannot turn on a legislative or judicial determination that particular speech is useful to the democratic process.” Congress may not, he said, limit campaign contributions in order level the playing field between wealthy donors and ordinary citizens.

The effect is to silence ordinary citizens, to deny them their First Amendment rights to speech because their pleas won’t be heard over the million dollar megaphones the Supreme Court right-wingers have permitted billionaires to use.