It is a time of fear in the face of freedom, a time of an emptying country and swelling cities, a time for the widening of previous roads and the opening of new paths, yet a time when these paths are mined by knowing algorithms of the all-seeing eye. It is the time of the warrior's peace and the miser's charity, when the planting of a seed is an act of conscientious objection. These are the times when maps fade, old landmarks crumble and direction is lost. Forwards is backwards now, so we glance sideways at the strange lands through which we are all passing, knowing for certain only that our destination has disappeared. We are unready to meet these times, but we proceed nonetheless, adapting as we wander, reshaping the Earth with every tread. Behind us we have left the old times, the standard times, the high times. Welcome to the irregular times.
Trend watchers have been warning for the last couple of years that peak beard has been reached, and that the thing to do for those men concerned with being thought of as shameless trend chasers is to quickly shave their beards off, before they become one of the last guys to do so.
Here in the United States, the Transportation Security Administration is catching on to the newest fashion for independent thinkers, and working hard to confront the nonconformist mob before they can cause trouble. In documents just obtained by The Intercept, we learn that the TSA is training its airport security guards to target men with pale skin on their faces, indicating the recent removal of beards, as likely terrorists.
This special scrutiny of the recently un-bearded is part of a larger program that instructs TSA agents to rank travelers at airports according to scales of “behavioral indicators” that are supposed to help narrow down the search for potential terrorists. A Government Accountability Office study indicates that behavioral indicator programs are practically worthless in the effort to identify likely threats to airport security, but the TSA is pursuing the program anyway, because it gives TSA officers, who work day after day in airports where there are no terrorists, something to do.
This week, when Ted Cruz announced his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, he promised to “fight to preserve America as a Shining City on a Hill”. The fact that the Ted Cruz for President campaign is capitalizing “shining city on a hill” is meant to indicate that Cruz understands the whole shiny hilly city thing to be more than just a description of strange geography, but an important cultural phrase that refers to something else. Many Americans might wonder what he was talking about, but the audience of right wing Christian fundamentalists that Cruz was talking to at Liberty University knew exactly what he was saying.
The statement that the United States is a “shining city on a hill” has become political shorthand for the assertion that the United States of America, despite its secular Constitution, is actually a nation of Christians, by Christians, and for Christians. The meme has passed through several twists and turns, but ultimately goes back all the way to the year 1630, to a sermon delivered by John Winthrop on a boat filled with Puritans headed off to join the colony in Massachusetts.
The way that Republicans like Ted Cruz tell the story of America as a shining city on a hill is that the United States was intended to be a Christian nation from the beginning. They read Winthrop’s speech as it leads up to the phrase, “shining city on a hill”. Winthrop wrote, “The Lord will be our God, and delight to dwell among us, as his oune people, and will command a blessing upon us in all our wayes. Soe that wee shall see much more of his wisdome, power, goodness and truthe, than formerly wee haue been acquainted with. Wee shall finde that the God of Israell is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies; when hee shall make us a prayse and glory that men shall say of succeeding plantations, “the Lord make it likely that of New England.” For wee must consider that wee shall be as a citty upon a hill.”
When this part of Winthrop’s sermon is read, it sounds like a prophecy of the greatness of the American nation as a Christian theocracy. Winthrop is read as foreseeing that the Massachusetts Colony would grow into unrivaled greatness because of its affiliation with the divine power of the Christian God. This interpretation of John Winthrop’s sermon has been made into the foundation of the ideology of American Exceptionalism, which asserts that the United States is a Christian nation, and has been chosen by the supernatural creator of the entire universe to become the most powerful nation on Earth.
If this shining city prophecy was true in a literal sense, then the divine influence of the Christian God over American politics ought to be made manifest through the consistent political victory of those political leaders who most loudly retell the prophecy. In our time, the Republicans proclaim the mantle of divinely authorized government, so they ought to have won the executive leadership over our country, if their god of American Exceptionalism is actually manipulating American politics from his heavenly abode.
That’s not the actual political history of the shining hill city of GOP, though. The most recent Republican presidential nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney, both pledged their campaigns to the mission of making the United States a “shining city on a hill”. Both lost by large margins.
Why has this happened? Well, in addition to being devotees of the Cult of American Exceptionalism, John McCain and Mitt Romney are also arrogant plutocrats. As such, they have ignored the second part of John Winthrop’s metaphor of the emerging American nation as a shining city on a hill. Winthrop’s shining city was a much a warning as it was a prideful prophecy of greatness.
Winthrop said, “Wee must consider that wee shall be as a citty upon a hill. The eies of all people are uppon us. Soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our God in this worke wee haue undertaken, and soe cause him to withdrawe his present help from us, wee shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. Wee shall open the mouthes of enemies to speake evill of the wayes of God, and all professors for God’s sake. Wee shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause theire prayers to be turned into curses upon us till wee be consumed out of the good land whither wee are a goeing.” If the Christian colonists of America deal falsely, Winthrop warned, then they will give people reason to speak evil of the ways of Christianity.
Dealing falsely is just what the Puritan colonists of Massachusetts became infamous for. The Salem Witch Trials became well known as one theocratic atrocity among many. The shining city on a hill was built as an instrument of torture and death upon the chest of Giles Corey, an elderly farmer who was sentenced to be executed when he dared to speak out against the witch hunt, and refused to make himself subject to the religious court. Corey was ordered to be stripped naked and covered with a board, upon which would be piled large rocks, to crush Corey slowly to death. The weight of the stones was so tremendous that it caused Corey’s tongue to pop involuntarily out of his mouth, until a law enforcement officer came along and shoved it back in with the end of his cane.
The shining city on a hill of theocracy in colonial America was a glaring embarrassment, and led the founders of the United States of America to construct a Constitution that kept religion out of government. Still, Republicans keep trying to shove religion back into American government, to try to build their shining city ever higher. Most recently, Mike Pence, Republican Governor of Indiana, approved legislation that allows businesses to legally discriminate against people, using their Christianity as an excuse to do so.
Even after generations of failed, ugly attempts to establish theocracy in the USA, Republicans have yet to heed the warning of John Winthrop’s shining city on the hill: The world is watching what Christians try to do when they seize the power of government, and judging them negatively for it.
Loretta Lynch, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next U.S. Attorney General, has been blocked from progressing to a confirmation vote by a handful of Republican members of the U.S. Senate for nearly 150 days. While Lynch’s vote is being held up, current Attorney General Eric Holder will continue to serve.
I hear that on Monday, there will be a demonstration in Lynch’s home state of North Carolina pressing the GOP to withdraw its block and let Lynch’s nomination vote proceed. I am not meaning to be diffident, but I need some help understanding why this issue rises to the level at which a social movement reaction becomes necessary. I have a driver’s license, so I don’t see the problem in requiring photo ID to vote. I’ve never had anyone stand in the way of my right to vote as a middle-class white man, so I just don’t see the public relevance of an effort to make voter registration harder for non-middle-class-non-white people. I’m a citizen who has never been asked for his papers and who never will, thanks to his All-American nose and hair and skin tone. Well, originally that was All-European, not American, but you get my point: my people got here first second, not third. So why should I care about people who are propping our economy up but have the wrong hair, skin, and sense of timing?
All of this is no skin off my nose. It won’t hurt me personally if the Republicans get their way. So why is it necessary for North Carolina to be holding a march on a nomination around these issues? It doesn’t affect the middle-class white mainstream, and if a social movement doesn’t attend to the concerns of the already privileged mainstream, then it seems like a fringe, non-inclusive effort, doesn’t it?
Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into law this week a piece of education that protects the power of businesses to discriminate against people, using religion as an excuse. In response, huge numbers of people from around the United States are working quickly to make sure that they are doing as little business in Indiana as possible.
What the Boycott Indiana effort needs is a list of big businesses that are based in Indiana, so that people can restrict the flow of cash into Indiana, sending a message to Mike Pence that the economics of bigotry makes no sense. I’ll be adding to the list below over the weekend. Please leave your suggestions for additional corporations that are significantly headquartered in Indiana.
List of Indiana Businesses
Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals
Clabber Girl Baking Products
Dad’s Old Fashioned Root Beer
Steak ‘n Shake
Damon Motor Homes
Do It Best
Pay Less Food Markets
Gurney’s Seed and Nursery Company
Finish Line Athletic Shoes
3D Parts Manufacturing
American Toy Boutique
Barclay Wooden Blocks
Ahaus Tool and Engineering
CTB International Corp.
Precision Food Cutting
Universal Blower Pac
Arco Electrical Products
Hoosier Racing Tire
Hoosier Candle Company
El Popular Chorizo
Red Gold Tomato Products
DeBrand Fine Chocolates
Fort Wayne Pro Grout
Steffy Wood Products
Brewer Design Service, Inc
Conrad Grebel Furniture
Bar Keepers Friend
Michigan Bulb Company
Be Adaptive Equipment
W.H. Harrison Indiana Bourbon
St. Elmo Cocktail Sauce
First Merchants Corporation
Ford Meter Box Corporation
ITT Technical Institute
JayC Food Stores
Little Crow Foods
Model Automobile Company
One Click Ventures
Pay Less Super Markets
Straube Piano Company
Tree Machine Records
Upland Brewing Company
Weaver Popcorn Company
Red Giant Software
Elkhart Band Instrument Company
Fancy Fortune Cookies
ACE Rent a Car
Klipsch Audio Technologies
Global Van Lines
Interactive Intelligence Inc.
If you look at the results of the 2014 elections for the Alabama State House of Representatives and Senate, you might get the idea that the major divide is between Democrats and Republicans, with 98 Republicans, 41 Democrats and 1 Independent elected to the two chambers of the Alabama State Legislature. But there is a hidden divide that cuts across party lines. Of the 140 seats in the House and Senate, a full 83 seats had no contest, giving voters no choice. 25 Democrats and 58 Republicans ran unopposed. Democracy holds a minority stake in Alabama state government.
Congressman Ted Lieu rose to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday to give what at first looked like it might be a serious speech. Lieu began by criticizing congressional Republicans’ opposition to action to deal with climate change. But then, Lieu chose a very different sort of climax to his speech.
Lieu said, “Mr. Speaker, I rise because the majority is making worse the one issue that can kill humanity as a species – climate change. The majority’s budget exacerbates America’s
overdependence on foreign oil and reliance on the dirty and unsafe fuels of the 19th century.
But there is a better way. We need to produce more energy-saving appliances and machines that are designed, manufactured, and installed by American workers. It is time to invest in new and renewable energies that never go away, such as wind, solar, and biofuels. It is time to do what is best for America, not what is best for coal companies.
Mr. Speaker, let me end by saying: Go, UCLA.”
Climate change is a deadly threat that the Republicans refuse to take seriously, so therefore, watch college basketball?!?
With climate action leaders like Ted Lieu in power, it’s not just the Republicans we need to worry about.
It’s paltry, and it doesn’t reflect the entirety of protest that occurs in the United States. Today’s article by Peregrin Wood on the activist shaming of Senator Ron Wyden proves that point. But the article comes after the fact. Where do we find out about protest before the fact, when we can spread the word to one another?
I’ve been looking for advance-notice protests to help promote and find nothing but dead ends, over and over. What’s happened? I hesitate and ask whether it might be me — perhaps activism has shifted somewhere else, to some other mode where everybody young and with-it knows what’s going on and when and where protests are planned, with some communication medium that I just can’t find because I’ve been culturally eclipsed.
… but no, I don’t think so. Mine is not the generation of Fall Out Boy, but I can find it easily enough.
Help me out here, activist Americans: where is the news? How do you know? Guide me back to where all the information lies.
P.S. Two old standby websites remain reliable sources of protest information: Code Pink and the Washington Peace Center. But surely there must be more than this.
Fight For The Future says that its goal is to “build a grassroots movement to ensure that everyone can access the Internet’s many resources affordably, free of interference or censorship and with full privacy.” It wasn’t a free Internet that Fight For The Future was protesting Wyden for this week, however. Instead, the group joined with Popular Resistance to protest Ron Wyden’s support for “fast track” negotiation powers for the President of the United States in arranging for free trade agreements such as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Linking the issue back to Wyden, Kevin Zeese of Popular Resistance writes, “I find it ugly that a senator would be negotiating fast track legislation through Congress for secret corporate rigged trade deals while raising money from big business interests that would profit immensely from those deals.”
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on The People’s Budget – a package crafted by the Congressional Progressive Caucus that would lower taxes for working Americans, close loopholes exploited by corporations, increase domestic spending, reduce military waste, and increase federal workers’ wages. The deal was introduced by Representative Keith Ellison on behalf of Raul Grijalva and the rest of the caucus.
It’s expected that the House Republicans would vote against this budget. They want special favors for corporations and financial elites, more cash for war, a low minimum wage, and a bigger economic burden on working Americans.
What I didn’t expect to see in today’s vote was opposition from nearly half of the House Democrats. 47 percent of House Democrats voted against this progressive legislation.
Here’s the roll call of how Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives voted on The People’s Budget:
Democrats Who Voted For The Progressive Caucus Budget:
Doyle, Michael F.
Johnson, E. B.
Luján, Ben Ray (NM)
Sánchez, Linda T.
Democrats Who Joined The GOP To Vote AGAINST The Progressive Caucus Budget:
Boyle, Brendan F.
Lujan Grisham (NM)
(Six other Democrats didn’t even have the guts to vote one way or the other. They were: Hinojosa, O’Rourke, Payne, Ruiz, Sewell (AL), Smith (WA))
Yesterday, the U.S. Senate dealt with amendments to S. Con. Res. 11, a resolution establishing the budget for the federal government in 2016. Within these amendments, two stood out as progressive pieces of legislation.
One, S. Amdt. 471 by Ron Wyden, sought to “create a point of order against legislation that would cut benefits, raise the retirement age, or privatize social security.” Another, S. Amdt 323 by Bernard Sanders, would have established a national job program to repair and enhance infrastructure, funded by the closure of tax loopholes exploited by corporations.
Both amendments were rejected. Democrats mostly supported the amendments, and Republicans mostly opposed them. There were some notable aisle-crossings, however, on the issue of Social Security. Democrat Mark Warner voted against Ron Wyden’s amendment to prevent the privatization of Social Security. Republicans Dean Heller, John Hoeven, Mark Kirk, John McCain, and Rob Portman supported the measure.
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