Saturday, November 28, 2015

What Cannibals Teach Us About Citizens United

By Bob Ferris

Fore tribesman with evidence of past practices.
There is a tribal group in New Guinea called the Fore that formerly honored their ancestors by eating small pieces of their brains after they died.  This “funerary cannibalism”  had a side-effect though, because within the ingested gray matter there was a prion (think mad cow) that caused a fatal disease in some that the Fore called "kuru" which is characterized by shaking and pathologic bursts of laughter.

I think about the above as we look at the destructive factionalism (see Federalist Papers No. 9 and No. 10) currently affecting American politics.   In this equation Citizen’s United is the fatal prion. And while we have certainly been experiencing bursts of laughter along with shaking rage, we cannot help but understand that absent a solution to Citizen’s United we will cease being—our great American experiment will die.
"…widely accepted prion theory, which states that the cellular protein PrP is the sole causative agent of prion diseases; there is no nucleic acid involved. The theory holds that PrP is normally in a stable shape (pN) that does not cause disease. The protein can be flipped, however, into an abnormal shape (pD) that does cause disease. pD is infectious because it can associate with pN and convert it to pD, in an exponential process--each pD can convert more pN to pD. In What is a Prion…
“Prion” is simply shorthand for “proteinaceous infectious particle” and as Citizen’s United is a mouthful too let’s just shorten it to “cucu” which gives a nod to the Fore’s kuru as well as editorializes on this political pathogen itself.  When we look at the above quote and translate it into our body politic analogy it works very well because political contributions from individuals and within limits can be seen as equivalent to the “pN” in the above construct and the post-Citizens United decision political contributions as the “pD.”  When pN convert to pD we get what we have now which is a cucu problem.

The absence of nucleic acid in the prion is telling, because these missing functional units—as in the familiar but likely not understood DNA or RNA—mean that these prions are free from much in the way of biochemical coding for controls or direction.  If you think of these nucleic acids in the context of our political model you might consider these as items like ethics, truth and the other moderating elements sometimes observed in politics, but largely missing at this point.

It is not really too hard to understand that our current political situation is very similar to the above Mad Cow disease infected brain.
What makes our current situation so scary and perilous is that we have a myriad of pD forms from bankers wanting increased deregulation and the hyper-religious wanting a theocracy (1,2) to the fossil fuel industry wanting to stop action on climate change (1,2,3) and those thinking the solution to communism is fascism (1,2).  And all of them are spinning out of control. And all of them are flipping figurative pNs to pDs.  And all of them are collectively ripping to shreds the fabric of our democratic republic just as Mad Cow prions destroy brain structure and ultimately take the life of the infected organism.

The good news is that there is a cure.  Citizen’s United needs to be addressed and then much of what cucu-ness we are seeing dissolves.  Billionaires like the Kochs, Murdochs, Waltons and others would not put forth and promote candidates willing to do their bidding while giving lip-service to our needs. The Christian Reconstructionists, Dominionists and groups like The Family Leader could no longer seek to remake this country all of us in their own narrow image.  And the Exxon-Mobils of the world would no longer be able to fill the halls of Congress with anti-science zealots slinging snowballs and silliness.

Taking action to reverse Citizen’s United is no little undertaking.  There are entrenched forces willing and able to fight for this bright, purple plum they have given themselves much like Britain was unwilling to let loose of their former colonies.  But as has been said before we won the War of Independence but the American Revolution must continue as we always need to protect what we won and make it better not worse.

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