Sep 2012 05

by Moby

Above: Quality of Overall Infrastructure – Country Rankings 2011
Countries and regions are ranked highest to lowest quality of overall infrastructure. Source: World Economic Forum via Photius

This might not be of interest to very many people, but I wanted to write about the federal government…

I know, 99% of you will stop reading right now. I assume that this is probably of interest to about six people, which is a shame, as it’s a subject that effects all of us, even those who don’t live in the United States.

See, one of the big issues in this election cycle is federal spending.
 The Republicans say over and over again that they want to drastically cut federal spending.
 And most people go along with it, saying, “sure, let’s cut federal spending.”
 But do people fully understand what federal spending involves?
 In very general terms, and excluding debt and interest payments, federal spending can be seen in quarters:

  • 1/4 of the budget goes to Medicare/Medicaid.
  • 1/4 goes to Social Security.
  • 1/4 goes to military spending.
  • 1/4 goes to ‘discretionary’ spending.

The Republicans have said that they don’t want to touch the military budget, they don’t want to touch Medicare/Medicaid, and they don’t want to touch Social Security.
 But they do want to drastically cut ‘discretionary’ spending.

What exactly is ‘discretionary’ spending?
 Technically it’s non-mandatory federal spending.
 But practically it’s 
railways, schools, hospitals, roads, infrastructure, arts programs, health, police, museums, emergency services, state and national parks, public broadcasting, water safety, etc., etc.

Some of these are also paid for by state and local budgets, but for the most part they’re all reliant upon federal ‘discretionary’ spending.
 And what I find incredibly frustrating is that no one, not even Democrats, is sticking up for this type of government spending.

When I travel I go to countries with a higher percentage of discretionary spending than the United States.
 Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Scandinavia, New Zealand, The Netherlands, etc., etc.
 Most Americans don’t leave the United States, so they assume that no matter where you go you’ll find hospitals that are over-crowded, schools that are under-funded, railroads that are slow, higher education that is expensive, water that isn’t always safe to drink, etc.
 But in almost every other Western country they have great hospitals, great schools, great roads, great public transportation, clean air, clean water, etc., 
because, simply, they spend more federal money on programs that benefit the people.

The Republicans want to cut all discretionary spending.
 And they want to cut taxes on the wealthiest 1% of wage earners.
 So the towns where these wealthiest 1% live will have great public services, but the rest of the country will, literally, fall apart, as is already happening.
 By most objective criteria the United States is already leaving the ranks of first world countries.

Here are two salient indices:

1. The United States comes joint 23rd in a list of countries ranked for literacy by the United Nations – below Cuba, Estonia, Latvia, Barbados, and Belarus, among others.

2. There are 48 countries with a lower infant mortality rates than the United States – this one is stunning!

In almost all indices for development and well-being the United States is either lower than most other Western countries or slipping fast.
 There might be other variables, but the one constant is we increasingly spend less on ‘discretionary’ items.
 And if Romney/Ryan and the Republicans have their way, we’ll continue to spend less and less on discretionary spending, and continue to push the United States out of the ranks of first world countries.

To be clear and seemingly self evident:

  • Kids are better educated when they have well funded schools.
  • Old people are healthier when they have well funded hospitals and health programs.
  • People are safer when they have well funded health and safety programs and regulations.
  • Countries work better when they have well funded public transportation.

Giving more money to the military will not improve the quality of life for people in the United States.
 And giving more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires will not improve the quality of life for most of the people in the United States.

I truly believe that if Romney/Ryan and the Republicans are allowed to further cut federal discretionary spending that the United States will increasingly become a crumbling country filled with increasingly sick and uneducated people. It’s already happening. A Romney/Ryan administration will just accelerate the process.

It’s just a shame that most Americans can’t travel, even to Canada, to see an example of what a country looks like when it has great public education 
and great health care and great public transportation and great arts programs.

I’m writing this because I strongly believe that someone needs to speak up for discretionary spending. Someone needs to clearly state that many of the things Americans value – roads, health, education, police, emergency services, public transport, museums, national parks, safe water, clean air, etc., etc. – all require healthy levels of funding.

A Romney/Ryan Republican America would be paradise for the few people worth over $10,000,000. But it would be a crumbling dystopia for everyone else.

Sep 2012 03

[Above: Dyme in The Riveter]

“All of us take too many things for granted, the rights and rewards we enjoy for which others greatly sacrificed and often even died. On Memorial Day we do reverently honor our fallen, and we still wildly celebrate our nation’s birth on July 4th…

But Labor Day, once a holiday that truly paid tribute to workers, has become just a three day weekend of boating, beaches, and barbeque, with nary a thought of the valiant, against-all-odds struggle of both individual and organized labor. These days it should probably be called a Bank Holiday, like in England, because the financial sector has had a great three decades at the expense of labor…

This Labor Day, September 3rd, instead of the all-day backyard barbeque, let’s take a few hours to mobilize our faith in ourselves and in the founding principles of our nation by hitting the streets once again to honor and support America’s two greatest assets – the worker and the Middle Class. They are one and the same.”

– Steven Whitney, August 2012
Excerpted from:
Forget The Barbeque On Labor Day – It’s Time To Take Care Of Business

Aug 2012 31

by Sandor Stern

Dear Republican Friends,

Regarding your stand on healthcare…

This country spends more on health care than any other country in the world. One would expect that fact to translate into the best medical care. I know you believe it does, and you are correct when it comes to medical advances and facilities, but we are not even close to the best when it comes to the medical care of our population. According to statistics from the World Health Organization, we spend almost twice as much per capita than any other nation – $7290 in 2007 and it has increased since then. That amounts to 16% of our GDP. 18.5% of government revenue is spent on health care. And what do we get for that money? Our life expectancy is lower and our infant mortality rate is higher than every other industrial nation. Our system is ranked 37th in the world among 191 nations. And your reaction to those facts is a pledge to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act – the most comprehensive health care reform in 45 years.

You brand it with an Obamacare label in your effort to denigrate it. That is laughable; firstly because it mirrors Romney’s Massachusetts Health Care Plan of 2006 (framed by the Republican conservative think tank’s Heritage Foundation) and secondly because it does not reflect the single payer plan that Obama would have liked. Though Democrats held a majority in the senate, they fell short of the sixty votes needed to pass a bill unpalatable to the Republican senators. The Affordable Care Act was obviously a compromise. Given its auspices it seemed a safe direction. It’s basis is insurance coverage through private companies. Who would have guessed that the Republican party and its presidential nominee would disown a plan like that? In hindsight, considering the Republican about face on so many of your previous legislative bills, this should not have come as a surprise.

What baffles me is your disregard for Romney’s turn around. He initially touted his plan (that included mandatory insurance for all) as a model for the nation. Then he waffled by saying his plan was good for his state but not for the nation. Now he avoids the subject. My question to you is: if the plan is good for the state why not for the nation? All this hue and cry goes on about the Romney plan, but nobody seems to ask the pertinent question – is it working for the people of Massachusetts? 98% of Massachusetts residence now have insurance, including 99.8% of children. Two out of three adults in the state support the law and 88% of doctors say it improved or did not affect the quality of care. It seems the proof is in the pudding.

To this date, the Affordable Care Act has improved health insurance coverage in many ways. Children can stay on their parents’ policies until the age of 26. Individuals with existing insurance policies no longer have to pay deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses for certain preventive care services. Children under 19 cannot be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition. Insurance companies cannot drop your coverage if you become sick, nor can they place lifetime limits or arbitrary annual limits on coverage. Insurance companies are required to spend more of the premium dollars they receive on health care services and quality. It becomes easier to file complaints about the quality of care in a nursing home. Better access to information on nursing home quality and resident rights is available. Seniors who reach the Medicare doughnut hole receive a 50 percent discount on brand-name prescription drugs and a 14 percent discount on generic prescription drugs. Medicare benefits have expanded to include free coverage for wellness and preventive care. Hospitals that improve the quality of care for people with Medicare can qualify for new payments.

But that’s not all. Yet to come in 2013: Those who reach the Medicare doughnut hole receive a 52.5 percent discount on brand-name prescription drugs and a 21 percent discount on generic prescription drugs. Increased funding will be available to help families and children get coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance program (CHIP). Hospitals and doctors can qualify to receive a new type of payment (called a “bundle”) to coordinate with each other as they care for patients. Yet to come in 2014: Insurance companies cannot deny anyone health coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Those who reach the Medicare doughnut hole receive a 52.5 percent discount on brand-name prescription drugs and a 28 percent discount on generic prescription drugs. Subsidies are available for those with limited incomes who purchase health insurance through an exchange. Children, parents and adults without children who do not have Medicare and who have a limited income are able to apply for Medicaid. Spouses of people on Medicaid who receive care services at home get the same protections for income and other resources as spouses of those on Medicaid who live in nursing homes. Yet to come in 2020: after continuing yearly declines in doughnut hole costs, the Medicare Part D coverage gap or “doughnut hole” will be completely closed.

These are the present and future benefits of the Affordable Care Act that you want to repeal. Why? You claim multiple reasons. You rail against the mandatory coverage. You consider it socialism. Under your definition of socialism that would make mandatory withholding taxes for social security, Medicare, and Unemployment insurance socialism. It would make mandatory driver’s licenses socialism. In fact, mandatory income tax would have to be listed under your definition. Yet, there are no socialist aspects to the Affordable Care Act. Individuals purchase their coverage in an open market from private insurance companies. The physicians who provide services work on a fee for service basis. Hospitals and laboratories remain in the hands of private enterprise. So where is the socialism you love to scream about?

You claim that the costs of insurance will go up. Without doubt if there is no mandatory coverage that will be true. That was true before the ACA and was one of the prime reasons to institute the act. When healthy young people are not buying insurance, the price goes up for those older and in poor health. Mandatory coverage keeps the costs down. And before grumbling over that, how many people paying into social security and Medicare die too young to ever collect a dime? How many people pay unemployment insurance and never need to collect a check in return? That’s why it’s called insurance. It’s a necessary price one pays today just in case the day arrives when the need arises.

You seem to prefer remaining with the old “free enterprise” system – which has never been free or even enterprising. In that system, 40% of U.S. citizens did not have adequate health insurance, if any at all. The cost to these people has been that they’ve been avoiding medical care, sometimes until it was too late for a cure, often to the detriment of preventive steps, and for some a cost in dollars that led to bankruptcy. The cost to the nation has been a crush of patients inundating emergency rooms – paid for by the taxpayers. Is that the trade off you really want? Medical costs paid for others through your income tax rather than a small bite out of every citizen’s pocket?

There is no doubt that the Affordable Care Act is flawed and that flaw is the same one that exists in the Massachusetts Plan. In Massachusetts, though 97% of taxpayers are complying with the law, the cost of premiums rose 12.2% between 2006 and 2008. One of the main reasons for cost increases is due to the administrative overhead, and that will apply to Affordable care. An apples to apples comparison of plan overheads is best seen in administrative costs for Medicare and Medicare Advantage. According to the Congressional Budget Office, expenses under the public Medicare plan are less than 2% compared with 11% expenditures under the private plans of Medicare Advantage. Meanwhile the General Accounting Office reported that in 2006, Medicare Advantage plans spent 83.3% of their revenue on medical expenses and 16.7% for non-medical expenses and profits. That makes sense. Private Insurance companies are in business for profit and they must spend money on sales and advertising to compete with each other. Why do we need them in the health care business? That is why a single payer system gets you the most bang for the buck. We only have to look to our northern neighbor, Canada, for comparison.

In the mid sixties Canada and the USA faced the same issue in health care. As citizens aged, private insurance companies either denied them insurance coverage or asked exorbitant rates. This was an overwhelming humanitarian problem. The USA decided to alleviate the problem through Medicare, a plan that insured citizens above the age of 65 years. Canada decided to institute a Medicare plan that covered every citizen from cradle to grave. This is a system similar to those in almost every industrial nation in the world. There are only two exceptions: the USA and Turkey. Good company, right?

Before you start shouting “socialism” look at the facts. The Canadian system is no more socialist than our own Medicare. Patients choose their own doctors and those doctors are paid on a fee for service basis. Though federally funded, each province and territory maintains and oversees its own separate plan. Spurred, I suspect, by profit seeking private insurance, pharmaceutical and medical supply companies, a mythology about the Canadian Health Plan has taken root in this country.

Myth: taxes in Canada are extremely high. Fact: the average after-tax income of Canadian workers is equal to about 82% of their gross pay. In the USA that average is 81.9%. Myth: Canada’s health care system is a cumbersome bureaucracy. Fact: the provincial single-payer system in Canada operates with a 1% overhead. That’s even better than our own Medicare operating costs. Myth: the Canadian system is significantly more expensive than the USA system. Fact: 10% of Canada’s GDP is spent on health care for 100% of the population. The USA spends 17% of it’s GDP but 15% of its population has no coverage, and millions of others have inadequate coverage.

Myth: Canada’s government decides who gets health care and when they get it. Fact: the government has absolutely no say in who gets care and how they get it. Those decisions are left entirely to doctors. In the USA HMO’s and private insurers make medical decisions all the time. If they decide they won’t pay for a medical procedure like an MRI you won’t get it no matter what your doctor thinks – unless you pay out of pocket for it.

Myth: there are long waits for care. Fact: there are no waits for urgent or primary care in Canada. There are reasonable waits for most specialists’ care and longer waits for elective surgery. Despite the waits, Canada is ranked 7 points above the USA in patient care by the World Health Organization. Canada boast lower incident and mortality rates than the USA for all cancers. Life expectancy in Canada is 81.3 compared to 78.1 in the USA. The infant mortality rate in Canada is 4.5 and in the USA 6.9. Per capita expenditure in Canada is 3,895 dollars per year and in the USA it is 7,290 dollars per year. Fewer Canadians (11.3%) than Americans (14.4%) admit unmet health care needs.

Myth: Canadians are paying out of pocket to come to the USA for medical care. Fact: If a Canadian goes outside the country to get services deemed medically necessary, not experimental or are not available at home for whatever reason, the provincial government where they live fully funds their care. Those patients who do come to the USA for care and pay out of their own pocket are those who perceive their care to be more urgent than their Canadian doctors believe. In a Canadian National Population Health Survey of 17,276 Canadian residents it was reported that 0.5% sought medical care in the USA in the previous year. Of these, less than a quarter had traveled to the USA expressly to get care.

Perhaps the best example of furthering the myth is that of an Ontario resident, Shona Holmes, who traveled to the Mayo Clinic after deciding she could not wait for medical care at home. She characterized her condition as an emergency; she was losing her eyesight and portrayed her condition as a life-threatening brain cancer. Her Ontario insurance refused to reimburse her for medical expenses and she sued – and lost. In 2009, at the peak of the Republican fight against the Affordable Care Act, she appeared in ads on American TV warning of the dangers of the USA adopting a Canadian style health plan. After the ads appeared critics pointed out discrepancies in her story: the Rathke’s cleft cyst for which she was treated was not a form of cancer and was not life-threatening. In fact, the mortality rate for patients with a Rathke’s cleft cyst is zero percent.

The facts are available to anyone with the inclination to pursue them. In the face of those facts, how can you take a stand to repeal The Affordable Care Act? If anything, you should be working to improve it. I don’t find evidence of that in the Republican Party Platform.

Just asking

Your friend


Related Posts
Dear Republican Friends: Regarding Your Stand On Taxation…

Aug 2012 31

by Nahp Suicide

A column which highlights Suicide Girls and their fave groups.

[Pia in Taste Me]

This week, Pia Suicide tells us why she can get behind SG’s Ass Appreciation Group.

Members: 7,511 / Comments: 79,755

WHY DO YOU LOVE IT?: I love it because I think the most beautiful part of a woman’s body is her ass, and also I love panties in cute colors, different designs, and soft fabrics

DISCUSSION TIP: Small ones, phat ones, man or lady ass, white, pink, chocolate, honey colored, covered in panties, covered by nothing, whipped cream, bite marks, or hand slaps.

MOST HEATED DISCUSSION THREAD:I want assholes, dammit!” This is a really hot thread because there are really dirty pics and lots of different opinions.

BEST RANDOM QUOTE: “Panty Peeler!!! That’s the one!!”

WHO’S WELCOME TO JOIN?: EVERYONE who thinks asses are the best thing in the world.


Aug 2012 30

by David Seaman

Look, we all know it has become bad. Surveillance cameras everywhere, many of them funded by federal DHS grants. Cops pulling people over for no reason, asking to see your driver’s license and quizzing you on where you’re going. TSA agents conducting invasive patdowns, which include applying pressure to your genitalia, and obnoxious “chat-downs” asking you about your personal travel details. Police officers at peaceful protests wearing camo and combat-ready body armor. And now we know, based on The New York Times‘ recent reporting and NSA whistle-blower William Binney, that nearly all American citizens are being spied on by the government without a warrant.

It’s heart warming stuff, isn’t it? Luckily, only a handful of crypto-fascist morons are promoting this agenda of greater surveillance and more police on the streets. There are 314 million of us. Here’s how we can take America back:

1. Remain non-violent and peaceful, at all times. Seriously – things like smashing surveillance cameras and protests turning violent or disorderly will only give those in power and the mainstream media an “excuse” they’ve been looking for to justify the existence of such programs in the first place. Oh, and the DHS grants won’t stop – those surveillance cameras you smash, youthful angry one, will be replaced. Promptly replaced.

2. When you protest, go big. I don’t want to see any more rag-tag teams of 10 or 15 chanting protesters with handwritten signs. Use the Internet to organize, do peaceful and fun “flash mobs,” make sure attendance is always in the thousands or hundreds of thousands. Stun the rest of us with your silent power. And do it often. NDAA, TrapWire, and the warrantless surveillance programs we now know about threaten the very future of this republic. They threaten your safety, and the next generation’s safety. You can’t stop until these things are addressed by the masses, addressed by those in power, and fixed.

3. Shirt and tie. Suits. Shaving. Haircuts. The more credible you appear, the more undeniably mainstream – the sooner the rest of America will wake the fuck up.

4. Dominate social media. There are reportedly “sockpuppet accounts” on article comments sections, Twitter, and Reddit trying to normalize things like warrantless wiretapping. “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear – this is to protect us from terrorists only.” Fight this propaganda battle tooth and nail. Call out those who don’t know what they are talking about. Call out those intentionally distracting or lying.

5. Record it all. We may not all be at your protests, but with YouTube and Vimeo you can reach an audience 100-fold greater the next day.

6. Support good politicians. There aren’t many, which is why they need your support – money and time – to remain in office.

7. Never stop. The stakes are too high. If warrantless wiretapping, gropedowns, guilty until innocent, and imprisonment without trial become the “new normal” to keep us safe, we have lost our own country. We have burned our own founding documents. We can’t afford to let that happen.


Aug 2012 30

by The Wine Guy

Beer! Beeeeeer! Homer Simpson is not alone in drooling about beer. There are many days where I patiently count the minutes till work is done, and I can go home and have a nice cold brewski! Where wine is an elegant drink to be enjoyed and marveled at, and spirits are a challenging riddle or a philosophical question, beer is your girl or boy next door, available, accessible, and affordable! Beer has changed so much in my lifetime that it is rather hard to believe. When I turned twenty-one, if I wanted to buy an exotic beer I’d get a Heineken, and I’d be considered an elitist for doing so. If I was really lucky they might have Chimay, which was like buying a beer from outer space. Today our choices are enormous and growing daily. So the question is, why are you still drinking the same old crappy beer? What are you terrified of? Why do these crappy beers even still exist? Friends do not let friends drink Bud, Coors, or Miller! You want to buy American, be my guest, but choose from thousands of quality craft brews that kick ass!

I’m far from a beer expert; beer remains a wonderful hobby that I practice daily. While I do not have the passion for it that I do for wine and spirits, it occupies a special and wonderful place in my heart. So I am not going to give you a break down on the difference between a stout and a lager, there are plenty of beer geeks that can help you with that. Instead I am here once again to make a desperate and impassioned plea for you to stop drinking crap and start buying better beer. When you buy better beer it helps all of us. When a brewmaster decides to buy French chardonnay barrels and age their beer in them, and then you and I buy it, we send a message that says keep doing things like that. When he sees bud outselling his beer by a huge number he sees a message of hopelessness. Lets continue to encourage these wonderful brewmasters to take these risks and continue to push beer to higher and higher levels.

Take a chance on that odd label with the great description. Try a style you have never had before. I’m not a hophead. I do not think that more hops equates to better beers. Based on who buys hoppy beers, it would seem that I just missed the hop generation cut off. That said, there are hoppy beers that I enjoy immensely. When I am shopping for beer, I tell the expert that I do not like hoppy beers unless they are well balanced, but I remain open to suggestions, because someone passionate and knowledgeable about their craft is always worth listening to. When I hear the enthusiasm in the voice, and see the twinkle in their eyes, I feel that it is a risk worth taking. If they are wrong, then I am out ten bucks. Oh well. You might have spent your whole life avoiding pilsners, but there might be a twist on the style that you really enjoy. I encountered Chimay at a young age and enjoyed it, but I did not know that there were tons more Belgian beers and lots of other Belgian styles. The first time I had a Belgian sour it blew my mind! Have you had one? If the answer is no I have not, but yes I like sour things, then stop reading this, get in your car, and go buy a sour beer. If the answer is no I have not, but I do not enjoy sour things, then find a friend of yours that does, have them get it, and then try a sip of theirs.

The point is, that there is a huge world of beer out there and it is getting bigger daily. Spend a little more and get a bigger return on your investment. The reason that 750ml of beer might cost 15 bucks is because it was expensive to make. It was not some factory beer churned out by machines. Instead you are buying a hand-crafted beer that was monitored and cared for during the entire brewing process. You are going to an event, and you want to bring beer, do not buy a six-pack of blue moon, that you can get anywhere. Go into the shop and say to the person, I like blue moon, but I want to try something new. If you bring a New Zealand IPA to the party then you will have yourself a conversation piece. You can all talk about how different it is from the Sierra Nevada that five other people brought. You will be a hero! Bring a bourbon-aged stout, grab a Belgian IPA, take a high-end cider, do something different, we only live once! Your mission should be to go out there and find the best and most interesting beers available, not to play it safe and drink the same beer over and over and over ad nauseum!

This is the simplest of all my pleas. This is not a huge investment of your time or your money. This is a request that you take a small risk the next time you are purchasing a beer. That you engage your local beer expert in conversation let them get a sense of your taste, and let them broaden it for you. There will be a great reward for your endeavor; there are beers out there that you have not even dreamed of. There are beers out there that will stay in your thoughts long after you drank them. It is a new world of beer, whatever you like, there is a beer that is being made for you. Stop settling for less and start demanding more. You can buy corona next time, or better yet, never again. But I like light beers! Well that is great so buy a Belgian white, a German hefe, British pale ale, and start to experience just how awesome and varied light beers can be.

Soon I will be at work watching people buy the same old six packs, but some people will be asking me what they should try, and after a two minute conversation they will be going home with a fantastic beer while the other person…well sometimes you get what you deserve.

Dry Dock Brewing image: JackalAnon / ohaiworld


The Wine Guy sells wine for a living, and lives to drink it. It’s his first and foremost passion. He avoids factory wines, loves to seek out bottles that are interesting and unique, and gets excited when he finds a grape he’s have never heard of.

Related Posts
The Wine Guy: Moby Dick Syndrome – Drink Different
The Wine Guy: Real Men Drink Rose
Drink Better: One Man’s Plea To Raise The Bar On Booze For Every Occasion

Aug 2012 29

by Steven Whitney

As established by comparing statistics – what some might call bald-faced facts – last week, the present 112th Congress is categorically the worst in the history of our country. It’s scorned by reputable historians and the electorate, which gives it an all time low approval rating of just 10%. The two most respected inside observers of the Washington scene – Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein – have made it inarguably clear that the Republican Party is responsible for the most pernicious and dysfunctional body ever to plague the halls of American government, one that does much more harm than any good.

Especially after the epic triumphs of “the American century,” how did our government fall to this lowest of points just twelve years into the new millennium – and what members of the current legislature are most responsible?

In 1964, as a forerunner to today’s “approval polls,” a nationwide sampling by the Gallup poll asked Americans if they expected their government “to do the right thing.” Despite the turbulence of the Cold War and the JFK assassination, an astounding 77% replied positively. And, generally speaking, we had done the right things from FDR through JFK: ended a Depression, won a “Good War,” offered our former enemies humane treaties that would allow them to peacefully rebuild, became home to the United Nations, and built an infrastructure that along with a progressive but fair tax structure created a prosperous and stable middle class. America was the envy of the entire world.

But then LBJ escalated the Vietnam War beyond any reason and Nixon’s White House embraced a criminality more damaging to our country than Al Capone’s, including illegal slush funds held by CREEP (the Committee for the Re-Election of the President) that started the disastrous landslide of Big Money into national campaign coffers. Coming back-to-back, along with Nixon’s bogus “Secret Plan to end the Vietnam War,” American morale crumbled and its confidence waned. By the end of 1974, the majority of Americans no longer trusted government. The 77% approval rating of 1964 belly-flopped to 36% just ten years later, and has spiraled downward ever since.

Beginning with Ronald Reagan’s 1st inaugural address, in which he proclaimed, “…government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” Republicans leapt upon this disenchantment to hammer home a virulent anti-government message while fueling the flames of the culture war that began in the 1960s. Today, voters must generally decide between a political party that believes government is an essential and beneficial tool to its citizens and a party that wants to “starve it, shrink it, and choke it to death” – the no-government government as reflected by today’s GOP Congress.

When we elect men and women to Congress – the governing body of the United States – shouldn’t we expect them to actually want to govern? And to govern efficiently and in our best interests? Isn’t that the most basic job description of any member of Congress? So why would anyone vote for someone fiercely dedicated, as the Republicans are, to not governing and even to destroying the very process of governance? Doesn’t the GOP realize that if they are successful in destroying our government, they will also destroy our country?

Of those who still openly operate in today’s political arena, Reagan acolyte Grover Norquist was perhaps the first to put into motion a plan – the Taxpayer Protection Pledge – to intentionally dismantle our government. State and national office-holders signed the pledge as if in blood, promising that they would not vote to increase taxes, no matter what. Never. You want a war against al Qaida in Afghanistan – no taxes, just borrow the money. And let’s lower taxes so we bring in even less money. You want to illegally invade Iraq and wage a decade long war – no taxes, just borrow the cash from China. And let’s have some more tax cuts.

Eventually, of course, a dramatic surplus left over from a Democratic administration became debt, and the debt deepened as no new tax revenue was raised. So our country wound up essentially broke (and broken) and the pledge signers – numbering 95% of all Republicans in Congress – stuck their heads in the sand and proclaimed that the only way to save the country was to lower taxes on corporations and the upper 2% even more than they already had, and, of course, to drastically cut benefits they mistakenly call entitlements for the Middle Class and poor. And it all started with a premeditated and Machiavellian pledge intended from the start to destroy the balance of power in our democratic republic.

Ironically, the GOP sees itself as the party of business, so individual Republicans must know that most businesses fail when they are underfunded. Yet the party that prides itself on knowing how business works fails to see the connection. Or perhaps, ominously, they do recognize it as a perfect storm to blow away government and replace it with the Free Trade Market of their dreams and our nightmares – no oversight, no regulations, no taxes or levies, no unions, no living wages, and no big damages payoffs for oil spills, chemical spills, nuclear meltdowns, distribution of potentially lethal products, or any other fatal or disabling disaster that is the direct result of their immoral business practices. And this is the party that blathers endlessly about “personal responsibility?”

As Speaker of the House in 1995, Newt Gingrich became the standard-bearer for Norquist’s Pledge and accordingly shut down the government for 28 days in a wrangle with President Clinton over – you guessed it – spending on Medicare, education, the environment, and public health. Clinton vetoed a Republican budget bill that cut all of those and Gingrich rather testily threatened to not raise the debt ceiling – a maneuver the GOP tried again last year (and which contributed to the downgrade of our credit rating) – thus closing down our capital. The conflict was resolved in January of 1996 and the government once again opened for business. But Newt’s hypocrisy, unwillingness to compromise even to keep America open, and his contagious nastiness not only became the model for the new GOP, but also left an atmosphere sufficiently poisonous to asphyxiate our very democracy. While this revisionist scholar from Hell is happily long gone from Congress, his influence as a so-called intellectual is still so substantial that for a few jaw-dropping weeks he was the frontrunner in the Republican Primaries for President.

But four members of our present 112th Congress, which has reached record lows in lack of governance, stand above (or perhaps below) all others in the wretched wasteland they have made of this formerly august body.

As Jon Stewart has pointed out, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) actually looks like a turtle. But more damaging is the tortoise-like manner in which his head retreats into a hard-cased shell from which no interaction is possible whenever action is desperately needed – say, anytime in the last four years. Most despicable is his disdain for real democracy. If any law proposed by Democrats might pass – even by vast 59-41 margin – he engineers a filibuster or cloture requiring 60 votes for passage so the proposal dies before a floor vote can be taken, thus robbing the American public of the “majority rules” principle on which our nation stands. This 60 vote standard almost ensures that Congress cannot pass any bill more significant than the naming of a Post Office, and absolutely guarantees no passage of a bill opposed by 41 minority Senators – and our government winds up completely frozen.

But even though McConnell has frequently been dubbed “the worst Senator in history,” the worst legislators reside in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, led by Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Michelle Bachmann, head of the Tea Party Caucus

This trio not only blocked the American Jobs Act, but has voted to repeal Obamacare 33 times. They’ve introduced myriad bills that are anti-environment / pro-pollution, anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-NPR/PBS, anti-sexual and gender variation, and extremely pro-gun. These bozos have continually attempted to defund Planned Parenthood and proposed hundreds of bills to lower taxes on corporations and the wealthiest 2% of Americans while severely slashing benefits to the Middle Class, unemployed, foreclosed upon, and poor. This was not what our founders had in mind when they envisioned a system of “checks and balances.”

To be fair, Boehner – whose eyes well with tears at the mere mention of Ronald Reagan – did reach a negotiated agreement with the President on the Debt Ceiling, but Cantor – a strange, smarmy know-it-all who appears to be running for student council on an austerity platform – killed it, heightening the debate while lowering our credit rating. Indeed, Cantor’s staff-written bio page on the House website has the gall to describe him as “a results-oriented leader” even though his House has delivered the worst results in the history of American government.

Over the last decade, it’s hard to imagine anyone who has spewed forth more insanity than Bachmann. Take your pick – warning parents that The Lion King was gay propaganda, claiming Glenn Beck could solve the debt crisis, assuring her constituents that Nobel Prize scientists supported Intelligent Design, likening her visit to Iraq in 2007 to shopping at her home state’s Mall of America, and many more that should have landed her in a loony bin (not coincidentally, her Tea Party cohorts just banned the word lunatic from the floors of Congress). But instead, she’s the leader and Poster Girl for the Tea Party. And, one must admit, she’s the right woman for the job, especially given her latter-day Joe McCarthy witch hunts, first to vet all citizens whose views she considers “anti-American,” and recently to investigate anyone she suspects might have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood (which includes a respected aide to our Secretary of State). Call it vilification by The Six Degrees of Michelle Bachmann. She also advocates abolishing the minimum wage to create jobs – and she might be right on this one, if you want to work for fifty cents a day.

At the height of Ancient Rome, its government was led by the First Triumvirate – a political alliance of Julius Caesar, Pompey the Great, and Marcus Crassus. Sadly, Western Civilization is now at least partly in the hands of a different kind of Triumvirate – one as pitiful as Rome’s was great – the three House Republican leaders we’ll call Weepy, Creepy, and Crazy.

The tragic result is a vicious circle which is potentially fatal to our democracy – House Republicans pass odious laws that cannot get through a Senate vote, while Senate Democrats propose humane legislation that can’t even get to a floor vote, resulting in complete paralysis. Solely for political gain, Republicans would rather block and bloviate than help their fellow citizens recover from a massive crisis, especially one caused by an immoral GOP administration that in just eight years devastated America in every way possible.

The upcoming November election presents voters with a clear choice – to continue a cruel and abysmal charade pantomimed by a true confederacy of dunces or to sweep into office those who actually care about governance, about democracy, about human rights, about fairness, and about the 95% who need their Congress to restore dignity not only to government itself but to their own lives.

This time we better get it right.

Related Posts:
Worse Than A Do Nothing Congress
Forget The Barbeque On Labor Day – It’s Time To Take Care Of Business
Chicken Shits: The Slippery Slopes of Chick-fil-A
The Vagina Solution
Fighting Back Part 4: The Big Liar, Intimidation And Revenge
Fighting Back Part 3: Fighting Fire With Fire
When The Past Is Prologue
Fighting Back Part 2: Defining Rovian Politics
Fighting Back
The Electoral Scam
Being Fair
Occupy Reality
Giving. . . And Taking Back
A Tale Of Two Grovers
A Last Pitch For Truth
America: Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.