Jun 2012 27

by Steven Whitney

“One man, one vote” loosely incorporates the founding principles of our country and the exaltation of the individual. The democratic notion behind it is that every single voter is equal – no more, no less – to every other voter. Legally, it is the basis of “equal representation” over which the original Tea Party (“No Taxation Without Representation”) rebelled in 1773, a decisive shot across Britain’s bow that led to the Revolutionary War. In emerging nations and in those with similar revolutions, it has since become a slogan for universal suffrage.

Of course, from the beginning it was more fantasy than fact, more a rallying cry than a real policy. In our first national elections, only white male adult property-owners were allowed to vote. Slaves couldn’t vote. Women couldn’t vote. Native Americans couldn’t vote. New immigrants, white or not, were discouraged from voting by the strongest possible means.

In 1850, property and tax restrictions were removed so all white adult males were, by law, eligible to vote (although immigrants still found it hard to cast a ballot).

Twenty years later, the 15th Amendment paved the way for former slaves (and adult males of any race) to vote. This gave rise to Jim Crow literacy tests and poll tax requirements in many states that successfully targeted minorities.

It was only in 1920 that adult women got the vote. And in 1924, Native Americans – ironically, the original Americans – were also granted voting rights.

But despite the 15th Amendment, it wasn’t until the 1950 Civil Rights Act and 1965’s Voting Rights Act that all adult American citizens actually held the right to vote, free of any tests and/or taxes that might exclude them.

Does that mean “one man, one vote” finally became a reality?

In theory and law, yes. In local and state elections, we do have equanimity, even as certain states under Republican leadership, like Florida, try their damndest to suppress minority voters.

But because our founders created a Federalist Society more than a truly democratic ideal, there exists one remaining restraint to equal voting that has been with us from the beginning and never repealed – the Electoral College that decides each and every Presidential election.

The Electoral College is comprised of “electors” from states and the District of Columbia. The number of electors for each state is decided by the total population of individual states as determined every ten years by the Census (the same formula used in determining the number of Representatives in the House) plus 2 electors for each state (to match their seats in the Senate). California, our most populous state, receives 53 electors based on population plus 2 for their Senate representation; Wyoming, our least populated state, receives 1 elector based on population plus 2 for each Senator. That’s 538 electoral votes in all, with 270 needed to win.

A tie at 269 sends the deciding vote to the newly elected House, where each state casts 1 vote until a candidate receives a majority.

This system was instituted by our founding fathers to protect the interests of rural states and, at first glance, it appears fair. But it was initiated at a time when America was a small nation with only 16 states – Virginia and Pennsylvania the largest at just over 110,000 “free white male adults” each – pretty much evenly divided between urban and rural. In the first contested Presidential election in 1796 – Washington had previously run unopposed – the total number of popular votes was 66,841 for the entire country, fewer votes cast than in my own small Congressional district today.

In 2012, it is sorely outdated and the cause of much inequality. Take California, with a population of well over 37 million. Then group together the 20 states lowest in population – Alaska, Wyoming, Vermont, North and South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah – for a combined total population of just over 32 million. In a representative democracy, and by dint of population, California should have just one or perhaps two more electors than those 20 states combined.

But because each state gets a uniform 2 electors above and beyond their census-calculated electors, the 20 smallest states, with a combined population of 5½ million less than California, actually have 40 “extra” electors to the Golden State’s 2, a plurality of 38 additional electors from small rural states that are largely Republican strongholds.

How is it fair that 5½ million fewer people are granted 64% more electoral votes in determining the course of our future? Does that sound like equal representation – “one man, one vote?” Or is it just another example of a rigged game?

This grievous imbalance was fully taken into account when Republicans of the 1970s first devised their “Southern Strategy.” And without those “extra” votes, George Bush would have handily lost the 2000 election, even with Florida in his pocket…meaning no Bush Tax Cuts, no Iraq “Shock and Awe,” no renditions or torture, no national security state, and no Dick Cheney.

There are only two viable options to fix the system. The first, and most democratic, is to decide the Presidential race, like all others, by the majority of the popular vote. The second, less egalitarian but still fairer than the present system, is to eliminate the two “extra” votes for each state, bringing the electoral vote down to 436 (the same number as the House membership plus 1 for D.C.) with only 219 needed to win. Only by these two adjustments would one vote anywhere in the U.S. be equal to a vote anywhere else in the country.

Supporters of the electoral system say that it prevents urban-centric victories, but at the same time they cannot explain why a candidate winning with fewer popular votes is either democratic or fair. They also state that the Electoral College encourages stability through the 2-party system without understanding that many citizens feel the 2-party system is more stale than stable – and that, ironically enough, when the electoral system was devised, American was divided into many parties, not just two. Lastly, they argue that it maintains the federal character of our nation without apparently realizing that it was just this “federalist” notion under which only property-owning white male adults were allowed to vote.

Detractors often point to the fact that of 123 democracies in the world today, ours is the only nation still using this antiquated system, the only one in which the candidate receiving a majority of the popular vote can lose the election (a la Al Gore in 2000). And that instead of favoring the smallest states, a popular vote counts all votes equally…and, dare I say it, democratically.

A popular vote solves other problems as well. It allows the federal government to penalize states that attempt to disenfranchise voters. It would boost voter turnout and participation and give 3rd parties a more active, nationwide platform. And in one fell swoop, it would both eliminate the insane focus on so-called swing states and do away with all the red state / blue state crap forever, which in turn would return us to a United States of America.

There is, of course, no time to put changes into effect this year…especially since Republicans shudder at the mere mention of a nationwide referendum on any issue. But perhaps sometime in the not too distant future we can set for the course for a truly equal voting standard.

Until then, the next time you ask yourself why the vote of a racist, gun-totin’, meth-smokin’, homophobic cracker who fucks donkeys while screaming “Praise Jesus!” is worth more than yours, look no further than the electoral scam.

Related Posts:
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.

Jun 2012 23

by Blogbot

This Sunday (June 24th at 10 PM PST) on SuicideGirls Radio, in celebration of Pride month we welcome three guests who have enlightened views on what it means to love. Filmmaker Cassie Jaye (Daddy I Do and Right To Love) and inspirational speaker and lifestyle coach Jesse Brune will be joining SG radio host Nicole Powers (SG’s Managing Ed) and co-hosts Darrah de jour (SG’s Red, White & Femme post-feminist sex & sensuality columnist) and Moxie Suicide (SG model and self proclaimed sexpert) live in studio. Acclaimed author Inga Muscio (Rose: Llove in Violent Times and Cunt: A Declaration of Independence) will also be joining us by phone.

Listen to the world’s leading naked radio show live on Sunday nights from 10 PM til Midnight on
(Hit the top right “listen Live” button!)

For updates on all things SG Radio-related, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


Jun 2012 20

by Steven Whitney

It may seem odd that a 2½ minute video documenting an experiment with capuchin monkeys serves as the starting point of what is essentially a political blog. But often when things like human behavior and voting patterns don’t make sense, it’s useful to go back to the basics, to look beneath the surface to examine the mechanisms that create both predictable results and their often irrational anomalies.

The truth is, politics may be just as much about sociology – the way different groups
behave and interact – as it is about ideology and demographics. Today, we evaluate candidates, their actions, and their parties mostly within the context of a 24/7 news-cycle that inevitably creates a tabloid sensibility. And sometimes it’s necessary to pull back to a wider view to gain better perspective.

Eminent primatologist and ethologist Frans de Waal has devoted much of his life to the study of morality in animals. The recognized standard that de Waal employs to measure animal behavior is the Two Pillars of Basic Morality – one representing Reciprocity (sharing and fairness); the other signifying Empathy (compassion and concern for others).

In the video, two Capuchin monkeys in adjoining Plexiglas cages are given the same task – to take a small rock and hand it through an opening to their handler – after which they receive a reward. But the reward is on two levels – a slice of cucumber, an adequate tidbit, and a grape, a much better and more nourishing treat. When both monkeys receive the cucumber, all is good. But when one is given a grape and the other gets only a cucumber, the second rebels – stomping his hand and hurling the cucumber back at the handler. He’d rather have no reward than an inequitable one.

Other basic tests show that when one monkey is given a large number of nuts or grapes and another gets none, the rewards are shared instead of hoarded by one. These results (and others showing shared work) have been replicated hundreds of times in tests given throughout the world with a variety of animals – elephants, dogs, dolphins, and many more – providing evidence that an innate (or genetic) fairness and willingness to cooperate is widespread in the animal kingdom. On an evolutionary level, this ingrained attribute of fairness – of sharing both rewards and workloads – is how species and communities thrive. Indeed, Jane Goodall – the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees – views primates as nothing less than our moral ancestors.

Because humans are evolved from chimps, capuchins, and other primates, our DNA is 98.5% identical to theirs. And like them, our sense of morality and fairness is genetically embedded – we possess it from birth and then reinforce the concept of sharing at home, in daycare centers, and in early school grades. Ask almost anyone and they’ll tell you they believe in fairness and teach it to their children. Indeed, fairness in all things is a universal human ideal.

So how do Republicans, in actions instead of words, stack up against monkeys on the most basic moral standards?

At a time when America faces its biggest and most threatening economic crisis in 80 years – one that could negatively affect our country for decades – Republicans are thwarting all efforts by the President and Democrats to jump-start any sort of middle-class recovery. It’s not just a Do-Nothing congress, it’s the Stop-Anything-That-Might-Help-Democrats-Even-If-It-Helps-Our-Country platform that pollutes every word and deed of the GOP. When they’re not obstructing positive action through a record number of filibusters, they’re filing lawsuits against any reform (like Obamacare) initiated by the Democrats. They refuse to confirm a huge number of judges (who would ease the mind-numbing backlog in our courts) and high-level cabinet nominees, like Elizabeth Warren and the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, to block any needed regulation or oversight. They cut taxes on the rich and want to plunk the full financial burden on the poor and what just a few years ago was the middle-class. They are not willing to make even the smallest token sacrifice for their country – not even one added penny in taxes for any billionaire. And if anyone questions their agenda or motives, they scream “Class Warfare!” or “Socialism!” – two Big Lies that are growing very thin.

For the last 30 years – no matter what they have said – Republicans have consistently acted to cut education, welfare, and seem hell-bent on reducing Disaster Relief and “reforming” (i.e. getting rid of) Social Security. They want to reduce the number of police, fireman, and teachers, thus risking our health and safety while at the same time limiting our children’s opportunity. They attack and try to defund any social program (like Planned Parenthood) that actually helps people. They have calculatedly and deliberately hijacked any attempt to properly fund government just to prove that it doesn’t work so they can choke it to death and hand all responsibility over to the corporations that they clearly favor over real-life people

Does this sound like a party that seeks and works in harmony toward the healthy growth and common welfare of the community-at-large? Or does it come off as a dysfunctional, dissonant, and destructive faction that places its party and money before its country and people?

Morality – the essence and practice of cooperation, empathy, fairness, and reciprocity – was long thought to be a solely human attribute. And since it contains a democratic as well as an ethical aspect, it is one of the cornerstones on which America was founded. But these days, even the most basic moral standards are sadly more evident in animals than in the Republican Party and its minions. To the frightening extent that if Mitt Romney and the GOP slate sweep the November elections, the rest of us will be better off living on the planet of the apes.

Related Posts:
Occupy Reality
Giving. . . And Taking Back
A Tale Of Two Grovers
A Last Pitch For Truth
America: Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.

Jun 2012 18

by Steven Whitney

On the June 8th edition of Real Time, Bill Maher took the Occupy movement to task. His was more of a pep talk than a scolding, but his message resounds clearly: If Occupy doesn’t start making a difference, and soon, it will become just another left-wing full-of-hope-fad that failed. And we Baby Boomers know all about revolutions and/or protests gone awry.

Ours was the love and peace generation –– Woodstock Nation, populated by flower children, hippies, and even Yippies (an outrageously theatrical political movement) –– who believed that to end the war in Vietnam “all you need is love.” We marched, occupied parks –– the term “flower children” originated in a Berkeley park that Governor Ronald Reagan wanted razed –– disrupted political conventions, got arrested (more than 13,000 in the D.C. May Day Protests of 1971 alone), performed street (guerilla) theatre, slid daisies down the barrels of rifles, sang, chanted, burned incense and candles, wore ankh necklaces, and visualized the end of war. Men burned draft cards and women burned bras. Protesters and students at Kent State and elsewhere were shot and killed. We raised awareness, got everyone’s attention –– “the whole world is watching” –– and it didn’t make a damn bit of difference. Well, we got better hair, better concerts, healthier (organic) food, and wider sexual freedom –– all good things. But the war ended only when the last American helicopter was chased out of Saigon by NVA troops –– no peace, no honor, just defeat. . . and more than 58,000 young American men and women KIA. The system stayed in place and Nixon started the slow erosion of confidence in our government.

It was the era that began the culture war that split America apart and still rages today. . . and it was the revolution that ultimately failed. It didn’t end any wars and it didn’t change America for the better. Indeed, we made it worse –– because we remained defiantly outside the mainstream, a nation that would have elected Robert Kennedy President in 1968 wound up with Nixon and Watergate, Ford, Reagan and Iran/Contra, the two Bushes (George the Elder and George the Stupid) and their Iraq fiascos, and a nation filled with crass capitalists who bought the system and kept it rigged. Down with Che and up with Gordon Gecko.

Obviously, raising consciousness or awareness wasn’t enough. Neither was singing, marching, dressing up in costumes, or any of the other creative means we utilized to spread the word. We had the right message, but –– to our everlasting shame –– we didn’t deliver it properly.

Many blamed drugs for short-circuiting our feel-good revolution. But even without drugs, the ‘60s revolution was doomed because we didn’t focus on reality, on how things work in the real world. All the peaceful protest in the world did not end the Vietnam debacle because Nixon and a Republican congress, backed by corporate war-profiteers, were in power. If we had not opted out, if we had concentrated on supporting Democrats –– from President on down –– in 1968, the war would have ended, Watergate would not have happened, and Republicans would not have had a nearly unbroken 28 years in power. Instead, our demonstrations and the resulting police riots at Chicago’s Democratic Convention that year scared the shit out of ordinary Americans –– the swing voters each party needs to win –– and they literally ran the other way.

Now we have a President who actually wants to end our extreme economic inequity. But we have a Republican party that blocks every effort in that direction.

At the same time, we have a huge and growing movement called Occupy that also wants to end our financial double standard. But Occupy is doggedly apolitical –– it doesn’t want to get involved. Occupy decries political parties and refuses to endorse candidates while encouraging its loosely-knit membership not to participate in the existing political system. It doesn’t want to change the system, it wants to replace it entirely. . . all the while remaining on the outside looking in.

It’s an understandable position – the Hippies and Yippies actually held much the same view. But it’s unrealistic and totally counter-productive to Occupy’s own goals. As we Boomers tragically discovered, it’s like sitting on the curb and watching Republicans march the American parade off the cliff.

It’s vital that Occupy not repeat our failures, and perhaps the best way is to learn from our mistakes. Like the unsuccessful Yippies, Occupy intentionally has no party affiliation, hierarchy or leadership. That’s certainly democratic, but who makes decisions and who speaks for you? Democracies need leaders –– hell, every revolution, every system of government needs leaders. Otherwise who inspires? Who mobilizes the millions of willing volunteers at your disposal?

Most importantly, you can get involved from both the outside and the inside – one doesn’t preclude the other. Just figure out the most effective strategies to get what you want. What’s at the top of your wish list? What are your top five positions? You must make it crystal clear for both yourselves and others what policies and positions you stand for. How do you propose changing a system that’s fixed from the top down? And how do you communicate that to swing voters?

Occupy should be the important political movement that America needs, but right now its policy of non-engagement is sadly evident. Just look at Wisconsin: Scott Walker –– a politician for and backed by the 1% if ever there was one –– won by a larger percentage of voters last week than he did before Occupy was born. What’s wrong with that equation?

What’s glaringly wrong is that Occupy wants to change things, but apparently doesn’t want to dirty its hands by participating in the albeit imperfect process currently in place, one that can nevertheless affect change. The $11 million that the Koch brothers donated to Walker might have been counteracted by the occupiers in the state had they mobilized fully, but instead Occupy by and large stood by and allowed money from the 1% decide the election. And Wisconsin is only a preview of coming attractions if Occupy remains on the political sidelines.

There is much moral clarity in the ideals Occupy cherishes. But only cowards shy away from their moral responsibility. More than two centuries ago, Irish philosopher Edmund Burke wrote: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” It’s still true today. . . and the deliberate non-engagement of Occupy in party politics, is a de facto example of doing nothing.

So roll up your sleeves, Occupy – mobilize and swarm the neighborhoods of all 50 states. You need to make people understand the real issues at stake –– and that voting for what you view as the lesser of two evils is still better than not voting at all (and worse, aiding and abetting the GOP by default). You have to convince everyone in the 99% not only to vote but to vote in their own interests. If you want a better and fairer America, the first and most pragmatic step is to keep Obama in office and get rid of Congressional Republicans who are blocking his progressive agenda. You must figure out how to threaten Republican power bases in a meaningful way or nothing will change for the better.

The lasting effect of Occupy will not be how many “likes” their various pages receive on Facebook, or how many re-tweets their accounts get on Twitter, or how many livestream views their citizen broadcasters rack up, or how many people occupy a park, a square, or even the Washington Mall. Occupy can only be judged on how it changes the face of a country in the midst of the greatest political crisis in its history. In the end, Occupy’s worth will be valued by how much it gets involved and directly affects what could be the most important election of our lives this November.

Up to now Occupy has been sitting on the sidelines preaching to the choir. But now it’s time to exit your tents, stop banging drums in circles, and get your political act together. Run from the dugout onto the playing field and exert your grass-roots power to pressure the only system we have into working for all of us.

The Boomers who largely failed are rooting for you to succeed. We want you to restore a true democracy. But if you don’t get involved –– and Republicans win by default –– then you can kiss your aspirations goodbye. Possibly forever.

There’s a lot of heat on Occupy right now. . . and there should be. You’ve got to prove to skeptics that you’ve got the goods to help build a better and fairer America.

It’s time to deliver.


Jun 2012 12

by Michael D. Meloan (a.k.a. TheMountebank)

Mitt Romney wants to build a new fleet of battleships to ensure that the US remains world’s undisputed superpower. And he believes that trickle-down economics is the cure for our economic woes. Both represent a doubling-down on failed strategies from the past. The projection of military might into Afghanistan and Iraq has sacrificed our soldiers, depleted our national treasure, and done little to ensure security. US defense spending, at $700 billion, is bigger than the next 17 countries combined. And unregulated American capitalism brought the world economy nearly to its knees, and has destroyed the middle class. Yet conservatives maintain that more of the same is the answer.

Both parties have been compromised and infiltrated by corporate interests via relentless pressure from lobbyists. This has led to a sense of resignation in some camps. Many voters on the left feel betrayed because they believe Barack Obama has not been progressive enough.

I share some of those frustrations. But I also believe that Obama has a deep understanding of the political chess match. It’s a long game, he’s looking many moves ahead. He has a pragmatic sense of governing a country that is profoundly fractious.

The upcoming election marks a pivotal moment in American history. The divide between rich and poor has reached critical levels. This issue is not just about fairness. It cuts to the heart of one of America’s traditional strengths — social mobility. Now, more than in other developed nations, the economic circumstances of our parents will tend to dictate our future prospects.

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project found that 42% of men in the US from the bottom fifth of incomes, stay there as adults. This American disadvantage is much higher than in Denmark and Sweden (25%), and traditionally class-conscious Britain at 30%.

Conversely, about 62% of Americans from the top fifth bracket, will remain within the top two-fifths.

The inadequate American safety net creates more vulnerability for children than in other wealthy countries. Also, the upward spiral of educational costs is a limiting factor for mobility. In addition, the decline of unions in the US has been driving wages down in comparison with Europe.

Even Republican Representative Paul Ryan has written that “mobility from the very bottom up is where the United States lags behind.”

But the conservative answer for all of these negative trends is to stay the course and let the free market work its magic, instead of looking at the attributes creating greater mobility in other countries — strong unions, a robust safety net, access to higher education, and a regulated business environment.

The conservative spin machine has adroitly injected patriotic, religious, and individualistic sound bites into the pop culture allowing conservative politicians to leverage these American values toward a brand of hyper-capitalism that is unparalleled in the world. It serves corporations and shareholders before our citizens. The destruction of the middle class has been the result. If Mitt Romney is elected, we will make another major leap in this direction, and it will have profound human costs.

We need a Democrat in the Whitehouse. We need Barack Obama. In the next few months, work phone banks, walk precincts, talk with friends.

Only 57% of voting age Americans participated in the last presidential election. Many new voters can be mobilized. It will take a grassroots effort. This is the time. Your involvement is key. The ballot box is powerful, and it belongs to us!


Michael D. Meloan’s fiction has appeared in WIRED, BUZZ, Larry Flynt’s Chic, LA Weekly, SuicideGirls, on Joe Frank’s NPR program, and in a number of anthologies. He is coauthor of the novel The Shroud, and also a Huffington Post blogger. In addition, he was an interview subject in the documentary Bukowski: Born into This. Follow him on Twitter @michaelmeloan.


Jun 2012 06

by Steven Whitney

[Above: The Hall of Mirrors within the Palace of Versailles / Storming the Bastille]

Last week, a friend asked: if you could communicate one thing before you died, what would it be? So, hedging my bets, this is that column. Since I’m not a fan of polemics, consider this merely as the first item, as it were, on my bucket list of social truths.

They aren’t going to give it back.

Memorize that one clear, simple sentence and you’ll be miles ahead of the game.

They aren’t going to give it back.

But who are they…and what aren’t they giving back?

They are the idle rich and the rich who create nothing, not even jobs. They are the so-called “masters of the universe” who gamble other people’s money and win no matter how the bet turns out. They are the rich who live in five or six McMansions each (and perhaps a yacht or two) and who aren’t “concerned about the very poor” because they have “a safety net.” They are the rich who rally against education because they don’t want a level playing field or an electorate who can actually think for themselves and understand the clear issues they too often succeed in obfuscating. They are the rich who are not their brother’s keeper so will not support the “general welfare” of their fellow citizens. They are the rich who don’t support universal healthcare because the sick don’t make them any money, especially if they cannot afford expensive drugs that might keep them alive – worse yet, the sick are too ill to work for them at minimum wage. They are the rich, self-described “patriots” who steadfastly refuse to pay even one extra penny to keep the country afloat. They are the rich who want to shut down government in favor a free-market economy, which to them means a market free of all regulation and oversight. They are the rich who prey on the rest of us, the rich who are not “of the people” or “for the people,” but are instead barnacles on the hull of humanity, sucking it dry of all common morality – the parasites who make no positive contributions to society as a whole.

They are not the good rich, of which there are many, but the bad rich, the ugly face of the rich…and they aren’t going to give back their money, their power, their influence, or their privilege to anyone, much less the little people of the 99%. They will let the principles of democracy rot and wither so they can keep the deck stacked in their favor.

They are not going to give any of it away. Well, at least not to you…or our country. As long as it’s tax-deductible, they might give it to non-profit conservative think tanks or right wing SuperPACs that reinforce the criminally inaccurate notion that the bad rich need to keep all their money and car elevators for the greater good of society.

So we have to take it back ourselves. If America as we know it is to survive – if our people are to live free of economic shackles – we must find a way to recover from them everything that is undeserved, stolen, and inequitable.

That means instituting larger top marginal income and estate tax rates, the very instruments that Republicans call “a holocaust for the rich” and which they warn is the first step in “class warfare,” two phrases born of alarmist horseshit.

The last time these rates were as low as they are now, the government essentially went broke…ushering in the Great Depression. To get the country rolling again, and give its people a New Deal, FDR raised the top rate to as much as 79%. During the 1950s, Eisenhower was able to maintain what became known as the American Century only by raising the top rate to 91%. Nixon, the absolute pragmatist, kept a top rate of 70% and Reagan’s was 50%. And during all those years, the rich suffered not at all, not even a trickle of a holocaust. Class warfare wasn’t even a topic of discussion because, through both the Civil Rights Movement and the idea of a Great Society, America was striving to become “one nation, for all.”

Back then, the rich were composed of people who created good products, jobs, and services that grew in value. And yes, the rich were still different from us, but not that different. Most had houses and cars and took vacations that were a little better than ours, yet they shared with us many of the same values of fairness, of the need for good education and healthcare, and the desire to live in a country that held real opportunity for all. And since it was considered in bad taste to flaunt wealth, the showy, ostentatious McMansions were the exception rather than the rule. There was a more equitable balance between the classes and, so, more cooperation.

Today, that balance is pitiably out of whack.

When the then higher rate of income tax at the time is figured in, CEOs netted just 35% more than the average worker during the 1950s and ’60s. In 2012, CEO salaries were between 380 and 475 times what the average worker makes…and with much lower income, estate, and capital gains taxes. These outrageous gains were bought and paid for by the 1% through the congressional votes of the Republican Party, driving a stake through the heart of the middle class.

Now tell me again: who exactly is engaging in class warfare?

And, by the way, if the 1% wants class warfare, the 99% should oblige them. After all, the numbers are on our side – 99 to 1, to state the obvious.

We already have way too many Marie Antoinettes; what we don’t have is our own Reign of Terror. And since they view higher taxes (Obama’s proposed top rate of 39.6% compared to 91% in the 50s) as a holocaust and the essence of class warfare (as they define it), let’s give it to them…and more. By voting to cut their pay, and impose higher taxes (say, up to Nixon’s 70%), more wealth will accrue to the nation and more equity to society.

This summer and fall millions of Americans must storm the Bastille of right-wing ideology, exposing its shallow self-interest, empty promises, bait-and-switch economic policies, and complete lack of real patriotism.

And then, in November, the guillotine of the ballot box should drop on the arrogance and sense of entitlement of the 1%. But that’s up to you…and only if you remember: they aren’t going to give it back.


May 2012 30

by Steven Whitney

[Good Cop, Bad Cop: The Two Grovers]

One is the best of Americans; one is the worst of Americans; one reflects true wisdom, the other muddles in foolish avarice disguised as wisdom; one affirms our belief in freedom and dignity, the other binds us in economic chains; one brings forth Light, the other carries Darkness; one promises a spring of hope, the other a long winter of despair – in short, the two figures are so like the 99% and 1% they represent that some pundits noisily insist that they are superlative comparisons for Good and Evil.

We are talking, of course, about the two Grovers, worlds apart in both action and outlook yet both of them pivotally influential figures of American life over the last three decades.

The first was born in 1967, in the Sesame Street maternity ward in New York City, the love child of Jim Henson and Frank Oz (not a gay couple). Through the years, Muppet Grover evolved and grew, from green to blue and from dark monster to “cute furry little monster” to superhero and friend to all. As the Sesame Street website declares: “No other resident of Sesame Street can lay claim to being (or at least trying to be) more helpful than Grover.”

The other, Grover Norquist, was born in 1956 in Sharon, Pennsylvania, but grew up in Weston, Massachusetts. In 1968, when he was just 13, he volunteered to help “get out the vote” for Richard (“I Am Not a Crook”) Nixon. While earning a B.A. and M.B.A, he was Executive Director of the national College Republicans and part of the team that published the libertarian-leaning Harvard Chronicle. During that time, he was hit with a revelation that would define the rest of his life. “When I became 21, I decided that nobody learned anything about politics after the age of 21.”

It’s funny how things turn out. Monsters are, by definition, entities you cannot reason with – try reasoning with Jason, Jigsaw, Freddie Krueger, Leatherface, or even the shark from Jaws. Muppet Grover was born a monster, grew and opened himself to new ideas and became compassionately human. The other Grover, now a 55 year old man trapped within a 21 year old’s world view, was born human and, by his own admission, steadfastly refused to grow or consider ideas outside his own cloistered sphere…and became the kind of monster who would destroy his own country rather than change his mind.

After college, Mr. Norquist headed up the National Taxpayers Union, did a stint in the Reagan White House where he supported Oliver North’s illegal black op that became the Iran/Contra scandal, was named to the Boards of both the NRA and the Conservative Union, co-authored the Contract With America with Newt Gingrich, raised early support for “W” and was instrumental in crafting the Bush Tax Cuts that added approximately two trillion dollars to our deficit (not counting the lack of job creation attributed to those cuts).

During that time, Norquist’s organization served as a conduit for funds that flowed from convicted felon Jack Abramoff’s clients to covertly financed anti-tax lobbyists.

Bringing us to the source of Mr. Norquist’s power – the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a non-profit he founded in 1985, for which he has served as Executive Director since its inception. His foundation has just one issue: the opposition of all tax increases. That means income, corporate, sales – all taxes. Mr. Norquist even describes the Estate Tax as “a Holocaust for the Rich.”

The central tool of Norquist’s ATR is the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which binds state and national candidates and members of Congress to oppose any and all tax increases. Both the pledge and its signers can be found here. Mr. Norquist boasts that more than 95% of current House and Senate Republicans have signed his pledge.

Every nation’s power comes from its right to tax its citizens to the extent necessary to efficiently run its government. If that becomes impossible, both government and the “general welfare” of its people crumble in ruins. And Mr. Norquist’s pledge does just that, creating gridlock, extreme partisanship, and a government that can’t get anything done.

But Mr. Norquist’s intention is clear: “Our goal is to shrink government down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” Which gave rise to a unique neo-conservative wish list for our government – “…to starve it, shrink it, and choke it to death.”

In collusion, they want to prove that government does not work, so they obstruct (through filibusters) and impede (via lawsuits) the legislative process while reducing available funds (through the Pledge) to cut our government back to the point where it actually doesn’t work.

Apply that same strategy to, say, NFL football. You want to prove it doesn’t work, so you buy a team of 45 players (the standard season roster). First, to reduce payroll, you cut the roster to 25 – 11 on offensive, 11 on defensive, and 1 kicker. Then after a few close but losing games, you cut costs even more. After all, you really only need 12 players – 11 playing both offense and defense and a kicker. But then injuries occur and you’re soon down to 6 players who lose every game by 80 or 90 points. You sit way up high in your luxury box with your cognac, cigars, and 1% business cronies, smile, and say: “You see, football doesn’t work.”

To work, damn near everything in this world needs to be funded. Perhaps government most of all. Even some moderate Republicans who aren’t totally batshit crazy understand the insanity of the new GOP. Former Republican Senator Alan Simpson remarked: “You have Grover Norquist…saying that if you raise taxes one penny, he’ll defeat you. And if that means more to you than your country when we need patriots to come out in a situation when we’re in extremity, you shouldn’t even be in Congress.”

Which raises the question of why a pledge to Norquist should supersede any elected official’s oath of office and allegiance to his country.

But no one in power asks…although the result is obvious to anyone with clear vision: Norquist and his pledge are already choking the American government and its people to death.

Norquist certainly didn’t acquire this strategy from his mentorsReagan raised taxes 11 times and Nixon raised the rate on capital gains from 25 to 35%. Indeed, except for “W” – and we know he was an idiot – every Republican President since 1928 has raised taxes – Hoover raised the top rate from 24 to 63% to combat the Great Depression, Eisenhower raised it to 90%, and Ford upped the tax rate for the wealthy and focused on closing loopholes. Why? Because it was necessary to run the government for the good of our country!

Some have understandably accused Norquist of being a traitor. But by law, treason must involve a foreign entity. Still, Mr. Norquist may very well be guilty of sedition, which is “any overt conduct, such as speech and organization that…tends toward insurrection against the established order.” Considered a subversive act, sedition can also involve rebellion against a constitution and incitement of discontent. And, it should be noted, revolt from the inside is always more insidious to a democracy than any threats from outside our borders.

Is Mr. Norquist guilty of sedition? We’ll never know, because his Republican protectors will never allow him (or themselves) to be so charged.

Instead, we can only compare our two Grovers – Muppet Grover and Grover the puppet-master of the extreme right-wing.

As a performance artist, everything Muppet Grover does is public and full disclosure; the other Grover discloses only what the law requires – we know neither his financial backers nor his own net worth.

Muppet Grover is of, to, and for humanity (and avidly supports Occupy – see the photo above); the other Grover speaks of, to, and for the 1% and economic enslavement.

Muppet Grover encourages us all to be fair; the other Grover stokes the fires of greed and selfishness.

Muppet Grover is sometimes afraid of the dark and has trouble sleeping; the other Grover has no trouble sleeping even as he attempts to rob the 99% of their constitutional birthright of a level playing field.

Muppet Grover shines the light of possibility on our childrens’ dreams while the other Grover crushes their opportunities by slashing funds to education, welfare, and healthcare.

One is every child’s best friend; the other you don’t want anywhere near your children.

Muppet Grover is a joyful creation; the other Grover would be a ridiculous cartoon figure if he weren’t so hell bent on killing the American government.

I’ll let each of you decide which Grover to embrace. But be warned – if you choose the wrong one, you’re not only part of the problem, you may just be an enemy of the state.