Banned from the building

A number of us who were arrested on May 30 were in court for the hearing on Wednesday.

 

I have been banned from the building where North Carolina legislators work.

I am told I have no right to address my legislators, even though the North Carolina Constitution guarantees me that right.

I am told I can’t go back until the second-degree, misdemeanor trespass charge against me has been resolved.

But the last time I was arrested for the same charge, I was never tried. The charges just sat there, unaddressed by the court, for two years before they were finally dismissed for failure to prosecute.

This is what they want to do: Keep those of us who disagree with the radical and cruel turn our state has taken in the last six years out of their way and silent.

I was arrested on May 30 for trying to go into the (public) office of NC Senate leader Phil Berger. Two guards blocked the door and told me it was private property. It is not. They told me I have no right to go in and wait to speak to him. I did and I do. They shushed me. If you know me, you know I will not be shushed.

Were we disruptive? After we were denied access, we did begin to chant, sing and pray. We were there to talk about health care, not to be disruptive and certainly not to be arrested, although we knew that was a distinct possibility.

What I really wanted was the chance to speak to Sen. Berger. I have tried again and again, but he refuses to see me. Instead he has had me arrested twice (then-Speaker, now US Senator, Thom Tillis had me arrested the first time).

My release form tells me I am to stay out of the General Assembly Building “until authorized to return.” It says nothing about who will authorize or when. In essence, it bans me for life, along with the 31 others who were arrested with me.

We challenged that order in court. Our hearing was Wednesday and I was appalled at the behavior of the judge who heard the case. He repeatedly interrupted our attorney with disrespectful comments and inane questions, once comparing the order to an order to keep disruptive people off the property of a Sheetz gas station.

Our attorney, Geeta Kapur, had to remind him that people have no constitutional right to speak to the employees of a gas station, but we do have the express right to address our legislators at the place where we pay them to be — in the building we paid to build and continue to pay to maintain.

After repeated interruptions as our attorney tried to explain our argument, she finally said, “Your honor, if you would stop interrupting me, I would be happy to answer the question.”

It was obvious he agreed with the order, which could have come from the General Assembly Police or the legislative leadership — neither of whom want to be bothered with anyone critical of their radical policies. It was also obvious the judge had no respect for us or our attorney. He was very much up front about that, and very obviously not impartial.

He amended the order to say we have to stay out until charges are dealt with, but that could mean two years if they do the same thing they did in 2015. Some of us can go into the building if we are invited for a specific meeting with a specific legislator. But those of us who have previous second-degree trespass arrests can’t — even though my previous two charges were dismissed. That means I continue to be punished for a crime for which I was not found guilty.

We are not willing to go quietly, though, and Rev. William Barber has promised we will appeal. In 2013, the order to keep out of the building was overturned quickly, and I imagine this one will be overturned on appeal.

The thing is, all of you should worry about this. It is not just an order to silence 31 people. If  it stands, this is an infringement on our rights as citizens, on our rights to assemble and speak freely, on our right to instruct our lawmakers. The radicals in that building want to silence us and to do their work in secret.

The US Supreme Court has found their voting restrictions illegal. The US Supreme Court has found their gerrymandered districts illegal. Both decisions were unanimous.

In other words, these people who are dismantling our social safety net, our education system and our voting rights are not in that building legally. Their very election was illegal.

When their candidate lost the governor’s office, they robbed the governor of many of his powers, including his power to appoint his own cabinet. They robbed the attorney general of his power to sue them over their illegal activities.

This is a coup and we the people are the only ones who can stop it. There are 32 of us who are not free to address our legislators where they do their work. We need others to go in and speak for us. We can’t let them silence us.

 

Negotiating our care in a broken system

Mission Health System, the largest hospital and the largest employer here in the Asheville region, has announced it may leave the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina network in October.

That has a lot of people in a panic, since Mission is our only option here and BCBS is pretty much the only insurer in the state — three-quarters of all people with health insurance here have it through them.

Leaving the network would mean closing the hospital. It couldn’t survive because it wouldn’t be able to collect the money it’s owed by patients whose insurance only covers half the cost of their bills.

On the other hand, this dramatic announcement allows Mission to tell the public how desperate things are becoming here.

Here’s why: Our state’s legislature has rejected the billions in federal dollars to expand Medicaid.

Before the Affordable Care Act, the federal government reimbursed hospitals and clinics for the money they spent caring for people who couldn’t pay. The ACA’s provision for expanding Medicaid was meant to replace this money, but the Supreme Court ruled that Medicaid expansion couldn’t be mandatory, so mostly Republican states, mostly in the South, decided to shoot themselves in the foot and not expand.

Now, we’re still paying our full share into the Medicaid expansion pot, but not a penny of that money is coming back into North Carolina. Instead, it’s going to states like Arizona that have expanded Medicaid, and North Carolina’s hospitals are losing billions of dollars a year.

What’s worse is that about five people in this state die every single day — up to 2,000 a year — from lack of access to care.

Instead of lobbying the legislature to expand Medicaid, BCBS is insisting this is not its problem, and Mission is left to try and survive by cutting services.

Already, several small hospitals in the state have either closed or been bought up by larger hospital systems like Mission that can weather the storm longer than they can.

But this can’t continue. Eventually, even the wealthiest people here won’t have access to services because they won’t be available.

I know this tactic of brinksmanship. I saw it as a reporter. I would get press releases from the hospital claiming the insurance company wanted to reduce rates to the point where the hospital wouldn’t be able to survive. On the other hand, I got press releases from the insurance companies saying the hospital was guilty of gross inefficiency.

Once the contracts were signed, usually within days of the deadline, everyone was buddy-buddy again.

One year, the CEO of BCBS came to Asheville for a Chamber of Commerce event and praised Mission as one of the most efficient hospitals in the nation. This was just four months after a press release with the same CEO saying Mission was one of the worst.

So, with press release in hand, I approached him after his speech and asked if he had any thoughts on Mission’s dramatic turnaround in just four months.

He had no comment.

This is a game — a dangerous game with human beings as pawns, but a game nevertheless.

The hospital needs higher reimbursements to cover the losses from the state legislature’s recalcitrant position. The insurance company can’t keep paying more without some serious rate hikes.

Everyone involved here is guilty of greed or of trying to make a political point at the expense of human life.

It is all deeply, deeply immoral, but I think people need to understand who’s at fault here and what could happen.

The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, but it’s better than what we had before. The rate of people with insurance are at an historic high in the country right now. If all the states expanded Medicaid, insured rates would be over 90 percent.

In states that have expanded Medicaid, insurance rates are rising far more slowly and health care expenses are leveling off. In states like this one, health care costs continue to spiral out of control and people continue to die.

So, who’s pro-life now?

 

The drama of negotiations

Mission Health System, the largest hospital and the largest employer here in the Asheville region, has announced it may leave the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina network in October.

That has a lot of people in a panic, since Mission is our only option here and BCBS is pretty much the only insurer in the state — three-quarters of all people with health insurance here have it through them.

Leaving the network would mean closing the hospital. It couldn’t survive because it wouldn’t be able to collect the money it’s owed by patients whose insurance only covers half the cost of their bills.

On the other hand, this dramatic announcement allows Mission to tell the public how desperate things are becoming here.

Here’s why: Our state’s legislature has rejected the billions in federal dollars to expand Medicaid.

Before the Affordable Care Act, the federal government reimbursed hospitals and clinics for the money they spent caring for people who couldn’t pay. The ACA’s provision for expanding Medicaid was meant to replace this money, but the Supreme Court ruled that Medicaid expansion couldn’t be mandatory, so mostly Republican states, mostly in the South, decided to shoot themselves in the foot and not expand.

Now, we’re still paying our full share into the Medicaid expansion pot, but not a penny of that money is coming back into North Carolina. Instead, it’s going to states like Arizona that have expanded Medicaid, and North Carolina’s hospitals are losing billions of dollars a year.

What’s worse is that about five people in this state die every single day — up to 2,000 a year — from lack of access to care.

Instead of lobbying the legislature to expand Medicaid, BCBS is insisting this is not its problem, and Mission is left to try and survive by cutting services.

Already, several small hospitals in the state have either closed or been bought up by larger hospital systems like Mission that can weather the storm longer than they can.

But this can’t continue. Eventually, even the wealthiest people here won’t have access to services because they won’t be available.

I know this tactic of brinksmanship. I saw it as a reporter. I would get press releases from the hospital claiming the insurance company wanted to reduce rates to the point where the hospital wouldn’t be able to survive. On the other hand, I got press releases from the insurance companies saying the hospital was guilty of gross inefficiency.

Once the contracts were signed, usually within days of the deadline, everyone was buddy-buddy again.

One year, the CEO of BCBS came to Asheville for a Chamber of Commerce event and praised Mission as one of the most efficient hospitals in the nation. This was just four months after a press release with the same CEO saying Mission was one of the worst.

So, with press release in hand, I approached him after his speech and asked if he had any thoughts on Mission’s dramatic turnaround in just four months.

He had no comment.

This is a game — a dangerous game with human beings as pawns, but a game nevertheless.

The hospital needs higher reimbursements to cover the losses from the state legislature’s recalcitrant position. The insurance company can’t keep paying more without some serious rate hikes.

Everyone involved here is guilty of greed or of trying to make a political point at the expense of human life.

It is all deeply, deeply immoral, but I think people need to understand who’s at fault here and what could happen.

The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, but it’s better than what we had before. The rate of people with insurance are at an historic high in the country right now. If all the states expanded Medicaid, insured rates would be over 90 percent.

In states that have expanded Medicaid, insurance rates are rising far more slowly and health care expenses are leveling off. In states like this one, health care costs continue to spiral out of control and people continue to die.

So, who’s pro-life now?

 

No sympathy here

I feel no sympathy for Mika Brzezenski.

There, I said it.

Mika and her partner in crime and fiance, Joe Scarborough, spent the entire presidential campaign sucking up to the Republican candidate. They had him on their show for what amounted to hours of free, unchallenged air time.

They are part of the reason the election was close enough for the Republicans to steal.

Instead of denouncing his mean-spiritedness and misogyny throughout the campaign (and it is there and highly evident throughout this awful creature’s career), they allowed him a pass, just as most of the rest of American corporate media did.

They allowed him to lie without demanding the truth be told. They allowed him to spew racism and sexism and never confronted him about it.

He was entertaining, they thought. He made people laugh. I mean, what were the chances he would actually win the White House? Why not have a little fun instead of being so serious all the time? What harm could it do, right?

Well, here’s the harm that happens when we don’t take elections or public policy seriously.

Mika loses her self respect and 22 million Americans stand to lose their health care. The Orange One and his cronies are trying to stage an unprecedented attack on voter rights. Thank God many of the states are resisting.

Every single cabinet position — except for those having to do with the military — is occupied by someone who wants to dismantle his or her department. Every damn one. Education, Energy, Interior … They have stolen a Supreme Court seat and filled it with a right-wing ideologue, affecting public policy for a generation or more. They are trashing treaties and other agreements, showing utter disrespect for other world leaders and otherwise acting like a bunch of sugar-addicted toddlers loosed, unsupervised, into a candy store.

But poor Mika had to read a sexist tweet directed at her.

How about the sexist policies we all have to live with — defunding of women’s health clinics, withdrawal of access to birth control, unequal pay and unequal treatment in the workplace and in public policy, decisions about my health care being made by old white men who hate me because I demand equality — shouldn’t we also add that into the mix?

Mika is not solely responsible for the Orangini Tweeter, but she bears some of the blame. She could have challenged his lies or not allowed him air time if he insisted on lying. She wouldn’t have allowed Hillary or any other Democrat to get away with that kind of behavior.

It’s time the media started ignoring this giant asshole’s tweets. Just don’t report on them. Pretend they don’t exist. They are not newsworthy when compared to the damage he is trying to do to our nation.

Let’s pay attention to the abhorrent attempts to shred what’s left of our social safety net.

Let’s heed the warnings of climate scientists.

Let’s pay attention to the massive increase in our military budget as we march, inexorably toward all-out war.

Let’s call bullshit on his election commission’s attempt to collect our personal information so they can purge Democrats from the rolls.

Let’s wake up and stop looking at what my late son called “sparkly issues.” We must pay attention to what’s happening to our nation. It may be too late to save it already.

 

We haven’t won yet

Photo by the Washington Post.
The Senate will try again to take away our health care. Stay focused.

Our radical legislators are not done trying to take away our access to health care.

The Senate version of Trumpcare would leave much of the structure of the Affordable Care Act in place, but it would remove all the protections and many of the subsidies.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates some 22 million people would lose coverage, and with it, their access to health care.

It gets worse. The bill would effectively dismantle Medicaid, much of which would happen after the 10-year time limit of the CBO’s assessment, so it isn’t obvious.

I don’t know how to teach these people that human life should matter more than making a political point.

I don’t know how to get it through to them that no human being deserves to die the way my son did, and that to be pro-life, one has to support life after it exits the birth canal.

I’ve been away visiting family for the last two weeks, and unable to get to the protests and other actions surrounding this issue. I needed the break because I’m so exhausted from trying to get through to these people and being blown off, arrested and/or ridiculed as some kind of fringe maniac.

That’s part of how they convince people to vote against their own best interests — they vilify opponents. They don’t treat anyone who disagrees with them with any respect, as though anyone would be crazy to disagree with them.

The occupant of the White House screams that all the media are corrupt and calls anything other than what he wants you to hear “fake news.”

They tell us that we should fear Muslims, even though we are immensely more likely to be killed by a white man with a legal gun.

They tell us they shouldn’t have to pay their fair share of taxes and that we the people don’t deserve to make enough to live on, that anyone who wants anything from government is a “taker.”

When I tell these right-wing radicals how my son died, their first question isn’t, “How can something like this happen in 21st century America?” but “Was he working?”

What kind of a question is that? Was he working?

Since when did unemployment become punishable by death?

And while we’re on the subject of the death penalty, I’m heartsick over the release of police officers who killed three black people. On video. For no reason other than, “I was scared.”

Sorry, buddy, you’re the cop. You’re the one with the training. You just pulled him over for a minor violation. You need to remember that a minor violation is in no way punishable by death under our penal code, and you are the one given the responsibility for upholding those penal codes.

But we’re distracted when we’re told that the kid might just have stolen some cigars, or there was the smell of marijuana in his car. Oh, so the cop was just defending himself against, what? A petty thief? A minor drug offender?

It’s what they’re trying to do with health care: Convince us that poor people can just get a job to get health insurance. But when 22 million of us face the loss of access to care, we begin to have enough numbers to call them on their bullshit.

Then we hear the dangerous stories like that of my son, an honest, hardworking, decent, smart, funny man, who died because a birth defect was a pre-existing condition and he could be denied insurance coverage because of that.

We hear about the young woman sent home after an auto accident, not admitted because, even though she had a head injury and should have been admitted for observation, she had no insurance. She died in the night.

We hear about the woman with Type 2 diabetes who can’t afford her glucose testing supplies because she doesn’t have insurance. Her blood glucose goes out of control, and even though she’s trying to manage with diet and exercise, she has no idea whether it’s working. One day while at work, she collapses. She’s had a devastating stroke and now lives, completely disabled, in a nursing home, where Medicaid pays about $180,000 a year for her care. Her grandchildren will never know the woman she was.

When you throw 22 million people off of health care, when you attack a program that pays the nursing home bills for little old ladies with disabilities, when the infant mortality rate climbs high enough, people start to notice.

They will be back with this bill. They will not give up.

We have to be vigilant.

We have to look away from the sparkly wee-hours-from-the-bathroom tweet from #45 and remember that they’re coming for our health care.

They’re coming for our health care.

 

 

My letter to my senator on the ACHA

Me and Mike on his wedding day. Damn, I miss him.

 

I faxed this letter to Sen. Thom Tillis yesterday. Perhaps, if he reads it, he might understand that real people, innocent people, die when they can’t gain access to health care. I sent a similar letter to Richard Burr. Please, please, call, fax, e-mail or visit the offices of your senators.

Senator Tillis,

I think you probably know who I am. I am the mother of a young man who died because he lacked access to health care. You had me arrested for trying to speak to you when you were Speaker of the House in North Carolina about the importance of access to health care. You were one of the leaders in the fight to withhold Medicaid from a half million people in this state, sentencing some 2,000 of them to death every year.

The ACA would have saved my son’s life because it forces insurance companies to not punish people who have pre-existing conditions.

My son had a birth defect. Like many young people, he decided to take a year off college when he was 19. Little did we know this common decision would be a fatal one for him. He was booted off my policy and then discovered he couldn’t buy insurance at any price because a birth defect is a pre-existing condition – as though he had decided as a zygote to have a birth defect.

This birth defect left him extremely vulnerable to an aggressive form of colon cancer, and he needed a colonoscopy every year. When he lived in New York, he had a doctor who would allow him to pay for his colonoscopies in monthly installments. By age 25, he had already had pre-cancerous polyps removed, so he had a near certainty of developing cancer if he couldn’t get his annual colonoscopies. But when he moved so he and his wife could go back to college, he discovered he could not get a colonoscopy unless he paid $2,300 in cash up front. No credit cards, no checks, no installments, nothing.

When he got sick he went to the ER three times and came away with three wrong diagnoses, three wrong medications and three large bills. You see – and I’m sure you know this – the emergency room only has to stabilize you; it does not have to look for the cause of your problem.

By the time anyone did anything, my son had stage 3 cancer. It was too late to save his life.

My son was a student, he worked 30 hours a week and he was a volunteer. He was an extraordinary young man.

But none of that mattered. He was sentenced to death – a slow and excruciating death – for having a birth defect. He had to leave his wife to get Medicaid and although he had applied for disability when he first became sick, his approval took 37 months and he was dead nine days before his first check arrived.

I tell you this story because, at the time he died, 45,000 Americans were dying every year from lack of access to health care, according to a study by Harvard Medical School that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The ACA has saved more than half of those lives. The uninsured rate in this country right now is at an historic low. The law is saving tens of thousands of lives every year, and to repeal it is tantamount to murder.

No, that statement is not overstating things. You are working on killing more than 25,000 innocent Americans every year. Those are human beings, Senator, and their lives matter a whole lot to me and to all the people who love them.

I have to face every damn day without my beloved son. I get up every morning longing to hear his voice again, devastated that I will never laugh at another one of his outrageous jokes or taste his cooking or have another late-night conversation about philosophy with him. I will never hear him tease me about being a Red Sox fan, or look for my chocolate stash only to discover he found it and left me just one little piece.

Perhaps it’s time to turn your back on your corporate overlords and become truly pro-life. Vote no on repealing the ACA. Vote to save the lives of the people who will die without insurance.

You have to know what you’re about to do is wrong.

If you go ahead with this, I hope and pray that you will burn in hell.

Leslie Boyd
Candler, NC

Sign the petition, and nothing will happen

Rep. John Ager is another of the representatives we elected from what was supposed to be a safe Republican district. We did not do it by signing online petitions, but by making phone calls and knocking on doors and getting out the vote. Here, John is speaking to the crowd of about 200 people at the March for Truth.

 

I don’t even keep count of how many times I’ve been asked to sign one or another online petition, as though it would make any difference at all in public policy.

Let me be honest here — I don’t ever sign them because they are meaningless. Government lawmakers and policymakers don’t give a damn about what we think. They care only about the people who fund their campaigns. That’s it.

Every time someone posts a petition on my timeline on Facebook, I explain that I don’t sign online petitions, and people argue that of course signing a meaningless petition is “taking action.”

No, it isn’t. Sitting at your computer and typing in your name and address is effortless, and the people in power know that. You risk nothing because you have done nothing. They know you’re not likely to get off your butt and take any real action.

A million signatures is one thing, but a million faxes, phone calls, e-mails or visits from real human beings shows them we mean business.

If you want to fill out a form that makes a difference, fill out a voter registration form, and follow it up by filling out a ballot. That’s what will make a difference.

Work to get a worthy candidate elected. Make phone calls, knock on doors. You can make phone calls after work, even for a half hour once a week. Get that candidate’s name out there.

I know this works because I live in the most gerrymandered district in the most gerrymandered state in the nation. In 2014, our Republican state representative was considered safer than anyone. He was going to be the next Speaker of the NC House.

But then something amazing happened. We, his constituents, got mad. Enough was enough. He refused to listen to us, hearing instead only the monied interests who had paid for his election.

I made calls, I showed up to knock on doors, and registered Republicans were happy to hear someone was running against him. People turned out to vote, and we sent that little weasel home.

That was in 2014. So, what happened to the seat in 2016? The Republicans couldn’t find anyone to oppose Brian Turner. He ran unopposed.

Across the county, Nathan Ramsey, a moderate Republican, was elected in 2012, and he was bullied into voting with the extreme right wing of the party.

Something good happened there, too: John Ager, a farmer who had never been in politics, decided to run. Again, his supporters worked hard and he won, both in 2014 and 2016. And no one ever signed an online petition saying his election would be a good thing.

These people who are trashing our Democracy think they’re safe. They don’t care what we want and no petition is going to change their behavior. The only way to make things better is to send them home, and you don’t do that with online petitions.

So, go ahead, sit at your desk and type in your name on meaningless petition after meaningless petition, and do you know what will change?

Not a damn thing, that’s what.

I know the petitions’ sponsors want you to think differently, but petitions are what they use to raise money. You sign their petition decrying the injustice du jour and then a screen pops up asking you to donate money, so — what? They can generate more petitions?

Get up off your butt and get out there. Attend a march, meet other human beings who share your interests and work with them to make change. Meet and talk to the candidates who are opposing those in power. Find out how you can help.

We don’t all have to engage in civil disobedience and get arrested. There are plenty of ways to be active without risking arrest. But we all need to find real ways to contribute because Democracy is participatory, and signing an online petition is not participating, it’s lazy.

 

 

Arrested — again

I spoke at the press conference an hour or so after being released from jail, with Rev. Barber standing nearby. I am so proud to be a part of this movement. Arrest me all you want, I refuse to stop trying to talk to legislators about health care as a basic human right.

 

On Tuesday morning, I got my butt hauled off to jail for the third time in four years.

I wanted to talk to Senate leader Phil Berger, as is my right under the North Carolina Constitution, but when I got to his office, a very large man was standing in the doorway, blocking my entrance.

“You can’t go in there, it’s private,” he said.

“No it’s not,” I said. “This is a public building and the person whose office this is, is a public official. I have a Constitutional right to speak to him.”

“He’s not in here.”

“Well, then, I’ll wait.”

He continued to block the entrance and several of us began to chant, “Health care NOW!”

At this point another man came to stand by the first one.

“You need to be quiet,” he said. “People are trying to work.”

I stared at him or a short moment.

“HEALTH CARE NOW!” I said, looking him straight in the eye, and those behind me joined in the chant.

I don’t like to be shushed in any case, but I get particularly testy when lives are at stake, and they most certainly are here. Some five people are dying every single say because Sen. Berger and his cronies are denying the Medicaid expansion provided for under the Affordable Care Act. This denial leaves a half million people in our state without access to care, and as I said, about five of them die every day, just the way my son did.

I’m not going into the General Assembly Building for entertainment or any frivolous purpose; I’m going in there to try and speak to my legislators about how desperately this Medicaid expansion is needed.

These people call them selves “pro-life” and “Christian,” yet their actions show a callous disregard for human life.

Rev. Barber stood with us as most of us sat down on the floor to wait for Sen. Berger to come back to his office.

We were told we were blocking the doorway, but we were not the ones doing that. We would have gone in and sat quietly and waited, but the door was blocked by his thugs, not by us.

We were told we were making too much noise, but I explained that people’s lives are more important than the ability of Berger’s secretary to hear who was on the other end of the phone line, and that if they would let us in, we would sit quietly an wait.

So, we started singing to pass the time.

“We shall not, we shall not be moved
“We shall not, we shall not be moved
“Just like a tree, planted by the water,
“We shall not be moved.

We’re fighting for our health care, we shall not be moved
“We’re fighting for our health care, we shall not be moved
“Just like a tree, planted by the water,
“We shall not be moved.”

Chief Martin Brock came by with a megaphone and warned us we had to leave, but we were there to address legislative leaders, as is our right under the NC Constitution, and we intended to do just that.

So, we were arrested, 32 of us, for second-degree trespass in a public building while it was open to the public. This is my third arrest for this same thing. The first one was thrown out on appeal. They never even bothered to prosecute me for the second arrest and there’s a petition to dismiss the charges because I never got a court date.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again, hoping for different results. Perhaps I am insane for trying again and again to make these lawmakers see that their actions are killing the very people they have sworn to serve. But I will not give up.

We spent an hour or so in a committee meeting room in the legislature building, singing freedom songs and hymns, before we were herded into vans and taken to the Wake County Detention Center, where we were processed and placed in holding cells.

I don’t know about the men, but we women started singing again. An officer told us we had to quiet down, so we sang a little more quietly. We had a contest to see who could stand on one foot the longest. We comforted a very frightened young woman who had been arrested for driving without a license, and we laughed.

We had been without food all day by the time we were released at about 4:30, so we were grateful to find snacks and water, brought by the Movement support team.

And we made it back downtown in time for the 6 p.m. press conference.

I love my Moral Monday Movement family, from our convener, Rev. William Barber, to all the people who stand with him in solidarity, no matter what our issues.

I’ll be honest: I believe this movement and the people in it have saved my life. There have been days I didn’t want to go on without my son, but these good people have held me up. I feel reborn every time I am with them. When I lose hope, someone always reaches out to support me and tell me we will triumph.

Progress is slow. Movements take time. I’m in this until we finish the work or until I’m carried out feet-first.

 

I can’t believe I’m still protesting this …

Photo by Phil Fonville. We gathered on Bicentennial Mall in Raleigh Tuesday to protest the lack of affordable health care for a half million people in this state.

 

I realized a couple weeks ago that I’ve been protesting war, poverty and misogyny for a half century.

I mentioned it to Rev. William Barber, who will leave the NC NAACP presidency next month to head the resurrection of Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign. King started the Poor People’s Campaign 50 years ago, and now I get to work with Rev. Barber to help revive it.

Rev. Barber, who’s 10 years younger than I am, just smiled, put his arm around my shoulders and told me he loves me for my passion.

A half century of trying to make things better and we’re headed right back to where we started, with incarceration as the new slavery, with women being shut out from decisions about their bodies, with voting rights skewed toward the wealthy and white, with children going to bed hungry, elders having to choose between food and vital medications, with wages far too low to cover necessities, with the poor and sick blamed for their plight and with war looming on the horizon.

I am horrified by the state of things, but I cannot give up. I stand with the photo of my late son and explain to anyone who asks that he died from lack of access to care.

So, even in the pouring rain, I went to the rally, and, as so often happens at Moral Monday rallies, the rain let up for the two hours we were there.

But, as so often happens with Moral Monday events, the legislators left early and locked up the building rather than risk having to talk to any of us. So, we had a huge poster with a few facts about what their refusal to expand Medicaid has done to this state, and the 200-plus people who attended the rally each signed it.

We left it tacked to the front door of the building as the chief off the General Assembly police looked on. It’s OK — he’s used to us and seems to bear us no ill will, but he will arrest us if told to do so. He has arrested me twice — so far.

Anyway, because we couldn’t get into the building last night, we will be back next Tuesday, and we will go into the building and sit down and wait to address our legislators, as is our right under the North Carolina State Constitution. They might arrest us again, but we will not back down. Lives are at stake here — a half million of them.

If you want to participate in the sit-in, be at the Bicentennial Mall (across the street from the General Assembly Building) at 10 a.m. next Tuesday. If you can’t participate in the sit-in, you can still attend the health care rally at 6 p.m.

 

 

 

Roger Ailes is dead, thank God

Yes, I know we’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead, and I never wished him dead, but I’m relieved he’s gone.

This is a man who lead the charge on the dismantling of our Democracy. Ever since he made Richard Nixon look pretty, he has led America down the path of fascism disguised as conservatism.

My father was a conservative, but he never denied science. He knew the dangers of pollution and climate change. He knew poor people needed a hand sometimes and that workers deserved a living wage.

My father didn’t want to know what went on behind people’s bedroom doors because it was none of his business, and the only marriage he worried about was his own. He was happy to pay into Social Security and Medicaid, even though he only lived to age 67.

My father was a newsman who never watched Fox News because, even though he was conservative, he could spot a lie a mile away, and Fox News was all about lies.

Roger Ailes built a “news” channel that peddled lies about climate change, about taxes, about immigrants, about the “need” for wars and about poor people.

In this most recent election, the lies were about Hillary Clinton. The e-mail server she used was the same kind of server used by Colin Powell when he was Secretary of State, but Fox never mentioned that.

Three Americans died in Benghazi, and that’s a tragedy, but more than 50 Americans died at embassies around the world under George W. Bush. and that was never mentioned on Fox. Some 250 US Marines died in Beirut in the early 1980s and Ronald Reagan took responsibility, although no one criticized him or called him a criminal because of it.

Ailes, himself a sexual predator, may not have supported the sexual predator in chief before the Republican National Convention, but once the nomination was secure, Ailes allowed the criminal who currently occupies the White House to slide on any number of issues so that Republicans could take power once again.

Ailes was never punished for his crimes. He was fired from Fox News, but he died a free — and wealthy — man.

The lies his network perpetuated allowed the current occupant of the White House to get there. Slowly, over the course of many years, Fox News has misinformed Americans and encouraged people to dismiss the truth as “the other side of the story.”

This is largely why I left the news business. I was being pressured to quote Tea Party lies as “the other side of the story,” when they were lies, pure and simple. If I quoted them, I also debunked them because sometimes “the other side of the story” is nothing more than a bald-faced lie.

He led Americans to deny science and to the view that a belief holds as much weight as a fact.

The Earth is billions of years old, not 6,000.

Evolution is real; creationism is a myth.

Climate change is real, so real that our planet could become uninhabitable from the changes in 100 years or so.

But Ailes’ followers continue to fight — and vote — against their own best interests.

When you cut taxes on the wealthy, nothing trickles down.

When workers don’t make a living wage, the economy suffers because nobody can afford to buy anything.

Poor people are not lazy.

Unions protected workers from the unfettered greed of the 1 percent.

These things are all true, even though Fox tells people every day that they are not, and people believe it.

One study showed that people who watch Fox News exclusively knew less than people who watch no news at all.

Ailes knew that if he could divide people, if he could make “ordinary” people hate the “elites,” he and his cronies could win. He was stunningly successful, and that’s why we have a mentally ill criminal in the White House, and a Speaker of the House who brags he wanted to kill Medicaid when he was a college frat boy getting trashed at keg parties.

The damage done by this one man is hard to measure. I never wished him dead, but I’m relieved he’s gone.

 

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