Good riddance to Paul Ryan and friends. Now let’s get to work

Thank God and Greyhound he’s going. But it’s not enough. We need to begin to fix the damage he and his cronies have done.

Paul Ryan is leaving Congress, along with 30 other Republican House members, according to NPR, and 10 Democrats, plus three Republican Senators, according to Ballotpedia.

This does not count the four Democrats and 11 Republicans who have left already.

I can’t remember an exodus like this from Congress. But then, I’ve not known such cowardice and lack of ethics on such a scale in my lifetime, and I lived through Nixon.

This group of Republicans has allowed a toxic narcissistic sociopath, a liar, bully, con man, racist and misogynist free rein for more than a year. They have refused to protect the special prosecutor who is investigating very real crimes this creature likely committed, while relentlessly attacking the woman who should be in the White House to draw attention away from their own crimes.

They have stolen much of America’s treasure, allowed polluters to poison our air and water, stolen public lands, saber-rattled with nuclear powers, attacked anyone who tried to stand up to them and ripped apart families at a record rate just to keep out anyone they deem as “other.” They don’t care that crops are rotting in the fields because they know they have enough money to buy whatever they need, even if others of us starve.

They have attacked our access to health care, undermined education, broken trade agreements, built gas and oil pipelines to increase profits from fossil fuels while making safer, cleaner energy less accessible.

They have sold off prisons to people who are making a profit off of other people’s misery.

They have allowed gun manufacturers and extremists to dictate a horrific lack of gun policy.

They have attacked voting rights to the point that our elections no longer are deemed fair. And their theft of a Supreme Court seat has made them safe for another decade or longer.

They have impoverished millions by refusing to increase the minimum wage, which now is about one-third of what it would be if it had kept pace with inflation. They have choked unions to death to make sure workers have fewer rights now than they have had since the 1920s.

And after these millions have been impoverished by the Republicans’ corrupt public policy, these affected people are vilified as lazy, even when they work two jobs and still can’t make ends meet.

I believe the leadership of the Republican Party knew about Russian interference and they welcomed it. I believe they’re in it up to their eyeballs. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have threatened then-President Obama when he wanted to make what he knew public. He didn’t know how extensive the conspiracy was, but I think the Republicans did because I believe they were part of it.

This class of crooks came to Washington to enrich themselves and their uber-wealthy co-conspirators. They came to pick our collective pockets and now that they’ve been found out, they’re going to abscond with their booty.

The problem now is that the Democratic Party is about where the Republican Party was under Nixon, and true progressives are being squeezed out. Our alternative is the Green Party, which can’t win major elections because of the power of the two corrupt parties that hold power now.

A blue wave in November might improve things somewhat, but it likely will not be the change we need. It might mean a few patches to the huge tears in the fabric of our nation, but what we need now is radical change.

I’m part of the new Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival because I don’t think politicians are going to bring about the changes we need without some kind of revolution, and I’m standing for a peaceful one.

So far, 41 states and the District of Columbia have organized to be part of this campaign. Each organization is unique to its own state because each state’s needs are unique. But beginning on Mother’s Day, we will be seen and heard in state capitols and in Washington.

Right now, more than 40 million Americans live in poverty while there’s actually more than enough to support everyone comfortably.

We need to stand up to the powers of corruption and greed and we need to do it now.

Don’t be satisfied that the likes of Paul Ryan and Trey Gowdy are leaving Congress; stand up and demand more. Demand a living wage, demand a cleaner environment, demand affordable health care, demand more money for education, demand military spending be cut drastically, demand fair immigration laws.

Demand a just society. Demand it and mean it, or it never will happen.

 

Either way, it’s a victory for Democrats

This gives me hope that we can defeat Republicans everywhere in November.

It appears Democrat Conor Lamb has won the seat in Congress vacated by Republican anti-choice philanderer Tim Murphy (you may recall, he resigned his seat in disgrace after pressuring his lover to have an abortion).

He defeated a well known Republican, Rick Saccone, who was a member of the state legislature, endorsed by the local newspaper, and who stood for all the Republican “values.”

The win, if indeed it comes to that after the absentee ballots are counted, is huge.

Even if, in the end, Lamb loses by a few votes, this should scare the piss out of Republicans. This was a safe district for them and they spent $9 million to preserve this seat. It looks as though they failed, but even if they didn’t, they all but closed a 20-point gap. That’s huge. If they can do that, they’ll take every close race for Congress in November.

I understand Lamb stands for a woman’s right to choose. That’s important. But he’s more for fixing the Affordable Care Act than for expanding Medicaid. I would still have voted for him in this special election, even though offering everyone a single-payer system is of paramount importance to me.

See what I did here? I compromised, because electing Lamb is an important step in fixing the mess in Washington. I don’t demand perfection from my candidates because there’s no one who’s going to agree with my every stand on every issue except me, and I’m not running.

We won’t get rid of the people who are working feverishly to break every system in our country until we step up and vote in every election for the better of the two candidates. And, yes, I said the better of the two candidates because we have a two-party system, whether we like it or not.

I left the Democratic Party because it has moved so far to the right, but I will still vote in every election and I will probably vote for the Democrat because that’s the candidate who stands the best chance of beating the Republican, and I will NEVER vote for the Republican, even if that person is pro-choice and anti-gun. It’s too likely that moderate Republican will still vote with the party.

We have a very sensible woman running as a Republican in a primary against a man whose stands on the issues are insanely right-wing here in North Carolina. She asked for my support and I turned her down because she will vote with the Republicans if and when she gets to Washington. If she were to pledge to vote for single-payer and against any more restrictions on abortion, if she were to promise to vote against the gun lobby, I might consider supporting her, but I doubt it.

Republicans are wrong on just about every issue, and we as voters have to put a stop to their stranglehold on power. They are dismantling every system they can put their hands on — health care, education, food security (Meals on Wheels, food stamps and school lunches), environmental protection, workers’ rights, justice …

We can only defeat them by registering and voting. Really, we can turn out for marches — women’s marches, health care marches, anti-gun marches, pro-choice marches, workers’ marches … but nothing will change until we all vote.

Historically, higher turnout on Election Day almost always favors Democrats. That’s why Republicans work so hard to reduce the number of people eligible to vote.

What happened in Pennsylvania is that people turned out to vote in a heavily Republican district (the current occupant of the White House won by 20 points here). If people had decided they couldn’t win and just stayed home, we would not be celebrating the probable win of a Democrat in this district.

This race is proof that we can defeat Republicans, even in heavily gerrymandered, heavily Republican districts. All we have to do is register and vote — all of us, every last one.

The children will save us

 

Although the local paper claims “dozens” attended an anti-gun rally in Asheville yesterday, more than 300 people gathered to protest the failure of Congress to pass sensible gun legislation, including a good number of youth, who will be coming of age to vote in the next four years. Go ahead, Congress, ignore them at your peril.

 

I think something snapped on Valentine’s Day.

Another 17 people died in another mass shooting at another school while Congress remained steadfast in its determination to ignore the carnage and bow to its overlord, the National Rifle Association.

Yet again, campaign contributions mattered more than the lives of children and teachers.

But this time, something different happened. This time, the students stood up and said they have had enough.

When the current occupant of the White House tweeted the sad, tired thoughts-and-prayers refrain, students — survivors of the massacre — answered. They’re not interested in the thoughts and prayers of people who take blood money from a terrorist organization, they said. They want action, and they want it now.

Some of these kids can vote already, and within four years, all of them will be able to go to the polls ad throw these accomplices to terrorism out of office.

They were well represented at an anti-gun rally Sunday afternoon, a rally that was put together in just 72 hours

I heard one of them speak at the rally, and while the local paper claimed “dozens” were there, I saw more than 300 people in that audience. So, yeah, 30 dozen. And probably one-third of them were middle- and high-school students.

The 14-year-old student who spoke was eloquent. She talked about the failure of previous generations to make the NRA answer for its crimes, and about our failure to ban this bribe money from our electoral process.

She wants to go to school and not fear for her life, but to be able to concentrate on learning. She and her fellow students should not have to take time out of their day for “active shooter” drills, which offer no better solution to the problem than duck-and-cover drills offered to the problem of nuclear proliferation when I was in grammar school in the late 1950s.

While I think guns in private hands are a menace to society and I think the lack of gun deaths in countries that regulate guns is pretty good evidence that the tactic works, I’m willing to compromise. Assault weapons should be banned permanently, but yes, hunters should be able to hunt for food.

Handguns, however, are a different story. More people are killed with their own guns in their homes than are able to shoot a bad guy with a gun. If a gun is in the home, a fight is more likely to end in death than if there is no gun handy.

Handguns kill innocent people more than they protect anyone.

Do you want to know why police shoot unarmed suspects? It’s because they know the suspects might have guns and their lives are at risk.

You don’t think that’s a good enough excuse? Well, neither do I, but as long as we have virtually unfettered access to guns in this country, trigger-happy officers have that excuse.

The gun lobby, the NRA, will tell you a good guy with a gun is the solution to bad guys with guns. And they know it’s not true, but they also know it sells guns, and that’s their real goal: profit. That’s all they know how to think about. If you think they care about you, think again. They are the very definition of a terrorist organization because they exist only to promote death and mayhem.

Let’s say you’re in a theater at the premiere of a superhero movie. Someone pulls out a gun and starts shooting. Before the cops get there, you pull out your gun and start shooting in the direction of the person with the gun. The theater is dark. Are you going to hit the shooter or the person in the seat he’s crouching behind?

When the cops arrive looking for the bad guy with the gun, they don’t know you’re not their target and you may be dead before they figure it out, along with a couple of people next to you because, remember, the theater is still dark, and even if it’s not, innocent people are going to get caught in the crossfire.

Also remember that the school in Parkland, Fla., had not one, but two, armed officers. They can’t be everywhere.

So, there goes the good guy with the gun argument.

Then there’s the argument that we have to turn public spaces into armed fortresses, that we should surround schools and other public spaces with impenetrable walls and set up metal detectors at all the entrances.

Land of the free, my ass, right?

You know what we can do?

Again, the answer is simple, since every “civilized” nation has done it:

  • Regulate gun ownership the way we regulate cars and drivers’ licenses, or make them illegal for everyone but cops and the military.
  • Ban assault weapons, and make the ban permanent so Congress can’t let it lapse again at the behest of the NRA.
  • Require a license that must be renewed periodically. Require people to pass a safety course and a test, and repeat the process for every gun they want to buy.
  • Close down gun shows, or at least shut down gun sales at these shows.
  • Ban online private sales.
  • Register every gun with a title, the same way we do cars. Require a transfer of title at every private sale and require buyers in these transactions to prove they have a license to own a gun.
  • Ban sales to anyone who has been convicted of domestic violence or aggravated assault.
  • Since the Second Amendment specifically mentions a well regulated militia, we should require gun owners to join a militia and attend regular meetings.
  • Require liability insurance for gun owners, the same way we require insurance on cars.
  • If a gun is stolen and the theft is not reported immediately, make it a crime. If the stolen gun is not reported and it’s used in another crime, charge the gun owner as an accessory to that crime.
  • Make neglect of a gun a crime. If a child gets a gun and kills someone, charge the irresponsible gun owner with murder.
  • Repeal the damn Second Amendment and end the right to own guns. This carnage is not what the founders intended. They had no idea how guns would evolve and how their intentions would be perverted.

And don’t tell me it’s too soon to talk about this. Columbine happened almost 19 years ago. The time for change was then, if not before. Too many innocent lives have been sacrificed already, and in honor of those dead, we need to have this serious conversation NOW.

It’s time to fix this, not to make more excuses, shrug our shoulders once again and wait for the terrorists to strike another time — maybe in your child’s school, maybe at the theater you’re sitting in or the mall where you’re shopping.

We’re not safe, and if Congress can’t or won’t act, there’s an election coming in November. Make sure you participate, and let your members of Congress know the only way to get your vote is to support sensible gun laws.

 

Not later, NOW!

bernie hillary trump

I’m feeling beyond frustrated today as I listen to the acrimony between Hillary and Bernie supporters, each blaming the other for the demise of the Democratic Party.

I support Bernie because I want someone who will fight for universal access to health care now.

Yes, I know it will be blocked by Republicans, but if we start negotiations in the middle, we wind up with an agreement right of center and with millions of people still without care.

When President Obama and Nancy Pelosi took single-payer off the table, we lost all hope of getting that public option that would have given me a choice to buy into Medicaid. It would have offered competition with the insurance companies, which now have a legal monopoly. What we got was a half-assed solution that, although it offered millions of people the chance to buy health insurance, it shut out millions more and left the for-profit insurance companies in charge of the system.

We’re seeing employers stop hiring full-time employees rather than give money to the insurance companies. We’re seeing people having to buy high-deductible plans that they can’t afford to use, so they’re getting nothing for their money.

About once every 18 to 20 minutes, an American dies from lack of access to care.

But sure, let’s do it incrementally. Let’s tell the bereaved families of these people who are dying that they have to be patient. After all, we don’t want to offend those who support the system as it is.

There are very real and very high stakes in this election. Each election cycle, the corporations gain more ground and we the people lose. We can’t get a living wage, we can’t get universal health care, we can’t get affordable housing, we can’t get reasonably low rate college loans for middle-income kids, we can’t get big money out of politics.

But rather than focus on all that, we follow every move of Donald Trump, who’s only doing as well as he is because the media have decided he’s the story.

You see, in case you haven’t noticed, the media write the scenarios and we blithely follow along.

Four years ago, the media started saying the Republicans would take the Senate in 2014. It was an unlikely scenario, but the media kept repeating it until it became reality.

Now the media are saying Trump will beat Hillary if she is the nominee, and you can bet it will become a self-fulfilling prophesy unless we the people wake up and start thinking for ourselves.

Four years ago, the Democrats ran a lame candidate here in North Carolina, and he was beaten by Pat McCrory (#OneTermPat). As the election neared and Walter Dalton trailed, several Democratic friends told me they thought it was OK.

“Let them have it all and people will be so pissed they’ll send them packing,” people said.

Well, here’s what really happened. We cant expand Medicaid — in fact, we’re about to privatize it, and we’re cutting funding for the care of medically fragile children. That’s right, we’re going to let sick children suffer and die rather than ask the wealthiest to pay their share of taxes.

Our schools are suffering and being choked to death as we give more money to for-profit charter schools. Our teachers are among the lowest paid in the country, and our per-pupil spending is the lowest in the nation. Our once-proud university system is being cut down, bit by bit. In fact, some of our state universities are about to be starved to death, including some traditionally African-American schools.

We can’t raise the minimum wage, so people are in desperate need for social programs, like food stamps, which are being cut. Child care costs as much as college tuition, and we’re cutting programs that help parents afford it while refusing to pay a living wage.

If you lose your job because of discrimination, you can’t sue in state courts, and you have the shortest duration and the least compensation in the country on unemployment. The GOP did that almost as soon as McCrory took office.

Cities and counties can’t set their own wage levels or discrimination policies because of HB2, which most people think is just about bathrooms.

We are well along the road to becoming a third-world country in terms of the life of average citizens. Income inequality is at record levels, global warming is at the tipping point, we keep fighting pointless wars, and no one seems to notice.

We’re so complacent that half of the right-wing nuts who want to establish a state religion and allow people to die in the streets rather than give them access to health care are running unopposed.

Un-o-fucking-posed!

So the predictions of people finally waking up if Trump wins the election are wrong. If North Carolina is a predictor, and I believe it is, people will allow him to set up a fascist state because we’re too distracted by the media’s shiny issues to do anything about it.

Vote because your Democracy depends on it

Ms. Rosanell Eaton arrives at a Moral Monday event with Charles Cook.

Ms. Rosanell Eaton arrives at a Moral Monday event with Charles Cook.

It looks like North Carolina has had a record turnout for early voting for this year’s primary election. I hope those who didn’t get to the polls early will do so tomorrow.

The NC General Assembly, dominated by Tea Party Republicans, has done its best to reduce voter turnout because they generally do better when fewer people vote; if they didn’t, then they wouldn’t be trying to keep people from the polls.

The new law, passed as soon as the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, became known as the Voter ID law, although a lot more was done than to require an ID.

For example, early voting days were cut, and the polls were closed on Sundays. Before the new law was passed, churches across the state took thousands of voters to the polls after Sunday services, and most of those were African-American churches.

Polling places were moved — and many were moved from low-income neighborhoods and along bus routes to places with no nearby bus stops, making it more difficult for people who don’t drive to get to their polling places.

And of course, the new law made people get a photo ID, and not just any ID; it has to be state-approved.

Now, there’s one thing you need to know if you’ve had a problem getting an ID: You can still vote. That’s right, you can use a provisional ballot. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Sen. Richard Burr couldn’t find his license last week and voted using a provisional ballot. You just have to sign a statement saying there was “reasonable impediment,” and cast your ballot. The General Assembly added that provision three weeks before the lawsuit challenging the new law went to court.

For people who don’t have a driver’s license, getting an ID might not be an easy task.

Look at Ms Rosanell Eaton, one of the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the state challenging these new laws.

I met Ms Eaton at the Moral Monday protests in Raleigh. In 2013, when she was 92, she went into the General Assembly Building to try to address lawmakers about her concerns. They had her arrested. Last year, she said 94 is too old to be arrested again, but not too old to sue the people who would take away her ability to vote.

When Ms Eaton registered to vote in the 1940s, she had to recite the Preamble to the US Constitution from memory. Now, to get her state ID, she had to make 11 trips to various state agencies to gather the documents she needed. That is one tough task for a 94-year-old woman who doesn’t drive.

I have gotten to know Ms Eaton. I can tell you she is one determined woman, and the focus of her determination is to make sure everyone has access to the polls.

People have struggled and died for the right to vote — women, African-Americans, Native Americans and more. This is not something we should ever take lightly. Our vote is precious and it is a serious responsibility.

When you stay home, that gives greater weight to the votes of others — who might not have your best interests at heart.

When you stay home, we all have to endure having the government you deserve.

This administration has cut voting rights, cut funding for education, allowed big polluters to get away with poisoning the environment, slashed unemployment compensation at a time when jobs are increasingly difficult to find, refused to expand access to health care for people in poverty, cut food stamps, slashed taxes on the rich and increased the tax burden on the poor, politicized higher education, cut access to health services for women and more.

And they were elected by a minority of registered voters.

Now, if you aren’t registered to vote, you’ll have to wait until the general election in the fall to vote (although there’s still time to register for the Congressional primary in June).

But if you are registered and you don’t vote tomorrow, you ought to be ashamed. Frankly, I’m tired of having to live with the government you deserve.

 

We have the Congress the non-voters deserve

These to NC State Representatives got sent home on Election Day because people came out to vote.

These two NC State Representatives got sent home on Election Day because people came out to vote. When people vote, change is possible.

To all of you who stayed home on Election Day because you felt your vote wouldn’t count, well, it damn well didn’t.

Thanks a lot.

Now we have a right wingnut Senate to go along with the right wingnut House in Washington.

Did you see the damage voter apathy caused in North Carolina these last two years? Well, get ready for it on a national scale. The Democratic-controlled Senate won’t be there to fight the right-wing agenda.

There will be attacks on the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, federal nutrition programs, education, jobs programs, Social Security — everything people who don’t make a living wage need to stay alive.

Oh, and we won’t see any increases in the minimum wage, either.

So, how did this happen?

First of all, only about one-third of eligible voters came out on Election Day. Someone who’s good at math told me the Senate changed hands with only 19 percent of the popular vote.

So, now we have the crazy legislative branch of a corrupt third-world country, and they own the judiciary.

So, why did the Democrats lose?

Well, how many did you hear stand up and say they were proud to have helped expand access to health care? How many told stories of the people whose lives are being saved every day because of the Affordable Care Act?

Most of the Dems ran away from President Obama, who has accomplished so much despite having both hands tied behind his back by an obstructionist Congress.

No one stood up and said they were proud to stand with the president who rescued a collapsed economy, saved the auto industry, ended two wars, presided over the longest period of uninterrupted job growth in history, halved the national deficit, expanded access to health care for millions of Americans, saving tens of thousands of lives a year in the process.

Instead we let the mainstream (corporate) media write the narrative, and our candidates ran away from an “unpopular” president.

We need to stop being ashamed of what we want for America and its people. We should stand proudly with this president, and let me point out that those candidates who did that won elections.

For those candidates who shied away from progressive values, let me just say you helped elect people who believe in evolution and deny science on every level. You helped elect people who see pregnancy resulting from rape as a blessing. We have elected officials in Washington who believe climate change is a hoax and who think fracking is good for the economy and the planet.

We have lawmakers who think only sluts want to use contraception.

Here in North Carolina, we sent a man to the US Senate who had just a 9 percent approval rating in his previous job.

This can NOT end well.

Let me end by saying we here in Buncombe County, NC, showed the country how to get it done this election.

Two of our three representatives in the state House of Representatives were right-wing politicians who voted not to expand Medicaid and to fast-track fracking, among other damaging laws. They both had big money behind them, and one was slated to become Speaker of the House.

But two local men, Brian Turner and John Ager, decided to oppose them. Neither took corporate money, both went door-to-door, held marathon phone banks, activated the grass roots. John Ager’s campaign made 2,000 phone calls on Election Day to remind people to get out and vote. We told the truth while big money lied, and the voters came out in force.

We turned out the vote for these two men and they won. They beat the big-money candidates by letting people know their votes could make a difference.

That’s how you get it done, and that’s how we need to get it done on a large scale.

 

 

It’s time to put up or shut up.

i voted

Early voting has begun here in North Carolina, and if the first day was any indication, it looks like we might have a good turnout this year.

That’s good news. In years with high turnout, the right-wing, corporate, anti-life candidates do poorly.

And this year, there’s a lot at stake, including the very existence of the Affordable Care Act, if the Republicans take the Senate. The House has voted 50 times to repeal it; if the Senate votes the same way, we’re in trouble.

I don’t know why any woman would vote for a candidate who would take away her right to make reproductive choices. This group has closed women’s health clinics across the country under the guise of being “pro-life.”  But if they’re really pro-life, why do they deny poor women cancer screenings?? Many of them are saying a business should have the right to fire a woman for taking birth control pills.

If you think this can’t become reality, think again. The Right has its Supreme Court in place. This is a court that has already said it’s OK for a boss to deny insurance coverage for birth control.

And that’s just one issue. Most of these people are bought and paid for by big business and the 1 percent. They want to abolish minimum wage. They want to abolish what’s left of our shredded safety net and our public education system.

These are the people who are trying to cut the number of people eligible to vote, and they’re attacking the people who most likely would vote against them — the poor, the elderly, people of color and college students.

Just look at the battle for keeping a polling place on the campus of Appalachian State in Boone, which has 18,000 students: http://billmoyers.com/2014/10/23/north-carolina-fights-take-voting-site-away-pesky-college-kids/.

They have reduced voting hours; they have cut early voting and eliminated Sunday voting (which is when many African-Americans voted); they have closed polling places and reduced the number of voting machines in places where people traditionally voted against them.

They have eliminated straight-party voting, which means it will take a few moments longer. That will make lines longer and reduce the number of people who can vote. They have made it easier for someone to challenge your vote. Even if you still get to vote, the challenge has taken time and slowed the line.

And what’s important about slowing the line is that, no matter how long the line is when the polls close on Election Day, the doors close one hour after the stated closing time. That means if you’re in line an hour and one minute after the polls are supposed to close, you don’t get to vote.

You won’t find long lines in wealthy polling places because the people who would stifle your voice have the majority of those votes in the bag.

This is why it’s so important that you vote and vote early. There are lines for early voting, but not nearly as long as the lines will be on Election Day.

The time is over for anyone to be uninterested in politics. You must become aware of what’s happening in the world around you. You must care enough about what’s happening in this country, and you must vote to keep our Democracy alive.

In Kansas, the Right, under the “leadership” of Sam Brownback, they have destroyed the state’s economy and Sen. Mitch McConnell has said he wants to make that a national priority.

Schools are being destroyed, food banks emptied, unemployment insurance all but eliminated. If this is your idea of what a successful society looks like, then go ahead and stay home. Otherwise, get your ass to the polls. Do it early. Do it today.

 

 

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