NC’s Hate Bill 2 is worse that you thought

Rabbi Wolff Alterman at a demonstration in Asheville just after Hate Bill 2 was passed.

My friend Wolff Alterman at a demonstration in Asheville just after Hate Bill 2 was passed. The sign was approved by his 15-year-old daughter.

Thousands of North Carolinians have been out protesting the state’s new law, HB2, which codifies discrimination against transgender people by forcing them to use the public restroom of the gender into which they were born, not the gender they have become.

While that provision is backward, mean-spirited and ignorant, it is not the end of the abominable provisions in the law.

If you read Section 2, you’ll find the real reason the law was passed: a trip back in time to when discrimination was legal, whether it was based on gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.

The law forbids local municipalities from setting their own minimum wage and discrimination policies. It also forbids discrimination lawsuits at the state level, meaning that people who have been discriminated against have to file in federal court — a very lengthy and expensive process that most people just can’t go through.

So, while we demonstrate against the narrow-minded, unscientific, backward bathroom provisions; while we endure the fact that we are the laughingstock of the nation and the world, while we watch the state lose billions of dollars in business and in all probability, billions more in federal funding, most people have failed to notice that the second part of this law is even more damaging than the first.

This bunch of backward, dimwitted, ignorant clods has reinstated Jim Crow in North Carolina.

And what’s worse is that when the bathroom provision is overturned, as is inevitable because it us unconstitutional and unenforceable, the rest of the law stands, thanks to this provision:


31 SECTION 4. If any provision of this act or its application is held invalid, the

32 invalidity does not affect other provisions or applications of this act that can be given effect

33 without the invalid provisions or application, and to this end the provisions of this act are

34 severable. If any provision of this act is temporarily or permanently restrained or enjoined by

35 judicial order, this act shall be enforced as though such restrained or enjoined provisions had not

36 been adopted, provided that whenever such temporary or permanent restraining order or injunction

37 is stayed, dissolved, or otherwise ceases to have effect, such provisions shall have full force and

38 effect.

In other words, the real meat of the bill is the reinstatement of Jim Crow, and if we throw out the bathroom rules, we still have to sue to get rid of the rest if the law.

Stealing airports, water and other assets from local municipalities was only the beginning; we stand to lose the ability to make our own towns and cities better places to work and live.

Businesses with a conscience will flee the state like rats off a sinking ship, but abusive companies — those who want to be able to control their employees through fear and intimidation — will rush to set up shop. Workers’ rights have been set back 100 years, just what the Koch Brothers, Art Pope and ALEC wanted all along.

To the voters who stayed home in 2010 and allowed the Tea Party to take over our legislature: we’re now enduring life with the government you deserve. Taking it back will be difficult because 2010 was a census year and the new majority gerrymandered voting districts to such an advantage that it will be almost impossible to dislodge this crew of fools.

It will take at least a generation to fix what’s been broken in the last six years here. We can start by working for the opponents of these Tea Party darlings and then voting in November. If you don’t do that, you’re as guilty as those whose names are on this law.






Turns out there is no scandal

its buildingSo, here’s what really happened with the Internal Revenue Service.

No one was targeting conservative groups. These political groups had applied for tax-free status and were being vetted for approval — as ALL groups must be before being granted tax-free status.

To get 501(c)(4) status, the group has to be working on social welfare programs as well as doing its political work. No more than half of its activities can be political. The IRS is tasked with making sure these guidelines are followed.

So, were they just looking at conservative groups? Here’s something from last week’s Congressional hearings:

Rep. Peter Roskam, R-IL: “How come only conservative groups got snagged?”

Outgoing acting IRS commissioner Steve Miller: “They didn’t sir. Organizations of all walks and all persuasions were pulled in. That’s shown by the fact that only 70 of the 300 organizations were tea party organizations, of the ones that were looked at by TIGTA [Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration].”

That’s only about 25 percent.

But even though the truth is that right-wing groups weren’t targeted any more than anyone else, this is their story and they’re sticking to it because if you repeat a lie long enough, people will believe it.

Remember what happened with ACORN after the fake news story with pseudo-journalist James McKenzie posing as a pimp that was nothing more than a cleverly set up and carefully edited lie. It took down an organization that helped people register to vote.

The right-wing groups want people to believe they’re being persecuted, even though they’re not.

Or perhaps there’s good reason for their paranoia.

The reason these groups want 501(c)(4) status is because it allows them to keep their donors hidden, and they want to protect their sugar daddies and mamas.

Since the Citizens United decision allowing unlimited corporate money in elections, various groups have rushed to get 501(c)(4) status. The IRS, which is understaffed, didn’t have time to research every group, so its employees looked for flags that might suggest a group was mostly a political organization, which is ineligible for 501(c)(4) status.

Should IRS officials have searched for organizations with “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names? Probably not. But that’s about the worst thing that happened here.

I have officially maxed out on ignorance

The mindset of the American Tea Party.

The mindset of the American Tea Party.

That’s right, I am suffering from ignorance fatigue. I am done with people telling me the free market can handle health care and that the minimum wage is a horrible burden on employers. I have heard enough from people who believe churches should handle health care or that taxes and the national deficit are at an all-time high.

For those of you who don’t know how to check such things beyond listening to Fox News and “reading” Andrew Breitbart, perhaps you weren’t alive in the 1950s, when the economy was booming and the top tax rate on regular income was 91 percent (now, remember — and I will use small words here — that rate only applied to income above $200,000, which would be income over $1.78 million today), and the top rate on capital gains was 25 percent (this year it will be 20 percent, after a hike from 15 percent). All this research was done in about two minutes using tax tables and an inflation calculator.

When taxes were so high and oh, so terribly burdensome, our country was enjoying prosperity like it would not see again. People who worked a 40-hour week made enough to live on because workers had unions to protect them from the carnivorous uber-rich.

In 1955, the average wage was $5,610 — more than $48,000 in today’s money. It was enough to buy a small home, own a car, feed your family, even save enough to send a kid or two to college.

But the good manufacturing jobs have been sent to places where big business can pay people $1 a day and keep them locked up in compounds, and Americans are told to be happy there are jobs at Walmart.

Walmart pays its people such low wages that 70 percent of them are eligible for government assistance, and then we criticize them for being “takers” because they want to feed their families. Why aren’t we criticizing the people who won’t even pay subsistence wages while they pocket billions that they can’t possibly even spend?

Do you understand what that means? We, the taxpayers, those of us lucky enough to still have decent jobs, are subsidizing Walmart with our tax money so the owners can amass even more money. That’s right, our tax dollars are going into the Walton family’s pockets, and they want even lower tax rates on their income.

Did you know the national deficit is falling faster than it ever has without a recession going on? According to Investors’ Business Daily, “…(the Congressional Budget Office) expects the deficit to shrink from 8.7 percent of GDP in fiscal 2011 to 5.3 percent in fiscal 2013 if the sequester takes effect and to 5.5 percent if it doesn’t. Either way, the two-year deficit reduction — equal to 3.4 percent of the economy if automatic budget cuts are triggered and 3.2 percent if not — would stand far above any other fiscal tightening since World War II.” (Read the whole story at:

So, if you get your info from Fox News, Glenn Beck, Andrew Breitbart, Ann Coulter or any of that ilk, please don’t try and “educate” me, OK? I have reached my yearly limit on ignorance and it’s barely March.





Let them know you care

The mindset of the American Tea Party.

The mindset of the American Tea Party.

The Tea Party-infused North Carolina General Assembly lost no time on the opening day of the legislative session letting us all know just how far-right they are.

Without consulting the new governor, who also is a Republican, they voted to go back on the decision by the previous governor to form a partnership with the federal government to build our health benefits exchange (the marketplace where people will buy insurance starting next year). They also voted to reject the Medicaid expansion, even though the state will pay nothing for the first three years and then just 10 percent thereafter.

North Carolina has 500,000 people who would benefit from the expansion and who otherwise will have no access to health care. Some will die.

Not that NC legislators care.

Fortunately, this decision is not up to them; it is up to Gov. Pat McCrory.

Which leaves us a little hope since he has not announced his decision yet.

So, we have to move quickly. Here’s what you can do. Visit and e-mail or call the governor to let him know you take this issue seriously.

The lives of a half-million people could be at risk if McCrory decides against expanding Medicaid to everyone whose income falls below 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

What’s worse is that move is financially foolish. The federal government will foot the entire bill for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter. Compare that to the cost of more heart attacks, more strokes, more amputations, more kidney failure, more asthma, more advanced cancers and more intractable psychiatric illnesses among these 500,000 people.

There’s no compassion in the decision not to expand Medicaid, just a backward ideology.

Please let the governor know we need to expand Medicaid. If he hears from enough of us, he might listen.


I know you don’t like the truth, but …

Seems some people would rather make stuff up than tell the truth, or better yet, shut up.

Someone tweeted today that I was fired from the Asheville Citizen-Times for plagiarism.

I think he knows that’s a lie, which makes the tweet slander, according to my attorney. I do hope he corrects his mistake soon.

But for those who might be interested, I’ll tell the story of my departure one more time.

My son died in 2008 because he couldn’t get access to health care. He went to the emergency room and was misdiagnosed several times before he finally was near death and they had to admit him. By then his colon was entirely blocked and the cancer had spread.

I was a reporter at the Citizen-Times then, and I had been a reporter for more than 25 years when my son died. Most of that time I covered social justice issues like health care, poverty, mental health issues, disability issues, etc.

After he died, I began to blog about his experience and about other stories from our broken health care system. I founded a nonprofit to try and educate people about health care and help individuals find care.

I spoke in public about Mike’s story, although when I spoke, I never mentioned the paper or what I thought the best solution would be. I ended every speech with “All is want is for people to have access to health care. I don’t care what it looks like; it just has to work. We need to figure this out.”

I asked permission from the publisher to speak in public and I got it.

When I spoke, I told promoters of events to list me as the founder of Life o’ Mike and not mention the paper because I wasn’t representing the paper.

One time, an organizer mentioned the paper and the Tea Party pounced, demanding I be fired because I was “biased.”

I’ll admit it; I am biased. I don’t want your kid to die the way mine did, no matter who you are or what you believe.

The publisher wouldn’t fire me and wouldn’t discuss it with Tea Party folks who showed up with a video camera.

I got e-mails, one of which said, “I don’t care about your son. You should be fired.”

Many more came, but I wouldn’t print them here.

I talked to the publisher about resigning. He told me he didn’t want me to leave, that they could change my beat from social justice issues to something else.

But I saw this as God’s way of booting me in the ass to get me doing the work I needed to be doing.

The publisher asked me to wait a couple of days before making a final decision, and then came to me and said if I would stay for a couple of weeks, I could be laid off and have a small income for awhile. I could also save another person’s job.

So, I volunteered to be laid off.

There were no charges of inappropriate behavior from anyone other than the Tea Party.

I have written op-eds for the paper about health care policy and about the Affordable Care Act, and every time there’s at least one comment saying I was fired for being biased. I sometimes reply to the comment to correct the record, but most of the time, I ignore it.

But this is too big to ignore. I have never been accused of plagiarism, and I will not let this go.

So, the person who tweeted and his ilk resort to lies because they don’t like the truth.

I still do some freelance writing, so the tweet yesterday is damaging to my reputation, even though I can prove it is false, and I think the person who tweeted it knows that.

It’s called slander and it is actionable. I won’t be intimidated by lies and I won’t let them stand.


Where are the cameras at this year’s town meetings?

Two years ago, the Koch Brothers and their big business allies paid a bundle to get Tea Party members out to congressional town hall meetings to shout down any resasonable discusson on health reform. The media were all over it, running footage of the confrontations and the weeping I-want-my-country-back women.

This year, Progressives are coming out in force to confront Republican members of Congress about budget cuts, Medicare “reform” and the attempts to repeal, defund or otherwise cripple reform, but you won’t see a whole lot of coverage. Maybe part of the reason is that Progressives seem to be less violent and screechy in their confrontations.

Progressives also tend to have real questions to ask, like those posed to GOP Rep. Jim Renacci from Ohio.

According to a report by Daily Kos, a questioner asked why Republicans don’t come up with an alternative plan before they repeal the current law.

Renacci replied with a non-answer: “Remember, it was the American people what sent us down there…”

I have a feeling the American people what sent them down there weren’t counting on such deep cuts to the social safety net alongside deep tax cuts for the wealthiest.

I don’t recall seeing anything about the confrontation in the “mainstream” media that was so happy to cover the Tea Party.

However, you will see conservatives claiming these people are being organized by unions and other “liberal” groups as they claim the opposition to health reform two years ago was spontaneous.

Our local paper here in Asheville wrote a story about one of the traveling groups, and the reporter failed to ask who paid for the bus and why people who obviously were on Medicare were holding placards that said, “Keep your government hands off my health care!” The reporter didn’t ask where the bus riders came from or where they were going. The reporter never spoke to anyone with an opposing point of view, and whoever edited the story didn’t see anything wrong with this one-sided piece with no real questions asked.

That’s par for the course in this country now. Our “free” press is free to cover the right, and free to ignore the middle and the left.

Boston Tea Party was a Corporate tax break protest

The real story of the Boston tea party from an original Boston Tea party member, George Robert Twelves Hewes

Boston Tea Party was a Corporate tax break protest

The real story of the Boston tea party from an original Boston Tea party member, George Robert Twelves Hewes.

Check out this fascinating video hosted by Thom Hartman featuring the first hand account of the Boston Tea party from an original Tea Partier. It’s worth a look.


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