Attacks from every direction

Here I am waiting to be introduced at HKonJ 7 last weekend in Raleigh. The turnout for the event was about 10,000.

Here I am waiting to be introduced at HKonJ 7 last weekend in Raleigh. The turnout for the event was about 10,000.

No longer content to just badmouth and vilify hardworking Americans, it seems the right has started actively trying to kill them.

In NC, the legislature has voted to deny 600,000 people access to health care by refusing to expand Medicaid, even though it would bring down billions in federal dollars and create 25,000 jobs, not to mention save lives.

This move will mean more suffering among the more than half-million people who can’t gain access to health care. We’re talking about more heart attacks and strokes, more complications from diabetes — kidney failure, blindness, limb amputations — more advanced cancers, more intractable mental illnesses, more asthma emergencies … the list goes on.

The legislature’s choice of a twisted ideology over compassion and decency will increase medical costs and people will still suffer and die unnecessarily.

And if you’ve been unlucky enough to have your job shipped overseas, that’s too bad too because the legislature has voted to overhaul unemployment insurance by slashing benefits and the amount of time people are eligible to receive them. North Carolina now has the shortest compensation time in the country — in some cases just 12 weeks.

Not to mention that when people lose their jobs they also lose their health benefits, but our legislators don’t care about that.

My inbox is full of e-mails begging me to sign one petition or another to prevent the North Carolina GOP from de-funding education, raping the environment, rigging taxes so the rich pay less and the rest of us pay more, punishing workers for wanting to make a living wage, making a naked power grab by firing everyone on state regulatory commissions …

I can’t keep up with it all, and that’s just in North Carolina.

In Washington, the GOP is still refusing to cooperate with anything the President wants to do.

They’re filibustering against Chuck Hagel’s appointment as Secretary of Defense; they’re saying they’ll block a minimum wage increase, they’re slowing down gun safety laws, and the House GOP is still trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

I’m exhausted from e-mailing and calling and traveling to try and get these people to listen to reason about the Medicaid expansion, but I’m just met with a stone wall. My own representative doesn’t answer my e-mails, not does Gov. Pat McCrory.

McCrory did answer an e-mail from my friend, Eileen McMinn, though. He sent her a form e-mail asking if she would donate money to him.

They’re ignoring us, and I suppose they have reason to believe they can get away with it because we seem to be lying down and playing dead.

How many of us have e-mailed, called or snail-mailed our state representatives or governor over these issues? How about our federal representatives? Have we thanked the ones who are doing the right thing? I e-mailed Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican, to thank him for voting in favor of the Violence Against Women Act.

There’s a lot at stake here. You may not think you’ll ever need Medicaid, but if your job gets shipped overseas and you get just $350 a week for 12 weeks, what then? How long can you keep making house and car payments? What if you get sick on top of all that?

We are all at risk here, and we all need to take action. Democracy is participatory. If we don’t participate — and by that I mean becoming educated about the issues and voting according to our convictions — this is what we get.

If you don’t know who your representative is in the US House, visit

If you don’t know who your state senators or representatives are, you can visit or call your county’s board of elections.

If you’re one of those who say, “I’m just not interested in politics,” shame on you! You’re part of the reason we’re in this mess.


The great over-reach and how we can fight it

wrongRepublicans in North Carolina are convinced they will hold power forever, and that it means they should take us all back to Medieval times, where they seem to prefer to live as lords.

First the NC House voted to cut unemployment compensation and make it more difficult to qualify, ensuring more North Carolina families will lose everything when they get laid off. The top weekly compensation will be just $350 a week if this becomes law.

Then the NC Senate voted to reject the expansion of Medicaid, which would bring in nearly $15 billion from the federal government to insure more than a half-million people, including those unemployed people who are about to get royally screwed. Estimates of the number of people who will not gain access to care range as high as 650,000. The Senate also voted to reject partnering with the federal government on a health benefits marketplace, which will cost even more money.

This state ranks 38th in health outcomes (cancer deaths, heart disease, low-birthweight babies, infant mortality, etc.), and we’re about to drop even lower as federal money to reimburse hospitals and other providers gets cut (the expansion of Medicaid was designed to replace this money by covering low-income people with Medicaid).

So now, more than a half-million people in this state are at risk of dying from preventable causes. We will see more advanced cancers, more heart attacks and stroke, more serious complications from diabetes (blindness, kidney failure, limb amputations), more intractable mental illness, more life-threatening, antibiotic resistant infections … And more funerals for people who shouldn’t have died.

It will cost us dearly in both money and human lives.

Now the NC Senate has voted to fire every public servant on several critical boards and commissions to they can be replaced with like-minded ideologues who will rape the environment and offer big business everything it wants. We will see less safe workplaces, more food-borne illnesses, more corruption and much, much less protection of any kind for the people of this state.

The reason the terms on these boards are staggered is to prevent them being stacked with ideologues by corrupt politicians. But a few appointments wasn’t enough for the Teapublicans in  the Senate; they want it all. They want to run everything with no opposition from anyone.

Gov. Pat McCrory, who ran as a moderate, has a chance to veto all of this, but he hasn’t indicated whether he will. He likely will sign the raid on unemployment and he has said he doesn’t think now is the right time to expand Medicaid (When IS the right time, Governor?).

I hope he sees that this power grab is unconscionable.

We need to let our legislators know how important these issues are to us. To e-mail a legislator, it’s (example: You can go to for more contact information Their phone numbers are listed there. To contact Gov. McCrory, visit, tweet @PatMcCroryNC, call  919-733-5811 or snail-mail:

Office of the Governor
20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-0301

Do it now and then do it every day until the issues are resolved. If these things go through, e-mail every day to let them know they’re going to be unemployed in 2014 (or in the governor’s case, 2016).


Unhappy holidays to the millions who are being screwed by Boehner, et al

The Republican Caucus in the US House of Representatives has left the nation’s capitol without allowing an up-or-down vote on the deal brokered in the Senate that would extend the payroll tax cut — and extended Unemployment benefits — for two months.

Speaker John Boehner says he wants the extension to be for a year, even though he originally thought the deal was good for Americans.

So, what’s the deal? I would guess he’s afraid of a challenge to his leadership from the Tea Party Caucus. Lord knows Eric Cantor would love more power.

Meanwhile, though, this unhappy holiday gift from the Tea Party will piss off a lot of Americans who can’t afford to take another hit. We don’t see the logic in letting the wealth trickle up when so many Americans are desperately trying to stay in their homes.

This is good news for Preident Obama, who has tried his best to work with the GOP and has been thwarted at every turn. He gave up the public option in health care. He gave up on raising taxes on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. He gave up on closing corporate tax loopholes. He gave up on preserving Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Now he has stopped caving in. Or at least I hope he has stopped.

His reaction to the latest Boehner tactic is to walk away. Fine, John, have it your way. Be an obstructionist. The American people know who stopped this deal. Let’s see how it pays off come Election Day. I’m sure those 3 million people who are counting on their unemployment benefits to pay their bills and buy groceries will admire your tenacity as they face foreclosure on their homes.

As Boehner walked out of the House chamber, Rep. Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, shouted at him to return and do what’s right for the American people. Boehner ignored him.

According to an article in today’s New York Times, the average length of unemployment is 41 weerks — the longest average in 60 years. Taking benefits away from people isn’t the way to “offer incentive to return to work,” as conservatives like to say. I’ve seen people looking for work — people who were laid off from $40,000-a-year jobs and been forced to take part-time work at $8 an hour and hope it becomes full-time.

I know people who are living on half the income they had a year or two ago, or less, because so many of the decent jobs have been shipped overseas and they can’t find anything better than an $8-an-hour part-time job.

Meanwhile, Eric Cantor is salivating in the wings. He has backed Boehner into as corner and now he can challenge him for the leadership. The only problem is that I don’t think Cantor has the votes. Actually, that’s not a problem for me.


‘I’ll do anything’

A rainy Monday in Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC. Occupiers believe they're about to be evicted and arrested, even though they were told they could stay for four months just a few weeks ago.

I drove some winter tents and heaters from a military tent surplus store near my house to Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, last week. As I was in the office arranging to have my U-Haul loaded, a man came in, cap in hand, and asked if the company was hiring.

“We might be soon,” the woman said. “But it’s really hard, heavy work.”

The man looked to be in his 40s.

“That’s OK,” he said. “I can do that. I’ll do anything.”

He hadn’t worked in a year, and because the job he had before that — setting up mobile homes — was as an independent contractor, he wasn’t collecting unemployment benefits.

That’s a trick contractors play often. You can work for the same place for years, be there on time every day and work hard, and still not be able to collect when you get canned. They avoid paying benefits and they avoid having any responsibility if something happens to you.

The man had applied to several home center stores, but was turned away because he had bad credit. That’s right, Home Depot does a credit check on you when you apply for a job and then turns you away if your score is too low.

He’ll stop back in at the tent surplus company and maybe they’ll have a job for him. They won’t do a credit check, either.

It stiffened my resolve to stay involved with the Occupy Movement, and to be more involved with the one here in Asheville.

The 1 percent is getting out its big guns to get rid of us, though. Reportedly, the federal Department Homeland Security has been advising mayors on conference calls about how to break up the camps. Here in Asheville, ours has moved a couple of times and dozens of people have been arrested.

Occupy is not going away, no matter how many camps are broken up. We will gather elsewhere. We will gather on private property if we have to — there are churches and other organizations that support what we are doing. We will continue to educate people about the many ways the 1 percent is screwing us. We will continue to have direct actions.

This movement is not fading away as the media would have us believe. There were more tents in Freedom Plaza when I was there than there were when I left six weeks ago, and McPherson Square is even more crowded. Both camps have received notice that they will be broken up, but neither is moving. No one is afraid of being arrested because we all are committed to making meaningful change.

The media keep demanding a list of demands. We keep telling them what’s happening to Americans and they say we’re unfocused. Perhaps it seems that way because there are so many things wrong. We all have our favorite issues — I have worked toward quality health care for all Americans, others have worked for a living wage, safe and affordable housing, labor rights, education, mental health and disability rights, a cleaner environment and a move toward sustainable and renewable energy sources. None of us has made much headway on any of these justice issues. The 1 percent’s corrupt money is like a brushfire. No sooner do we put it out in one place than another flame pops up.

Under the banner of the Occupy movement, we are working together now, and we are not going away.

Do they really believe their own spin?

I was in Raleigh this week to testify before the NC House Insurance Committee against the insurance exchange bill, but I figured while I was there I could visit my state representative, Tim Moffitt, a Republican. I had e-mailed him last week to tell him the 39,000 people who just lost their unemployment benefits aren’t going to blame Gov. Bev Perdue for their loss.

I know he reads my e-mails and he usually responds, and I appreciate that, and I appreciate that me makes time to see me when I’m in town. Naturally, we started the visit with a discussion of unemployment benefits.

He went into an explanation of how unemployment insurance is funded and how much it costs businesses. He mentioned that he hasn’t drawn a paycheck from his own business in awhile and is living off savings.

Well, most of the 39,000 who just lost their unemployment benefits don’t have much money to dip into. They’re screwed. But he thinks the agencies and people in the state need to know what the budget will look like so they can plan, and that the move to connect unemployment benefits to the Republic budget proposal was appropriate.

That’s the party line on this: What if the budget negotiations drag on and on? Don’t agencies and businesses that receive state money deserve to know what they’re getting so they can plan? Of course people aren’t going to blame the Republicans for the veto of a jobless benefits extension.

Well, Tim, you and your fellow Republican lawmakers need to listen. The NC Issues Poll, conducted by the NC Justice Center, shows that people in the state overwhelmingly blame the Republican majority, not the governor, for the cutoff of unemployment benefits. The poll showed that 65 percent of North Carolinians support the governor, and they want the Legislature to vote on a 20-week extension by itself.

Rather than cutting taxes and laying off hundreds of teachers’ aides, 66 percent of those polled want to see the aides kept on in our schools; 57 percent want to save the funding for the state’s university system; 61 percent want to make sure students in community colleges stay eligible for low-interest student loans and 84 percent do not want to allow interest rates on consumer loans to be raised.

Republicans ignore all this at their own peril. People across the country are seeing the truth about what the party is doing to the middle class, and they’re not happy. Four recall campaigns in Wisconsin have gathered the signatures they need to hold elections. People in other states will follow.

39,000 hostages in North Carolina

As of yesterday, 39,000 North Carolinians were cut off from unemployment benefits because the GOP-led legislature here tied extension of benefits to their disastrous budget.

The Republican majority agreed to extend jobless benefits ONLY if Gov. Bev Perdue would agree to their budget proposal, which isn’t even finished yet.

Most of the unemployed rely on those benefits to put food on the table. The average payout is $300 per week, and without it, people have nowhere to turn. Few have managed to put away enough savings to see them through until the economy turns around for those of us who have to work for a living.

There’s no excuse for this behavior; the budget should be debated on its own, not tied to the economic survival of 39,000 people who are victims of the economic ruin Wall Street perpetuated upon the country.

Other states have passed the technical language needed to continue benefits for up to 99 weeks, but not North Carolina. Our legislature takes the cynical approach, hoping people will blame the governor for vetoing the extension to unemployment.

I wrote to my representative, Republican Tim Moffitt, and told him I will remember this come Election Day, and I won’t blame Bev Perdue; I’ll blame the Republicans who held 39,000 people hostage.

The GOP baits its hook again

Ok. I have to give it to the greedy, the devoid of conscience, the Soul-less… you have played a masterful game and now that you have what’s left of humanity who still gives a damn about their fellow humans against the ropes, make it quick won’t you? I know, how bleeding heart liberal of me to ask such a thing. Suffering is such a deliciously righteous punishment for the sinner who dares point out the emperor has no clothes.

Is there anyone out there that has yet to make up your mind about which side of the divide you are on? I’m talking about the new chasm on the left, exposed by the news that Obama has come to an agreement with the Republicans that will extend the deficit and the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. This one certainly was a nice gash. I feel what’s left of our shared liberal/progressive lifeblood bleeding out as we speak.

I know it’s taken years of patience, planning and work on the part of those who think paying their fair share for the good of all is only for the poor bastards who can’t seem to take care of themselves in the first place. Congratulations, your twisted logic of using us to build and defend your empire while feeling no responsibility to us whatsoever was apparently a winning hand. How enjoyable it must be for the God’s of power and wealth to watch us prove their point. Now we are fighting amongst ourselves over the scraps. This battle is between the defenders of and those living off of the scraps and those who see those scraps for what they are, just a little more bait. I know, we also paid for the bait, but that does not change the fact that it’s still just bait.

Maybe we deserve this fate. Maybe the Soul-less egos who run this world have been right all along about us Liberals. If all we can do is talk about what’s right and are not willing to fight, suffer, and sincerely give all we can to help our own get off the scraps, why should they care? The uber powerful have always used that message to command an army of people that they really can’t stand just as much as Liberals. I’m sure it’s so much easier to rally the zombies now than in the old days with the advent of cable networks and manufactured terrorism.

While we debate who is at fault here, the spineless Dems, the pragmatic Pres or the heartless GOP we are not really putting the responsibility where it belongs, and that’s squarely with us, the 98% in this country. To our great detriment we let our focus on the big picture go dim, ignoring the people of other places who are exploited for our comfort and convenience and the lessons we should have learned from that.  Attention Middle Classers: There has been a change in the terms of your food chain status… it’s been downgraded.

There have not been many missed opportunities by the Gods of Plutocracy to land a punch and it’s has taken it’s toll.  98% of us grow more desperate every day and now we are turning to fighting each other over the scraps. Again, I dare say the Gods of Plutocracy find it satisfying to say this just “proves them right” about our weak minded “kum ba ya” ideology.

I won’t be going into debating all the points of this proposed “framework” here. It’s all spelled out elsewhere on this site, the for and the against in great detail. I am here to say it’s time to join together and help each other while we take a stand. It’s time to stop pretending the rules of negotiation with the GOP haven’t changed, it’s time to stop mocking taking a stand before it’s too late as “idealism”.  It’s time to stop falling for the scraps and calling it pragmatic compromise. We should not be giving 900 billion in deficit exploding, economy crushing tax cuts to the wealthy while the 98% are getting scraps wrapped around a barbed hook.

Happy Holidays and please consider donating or doing something to help the jobless. Here are some links to get you started.

Five Ways You Can Help the Unemployed

How To Help Jobless Friends & Family

20 Ways You Can Help the Unemployed (job opening, interview, job, pay)

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