It’s time to get serious about opposing the oligarchs

We need a strong, progressive candidate who will illustrate the real difference between the parties.

 

Matt Coffay has dropped out of the race for the 11th District Congressional seat in North Carolina.

Now what?

There is another candidate named Phillip Price and I have e-mailed him to request a meeting. I want to know where he stands because I’m not ready to vote for another moderate who won’t work for my interests.

I don’t want someone who’s happy with the Affordable Care Act; I want someone who will push for a single-payer system.

I want someone who will push to regulate Big Pharma and rein in the drug companies’ abuses.

I want someone who will fight to raise the minimum wage to $18. Three years ago, $15 would have been adequate, but time marches on, as does inflation. $18 now, not in five years.

I want someone who will work for universal voter registration. Everyone in, no one out, just like I want in health care.

I want someone who will understand the dire risk of global warming and who will demand action immediately, in spite of what Big Oil wants. I want to see solar panels and wind turbines popping up in the landscape like weeds in my garden.

I’m looking for a candidate who will work on re-funding education and strengthening schools, colleges and universities.

I want someone who will actually reduce spending on the war machine.

I want to see someone who’s unashamed to support Planned Parenthood.

I want someone who’ll work to stop the militarization of our local police forces.

I’m tired of moderates who aren’t willing to challenge the corporate overlords. Nothing will change until we the people make those changes. and moderates won’t work with us.

I voted for Hillary Clinton, not because I agreed with her on everything, but to try and keep the Orange One out of the White House. She is qualified to be president, but she is in bed with the big corporations.

She doesn’t get Black Lives Matter. The issue of institutional racism is somehow out of her grasp.

She doesn’t get the need for an immediate hike in the minimum wage to make it a living wage. If you’re making $7.25 an hour, you need that raise now. It’s only about 40 percent of what’s needed to live in any city in the United States and less than that in many places. If you’re in business, you don’t get to enrich yourself on the backs of others. If you can’t pay a fair wage, you shouldn’t be in business.

She wasn’t for an immediate move to single-payer because the insurance overlords don’t want it and they would have withdrawn support.

It was, in part, purists who put this clown in the White House because they wouldn’t vote for someone who disagreed with any of their stands. I get that and I’m not a purist.

I do, however, want a candidate I can back wholeheartedly. I want a true progressive because more and more Americans are beginning to understand the need for progressive policies.

So, can we at least try to recruit a progressive without the Democratic Party getting its panties in a bunch?

Mark Meadows is an oligarch. He has no idea how we struggle with bills or how terrified we are of getting sick in one of the worst health care systems in the world. He cares only about himself and his little circle of the pampered and privileged.

We need someone strong to run against that. We need to be able to show people there is a very real difference between the parties because if there isn’t, we truly are lost as a nation.

 

 

 

A little R-E-S-P-E-C-T, please

Here we are, about to go into Sen. Thom Tillis's office for some disrespect and verbal abuse.

Here we are, about to go into Sen. Thom Tillis’s office for some disrespect and verbal abuse.

I went to Washington, DC, for the final day of Democracy Awakening with the NC NAACP, and it was a glorious, frustrating, infuriating and affirming day.

The bus arrived in time for the rally at Columbus Circle, which was followed by a march to the U.S. Capitol, where about 300 or so people were arrested for standing on the steps of OUR building. While that was going on, the rest of the crowd of more than 1,000 people was pushed back 500 or so feet by the Capitol Police. It make the crowd look smaller when it was filmed by the few media outlets that were there to cover it.

I brought along a documentary film-maker, a 28-year-old student at UNC Asheville named Robin, who hasn’t done a lot of activism. She’ll do more if she continues to hang out with me.

After the rally, most of our group went to the Russell Senate Office Building, hoping to get some time with one or both of our senators, while Robin and I stayed to get some shots of Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the NC NAACP, and Rev. Dr. Cornell Brooks, the national NAACP president, as they gave statements after being released from custody.

The purpose of all this is to try and get Big Money out of politics. Once we do that, we can begin to fix the mess the uber-wealthy have created for the rest of us.

When Robin and I finally made it to the Senate Cafeteria, we were just in time to join the group for an appointment at Sen. Thom Tillis’s office.

Now, Tillis doesn’t care for us Moral Monday folks. He literally ran away from us a number of times when he was Speaker of the House in North Carolina. As a Senator, he has refused delivery of petitions from us, having a staffer tell us to mail it in.

I don’t think he expected the NC NAACP delegation to join the Democracy Uprising people, although I can’t believe how he couldn’t figure out we would hook up.

But, there we were, about 25 of us, ushered into a conference room where we met with a low-level staffer.

She proceeded to roll her eyes a lot and ask insulting questions. One example was when she asked where we get the money for public campaign financing. Vicki Ryder, a Raging Granny, member of the NC NAACP and fellow Moral Monday activist, suggested we could shut down the building of outdated and unnecessary fighter jets or shut down a few of the 1,000-plus bases we have around the world, and this staffer looked incredulous as she said, “Defense? You’re talking about eliminating the defense budget?”

Of course she knew no one was talking about eliminating the Department of Defense or disbanding the military. She just didn’t know she was talking to people who are well informed and not easily intimidated.

She didn’t look at people who spoke to her and her facial expression was one of utter contempt for all of us. She rolled her eyes at everything we had to say.

When we started to talk about giving the president’s Supreme Court nominee a hearing, she said something about “let the people choose.” Four of us at once said, “The people have chosen.”

I mentioned that Tillis had said right after Antonin Scalia died that blocking a hearing would be obstructionist, and she denied he ever said it.

But of course, we do have recording devices in this day and age, and we all know he said it and then backed down, probably under pressure from party leaders.

Several people said they remembered him saying it and she said, “no he didn’t,” as though repeating her lie would somehow make us back down. It reminded me of the Monty Python skit in which people could pay John Cleese to argue with them. It was that ridiculous.

“Yes he did.”

“No he didn’t.”

“I could look it up. He said it.”

“No he didn’t.”

(But, in fact, you can hear him say just that on the Tom Cralle Show at http://soundcloud.com/tylercralle. Scroll down to the first Thom Tillis interview and listen. I didn’t link to it here here because it comes up as a huge photo of Cralle, but type or copy and paste it into your browser, and there you have it. )

I came thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis close to saying, “You’re a fucking liar and you know it.”

Rather than show as much disrespect to her as she was showing to us, I clenched my jaw, picked up my camera bag and said politely, “Excuse me, I have to leave now.”

I walked out of the room to find more Moral Monday friends from the NC Council of Churches in the waiting room and in the hallway. A few seconds later, Robin emerged from the meeting. We warned them to take several dep, cleansing breaths before going in because they were going to need it.

“I wasn’t as nice as you were,” Robin said to me. “I’m so mad I’m shaking. How can people be so disrespectful. She was utterly contemptuous.”

What made the experience even more surreal for her was the dead possum on the wall that she kept hitting with her head. I really wish I had gotten a picture of that before I was told to put down my camera.

Naturally, we weren’t allowed to record any of this because, as Tillis already knows, recordings can come back and bite you in the ass.

Richard Burr’s people were no more in agreement with us than Tillis’s automaton, but they were polite and respectful. The staffer who met with us took notes, handed out his card and said, “This isn’t my area of expertise, but I will pass on what you have to say here and you can e-mail or call me with any more questions.”

I left that office knowing I disagree with the senator, but a bit less angry and frustrated than I had been with Tillis.

I left Washington once again fired up to register people to vote, to fight voter suppression, to fight Big Money and to work for a more just society.

As we say in the Moral Monday Movement:

Forward together! Not one step back!

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.

 

Why I march

Here I am on the day of my second arrest, May 13, 2015. I'll be in Raleigh again on Saturday with tens of thousands of others who want a better life for people here in North Carolina.

Here I am on the day of my second arrest, May 13, 2015. I’ll be in Raleigh again on Saturday with tens of thousands of others who want a better life for people here in North Carolina.

This Saturday is the 10th annual Moral March in Raleigh, sponsored by the HKonJ Coalition.

HKonJ stands for Historic Thousands on Jones Street and originated as a march to remind elected officials that we stand together for sound public policies.

The Moral March and HKonJ are part of the Forward Together Moral Movement, a beautifully diverse effort to get our government to listen to reason and stop harming the people they were elected to represent.

We are young and old, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and atheist and agnostic; we are gay and straight, black, white, brown and mixed-race; we are immigrants and citizens liberal and conservative, men and women, students, professionals, laborers, executives and unemployed, we are people with and without disabilities, and out unity makes us strong.

When the Democrats led the General Assembly, they were’t perfect, but they would sit down and talk to us — and they would listen. They didn’t always do what we wanted, but they were open to discussion.

Then the Republicans took control and everything changed. Discussion wasn’t an option anymore. They came in and immediately began making bad policies — cutting funds for education, gutting unemployment insurance, denying access to health care by refusing to expand Medicaid, limiting women’s access to reproductive care, allowing our waterways to be polluted by Big Energy, increasing access to guns, cutting access to the vote, gerrymandering district lines and more.

I know first-hand what it is to lose someone I loved to bad public policy. My son died from lack of access to health care because our system cares more about profit than about human lives. I want to tell my son’s story to some of the people who are voting to deny a half million people access to health care. Others in the movement were or are unemployed, or affected by coal ash spills or are teachers who can’t make ends meet on their low salaries. Still others are fast-food workers who work two and three jobs and still can’t feed their families.

When we tried to make appointments to talk to them, most of our legislators ignored us. Those who did agree to meet with us individually were not open to listening.

We tried writing letters, but that didn’t do any good.

Meanwhile teachers began leaving the state in record numbers. People who lost jobs through no fault of their own — and who lost their access to health care in the process — had to take low-wage jobs, Many lost their homes. Worst of all, people died — and continue to die every day — because they can’t get access to health care.

So, we started going into the General Assembly Building to try and talk to legislators, as is our right under the North Carolina Constitution. We found the doors to the observation galleries locked. We stood in the rotunda and sang and prayed, and our legislators had us all arrested.

By the end of 2013, about 1,000 people had been arrested. In 2014, nearly all of us had all our charges dropped because we had been arrested for trespassing in a public building that was open. The charges of carrying signs (I only had this photo of my son) and chanting and loud singing were thrown out almost immediately as violations of our First Amendment rights.

Still, we had to go to Raleigh every month for court dates and we often were forced to sit in court all day, waiting for a call that didn’t come. I went seven times before my charges were dismissed on appeal. I was found guilty by a judge on my sixth trip.

In 2015, they waited for us to go into the building, then closed it and told us we had to leave. We stayed because we knew legislative leaders were in their offices and we wanted to speak to them. We were arrested again.

The Moral Movement has made a difference. Our voting rights lawsuits are making their way through the courts, and just last week, two Congressional districts were found to be illegal because they were drawn based on race.

We aren’t just protesting, though — we are educating people, and we are registering people to vote. Many of us have signed a pledge to register 50 new voters before Election Day.

This Moral March won’t involve any arrests; it is an opportunity for all of us to come together to ask out government to do what’s best for the people, not the bidding of corporate overlords.

We will march, we will sing, we will chant and we will hear the stories of people whose lives have been torn apart by the bad policies of this government.

Our theme is Our Time, Our Vote, and we’ll be talking about how to get a government that’s more in tune with the needs of the governed.

This is an important event for anyone who hopes for a better North Carolina.

 

 

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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