Nel's New Day

February 10, 2014

Moral Mondays Start to Sweep Nation

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:08 PM
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“Moral Mondays” marched last Saturday, and the mainstream media took note. They started last year when crowds showed up the North Carolina capitol on Mondays to protest the draconian laws that legislators persisted in passing. After lowering taxes for the wealthiest top 5 percent, Republicans took some of these actions after they controlled the legislature and governor’s mansion in 2012:

  • Raised taxes for the poorest bottom 95 percent
  • Eliminated Medicaid coverage for 500,000 people
  • Deprived 70,000 North Carolinians of unemployment benefits on June 30, 2014
  • Ended federal unemployment benefits for 170,000
  • Enacted a voting law requiring voter ID and cutting early voting
  • Repealed an earned-income tax credit for 900,000
  • Stopped public financing of judicial races
  • Cut preschool for 30,000 children
  • Shifted $90 million from public schools to voucher schools
  • Repealed a law permitting death row inmates to appear a conviction proved to include racial bias in sentencing
  • Allowed hydraulic fracking
  • Amended the state constitution to ban marriage equality
  • Mandated that women “listen to the heartbeat of the unborn child” before an abortion 

Gov. Pat McCrory was dismissive of the protesters, but polls show that by last summer, more North Carolina residents approved of the Moral Monday protesters than of the state legislature. Last Saturday, a crowd of between 80,000 and 100,000 people turned out for the Raleigh rally and marched for justice including reproductive, voting, LGBT, health care, and environmental rights. Last year, the march brought only about 15,000 people.

moral-monday-stage_img 

People in North Carolina know that Art Pope, a right-wing multi-millionaire with close connections to the Koch brothers, bought many of the GOP legislators in the 2010 election who then redistricted the state to protect their grip on the state legislature. It was the first time since 1870 that North Carolina had a Republican government. Art Pope’s bonus from his victory was being in charge of the state budget.   

The 84 people arrested at Saturday’s rally joined the almost 1,000 others who were arrested in last year’s demonstrations, many of them clergy who had never participated in civil disobedience. Last week, police even arrested a journalist who was merely covering the protest.

The state NAACP meeting in Raleigh plus 200 other organizations the number of protesters in Saturday’s “Moral March on Raleigh” from 15,000 in 2013 to almost 100,000 this year. It was the largest civil rights rally in the South since tens of thousands of voting rights activists marched from Selma to Montgomery in support of the Voting Rights Act.

The Moral Monday group has five demands

  • Secure pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that ensure economic sustainability;
  • Provide well-funded, quality public education for all;
  • Stand up for the health of every North Carolinian by promoting health care access and environmental justice across all the state’s communities; 
  • Address the continuing inequalities in the criminal justice system and ensure equality under the law for every person, regardless of race, class, creed, documentation or sexual preference;
  • Protect and expand voting rights for people of color, women, immigrants, the elderly and students to safeguard fair democratic representation.

Spinoffs in George and South Carolina have already started the movement in other states. At the Georgia state capitol, 23 protesters were arrested and housed in Fulton County Jail when they went to the office of state Sen. Jesse Stone, GOP chair of the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. Stone has declined to act on a Democratic effort to repeal the state’s “stand your ground” law and refused to meet with the entire group. The law was recently evoked when a Georgia homeowner shot and killed a 72-year-old Alzheimer’s patient he thought was an intruder. Ten Moral Monday members were arrested on January 27, 2014 when they protested Gov. Nathan Deal’s refusal to expand Medicaid in the state.

Moral Monday can provide a blueprint for the nation. The GOP may want to start taking notice.

August 3, 2013

Taking Action Moves the U.S. Forward

When I looked at today’s email, I saw a the usual plethora of petition seekers, this time asking me to sign onto protests against egregious acts of environmental and political abuses.

  • Major bank executives such as Chase CEO Jamie Dimon who lost $9 billion of depositors’ money through his fraudulent actions are regulating the banking industry by the law that allows them to serve on the New York Federal Reserve Board. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is introducing legislation to make this practice illegal.
  • Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, gubernatorial candidate, refused to repay $18,000 of gifts from Star Scientific, a dietary supplement company that benefitted from its relationship with the AG, because, Cuccinelli said, “There are some bells you can’t un-ring.”
  • New Hampshire state Rep. Bill O’Brien compared Obamacare to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that allowed slave-owners to take African-Americans out to the state back to the South.
  • The Securities and Exchange Committee has not yet passed regulations to require the disclosure of corporation CEO’s salaries despite the three-year-old Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law that mandates this action.
  • Cumulus will reportedly not re-hire Rush Limbaugh, but they may also be trying to jockey a better deal with the misogynist radio show host.
  • Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other stores that sell toxic pesticides containing neoicotinoids (neonics) because these are killing bees, vital for food production, at an inordinate rate; last winter beekeepers reports losses of 50-70 percent of their hives.

These petitions are just the proverbial drop in the bucket. As an activist, I want to make changes in the world; I write a monthly newspaper for the local chapter of PFLAG, help with the local chapter of NOW, and write this blog. But there’s so much more to do. Fortunately, other people are also taking action.

Popular Resistance has a website for people who want to create a sustainable future. It reports that one-third of the people in the United States are members of at least one cooperative, including credit unions. In Seattle, the Community Sourced Capital formed to help people avoid Wall Street and invest in their local communities.

In England, the Church of England has started its own credit union by working with non-profit loan agencies to provide less expensive loan services than the legal loan-shark cost of 1-percent interest per day.

Strike Debt Bay Area is working to reverse the privatizing of public services as in the case of the U.S. Post Office through education.  Another of its projects is to save the historic Berkeley post office, and other groups are focusing on ways the Post Office can expand and provide new services. An early project was to raise money to retire health care debts; as of last January the group had garnered over $11 million.

People in Washington state have put a measure on November’s ballot to require labeling of GMO foods. Companies like Monsanto have poured a great deal of money into the campaign, but success for initiative could lead to a national change. People are also working to buy directly from farmers despite efforts to stop this practice.

In the world, 46 countries get 60 percent of electricity from renewable, clean energy sources. The United States could do this by 2050 at the latest. Last year, the fastest growing source of new energy in the nation was wind that made up 42 percent of new electricity.

Over 600 corporations have been negotiating in secret with the Obama administration and its Office of the U.S .Trade Representative for the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would turn people’s rights over to the corporations around the world. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) said that it will undermine US sovereignty, and former US Trade Representative Ron Kirk admitted that it would not be signed if people knew its contents. The group Flush the TTP is small but growing as it educates people through displaying banners, distributing OccuCards to commuters, and carrying out other actions on #TTP Tuesdays.

Around the nation, people are occupying different spaces in a “dandelion movement” as they disperse seeds to grow their ideas. Through Moral Mondays, people spent 11 Monday evenings in North Carolina getting arrested for being present in the state capitol while GOP legislators continued to try to take away people’s rights.

Wisconsin police are also arresting people who gather in the capitol to sing. For the past two and a half years, Gov. Scott Walker’s opponents have held Solidarity Singalong most weekdays over the lunch hour. They have refused to get permits for their gathering, saying the state constitution allows them to peaceably assemble without the government’s permission. The GOP legislation passed requirements for permits. U.S. District Judge William Conley temporarily blocked part of the law as unconstitutional, but the rest of the law allowed the arrests last week. Retired Evangelical Lutheran Church pastor Carter Dary collapsed with chest pains after his arrest. He was taken to the hospital in handcuffs.

Wisconsin Protests

o-dream-defenders-facebookThe Florida sit-ins didn’t face the same arrests as protesters in North Carolina and Wisconsin. Activists stayed in the capitol for almost three weeks because the state “stand your ground” law freed George Zimmerman after he killed Trayvon Martin. State House Speaker, GOP Will Weatherford, announced that he would ask a House Committee to convene to hold a hearing on the controversial law. The Dream Defenders, primarily young people, say that they will stay in the capitol until their requests are met.

Fast-food workers are striking across the nation to bring up the minimum wage to equal that in the 1960s. Richmond (CA) the city will use its eminent domain power to seize underwater houses threatened with foreclosure and re-finance them.

Because of activism in Ohio, two major oil and gas companies decided not to follow through with fracking in the Delaware River Basin. Nebraska’s Pipeline Fighters are getting their countries to pass zoning laws forbidding tar sands pipelines from crossing through the state as well as writing letters to President Obama, asking him to keep the Keystone Pipeline out of their state.

In May, Gallup released a poll showing that the nation’s shift in ideological attitudes is moving toward the left: more people in the country identify themselves as “liberals” in regard to social and economic issues while fewer of them describe themselves as conservative. A Vanderbilt study shows that conservative politicians overestimate the conservative beliefs of their constituents by more than 20 percentage points on average. Liberal politicians following the same pattern, believing that their constituents are more conservative than they actually are.

Almost 90 percent of Republicans are white; the GOP has only a 13-percent allegiance from Hispanics and less from other minorities. That poll was in February before conservative politicians like Rep. Steve King (R-IA) started talking about how young Hispanics have thighs like cantaloupes because they haul so much marijuana. Polls aren’t always to be trusted, but Republican politicians keep working to alienate everyone in the country except wealthy whites.

At the same time, the percentage of religious progressives is rapidly increasing, particularly among the young. The profile of the Republican is older and white, a demographic that is disappearing. We just need to live long enough to see it disappear and hope that the country has not been destroyed by then. At least two political parties are a good idea, but the United States needs progressives to balance the moderate and right-wing groups.

June 8, 2013

June Brings Good News

Amidst recent scandals and outrage of IRS and spying issues are stories that give hope for the future. One of these is the growth of North Carolina’s “Moral Monday” demonstrations against GOP assaults on women’s reproductive rights, public education, care for the poor and mentally ill, and voting rights. Rev. William Barber of the state NAACP spoke to a crowd, objecting to lawmakers’ cutting 500,000 people from the Medicaid rolls, causing one million working poor families to lose their earned income tax credit “so that 23 wealthy people get a tax cut,” and giving $100 million in public money to private schools while cutting corporate tax rates. Two years ago, the Tea Party drove the election, giving both legislative chambers to Republicans for the first time since Reconstruction almost 150 years ago.

 9847-moral-mondays-060313

As Barber talked, two prison buses waited to take the people to jail. The 151 people arrested were an increase from the 17 five weeks earlier. Many of them are the elderly, disabled, clergy, professionals–people who traditionally seen as the establishment. Also parked outside the crowd are four vans from Baptist churches filled with bottled water, bag lunches, and rain ponchos, not really menacing.

President Obama may have held his own mini-protest last week when he appointed U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice as his national security adviser. Last fall, Republican legislators attacked Rice so viciously after she delivered the talking points given her by the FBI regarding the four deaths in Benghazi that she declined to be a nominee for Secretary of State. The Senate would have to approve that nomination, but this position requires no Congressional approval. 

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) tweeted that he would “make every effort to work w/her on imp’t issues.” Earlier he accused her of giving “false information concerning how this tragedy happened” and of being unfit for high office, asking for her resignation because of her “bad intelligence.” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) had described Rice as “somebody who’s had every drop of Kool-Aid” and sounds “like she’d be a great head of the Democratic National Committee.” After her new appointment, he said, “I had a very good conversation with Ambassador Susan Rice to let her know I look forward to working with her on shaping important foreign policy and national security issues as she serves in her new role.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) stands his ground. “I really question the president’s judgment in promoting someone who was complicit in misleading the American public,” Paul said. All the senators might want to play nice with Susan Rice: her new position makes her more powerful than the Secretary of State, the office that they kept her from having.

The president—and small businesses in California—got some good news about Obamacare. Big health insurers Anthem and Blue Cross/Blue Shield were told to refund over $36 million in overcharges to these small businesses, and that’s just one state. While conservatives claim to love “Main Street, USA,” they prefer to let huge corporations rob them. Obamacare has already saved $147 million for newly insured young adults and another $1.1 billion for 12.8 million people because of the provision that insurance companies must pay a minimum of 80 percent of premiums for real medical care. This is the law that GOP House members have voted 37 times to overturn.

Swiffer-rosie-the-riveter-e1370362475592A bad news story turned into good news within less than a week when Swiffer removed Rosie the Riveter from its advertising. During World War II, the picture of Rosie became a lasting feminist icon, showing that women could get out of the kitchen. Swiffer put her back in when they used the image to promote its new mopping products. 

 

 

120606_sheldon_adelson_ap_605Casino mogul and billionaire Sheldon Adelson, 79, may have less clout in the next presidential election. After dropping millions of dollars on Newt Gingrich’s campaign and denigrating Mitt Romney, he changed the recipient of more millions after Romney was chosen for the GOP candidate. With a net worth of $26.5 billion, Adelson and his wife gave almost $150 million to GOP superPACs and “nonprofit” groups, legal because of Citizens United.

Rumors of his fraudulent actions swirled around for several years; now a grand jury in Los Angeles is probing an alleged federal money-laundering scheme of his Nevada-based casinos. Adelson may not be a subject of the inquiry, but he’s in trouble for violations of an anti-bribery statute involving his four casinos in Macau, the only place in China with legalized casino gambling. A Las Vegas jury has ruled that Adelson’s casino, the Sands, owes Richard Suen $70 million for lobbying help to open its first Macau casino almost a decade ago. And PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm that had represented the Sands for a quarter-century, suddenly resigned probably because of legal and regulatory concerns. [AP photo]

Rumors about Texas turning politically purple, if not downright blue, are also swirling around, and a Tea Party member is helping. After Democrats launched Battleground Texas, state GOP leaders opened fire against the opposition. State Attorney General Greg Abbott called the Democratic campaign “an assault far more dangerous than what the leader of North Korea threatened when he said he was going to add Austin, Texas, as one of the recipients of his nuclear weapons.”

The sabotage from the conservatives came when Ken Emanuelson said, “I’m going to be real honest with you; the Republican Party doesn’t want black people to vote if they’re going to vote 9-to-1 for Democrats.” He evidently didn’t get the memo on GOP minority outreach. Out of a population of 26 million, Texas has a white population of only 44 percent. Although 70 percent of Hispanics and 90+ percent of blacks voted for President Obama, he still lost the vote because of the low minority voter registration and turnout. Emanuelson could help change that.

Another GOP dinosaur problem comes from the Heritage Foundation. Known as a conservative think tank, the organization has begun to take on the personality of its new leader, rabidly right Jim DeMint who was formerly a senator from South Carolina. Still insisting on the importance of austerity in a crisis—continually debunked within the past year—one of its economists, Salim Furth, claimed that most of Europe isn’t practicing austerity according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

A Senate member explained that Furth’s OECD numbers are actually the opposite of reality, calling the testimony “meretricious,” a polite term for just short of lying. Another notable economist, Nobel Prize-winner Paul Krugman, wondered “whether Heritage may at this point be destroying its own usefulness. Its purpose was never to do real research; it was always a propaganda arm of the movement. But it was supposed to create a plausible illusion of intellectual rigor, good enough to take in gullible journalists.”

Thanks to DeMint, the Heritage Foundation is moving away from research and into, according to DeMint, “good marketing.” Instead of policy, it will focus on “messaging” and “communicating.” Instead of a think tank, the Heritage Foundation will become a message strategist for like-minded politicians. That’s bad news for the GOP because they aren’t able to do their own research.

And thanks to Rachel Maddow, I’ve found the website for marine traffic, fun for me because I live in one of the largest fishing harbors on the West Coast that’s also home to NOAA ships and other research vessels. Maddow has found another use for the website that tracks ships—searching the locations where the Koch brothers are sending their stockpile of petroleum coke to be burned. The article explains her reasons, process, and the end location of a couple of ships, two plants in Nova Scotia.

The best news for parenting gays and lesbians confirms what they already know: these children are not only thriving but also maintaining a higher rate of family cohesion than other families. The Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families is the world’s largest comparison of children raised by same-sex couples and those raised by heterosexual couples. Although researchers found no difference in self-esteem, emotional behavior, and time spent with parents, children with same-sex parents also score higher for overall health. Legislators who prevent adoption by same-sex couples and Supreme Court justices who worry about “the children” might want to take notice. 

At the same time that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is backing out of immigration reform and the Eagle Forum has called on people to “shoot” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) for her support of the act, evangelical leaders are now praying for GOP congressmen to back immigration reform and running radio ads, primarily in red states, to support for the act. Maybe they want more people in their congregation: 600,000 Latinos in the United States convert from Catholicism to evangelical Protestantism every year. Or more voters. One-third of registered GOP or leaning-GOP voters are also evangelical Christians. Those in the pews are, however, pushing back. White evangelical Christians are the least likely group to allow legal status to undocumented immigrants. 

The Senate starts debate on the immigration reform bill next week. Let’s see how good the news is then. 

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