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Opinion: A Love Letter to my Heart

posted Feb 15, 2019, 6:19 AM by Rahni Sumler   [ updated Feb 15, 2019, 6:33 AM ]

Going on 25 years ago, I was in elementary school. I was one of those little round black girls who wore her hair in plaits, or pig tails. Deep down, I'm still one of those.

I remember a tightness in my chest, on two or three occasions. Always around lunch time or in the afternoon, it was a dilapidation pain. At some point, I remember laying down across the table.

I don't really remember any thing being done about it. I was brought home and I got a lecture about eating too much pork. That was about it.

It wouldn't be until some 25 years later that I finally would get a check in on my heart.

Modifiable and Non-Modifiable Factors of Heart Health

Heart-painting

Original title: "Matters of the Heart" by "denn"  / Denise Chan [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
There are modifiable and non-modifiable factors to maintain heart health. Factors that you cannot modify, is family history, age and sex. Heart disease tends to be more common in men and postmenopausal women. Modifiable factors include reducing hypertension, managing diabetes, not smoking, increasing physical activity, and managing cholesterol. 
New research has shown that daily aspirin is not suggested for people who have no history of heart problems. 

Abyssinia's Go Red for Heart Health Screening, February 2019

When I moved to New York 6 years ago my father "suggested", he instructed me, to go to Abyssinia Baptist Church. My father, as a civil rights activist, told me that Rev. Butts was also an activist and that the church would take care of me. This was coming from a man who worked with churches frequently and, as they say about making sausage, its often better when you don't know how they are made. My father was a faithful man but he had a healthy amount of cynicism when it came to organized religion. For him to tell me to go to a church meant he had investigated the church thoroughly: not just for his daughter but just because that’s the sort of person he was. Thus far, he's instruction has been correct.

I've participated in a number of events at the church. I seek to eventually move back to Harlem and be near the church since there are so many opportunities to do things for others. Most recently, one of the events that has had the most impact on me was the Community Health Screening.  They had free tests as well as tests that would be covered by health insurance, including:
  •  Abdominal and Thyroid
  •  Cancer Gene Test
  •  Echocardiogram
  •  Allergy Testing
  • Cholesterol/Glucose
  •  Blood Pressure
  •  HIV Consultation
  • BMI (Body Mass Index)
I gave them my insurance card, filled out the paper work, and then hurried off to service. It was a spectacular service that spoke to issues of the heart and it would really set the stage for my experience.

The Heart: A Place where Willpower and Emotions Meet

I had taken most of my other tests. It was finally time for the echocardiogram. The technician had asked me to turn around so she could scan the other side of my chest. Now facing the monitor, I could see what she was seeing. For a few moments I got to watch my heart work. I could see the little valves opening and closing. I could hear my heart beat. I watched for awhile, fascinated. 

That light bulb shaped object is what is currently keeping me alive. Its been with me since I started my journey in New York, since my adventures across Asia, and even before that. We have dealt with the loss of our home, the imprisonment of our father, the death of our grandmother. It made me really aware of grandmother's heart, hers failed while she was sleeping peacefully. It made me aware of my father's heart, which we believe he had a heart attack while getting ready for work one morning. Regretfully, we would never know exactly what happened because my father was wrongfully embalmed before we could get an autopsy. 

During the service, the sermon was given by Rev. Bachus. In addition to serving the community, Dr. Butts has been employing and training many young ministers for quite some time. Rev Bachus discussed Psalm 51: a prayer of King David, who asks God to create a new heart for him. This was after the king's mistakes eventually caused him to premeditatively murder a man. 

Heart Health: Modifiable and Non-Modifiable Factors

There are a lot of things in this world that corrupts us, causes us pain, and has us seeking comfort in the most destructive ways. Researchers have found that mental conditions like anxiety and depression have physical impacts on our hearts. Just from what I could remember of my father, he may have been severely depressed. After losing our home my mother and father moved to our ancestral land, a house built by my great-grandparents that my father saved for us. We are proud of keeping this property in the family, but is located in a severely neglected community. Due to the break down of many community institutions, churches, meeting halls, and unions, my parents lived in a very isolated place. This was a lot of the reasons why I moved away and my father sometimes lamented about how isolated he felt. My mother feels the same way.

After my father's passing, this caused me to talk to a therapist, to regularly check in with my doctor, and stay involved with the community as well as keep in contact with my friends. In addition to the physical things that we can do for our hearts, improving our diets, exercising regularly, managing alcohol and not smoking; managing our mental wellness is additionally important. 

There are some things I cannot change. I have heart problems on my father's side: both him and his mother. They both passed in their early 70s. However, I can improve my chances by being a good steward and by being aware. 

I will be getting the results of all of my tests in the next few weeks in the mail. As for the other tests, I did well with the breath tests I believe because I practice yoga nightly. However, I have been eating a lot more sugary foods as of late to deal with fatigue and stress. I'm curious about the other results. Watching my heart work for a few moments was what really made it personal for me. Before I ever receive any of the numbers, I will always remember my light bulb sized companion and what I can do to help keep them going. 

Opinion: When Joshua Tree National Park was my Home

posted Feb 8, 2019, 6:33 AM by Rahni Sumler   [ updated Feb 8, 2019, 6:40 AM ]

Reposted from Susan Grigsby at Daily Kos 

It was late afternoon when we pulled into the Cottonwood Springs Campground on that September day in 1989. The only ones there, we sat outside of our motorhome and enjoyed a glass of wine and watched while the sunset turned the desert gold. Although this was not the Chihuahuan Desert of Big Bend, where we had been visiting friends, this expanse of the high Colorado Desert, part of the larger Sonoran Desert, was just as beautiful. This was our introduction to Joshua Tree National Monument.

Josha National Monument in 1936


Designated in 1936, Joshua Tree was initially called a National Monument. It is located in California, east of Los Angeles, near Palm Springs. Image attributed to the Joshua Tree National Park.

My husband loved to tell the story of how the next morning, when he took our dog out for a walk around the deserted campground, it was so still that he could actually hear the wind through the wings of a raven that circled them before deciding our Sheltie would not make the meal he desired, and flew away. 
There is a stillness in a desert park like Joshua Tree that you cannot find anywhere else. With no leaves for the wind to rustle, it is quiet there: peaceful and serene. And just like being on the ocean, the eye can travel for miles with no obstruction, to the distant mountains across the desert basin.
We did not know then that we would fall in love with that desert and eventually settle there, happily spending the next 23 years in and near the national monument. We just knew we would volunteer to work there for the coming winter season.

Employment and Volunteers at National Parks in the 1980s

It would not be our first gig as volunteers in our national parks. Three years earlier we had spent a season as volunteers at Big Bend National Park in Texas. It was a wonderful experience, and even though we worked the visitor centers alongside the interpretive division rangers, most of our friends were members of the maintenance staff who lived in the park housing, just behind the headquarters.

Big Bend included us in the two-week orientation that was given to all seasonal rangers in the interpretive division. We learned of the geology, the history, and the life that filled the park. In so doing, we learned to truly appreciate the young men and women who were employed by the Park Service on a seasonal basis. They all had degrees, some advanced, and were working the winters in the desert parks and the summers up north in the mountain parks. It was clear that they were doing it for the love of the parks, as the money was well below what they could have earned in the private sector.

These were the rangers who took visitors on walks and hikes, explaining the park, teaching the history and the geology of the riparian zone along the Rio Grande River. Or up into the Chisos Mountains, where wildlife abounded and the trails—I swear—only led uphill. They were expected to develop the walks and talks on their own, while putting in hours behind the desk of the visitor center.

The maintenance staff tended to be an older crowd, with whom we actually had more in common. They worked hard at keeping the roads clear and potholes filled, the generators working, and the water flowing, as well as caring for the structures within the park. 

Although there were a few employee housing areas within the park, the one behind the Panther Junction headquarters was where most of them lived. That is where we had an RV site with water, sewer, and electricity. After a day’s work, it was common for people to gather around a campfire or the kitchen table of one of the staff. Long-lasting friendships develop when you live together in an isolated housing area. 
Although many of the resident maintenance staff were married, few had children with them, although the management staff often did. There was a small preschool in the housing complex and older children were bussed long distances to attend schools outside of the park. 

Among the younger interpretive staff there were few married couples. Romances happened, and friendships were formed. It did seem that these rangers were more likely than any of the others to spend their time off hiking across the desert or rafting down the Rio Grande. They were young, and they worked hard.

just like being on the ocean, the eye can travel for miles with no obstruction, to the distant mountains across the Desert Basin

At that point we were in year five of what would be 12 years of nomadic traveling in a motorhome. We both loved to travel, visiting the National Parks all over the country. We enjoyed being in a position to give back through the VIP (Volunteers in Parks) Program that the National Park Service had established in 1970 even more.

In 1989, we returned to Big Bend, spending time with good friends we had made three years earlier. We had to decline the invitation to volunteer with the maintenance division, as we needed to be closer to a medical facility than was possible at Big Bend.

Joshua Tree National Park

Color photo of current entrance sign to Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Monument became a national park in 1994 when the U.S. Congress passed the California Desert Protection Act. Image attributed to Bachelot Pierre J-P, Wikimedia Commons

And so we headed west to the California coast, in what was nominally “home.” That day’s drive had begun in Flagstaff, Arizona, and ended at the Cottonwood Campground of Joshua Tree National Monument.
We returned to Joshua Tree in October to begin a six-month tour as maintenance volunteers at Cottonwood. At the far southern end of the Park, Cottonwood was the only campground, within the main boundaries of the park that had water and flush toilets. That and the fact that we had a dump station meant that we hosted the majority of RV visitors. Cottonwood also had lovely group campgrounds.

When we started, the only residents of the Cottonwood housing area were a single interpretive ranger who spent most of his off time hiking or working on his latest book on the park, and a maintenance worker, with his family, who really wanted a full-time employee, not a couple of volunteers. Most VIPs were campground hosts, or worked the visitor centers, handing out maps and collecting fees. The maintenance division at Joshua Tree had never had volunteers and there was a slight resistance to our introduction. The concern was that volunteers would be taking jobs from paid employees. However, since there was no money in the budget for a paid employee, we were grudgingly accepted.

It turned out that Jim and my husband Ed became fast friends, traveling out to the well to test the water and adjust the chlorine, feeding the generator that supplied power to the housing area and the visitor center, and maintaining the campground in pristine condition for the visitors. I was allowed to work with power tools! I painted the entrance sign shown above, as well as the vacant houses in the employee housing area.

Confusion and Dehydration: A Duck in the Desert

It was the following spring, on Mothers’ Day, that a man, crying in the middle of the campground road, was devastated when his girlfriend killed his baby duck and wandered off into the desert. His concern was for his dead duck (although why someone would bring a duck to a desert park was beyond my imagination), who, he claimed, had never hurt anyone. It was, he said, the sweetest little duck you could ever meet.

Our concern was not for his duck, but for the woman who hiked off across the desert, carrying no water or sun protection. A missing person in the desert is a cause for great concern. Dehydration does kill, but first, it confuses. 

Since we did not have a resident law enforcement ranger that year, I joined Jim in the park pickup to check the ladies rooms in the campground and the visitor center. While in the truck, I was able to monitor the park radio traffic as word spread that the missing woman had stomped the man’s duck. “The man’s what?” was the common response. 

Law enforcement finally arrived (we were almost an hour from headquarters) and took over the search, allowing Jim to return to his family and me to return to mine, who had driven up from Carlsbad for the holiday.

The Fragile Desert: Care and maintenance for National Parks

Joshua Trees of Joshua National Park

Joshua Tree (15077639060)

The park is named for the Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) native to the Mojave Desert. Image attributed to Christopher Michel [CC BY 2.0], Wikimedia Commons
The following year we were on the road again, volunteering at Mammoth Cave National Park, where the chief of maintenance at Joshua Tree was now the assistant superintendent. Once again, the maintenance staff resisted the introduction of a volunteer into their ranks, but Ed was a Marine, with the work ethic that said when there was a job to be done, you did it. It didn’t take all that long for him to earn their respect and become a member of the family.

But Joshua Tree called us back, and Ed wanted to live somewhere that had no snow, so we returned for a season and stayed for 18 months before we bought our home in Twentynine Palms on the northern boundary of the Park, right next to Indian Cove.

It was during this second visit that we realized visitors had no idea of the reality behind the beauty of the park. It was Easter weekend and all campgrounds in the park were full, including the group campgrounds at Cottonwood, when a couple came into the visitor center to pay their camping fee. 

They complained about the sprinklers running all night and disturbing their sleep. The ranger found that fascinating since no national park, much less one in the desert, runs sprinklers in campgrounds. They had camped out of bounds, but near the main water line to the campground and the housing area. The line, older than it should be, had sprung a leak. The visitors just assumed it was a sprinkler. In a desert.
Our water was piped from a well way out on the desert floor into a huge 50,000 gallon water tank up on a hill overlooking Cottonwood. From there, gravity fed it into the campground, visitor center, and employee housing area. Part of Ed’s responsibility was to check the level of the water in the tank, test the quality, and ensure that it was full for busy weekends. He had done so just the day before.

The leak emptied the water tank.  That meant no water for toilet flushing, and no water in the visitor center or the housing. It would take days to refill the water tank and so we had to close the campground. There were around 16 employees living in the housing area at the time, and they had to ration what water was still left.
To the two campers, the National Park was very much like Disneyland. They expected to be safe and dry, and did not understand why the timers never turned off the water.

This sense that the maintenance of the park was done at night by unseen gnomes using magical animatronic powers seemed to be shared by a lot of park visitors. They felt that they would be perfectly safe allowing their dogs, or their ducks, to roam unleashed across the fragile desert landscape. They were never aware of the hours we spent driving the highway, picking up the roadside trash that they carelessly threw out of their windows as they traveled through this magnificent landscape. 

-And that was when the park was opened and fully staffed. God knows what is happening to that beautiful park now

Desert parks are fragile places. They need the protection that the Park Service provides. A set of tire tracks across virgin desert landscape will take decades to recover. Unlike forest land, the desert is unable to quickly reclaim a damaged landscape. During World War II, General Patton’s army practiced tank maneuvers just south and east of the park border. Those tracks are still visible from the air, and even on Google maps.


Threats to our National Parks: Climate Change and Ignorance

Most visitors don’t know that this park in particular is facing multiple challenges, including climate change. In “The disappearing Joshua trees of Joshua Tree National Park,” I wrote that:

According to the modeling done by Dr. Barrows and the UC Riverside Center for Conservation Biology, if the current levels of heat continue their increase, 90 percent of the current range of the Joshua trees in the park will be unsustainable by the end of this century. Joshua trees have a lifespan, on average, of 150 years. Some of the trees in the park are estimated at over 200 years old. They have deep root systems that will help them survive for some time to come. It is their replacements that are in jeopardy.

The Joshua tree has faced threats in the past. The 1980s saw the development of the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster that replaced 200,000 Joshua trees with homes, schools, and parking lots. Today they are being displaced in even greater numbers by the increasing growth of massive solar farms.

But no other threat to the Joshua tree is as great as that presented by our rapidly changing climate. Researchers have expressed surprise at how quickly we are seeing the changes in the desert southwest and how little time the plants and animals are being given to adapt. Most past climate changes have happened over a thousands of years, allowing plants and animals time to adapt and move into more suitable ranges. Those that happened more rapidly tended to wipe out large numbers of species.

Man has occupied the area encompassed by the park's 800,000 acres for 5,000 years, beginning with the Pinto man. The Serrano, the Chemehuevi, and the Cahuilla tribes followed, and then, in the 1800s came the cattlemen, miners, and homesteaders. Today the Park is occupied by a immense variety of plants, insects, reptiles, birds and mammals. Joshua Tree National Park maintains a large Flickr collection of photographs here. It is a great place for Sunday armchair travel.

At the time I wrote about the threat that climate changed presented to Joshua Tree, I had no possible way of imaging a greater threat to the park I loved. But there is, and he is one spoiled little man-child wandering lost in an office that is way too big for him, pressing unmarked levers to see what they do. He’s a man of staggering ignorance who has repeatedly failed to protect us and our nation’s precious natural resources. While he has done so much that is unforgivable, what he has done to the place I use to call home pains me greatly, even from 3,000 miles away. 

I want to see him punished. I want to see him devastated, just as he has devastated the country I love.

Update: Celebrating the AC Phoenix News Archive at Digital NC and Rodney Sumler Day (March 13) 2019

posted Feb 1, 2019, 8:12 AM by Rahni Sumler   [ updated Feb 1, 2019, 8:15 AM ]

This year, we are practicing Sankofa by celebrating the digitization of the AC Phoenix News. The AC Phoenix News was created by Rodney Sumler, community activist and entrepreneur in Winston-Salem, NC.  In 2015 while celebrating his life, the Mayor of Winston-Salem declared March 13 Rodney Sumler Day to honor his life of service. This year we will be celebrating his service, the preservation of the AC Phoenix Newspaper, as well as kicking off the Rodney Sumler Research Foundation; whose mission is to continue the work of rewriting negative cultural narratives for people of color through education, research, and development. Help us celebrate wherever you are by signing up for our twitter campaign for March 13.

AC Pheonix Archive @ Digital NC: Injustice in 1994

Snapshot of a full page from AC Phoenix January 1994 edition. Features an opinion editorial by, then, Editor Tanya Wiley Brown. Copywrited to the Rodney Sumler Research Foundation. Obtained from Digital NC

Archived Op-Ed by Tanya Wiley-Brown,  © to the Rodney Sumler Research and posted with permission. Tanya Wiley-Brown took over for Rodney Sumler while he served time in prison. Ms. Wiley-Brown talks about injustices and a damaged justice system, including Mr. Sumler's wrongful imprisonment. The issue also honors Dr. Matin Luther King Jr, who was also frequently imprisoned. You can view the full issue here at Digital NC.

The Rodney Sumler Research Foundation, in partnership with the Bluford Library at North Carolina A&T State University and Digital NC, has digitalized 81 issues of the AC Pheonix News. The archive can be accessed here. 

NC A&T continues to collect and preserve copies of the AC Pheonix News to be preserved  added to the archive as well. 

Practicing Sankofa: How you can Participate

Sankofa is looking back and retrieving values that may have been lost to the march of time. These insights are what help guide our way into the future. Here are some ways to practice and participate.

Collect and help preserve Old Community Rotationals

Community rotationals include community newspapers, playbills from community theaters, year books and bulletins from community events including churches. This can also include any small business directories and events. Digital NC itself is a program within the University of North Carolina school system, at the Wilson Special Collection Library. When finding a place to preserve and digitize the newspapers, we began with talking to a number of Librarians: 
  • Crystal McKay, Supervising Librarian at the New York Public Library, 125th Street Branch
  • Megan Wacha, Scholarly Communications Librarian, Office of Library Services, City University of New York
  • James R. Stewart Jr., Archives and Special Collections Librarian, F. D. Bluford Library at North Carolina A&T State University
They all happened to triangulate on the Digital NC program. For finding places to archive your community rotationals and memorabilia in your area, begin first by asking your local librarian. 

Schedule a Tweet: #RodneySumlerDay Twitter Campaign

Twuffer allows you to  schedule a tweet for a specific event or date. When large amounts of people tweet posts with the same hashtag, this can make the cause trend on twitter for a short time. It's a great way to bring awareness to an issue. For the Rodney Sumler Day Campaign, in addition to celebrating this tremendous milestone, we are bringing awareness to archives: the continued work of preserving and amplifying voices in the community. This serves to dispel negative cultural narratives. When you know more about a people, it becomes harder to hate them. Looking back also gives us insight on how to solve future problems. It is easier to do this when we work with libraries to archive and parse voices in our community.
Sign up to Twuffer and schedule your own tweet for the Rodney Sumler Day here. It takes less than 2 minutes to sign up. Remember to to use the #RodneySumlerDay hastag in your tweet. Here's a suggested tweet:

#Libraries archives captures the soul of our community for everyone! Its to hard to blindly hate someone once you get to know them intimately. Congratulations to the #RodneySumlerResearchFoundation for archiving the #ACPhoenix! #RodneySumlerDay

Feel free to personalize the message for what this event means to you. Click here to commit to posting about Rodney Sumler Day

Encapsulate the Present: Write Opinion Editorials

Opinion Editorials, also known as Op-Eds, serve as a barometer for the community. This is because they are letters to the editor from members of the community discussing their experience. They can be from researchers in the field talking about their observations, activists discussing trends in the movement, or from normal people talking about how current events impact them. All of these insights serve to build a snapshot of what is happening at any given moment and are a goldmine for people researching events. The more people who submit op-eds, the more detailed the snapshot becomes.
For the month of February, the AC Pharos is taking op-eds about environmental justice, economic empowerment, and practices of Sankofa as we celebrate Black History Month. We can help you with getting started on writing op-eds, you can learn more here.

Donate to the Rodney Sumler Research Foundation

The Rodney Sumler Research Foundation for Economic Empowerment and Environmental Protection has a mission to continue Rodney Sumler's work. Our mission is to rewrite negative cultural narratives for people of color through education, research, and development. One way to contribute is to participate in the Rodney Sumler Day event on March 13. If you are in Harlem, NYC on March 13, we invite you to come join us! RSVP here with a suggested donation of $13. [https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rodney-sumler-day-economic-environmental-justice-and-organizing-action-tickets-42486191342]
If you aren't in the area, you can still participate by joining our livestream. Regardless, there will be an e-scavenger hunt, looking for fascinating events now preserved in the newspaper:
  • Coverage of Katrina
  • Michael Jackson Tribute
  • Election of Obama
  • Tsunami in South East Asia and rebuilding in Myanmar
You can also watch our old-school dance party, marching to many of the anthems Rodney Sumler and his contemporaries enjoyed mixed by Zachery Osbourne.

You can also donate at this landing page here. The foundation also has sponsorships available, where you can interact with out community, reinvest into your business and get valuable services. You can find out more about here.  
The Rodney Sumler Research foundation is a 501(c)3, public non-profit. All donations are tax deductible. 


Economic Empowerment: 11 ways costs are shifted onto You (After taxes are cut for the Wealthy)

posted Jan 25, 2019, 7:36 AM by Rahni Sumler   [ updated Jan 25, 2019, 7:37 AM ]

Reposted from David Akadjian at Daily Kos 

The idea of “tax cuts” is popular because people tend to think that they are getting some kind of break. Somehow, they’ll be able to save more because they’ll have more money. 

While the idea sounds good, the only taxes that ever seem to really get cut in our country are those paid by corporations and the wealthy. 

After these cuts are pushed through, what tends to happen is that either government has to cut services or revenue has to be raised some other way. In each case, average people still end up having to pay. And they tend to have pay more to make up for deficits that come from subsidizing corporate America and the wealthy. 

Here are 11 ways corporate special interests shift costs onto average people. 

Up-charging Cut Taxes: Increased Tolls

The Newell Toll Bridge is a privately owned suspension bridge over the Ohio River on the Golding Street Extension between Newell, West Virginia and East Liverpool, Ohio.

The Newell Toll Bridge is a privately owned suspension bridge over the Ohio River on the Golding Street Extension between Newell, West Virginia and East Liverpool, Ohio. 
The bridge is privately owned and its owners corporate special interest strategy is to privatize the profits, the tolls, while socializing the costs/risks. 
Photographed by Highsmith, Carol M., 2015, Library of Congress.

Increases at the Local Level

When the federal government makes cuts, these cuts are often pushed down to the state. The state then can either raise state taxes like sales taxes to help cover costs, or it can push the cuts down to the local level—or both. 
You may hear this strategy referred to as “broadening the base.” This is the spin that corporate special interests use for “we pay less, you pay more.” 
What we’re seeing across the country as cuts are made at the federal level include: 

1. Increased sales taxes

As Governing.com writes
A handful of states have slowly started to shift their reliance on various taxes in recent years. Much of the movement has occurred in states controlled by Republicans who’ve targeted income taxes for cuts and have looked to raise sales taxes to offset part of the difference.

Everyone buys food and everyday goods so sales taxes impact consumers. Wealthy people don’t typically buy any more food or consumer products than anyone else, so the bulk of sales taxes are collected from average people. 

2. Increased property taxes

In Ohio, as the state cut funding to local schools and communities, districts raised property taxes. We are also seeing property taxes increasing as home costs go up and as the federal government limits deductions (as part of the new Trump tax law). 
You might think property taxes affect only people who own property. However, property taxes are also passed on to renters in the form of higher rent. 

3. Increased sin taxes (alcohol, tobacco, etc.)

Similar to sales taxes, sin taxes are simply targeted sales tax increases where consumers have to pay more. Sin taxes are popular with many because they target what is often seen as undesirable behavior. 
Like sales taxes, these impact average people. 

4. Tolls

If you live in an area with a bridge or highway that needs repair or expansion, you’ve likely seen the toll discussion.  
Here in Cincinnati, we’ve had a bridge expansion across the Ohio river stalled for decades because Ohio insists the only way to pay for it is with tolls. And Northern Kentucky opposes any solution that includes tolls. 

5. Other increased government fees

These can be at the federal level, state level, or local level. At the federal level, we’ll see increased passport fees, increased copyright fees, increased park and museum fees, and so on. At the state level we’ll see increased licensing fees, increased business registration fees, and increased ticketing. At the local level we’ll see increased parking fees, increased permit costs, increased sewage costs, increased garbage collection costs, increased court fees, and so on.  

Services you now have to Buy (That you didn’t Before)

In the propaganda that we hear so often on TV/radio, the private sector is exalted while the public sector is demonized. 
This is ludicrous. Since the founding of our country, government has been a way for people to come together to accomplish things that would be extremely difficult on their own. That includes things such as railroads, highways, mail, communications infrastructure, public education, sewers, a social safety net, and so on. 

If these things are cut, it’s not like people won’t still have to pay. They’ll just have to pay someone else. If it’s the private sector, they’re going to want profits on top of services. 

A few recent examples: 

6. School supplies/equipment


7. Privatized police/fire departments

As police budgets are cut, people have to pay more for private security services.  The need to prevent crime doesn’t go away, it’s simply transferred onto individuals. We’re seeing an increase in private police forces

We’re also seeing this with fire departments. In South Fulton, Tennessee, firefighters let a house burn that hadn’t paid its $75 fee

Mortgaging the future

8. Deficit spending

Trump’s most recent tax plan cut taxes for the wealthy while increasing spending. How does he do this? 

Deficit spending. 

While deficit spending isn’t always bad, it does transfer costs into the future. 

Socializing the Risks

The term economists use to describe a situation when someone gets rewards with no risks or costs is moral hazard. Moral hazard was the cause of the 2008 financial collapse. All the incentive was for banks to lend recklessly to homeowners because they could resell the loans into privatized securities (that supposedly could not possibly fail). 

9. Climate change

According to the government accountability office (GAO), climate change has cost the United States government alone $350 billion over the past decade. Costs include clean up and disaster assistance from flooding and storms—and this is just what it costs taxpayers. 
If you include the entire U.S. economy, it’s more than $240 billion per year

10. Increased pollution

If you get rid of regulations/enforcement against pollution, corporations will pollute more.
The most infamous recent example of this is Flint, Michigan, where 12,000 kids have been exposed to excessive levels of lead that cause developmental disabilities

11. Decreased public Safety

In 1991, an Amtrak train with 407 passengers onboard was passing through the town of Lugoff, South Carolina, when a switch broke. Six passenger cars flipped off the tracks. Seven people were killed and as many as 125 were injured.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board quickly determined that the accident was the result of improperly done repairs. CSX maintenance crews had used shims to level the crossing (though it wasn’t designed for leveling), and the switch was being held together with nothing but a rusty nail.

As David Cay Johnston writes:
The roadmaster and some of the work crew used the jury-rigged shims because their employer never allowed them enough time or money to do their jobs properly. CSX cut corners to inflate its profits, which in turn meant riches for its executives, whose pay packages were tied to reported profits and the price of CSX shares.

When regulations are cut or bypassed, what often suffers is public safety. The railroad realizes an increased profit at the expense of the public. 

Summary

Whenever you hear the term “tax cuts,” what you should really be thinking is cost shifting, because that’s what’s going on. The only taxes that our government ever seems to cut are taxes for corporations and the wealthy. 

Everyone else—in some way, shape, or form—tends to have to pay more. This may not be immediately apparent, but it’s what happens every time. 

The corporate special interest strategy is to privatize the profits while socializing the costs/risks. 

David Akadjian is the author of The Little Book of Revolution: A Distributive Strategy for Democracy (ebook now available).
He is also a freelance writer and instructional designer. He has designed sales, negotiation, and communication training for some of the top companies in the world. He has written for Daily Kos, HuffingtonPost, Alternet, Popular Resistance, Truthout, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and The Washington Spectator. He currently lives in Cincinnati, OH.

Looking back to Move Forward: 2019 Marks 400 years since the first Slave Ship Arrived in the US

posted Jan 18, 2019, 8:42 AM by Rahni Sumler   [ updated Jan 18, 2019, 10:24 AM ]

This year marks 400 years since the landing of the first slave ship in the then, English Colonies in 1619. The White Lion and the Treasurer pirated black slaves from Portuguese Trans-Atlantic ships, selling them in Virginia from despite there being no clear laws on slavery in colony at the time.  Some people were able to win their freedom, become tax paying citizens, and buy land as indentured servants up until the 1700s.

Sankofa (Ghana, from the Twi dialect of the Akan Language): "Go back and get it"

SakofaTime2

Logo for the Sankofa Global Project [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Depicts the Sankofa bird, which symbolizes the need to learn from the past to prepare for the future. Akan symbolic illustrations of Sankofa are frequently found across many African American architectures. 
Black History Month was established as a time to acknowledge contributions of people of African decent in the U.S, a time to practice the proverb of Sankofa. 

The question still remains how we will be effectively address these divides. The answer may be found by looking back. As we prepare for Black History month and the contributions of people of African decent in America, it may be good to view historical events in the terms of economic events as well. 

People of African decent also continue to be disenfranchised, since the American economy was built on free labor. After the emancipation in the 19th century, the entire Southern economic system had to be rebuilt. This economic devastation would continue well into the modern age, and was seen as the reason for the uptick of lynchings.  These public executions were used to 'socially control' and intimidate black communities that were trying to accumulate wealth.  One event, the Tulsa Race Riot in 1921, had white assailants with airplane fire bombs destroying an entire town of wealthy blacks which resulted in an estimated $32 million dollars in 2019 USD.  

Competing with the Mainstream: Desegregation and Affirmative Action

Some economic solutions proposed were desegregation and affirmative action. However, while desegregation improved many cultural aspects in the U.S, members of the black community know that their black businesses were not included in integration. Many black businesses could not compete with mainstream businesses, leading to a loss of many black institutions since the 1930s.  This aggravated the economic divide, as it reduced the amount of capital going into black communities.

Affirmative action had a similar result. Mandating hiring practices to discourage racial bias against people of color caused many cultural and social advances. As a recipient of affirmative action for example, Barack Obama was given a chance to contribute at Harvard. While there, he was elected by his peers to become editor of the paper, he performed well earned a degree magna cum laude. He would even go on to be elected as President of the United States. Nothing was given to him, except for a chance to contribute at Harvard. However, affirmative action has it's limitations. 

There are issues such as 'academic mismatch theory' where students who haven't received the same academic training are suddenly thrusted into high performance classes. Students can often fail due to different academic cultures and lack of support; similar to black businesses not having the resources to compete in the main stream economy.

Further, Affirmative Action only benefits the individual going to school. This is because affirmative action is only for universities

Affirmative action doesn't ensure that people of color are hired to higher, decision level making positions in companies. This directly impacts economic outcomes. 
Diversity in the private sector is solely up to the culture, and biases, of companies. If affirmative action were ever to be applied to hiring practices as well, it still wouldn't make much of an impact. People are promoted to decision making positions based on the culture of the company: which is not always based on performance and is solely determined by the biases of the company. As such, it may be difficult for people of color to advance without both companies changing their biases and more capital afforded to communities for building their own companies. 

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew: Five 2018 ballot measures that went into effect for New Years Day

posted Jan 2, 2019, 12:11 PM by Rahni Sumler   [ updated Jan 2, 2019, 12:14 PM ]

Ballotpedia Daily Brew from News Editor, Sarah Rosier

Welcome to the first edition of Ballotpedia's Daily Brew in 2019. They've talked a lot about the 2018 ballot measures, so to kick off the year, here are five of them that took into effect January 1, 2019.

Minimum Wage in the US

Map of the US with states and territories indicated where minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage of 7.25 per hour
Map of the US with states and territories indicated where minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. 
Critics for increasing minimum wage say that smaller businesses would not be able to keep up with minimum wage increases, which is bad for workers as small businesses make the most jobs in communities throughout America. Conversely, supporters for minimum wage increases say that workers would have more buying capital and reduce the effects of poverty. 

Therefore, when increases in wages happen at the state level, legislators usually elect to increase wages over a period of time. This gives businesses time to adjust to the increased cost.  You can learn more about the argument with sources at "Issues and Controversies". 

State Required Background Checks for Gun Ownership

Washington Initiative 1639: Changes to gun ownership and purchasing requirements

This citizen initiative was designed to establish background checks and waiting periods for purchasing semiautomatic assault rifles, as defined by the initiative; establish requirements for the storage of firearms; and increase the minimum age to buy semiautomatic assault rifles to 21. It was approved by 59 percent of voters. The age requirement provision goes into effect today. The other provisions are set to take effect on July 1, 2019.

Increasing State Minimum Wages to 12/hr by 2022-'23

Arkansas Issue 5 and Missouri Proposition B: Minimum wage increase
​​​​​​​
In Massachusetts and Michigan, minimum wage increases were enacted by the legislature after citizen initiative efforts met signature collection thresholds. The first of the incremental increases set by the Massachusetts and Michigan legislation went into effect today. In Massachusetts, the bill was part of a compromise with initiative proponents. In Michigan, successful initiative petitions go to the legislature first and only to the ballot if the legislature does not approve them. The Michigan State Legislature approved a 2018 minimum wage increase initiative and then amended it to extend the timeline for reaching $12.00 per hour from 2022 (the initiative) to 2030 (the legislative bill).
​​​​​​​
Arkansas and Missouri state minimum wages increased today because of citizen initiatives approved by voters in November. The Arkansas minimum wage increased from $8.50 per hour to $9.25 per hour, with scheduled increases to $11.00 per hour by 2021. The Missouri minimum wage increased from $7.85 per hour to $8.60 per hour, with scheduled increases to $12.00 per hour by 2023 and adjustments tied to the Consumer Price Index thereafter.
​​​​​​​
Nineteen other states and Washington, D.C., have minimum wage increases in 2019, including 16 that took effect today.

Giving State Legislature a Governor's Power: Calling Special Sessions

​​​​​​​Utah Amendment C: Legislature able to call special sessions​​​​​​​
 
Utah Constitutional Amendment C was approved by 63 percent of voters in November and went into effect today. It was put on the ballot by the legislature. The measure allows the legislature to call itself into a special session under certain circumstances. This means that the Utah State Legislature will convene it’s regular 2019 session for the first time with the ability to call a special session, a power previously held only by the governor. Amendment C also requires the governor to take one of two actions if the state’s expenses exceed the state’s actual revenue in a fiscal year: (1) proportionately reduce the amount of money spent by government agencies or (2) convene a special legislative session. Prior to today, if actual revenues were less than the projected revenue and spending authorized by the legislature during the regular session, the governor had discretion over the amounts by which spending was decreased for various government agencies and was allowed, but not required, to call a special legislative session. Before the passage of Amendment C, Utah was one of 15 states where only the governor had the power to call the legislature to convene a special session. Following the passage of Amendment C, in Utah and 35 other states, either the governor or the state legislature could call the legislature to convene a special session.

Tax Exemptions: Feminine Hygiene Products and Active Military Property

Nevada Question 2: Feminine hygiene sales tax exemption
 
Question 2 was approved by 56 percent of voters in November and went into effect today. It exempts feminine hygiene products from state and local sales taxes. The measure was put on the ballot by the state legislature. The state sales tax in Nevada is 4.6 percent. Nine other states and Washington, D.C., provide exemptions for feminine products: Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Utah Amendment A: Active military property tax exemption
Amendment A was approved by 79 percent of voters in November and went into effect today. It changed the requirement to qualify for an active military property tax exemption. Amendment A made the required amount of time served in the military under an order of active duty to be 200 days in a 365-day period. Before today, the requirement was 200 days in a single calendar year or 200 consecutive days.

Call to Action: Getting Measures on the Ballot

Getting measures on the ballot varies state by state. For example, North Carolina does not allow any form of citizen-initiated ballot measures. Therefore, all ballot measures must be referred by the state legislature. Further, the ballot measure must be approved by 60% of the legislature chambers before the measure can be placed on the ballot. 
In contrast, Washington state DOES allow citizen initiated ballot measures. This is done through state statues that draft petitions and collect signatures. 

View election 2018 ballot measures taking into effect this year by state here. At the link also, you can research how your state gets measures onto the ballot and begin petitioning for measures the next election. Even if your state may not allow citizen initiated ballot measures, you may be able to petition your state legislature to include measures on your behalf. After all, in the United States, many changes that you want to see in every day governing are managed at the local, lower levels of government: city/town, county and state. 

Form and Function: This D.C. Government ‘Palooza’ Aims To Fix Confusing Paperwork

posted Dec 26, 2018, 12:05 PM by Rahni Sumler   [ updated Dec 27, 2018, 6:52 AM ]

Reposted from Helen Wieffering at the DCist

If you’ve applied for a D.C. driver’s license in 2018, chances are you did less squinting than the applicants who came before you. If you purchased a home this year, you may have actually scanned your property for peeling paint before signing the lead disclosure form. Both of these forms were recently redesigned under a District initiative to help residents better understand and access government services.

Civic Participation in Action: Form-A-Palooza

photograph of a hand drawn outline for a government form

Participants at Form-a-palooza worked to redesign five D.C. government forms to be more user-friendly. (Photo by Helen Wieffering)
You can get engaged in your own city or town by contacting your mayor's office.
Rather than requiring details on your ‘’MEDICAL FITNESS,’’ the driver’s license application now gently prompts you to “Tell us about your medical history.” The lead disclosure form has shed its legal references to lessees, lessors and Code § 8-231.15(b), and instead guides residents in plain language toward practically assessing the risks of lead exposure at home.

The Lab @ DC: DC Mayor Bowser teams up with Scientists and Academics for Form-a-Palooza

This large-scale effort to ease the pain points surrounding government paperwork was kickstarted by The Lab @ DC, a diverse group of scientists and academics working within Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration to improve District policy and programs. The Lab held its first-ever Form-a-Palooza last summer, facilitating a day-long event for residents and city officials to work together to rethink some of our most commonly used forms. On Saturday, The Lab hosted Form-a-Palooza round two.

“It’s so nerdy,” remarked one volunteer as participants filed in early that Saturday morning; “it’s just so nerdy.”


Call to Action: Contact your Mayor's Office for your own 'Form-A-Palooza'

If you are in the United States, many changes that you want to see in every day governing are managed at the local, lower levels of government: city/town and county. The first to contact would be your mayor's office, depending on the sort of mayoralty in your city or town. Contacting your mayor can influence them to address some of your concerns in the legislative agenda. 

You can find out how to contact your mayors office by googling your city or town. 

Opinion: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis lets the world know who's in Charge

posted Dec 20, 2018, 10:20 PM by Rahni Sumler   [ updated Dec 20, 2018, 10:23 PM ]

Reposted from KM Wehrstein at Daily Kos 

Just as the full story is coming out of the plot between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin to steal the 2016 election, Defense Secretary James Mattis has spoken truth on behalf of America about the murderous Russian mobster-president.  Per Time:

26th Secretary of Defense, James Norman Mattis

James Mattis official photo.jpg

On December 20, 2018, James Mattis submitted his resignation, effective February 28, 2019, after failing to persuade Trump to reconsider his decision of the previous day to withdraw the remaining American troops from Syria. The letter has been published by politico at this link. 

Mattis has occasionally voiced his disagreement with certain Trump administration policies, including criticizing budget cuts that hamper the ability to monitor the impacts of climate change. He would be the first to resign in protest in American history.

Image by Monica King, United States Department of Defense, Public Domain

(WASHINGTON) — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Saturday took aim at Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of trying to “muck around” in the U.S. midterm elections, of duplicity in arms control and of acting irresponsibly in last weekend’s naval confrontation with Ukraine.
In remarks at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, Mattis said the U.S.-Russian relationship has deteriorated over the last two years.
“We are dealing with someone that we simply cannot trust,” he said. “There is no doubt the relationship has worsened.”
Mattis did not elaborate on his claim that Russia tried to interfere in last month’s elections, adding only, “We are seeing a continued effort along those lines.” He added more generally, “It’s his efforts to try to subvert democratic processes that must be defended.”

I never thought Mattis was a toady.  Remember that nauseating dinner flattery-fest at the White House last year, when everyone around the table made homage to Trump, saying they thanked God for the opportunity to work for him, and so on?  There was just one person who did not kiss the orange ass, but rather maintained a dignified silence: James Mattis.

Mattis has made independent announcements about military policy also, for instance saying that NATO remains and will remain strong when Putin’s intention is the exact opposite.

However this, Mattis criticizing Putin directly and specifically for interfering in American elections, is unprecedented.  And it’s nervy.  Imagine castigating the person who put your boss in his position for doing so, then meeting him at work on Monday morning.  Mattis specifically mentions the midterms, but says Russia “tried again”, and mentions “a continuing effort,” pointing implicitly to 2016.

The basic message here, as I interpret it, is both to Americans and to the world: “Don’t worry, the American military is still sane and loyal to the Constitution and the American people, and will act in America’s national interest.  You can ignore the treasonous antics of the Commander-in-Chief.”

Never has an American president so had his feet cut out from under him, been treated so much as if he is illegitimate—yes, I think that message is there, too.  Never has he so been pushed aside.

It’s stunning: but it is appropriate and in fact necessary under the circumstances.  It is also carefully timed; Mattis has probably had it in his back pocket and was waiting for the right moment.  Power is an agreement between people, nothing more, and Trump’s is slipping away each day as the truth about his “victory at the polls” comes out and people rescind their agreements to his power.  When that happens it can leave a vacuum, which can be very dangerous militarily. Mattis is also letting Americans and the world know that the vacuum is being filled.

Another message I take from this concerns the threat, mentioned often in comments here and elsewhere, of another American civil war.  When I first saw that possibility mentioned, my immediate thought was, “If it happens, which side will the military take?” and Mattis came instantly to mind.  This is a country with a very powerful military, the most powerful on the planet.  If a usurper wants to seize control of such a country, he must have the head of the military on his side.

I think Mattis is implicitly making it very clear—to Americans, to the world, and to Trump—which side the military will take.  He is stating that the Trump-Putin plot to steal elections and subvert democracy is wrong, and is a threat to America.  It doesn’t get more clear than that.

If I hadn’t already expected that this would be Mattis’s position, I’d find these comments of his the most heartening words from anyone that I’ve heard since that black day in November 2016.

Post notes from KM Wehrstein:

Several commenters have weighed the likelihood of Mattis being fired for this.  Consider that he has said it now because he knows Trump’s power has ebbed enough that he can’t do it.



No, Mattis is not the only defense, and that’s part of why he’s speaking out this way, now.  Don’t forget that a big part of Trump’s loss of power is Dems taking the House in the mid-terms, and another big part is the Trump-Russia evidence coming out. Mattis is working in concert with the electorate and the Special Counsel.

And for those who are worried that he is performing or might perform a military coup: he’s not, and won’t.  Democracy and rule of law are working.

About KM Wehrstein

I’m a SPWM (single parent with mortgage) who earns every dollar I earn by writing.  If you’d like to help keep it economically feasible for me to write diaries like this one on DKos, please consider sending a donation my way.  Suggested amount $3. THANK YOU to all who have helped already. Your generosity humbles me.

UCS Report: Trump And Zinke Making Science Inferior At the Interior

posted Dec 14, 2018, 7:02 AM by Rahni Sumler   [ updated Dec 14, 2018, 7:07 AM ]

Reposted from ClimateDenier Roundup, Daily Kos Community at Daily Kos 

The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report yesterday detailing how science is under siege at the Department of Interior. This is not going to be welcome news for Secretary Zinke. He’s already fending off calls for his resignation by Rep. Grijalva, who will chair the House committee that oversees DOI in the upcoming Congress.

New Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee: Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz

Raul Grijalva Official Portrait, 2015

Rep. Raúl Grijalva will be assuming the office in January 2019. He has stated: "The American people need an Interior Department focused on addressing climate change, enhancing public recreation, protecting endangered species, and upholding the sovereign rights of Native American communities. ... — they are enshrined in law and supported by voters. The department needs someone accountable at the helm who believes in this mission. Mr. Zinke is not that person. Federal agencies cannot function without credible leadership, and he offers none. He needs to resign." 

Image from US Congress [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
And there will be plenty to look into. On day one of the Trump administration, for example, the DOI’s Twitter feed fell silent on climate--a stark change from its regular climate content. That’s the first of dozens of examples, which range from relatively benign omissions like not saying climate on Twitter, to more dangerous ones like when Secretary Zinke and his staff canceled a study on the health impacts of coal mining after lifting a moratorium on leasing public lands for coal mining.

Replacing Climate Analysts with Fossil Fuel Lobbyists: New Report will help Congress hold DOI Leadership Accountable

Then there was the staff shuffling which forced climate expert Dr. Joel Clement to cash fossil fuel checks until he quit while at the same time brought on political appointees with deep ties to the fossil fuel industry: from a press secretary (Heather Swift) who worked for the fossil fuel PR group famed for its astroturf efforts (DCI), to a former Koch lackey Todd Wynn leading external affairs, to Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, whose career as a fossil fuel lobbyist has made him a walking conflict of interest. 

Well, the joke’s on Zinke. Now Clement is working with UCS, and wrote a post for Scientific American summarizing the UCS report.

As Clement concludes, the incoming Democratic House is going to be using reports like these as a roadmap to guide their investigations. By forcing Clement out, Zinke made an enemy of someone who can draw the map for congressional investigators to follow and find where all the climate science bodies are buried, so to speak.

Then again, rumor has it Zinke’s going to turn tail and retreat before too long. (After all, his response to Grijalva was to call him a drunk, which is usually not something you would do to someone you expect to have subpoena power over you in just a couple months.)

Zinke’s exit will be good news--except for the little fact that the man set to replace him is a former fossil fuel lobbyist who has so many conflicts of interest he literally has to carry around a list of all his former lobbying clients he can’t deal with now.

And that makes him a card-carrying member of the swamp Trump tricked voters into believing he’d drain.

Call to Action: Union of Concerned Scientists' Action Tips

The report had recommended actions for Congress, scientists, science supporters, partners of public lands and even the outdoor industry. For scientists and science supporters specifically, they recommend:
  • Bring attention DOI activities that sidelines sciences, threatened public lands or public health
  • Contact representatives in Congress 
  • Submitting opinion pieces to local newspapers


Top Climate and Clean Energy Stories at Daily Kos:

E.P.A. to Roll Back a Restriction on New Coal-Burning Plants

Trump's disbelief won't stop dangerous climate change | Republican platform is not only at odds with science but potentially US voters in 2020

On Climate, the Facts and Law Are Against Trump • A recent government report predicts dire consequences from climate change. That complicates efforts to weaken environmental laws


It’s unethical to pretend Americans won’t feel the impact of climate change

[Breaking] Video: North Carolina woman admits 'harvesting' ballots, turning them over to Republican Contractor

posted Dec 7, 2018, 6:35 AM by Rahni Sumler   [ updated Dec 10, 2018, 6:59 AM ]


The congressional race in North Carolina’s 9th district continues to unravel as there is mounting evidence of serious felony fraud. Observers noted the unusual discrepancy in the absentee ballot return rate, particularly in two counties: Robeson and Bladen. From WFAE:

The only legal ways to submit an Absentee Ballot: In-Person, Mailpersons, Close-Relatives, or Multipartisan Assistance Teams

Stock image of mat helping elderly vote from the North Carolina Board of Elections' page on Multipartisan Assistance Teams

Stock image of Multipartisan Assistance Team member helping the elderly vote, from the North Carolina Board of Elections' page on Multipartisan Assistance Teams. This page states that "the first preference, according to the law, is for the voter to receive assistance from a near relative or guardian". It also states that "employees of hospitals, clinics, nursing homes or rest homes are prohibited by law from providing assistance with absentee voting'. 
The only legal ways to vote absentee is to submit the ballot in-person, via mail, by way of a close, trusted relative, or via an appointed mutlipartisan assistance team member.

Bladen and Robeson also stand out statewide, according to an analysis by Catawba College political science professor Michal Bitzer.
He found there were about 19,400 absentee ballots by mail statewide that were requested but not returned for the Nov. 6 election.
Robeson had 10 percent of those statewide non-returned ballots, and Bladen County had 8 percent of the non-returned ballots. That’s 3,404 ballots.

Thousands of outstanding ballots. Enough to swing the race.
Leslie McCrae Dowless, an “independent contractor” for Republican candidate Mark Harris
At the center of it all is Leslie McCrae Dowless, an “independent contractor” for Republican candidate Mark Harris. Dowless was hired for get-out-the-vote work, despite his shady history. From the Charlotte Observer:

Over the last two decades, he has been paid by at least nine candidates, all for get-out-the-vote work, according to state records.
Leslie McCrae Dowless was convicted of felony fraud in 1992 in Iredell County, according to court records. Dowless and his wife were accused of taking out an insurance policy on a dead man and collecting nearly $165,000 from his death, according to a 1991 Fayetteville Observer article. He served more than six months of a two-year prison sentence, according to court records.
Dowless, now 62, was convicted of felony perjury in 1990, according to court records.

A second woman confirms she was paid to collect absentee ballots and it isn’t the first time she’s done it.


Reporter Joe Bruno of WSOC has been tracking down McCrae Dowless and the contractors he subsequently hired to show up at people’s homes to collect their absentee ballots and/or fill them in for voters. There is serious concern that many of these ballots never made it to election officials. Bruno tracked down the people repeatedly listed as ballot witnesses on absentee ballots, eventually landing on the front porch of Ginger Eason, who readily admitted she was “harvesting” absentee ballots. Watch this extraordinary moment:

More from Joe Bruno’s report at WSOC:

No one answered at Woody Hester’s home. James Singletary wasn’t home either and Lisa Britt doesn’t live at the address she said she did on the ballots.
Bruno then visited Ginger Eason. She told him why her name appeared so many times as a witness.
“I was helping McCrae pick up ballots,” Eason said.
Eason said Leslie McCrae Dowless, Jr. paid her $75 to $100 a week to go around and pick up finished absentee ballots.

Ginger Eason and seven others were repeatedly listed as ballot witnesses.

Five of the ballot witnesses listed the same home address, a one bedroom apartment.


The election in North Carolina’s 9th District is an absolute fraud. Not only should there be a serious criminal investigation, there should absolutely be a new election. And if that happens, as observers say it should, Republicans might be stuck with their fraudulent candidate.

Did other Republicans in Office Willingly Endorse McCrae Dowless' "Ballot Harvesting"?

Mark Harris isn’t the only North Carolina Republican to have hired McCrae Dowless to “get-out-the-vote.” In fact, he’s racked up quite the clientele list

According to campaign finance reports, Dowless’ first major race was in 2010, working for Harold Butch Pope’s campaign for Bladen County district attorney.
The Pope campaign paid Dowless $7,127 over the course of the year.
A majority of the payments were for "get out the vote" efforts. Pope defeated Jon David by more than 4,000 votes.
Over the next couple of years, Dowless was paid thousands of dollars for get out the vote efforts and, at times, campaign manager for eastern North Carolina candidates Wesley Meredith, Al Leonard, Ken Waddell, and William Brisson.
Dowless’ candidates have not been limited to eastern North Carolina.
He was paid $800 for “consulting fees” for Republican Charlotte City Council candidate Pete Givens. Mark Harris, a friend of Givens, did a fundraiser and campaigned for him.

Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker, also a Dowless client, deleted his Facebook page after inquiries began. Not a good look for a law enforcement officer.


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