A tale of two Popes -- the one in the Vatican, who takes Jesus' words to heart, and the one in North Carolina
As I confirmed during my December visit, there is evidence of backlash against North Carolina oligarchist "Puppet Master" Art Pope's way-far-right agenda.
There are two Popes in the news lately. Both represent organizations that claim to speak for Jesus Christ. One's name is Pope Francis, leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis is the better-known of the two, and his actions befuddle and anger U.S. Republicans. The other's name is Art Pope. Art Pope is the North Carolina Republican Party's pope.
Unlike many past Popes, Francis seems to take the reported actions and words of Jesus to heart and uses his own words and actions to lead his organization toward the betterment of humanity. Art Pope plays for the other side.
While Pope Francis seeks to aid the poor and the powerless, even leaving the Vatican at night dressed as an ordinary priest to comfort the homeless, Art Pope's mission is to exploit the poor and the powerless to gain more power, even seeking to expand the numbers of poor in his state. Art Pope is a mini-me to the Koch Brothers. He has a lot of money but not Koch Brothers Kash, so for now he has been content to buy just one state out of 50.
As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.
-- Jesus, as quoted in the Book of Matthew, 25:31-46
It is oligarchist Art Pope who has financed an insane asylum that serves as the North Carolina legislature and governor's office. He is now even Gov. Pat McCrory's budget director, all but officially making the governor his hand puppet.
In 2010, 75 percent of all the outside money that came into North Carolina's legislative elections came from groups backed by Art Pope. His candidates won 80 percent of those races. Pope's money then financed a 2012 election that was so successful for Republicans that it ended in this being the first time since 1870 that the Repug Party controlled the governorship and both houses of the state legislature, the General Assembly. Without Art Pope putting his money behind his agenda, there is no feo-fascist Gov. "Puppet Pat" McCrory; there are no attacks on the teachers of North Carolina (right down to removing money for instructional supplies).
In fact, Puppet Pat seems to think that education should exist only to train people for jobs -- vocational training for worker bees, as it were. Puppet Pat wants Pope's legislature to pass laws that would provide funds to universities "not based on how many butts in seats but how many of those butts can get jobs." Apparently McCrory never learned that education deals with the brains in your head. His stated outlook reveals that education is not about expanding the mind or improving society and moving it forward. As for the promised jobs, they haven't materialized, as his policies continue to damage the state economy.
Without people like Puppet Pat who are so willing to do the bidding of the money men, there is no chronic union-busting; there are no attacks on the voting rights of legal North Carolina citizens; there is no well-orchestrated attack on democracy itself. He is his state's Scott Walker. To Art Pope, just as to the Walker-backing Koch Brothers, there are the privileged few and "the least of these," with nothing in between: lords and serfs. It's a push back to the past -- way back.
who's planning a run for the NC House from District 74, the Winston-Salem area. We'll hear from Senator Parmon below.)
Puppet Pat then proudly boasts that he has balanced the budget of the state unemployment fund three years ahead of schedule. Talk about balancing the budget on the backs of the middle and working classes! This is Republican class warfare at its best (worst). Under Pope's direction, Puppet Pat has also gleefully signed a bill from Pope's legislature that opts the state out of the expanded Obamacare Medicaid provision. That heinous act alone has denied health-care coverage to 500,000 people in North Carolina. What would Jesus do?
The Art Pope-financed agenda has also resulted in the repeal of the Racial Justice Act, a law that enabled inmates on death row to challenge their death sentence based on questions about whether they even got a fair trial.
Then there is the matter of trying to vote in North Carolina. As a direct result of a Republican-controlled U.S. Supreme Court deciding to do away with key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (a goal of the Republican Party and other racist entities for decades), North Carolina has let its freak flag fly by passing some of the most restrictive voting regulations since the Jim Crow era.
NC House Bill 589 not only contains exceptionally strict photo ID requirements, it eliminates seven days of early voting, eliminates same-day voter registration, and, most egregiously, prohibits the counting of provisional ballots that are cast in the right county but wrong precinct. I don't know about you, but I've lived in the same place for 30+ years but my precinct number has changed a few times along the way. The potential for foul-ups is always there, especially when polling places move.
"Puppet Master" Art Pope and Gov. "Puppet Pat" McCrory
Most importantly, the provisional-ballot game is the most un-American game in American electoral politics. It works like this: If you are challenged at your voting place, whether it's because your registration name doesn't exactly match the name on your driver's license, electric bill, passport, birth certificate, or now Voter ID card or because some A-hole doesn't like something about the way you look, you are not allowed to go into the booth or vote with a voting machine. Instead, you are handed a "provisional ballot." Are you so trusting and naïve that you think your provisional ballot actually gets counted? OK, sometimes they do get counted, usually after the election results are certified. I bet you never heard about that one from David Gregory, Wolf Blitzer, or any of the game-show-host rejects at Fox.
In an effort to prevent students from voting because they tend to vote Democratic, polling places have been moved far from campuses. Also, previously students and others were allowed to register to vote well in advance of their 18th birthday. What happens when your birthday falls on or a bit before Election Day? Answer: You can't vote. When asked how this new obstacle to voting would prevent voter fraud, McCrory replied cynically: "I don't know enough. I'm sorry. I haven't seen that part of the bill." Nice.
to tell a man named Montravius King (right), who just happens to be African-American, that he can't even run for his local City Council. Oh, would Jesse Helms have loved that one! Welcome to Art Pope's North Carolina. We'll even tell you if you can run for office against us. Sound like 1950s Russia?
Can a return to the good ol' boy Jim Crow days of certain citizens being forced to guess the number of jelly beans in the jar or naming the starting lineup of the 1940 Detroit Tigers before they can touch the voting-machine screen be far behind?
Need you ask about Puppet Pat's position on abortion? Not only has he signed state legislation designed to limit access to abortion after saying he would not do so when he campaigned, he decided to rub it in the faces of women who protested outside his office by personally handing them a plate of chocolate-chip cookies. In other words, "Get back in the kitchen, bitches."
I've often thought that history swings like a pendulum. In this case, North Carolina has swung so far to the right that a backlash was inevitable. Buyer's remorse is growing. That can only help the Democrats in the coming midterm elections. Even some voters who voted Repug in 2012 are disappointed in things like the new voter-suppression legislation in their state. It seems they thought it would be "others" that suffered once Republicans took over. They never dreamed how big that group of "others" was and that it could possibly include anyone who isn't a member of the upper strata. According to a recent PPP poll, Puppet Pat's approval rating is down to 38 percent, and 53 percent of state residents disapprove of the state House and Senate Repugs.
There are other signs that the pendulum is starting to swing back because of the force of how hard Puppet Pat and the Art Pope agenda have pushed the state to the extreme right. Civil disobedience, in the form of what are called Moral Mondays protests, have made the news in recent months. Those who participate in the Moral Mondays actions meet at the state house in Raleigh on Mondays to protest the actions of the lunatic asylum inside. Then they enter the building peacefully and are arrested. Many local progressive religious groups are involved and, in fact local religious leaders such as William Barber II, the head of the North Carolina chapter of the dreaded NAACP are greatly involved in the organization of the protests. I like to think that, perhaps, the other pope, Pope Francis, might even smile about Moral Mondays. The concept is even spreading to other states, like New York.
[Click to enlarge]
Now the protests are branching out with smaller protests targeting specific retail stores -- stores that are owned by Puppet Master Pope. Among the stores owned by Art Pope are the Roses, Maxway, and Super Dollar chains. These stores, located in low-income and African-American neighborhoods, offer low-income citizens cheap goods at dirt- cheap prices. It's the "dollar store" concept. Sounds great. Great bargains on everything from batteries, toothpaste, and dish soap to items that even the slave-labor countries of Republican dreams might be embarrassed about. You get the picture. There's no question that stores like these can be helpful to a very tight budget in the short run. The evil lies in what Art Pope does with the profits.
$40 million linked to Art Pope's stores has gone to political donations and far-right-wing groups like the cynically named Americans for Prosperity. In other words, Pope uses his stores, whose low, low everyday prices appeal to poor people, to elect politicians sho will pass legislation to keep them poor or make them even more poor. You get the feeling that if people like Pope and McCrory could house the citizens of North Carolina in super-size Roach Motels, they would. Then they would tell them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. It's the republican way, after all. Check out the Art Pope Exposed website.
On December 14th, I went to a demonstration
It was one of several demonstrations in the state that day. It was a brutally cold and rainy day. Even sleet hit the umbrellas of the 20 or so protesters who braved the weather. It's a start, and there will be more. That's a measure of the passions involved. The fact that there were seven police cars in attendance to keep an eye on such an "unruly crowd" was a measure of Art Pope's power over the local authorities. Paranoia strikes deep. It should.
Demonstration participants included State Sen. Earline Parmon, Rep. Evelyn Terry, and 2014 NC 74 candidate for the State House Mary Dickinson. Said Parmon:
We want people who shop at Art Pope's stores to understand how he uses the profits to support causes that hurt working-class and minority people, whether it is refusing to expand Medicaid coverage, voter-restriction laws, tax reform that foremost benefits the wealthy, disqualifying North Carolina from federal jobless benefits or cutting back on public education spending.Art Pope recently responded to such protests in a letter to State NAACP President William Barber II, saying in part that he was --
shocked that you and your allies would demand any public official to support your political positions, by threatening a business which is not part of state government."Not part of state government"? Really? When the profits go to purchase the state government? Nice try, Puppet Master Pope. You don't mind it at all when poor people shop at your stores, just when they might dare to try and vote against you and your toys in the state house. Tell you what: When you die, you can be Pope in Hell, toasting like a little marshmallow on a stick. Hopefully that will be before you have the chance to create Hell in North Carolina. Meanwhile the real Pope might remind you:
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers. . . .
-- the Book of Matthew, 21:12
The display window of Maxway, one of Art Pope's stores. Note the contrast of the Christmas wreath on the door -- mixed message of enticement, welcome, and bars. Pope's Maxway was the only store in the neighborhood that I noticed having bars on the windows, including a pawn shop right next door. Is this some sort of weird Pope conceptual-art piece?