By now you’ve probably seen the blaring “BIDEN OFFERS FREE CRACK PIPES TO BLACK PEOPLE” headlines all over the right wing fever swamps. Fox, Shapiro, the whole crew is marching to the beat of the same misleading, racist drum.
Well, it’s deeply misleading, and not a little racist. The source of the issue is a $30 million “Harm Reduction” program grant the Biden administration released, based on evidenced-based science that shows those programs do work, which is targeted at addicts struggling mostly with the opioid epidemic.
Below we’ll let Hayes Brown explain the program and the “racist, callous, cruel and counterproductive” spin being put on it – but we wanted to direct your attention to one particularly disingenuous player in this ugly game: MARSHA BLACKBURN.
Marsha is now threatening a government shutdown over this, saying it’s a “slap in the face to communities and first responders fighting against drugs flowing into our country”.
Does she think we’ve forgotten that she was one of the main culprits in allowing the opioid crisis to rage on, by carrying a bill to make it harder for the DEA to fight the opioid crisis?
Does Marsha really think we don’t remember how much blood she has on her hands?
As for the issue at the root of this, Hayes Brown breaks it down here:
For the past week, conservative media has been yelling about the Biden administration supposedly spending $30 million on “crack pipes” for poor Black neighborhoods. The hysteria is a real throwback to the 1990s and that era’s barely coded racist panic about people who use crack, given the drug’s prevalence in and strong association with Black communities — and it does nothing to help the millions of people addicted to narcotics.
At the center of the uproar is a Department of Health and Human Services grant that funds harm-reduction programs. A departure from policies that stigmatize addiction and force people who use drugs into hiding, these programs provide community-based support that includes having staff available to prevent overdoses, offering counseling on addiction and swapping out syringes to prevent the spread of HIV.
Nowhere in the grant are pipes mentioned — but from the blog’s report, it was off to the race-baiting. “Joe Biden’s latest idea is to pay Black people to smoke more crack,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson said Tuesday. Fox News’ website also leaned into the racial angle in its reporting, noting that the grant request document from HHS referenced an executive order focused on advancing racial equity and supporting underserved communities.
Spinning a program meant to save lives into a program solely devoted to making crack more accessible in Black neighborhoods doesn’t happen by accident. It can only happen purposefully. It’s an echo of the mandatory minimums that for years made sure possession of crack cocaine drew harsher sentences than powder cocaine. It’s a remnant of the failed “tough on crime” approach to drug policy that has left hundreds of thousands incarcerated over the years and many, many more dead.
It also does nothing to help address the opioid crisis that Republicans accuse President Joe Biden of ignoring. There are millions of Americans out there who need help with their substance use disorder, enough that the grant HHS is distributing should be at least 10 times as large as it is. The attempts we’ve seen this week to prevent such people from getting that help are not just racist, they’re also callous, cruel and counterproductive.
And Marsha’s piling on this racist firestorm is especially hypocritical.
Yesterday President Biden made an announcement about a new TRITIUM CHARGING factory that will be opening up in LEBANON, TN – bringing 500 jobs to the area and having a “ripple effect” beyond the borders of Lebanon, and even Tennessee.
ICYMI — BIDEN: “The new @TritiumCharging facility is more than just GREAT NEWS FOR TENNESSEE… it’ll have a ripple effect far beyond 1 state…”
— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) February 9, 2022
Tritium itself credits the BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE PACKAGED passed by Biden and the Democrats, with the help of a few Republicans, none of which were members of the Tennessee delegation – which likely explains why every last member of the delegation has been silent about the development.
You would never know that the president of the United States just announced 500 jobs good paying (hopefully UNION) jobs are coming to Tennessee by looking at the feeds of Senators Marsha Blackburn or Bill Hagerty, or congress members Kustoff, Rose, Green, Fleischmann, Desjarlais, Harshbarger, or Burchett.
They seem to only mention things when their own party is responsible for them – a truly sad testament to how divided we are as a country.
Worse than that, GOVERNOR LEE took things a step further – he issued a press release about the Tritium announcement, but doesn’t even MENTION in it that Tritium itself credits the Biden bipartisan infrastructure bill with the jobs.
Instead, Lee’s highly misleading and disingenuous release makes it look like this happened thanks to his own leadership.
TO RECAP: When the FORD PLANT (to make electric cars) was announced in West Tennessee, Democrats expressed their support for the jobs and economic benefits coming to our state…
…Yet when TRITIUM makes their announcement, most Republicans are silent – while the Governor attempts to take credit, and doesn’t even mention Biden’s leadership and how his efforts are helping to create a market for these products and companies to prosper.
It seems Tennessee Republicans will only root for Tennessee – or America – if it benefits their own party. That, as their corrupt, defeated, one-term insurrectionist leader liked to say, is “Sad”.
By Jacob Padgett
Along with our trust, most employers are going to need to give those who participated in the great resignation something to hold onto. The cliché during the pandemic is that we’re all in the same storm, not the same boat.
Some of you are in yachts while the rest of us are drowning, grasping at driftwood.
For some it’s being deep in medical debt. For others, they suffer from burnout, and many are living paycheck to paycheck. The top tiers of corporations have grown so rich and out of touch that they don’t even know what our problems are. There is no chance these titans of industry ever went a day in their life without having a thousand dollars to spend on a medical emergency- for the rest of us that’s half of the rent, electricity, and water.
You see, most people don’t inherit million-dollar companies. These birth lottery winners will never know what is like to be us. It’s psychologically impossible.
To have grown up never knowing a single moment of monetary struggle will break your brain in a way that cannot be rectified. It bankrupts their morality and leads them to see the world exclusively as a meritocracy where they clearly deserve to have many millions, while the have-nots must have done something wrong to be in poverty.
Their father earned it for them you see, and their father before that, so goes the perpetuation of socioeconomic stratification and the gap widens year by year. How long can you stack all the weight to one side of a boat before it tips?
This perversion of reality leads one to ponder equality and equity, and where they should be applied. To define terms: Equality would be giving everyone a stimulus check of the same amount. Why that doesn’t work is that a family in poverty quickly pays debts, while a rich family getting that same check invests it because they didn’t actually need it.
Equity would be distributing that money based on need, not on merely existing. It seems fair to say that Jeff Bezos didn’t need a stimulus check, but he got one. That is where the idea of economic equality fails, and why these CEOs don’t understand why people struggle financially.
Our policies must change to be statistically weighted by the needs of the people, and America needs to get past its fascination with giving everyone either nothing or exactly the same. Naysayers would argue that this is fiscally impossible, a runaway growth of government or socialism. Yet many collect their social security benefits, and it seems fair to say we could potentially apply that logic to another area. It’s not irresponsible or impossible, but it is socialism, and Americans love it when it already exists, but have been conditioned to hate it if it’s new.
This can be demonstrated in interviews where people are asked if they support Obamacare and say no, then they are asked if they support the Affordable Care Act they will say yes. One has that “socialist” connotation, so it’s bad.
The argument must be made that we can actually afford universal health care in the richest country in the world.
We have examples we can pull from all over the world. This concept is not new, and frankly we’re foolish for not already having this safety net in place already. The idea of social safety nets and welfare are hated by many, but really they should be loved.
Currently it feels like governments operate like corporations, spending as little of our tax dollars as possible. Is that what anyone actually wants? Their job is not to have a great bottom line, it’s to provide public services and preserve human rights.
Healthcare is a human right, and local and federal governments should spend as much of our tax dollars as possible on us, the citizens. Who cares if you live in a rich state if everyone is living in tents on the street? Nobody, except the elite.
While the top earners keep hoarding, and the poor keep dying, I hear Nero playing a tune.
Congressman Tim Burchett this month sent an oversized postcard to the hundreds of thousands of people in our district; he was touting his actions in the U. S. House. If you look very closely at small print, you’ll see this bit of self-promotion was done at taxpayer expense. It was done at the start of an election year through abuse of a congressional perk known as the franking privilege.
Burchett, of course, leaves out a lot—so, as the declared Democratic candidate for the same job—let me fill in the gaps. To begin, our congressman left out his most ignominious vote. Just hours after insurrectionists invaded our Capitol and assaulted police, Burchett gave the mob the truth-denying and democracy-destroying vote they wanted. The peaceful transfer of power is an important American institution, but Burchett damaged it for cheap political gain.
TDOT calculated that Tennessee’s share of the infrastructure bill included $1.3 billion in federal highway funds, $302 million in bridge repairs, $300 million in airport improvements, $88 million for electric charging stations, $630 million for public transportation improvements, $697 million for improved water infrastructure, and $100 million to bring expanded broadband access to 400,000 Tennesseans. Burchett voted against it. He also voted against the COVID Relief bill that was vital to economic recovery.
Our congressman has cast some very dubious votes, many of them hurtful to women. He voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, extending programs that seek to prevent and to respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. A bipartisan group came together to support a bill that employers should make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. Burchett voted no. He also joined a lawsuit supporting Mississippi’s law to restrict women’s reproductive freedom.
Burchett bizarrely brags about sponsoring a bill to prohibit vaccine mandates for essential workers at a time when it is crucial to assure that essential workers are vaccinated for their own health and those of us they encounter, engage, or treat.
On my website, markharmonforcongress.com, I outline a more uplifting agenda for our community. We need to reward work with a $15 an hour minimum wage. Our students should be rewarded and inspired by a dramatic increase in college grants. Our health care plans need to have a public option.
I’d be happy to argue the merits of our contrasting views of the future, but Tim Burchett needs to agree to televised debates. I suggest a minimum of two, perhaps one in a town hall format. So far, he has ducked the question. He appears to be relying on party label and a mountain of corporate campaign cash. He twice did the same thing with his previous opponent Renee Hoyos. In the interest of informed public debate, we cannot let him get away with it. It’s up to all of us to press him on the point.
Mark Harmon is a professor of journalism and electronic media at the University of Tennessee, and a Democratic candidate for U. S. House, Tennessee District 2
Jan 6, 2021.
I left home for the office at 6:30am as I anticipated enhanced screening protocols at the Capitol. To my surprise, there were none. There were only low, movable gates (think bike racks) encircling the Capitol complex.
For 10 months, few staff had been attending in-person, so it was a normal day: Capitol Police & Dunkin employees were on duty, but otherwise there were empty hallways. I started tracking progress on the East & West fronts of the Capitol B4 8am from my window.
Rep. Jim Cooper & I gathered in his office to remotely attend the House Democratic Caucus. It was celebratory: Senator Warnock and Senator Ossoff were headed for victories, securing the Senate dem majority. Certification of the presidential results would begin in hours.
As the count started midday, I went downstairs to grab lunch. In passing, I heard two Capitol Police officers asking each other, “Do you think we should lock these doors too?”
This was worrisome for a few reasons: 1) This was the 24-hour door to the Longworth building. It’s always guarded, but never locked. 2) “Too?” What other doors have been locked? 3) Why are these officers making this call? Where is Capitol Police command?
Rep. Cooper had just received his 2nd Covid shot, but was trying to keep his family safe w/ regular testing. He was only going to the House Floor for votes. No lingering there. I reported what I’d heard & he left for the Attending Physician’s office for a Covid test.
Almost immediately, we were notified via internal House email that the Madison and Cannon buildings were being evacuated. Evacuated? What? And go outside? The Longworth building was the next one in the line of buildings. I texted Cooper the news and he rushed back.
The order from the House changed to “shelter in place”. When Cooper returned, we locked the front door, locked his internal office door behind us, and then started clearing out his closet as I noticed that it had a lock on it too. Shoes, dry cleaning — it all came out.
That’s when the security squawk box sounded. Had worked in Congress for 30 years & had never heard it. Thought it was an obsolete relic. We are now watching the insurrection on split screen: via CNN & outside our window.
We took one last look, closed the blinds, turned off the lights & pushed his very heavy desk in front of the door. My cousin coached me on building a proper barricade. Me: “How do you know how to do this? What are you, a French revolutionary?” Jason: “Video games.”
Safely (?) barricaded, he put his banjo away for safekeeping & we fielded calls & texts from family, friends & media. The concern for those outside the Capitol was that the attackers would get into the underground tunnels.
(former Nashville mayor)Megan Barry called to ask if we had a gun & if we knew how to use it. I knew there was no gun in the office. He crossed the room, reached the top shelf of his mostly bare closet, handed (the below) to me & asked: “Do you know how to use it?” A club from travels to Kenya.
As night fell, we inhaled a box of chocolates that was laying around, reinforcements finally arrived, and he played a few tunes on his banjo. As the night wore on, there was never an all-clear signal. The House, determined to fulfill its constitutional duty, reconvened.
We remained there until 3:38am, when the election was finally verified. I got in my car and drove home on the now-empty streets. I climbed into bed at 5:00am and my husband said, “So, honey, how was day at the office?” Humor can help w/ healing, for sure.
People often ask me if this was the scariest day of my life. I say “no”. Because I mistakenly thought that the madness was over, that the American people would never stand for this kind of attack on our democracy. Trump was gone, and Trumpism would be seen as a disgrace.
So, actually, the scariest days have been every day since. Our democracy is still at great risk. We all have to work to save it. It’s fragile.
P.S. – Rep. Cooper gifted me the club from Kenya today, as a morning memento of that horrible day. God Bless America.
Lisa Quigley is the Director of the Anti-Hunger Campaign, Tusk Philanthropies. She spent 30 years on Capitol Hill, most recently as the Former Chief of Staff for Rep. Jim Cooper.
Tennessee Republican congressman Rep. Mark Green (TN-7) is a radical extremist well known for “leading the fight” against Medicaid expansion in Tennessee, keeping 300,000 uninsured while saying programs like Medicaid “Keep people from a saving knowledge of God”.
“Dr.” Mark Green helped block Medicaid expansion in TN while saying government programs “keep people from a saving knowledge of God” – he doesn’t care about stopping the violence. The suffering of others just brings them closer to God in his eyes: pic.twitter.com/wxxzGWbc2q https://t.co/9nos2pusYk
— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) April 9, 2021
He’s also a former U.S. Army flight surgeon who was nominated for army secretary by Trump but couldn’t even get a hearing from a Republican-controlled senate, possibly because of his hateful anti-LGBT views and comments about Muslims, but also possibly because of whatever is at the root of why he won’t make his redacted discharge papers un-redacted and public, which he is clearly very sensitive about.
Green also ran cover for the insurrection, minimizing it, parroting the Big Lie, and voting to throw out the results of a free and fair American election, which one would think would cause Green to take a breath before equating the efforts of Democrats to win elections and pass popular progressive agenda to… Vietnam –A war that left 58,000 Americans dead – 1.4 MILLION casualties total. But since he fancies himself quite the military expert, and has a habit of telling anyone who’ll listen about his night with Saddam Hussein – he even wrote a book about it – it should probably come as no surprise that that’s the prism through which he sees most things.
His article for The Daily Signal, a Conservative news site backed by the Koch-tied Heritage Foundation , takes things to a whole other level though. He titles it: “Ready, Aim, Fire: Left Fired Too Soon and Created Its Own Tet Offensive”
In it, Green compares the efforts of Dems to score political wins to pass a transformative, wildly popular (even in West Virginia!) budget that helps a lot of people an “insurgency” that seeks to “spark an uprising” – ironic considering Green’s lies literally did just that.
He then whines about the left “controlling the propagation of information” (on a site from a right wing think tank, which exists in a nearly impenetrable right-wing media ecosystem), and of course can’t help himself from complaining about “censorship” of those who “counter the progressive narrative” – which a recent report shows is the opposite of the truth:
“Similarly, we have seen censorship rise to new levels on social media, as those who counter the progressive elite’s narrative are silenced. The selective canceling of anyone who doesn’t engage in groupthink undermines the core of what makes this nation great.”
As a reminder, Green’s favorite corrupt president wasn’t kicked off Twitter because he’s not progressive. He was kicked off because he incited an insurrection with his lies and is attacking democracy at every turn.
But Green doesn’t stop there. He then openly accuses “the left” of “conventional warfare”:
“Once enough people have been indoctrinated, the third phase starts: direct conventional warfare. The left has moved quickly into this third phase since President Joe Biden’s victory one year ago—but perhaps too quickly.”
Green is clearly too in love with himself to handle criticism, but any reasonable person would understand using violent, charged rhetoric like this is dangerous and can and has gotten people killed. He’s not even being subtle about it. He literally compares Democrats to the North Vietnamese:
“From taxpayer-funded abortions on demand to defunding the police, from their $3.5 trillion social engineering boondoggle to indoctrinating our children with critical race theory, the Democrats—like the North Vietnamese in 1968—tried to move into phase three too soon. They struck before enough people have been indoctrinated.”
Green then closes by calling the political fight in America a literal “war”:
“Regardless, because of the left’s premature and extreme overreach, the American people were awakened and thus able to end their efforts to create their socialist utopia, for now.
But as in Vietnam, we won a great battle through their premature move to phase three of their insurgency. However, the war is not over—and our fight for this great nation must and will continue.”
Rhetoric like this is dangerous and irresponsible. Our elected leaders should be bringing us together, not dividing us further. People died on January 6th, and more may soon die again if he keeps this up.
Then again, Green showed us he doesn’t actually care about human suffering through his opposition to Medicaid expansion, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.
Also, as a reminder, Green’s party lost the White House, the Senate, and the House under Green’s “General” – even Youngkin kept Trump out of Virginia to secure his win – yet “Extreme” Mark Green continues to blindly follow him, and doesn’t seem willing to take any lessons from losing those *battle* in the “war” he thinks he’s fighting, while Tennesseans suffer.
“We’re as divided as we’ve been in my lifetime” is something you hear from people on both sides of the political spectrum these days.
We can’t all agree on much, but one thing there seems to be a consensus on is that the level of vitriol in America is as high as it has been in generations. Nearly a third of us expect another Civil War soon.
The Insurrection on January 6th was very clearly a manifestation of the division. We can’t even have school board meetings anymore without being at each other’s throats.
Most of us want the divisiveness to end. So how do we calm things down?
There’s no easy answer to that. There won’t be a silver bullet (especially as long as Fox News is on the air), but what if part of the answer is showing people the government can work FOR THEM again, rather than just for corporations and the wealthy?
It’s hard to ignore that as the animosity in America is as high as it has been in a century, inequality is also at Gilded Age levels. Inequality is tied to so many issues in our country – a lack of health care, poor education, crime, gun violence, even abortion. It stands to reason that when people have less, they have less to lose, they’re more likely to be angry, and they become more likely to express their anger in ways that are detrimental to society.
So here’s a crazy thought: To make people less angry, make their lives better.
Guarantee them time off when they’re sick or have a child, like the rest of the world does.
Cover child care costs earlier and start teaching their kids with Universal Pre-K earlier to lessen the financial burden on their families.
Create good paying jobs by investing in our clean energy future, and infrastructure.
Invest what it takes to make sure everywhere in America is connected to broadband, so young Americans can stay in rural areas when they graduate high school and start businesses there and revitalize those communities rather than leaving the first chance they get.
Expand Medicare to cover Hearing and Vision so people don’t forego the glasses and hearing aids they need, and expand Medicaid to the states that haven’t like here in Tennessee where we’re #1 in Medical bankruptcies and we lose $1.7 Billion every year we don’t, so folks can see a doctor when they get sick rather than a bankruptcy attorney. (Or even better cover everyone through Medicare for All or something like it)
Invest in HBCU’s, and housing to put a roof over people’s heads, and worker’s rights… and do it all without raising taxes on anyone but those who can afford it – the ones making over $400,000 per year.
These aren’t pipe dreams. These are literally the things in the budget that Biden and the Democrats are fighting to pass while Republicans and a few “moderates” like Manchin & Sinema (who sure look like extremists to me) stand in the way.
These are programs that will have tangible impacts on the lives of Americans.
Many of the angriest among us view government as the problem because they’ve been told it is by a steady drumbeat of conservative talking heads, but the truth is government can be a big part of the solution, and can help make their lives better. Making people’s lives better and addressing the gross inequality we have allowed to overtake our society thanks to a government captured by corporate interests may be the only real path to calming things down in this country… assuming there still is one.
Pass the people’s budget.
Justin Kanew is the Founder of the Tennessee Holler