#EndAusterityNow Demo in London

I got a rush on Saturday that I hadn’t felt in years, the kind I get when I’m in a large action with other people, all of us united for a common cause. I’ve been traveling around for the last three years, so I haven’t been in the kind of protests I joined in Chicago or my hometown. It felt good to join in with tens of thousands of people (estimates range from 70,000 to 250,000) and raise our voices on behalf of the many. And the many were saying–forget austerity, embrace true prosperity for all.

#EndAusterityNow Demo in London

Austerity in Britain has had the usual effect of making the poor poorer and the rich richer, and the new cuts to social programs being proposed and implemented now will drastically change the fabric of British society, in a way that we Americans have a hard time understanding, because the Brits started with more than we’ve ever won for ourselves. To lose these social programs is truly devastating.

There've already been too many cuts--the system can't handle any more

There’ve already been too many cuts–the system can’t handle any more

I marched with friends in the National Union of Teachers block, which had the benefit of putting me in a group that I’m entirely comfortable with and fully supportive of (pretty much everyone I know is a teacher), and putting me right near the start of the march. By the time we walked the 2.5 miles from Bank in the City of London to Parliament Square in the City of Westminster, some people at the back had barely made it past the starting point.

Hare Krishnas got everyone in a festive mood while we waited for the march to start

Hare Krishnas got everyone in a festive mood while we waited for the march to start

People used to shout "Maggie, Maggie, Maggie" "Out, Out, Out!" at anti-Thatcher demos in the '80s. Today, a simple "Tory, Tory, Tory" will get the same response.

None of the major political parties is officially anti-austerity. Everyone’s buying into the big lie. Except the Greens, bless ’em (and possibly SNP as well).

We stood pretty near the stage in Parliament Square and listened to an impressive succession of short speeches. The organizers kept the people talking to a maximum of three minutes each, and everyone was on-message about how these cuts would hurt the most needy of society, and how the Conservatives won the election but they hardly have a mandate for austerity, and how we all need to keep up the pressure to change these harmful policies before they get any farther. (Not to mention they want to ax the Human Rights Act and re-fund the nuclear weapons program, which is so impossibly backwards it must be the premise to a dystopian sci-fi novel.)

Along the march

Along the march

Over and over, they reminded us that it wasn’t the nurses and teachers who created the financial crisis, it was the bankers. It’s not the millionaires who need these programs, it’s the disabled, the domestic violence victims, the hungry. And it’s not the UK that’s going to thrive in austerity, it’s the bankers and millionaires.

I live tweeted some of the speeches, so most of these I don’t have proper attribution–I wasn’t familiar with all the speakers so I don’t remember all their names.

‘We’re the 6th richest nation on the planet, don’t tell me we can’t afford the NHS’

People used to shout "Maggie, Maggie, Maggie" "Out, Out, Out!" at anti-Thatcher demos in the '80s. Today, a simple "Tory, Tory, Tory" will get the same response.

People used to shout “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie” “Out, Out, Out!” at anti-Thatcher demos in the ’80s. Today, a simple “Tory, Tory, Tory” will get the same response.

‘If you make our lives unbearable, we will make this society ungovernable’

In a nutshell

In a nutshell

‘If they thought they won the war with austerity on May the 8th, they need to think again’

Not sure what the smoke bombs were about, but there were different colors throughout the march

Not sure what the smoke bombs were about, but there were different colors throughout the march

‘They were worried about that building crumbling [pointing to the Houses of Parliament]. I’m more worried about democracy crumbling.’ Caroline Lucas

‘It looks to me like socialism is far from an anachronism. It’s back in fashion. Keep fighting, this is just the beginning’

‘David Cameron, you are wrong. This is what I call an opposition!’

I love this way of phrasing it--it gets to the idea of how undemocratic this election result was (24% of the popular vote is no majority)

I love this way of phrasing it–it gets to the idea of how undemocratic this election result was (24% of the popular vote is no majority)

‘Our victory will be your victory’ message from Greece

Greek flags at the ready

Greek flags at the ready

‘If you think the rich should pay their taxes, shout as loud as you can’

#EndAusterityNow Demo in London #EndAusterityNow Demo in London #EndAusterityNow Demo in London

‘I’m proud to be British because of our national health service, our welfare system, and David Bowie’ Charlotte Church

‘Austerity is about divide and rule. It’s about destroying the things that give us our humanity so the powerful can stay in power’ Francesca Martinez

#EndAusterityNow Demo in London

 

We left during Jeremy Corbyn’s speech (he’s the only candidate for Labour leader who’s anti-austerity–vote accordingly!), because you know, after several hours marching and rallying, nature does call. (Apparently I missed Owen Jones and Russell Brand, both of whom I wouldn’t mind seeing sometime.)

Lovely,simple design on this sign

Lovely, simple design on this sign

So the final speech I heard in full was from Francesca Martinez, a comedian I’m not familiar with but definitely want to hear more of. Her speech was my favorite. She celebrated the social programs of Britain as examples of humanity at its best, and she decried the actual evil of those who want to cut them down to nothing as part of a program to fix an economy that those same people in power broke in the first place with their banking schemes. We must fight for these programs in a fight for our better selves and a better humanity. She said, ‘Every one of us has a duty to each other to protect what is beautiful about being human.’ I can’t think of a better way to phrase why I went on the demo on Saturday–and why I’ll go to more.

#EndAusterityNow Demo in London

Labor Day: We Still Have So Much Work to Do

Happy Labor Day, fellow Americans! I hope you’re all enjoying barbecue with loved ones. For my friends outside the US who may not know, Labor Day is the American version of May Day; it used to hold a lot more power as a holiday recognizing workers’ rights, but now it’s generally seen as the the last party of the summer. Let’s take a moment to remember why we get to have the party.

Especially this year, when we’re remembering the March on Washington 50 years ago, I think it’s important to be grateful on Labor Day for the protections and opportunities we have, while we fight for the ones we’ve lost or haven’t gained yet. The nationwide attack on teachers–especially nasty in Chicago–in the guise of helping students. The “right-to-work” laws passed in 24 states (an amazing semantic victory for the right). The gender wage gap. Crippling student loan debt–and the recent doubling of interest rates on those debts. Blocked immigration reform. An unlivable minimum wage. Minimal support for new families, especially mothers in the workforce. Legal discrimination against LGBT folks. There’s a lot about employment in the US that needs fixing. (Click on those links to see groups that are taking action; you can join them.)

Obama’s speech this past Wednesday was pretty good, but the line that adapted MLK’s famous one is great: “The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own.” He then urges everyone to continue fighting the good fight, a point he makes in a lot of speeches but far too frequently contradicts in his actions as president. Still, he’s not wrong. The reason we have the workers’ rights we have is because people fought for them, and not just the union leaders and lobbyists paid to fight for them. People who were tired after a long day at work then went out and rallied in the streets, wrote to members of Congress, went on strike, made changes to local laws, talked to their friends and neighbors about what was going on, elected leaders who promised to fight the fight with them. You don’t have to come home from work tired and angry with workplace injustices and your lot in life. You can come home from work tired and happy with the work you do and the conditions you work in. You can come home from work fired up to make work a place you want to return to.

So raise a toast to the unions and workers of yesterday and make a pledge to join with the ones who are fighting for a better life today. Because Labor Day means a lot more than the last day of the season to wear white.

The Good, The Bad, and The Silly

The Good

This moving, and sometimes funny, and very insightful piece by Dolores P., an abortion provider in training, is worth reading in its entirety. A great conversation starter for any of your more undecided or conservative friends, too.

It seems to be all too easy for the general public to forget that prisoners are people too, so it’s good to see these Georgia prison guards arrested for their vicious beating of an inmate in retaliation for the December prisoners’ strike.

Rinku Sen explains why it’s important to support Planned Parenthood despite founder Margaret Sanger’s disgusting views on eugenics (hint: it’s a vital health care source for millions of women and men).

I didn’t know where the phrase “women of color” or “people of color” came from, but here’s a wonderful explanation from Loretta Ross, a reproductive rights activist who was there at the term’s origination. Her reminder that this was people of color naming themselves, and not being categorized once again by white people, is a vital one.

Tuesday was International Women’s Day, and there were a lot of great pieces written all over the world from the occasion, some of which can be found here and here.

It’s funny because it’s true.

The Bad

Rep. Peter King is starting his own McCarthy hearings, this time focusing on blaming Muslims for all the terrorist acts in this country, providing no statistics to back him up, and ignoring completely other domestic terrorist groups like the KKK, Operation Rescue, and skinhead groups. Guess which groups are actually killing Americans year after year? Arturo Garcia has some great questions and answers about the hearings here.

As you probably read, Wisconsin (probably illegally) passed their bill denying collective bargaining rights to its public workers, when the Democrats who were supposed to be necessary to hold a vote at all were still hundreds of miles away. One Republican state senator did vote no because it went against his conscience and the will of his constituents. A site has already been set up to recall the state senators who rammed through the vote. Instead of doing anything to balance the budget or help the workers of the state, Walker and his friends have just ensured that Wisconsin will be mired in expensive and lengthy legal proceedings for possibly years to come, as the lawsuits come out in full force. Badly done, and shame on them.

JPMorgan is the largest processor of food stamps in the country. That’s right, the same company that contributed to our country’s economic disaster and thousands and thousands of layoffs, that’s the company that is making money by processing the food stamps of the previously employed.

The Republicans’ plan to save money by cutting the budget will likely increase unemployment and slow economic growth, according to studies done by, um, Republicans. Time to change plans, guys.

Ohio has passed its own anti-union bill, and also slipped in there, apropos of nothing, a clause stating that the state shall never acknowledge any kind of same-sex union. They banned gay marriage in 2004, but lest people try a workaround like civil unions or domestic partnerships, the Ohio legislature is heading them off at the pass.

Yesterday was National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day, and here are some numbers on just how dangerous it is to work in this field. Also, an interview with a doctor who has been providing abortions since they were legalized in the US.

The Silly

“James Franco’s dissertation is not a ‘contribution to the field.’ It *is* the field.” And other fun facts about James Franco’s foray into grad studies at Yale.

Like Your Quality of Life? A Union Did That

Even if you’ve never worked for a union in your life, they’ve worked for you. This nonsense about eliminating collective bargaining in the state of Wisconsin should be squashed–and fast–by the Wisconsin legislature, and condemned by politicians and media pundits alike across the country. We ALL benefit from the work of unions, and don’t think any differently:

Like having a weekend? A union did that.

Like having an 8-hour work day instead of 10 or 12 or 14? A union did that.

Like getting paid overtime on your non-exempt job? A union did that.

Like getting workman’s compensation when you’re injured on the job? A union did that.

Like your employer-sponsored health care as opposed to paying all out of pocket? A union did that.

Like your employer-sponsored pension, 401(k), or other retirement plan? A union did that.

Like your guaranteed break for every six hours worked? A union did that.

Like the safety provisions in place in your office/warehouse/job site? A union did that.

Like knowing that children under the age of 14 get to be in school and not a factory? A union did that.

Like being able to call in sick and not risk losing your job? A union did that.

These are NOT things that business owners granted to their employees out of their vision of a good workplace or the goodness of their heart. These are things that union members fought for tooth and nail. These are things that union members were intimidated, physically beaten, and in some cases, killed for fighting for. These are things that we all see as necessary components of a reasonable, pleasant workplace, but until the unions got involved, they weren’t a guarantee; hell, they weren’t even a possibility.

Say what you will about various mismanaged unions (aren’t so many organizations mismanaged and just in need of a shakeup?), but the fact of the matter is that the stronger unions are in a nation, the higher the quality of life is in that country, for union and non-union workers alike. Collective bargaining protects workers from employers focused more on profit than employee satisfaction and productivity, and it gives a voice to those who would otherwise be easily shut up and shut out.

“Good for business” shouldn’t mean “bad for workers,” but far too often it does. Choosing business bottom lines over the people who work hard for their employers isn’t a good business move, or the free market at work, or the American way–it’s cowardly, and it’s inhumane, and it has to stop.

The Good, The Bad, and The Silly

The Good

Revolution is everywhere! Governor Walker of Wisconsin has said that the Democrat walk-out will only delay the inevitable passage of his bill that strips unions of their right to be unions, but I say it ain’t over til it’s over. Kudos to all the Wisconsin citizens and public employees who are protesting in the hundreds of thousands this week. (And I sure hope radio host Vicki McKenna gets fired for straight-up lying that liberals want to assassinate Walker.) Check out these funny–and biting–protest signs at the state capitol. Courage and success to you, Wisconsin workers!

Of course there are concerns about the military taking charge in Egypt now that Mubarak is out, but their refusal to gun down their fellow citizens despite an order from the then-president is an encouraging sign for how a military can truly be for the protection, rather than the oppression, of the people.

I’m putting this one in “The Good” because action is being taken — over 4,000 rape kits remain untested in Illinois. But we now have a law requiring them all to be tested and not remain languishing in evidence rooms, and the state plans to have them all tested by 2015. This will go far in bringing rape victims justice in Illinois.

The Bad

The assault on women’s bodies and lives continues apace: The Ohio “Heartbeat” Bill (which, by the way, a heartbeat does not indicate viability, if we’re slicing fine lines here) is expected to pass both the state house and senate. I like Melissa McEwan’s response, which boils down to: don’t pretend the anti-choice movement isn’t inherently violent, because it is.

Congress is voting possibly this weekend on defunding all Title X programs, which would render Planned Parenthood  bankrupt and take away the only source of health care for millions of American women. (Keep in mind that Title X programs include many non-PP community health centers.) Check out this fantastic resource from the Guttmacher Institute, which allows you to click on individual states and see how Title X funding is spent in those states. It illuminates just how devastating this defunding would be. Note that the restrictions on federal funding for abortions are already so tight that NO Planned Parenthood can use federal funds to provide abortions, so this bill would take away other essential health services just because abortions are sometimes performed in the same building. Incidentally, this NYT article on the bill makes a huge journalistic mistake in reporting that “[Title X funding to PP] opponents say only frees up funds for abortions” and not clarifying just how the money is spent. Saying what opponents argue without backing it up with facts is poor journalism. But the rest of the article does an okay job laying out the fight. TAKE ACTION: Call your representative TODAY at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to vote NO on the Title X provision of the budget bill.

UPDATE: The House just voted to remove all Title X funding for Planned Parenthood. Sign this letter right now and call your senator to demand that it stop in the Senate.

Texas Governor Rick Perry has declared emergency legislation. Oh it’s pretty serious business, all right — now pre-abortion sonograms are required statewide. So if you want to have an abortion, you have to look at a picture of the embryo or fetus first. Just so you’re sure.

Just because they pulled the proposed legislation doesn’t mean Arizona lawmakers don’t have a lot to answer for, proposing that hospitals be required to check if patients are undocumented immigrants before providing care.

Speaking of shelved legislation, South Dakota isn’t going to bring up the Legalize Murder bill just yet, but you can bet it’s coming back in the next couple years. (Oh my bad, the actual title of the bill is “An Act to expand the definition of justifiable homicide to provide for the protection of certain unborn children.” Same thing.) See McEwan’s post above about how terrifyingly violent the “pro-life” movement is, and why so many health care providers are scared just to go to their jobs.

If you liked the HR 3 Ten mentioned in Tuesday’s post, check out the full list here.

The Silly

Are you an English nerd? Do you also like old-school video games? Check out The Great Gatsby Game. (Thanks to Mlle. O’Leary for the link.)