UK: Women, gays and trans all bishop bashed

From Gay Star UK:

A vote by the Church of England to keep its ban on women bishops has again highlighted other inequalities, including for gay and transgender people

By Helen Belcher
22 November 2012

Equalities and the Church of England. Right now it doesn’t seem as though they mix terribly well.

The General Synod’s House of Laity (one of the church’s governing bodies) voted against proposals for allowing women to be bishops on Tuesday (20 November). All around are cries about equalities legislation and forcing the church to comply.

One effect is to reserve 26 seats in the House of Lords for male bishops, seats that women can never occupy in the UK parliament. Naturally this is also raising questions about disestablishment – separating the church from the British state – a discussion that has been ongoing for at least 300 years.

In June this year, a report commissioned by the bishops of the Church of England wholeheartedly rejected the government’s proposals for equal marriage. This response also came in for much condemnation, and certainly the views in the pews don’t seem as rigid as the bishops’ paper would indicate. There are religious groups (and Anglican priests) who wish to conduct same-sex marriages.

My own response to the UK government suggested that, rather than saying no-one could conduct same-sex marriages in religious premises, priests who didn’t want to conduct same-sex marriages could opt out, in the same way as they can currently opt out of marrying divorcees or trans people. Forcing a blanket ban appears to be an equal and opposite breach of the Human Rights Convention, which supports freedom of expression of religion.

The claim from those supporting the continued ties between church and state is that the Church of England is still required to give moral guidance to the country. Yet look closely at the roots of the legislation that the church can opt out of. It’s moral legislation. It beggars belief how a church can claim that its (male-only) seats in the House of Lords are required to give moral guidance into legislation yet be able to legally opt out of the moral positions society as a whole has now adopted and is prepared to enforce in courts of law.

We all know the paroxysms the Church of England has been throwing itself into for years regarding homosexuality. In the midst of all this grief, it’s easy to miss that the church is also conflicted regarding trans people.

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Why Not Socialism?

From In These Times:

The Right’s red-baiting has been far too effective.

BY Maria Svart
November 24, 2012

President Barack Obama owes his victory to the efforts of black, Latino, trade union, feminist and LGBTQ folks, who rallied to thwart a Romney campaign that relied on voter suppression and coded appeals to white nationalism. But unfortunately, the economy is still in the dumps, and Obama will not follow his reelection with an all-or-nothing progressive push. Rather, the exit polls and ballot initiative results will be read by the president’s neoliberal advisors as a mandate for so-called “compromise” policies—i.e., further austerity, further cuts.

An ideological vacuum will be created on the Left when the president tacks back to the center and the GOP even more to the extreme Right, and democratic socialists are in a unique position to fill it.

Democratic socialism provides a counterweight to the Tea Party agenda of reaction and division. We advocate for an expanded electoral and economic democracy along with deep citizen engagement. We know that many Americans share these values. People want a voice in decisions that affect their lives, and they know that the only way to cut the deficit is to put people back to work. We also know that 49 percent of people aged 18-29 have a positive view of socialism, according to a Pew poll released last year, and that class consciousness is on the rise.

Now is the time to continue building a political movement capable of challenging the neoliberal capitalist consensus. It is clear why we need a socialist organization in the United States. The Right has been too successful in its red-baiting, stymieing even the most moderate reforms to rein in corporate power. We need a movement explaining and de-stigmatizing democratic socialism in order to create the rhetorical and political space for progressive, if not socialist, change.

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Watch Out Plutocrats, the Progressive Pro-Democracy Movement Is Savvy and Gearing Up to Take on Citizens United

From Alternet:

There’s a sophisticated pushback against corporate power in the works.

By Steven Rosenfeld
November 23, 2012

 It didn’t look like the movie Lincoln, which opened the same weekend. Instead of crusty men in musty rooms, half the speakers were women and the setting was a bright modern law school auditorium. But the challenge at hand was equally great. In Lincoln’s day, it was the 13th Amendment to end slavery. Today, it’s repairing American democracy for the 21st century.

Last Saturday in Los Angeles saw the most detailed, ambitious and encouraging discussion of exactly how to approach campaign finance and lobbying reform that I’ve seen in two decades of reporting on the decline of American democracy. There were constitutional solutions—not one but several—for the problems created by the Supreme Court. There was a long list of what Congress, the White House, federal agencies and state legislatures could do now. And there was growing evidence that millions of Americans of all political stripes want a renewed democracy—as surely as those multitudes who waited hours to vote on November 6.

A century ago, Progressive reformers reshaped American democracy by using every avenue available to them to take away power from that era’s robber barons and political insiders. Today, after the most expensive American election ever, democracy advocates have launched a modern counterpart with a bold agenda, new strategies, new coalitions and a growing grassroots base dedicated to unwinding political corruption’s many facets.

“A cancer does not cure itself. And this won’t be cured by dinky little reforms, tiny little ideas, tinkering, crumbs at the table, who are being proposed by people who think if we just do a little switch we will magically change this system,” said Harvard Law School’s Larry Lessig, opening A 28th Amendment? conference at UCLA Law School. “What it needs is a movement unlike any we’ve seen since the Civil Rights Movement or the Progressive Movement, taking on a corruption greater than anything we have seen since we ousted George III.”

“It’s not just money in politics—that’s one thing we have to fix—no question; we will not survive as a democracy, as a republic if we don’t fix that,” said Jeffrey Clement, co-founder of FreeSpeechForPeople. “But we will not survive as an Earth, as a democracy, as a republic, if we don’t figure out how to make corporations work for the people and be able to democratically, small ‘d,’ decide on the powers, rights, duties and privileges that these massive global empires, which is what they are now, have in our democracy.”

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GOP’s Domination Was Only Temporary

From Truth Out:

By Paul Krugman
Thursday, 22 November 2012

James Fallows says something I’ve been thinking, too: “For the first time in my conscious life, the Democratic Party is now more organized and coherent, and less fractious and back-biting, than the Republicans,” the correspondent for The Atlantic wrote in a recent online article. “It is almost stupefying to imagine that.”

Indeed. It actually started during primary season, when — as too many have forgotten — the Republican field seemed (and was) dominated by ridiculous figures. President Obama almost revived the Democrats’ old image with his bobble in the first debate, but he and his party pulled it back together. The Democratic campaign was professional, while the Republicans acted like the Keystone Kops. Karl Rove’s image has changed from terrifying master of politics to overpaid crybaby.

But I’d go even further: the Democrats now look like the natural party of government. President George W. Bush had already established a reputation for being unable to get anything right in the actual business of governing; all that was supposedly left was political prowess, and now that’s gone too. And even the news media have, I think, begun to notice that the United States isn’t the “center-right” country of fantasy: we’re a diverse nation, ethnically and otherwise, in which a lot of liberal ideas have become perfectly mainstream.

Still, hubris and all that: this newly effective coalition could be shattered if taken for granted.

And you know what could really produce the kind of dispirited base that was supposed to doom Mr. Obama in 2012? A sellout on key Democratic values as part of a Grand Bargain on the deficit. If, say, Mr. Obama raises the retirement age in return for vague promises on revenue (promises that would be betrayed at the first opportunity) or if he appoints a deficit scold to a major economic post, it could all fall apart.

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Jobs, Justice and the Planet

From In These Times:

During Obama’s second term, the Left cannot passively await changes from the Democratic Party.

BY Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Thursday, 22 November 2012

In 2008, liberals, progressives and many leftists made a strategic mistake. With the election of Barack Obama, we assumed that we could passively await change. We should have known better, given the experience of eight years of the Clinton administration. Rather than moving quickly to push the new Obama administration in a progressive direction, by the spring of 2009, the Left had ceded initiative on both domestic and foreign policy to the Right. With the 2012 election behind us, progressive forces should act quickly so as not to repeat our costly mistake of the first term. We must:

  • Prepare to take mass action as we head toward the so-called fiscal cliff. Forces within organized labor, among others, are already preparing to pressure Congress and the White House to reject reactionary cuts. What I am suggesting goes further. We need to begin organizing marches for jobs and housing in early 2013 in every state capital. These demonstrations must demand that people be put to work and that housing be made available for those who need it.
  • Demand economic and social justice. Though Obama campaigned in 2008 on behalf of workers, once in office he became far too cautious in speaking out for full economic justice, retreating into the realm of the corporate liberal. Too often, labor unions and others let him off the hook. We must make the expansion of workers’ right to organize part of the national debate. And we must build a state by state movement to implement constitutional changes that expand workers’ rights.

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Reverend Billy Talen’s Black Friday Message: Sharing, Not Shopping

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Black Friday: Deciphering the Importance of Buy Nothing Day

Shop the sales, buy and/or give things that are needed. Pay cash and limit credit spending because credit card spending makes things cost 20% or more than what the price tag says they cost.

From Triple Pundit

By Jan Lee
November 23rd, 2012

Looking for an alternative? Explore the sharing economy

For many Americans, Black Friday is a special but important part of the holiday season. A time in which the warm, appreciative glow of a family Thanksgiving is replaced by insatiable deals at midnight store openings; when hot turkey sandwiches, hot coffee and cold pie are savored all the more for the comfort they provide during long shopping lines, brutal crowds and desperate searches for those key items on the Christmas list. It’s a time that comes but once a year for both the consumer and the store owner, who each know that a profitable Black Friday may determine the financial outcome of the rest of the holiday season.

But for a small but growing sector of the population, Black Friday represents a different vision of holiday symbolism: a time to buy nothing.

It’s a time for visiting friends, renewing ties and regaining one’s perspective. It’s a time symbolized by pot-luck dinners, reflective discussions about sustainable living and the beneficial prospects of investing in a sharing economy.

It’s for resisting – and in some cases rebelling – against the temptations of unnecessary consumerism, something that some Americans feel threaten the very concept of the holiday season and their way of life.

This advocacy, often referred to as the Buy Nothing Black Friday movement (BND), stretches to every corner of the country, and can be found in every economic strata of society, from the post-hippie and yippie neighborhoods of San Francisco to the comfortable neighborly streets of Flatbush New York; from the congested streets of the metropolis, to the farms of rural small-town America.

It is also recognized in more than 50 countries around the globe, including Canada, where it is said to have been created.

Vancouver BC comic artist, Ted Dave, is credited with thinking up the “holiday” in 1992 while working on a concept for the parody magazine Adbusters. The manifesto was simple: “A 24-hour moratorium on consumer spending, designed to remind the consumer and the retailer of the true power of buying public.”(Robin Laurence, The Georgia Straight Vol. 33, #1666, Nov. 25, 1999.)

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With Biggest Strike Against Biggest Employer, Walmart Workers Make History Again

From The Nation:

Josh Eidelson
on November 23, 2012

Hanover and Severn, MD—For about twenty-four hours, Walmart workers, union members and a slew of other activists pulled off the largest-ever US strike against the largest employer in the world. According to organizers, strikes hit a hundred US cities, with hundreds of retail workers walking off the job (last month‘s strikes drew 160). Organizers say they also hit their goal of a thousand total protests, with all but four states holding at least one. In the process, they notched a further escalation against the corporation that’s done more than any other to frustrate the ambitions and undermine the achievements of organized labor in the United States.

“I’m so happy that this is history, that my grandkids can learn from this to stand up for themselves,” Miami striker Elaine Rozier told The Nation Thursday night. Before, “I always used to sit back and not say anything…. I’m proud of myself tonight.”

Rozier and her co-workers kicked off the Black Friday strike around 7:30 EST Thursday night; it rolled from Miami through big cities like Chicago and smaller ones like Tulsa, where overnight stocker Christopher Bentley Owen, agitated by an intimidating “captive audience” meeting, decided at the last minute to join the organization and became his store’s sole striker. After holding back because he didn’t plan to stay in his job for long, said Owen, he recognized that millions of other low-wage workers offer the same reason not to get involved. “Meanwhile,” he said, “there are millions of people in those jobs…at some point, people have to get together.”

By 9 am Friday, Walmart had already sent out a statement announcing its “best ever Black Friday events,” claiming that only fifty workers were on strike, and dismissing the action as a failure. Organizers accused Walmart of making up numbers, and noted that the company’s aggressive efforts to discourage participation undermined its supposed indifference.

The Black Friday strike came a year and a half after retail workers announced the founding of the new employee group OUR Walmart, five months after guest workers struck a Walmart seafood supplier and seven weeks after the country’s first-ever coordinated Walmart store strikes. Walmart striker Cindy Murray, a veteran of the last decade’s unsuccessful union-backed campaign against Walmart, said that after the 2008 election, “I was like, we have to do something different.” (Strikes at Walmart certainly qualify.) Murray said OUR Walmart has had greater success because workers saw it “as our organization,” as so they “finally said, maybe we can be saved. Maybe we can speak out.”

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Walkouts, Protests Hit Walmart Nationwide on Biggest Shopping Day of the Year

From Truth Out:

By Yana Kunichoff
Friday, 23 November 2012

A lone worker walked out of a Walmart on the South Side of Chicago while two others skipped their Thanksgiving day shifts. A group of Dallas workers walked out after working through Thanksgiving Day. Los Angeles saw associates leave the store to rally with supporters. And they aren’t alone. At least forty-six other states saw similar actions, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).

Despite the bitter cold in Chicago, about 200 people stood outside a Walmart early in the morning chanting: “Walmart Walmart, you’re no good, treat your workers like you should!” The protests aimed at the largest private employer in the world call on them to provide workers with a better working environment, the chance to set their hours, an end to retaliation and the freedom to organize.

The importance of the protest is not only in its numbers, but also in the opponent.

For people to have a sustainable income, “We have to change the type of jobs that are available in retail,” said Marc Goumbri, an international field organizer at UFCW. “What is going on at Walmart has to be addressed. The role that Walmart plays in the US economy is so huge that it is something that can’t be left the way it is.”

Days before Black Friday, Walmart filed an unfair labor practice suit against workers alleging that the protests were illegal. In Illinois and California, the company continued retaliations against and firings of workers attempting to organize at its warehouse.

Tyrone Robinson, the lone worker to walk out from a Chicago Walmart on the far south side of the city, estimates he earns about $15,000 a year doing produce management. One of the demands of the strikes is that workers be able to earn at least $25,000 a year if they work full time.

“My ends ain’t meeting,” he said. “My hours have gone down to about 30 hours a week, and I make $8.25.”

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