#IdleNoMore: What Do Protesters Want?

Dr. Dawg:

The other day, I got into it a bit with John Ivison, who expressed polite disdain for the allegedly “hapless” Chief Theresa Spence—and then admitted that he had no idea what her demands actually were.

That’s all too typical.

But not all of us who support #IdleNoMore are as informed as we should be either. Let’s start with the Harper government’s current treaty-breaking campaign—and yes, a flurry of bills in the House of Commons, rammed through without consulting indigenous peoples as the Constitution requires, counts as a “campaign.”

Here, to save us all time, is an excellent compilation of the effects of these bills, taken from an address by aboriginal Constitutional scholar Pam Palmater. Or you may wish to hear this straight from her own mouth, delivered with clarity and a wealth of detail.

WATCH:

(x-posted)

Montreal Massacre: “Remember, then organize.”

by matttbastard

Record snowfall may have forced the cancellation of local commemorative events, but the memories of December 6th, 1989 remain fresh, regardless of where we wrestle with them. Though we take time today to reflect on the untimely murders of 18 women (for the heinous crime of being women), all-too-immediate events demand that we not simply remember the past, but also resolve to continue the fight for justice in the struggle for women’s equality. Eileen Morrow, coordinator, Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, notes in a Toronto Star op-ed how economic strife is intrinsically linked with violence against women, and how renewed calls for austerity measures in the wake of mounting debt could have even more of a negative impact:

During a recession, the fear is that violence against women will rise while meaningful action on the issue will fall. That worry is well-placed.

The media have already reported increasing calls by women to crisis lines and police. Catholic Family Services in Durham region reported a 24 per cent increase in referrals for domestic violence in the last three months of 2008. The Canadian Mental Health Association in London reported a rise in domestic violence in the spring of 2009. Brockville reported a 100 per cent increase in domestic violence calls to police during that period.

In the spring of 2009, stories about a stunning increase in calls to shelters in Calgary, where the recession hit hard, were reported in newspapers across Canada — a 200 per cent increase in one year; a 300 per cent increase in the month before the stories ran.

A spot survey just conducted by the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses bears out the continuing trend toward increasing calls for help, despite predictions that the economic outlook is positive and recovery has started.

A comparison of service delivery in the years 2007 and 2010 in 15 women’s shelters across the province shows that requests for support have increased, albeit not as dramatically has those of Alberta.

Crisis calls increased by almost 15 per cent between the two years; admissions of women and children increased by 20 per cent. Shelters had to “turn away” 44 per cent more women and children in 2010 than in 2007 because they were full. In smaller towns with fewer services, the shelters faced double the demand of larger cities.

Each year, the women’s shelter association gathers the names of women and children murdered in situations where an intimate partner is either charged or commits suicide. In 2008 and 2009, the total was 16 for each year. In 2010 (up to the present) it is 21.

Admittedly, the numbers are not scientific and cannot be decisively linked to the recession, but they are troubling. Still more troubling, however, is the possibility that governments will overlook the need to increase support for women rather than to freeze or lower to meet the demands of austerity.

Recent history only compounds concern about government overlooking the needs of women:

In the Mike Harris era of the mid-90s, cuts to women’s services and broad social programs such as social assistance and housing, forced many women to stay in abusive relationships. Murders of women increased in Canada, primarily in Ontario. Services in Ontario are still struggling to recover.

The mid-90s was a time of growing government restraint both federally and provincially, somewhat like today but far less acute. The global economy had not yet failed.

Nationally, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been clear that national priorities are fixed on cost-cutting and reducing the $45.4 billion federal deficit. The Province of Ontario also has an $18.7 billion dollar deficit to address.

Both federally and provincially, all political parties are in election campaign mode. The timing of the federal election is a guessing game; some are guessing spring of next year. The Ontario election is fixed for Oct. 6, 2011.

As a result, no one knows which political party will be responsible for ultimately guiding the country and the province back to economic stability. What is clear, however, is that right now is the time to raise issues of women’s human and equity rights, not when an election is finally called.

Judy Rebick notes that with programs dedicated to women’s issues once again in the sights of budget-cutters, the only way to truly stand up to the forces of austerity and push a truly progressive agenda of social and economic justice for women is to challenge the casual disregard of technocratic indifference. If we are to make a measurable impact, supporters of women’s liberation must once again mobilize:

Today the women’s movement in English Canada is a shadow of its former self and the women’s movement in Quebec is weaker too. I do not believe this has anything to do with the horror at Polytechnique but rather in part because of our success and the feeling of a younger generation that equality had been achieved and in part because of the impact of neo-liberalism and the individualism and consumerism that it promotes.

But while there is a societal consensus against male violence against women today, that violence goes on unabated particularly against marginalized women like those disappeared on the downtown east side or the hundreds of aboriginal women who are disappeared and murdered without much attention from police, or the virtual slavery of desperate women trafficked into prostitution on a global scale.

The best way to remember these 14 women is recommit ourselves, women and men, to the fight for women’s liberation and an end to violence against women. On Sunday there will once against be vigils across the country. Remember them and then organize.

“Remember them and then organize.”

We truly honour their legacy by refusing to give up the fight, even in the face of intimidation, be it from the barrel of a long gun or an autocratic prime minister’s far-right legislative agenda.

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The Last Post I Will Ever Write About Ann Coulter (Except for Cynical SEO Purposes)

by matttbastard

(Photo: Rockinon2009, Flickr)

Well, well, well (h/t Sabina Becker):

First, contrary to what Coulter seems to suggest in a brief phone interview with Macleans.ca scribe Colby Cosh, it was not the police who “shut it down.” I spoke with Ottawa Police Services media relations officer Alain Boucher this morning, and he told me, in no uncertain terms, that it was her security team that made the decision to call off the event. “We gave her options” — including, he said, to “find a bigger venue” — but “they opted to cancel … It’s not up to the Ottawa police to make that decision.”
 
Boucher’s statements are seemingly at odds with the account provided via twitter by Ezra Levant, who was supposed to appear on stage alongside Coulter. Several hours after the event had been called off, he tweeted that “Cops advised that proceeding with Coulter event in face of protesters would be dangerous to her and crowd,” and quoted a Sgt. Dan Beauchamp as saying that shutting down the event was “a public safety issue,” as well as an unnamed “police officer” who allegedly said that the OPS “cannot guarantee her safety.” He also corrected an early report from Calgary radio host Rob Breakenridge, who tweeted that the speech was kiboshed because of a fire alarm, claiming that “it was the threat of violence, say cops.”
[...]

Finally, an observation from a CBC reporter who was in the Foyer while Coulter was being interviewed by CTV’s Power Play: At approximately 5:15pm, he overheard a member of her security team tell a Conservative MP that her event “may be cancelled,” which would suggest that the decision to do so was already being considered before more than half the crowd had assembled outside the venue — hopeful speech-goers and protesters alike. Coulter herself, meanwhile, told Cosh that she never actually left the Rideau Club — where she was the guest of honour at a $250 per head private reception — for the university. Given the travel times involved, and the 7:30 pm start time, she would likely have had to do so by 7pm at the latest in order to make it in time.

To quote my favouritist bookstore eva:

Ann Coulter played y’all, Canada.

DNFTT.

BTW y’all wanna get excised over an actual affront to free speech in Canada (as opposed to Ezra & Ann’s asinine [if largely successful] attempt to insult our collective intelligence for filthy lucre)? Say hello to the campaign to silence Israeli Apartheid Week. Don’t know what I’m talking about?

Exactly.

Related: More mythbusting, pith and fitfully delicious pique from BigCityLib and some sweet, sweet snark from my homegrrl pale (mmm, that’s the stuff).

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Ann Coulter in Canada: Of Fire Alarms and Flaming Hyperbole

by matttbastard

(Photo: Jimbo Wales, flickr)

Aw, poopsie:

After protesters at the University of Ottawa prevented Ann Coulter from giving a speech on Tuesday night, the American conservative writer said it proved the point she came to make – free speech in Canada leaves much to be desired.

Then she said what she really thought of the student protesters who surrounded Marion Hall, making it to unsafe, in the view of her bodyguard, for the pundit to attempt entry.

“The University of Ottawa is really easy to get into, isn’t it?” she said in an interview after the cancelled event. “I never get any trouble at the Ivy League schools. It’s always the bush league schools.”

Ms. Coulter said she has been speaking regularly at university campuses for a decade. While she has certainly been heckled, she said this is the first time an engagement has been cancelled because of protesters.

“This has never, ever, ever happened before – even at the stupidest American university,” she said.

[...]

In a short speech, [Ezra] Levant said Tuesday was “an embarrassing day for the University of Ottawa and their student body, who could not debate Ann Coulter . . . who chose to silence her through threats and intimidation, just like their vice-president did.”

Bollocks. Far from being ‘silenced’, as Levant boldly (and stupidly) contends, Coulter’s profile and her underlying thesis (such as it is) regarding so-called ‘PC’ tyranny have been greatly amplified by her trip to the Great White North (to the point where yours truly, someone who, long ago, pledged to avoid even mentioning the name ‘Ann Coulter’, much less posting about her, is now dutifully chronicling the nauseating twists and turns of Ann’s Excellent Canadian Adventure).

dBo:

There was actually no physical threat, only heated, emotional outbursts from a crowd that had been whipped up to a frenzy by the inflamed publicity her entourage had stoked.

Coulter should have thanked the students protesting outside Marion Hall. Their performance has raised Coulter’s profile in the US. Media networks that had stopped inviting her to their talk shows are likely swamping her agent with booking requests.

Butbutbut poor Ms. Coulter was unfairly harrangued by an unruly, censorious mob of low-rent “junior jihadists” (“It’s always the bush league schools”) hell-bent on shouting her down and setting her adrift on an ice flow (buddy).

(Photo: anewsocialcontract, flickr)

Maybe so, but, as Boris @ The Beav contends, perhaps the burning anger purportedly on display Tuesday night was indeed sparked by more than merely Coulter’s trademark deliberate provocation:

There are moments when a bit of incivility is required and acceptable. We’ve seen over the past few years of the Harper government a rise in the policies that support the sort of sentiments that Coulter advocates. The cases Abousfian Abdelrazik, Maher Arar, Omar Khadr, Mohamed Harkat, Suaad Hagi Mohamud, the current fiasco with Rights and Democracy, etc etc, all suggest an insidious bent to the Harper government that Ann Coulter simply voices in plain language.

She becomes a symbolic target for the impotent rage that many of us feel toward the Harper regime and its perverse and fascistic fans. There is a link.

And if there was a mob, and it was unruly enough to shut down her little talk, fire alarms and all, then so be it.

This is what happens when bigots and fascists show themselves in public to spew their bile. This is also what happens when the public cannot find civil means (pay attention here, Opposition) of redressing the temperament and actions of a far-right minority government hell-bent on destroying the open liberal democracy that about 60 to 70% of us seem to support and enjoy. We find targets we can actually hit, and we push back.

True enough — still, at a certain point one has to carefully pick one’s battles. And, quite frankly, as dBo noted, this latest incident has only served to increase Coulter’s profile to a level of prominence that she hasn’t enjoyed in years. It would seem this thin line that separates righteous anger from useful idiocy is still being delineated (to the great delight of Coulter and Levant, no doubt):

Rita Valeriano was one of several protesters inside the hall who, with chants of “Coulter go home!” shouted down the International Free Press Society of Canada organizer who was addressing the crowd.

Valeriano, a 19-year-old sociology and women’s studies student, said later that she was happy Coulter was unable to speak the “hatred” she had planned to.

“On campus, we promise our students a safe and positive space,” she said. “And that’s not what (Coulter) brings.”

Outside the hall, Sameena Topan, 26, a conflict studies and human rights major at the U of O, spoke to the Citizen on behalf of a group of protesters.

“We have a large group of students that can very clearly outline the difference between discourse and discrimination,” Topan said of the protest. “We wanted to mobilize and make sure that’s clear on campus, that there’s a line between controversy and discrimination, and Ann Coulter has crossed it. Numerous times.”

“We had concerns about (the event) at the beginning, but especially after we saw what happened at the University of Western Ontario, when she called out a Muslim girl there and was saying she needs to take a camel because Muslim people shouldn’t fly. That kind of stuff just reaffirmed everything that we were afraid of and that’s when . . . we really got worried.”

Topan was pleased to hear the students behind her shout, “Hate speech cancelled!” in unison.

“I think that’s great. I think we accomplished what we were here to do, to ensure that we don’t have her discriminatory rhetoric on our campus,” she said.

Rewind my selekta:

Look, it’s bad enough that three Canadian campuses (including one in my hometown) have afforded a vile bigot like Coulter a stage to perform her trademark powersuit-wingnut vaudeville routine. But are they also contractually obligated to serve her up a heaping bloody plate of steak tar tar on a goddamn silver platter? 

Cliff sharpens the main point and lays out the bottom line:

I think people like Coulter absolutely exult at the opportunity to put on the veneer of smoking martyr to free speech. Handing her that opportunity on a plate gives a professional rodeo clown far more credibility than she deserves.

Co-sign. DNFTT, kids. Srsly.

Still, my irony bone can’t help but be tickled by the notion that Ann Coulter of all people (in concert with Levant, Canada’s favourite wanna-be wingnut provocateur) might try to gin up a human rights case (to make a Very Important Point About Free Speech, natch) over “restraint, respect and consideration”:

Speaking to students and academics at the University of Western Ontario Monday, Coulter said the e-mail sent to her Friday by Francois Houle, vice-president academic and provost of the University of Ottawa, targeted her as a member of an identifiable group and as such, she will be filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission alleging hate speech.

“I’m sure the Human Rights Commission will get to the bottom of it,” Coulter said to loud cheers from the 800-strong audience. “I think I’m the victim of a hate crime here. Either what (Mr. Houle) did was a hate crime, or the whole commission is BS.”

[...]

Coulter’s targeting of the University of Ottawa administration and Canada’s Human Rights Commissions came at the end of a half-hour speech that attacked political correctness in the United States and the mainstream media, which she said was uncritical of the Obama administration and unfairly biased against conservatives.

“It’s almost like there is one standard for Conservatives and one completely different one for Liberals,” Coulter told the crowd, which alternated from cheering to booing depending on the topic of discussion, which ranged from gay marriage, illegal immigration to Obama’s health-care bill.

A word is either offensive or it’s not. In a world of political correctness, all words are banned unless they’re used against conservatives.”

Yeah,  Ann Coulter, longtime defender of speech rights (h/t Cliff):

“They’re [Democrats] always accusing us of repressing their speech. I say let’s do it. Let’s repress them. Frankly, I’m not a big fan of the First Amendment.”

Sweet, delicious irony — who needs heroin to give you that rush, eh?

Am sure Coulter’s basking in her own pseudo-narcotic haze from all the attention she’s receiving (yeah, yeah — I know. Shaddap.)

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Prorogation, Disengagement and Cutting the Democratic Deficit in Canada

by matttbastard

With thousands of Canadians reportedly hitting the streets this past weekend to express their disapproval of Stephen Harper’s latest arrogant bird-flip to Parliamentary democracy, it seems apparrent that our political elites are out of touch with the people whose interests they profess to represent. A new report, to be released today, offers empirical evidence in support of the painfully obvious:

“…Canadians are jaundiced about the state of democracy here.”

Tonda MacCharles:

The report, to be released Wednesday by the Institute of Wellbeing, says Canada is experiencing “a huge democratic deficit, with trust in Canadian government and public institutions on a steep decline.”

“The disconnect between Canadians and those who govern on their behalf is deep, wide, and growing,” said the institute’s Lynne Slotek.

“At a time when people are demanding greater accountability and transparency, they see their government institutions becoming more remote and opaque.”

Yet despite this cavernous divide separating institutional political activity and ordinary citizens, Canadians haven’t given up on democratic engagement — they just have to participate via alternative avenues:

Slotek said in an interview the public’s obvious dissatisfaction with that decision “is an affirmation of what our report says – that people are interested in politics, they want to find ways to participate, and if they can’t, they’ll look at other activities such as signing petitions, Facebook or the Internet.”

The report says while voter turnout has declined from a high of 69.6 per cent in the 1993 federal election to the historic low of about 59 per cent in 2008, it does not mean Canadians are uninterested in politics. Hard data on “voter interest” in the 2008 election isn’t yet available, but the group looked at other indicators over 10 years, she said.

It says the volunteer rate for “formal political activities, such as participating in law, advocacy and political groups” has been low – around 2 per cent – over the years, but the volunteer rate for “informal ones, such as, protesting, signing petitions and boycotting, has been relatively high.” The report cites a 2002 study that found 54.6 per cent of Canadians said they participated in one political activity, either “traditional or non-traditional.”

Part of the intent behind Harper’s cynical prorogation scheme was to take advantage of a disorganized, feckless opposition and lay the groundwork for a post-Olympic spring election victory, perhaps even a majority government (or, at the very least, a Conservative Senate). But with poll numbers tanking and protests mounting, it would appear that Harper and his too-clever-by-half cronies in the PMO neglected to consider a very important constituency: the people of Canada, who, regardless of partisan affiliation, are finally fed up with having once again been taken for granted by an out-of-touch government that has reasserted its entitled sense of invincibility and naked contempt for accountability one too many times.

As one protester put it this past Saturday, Stephen Harper is “abusing the power that the people of Canada have bestowed upon him.”

It’s beyond time for the people to take that power back.

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Slacktastic Placeholder Post

by matttbastard

Busy busy busy lately, kids (and by ‘busy busy busy’ I mean ‘lazy lazy lazy’, as my always-obsessive Twitter output will attest — 140 characters is a lot less daunting than 140 words, sadly). But we can’t enter into the last year of the first decade of the new millennium without a new post up on the main page. That would be blasphemy, or bad luck, or…well, ok, I don’t believe in fortune or have any faith, so it’s more an aesthetic quirk on my part.

But if I was actually religious or at all superstitious I’d so be praying for salvation and walking around ladders while simultaneously avoiding black cats. Or something.

Anyway, have some choice links to keep you satiated and, most importantly, forestall my inexplicable squick over the lack of any new content since, um, before New Years. Hopefully I’ll settle into a more regular pattern soon. Feel free to give me shit in comments if this post remains at the top of the page for more than a week:

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PSA: Kansas NOW to Host Counter Demonstration against Reverend Patrick Mahoney’s Christian Defence Coalition

by matttbastard

KS NOW press release:

The Kansas National Organization for Women will counter-protest the “prayer vigil” organized by the Christian Defense Coalition and Operation Rescue on Saturday, June 20th outside of Women’s Health Care Services located at 5107 E. Kellogg in Wichita.

Kansas NOW is disturbed that anti-choice activist Patrick Mahoney would plan such an event after stating in regards to Dr. Tiller’s murder, “No one should use this tragedy for political gain”.

State Coordinator Marla Patrick stated, “I am astounded at the sheer hypocrisy of the anti-choice groups. They are using Dr. Tiller’s murder as an opportunity to grandstand their extremist beliefs.  While they claim they will be praying for the end to abortion, I would recommend they pray for forgiveness. Their inflammatory rhetoric played a part in Dr. Tiller’s murder.” She also stated, “They routinely speak of blood on people’s hands. By the rules that they have set and claim to follow, it is very evident that they are the ones with blood on their hands.”

Marla Patrick

KS NOW State Coordinator

785-227-3854

785-212-0162

coordinator@ksnow.org

The hypocrisy of anti-choice groups is profound, and on Saturday we plan to hold signs demonstrating that.  We know there are many pro-choice activists and who would like to join us on Saturday, but can’t.  In spirit we are asking for you to submit your favorite hypocritical anti-choice quote by anti-choice leaders and sponsor a protest sign for a $5 donation to KS NOW.

http://www.ksnow.org/KS_NOW/Counter_Demonstration.html

Please feel free to post and pass around.

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NY Times: 300 Afghan Women Protest ‘Rape Law’

by mattbastard

This is probably the most inspiring and heroic thing I’ve read about in ages:

The young women stepped off the bus and moved toward the protest march just beginning on the other side of the street when they were spotted by a mob of men.

“Get out of here, you whores!” the men shouted. “Get out!”

The women scattered as the men moved in.

“We want our rights!” one of the women shouted, turning to face them. “We want equality!”

The women ran to the bus and dove inside as it rumbled away, with the men smashing the taillights and banging on the sides.

“Whores!”

But the march continued anyway. About 300 Afghan women, facing an angry throng three times larger than their own, walked the streets of the capital on Wednesday to demand that Parliament repeal a new law that introduces a range of Taliban-like restrictions on women, and permits, among other things, marital rape.

It was an extraordinary scene. Women are mostly illiterate in this impoverished country, and they do not, generally speaking, enjoy anything near the freedom accorded to men. But there they were, most of them young, many in jeans, defying a threatening crowd and calling out slogans heavy with meaning.

[...]

The women who protested Wednesday began their demonstration with what appeared to be a deliberately provocative act. They gathered in front of the School of the Last Prophet, a madrasa run by Ayatollah Asif Mohsini, the country’s most powerful Shiite cleric. He and the scholars around him played an important role in the drafting of the new law.

“We are here to campaign for our rights,” one woman said into a loudspeaker. Then the women held their banners aloft and began to chant.

The reaction was immediate. Hundreds of students from the madrasa, most but not all of them men, poured into the streets to confront the demonstrators.

“Death to the enemies of Islam!” the counterdemonstrators cried, encircling the women. “We want Islamic law!”

The women stared ahead and kept walking.

A phalanx of police officers, some of them women, held the crowds apart.

As Spackerman (h/t) rhetorically asks, “What have you done recently that’s half as brave?”

Related: In an interview with Afghan women’s rights activist Soraya Pakzad, Jean MacKenzie puts the  controversy surrounding the Afghan ‘rape law’ in context:

The reality is that no Afghan woman, Shi’ia or Sunni, has the right to object to her husband’s advances. The international outcry, while well meaning, misses the point: It is not a single law that is the problem, it is the overall status of women.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

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Specter to American Workers: “Drop Dead!”

by matttbastard

Well, so much for Arlen Specter’s emancipated testicles:

In June 2007, the vote on the Employee Free Choice Act was virtually monolithic: 50 Senators, Democrats, voted for cloture and 48 Republicans against.  I was the only Republican to vote for cloture.  The prospects for the next cloture vote are virtually the same.  No Democratic Senator has spoken out against cloture.  Republican Senators are outspoken in favor of a filibuster.  With the prospects of a Democratic win in Minnesota, yet uncertain, it appears that 59 Democrats will vote to proceed with 40 Republicans in opposition.  If so, the decisive vote would be mine.  In a highly polarized Senate, many decisive votes are left to a small group who are willing to listen, reject ideological dogmatism, disagree with the party line and make an independent judgment. It is an anguishing position, but we play the cards we are dealt.

[...]

The problems of the recession make this a particularly bad time to enact Employees Free Choice legislation. Employers understandably complain that adding a burden would result in further job losses.   If efforts are unsuccessful to give Labor sufficient bargaining power through amendments to the NLRA, then I would be willing to reconsider Employees’ Free Choice legislation when the economy returns to normalcy.

I am announcing my decision now because I have consulted with a very large number of interested parties on both sides and I have made up my mind.  Knowing that I will not support cloture on this bill, Senators may choose to move on and amend the NRLA as I have suggested or otherwise. This announcement should end the rumor mill that I have made some deal for my political advantage.  I have not traded my vote in the past and I would not do so now.

Fucking  hell — yet AGAIN Specter yanks progressive chains before finally–and after MUCH agony–deciding to vote the fucking GOP party line. Um, yeah.  The worst economic downturn since the motherfucking Great Depression is, like, totally the wrong time to do something that might benefit, um, American workers.

Yeah.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney isn’t swallowing Specter’s bullshit sammich:

Today’s announcement by Sen. Specter — a sponsor of the original Employee Free Choice Act who voted for cloture in 2007 — is frankly a disappointment and a rebuke to working people, to his own constituents in Pennsylvania and working families around the country.

Or, as Sarah puts it (via tweet):

[T]he problem with the economy is a crisis of demand. You create demand by paying workers well. [emph. mine]“

Take action: Contact Arlen Specter (snail-mail, phone and fax here; email form here) and (politely but firmly) let the good Senator from PA know how you feel about his “agonizing” decision to give the finger to working families by rolling over on EFCA.

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Hey, What’s the Rush?

by matttbastard

Nearly 600, 000 American jobs were lost in the month of December, the largest single month loss since 1974.  These latest figures bring the total number of jobs shed in the last 3 months to 1.8 million.  As a result, the US unemployment rate is now pushing 8%.

Chris Isidore of CNNMoney.com puts those numbers into proper context:

As bad as the unemployment rate was, it only tells part of the story for people struggling to find jobs. Friday’s report also showed that 2.6 million people have now been out of work for more than six months, the most long-term unemployed since 1983.

And that number only counts those still looking for work. The so-called underemployment rate, which includes those who have stopped looking for work and people working only part-time that want full-time positions, climbed to 13.9% from 13.5% in December. That is the highest rate for this measure since the Labor Department first started tracking it in 1994.

Absolutely “devastating”, as President Obama just observed during a news conference introducing his new emergency economic advisory board.

Yet, as Ali Frick at Think Progress acidly points out, “Republicans are stonewalling action to help the economy recover. Even as millions of Americans are losing their jobs, conservative Senators insist that there’s no rush to help them.”

Watch it:

Transcript:

LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We do not need any more news conferences. What we need is getting more than 16 people in a room. We need to slow down, take a timeout, and get it right.

ROGER WICKER (R-MS): As Thomas Jefferson reminded Americans in his day — and I quote — “Delay is preferable to error.” Let’s not rush into doing this the wrong way.

JOHN ENSIGN (R-NV): So we need to act much more responsibly than this bill acts. It’s still time. There is no hurry.

TOM COBURN (R-OK): There’s no reason for us to hurry up, number one. There’s no reason for us not to look at every area of this bill and make sure the [American] people know about it.

Paul Krugman doesn’t mince words in his column today:

Over the last two weeks, what should have been a deadly serious debate about how to save an economy in desperate straits turned, instead, into hackneyed political theater, with Republicans spouting all the old clichés about wasteful government spending and the wonders of tax cuts.

It’s as if the dismal economic failure of the last eight years never happened — yet Democrats have, incredibly, been on the defensive. Even if a major stimulus bill does pass the Senate, there’s a real risk that important parts of the original plan, especially aid to state and local governments, will have been emasculated.

Somehow, Washington has lost any sense of what’s at stake — of the reality that we may well be falling into an economic abyss, and that if we do, it will be very hard to get out again.

[...]

Would the Obama economic plan, if enacted, ensure that America won’t have its own lost decade? Not necessarily: a number of economists, myself included, think the plan falls short and should be substantially bigger. But the Obama plan would certainly improve our odds. And that’s why the efforts of Republicans to make the plan smaller and less effective — to turn it into little more than another round of Bush-style tax cuts — are so destructive.

As Obama put it in a speech to Democratic lawmakers last night (h/t Steve Benen), “[Y]ou get the argument, ‘Well, this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill.’ What do you think a stimulus is? That’s the whole point. No, seriously. That’s the point.”

Watch it:

Benen further notes that “The Politico‘s Jonathan Martin said that the president’s urgent tone was “reminiscent of the final days of the campaign.” It was actually more than just reminiscent — at one point, Obama literally asked lawmakers, “Fired up?” They shouted back, “Ready to go!“”

So, let’s go.  Now.

Take action: Contact your senator and demand they cease with the tiresome, frivolous political theatrics and pass this recovery package intact (not a watered-down goddamn bullshit “moderate” compromise version) ASAP.

Go.

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