F-Word: SESTA Doesn't Keep Us Safe

Women’s history month is over, but we didn’t emerge unscathed. As often happens lawmakers used the month to get a little news glow by doing something awful in the name of protecting women from something terrible.

This March 21, the Senate approved the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, or SESTA, a version of which has already passed in the House.

Sex trafficking is terrible. Everyone’s against it. (Actually I’m against all sorts of forced work, but that’s another story.) What’s awful is what SESTA does, which is encourage big-tech companies to robo-police the internet, with extreme filters that won’t know a survivor story from a sex ad.  

Spew hate, teach terror, harass, dox, pimp, meddle with elections? There’s no question bad people do bad things online. SESTA supporters say their bill will make those things easier to stop by making platform owners criminally liable for the acts of their platform’s users.  

The thing is, we already have laws on the books to prosecute those things. The biggest offenders have always had the most brilliant lawyers. It's the prosecution that's the problem.

Under SESTA, tech giants like Google and Facebook will bring in more big-dollar lawyers to defend themselves, and send out more aggressive robocops to police everyone else.

The result, civil liberties groups predict, will be more online censorship that will result in less safety, ironically enough, for sex workers and people who try to help sex trafficking victims escape.  That’s why a large array of trafficking survivors and their advocates, as well as the National Organization for Women, LGBTQ groups and free speech advocates like the Electronic Freedom Frontier and the ACLU oppose it.

A tragedy of unintended consequences? Possibly, except the consequences are utterly predictable.  I think of our report on the anti-sex trafficking law in Alaska that led to the prosecution of women for trafficking themselves and each other when they teamed up in mutual aid groups for greater control and safety. Criminalized for helping each other, they were put back out in the streets alone and terrified.

Equality, liberty, fellowship - these aren’t strange things to want —  but they’re awfully hard to get from the white capitalist patriarchy. As we should all know by now, old police with new powers have never worked out well for the most vulnerable.

Now we’re looking to a signing ceremony in which the world’s most dangerous predator, President Trump, signs an anti-predation law. Spare us from patriarchs promising protections.

Support organizations like Red Umbrella Hosting resisting SESTA and get involved with the International Day of Lobbying for Sex Workers on June 1. 

Add your reaction Share

EXCERPT: Monopoly Capitalism - At The Breaking Point?

Monopoly capitalism may be on its last legs! This week, economist Michael Hudson joins us to say his predictions on the Trump budget have come true and seem to suggest, more than ever, that capitalism is not only a disservice to the people, but it's also unsuccessful.

Then, Stacy Mitchell and Joe Maxwell join us at the Progressive Caucus Strategy Summit in Baltimore. Monopoly capitalism, they say, translates to monopolized power.

Read the excerpt below.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Boycott Wendy's: Immokalee Workers Call on Wendy's to Join Fair Food Program


14 corporations have joined the Fair Food Program so far, but Wendy's has not. Instead, Wendy's has moved its tomato-picking operations to Mexico. Without proper protection for farmworkers in Mexico and a commitment from Wendy's, many of these workers face dangerous working condition, including the threat of sexual violence, wage theft, and intimidation. Hundreds of workers joined the Freedom Fast at 120 Park Avenue in New York City to call for Wendy's investors to push the company towards the Fair Food Program.


Learn more at www.boycott-wendys.org!

Add your reaction Share

U.S. Democrats & Europe's Left - Connecting Across Borders

Xenophobia, austerity, and an activated constituency -- there's a lot in common across international progressive fronts. ​ ​At the Progressive Caucus Center Strategy Summit in Baltimore, Laura talks to progressive democrats and their friends about what comes next, in the Trump era, and otherwise. First, Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ 3rd District), longtime co-chair of the Progressive Caucus of U.S. Congress Democrats and Diane Abbott, Shadow Home Secretary of the UK Labour Party discuss the similar global landscape for progressive politics.

Plus, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 12th District) ​with a counterpoint on capitalism. Then, Mark Pocan(D-WI 2nd District)​, also co-chair of Dems' Progressive Caucus and Eduardo Maura, spokesperson of Spanish political party, Podemos, on where a populist progressive vision can take us, even in repressive times.

Add your reaction Share

F-Word: An Exception to The Rule in Rio

Get the F-Word as a podcast -- wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe to the Laura Flanders Show.

On the Assassination of Marielle Franco.

What happened in Rio De Janeiro March 14 wasn’t unusual.

A Black lesbian leftist, child of the favelas, was gunned down in public, probably by an agent of the state.

Favela families die daily. Crammed together in poorly constructed homes, on streets with scarce investment. If the poverty doesn’t get you, violence or depression might. From the favelas on Rio’s mountainsides, you can actually see Rio’s multi-million dollar beach fronts. Poverty and depression and violence claim favela people all the time. And, increasingly, so do cops.

In 2017, police killed over 1,000 people just in Rio. The poorer you are, the more danger you’re in. In the last few years, the Brazilian establishment’s been making lots of choices to invest in real estate, the Olympics, corporate tax breaks -- but not education, healthcare, public service. To deal with unrest, the current government’s invested in repression; costly drones, Israeli military police trainers, the military itself. Now soldiers patrol the streets.

Black people are killed with impunity. LGBT people? More LGBT people are murdered per year in Brazil than anyplace else on earth.

(Source: Time Magazine)

Read more
Add your reaction Share

F-Word: Time for Farm to Table Fairness​


That was the headline on a New York Times editorial recently, endorsing a state bill to do away with the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers. The editorial followed a long feature, for which the paper interviewed more than 60 servers, whose stories revealed just how vulnerable their reliance on tips makes them to harassment and sexual violence.

Seven states have already done away with the outlandishly low, federal $2.13 sub-minimum for tipped workers. The Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) which has been gathering data on this for years, reports that those states have half the rates of sexual harassment as those with the two-tier system.

Now New York, DC, and Michigan are considering similar legislation. In an email, ROC executive director, Saru Jayaraman thanked the #metoo movement for giving the campaign extra ‘oomph’ and visibility.

Jayaraman was one of the activists invited to the #TimesUp Golden Globes earlier this year. She has the support of Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin among others.  If you haven’t seen our piece on the Grace and Frankie stars campaigning with ROC in Michigan this summer, you should check it out.


Read more
Add your reaction Share

The International Women's Strike Calls for Systems Change!

On March 8 2018, poor, working, disabled and chronically ill, trans, indigenous, Black, immigrant, refugee, Muslim, sex workers, women of color, are just some of the many women who will convene to call for systemic and culture change. They will strike for an end to the neocolonial and neoliberal police state. Because solidarity is our weapon, we stand with them.

In 2018, we not only recognize and celebrate the victories and accomplishments of women across the globe, we demand action. The International Women’s Strike is a recent addition to the Women’s Day movement, and its platform builds on the long history of women’s demonstrations demanding economic, racial, and gender justice. We take a look at that history and where it has brought us.

Special thanks to the International Women’s Strike for their contributions to this piece. For more information go to womensstrike.org.

Add your reaction Share

West Virginia Workers And the Taste of Solidarity

Subscribe to our podcast and get Laura's commentary on your phone!

There’s a phrase I remember from interviewing West Virginia miners wives. “When the whistle blows, everybody goes.”  In an accident down the mine, anyone’s loved one could have been hurt, and so everyone turned out to show their support.

Today our tragedies are more discreet. Neoliberalism has done its best to privatize our problems.

Education, employment, wages, housing, health, these are things the private sector likes to negotiate with us in private. Our rights, our privileges, where we live, our access to stuff is often a matter of how well we are able to negotiate with bosses and banks and cable companies and school administrators.

Another way of looking at our much celebrated individualism is as aloneness. Our lot in life is our own; our troubles -- our own fault.  

When West Virginia teachers declared victory with a 5 percent raise and returned to their classrooms March 7th, they modeled something different. Their organizing and their thirteen-day strike not only forced the state legislature to raise their meager pay, but also to back off a slate of neoliberal proposals including a proposal for charter schools, and an anti-seniority bill, preventing payroll deduction of union dues.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

F-Word: Smear's The Thing

From Donald Trump Jr. to the Republican Congress, conservatives waited no time at all to start calling the survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School fake.

The fake-victim story spread fast and furiously because it’s familiar. Alex Jones, who runs the mad website, Infowars -- where Donald Trump appeared as a candidate -- said the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre was rigged to benefit gun-snatchers. After a gunman killed 58 people in Las Vegas last year,  scores of videos turned up on Youtube claiming the victims were hacks.



Read more
Add your reaction Share

F-Word: #IraqToo

It’s been just about a year since working women of all kinds gathered in DC to oppose a woman-abusing, worker-exploiting, Trump-supported nominee to head the US Department of Labor. As I heard journalist Sarah Jaffe put it recently, that successful mobilization against chain-restaurant titan and wife-abuser Andrew Puzder, should in many ways be seen as the start of this stage of the #MeToo movement.

Since then, who can keep track of all the abusers and all the abuse? Who can keep track and who can explain so much violence, so much forcing our will on one another, and so much terrorizing against people we claim to recognize as sisters, friends, family members, employees.  How do we let it happen, and why is it so rare that we make it stop?  And what makes us accept the terribly bad bargain of silence, the going-on-as-normal?

And then I try to remember that we don’t always go along. Sometimes we speak up, as women did against proposed Labor Secretary Puzder in 2017, and as we did, as a world, fifteen years ago, on February 15th 2003.


I remember standing in a huge crowd near the United Nations, part of a worldwide uprising of tens of millions of people in sixty countries, all saying no to waging war on Iraq.

On that cold day, a very bundled-up Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “We are members of one family, God’s Family, the human family. How can we say we want to drop bombs on our sisters and brothers and on our children?”

We said we couldn’t, we didn’t want to, and then we let it happen, anyway, and that was 15 years ago this month.

Today, according to the Costs of War Project US troops and drones and bombs are forcing themselves on people in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia. US special forces are in a total of 76 countries and the terrifying US-led "war on terror” has involved 39% of the countries on the planet.

I believe the sick calculus by which we permit terrorism and abuse of our power in Iraq is the same sick calculus by which some of us believe we can get away with forcing our will on others nearer to us.

Which leaves me here in another cold February, trying to imagine what my next minute would be like if I actually lived on a planet of people who believed they were related to one another. What would that look like, feel like, breathe like? And what would we be doing with all the time we wouldn’t have to be spending wondering and imagining and fending-off and being, or not-being silent?



Add your reaction Share