A SIMPLE MARCH THAT SNOWBALLED INTO A MOVEMENT
A few hundred or so participants gathered on the steps of historic Constitution Square in central Athens Greece with a backdrop of the parliament building to celebrate the anniversary of the Women’s March on Washington 2018 on Sunday, January 21st.
A handful of speakers made statements, read poetry and offered inspiration. Many participants wore black, showing solidarity for the #metoo movement. The march in Athens was co-organized by Democrats Abroad Women’s Caucus and the Women’s March Athens, an independent group of international and Greek residents.
Coming together across seven continents – and in Greece – participants took a stand for a world that is equitable, tolerant, just and safe for all; January 21st, marked the one-year anniversary of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington.
Last year, in the largest joint demonstration in history, women and men, of all backgrounds, ages, and races, came together, 5 million strong. The Women’s March on Washington became an organic groundswell the day after the 2016 election, when a grandmother in Hawaii proposed to 40 of her friends to go march in Washington, D.C. The issues they raised, however, were not limited to the US, and the idea quickly grew into a movement with “sister marches” across the US and around the world.
The march was a proactive international movement to defend women's rights and those of others in response to the rising rhetoric of far-right populism around the world. The march is committed to equality, diversity, and inclusion.
In Athens, the 2018 Women’s March began at 4 p.m. in Syntagma Square. The broad 2018 theme was “Look Back, March Ahead,” focusing on human rights. Globally, Democrats Abroad followed a theme of “March to the Ballot Box” and efforts to encourage Americans outside the US to register and vote.
Athens organizers decided on “Together We Rise” to emphasize the common interest Greeks and foreigners, women and men, have in a world in which the human rights and dignity of each person are protected and our planet is safe from destruction.
Karen Lee, Chairperson of DAGR, co-organizers of the march, said, “Blatant misogyny sent American women into the streets last year. This year, it’s determination that drives us. I think women everywhere have seen how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. But we’re awake now, we’re talking, engaging, informing ourselves. When women have full parity, others get it, too. So, today, we march in solidarity for human rights for all; tomorrow, we vote. And then we do it again the next year. We’re not going back.”
Maria Kostaki, of Women’s March Athens, said the local slogan, “‘Together we Rise,’ reminds everyone that it is up to us to do our part….and make our voices heard as one.”
Kostaki added, “Last year, shocked by what the election of Donald Trump meant for the world, I scrambled to organize the sister march of the Women’s March on Washington here in Athens. This year, I continue to participate because one single protest does not make a movement, it does not create change. The effort is ongoing, constant, even when we are not gathering in protest to voice our demands as humans. My aim is to get more of the Greeks to join us this year, as this is not about the United States, it’s about women’s rights, human rights, all over the world.”
Several speakers addressed the crowd on the steps of Constitution Square before they took the march to streets, chanting, waving banners and holding signs high in the air.
A vacancy in the office of the Treasurer for Democrats Abroad Greece (DAGR) in early November of 2017 mandated a special election. Members of DAGR were notified according to protocol of a special election, held electronically.
In early January, Nicholas Loisos, who has served as both a writer for articles published in DAGR’s newsletter, as well as IT aficionado for WebEx and any number of computer issues requiring expertise, easily waded into the office of Treasurer. Numbers and computing are his forte, so he was a natural.
Navigating numbers and his quest to finalize establishing a Greek bank account became priorities. To date, DAGR has an official bank account with Eurobank so that members can easily conduct financial transactions on-line or via the bank in person. This will make events so much more streamlined for all the members as payments can be made in advance for events as opposed to waiting in line to make a cash exchange. And receiving donations will be much more easily enabled!
Nick is a native of New York, a California voter but has lived, studied and worked in a variety of locales in the USA and Europe. He presently resides in Athens full-time.
Democrats Abroad GreeceAthens Chapter
will be celebrating Thanksgiving on Sunday November 26th
It’s FALL, y’all! And that means it’s time to
enjoy indoor time with friends over great food
and maybe even “talk a little turkey!”
Guest Speaker: Sophia Kouvelaki
Executive Director, The Home Project, Athens
Providing housing and services
for unaccompanied minors who are refugees
Holiday Recipe Contest Winner TBA – Have you sent yours in yet?
Turkey-of-the-Year pick is preparing for plucking
Friends and family are welcome to this holiday that celebrates immigration so beautifully with thanks and appreciation for bridging cultures. Bring Yiayia and Papou, the kids and your Greek friends as well. No time like the present to be inclusive by example.
The menu is full of delightful dishes and the program will tickle your turkey bone!
Served Family Style the menu includes: homemade breads, green salad with pomegranate walnuts, turkey with pine nut dressing, (vegetarian option—Spanakopita), sweet potato puree, scalloped corn and cranberry sauce, red or white wine in a carafe for 4, soft drinks, and pumpkin pie with raisins.
€25 per person, including VAT
Tips will be collected separately.
15 Pandrosou and 7 Mnisikleous
PLEASE RSVP by Wednesday, November 22nd 9 pm
Just complete the RSVP form and hit the Submit button at the bottom.
Payment for your party will need to be made in cash, at the door by any member of your group with a US passport. AthChap has worked out a speedo sign-in to minimize delays!
Holiday Recipe Contest – Deadline Friday!
Well-known cookbook author Diana Farr Louis is standing by to help choose the winners. The recipe contest deadline is coming up soon—November 17th. Submissions are being accepted, in these categories: soup, salad/appetizer, entrée, side dish, dessert. Send to Marion Kavallieros or Ted Theo at the emails below. [email protected], [email protected].
Make a Day of It!
There are Holiday Happenings all over Athens on the 26th—the AWOG Bazaar is on from 11 am until 7pm at the War Museum as well as the Anglican Bazaar at Zappeion. The DAGR Thanksgiving Luncheon will make for a delicious break between bazaars!
This summer has been slated for resistance activities in the US and around the world that are both serious and fun to put on and do.
The DNC is helping Dems Abroad global to help our country committees print and distribute postcards for our members to send to Senators and Representatives.
These are distributed free of charge, though from 4th July and on, you’ll have to buy your own stamp. A donation toward future efforts will not be refused. :)
Senators at https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/
Representatives at http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
Search further for regional offices that may be less busy and more effective.
Size your stamp first! Then, address your card
Post card ‘uncovered’ to US costs €.80. Some stamps, e.g. Theodorakis, are huge.
Post card in an envelope to US costs €.90 and may be impounded to search for ‘contaminents.
Write your message
Be brief. They won’t read your ‘prose’ very carefully. But do make your point, e.g.:
- · Hands off Obamacare!
- · Medicare for ALL!
- · Protect our National Monuments!
- · NO tax cuts for the wealthy!
Keep an eye out for breaking legislation. Send a card. You’ll feel better for it!
THIS WEEK: Healthcare is still very much ON THE TABLE!
It is likely the GOP will try to push through the vote in the Senate that was delayed before the holiday break. Any delay in passing the atrocious AHCA legislation means that their equally bad “fund the rich” tax package will also be delayed. In the best of possible worlds, AHCA will die entirely and we can look at healthcare proposals that actually help American families live a productive life, free of pain and the worry of not being able to care for loved ones. Here’s the main picture.
For all men, women and families.
- · The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 14 million more people would be uninsured in 2018 under the new plan than under current law.
- · By 2026 the number of uninsured would reach 51 million Americans. While the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has made strides to cover more Americans, it is estimated that 28 million would still not have health insurance in 2026. Either way, we have a long way to go.
- · Many believe that it is time to explore other options for how we provide healthcare in the United States. National Nurses United and The Sanders Institute have published a paper that speaks to the current state of healthcare in the US and explores the option of a Medicare-for-all single payer system. We may not all agree, but it is an option to consider.
From DA Women’s Caucus, the main issues re women’s health.
Healthcare is key to women’s well-being and economic stability.
- · Repealing the Affordable Care Act will disproportionally impact women, particularly low to moderate income women and women of color.
- · The repeal bill would eliminate critical protections in the Affordable Care Act that prohibit discrimination against women in the provision of health care.
- · Insurers would no longer be required to provide women coverage for services such as maternity care and they would be allowed to charge women more that coverage if they do offer it.
- · And it will erode women’s access to reproductive healthcare by dismantling no-copay birth control and defunding the organizations that provide this care.
DAGR is distributing Resistance Summer Post Cards to key volunteers around the country. If you’d like to get a few (20) to write or share with any Americans you know, just ask your Chapter officers or send a note to the Secretary.
Concordia Europe Summit and DAGR
Last week, June 6-7, DAGR Treasurer Alec Mally, retired Greek diplomat Dimitris Tsikouris, and I attended the two-day Concordia Europe Summit. Our invitation came not without some effort and most particularly that of DNC Vice Chair Michael Blake. His willingness to help was a result of the effort our global leadership has made to put DA on the DNC radar.
Finding sustainable, long-term responses to refugee flows around the world was the focal point. Cooperation, particularly trans-Atlantic, and support for international institutions that promote that cooperation were pointed to as essential.
Greece was chosen as the setting for this first Concordia event in Europe because of the particularly heavy refugee aide burden the country has shouldered in the midst of its own economic crisis. Also, note that the Logothetis family, central to Concordia founding and support, is proud of its Greek heritage.
Initially, we wanted to be at the Summit to greet former Vice President Joe Biden. Well, we managed to sit in the same room. Mr Biden was whisked in and out, on a tight schedule. There were no selfies with the V-POTUS! What we got instead was a crash-course in what can be done to make the world a better place … as well as quite a few people wondering if Mr Biden might not be persuaded to run in 2020.
Alec covered Mr. Biden’s remarks for New Europe magazine, “Concordia European Summit: Joe Biden tries to contain Trump’s transatlantic shockwaves”. He said there were so many great quotes, it was hard to decide, but here’s a sampler:
Vice President Biden’s remarks were clearly intended to calm European fears of precipitous American disengagement from the world under the Trump Administration, as well as to address some specifics of the U.S.-Greece relationship, both recurring themes of the Concordia European Summit:
--A strong Greece is essential to U.S. security. The same rationale President Harry Truman used in 1947 when requesting aid for Greece and Turkey applies today. Quoting Truman: “The free peoples of the world look to us for support in maintaining their freedoms.”
--President Truman did not refer to charity or moral superiority when he asked Congress to allocate aid to Greece, it was a case of self-interest to protect the welfare of the United States over the long haul, and it worked.
--Biden said the U.S. needs Greece back on its feet, and on a sustainable footing which will allow for job creation. “That requires debt forgiveness, in my view.” (No further elaboration)
--On challenges in the region: Biden believed a Cyprus solution is tantalizingly close.
You can read the rest of the article at New Europe. Be sure to include #Concordia17 in shares and tweets.
On to the Conclusion
While prepared to be skeptical of the emphasis on P3 (public-private partnership), I was pleasantly disappointed. Rather than profit, the emphasis was on duty, service and best practices. George Logothetis, summed it up, straight from the heart, without notes or teleprompter. Watch the livestream; his eyes never leave the audience.
It’s going to take some time to sort out everything I heard, and I will be reviewing the recorded livestream. It’s recommended if time permits. Mostly very agreeable, a few points less so, but thought-provoking – and encouraging – throughout.
by Karen Lee, DAGR Chair
Concordia Live Stream
These videos are of whole sessions, each about 4 hours long. Allow time for them to load and buffer and then use the slider to skip to parts you may want to watch.
Afternoon Session (4 hrs 53 mins)
Video w/out sound starts at about 16 min
Meeting opens at 26 min, video about Concordia, remarks by founders
Remarks by President Provopoulos at 37 minutes, interpreter’s voice.
Morning Session (4 hrs 15 mins)
Video w/out sound starts at about 15 min
Meeting convened at 26 mins
Former V-POTUS Biden is introduced by Mike Manatas at 29 mins
George Logothetis stirring speech at 39 mins
Round-table on future of Europe at 1:54:00
Afternoon Session (4 hrs 15 mins)
Video w/out sound starts at about 7 min
Archibishop Bartholomew introduced at about 8 mins
PM Tsipras closing address (interpreters voice) at about 3:36:00
Saturday, June 10, 2017
Love trumps hate: The Democratic Party supports the protection of the civil rights of the LGBQT community. DAGR shows its support by participating in Athens Pride. We will staff a booth during Pride events in Syntagma Square, promoting our support of LGBQT issues and seeking out US citizens in Greece to become DAGR members and future voters in the 2018 midterm elections. Athens Pride is a day devoted to commemoration, celebration, education, promoting action and engagement -- and fun!!
Volunteer to help us staff the DAGR information booth in Syntagma Square, from 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. You can staff the booth for an hour-long shift and then spend time enjoying the festivities. For more information, email Steve Medeiros, DAGR Vice-Chair. To volunteer, fill out the form!
Be part of the evening's celebration in the Athens Pride Parade
Join DAGR marching behind our "Love trumps hate" banner. The parade begins at 7:00 and runs for about 90 minutes. Bring your good will and your progressive energy (and a big smile!); wear comfortable shoes and rainbow colors (a rainbow pin or button is fine!). You may be moved to dance; there's usually some great music in the parade.
To let us know that you will be joining us for the parade, just tick the “18:00 and join the parade” box on the volunteer form. You may also RSVP (parade participation) on our Facebook page
We will follow up with specific information about meeting time/place.
You can learn more about the Athens Pride organization on their website.
Prepping for Pride
What's a parade or march these days without clever and pungent posters stating principles, points of protest and expressions of community and solidarity? We will march in Saturday's parade behind a rainbow banner. You might want to make your own statement. If so, join us for a sign-making get-together at Steve's home in central Athens.
Thursday, June 8, 2017
7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
Have some refreshments, talk politics --- with a focus on LGBTQ issues, make your perfect sign.
Tick “Yes, I’m in!” at the bottom of the volunteer form and we’ll send you the address and directions.
See you there!
Wildlife under threat
Separated by a week, Earth Day’s March for Science and this Saturday’s Climate March are connected by the interactions we collate together as ‘environment.’ Climate change and unpredictability affect wild species as habitats are destroyed or altered and food supplies diminish. The presence of wild species, however, is more than the iconic natural world we draw reassurance from. Each plant or animal plays its role in the chain of life, enhancing or controlling other species. The balance has been thrown off, and efforts to restore balance are again under threat.
DAGR Issues Chair Kristin Zissis lists the crucial threats that have come up in just the first 100 days of the Trump administration.
During Donald J. Trump's first 100 days in office, the environment and in particular wildlife have been fodder for the Republican grist. First there was H.J. Resolution 69, written by Alaska Rep. Don Young, overwhelmingly approved by Republican senators 225 to 193 and signed into law by President Donald Trump (remember how he defended his sons' torture and killing of endangered species for sport) this past March. This bill legalizes the shooting or gassing of hibernating bear, wolf and coyote mothers along with their sleeping pups and cubs, the spotting and shooting of bears from aircraft and trapping of bear, wolves and wild dog in steel-jawed leg traps and snares in Alaska wildlife sanctuaries.
In addition, the Obama-era prohibition of lead ammunition on federal lands and waters, issued the day before Trump's inauguration, has been rescinded by Ryan Zinke the new U.S. Interior Secretary. Conservation groups say that lead ammunition can poison wildlife, especially predatory birds who feed off carcasses (California Condor, Bald Eagle, etc). The National Rifle Association applauds the move as economically supporting the sport of hunting. The gutting of the EPA (killing Obama-era regulations on industrial poisoning of water supplies) and the proposed border Wall (which threatens 111 endangered species through the disruption of their migratory patterns) further threaten the environment and wildlife. According to Dr. Shonil Bhagwat, a senior lecturer in Geography at the UK's, Open University, the Concrete Wall, in particular, would "split animal populations, making it harder for them to breed and increasing the risk of diseases. Species at risk include ocelots, bears, bighorn sheep, the US’s last remaining wild jaguars, and the bald eagle – the national bird of America."
Finally Dow Chemical is lobbying the Trump administration to "set aside" 10,000 pages of findings that three commonly used pesticides (chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion) are harmful to about 1,800 threatened or endangered species. The EPA now run by Scott Pruitt, climate-change denier, who said he would reverse “an Obama-era effort to bar the use of Dow's chlorpyrifos pesticide on food after recent peer-reviewed studies found that even tiny levels of exposure could hinder the development of children's brains.” It should be noted that DOW CEO Andrew Liveris serves as an adviser to President Trump and has donated $1 million to underwrite inauguration festivities.
Earth Day 1970: The Way It Was
Left: An Earth Day poster of 1970 by Ralph Bently. I had this poster in my dorm room at college for several years. Annie R
Right: One of hundreds of posters, by hopeful humans worldwide.
Retrospective on the first Earth Day March, by Dr. Annie Rassios, Grevena
Perhaps we should go back to the time of the first Earth Day. It was a very troubled time, more troubled perhaps even than today if you can believe it.
We were stuck in the midst of the Viet Nam war: we were losing our schoolmates to the war, to the first wave of recreational drug use, social unrest and race riots were nearly daily phenomena. The killings at Kent State followed the first Earth Day by just a matter of days, showing how “afraid” the authorities were of “us.”
So there we were, about a hundred of us if I recall correctly, marching from our high school into downtown to “protest” for our love of the Earth: we had all read Rachel Carson’s The Silent Spring. Once the local businesses we passed figured out we weren't war protesters (this time), we were accepted, smiled at, treated with somewhat of a condescending acceptance by people passing by in their immense V8’s – this was also the time before the oil crisis, when smog levels were at their worst, when it was perfectly okay to dump mine wastes into streams, and only Lady Bird Johnson seemed concerned that the USA was becoming an eyesore.
20 million Americans participated in rallies and rather innocuous protest marches such as ours under the urging of US Senator Gaylord Nelson on April 22, 1970. There wasn't much we could do about the war in Viet Nam except yell; there wasn't much we could do about civil unrest except to naively believe in the power of love. But maybe, just maybe, we could save the planet. We believed we could just by marching down Main Street.
Hard to imagine, but it was, believe it or not, Richard Nixon who, following the Earth Day protests, created the Environmental Protection Agency and passed the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. Subsequent administrations have been hacking at these ever since. It was the ‘70s when recycling centers began to appear and be utilized and when the “crazy” environmental movement took shape.
The Earth today seems even more threatened than ever before. Maybe that little march of ours in 1970 was useless and silly, but I like to believe that maybe it did help to initiate the age of environmental awareness. We did not save the planet, at least, not yet.
Call me "crazy"...
2005 - Some Friends of DAGR Clean the Beach
Back in 2005, DAGR was still in the throes of mimeograph vs email. Outreach was limited. But HELADA, a little informal-progressive group had just formed up, and one of its founding members, Brady Kiesling, thought a beach clean-up would bring people out.
An archaeologist by training, Brady was also concerned about the state of some of the lesser-known Greek sites. On the Aegean side of the Attic peninsula, Rhamnous and its nearby beach bore a load of litter and offered the venue. It was one of the first such events here in Greece, for Earth Day, 2005. Two more followed, the idea began to catch on and other environmental/wildlife groups took up the challenge.
Beach clean-ups may not seem earth-shattering news now, but in 2005 they were rarities. Prior to the 2004 Olympics, formal* volunteerism was little practiced in Greece, and environmental issues were just breaking into mainstream consciousness. In the interim, a mix of EU messaging and funds, local concerns over air quality and clean seas, and global interest shared by media and the Internet have spawned a wide array of efforts. Not all have been well thought out or managed, but some are quite impressive, as are the innovative research projects going on in Greek universities. Volunteering and eco-friendly practices are fairly mature now.
Likewise, DAGR has progressed. We’ve learned to use the Internet. We still haven’t found a really useful group-work (freeware) platform. So, if anybody knows of one, please recommend! We’ve also grown and continue to grow, reaching out to eligible American voters across Greece. More than ever, we support the DA platform call for fact-based policy making.
As for the little HELADA group, formally known as the Hellenic American Democratic Association (a name initially a bit worrying to DAGR leadership), it remains independent, informal, and open to all, not just Americans. In that respect, it operates much like ‘Friends of Dems Abroad’ groups that assist a number of country committees. It’s a hub of information flowing in from and back out to the local community, with many of its members also active in DAGR. Like Dems Abroad, it places a premium on enhancing our understanding of the natural and social world through good, solid information.
So, we thought highlighting HELADA’s 2005 Earth Day anniversary was a fitting start to a week of articles addressing the importance of Science – and science-based decision making -- for a healthy, prosperous world. -- by Karen Lee, Chair DAGR 2017-19
*Informal volunteering, e.g. caring for family members or helping neighbors, was and is embedded in Greek society. The three enviro R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle were still foreign words at the millenium, nonetheless embodied in agrarian frugality, economizing of limited resources, and the rag men whose carts, and later small pick-up trucks, plied the streets collecting re-sellables. In a popular song, a deserted spouse cries: “Take anything you want, Rag Man. I no longer have any need.” In fact, Greece has always volunteered and recycled; it just hasn’t always worn a name tag while doing it.
Issues: Social Security and Medicare
Medicare – Make it Portable!
by Karen Lee, DAGR Chair
We in Greece often gloss over reports on Medicare. Like other American retirees around the world, we can’t use its benefits unless we travel back to the US. And let’s face it, free medical treatment isn’t so free if it includes the cost of a plane ticket. A checkup combined with a family visit is smart; major medical with multiple follow-up visits is expensive and disrupting.
For this reason, ‘Medicare Portability’ is a plank in the 2016 Dems Abroad Platform!
As then-DA Mexico member Paul Crist* pointed out over 8 years ago, Medicare Portability is smart for everyone. US retirees who’ve paid into the program receive the benefits they deserve. Otherwise, they have to pay travel expenses OR pay out-of-pocket for local treatment.
Good for Enrollees
For instance, retirees in Greece can pay 9.5% of their Social Security check to get IKA coverage. But with the Greek medical system struggling after ‘memorandum-imposed’ cuts, availability of some therapies and drugs may be insecure or inconvenient.
Moreover, while the premium for inclusion is needed from the Greek point of view, the fact remains, that many US citizens have already ‘paid’ into the Medicare system for services they are now paying for a second time.
Good for US Budget
The US budget would also gain from Portability. Because high-quality health services are much cheaper in most other developed countries, the system would actually pay out less for beneficiaries to get their treatment
US authorities have also argued that certifying health providers abroad would be complicated and cost-prohibitive. The fact is, most developed countries have their own state health systems and certification mechanisms. If a doctor or hospital is good enough for French, or Greek, licensure, they would also pass US muster.
What’s Holding Up Portability?
So, what’s the problem? Why not get on with enacting a Portability law that’s to everyone’s benefit? On the one hand, many US lawmakers are simply unaware of citizens abroad and their particular concerns.
More important are two major blocks of opposition. Corporate interests invested in medical profits contribute to candidates in both major parties. Results: 13 Dems, including a few high-profile ‘progressives,’ voted with GOP senators earlier this year to quash importation of drugs from Canada. Their excuse was that the bill lacked a way to check the safety of the drugs. From Canada. Canada? Really?
Also, in the current climate, conservatives such as Speaker Paul Ryan, want to privatize the Social Security and Medicare systems. They argue that a privatized system will bring lower prices and better care for all. It’s an argument that defies logic when the pre-Obamacare uninsured and continuing high costs are compared to countries with state or mixed public-private health systems.
But, common sense be damned! These ideologues are certainly not going to enact a system that would lower costs and make quality services more available to all.
Bringing it Back to Greece
In the meantime, Medicare-eligible retirees in Greece have three choices. We can travel back to the US for diagnostics and treatments. Or we can pay for a private insurance plan here in Greece. Or we can purchase coverage through IKA, which seems expensive until compared with travel and other costs. With prodigious hunting, we might find a supplemental private insurance at a reasonable cost wherever we get services. Still, any way you look at it, we are not currently getting the benefits we, like our counterparts in the US, have paid in for.
Advocating on behalf of Medicare are AARP and other organizations, such as Kaiser Family Foundation and, of course, Democrats Abroad. For a solid overview, read the statement by AARP president, Bill Walsh, entitled ‘A Battle Looms’. The full report is available at the same link. They’ve run the numbers and looked at the possible outcomes. The DA 2016 Platform, pg 6, Medicare and Healthcare, is found here.
Medicare – buttressed by cost-savers such as Portability and drug-price negotiation – wins hands-down!
* Paul Crist, a former aide to Sen. Paul Sarbanes, had his ‘Medicare in Mexico’ pilot project ready in 2008, and returned to DC to promote it. Unfortunately, it was overtaken by the noisy negotiations that eventually became Obamacare, and has yet to be acted on.