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Tidbits - September 12, 2013

Reader Comments - Syria, chemical weapons, Israel; American Jews Speakout Against AIPAC; Organized Labor's Decline; Pensions; Mexican unions; Announcements - Sept. 16 in New York - Iraqi Workers in Turbulent Middle East - Pres of Iraqi Oil Workers Union speaks; Protest Alexandria Center for Life Science; FAIR celebrates release of new book Dollarocracy; Demand a Robin Hood Tax - New York - Sept. 17 - Restore and Expand Vital Public Services for the 99%

Reader Comments,http,//

Re: Which Syrian Chemical Attack Account Is More Credible?

The use of chemical weapons must be condemned by us all - but that would include all chemical weapons, not just poison gas, and would involve the US with a long track record of chemical war.

A study of chemical weapons - in this case poison gas - has, beyond any doubt or need for citing sources (ie., one assumes you have been following the facts on this!) Saddam used poison gas against the Kurds with no outcry from Washington and used it against the Iranians not only with no outcry from Washington but with some evidence of US collaboration. (It remains a remarkable stain on US diplomacy, little notice by almost all commentators, that the US let that terrible nine year war run on without a single effort to end it - and it was a war which Iraq launched, and which over the course of time took the lives of an estimated half million youth on each side).

None of the above is an excuse for the use of poison gas in the Syrian conflict. But let us distinguish between the way in which governments "choose" which atrocity to condemn, and which to overlook, with our need for some broader, deeper sense of morality.

Part of that morality does involve getting the facts. The idea the Obama might launch strikes against Syria even before the findings of the UN inspectors are released is appalling.

Finally, above all else, the actions must have some international form, not launched by parties which already have blood on their hands.

David McReynolds

Israel and Chemical Weapons

Chemical weapons, and their use are deplorable - no matter who used them. They should be illegal and outlawed - by all countries.

Syria has admitted that they have chemical weapons, but insist that they did not use them. Now those who want to start a new war in Syria, are saying how do we know that we can trust them to declare all of their weapons, and then to destroy them, or turn them over to an international body.

However no one in Congress or the Obama government that is raising this, is concerned that other countries in the mideast also have huge stockpiles of chemical weapons. Israel, as has Syria up to now, has refused to sign the international ban on chemical weapons. However no one who is clamoring to bomb Syria is saying that diplomatic or military action be taken against Israel, for also having chemical weapons. Israel has used white phosphorus in the past. ("In 2009, Human Rights Watch claimed that Israel's use of white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza during Operation Cast Lead was evidence of war crimes." )

As the only country that has used nuclear weapons against another country, a country that created and used napalm and cluster bombs, it is ironic that our country is now saying that we are the moral compass of the world.

Jay Schaffner


Re: How the White House and the CIA Are Marketing a War in the YouTube Era

The White House has enlisted the CIA, expert in psychological warfare, to sell this war to us.

Diane Laison
posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: The New Goliath

Dr. King called our U.S. government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" -

46 years ago!  When will we ever learn?

Kerry, Obama were supposed to be the teachers and harbingers of change.

Now it seems only a liberal-libertarian alliance can stop them from the warmongering that has become too much of a "norm."

"No flag is large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people" - Howard Zinn, Presente!

I think maybe it's time to revive Albert Maltz's and George Sklar's PEACE ON EARTH (!934).

Leonard J. Lehrman

Re: US Bombing Will Prolong War, Reasons Against US Military Intervention, US Already Involved

Understand that from the point of view of the President and his civilian "securocrat" advisers, the bloodthirsty diplomats, politicians, spooks and academics, the point of intervention is precisely to bring a "successful" end to the Syrian Civil War.  By smashing the Syrian Air Force, its bases, runways, radars, control towers, fuel and ammunition dumps, repair facilities and barracks, as well as hammering other Syrian government military assets like headquarters, storage facilities, communications centers and the like, the Obombers believe they can accomplish several things.  By "degrading" the Syrian government's military assets they hope to encourage and enable the rebels, who have been badly on the back heel following a series of limited offensives by Assad's forces.  They hope simultaneously to demoralize the Syrian forces, hopefully causing their collapse, either individually or en bloc.  As in Libya, when their friends, the "rebels" were in retreat, the Obombers believe that they can reverse that situation and bring their "friends" to power behind a wave of bombs and missiles.  The initial limited strikes will, of course, be the camel's nose under the tent flap.  They will do some damage, but to hurt more mobile assets, like artillery, tanks, helicopters, and elusive mobile headquarters, they will need to send in bombers and fighter-bombers.  This in turn will require more Tomahawking and specialized strikes to knock out the Syrian air defenses for fear one of our precious pilots should come to harm, to say nothing of the embarrassment of having a B-2 bomber shot down, those things retail at about $1.2 billion (with a b, bubba) apiece.

So the scenario will be first Tomahawks and some limited airstrikes.  The Tomahawks are guided by internal terrain maps, checking the topography below them to allow them to correct any drift and follow a pre-set course.  They will most often hit their targets, as long as the targets are at known geographical locations.  That makes them excellent for things like runways, aircraft bunkers, buildings, etc.  True, now and then they do get confused; during Gulf II we aimed at Iraq and mostly hit it, only hitting Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia a few times.  If civilians are accidentally blown to bits, we'll express doubt that such a thing could happen, suggest it must be because the regime was using them as human shields (how dare they station their forces near their population!).

But if Assad doesn't quit, and his supporters don't fancy living under Al Qaeda and the Salafis, then, well, the POTUS could hardly tolerate looking like a pathetic giant being threatened by a yellow dwarf with a pocket knife, now could he?  (For those of you young folk out there, that is a direct quote from LBJ, describing himself as the giant... really).  To maintain US "credibility" it will be necessary to conduct more strikes, with new possible rationales being displayed as opportunity offers or as they can be stage managed.  For example, should Syria have the temerity to shoot back at our destroyers or planes, and actually hit one.  This is not permissible conduct.  Then we'll need a no-fly zone against Assad's helicopters, giving us a reason to overfly the whole country, and bomb anything that offends us.

Boots on the ground?  They're already there, friends.  CIA spooks in designer tennis shoes handing out money and "vetting" rebels so we don't support too many jihadis (as if they could tell the difference - our record in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan suggests this is not the case), Special Ops boys in combat boots doing reconnaissance, advising the "rebels" and engaging in hand to hand advice when necessary, reconnaissance types spotting targets and preparing to light them up with lasers so bombs can guide onto them, and sheep-dipped Spec Ops boys in yet more dangerous missions, officially retired from the service (Deltas, SEALS, etc) years ago, but still getting promoted regularly, as well as stateless mercenaries, with no papers, providing plausible deniability and teaching torture interrogation techniques and conducting "wet work" against prominent Syrians who have the wrong attitude.  The future boots, worn by uniformed regular Army and Marine personnel, will of course only go in to secure the weapons of mass destruction, and help end the chaos caused by the civil war.  And to give candy to babies and HIV to young women.  And they'll be coming out soon, we have no intention of occupying the country.  Real soon.  Any year now.  You can take that to the bank...

Jack Radey

Don't Be Fooled - AIPAC Doesn't Speak for Me - Sign the Petition

Thanks to the unprecedented pushback of the American people and the world, President Obama stepped back from the brink of war on Tuesday. But with help from pro-Israel groups like AIPAC, he is still lobbying Congress for permission to bomb Syria.

As Syrian civil society activist Khaled Harbash said, "Any military strike would not be against the regime, but against the entire country. And Syrians who for two and a half years have suffered from the war will bear the consequences."

Unless we push now - and tell Congress to stand their ground and vote NO on a strike - Congress might approve a resolution leading to war.

Click here

Let there be no mistake- Syria's ruler Bashar al-Assad is a tyrant. Under his rule, nonviolent democracy activists have been brutally crushed, with over 100,000 Syrians dead and a shocking 4.5 million displaced in the last two and a half years.

The Syrian people desperately need the world's help-but not through military escalation that will kill and displace even more civilians. They need long-term political solutions, grounded in international law consistently applied to all the players in the Middle East.

We've been saddened to see major Jewish and pro-Israel groups pulling out the stops to push a reluctant Congress towards war. AIPAC sent 300 pro-war lobbyists to Capitol Hill just this week. Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has been making personal calls to members of Congress.

Click here

American Jews are traditionally amongst the US's largest anti-war constituency: a whopping 70% opposed the war with Iraq. We believe a majority would also oppose a strike on Syria.

As I write this, members of Congress are word-smithing a kinder and gentler sounding resolution that could still lead to the same thing-war.

We must act now to raise a strong Jewish voice against war, and for diplomacy and long-term political solutions that respect international law.

Sign here and send the link to your friends.

Thank you,

Cecilie Surasky
Jewish Voice for Peace

Re: Organized Labor's Decline in the US is Well-known. But What Drove it?

Wolff is absolutely right in what he says and totally wrong in what he left out. He made no mention whatsoever of the central, fatal reason why organized labor in the U.S. was able to be defeated after WWII. Racism.

25,000 white auto workers walked out at the Detroit Packard plant in 1943 when the company promoted three African-Americans to work on the assembly line with them. They didn't mind so much that Packard hired black workers somewhere else, but as one shouted in the loudspeaker, "I'd rather see Hitler and Hirohito win than work next to a nigger." They were assembling fighter plane engines; their walkout set back war production. That was less important to them than the threat to their self-esteem, their whiteness, of  being in the presence of three black workers with equal status. The UAW was the first major union to accept African Americans as members -- in segregated locals.

The Left's blindspot continues to be race. Class unity was impossible from the beginning as long as it excluded non-white workers. A class divided against itself cannot stand.

Terence Cannon


I  agree with the basic premise of your article with one important exception.

I believe that employee stock ownership trusts are a more effective method rather cooperatives.

Bennett J. Johnson
Vice President
The UCI Group

Re: GOP Dreads Prospects of Autoworkers Union Driving South

The German auto companies sound smarter than the local politicians in the south. For local politicians to be interested in attracting investors that are non-union only implies that they are willing to have the south be a poor, low-wage area and that is not good for the region or for those employed in it. Shame on them!

Laurel MacDowell

Re: Remember When People Had Pensions?

Good article on 401ks.  Too bad you didn't mention that some employers have ended their contributions to an employee's 401s.  For example, newspapers like the Denver Post.  this makes things doubly bad.  

Sally McMillan

Re: Mexico Teachers Union Works To Block Education Reform

(posted on Portside Labor)

I'm a devoted Portside Labor fan? but what were you thinking with the cross-posting of this unabashedly reactionary article from Forbes.

It's hard to imagine what purpose is served by dishing up this kind of biased writing on a list-serve intended to strengthen the left pole of discourse:

"Despite fierce opposition from the teacher's union, Pea Nieto is pushing forward with education reform. "Our dilemma had been whether to continue to stagnate or to allow the state to recover the leadership and transform and improve the quality of education," he said. Many teachers are intent on blocking the legislation which is designed to professionalize the staff at Mexico's public schools and implement measures to test performance."

This is the same rhetoric we must face in the mainstream media every day, from every neoliberal education reformer in the U.S., from Arne Duncan and Rahm Emanuel and Bill Gates. But why on Portside?

Please give your readers the content they expect and deserve by running something like this masterful piece by Dan La Botz, just posted in Labor Notes.

Ellen David Friedman
Montpelier, VT

Iraqi Workers in Turbulent Middle East - Pres of Iraqi Oil Workers Union speaks - New York - Sept. 16

A talk by Hassan Juma'a Awad, President, Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (based in Basra)

Monday September 16, 2013, 6 p.m.

61 Broadway, 16th floor [PSC-CUNY offices]
lower Manhattan [4,5 train to Wall Street]

Unions played a vital role in the Arab Spring rebellions in Tunisia and Egypt.  Workers in Iraq are also challenging their government.  Hassan Juma'a Awad is a leading force in the movement of Iraqi workers, part of a broad mobilization of civil society organizations struggling to establish a democratic, non-sectarian society in Iraq after the war, with internationally accepted labor rights.

Come hear Hassan's report on the lives of Iraqi workers today, their fight for labor rights, their challenge to privatization, and the place of Iraq in the broader turmoil of the Middle East.

Hassan will discuss Iraq's difficult political terrain and consequences of the continuing sectarian conflict for Iraqi working people. He is 61 years old and has led the Iraq Federation of Oil Unions since its founding, shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein.  He is Shi'a.  His wife is Sunni.

Hassan will be in the U.S. as a guest of the AFL-CIO at its national convention in Los Angeles.  He will then travel to the Bay Area and New York City before returning to Iraq.

Event sponsors: Center for Study of Working Class Life (SUNY Stony Brook) and the NYC Chapter of U.S. Labor Against the War

Contact Michael Zweig: 631.632.7536;

Protest Alexandria Center for Life Science - New York - Sept. 16 (something Bloomberg is leaving the city and country with)

Please join NYACT on Monday, September 16 for our next action--and kindly share this announcement widely:

Protest the Bloomberg "Next Big Thing" Summit

Alexandria Center for Life Science - 450 E. 29th St. (between 1st Ave. and FDR Drive)

Monday, Sept. 16 - 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Cornell NYC Tech Vice Provost & Dean, Daniel Huttenlocher, will speak at 11:00 AM on a panel, "THE CORNELL NYC TECH PROJECT: PLANNING FOR 2100," where he will be interviewed by Bloomberg TV Editor-at-Large, Cory Johnson.

    From the 9/4 Fort Mill Times:
    "The Summit will bring together CEOs, venture capital and private equity fund managers, entrepreneurs, investment bankers and analysts for a series of high-level conversations examining investment opportunities across the tech spectrum and strategies for funding innovation. [...] Top industry executives will discuss how New York City's Silicon Alley is laying the foundation for big business growth and debate what company in the city will be the next target. [...] There will also be interviews on planning for 2100, including discussing lunar colonies and the Cornell New York City tech project."

    The Cornell-Technion Partnership plans to create a 2.1 million square foot applied sciences and engineering campus on Roosevelt Island with free land acquired via the immanent demolition of Goldwater Hospital and $100 million in NY taxpayer money. The Acting Consul General of Israel in New York stated, "This is of strategic importance in terms of positioning Israel not only in America, but all over the world, as a bastion of creativity and innovation." As Technion's senior executive vice president has said, "The relationships established will make it easier for Israeli entrepreneurs to gain access to U.S. markets."

For more information about why we oppose the Technion coming to NYC, please visit our website and follow us on Twitter (@NYACTechnion).   

Honor the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions!       Say no to the Technion in NYC!

flyer - NYACT announcement for Alexandria Center leafleting action Sept 2013 -- download here.

FAIR celebrates the release of the new book Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex Is Destroying America - New York - Sept. 16

Next Monday, FAIR celebrates the release of the new book Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex Is Destroying America, by John Nichols and Bob McChesney.

Joining us are some very special guests: Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman and independent investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill.

And introducing the speakers: journalists Ali Gharib, Allison Kilkenny and Sarah Jaffe.

Don't miss out--reserve your ticket today!

Monday, September 16

Judson Memorial Church
55 Washington Square South
New York, NY

Doors open: 6:00 PM
Event: 6:30 PM


$25 -- Admission to the event and a hardcover copy of Dollarocracy 
$10 -- Admission only.

Demand a Robin Hood Tax - New York - Sept. 17

Tuesday, Sept. 17 - 5:00 pm

Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, United Nations New York, NY

* Rally and March in NYC Sept 17 Assemble at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, United Nations (2nd Ave. & 47th St.)
Global connections to local austerity

* March to JP Morgan Chase headquarters (Park Ave. & E. 48th St.)
Largest US bank needs to pay back Main Street

* March to Metropolitan Transit Authority HQ (Madison Ave. between 44th and 45th Streets)
Demand full funding of mass transit and justice for transit workers

* March to Bryant Park/ SUNY Chancellor's office (5th Ave. and 42nd Street)
Demand SUNY keep our hospitals open

On the eve of Occupy Wall Street's 2nd anniversary, New York youth face increasing student debt and unemployment; public hospitals are shutting down, leaving patients in jeopardy; people living with HIV/AIDS are losing housing services; and NYC transit riders are suffering crippling MTA service cuts and route closures. NYC is losing its heart. All in the name of austerity-induced budget cuts.

On September 17 the UN General Assembly will convene to discuss agreed upon international anti-poverty and public health goals to be achieved by 2015. None of the goals will be met without a total reversal of global austerity measures.

Against the backdrop of the UN and the OWS anniversary, labor and community activists will rally to demand an end to austerity and full funding of human needs - locally and globally.

The answer to how we pay for it all? The Robin Hood Tax. A tiny tax on Wall Street and its counterparts around the world is the antidote to needless suffering caused by austerity.

New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), Vocal-NY, Health GAP, National Nurses United, Amalgamated Transit Union, Transport Workers Union Local 100, New York Professional Nurses Union, ACT UP New York, ACT UP Philadelphia, National People's Action, NYC Chapter of U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), Progressive Democrats of America, Left Labor Project, CREDO, African Services Committee, Student Global AIDS Campaign, Healthcare for the 99%, Healthcare-NOW! NYC, Occu-Evolve, Occupy Sandy, OWS Alternative Banking, PNHP- NY Metro, S17 Planning Assembly, UNITE HERE Local 100, Friends of the Earth U.S., UAW Region 9A New York, New York Harm Reduction Educators, NYCLCLAA, Communications Workers of America Local 1180, Food and Water Watch, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500, Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802
- List in formation



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