Obama Has No Authority to Attack Syria over Chemical Weapons, IT’S ILLEGAL

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RIP Amber Maxwell, a rebel and a fighter

From Socialist Alternative Australia:  http://www.sa.org.au/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=7867%3Arip-amber-maxwell-a-rebel-and-a-fighter

Lewis Todman
Aug. 26, 2013

The revolutionary socialist movement lost a great fighter on Saturday 24 August.

Amber Maxwell lived a difficult life. As a transgender woman, she found it impossible to find permanent work or accommodation. But through all her hardship, she put everything she had into the fight for socialism. Amber seemed to have boundless energy and enthusiasm for politics. Every week she would catch the bus from the homeless youth hostel where she lived to the University of Western Australia to help us build the organisation, sell Red Flag, fight cuts to higher education and campaign for refugee rights.

Amber was always the one leading impromptu paper sales, organising extra chalking and postering for demonstrations, selling far more copies of Red Flag than anyone else on stalls. Even when she was in her most depressed state, she always told me that socialist activism and fighting for a better world was the one thing that made life worth living. Rarely have I met a comrade so determined and dedicated.

Amber took her own life at the age of 20, unable to deal with her oppression any longer. Her death should not be viewed as a random tragedy, but as a product of transphobia and a lack of essential services for young people. Suicide is an epidemic among LGBTI youth. Studies in Australia show the attempted suicide rate among LGBTI people is between 3.5 and 14 times that of their heterosexual counterparts. A survey in the USA found that 32 percent of transgender people interviewed had attempted suicide.

It’s not hard to see why. Amber faced discrimination at every turn. When applying for a room to rent, she was told several times that only “real girls” were wanted. One homelessness service hung up on her after informing her that they “only had room for females”. She was consistently rejected when she applied for jobs or apprenticeships. Even when she was able to find a hostel to live in, she suffered from demeaning paternalism, including a curfew which often made it difficult for her to come to political meetings at night.

Amber was killed by the system she despised so much. Her death is a tragic reminder that institutionalised homophobia and transphobia cost lives. As Amber herself wrote in issue 4 of Red Flag, “Life as a transgender or gender diverse person is often characterised by difficulty and discrimination. Family rejection, homelessness, depression, attempted suicide – these are a regular part of our existence.”

Amber was a well-known activist for equal marriage rights, a fighter against the discrimination that killed her. She chaired the Equal Love rallies with her typical fiery tone and could electrify crowds of hundreds with her anger. On every demonstration, Amber was the first on the megaphone and the last off.

In her spare time she fanatically researched Perth labour history. She wrote some wonderful articles, including the one published below on the 1910 tram strike. She would enthusiastically regale us with stories she’d read of unemployed workers’ protests, wildcat strikes and battles against the fascists.

She especially loved the songs of the Industrial Workers of the World, Australia’s first serious revolutionary organisation, and would bust out the anti-Labor Party classic “Bump Me Into Parliament” whenever the opportunity arose.

She had the most wonderfully irreverent attitude towards all authority and her political enemies; she never cared about offending anyone. Amber could always be relied on to give off-the-cuff speeches about police brutality the moment anyone was arrested on a demonstration, to give the fences at refugee detention centres a solid kick with her steel-capped boots or to start up a controversial chant on the megaphone. She was a true revolutionary.

You will be missed so much comrade. Rest in peace.

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Love for Labor Lost

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/02/opinion/krugman-love-for-labor-lost.html?ref=opinion&_r=0

By
Published: September 1, 2013

It wasn’t always about the hot dogs. Originally, believe it or not, Labor Day actually had something to do with showing respect for labor.

Here’s how it happened: In 1894 Pullman workers, facing wage cuts in the wake of a financial crisis, went on strike — and Grover Cleveland deployed 12,000 soldiers to break the union. He succeeded, but using armed force to protect the interests of property was so blatant that even the Gilded Age was shocked. So Congress, in a lame attempt at appeasement, unanimously passed legislation symbolically honoring the nation’s workers.

It’s all hard to imagine now. Not the bit about financial crisis and wage cuts — that’s going on all around us. Not the bit about the state serving the interests of the wealthy — look at who got bailed out, and who didn’t, after our latter-day version of the Panic of 1893. No, what’s unimaginable now is that Congress would unanimously offer even an empty gesture of support for workers’ dignity. For the fact is that many of today’s politicians can’t even bring themselves to fake respect for ordinary working Americans.

Consider, for example, how Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, marked Labor Day last year: with a Twitter post declaring “Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success.” Yep, he saw Labor Day as an occasion to honor business owners.

More broadly, consider the ever-widening definition of those whom conservatives consider parasites. Time was when their ire was directed at bums on welfare. But even at the program’s peak, the number of Americans on “welfare” — Aid to Families With Dependent Children — never exceeded about 5 percent of the population. And that program’s far less generous successor, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, reaches less than 2 percent of Americans.

Yet even as the number of Americans on what we used to consider welfare has declined, the number of citizens the right considers “takers” rather than “makers” — people of whom Mitt Romney complained, “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives” — has exploded, to encompass almost half the population. And the great majority of this newly defined army of moochers consists of working families that don’t pay income taxes but do pay payroll taxes (most of the rest are elderly).

How can someone who works for a living be considered the moral equivalent of a bum on welfare?

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/02/opinion/krugman-love-for-labor-lost.html?ref=opinion&_r=0

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The west’s threat to attack Syria is an idiotic gesture

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/02/west-attack-syria-idiotic-gesture

A sceptical public recognises the futility of launching a missile strike that will not topple Bashar al-Assad


theguardian.com, Monday 2 September 2013

The reason a missile attack on Syria is proving so unpopular on both sides of the Atlantic has nothing to do with neoimperial hubris. The reason is that it is a bad idea. “Punishing” a dictator for killing his own people by simply killing more of his own people seems beyond cruel. It seems stupid. It leads nowhere.

Public opinion may be a poor guide to the minutiae of state policy. But that opinion has been saddled with two long wars, both failures. As a result, leaders in London and Washington (and possibly Paris) have been sufficiently nervous to pass decision to their national assemblies. In British the result was a rebuff. In Washington, President Obama has decided to refer Syria to Congress and France’s president, François Hollande, may do likewise.

In the attacks on Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, the goal of western intervention was at least clear. It was to topple a regime. Since the UN forbids such overt aggression against member states, action must be dressed up as humanitarian or to enforce UN resolutions. But everyone knows what is the intended outcome.

In Syria, an attack would be in retaliation for a proven breach of international law on chemical weapons. No one has the will to topple the Assad regime. Action is described as merely punitive and a “deterrent”, directed purely at a past incident of a chemical massacre. This is gesture war. It will not punish the guilty, such as members of the Assad regime, who should be arraigned before a war crimes court. It will merely destroy buildings and kill people. It seems peculiarly pointless.

That is why the public on both sides of the Atlantic are sceptical. They cannot see the point of their leaders puffing up their chests, rattling their sabres and talking tough, when all these leaders intend to do is rearrange the furniture on the outskirts of Damascus – and boost Syrian morale if they have to back down. If the west really wants to “save Syria”, it should go in and save it. Otherwise shut up. It is not the west’s “values empire” that is in retreat. It is idiot deployment of aerial bombardment as a cure-all for the world’s ills. That at least is good news.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/02/west-attack-syria-idiotic-gesture

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