Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Friday, December 23, 2005

IT'S CHRISTMAS - HAVE A HEART


The news brought word today that Congress has just appropriated another $50 billion for the war in Iraq. We are now spending over $6 billion a month on the war. Last night the news reported that the new F-22 fighter plane was unveiled. They will cost over $300 million each and 150 or so of them will be ordered.

The local paper also brought word today that Congress refused yesterday to boost emergency heating-oil assistance by $2 billion, a severe blow for poor and working people in the north who are now having to choose between food and heat this winter.

Due to oil price increases, and downturn of the job market, the numbers of people in Maine applying for heating-oil assistance is up 25% this year.

We are also told today in the news that there are now more than 38.2 million Americans, including 13.8 million children, who live with "food insecurity," meaning they either go hungry or don't know how they will get their next meal. This is a 12% increase over last year. On top of that Congress, who has just given themselves another pay raise, has also just voted new restrictions on Medicaid and Medicare.

We've heard alot of grumbling in recent days about how hard Congress has been working of late, and how they are having to miss their normal holiday break from Washington. Yeah, like scrooge, Congress has been working overtime counting out more tax cuts for the rich and more tax give-a-ways to the big corporations. What do they have for the people - for the poor and those one pay check away from being poor? They have nothing. A sack of coal and a bag of sticks. Bah-humbug, Congress says. You are on your own. This is the era of responsibility. Every dog for themselves now buster!

Well, as we come upon the holiday season I beg to differ. I remember a story about the great Lakota leader Sitting Bull. After he had been brought onto the reservation he went for a trip to England. He was sitting on a door stoop one day in downtown London and poor children all gathered around him begging for some money or food. He went back to South Dakota and told his people that in the big cities the white man abandons his children. He said the Lakota people would never do that. The white man, Sitting Bull said, should not be trusted with our lives.

We now see the "Great White Father" in Washington not only abandoning his children but millions of people - children, elderly, working people. The government cares nothing about them. They are no longer needed. They will be set adrift to fend for themselves. This is the holiday reality in America today.

Those of you who have a heart also now have a responsibility. You must help fight for the "least of these." After all, you or your loved ones might be next to suffer.

Happy holidays to all of you. Best wishes for a much better year in 2006.

Bruce

Thursday, December 22, 2005

MORE PROBLEMS WITH PLUTONIUM MISSION


The January 11 launch date for the News Horizons plutonium mission to the planet Pluto has been dropped back a week to January 17. The media has reported that NASA is having problems with the fuel tank on the Atlas rocket that would lift the probe into space. Just a small matter, you don't want the fuel tank blowing up with 24 pounds of deadly plutonium on board. Something about a possible "structural integrity problem." Oops!

The national media has begun checking in with us about the building opposition to the launch. Journalism professor Karl Grossman's op-eds, reporting on opposition to the mission, are now appearing in papers across the country. I've been hearing from people - Oregon to Florida - who have been writing letters to Congress, NASA, and their local papers expressing their outrage about the launching of nuclear power into space. NASA is losing the support of taxpayers nationwide as they push these toxic launches.

Plans are also underway in Florida for a demonstration at Cape Canveral Air Force Station on January 7.

Please do what you can to help us build pressure against the launch of New Horizons. Cancel the mission. The planets have been out there a long time and aren't going anywhere. Explore space sure, but don't risk the lives of people here on Earth. Develop alternative technologies for space exploration. No nuclear launches!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

TIME TO WAKE UP


George W. Bush and company hoped for a long spin cycle after the "elections" in Iraq. But they are being haunted by their own arrogance. Revelations about spying on the American people, infiltration of the vegan society, surveillance of Catholic worker communities who are described as "communistic", and now a federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program. Not a good week for a man wanting to show that things are improving in Iraq.

The Bush team is going full bore for power. They are overturning all the tables in America. They are out to destroy our democracy, what bit we had left, and they are out to destroy social progress in the U.S. Their goal is to turn us into a militarized nation, where weapons are the number one export product and we live in a state of endless war. We won't need education for our kids because they will be wearing uniforms and fighting for "our vital interests" overseas.

The problem though is that folks are beginning to figure the scam out. Folks are waking up to see that "our vital interests" does not mean you and me. It means the weapons corporations, the oil corporations, the drug corporations, agri-business, the banking industry, media corporations....this is who our children are fighting and dieing for overseas. And we won't even get health care at home in return for "our sacrifice."

I've always been fascinated how often Bush uses the word "sacrafice." It reminds me of some ancient religious ritual where virgin women were thrown into the fires. Then I think about the "tomb" at Yale University where the Skull & Bones Club that the Bush family (Prescott, George H.W., and George W.) have belonged. (And John Kerry too by the way.) Inside the tomb they have rituals where they go into a dark room and crawl into an open coffin and tell their deepest, darkest sex secrets to each other. These folks are sick and they are running our country into the ground and talking about the "sacrifices" we the people have to make to our rich overlords.

Time to wake up America......time to end feudalism in America.

Monday, December 19, 2005

ARRESTED FOR OPPOSING WAR


Last Thursday I was arrested with 18 others in the Bangor office of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). In the photo above you can see me sitting in a chair and on the floor across from me is Pat Wheeler (Deer Isle). We were the only two of our group to actually get into the office. The others had to sit in the hall way outside the door.

We first had a rally outside the office where over 75 people listened to speakers. Near the end of the rally one of our folks read a letter to Snowe that called on her to publicly admit she had been lied to about the war; to stop the funding for the war; to bring the troops home now; and to declare that the war in Iraq is over. We also asked for a public town hall meeting to discuss the war. Over 450 people around the state had signed the letter.

A representative from the senators office was invited to respond and she began reading what turned out to be a November 22 letter from the senator that once again justified the Iraq war. (Our letter had been sent to the senator in advance so she could specifically comment on it. She did not address any of our concerns.)

As the senator's letter was being read I went up to the third floor office to check things out. I quickly discovered that the door had been locked and they did not intend on letting any of us into their office following the outside rally. Soon enough one of the senators staffers flew up the stairs, knocked on the door, and when his fellow staffers opened the door to let him in I stuck my foot in the door to keep it open. This move obviously was not greeted with great joy by the staffer and he told me that they'd let us into the office in a few minutes. I told him I was not born yesterday. I kept pressing my foot harder, pushing the door open bit by bit, and I was soon joined at the door by Pat Wheeler. We eased our way into the office and the staff quickly slammed the door shut and locked it. Soon about 50 of the folks from outside made their way up the stairs, followed by media people, and they began knocking on the door wanting in. The head of Snowe's office, Gail Kelly, kept yelling at us, "You are not going to take over my office" and then went to the door, opened it just a bit, and began yelling at the folks in the hallway that they had to leave. They did not leave and sat down and began singing.

Inside the office Pat and I took turns trying to communicate with the staff. It was not long before the police arrived to guard the door on the inside to make sure more of our group did not come into the office. Pat read a letter from a GI killed in Iraq, his last letter to his family. I read a speech by my hero Eugene Debs from June 16, 1918 when he spoke out against WW I. Debs was arrested and prosecuted under the Sedititon Act for interfering with the draft and got a 10-year prison sentence and loss of his U.S. citizenship. (He ended up serving 2 years and 8 months in jail.)

Pat and I also joined in singing with the group outside the door and watched through the glass as more police arrived and began arresting the folks in the hallway. By 4:00 pm Pat and I decided to go out into the hallway and join the last of the group being arrested and we too were handcuffed and taken to the Penobscott county jail. We had to pay a $40 bail bond and were all out by 7:00 pm. We have a January 20 arraignment in Bangor.

I went home with fellow jail-bird Dud Hendrick who lives on Deer Isle. I stayed with him and his wife Jean and then was joined by my partner Mary Beth on Saturday. Several others came as well and we had a wonderful gathering at the home of Pat Wheeler where she had us do an art project together and then we spent Sunday morning strategizing our next moves. We ended the meeting with a three-mile walk along the beautiful rocky coastline and then headed back home.

All in all it was an action-packed and moving few days. It was an honor to be in the midst of such great folks and I can say with confidence that we will not give up the important effort to end this illegal and immoral war in Iraq.

(The entire list of people arrested and charged with criminal trespass in Bangor on Dec. 15 - Judy Robbins of Sedgwick, Doug Rawlings of Chesterville, Steve West of Penobscot, Ron King of Penobscot, Jim Harney of Bangor, Sandy Yakovenko of Tenants Harbor, Maureen Block of Swanville, Debby Marshall of Deer Isle, Nancy Hill of Stonington, Peter Robbins of Sedgwick, Richard Stander of Stockton Springs, Carolyn Coe of Blue Hill, Elizabeth Adams of Ellsworth, Olenka Folda of Brooklin, Dud Hendrick of Deer Isle, Nancy Galland of Stockton Springs, Rob Shetterly of Brooksville, Bruce Gagnon of Brunswick and Pat Wheeler of Deer Isle.)