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

Saturday, November 03, 2007

LONG LIVE THE DISARMAMENT NUNS!

Dominican Sisters, Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert, spoke in nearby Brunswick last night and showed their excellent documentary video called Conviction. The video tells the story about their 2002 nuclear disarmament action at a Minuteman missile silo in Colorado. They, and one other nun Jackie Hudson, ended up doing more than 30 months each in prison.

I've known the sisters for several years now and they live, when not in jail, at the Jonah House intentional community in Baltimore that was founded by Phil Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister.

Ardeth and Carol have been instrumental in helping to educate people around the country, and the world, about the dangers of moving the arms race into space. Their 2002 plowshares action was called the Sacred Earth and Space Plowshares II.

Ardeth was a speaker at our annual Global Network space organizing conference in Berkeley, California in May of 2002. I will never forget part of her very moving speech when she said, "We are a killer nation. We can kill them fast, and we can kill them slow."

We will be very honored to host these two courageous women at our Addams-Melman House here in Bath tomorrow for a pot luck supper. They are once again able to travel and are back on the road doing what they do best - that is calling on people to do more to stop this deadly cycle of endless war and threatening to use nuclear weapons. Their power lies in their own personal example of speaking truth to power in a loving and non-violent spirit.

They clearly point out the total hypocrisy of the U.S. as our country lectures and attacks others for even thinking of building nukes while new generations of nuclear weapons are today under development in the U.S. Department of Energy nuclear laboratories sprinkled around the nation.

Long live the disarmament nuns!

Friday, November 02, 2007

RAY DAVIES NEW ALBUM OUT

Readers of this blog know that from time to time I mention my favorite band, The Kinks, which has been broken up for the past several years. Their genius singer/songwriter, Ray Davies, has a new album out and sadly it is not available in the U.S. yet. It was distributed free in the British Sunday Times a couple of weeks ago which has spurred a big load of publicity for the CD.

And now the BBC has a link on their web site to a concert Ray did very recently in London which includes several of the new songs and many of his old hits.

Most people don't know much about Ray or The Kinks but when they start listening they recognize many of his songs.

Ray is known for his biting social commentary, excellent story telling, and great British humor in his music.

Here is a link to one of my favorite Kinks songs, No More Looking Back.

Enjoy the music.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

NATIONAL PETROLEUM RADIO

Tuesday night I was driving to a meeting in nearby Brunswick and had the radio tuned to National Public Radio (NPR) - or National Petroleum Radio as many people call it these days.

The daily business program called Market Place was on and they did a long story about Hugo Chavez in Venezuela having the audacity to "funnel oil revenue funds into social programs." They made it sound as if Chavez was doing some illegal or immoral thing by taking the profits from Venezuela's oil and helping the poor with them.

They interviewed various "oil analysts" who speculated at what point Venezuela's national budget would go into debt if the price per barrel of oil was to drop below a certain point. The experts concluded that if the price of oil dropped below $50 a barrel then Chavez would not be able to continue with this dastardly deed.

This morning the price of crude oil was $96 per barrel. With diminishing supplies of oil around the world it is very unlikely that prices will be dropping, especially as low as $50. So the whole NPR story, built around this theoretical price drop, was a phony. The whole story was intended just to create more antagonism toward Chavez and Venezuela for doing something that we don't do anymore in the U.S. - and that is using national resources to help the poor.

My god, imagine the bad example Venezuela is setting by helping people get medical care, education, jobs, decent housing and food. Chavez must be vilified and National Petroleum Radio has joined the cause.

Expect more of the same in the near future.



[On Nov 11 I got the following email from Andi Sporkin at NPR]

Bruce--

I wanted to point out an error in your recent posting on the public radio program "Marketplace" and its piece on Venezuelan oil revenue."

Marketplace" is not produced nor distributed by NPR. It is a production of another independent public radio production company, PRI, and some public radio stations choose to air it either as a stand alone program during the day or as an insert in NPR's "Morning Edition" program. NPR has no control over the subjects it covers nor its reporting. I've attached a link to "Marketplace" for your information. I'd appreciate you correcting your posting.

Andi Sporkin NPR

http://marketplace.publicradio.org/

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

THE SYSTEM IS LOCKED DOWN

I was reading an article this morning by Tom Engelhardt called Where have all the protests gone?

In the piece he says, "However, over the years, unlike in the Vietnam era, the [Iraq occupation] demonstrations shrank, and somehow the anxiety, the anger -- though it remained suspended somewhere in the American ether -- stopped manifesting itself so publicly, even as the war went on and on. Or put another way, perhaps the anger went deeper and turned inward, like a scouring agent. Perhaps it went all the way into what was left of an American belief system, into despair about the unresponsiveness of the government -- with paralyzing effect."

Bingo......

In the same article Engelhardt reports that the polls show a continued strong opposition to the Iraq mess. In poll after poll 70% of the public wants the troops home and the occupation to end. But it just keeps going on.

I've always said that the American people are not stupid. They understand that the political system in this country is now under lock-down, similar to the increasing numbers of American citizens living in jail.

While recently in Prague I was on the subway and sat across from a man and I nodded to him and said hello. My guide then translated a conversation I wanted to have with the man. I wanted him to know that I had come to be part of the "No radar" conference. I wanted to take my own personal poll so I could see his reaction.

My guide was amazed when the man said he knew about the conference and that he agreed with our position on the radar. Then he rubbed his fingers together in that universal sign that said it is all about the money. He said the deal has been made, the politicians in the Czech Republic have already been bought off. But he encouraged us and shook my hand as we got off the train.

My experience is that this feeling of powerlessness is universal now. Every country I visit, every place I visit in the U.S., it's always the same story. People care, they want things to change, they just don't believe in the system any longer. It's no coincidence that more people don't vote in the U.S. than those that do vote. It's their one way of actively rejecting the system.

Most people won't join a demonstration these days.....they won't even write a letter to the editor. Most people agree that the corporations run two horses in every race so they don't lose either way.

With so few organizing avenues left to us how do we then make an impact on the system? Many good hearted progressive people I know are just waiting for everything to collapse convincing themselves it is the only way to bring this empire to a halt.

I always ask in return "yeah, it's likely to collapse but how many more people have to die when it falls on them?"

So what do we do?

I am now a firm believer in using the 2008 elections as one more opportunity to have our voices heard by running people from our movements for office as Greens or Independent candidates. Cindy Sheehan's declaration as an Independent candidate for Congress against Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco is already encouraging people across the country to do the same. We need to support this type of activism in our own communities.

We must continue to call for impeachment, even when the Democrats refuse to discuss the issue.

I also think we need more civil disobedience as we face this fork in the road. There is no good reason why active people, especially those retired and financially secure, can't step up and non-violently sit-in a congressional office as a way to dramatize the urgency of our situation.

The world is looking at the peace movement in the U.S. and asking "Why are you people not doing more to stop Bush-Cheney?"

We don't have the luxury of saying that we feel hopeless......that our democracy has been drowned. We must crawl out of our self imposed boxes and stretch ourselves.

As former CIA agent, and anti-war activist, Ray McGovern likes to say, "Necks are a nice and useful thing to have. But necks were not made to be worshiped."

So stick your neck out now....while you still have one.

Monday, October 29, 2007

THE LONG WAR NEEDS MORE MONEY WHILE BLACKWATER SLIPS AWAY FROM PROSECUTION

I watched the new chairman of the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Mullen, for an hour on C-SPAN yesterday. It was his first speech in his new job.

He used the words "Long war" about 150 times just to make sure we understood his point. We ain't coming home from Iraq, or Afghanistan, and the rest of the Middle East any time soon.

He also made clear several times that this "Long war" was of course about fighting "terrorism" but then slipped in a statement at least twice that we've got to control diminishing supplies of "water and fossil fuels" around the world.

He acknowledged that the Army has a serious manpower problem and made quite a number of references to the "families" of GI's now in Iraq, or who had recently returned, making quite clear to me that there is a mutiny going on with the families. He promised to bring more troops into the Army and Marines in coming years. Where will they come from? The economic draft.

Mullen repeatedly talked about the Pentagon not having enough money and needing the country to recognize that in order to fight the "Long war" we were all going to have to pony up more cash. Of course this cash will come from cutbacks in social spending thus ensuring a steady stream of poor and working class kids having to go into the military for lack of jobs, education funding, etc....

It will also mean more reliance on privatizing the military in order to fight the "Long war" and so the headline in the Washington Post today, Immunity Deal Hampers Blackwater Inquiry, comes as no surprise.

The first two lines of the article read: "The State Department promised Blackwater USA bodyguards immunity from prosecution in its investigation of last month's deadly shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians, The Associated Press has learned. The immunity deal has delayed a criminal inquiry into the Sept. 16 killings and could undermine any effort to prosecute security contractors for their role in the incident that has infuriated the Iraqi government."

Well, well. Condi-sleeza has found a way to cut the heart out of the prosecution of Blackwater. Who would have ever predicted that one?

Admiral Mullen also yesterday very lightly touched on the role of the Navy in the coming period of resource wars. He talked about the need to, working with chosen allies, be able to choke off vital shipping lanes at sea. [Naval Aegis destroyers made right here in Bath, Maine.]

Why? Well just keep in mind that China imports 80% of its oil through the Taiwan Straits. If the U.S. could shut down that route then the U.S. would essentially be able to strangle China's economy and hold them hostage to any policy.

But in order to do all this Admiral Mullen says the Pentagon needs more of your tax dollars. So every dime we keep in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Education, environmental programs, public transportation, and the like is money that will not be going to fight the "Long war."

Fight for social progress and make the world a more peaceful place.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Looking at the web site of the Washington Post this morning I have a reaction to several headlines:

Venezuela Increasingly a Conduit for Cocaine - My guess a pretext is being developed to grab their oil....look for more of the same in coming months. Bush-Cheney are going to try to take out Iran and Venezuela before they leave. Maybe Russia too.

Judicial Races Rife With Politics - Corporate funds are transforming the elections for many judge ships into big-budget campaigns. The rich are locking down the whole system. Democracy is being smothered, drowned right before our heavy eyes.

Brothers Ship Out Together - Two National Guards brothers heading to Iraq together. A "nice" family story for the Sunday edition. Patriotism is still alive we are being reminded.

Rudy Giuliani Is All Right - If you liked Bush you will love Rudy. He and Hillary are media creations. Both parties are being told this is all they will get. One more sign that democracy is a thing of the past.

The business of war - Maine profits from the war. The goal of making the American economy dependent on permanent war moves forward.

Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues - A song from my favorite band The Kinks reflecting the mood of many of us today.

Sheep - Do you ever feel like the American people are a flock of sheep now being herded for the slaughter? It seems like we just willingly follow along and head in the direction we are pointed. What happens if we start to turn away from the slaughterhouse?

U.S. 'Iran attack plans' revealed - I got an email this morning from a friend asking me, "What strategies can we develop quickly to prevent an Iran attack?" My answer? Help turn the sheep back to the green pastures.

Water drying up around the country - Because we are such an arrogant and wasteful people the water is disappearing around the country. Global warming will only make it worse.

My policy is to feel the pain. I just want to be real. I don't want to run and hide from it all. I don't want to pretend everything will be ok. I don't want to lose myself in fantasy that hopes that the world will be all bright and flashy in the morning.

So what is the revolutionary thing to do today? I've got my car up for sale. That might be a start. We don't flush the toilet after we pee at our house. Small contribution to life on Earth I know but a start.

We live in a modern form of feudalism. This time we get color TV and a car. (And no coverage of the many regional demonstrations yesterday around the country opposing the occupation of Iraq.)

One prophet once said "Don't be pissed off by the people. The politicians always give them 'just enough' to keep them off the streets and out from in front of the gates/guns/new roads/prisons/nuclear bases/closing hospitals/pipelines/government buildings...just enough...and just enough distraction so they can switch off - - how we would all like to default."

So on we go.....trying our best to save the future generations from the living hell we are now creating by our greed.

What are we doing? Can you hear me cry?

In times like these I always turn to The Kinks. Their music soothes me and smooths off the rough edges. Songs like Shangri-La do it for me.