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 10, 2007


The price of gas in Maine has jumped quite a bit in the last week or so. It's now starting to make folks stir and just maybe reflect some on our collective future.

Our price per gallon is still much lower than what people in other countries are paying. In Europe they are spending the equivalent of $6-$8 a gallon. We've still got it easy in comparison but then they also have more public transit options than most of us in the U.S. have.

Here in Maine we have virtually no public transit. There is a Amtrak train that runs south from Portland to Boston but other than that forget it. Our state government is still spending the vast majority of our transportation funds on building more and wider roads. That won't do anything to help us deal with the steadily rising cost of gas.

Old timers in Maine talk about the days when they had trains connecting virtually every town in the state. You didn't need a car to get around. Then after the car was invented the automobile industry bought up most of the trolley systems across the country and shut them down so that people had to rely on the car.

I just can't imagine how people driving big fat trucks and SUV's can afford to put gas in them anymore. It must cost $100 to fill the tank. How long can they hold out at those prices before they have to get rid of their gas guzzlers?

How long will it be before most people can't afford to put gas in any kind of a vehicle? And when that day comes how will they get to work?

Years ago, in 1980, a friend and I started an organization in Orlando, Florida called The People's Transit Organization (PTO). We were urging Central Florida governments to stop spending all of our transportation money on roads and instead expand the public bus system and put light rail throughout the region. They told us we were nuts - people love their cars they said. We got a list of the 25 busiest traffic intersections in Orange County and held large signs at these spots for months. The signs said: Tired of Waiting at this Light?, Price of Gas Out of Sight?, We Need Mass Transit Right? We got a great response from the public and soon the politicians were putting pictures of themselves standing at the city bus station on their campaign brochures. Within a couple of years the City of Orlando doubled their bus system. Their public transit system there has grown dramatically since, though still not good enough to meet all the current demand.

We've all got to start talking more about the need for public transportation in our communities. We are hearing alot of stories about senior citizens who can't afford to drive a car anymore as they live on fixed incomes and worry just about paying for their heating bills or food. There are working people that can't afford to get to work. They need someone to advocate for them.

People in the peace movement could do a better job of connecting these issues. We should talk about how public investment in mass transit will help reduce the need for endless war for oil and will also go a long way in helping relieve some of the current pollution that is helping to cause climate change. Imagine the jobs created as we re-connect states like Maine with rail systems again.

We are long overdo for this kind of change.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Yesterday afternoon about a dozen of us from the Maine Campaign to Impeach held banners on both sides of the overpass of U.S. 1 in Bath. We went at the time when there is a shift change at the Bath Ironworks shipyard so we had a huge viewing audience.

I was actually surprised at the positive response we got from the cars that drove by over the next hour and a half. I'd venture to say that about 50% of the cars that passed either honked, waved, or gave a thumbs up. Of course we got some negatives too but not nearly what one would have imagined.

With the Kucinich maneuver to bring impeachment to the House of Representatives it was a good time to hang the banners. With help from Republicans, who admittedly want to call the bluff of the Democrats on impeachment, the Kucinich bill has now been sent to the House Judiciary Committee for hearings. The committee is chaired by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) who has long been an advocate of impeachment - that is until the Dems took control of the House in 2006. Since he became the committee chair he has echoed the words of Nancy Pelosi that "impeachment is off the table."

So the current strategy is to write Conyers and other members of the Judiciary Committee to demand hearings because they could just kill the Kucinich bill in the committee by saying they don't have time to get to it - other business is more important.

So this is where we come in. We need to send messages to Conyers and to the Judiciary Committee demanding they move on impeachment hearings. Check the list of Judiciary Committee members to see if any from your state are on the list and contact them as well.

We need to create some positive energy around this now. Please help.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


I just returned from a breakfast meeting between Cynthia McKinney and some Green Party leaders in Maine. Cynthia has now made it official that she is running for the Green Party nomination for president. She is traveling the country to meet with Green Party members in order to secure their support and build a national campaign.

For the last four years I have been registered in Maine as no party preference. I call myself an Independent voter. At the meeting today I said I would immediately change my registration to Green Party in Maine in order to be able to support Cynthia's run for the presidency.

I've said before on this blog that I am an unconditional fan of Cynthia McKinney. I've followed her courageous career in the U.S. House of Representatives for many years. I used to watch C-SPAN in awe as she took to the floor of the House and said things few others would ever say about what our country was doing. She, long before Dennis Kucinich did, introduced the first impeachment resolution in the House. The Democrats became tired of her speaking truth to power and they helped to get her run out of her House seat in Atlanta, Georgia. The next term she ran again and got her seat back. Then the Dems turned around and ran her out again. Now she is free to speak the truth even more clearly and she is doing it.

McKinney will be focusing on jobs in a green society in her campaign. She told us today about having just visited with the Austria Green Party where they are turning their country into a model green society in order to deal with global warming. Cynthia talked about how people could be put to work learning to build green structures, repairing America's declining infrastructure and creating sustainable technologies instead of bombs.

That is just what we need to be hearing from someone running for president.

Cynthia defined winning as helping to build the Green Party into a viable alternative party in the U.S. that gives the future generations some place to go for political expression and change. Her ability to attract women, people of color, and disaffected Democrats and Republicans will surely provide the Greens the kind of boost they have long needed. How many times have I heard activists ask how do we develop connections to the black community so we can work together? Now is our chance.

For me the whole campaign makes total sense. Mary Beth and I gave Cynthia a $100 donation, which for us is alot of money. We see it as a good investment in the future.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Today I spent a couple of hours working at the voting polls here in Bath gathering signatures on a petition calling on the Maine congressional delegation to speak out now and forcefully against Bush's impending attack on Iran. We will have had volunteers there from morning til the polls close at 8:00 pm.

Our local group, PeaceWorks, is doing this in several towns in our MidCoast Maine region today.

The response from the public was better than I had expected. I had little trouble getting people to sign the petition or take the leaflet that we had prepared on the subject.

Earlier in the day we taped my public access cable TV show on the same subject - an Iran attack. We turned the tables and had one of our PeaceWorks leaders, Rosalie Tyler Paul, interview me. Usually I do the interviewing. Eric Herter produces my show, which is called This Issue, and is now editing it and putting maps of Iran and photos of everyday Iranian life into the final product.

The attack on Iran will likely be done with hundreds of cruise missiles fired from Aegis destroyers that are built right here in the town of Bath at the local shipyard. They cost about $1.2 million each and would hit thousands of targets that have already been identified by U.S. Navy and Israeli military personnel. We know this because last year a friendly Navy officer told us these meetings were underway at the time. This person knew about this because they had direct contact with a person in the meetings.

The Washington Post reported on November 1 that former Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld had earlier instructed administration officials to "keep elevating the threat" and "link Iraq to Iran" as a way to build support for an attack.

A really remarkable article in Esquire magazine (October 18 issue) called The Secret History of the Impending War with Iran That the White House Doesn't Want You to Know is a must read. It clearly reveals how the Bush crew has been, one more time, preparing for war and demonizing Iran while refusing to negotiate with them in a serious way when they have offered to discuss key issues without any pre-conditions. The sources in the article are former right-wing Bush officials. Whistle blowers.

We all need to do more now to stop an illegal and immoral attack on Iran. People at the polls today understood the insanity of an attack but they feel desperate. I told people that U.S. citizens have to take responsibility for what is being done in our name. We can't be good Germans and act like nothing is happening.

Monday, November 05, 2007


Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is set to pull some maneuver in the House of Representatives on Tuesday and bring impeachment to a vote.

According to David Swanson, the impeachment organizer at, "He [Kucinich] is going to introduce a privileged resolution on the floor of the U.S. House Tuesday morning to force a vote on his resolution to impeach Cheney (H Res 333). While that bill includes offenses related to Iraq and Iran, Kucinich plans to focus his remarks on Iran and the fact that the current Pentagon bill includes funding to retrofit bombers to carry 15-ton bombs."

"He said that there might be an actual debate on the substance of the charges, for which he said he was prepared, or there might be a motion to table the matter (effectively killing it if successful), or it might be referred to a committee."

My guess is that his effort won't get far in the Democratic party controlled House where Nancy Pelosi has said "impeachment is off the table." But I strongly applaud Kucinich for trying and at the least maybe it will force a vote so we can get these politicians on the record on impeachment. If there is a way though to kill Kucinich's bill without a vote I'm certain the Dems will do it.

I called my congressman's office in Washington today to show support for the Kucinich bill (H Res 333). The congressional staffer on the phone knew the bill number when I called so that must indicate they were getting enough calls for them to take notice.

According to Kucinich, "While the impeachment movement has generated intensely strong sentiment and activism, there have been only two polls published on the question of impeaching Vice President Cheney. In a national poll, 54 % of Americans favored impeachment. In one state poll, 64 % of Vermonters favored impeaching the Vice President."

Some folks think impeachment is a dead issue. The truth though is the campaign is still alive and well out across the country.

Defending the constitution is a full-time job for activists these days. Don't quit now.