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, December 22, 2007

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS

I was watching CNN news this morning and they were interviewing a GI in Iraq who will be away from his new wife this Christmas. He said, "I'm just here taking care of business" and I thought just how right he is. The occupation of Iraq is all about oil and war business and these soldiers are just giving up their lives to take care of things for the big corporations.

The business of America is business the old saying goes. Or the song, "I'm taking care of business and working over time."

Another image for me where folks are "taking care of business" was New Orleans this week. The photo above shows the scene where police used chemical spray and stun guns on the dozens of protesters trying to get into the packed City Council chamber. The New Orleans City Council last Thursday moved to demolish thousands of low-income houses as the city continues the agonisingly slow process or rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina.

Demolition crews will now move in to dismantle the 4,500 brick buildings (many I've seen on video are in good shape) that generations of poor people lived in. The poor in New Orleans are concerned that the authorities intend to reduce the numbers of predominantly poor, black people living there.

They are clearing out the poor so they can use the land to house those who can pay more for housing. Taking care of business and working over time to do it.

Shortly after Katrina struck, the Republican Congressman Richard Baker told lobbyists in a Baton Rouge Red Cross shelter: “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did.”

Taking care of business with help from the Lord......

The story of New Orleans, the story of America today, is that business interests come first and that the people be damned. Democracy has been drowned and will stay that way until the people rise up to demand something different.

My son Julian, visiting for the holidays, told me last night that we get "hope when people make demands." No demands then no hope.

We need to start taking care of the people and the Mother Earth. Capitalism is killing us.

Friday, December 21, 2007

U.S. MILITARY: GOD'S MINISTERS

A Hamas suicide bomber posing with a rifle and a copy of the Koran.


Soldiers at Fort Jackson Army Base pose with their rifles and Bibles.



By Jason Leopold (For the full story click on link in headline above)


For U.S. Army soldiers entering basic training at Fort Jackson Army base in Columbia, South Carolina, accepting Jesus Christ as their personal savior appears to be as much a part of the nine-week regimen as the vigorous physical and mental exercises the troops must endure.

That's the message directed at Fort Jackson soldiers, some of whom appear in photographs in government issued fatigues, holding rifles in one hand, and Bibles in their other hand.

Frank Bussey, director of Military Ministry at Fort Jackson, has been telling soldiers at Fort Jackson that "government authorities, police and the military = God's Ministers."

Bussey's teachings from the "God's Basic Training" Bible study guide he authored says U.S. troops have "two primary responsibilities": "to praise those who do right" and "to punish those who do evil - "God's servant, an angel of wrath." Bussey's teachings directed at Fort Jackson soldiers were housed on the Military Ministry at Fort Jackson web site. Late Wednesday, the web site was taken down without explanation. Bussey did not return calls for comment. The web site text, however, can still be viewed in an archived format.

The Christian right has been successful in spreading its fundamentalist agenda at U.S. military installations around the world for decades. But the movement's meteoric rise in the U.S. military came in large part after 9/11 and immediately after the U.S. invaded Iraq in March of 2003. At a time when the United States is encouraging greater religious freedom in Muslim nations, soldiers on the battlefield have told disturbing stories of being force-fed fundamentalist Christianity by highly controversial, apocalyptic "End Times" evangelists, who have infiltrated U.S. military installations throughout the world with the blessing of high-level officials at the Pentagon. Proselytizing among military personnel has been conducted openly, in violation of the basic tenets of the United States Constitution.

Perhaps no other fundamentalist Christian group is more influential than Military Ministry, a national organization and a subsidiary of the controversial fundamentalist Christian organization Campus Crusade for Christ. Military Ministry's national web site boasts it has successfully "targeted" basic training installations, or "gateways," and has successfully converted thousands of soldiers to evangelical Christianity.

(Watch the Jesus Camp clip at this link)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

THIS CHRISTMAS - TAKE DOWN THE WALL

As we approach Christmas people around the world will remember the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. Today in Bethlehem there is another story to be told.

The Israeli government has built a huge wall dissecting Palestinian lands thus making life and travel nearly impossible for the people. The Israeli government maintains the wall is for their security. The occupied Palestinian people tell a different story.

The International Court of Justice has made a historic ruling on Israel's Wall. In 2005, the Court deemed the Wall and all of Israel's settlements grave violations of international law and human rights, as well as obstacles to peace. Israel, however, continues to erect its Wall and to expand its settlements in the occupied West Bank, undeterred.

Originally approved in April 2002, Israel's Wall consists of an entire regime: concrete slabs
towering 25 feet high (8 meters), razor wire, trenches, sniper towers, electrified fences, military
roads, electronic surveillance, remote-controlled infantry, and "buffer zones" that sometimes stretch over one hundred meters wide.

The Wall is not being built on, or in most cases near the 1967 Green Line, but rather cuts deep into the West Bank, expanding Israel's grab of Palestinian land and resources.

When completed, the Wall will de facto annex some 47% of the West Bank, isolating communities into bantustans, enclaves and “military zones”.

The wall is helping Israel confiscate 37 wells that provide 4 million cubic meters of water.

It is interesting to note, that the Wall planned by Ariel Sharon will annex the most fertile and rich land, leaving the Palestinians with only 40% of their agricultural land.

I refer you to the music video entitled, "They've Cancelled Christmas in Bethlehem - The Wall Must Fall." It is written and performed by Anglican priest, Rev. Garth Hewitt. The video has heart breaking footage of the wall.

Fortunately the Palestinian people have allies around the world, including organizations like Jews Against the Occupation. Inside Israel, peace groups like Gush Shalom have long been calling the wall a "separation wall not about security."

There will never be peace in the Middle East as long as the Palestinian people continue to suffer as they do today. It is imperative that the wall comes down. Now.

If the Soviet Union's wall in Berlin was wrong, and it was, then so is this one.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

MCKINNEY MAKES IT OFFICIAL

Cynthia McKinney, a former six-term Congresswoman and an outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq, officially launched her campaign on December 16 as a Green Party candidate for President.

I went down to city hall yesterday and changed my voter registration to Green Party so I can support Cynthia's campaign in my free time.

In a just-released video news release, Cynthia says "the Republicans have deceived us; the Democrats have failed us. It is time for a new beginning: A time for hope to rise from the ashes
of despair."

McKinney, a former Democrat from Georgia, was one of only three members of Congress to vote "yes" on a House Resolution in 2005 calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. One of her last acts in office was introducing Articles of Impeachment naming George Bush, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice.

I am beyond excited to see this announcement. There will now be a candidate in the 2008 election that we can count on to raise the issues of universal, single-payer health care; fair trade; support for the poor and working class; real environmental change; support for Katrina survivors in New Orleans; an end to the Iraq occupation and planning for endless war; and the creation of good jobs in America by investing in sustainable technologies that give the future generations a chance.

I think the McKinney campaign will go a long way in building something we do not currently have - a true progressive coalition of people of color, peace activists, women, and environmentalists.....something that is a must if we are ever to challenge the two wars parties for power.

I urge everyone to watch this campaign video announcement and to give serious consideration to supporting Cynthia's run for president. She will be supporting us. We should support her in return.

Check out her campaign web site at http://www.runcynthiarun.org/

For those of you who are supporting Rep. Dennis Kucinich in the Democratic party primaries keep doing it. He deserves your support. I just sent him a donation the other day. But I don't think his party will allow him to get the nomination and once we get to the general election in November , 2008 we will need another choice.

In the end, the way things are going now, we are all going to be together on the streets protesting the endless war cycle of the oligarchy.

Monday, December 17, 2007

STOP CONSUMING - HAVE A HAPPY HOLIDAYS

This is the time of year we are all urged to go shop til we drop so we can grow the economy. The problem though is that growth is killing our very finite planet.

Please click on the link in the headline above to see a very fine video called The Story of Stuff. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world.

The video reminds us that in the U.S. we are 5% of the world's population but that we are using 30% of the dwindling resources of our Mother Earth. We are now using twice the resources today that Americans used 60 years ago.

We have become complicit in our own demise and the corporations are getting rich off our destruction. Sound evil? It is.

We have been taught to worship things more than we worship the very source of life - our fragile planet. The corporate marketers have literally climbed inside our brains and hearts and move us around like cheap plastic chess pieces on a board.

Let this holiday season be the time of our personal liberation from the chains of shopping, consumption, materialism, and the death of real spirituality.

To everyone I know I say........I will still love you if you don't send me a holiday card or a present. Send me an email instead or bake me some banana bread. Or maybe just call me to say hello.

Shop local, eat local, and walk local.

Have a happy holiday season by freeing yourself and the planet.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

PROTECT MOOSEHEAD LAKE FROM GREEDY DEVELOPERS

Yesterday afternoon I went to Portland to show support for the state's environmental community at a public hearing concerning the future of the Moosehead Lake region in the north. According to the local paper this morning more than 500 people turned out with the majority opposing a plan by the Plum Creek corporation to develop 20,000 acres surrounding the lake. A total of 2,315 residential and resort units are planned. In addition Plum Creek wants roads, a marina, and a golf course in this pristine region.

“This is the largest single development proposal in Maine’s history,” says Brownie Carson, executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Seattle-based Plum Creek will come and go, but the people of Maine will live with the decisions made in this rezoning process forever. We cannot sit idly by and allow the company to destroy what people love about Maine’s beautiful Moosehead region."

Plum Creek is a forest products and development corporation. Their CEO Rick Holley makes $5 million a year and sits on the board of directors of the newspaper chain that owns several key Maine newspapers. Plum Creek bought the land surrounding Moosehead Lake for $200 per acre and will likely sell shorefront homes for over $280,000 each.

Plum Creek pays no federal or Maine corporate income taxes. Plum Creek was fined in the past for violations of laws protecting Maine forests - the largest such fine in Maine history. Plum Creek is also the largest private land owner in the nation, controlling 8.2 million acres in 18 states. In Maine they own 928,000 acres.

When I moved to Orlando, Florida in 1974 the area was just exploding with growth from the Disney World boom. Major road projects were slicing the area into parcels that were then developed to maximize profits of those who owned huge plots of land. Orlando has many small lakes and when I first arrived there I could stand in a lake and easily see my feet as the water was crystal clear from the underground springs that feed them. When I left Orlando 20 years later to move to Gainesville, Florida I would not have dared set a foot in any of these lakes. In 20 years time they had been destroyed from the road runoff, pesticides from lawns, and other pollutants that come with urban sprawl.

The enormous development in Orlando also created massive infrastructure pressures for roads, bridges, fire stations, shopping centers, schools, hospitals and the like. Most of these needs were left to the tax payers to fund as the development interests built their projects and left the community holding the bag. Orlando today is a mess and a toxic nightmare.

I can quickly see that Plum Creek's massive development plan will end up costing the tax payers in Maine dearly. Maine is already financially a basket case and can't repave existing roads in the state. Open up the Moosehead Lake region for development and there will be a tremendous road building operation that the state will then have to maintain. The developers won't pay for it. And the pristine environment of Moosehead will be forever changed in a negative way. The lake will become polluted with gas guzzling luxury boats of the super-rich, jet skis from resorts, toxic pollutants from golf courses and perfect lawns, and road run-off flowing into the lake. And wildlife will be impacted in ways that can never be recovered.

Maine's Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) is now holding public hearings and will then make a decision on Plum Creek's development request. If you live in Maine please be sure to write them ASAP and urge them to reject Plum Creek's request which would force the greedy corporation to come back with a more benign proposal. You can contact LURC by sending a message to: LURC@maine.gov

My friend Jonathan Carter, extraordinary Maine environmental leader, says "The Moosehead region of Maine is an area of unprecedented beauty. The remote mountain peaks, extensive forests, pristine waters, clean air, native fisheries, and diverse wildlife make this region an extraordinary place of wildness. In spite of the destructive logging which has scarred the landscape with clearcuts and logging roads over the last several decades, one can still feel the sense of being on the edge of the last frontier, which extends northward to the wilds of the Allagash, eastward to the Katahdin wilderness, and westward to the Canadian border and the famed Moose River region. Moosehead represents the heart of the last remaining unprotected wildlands in the east."

We must protect the land for future generations of humans, plants, trees, and wildlife. Please do what you can to help.