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, February 16, 2008

HEADING EAST

I am in the Colorado Springs airport waiting for my flight to Boston. My talk last night in Alamosa went well and then Bill Sulzman and Loring Wirble drove me back here where I spent the night. This morning Bill gathered some local activists for a breakfast meeting where we talked about the annual Space Foundation Symposium that happens in Colorado Springs each April. This year we timed our Global Network space conference to come right after the Colorado events so that we could hold protests on April 7-9 here and then move on to Omaha, Nebraska for the April 11-13 GN international conference.

This trip has gone well and I owe Bob Anderson in Albuquerque many thanks for putting together a good speaking tour for me. He took the photo above of us protesting at the Space Nuclear Power convention earlier in the week. We had a nice colorful presence.

Glad to see that people are quickly figuring out that the ASAT test against the falling satellite by the Pentagon is just one more gimmick to sell weapons in space. I am hearing from lots of people that we've not heard from in a long time. It's good to know that when you need folks to help they come out of the woodwork. That indicates that our years of work around these issues has paid off.

"In our opinion, the decision to destroy the U.S. satellite is not as harmless as it is being presented. Especially as the United States has been avoiding talks on restricting a space arms race for quite a long time," the Russian Defense Ministry's information department said in a statement.

"Under cover of discussions about the danger posed by the satellite, preparation is going ahead for tests of an anti-satellite weapon. Such tests mean in essence the creation of a new strategic weapon."

Friday, February 15, 2008

AN EXCUSE TO TEST ASAT WEAPONS

Just arrived in Alamosa, Colorado for my talk tonight at local college. My good friend Bill Sulzman is driving down from Colorado Springs and will drive me back to his house for the night. In the morning I will catch a plane from there to Boston.

I spoke this morning at the public high school in Taos and had 25 students in a class for over an hour. Much to my surprise they really intently listened to what I had to say and asked several excellent questions. They turned out to be much more interested and engaged than the kids at the "alternative" high school that I spoke at yesterday. After telling stories about my personal history/transformation via the Air Force during the Vietnam War, I talked alot about space and tried to show the connection to how funding Star Wars will help destroy social progress in America. The aerospace industry has long been saying that to pay for their space programs they intend to defund the "entitlement programs" which officially are Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and what is left of the Welfare program after Bill Clinton got through with it.

The internet is buzzing today with stories about the Pentagon (Missile Defense Agency) now saying that are going to shoot down the military satellite that is falling back to Earth in coming days. They will fire missiles into space from Aegis destroyers that are made where I live in Bath, Maine. The Navy is now deploying these Aegis destroyers, outfitted with "missile defense systems," in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Australia as the Pentagon begins to militarily surround China.

It is clear to me that the Pentagon is using the falling satellite as an excuse to test anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons in order to perfect the technology that would give the U.S. the ability to knock out other countries satellites. The military has been itching for a long time for a good excuse to field test ASAT technology. They are using this incident as an excuse to put into the public's mind that space weapons will be used to "protect" us. In fact these are offensive systems, part of the overall U.S. first-strike attack program now under development.

In a news conference yesterday we saw Deputy National Security Advisor James Jeffrey, Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright and NASA Administrator Michael Griffin make this announcement of this shoot-down. They said the falling satellite "could release much of its thousand-plus pounds of hydrazine fuel as a toxic gas."

Gen. Cartwright said, "On the first side of the equation, this is the first time we've used a tactical missile to engage a spacecraft, but not the first time that we've used a tactical missile to engage a body that is just reentering, okay. So the leap to move to catching it just before it hits the atmosphere really takes almost no modification at all. What we're talking about here is minor modification to software, both in the system that -- the Aegis system and in the missile itself. So that gives a reasonably high confidence that we understand all of the activities here."

I think the quote just above reenforces the point that with just minor "modification" the "missile defense" system on-board the Aegis becomes a ASAT weapon. The Pentagon is thrilled to have the opportunity to run this test.

Igor Barinov, first deputy chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee, said he was informed by, "Russian military experts," that "the satellite could have an on-board nuclear power source."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

IN TAOS

I am in Taos, New Mexico now. This morning I spoke to 25 high school students at an alternative school and then went to a local radio station for a 10-minute live interview to promote my talk tonight that is open for the public.

Taos is a beautiful place, with snow capped mountains all around, and yes almost all of the buildings here have a similar look as the one in the picture above.

New Mexico Democrats are still counting their votes from the "Super Tuesday" caucus. I've heard that 17,000 Native people and poor Hispanics got to the polls and discovered their names had been purged from voting lists. So even when the Democrats run an election, fraud is still used to keep the poor and working class from voting. It's a class war in America.

In the morning I speak at a public high school and then will be driven two hours north to Alamosa, Colorado for a talk at the local college. From there I will head further north to Colorado Springs where I catch a plane back to Boston.

Mary Beth will pick me up in Boston and we'll hang around there for a couple days so we can see my son Julian who is coaching a high school debate team from Texas, where he lives, at a tournament at Harvard. So that will be a nice treat for all of us.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

THOUGHTS FROM LAS VEGAS, N.M.

I watched a moving documentary on TV in my hotel room last night done by an Iraqi filmmaker. He filmed innocent Iraqi civilians being rushed into hospital after hospital after being wounded in the chaos that is ever present in their country. I saw one boy, six years old, having scrapnel taken out of his body without any sedatives to ease the pain. The screams of the boy, and the blood pouring out of his small body, shook me to my core.

I spoke last night at the World College in Las Vegas, New Mexico. The school has students from all over the world who come there for two years after high school before moving on to formal college. The school is primarily oriented toward teaching young people about global peace issues. After my talk two young men, one African and the other Asian, approached me and expressed their deep interest in space issues.

I've got the TV on right now as I write this blog entry and am watching Congressional hearings about the baseball steroid scandal. It's interesting to see these outraged politicians question former superstar Roger Clemens about his having lied about using steroids.

This hearing is so striking to me because we have heard over and over again that Congress can't do impeachment hearings of Bush-Cheney because they would "distract" Washington DC from doing more important business - like steroids. Let it be said that the Democrats are running these Congressional hearings.

Today I head further north to Taos where I will be for two days of speaking to community groups and a couple different high schools. From there I head into Southern Colorado to the town of Alamosa which everyone keeps telling me is the coldest spot in the U.S.

Monday, February 11, 2008

AMERICA'S RULING CLASS (A RERUN)

We often hear people talk about our Founding Fathers. Many say things like, "If our Founding Fathers could see the way things are today, they'd roll over in their graves."

Really?

Gore Vidal wrote in his book Inventing A Nation, that at the time of the revolutionary war with England that George Washington's "wartime temper was an awesome volcanic affair in serial eruption when dealing with a crooked Congress that was allowing food and supplies to be sold to the British army while embezzling for themselves money appropriated for the 'naked and distressed soldiers,' as Washington referred to his troops."

After the Revolutionary war was over New England merchants were eager to reestablish trade with Great Britain. By importing large amounts of goods into postwar New England, merchants glutted the market. Export markets had yet to be fully developed thus a trade imbalance existed that led to a nationwide debt crisis and a chain of debt collections. [Sounds just a bit like the U.S. today with our enormous trade/debt problems.]

David Szatmary writes in Shay's Rebellion: The Making of an Agrarian Insurrection, that "To satisfy British creditors, New England wholesalers tried to collect their outstanding loans" from their customers who tended to be inland shop keepers and small farmers. "Having difficulty with debt collections, merchants increasingly chose legal action that contributed to a great increase in debt suits," Szatmary concludes.

Soon the local shopkeepers and farmers faced creditors who took their land. State governments helped in the confiscation process as the local working class could not afford to pay their property taxes. Many found themselves in prison because of their debts. Szatmary writes that, "Yeomen, husbandmen, day laborers, and rural craftsmen comprised 91% of these debtors while no prominent retailer were behind bars [in one Worcester County, MA. jail]."

It soon came that the coastal traders, in the big cities like Boston, were of one class and the inland workers another. A rebellion, ultimately to be called Shays' Rebellion, ensued as those who were oppressed went to their town meetings and county conventions seeking legal remedy to their plight. The working class began to elect their own representatives who tried to reform the harsh laws through nonviolent means. According to one leader of the revolt they "advocated reforms that would ease the payment of debts, reduce taxes, publicize the expenditure of state funds, and pare down the powers of the court of common pleas."

During this time poor economic conditions even forced revolutionary war veterans to sell their Continental and state certificates. Large speculators, many of them coastal merchants, bought this paper for a fraction of its stated value. Szatmary quotes one farmer, "A very few men in each state have monopolized these obligations to such an immense amount, and originally on so easy terms, that there are now some fortunes among us which would tolerably well support the expenses of an Earldom."

The divide between rich and poor was established early on in the new America. Remember too, that under the new Constitution only white men who held land could vote. Thus legions of small farmers and land owners who lost all they had no longer were able to participate in the new "revolutionary" government. Their attempts to use existing government reform measures to hang onto what little they had largely failed.

In 1786 New England small farmers gave up on peaceful protest and took up arms. A rebellion leader urged others to join the fight against "all the machinations of those who are aiming to enslave and oppress us" and to strike down "that aristocratical principle too generally prevalent among the wealthy men of the state." Szatmary reports that "By the end of the year, an uprising that involved almost 9,000 militants or about one-quarter of the 'fighting men' in rural areas had surfaced in every New England state except Rhode Island."

Rich merchants and the "professional class" feared the insurgency, if successful, would spread and redistribute property throughout the nation. Thus the new Colonial government turned to George Washington to form the first national army to suppress the rebellion. But first they made sure that the new Constitution gave the federal government the powers to control the "internal insurrection."

According to one man of property, "the new Constitution is received with great joy by all the commercial part of the community. The people of Boston are in raptures with it as it is...and all men of considerable property, the clergy, the lawyers, including the judges of the court, and all the officers of the late army advocated the most vigorous government." The reaction of the "insurgents" naturally was quite different to the news that a national army was being created to put down the unrest. One farmer argued that "With national military power lawyers and men of learning, and monied men expected to get all the power and all the money into their own hands, and then they will swallow up all us little folks, like the great Leviathan" turning independent farmers into tenants or wage laborers.

In his book The Creation of America: Through Revolution to Empire author Francis Jennings states, "The farmers of Shay's rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion were not so much intent on tearing down as simply bettering their own conditions. Resentment against the perceived ruling class deflected into aggression against Indians. Instead of conflict with the ruling class, seizure of Indian lands could be effected with its complicity. Thus perpetual conquest diverted rebellious sentiment into the satisfaction of demands for personal advancement at the expense of Indians instead of the wealthy. "

Empire was born. And today it remains as we see those in Washington continually making decisions that perpetuate the privilege of wealth and power. Words like freedom, patriotism and liberty have become the tools of the elite to control the rest of us and to spread empire.

Issues like abortion, flag burning, school prayer, gay marriage, and immigration are these days used to divide the public and keep the focus away from the real rulers of the land.

Frances Moore Lappe writes in Time for Progressives to Grow Up that "We've lived so long under the spell of hierarchy..... that only recently have we awakened to see not only that 'regular' citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crisis cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

ALBUQUERQUE - LOOKING FOR THE CHANGE

We asked a couple years ago if we could have a Global Network exhibit inside the Space Technology conference but they turned us down. No surprise.

I spoke in Santa Fe last night to a group of people organized by Veterans for Peace. Tonight I talk at the Peace & Justice Center in Albuquerque. On Monday we will hold a protest outside of the space nukes confab. I'm told the local Raging Grannies will be coming along to sing some new songs they've created just for the occasion.

The newspapers in New Mexico are filled with articles about the Democratic Party caucus last week that totally messed up the voting process. People were standing in lines for two hours waiting to vote after the polls had closed. Then it took 4-5 days to count the vote. The results are still not official. Hillary is leading Obama 49%-48% with 99% of precincts reporting. It appears that there was an effort to limit the vote. Hillary and Bill Clinton watched the Superbowl with New Mexico's Gov. Bill Richardson (who worked in the Clinton administration). There is some speculation that by limiting the vote here on election day it would hurt Obama the most.

Just further evidence to me that the Democrats will play games with the voting process when it benefits them. Both parties are corrupt. It was the Democrats who fought to keep Ralph Nader off the ballot in Maine and other states in 2004. So much for them defending democracy.

Gov. Richardson is considered highly corrupt by peace activists here. He is a major supporter of the military industrial complex which dominates this state.

By the way, I read yesterday that Obama had supported Joe Lieberman's election for the U.S. Senate over the anti-war candidate Ned Lamont in Connecticut in 2006. Obama even went to Connecticut to campaign on Lieberman's behalf. That is revealing. Lieberman is now supporting John McCain for president.