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, March 14, 2008

WHERE IS THE MEDIA?

The Winter Soldier hearings began last night just outside of Washington. I've monitored the major corporate media today for some word about the testimonies by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) but have seen virtually nothing.

Instead anyone watching the news today was subjected to a full plate of Obama-bashing. The "latest news" is the 2001 sermon by Obama's Chicago church pastor who linked the 9-11 attacks in America to what the U.S. has been doing to other countries around the world. This truth telling by the pastor has now been denounced by Obama who is being forced to bend down and grovel on his knees if he wishes to be allowed to continue his run for the presidency.

So here we have hundreds of young GI's, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, telling their stories on this 5th year of the occupation of Iraq. They are talking about the killings of innocent people. They are telling about their officers condoning, and in fact, ordering them to kill civilians. But we are not allowed to hear these stories in the "embedded media".

So you will have to listen to these IVAW hearings via the web site of the organization. Unfortunately few people will ever know they are happening.

Sixteen of us went out on the street today in the small business district in my town of Bath. We held signs and handed out about 100 leaflets alerting people to the Winter Soldier hearings. We will do the same again tomorrow at 1:00 pm.

All across the nation this weekend people will be standing on the street trying to help illuminate the work of IVAW and the rest of the peace movement. It is something we must do over and over again. We must become the media ourselves as our "free press" in America is no longer free. It has been beaten into submission just like they are now doing to the people in Iraq.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

HILLARY GETS ROUGH

I was in the supermarket today and at the checkout counter there were several of the tabloids with articles about Obama with big headlines about gay sex, Muslim controversies, and Oprah being upset about something connected to him.

I have long predicted that Hillary would get the Democratic party nomination. With Obama now gaining control of the nomination race, the right-wing elements of the Democratic party are fighting back and we are seeing the unleashing of their mean spirited nature.

Obama would never have been allowed to get as far as he did unless the power structure felt comfortable with him. Anyone that doubts that only needs to recall how Dennis Kucinich was not allowed into his own party debates and how John Edwards was continually vilified for being the "angry man" by the media when he talked about the need to fight against corporate power.

But something went wrong along the way. Obama was not supposed to jump ahead of Hillary. He was to come in a safe second place and then become Hillary's vice-presidential running mate and bring the energy from his campaign to bear on her behalf and help get her elected president.

Now that the energy of Obama's "hope campaign" have gotten out of hand the power elite are getting worried that they will lose control. So now they must begin the destruction of Obama. If that means that Sen. John McCain wins the national election in November of 2008, then so be it they would say. There is too much at stake for them to risk the presidency to an upstart.

Let's be honest here. Obama did all he could to show the power structure that he would play ball with them. He went to Connecticut before the 2006 congressional elections and backed right-wing Sen. Joe Lieberman for reelection against the insurgent anti-war candidate Ned Lamont. If that wasn't enough he has Zbigniew Brzezinski (Jimmy Carter's National Security Council chair and the person who ran the U.S. campaign to arm and train the Taliban in Afghanistan) as one of his top advisers. He has gone to AIPAC and pledged his loyalty to Israel. On and on it goes.

But Hillary (and Bill) have shown by their deeds that they can be trusted to do the bidding of the corporate empire builders. They have shown that they will betray their Democratic party base on issues like NAFTA, health care, Star Wars, and the terrible sanctions of Iraq that left over 500,000 children dead during the Clinton administration. Obama has yet to fully prove his allegiance to the power elite. Best he stand as an apprentice behind the master for awhile.

So now Obama is being sent a signal. Relent and agree to become Hillary's V-P or sit stubbornly and watch your campaign be destroyed before your very eyes. The Democrats are now showing the world that they work much like Bush and the crazy Republicans do.

Aspiring Democrats have to show their loyalty to the system first. That is the number one requirement for "success" in American politics. If you refuse then expect to see yourself trashed in the supermarket checkout lines.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

WAR VETS AND CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATES

Mary Beth left early this morning for the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) Winter Soldier hearings with our friend Becky Farley. Becky was a Lt. in the Navy and was the officer on the deck of the Aegis cruiser that fired the first cruise missiles in the 2003 shock and awe invasion of Iraq. Becky has been suffering from the experience and for a long time did not want to talk publicly about it. But the call for Iraq and Afghanistan GI's to come to DC for Winter Soldier inspired her to step forward.

This morning, on the way north, they stopped in Portland to tape an interview on Maine Public radio. Then they took a bus to Boston where they will switch to a train to DC. The Winter Soldier hearings will run from March 13-16 in the DC area. If you don't get Free Speech TV (which will be airing the hearings live) then you can listen over the Internet. Check this link at IVAW website for more details: http://ivaw.org/wintersoldier/howtowatch

Last night we went to Portland for a candidates forum sponsored by Maine Veterans for Peace, the Global Network, and ten other peace groups in Maine's first congressional district. We had all six of the Democratic party candidates who are running for the seat at the event. About 150 people were there throughout the three-hour event.

None of the candidates stood above the rest but I'd say that three did do better than the others. Mike Brennan, Mark Lawrence, and Chellie Pingree each had excellent moments. Brennan called for a 10% cut in military spending (still far too low considering that Bush has increased military spending by 50% during his time in office) and promised to call for conversion of the military industrial complex with the funds cut. Lawrence is strong on impeachment and made the case several times that we'd never get out of the Middle East until we develop a real energy policy at home. Pingree spoke out against any war with Iran although she did use the expression "we need to reinvest in our military" which could likely mean major increases in military spending over time.

Ethan Strimling, a state senator from Portland, who is good on impeachment, was the only one of the six who refused to comment on the Israeli-Palestinian question from the audience. He is also proposing a bill to have Maine disinvest from Iran and has used some provocative language to describe Iran. Many fear that he is under the sway of AIPAC.

In the end I came away from the forum with a couple thoughts. One is that there will probably be some improvement after this election in our congressional representation over what we have now - Rep. Tom Allen who has continually voted to fund the Iraq occupation and refuses to consider impeachment or single-payer health care. (Most of the six last night support single-payer.)

Second, I can see that none of the Democrats are really willing to take on the concept of empire. The Democratic party is committed to U.S. "global dominance" and none of them were willing to even address the issue last night when Mary Beth offered them the chance by asking them "What are you going to do about it?")

For me it reenforces my decision to register as a Green and to support Cynthia McKinney for president. It is abundantly clear that we need an outside political force to speak truth to power and to organize new political structures that give more electoral options to a public who have become increasingly discouraged with the Democratic party.

To their credit, Chellie Pingree and Mark Lawrence both admitted last night that their party was not listening to the public and had not delivered the kind of opposition that they had promised the nation before the last election. Sadly, I have little confidence that the Democrats will do much to confront the real challenges facing America after the 2008 election.

Without taking on the idea of U.S. military global dominance, and the economic consequences of preparation for endless war, the Democrats will have little to offer the public outside of flowery rhetoric. Unless the military budget is dramatically scaled back, by say 60-75%, there will be no money for health care, education, or funding of new sustainable technologies to help us reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and effectively deal with climate change.

We need real jobs in America and military spending eats up funds that could be used to create good jobs doing the things we need to repair our declining human and physical infrastructure.

The days of being able to afford guns and butter are over. The candidates last night didn't have the courage to say that in public.

Monday, March 10, 2008

OPPOSITION GROWS IN POLAND AGAINST U.S. BASE

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk was in Washington today negotiating with George W. Bush about the deployment of U.S. "missile defense" interceptors in their country. Bush is itching to get the deal done before he leaves office so the plan can be set in concrete.

Poland has upped the ante, likely recognizing that Bush is so anxious. They are asking for "assistance" in upgrading their military in return for agreeing to allow the U.S. base. Looks like Bush will probably give them what they want. The weapons corporations won't mind a bit more military welfare for Poland.

The public in Poland, by at least 50% according to recent polls, is opposed to the deal. They realize that this "missile defense" is just part of the U.S. effort to encircle Russia. Russia has announced that once the interceptors are put under ground in Poland that they will target the base with their nuclear weapons. Poland, which fought hard to get out of the middle of the last Cold War, will be thrown right back into one.

Of course this new arms race in Europe, just like the one the U.S. is creating in the Asian-Pacific, is right on Bush/Cheney's schedule. The more countries build "missile defense" systems, then the more nuclear weapons will have to be built to overwhelm the "defenses." Then more defenses need to be built and on and on the story goes. Profits will be huge for the aerospace industry.

Poland and the Czech Republic (they are to get the Star Wars radar facility even though 70% of their public says NO) are being used by the Americans. Bush/Cheney know that Poland and the Czech Republic want to be part of the expanding European Union economy. So the U.S. is leveraging this desire on their part to force them into becoming outposts for U.S. corporate empire. It's a dirty trick and is now driving a reinvigoration of the peace movement throughout Europe.

In the end social spending will have to be cut in Poland and the Czech Republic as they get dragged into Star Wars. In the end their people will reject being drawn into this new arms race. Organizing is well underway now in both countries to oppose these plans.

At the Global Network's annual space organizing conference in Omaha on April 11-13 we will have key activists from Poland and the Czech Republic with us. We in the U.S. must do all we can to expand our relationships with peace activists from other nations. As the U.S. empire globalizes militarism, our response must be to globalize the non-violent movement to resist endless war.

In recent days an open letter to Donald Tusk has been widely distributed that was signed by many key leaders in the U.S. peace movement. To add your name or organization, go directly to the statement at: http://www.cpdweb.org/statements/1009/stmt.html

Sunday, March 09, 2008

MAINERS FOR CYNTHIA MCKINNEY FORMED


We hosted a meeting at our house today where we formed a committee to support Cynthia McKinney's run for president. I will be volunteering in this effort in my free time. Below are the meeting minutes I sent around after the meeting.

A meeting was held on March 9 to form a committee called Mainers for Cynthia McKinney to support the former Georgia Congresswoman's run for president of the U.S. as the Green Party nominee.

Nine people met at the Addams-Melman House in Bath (about a dozen more had sent their interest and best wishes and were not able to come). The meeting was facilitated by Bruce Gagnon.

Cynthia McKinney is now in the process of campaigning to win the Green Party nomination. In Maine many county-wide caucus events have been held with more scheduled this month. So far McKinney is leading in Maine with about 60% of the vote. Nationally McKinney is doing well as Green caucus events are still underway. The Maine Green Independent Party (MGIP) convention will be held in May (either the 10th or the 18th) to formalize Maine's choice. The national Green Party convention will be in Chicago July 10-13 where the party nominee will be ultimately chosen. The national party nominee will automatically be on the Maine election ballot in November, 2008.

During the meeting a brainstorming session was held to come up with key priorities for our committee to begin working on. Some items will be acted on immediately and others later on.

They include:

* Local meetings (we encourage town/county Cynthia McKinney support groups to form that would then feed into the statewide campaign committee.
* News release to announce the formation of Mainers for Cynthia McKinney will be sent out following the MGIP final tabulation and public release of winner of Maine Green presidential caucus.
* Organize a Maine speaking tour for Cynthia (end of April was suggested date). (Jacqui Devaneau and Jon Olsen)
* Identify artists around the state who would like to help support Cynthia. (Bruce)
* Develop a media plan for when Cynthia comes to Maine and beyond.
* Develop a Mainers for Cynthia McKinney brochure by April 13 to hand out at progressive events around the state. (Bill Grubb & Jon)
* Develop creative advertising plans.
* Find someone to develop a web site for Mainers for Cynthia McKinney. (Bruce)
* Investigate interest at colleges and universities for Cynthia to speak.
* Identify local Maine issues that Cynthia should address when she comes to Maine (cuts in social spending in Augusta, etc).
* Identify well known people nationally who are supporting Cynthia and invite them to speak in Maine.....like Hip hop artist Head Roc. (Anna Trevorrow)
* Get banner made with Mainers for Cynthia McKinney on it.
* Encourage people to begin writing local letters to editor now that introduce Cynthia's campaign to the public.


In order to qualify for federal campaign matching funds Cynthia must get at least $5,000 in donations from 20 states. Many states are well on their way to reaching this goal. Maine so far has donated about $1,000 to Cynthia's campaign. People are urged to make a donation ASAP and can do so via Cynthia's web site. Help us get Cynthia to that $5,000 figure! We will organize additional campaign fundraising events in the future.

The MGIP will be allotted 44 delegates to the national convention in July. Each delegate can carry one proxy with them so we need at least 22 Greens to attend the convention in July to ensure Cynthia gets the nomination. We are presently looking for Maine Greens to go to the convention and also raising funds to help cover convention expenses. If you are interested in either of these please contact Jacqui Devaneau at 934-1911 or jacquio50@yahoo.com

Jacqui has contacted the McKinney campaign headquarters and offered to serve as Maine volunteer coordinator as the national office is contacted by people in Maine. We will also put Jacqui's phone and email address on the brochure being created as the point of contact.

Several key events are happening in coming months that are relevant to our efforts to promote Cynthia. They are:

* April 13 showing of Cynthia's film American Blackout in Portland at the Meg Perry Center (644 Congress). This is a fundraiser for Chicago Green convention trip.

*May 2 showing of American Blackout at Addams-Melman House in Bath (212 Centre St.) Potluck supper and fundraiser for Chicago Green convention trip. Begins at 6:30pm.

Next meeting of the Mainers for Cynthia McKinney will be held on Sunday, March 30 at the Addams-Melman House (AMH) in Bath from noon to 2:30 pm. Following that meeting is the regular monthly pot luck supper at the AMH from 3-5 pm to which all are also invited.

The meeting ended with a reminder that Cynthia McKinney provides the progressive community with a unique opportunity to unite people of color and white activists who are unhappy with the current mainstream corporate political parties. We need a strong voice in the national elections to ensure that our opposition to the Iraq occupation, our demands for social justice, and more remain in front of the nation.

Please feel free to join with us and to offer us any advice or skills you may have.

Thanks.

Bruce K. Gagnon
Bath
(207) 443-9502
globalnet@mindspring.com