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, September 13, 2008

ILLUSION HIDING REALITY


Watch this video http://therealnews.com/t/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=2313

Friday, September 12, 2008

NEW SPACE VIDEO AVAILABLE

Global Network and WILPF member MacGregor Eddy has just produced an updated 30-minute space video called Space 4 Peace.

Edited by Dan Reilly in California, this film covers key Global Network issues through commentary from activists Loring Wirbel, Jackie Cabasso, Helen Caldicott, and former Pentagon official Phillip Coyle. Short comments include visuals that weave together the story of the Pentagon's plan for "full spectrum dominance" via space technology. The film documents the fact that the U.S. has already militarized space, and that Ballistic "Missile Defense" is really about creating an offensive first-strike attack system.

There is also important footage in the new documentary that looks at Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific as it was used by the U.S. in the past to test atomic weapons, and how it is used now to test Star Wars systems. The film also shows images of world-wide demonstrations against the militarization and weaponization of space. A viewing of this film would surely stimulate discussion, and will lead many to want to take action.

The cost will be $15 each (includes all shipping/handling). For outside the U.S. please add an additional $5.

Just make check out to GN and send to address below or pay via our secure credit card Donate Now button on our web site.

We think you will find this video very useful for showing during our October 4-12 Keep Space for Peace Week and other occasions.


Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011

Thursday, September 11, 2008

BREAD AND CIRCUS

The November election debate has now fallen to the new low of arguing whether Obama's recent lipstick on a pig remark is sexist or not.

The corporate plan is now fully in motion. Trivialize the campaign, appeal to emotions, ignore the important issues like Iraq and the widening of war in Afghanistan and into Pakistan. Ignore the economic crash. Ignore the massive loss of jobs. Get the angry working class focused on issues of sex, race and the "social issues" instead of class and corporate power.

The oligarchy clearly understands that America's racism can be played like a fiddle as Sarah Palin's job is to drive home the point that she represents "American life in the 1950's" when whites were "happy" and people of color were under control.

Demographics show that in just a few years time blacks and Hispanics will be the majority population in the U.S. Efforts are now underway to ensure that the ruling elite will stay in power by destroying "democracy" as we know it. By ensuring that political campaigns become "money races" that have nothing to do with relevant issues those in power understand that more and more of the public give up on voting. They hope that future elections will be left to the white minority elite with the money to play the game of monopoly democracy.

It's a cynical ploy but by driving people away from the voting booth the oligarchy plans to win.

This is the same strategy now being implemented in Canada, England, Australia, and most other countries around the world. The corporate interests are locking down "democracy" to ensure their interests prevail in the coming time of scarcity.

It was heartening to see yesterday that Republican/Libertarian U.S. Congressman Ron Paul brought Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader together for an alternative party unity event. This is the kind of alliance building beyond the two corporate parties that is much needed. It won't have any immediate effect but long-term could serve to bring the growing numbers of disaffected voters into the camp of those who are pushing for ballot access law changes which are crucial if we ever hope to break the current log jam. By coming together these disparate forces also begin to break down walls of distrust and begin to see they share many common concerns.

Organizing against empire is always a one-step forward, two-steps back process. We have a long way to go before we can begin to break down the walls of the entrenched power structure. Until it happens the "electoral" corporate bread and circus will continue. Look for more debates about pigs, lipstick and the like.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

SPACE MOVEMENT - WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?

The National Space Society (NSS) is talking about building a "space movement." The organization is heavily funded by weapons corporations like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Honeywell, Northrup Grumman, Aerojet and others. About support from these corporate giants NSS says, "By supporting NSS, these companies have shown their commitment to strong citizen involvement in our nation's space program."

And just what do these aerospace corporations want in return for funding this "grassroots space movement?" They are asking NSS to lobby for massive federal expenditures to move the arms race into space, to fund the space technology infrastructure to put mining colonies on the moon and Mars, and to support the development of space-based solar power technology that would put centralized solar production in corporate hands rather than development of decentralized solar technologies on homes and businesses back here on Mother Earth.

As one NSS leader puts it, citizen involvement in space drives power at the Congressional "negotiating table for funding."

Because of the growing budget deficit in the U.S., the weapons industry worries that space technology funding will take a hit. They are now moving to preempt that problem.

With heavy funding from the industry the NSS is undertaking a "five year Strategic Plan" and "building a stronger Space Movement is a key component of that plan."

NSS says, "Recently, the space community has become concerned about the relatively low level of support for space among America's youth....In order to strengthen the Movement, additional emphasis will be placed on chapter development and grassroots organization. We will not only appeal to people via intellectual argument, but also to their emotions through the use of space art and other media."

The aerospace industry understands how things work. If you want to control the discussion and change public perception, then you must create the grassroots thunder. NSS confirms this by saying, "The media, the public, politicians, and historians all view something to be of greater importance when it is a movement as compared to when it is not."

And since there is not presently a "pro-space movement" the industry has decided to create one.

There is much money to be made if the public can be convinced that we should spend our dwindling tax dollars on space technology. The Mars Society says that the Earth is a rotting, dying, stinking planet and that we must move our civilization to Mars and that Congress must appropriate funds to "terraform" Mars. And what does terraform mean? It means turning the dusty dry red planet into a replica of the Earth - alive and green and habitable. Just imagine how much that would cost? Imagine the profits for the aerospace corporations to be given such a mission.

Space technology development is very expensive. Just one illustration - the International Space Station was originally supposed to cost the public $10 billion, but the price tag has grown to over $100 billion and it is not yet finished. By the time the space station is completed it will be an outdated technology and on we will go to the next round. Already the aerospace industry is working on the successor programs to the space shuttle and the space station. But in order to get these massive projects funded it must create a citizens base - a movement.

Some years ago I attended a pro-space development conference at Cape Canaveral in Florida. I went to a workshop on Mars where the speaker was the head of the tourist facility at the Kennedy Space Center. Why him, what did he know about Mars? His message was simple - unless we get the kids, who will be taxpayers in 20 years, to support these space missions to the moon and Mars, we are sunk. So, he said, we are doing a complete renovation of the space center tourist facility on a Mars theme and increasing our efforts to bring school children into the space center.

On the other side we have the Global Network organizing international opposition to these plans for "everything space". We understand that we can't have social progress in the U.S. and pay for "everything space" at the same time. We are also hearing from our GN affiliated groups in Sweden, England, France, South Korea, Italy, Australia, Japan, India, and other nations that their countries are being dragged into the space technology game because the U.S. needs allies to help fund this very expensive new direction. The challenge becomes global as we try to hang onto our national resources to protect life for the future generations right here on planet Earth.

Yes indeed, we do need a space movement. It's just a matter of which kind we need. And the real question each of us must answer is "which side are you on?"

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

PICKING THE FRUIT

My sister Joan left today to head back home to Iowa. She had a good time while here and enjoyed a long walk on the beach yesterday in perfect late summer Maine weather.

While here we froze a bunch of veggies from our prolific garden. I had the best crop of tomatoes ever. We've still got more beets than we can handle.

I've got two Chicago radio interviews this week thanks to a volunteer in that city who arranged for both of them. Good things come in bunches.

I need to get working on my talks for my up-coming trip to the Nordic countries. I leave on September 18. I've never been to that part of the world before and am very excited about the visit. Sweden, Norway, and Denmark are all being pulled into the U.S. space warfare technology orbit.

Maine U.S. Senate candidate Herb Hoffman announced today that he will officially file to run as a write-in candidate after the Democrats prevailed in keeping him off the ballot. I heard that one Democratic party activist asked Rep. Tom Allen (the Democrat in the race) why they had worked so hard to keep Hoffman off the ballot. His response, "Because I need to win."

I recently asked an activist friend in Ohio why John Kerry and the Dems did not fight for the voters in Ohio after the massive election fraud by the Republicans in the 2004 national elections. He told me it was because the Dems do it all the time themselves. I can now see what he meant.

Monday, September 08, 2008

YOUR HELP URGENTLY NEEDED

We know you are aware of and are deeply concerned about the enormous challenges facing us as we approach the November elections in the U.S. Will there be any real changes with a new president?

The recently signed agreements between the U.S. and Poland, and the Czech Republic, to deploy “missile defense” interceptors and a Star Wars radar in those countries has already triggered a return to the dangerous times of the Cold War. As the U.S. and NATO expand their military operations into Eastern and Central Europe, and into Central Asia, we are seeing that Russia and China are reacting with grave alarm.

The recent Georgia-Russia crisis is only the first of what we fear will be many more rounds in this provocative U.S. military encroachment on Russia and China. (Read Bruce’s blog for specific analysis on the situation.)

To say it is all about oil and natural gas is an understatement. To say that the Republicans and Democrats are united in this aggressive U.S. military expansion in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe would also be an understatement.

The U.S. is sadly heading for resource wars at the very time we need to be moving away from dependence on fossil fuels and massively funding alternative technology development.

Because of the nature of the Global Network’s agenda, we are right smack in the middle of these issues. Our work against expansion of space technologies and our efforts calling for the conversion of the military industrial complex have long come from a simple analysis – if we want to stop current wars and prevent a space arms race and new wars then we must deal with the fact that the U.S. economy is addicted to military spending. If we don’t deal with the jobs issue, if we don’t create a new vision for the future that lies outside of “endless war” for oil, then we are likely to lose this critical struggle for peace.

In recent years the Global Network has begun to shift toward this strategy of helping to identify and promote a positive alternative vision for the future. We’ve been working with our members nationally and internationally to help bring back to life the idea of conversion of the global war machine so that we will have the collective resources to deal with the coming harsh effects of climate change. We have been encouraging the peace movement to make this specific demand on the political system; we’ve been challenging the environmental community to see the connections between enormous spending for endless war and the lack of funds to effectively deal with global warming; and we’ve been urging workers inside the weapons production facilities to begin to speak out in favor of converting their work places to build solar, wind power, and public transit systems that will provide their children and the future generations a chance for life on our Mother Earth.

We are living in the most trying time we can remember as activists. But it is also the most fertile time, as we see the general public casting about for answers to the dramatic problems that we face today. So while we have many obstacles, like the corporate domination of governments around the world, we also see the awakening of a consciousness among the people. Many have become despairing and disillusioned about the chances for change today. They have every right to see things as difficult as they truly are. But many people are also more determined than ever to dig in and make the kind of dramatic advances that we must have in order for real change to happen.

No matter who is elected as the next president of the U.S. in November we are going to have our work cut out for us. Everyone will need to get on-board the organizing train if we hope to bring sanity, peace, and sustainability to our world.

We truly hope the Global Network can continue to be part of this important movement to articulate and help bring about the positive changes that we must have. But for us to stay involved, we urgently need your financial help. For us to keep working alongside you tomorrow, we need your support today.

The Global Network has always worked hard on a very meager budget. We have prided ourselves in doing more with less since our founding in 1992.

Please take a moment and send us a donation of $25, $50, $75 or $100 today. You know that you will get your money’s worth out of us and you know that we will continue to stand by your side as we work together to build the new political culture and the new vision for the future that we so desperately need.

Best wishes to you always,

Bruce K. Gagnon
Coordinator

Mary Beth Sullivan
Outreach Coordinator


PS If you’d like to make a secure on-line credit card donation you can do so by using the red Donate Now! button on this blog site.

Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011

Sunday, September 07, 2008

REPORT ON MINNESOTA TRIP

My sister Joan (left) visiting from Iowa in her first protest ever outside the Navy base in Brunswick

This report covers the period of Aug 30 - Sept 3 as I traveled to St. Paul, Minnesota to participate in protests outside the Republican National Convention (RNC) and speak at an alternative conference called Peace Island.

On August 31 the national Veterans for Peace (VfP) held a protest that began with speeches at the state capitol in St. Paul and then took the 500 participants downtown to the RNC center. VfP had just held its annual national conference nearby and the protest was the finale of that event. There was a pretty strong police presence along the march route and at the end almost a dozen people were arrested for climbing under a tall black steel fence that had been constructed to "protect" the RNC from protests. All the arrests, and police response, that day went without any problems.

Immediately upon my arrival in St. Paul I began hearing about local police "preemptive" raids on private homes where protestors and alternative media activists were staying. The police trashed some of the places and arrested some of the people. Search warrants had been obtained to look for guns and other possible weapons but none were ever found. But just reporting the search warrant descriptions of "possible weapons" in the local papers had a chilling effect on the local population I am sure.

We also began to hear about people who were driving into the St. Paul area in cars that "looked suspicious". Some of these people were stopped and searched and handcuffed with faces buried on the ground by the side of the road. One green bus, an ecological teaching program was on its way to St. Paul for the events, was stopped and the mother, father, 17 year-old daughter, and three chickens were detained by the cops. The three people and chickens were eventually released but the bus was impounded for the entire time of the RNC convention. Environmental sustainability is now a "radical" message one has to guess.

On September 1 an even larger protest was held - again first gathering at the state capitol with a march of over 20,000 people (my estimate)right to the RNC center. The march had a wonderful spirit and went without hitch. Many students were there doing creative things like marching bands, dancing and singing as we walked through the city. Thousands of people stood all along the march route, many of them holding signs and cheering the festive parade along. I walked near the front with the large Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace delegations. I saw friend Ray McGovern who used to work for the CIA. He's come to Maine twice for events I organized and I was glad to see him out on the streets. He's been getting treatment for cancer and was very happy to be in the march.

The march worked its way back to the state capitol and it took almost two hours for the tail end of the parade to return. Local media reported that a "disappointing" 10,000 were in the march while organizers reported 40,000 from the stage.

Upon returning back to the home where I was staying we watched the evening news to see reports about the wonderfully positive protest. Virtually nothing was reported. Not one picture was shown of the huge crowd snaking its way through the downtown of St. Paul (known by the way as a liberal Democratic city). Instead what we saw shocked us. The media was having a field day reporting on a very small number of young anarchists who, after the large march had finished, began to break some windows and burn some trash cans in the streets. The riot equipped police, who had silently lined the march route just hours before, now swung into action with batons flying, horses stomping, and tear gas canisters screaming back and forth. For the next couple of days this was virtually all the news that came out of St. Paul about the protests - "Protesters turn violent."

On September 2 I spoke at a conference in St. Paul called Peace Island: Hope in a Time of Crisis - A Solutions-Driven Conference. This event was organized as a positive alternative to the RNC and had many notable speakers. It was an honor to have been invited to attend and I must thank John & Marie Braun for arranging for me to speak. They had hosted me on a speaking trip some four years ago in St. Paul and felt that it was important to include the space issue in the Peace Island event.

At this conference I spoke as part of a plenary session panel and then did a well-attended breakout session after the plenary. I was asked to speak about "Weapons in Space: Environmental Consequences and Solutions." In my talk I brought back many of the themes that I used in my recent talk at the Global Greens conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil - we can't dream of dealing with the coming reality of climate change unless we immediately begin to convert the military industrial complex to sustainable technology development. Recognizing that many people are focused on the current election process I used the example of Obama's proposed energy plan to spend $150 billion during the next 10 years on creating "green technology." Very commendable, but just one minor problem. When you do the math you discover that Obama proposes to spend $15 billion per year on green tech development while the U.S. is now spending $14 billion per month on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I hope the point is obvious.

While at the event I did a one-hour taping of a public access TV program that plays on eight Minnesota stations and also was interviewed by a California Pacifica radio program.

As I headed back to Maine on Sept 3 the progressive community was still shocked by the arrest of Amy Goodman and two of her Democracy Now reporters. How could the police in St. Paul think for a moment that they had the right to arrest media people in addition to the many other questionable arrests they were making?

The whole RNC crackdown on democracy was alarming and raises many questions about the next couple of years. Will we continue to see the diminution of our freedoms and liberties? Will the Democrats stand up and protest against these assaults on our civil liberties? Will there be real change after the November elections?

But as I reflect on the recent events in St. Paul another troubling question arises. How does the non-violent community deal with the fact that violent protests can erupt in our presence that end up clouding and virtually wiping out our message? Are these "anarchists" really on some level government agents provocateurs implanted in our midst to stir things up and redirect the message? While in St. Paul I asked other activists the question, "What do we do about this violence?" and over and over again the response to my query was "I don't know."

One organizer I spoke to said he had given up on the idea of protests as an effective way to speak out and to offer our own messages to the public. But then, with the media under corporate control, what vehicles are we left with to communicate with the public?

When I arrived home on Sept 3 I immediately had to refocus on the Sept 6 protest planned here against the Navy's Blue Angels airshow and our Maine Veterans for Peace protest that I was helping to organize. Over 200,000 spectators were expected at the event. So on Sept 6 we gathered at a park in nearby Brunswick and walked the two-miles to the Navy base where we held a vigil and rally at the front gate as the hundreds and hundreds of cars streamed into the base for the "show" which we called a military recruiting gimmick. During this time I reflected on the importance of this protest and the understanding that our presence at this base created much discussion and some level of reflection amongst those going into the base.

Does protest still have a place? No doubt in my mind. Do we still have much work to do in communicating with those who wish to bring violence to these events. Absolutely.

I remember years ago reading Player Piano, author Kurt Vonnegut's first novel, which was published in 1952. Wikipedia reports that "the dystopian[1] story takes place in a near-future society that is almost totally mechanized, eliminating the need for human laborers. This widespread mechanization creates conflict between the wealthy upper class—the engineers and managers who keep society running—and the lower class, whose skills and purpose in society have been replaced by machines."

In the book the young people, who had no role or stake in society, rebel and violently destroy the machines as a way to dramatically reject the social order and attempt to recreate a new society.
As the limited and over-hyped violence in St. Paul played out I flashed back to Vonnegut's book. Are these the seeds that our present society has planted? We now have few jobs, other than joining the military, for working class youth in America. We've taught them that violence is the way conflict is settled. Is it any wonder that some number of disaffected youth turn their simmering rage and loss of purpose into street violence? These are questions that the peace community should be raising in our local discussions.

My next trip takes me to Sweden, Norway, and Denmark from Sept 18-29. I will be speaking at the European Social Forum in Sweden and then touring the three countries to learn and speak about their growing role in space militarization.