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 13, 2008

WHICH NAVY WILL THEY CHOOSE?

My cabbage boat in the water

Preparing to sail
The ocean in the distance
Standing by the Aegis "missile defense interceptor" vertical launch hatches
I took a tour today of the Navy's USS Stockdale (DDG 106) that is still being worked on at Bath Iron Works (BIW). A friend and I went in during worker appreciation day to take a look at one of the ships that we are always protesting from outside the shipyard. They took us through the 7 or 8 deck Aegis destroyer and showed us the galley, the combat room where they use the radars to fix targets and computers to fire cruise and "missile defense" interceptors and finally the bridge. Then we went out on the main deck where these two photos were taken.

The photo of me standing by the hatches is where the missiles are fired from and the other picture has me flashing a peace sign standing in front of the five-inch guns. There were a bunch of people taking the tour along with several from the crew standing behind the camera operator watching me give the peace sign.

Most of the time while taking the tour I was thinking of our friend Becky Farley who was the officer on deck of one of these ships in 2003 when the U.S. launched the shock and awe invasion of Iraq. She was a Lieutenant and her ship, the USS Cowpens, fired the very first cruise missile at Baghdad in the attack. Becky's job in that moment was to keep the ship on course. After the attack was over she went below to watch the TV coverage of the attack and the crew cheered wildly as the missiles hit their targets causing explosions and fire. It was in those moments that Becky began to reevaluate her life in the Navy. Today she is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and participated in their Winter Soldier Hearings in the spring of 2008. I met Becky a couple of years ago when she attended a talk I gave in Boothbay Harbor just north of here. She hung around after the talk and went out for a beer with Mary Beth and me and we've been close friends ever since. Mary Beth accompanied Becky to the Winter Solider event.

Later this afternoon our housemates were invited to a party in nearby Georgetown along the estuary by Reed State Park. Each year our friend Rosie invites people to come and make little boats out of natures bounty and launch them into the water by her home. Then we have a big bonfire and a great potluck supper. Tonight it is severely cold outside - supposed to be 8 degrees - so it was a challenge to stay outside for long.

I made my little boat out of a cabbage leaf and added a few berries from a holly bush and a few pine needles. Very simple. We have a bit of a friendly contest to see whose "boat" stays afloat the longest. Last I looked many of the others were sinking and my cabbage leaf was bobbing along nicely.

Needless to say it was an interesting and moving day for me. I got a view of two kinds of navies. One where the Aegis ships, at the cost of $1.2 billion each, are being built to launch first-strike attacks. The other navy is the peace fleet of creativity, nonviolence, and good spirit.

During the tour, where many BIW workers and families came to see the final product, little kids sat in the captain's chair and I could imagine many of them seeing themselves as sailors one day.

We are taught in this country to glorify war and the expensive high-tech weapons.

I know this because when I was a kid I had a big framed photo my dad gave me of a bunch of Air Force planes on the base flightline. As we moved from base to base around the world I carried that photo with us and it always hung in my room just opposite my crucifix. After high school I too joined the Air Force just like my dad. I wanted to be a career man. But then I got turned around by the GI resistance movement in the Air Force during the Vietnam War and became a peace activist. Today I am a proud member of Maine Veterans for Peace.

Sometimes those making the wars have a change of heart. As I looked deeply at the members of the crew giving us the tour today, I wondered which of them will have a change of heart about their "mission". From my experience, and Becky's as well, I know it will happen as sure as the sun rises and the tides change.

Friday, December 12, 2008

FULL MOON COMING

This photo is not from here though it could be. We will have a full moon tonight - in fact it will be the biggest and brightest full Moon of the year.

We have many of these big Christmas trees with lights in town squares this time of year. And we are right now in the middle of an ice and snow storm. So yes, this could be Maine. Isn't it lovely?

Can you imagine that I lived in Florida for 30 years and longed for this kind of weather?.....Cold and quaint little snow-capped towns. And now here I am. Dreams can come true.

I must put on my boots and go for a walk in all of it today.....I don't care how cold it will be. I must do it.

Let's see, should I say something political here now?......there is so much to be said......but I just want to enjoy the weather and the scenery.......it's so warm by the wood stove this morning.

I've got to bring in some more wood. Maybe I will do that now.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

MORE TROOPS TO AFGHANISTAN


According to the Washington Post today, "The Pentagon is moving to get three of the four combat brigades requested by commanders into Afghanistan by summer, [War] Secretary Robert Gates said as he traveled here to meet with military leaders."

The plan is to add at least 20,000 more troops to the "good war" as quickly as possible.

The peace movement in the U.S. is far behind our counterparts in Canada, England, and throughout Europe in actively opposing this war that has now lasted even longer than the Iraq occupation.

Gates told the media, "I do believe there will be a requirement for sustained commitment here for some protracted period of time. How many years that is and how many troops that is I think nobody knows at this point."

There are 31,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, including 13,500 with the NATO-led coalition. Over 17,500 Afghan troops are fighting the Taliban who were essentially created and armed by policies of former Carter administration National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

The Democrats in Congress by and large do not oppose the Afghanistan war.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

OTHER BIDNESS - MONEY TALKS

* Illinois (you've probably heard about this state alot lately) Governor Rod Blagojevich was charged by federal prosecutors yesterday for attempting to extort money and favors by trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder. As governor, Blagojevich would appoint a successor for the remainder of Obama's senate term.

The 76-page federal criminal complaint also alleged that Blagojevich conspired to pressure the Chicago Tribune to fire editorial writers, who had often criticized him, if they wished the state to help it unload Wrigley Field [baseball field where Chicago Cubs play owned by the Tribune] to ease its crushing debt.

Blagojevich, a Democrat, was wiretapped by the FBI and was heard to say that Obama's senate seat “is a fucking valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.”

As one friend told me this morning, Blago got caught doing what is standard horse trading in national politics in America.

Blagojevich is likely to end up in jail and would be the fourth Illinois governor in the past 35 years to go to prison. Must be something there in the water.

* Also in Chicago, the workers occupying the Republic Windows and Doors factory appear to be winning their fight. Bank of America has announced that they are prepared to "provide additional loans" to the company so that the workers could be payed money owed to them.

The workers are remaining vigilant and will stay inside the plant until the deal is certain and they have cash in hand. The amount of money in question is the tiny sum of about $2 million.

* With the U.S. economy collapsing it is hard to imagine how the Obama team can justify the extravagant inauguration parties that are now being planned in Washington in late January. The official theme for the inauguration will be "Renewing America's Parties" - I mean "Renewing America's Promise."

One benefactor has decided to rent an entire hotel along the inauguration parade route for the cost of $1,000,000. The donor, Earl Stafford, has added to the package a prayer breakfast and luncheon on the 19th (to celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday) and two balls (one adult, one youth) on the 20th. He will also be providing gowns, tuxedos and hairstylists for the Balls. One-third of the tickets to his "ball" will go to poor folks. They will dress up for the day in their fancy clothes and pretend they are like the rich and after the party is over they will return home to their poverty and growing unemployment. It's a version of "let them eat cake for awhile."

Stafford owns a military-related company and is funding this through his foundation.

* It's winter meeting time in professional baseball and the teams are in Las Vegas (of course) to made trades and sign free-agent players. This years top available player is pitcher C.C. Sabathia and the New York Yankees (the evil empire) have just signed him to a deal worth $160 million over the next seven years. It's getting harder to be a ball fan........some are predicting that he will purchase a certain window and door factory now for sale in Chicago.

It's called the free enterprise system.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A VIEW OF THE NORTH

Korea is on my mind alot these days as the Global Network prepares to hold our 17th annual space organizing conference in Seoul next April.

My dad was a Korean war veteran and he worked in the photo lab so he took lots of pictures during his time there. As a boy I spent many hours paging through his photo albums from Korea and Okinawa where he had been stationed during those years. The people, the architecture, and the war all were from far away and intrigued me to no end.

In recent years we have been lucky to make friends with people from South Korea. Before moving to Maine from Gainesville, Florida in 2003 we hosted an intern for six months from South Korea. This experience brought us closer to Korean culture. Then more recently we've been lucky enough to become close friends with Sung-Hee Choi who lived in New York for several years. Sung-Hee, as I've previously written, has just returned home to Inchon, South Korea and is now helping to organize the 2009 conference.

Since returning home Sung-Hee has thrown herself into various struggles in Korea and frequently sends me emails with many links and stories - particularly about resistance to U.S. military base expansion in her country.

From our Korean friends we have begun to get just a glimpse of the strong yearning of the Korean people for reunification of their people. Koreans long for the day when their brothers and sisters of the North and South will be united in peace and dignity.

The two pictures above are particularly moving for me as they were taken on December 8 after the first snow was celebrated by the children after school in Pyeongyang, the capital city of North Korea. At first view one might imagine the pictures were from South Korea because we have been so conditioned to view the people of North Korea as monsters or some other diabolical creatures. It's hard for westerners to see the North Koreans as "normal" people who experience joy, love their children, have dreams, and truly seek peace.

I saw this for myself years ago when I picked the forbidden fruit and went to Cuba for the first time. I was astounded by the beauty of the Cuban people and spent the next couple years after my first visit organizing trips for others in Florida to travel to Cuba to see for themselves.

It has long been my hope that someday I too will visit North Korea. I don't think it will happen during our trip in 2009 but maybe someday. But even more importantly, I can say that the peaceful reunification of the good people of North and South Korea must happen.

(View all the photos from North Korea by clicking on the link in the headline above. The photos were published by South Korea's Tongil news (means 'unification') and were taken by North Korean media, Uriminzokkiri (meaning 'our nation together').

Monday, December 08, 2008

YOU MIGHT BE NEXT - SPEAK OUT NOW

You've likely already heard about the workers in Chicago who are occupying their factory. The Republic Windows and Doors management decided to close their production plant but owes over 1 million dollars in severance and vacation pay to the work force. They are in violation of the law. Management says that the Bank of America won't give them a loan. They gave the workers three days notice and closed up shop.

The 300 unionized workers have occupied the building since Friday and plan to camp out at the factory until a settlement is reached. The rich clowns at Bank of America got $25 billion in the recent taxpayer bailout, but is refusing loans to the company. Supposedly the bailout to the banks was to help them make loans to keep businesses going and people in jobs. But it appears that Bank of America wants to hoard the cash. The workers are left hanging out to dry.

Jesse Jackson has joined the workers and over the weekend helped bring them food. Chicago-area Congresspersons Jan Schakowsky and Luis Gutierrez (both strong progressives) have also come out to the factory to offer support for the workers. Gutierrez tried to organize a meeting between the company and the union but the company didn't show. Another try for a meeting is to happen today.

Workers all across America should occupy their production facilities, take collective ownership, and take their future into their own hands. Why can't auto workers occupy their plants and demand that they build rail systems and fuel efficient cars? Why can't workers demand that tax breaks for the rich and corporate powers be cancelled so that money is available to create/sustain needed jobs across the nation? How can the banks be handed truckloads of our cash with no demands for them to help struggling communities?

The big difference to me between today and the "Great Depression" is that we have virtually no industry in this country this time around. There is little to fall back on. We are a nation of paper shufflers and data entry specialists.

This is the moment in our history to stand up and raise your voice - stand in solidarity with those who are being locked out. You might be next.

Help light and sustain the fires of resistance to oligarchy.

The Democrats are now fully in control of all government. Put some heat on them. Make demands now.