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 28, 2009

VIGIL DAY ACROSS DC

We vigiled our way across the nation's capital yesterday. From 11:30-1:00 pm we joined a silent vigil on the sidewalk in front of the White House organized by the Catholic Worker community on the need to close Guantanamo. There were about a dozen folks (including Kathy Kelly) dressed in prison garb with black hoods up against the black steel White House fence and then a handful of us holding banners and signs alongside. As the throngs of tourists and locals walked by they were offered leaflets and organizers were explaining the issue on a battery-powered sound system. Many people took photos.

The Catholic Workers have been holding the vigil during the first 100 days of the Obama administration as a way to keep the heat on him about torture and Guantanamo. New Attorney General Eric Holder just came back from a visit to the notorious detention center and was quoted in the media saying that it looked like a fine operation.

After a lunch at my favorite restaurant in Washington, the Old Ebbits Grill which is just around the corner from the White House, we moved on to the Pentagon for a 4:00 pm vigil.

We had over 75 folks turn out to what was billed as the opening ceremony for the No Bases Conference. Steel fencing was set up to corral us into a "designated protest area" but it was a great spot - right next to the bus and subway lines which people use to come and go from the Pentagon. Tom Sturtevant and I hung a long Maine Veterans for Peace banner that reads "Stop Endless War - Convert the War Machine" on the barrier and as others joined us for the vigil they put their banners along the fence so it was easy for the steady stream of people passing us to see our messages.

The vigil was attended by folks from Italy, Czech Republic, Okinawa, Germany, Korea, Japan, Guam, Hawaii and from all over the US. A few speeches and some songs made up the program which ended with words from our old friend Art Laffin who has vigiled at the Pentagon every Monday morning for the past 20 some years. Art lives at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker house in DC where we have been staying. He closed his talk by saying that the five sides to the Pentagon should be converted - one for a hospital, one for a child care center, another for a center for peace & nonviolence, an alternative energy research center, and the last side for a bakery.

We will return to the Pentagon on Monday morning for the early 7:00 am weekly vigil.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

MONEY GO ROUND

Writing from the train station in Boston after just arriving from Portland on the bus. Maine Veterans for Peace member Tom Sturtevant is with MB and me for the trip. We will be staying at the Catholic Worker House while in DC. Lots in the news today of importance to us.

The federal budget for 2010 is now being developed by Obama and Congress. Here are some early signs:

* Defense News reports that "The Obama administration has directed defense officials to sign a pledge stating they will not share 2010 budget data with individuals outside the federal government......The Pentagon and Office of Management and Budget have agreed on a fiscal 2010 defense budget top line figure of $537 billion. That level is nearly $50 billion lower than the $585 billion defense plan created during the final months of the Bush administration, and $24 billion higher than the already enacted $513 billion 2009 defense budget."

These dollar figures do not include war funding.

Why is Obama making people working at the Department of Defense sign secrecy agreements? I thought he was going to be open and above board?

* Another news outlet reports "President Barack Obama today will seek $205.5 billion more for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, including $75.5 billion through the end of this fiscal year."

Just a few days ago Obama said he was going to cut the federal debt in half during his first term. One way to do this he said was to cut funding for the Iraq occupation. But when he simultaneously expands the Afghanistan operation and moves US troops there from Iraq, won't Obama have to move the money from one war front to the other? Am I missing something here? Please help me out.

* Maine's share of the economic stimulus package will include $160 million for road and bridge repair. Public transit will get $13 million. So much for using the funds to move us from the car culture into new green technologies like expanded rail systems. No vision here - what happens a year or two from now when the roads need repair again and we still don't have a significant public transit system?

* Democrats are urging Secretary of War Gates to "focus missile defense spending on theater systems such as Aegis missile defense system and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, both built by Lockheed Martin Corp, and the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile program run by Raytheon Co and Lockheed.....beefing up spending on theater missile defense systems should be the department's highest missile defense priority given growing concerns about short- and medium-range ballistic missile attacks."

* The Gainesville Sun reports this morning that the head of the University of Florida space nuclear power department, Samim Anghaie, is under investigation by federal investigators for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from NASA. I met Anghaie when our sons played basketball together on the same high school team in Gainesville. The money, to be used to develop nuclear reactors for space missions, was allegedly diverted by Anghaie into personal accounts which he used to purchase six cars, six pieces of real estate, and put into several bank accounts. Anghaie and I used to sit together and talk at ball practices while watching the kids play. It wasn't until some time later that Anghaie and I learned about each others work on the space nukes issue. It's a small world isn't it?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

BERNIE SANDERS ON GREEDY WALL ST.


Vermont's Independent-Socialist U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders talks about the need to take our country back from the greedy operators on Wall Street. (After the short video is over you will notice little boxes at the bottom of the screen. You can click on them and see other short videos of Sen. Sanders talking about the economy.)

ENERGY AND EMPIRE - IT'S A LINK

I leave early in the morning on the car-bus-train (Bath-Portland-Boston-DC) for the National Organizing Conference on US Foreign Military Bases that will be held at American University in Washington, DC. Mary Beth is going and three other members of Maine Veterans for Peace will make the trip as well.

I will speak on a conference panel on Saturday and do a workshop along with friend Tim Rinne, the coordinator at Nebraskans for Peace (the folks that hosted our GN annual space organizing conference in 2008). Also doing the space issues workshop with us will be an activist from the Czech Republic.

Things will begin on Friday with a 4:00 pm vigil at the Pentagon (take yellow or blue line and get off at the Pentagon Metro stop to find the protest). Last I heard there were many folks coming from other countries to the conference - virtually all continents will be represented that today are occupied by US military bases. It should be a great event.

On Sunday night we have tickets to attend a program at George Washington University featuring Wendell Berry, one of the giants in environmental literature -- along with writers Bill McKibben and Gus Speth -- for a night of discussion, poetry and inspiration. They will be joined by authors and activists Terry Tempest Williams and Janisse Ray, as well as Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus. This event is all in preparation for a protest the next day at the Capitol Hill coal burning power plant.

In a letter from McKibben and Berry they call for others to join them in non-violent civil disobedience at the coal plant in order to provide a spark in the movement to stop burning fossil fuels if we hope to successfully deal with climate change. They say, "The industry claim that there is something called 'clean coal' is, put simply, a lie. But it’s a lie told with tens of millions of dollars, which we do not have. We have our bodies, and we are willing to use them to make our point. We don’t come to such a step lightly. We have written and testified and organized politically to make this point for many years, and while in recent months there has been real progress against new coal-fired power plants, the daily business of providing half our electricity from coal continues unabated. It’s time to make clear that we can’t safely run this planet on coal at all."

The coal plant protest will start at noon on Monday, March 2 and we intend to go along to show solidarity.

The No Bases confab and the coal plant protest are not officially linked and it's a shame they are not. Because a primary reason for the expanding US military empire today is about securing and controlling access to natural resources for America's grand energy appetite.

So I will go to each event and in my own mind I will link them. In my heart I will weave the entire experience into one consistent picture of a country out of control with its grand military arrogance and its gross energy consumption. And I will remember that the only escape from our addiction to fossil fuels and militarism is a change in our hearts, the way we live, and also in stepped up political activism.

If we were to cut the enormous military budget we'd have all the money we need to create a real sustainable energy policy for our nation. Neither of these issues can be worked on in isolation.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

BIRTHDAYS AND OTHER SUCH THINGS

* It's my youngest sister Leslie's birthday today. Happy birthday Leslie. Here is a special Kinks song for you called Have a Cuppa Tea

I think you will like the song. Have a good day and keep on the path. The tree above is in Africa and has animals carved into it. Click on the photo for a better look. Age like a tree.

* Our planning group for the April 3 Town Hall Meeting on Economy, Health Care, War & the Environment met last night in Portland. We now have 45 co-sponsors for the event. We have invited our entire Maine Congressional delegation, the Governor, the Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, the leader of the Maine Senate, and leaders from the Maine Municipal Association to attend the event. So far we have heard from Congresswomen Chellie Pingree and her daughter Hannah Pingree (Speaker of the House in Maine) that they will be there. We want our elected officials to listen to what the public has to say on these issues. The last time we organized one of these in 2006 we had 500 folks turn out and it was a great event.

* The situation in Pakistan is very intriguing to me. Come to find out the U.S. has not only had the CIA operating inside the country for some time (no surprise there) but also military advisers of a secret task force overseen by the U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command. In addition, a team of Pakistani air defense controllers are working inside the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad to coordinate Pakistani F-16 attacks in the tribal areas. This to me is just astounding - it clearly signifies that the U.S. has been directing a war inside Pakistan for some time and totally compromises the government of Pakistan. It shows they are completely subservient to U.S. control. On one hand the U.S. is bombing and killing civilians in large numbers and the Pakistani government complains about it as the anti-American movement there grows by leaps and bounds. But on the other hand, the U.S. is orchestrating the moves from our embassy. Incredible story.

I heard on the news the other night, can't remember where now, that the Rand Corporation was saying that the U.S. is not targeting the central HQ of the Taliban. Now that is interesting....makes me think the Pentagon wants to drag this thing out. Why? Just like in Iraq, they want to stay a long time. Still can't find Osama.......It's only going to get worse.

* I heard from an old friend via Facebook this morning. We played in a rock and roll band together in high school while living on Beale AFB near Wheatland, California. He now lives in Georgia and we'd not been in touch since about 1971 or so. The band was called The Resurrection. Have to admit that the Internet is pretty cool. Hope space junk doesn't knock out all the good satellites that allow this kind of communication.

* The Global Network has signed onto a statement that went out this morning to the new Attorney General. It reads in part, "We urge Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a non-partisan independent Special Counsel to immediately commence a prosecutorial investigation into the most serious alleged crimes of former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Richard B. Cheney, the attorneys formerly employed by the Department of Justice whose memos sought to justify torture, and other former top officials of the Bush Administration."

See more at: http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/prosecutorstatement

Monday, February 23, 2009

COPY CAT ON FOREIGN POLICY?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

AN INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT

* The Orioles have signed a famous Japanese pitcher (famous there anyway) this spring and he has been quite a sensation already down in Ft Lauderdale. As you can see in the photo Koji Uehara is drawing a bunch of media - and about all of them are from Japan.

In Japanese baseball he was twice recognized as the best pitcher of the year and even though now 34 years old folks expect he will perform well for the O's. At least we hope so. Since pitching is in such demand in major league baseball, and especially with my losing team, the fans are thrilled to see him. It's gotten so bad the last few years that even I was offered a chance to pitch for the O's.....but turned down a $2 million offer so I could keep organizing......not.

* We are getting ready for our monthly Addams-Melman House potluck supper here today and have added a new twist to it - game night to follow the food. Suddenly people are coming out of the woodwork to attend. Little do they know that I won the Japanese award for best checker player twice in my career......not. The problem we have tonight is that the supper is at the same time a big snow storm, which is supposed to dump about eight inches more of the white stuff on us, is to hit. So only the hearty will show up. I hope they like checkers.

* I've got a busy week ahead. On Thursday five of us from Maine will travel south to Washington DC for the No Bases conference and while there we are also going to go to the March 2nd protest at the Capitol Hill coal power plant being organized by the Climate Change movement in the US. This protest is supposed to be big. I'll write more about it later this week. Three of us are taking the more carbon friendly Amtrak train to DC.