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 13, 2009

ANTI-NATO PROTESTS COMING SOON

Huge protests are planned in France in early April at the time of NATO's 60th anniversary celebrations. The key issues with NATO are their expansion eastward surrounding and provoking Russia; the alliance's role in Afghanistan; and the plans to make NATO a global military tool of the US and corporate powers and essentially a replacement for the United Nations.

SPACED OUT

I made it to Lisbon about 7:00 am this morning and it took an hour to get through passport control. I got to my hotel near the center of the city by 9:00 am and they told me to come back at 1:00 pm. Of course I had not slept at all on the plane. I was reading a sad but excellent book about the US government extermination of the Apache Indians in Arizona and New Mexico during the late 1800's. Has a very familiar ring to it as I see parallels to Iraq and Afghanistan today. "Peace thru superior fire power" they call it at the Pentagon.

So after the hotel told me to cool my heels I walked to a nearby park and stretched out on a bench and watched the pigeons fly over me for a couple hours - of course just waiting for them to drop something white and wet on me but gladly they did not. I finally got into my room by 1:30 pm and took a nap. The hotel charges about $15 a day for Internet connection so I passed that up and went to a local MacDonalds that only charges half that amount.

I've seen bits of news about the space station being in danger from space junk. Years ago I remember reading an article where a scientist predicted the space station would be destroyed by space junk before it was ever completed. Remember that originally the station was to cost $10 billion but today the price tag has grown to $100 billion and not yet finished....that is real money.

In the hotel room I turned on the TV and found CNN just as they were reporting on Japan's threats to shoot the North Korean missile launch out of the sky. You should know that if Japan does try to do such a provocative thing they will use an Aegis destroyer outfitted with "missile defense" systems on-board. Of all the MD programs it is the Aegis system that has had the most success in the testing phase. It was an Aegis destroyer that the US used last year to knock out the falling military satellite that was supposed to be a danger to the Earth. (It was later disclosed, but not widely reported, that the hydrazine fuel on that military satellite was nearly used up as it fell to Earth. Clearly an anti-satellite test and not about protecting the planet as the Pentagon claimed at the time.) CNN said that North Korea is set to launch their rocket around April 1 - our Global Network space organizing conference in South Korea will be mid-April so we are walking into a firestorm in that region.

My question again is what right does Japan (and the US who is of course encouraging Japan's aggressive behavior) have to tell another nation when they can and cannot launch rockets? The US does it all the time. I hope the public is not falling for the bravado and is seeing the glaring hypocrisy here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

SPRING HAS SPRUNG - AT LEAST IN FLORIDA

The Baltimore Orioles at "spring training" in 1944

I made it to Florida and went to see the Orioles play the Minnesota Twins today. The O's lost 4-3 but it was a good game and I got to see alot of the new young guys play. I had a great seat under a large overhang in the stadium so I was in the shade which will help reduce my exposure to skin cancer. There was a nice breeze blowing - it actually kept one possible Oriole home run ball in the park. The game was attended by mostly aging men. Many of them could barely make it up to the top of the steps in section 13 where I was sitting. One old guy got to the top and started to fall backwards right in front of me but recovered just in time.

I got there two hours before the game started so I could see batting practice. Watching some of the old timers trying to get autographs from the players was as enjoyable as watching the game. Many of them still have that "little boy" look in their eyes. I had it too when I saw Mike Cuellar (the Cuban lefty), who is now probably in his late 60's, but at one time years ago was a great Orioles pitcher. He was in uniform today, brought to spring training to help the younger pitchers learn from one of the best.

My local hosts took me to a wonderful Indian restaurant for dinner this evening before we headed to a local Catholic church where I spoke to 25 people. The talk was filmed by Jeff Keating who I've known for many years and he intends to get it on Free Speech TV which airs nationally on the satellite dish channels. I also ran into a couple of other friends from long ago including Jim Worl who is about 86 years old but still goes to Haiti a couple times a year to help the people there.

I'm staying at the home of Linda Raymer, one of the great activists I worked with at the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice. I used to frequently organize peace walks up and down the state and Linda would always be there to join the walks. When we got home tonight after my talk I was looking through her photo album that recorded the Walk for the Earth that I organized some years ago. The 700-mile walk wangled its from the Everglades in South Florida all the way to Tallahassee in the north. It took seven weeks and Linda said she will always remember it as a highlight in her life. That is a beautiful thing to hear.

At 3:00 pm tomorrow I head for Portugal. No snow is expected there and I doubt I will see any baseball either. I do expect quite an interesting trip and in an email from folks there they said they have arranged to send me north and south of Lisbon to meet with activists who will show me around and also arrange for meeting with local media. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A LOOK AT GAZA

Yoni Goodman, director of animation for the Academy Award-nominated film, "Waltz with Bashir", created this new animated film on the closure of Gaza.

Monday, March 09, 2009

PACKING UP

I've never been to Portugal before. But after doing some Internet surfing I can picture it a bit now. I arrive there on the 14th and will stay until the 19th. In addition to speaking at the Portuguese Green Party conference they say they are going to set me up with some other talks in the area. I am going with an open mind.

But first I buzz down to Ft Lauderdale for a ball game and a talk. It's a different bunch of clothes that I will need for this trip - things like shorts, T-shirts, lighter socks - no long-john underwear. I had to do some digging to find some of these clothes as they were put away in the attic. After searching everywhere for my shorts I still couldn't find them. Mary Beth found them tucked away with some of her clothes. I thought I had lost them somewhere. Imagine a man without his shorts in Florida.

We've got a meeting tonight in Portland of our April 3 Town Hall Meeting on Economy, Health Care, War and the Environment planning group. There are now 45 organizations around the state co-sponsoring this event and have invited our governor, our congressional delegation, and leaders from the state legislatureto attend. So far we have heard from our new Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and her daughter Hannah Pingree (Speaker of the State House of Representatives) that they are coming to the Town Hall meeting. Our idea is to give the public a chance to speak directly with our elected officials about their deep concerns on these crucial issues. The Town Hall will be held at USM (Hannaford Hall) in Portland beginning at 6:30 pm on April 3. Last time we did one of these in 2006 on the war we got about 500 folks to turn out. It should be another fine event.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

MELTING SNOW - FOR NOW

Climate change to me means increasingly weird weather - severe disruptions of the normal weather patterns in a particular location. Virtually every place I visit these days folks always talk about how their weather is really screwed up.

We had a relatively warm day yesterday and the snow is melting - there is still alot of it too. But weather reports say we will get more snow next week, so back and forth we go. People here are getting garden fever and want to be outside digging in the soil and planting seeds. But that will have to wait.

I head to Ft Lauderdale, Florida on Tuesday afternoon and on Wednesday I will get to go to an Orioles spring training baseball game during the day. I'm praying for no rain. That evening I will speak to Pax Christi at a local church and then the next day I head to Portugal where I will speak at a national conference of the Portuguese Green Party next weekend.

The airline ticket I am using to go to Ft Lauderdale is a free-bee I got on Airtran for giving up my seat last year when they were over booked. I was actually given two free tickets and every time I tried to use one of them Airtran turned me down saying that there were not any open seats on the flight I was requesting. So in the end I lost the second ticket because a year had passed since they were issued to me but they felt sorry for me and gave me the Ft Lauderdale flight. The whole "frequent flyer" program on the airlines is getting to be a real racket as they rarely let you use your "free miles" and often end up charging you double miles for a particular flight.

I was going to do as I often do and rush right back from Portugal after my talk but my sister Joan, my travel agent, insisted I stay for a few days and see Lisbon. After all, I'm not likely to get to Portugal again any time soon. It's hard to argue with your travel agent.

Here's an interesting bit on military spending from today's Washington Post:

"It was Democrats who stuffed an estimated $524 million in defense earmarks that the Pentagon did not request into the 2008 appropriations bill, about $220 million more than Republicans did, according to an independent estimate. Of the 44 senators who implored Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in January to build more F-22 Raptors -- a fighter conceived during the Cold War that senior Pentagon officials say is not suited to probable 21st-century conflicts -- most were Democrats.

"And last July, when the Navy's top brass decided to end production of their newest class of destroyers -- in response to 15 classified intelligence reports highlighting their vulnerability to a range of foreign missiles -- seven Democratic senators quickly joined four Republicans to demand a reversal. They threatened to cut all funding for surface combat ships in 2009.

"Within a month, Gates and the Navy reversed course and endorsed production of a third DDG-1000 destroyer, at a cost of $2.7 billion."