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, October 09, 2009

A DEAR OLD FRIEND


I recently discovered on Facebook an old high school friend Rick San Miguel. We played in a rock and roll band together that was called "The Resurrection." He played lead guitar while I played rhythm and was lead singer.

Both our dads were in the Air Force stationed at Beale AFB in northern California so it was a no-brainer for me to join the Air Force soon after graduation and Rick joined the Navy. He ended up getting out not long after enlisting by telling them he had made a terrible mistake by joining the military. I wished I had been equally as smart and courageous and done the same thing.

Today Rick lives in Athens, Georgia and plays music on the street and lately has been making these videos. When I watch them I feel such love and pride in watching him play again. I miss Rick. He is a good spirit.

MEETING WORKERS IN BUSAN

Overlooking Busan seaport with Yun, Taek Geun
Meeting the striking tug boat workers in Busan


I am writing this on the train from Busan back to Seoul in South Korea. Last night I spoke to 50 well dressed leaders of the Busan YMCA who were dedicating a peace center inside their tall office building. Along with the peace center they opened a fair trade coffee shop inside the center. I was surprised to see the extent of the political work of the YMCA Christian peace movement in Korea since my experience with YMCA's in the US is that they have swimming pools and hand out basketballs and towels. But apparently the Koreans have decided to remain true to the original precepts of the YMCA vision.

Prior to my YMCA speech GN board member Sung-Hee Choi and I spent the day visiting three different labor struggles in the Busan seaport. Busan is the largest port in the country and also hosts a US Naval base which is a receiving station for most of the weapons that come into the country for distribution to US military bases throughout Korea.

Our escort yesterday was Yun, Taek Geun who is a railroad worker and is also the Vice-President of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions Busan Regional Council (KCTU). He also serves as the Chairman of the KCTU reunification committee and has led worker trips to North Korea several times. Yun told us that in the past workers have gone on strike in opposition to the transfer of US military weapons on the railroads from the Busan port.

The railroad workers in Busan are now struggling against privatization of the rail system. Like most governments worldwide, the current right-wing government in South Korea is doing all it can to destroy social progress and to expand their military budget (with strong US backing).

We met with the dockworkers that unload the huge ships that are bountiful in the Busan port. They too have overworked and under paid and do not presently have a union but are trying to get recognized by their government as the representatives of the cargo workers.

Our third visit was with the tugboat workers, the photo above, who are currently on strike. Today marks their 61st day on strike as they also attempt to get the companies and government to recognize their right to have a union. Currently they have no protection under the law and work 24 hours in a row with no overtime and no benefits like vacation or sick days. One of the tugboat workers told me, "We want to live like a human being."

I was invited to speak to the workers for a couple of minutes and told them about my visit to the Stella D'Oro workers last weekend in New York City who are also fighting against corporate exploitation. I also briefly described the work of the Global Network and said that growing militarism in all our countries was being used to oppress the people of the world to benefit the interests of the corporations that now run virtually all our governments.

On my trip to Korea last August I met with one of the leaders of the KCTU in Seoul. He arranged for Sung-Hee and I to visit the workers in Busan. The KCTU is heavily involved in connecting the peace movement with the labor movement - something I wish we saw more of in the US.

This morning I asked Yun, Taek Geun what he thought about Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. He laughed. I loved his response. I just can't get over this decision to give Obama this prestigious award. The man has essentially done nothing except talk and expand the war in Afghanistan-Pakistan! To me it cheapens the idea of the award. I can think of thousands of people who have actually worked for peace in the world that would be much more deserving of the Nobel Prize. I've already read some people saying that he deserved it because he has called for nuclear disarmament, but talk is cheap.

As Cindy Sheehan says in the post below, why not give Bush the award. What a sad joke.

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING?



What Does Peace Mean?

By Cindy Sheehan

I guess to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee it means presiding over the further destruction of the population of three countries that didn’t harm anyone.

I guess it means voting for every war-funding bill while one is a Senator.

I guess it means continuing the use of the obscene and immoral drones.

I guess it means continuing torture and building larger prisons to pre-emptively and indefinitely detain suspected “terrorists.”

I guess it means using the politics of fear to justify your wars. “Afghanistan is a war of necessity.” “There are still people in the world who want to hurt Americans.”

I guess it means increasing your military budget.

I guess it means paying back your donors on Wall Street and in the insurance companies to profoundly harm people in your own country.

I guess it means hiring hostile people like Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, Stanley McChrystal and Petraeus.

I guess it means extending the damaging embargo on Cuba and threatening “crippling economic sanctions” for Iran.

I guess since the committee awarded the prize to Jimmy Carter who gave rise to the Taliban and al Qaeda in Iran giving billions to those who fought against the USSR (talk about Blowback), it tells the people of Afghanistan if you are killed, we will give your killer the Nobel Peace Prize.

Jesus Christ, why didn’t they just give it to George Bush?

The US Peace Movement was put on life support with the election of Democrats. I hope now that we have a president who is just a tool of the war machine AND a Nobel Peace Laureate that it hasn’t put the final nail in the coffin of the Peace Movement.

Peace to us means, not just an absence of war but, an absence of preparing for war.

Peace to us means that innocent people won’t suffer for profit.

I guess to the Establishment: War is Peace.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

AFGHANISTAN WAR GOING SOUTH ON OBAMA

Obama's "good war" is worsening by the day and the pressure in mounting across the nation to get out. Latest polls show at least 56% of Americans now oppose the war.


Obama is dancing with the Pentagon and trying to appear to be taking the middle ground as he prepares to send even more troops. It looks to me though that he is taking the muddle ground, as in stuck in the mud.

Protests around the country will be picking up in the coming days. Help do your bit to advance this anti-war message. We've got to force Congress to stop funding the mess in Afghanistan. Sadly Obama seems is a total captive of the military industrial complex.

Obama appears to see more war as a jobs creation policy as unemployment grows. On the plane to Korea it was filled with young black and Hispanic men in the Army. They have few other choices.



CALLS FOR MAJOR CHANGES AT UN



As he leaves the office of the President of the UN General Assembly, Father Miguel d'Escoto gave Real News Senior Editor Paul Jay a no holds barred interview on the issues plaguing the United Nations.

D'Escoto held the democratization of the UN as a key pillar of his Presidency, but along the way he learned of the various obstacles that keep the General Assembly from becoming an effective body within the UN, and the UN from becoming an effective body within the world. He blames the world's most powerful states for this ineptitude to act, which has resulted in what he calls the failure of the UN to address the two objectives for which it was founded, the avoidance of war and the eradication of poverty.

MEN ON THE MOON

My long trip to South Korea was made manageable by the good service and care on Korean Air Lines. It was my first time flying on that airline. They had a great assortment of films and I watched five of them including a couple really fine foreign films.

One movie of note was called Moon which was made by singer David Bowie's son Duncan Jones. I was expecting the usual crummy pro-space action extravaganza but was pleasantly surprised to find a thoughtful anti-corporate movie that held my interest throughout.

The story is about one of my favorite subjects - a mining colony on the moon where helium-3 is extracted for use back on Earth to power fusion reactors. I've been talking about this for years and always add that these bases are planned to be nuclear powered and that nuclear rockets, with reactors for engines, would launch much of the heavy loads from the Earth to the moon.

I won't give the storyline away except to say the film is worth watching, even if you are not a sci-fi fan. I am not particularly one....I watched the film purely as work related research. It raises some very interesting moral and ethical questions about just what kind of activities could go on once space bases are created on far away places like the moon. Who would be monitoring things there? Who would protect the human rights of workers?

NASA's current "moon bombing" mission is a perfect example of the "dual use" nature of space exploration today. They are looking to "unearth" water they say on the lunar surface and likely also are looking for helium-3. At the same time they are field testing the technologies to fire projectiles from a space craft onto a planetary body - no doubt a part of Star Wars.

Now, during our annual Keep Space for Peace Week, would be a good time to be thinking about these issues.

The space program is out of control. The time has come for the taxpayers to demand transparency, accountability, and a peaceful space program. In the meantime we need to put the brakes on this runaway train.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

WHERE ARE THE LIBERALS?



Anti-war arrests at White House yesterday. Obama is getting ready to agree to more troops in Afghanistan for the second time in less than one year in office.

At what point do so-called liberal Democrats get off the dime and speak out against more war?

WRITE TO CONGRESS FOR PEACE IN SPACE


Below please find a letter to Congress that the Global Network and other concerned organizations are requesting that you send to your members of Congress during our current Keep Space for Peace Week.

This letter calls on them to urge the Obama administration to seriously negotiate a treaty at the UN to prevent an arms race in space.

If you are not sure about how to contact your member of Congress just go to this link for details.

Thanks for your help with this important effort.

Bruce


Dear Member of Congress,

With the United Nations about to resume discussions on preventing an arms race in outer space, we ask that you convey to the Obama Administration the need for the U.S. to actively pursue the negotiation of a new treaty to preserve space for peace.

Since the mid-1980s, the United Nations General Assembly has annually voted on a resolution for the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS).

For nearly a quarter of a century, this resolution, calling merely for the "negotiation" of a new treaty to prevent the weaponization of outer space, has had the backing of virtually all the nations of the earth.

Except for the United States, which has essentially stood alone in refusing to support the PAROS resolution.

This obstructionist stance by the world's leading space-faring power has effectively undercut any meaningful efforts to halt the militarization of space. During George W. Bush's presidency, international discussions regarding space reached their lowest point ever, with the administration arguing in 2006 that "There is no, repeat, no, problem in outer space for arms control to solve" and that a proposed treaty submitted by Russia and China in February 2008 was "a diplomatic ploy by the two nations to gain a military advantage."

We believe this view is short-sighted and risky in the extreme.

From the Chinese shooting down their own weather satellite and creating a dangerous debris cloud, to North Korea and Iran test-firing missiles, to the recent showdown between Russia and the U.S. over "missile defense" bases in Eastern Europe, to the United States using that self-same "missile defense" system as an anti-satellite weapon to shoot down a falling satellite, space is daily becoming more militarized.

The political course the U.S. government has followed, in opposing any new treaties governing space, is guaranteed to foster a space arms race and to make both the earth and the heavens more unsafe.

Although American policy in the United Nations has long been the prerogative of the executive branch, we urge you, as a member of Congress, to publicly communicate to the Obama Administration the need for a new space treaty. With more and more nations seeking to become space powers (Iran is just the latest example), the need for a more comprehensive regime of space law has never been greater.

An international accord on PAROS could complement the 1967 "Outer Space Treaty" for the peaceful uses of space (the only significant space agreement left since the Bush/Cheney Administration abrogated the ABM Treaty). By establishing appropriate and effective verification mechanisms to prevent an arms race in outer space, and by prohibiting space weaponization and programs such as "missile defense," satellite-guided weapons launched from earth, and spy satellites collecting and using data for aggressive military purposes, a PAROS treaty could help us preserve this final frontier for the benefit of all life on earth.

With the annual PAROS discussions poised to resume in the United Nations, we are requesting that you send a message to the President urging the administration to actively negotiate a new treaty. Such a statement by members of Congress would alert the White House of your concern on this critical matter (as well as help set the stage for future legislative initiatives).

The Obama Administration has an unprecedented opportunity to break with the past and demonstrate to the world that it is again committed to participating in the community of nations. We urge you to make sure this opportunity is not lost.

Additional information about PAROS can be found at the Reaching Critical Will website.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.

Sincerely,

(Your Name and Address)


- Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space
- Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
- Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
- Nebraskans for Peace

Monday, October 05, 2009

BLACK IS BACK



Glen Ford and Paul Jay for part two of their interview. This time they talk about how the black left has gone south since the election and discuss organizing plans to revitalize it.

STELLA WORKERS THROWN TO THE STREET

On our trip to New York City (NYC) this weekend MB and I stayed with friends who live in the Bronx. On Friday afternoon we spent a couple hours at a labor rally outside the Stella D'Oro bakery. The smell of the Italian cookies filled the air throughout the neighborhoods surrounding the factory.

On July 7, after 325 days on strike, workers at Stella D'Oro went back to work under a contract that the company management had previously ripped up.

Stella D'Oro was founded by an Italian immigrant couple in 1922 and was bought by Nabisco
in 1992. The company was sold to Kraft soon after, and in 2006 was sold again to Brynwood Partners, a private investment fund.

Brynwood demanded a 20% cut in wages and the 136 workers, many who have worked there for up to 30 years, went on strike and lived on the $100 per-week union strike fund for nearly one year. In June the National Labor Relations Board found that Brynwood had illegally refused to disclose its economic situation to the union. The workers were ordered reinstated with two months' back pay. Upon losing the case, the "company" announced they would sell the firm to Lance, Inc. and move the bakery to a non-union Ohio town.

The city of New York have given tax rebates to the company in recent years to buy new ovens and other equipment, likely under the threat of moving if they didn't get the taxpayers subsidies. Now union leaders from many other NYC unions are saying they will use this key point as a way to build support for the Stella D'Oro workers inside city hall.

The remarkable thing was that during the 325 day strike not one of the Stella workers crossed the picket line and went back to work. That kind of real solidarity has shaken the beaten-down union movement in NYC and has made the Stella workers a shining light for the national labor movement.

You can help by contacting the Lance, Inc. at mcarter@lance.com and tell them if they break the Stella D'Oro union by moving the plant to Ohio then you will boycott their products.

This is yet one more sad example of how free-wheeling capitalism puts profit above all else. The workers, who made this a profitable company, are thrown to the street because greedy investors want more, more, more......

I won't be buying anymore Lance peanuts or peanut butter crackers.

LAST LIBERTY NEWS TAKES CRACK AT DRONES



This short video on drones is done by Matt Power who has been creating Liberty News for the past five years. We ran into Matt on the Boston-Portland bus yesterday on our way back from New York City. He told us the sad news that this will be his last show unless he gets some magically huge donation from an angel. He has been subsidizing the show for some time and just can't keep doing it anymore.

But Matt is very creative and bright so it won't be long before he comes up with some other way to communicate his outrage with the American people. Keep at it Matt!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

SWANSON ON ENDLESS WAR



Interview with David Swanson who has a great web site called AfterDowningStreet.org which is one of my favorite places to visit each day. At this site you can find many reports about local peace and justice activity in the US and around the world.

David will be here in Maine promoting his new book with talks in Bangor on November 5 and Portland on November 6. The November 6 event in Portland will begin with a anti-war protest rally at 5:00 pm.

More details later but put these dates on your calendar now.