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, November 21, 2009

BRAVEST WOMAN IN AFGHANISTAN



Malalai Joya is an Afghan politician who has been called "the bravest woman in Afghanistan." As an elected member of the Wolesi Jirga from Farah province, she has publicly denounced the presence of what she considers warlords and war criminals in the parliament. She is the author of "A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice".

DEMOCRATS PROPOSE SURTAX TO COVER WAR COSTS

By CQ Politics

Senior House Democrats have introduced legislation that would impose a surtax beginning in 2011 to cover the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The bill was unveiled late Thursday by David R. Obey of Wisconsin, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and has the backing of John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, and John B. Larson of Connecticut, chairman of the Democratic Caucus.

"For the last year, as we've struggled to pass health care reform, we've been told that we have to pay for the bill -- and the cost over the next decade will be about a trillion dollars," the three lawmakers said in a joint statement. "Now the president is being asked to consider an enlarged counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan, which proponents tell us will take at least a decade and would also cost about a trillion dollars. But unlike the health care bill, that would not be paid for. We believe that's wrong."

Discussing the idea earlier this month, Murtha said he knew the bill would not be enacted and that advocates of a surtax were simply trying to send a message about the moral obligation to pay for the wars.

"The only people who've paid any price for our military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan are our military families," Murtha, Obey and Larson said in a joint statement. "We believe that if this war is to be fought, it's only fair that everyone share the burden."

The bill would require the president to set the surtax so that it fully pays for the previous year's war cost. But it would allow for a one-year delay in the implementation of the tax if the president determines that the economy is too weak to sustain that kind of tax change. It also would exempt military members who have served in combat since Sept. 11, 2001, along with their families, and the families of soldiers killed in combat.

Friday, November 20, 2009

TIME FOR FIGHT BACK

* Students at UCLA (California) held a major protest yesterday against the decision to raise their tuition by 32%. Their education will now cost about $10,000 per year. Many of the working class kids attending college at UCLA recognize that they will not be able to afford to continue in school which is exactly what the system intends. Higher level education, in a diminishing job market, will only be for the children of the upper crust. For all of those who often wonder, "where are the students?" this is an answer. When an issue directly impacts a particular group, like students, you will find them in the streets. Now the challenge is to get them to connect their financial difficulties with massive federal spending for endless war.

* The local school district that covers my town, and several other small towns in the area where I live, is not able to afford to pay teachers at their full value. Right now local teachers are working without a union contract. Last Monday night the teachers walked out of a school board meeting in protest. I am totally sympathetic with the teachers but the problem is that the state and our local governments are flat out broke. Sadly though local teachers, like so many others in our society, have yet to make the connection to how military spending is impacting them. Taxpayers in Maine have paid $613.7 million for total Afghanistan war spending since 2001. For the same amount of money 11,574 elementary school teachers in Maine could have been paid for one year. Isn't it time to connect the dots?

* For example, it costs $1 million to keep one soldier in Afghanistan per year. Obama, for the second time since in office, wants to surge the troops there. Where will the money come from? What will have to be cut to pay for more troops in Afghanistan?

* Tomorrow at 1:00 pm a statewide organizing meeting on Afghanistan will be held here at the Addams-Melman House in Bath. People will be coming to discuss and plan for a coordinated response to Obama's troop surge plan. Wouldn't it be great to have many students, workers, teachers and others in the society who are now getting hit by cutbacks at the meeting?

As the chant goes: They say cut back, we say fight back!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

ROBERT KENNEDY JR. ON TOXIC VACCINES



I've been hearing lots about this vaccine story but this is the first source I can say that I feel I can trust.

NASA WILL RADIATE MONKEYS FOR MARS MISSIONS

NASA says it would take almost a year using conventional rockets to get to Mars. By that time a human body would likely turn to jello due to exposure to space radiation. But the space agency has come up with a solution - in fact two of them.

First they want to build the nuclear rocket (Project Prometheus) which NASA says would cut in half the amount of time it would take to get to the red planet. With nuclear reactors for engines NASA also says they could carry heavier payloads which would make it possible to "mine the sky" for precious minerals.

The other solution to the space radiation problem seems to rely on testing monkeys by exposing them to doses of radiation so NASA can further study the effects on the human body.

The Telegraph newspaper in the UK reports, "Eleanor Blakely, a biophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said: 'Obviously, the closer we get to man, the better.'


"The researchers are to pay particular attention to the effects on the monkeys’ central nervous systems and behaviour. The monkeys, previously trained to perform a variety of tasks, will be tested to see how the exposure affects their performance.

"The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) says that the 'cruel experiments' may involve 'restraint and other cruel procedures'.


"In a statement, they say: 'Monkeys, like other primates, are highly intelligent, have strong family bonds, demonstrate empathy, and, most importantly, suffer.'"

Not only the monkeys will suffer from this NASA boondoogle to journey to Mars but the Department of Energy labs, that will be responsible for building the nuclear rockets, has shown over the years a complete lack of ability to control the deadly plutonium they will use to power the nuclear space missions. The DoE's record of worker and environmental contamination is more than shocking and they should not be trusted to now ramp up the production of plutonium for the nuclearization of space.

NASA and the DoE have little regard for animal or human life when it comes to moving nuclear power into space. The nuclear industry views space as a new and vibrant market and they could care less the consequences as long as profits can be extracted from space.

At the very time that climate change cries out for attention here on our Mother Earth we should not be wasting scarce tax dollars on planning expensive and ill-fated missions to Mars.

JUST IN: Two people have emailed me today saying that whoever in Congress votes to fund these missions should have to go along for the ride as well. Not a bad idea I'd say!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

TRAVEL PTSD

The concert last night was wonderful. Ray Davies was really special. The first half of the show he played an acoustic set with his lead guitar player accompanying him. Then the second half they cranked it up and the theatre (nearly sold out with about 1,100 people) was rockin. I thought the second half was too loud but I am getting older now and my hearing is beginning to fade. His lyrics are so great that I'd prefer to hear them over the noise....but rock stars don't listen to me. (See The Kinks below doing their classic song "Low Budget".)

By the time the show was over we had missed our bus back to Maine so we took the subway to the home of Mary Beth's brother who lives in Boston. Then this morning we got on the bus but it broke down just after we crossed into Maine. So we sat on I-95 for an hour while the bus company sent another bus to pick us up. I told MB that I am now suffering from travel PTSD...every trip I have been on lately has been delayed due to maintenance problems.

This is a symbol to me of the broken nature of the physical and human infrastructure of America. The corporations are disinvesting in the country....the airlines are skimping on repairs (MB heard a story on the radio the other day how the airlines now fly their planes to El Salvador for their regular maintenance checks and a worker was saying they are short staffed and pushed hard to get the repairs done fast. They often fudge on the parts.)

Everywhere you go you these days you see disheveled workers who appear to be fed up and disinterested. The levels of exploitation of the workers and consumers is rising daily.

Reading the Boston Globe on the bus today a front page story entitled "Push to curb credit-card rates fades" reported, "Efforts in Congress to cap credit-card interest rates are faltering because of opposition from Democrats and a lack of specific support from the White House, despite growing consumer outrage over a rush by banks to impose rates as high as 30%.

"During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama vowed to back a strict limit on credit-card interest rates. But the White House is not yet behind any particular plan this year."

Don't hold your breath....V-P Joe Biden comes from Delaware which is HQ to many credit card companies....Biden refused to comment for the news story.

While at South Station in Boston I bought a new book called Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution by Woody Holton. The book outlines the basic story that the "founding fathers", all white men of wealth, wanted a federal government with the ability to impose taxes because at the time the 13-founding states were passing laws that favored small farmers and the poor. According to Holton, "What these men were saying was that the American Revolution had gone too far. Their great hope was that the federal convention would find a way to put the democratic genie back in the bottle. Alexander Hamilton, the most ostentatiously conservative of the convention delegates, affirmed that many Americans - not just himself - were growing 'tired of an excess of democracy.' "

There can be no doubt today that the corporate fat cats, the descendants of the "founding fathers" if you will, are doing all they can to drown "democracy" by controlling the media and the government. They are massively accumulating wealth and leaving the great unwashed public to fend for themselves as the economy collapses and basic services falter.

The song "Low Budget" really is the right metaphor for these present times.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

ISRAEL'S ADDICTION TO OCCUPATION



Gideon Levy, one of the most prominent Israeli journalists working with Ha'aretz, speaks about Israel's addiction to the occupation of the Palestinian Territories. He says there are two ways to deal with a drug addict, you can either help them get more drugs, and this may be perceived as care, but it is not friendship. A real friend helps the drug addict get over their addiction. Levy says the Jewish lobby has decided to take the former route, but he is hoping that the United States and the Obama Administration will take the latter.

Levy is author of the weekly column Twilight Zone in the Israeli paper Ha'aretz. He is also an editorial board member of Ha'aretz. Between 1978 and 1982 Levy served in the Shimon Peres office when Peres was the leader of the Labor Party.

RAY DAVIES TONIGHT IN BOSTON



Mary Beth and I are going to Boston tonight to see Ray Davies (The Kinks) play at the Berklee Theater. Ray is touring to promote his new CD called The Kinks Choral Collection which is a an album of Kinks classics remade with the Crouch End Festival Chorus.

I am excited about seeing Ray perform, I've only see him live twice before. MB is a good sport to make the journey to Boston with me. Not sure if we will come home afterward or stay in Boston. If we can still hear after the concert, we can just play it by ear.

Monday, November 16, 2009

YOU GOTTA LAUGH



Listen closely, especially near the end, when this young man gets the anti-immigration "tea-baggers" chanting "Columbus go home" in response to his call for all European immigrants (non-Native Americans) to be sent back to where they came from.....

You gotta laugh.

DRONE EXPLOSION

Bob Anderson in Albuquerque, NM sent me a bunch of photos this morning from a protest they just held at Kirtland AFB. Kirtland is a key space warfare technology development base and the folks there who make up the group called Stop the War Machine hold regular protests at the base.

There was also a drone protest this past weekend in upstate New York were Reaper UAV's will be based.

Out near Las Vegas, Nevada a series of protests are being planned at Creech AFB where drones are flown via space satellites over Afghanistan and Pakistan. A CodePink bus will go from the San Francisco bay area to Creech on November 26 and folks will hold actions outside the base thru December 2.

Here in Maine the key advocate for a UAV flight test center at the closing Brunswick Naval Air Station, John Richardson, is declaring his candidacy for governor today. He is a Democrat, and former speaker of the Maine House of Representatives. In the last couple years he has been serving as the Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. In that role he has been serving on the base redevelopment authority and well over a year ago I saw an article in the local paper where he was pushing drones. In his news release Richardson, trying to take the usual cautious middle of the road position of most Democrats these days, claimed "This is no time to get stuck on old ideas and arguments from the far right or far left. There’s a job to be done in Maine."

You have to wonder if his "far left" BS is intended to set the stage for further advocacy of drones in Brunswick as he "valiantly" tries to bring jobs to the suffering people of Maine.

The Democrats are happy to take any and all Pentagon largess....that's one reason why I will be voting for Maine's Green Party governor candidate Lynne Williams in the next election.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

MY SPEECH IN OREGON

Military use of Drones, how it will change our world from GordonSturrock on Vimeo.

REPORT ON DRONE TRIP TO OREGON

This report follows my short trip to Hood River, Oregon to speak about drones. The event was on November 13 and turned out to be much more important than anyone had expected.

The trip was hosted by the Columbia River Fellowship for Peace. Hood River is a relatively small community in a beautiful part of the state about an hour east of Portland. Surrounded by mountains the area has attracted high-tech types over the years who love to windsurf along the Columbia River. One such group of technologists created a corporation called Insitu that makes drones and was recently bought out by Boeing. Insitu has grown so much in recent years, as demand for drones in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan has increased, that the company now is operating out of many different buildings in small towns on both sides of the river that separates Oregon and Washington.

Recently activists discovered an Insitu plan to build a central production facility that the company says will employ 700 people. The local media, politicians, and supporters of America’s current wars applaud the proposal but local peace activists have been organizing a campaign in the community to force debate about drones.

I was invited to come speak to help spread consciousness about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) in the community. After a frustration marked series of flights that led me to Newark and Houston, I finally made it to Oregon in time to do the talk. Local organizer Linda Short picked me up at the Portland airport and showed me a column from one of the local papers that was talking about the planned community event. Not only did the columnist call drones a “clean” way of fighting war but he also gave the wrong date for the meeting, something I am told his paper had done before.

Fortunately though the peace group had purchased three full-page advertisements in different local papers to promote the event. Linda told me she hoped 50 people would turn out. She also told me that a local activist had come forward to cover the expense of the three advertisements.

As it turned out 160 people packed the small church sanctuary where we met in Hood River. Included in the audience was the columnist who had given the wrong date for the meeting and the man who had founded Insitu but has since sold his shares in the company for a reported sum of $20 million.

I centered by talk around the large group of letters-to-the-editor that Linda had supplied me in advance of my trip. I was impressed by the positive non-violent conflict they had created in the community around the drones issue and began my talk by telling them that Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. had said that real change could only come by creating such positive social tension in our communities.

I took many excerpts from the letters and used them to make my key points: drone killings may be violating international law against summary executions; drone attacks have killed 700 innocent civilians in Pakistan since late 2008; we are making more enemies out of drone victims families; surveillance UAV’s could be used against us back here in the US as our civil liberties are destroyed; building drones waste tax dollars that should be going toward dealing with our real problem which is climate change; military production is the worst way to create jobs in our declining economy; and what does military production for endless war say about the soul of our nation.

I suggested though there was one vital issue that I did not find covered in the letters. It was the reality that our present war policy in Afghanistan-Pakistan was really driven by the desire of the oil lobby to control these two countries so that pipelines could carry Caspian Sea oil and natural gas to ports in the Arabian Sea rather than extending pipelines through Russia and China. This was all part of the larger US military program of controlling resource extraction at a time of declining supplies of fossil fuels. For evidence I quoted extensively from Zbigniew Brzezinski’s book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And It's Geostrategic Imperatives, written in 1998.

In the book Brzezinski says, "The world's energy consumption is bound to vastly increase over the next two or three decades. Estimates by the U.S. Department of Energy anticipate that world demand will rise by more than 50 percent between 1993 and 2015, with the most significant increase in consumption occurring in the Far East. The momentum of Asia's economic development is already generating massive pressures for the exploration and exploitation of new sources of energy and the Central Asian region and the Caspian Sea basin are known to contain reserves of natural gas and oil that dwarf those of Kuwait, the Gulf of Mexico, or the North Sea....any successful American policy must focus on Eurasia as a whole and be guided by a Geostrategic design.

"That puts a premium on maneuver and manipulation in order to prevent the emergence of a hostile coalition that could eventually seek to challenge America's primacy.

"The most immediate task is to make certain that no state or combination of states gains the capacity to expel the United States from Eurasia or even to diminish significantly its decisive arbitration role.

"Moreover, as America becomes an increasingly multi-cultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat."

There were many great comments from the audience following my talk. The man who founded Insitu tried to filibuster the meeting by saying that I had made many misleading and wrong statements and he was prepared to talk extensively about the drones made by the company and their civilian uses. After a bit I asked him if it was true that the Insitu made UAV’s were being used in US wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. Yes, he replied, it was true.

At the end of my talk I suggested that it was quite apparent that many people in the region had deep concerns about drones and I recommended they might explore holding some town hall meetings so the public could be heard. I also suggested that the time had come for citizens to do more than vote, that we needed the public to become involved in democratizing production decision making so that we could begin to stop the colonization of our nation by the military industrial complex.

The next morning I woke up early for a 5:00 am ride to the Portland airport. I was driven by a local activist, and veteran, by the name of Rollean. Rollean had been the one to put the money up for the three full-page ads in the local papers. He is not a wealthy man, he is a carpenter who lives quite simply, but felt so strongly about the drones that he had to do something to help build momentum around the issue. It was quite apparent that the advertisements had in fact done just that.

As it turned out Rollean told me he remembered me from years ago in Florida. He had come to Florida in 1987 when I organized the historic protest at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at the time of the first flight test of the Trident II nuclear missile from the space center. Just prior to the big rally, attended by well over 5,000 people, we held a Florida Peace Pilgrimage that began at the Trident nuclear submarine base in St. Mary’s, Georgia. The peace walk attracted people like Rollean who had already walked across the US in the Great Peace March and then came south for our walk. As the peace pilgrimage moved southward toward Cape Canaveral, with about 200 walkers, many of them began sneaking into the huge swampy nature preserve that surrounds the space center in a non-violent attempt to get near the Trident launch pad in order to stop the missile test. Each day for about a week activists were arrested by space center security. Then on the day of the big demonstration at the front gate of Cape Canaveral another 200 folks, led by Dr. Benjamin Spock, climbed the fence in a symbolic attempt to also get on the launch pad.

The Brevard County jails were overflowing after that action and several people refused to give their names and remained in jail for some time. Rollean was one of those who stayed in the jail for 65 days, refusing to give his real name in order to keep the debate alive in the space coast community.

It’s clear that the drone issue is “taking off” all over the country. There are presently active US military drone operations in at least seven states - and probably many more that we are not aware of. People are having strong moral and ethical reactions to the idea of robotic warfare – what the Space Command says will help “increase the kill chain.”

The use of UAV’s will dramatically surge as the Obama administration is likely to see them as a substitute for adding huge amounts of troops in Afghanistan. The killings of innocent civilians will escalate as will the creation of new enemies. Yes, we need more jobs in America but we don’t need to get them from making killer drones. Instead the peace movement needs to be calling for the conversion of the military industrial complex.

According to a recent UMASS-Amherst Economics Department study we get 8,555 jobs by building weapons like drones for every $1 billion spent by the Pentagon. But the study says, we would get 19,795 jobs for the same $1 billion if we built mass transit systems. Drones won’t help us solve for climate change. Mass transit could. Which would you rather spend your tax dollars on?

DAVID SWANSON INTERVIEW



The first one I posted did not work right....this one should be fine.