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 12, 2009

OBAMA'S BLACK SUPPORT ERODING?


Black Caucus Finally Gets the Message: Obama’s Not ‘The One’

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“The Black and Progressive Caucuses will become worthy of respect when they begin voting against Obama’s Wall Street-inspired legislation.”

One can only hide from reality so long, before it catches up and bites you on the butt. The Congressional Black Caucus has been pretending that Barack Obama is the best thing to hit Washington for Black folks since the Emancipation Proclamation. It was, of course, deliriously wishful thinking, grounded in no reality whatsoever – a self-induced illusion initially shared by most African Americans and by legions of Kool-Aid drinkers on the white Left, as well.

Obama has lied about many things. But, to be fair, he never told Black people that he had any intention of tackling the kind of institutional racism that for the last 40 years has made Blacks twice as likely to be unemployed as whites. So, when the president says, as he told reporters last weekend, that he won’t lift a finger to ease Depression-level Black unemployment because “it’s a mistake to start thinking in terms of particular ethnic segments of the United States,” then no one should be surprised. This is the same guy that declared, 100 days into his presidency, that a “rising tide lifts all boats,” and Black folks should just quiet down and wait for the tide.

Unfortunately, Black lawmakers’ constituents have been swamped by the tides of joblessness and home foreclosure. They want their representatives to do something about it – to at least holler when they hurt. Last week, ten members of the Black Caucus staged a demonstration boycott of a committee vote on Obama’s pitifully weak financial regulations bill, which passed anyway.

"Since last September,” said Los Angeles Congresswoman Maxine Waters, “we have continuously voted for bailouts and reform for the very institutions that created this devastation, without properly protecting the African-American community or small business. That stops today." The Black Caucus, said Waters, “can no longer afford for our public policy to be defined by the worldview of Wall Street.”

“Obama won’t lift a finger to ease Depression-level Black unemployment.”

The statement makes great sense, although it comes rather late. The Black and Progressive Caucuses will only become worthy of respect when they begin voting against Obama’s Wall Street-inspired legislation, rather than staging boycotts when it doesn’t much matter. It will be easier to believe that the Black Caucus has wised up to Obama when they vote against funding his wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and against his horrific private insurance bailout bill that masquerades as health care reform.

Detroit Congressman John Conyers, Dean of the Black Caucus, has said the president bows down to “nutty right-wing proposals” on health care, and that he's tired of “saving Obama's can.” Several weeks ago, Conyers got a telephone call from the White House in which the president asked why Conyers was “demeaning” him in public. “Let's talk about it,” said Obama. Conyers says he's in no mood to “chat” with the president, and will put his complaints in writing.

Which is just as well. Obama has shown he is ideologically wedded to “the worldview of Wall Street,” as Congresswoman Waters put it. What the Black Caucus and all progressives will have to learn, is that if you want to fight Wall Street, you're going to have to do battle with Obama. It's way past time to put down the Kool-Aid, and start swinging.

Friday, December 11, 2009

ARUNDHATI ROY ON INDIA'S CONTRADICTIONS



World renowned activist and writer Arundhati Roy on the real conditions in India.

The Global Network will hold its annual space organizing conference in Nagpur, India in October of 2010.

WOOD STOVE BLUES

Our wood stove in the kitchen (looks similar to this one) is not working. We've had the chimney sweep out twice to clean the chimney but we still are having a problem. We had the wood stove company inspect the stove yesterday and they said it was fine. They said the chimney has to be the problem.

So we had another guy come this morning to look at the chimney and he said our first chimney sweep had done a lousy job.....so now we will have another chimney sweep, recommended by a good friend, come this afternoon. And it is winter in Maine and damn cold outside.

So my day is being spent working on solving this very big problem. Pretty bad when you can't trust your chimney sweep to do his job right the first time!

Luckily we have a second wood stove in our community room here at the Addams-Melman House. It is roaring away just fine.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

PROTEST IN OSLO


DRONE MAN LECTURES ON PEACE

I tuned in for the last five minutes of the magician's acceptance speech for his No peace prize in Oslo. I felt better realizing that people were outside protesting the hypocrisy of awarding the peace prize to a president who had just unleashed a surge of more UAV's and 30,000 troops in war. Mostly civilians will be killed.

In his concluding remarks drone man quoted King and Gandhi and talked about love and "just peace". He mentioned hungry mothers and young women being persecuted by their government during peaceful protests.

Deep in his heart the magician knows he did not earn this prize. He knows it is just another part of the constructed public relations campaign to hide the western world's rape and pillage of the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa for diminishing supplies of fossil fuels and rare and precious minerals - all needed to keep the capitalist industrial juggernaut grinding on for a few more years. The loss of lives are incidental to the need for control and maximum profit.

The wealthy class has exposed themselves with this No peace prize. They revealed their bankrupt vision of peace in order to provide cover for the magician's work of killing. They are in a desperate gamble of endless war and must use every available tool to cloak their war making in peace, religion, and sound morality.

I saw on TV last night that 66% of the American people do not believe that the magician has earned the peace prize. I imagine that the numbers are similar, if not greater, all over the world.

The peace prize will never carry the same luster with the public again. The shine on it has become dirty. It is now suspect as it should be. To award a peace prize to a man who is in the middle of a killing surge only darkens it beyond recognition.

There was no joy in the drone man's face as he received the prize. He knows he is a fraud and a product of illusion. He knows that his talk of peace, and the uttering of words of King and Gandhi, is blasphemy.

The crippled magician shall bring his prize home and will place it behind his desk so that photographs of him deliberating in his Oval office will constantly remind us of his uncanny ability to deceive. His slight of hand, like any magician, can woe a crowd but soon enough the public will grow tired of rabbits and long flowing scarves and coins from behind ears. These are not real replacements for jobs, health care, a clean environment, or true peace.

Eventually the people will wake up to the deeds of the magician. Today's No peace prize marks the final nail in the drone man's coffin.....and he knows it.

I almost feel sorry for the man....he has sold his soul to the devil for power and fame. But then I think of the children and old people he is now killing and my sympathy fades away.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

SYSTEM LIKE A WILD ANIMAL

THEM THERE DAMN CZARS

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TIME TO ABANDON WAR PARTIES

The Democrats in Congress will largely go-along with this whole war expansion....they will speak a few words of concern but in the end they will fold and vote in favor of more money for war.

Isn't it time for local activists around the country to pull out of the two war parties (even if you just become an Independent) and begin building alternative electoral challenges to these folks who are committed to endless militarism and war?

Look at this unemployment map of the US here

Click on the play button and watch the sad but amazing escalation of unemployment in this country during the past couple of years. How are we ever going to create jobs in this country when so much of our national treasury is wasted on military spending? How can we replace all those millions of jobs that have gone overseas unless we cut military spending and make serious investments back in this country?

Tell me now, which Democrats (besides Rep. Dennis Kucinich and a couple of others) are talking about seriously cutting military spending and creating real jobs in the US? I'll tell you what Democrats are doing, they are competing with each other to put more military production in their congressional districts because they know that militarism is what we are going to be doing in the future and they want to get in line for the Pentagon gravy train. It's called security export.

I refuse to be horse-whipped by these deceitful Democrats.

Kucinich has just announced that he will be "circulating two privileged resolutions which will trigger debate and votes on a timely withdrawal of U.S troops from Afghanistan and Pakistan....Yesterday, with the US Secretary of Defense at his side, the President of Afghanistan declared that his country’s security forces will need financial and training assistance from the United States for the next 15-20 years....We cannot afford these wars. We cannot afford the loss of lives. We cannot afford the cost to taxpayers. We cannot afford to fail to exercise our constitutional right to end the wars."

Let's see what members of his war party do on this one......how many in the House will stand up to their party leadership?

Don't hold your breath.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

KUCINICH ON U.S. PAYING THE TALIBAN


The Nation magazine ran a story last month reporting that the US military is paying the Taliban in Afghanistan not to attack our supply convoys....so we are funding the "enemy" not to attack us so we can fight them another day. As Rep. Dennis Kucinich says in the video, this war is a racket!

Do you want to give another huge sum of money to keep this madness alive?

If you can, please show me one mainstream media outlet that has covered this story? Why are they not covering this crucial story?

INFO UPDATE: My sister Leslie called this morning to say she found a CBS News story about the US paying the Taliban so she wants a public confession from me. So, OK the mainstream media covered the story - just a teeny bit anyway. You can see the story here

But it's not the same story Leslie! The CBS coverage is about the Pentagon offering bribes to the Taliban to switch sides in the war....this story above is about the US paying current Taliban fighters to guard military supply convoys from other Taliban fighters.....which could possibly be called a "temporary" switch of sides but it's more like they are fleecing the US. Keep looking sister.

AMERICAN VALUES: CHRIS HEDGES

Excerpts of an interview with journalist Chris Hedges

"We talk about (the importance of) American culture. (But in truth): American culture was destroyed after World War I, with the rise of Madison Avenue and the implanting of mass corporate culture which sought to instill new values into the American consciousness. Instead of the values of thrift, communitarianism, modesty (and) self-sacrifice, we developed, courtesy of the advertising industry, this cult of self — this deep narcissism and hedonism that disconnected us from others and gave us mass corporate culture.

"So it's not American culture that we embrace for the moment. It's not American culture we export. It's corporate culture. And I think that altered situations will force us back into a moral system that defies the dark ethic of corporatism. And hopefully reconnects us to those values within our past that I think were brought us closer to fostering the building of common good.

"Capitalism is probably ingrained in human nature. But there are different kinds of capitalism. The kind of penny capitalism that I saw at the farmer's market in the town I grew up in is not a dangerous form of capitalism ... but corporate capitalism is something else. Corporate Capitalism is cannibalizing the nation.

"Karl Polanyi in 1944 wrote a brilliant work called 'The Great Transformation' in which he talked about the inevitable totalitarianism and wars and breakdown that was caused by a system that permitted unregulated capitalists to flourish. When everything becomes a commodity, including human labor, when the natural world becomes a commodity that is valued only by its capacity to generate profit, then you commit collective suicide, because you exhaust human beings and human resources, you deplete them, until they die. And that's precisely what's happening. Look at the oil and natural gas industry, the coal industry, our permanent war economy....

"I fear more the bankruptcy of liberalism than I do the fanaticism of the right. ... I think the book for our times is probably Dostoyevsky's 'Notes from the Underground,' (1864) in which he writes about a defeated dreamer, who becomes a cynic at a time when liberalism is bankrupt and who descends into a state of moral nihilism ... which understood precisely where his country was going.

"The bankruptcy of American liberalism is that it continued to speak against war, continued to speak on behalf of the working class, continued to support constitutional rights, and yet backed the party (the Democratic party) that betrayed all of these values. This wasn't lost on the working class. The anger of the working class toward liberals in this country is not misplaced, because liberals continue with that type of hypocrisy. They continue to espouse values and yet support political parties that tear down those values. And that's very dangerous. . . .

"The progressive movements in this country rely on the working class to propel our democracy forward. (But) our working class has been decimated. It doesn't exist any more, because there are no jobs, no meaningful jobs. And so that rage and frustration which you're already seeing leaping up around the fringes of society — and of course America is a very violent nation, that undercurrent of violence runs very deep — is presaging, I fear, a backwash. But a right wing backwash. And that is largely because the liberal class in this country became gutless.

"You strive toward a dream; you live within an illusion. And societies that cannot distinguish between illusion and reality die. If you look at the twilight periods of all great empires – Roman, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian — there is, in those final moments, not only a deep moral degeneration but an inability to distinguish what is real from fantasy.

"During the election between McCain and Obama, we were waging two wars, pre-emptive wars that under post Nurmberg laws are defined as criminal wars of aggression. We were running offshore penal colonies where we openly tortured individuals stripped of all rights. We had suspended habeas corpus. We had engaged in warrant-less wiretapping and eavesdropping on tens of millions of Americans . ... And yet we spoke of ourselves as the greatest democracy on Earth – and that as the embodiment of the highest values, we had a right to deliver it to others by force."

- Chris Hedges, whose column is published on Truthdig every Monday, spent two decades as a foreign reporter covering wars in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. He served for eight years as the Middle East bureau chief of The New York Times, where he shared the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism, for coverage of terrorism. Hedges also received the 2002 Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism.

Monday, December 07, 2009

EARLY HOLIDAY CHEER



Formerly married couple Ray Davies (The Kinks) & Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) singing his new song - Postcard from London

BI-PARTISAN WAR TEAM SPEAKS: "THEY ARE NOT LEAVING IN JULY OF 2011"



By Brian Knowlton
New York Times

WASHINGTON — Perhaps only a “handful” of American troops will be leaving Afghanistan in July 2011, the date President Obama has set to begin a gradual withdrawal, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in an interview broadcast Sunday.

“We will have 100,000 forces, troops there,” Mr. Gates said on ABC’s “This Week,” “and they are not leaving in July of 2011. Some, handful, or some small number, or whatever the conditions permit, will begin to withdraw at that time.”

“I don’t consider this an exit strategy,” he continued, “This is a transition.” He said it would begin in less-contested parts of Afghanistan before expanding to the most obdurate Taliban strongholds, largely in the south and east.

The White House used appearances on the Sunday talk programs to convey that the deadline would mark the start, not the end, of troop withdrawal. “2011 is not a cliff, it’s a ramp,” Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser, said.

“And it’s when the effects of this increase will be, by all accounts, according to our military commanders and our senior civilians, where we will be able to see very, very visible progress and we’ll be able to make a shift,” General Jones said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Mr. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who unusually appeared together on three Sunday programs, emphasized that the July 2011 date did not signal a wholesale abandonment of Afghanistan that could further destabilize the region.

They said it was important to impart a sense of urgency to the Afghan government about the need to move expeditiously to assume responsibility for their own security.

“We will not provide for their security forever,” Mr. Gates said.

But the message he and Mrs. Clinton conveyed also seemed meant for Pakistan, which fears the reverberations of any overly hasty American pullout, and for Republican critics of any notion of a fixed withdrawal deadline.

“We’re not going to be walking away from Afghanistan again,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We did that before; it didn’t turn out very well.”

Mr. Gates also said that “I think it has been years” since American intelligence had a good idea of the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, though the Qaeda leader is thought to be either in Pakistan’s rugged North Waziristan region or just across the border in Afghanistan.

General Jones, also asked about Mr. bin Laden’s location, answered: “The best estimate is that he is somewhere in North Waziristan, sometimes on the Pakistani side of the border, sometimes on the Afghan side of the border.”

Both Secretaries Gates and Clinton favorably mentioned President Hamid Karzai’s recent assurance that Afghan security forces could resume control of some provinces within three years, and over the bulk of the country in five.

While the new strategy aims in part to lure lower-level Taliban fighters away, partly through offers of jobs, Mrs. Clinton expressed doubt that key Taliban leaders could be thus enticed. Any defecting Taliban member, she said, would have to renounce al-Qaeda, forswear violence and vow to live by Afghan laws. As to whether senior leaders would do that, she said, “I’m highly skeptical.”

Mr. Obama’s new strategy — built around the rapid deployment of 30,000 additional American troops and thousands more NATO forces — has faced some of its toughest criticism from his fellow Democrats. It has received stronger, if conditional, support from some Republicans.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, a Vietnam War veteran and member of the Armed Services Committee, has generally supported Mr. Obama’s plan.

“I think he made the right decision,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” But the mention of the July 2011 date, he said, had left policy makers throughout the region — including in Pakistan and India — “trying to figure out whether, really, they can go all in and support this effort.”

He and other Republicans fear that the 2011 date will encourage Taliban and al-Qaeda forces to simply outwait their enemy.

The appearances by Mr. Gates and Clinton — two of the president’s most important advisers, and also two of the more hawkish — appeared designed to explain the withdrawal guideline.

“After saying that “some, a handful, or small number” of troops would leave in July 2011, Mr. Gates added that further departures would come only when American commanders on the ground assessed that local conditions had sufficiently improved.

“We’re not talking about an abrupt withdrawal,” Mr. Gates said, “we’re talking about that something that will take place over a period of time.”

But he also sought to prepare Americans, and their allies, for a short-term increase in casualties.

“The tragedy is that the casualties will probably continue to grow, at least for the time being,” he said, because, as during the so-called troop surge in Iraq, the new coalition troops would be going to some of the most hostile parts of the country.

Mr. Gates added, however, that “we’ll have an increase in casualties at the front end of this process, but over time it’ll actually lead to fewer casualties” as security grows.

DEEPER LOOK AT CENTRAL ASIAN REGION



Lawrence Wilkerson is a retired United States Army soldier and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson is an adjunct professor at the College of William & Mary where he teaches courses on US national security. He also instructs a senior seminar in the Honors Department at the George Washington University entitled "National Security Decision Making."

While I don't agree with some of Wilkerson's confidence in America's ability to "lead" in the region, I do think he quite clearly spells out the current dynamic underway.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

SUNDAY FUNNIES


The MQ-9 Reaper
Hancock Field in Syracuse, New York
“The training is really geared toward a younger generation that has experience operating video games,” said Lindsay Voss, a defense industry analyst with Frost & Sullivan. Unmanned drones are “basically operated with the kind of joystick you hook up with a PlayStation.”

Secretary of War Gates: "We are not leaving Afghanistan"