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 06, 2010

HOW COULD OUR WAR $$$ BE SPENT HERE AT HOME?

Two nights ago I joined Peter Woodruff in attending the Regional School Unit-1 (RSU-1) Coalition on Education Funding meeting here in Bath. It was the first meeting of the new coalition that is being created to try to save our local public schools from devastating cuts mandated by our Governor John Baldacci (Democrat). Baldacci has ordered $438 million of cuts in education and social spending this year.

RSU-1 covers the towns of Arrowsic, Bath, Phippsburg, West Bath and Woolwich here in the midcoast of Maine. At the meeting we were told that in addition to cuts already ordered in 2010 the state is now ordering another round of cutbacks in the 2010-2011 school year in the amount of $895,000. And in the 2011-2012 school year it is projected the cuts will be around $1,647,000. According to school officials that will mean the closing of some schools, major classroom size increases, likely cuts in bus transportation and more. Already the teachers in RSU-1 are working without a new contract because of the funding crisis.

The meeting on Thursday night was attended by one state senator and three members of the state House of Representatives. Teachers, principals, parents, businessmen, and concerned citizens were present. When it came time to open the discussion to the public my hand was the first one to go up.

Earlier State Rep. Peter Kent had said there was a "white elephant" in the room that needed to be talked about - revenues. In other words, he was saying that we need to raise taxes to cover these cuts. But our governor has already said he would veto any tax increases and even though members of his own party are angry with him, they are not inclined to stand up against him and the angry voters who largely oppose more tax increases. So there are few real options out there to increase "revenues".

What is essentially happening is that the federal government is passing on social spending responsibilities to the states and the states are passing it down to the local governments. The message is clear - if you want good schools you are going to have to raise local property taxes to pay for them. Otherwise you will have inferior local education.

Some wealthy communities can handle that. But in most Maine towns, working class communities like mine in Bath, there is little margin for increased taxes. We already have a 10% unemployment rate in the state and it is getting worse by the day. Right now 9,700 teaching jobs in Maine are in danger of being lost by school cutbacks. There is virtually no way to replace those jobs. It's a race to the bottom.

When I spoke up I said, "While we are talking about elephants in the middle of the room we have to talk about war spending." I then referred to the figures put out by the National Priorities Project for what states and local communities across America have spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. In the case of Bath we have paid $19.9 million as our share of war spending. When I mentioned this I noticed the reaction of the the RSU-1 superintendent of schools. I could just see the calculator in his mind figuring that those funds could have helped to solve his school budget crisis for years to come.

The local news paper had a reporter at the meeting and yesterday's edition of the paper carried his article on the front page. In the article the reporter wrote this:

Bruce Gagnon, a Bath resident and the coordinator for the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, told his fellow coalition members to expand their thinking beyond the state’s budget crisis.

Gagnon said that, since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began more than eight years ago, Bath residents have paid $19.9 million in federal tax dollars to fund those wars. He said Mainers as a whole have contributed $2.5 billion to war spending.

“Ask yourself how that money could be used at this time of fiscal crisis in Maine,” he said. “These wars are killing us.”

You can see the full article here

I told the folks in the meeting that they were going to have to get engaged in this issue if they hoped to solve this problem.

There will be another meeting next week. Peter and I are going back.

If the peace movement wants to stop these wars we have to get out and talk with the people who are concerned about issues like education, health care, and other social program cuts.

We've got to say it's beyond time to Bring Our War $$ Home.

Friday, February 05, 2010

HEADLONG INTO HELL


Why are we spending $100 billion a year in Afghanistan?

Simple question...

We demand an answer from our members of Congress....and when they tell us they agree with us ,we have to then ask them why in hell do they keep voting for the $$$ for the quagmire?

Last December our two Maine representatives in Congress (Pingree & Michaud) voted in favor of the $138 billion for more war in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan. How did your representative vote?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

TRUE COSTS OF WAR



A must see report on how GI's struggle with PTSD after being deployed in war.

After nine years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq the numbers of GI's suffering with PTSD is just astronomical.

What do we do? We escalate the wars and escalate the madness.

You, the citizen at home, will pay for this in ways you can't begin to imagine.

THE CULT


Our Governor in Maine, John Baldacci (Democrat), lived in this cult house when he was in Congress. Harpers Magazine reported that some years ago.

THE SWORD AND THE SHIELD

Aegis destroyers launching SM-3 "missile defense" systems
Army Ground-based "missile defense" interceptors

The latest word is that Romania will be hosting the U.S. Army's ground-based "missile defense" systems. Russia is not pleased with these developments.

News that the U.S. is also about to deploy a PAC-3 missile battery in Poland led Russia's ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, to recently state: "Do they really think that we will calmly watch the location of a rocket system, at a distance of 60 km from Kaliningrad?"

The deployment of SM-3, with several times the reach of the Patriot, on land and sea (the SM-3 will soon be converted to be deployed on land like the PAC-3) in the same Baltic Sea neighborhood will only makes matters more dangerous.

These same Army Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) systems are going to be deployed in Taiwan as the U.S. continues its military encirclement of China. U.S. PAC-3 systems have already been deployed in Japan and South Korea.

The Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), now deployed in the Persian Gulf and soon to be permanently based on Navy Aegis destroyers in the Baltic, South China, Mediterranean and Black Seas, has a range of 500 kilometers but can be enhanced for longer distances. The missile was used by the U.S. Navy to destroy a satellite 130 miles above the Pacific Ocean in February of 2008 in a test viewed by Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. "The satellite was unlike any target the system was designed to go after....The satellite was in orbit rather than on a ballistic trajectory. Also, the satellite was traveling at incredible speeds," Mullen said.

Translation: the SM-3 also has "anti-satellite" (ASAT) weapons capability. That means the Pentagon can use the Aegis-based missile to knock out Russian or Chinese satellites as part of a first-strike attack.

The official authorization of Patriot transfers to Taiwan - the missiles are produced by Raytheon Company headquartered in Massachusetts, whose former vice president of Government Operations and Strategy William Lynn is now Obama's Deputy Secretary of Defense - resulted in China's vice foreign minister, He Yafei, saying "We believe this move endangers China's national security." Luo Yuan, senior researcher with the Chinese Academy of Military Science, added "The U.S. action gives China a justified cause to increase its national defense expenditure, to enhance the development and purchase of weapons, and to accelerate its modernization process in national defense....China did nothing to threaten the U.S., why should the US challenge our core strategic interests?"

Deputy Secretary of Defense Lynn delivered a speech in Washington, DC on January 21, where he demanded that Congress "put the Defense Department on a permanent footing to fight both low-intensity conflicts to maintaining air dominance and the ability to strike any target on Earth at any time....The next air warfare priority for the Pentagon is developing a next-generation, deep-penetrating strike capability that can overcome advanced air defenses."

The new Prompt Global Strike system is designed to accomplish just those objectives.

So the strategy is clear. Surround Russia and China with mobile "missile defense" systems whose job is to take out their retaliatory capability after a U.S. first-strike against their nuclear weapons. Russia and China then build counter-measures to the U.S. missile defense systems and then the Pentagon in return counters with the new "global strike" systems that are today under development.

All this means one thing - an extended arms race with Russia and China which will mean huge profits for the weapons industry and the very likely reality that no effective arms control treaties will be negotiated during this administration. Why would Russia and China negotiate to seriously reduce their nuclear arsenals when the U.S. is surrounding them with missile defense and building new global strike systems?

The U.S. war state (supported and funded by Democrats and Republicans) has become a pariah on this planet. You can dress it up nice with a smiling Obama but in the end one has to judge the U.S. by its deeds.

(Parts of this were written by Rick Rozoff in a piece called U.S. Extends Missile Buildup From Poland And Taiwan To Persian Gulf)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

VERY IMPORTANT HISTORICAL REVIEW OF CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF DEMOCRATS


Jeff Cohen is a media critic and lecturer, founding director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, where he is an associate professor of journalism. Cohen founded the media watch group FAIR in 1986.

BRITS STILL WANT BLAIR IN JAIL

The UK government is holding an inquiry about their nations participation in deceiving the public about the reasons for entering into the Iraq war.

Wouldn't it be great to have the U.S. Congress hold such an investigation. But sadly the Democrats don't have the courage to do such a thing.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

NEW ENGLAND UNITED ANTI-WAR CONFERENCE

GREAT SONG



Peter Woodruff and I play this song by James McMurtry "We can't make it here" often on our weekly radio show on WBOR at Bowdoin College in Brunswick.

Our show is each Wednesday night from 6:00-7:30 pm. You can listen via the Internet. Just click on the WBOR link and then hit the yellow Listen Now button at the top right-hand side of your screen.

RESISTANCE TO U.S. BASE IN ITALY


Fifty women and men of Vicenza entered today in the construction site of the new US military base at Dal Molin and chained themselves to the cranes and the working machineries used to build the foundations of the military installation, and that every day are damaging the “vicentina” groundwater. Recent surveys have produced evidence of unjustified increase of water level in some residential areas.

"Today we want set legality as first priority – they declared passing the fence of the site – the construction site must stop in order to defend health, safety and history of the 'vicentina' community: groundwater resources and archeological findings must be preserved. Since the early days of this story we stated that this territory has a priceless value for the local community; but, at the same time, it's particulary fragile, delicate, because under the green carpet it preserves one of the essential elements of life, water."

Yesterday they met in an extraordinary assembley open to all the citizens of Vicenza, at the Presidio Permanente (permanent camp). Today (Monday) they will get together for a torchlight march in the streets of the city center in solidarity with the action and with the request to STOP the construction site. A file with a photo service of the condition of the construction site (under water) has been delivered to Mr Variati, Mayor of Vicenza.

You may see immages and video on http://www.nodalmolin.it/spip.php?article765

Presidio Permanente No Dal Molin

Vicenza , Italy

PEACEFUL PROTESTERS ROUGHED UP, ARRESTED BY OBAMA'S PENTAGON


The front gate signs at Vandenberg AFB in California covered up by the military during a previous peaceful protest

Is this how Obama thanks those who are taking his call for the abolition of nuclear weapons seriously? He has them roughed up and arrested for standing with signs outside Vandenberg AFB in California while his Pentagon fires “missile defense” tests in the sky above the Pacific Ocean?

For years people have been protesting outside Vandenberg AFB when the base launches missiles. Now and then the military police would grab one of the organizers and arrest them but often nothing was done at all. But on January 31, just as another $150 million “missile defense” test was launched from the base, the Obama led Pentagon had virtually everyone who was at the protest, legally standing outside the base, arrested. In one case the military police threw Judy Evered onto the ground where two security guards held her with one soldier's knee in her back. Her subsequent booking was interrupted because she had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance for a shoulder injury she sustained after she was already in custody. Evered, a member of WILPF, is in her 80’s.

This was a particularly important “missile defense” test because the Pentagon promoted it as a practice to simulate “a nuclear attack by Iran”. Of course Iran has no nuclear weapons today nor does it have any launch vehicles capable of reaching the continental U.S. But truth and facts don’t matter when you are out to create a new enemy in the minds of the American people. Fiction becomes reality, war is peace. Brainwashing it is called.

In the first test of its kind involving Vandenberg, an ICBM launched from the Marshall Islands (known as the Ronald Reagan Test Range) was aimed at southern California. The Ground-Based Interceptor launched from Vandenberg, about 60 miles northwest of Santa Barbara, lifted off at around 3:45 pm, but did not succeed in shooting down the target missile (supposedly from Iran) which was launched six minutes earlier from the Reagan Test Range.

“They completely dismantled the demonstration,” said protest organizer MacGregor Eddy who is a WILPF and Global Network member. She went onto reiterate that the base was told well in advance of the demonstration which was initially scheduled for January 21, as was the interceptor test, both of which were grounded due to large southern California storms at the time.

Since November, the new base commander has decided to require I.D.s from demonstrators. There is no way that a base commander, on his own, is going to start demanding ID’s from legal public protesters and make such a decision to completely disrupt and arrest eight out of the eleven people at a peaceful vigil. These orders have come from higher up and in the end the president of the U.S. has to be held responsible for escalating this provocative attack on peaceful protest outside a U.S. military base.

Obama talks big about wanting disarmament but then he qualifies this by saying that it might not happen “in his lifetime.” Then he moves, two years in a row, to increase military spending and continues the Bush administration policy of surrounding Russia and China with “missile defense” systems that are actually part of the U.S. first-strike program. The U.S. “missile defense” systems would pick-off any retaliatory missiles fired by Russia or China after the U.S. had launched the initial attack. The U.S. Space Command has actually been computer war-gaming such a first-strike attack on China for the past several years.

In a statement prior to the January 31 missile launch Western States Legal Foundation Director Jacqueline Cabasso said, “Further, U.S. development of missile defenses endangers prospects for deeper U.S. and Russian nuclear arms reductions and threatens to scuttle agreement on a follow-on to the START treaty. To add insult to injury, every U.S. test launch from the Marshall Islands causes tremendous environmental damage to surrounding land and water areas and compounds the historical injustice to the indigenous Marshallese people.”

Obama can’t have it both ways. He can’t go around talking nice about nuclear disarmament and then continue taking active steps to develop and test new generations of advanced war fighting systems and expect that Russia and China will just sit back and watch without reacting. And if Obama was serious about real nuclear disarmament he would not allow his Pentagon operatives to harass, rough up, and arrest activists who are legally opposing wasteful and destabilizing missile tests. You don’t treat your political allies in such a manner.

Once again we see the clear evidence that Obama is the quintessential magician – he says one thing but if we closely watch his other hand we see the revelation of his real agenda, which is nothing more than a continuation of the Bush war making program, but this time with a friendly smile and a well-turned phrase.

Monday, February 01, 2010

HOWARD ZINN LIVES ON



Howard Zinn on Obama: "I think people are dazzled by Obama's rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president — which means, in our time, a dangerous president — unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction."

REGIONAL ANTI-WAR CONFAB A WINNER!

Over 300 turned out at MIT NorthEast regional conference
I had the great honor to be invited to speak this past Saturday at a wonderful "New England United Antiwar Conference" held at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There was a stellar cast of speakers at the event which drew well over 300 highly motivated folks from throughout the Northeast region. Students from New Hampshire and Connecticut were particularly abundant as well as black activists who called Obama a fraud. Independent candidates for Congress and large delegations of Latin American activists were also present.

I spoke on a plenary panel called "The Drive Towards Empire and Endless War" and had the pleasure to share that panel with one of my favorite journalists - Glen Ford from the Black Agenda Report. In speaking about the U.S. drive for expanded war Ford said, "They must intensify their military operations because they have no other options."

One particularly moving speaker was Pardiss Kebriaei who is an attorney from the Center for Constitutional Rights that represents many of the 200 still being held at the U.S. prison facility at Guantanamo. One client she told us about is from Syria and is in his ninth year of detention. Kebriaei said she "had nothing good to say about Obama" who continues the Bush administration policies of detention, torture, and assassinations.

Kebriaei reminded us about the U.S. "detention" facility at Bagram, Afghanistan that holds 600-700 prisoners. The lawyers, she said, don't know who the prisoners are, where they are from, what they have been charged with, and Obama takes the Bush line that these people "have no rights."

She told us that just "closing" Guantanamo, and moving them to another maximum security prison in some other state, will not end this immoral and illegal policy. If these prisoners went to court any charges would not hold up because their "confessions" came from torture. Thus the decision to keep them locked up in suspended animation.

Peter Dale Scott (see blog entry just below) spoke via Internet hook-up from California and talked about "deep events" in U.S. history that clearly reveal that the corporate oligarchy that runs our country today has a long track record (Modus Operandi) of fabricating justifications for entering into war. Whether it was the Vietnam War Gulf of Tonkin Resolution or 9-11 today, the U.S. controls the minds of the people by creating fear and using it to enable endless war. He talked about COG (Continuity of Government) which is planning for suspension of the constitution at some point when they feel that the public has begun to revolt against our corrupt government.

In a workshop called "Redirecting Military Spending to Meet Human Needs" one man introduced himself as a "53 year-old who works as a loan officer for a large national bank." He said his job is to approve small business loans. He told us that the banks are not loaning to these small businesses and that they are going under in droves. He expressed his "total frustration" and said we have to keep making the connection between economic collapse here at home and massive spending on endless war.

Another person spoke about their effort to bring anti-war spending resolutions to their city government. One activist reported that the Mayor of Boston has endorsed a call for a 25% cut in current military spending.

After having seen the big turnout at a peace movement meeting in New York City a couple nights before, and then this great conference at MIT, it is clear to me that the energy is coming back into the peace movement. Most folks are moving beyond Obama's false "hope and change" rhetoric and recognizing that we've got to move quickly to step up the pace of our organizing.

The best part of the conference though was seeing once again the integration of the issues into a larger critique of U.S. military policy - economic collapse at home - climate change - corporate dominated media - and solidarity with people's movements in Palestine, Latin America, Asian-Pacific and other parts of the world.

We can't have a singular focus (a myopic focus) for our message. We need to create a big picture and big tent movement and this conference was one of the best attempts at doing this that I've ever seen.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

WHO REALLY RUNS THE SHOW?


Peter Dale Scot a former Canadian diplomat and Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, is a poet, writer, and researcher. His most recent books are Drugs, Oil, and War (2005), The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America (2007), The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11 and the Deep Politics of War (2008) and Mosaic Orpheus (poetry, 2009).