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, August 28, 2010

VFP CONFAB GOING WELL


The above photo was taken yesterday following the Korea issues workshop at the VFP convention in Portland. The banner we are holding was given to me last year by the Korean VFP organization and it finally made its way to a national VFP event here in the U.S.

Korean war veteran, and Maine VFP member, Tom Sturtevant has been the keeper of the banner since I brought it back from Korea.

Most of the VFP members in the workshop yesterday had served in Korea during the war or since then. They all feel a strong sense of duty to help bring true peace and reunification to Korea. But as one of the guys said yesterday, "It's hard to convince people today that Korea is still an important issue after 60 years."

I tried to address this problem in my words during the workshop as I put Korea into the larger context of U.S. military strategy in the Asian-Pacific region. I talked about NATO expansion into the region and U.S. military moves to surround China.

The U.S. pretense about concern over North Korea is only a justification for the Pentagon to dramatically escalate its operations throughout the Asian-Pacific. U.S. bases are being expanded in Guam, Okinawa, Japan, and South Korea - including major deployments of "missile offense" systems.

The banquet is tonight and a packed house is expected for it. In the morning, at 9:00 am, we hold the concluding march and rally in downtown Portland.

People are saying they feel it is a great convention. The ferry boat trip to nearby Peaks Island last night for the lobster fest was a big hit.

Ben Cohen, from Ben & Jerry's ice cream fame, is here and I heard that he is going to personally serve ice cream to us after the business meeting today. He is also providing dessert to the banquet this evening.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

We Are Cornered: There's No Way Out Without A Fight


by Black Agenda Report executive editor Glen Ford

There is no cavalry coming over the ridge to save the people from massed capital. Certainly not the Democrats, whose self-caged left wing now finds its marginalized encampments under lockdown by their own president’s hostile patrols, while the GOP and its Tea Party irregulars howl from the circling darkness. That’s what happens when progressives maneuver themselves onto the same side of the battlefield as Goldman Sachs, as they did with abandon in 2007-08, deliriously fighting their way into a cul-de-sac in which they are now surrounded.

The leftish brigades rallied to a commander who styled himself an incarnation of Abraham Lincoln, but turned out to be a General George McClellan, the Union’s first commander of the Army of the Potomac. McClellan was great at rousing the troops and putting his army on parade, but constantly overestimated his Confederate adversaries and, in Lincoln’s final estimation, refused to fight. The political roots of his reluctance to crush the Confederacy became clear after his dismissal when, in 1864, he challenged Lincoln on the Democratic “peace” party’s ticket. McClellan never really wanted to win the war, or, at the very least, saw victory in a very different way than Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant.

It has long been clear that Barack Obama’s idea of victory required decisively defeating the Left of his own party. Everyone to his left is to be neutralized, while those to his right rate an open hand and endless concessions, the scenario from the very start of his health care “negotiations” with the drug and insurance industries. Victory in the racial arena means an end to race agitation, a Black stand-down, which remains largely in place. Success in war, not pursuit of peace, is his goal, one that will surely elude him, but not for lack of trying.

Obama and finance capital began an early, thoroughly vetted, and white hot love affair that was anchored in mutual contempt for those who would challenge the rule of money. He has delivered the highest return on corporate campaign investment in the history of bourgeois democracy, allowing Wall Street to pocket at least $12 trillion in return for contributions of less than $1 million per investment house. (Goldman Sachs was top giver, at $994,795.) Obama was BP’s biggest political campaign recipient: $71,000, an investment that boosted the corporation’s value by billions – albeit temporarily – when the president opened up offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Obviously, Goldman Sachs and BP considered Obama a “greater good,” in terms of their interests, than John McCain. And they made out like bandits, confirming their assessment of Obama’s immense value to their side in the class war. The question is, how in the hell did lefties conclude that Big Capital’s and Big Oil’s “greater good” candidate was also the progressive side’s fountain of Hope – or even a “lesser evil” – in 2008? Both camps placed their bets on Obama, but only one side could possibly win.

It is the Left that wound up trapped in the cul-de-sac, with every major item on its 2008 political wish list betrayed, sidetracked, mangled or spat upon by Obama and his friends – although, to be fair to the Devil, the Left had often simply imagined they had Obama’s ear or support when such was not even remotely true. On war, for example.

Most devastatingly, Obama and his Democratic legislative allies have successfully shielded their Wall Street masters from anything worthy of the name financial reform. This means finance capital and its “shadow,” derivatives-based economy (nominally, ten times bigger than the “real” global economy) remain beyond the reach of meaningful public intervention by conventional methods. With the air knocked out of mainstream reformers’ bony chests, Wall Street is poised for a Great Offensive against the political and social infrastructure of the United States.

Producing nothing of real value, fatally hooked on ever-mounting rates of return, simultaneously divorced from and a parasite on the “real” economy, and with the executive and legislative branches in their pockets, the Lords of Capital are set to devour the entirety of the public sector – while forcing the public to finance the feast. The rallying cry is “austerity,” but the motivation is not, as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman maintains, ideological. Rather, it is hunger.

Finance capital is, at this stage of the system’s decline, incapable of reproducing itself through productive investment, and so must feed on existing producers or on the State. Since Wall Street over the decades has already broken up, consumed and exported much of the U.S. productive economy, that leaves the State and all of its parts. Far from acting as a brake on his vampire friends, Obama leads the charge on corporate hijacking of public education, and signaled in January 2009 that all elements of the safety net, including Social Security, should be “on the table” – which can only mean some form of privatization.

The pace of finance capital deterioration quickens, accelerating the timetable of the Right’s offensive. As the hunger grows, Wall Street’s servants become more aggressive and demanding, and there is nothing in the Democratic Party, as presently constituted, to stop them.

One truth remains: only a massed people can defeat massed capital. If the American Left is capable of bearing that in mind in the critical times ahead, it might just escape the cul-de-sac and make some modest contribution to the world.

BECK POSES AS MLK


Fox News right-winger Glenn Beck is organizing a rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on August 28. That date is the anniversay of Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream Speech" where he promoted a just, equal, diverse and compassionate society.

Beck is inviting Sarah Palin to join him in some mysterious and self serving diatribe where he intends to redefine MLK in order to serve the interests of the corporate oligarchy.

Sadly he will likely get lots of media coverage as he further attempts to divide the American people against one another. The best thing we can do is not allow ourselves to fall for his bloviation.

Beck said in a recent broadcast that he did not intentionally choose the "I Have a Dream" anniversary for his rally - but that he believes the coincidence is "divine providence."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

FOXED UP

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Parent Company Trap
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

The story unfolds.....

MIRACLE IN BALTIMORE?

Buck Showalter (New O's manager)
Earl Weaver (Long ago greatest O's manager)

As I pack for my next five days in Portland for the Veterans for Peace confab, I thought I'd give you all an update on my wayward Baltimore Orioles baseball team.

Right after mid-season the Orioles (O's) fired their second manger this season and hired Buck Showalter who was referred to by sports writers as "the best available manager" in major league baseball. At that time the O's had the worst record in all of the major leagues.

Since Buck took over the O's are 12-8 and playing like we've not seen them for years. Pitchers are pitching, fielders are fielding, and batters are actually hitting the ball. It's like a miracle.

But there is something even bigger that has happened. The O's greatest manager ever was the feisty Earl Weaver who led the team from 1968-1986. During this time the O's won six Eastern Division titles, four American League pennants, and a World Series championship. He was loved in Baltimore.

Since he left it has largely been downhill with the O's having losing seasons the last dozen years.

But enter Buck Showalter. Buck twice won the manager of the year award and soon after arriving in Baltimore just weeks ago people felt they were having a vision. It was like seeing the image of Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich or upon the foggy window of a bakery on a cold morning.

When people saw Buck in the O's uniform on the field they thought they were seeing Earl Weaver again....and they saw the O's playing in ways that reminded them of better days.

Slowly the fans are daring to return to Camden Yards to see the O's play. When the O's get ahead early in the game fans are holding their breath knowing full well that the pattern has been that the other shoe almost always drops and the O's find a way to lose the game.

But something is happening in Baltimore. The magic of Earl seems to be returning. The O's are winning more than they are losing.

Could Buck be the new Earl of Baltimore?

NEW SPACE GUYS IN TOWN

Loring Wirbel from Citizens for Peace in Space, and a Global Network board member, is featured in a great scene from the new documentary Pax Americana and the Weaponization of Space.

He takes the film crew on a whirlwind driving tour of Colorado Springs to show the growth of aerospace industry corporations in the city that is a key player in the Star Wars program.

YOUNG VETERANS TAKE ACTION


Iraq and Afghanistan war vets attempt to block troops leaving Fort Hood, Texas on their way to war.

Read the news story about the action here

VFP CONFAB COVERAGE CONTINUES


August 24, 2010
Portland Press Herald

They're fighting for peace: Veterans head to Portland for convention

Veterans for Peace, founded in Maine 25 years ago, will attract people from all over the U.S.

By Dennis Hoeydhoey@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — A national peace organization whose members include veterans from all the major wars is returning to its roots here in Maine.

Starting Wednesday, Portland will host the 25th anniversary convention of Veterans for Peace.

The organization was founded in Maine in 1985.

More than 300 veterans from across the United States have already registered to participate in the convention at the Holiday Inn by the Bay Hotel and Convention Center on Spring Street.

The gathering starts Wednesday and will end Sunday morning with a peace march and rally through downtown Portland.

"It seemed logical to bring the convention home to Maine for its 25th anniversary," said Michael Uhl, a South Bristol resident and Vietnam War veteran who serves on the group's national board.

Uhl said the convention will feature several guests, from musician Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary fame and Iraq war veteran Geoff Millard, to U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., Chairman of the House of Representatives Veterans Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

While most of the convention events are closed to the public, there will be an open meeting at First Parish Meeting House on Congress Street Thursday night, at which guest speakers will talk about the costs of waging war.

"It (the convention) is not for everyone. We're not going to get a whole lot of people from the Tea Party," Uhl said.

Mike Ferner, who serves as president of National Veterans for Peace in St. Louis, Mo., said the theme of the Portland convention will be "Lifting the Fog of War."

"Lifting the fog of war is an artistic way of saying, lets expose the real costs of war. It has become a central theme of our work," Ferner said.

Participants will share their war experiences and listen to some of the more compelling stories.

Maja Kazazic will be featured during the opening ceremony Thursday morning. A Bosnian War refugee whose legs were shattered in 1993 by a mortar shell that landed in her courtyard, Kazazic was relocated to Maryland through the Veterans for Peace "Children of War Rescue Project."

Since then, she has taught herself English, gone to college, and established a successful web development company.

The convention will also offer poetry readings by war veterans, films, and workshops.

Bruce Gagnon of Bath is organizing Sunday's peace march and rally at Post Office Square.

A Vietnam War-era veteran, Gagnon said protesters -- the public is invited to participate -- will gather at 9 a.m. at the Holiday Inn, march through the Old Port, and stage an hour-long rally at Post Office Square on Market and Exchange streets.

"It will be very spirited," Gagnon said.

"We are spending more than $7 billion a month on the war in Afghanistan. If we can end the war and bring that money home, there could be a whole new world out there with a real chance for economic recovery," he said.

Monday, August 23, 2010

THE WAR INSIDE AMERICA

PILGER ON IRAQ REBRANDING



Veteran investigative journalist John Pilger on the illusion of U.S. departure from Iraq. He takes calls from around the world which is quite interesting.

Here is an example of Pilger interviewing a former CIA operative about U.S. assassinations.

See the contemporary example of CIA killings of Muslims - Mass Assassinations Lie at the Heart of America's Military Strategy in the Muslim World

U.S. BASE SAVED FROM PAKISTAN FLOOD BUT NOT THE PEOPLE



August 20, 2010

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: Minister tasked with saving US airbase at the cost of the displacement of thousands

The presence of Pakistan army personnel speaks to the fact that the breach of Jamali bypass was intentional and ordered from above.

It has been reported earlier that the US Air Force has denied the relief agencies use of the Shahbaz airbase for the distribution of aid and assistance. Soldiers of the Pakistan army, a federal minister and the administration of Sindh province are blamed for the incident involving Shahbaz Airbase at Jacobabad district in Sindh province in which it has been reported that flood waters were diverted in order to save the airbase. The diversion of the floodwaters is blamed for inundating hundreds of houses and the displacement of 800,000 people. According to the media reports, the Federal Minister of Sports along with soldiers from the army and a contingent of officials from the Sindh provincial government breached the Jamali Bypass in Jafferabad district of Balochistan province during the night between August 13 and 14 to divert the water entering the airbase which has remained in US Air Force hands since the war on terror started in 2001.

Mr. Ejaz Jakhrani, the Minister of Sports, while explaining the situation to the media said that if the water was not diverted the Shahbaz Airbase would have been inundated. Mr. Jakhrani himself was present along with the district coordination officer of the Jacobabad district, district police officer and other officials when the breach was made. It is reported in the media that Mr. Jakhrani was assigned to protect the air base by officials at the Pakistan army’s headquarter as he was elected from Jacobabad district.

A former prime minister, Mr. Mir Zafar Ullah Khan Jamali said that in order to save Shahbaz Air Base, Jamali bypass was demolished and the town of Dera Allahyar was drowned. Mr. Jamali said that if the airbase was so important, then what priority might be given to the citizens. He blamed minister Jakhrani, DPO and DCO Jacobabad for deliberately diverting the course of the floodwaters towards Balochistan.

In the meantime, during the discussion in the standing committee of the Senate the federal secretary of health has revealed that health relief operations are not possible in the flood-affected areas of Jacobabad because the airbase is under the control of the US Air Force. The coordinator of the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Centre, Dr Jahanzeb Aurakzai, told the committee that foreign health teams could not start relief operations in remote areas because there are no airstrips close to several areas, including Jacobabad.

The electronic media has also reported that since 2001 the government of Pakistan, during the regime of general Musharraf, turned over Shahbaz Airport to US forces fighting against terrorism on a lease so it the responsibility of the government and the Pakistan armed forces to protect the agreement done in favour of US forces. The discussions in the media have also pointed out that the presence of army soldiers during the breach of Jamali bypass is a clear indication that the Pakistan army has been ordered to save the airbase from the floodwaters.

In the end, after the seven days of controversy surrounding the air base, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) said that the Shahbaz Airbase was under the complete operational control of the PAF and brushed aside reports that floodwaters had been diverted to save the base. Air Vice Marshal, Mr. Abdul Quddus, hurriedly arranged a visit of journalists to Shahbaz Airbase and asked them as to whether they could see any Americans? He told journalists that there are no drones and no Americans; seeing, he said, is believing!

However, there was no reasonable answer to the question raised that when almost the whole of Jacobabad district of Sindh and its adjoining district of Jafferabad of Balochistan province were under floodwaters why the airbase was not affected. This could only be due to the intentional breach of the Jamali bypass. The media was also very critical of the arrangement of the visit to Shahbaz airbase at a time when much more attention is needed to focus all efforts for the relief of the affected people. The visit by the journalists has been seen as a scripted stage play as when journalists were present a C130 cargo plane landed with 200 tons of relief goods which the people of that particular affected area badly needed. Such a plane has not been seen landing there in recent times so this was too much of a coincidence.

The federal minister and former prime minister have not retracted their statements that the floodwater was intentionally diverted to Dera Allahyar, Balochistan to save the air base.

There is rough estimation by the media about the displacement of 800,000 people by the divergence of the waters to the poorer areas. Over 150,000 people have been evacuated from Dera Allahyar and other areas. 350,000 people of Jafferabad district have been shifted to Dera Murad Jamali, Sibi and Quetta, parts of Balochistan, and over 300,000 people had earlier moved to Dera Murad Jamali and Sibi from the Sindh province particularly from Jacobabad.

There can be no doubt that the presence of the Pakistan army personnel at the breach of Jamali bypass indicates the fact that this was an intentional breach. This must be investigated along in order to ascertain who gave the orders. Those giving the orders must be prosecuted. The government of Pakistan must also probe the allegations of deliberate breaches; not only in the incident involving Shahbaz airbase but also those reported earlier where the agricultural lands belonging to senior ministers was protected from the floodwaters also by intentional breaches.

It is a gross contradiction that the United States of America is now one of the biggest donors of relief to Pakistan and it is therefore unacceptable that they are allegedly refusing permission to use Shahbaz airbase for the distribution of that relief.

# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

SLIM SUPPORT FOR PEOPLE IN PAKISTAN

PROMOTING VFP CONFAB

I was up very early this morning to drive to Portland in order to do a live TV interview to promote the national Veterans for Peace convention which starts early next week. The confab runs from Aug 25-29 in Portland, Maine.

I will be there working at the convention all of those days and will post some reports from the event. Looks like a good crowd is expected from all over the country.

The Associated Press reports today that a U.S. solider was killed in Iraq during a rocket attack. This should come as a great surprise to many since the mainstream media had previously announced that "combat operations" were over in Iraq.

Sort of like Bush's famous statement on the aircraft carrier some years ago - "mission accomplished"!