Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Friday, October 29, 2010

CLIMATE CHANGE WATCH: FLOODS DEVASTATE BENIN


West Africa is reeling from severe flooding following heavy rain. Hundreds of people are known to have died. Worst affected is the tiny nation of Benin, where the receding waters are revealing the true extent of the damage. Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull has our exclusive report.

Instead of increased global militarism we should be marshaling the world to deal with our real coming crisis - climate change.

WARS ON EARTH & IN SPACE

Participants at national conference October 9-10 in Nagpur, India - click on photo to see banners

  • The photo above comes from Global Network board member J. Narayana Rao in Nagpur, India who recently hosted my speaking tour to his country. In spite of the fact that the Indian government would not allow us to hold our 18th annual space organizing conference there, this national confab was a great success. Students and activists came from around the country to attend the event. See Rao's report and Nagpur Declaration here

  • The Obama administration has continued the long U.S. tradition of blocking any hope of creating new international law to protect space from the ravages of war. At the United Nations today the U.S. voted to abstain (and thus block) any real hopes to negotiate and pass the "Transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities". The vote was 167 in favor with the U.S. abstaining. (Without the U.S. genuinely involved nothing can happen.) Today's vote came just two days after the Obama administration had the U.S. torpedo the U.N.'s annual Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) treaty resolution supported by Russia and China. That vote: 170 in favour, 2 abstained (U.S. and Israel). Just who is pushing an arms race in space?

  • I woke up at 5:00 am this morning with a check list of things on my mind for next week's peace walk. Early on I had a call from a reporter at a major Maine newspaper who is doing an advance story on the peace walk. She couldn't believe it when I told her that our country is spending $8 billion a month on the Afghanistan war. She asked me three times if I was sure. She had asked me why we were walking and I told her that one key reason was because the public knew nothing about how much these wars are costing us. Her response spoke to the truth of my point.

AFGHANISTAN: LOSING ON PURPOSE


Very interesting stories here from journalists Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley who have recently returned from Afghanistan.

It is increasingly clear to me that the U.S./NATO war is really about extending this deadly and expensive operation long into the future. They are slamming the door shut on every opportunity to negotiate with the "enemy". They are killing people who have gone over to the U.S. side thus making it clear to the people of Afghanistan that you either fight for your lives or die at the hands of the imperial occupiers.

This means permanent war in the region that is now costing us more than $8 billion per month.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

PEACE WALK EVENING PROGRAM SCHEDULE

Below please find the full schedule of Maine Veterans for Peace potluck supper/program events during the November 2-11 Walk for Peace, Human Needs, and Veterans' Care.

Potluck supper/program schedule

* Farmington potluck supper/program on November 2 (Tuesday) to kick-off the peace walk at 6:00 pm
Old South First Congregational Church
227 Main St
Farmington
293-2580


* Skowhegan potluck supper/program on November 3 (Wednesday) at 6:00 pm
Skowhegan Community Center
39 Poulin Drive
Showhegan
643-2356


* Waterville potluck supper/program on November 4 (Thursday) at 6:00 pm
Pleasant Street UMC Church
61 Pleasant St
Waterville
643-2356


* Bangor potluck supper/program on November 5 (Friday) at 6:00 pm
St. Johns Episcopal Church
235 French St
Bangor
944-2609


* Belfast pot luck supper/program on November 6 (Saturday) at 6:00 pm
UU Church
37 Miller Street
Belfast
338-9509


* Rockland potluck supper/program on November 7 (Sunday) at 6:00 pm
Rockland UU Church
345 Broadway
Rockland
596-7784


* Bath potluck supper/program on November 8 (Monday) at 6:00 pm
Grace Episcopal Church
1100 Washington St
Bath
319-9188


* Freeport potluck supper/program on November 9 (Tuesday) at 6:00 pm
First Parish Congregational Church
40 Maine St
Freeport
865-0655


* Portland potluck supper/program on November 10 (Wednesday) at 6:00 pm
Sacred Heart/St. Dominic Church Hall
80 Sherman St at Mellen
Portland
773-6562

On November 11 (Thursday) walkers will participate in the Veterans Day parade in Portland and afterwards will join a potluck lunch and Draw-a-thon at Space Gallery (538 Congress St)

We would like for you to let us know if you plan to be with us for any part of this peace walk so we can more effectively make our logistical plans. Contact us at danellis@vfpmaine.org and let us know the date(s) you plan to walk with us, your name, and contact information for each person.

For full walk schedule, route maps, and registration information see http://vfpmaine.org/vfp.htm

Thanks for your support. See you on the road.

Maine Veterans for Peace
865-0655 or 443-9502
http://www.vfpmaine.org/

WHAT WE WON'T HEAR IN THIS ELECTION


The United States currently ranks 49th in the world in overall life expectancy, according to a study published in the academic journal Health Affairs, slipping dramatically during the last decade. The noteworthy decline is highlighted by the fact that in 1999, the World Health Organization ranked the US as 24th in the world in the same category, life expectancy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

HEDGES INTERVIEWED ABOUT HIS NEW BOOK


Author and Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges recently made an appearance on Canadian television’s “The Agenda With Steve Paikin” to make his case about how the American liberal class and its institutions have spectacularly failed those whom they supposedly aimed to serve, taking no prisoners (et tu, Bill Clinton) and hitting on the major themes of his new book, the aptly titled “The Death of the Liberal Class,” while he was at it.

DEMOCRATS GIVE WAY TO CORPORATE AGENDA AND LOSE THEIR BASE

It looks bad for the Democrats come election day. Here in Maine a right-wing tea-bagger is expected to be our next governor. He wants to privatize public eduction, doesn't believe in climate change, and wants to run welfare recipients out of the state. It's going to be rough.

All across the country similar stories are in the offing. Right-wing religious zealots are going to be elected to the House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and to several other governorships. The tea-party, made up of angry white folks, are fired up and ready to start shooting if they don't win on November 2.

The Democrats have little energy these days. Obama is crossing the country fast and furious, replaying his worn out "progressive message" that worked well in the 2008 election, but is having little impact this time around. Large portions of the progressive community are virtually idle at this time - not able to stomach campaigning for a party that has betrayed its base on virtually every issue and then publicly smacked them down when they dared to express their disappointment.

Already Obama is sending messages via the media that he is eager to work with a right-wing controlled House of Representatives following the collapse of his party. It will make passing legislation to gut Social Security and the few remaining social programs that much easier. He will likely find strong "bi-partisan" support to continue to expand his war in Afghanistan-Pakistan and any talk of troops returning home in 2011 will be gone with the wind.

The Democrats are learning that their fall into the eager arms of corporate capital is having a direct result in them losing their activist base. Just two years ago pundits were predicting the demise of the Republican Party after the sound beating they took in the national elections following a strong vote for the Democrats who largely ran against Bush's costly wars. But once in power the Democrats turned on their base and sat on their hands as the wars expanded and further cutbacks in social progress were coupled with massive welfare checks for the banksters and insurance companies.

The truth is that real progressives have virtually no one representing them today and many will choose to either stay home on election day or pick and choose very carefully when they enter the voting booth.

An economically collapsing America, already dangerous to the world with its eager to kill military empire, will become even more of a threat following this election. Here at home civil liberties will be in even greater danger as the right-wing consolidates power and will embrace the worst elements of the corporate police state. The most we can hope for is that the confused middle class, who are now turning to the tea-party candidates in droves, will quickly learn that the new "rulers" have no intention of making life better for them as these politicians will eagerly give way to the demands of the corporate oligarchy who pumped big money into their campaigns.

For the rest of us it is not the time to cower and hide. The coming period will call upon us to display uncommon courage and determination to stand up for those who are being cast aside by the corporate agenda.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

TRYING TO SCARE THE PANTS OFF YOU


Seymour Hersch has another big Pentagon story in The New Yorker, this time called The Online Threat: Should we be worried about a cyber war?

The Pentagon is working overtime to ensure that cyber war becomes the next great fear in the minds of the American people - coming after the Red scare of the Cold War and the present "terrorism" freak-out with the Muslim world. In the story Hersch casts doubt on the fear-mongering with this passage:

American intelligence and security officials for the most part agree that the Chinese military, or, for that matter, an independent hacker, is theoretically capable of creating a degree of chaos inside America. But I was told by military, technical, and intelligence experts that these fears have been exaggerated, and are based on a fundamental confusion between cyber espionage and cyber war. Cyber espionage is the science of covertly capturing e-mail traffic, text messages, other electronic communications, and corporate data for the purpose of gathering national-security or commercial intelligence. Cyber war involves the penetration of foreign networks for the purpose of disrupting or dismantling those networks, and making them inoperable. (Some of those I spoke to made the point that China had demonstrated its mastery of cyber espionage in the EP-3E incident, but it did not make overt use of it to wage cyber war.) Blurring the distinction between cyber war and cyber espionage has been profitable for defense contractors—and dispiriting for privacy advocates.

Hersch recalls the story about the U.S. Navy EP-3E spy plane that bumped up along the coastal border of China soon after George W. Bush came into office. The Chinese brought the plane down onto Hainan Island and proceeded to take it apart piece by piece. They learned alot about the U.S. electronic surveillance program in that incident and the Pentagon used it as an opportunity to start crying wolf - the Chinese are coming and are ready to cyber attack us here at home - NOTHING IS SAFE!

One has to wonder if the incident over Hainan Island was a fix. The plane, a slow lumbering propeller driven spy aircraft, was destined to be intercepted during such a mission. With present satellite technology available to the Pentagon today you have to wonder what the plane could do that military satellites aren't already capable of delivering.

The military industrial complex loves these kinds of scare scenarios.....how can anyone refute them? How can an inquiring mind or a skeptical public stand up against "the best and the brightest" inside the Pentagon? What they say is gospel, right?

So today we see massive amounts of your tax dollars being poured into the cyber war rat hole to "protect and defend" us against Chinese computer attack when in fact the cyber command is developing U.S. "offensive" cyber attack programs with these new infusions of cash.

So be careful not to fall for these mental tricks being pulled on the public. I know it is almost Halloween and scary things are standard operating procedure this time of year.

Just close the door on this one.

Monday, October 25, 2010

WHY WE ARE WALKING

We in America believe we live in a democracy where we are free to choose. Yet as Americans, most of us do not choose to raise our children to fight in wars of occupation. And we do not choose to have our tax dollars fund corporate wars. And we certainly do not ask those who serve in the military to risk their lives for anything other than to defend our constitution and our nation. Still the occupation of Iraq continues, and the war in Afghanistan rages into its tenth year, neither protecting the constitution nor our country’s citizens. It is as if someone, somewhere, has decided that we in America must live under a permanent war economy and that some of our families will have to be sacrificed and traumatized by war so that others may live in excessive comfort.

And, unfortunately, it seems as though those who commit us to these wars, our elected representatives, are not hearing our voices as we implore them to bring our soldiers home, to provide them with the highest quality health care available, and to desist from draining our
town budgets to wage these wars. Do the citizens of Maine realize that the annual war cost to them over the last nine years has been $325,000,000, that over this nine year period $2,940,000,000 of their tax dollars has been spent on these wars? Perhaps our representatives will listen to us if we take to the streets.

In that spirit, we in Veterans For Peace will commence a walk for peace this November 2-11. We will walk for nine days through rural Maine. We will not march. We will not demonstrate. We will walk to bear witness to the damage these wars have done to our villages and towns. To our families. We have listened to reports claiming that the burden of these two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been disproportionately borne by those living in rural communities. We have listened to reports of the sky rocketing suicide rates of soldiers serving in these wars. We have listened to reports of soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Brain Trauma Injury, and Military Sexual Trauma being redeployed into theaters of war multiple times.

Now we want to listen to our neighbors’ stories and accounts. We want to carry their narratives with us as we walk. We want to share them with Congressman Michaud and Congresswoman Pingree, with Senator Collins and with Senator Snowe. And we want to rebuild the social contract in this state between its citizens and its congressional representatives to ensure that our soldiers’ commitment to serving their country will not be abused and our hard-earned tax dollars not misspent.

We who will walk do not delude ourselves into thinking that our efforts will end the wars, nor do we imagine that our witness will completely alleviate the pain inflicted on our communities. But we assure our fellow citizens that our commitment to ending these wars, to healing the wounded, will be that much stronger from having entered their communities and hearing their voices. We ask our neighbors to join us for a mile or many, for an evening or two. We want to hear from them.

For more information about the VFP Peace Walk, please go to our website at http://www.vfpmaine.org/

Doug Rawlings
Veterans For Peace
Farmington, Maine

Sunday, October 24, 2010

FRENCH FIGHT FOR ALL OF US AGAINST GLOBAL CAPITAL




Sign reads "Listen to the public's rage"

Unlike the right-wing tea-baggers in the U.S., the working class in France understands there is a war upon them and it is coming from the global corporate elite. Sadly in the U.S. many of those who are angry at their economic situation are naively turning to the very people who are oppressing them for answers and support. They will learn in time that they are being badly misled and used by the oligarchy.

Go to this link to see many more photos and also read many excellent comments by French citizens and their supporters in other countries about the French strikes. Those who are paying close attention understand that global capital is now out to suppress the working and middle classes all over the world. The French recognize that the raising of their retirement age is just the first step. Now that it has passed there will be plenty more of these "austerity" measures coming their way. They don't intend to sit back and comply.

Obama's "commission" on Social Security reform will propose an increase in retirement age in the U.S. soon after the November 2 election. We will be told we have to accept this in order to deal with the deficit. The question should be posed: What will the banksters, insurance corporations, and war industries have to give up? The answer from the oligarchy will be: Nothing!

It's way beyond time for some class consciousness here in America.

CLIMATE CHANGE IS OUR REAL CRISIS



Increasingly dry conditions across much of the globe — including the U.S. — are likely over the next 30 years, a new study predicts. Moreover, by the year 2100 drought in some regions could be unprecedented in modern times.


Increasing drought has long been forecast as a consequence of warming temperatures, but the study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research projects serious impacts as soon as the 2030s. Impacts by century's end could go beyond anything in the historical record, the study suggests.


"We are facing the possibility of widespread drought in the coming decades, but this has yet to be fully recognized by both the public and the climate change research community," study author Aiguo Dai said in a statement. "If the projections in this study come even close to being realized, the consequences for society worldwide will be enormous."

ESCALATION OF FORCE DEATHS: AMERICA DOESN'T WANT TO KNOW



The Secret Iraq Files

Almost 700 civilians, including pregnant women and the mentally ill, killed for coming too close to checkpoints.

All to "avenge" 9-11?

It is the biggest leak of military secrets ever. Al Jazeera has obtained access to almost 400,000 classified American documents. Torture, claims of murder at the checkpoint - revelations that make a mockery of the rules of combat. This special programme reveals the truth about the war in Iraq.