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, November 12, 2010

OBAMA TURNS FURTHER RIGHTWARD


The co-chairmen of the Obama's bipartisan deficit commission released a list of recommendations Wednesday on ways to reduce the nation’s deficit by $4 trillion by 2020.

Co-chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson have proposed raising the retirement age for Social Security to 69 by the year 2075, decreasing the cost of living benefits for Social Security recipients, imposing new limits on the Medicare health insurance program, and ending several middle-class tax breaks.

BRITISH STUDENTS RATTLE THEIR CHAINS

NEXT STEPS

  • Yes, the G20 is really a replacement for dealing with the whole world at the United Nations. The corporate oligarchy wants to control things in that smaller space. Great sign!

  • I woke up this morning with my feet and ankles still sore from the walk. I guess I will be limping around for some time to come. We must travel to Boston today for a weekend memorial service for MB's sister-in-law who recently passed away after a long and valiant struggle against cancer.

  • It appears that Obama has agreed to a deal to allow the super rich in the U.S. to keep their Bush-era tax cuts for some more years to come. This at the very time that "fiscal conservatives" clamor about the national debt. The rich make BIG money off the wars but they don't want to pay their fair share in taxes to cover the costs. Next up: Obama will attempt to raise the Social Security retirement age. Will rank-and-file Dems have the stuff to take on their president over these core issues?

  • The Washington Post reports this morning that Obama's biggest concern right now is his own reelection. The rest of us can fend for ourselves. Here is a quote from the Post:

In his post-election remarks, the president has repeatedly expressed worries about "gridlock" in Washington. He has signaled that he wants to find big issues on which to compromise, with an eye toward his reelection campaign in 2012.

  • After I return from Boston I need a couple of days to take it easy, sort through the stack of Global Network mail left unattended while I was on the peace walk, and then I must begin to get going on our 2011 international space organizing conference that will be held in Andover, Massachusetts. Looks like we will try to do the event in June (final date will depend on availability of meeting facilities) and the confab will have a Raytheon focus since they are headquartered in that state and have "missile offense" production facilities in Andover. Part of my thinking to join the Nipponzan Myohoji peace walk through Massachusetts in February is that it would be a good opportunity to talk with local peace activists about the Global Network's space conference.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

FINAL LEGS



We finished the peace walk today in Portland by participating in the annual Veterans Day parade. Veterans for Peace (VFP) was pluncked down near the end of the parade between the girl scouts and a bunch of church people dressed as clowns.

There was some drama surrounding the parade that is organized by the right-wing American Legion each year. They have a rule that you can only have one banner and it can only have your name on it. In 2006 the American Legion tried to kick us out of the parade but the Portland City Council determined that they could not do so since the city pays for the police to close the streets. The city would have been libel for a lawsuit because of discrimination against veterans (who just had a different political opinion than the legion organizers) so we were allowed to participate.

Last year we decided to carry a banner that said U.S. out of Afghanistan and the American Legion was furious with us for pulling "shenanigans". This year we never got the application form in the mail and when our president Dud Hendrick called to enquire about our status the parade organizer told him to "fuck off" and hung up the phone.

Just yesterday the Portland Phoenix (weekly entertainment and arts newspaper) called Dud to find out if it was true that we had been kicked out of the parade. The Phoenix then called the Legion president and under press scrutiny he denied that we had been bounced. Just "no shenanigans," he said. So we were back in the parade.

We decided to carry our banner from the peace walk and line up like we did each day as we walked across the state - with the Buddhists from Nipponzan Myohoji right behind the banner.

Just as years past we had one of the largest, if not the largest, delegations of veterans in the parade. The response from the thin crowd lining the cold and windy street was quite good and we had volunteers hand out the last of our literature that we passed out all along the walk route explaining our purpose for walking. It was a good organizing opportunity.

After the parade finished we skipped the boring speeches on the steps of city hall (even though friends Gary Higginbottom & Karen Wainberg pulled some shenanigans and held the Bring Our War $$ Home banner during the ceremony right in the faces of the legion). Instead we took a sharp right onto a side street where we gathered for our final circle to conclude the walk. The VFP circle had at least 60 people in it and it felt good for others who had not yet had a chance to walk to have a taste of the experience. By this time many of us were noticeably limping and I think several were a bit melancholy to see this close knit walking community come to an end.

We were all invited over to the Space Gallery (a local art venue) to see the kick-off of an art show by Kenny Cole called "Hellfire Missile". CodePink Maine and artists from all over the state had created an event called Draw-a-thon II which invited the public to sit with an artist and collaborate on images of how they would rather see our war $$ spent here at home. One little boy told artist Brain Reeves that we should build a Sponge Bob statue so Brian drew Sponge Bob holding peace signs with his extended arms while mounted on a stone pedestal.

We will miss our Buddhist friends who were essential to the success of this peace walk. They are planning a walk through Massachusetts in February and I've told them I will be there for the two-week event. In the meantime I have to rest by swollen and very sore feet.

As I said last night at the pot luck supper in Portland, extraordinary times like these call for extraordinary efforts like this peace walk. We can't expect email organizing to get us out from behind the eight-ball that now sits in front of us.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

COVERAGE IN BATH

March message focuses on the cost of war
Peace Activists march along the Sagadahoc Bridge into Bath on Monday.

(Troy R. Bennett / The Times Record)
By Seth Koenig

BATH — For the city of Bath, the total is $20.8 million.

Maine Veterans for Peace marchers in the midst of a 10-day trek from Farmington to Portland are carrying with them a list of dollar amounts. The numbers represent each town or city’s share of the country’s cost, so far, to fight the ongoing war in Afghanistan since 2001. The cost for the state of Maine over that time is $2.9 billion.

Bruce Gagnon, a longtime peace advocate who helped lead the walkers into his hometown of Bath on Monday afternoon, has been among those trying to draw attention to those figures through various events and activities for months. The number of marchers trekking from Farmington to Portland has fluctuated along the way, Gagnon said, but Monday’s contingent was around 40 people.

“We’re talking about the cost of war and going through 43 Maine communities,” he told a reporter from The Times Record as the group paused along the way in Woolwich. “We’re trying to get people to connect the dots between these wars and the economic problems this country is facing.

“We’re spending $8 billion a month in Afghanistan today,” he continued. “How can there be any economic recovery if we’re spending that much a month on a war? We’re trying to ask people how their communities might have been able to better spend that money locally.”

Monday’s portion of the trek brought the peace activists down Route 1 from Rockland to Bath, where they held a vigil outside Bath Iron Works as first shift workers poured out of the yard to go home.

The wet weather wasn’t as bad as it could have been in the aftermath of Sunday night’s storm. Neither was the response from BIW shipbuilders.

“I got as many good, positive waves in the last five minutes as I got fingers,” reported Gagnon from Washington Street as shipyard traffic rolled by.

There were some cat calls and disapproving gestures from some of the passing vehicles, but there were also some honks of approval and waves. The shipbuilders’ response was OK, Gagnon told a reporter on the scene, as was the weather Monday. The aftermath of Sunday night’s storm dampened the marchers to start the day, but by the afternoon, the sun was peaking out.

“We had some rain this morning,” Gagnon said. “We had some concerns because it was so windy overnight in Rockland, but the wind let up and it was just rain today. We’ve faced worse, actually. We’ve walked in gales before.”

Simple message

The message of the walk is simple: That the United States is spending money on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at the expense of its own domestic economy.

Many marchers held signs calling for defense contractors like BIW to be converted to produce components of public transit or renewable energy systems.

“We need to convert to truly clean and green technology and stop warring around the world,” said marcher Betty Adams of Leverett, Mass., who called the Pentagon and its network of contractors the “largest polluter in the world.”

“We would like to see those dollars (currently being spent on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) spent back in our home communities,” she continued. “We need money for housing, health care, schools and public transportation, not killing people, which is against every religion.”

Along the route from Farmington to Portland, Veterans for Peace has events scheduled to discuss the costs of the war and domestic needs. Monday night, a pot luck dinner and talk was scheduled in Bath at the Grace Episcopal Church. A similar event is on the agenda for tonight at 6 p.m. at the First Parish Congregational Church in Freeport, as the marchers finish a Day 8 walk that will lead them down Route 1 through West Bath and Brunswick.

On Wednesday, the dinner program will make an evening stop at the Sacred Heart/St. Dominic Church hall in Portland, and on Thursday, the walkers plan to march in the city’s Veterans Day parade. After the parade, the Veterans for Peace group will gather at the Space Gallery in Portland for a lunch and draw-a-thon.

Gagnon said that, in addition to the financial information, the marchers are trying to create awareness of the emotional burden the ongoing wars are placing on young soldiers today. He said many are battling post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after tours abroad, and added that in 2009, more soldiers died of suicide than were killed in Afghanistan.

Gagnon said by sending military personnel back to the combat zones for several tours of duty, “people’s psyches are being stretched like a rubber band.”

“Families are being destroyed,” he said. “Communities are being destroyed.”

Monday, November 08, 2010

OBAMA SELLS WEAPONS TO INDIA & QUOTES GANDHI


Obama sells $15 billion of weapons to India and quotes Gandhi.....the U.S. is dragging India into Star Wars and using India to help surround China which will make the region more unstable.

Anyone who falls for this Gandhi BS from Obama, while he expands the war into Afghanistan-Pakistan, is fooling themselves.

G20 AND THE MAGICIAN

G20 Protests in Seoul, South Korea

  • I am really out of touch with much of the current news but am home tonight and have a bit of a chance to get caught up. I took a hot bath to soak my legs and feet. Now I want to add a few important items to the blog.
  • The G20 has been meeting in recent days in South Korea and the protests have been large there in opposition to the corporate takeover of the global economy and politics. You can see extensive photos and articles about the protests here
  • Last night I stayed in the home of friend Jerry Call near Rockland as the peace walk came through his community. Jerry had a sudden heart attack three weeks ago and died as he was being transported to the hospital but was revived by one of the emergency workers. He said he was walking into a peaceful fog as he passed into the great beyond and then was brought back into this dimension. He is on his feet now and came to the pot luck. We are very lucky to have Jerry back with us. He was the leading organizer in Maine during the past year of the movement for a single-payer health care program.
  • While at Jerry's place this morning we were watching the TV news and saw Obama speaking in India. As Obama was there selling them $15 billion worth of weapons of war he was quoting Gandhi left and right. It was enough to make me sick. But it was vintage Obama - the magician - watch both his hands and both sides of his mouth.

GERMAN ACTIVISTS TRY TO BLOCK NUCLEAR WASTE SHIPMENT


A forest in Germany has been turned into a struggle over nuclear power.

More than 17,000 policemen were used to keep a trainload of nuclear waste on the move to a storage site at Gorleben.

Protesters are doing everything they can to stop it, including trying to blockade the tracks.

Al Jazeera's Guy Henderson reports from Leitstade, Germany.

VIGIL AT BATH IRON WORKS



These photos are from Saturday's walk from Bangor to Belfast. I am always a couple days late posting photos.

We arrived in Bath at 3:30 pm today just as the workers at Bath Iron Works were leaving work. We vigiled for a half-hour and people were surprised afterwards that it was not as negative a response from the workers as they had expected. Our signs were very positive making the call for conversion of the Navy shipyard that now builds Aegis destroyers which are outfitted with "missile offense" systems. It is clear that many people who work there would like to build wind turbines, rail systems or civilian ships.

We moved on to a local Episcopal church where I am now writing this post. We'll have a pot luck supper tonight.

When we left Rockland this morning it was raining after a huge storm passed through Maine during the night. By noon the storm had quieted and we finally saw the sun appear after several days of clouds and rain. We had a great lunch break at the home of Steve Burke who is a leader of the peace group in the Rockland area. His old house is right on Highway 1 in Warren so we were able to walk right up to his door.

Just beyond Rockland we walked through Thomaston where a local Episcopal church opened their doors to us for a break. They clanged the bells as we arrived at the church and served us coffee, tea, and snacks. They were so kind and had planned to come out and greet us as we walked past their church but our support people had stumbled onto the church by accident and knocked on their door to see if we could take a break there. So a nice coincidence for us.

We go back to Bath Iron Works at 8:00 am for a half-hour vigil before walking to Freeport. I notice that there is a 30% chance of rain tomorrow so maybe we will get lucky and avoid more water.

We had two newspapers cover us today (Village Soup in Rockland area and Times Record in Bath) so more articles should be out on Tuesday.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

ROLLING INTO ROCKLAND

This photo is from a national meeting held in New York City over the weekend. Notice our Maine banner hanging over the crowd. The meeting was to further plan the growing national effort to connect war spending to the economic collapse. One of our Maine Bring Our War $$ Home campaign leaders, Gary Higginbottom, went to represent us at the meeting.

The peace walk has arrived in Rockland with about 20 local people joining us the last two miles as we came into town. Earlier in the day a dozen folks from Belfast walked 12 miles with us as far as Lincolnville Beach. The support we are getting along the way has been wonderful.

Early this morning Maine Veterans for Peace member Bob Lezer, who was on the walk for the first several days, went to Portland to be on one of the network TV shows for a five-minute live interview about the walk. During one of our breaks this morning a person who worked at a diner we stopped at said she saw Bob on the tube. So the word continues to spread across the state about our effort.

In the morning we head toward Bath and plan a vigil at Bath Iron Works at 3:30 pm as the workers leave the shipyard. The weather forecasts cold and rain all day so it will be a tough one.

We've had acupuncturists and/or massage therapists at every evening stop along the way so far. Their help has been an enormous contribution helping us do as well as we have so far.