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, April 29, 2011

HISTORY: THE BIG EMPIRE




An old U.S. military propaganda film about turning Okinawa into a U.S. "possession" as a power projection hub.

These days the people of Okinawa are fed up with the presence of U.S. bases and want them gone. But the U.S. military still sees Okinawa as a key outpost in its goal of maintaining bases to enable control of the Asian-Pacific, particularly China.

I HATE THE WAR...I LOVE THE WAR



"The Welcome" offers a fiercely intimate view of life after war: the fear, anger and isolation of post-traumatic stress that affects vets and family members alike. As we join them in a small room for an unusual five day healing retreat, we witness how the ruins of war can be transformed into the beauty of poetry. Here our perceptions are changed, our psyches strained, and our hearts broken. And at the end, when this poetry is shared with a large civilian audience, we begin to understand that all of us are a vital piece of the Welcome as Veterans try to find the way back home. Their examples of unflinching honesty, courage and love lift us up, inspiring all of us once again to feel our common humanity, always the first casualty of war.

MIXED MESSAGES


  • Despite the campaign sign with the great message above, Obama as president has done just the opposite. He has continued and expanded the wars and occupations and increased military spending. Long-time political activist Ralph Nader writes that Obama will be reelected because he has delivered the goods to the oligarchy. Why would they change horses now when Obama has given them everything they want, plus he has effectively demobilized the left's opposition to corporate domination? It's a win-win for the corporate masters.

Nader says: "Obama is averse to conflict with corporate power and disarmingly expedient in compromising with Republicans, leaving the latter to argue largely among themselves. The political duopoly lets the tactical Obama use the Bully Pulpit to his political advantage, even if his principles perish. Obama can look forward to four more years in 2012."


  • I've been increasing my work on the Global Network's 19th annual Space Organizing Conference that will be held in Andover, Massachusetts on June 17-19. People are beginning to register, overseas participants are making their travel arrangements, and I've been tying up loose ends in the program. Yesterday I reserved a 15-passenger van for the weekend as I know that we are going to have to be transporting people around from place to place during the event. One thing I am most proud of is that more people from Maine have now registered than from anywhere else so far.


  • Word from Jeju Island is that Professor Yang, now is his 24th day of hunger strike against construction of the Navy base, has been admitted to the hospital due to failing health. He is a determined man. Former Jeju Governor Shin was strongly urged by the villagers to end his solidarity fast on the 10th day and he followed their direction but also issued a statement that included these words:

To all the Island people, I apologize to you that I have made you to be much anxious for my fast....However, through my fast this time, I became to know how the navy and Jeju Island have divided the Gangjeong villagers through betrayal, pacification and manipulation, and how the Gangjeong villagers have been living in great fury and suffering for last four years.....I, myself had been in the favoring position of naval base as well until I knew the truth of the Gangjeong village through my fast. As one of the Jeju Island citizens and a former Island governor who has once carried job for you, I feel so ashamed of myself and sorry to all of you. I make an apology to you and beg your pardon.


  • Last night was our monthly Veterans for Peace meeting and I was pleased that the group approved my request that we consider giving Peter Woodruff, who has worked at Bath Iron Works for 30 years building destroyers, an honorary membership in the organization. In addition I had a chance to detail the plans for the upcoming protest at Bath Iron Works on May 7 when another warship is "christened".

  • This will be a busy weekend for me. On Saturday I will head north to the University of Maine-Orono where the annual Hope Festival (organized by the Eastern Maine Peace & Justice Center from Bangor) will be held and I will staff a table to hand out information about the Global Network and the Bring Our War $$ Home campaign. Mark Roman from Solon will join me.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

VOICES FROM THE CHERNOBYL NUCLEAR DISASTER

SO WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO MAJOR PARTIES?


The web site FireDogLake reports the following:

Last night, the Massachusetts House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill (111-42) to strip public-sector workers of their ability to bargain collectively for healthcare. The rhetoric surrounding the bill, proposed by Democratic State House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, is in many ways similar to what Wisconsinites recently heard as Gov. Walker pushed his infamous unionbusting bill.

The State of Massachusetts currently faces a budget deficit of $1.9 billion. House Democrats say that by limiting the collective bargaining rights of public employees over healthcare they can save the state $100 million a year. Democrats in Massachusetts, much like Democrats in New York, have focused on cutting basic government services and workers’ wages instead of raising taxes on the richest. Thus, House Speaker DeLeo proposed the plan that would limit the rights of employees to collective bargain over healthcare. And many Democrats, who have been supported by labor unions in the state, passed it.

“We are going to fight this thing to the bitter end,” Robert J. Haynes, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, told the Boston Globe last night. “Massachusetts is not the place that takes collective bargaining away from public employees.”

CIA RUNS THE SHOW

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

UPDATING THE WAR $$ HOME CAMPAIGN

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, California is sponsoring a Bring Our War $$ Home resolution at the next meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors


Last night I spoke at an event in Windham, Maine organized by one of our Bring Our War $$ Home leaders Sally Breen. Windham is a small rural town just west of Portland and Sally has been working to bring the topic to her community.

About 20 people attended to hear four of us speak about the need to end war spending. Included in the audience was Sally's state representative, a reporter from the local newspaper, and a staff member of our Congresswoman Chellie Pingree who read a nice prepared statement encouraging our efforts. Rep. Pingree has voted against the last two war funding supplementals and just last week voted along with the progressive caucus in the House of Representatives for the alternative People's Budget. It failed to pass the right-wing dominated House (both Republicans, 239 of them, and Democrats, 108 of them, voted against it) but it got 77 yes votes.

One of the speakers on the panel last night was a former Cumberland County Commissioner, who lost in the last Republican-tide election. She spoke from her experience of seeing the federal government dump social needs onto the local and state governments who have no resources to deal with these problems. She spoke eloquently about the need to Bring Our War $$ Home - making the case that war spending is indeed a "local issue" that elected officials in Maine should take a position on.

In my comments I warned that there would be no "economic recovery" in Maine or the U.S. unless and until our government halts its spending on endless war. I illustrated this point by sharing that U.S. multi-national corporations have created 2.4 million jobs overseas in recent years while cutting 2.9 million jobs in this country. How can there be recovery when corporations are moving jobs overseas like rats off a sinking ship? If we hope for economic recovery we must call for the conversion of the military industrial complex and use our presently wasted tax dollars to invest in rail systems, education, health care, home weatherization and the like here at home.

Bring Our War $$ Home resolutions have now passed in the following local communities:

  • Maine - Solon School Board, Deer Isle town meeting and Portland City Council.
  • Massachusetts - Amherst and Northampton City Councils
  • Connecticut - Hartford City Council

Nationally CodePink has hired a full-time organizer to work on the Bring Our War $$ Home campaign and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles will introduce and champion a Bring Our War $$ Home resolution at the next annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Baltimore. If you live in a city of 30,000 or more people please ask your mayor to sign on as a supporter of the resolution. You can get more information here

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

THE ROYAL FREE RIDE

WORSE THAN CHERNOBYL



We've got to stop relying on the nuclear industry and their minions for information about their disasters. We've got to push back against any and all plans for more nuclear power plants. The future generations won't survive more of these accidents.

We'e got to shut the whole nuclear industry down now. Say it - over and over again.

PROTEST OF AEGIS "CHRISTENING" PLANNED IN MAINE

Japanese peace activists protesting porting of Aegis destroyers outfitted with "missile defense" systems in their country

South Koreans, on Jeju Island, protest the construction of a Navy base on their environmentally sensitive island that will be used to port U.S. Navy Aegis destroyers



The Navy will "christen" another Aegis destroyer on Saturday, May 7 at Bath Iron Works (BIW) in Maine. Peace groups plan to hold a protest at the event from 8:30 - 10:00 am. Following the protest people are invited to come to the Addams-Melman House (212 Centre St) in Bath for a pot luck lunch at noon.

The protest is being sponsored by the Smiling Trees Disarmament Farm, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, Maine Veterans for Peace and CodePink Maine.

These destroyers, with so-called "missile defense" systems on-board, are keys to the aggressive Pentagon military strategy that calls for Aegis deployments around Russian and Chinese borders in order to neutralize their nuclear retaliatory forces.

The hard fought struggle of villagers now going on at Jeju Island in South Korea against the construction of a Navy base is linked to these Aegis destroyers as the Navy needs more ports of call for the ever-expanding fleet of these ships.

The recent cruise missile attacks on Libya, costing $1.2 million each, were launched from Aegis warships.

Studies show that spending $1 billion on military production creates 8,555 jobs. But if that same $1 billion was invested in building rail systems at places like BIW we'd get 19,795 jobs.

The public is clamoring for jobs these days. Corporations, despite huge tax cuts, are not investing here in the U.S. because they are attracted to cheaper labor overseas. So if we want more jobs in this country we've got to take our federal tax dollars, that are presently being wasted on endless war, and invest them in building rail systems, wind turbines, and solar systems at facilities like BIW.

For more information please contact (207) 763-4062 or (207) 443-9502.

INTERVIEW WITH FORMER JEJU GOVERNOR



Now nine days into his solidarity fast, religious leaders meet with former Jeju Island governor Shin inside the tent of Professor Yang on the disputed coastline



Interview with Mr. Shin Ku-Bum, former Jeju Island governor
April 23, 2011
By Sung-Hee Choi
_____________________________________
Since April 18, Shin Ku Bum (1942- ), a former Island governor has been doing the solidarity fast along with professor Yang Yoon-Mo, a movie critic who was violently arrested by the Seogwipo station policemen on April 6 and has been in hunger strike in jail since then. Along with his concern about Yang’s life, Shin has demanded stop of the illegal and violent naval base construction in the Gangjeong village and national investigation on the process of the naval base construction. Shin has done 9th day solidarity fast in Yang’s vigil tent on the Joongduk coast in the Gangjeong village as of April 26. The below is a short interview with Shin and was held on April 23, the sixth day of his fast. We hope that the below could be one of the reference materials for the people who are concerned with Shin and his solidarity fast.

Please tell about yourself and your life

I was born in the Jeju Island, attended the Korea Military Academy instead of the university because I had no money but left school in the mid-course. [It was because his future wife did not like soldier.] After my first child was born, I taught myself and passed administrative civil service examination then started my life as a government employee and then was transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. After that, I studied the agriculture economics in the North Carolina State University. Returning back home, I worked as a director of the bureau then as an agriculture attaché in the embassy in Italy and then as a director of livestock farming after which I spent my life as a visiting researcher in the Georgetown University. Later as I returned back home again, I worked as a head in the office of planning and management in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. After that, I was designated as an Island governor and then elected as an Island governor again. The total period that I worked as an Island governor is from 1993 to 1998. After that I became a chairman of the central committee of the livestock farming cooperative, leaving politics, and ran eco-friendly agriculture business. During the IMF crisis in Korea, I resisted against the integrating move of the agriculture cooperative and livestock farming cooperative then I was jailed because of political retaliation for 790 days which was from Nov. 30, 2007 to Jan. 25, 2010, in the Youngdeungpo prison, Seoul. I see myself as personally conservative but socio-politically reformative figure.

What was the reason for solidarity fast with a professor Yang Yoon-Mo?

On Dec. 15, 2010, the Gangjeong villagers got the court decision of the dismissal on their lawsuit for the reason of disqualification of them as plaintiffs, which they had filed on Feb. 28, 2010 and which had been related to the issue on the absolute preservation areas. Since I myself was the victim of the judicature, I was infuriated by it and became to have concern with the naval base issue, having press interview etc. Since then I became to have more concern with it as I visited the site once to twice.

When I heard the news on the restraint of Yang Yoon-Mo and his fast in jail, I was reminded of his words that he “would die once reclamation of the coast and sea starts,” even though I could see him only for short time. He graduated from the same high school with mine, as my junior, but I could figure out his character. What would be the way to make him live? For that, I thought pressuring him would be the only way - that I would not end my fast in his tent he had lived in the Joongduk coast if he did not end his in jail.

On the second or third day of fast in the Joongduk coast site, my thought on the naval base has become much differentiated. In the past, I had thoughts that there could be the naval base, if needed for security and that Hwasoon [nearby village] would be OK while Gangjeong would not, which were similar to that of ordinary people.

However, I become to rethink on the naval base, looking at the Gangjeong villagers’ suffering, the navy’s role and its attitude toward villagers. There should be no naval base in the Jeju, not to mention in the Gangjeong village. The reasons are: First, the base business the navy is currently building is not the security business. It is for the navy who is in conflict with the army to expand its vested interests. In other words, the navy is doing its own business, under the pretext of security. Second, it is because I became to be aware on the values of life and peace. The Jeju Island should be that kind of Island. Third, if you look at the navy’s official promotion materials, it says that it has no plan for the joint usage of it with the U.S. military. If its words are true, there is no reason for the Jeju to have the naval base. It is needed to have the investigation on the reason and process of the naval base construction. The construction should be stopped at least until the result of the truth investigation on it, as well.

What do you think the reasons of the fact that the Island people’s concern on the opposition to the naval base is low?

First, it is because of their point of view that they should accept the security facilities. Second, it is because the naval base issue entered the Gangjeong village under the name of the civilian-military complex harbor and the majority of the Island people think it positive, considering that such naval base would provide them economic advantage. The Gangjeong village is specially an area where there should enter no naval base but the navy has gotten in its hands the main power class who might have been able to persuade the Island people, when it first came to Gangjeong.

As of your sixth day hunger strike, what have you seen and felt meanwhile?

First, it is the realization that I have not really known about the world we live in. I have not really been concretely practicing the most supreme values of life and peace, even though I have known of them in abstract way. We should do our works with ecology and environment as our most precious values, transforming ourselves from the lives of the development-prioritized era. Second, it is the realization that the lives of the peace activists who work for the values of life outside the political power sphere are far nobler than those of the politics society. Third, it is the realization that the villagers who was originally innocent have become much mature, being aware of the issues on the ecology and environment. The villagers have gone through the hard struggles for nearly four years. We should be one in Gangjeong for our efforts to be achieved, on the historical line from the April 3 [massacre and uprising in 1948].

The April 3 occurred [in 1948] when the state had no power and the essence of the problem was that the nation excessively suppressed people. The Gangjeong naval base issue is on the same line in that latter point, but is different in the sense that the state has betrayed the villagers and Island people rather than that it has no power- in other words, the state has not filled its obligation. However, both of April 3 and naval base are connected to the U.S. military.

What could be the differences between your life in the past and now?

Even though there could be a little difference, it is basically same. If not the past experience, I could not be able to do this. But I have seldom thought that I would experience same thing again in my current age.

During the terms of life as a public servant, I have confronted with governments lots of times for farmers even though I was a government employee. For example, there was the incident called that of the horse matters’ group in 1989. The profit of that group had been used as the public fund for farmers but the Ministry of the Sports attempted to rob of it so I resisted against it. Another example is that, right after the IMF, when the IMF was trying to process structural adjustment and to forcefully integrate the agriculture cooperative and livestock cooperative, I fought against the government. At the time, I had to fight with the departments of the legislative and judicature, as well. As a result of that, I had to go to jail. I have fought against the unjust politics and administrative power. I see the issue of Gangjeong on that same line. I have not thought that I would confront again myself [with those powers].

Whether this struggle would be won or failed, there are things that we should keep. When the people and sovereignty are experiencing unjust suffering because of wrong policy, we should act according to our consciousness. We should be aware of the value of life and act to save it. I am thinking to continue to do on the eco-friendly agriculture in the agriculture field.

Monday, April 25, 2011

CLIMATE CHANGE UPDATE

GOT TO KEEP THIS SPIRIT ALIVE

Wisconsin "Budget Repair Bill" Protest from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

THE RIGHT-WING GURU




Best part of this begins at 1:08 where Mike Wallace interviews Ayn Rand and she makes some startlingly scary acknowledgements about what she believes.

PYRAMIDS TO THE HEAVENS


The media is abuzz with the human interest story about Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) who will be flying to Cape Canaveral for Friday's scheduled launch of the space shuttle Endeavour which will carry her husband, Mark Kelly, to the International Space Station (ISS).

Rep. Giffords has recovered well enough from the recent tragic shooting of her and others in Arizona to make the trip. This launch will be the second-to-last mission of the space shuttle program before it is shut down in favor of Obama's plan to privatize key portions of the space launch business.

Like so many other things in our society today, the plan to privatize space launches comes after years of taxpayer investment created the basic space technological infrastructure that will now, to a considerable extent, be turned over wealthy investors. Immediate plans call for private industry to boost "space tourism trips" where people, with too much money on their hands, take a joy ride up into the heavens. From there we'll see private space developers begin to contract with the government for launch services. Eventually private corporations will fly missions to, and make land claims on, the moon, asteroids, and other planetary bodies for the purpose of extracting precious resources from those places.

In the meantime massive government investment will continue to create space military technologies to "control and dominate space" so that when the day comes where profit can be made from mining the sky, the Space Command will be able to patrol a military highway, or create a "front gate," to determine which countries or corporations have the ability to travel to and from Earth to space.

This strategy was all clearly spelled out in the 1989 Congressional study called Military Space Forces: The Next 50 Years. Author, and congressional staffer John Collins, wrote:

Military space forces at the bottom of Earth's so-called gravity well are poorly positioned to accomplish offensive/defensive/deterrent missions, because great energy is needed to overcome gravity during launch. Forces at the top, on a space counterpart of "high ground," could initiate action and detect, identify, track, intercept, or otherwise respond more rapidly to attacks. [This would include bases on the moon, armed space stations, and other orbiting battle platforms.] Put simply, it takes less energy to drop objects down a well than to cast them out.... Armed forces might lie in wait at that location to hijack rival shipments on return.

Nuclear reactors thus remain the only known long-lived, compact source able to supply military space forces with electric power..... Larger versions could meet multi megawatt needs of space-based lasers.... Nuclear reactors must support major bases on the moon..... Safety factors, rather than technological feasibility, will remain the principal impediment to nuclear power in space, unless officials convince influential critics that risks are acceptably low.

This is all a very expensive proposition. Some years ago the industry publication, Space News, wrote an editorial admitting they had to come up with a "secure funding source" in order to pay for their industry's plans in space if the U.S. hoped to stay on top of the heap. In the editorial they notified readers that indeed they had identified such a funding source - the "entitlement programs" and were sending their lobbyists to Washington to secure them for their use.

Officially the entitlement programs are: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and what is left of the welfare program. It is these programs that today are under vicious attack by the corporate interests who wish to use those funds in part to build their pyramids to the heavens.

The spectacle of a recovering Rep. Giffords and Obama waving to her husband as he blasts off on the space shuttle will bring tears to many eyes and warm feelings in many hearts. The aerospace industry hopes that more support for "everything" space will also result.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

RESTORING THE BALANCE


Yesterday I attended the 4th annual Symposium on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) put on by Maine Veterans for Peace (VFP). The event was held at the University of Southern Maine's Hannaford Hall in Portland. About 125 people were in attendance and the crowd included mostly Vietnam-era vets, family members of veterans, and professional counselors and therapists.

The younger veterans, from the 1990's Persian Gulf war, and from the current Afghanistan and Iraq wars, have been slow to come around to events like this. Vietnam veterans often talk about how long it took them to come to grips with the fact that they needed help with the demons they wrestled with after they came home. Many younger veterans it appears are also trying to "do it on their own" or not yet recognizing that they need to get some help.

One young man who was at the event, as a speaker, was Camilo Mejia who was in the Army and was stationed in Iraq. Mejia became a conscientious objector and refused to return to Iraq on a second deployment.

In May of 2004 Mejia was convicted of desertion by the U.S. military, a charge which can be punishable by death, and was sentenced to a year in jail. He served his time at Fort Sill military prison in Oklahoma and was recognized during his incarceration by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience and was awarded the Courageous Resister Award by Refuse and Resist. He was released in February of 2005 and since then has devoted his time to speaking out against the war in Iraq and encouraging others to understand that being a part of an immoral war was more cowardly than breaking the law: “I was a coward not for leaving the war but for being a part of it in the first place, “ he said.

He has written a book called The Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Seargeant Camilo Mejia which details his experience. In August of 2007 Camilo Mejia became the chair of the board for the Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Mejia told his personal story and weaved in his growing knowledge about PTSD. He said that his time in Iraq was a violation of his "contact with the world". He lamented that the "moral and spiritual aspects of PTSD are not part of the Veterans Administration (VA) treatments."

It is "not inherent in humans to kill each other," Mejia said. So the military changed their training after WW II to remove the thought process from killing. Heavy emphasis is now put on the mechanical process - siting the target, breathing, trigger finger position, stance, rifle placement - the dehumanization of the "enemy".

Soldiers would not want to kill "if people have time to think about what we are doing," Mejia said. The military does not teach you how to turn off that mechanical act of killing. "When you violate the contract you have with yourself you have a moral injury," he reflected.

After firing 11 bullets at a young man (about 16 years old) who was going to throw a grenade "my mind erased the time that I fired on him," he told us. He afterward had to go and sit down and count the numbers of bullets that he had expended in order to prove to himself that he had fired the shots that killed the boy. He told us that his squad was safely positioned on a roof, and that a wall separated the Iraqi people from Mejia, and were thus no real threat. But they had been ordered to fire on anyone who made any "hostile" moves toward them.

Mejia concluded that "We aren't going anywhere until we can acknowledge that we violated our moral core," by killing other humans. In order to move to recovery "we must step outside of our own interests" and "restore the balance," Mejia told the audience. In his case he hopes that becoming a full participant in the peace movement, and someday returning to Iraq for humanitarian work, will help him on the road to repairing his damaged soul.

Hundreds of thousands of stories, similar to the one by Mejia, could be told by the GI's now suffering from PTSD who are being deployed over and over again in Iraq and Afghanistan today. An epidemic of suicides is now being reluctantly acknowledged by the military as these injured young people, or those who have yet to be sent to battle but fear going, cry out in their lonely darkness. Those who claim that they "support the troops" should be at the front of the line calling for an immediate end to these insane wars.

WHAT TO CUT?

SUNDAY SONG