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, May 14, 2011

ASBESTOS IS GOOD - SO SELL IT TO INDIA?

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BIRDS, GARDENS AND DUST BALLS



  • That is me in the front of the caterpillar yesterday during the "All Species Day Parade" in nearby Brunswick. (I had lots of trouble seeing where I was going.) Friend, and former housemate, Maureen Block organized the second annual event to honor the species of the planet. This year special emphasis was on the declining bird population. Hundreds of people, especially children, turned out for the parade. Very colorful, great energy, and well organized. It just goes to show that there are indeed people out there who will turn out for something worthwhile on the streets. Nice to see.


  • You might have noticed that this blog was acting strange for a day or so. The blog server company was doing some maintenance and removed a couple days worth of posts for some unknown reason. But they finally put them back and all seems to be back on track now. The train is back on schedule.


  • It's spring cleaning time this weekend at the Addams-Melman House. We've got some garden planting to do and then back inside the house as rain is expected all weekend so we will tackle the winter's dust and debris. No meetings, no protests, just good old fashioned back breaking cleaning. Wish us well - or grab your bucket and come join us!

CLIMATE CHANGE UPDATE




It is ironic that states like Louisiana or Mississippi pride themselves in being conservative and not believing in "big government". But when things like floods happen people must rely on the very government that they usually disdain and try to defund.

It is becoming clear that we should be converting the Pentagon into the "natural guard" as these environmental disasters grow in scale due to the convulsions that our Mother Earth is now experiencing.

Friday, May 13, 2011

RUMSFELD'S LIES PROMOTE TORTURE



Former Colin Powell Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson was asked by MSNBC's Ed Schultz about Donald Rumsfeld's repeated claims that America got intelligence from waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and his claim that waterboarding is not torture. Wilkerson did not hold back.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

STUDENTS DEMAND JUSTICE IN TUCSON



Elisa Meza is a student at the University of Arizona studying English and Mexican American Studies. She is currently a youth organizer with UNIDOS in Tucson, Arizona and an editorial writer for her university's paper, the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

AFGHANISTAN JULY DRAWDOWN?



Obama's "planned" July Afghan withdrawal is too small to be noticed if we can believe early reports. But it sounds about right from what we've learned to expect from the magician.

BUDGETS ARE MORAL CHOICES

My sign is the fuzzy one at the top right of the photo - Healthcare Not Warfare

Peter Woodruff and I went to the state capitol in Augusta yesterday to join a rally that drew about 200 people to protest against more social spending cuts. We stood on the stairs behind the speakers podium holding our signs and noticed some of the organizers telling their photographers to avoid our signs when they took snaps of the scene. Peter's sign, not in this photo above, read "Endless war steals $$ needed here in Maine." Quite a number of people thanked Peter for holding that sign as we stood around prior to the rally.

About 200 people were at this event, mostly senior citizens from AARP and African immigrants brought by the NAACP. In addition there was a sprinkling of union people and homeless advocates.

The governor's latest cuts package calls for knocking almost 30,000 people off the state Mainecare health program for those who can't afford to purchase a private insurance policy. In addition his budget calls for deep slashes of General Assistance (offered through local municipalities) and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). These cuts would effect tens of thousands of people in a state that only has a population of about 1.2 million people.

The proposed budget by the governor also calls for $200 million in tax cuts that would feature reductions in the top tax rates and changes in the estate tax on the richest Mainers. These tax cuts for the wealthiest are likely to pass since the Republicans now control the state legislature. But even some Democrats are going to support them. At a recent town meeting here in Bath my State Senator Seth Goodall, a Democrat, after complaining about the governor's planned cuts acknowledged under questioning from the audience that he supported the tax cuts.

So the hypocrisy, and double dealing, here is mind blowing as some Democrats help get the public fired up about the governors budget and then will slip in the back door and give tax breaks to the fat cats who don't need the help. Many Democrats are thus just using the public outrage to help create the climate to get their party back into power but in the end they are still playing the same shell game.

The problem though for me is that the organizers of this event yesterday were not offering the people who came to the rally the whole picture. They are getting people all fired up, but what are the solutions that the organizations are offering their constituencies? Don't cut social programs, they say. OK, that's good but where will the money come from to keep them funded? Don't give tax cuts to the rich. OK, good, that is right. But then the Republican dominated state legislature is going to pass these tax cuts, with some level of help from Democrats. So what then? The answer: nothing. No other demands, no other suggestions for sources of funding for social programs in Maine and beyond. Done.

We know that the combined debt of the 46 states now in fiscal crisis comes to $130 billion. Just this year alone the Pentagon will spend $170 billion on our wars in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan-Libya (that is in addition to the $700 billion plus annual military budget). Just one year of war spending could wipe away the entire debt of all 46 states. That would mean no teacher lay-offs, no lay-offs of police and fire fighters. It would mean roads and bridges could be fixed, transit systems could be funded, schools and libraries not closed, and social programs not shut down.

But yesterday, with the exception of the signs that Peter and I held up when we squeezed our way into the group behind the speakers platform, not one mumbling word was heard about war spending as an alternative to cutbacks.

After the rally I went up to the woman speaking in the picture above. She is Silver Moore-Leamon, president of the Maine Council of Churches and I thanked her for her good words which included calling budgets "moral documents". But, I said, it would be nice next time if you'd include one more "moral" question - war spending. Nothing will change I told her unless and until we are able to bring our war $$ home. Yes, she said, that is true. But if I get into those specifics I will lose support for our message, she told me. In other words, Moore-Leamon didn't want to offend anyone, particularly donors on Sunday who put money into church collection plates. She did admit to me that churches in the state were negligent in not speaking out more forcefully on the war issue.

Last night Peter and I went to do our weekly radio show at WBOR in Brunswick. He showed me the USA Today newspaper that had a front page story announcing that 59% of the American people want us home from Afghanistan. (By the way, Peter taped Moore-Leamon's speech and we played it on our show - and filled in the holes.)

My hope is that the leaders of the Maine Council of Churches will take note of this poll. It might give them more confidence to add military spending to the list of "moral choices" at budget making time.

What would Jesus say?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

WHAT IS THIS?



No, it's not a run-a-way spacecraft from the outer limits. But it does have something to do with space.

It is the Raytheon-Boeing X-Band radar that sits atop a converted sea-based oil-drilling platform and will be used to help direct the Pentagon's "missile offense" program.

The $900 million X-Band radar was just towed into West Seattle (Washington state) for repairs before it heads back out into the Pacific Ocean where it will do its work.

You can find more information here about the radar.

There appears to be an effort underway by activists in the Seattle area to organize protests against this expensive and provocative system that is driving a new arms race into space.

FLORIDA BECOMING CORPORATE COLONY

Spanish moss hanging from oak trees in Florida

I have many fond memories from my 30 years in Florida. I miss old friends from those days, the ocean and spring-fed rivers for swimming and the old stately oak and pecan trees with the Spanish moss hanging from them. One thing I don't miss is the politics there though. Recently the developers spent $20 million to defeat a referendum that would have put some restraint on the overwhelmingly aggressive building industry.

The new Tea Party-Republican Gov. Rick Scott is out to destroy the state. He and the Republican legislature are shifting state money from the unemployed to corporations. New legislation will cut benefits for the unemployed to just 23 weeks, the lowest in America. The money taken from the unemployment insurance program will be given to corporations in the form of tax cuts. Florida has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, currently at 11.1%.

In another move by Gov. Scott, he has declined a federal public transit grant of more than $2 billion to build a high-speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa. Scott maintained he didn't want to have to pay Florida's share of the rail line costs - especially since he wants to give more tax cuts to corporations. Some years ago, while living in Florida, I was able to vote in favor of a statewide referendum that mandated that Florida build a statewide high-speed transit system. Successive administrations in the state government have ignored that voter demand. Several states in the northeast will instead get this rail money including Maine who will receiver about $22 million to extend service from Boston to nearby Brunswick.

Proving that Florida is fast becoming a corporate colony, Florida State University (FSU), the state funded institution in Tallahassee, will soon be run by minions of the right-wing Koch brothers. Mother Jones magazine reports:


A foundation bankrolled by Libertarian businessman Charles G. Koch has pledged $1.5 million for positions in Florida State University’s economics department. In return, his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting “political economy and free enterprise.”


Traditionally, university donors have little official input into choosing the person who fills a chair they’ve funded. The power of university faculty and officials to choose professors without outside interference is considered a hallmark of academic freedom.

Under the agreement with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, however, faculty only retain the illusion of control. The contract specifies that an advisory committee appointed by Koch decides which candidates should be considered. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it’s not happy with the faculty’s choice or if the hires don’t meet “objectives” set by Koch during annual evaluations.

It was the Koch brothers, hailing from Texas, who bankrolled many of the Tea Party candidates for governor that won across the nation last November. They had their soiled hands in the Maine race that brought Tea Party favorite Paul LePage into office.

It's a sad day for Florida when that once beautiful state is being chopped to pieces and handed over to the corporate interests. One of my longest friends there, John Hedrick who has been an organizer and poor people's lawyer since the late 70's, has spent most of his life working for growth management, public transit, and justice for working and poor people. I know his heart is crying.

Here is a bit of taste of how that big chest of right-wing Tea Party $$$ is being spent "training" new generations of their "warriors".


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

YANG PREPARES FOR THE WORST

More people and banners are arriving at Ganjeong village during recent days due to increased publicity about the struggle against Navy base
Professor Yang was arrested for blocking a construction truck on Jeju Island and is now in his 36th day of hunger strike while in jail

Sung-Hee Choi reports from Jeju Island that Professor Yang Yoon-Mo is now entering his 36th day of hunger strike against construction of Navy base. He has notified people that when he hits his 40th day he wants supporters to visit him in jail and write down his last will and testament as he has pledged to fast to the death unless the building of the Navy base comes to a halt.

Yang's hunger strike is driving more attention to the issue across South Korea and more people of late have begun to come to Gangjeong village to share support for the hard-pressed people of the community who now have been fighting for the past four years against the base plan. People from around the country are also sending banners to show their support. More high level dignitaries are also beginning to make the journey to the village.

People are urged to call the South Korean embassy in their country to protest the building of the Navy base which will become a port for U.S. warships.

In other news Sung-Hee has posted on her blog that:

Bruce Gagnon's solidarity message for the Jeju struggle through the May 7 Maine protest against another christening of an Aegis Destroyer entered as a top article in a Jeju press called 'The Jeju Domin Ilbo' (meaning the Jeju island people's daily news.) Click HERE to see the Domin Ilbo article.

MORE TROUBLE AT FUKUSHIMA

COMING TO A BASE NEAR YOU



Drone (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) operations and testing are spreading to bases throughout the U.S. and around the world.

New more exotic versions of these satellite directed weapons programs are being developed that would take on roles such as global strike missions from space. Boeings Phantom Ray unmanned airborne system just had its first flight test and would support potential missions that may include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack; strike; and autonomous air refueling.

This video is from a protest on April 22 at Hancock Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, New York where 37 people were arrested for calling for an end to drone operations at the base.

The use of unmanned programs make waging war cheaper and further from the public view. Efforts like the protest at Hancock Air Base are crucial in exposing the moral and legal issues that surround making war from a distance. It is civilians who are being killed in greater numbers by these not so smart weapons systems.

Monday, May 09, 2011

PUT YOUR EARS TO THE TRACKS & HEAR THE TRAIN COMING



BBC reported on May 2, "A campaigner who was arrested in Cambridge a day before he planned to protest against the royal wedding in London has been released on bail."

See Charlie Veitch's website and videos of him speaking out after his release here

WE NEED HIGHER EXPECTATIONS



  • I got an email over the weekend from one of our Global Network board members in Norway. The woman is a medical doctor and said the following in response to an email I sent around about one of the new space weapons technologies the Pentagon has developed.

We can just point out the fact that Israel and the US has never been interested in peace. They are both constantly provoking others and keeping up tensions as an excuse for them to gain more and more power in regions thousands of miles away from their shores. The American people should ask themselves, why don't you stop all this and rather use your energy in making the US republic a better place for all? We here in Scandinavia have nothing to learn from you when it`s about democracy and freedom.


People see the planet unraveling around them and most of the world's population, who live outside the U.S., have a clear understanding that the CIA (our real government) and Pentagon have their dirty hands in most of the bad shit going on.


Sadly most Americans, like good Germans during WW II, don't want to hear about it, and increasingly many progressives are in such despair they don't believe anything can be done to change things. Legions of liberals, loyal Democrats, are happy that we now have a president who can "speak well" and appears to be a good family man. The fact that he is running a Bush foreign policy and overseeing the destruction of social progress seems incidental since many of them still operate under the assumption that he has a "secret plan" to put on his Superman cape right after being reelected in 2012 and will then transform the nation into the shining city on the hill. Fantasy? Of course it is.


  • Tomorrow I tape the next edition of my TV show, This Issue, and my guest will be artist and activist Robert Shetterly from Maine. Rob has created the wondrous series of paintings called Americans Who Tell the Truth and was one of the leading organizers in the recent labor mural controversy here in our state. When our new tea party governor took down a labor mural inside the Maine Department of Labor building at the capital it was Rob and other artists in the state who organized protests and lawsuits to try to reverse this tragic action. The Democrats and labor unions in Maine both gasped at the governor's action but outside of a few verbal complaints they did little to nothing to organize real resistance to putting the mural into a storage closet. It was the artists who stood up and resisted. I am excited about this interview. You will want to watch it once it gets posted here on the blog.

  • On Wednesday I will travel to the state capital in Augusta for a protest being called by social service organizations in the state. The governor, and state legislature, are going forward with draconian cuts to human needs programs. In an appeal for people to join the protest, the group called Maine Can Do Better says, "These are the proposals that will harm people who need these safety net programs. These proposals will cause more homelessness, hunger and people unable to get the health care they need....Stand with hundreds of other Maine people as we take a stand in favor of priorities that serve the interests of ALL MAINE PEOPLE!"

Basically this organization is a Democratic Party front group and last time I attended one of their rallies the chants were: "Maine Can Do Better" and "Don't Drop the Baton." I will join a couple friends who will hold signs that say things like "Stop Endless War - Fund Human Needs" at their rally this week. Folks though have to make some serious demands on the political class if we truly hope to save social progress and prevent a return to feudalism. I must admit that I feel that the Democrats in Maine are just using groups like this to get themselves back into power where they will do the cutting, as they were doing just last year when they held power in Augusta, but they will do it with a bit less gusto. The progressive community has got to have much higher expectations during this period of capital accumulation by the oligarchy.


Life in the USA!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

HUMANITARIAN REBOUND FROM NATO ATTACKS ON LIBYA



One big result of the ever expanding NATO war in Libya is the number of African migrant workers being driven from that war zone.


See another related story in the Guardian about a similar boat full of African migrants escaping the chaos in Libya who were left to die at see by NATO naval forces.

NATO, and its growing international role as the military arm of corporate globalization, needs some serious review, debate, and pushback.


In order to grab Libya's oil resources, the NATO countires don't seem to care much about the human suffering they are creating.

CHOMSKY ON OSAMA'S KILLING

My Reaction to Osama bin Laden's Death

By Noam Chomsky

May 7, 2011

It's increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition - except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress "suspects." In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it "believed" that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn't know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence - which, as we soon learned, Washington didn't have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that "we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda."

Nothing serious has been provided since. There is much talk of bin Laden's "confession," but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.

There is also much media discussion of Washington's anger that Pakistan didn't turn over bin Laden, though surely elements of the military and security forces were aware of his presence in Abbottabad. Less is said about Pakistani anger that the US invaded their territory to carry out a political assassination. Anti-American fervor is already very high in Pakistan, and these events are likely to exacerbate it. The decision to dump the body at sea is already, predictably, provoking both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden's, and he is not a "suspect" but uncontroversially the "decider" who gave the orders to commit the "supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole" (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.

There's more to say about [Cuban airline bomber Orlando] Bosch, who just died peacefully in Florida, including reference to the "Bush doctrine" that societies that harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves and should be treated accordingly. No one seemed to notice that Bush was calling for invasion and destruction of the US and murder of its criminal president.

Same with the name, Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so profound, throughout western society, that no one can perceive that they are glorifying bin Laden by identifying him with courageous resistance against genocidal invaders. It's like naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk ... It's as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes "Jew" and "Gypsy."

There is much more to say, but even the most obvious and elementary facts should provide us with a good deal to think about.

SUNDAY SONG