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....
- Name: Bruce K. Gagnon
- Location: Bath, Maine, United States
Get the revised version of my book "Come Together Right Now: Organizing Stories from a Fading Empire" - updated thru the end of 2008
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Friday, January 20, 2012
TEARING THINGS UP
- The environmental community is claiming a great victory following Obama's decision to deny the Keystone XL TarSands permit because the current pipeline route would pass through Nebraska and significantly impact the Ogallala Aquifer. It is a vast yet shallow underground water table located beneath the Great Plains. One of the world's largest aquifers it reaches portions of South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas.
Protest leader Bill McKibben said, “Assuming that what we’re hearing is true, this isn’t just the right call, it’s the brave call. The knock on Barack Obama from many quarters has been that he’s too conciliatory. But here, in the face of a naked political threat from Big Oil to exact ‘huge political consequences,’ he’s stood up strong. This is a victory for Americans who testified in record numbers, and who demanded that science get the hearing usually reserved for big money."
Obama's press secretary told the media that the president suggests Keystone XL reapply for the pipeline permit but route it around Nebraska which is the state with the largest part of the aquifer beneath it. It would take some time of course to redesign the route - probably would not be done until after the November presidential election.
My guess is that the magician in the White House would then approve the pipeline and the big machine in the photo above, that is used to rip up the Tar Sands in Canada, could then get back to work. I know the environmental groups are trying to put a positive spin on their successful effort to slow down this pipeline but I think I'd be a bit careful about suggesting that Obama had just shown an unusual display of courage. I think it was a classic case of Obama's shifty hands.
- The South Carolina Republican primary vote will be tomorrow and the "clown show," as one conservative pundit called it, is beginning to send huge waves of fear through elements of the Republican party. There is talk that the evangelical wing of the party is trying to create an "anybody but Romney" movement in hopes they can slow down what had seemed to be an inevitable anointment of the former Massachusetts Governor as the party's presidential candidate. The Obama-ish Romney, moderate and swinging in the wind like a weather vane, is not the top choice of the more conservative Republican rank-and-file. He was the candidate of the oligarchy. But his campaign is proving to be inept and his failure to connect with people in a human way has become legendary. The talk is now that there could be a brokered Republican convention this summer and that someone from the outside will emerge to save the day. I still maintain that the puppeteers are happy to watch the clown show proceed as they intend to have Obama reelected and the dysfunctional Republican primary process just helps to make that end come true. It's all theatre - interesting for sure - but still theatre and destructive. The Republicans are warming up to their role to divide the American people against each other - working class whites against people of color, anti-union, anti-female, anti-science, anti-democracy, pro-corporate - it's a return of the 1850's Know Nothing Party.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
TAKING IT TO A NEW LEVEL IN EGYPT
Egyptian activists say they are fighting an information war with the country's military rulers.
They say state media has not been reporting truthfully about what they call the army's brutal handling of protests.
To counter the official narrative, a grassroots campaign called Kazeboon, or Liars, has now been launched.
By setting up screenings in streets and squares across Egypt, activists say they want their message to be heard in every home.
I hope to go to Chicago in May for the anti-NATO protests and alternative conference that are now being planned.
NATO will hold a summit meeting in Chicago on May 20-21. The Network for a NATO-Free World: Global Peace & Justice will organize a counter-summit conference and protest on May 18-19.
The Chicago summit will make clear that NATO “will not leave Afghanistan behind: we'll stay committed, with a focus on continuing to train and educate Afghan security forces, to continue to improve their capacity,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen declares on the NATO website. NATO also plans to discuss continued funding and deployments of a controversial U.S. controlled "missile defense" system that is being used to surround Russia.
Despite its claims, NATO was never a defensive alliance, and since the end of the Cold War has been transformed into a global alliance structure to wage “out of area” wars in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, as well as to “contain” Russia and China.
But there is a problem. Former Obama Chief of Staff, and now Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel is using his office to erect legal obstacles in front of the many organizations who are attempting to secure permits for marches and assemblies. Mayor Emanuel lobbied hard to land the summit in "his" city.
An impressive coalition of organizations -- unions, anti-war, human rights, churches and neighborhood groups -- held a news conference to press their demands on January 17 at Chicago's City Hall.
In this excerpt from the news conference speakers include Eric Ruder, Coalition Against NATO/G8's War & Poverty Agenda; Erek Slater, ATU 241 member speaking for ATU International Vice Presidents; Talisa Hardin, National Nurses United; Wayne Lindwal, SEIU 73 Chicago Division Director; Jesse Sharkey, Vice President, Chicago Teachers Union.
Mayor Emanuel is carrying water for Obama and NATO who don't want any alternative voices to be visible during the summit. There are such big military plans ahead for NATO and the corporate oligarchy does not want the American people, or people around the world, to be drawn into a public debate about whether we should keep wasting our $$$ on this aggressive, expansionist, militarist and undemocratic NATO war machine.
This looks like a good opportunity for the nationwide Occupy movement to link with folks who are organizing these protests. After all, NATO is the military arm of corporate globalization.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Occupy the Courts will be a one day occupation of Federal courthouses across the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday January 20, 2012.
Move to Amend volunteers across the U.S. will lead the charge on the judiciary which created — and continues to expand — corporate personhood rights.
See more here
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
EXCUSES ABOUND TO JUSTIFY CORPORATE RULE
Friends Mark Roman & Lisa Savage from Maine offer a review of stuff people say in defense of the current occupant of the White House.
CLIMATE CHANGE UPDATE: IT'S GOING NUTS
The snowfall has been extreme this winter in Valdez, Alaska even for a city used to lots of snow. When the weather cleared, many were busy trying to move it from streets and roofs and reopen schools. Valdez residents discuss how they've handled the 322 inches of snow that had fallen by January 13, 2012.
The weather is out-of-whack. How can anyone deny this reality?
The Mother Earth is having convulsions.
LET'S MAKE OUR ECONOMY MORE FRIENDLY TO CORPORATE INVESTMENT - LIKE CHINA
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) lead the way for Obama's forces in Congress to pass the NDAA which will allow any of us to be arrested without charges, to be held indefinately, not allowed legal representation, nor allowed our day in court.
It's called corporate fascism.
On January 3 Obama signed the new Pentagon defence guidance. It's called Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.
Following Hillary Clinton's recent statement that U.S. policy would now "pivot" toward the Asia-Pacific, this document solidifies that turn and backs the statement with the full force of the military machine.
I want to share a few bits from the document since it's unlikely that many of you will have time (or interest) in reading the whole thing.
- Working with like-minded nations, the U.S. has created a safer, more stable, and more prosperous world for the American people [read the 1%], our allies, and our partners around the globe than existed prior to WW II. Over the last decade, we have undertaken extended operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to bring stability to those countries and secure our interests.
- Al-Qaida and its affiliates remain active in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere....The primary loci of these threats are South Asia and the Middle East....For the foreseeable future, the U.S. will continue to take an active approach to countering these threats by monitoring the activities of non-state threats worldwide, working with allies and partners to establish control over ungoverned territories, and directly striking the most dangerous groups and individuals when necessary.
- U.S. economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities....while the U.S. military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.
- The U.S. is also investing in a long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean region.
- China's emergence as a regional power will have the potential to affect the U.S. economy and our security in a variety of ways.
- U.S. policy will emphasize Gulf security, in collaboration with Gulf Cooperation Council countries when appropriate, to prevent Iran's development of a nuclear weapon capability and counter its destabilizing policies.
- The U.S. has enduring interests in supporting peace and prosperity in Europe as well as bolstering the strength and vitality of NATO, which is critical to the security of Europe and beyond.
- In this resource-constrained era, we will also work with NATO allies to develop a "Smart Defense" approach to pool, share, and specialize capabilities as needed to meet 21st century challenges.
- Across the globe we will seek to be the security partner of choice, pursuing new partnerships with a growing number of nations - including those in Africa and Latin America - whose interests and viewpoints are merging into a common vision of freedom, stability, and prosperity [ for corporation control].
- Growth in the number of space-faring nations is also leading to an increasingly congested and contested space environment, threatening safety and security.
- Our planning envisages forces that are able to fully deny a capable state's aggressive objectives in one region by conducting a combined arms campaign across all domains - land, air, maritime, space, and cyberspace.
- Even when U.S. forces are committed to a large-scale operation in one region, they will be capable of denying the objectives of - or imposing unacceptable costs on - an opportunistic aggressor in a second region.
- States such as China and Iran will continue to pursue asymmetric means to counter our power projection capabilities.
- Sustaining our undersea capabilities, developing a new stealth bomber, improving missile defenses, and continuing efforts to enhance the resiliency and effectiveness of critical space-based capabilities.
- Modern armed forces cannot conduct high-tempo, effective operations without reliable information and communication networks and assured access to cyberspace and space.
- Department of Defense (DoD) will continue to work with domestic and international allies and partners and invest in advanced capabilities to defend its networks, operational capability, and resiliency in cyberspace and space.
- As long as nuclear weapons remain in existence, the U.S. will maintain a safe, secure, and effective arsenal.
- Homeland defense and support to civil authorities require strong, steady-state readiness, to include a robust missile defense capability.
- Finally, in adjusting our strategy and attendant force size, the DoD will make every effort to maintain an adequate industrial base and our investment in science and technology.
See Joseph Gerson's (Disarmament Coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee and Director of the AFSC’s Peace and Economic Security Program in New England) critique of the new guidance plan here.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges has filed suit against President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to challenge the legality of the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes controversial provisions authorizing the military to jail anyone it considers a terrorism suspect anywhere in the world, without charge or trial. Sections of the bill are written so broadly that critics say they could encompass journalists who report on terror-related issues, such as Hedges, for supporting enemy forces. "It is clearly unconstitutional," Hedges says of the bill. "It is a huge and egregious assault against our democracy. It overturns over 200 years of law, which has kept the military out of domestic policing."
Democracy Now speaks with Hedges, now a senior fellow at the Nation Institute and former New York Times foreign correspondent who was part of a team of reporters that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism.
He is joined by Hedges’ attorney Carl Mayer, who filed the litigation on his behalf in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Monday, January 16, 2012
- A Catholic priest was arrested today while attempting to prevent cement mixer trucks from entering the Gangjeong village.
- 108 Catholic sisters held a press conference where they demanded an apology from the national police chief for the arrest of 29 people on January 10, including 18 nuns, and the halt to Navy base construction.
- Writers and artists peace relay walk arrived in Mokpo, southern port of Korean peninsula today. They are arriving at Jeju port on 17th by ferry and be at the Gangjeong village on 20th.
- The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is disturbed by the arrest of 29 people including those from a religious group for praying in front of the construction site of the naval base in Gangjeong village in Jeju Island on January 10. In a report AHRC says, "Having monitored the situation of Gangjeong village and the arrest or persecution through legal means against the villagers and activists, the Asian Human Rights Commission urges the government of South Korea to stop the arbitrary use of force by the police and military in Gangjeong village in Jeju Island, guarantee the right to peaceful assembly and demonstration and respond to the demand of villagers who are affected by the construction."
High-tech gadgets built on the backs of workers: South Korea’s richest conglomerate uses banned and highly-toxic substances in its factories, without informing and/or protecting its workers. As a result at least 140 workers were diagnosed with cancer, of which at least 50 young workers have died. Despite clear evidence, Samsung denies its responsibility and publicly discredits the sick and deceased, as well as their relatives. Samsung has a history of over 50 years of environmental pollution, trade union repression, corruption and tax flight. Samsung’s power in South Korea is so great that many citizens speak of the “Samsung Republic.”
Samsung is also the lead contractor on the Navy base construction project on Jeju Island in South Korea. Their workers have been harshly cruel to the people of Gangjeong village, a 400-year old fishing and farming community who are non-violently fighting to save their way of life.
Boycott all Samsung products. Tell others to boycott Samsung as well.
You can vote Samsung as the worst corporation in 2012 here
Sunday, January 15, 2012
BEYOND CAPITALISM IS OUR ONLY HOPE
Capitalism Is The Crisis: Radical Politics in the Age of Austerity examines the ideological roots of the "austerity" agenda and proposes revolutionary paths out of the current crisis. The film features original interviews with Chris Hedges, Derrick Jensen, Michael Hardt, Peter Gelderloos, Leo Panitch, David McNally, Richard J.F. Day, Imre Szeman, Wayne Price, and many more!
This Canadian documentary explains the nature of capitalist crisis, visits the protests against austerity measures, and suggests organizing paths for the future.
Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System
by Chris Hedges
A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs.
Teachers, their unions under attack, are becoming as replaceable as minimum-wage employees at Burger King. We spurn real teachers—those with the capacity to inspire children to think, those who help the young discover their gifts and potential—and replace them with instructors who teach to narrow, standardized tests. These instructors obey. They teach children to obey. And that is the point. The No Child Left Behind program, modeled on the “Texas Miracle,” is a fraud. It worked no better than our deregulated financial system. But when you shut out debate these dead ideas are self-perpetuating.
Passing bubble tests celebrates and rewards a peculiar form of analytical intelligence. This kind of intelligence is prized by money managers and corporations. They don’t want employees to ask uncomfortable questions or examine existing structures and assumptions. They want them to serve the system. These tests produce men and women who are just literate and numerate enough to perform basic functions and service jobs. The tests elevate those with the financial means to prepare for them. They reward those who obey the rules, memorize the formulas and pay deference to authority. Rebels, artists, independent thinkers, eccentrics and iconoclasts—those who march to the beat of their own drum—are weeded out.
“Imagine,” said a public school teacher in New York City, who asked that I not use his name, “going to work each day knowing a great deal of what you are doing is fraudulent, knowing in no way are you preparing your students for life in an ever more brutal world, knowing that if you don’t continue along your scripted test prep course and indeed get better at it you will be out of a job. Up until very recently, the principal of a school was something like the conductor of an orchestra: a person who had deep experience and knowledge of the part and place of every member and every instrument. In the past 10 years we’ve had the emergence of both [Mayor] Mike Bloomberg’s Leadership Academy and Eli Broad’s Superintendents Academy, both created exclusively to produce instant principals and superintendents who model themselves after CEOs. How is this kind of thing even legal? How are such ‘academies’ accredited? What quality of leader needs a ‘leadership academy’? What kind of society would allow such people to run their children’s schools? The high-stakes tests may be worthless as pedagogy but they are a brilliant mechanism for undermining the school systems, instilling fear and creating a rationale for corporate takeover. There is something grotesque about the fact the education reform is being led not by educators but by financers and speculators and billionaires.”
Teachers, under assault from every direction, are fleeing the profession. Even before the “reform” blitzkrieg we were losing half of all teachers within five years after they started work—and these were people who spent years in school and many thousands of dollars to become teachers. How does the country expect to retain dignified, trained professionals under the hostility of current conditions? I suspect that the hedge fund managers behind our charter schools system—whose primary concern is certainly not with education—are delighted to replace real teachers with nonunionized, poorly trained instructors. To truly teach is to instill the values and knowledge which promote the common good and protect a society from the folly of historical amnesia. The utilitarian, corporate ideology embraced by the system of standardized tests and leadership academies has no time for the nuances and moral ambiguities inherent in a liberal arts education. Corporatism is about the cult of the self. It is about personal enrichment and profit as the sole aim of human existence. And those who do not conform are pushed aside.
“It is extremely dispiriting to realize that you are in effect lying to these kids by insinuating that this diet of corporate reading programs and standardized tests are preparing them for anything,” said this teacher, who feared he would suffer reprisals from school administrators if they knew he was speaking out. “It is even more dispiriting to know that your livelihood depends increasingly on maintaining this lie. You have to ask yourself why are hedge fund managers suddenly so interested in the education of the urban poor? The main purpose of the testing craze is not to grade the students but to grade the teacher.”
“I cannot say for certain—not with the certainty of a Bill Gates or a Mike Bloomberg who pontificate with utter certainty over a field in which they know absolutely nothing—but more and more I suspect that a major goal of the reform campaign is to make the work of a teacher so degrading and insulting that the dignified and the truly educated teachers will simply leave while they still retain a modicum of self-respect,” he added. “In less than a decade we been stripped of autonomy and are increasingly micromanaged. Students have been given the power to fire us by failing their tests. Teachers have been likened to pigs at a trough and blamed for the economic collapse of the United States. In New York, principals have been given every incentive, both financial and in terms of control, to replace experienced teachers with 22-year-old untenured rookies. They cost less. They know nothing. They are malleable and they are vulnerable to termination.”
The demonizing of teachers is another public relations feint, a way for corporations to deflect attention from the theft of some $17 billion in wages, savings and earnings among American workers and a landscape where one in six workers is without employment. The speculators on Wall Street looted the U.S. Treasury. They stymied any kind of regulation. They have avoided criminal charges. They are stripping basic social services. And now they are demanding to run our schools and universities.
“Not only have the reformers removed poverty as a factor, they’ve removed students’ aptitude and motivation as factors,” said this teacher, who is in a teachers union. “They seem to believe that students are something like plants where you just add water and place them in the sun of your teaching and everything blooms. This is a fantasy that insults both student and teacher. The reformers have come up with a variety of insidious schemes pushed as steps to professionalize the profession of teaching. As they are all businessmen who know nothing of the field, it goes without saying that you do not do this by giving teachers autonomy and respect. They use merit pay in which teachers whose students do well on bubble tests will receive more money and teachers whose students do not do so well on bubble tests will receive less money. Of course, the only way this could conceivably be fair is to have an identical group of students in each class—an impossibility. The real purposes of merit pay are to divide teachers against themselves as they scramble for the brighter and more motivated students and to further institutionalize the idiot notion of standardized tests. There is a certain diabolical intelligence at work in both of these.”
“If the Bloomberg administration can be said to have succeeded in anything,” he said, “they have succeeded in turning schools into stress factories where teachers are running around wondering if it’s possible to please their principals and if their school will be open a year from now, if their union will still be there to offer some kind of protection, if they will still have jobs next year. This is not how you run a school system. It’s how you destroy one. The reformers and their friends in the media have created a Manichean world of bad teachers and effective teachers. In this alternative universe there are no other factors. Or, all other factors—poverty, depraved parents, mental illness and malnutrition—are all excuses of the Bad Teacher that can be overcome by hard work and the Effective Teacher.”
The truly educated become conscious. They become self-aware. They do not lie to themselves. They do not pretend that fraud is moral or that corporate greed is good. They do not claim that the demands of the marketplace can morally justify the hunger of children or denial of medical care to the sick. They do not throw 6 million families from their homes as the cost of doing business. Thought is a dialogue with one’s inner self. Those who think ask questions, questions those in authority do not want asked. They remember who we are, where we come from and where we should go. They remain eternally skeptical and distrustful of power. And they know that this moral independence is the only protection from the radical evil that results from collective unconsciousness. The capacity to think is the only bulwark against any centralized authority that seeks to impose mindless obedience. There is a huge difference, as Socrates understood, between teaching people what to think and teaching them how to think. Those who are endowed with a moral conscience refuse to commit crimes, even those sanctioned by the corporate state, because they do not in the end want to live with criminals—themselves.
“It is better to be at odds with the whole world than, being one, to be at odds with myself,” Socrates said.
Those who can ask the right questions are armed with the capacity to make a moral choice, to defend the good in the face of outside pressure. And this is why the philosopher Immanuel Kant puts the duties we have to ourselves before the duties we have to others. The standard for Kant is not the biblical idea of self-love—love thy neighbor as thyself, do unto others as you would have them do unto you—but self-respect. What brings us meaning and worth as human beings is our ability to stand up and pit ourselves against injustice and the vast, moral indifference of the universe. Once justice perishes, as Kant knew, life loses all meaning. Those who meekly obey laws and rules imposed from the outside—including religious laws—are not moral human beings. The fulfillment of an imposed law is morally neutral. The truly educated make their own wills serve the higher call of justice, empathy and reason. Socrates made the same argument when he said it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong.
“The greatest evil perpetrated,” Hannah Arendt wrote, “is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons.”
As Arendt pointed out, we must trust only those who have this self-awareness. This self-awareness comes only through consciousness. It comes with the ability to look at a crime being committed and say “I can’t.” We must fear, Arendt warned, those whose moral system is built around the flimsy structure of blind obedience. We must fear those who cannot think. Unconscious civilizations become totalitarian wastelands.
“The greatest evildoers are those who don’t remember because they have never given thought to the matter, and, without remembrance, nothing can hold them back,” Arendt writes. “For human beings, thinking of past matters means moving in the dimension of depth, striking roots and thus stabilizing themselves, so as not to be swept away by whatever may occur—the Zeitgeist or History or simple temptation. The greatest evil is not radical, it has no roots, and because it has no roots it has no limitations, it can go to unthinkable extremes and sweep over the whole world.”
On Jan. 18th there is going to be an all-out strike on the Internet. Websites across the Internet are going dark in protest of the Internet censorship bills in Congress, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA.
If passed, SOPA would allow the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright holders to seek court orders against foreign and even domestic websites that enable or facilitate copyright infringement. If a website is accused, it could be punished by being removed from search engine results, barred from online advertising networks, and blocked from payment processing networks. In other words, sites like Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube and Reddit could be crippled for hosting or linking to user-uploaded content that potentially infringes on copyrights.
The bill would also make the unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content, such as a song or TV show, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.
Once you’ve made a decision on how you feel about SOPA, there are a couple of things you can do to help prevent it from passing. Call your Congressperson and tell him or her how you feel about the legislation. You can also send a letter to your state’s Congressperson through the American Censorship Day website. The SOPA vote is scheduled for January 24, so the sooner you act, the better.