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, January 28, 2012

A BLAST FROM THE PAST



A talk I did in 2006, just converted to YouTube by supporter Brendan O'Connor, where I speak about the necessity to convert the military industrial complex.

This will have to due for today's post as I am up early and on the way to the University of Maine-Augusta for a statewide Occupy conference.

Friday, January 27, 2012

IS IT POPULAR?

OCCUPY OPENED THE DOOR

A friend and I went to Bowdoin College today at noon to hear author/activist Barbara Ehrenreich speak. Bowdoin College and the town of Brunswick are doing a "community read" of her book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.

We got there early so we could hand out the above flyer as folks arrived. Another one of our local Occupy Brunswick activists helped us so we had three of us passing out the 250 copies I brought. It wasn't enough though as a huge crowd packed the hall.

Ehrenreich is an engaging storyteller with a good sense of humor. She went undercover to write Nickel and Dimed and worked as a house cleaner in Portland, Maine and at a WalMart in Minnesota among many other working class jobs across the country. Her descriptions of trying to live on $7.00 an hour touched many hearts in the audience - I imagined that many Bowdoin students (who come predominately from wealthy families) had never heard such stories before.

Ehrenreich didn't have much earth shaking advice about what could be done other than suggesting people vote for Obama. She began the talk by scolding Obama for never using the word "poverty" in his recent State of the Union address. Then she went on to trash Bill Clinton for his administration's "welfare reform" that furthered Ronald Reagan's assault on social progress.

But Ehrenreich left a hungry audience hanging as she never once addressed the structural reality of the "corporate domination" of our economy and political system. Her liberal reforms calling for more public housing, education funding, and the like fell far short of possible solutions to the problem of corporate dismantling of the social fabric.

During the 10-minute question period Ehrenreich did regain some stature in my eyes as she, on her own, mentioned the need for people to get engaged in the Occupy movement. One disheartened woman asked a question about what could be done and Ehrenreich strongly reminded her that the Occupy movement had changed the national discussion - had brought the issue of class back into the public square.

I looked around the audience after Ehrenreich's third reference to the Occupy movement and felt good that we had handed out those 250 flyers. I guess we should now plan to have a big crowd turn out for our February 12 Occupy Brunswick Public Meeting. After all, Barbara Ehrenreich told everyone they should go join Occupy.

ITCHING FOR WAR WITH IRAN?



RT reports: With harsh US rhetoric and tensions around Iran's nuclear program snowballing by the hour, American polls nonetheless show that most Americans think a war with Tehran would be a grave mistake. But do the leaders care?

­Despite Iran's recent consent to return to negotiations over its atomic work, the Obama administration says war with Tehran is still on the table. Even harsher statements come from some of Washington's hawks like Newt Gingrich, who spoke of breaking the Iranian regime within a year.


I once read that Iran is eager to develop nuclear power because it presently relies so much on oil and natural gas exports to fuel its economy. Once it develops nuclear energy (which I oppose because of obvious safety and environmental reasons) Iran would be able to sell even more fossil fuels since it would not need to use them for its internal energy production needs.

All this U.S. and Israeli hysteria about Iranian nuclear weapons is a smokescreen to create the justification to topple that regime so the oil majors can get their hands on the huge stocks of oil and natural gas now controlled by people who resist playing ball with corporate globalization.

February 4th has been called as a Day of Mass Action to Stop a U.S. War on Iran. Local events will be held around the world.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

NEWT WANTS "AMERICAN MOON BASE"



Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is campaigning in Florida and made a trip to the space coast where he promised a permanent base on the moon.

Such massive spending could only come from the complete defunding of social progress in our nation.

The idea that "America" should control the moon would violate the United Nations 1979 Moon Treaty that says no country, no corporation, nor any individual can claim ownership of the moon.

The U.S. has never signed the Moon Treaty.

See more on the ideas for moon mining and military outpost here

PROTEST IN THE SEA



Today, in the Gangjeong sea protest, 5 people including Catholic brother Park Do-hyon, Ms. Oh Doo-hee, Abigail Yu, Lee Jong-hwa and Kim Dong-won, were arrested by Jeju maritime police agency. The purpose of barge ship was to move the tetra pods near the Gangjeong port so the Navy (and lead contractor Samsung) can prepare the site for blasting the rocky coastline which the villagers fondly call Gureombee.

MORE ON SMART METERS

PIVOT TOWARD ASIA-PACIFIC

Youngsil Kang from Gangjeong village on Jeju Island joined me at Bath Iron Works yesterday as workers streamed out of the shipyard at 3:30 pm. Youngsil is traveling around the U.S. for two months and did a talk in New York City last week. We were lucky to have her visit Bath yesterday. Two local newspapers covered her visit - one of the stories will appear in the paper today and the other next Thursday.

It was a surprise for the workers to see the Korean banner Youngsil held (No Navy Base) but of course they did not know what it said. I called out to them as they passed by telling them she was from South Korea and that she came from a place where the Aegis destroyers they build will be ported.

Usually on such a day I've had at least a dozen workers take my flyers but yesterday, with three cameramen snapping photos, only two took Youngsil's letter. (One of those taking photos was BIW worker Peter Woodruff who shares a weekly radio show with me on WBOR at Bowdoin College. Youngsil was impressed that Peter had the courage to come out when so many workers at the shipyard scurried away from us.) We submitted her letter to the local newspaper as a Letter to the Editor so hopefully the content will still be available to the public.

"U.S. Navy shipbuilding programs will not be slashed to meet an expected Pentagon-wide reduction in spending. We've placed a priority on shipbuilding," Sean Stackley, the Navy's top acquisition official, told reporters on January 12. "You can see a lot of alignment between the [new Obama] defense strategy and what the Navy does."

With the new Naval fleet, "We span the globe.....We have enormous payload capacity in our big boys," bragged Navy Undersecretary Bob Work at the Surface Navy Association symposium in Washington DC.

In a related story the Washington Post reported yesterday that "Two decades after evicting U.S. forces from their biggest base in the Pacific, the Philippines is in talks with the Obama administration about expanding the American military presence in the island nation, the latest in a series of strategic moves aimed at China. If an arrangement is reached, it would follow other recent agreements to base thousands of U.S. Marines in northern Australia and to station Navy warships in Singapore."

Obama is moving quickly to implement his "pivot toward the Asia-Pacific" as outlined in the Pentagon's recent Defense Guidance. This coming massive U.S. military buildup bodes ill for the likes of Jeju Island, Guam, Okinawa, the Philippines, Hawaii and more.

These military moves on the grand chess board make the coming Global Network meetings in Hawaii (Feb 18-21) and on Jeju Island (Feb 24-26) all the more important for our work. It is through these meetings that we will learn much more about the real impacts this "pivot" will cause to the people across the Asia-Pacific. From these meetings we will also be able to develop organizing strategies to increase our ability to support the beleaguered people who are always the ones to suffer from U.S. imperial designs.

As Obama and the Pentagon make their "pivot" toward the Asia-Pacific it is incumbent on the peace movement to also make an intellectual and organizing pivot toward that region as well.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

NADER ON OBAMA'S STATE OF UNION SPEECH



Responding to President Obama's State of the Union address, longtime consumer advocate and former Presidential candidate Ralph Nader says Obama's criticism of income inequality and Wall Street excess fail to live up to his record in office. "[Obama] says one thing and does another," Nader says. "Where has he been for over three years? There are existing laws that can prosecute and convict Wall Street crooks. He hasn't sent more than one or two to jail."

On foreign policy, Nader says: "I think his lawless militarism that started the speech and ended the speech was truly astonishing. [Obama] was very committed to projecting the American empire, in Obama terms."

VILLAGE OF WATER

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

NO JOBS



You'd think that Obama - who got elected president on the backs of black people across the country - would be doing something to change the staggering unemployment and poverty situation in the urban centers.

But truth is that he is doing nothing for the poor (no matter their color). He talks alot about the middle class and virtually never mentions poor people.

This video gives you a glimpse of what it looks like in Chicago these days as poor people lined up to get a job application to work in a Ford automobile factory. But they had so many people show up they closed the doors and sent them all home. (Who said poor people don't want to work?)

What is astounding is just how patient these folks are - or are they just resigned to a life of misery? It's a very sad story.

The rich have abandoned the rest of us. This is a return to feudalism. Why in hell are the rich paying so little in taxes? Why do corporations get welfare from the government? Why are we wasting so much money on the Pentagon and endless war? Why aren't we building rail systems and a solar society? Why aren't we making real demands on the oligarchy?

Why aren't we all out in the streets marching?

DRONES AT HOME



America's controversial use of its drones in Asia may have caused overwhelming anger, but now it's threatening to do the same at home. Washington's key spying weapon in overseas operations is becoming a common tool for U.S. police, stirring up privacy concerns among more and more Americans.

Monday, January 23, 2012

NEW FILM ON JEJU FIGHT



The South Korean Government [under pressure from the U.S.] is constructing a naval base on Jeju Island.

The Base is the inspiring tale of a humble fishing and farming community. Men, women and children determined to fight military and corporate giants with their bare hands, in pursuit of a vision of Peace shared for generations.

Not sure when this will be available to the public. But I'm sure it will be a very interesting story that you will want to see and share with many others.

VANDENBERG AFB PROTEST PLANNED

ASSORTED PIECES OF THINGS


  • I went to an interesting lecture last night at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. David Zirin, the sports writer for The Nation, spoke about "Not Just a Game: Power, Politics and American Sports”. He's a very entertaining and interesting speaker. He just wrote a book with 1968 Olympian John Carlos (remember the people power salute?) and they've been touring the country together, often stopping to meet and speak with Occupy movements. Even Mary Beth, who expected to be bored and sleeping by the end of his talk, loved Zirin and found him interesting as he integrated corporate sports issues with politics in general. You should check out his blog here
  • The Artists and Poets Walk through South Korea arrived in Gangjeong village over the weekend, just in time for the Chinese New Year. What a feat it was, especially through the cold and snow of a Korean winter. That is just the kind of national outreach that is needed to bring more awareness to the Korean people about the Navy base fight on Jeju Island.
  • Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, will speak on Friday at Bowdoin College. I will go to hand out leaflets to the hundreds who will likely attend. We are organizing an Occupy Brunswick public meeting on February 12 so it will be a great opportunity to spread the word. Bowdoin is having a full week of speakers - the student who opened the Zirin event last night made some veiled reference to trouble on the campus last year as the reason for this week of speakers. It was not clear what she was referring to but she kept talking about the "chance to open your mind" - so I think it must have something to do with the fact that most students at Bowdoin are rich white kids who tend to be arrogant and conservative. (I heard that some Bowdoin students recently were chanting on the campus "We are the 1%"). There must have been some food fight last year with the small group of progressive (and people of color) students on campus which made this week a "healing" time. But I am only speculating - I'm curious now and must find out the whole story.
  • This coming Saturday a statewide "Visions and Strategies for the Occupy Movement in Maine" conference will be held at the University of Maine-Augusta. There is alot of buzz about this meeting and I think there will be a big crowd attending. It speaks to the fact that despite most Occupy camps having been forcibly shut down by the gendarmes, the movement lives and breathes. Should be a fun day.
  • The Newt Gingrich victory in South Carolina has thrown the Republican nomination process into further turmoil. One Gingrich adviser said people want "a tough guy". I'd call him a bully, a racist, a corrupt hack, a thug. The oligarchy likes the idea of turning the electoral process into a boxing match - making it very ugly and dirty. The more voters that get turned off and don't show up at the polls the better they seem to figure. It's all ultimately a distraction from the fact that the 1% is ripping the 99% off big time. The current political slug fest helps mask that reality.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

NEW KIND OF WARS

SUNDAY SONG