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, February 11, 2012

THE SMALL DRONE



Hummingbird drone surveillance technology.

SETTING THE TABLE FOR WAR



On February 5, 2012, President Obama invoked the NDAA, which authorizes the use of military force, and issues an executive order declaring the “threat” of Iran a National Emergency. The video shows this issuance of President Obama'S executive order which declares Iran’s threat to cut off oil supplies a national emergency.

The executive order directs all government agencies to respond immediately to the threat. It further invokes the authority of the 2012 NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) which gives the President the power to launch military action against any nation without the approval of Congress. Ironically, the State of Emergency order also accuses the Iranian central bank of deceptive banking practices.

A PLAY ABOUT THE 1%



My play where I give the 1% a chance to share their side of the story now ready for viewing.

Please welcome Herman and Constance Dollagrabber played by Maine visual artists Ed McCartan and Natasha Mayers.

Friday, February 10, 2012

THE GIFTS OF LIFE


Aren't they lovely? Each just a bit different but all clustered together enjoying the company of one another. We have so much to learn from them.

Because humans have "big" brains many of us think this makes us better than all the other life forms that we share the planet with. I think we are all connected. I am connected to the birds. The birds are my relatives.

If they perish I will as well.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

HOW MANY MORE MUST DIE?



The $12 billion a month sinkhole in Afghanistan.

See Lt. Col. Davis story here

BOYCOTT GMO FOODS



On Jan. 31, organic and natural foods giant Whole Foods Market (WFM) once again attacked the Organic Consumers Association, the nation's leading watchdog on organic standards, as being too "hard-line" for insisting that retailers like WFM stop selling, or at least start labeling, billions of dollars worth of so-called "natural" foods in their stores - foods that are laced with unlabeled, hazardous genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.

Whole Foods Market admits in an internal company memo that it sells Monsanto's genetically modified foods, while at the same time they claim to support mandatory GMO (genetically modified organism) labels. So, why don't they set a Truth-in-Labeling policy for their own stores and voluntarily label conventional and "natural" foods containing GMOs or coming from Factory Farms (Confined Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs) where animals are fed genetically modified feed?

Send a letter to Whole Foods here

WHERE IS THE ENVIRO OUTRAGE?



The U.S. Department of Defense boasts the world's largest military budget. It also is the planet's biggest polluter. With hundreds of military bases around the world, the Pentagon is responsible for more waste than any other corporation or country. And though the contamination is costing lives, the cost to clean up the mess would be an estimated $320 billion dollars.

How come you've likely never heard a mainstream environmental organization mention the Pentagon as the world's biggest polluter? Why don't environmentalists ever talk about the damage that endless war does to plant, animal, and human life on our Mother Earth?

CAPITALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS

In the February issue of The Sun magazine they have an excellent interview between journalist David Barsamian and economist Richard Wolff (emeritus at the Univ. of Mass-Amherst) and currently visiting professor at The New School in New York City.

Here are just a few of my favorite excerpts:

Barsamian: And employees are working longer hours today, right?

Wolff: That’s right. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (oecd), Americans do more hours of paid labor per year than workers in any other advanced country. That is because, if you don’t earn more per hour, the only way to deliver a better life to your family is by doing more hours of work. So Americans have been pushing themselves, taking second jobs or working full time if they had worked only part time before. We have elderly people coming out of retirement to help their grown children. Teenagers are working on weekends to help pay bills. Americans have committed to an incredible number of work hours per household to try to achieve a rising standard of living. Let’s remember that we are constantly bombarded by advertising telling us that, to be a success, we need a better house, a better car, a better vacation, and a college education for our children. To be financially successful today, most of us have to work crazy hours.

And of course the other thing the American working class has done since the 1970s to keep their consumption rising is take on debt. When your wages don’t go up, and adding a few hours a week isn’t enough, you buy on credit.

In the 1970s we had to develop new mechanisms for providing credit to the masses. Before then the only people who carried credit cards were traveling businessmen with expense accounts, and the only company offering such a card was American Express. But then MasterCard, Visa, and others came along to make credit available to the rest of us, because there was such a hunger on the part of our working class for a better standard of living. American workers started to borrow money on a scale that had never been seen before in any country.

Barsamian: There have been other busts and recessions and depressions throughout U.S. history. How is this one different?

Wolff: This isn’t a typical business cycle. This is the culmination of a thirty-year postponement of what happens when 150 years of steady real-wage increases comes to an end.

Capitalism is an inherently unstable system. I like to tell my students that if they lived with a roommate as unstable as this economic system, they would have moved out long ago. Capitalism is notorious for its ups and downs. We have a whole vocabulary to refer to them: booms and busts; recessions and depressions; upturns and downturns. When people have a lot of words for something, it’s because it’s a frequent phenomenon in their lives.

You would expect that we would know this about capitalism’s history and therefore not believe that we could somehow manage to escape instability. But over the last thirty to forty years we, as a society, have been unwilling to think critically about capitalism. And it shows. We thought we weren’t going to have another crisis like the one we had in the 1930s, or like the one the Japanese have had since 1990. We imagined that these problems were no longer relevant to modern life. So we were unprepared for the mess we’re in. Nothing shows our unpreparedness better than the inability of either President Bush or President Obama to deal with this problem.

So another reason this crisis is so different is that it’s coming at the end of a long period of denial. Let me give you an example: When I began my work as a PhD student in economics, the typical curriculum had a course about the business cycle, to introduce students to the history of economic ups and downs in their own country and others. In 2007 the vast majority of graduate programs in economics had no course on the business cycle at all. We thought we had overcome it, outgrown it. We had come to believe that we were in a new economic system, a mature capitalism, and that we had all the mechanisms to control it.

Barsamian: Is there anything that has surprised you about the Occupy Wall Street movement?

Wolff: Several things. First, the welcome OWS has extended to the labor movement, which has long been far too hesitant to enter into alliances with social movements. Second, its steadfast refusal to be pushed by its enemies — and also some of its friends — into articulating a set of specific demands, as if the demand for a different economic system were somehow “vague.” Instead OWS has held fast to its basic message of 1 percent versus 99 percent.

Barsamian: So who is most to blame for the mess we’re in?

Wolff: We should be beyond blaming the poor or the rich. Everybody did his or her part to contribute to this crisis. The bankers did what bankers do; the working people did what working people do. Everyone tried to make this system work for them. Workers couldn’t pay back their debts for understandable reasons. Employers stopped raising wages because the system allowed them to do it.

When a system has everybody playing more or less by the rules and achieves the level of dysfunction we have now, it’s time to stop looking for scapegoats and understand that the problem is the system itself. It’s driving everyone in it — corporations, individuals, banks, businesses on Main Street, whomever — to act in ways that are bad for the economy as a whole. It’s like when your refrigerator is on the fritz, and the repair person says, “Look, I can fix it, but it’s going to cost you fifty dollars for this, and forty-seven dollars for that, and fifty dollars for that. You can pump money into it, but you’ve gotten twenty years out of this fridge. I think it’s time to move on and get a new one.”

We’re at that stage with capitalism as a system. We need to decide whether it can be fixed or whether we need a new refrigerator.

Barsamian: What immediate steps would you recommend?

Wolff: I would focus on one short-term step that ought to be taken immediately, and one intermediate step that will be harder to take.

Let’s deal with the easy one first: We ought to have a national jobs program to put our unemployed back to work, and we ought to end the plan that has now failed for four and a half years, the plan of Presidents Bush and Obama, which is to provide incentives for the private sector to hire people. Unemployment is as high now as it was three years ago, or worse. It is unconscionable and unethical to stick with a policy of proven failure.

Two and a half years ago President Obama designed a stimu­lus program that was supposed to put people back to work. It offered incentives of various kinds: tax cuts and subsidies that would hopefully lead the private sector to hire more people. It cost roughly $800 billion and was passed by Congress. It didn’t solve the problem. In September 2011 President Obama went on television again to propose yet another stimulus, only this package was half the size of the one before it. Obviously if the first one failed, this one cannot work either.

The solution is for the government to hire people directly. Use every dollar of the program to create government jobs, not to provide incentives, some of which will end up in the hands of executives or shareholders. You want to put people to work? Hire them, and pay them a decent salary. We need day-care centers and programs for the elderly. We could be insulating our homes or building public transportation. In the 1930s the government built national parks, constructed levees in flood-prone areas, and so on. Those projects turned out to be useful for generations to come. It is unconscionable to have millions of people who want to work while one-quarter of our productive capacity — factories, machines, and tools — sits idle. When we have unemployed workers, unused tools, and unused raw materials, we’re losing out. So a jobs program ought to be enabled right away.

But more important than that, and a bit more far-reaching, is the need to democratize our enterprises. Right now the majority of people come to work Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, and use their brains and muscles to operate equipment provided by the employer to produce a good or a service, which the employer then sells for as much money as he or she can. All the decisions in this arrangement are made by a tiny group of people. In most corporations that group is the board of directors: fifteen to twenty people who decide what to produce, how and where to produce it, and what to do with the profits. And who selects these people? The major shareholders, another group of fifteen to twenty people. The vast majority of working people have no voice. If the board of directors and major shareholders decide to close down a factory in Ohio and move those jobs to China, all the people in the community who depend on that employer are going to suffer. But we permit that decision to be made by a tiny minority. In a democracy the people who have to live with the consequences of a decision ought to participate in making it.

What if the employees themselves ran these enterprises? How would that work? Maybe Monday through Thursday you would do the job you always did. On Friday you would come to work and sit in meetings with the other workers, making decisions democratically. You would collectively decide what to produce, how and where to produce it, and what to do with the profits.

If we’d had such an arrangement in the 1970s, the workers would not have stopped raising their own wages, so the whole credit-card borrowing frenzy could have been avoided. Would those workers have destroyed their own jobs by moving production overseas? Highly unlikely. Would those workers have employed technologies that pollute the local environment? I don’t think so, because they live there. They’re not going to risk their health and the health of their families the way that a board of directors living many miles away might. Would they have used the profits to speculate in risky derivatives? I doubt it. Would they have allowed some managers to earn astronomical salaries while the rest of the workers didn’t get raises? No. In fact, every part of our economic history over the last thirty years would have been radically improved if we’d had a different way of organizing our enterprises — not the top-down, undemocratic, and bureaucratic arrangement of corporations today, but a much more cooperative, collective, community-focused method that is democratic at its core.

For a country that prides itself on its commitment to democracy, we have always had a terrible gap between the private and public sectors. The most important activity of an adult’s life in this country is work. It’s what we do five days out of every seven. If democracy belongs anywhere, it belongs in the workplace. Yet we accept, as if it were a given, that once we cross the threshold of our store, factory, or office, we give up all democratic rights. If this agreement at least delivered a rising standard of living, it might make sense that people would accept it. But now we have an economic system that imposes an undemocratic workplace and doesn’t deliver a decent economy in exchange.

Barsamian: Do you think we can reform the system but keep it intact?

Wolff: Reform is what was accomplished the last time the economy collapsed, in the 1930s. Reforms are never secure. The banking reforms of the Depression were later repealed. The taxes on corporations and the rich were later sharply reduced. The federal employment programs were ended. Social Security benefits are now being cut. When reforms are not accompanied by a reorganization of enterprises, they leave power in the hands of people who have the incentive and the resources to undo those reforms. Major shareholders and their boards of directors use profits to buy the political power needed to undo the reforms that mass movements manage to win. Thinking people are already saying no to reform proposals. Systemic change must now be on the agenda, just as the Occupy Wall Street movement suggests.

Barsamian: Capitalism is resilient. It’s been up against the ropes before and bounced back. Can’t it do that now?

Wolff: No one ever knows — despite grandiose claims to the contrary — when an economic system has accumulated so many problems that its survival is no longer possible. Every economic system has made it through crises. It’s only reasonable to expect capitalism to do the same. Capitalism survived the Depression in the 1930s. But today’s circumstances are quite different. This is a deep and long-lasting crisis with global impact. Although I cannot predict whether a tipping point has been reached, I am glad that the question of whether capitalism continues to serve people’s needs is now on the minds of millions worldwide. That is a long-overdue development.

SOUTH KOREAN CRACKDOWN


  • The peace group SPARK (Solidarity for Peace & Reunification of Korea) had some of its offices raided yesterday by the CIA in South Korea. The right-wing government of President Lee has once again used the anachronistic "National Security Law" (that originated during the Japanese imperial occupation of Korea) as justification to grab the computers of the organization. One must wonder if in this case the great work of SPARK to defend the Gangjeong villagers on Jeju Island is one reason for this attack? SPARK is an affiliated group of the Global Network and is always one of the leading support groups present in the various villages across South Korea whenever lands are being stolen for new or expanding U.S. military bases or training fields.
  • Another sad example of the authoritarian Lee government's harassment of people exercising their right to protest is the Asian Human Rights Commission report about more than one hundred villagers in Gangjeong facing legal action for peaceful demonstrations. The South Korean government is being investigated by the Human Rights Commission because of their arbitrary arrest and detention of citizens for assembly and demonstration. The Human Rights Commission is asking for letters to be written on behalf of Gangjeong villagers to the following South Korean government officials:

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Lee Myung-Bak
President
1 Sejong-no, Jongno-gu
Seoul, 110-820
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Fax: +82 2 770 4751
E-mail: foreign@president.go.kr or president@cwd.go.kr or president@president.go.kr

2. Mr. Kwon Jea-Jin
Minister of Justice
88 Gwanmon-ro, Gwachon-si
Gyonggi Province 427-760
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Tel: +82 2 503 7023
Fax: +82 2 2110 3079 / 503 7046
E-mail: webmaster@moj.go.kr

3. Mr. Han Sang-Dea
Prosecutor General
Supreme Prosecutor's Office
1730-1, Seocho3-dong
Seocho-gu, Seoul
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Fax: +82 2 3480 2555
Tel: +82 2 3480 2000
E-mail: koreapros@spo.go.kr

4. Mr. Maeng Hyeong-Gyu
Minister
Ministry of Public Administration and Security
77-6 Sejongno Jongno-gu, Seoul
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Tel: +82 2 2100 3399
E-mail: crm@mopas.go.kr or byrhim@mopas.go.kr

5. Mr. Kim Kwan-Jin
Minister
Ministry of National Defense
No. 1, Yongsan-dong 3-ga
Yongsan-gu, Seoul
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Tel: +82 2 748 1111
Fax: +82 2 748 6895
E-mail: cyber@mnd.go.kr

6. Mr. Oo Geun-Min
Governor
The government of Jeju-do
312-1, Yeon-dong, Jeju-si, Jeju-do
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Fax: +82 64 710 3009
E-mail: jejumaster@jeju.go.kr

You can see the full Asian Human Rights Commission report here

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

YOUR $$$ AT WORK



This was constructed almost entirely using government/military animations, videos, images and photos. The narrative is sourced from government quotes from start to finish.

It unveils the governments numerous and ongoing programs related to A.I., "NBIC", the "Global Information Grid", nanotechnology, biotechnology, autonomous drones, "naval sea-bases", space weapons, weather modification... or more directly: domestic and global totalitarian technological domination.

Your $$$$$ is paying for the research, development, testing, and deployment of these technologies that will ultimately be used by the corporate oligarchy to kill or enslave you.

IT'S A MIND BLOWER


The World Socialist Web Site yesterday carried this story:

A report by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) has found that the US Central Intelligence Agency deliberately attacked rescue workers and funeral processions in follow-up strikes after drone missile attacks on insurgents in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The findings were made public on the group’s web site and published by the Sunday Times of London.

According to the organization, which includes British and Pakistani journalists, at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes while they were attempting to help victims of an initial CIA drone attack. Dozens more were killed by missile strikes against the funerals of victims of drone attacks.

Overall, the group found that “since Obama took office three years ago, between 282 and 535 civilians have been credibly reported as killed, including more than 60 children.” Pakistani officials and humanitarian aid workers have reported much higher figures for the death toll in Pakistan’s tribal areas, as many as several thousand.

Experts on international law have characterized these follow-up drone missile strikes as war crimes. Clive Stafford Smith, who has fought for the release of many innocent men held in Guantanamo Bay, told BIJ the drone strikes “are like attacking the Red Cross on the battlefield. It’s not legitimate to attack anyone who is not a combatant.”

Christof Heyns, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, told the group: “Allegations of repeat strikes coming back after half an hour when medical personnel are on the ground are very worrying. To target civilians would be crimes of war.”

It's obvious why Obama is not concerned about this bad news. Just this morning the Washington Post carried a story entitled Poll finds broad support for Obama’s counter-terrorism policies. The article reveals that a new "Post-ABC News poll found that 83 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s drone policy, which administration officials refuse to discuss, citing security concerns.....77 percent of liberal Democrats endorse the use of drones, meaning that Obama is unlikely to suffer any political consequences as a result of his policy in this election year."

The poll also shows that "that 53 percent of self-identified liberal Democrats — and 67 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats — support keeping Guantanamo Bay open, even though it emerged as a symbol of the post-Sept. 11 national security policies of George W. Bush, which many liberals bitterly opposed."

The Denver Post additionally reports that "An alliance has been formed to pursue an unmanned aircraft test range for Colorado, with the likely site being the Front Range Airport near Watkins, it was announced today.

"Joining in the alliance are the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber and Economic Development Corp., the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., and the Front Range Airport Authority.

"Six new pilot test sites for unmanned aircraft will be determined by the Federal Aviation Administration under the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act [NDAA].

"The FAA and the U.S. Department of Defense will use the test sites to integrate unmanned aircraft into the national airspace."

This stuff just keeps on coming. It's further evidence that rank-and-file Democrats, who screamed and hollered about Bush the evil killer, now look the other way in large numbers when their man is in the White House. It's pure and simple hypocrisy. You might call it "tactical peace activism" - joining the call against war (and drones) only when a Republican is firing the missiles.

This solid factual base strongly reinforces my claim yesterday that any "progressive" worth their weight in salt could/would/should not support the magician for reelection. But the numbers cited above tell us that many of our so-called peace allies in the Democratic Party (including the self identified "liberals") not only are willing to vote for Obama but more importantly APPROVE of his drone killing policies and Guantanamo prison camp policies.

An email from Colorado activist Bob Kinsey today sums it all up well when he says:

Could we take a note from the "social conservatives" and say that our first amendment rights to religious freedom are being co-opted by an out of control government that is spending money for something our leader, the peaceful Jesus, commands us not to do? "Peter put away your sword!" "Choose Life!" etc.


It's a mind blower for sure!

THE POSTER



The Poster is a short film created by W. B. Park for the Global Network some years ago. He put the word out and gathered a professional team of volunteer actors, film & sound crew and others to make it happen.

W. B. lives in Central Florida and is the artist that illustrated my book. He and I had many BBQ lunch talks about politics when I lived in Orlando. I miss him alot.

Another dear Florida friend, Wendy Geiger from Jacksonville, once told me that many more people joined our frequent protests at the Kennedy Space Center in spirit than we realized. This film is about one of them.

Just got it set up on YouTube thanks to supporter Brendan O'Connor in New York.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

TRASHING THE ORGANIZER



Bill Moyers explains what we need to know about community activist Saul Alinsky, and why New Gingrich might be so afraid of him.

NO WAR ON IRAN & OBAMA TWO-STEPPING AGAIN



I am thinking about Obama right now. I just read that he had changed his position on "Super PAC" money. In this particular case Obama gave his blessing to a pro-Democratic Party “Super PAC” that will work to help his reelection. He's changed his position on so many crucial issues. Most of you are aware enough of these step-backs so I don't have to repeat them all here.

The bigger point for me is the needed discussion about why anyone who considers themselves a serious "progressive" could now vote for him. The drum beat has begun and in recent days I am hearing from those who are susceptible to the fear campaign - "I'm going to have to vote for Obama just because I can't watch a Republican get elected".

I just want to put my head in my hands and sigh. Here we go again.

I have to remind myself that voting is a sacred right and my friends do indeed have the right to use their vote as they wish. OK, I get that.

But..... after you've (I'm referring to the collective you) been working hard for years - endless meetings, travel, organizing protests and conferences, handing out flyers, writing letters to Congress, getting arrested.......how can you then just swallow a line that has a "hook" on the end of it? You know better than most that the oligarchy runs this show and they run two horses in every race. How can you allow yourself to fall into this old trap?

Some folks reply that they are being pragmatic. They are not happy with Obama but that he will have smoother edges than a more rough and tumble Republican would.

Alright, so I acknowledge that Obama is smoother than George W. Bush. He has kept the "left" under wraps (until the recent Occupy movement blossomed) while at the same time going further than Bush did on many issues like attacking our civil liberties and more aggressive war making.

I fully admit that we have no "winning" electoral option. The Green Party candidate or the new Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson are not going to win. But is "winning" the election the real solution to our problems? I don't think so.

We need a massive global anti-corporate movement. Anything that builds that movement is good. Giving our energy, money, or votes (that are ultimately interpreted as an endorsement of the status quo) to either of the two corporate-war parties I believe negates much of what we are trying to build.

In the end we each go into the voting booth and make our mark. What counts most of all though is what we do when we come out of it.

Monday, February 06, 2012

WHAT IS GOOD FOR THE GOOSE IS GOOD FOR THE GANDER

Sunday, February 05, 2012

VFP RETREAT


We got back home last night from the Maine Veterans for Peace (VFP) retreat. It began on Friday evening with a pot luck supper (lots of great food including a smoked salmon). Following the food we had a sharing circle to tell Tom Sturtevant stories. All of us are feeling the great loss of Tom - he was a founding member of VFP 27 years ago, a workhorse and the spiritual leader of our chapter.

The retreat center has a bowling alley so we formed two teams and in the tradition of Mitt Romney waged a $10,000 bet on the two matches we bowled. The team I was on lost both of the games but we claimed poverty and refused to pay the lost bet.

Our VFP chapter is aging and we need to reinvigorate the group. So we had a pony-tailed professional facilitator come work with us to develop a plan. We formed three committees (I volunteered to facilitate one of them called Outreach & Membership) and that should help the group keep focus over the course of the year. I was real pleased that folks agreed to have our primary facilitator come back mid-year for an evaluation and tune-up - a real big step in making sure we stay on course.

In the last day or so we are sending emails back and forth between Europe, the U.S., Japan and South Korea as we make final plans for our Global Network annual conference. Our friends on Jeju Island are working hard to put all the many pieces together and I am sure it will be a memorable and exciting visit for all of us.

It's a real cold but sunny day today so we are going for a walk in the woods with some friends.

SUNDAY SONG