Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Friday, April 20, 2012

THE IGNORED CAMPAIGN ISSUE



The latest census data shows nearly one in two Americans, or 150 million people, have fallen into poverty — or could be classified as low income. Democracy Now interviews Dr. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, who continue their efforts to spark a national dialog on the poverty crisis with the new book, "The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto."

Smiley, an award-winning TV and radio broadcaster, says President Obama has failed to properly tackle poverty. "There seems to be a bipartisan consensus in Washington that the poor just don’t matter. President Obama is a part of that," Smiley says. "I take nothing away from his push on healthcare, but jobs for every American should have been primary issue, number one."

West, a professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton University, says that after the historic U.S. struggles against monarchy, slavery and institutionalized racism, "the issue today is oligarchy. Poverty is the new slavery. Oligarchs are the new kings. They’re the new heads of this structure of domination."

MOON IS RISING

Father Moon out of the hospital on Jeju Island


  • My talk in Hood River was well received last night. I've been here three times over the years so I've come to know a few of the people a bit. The host groups were the Columbia River Fellowship for Peace and Occupy the Gorge so it was a nice mix of older activists and some young folks. Many good questions and what like happens so often, I had to stop things at 9:00 pm because I start running out of gas. I was feeling a bit sick last night but my host Linda Short fixed me up with medicinal teas and such and by this morning I felt much better. I also got to sleep late which is a rare treat. Usually I am up around 6:00 am getting ready to make my next travel connection.
  • Today I have until 1:00 pm to just relax. I will be given a ride into Portland where I speak tonight at the First Unitarian Church. My hosts there have kindly decided to put me into a hotel for the next two nights which is most appreciated. Sometimes on a long trip like this it is nice to have some alone time.
  • People in Hood River are quite frustrated with the growth of the local drone manufacturing operation since Boeing bought it. A retired Navy guy (double dipper) has been brought in to run the show. He was a middle man while in the Navy - one of those guys who works as liaison with the military industrial complex and then goes to work for same after "retirement". I saw one newspaper story that exclaimed the joys of weapons production by saying, "Now our local economy is not reliant only on agriculture and tourism" as if there had been something wrong with that in the past.
  • The first question I get practically every time I speak is "What can we do?" I have many answers, depending on my mood and what I've already talked about, but one answer I often give is that we all need to take a trip to the Wizard of Oz and get some more courage and determination. As we face the coming economic and civil liberties clampdown we will surely be tested. I tell people that this is why learning from and supporting folks on Jeju Island, South Korea is so important. Activists there have been dealing with fascism for a long time - they know what it smells like, what it tastes like, and they know how to react to it. We all can learn alot from them.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

THIS ISSUE LATEST GUEST



My friend Richard Rhames from Biddeford, Maine came on my public access TV show just before I left for the west coast. Just got the online version. Richard is one of my favorite all-time guests and has been on more than anyone else during the eight years that the show has been on.

If you want to see a real Mainer in action then watch this interview.

MORE ON MENWITH HILL SPY BASE


Menwith Hill, the largest intelligence gathering and surveillance center outside the US, in the heart of the UK's Yorkshire Dales, is surrounded by protesters demonstrating against America's planned missile defense system.

The local residents, often camping outside, have been joined by members of the global Occupy movement, supporting ongoing local efforts.

"It’s completely unaccountable, run by the NSA [National Security Agency], which is one of the most shadowy organizations in the world. It’s not even accountable to the UK government. The capabilities at Menwith Hill are worrying for our civil liberties…There’s whistleblower testimony that shows that what goes on there isn’t just political espionage, but commercial espionage too. And that’s before you even consider its implications on our civil liberties, that they can listen to our phone calls, intercept our emails," said Helen Alexander of the Occupy Leeds branch.

To keep up with new types of warfare, billions of dollars has been invested in Menwith Hill over the last decade. It has enabled the base to remain a vital component of the global US surveillance network.

Comprised of 33 satellite dishes housed inside large golf-ball structures, the site has the technology to intercept telephone calls, faxes and emails from around the world.

Menwith watcher and author of the 65-page report "Lifting the Lid on Menwith", Dr Steve Schofield believes it is providing information for special operations in around 100 countries – which he dubs an “unprecedented level of intervention.”

"The UK’s providing a facility here that’s involved in drone attacks that we know, from independent assessments, are killing and injuring thousands of civilians, and because of the covert nature of that warfare, it’s very difficult to provide information and accountability through the UK parliament. And yet these are acts of war. And normally when we have war, parliament should normally inform people that we’re involved in those. And we’re not being informed. We’re kept entirely in the dark about them."

In his report, Dr Schofield also challenges the assertion that the US presence provides significant economic benefit to the local area as being "grossly exaggerated." He claims that any such benefits must be measured against the costs to the UK of servicing American bases like Menwith.

As in Poland and the Czech Republic, where the US also planned to situate bases, locals are worried that the facility will put their area in danger, heightening the risk of an attack by anyone who wants to disable the shield.

For Dr. Schofield, Menwith represents a global concern: "What we’re seeing is the Americans developing a new form of imperialism… This isn’t about protection of democracy. If you look at the pattern of investment in bases over a number of years by the US, it’s all about ensuring that they have access to oil and other vital non-renewable resources in Africa, in the Persian Gulf. And we’ve got to challenge that! Because the next stage is probably an attack on Iran."

However, plans for expansion show no signs of abating, with a roadmap for developing the ballistic missile defense shield laid out until 2025.

BLINDING HYPOCRISY


  • Catholic priest on top of a cement truck on Jeju Island. I just saw the great news that Father Moon, who fell/was pushed from the top of a tetrapod and broke his arm and four vertebrae has been released from the hospital much earlier than expected. He is going to take a week to rest before jumping back into the fight.
  • VFP member Mike Jacobson (Bellingham, WA) has just returned from three weeks in Gangjeong village on Jeju. We were thrilled he was able to go after the first three members of VFP we sent were immediately returned to the U.S. by the right-wing government of President Lee after they had arrived in South Korea. Where there is a will, there is a way. I will be staying in Mike's home when I arrive to speak in his community next week.
  • OK where is the outrage about India?! They just tested a long-range nuclear missile and we heard no denunciations from the Obama administration about it. When North Korea or Iran test missiles there is alarm and threats from the U.S. and its NATO allies. What did they say about India's test? The Washington Post reports, "On Wednesday, NATO said it did not consider India a threat. The U.S. State Department said India has a 'solid' nonproliferation record, while urging all nuclear states to show restraint." There you have it. I'd call it blinding hypocrisy. Some nukes and missiles are good while others are evil. In this game it just depends on which side of corporate globalization you line up on. In this case India's nuclear missiles are pointed at China and the U.S. is glad to have one more country help militarily encircle Beijing.

ON THE TRACKS AGAIN

I am on the beloved train again heading from Corvallis, Oregon to Portland where I will switch to a bus that takes me to Hood River. I speak there tonight at the Riverside Community Church. I spoke in Hood River a couple years ago about drones.

A local drone manufacturing company is based in this community and was bought up by Boeing a while back. Hood River sits along the Columbia River Gorge and a more beautiful place is hard to find. Sad to see the military industrial complex move into this neighborhood - but they are doing that nationwide as our communities increasingly become addicted to Pentagon $$$$.

My talk went well last night in Corvallis and I am told that two city councilors were in the audience. I thank long-time GN member Linda Richards for organizing the event at Oregon State University.

I stayed in the home of Bart Bolger, the husband of new VFP President Leah Bolger. Leah was out of town as she is touring the country meeting with many local VFP chapters. I discovered that Bart and I are solid Baltimore Orioles fans.

There has been a lot of debate on some national list serves about the upcoming May 18-20 anti-NATO actions in Chicago during the planned NATO summit. Lots of cross-talk about non-violence and diversity of tactics. Some organizations involved won't specifically say they are committed to non-violence while others demand they should. One person commented that our goal should be to reach the public with our message and to have them feel supportive and included in our movement. Making pledges to non-violence seems like a no-brainer to me. Why would we want to alienate the very public we are trying to win over to our side?

I will be going to those events in Chicago and will speak on a workshop panel during the May 18-19 Counter-Summit for Peace & Economic Justice. On Sunday, May 20 I will also speak at a Unitarian Church about the work of the Global Network. There are two different marches on May 20 and I will go to which ever one I can get to as time allows.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

BACK TO COLLEGE - BACK ON-LINE



  • I am at Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis where I speak to students today at 5:30 pm. I've been without Internet connection for a bit. Just caught a ride here from Eugene where I was for the last day or so.
  • I was given a tour of the Linus Pauling archive when I arrived on OSU campus. Pauling was from Oregon and a student at OSU. He was also a key figure in the movement to ban above ground nuclear testing and won the Nobel Peace prize (back when it actually stood for something) in 1963.
  • I've been busy today, first with a 7:00 am nationally syndicated hour-long radio interview on the populist show called The Power Hour. People called in from Texas, New York, and Florida as well as some other places that I didn't catch. After that I was taken to a local public access TV studio in Eugene where I taped a show with Occupy TV for another hour. Then it was back to my hosts home for a half-hour radio spot on the KBOO community radio station promoting my coming talks in the greater Portland area. Hectic but exciting to say the least.
  • Last night I did a talk in Eugene that was taped and will be delivered to Alternative Radio for their consideration for national airing and a video was made as well that will be widely distributed in the region. Saw a couple of hold friends from past visits to Eugene.
  • I had a day off on Monday but spent most of the day making the long drive (seven hours) from northern California to Oregon. Passed through some amazing forests lands on twisty narrow roads in the rain but had some Kinks CD's playing in the rental car which made the drive all the better. A one-way rental from northern California to Eugene was the most expensive one day rental I'd ever experienced but there were really no other options for me to make this connection in my schedule. Fortunately this was the only time I have to rent a car during this trip.

Monday, April 16, 2012

ANN WRIGHT ON DRONES

Military Drones (UAVs) in Civilian Air Space from Sheridan Hill on Vimeo.


Ret. Army Col. Ann Wright describes use of drones by the CIA and the U.S. military, and why drones are coming to your neighborhood soon. Wright served 29 years in the US military and 16 years in the US State Department.

After discussing CIA use of drones to kill innocent Pakistanis and a Pakistani-American, she lays out the effects for the average American.

In March 2012, Congress mandated the FAA to open up commercial air space to military drones for testing. First test areas will be national parks. Local police departments also are equipping with drones that can carry cameras, tear gas and tasers. Drones can be as big as a 747 jet or as small as a toy airplane.

Wright explains how they have already been used to fire hellfire missiles at US citizens, killing them and their family members. The Obama administration and the Congress have drastically expanded the use of drones. Bottom line: call your congressmen and congressswomen.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

THE REDWOODS WILL OUTLAST EMPIRE

I got to visit the Hendy Woods State Park before my noon time talk in Boonville yesterday. This park is the site of the only easily accessed ancient redwood groves in all of Mendocino County and is slated for closure on July 1. It is one of eight state parks in the county, and is among legions across the state, that will be closed due to Gov. Jerry Brown's budget cutting plans.

The visit put my talk in some context as it is tangible evidence of just how insane the whole current program of U.S. militarism really is. The $10 billion our government wastes every month on the occupation of Afghanistan could easily be used by states that are in fiscal crisis to solve their woes. The recent announcement that the price of the Aegis destroyers made at Bath Iron Works in Maine will jump in cost from $1.5 billion each up to between $4-7 billion per copy indicates that the military industrial complex has no national conscience as they continue to steal from the future generations. (Just where are the loud voices of the "fiscal conservatives" in these moments?)

These trees at Hendy Woods are up to 1,000 years old. They've seen a few empires come and go during their days. They are likely to witness the collapse of the murderous and arrogant U.S. military empire as it is now overextended and withering from within. When a nation abandons its own children, its elderly, its homeless, and turns neighbor against neighbor as a way to divert attention from its own misdeeds you know its days are numbered.

My talk yesterday was at an event hosted by John Lewallen who has been harvesting seaweed in this area for 35 years. He is running for Congress and asked me to come talk about economic conversion of the military industrial complex. He is trying to bring that issue to the public during his campaign.

Later today John and his wife Barbara will drive me further north to Garberville where I will speak to a meeting of Veterans For Peace. (John was in Vietnam for two years during the 1960's.)

As you drive through this part of California you see miles and miles of vineyards. I am told that "newly rich" (dot.com folks) have bought up lots of land in this region and their wine making operations are using up significant amounts of already scarce water. This mono-culture is beginning to change the local community where growing marijuana has been the largest economic engine for years. One man told the story about how he has been swimming in the river for more than 30 years but one of the new rich land owners, who doesn't even live here, has positioned security guards along his land and won't allow local folks to have access to the water anymore.

Money is king and money destroys no matter where it goes. But in the end the redwoods are likely going to outlive this greedy culture that we have introduced.

SUNDAY SONG


Peace Conversion

By Miranda Lee

If you were born in California
It don't matter if you were or not
Cuz we are free no matter where we're born
Yeah, Even if they take away every thing we've got

Take a look deep inside our hearts
It may seem our world is falling apart
But believe change is within our reach
Even if the holes in your pockets run deep

Planting seeds to make us proud
Singing songs to be heard out loud
Let us work and occupy our land
By keeping peace we take our stand

We cannot believe in all we hear
News & media keep us living in fear
Will you let fear rule your vote
Or will you stand up proudly and take a toke?

Stop the war, let's make a deal
And use our weapons to plow our fields
We must act now to change the pace
We don't need no war in space

To act with love, all people are freed
Peace conversion is what we need
Convert our actions and start today
John Lewallen help us pave the way.


This song was written for the event I spoke at yesterday in rural Boonville in Mendocino County, California. The event was organized by John and Barbara Lewallen. John is a candidate for the open U.S. House of Representatives seat.