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, March 09, 2013

ALL MIGHTY DOLLAR PRINCIPLE



Regis Tremblay writes:

One evening at dinner, I sat next to Sr. Stella, a Korean missionary sister with a great sense of humor and a good command of the English language. After dinner and a delightful conversation, Sr. Stella asked, “so why not interview me. I want to tell Obama and the American people something.”

How could I refuse? Sitting next to the 20 ft barbed wire topped fence of the base, with the light fading fast and a fire burning to keep warm on that cool evening, Sr. Stella with all the confidence in the world and the passion of her convictions, let it rip.

She is one of hundreds of Catholic nuns from Korea and Jeju Island who visit Gangjeong Village frequently to stand in solidarity with the villagers and activists in their struggle against the construction of the naval base that is destroying the environment and their village, not to mention the denial of their human right to live peacefully there as they have done for over one thousand years.

Even today, some six months removed from my stay in Gangjeong Village, I am overcome with emotion as I pour through hours of interviews and video for my film, Jeju: In the Crosshairs of War.

LONG TRIP


My plane to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania was cancelled yesterday because the Newark, NJ airport, where I was to get a connecting flight, was closed due to snowstorm.  I waited on line in Portland at the airport for three hours to find out that all flights to Newark were cancelled.  The meeting I was heading to began at 4:00 pm on Friday.

So I jumped in a cab and went to Portland bus station where I caught a bus to Boston.  Then I took a bus to New York city and another bus to Wilkes-Barre.  I arrived just after midnight.  About a 19-hour trip.

The meeting is ready to resume this morning and will last til mid-day on Sunday.  Then I will try to fly home and hope that it works out. 

Thursday, March 07, 2013

PRESENTE!

Huge numbers of Venezuelans marched in support of Hugo Chavez today in Caracas!

DRONES & FREE SPEECH

 

  • About a dozen of us from around the state went to Augusta today for the second joint Judiciary Committee hearing on the drone bill for Maine. The committee tabled the bill for three weeks which in a way is good because it gives us more time to organize. On the other hand the tabling of the bill indicates that forces are moving to try to block any ban or regulation of surveillance drones in Maine.  In fact Maine's Attorney General does not like the bill, wants to divert it to a study (that would likely require funding and in this fiscal climate could mean the bill got killed entirely).  The basic line from the AG's office is that there have not been any drone surveillance abuses in Maine by law enforcement - thus no need for concern. We need Mainers to contact your member of the State House and Senate immediately and tell them that you support a two-year ban on drones in Maine. You can find your House member here and your Senate member here.   I heard one member of the legislature say today in the hallway at the capital that when she posted the drone question on her Facebook page she was flooded with comments opposing drones.  Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, Democrats, and Greens overwhelmingly oppose drone surveillance.  Now we have to take that message to our state elected officials.  We ignore this at our own peril.
  • Our Bath City Council voted unanimously last night (8-0) in favor of our resolution calling for a US constitutional amendment to ban corporate big $$$ in our elections.  That makes 38 towns and cities in Maine to have passed such a resolution.  Hundreds of communities across the nation have passed similar resolutions as have 11 states..  
  • In the morning I head to Pennsylvania for a weekend meeting of movement leaders to talk about developing a unifying message and strategy nationwide.  It should be equally as exciting as the technology seminar I attended last weekend.  More later.

LOCAL DRONE ACTION



A citizen speaks before a Coeur d' Alene City Council meeting in which he calls for banning drones in that Idaho community.

Eighteen state legislatures and many local communities are now considering (or have already passed) laws to ban, or at least, regulate drones.

TALKING TO BLOCK



Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) ended his filibuster after 12 hours and 52 minutes. Paul and others, concerned over the administration's use of lethal drone strikes, were interrupting the confirmation process of Obama's nomination of new CIA director John Brennan.

Brennan will now be confirmed by a wide margin in the Senate.

MILITARIZING LOCAL POLICE



The MRAP featured in this video was in Albuquerque, New Mexico for Law Enforcement Day which was held at a local area Target Store. This MRAP is stationed in El Paso, Texas at The Homeland Security Investigations Office.

Imagine that - showing this at a department store parking lot.  A clear warning to the public - don't you dare stand up against corporate domination and austerity.

Gas mileage predictions anyone?  3-4 miles per gallon?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

HONORING HUGO CHAVEZ


I'D TAKE CHAVEZ OVER KERRY EVERY TIME

  • Got alot on my plate this week.  This morning I taped another edition of my public access TV show and invited fellow Mainer (and Jeju Island filmmaker) Regis Tremblay to be my guest.  He did a great job.  Tonight we have the Move to Amend resolution coming to our Bath City Council for a decision.  Then when I get home there is an 8:00 pm phone conference call with the Hancock Air National Guard drone base protest (April 26-28) organizers from Syracuse, New York.  I've been invited to speak at that event and also to join in their planning call.
  • Tomorrow in Augusta we have round-two of the drone moratorium hearing at the state capital.  A bunch of us will be going.  The Judiciary Committee will begin their deliberations at 2:30 pm on the 4th floor.
  • Very sad to hear about the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.  I'll never forget seeing the film The Revolution Will Not Be Televised about the US attempted coup against Chavez and the poor people's resistance that ultimately prevented it.  If you've not seen this film, you must.  The US lies about, and demonizes, any leader that resists corporate domination.  Chavez was such a man. Find the film here
  • The recent effort by the Working Group for Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific to gather signatures on a statement opposing US-South Korea war games, aimed at North Korea, was a huge success.  You can see the final list of those signing on here
  • I sent around an email to fellow Maine activists today taking orders for our pizza-style door hanger literature that we plan to distribute across the state during the week of April 7-13.  We are asking for five cents each which means if you order 100 it costs $5. It's obvious that the austerity cuts in programs of social uplift will ramp up in the coming months.  The public feels abandoned and isolated by the political system.  Getting these door hangers out across Maine can help remind people that there is an organized push-back in our state against these attacks on social progress.  Working together we can help make that happen. You can see the door hangers here
  • The so-called "liberal" John Kerry, now comfortably in as Obama's new Secretary of State, is already showing his Skull & Bones Club colors.  One of his first acts was to release a memo saying that the Tar Sands pipeline will not be a serious environmental problem.  Then he made a trip to visit the Saudi Arabian monarchy where he made a huge weapons sales on behalf of the military industrial complex. Kerry is just one of the oligarchy.  They plant these operatives inside both the Republican and Democrat parties and have turned us into a collapsing empire that is killing the planet.  These hacks deserve no respect and loyalty and will get none from me.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

TECHNO-UTOPIANISM SEMINAR REPORT

Graphic by James Heddle

I have just returned from San Francisco where I attended a private seminar called Techno-Utopianism: Killing the World with about 30 leading environmentalists, scientists, economists, writers, and activists.  I was asked to represent the Global Network and report on the latest space technology issues including drones, global strike systems, surveillance, and the like.  It was quite an honor to be invited to attend this event and I learned a great deal from those assembled.

The event was led by Jerry Mander (Int’l Forum on Globalization), Andrew Kimbrell (Int’l Center for Technology Assessment), Randy Hayes (Foundation Earth), Stephanie Mills (Post Carbon Institute), and Doug Tompkins (Foundation for Deep Ecology).

The three-day seminar began with Mander outlining the vision of the meeting, which was to report on current anti-technology struggles, discuss root causes and begin to define next steps.  Mander said that the techno-machine had not only transformed our planet in negative ways but had also dominated the consciousness of human kind.  He labeled our current situation a “techno-dictatorship” which calls itself progress.  The Internet, he suggested, creates the illusion of resistance to the machine.

Physicist and ecologist Vandana Shiva stated, “Technology is really about appropriating resources”.  In India the chemical industry subsidy is as big as what is spent on the military.  Forty percent of greenhouse gases come from industrial agriculture.  Public relations have replaced science.  “No village is safe under globalization’s resource war”, Shiva said.  “The state comes under corporate control and then becomes a militarized state.”

Randy Hayes reported that our present “Brush fire fights are not connected enough to systemic change.”  Our social movement’s critique of mega-technology is weak.

Andrew Kimbrell (who represented the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice in federal court in 1989-1990 when we sued NASA opposing the Galileo and Ulysses plutonium rocket launches) told the assembled, “Nano-technology is the next industrial revolution.  When you make molecules smaller their properties change.  Worker safety becomes a big issue.”  Nano particles are already getting into our rivers and into the brains of fish.  Carbon nano-tubes are stronger than steel and some are talking about using them to make elevators into space.  The Pentagon is heavily funding nano-tech research and development.  Kimbrell called Nano-tech and GMO’s the “Hail Mary technologies.”

Gar Smith (editor emeritus of Earth Island Journal) spoke about nuclear power with particular emphasis on the impacts of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.  Nearly half of children in the area now have thyroid cysts.  Forty tons of water per day are being used to keep the radioactive rods cooled and the water will eventually end up in the sea.  Smith reported, “One fish found in the ocean off Fukushima had 2,500 times the radiation levels over ‘safe’ limits.”  The radioactive wastewater will reach the US west coast in five years and will “be the end of the west coast fishing industry.”

Mander, who authored the best selling book Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, reminded us that “We are living inside media and media is living inside of us.  We are receiving 30,000 commercial images per year and once in the brain they are there forever.”  Our minds essentially become colonized by corporate branding.

Eileen Crist (Associate Professor in Dept. of Science & Technology at Virginia Tech) warned us that our movements have not developed a “compelling alternative [to capitalist destruction of the planet] for her students.”  “The pieces are all there but not put together in a compelling vision,” she said.  She reported that the “new environmentalism”, heavily funded and influenced by the corporate technologists, “is warmed over nature conservation” where “human aspirations are primary”.  We must “name these environmental groups as corporate serving groups. The corporate agenda wants to break the emerging alliance between the ecological and social justice movements,” Crist said.  There is a “battle [underway] for the branding and soul of the environmental movement.”

Filmmaker and former monk Godfrey Reggio told the assembled, “We are all cyborgs, and we have become the environment we live in.  We are aliens…. I want the courage to be hopeless about this present situation so I can be hopeful about the future.”

Chet Bowers (author and professor of Environmental Studies at University of Oregon) told us “When we are born into a language community our imagination is restricted by the silence of our elders.”  During that silence “our alternative vocabularies get excluded” thus widespread thinking and debate about our way out of the techno-mess gets limited to more corporate technology solutions.

Lisi Krall (Professor of Economics at the State University of New York, Cortland) suggested, “Difficult economic conversations have fallen out of favor.  Technology is our last refuge before we face what we don’t want to face.”  We must “deal with techno-industrial culture and talk about reducing consumption.  The world made by hand takes a vibrant healthy eco-system.”  The current and coming economic “depression brings clarity,” she said.  “We can’t be afraid to use the word planning…. how do we reallocate labor and resources?”

In our hand-held device world of  “communication” we’ve become strangers from one another and increasingly violent.  Charlene Spretnak (professor emerita in philosophy and religion) well illustrated this point by sharing, “Studies show that talking to people leads to better mental and physical function…. Children who witness violence see a shortening of life…. the part of kids’ brains where empathy is found is shrinking from playing violent video games…. Nature helps increase empathy.”

In one of my own interventions during the seminar I suggested that the “business model” has also colonized our “progressive movement’s” method of organizing.  We are in a state of competition with one another in our isolated quest for funds, members, media coverage, and personal recognition.  Our “resistance has itself become a corporatized monoculture,” I suggested.  We will find no real solution and positive alternative vision and direction without first learning to work in unity and diversity by connecting the dots between our single-focused-issue organizing. This must be done locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

Jerry Mander urged us “not to be afraid to get rid of something that is destroying us and the natural world.”  Vandana Shiva insisted we must “talk about the new slavery” to corporate technology.  One participant suggested that we have been a “nation of hustlers” that has become “a nation of thugs who use technology for global domination.”

Research scientist Michael Huesemann told the seminar participants “techno-fixes are ineffective.”  Dealing with traffic congestion by building more roads and making electric cars won’t work.  We’ve got to get rid of the cars.  “Technology increases the separation from the environment,” he said.

Mander, who has a new book out called The Capitalism Papers: Fatal Flaws of an Obsolete System, reminded us “In order to save capitalism, government had to intervene and rescue it by regulating it.”  Part of a new economic vision he suggested would include some of these ideas/principles: Cooperatives (now 9% of the US economy); Small-scale efforts (when they fail they don’t bring the whole system or environment down with them); Nature come first; Hybrid economics.

The fatal flaws of capitalism “can’t be fixed” Mander insisted.  The present system relies on ecologically devastating “economic growth”, is inequitable, has a propensity to militarism and war, occupies democracy and our consciousness, and does not make people happy.  Global capital is the problem.

“We’ve got to name the system if you want to change it,” Mander concluded.  Capitalism means endless “expansion” and by now we know that means death.

Wes Jackson (Land Institute in Kansas) handed out small bags of Kernza whole grain flour to all the seminar participants.  Kernza is a perennial grain with deep roots being developed by his institute.  He reminded us “nature’s eco-systems are the only true economies.”  We must “Bring the wild to the farm,” he said. 

Mander and others at the seminar are working toward a major Teach-In in 2014, which will likely be held in New York City.  We must all increase our ability and resolve to make these vital connections between rampant capitalism, ecological destruction, and endless war. 

Technology impacts each and every one of our movements and the corporate oligarchy fears our collective response.  Let’s step up our critical analysis of capitalism and articulation of a nature-based economics.    

Monday, March 04, 2013

VOICES FROM GANGJEONG


Regis Tremblay writes: First in the series is Fr. Mun Jeong Hyeon, the iconic 74 yr old priest who has been beaten, hospitalized and jailed for protesting the construction of the base. Fr. Mun is known as a “street father” because of his support for victims of human rights violations inflicted by state power. Ordained in 1966, he organized the Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice in 1974 and opposed the dictatorship when the military carried out extrajudicial killings.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

WE MUST NOT FAIL BRADLEY MANNING

Bradley Manning reading his plea statement in court, sketched by Clark Stoeckley of the Bradley Manning Support Network.

Bradley Manning Support Network steering committee member Kevin Zeese, who observed Bradley’s plea statement in the courtroom at Fort Meade, MD, writes about what he saw, the importance of Bradley’s statement, and how we can help the young whistleblower before time runs out.

By Kevin Zeese

As I sat in court last Thursday at Fort Meade, watching Bradley Manning take responsibility as the Wikileaks whistleblower, two things struck me: (1) his thorough intelligence fueled by intellectual curiosity and (2) his empathy for other people when so many in war had lost their humanity.

This was the second time I had heard Manning testify. The first was his testimony about the abusive pre-trial incarceration he suffered for one year while being held in a cage in Kuwait and in solitary confinement in the Quantico Brig. I’ve now seen him testify for a total of 15 hours.

His testimony leads me to wonder: what would have happened to Bradley Manning if we had a decent educational system that included affordable, preferably free, college education so that young people weren’t driven to the military for economic reasons? What could Bradley Manning have given the country if he had been able to pursue his interests and natural talents? Would Manning have joined the military if the country was honest about how the US Empire operates around the world?

But, that was not to be. The country failed Bradley Manning.

I hope we do not fail him again.

Manning made it clear last Thursday that he leaked the documents to Wikileaks because he saw serious problems in US foreign policy. Problems which are as serious as they can be: war crimes, criminal behavior at the highest levels up to Secretary of State Clinton, unethical behavior and bullying of other nations.

Manning’s sole purpose was to “spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general.” He hoped the debate “might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment every day.”

Regarding the collateral murder video which showed civilians, including two Reuters journalists being massacred, he said “I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me about the conduct of the aerial weapons team crew members. I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan are targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare.”

When discussing the State Department cables Manning saw that the US was not behaving the way the “de facto leader of the free world” should act as the cables “documented backdoor deals and seemingly criminal activity.” Again, he hoped for a change in policy as the “cables were a prime example of a need for a more open diplomacy” that would avoid conflict and save lives.

In some of these statements you get a hint of Manning’s empathy for fellow human beings. The incident that really showed it was his comments on David Frankel’s book “The Good Soldier,” where Frankel describes a seriously injured Iraqi civilian on the ground at the end of the Collateral Murder video. He lifts two fingers toward the soldier, a well-known sign of friendship, as he asks for help. The US soldier responds lifting his middle finger as the Iraqi died. Manning puts himself in the place of the Iraqi thinking his final act was an act of friendship only to be returned by a crude obscenity of unfriendliness. Manning acknowledges that this “burdens me emotionally.”

Manning was clear that he was solely responsible for his actions saying “The decisions that I made to send documents and information to the WLO [Wikileaks Organization] and website were my own decisions, and I take full responsibility for my actions.” He described his conversations with an anonymous person at Wikileaks but made it quite clear there was no espionage conspiracy between Manning and Julian Assange.

His statement made it much more difficult for the US to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act.

There is no question that Manning will spend years in jail. The ten charges he pled guilty to last week each carry two years for a total potential of 20 years incarceration. The government has announced it will still prosecute the espionage and aiding the enemy charges which could lead to a life sentence. This is an abuse of government power. They may be able to prove their case, but that does not mean he is truly guilty of those crimes, if convicted it will be another example of laws written to favor the prosecution; another example of injustice in today’s United States.

Judge Denise Lind has beautiful judicial decorum in court and shows she is on top of the details of the proceedings and the law. She is an impressive judicial figure but so far when there have been disputes between Manning and the government she has tended to split the difference, always giving a little more to the government. She has served in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps for 25 years, four as a judge. She is a product of a system that does not blow the whistle, does not go outside the chain of command and views following orders as a way of life. She will do what she thinks is just when she considers Manning’s case, but I doubt it will seem like justice to those of us who support Manning.

How can we avoid failing Bradley Manning? Ongoing support through the Bradley Manning Support Network continues to be essential but more than that, we need to do what we can to disseminate the information he leaked and work to create a national debate on a foreign policy that is seriously off-track.

This will be a long term effort, and as we pursue that work, we should never forget the young man who put his life and liberty on the line to give the world a glimpse of US foreign policy, a person who was failed by a country that talks about its concern for the young but does not do enough for them. Now, it is our job to pick up the materials Bradley has provided and work to create the better world we urgently need and he sought in his own patriotic way.

* All quotations are taken from the transcript of Manning’s testimony prepared by Alexa O’Brien as the court has not released his written statement to the public.

Kevin Zeese is an attorney who serves on the steering committee of the Bradley Manning Support Network. He also serves a co-director of It’s Our Economy.

BASKETBALL DIPLOMACY



The mainstream media just can't stand being trumped by a basketball player.....George Stephanopoulos is such a hypocrite.  Obama is responsible for the killing of more people than Kim in North Korea.  Do we have prison camps in America?

Currently in the United States, 1 in every 31 adult persons is either in jail or prison or on parole or probation. That amounts to 7.3 million Americans and a cost that exceeds $68 billion annually. This figure does not include juveniles accountable to the U.S. correction system. The total number of U.S. citizens accountable to the American correction system is the highest in the world. It even exceeds the combined Soviet Union and China prison population during the height of their dominate Communist Regime.

Although blacks account for only 12 percent of the U.S. population, 44 percent of all prisoners in the United States are black. The proportion of blacks in prison populations exceeds the proportion among state residents in every single state. In twenty states, the percent of blacks incarcerated is at least five times greater than their share of resident population.

"The United States is filling its expanding number of cell blocks with an ever-rising sea of black people monitored by predominantly white overseers," said noted author Paul Street in Dissent Magazine. "Echoes of slavery haunt the new incarceration state."

African-Americans are arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned for drug offenses at far higher rates than whites. This racial disparity bears little relationship to racial differences in drug offending. For example, although the proportion of all drug users who are black is generally in the range of 13 to 15 percent, blacks constitute 36 percent of arrests for drug possession. Blacks constitute 63 percent of all drug offenders admitted to state prisons. In at least fifteen states, black men were sent to prison on drug charges at rates ranging from twenty to fifty-seven times those of white men.

SUNDAY SONG






Professor Yang Yoon-Mo is in jail for his third time on Jeju Island.  This time his sentence is 18 months for non-violently blocking Navy base construction vehicles.  He's also on his 3rd hunger strike - now on his 31st day of fasting.