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

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Fund Mass Transit Not Endless War



  • Yesterday the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee voted 30-21 along party lines for a bill that would give Amtrak (our very limited national rail service) about $260 million less than its typical $1.4 billion share. This is one more example of the corporate dominated Congress voting to dismantle the nation's social infrastructure.  Many of those elected to the House of Representatives serve the interests of the fossil fuel industry and the last thing they want is a successful and growing public transit system.  Instead they'd rather drill-baby-drill for oil and natural gas - including the Arctic Sea as the ice melts due to climate change.


The scheduled entry into service of a satellite-based global communications system, which has cost the US military $7.6 billion, is in danger of slipping thanks to legal battles in Sicily.

The Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) network, based on a series of satellites and four ground stations, is set to provide voice and data communications to US military personnel and [drone] platforms around the world, even when they are under thick forest canopies. While a portion of the system is operating, the Sicilian station would provide about one-fourth of the global coverage.

Of five satellites planned for the constellation, three have been launched — the third from Cape Canaveral in January — a fourth is due to be launched this summer and the final satellite is set to go into orbit in 2016.
 
Communications will bounce up and down between the satellites and four ground stations, in Australia, Hawaii, Virginia and Sicily, each equipped with three large dishes pointing at the sky. The stations in Australia, Hawaii and Virginia all completed testing by 2013.

But that leaves the site at Niscemi, Sicily, which is yet untested, thanks to legal challenges and local protest that means the station is under sequester by a local judge, putting all the deadlines in doubt.

  • Lots of folks are continuing to talk about the entrance of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) into the presidential race for the Democratic Party nomination.  There is growing effort inside the peace movement to pressure Sanders to be more vocal about the massive expenditures for endless war.  What good is it to support his campaign if Sanders is not willing to take on the biggest discretionary part of the US budget which is Pentagon spending?  Groups are forming around the country to support Sanders - I hope by now that activists understand that no one gets elected in America without the blessing of the corporate oligarchy and the CIA.  If Sanders is going to run a campaign to stimulate debate and educate the public then why not deal with our endless war spending and wicked foreign policy that kills people and the environment?  Should Sanders be given a pass when he supports Israeli attacks on Palestinians?  Is it relevant that Sanders has lobbied for the boondoggle F-35 fighter plane to be based in Vermont? 
  • POGO writes: The United States Navy has an annual budget of over $130 billion. That’s more than the entire Chinese military or Russian military spend in a given year. Yet somehow, amazingly, the Navy claims its budget is too small. Rather than telling the Navy to prioritize spending, Congress set up a special fund outside the Navy’s budget, the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund. The Navy has made a choice to stick to reckless and unaffordable shipbuilding plans going forward, knowing full-well the consequences. This has led to the need for special funding, and put Congress in the position of potentially choosing between the Navy’s pet projects and the nation’s best interests. All it does is create short-term relief for the Navy’s budget, and postpone an inevitable budget reckoning. Perhaps this is why former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and his then-Undersecretary for Acquisition Ashton Carter, were so opposed to the idea of a special fund. "We have to ask whether the nation can really afford a Navy that relies on $3 billion to $6 billion destroyers, $7 billion submarines and $11 billion carriers," Gates told an industry conference in May 2010. 
  • The weapons industry and the local communities [like here in Bath, Maine) that have become addicted to military production claim that jobs will be lost if these big war machine projects are defunded.  But the evidence is available which says just the opposite is true.  Military spending is the worst way to create jobs.  Building public transit systems at a place like Bath Iron Works would double the jobs.  Funding education, health care, fixing roads and bridges, and building alternative energy systems all create more jobs than military production.  See for yourself here.

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