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: Brunswick, Maine, United States

I'll be taking an 'unpaid leave of absence' from my job at the Global Network from December 15-March 15, 2020 in order to help my friend Lisa Savage on her campaign for the US Senate in Maine. I'll be back to GN after March 15.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Erdogan’s Long-Coming Reality Check

 


by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog

It is hard to say if Erdogan is running out of choices, friends, time, or all of the above; and his stands on various issues and the contradictions he ploughs through are making his situation increasingly untenable.

For the benefit of readers who haven’t heard this before; Erdogan is juggling being a Turkish Muslim reformer who parades under the photos of Turkish secular anti-Muslim nation-builder Mustafa Kemal; an EU-aspiring member and also an aspiring global Sunni leader; an ally of Israel as well as Hamas; an Islamist who is also at odds with the Wahhabi Islamists; a nationalist Turk who wants to curb Kurdish aspirations not only in Syria and Iraq but also in Turkey; a Sunni leader who wants to restore the Sultanate and Caliphate and the fundamentalist Sunni version of anti-Shiite Islam but is also a friend of Shiite Iran; a NATO member with a special relationship with America, and a special friend and ally of Russia.

Ironically, despite all the contradictions and conflicts of interest, he has thus far managed to get away with wearing not only all those hats, but also turbans and fezzes in between. Clearly however, this maneuvering cannot last forever and, sooner or later, he is going to end up painted into a tight corner. I certainly would like to believe that he is already in this space.

Erdogan however believes that he has a mandate from God. Following his November 2015 election win, in an article titled “Erdogan the Trojan Horse of Terror” (https://thesaker.is/erdogan-the-trojan-horse-of-terror/), I wrote: “With this win, Erdogan felt invincible. For an Islamist, and this is what Erdogan is, feeling invincible takes on a whole new meaning.

This is a simplistic translation of a Quranic verse: “If God is by your side, no one can defeat you” (Quran 3:160).

Erdogan believes he is invincible because he believes that he is on a mission and that God is by his side. If he had any reason to doubt this divine role he believes he has, the November election results put that doubt to rest.”


Ironically, Erdogan is able to comprehend the contradictions of others. Whilst America for example does not give two hoots about the Syrian Kurds and is only using some vulnerable leaders to dig a wedge between the Syrian Government and the Syrian Kurdish population, Erdogan has most vehemently stated to both the Obama and Trump administrations that America cannot be an ally of Turkey and the Kurds at the same time.

Yet, this same Erdogan justifies for himself the supplying of Idlib terrorists with state-of-the-art weaponry to attack not only Syrian Army units with, but also the Russian Hmeimim Air Base. The Russians have thus far thwarted countless attempted drone attacks on the base, and if Turkey did not directly supply the weapons, it definitely facilitated their transport.

Remember that the Idlib area that is controlled by Tahrir al-Sham (formerly known as Al-Nusra) lies between the Syrian-Army controlled area and the Turkish border. It has an open highway to Turkey where all arms and fighters move freely from Turkey into Syria.

And even though Erdogan has signed an agreement with Russia to end the terrorist presence in Idlib, according to veteran Palestinian journalist Abdul Bari Atwan, he does not want to understand why Russia is fed up with him and his antics and why President Putin is refusing to meet with him. In his article written in Raialyoum https://www.raialyoum.com/index.php/لماذا-يرفض-بوتين-لقاء-قمة-مع-اردوغان-لح/, Atwan argues that the Russians refuse Erdogan’s call for a new disengagement negotiation meeting and that Turkey must adhere to the existing Sochi agreement; which it has broken on several occasions by Erdogan.

Atwan adds that:

Firstly: “the Turkish gamble and reliance on Syrian opposition and the Free Syria Army in particular have failed because those forces abandoned their positions and the Syrian Army entered the towns of Khan Sheikhoun and Maarra Al-Numan unopposed without suffering a single casualty

Secondly: The 12 Turkish surveillance posts that were established in the Idlib district have turned into a liability because seven of them are under siege by the Syrian Army with a hundred Turkish soldiers trapped in each and can easily be destroyed by the Syrian Army in case Turkey launches a major offensive against Syria.

Thirdly: Russian support to the Syrian Army has reached an unprecedented level after the Russians shot down two drones launched by Tahrir Al-Sham yesterday” (ie the 10th of February 2020).


In addition, according to Atwan, “Erdogan missed a golden opportunity when he refused the (recent) Iranian initiative proposed to him by Iranian FM, Zarif, to find a political resolution for the impasse with Syria, and this was perhaps the last opportunity to reach a diplomatic resolution before a direct open confrontation with Syria”

In a Financial Times article titled “Testing Times for Erdogan and Putin” the author is a tad short of saying that the relationship between Erdogan and Putin is irreconcilable. According to him, “If Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was looking for a way to convey his anger at Russia over the death of eight of his country’s troops in Syria, a visit to Ukraine provided the perfect opportunity.

At a guard of honour at the presidential palace in Kyiv on Monday, Mr Erdogan shouted “Glory to Ukraine”, a nationalist slogan deeply associated with anti-Russia sentiment and the country’s fight for independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

His carefully chosen words — to an army battling Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine — were a clear rebuke to President Vladimir Putin”.


In all of this, what Erdogan needs more than anything, is a long-coming reality check, and it seems more forthcoming than ever.


He may believe that he is a president for life who deserves the purportedly one thousand room palace he built for himself. He may hope to rebuild the Ottoman Empire and resurrect the Caliphate. He may imagine that, having been able to build up the Turkish economy to a level that has earnt a position in the G20, he has become the leader of a super power; but he has not. Turkey is at best a regional power, but it is only powerful if it has more powerful friends and allies to back it up. For as long as Turkey has to literally beg the Russians and/or the Americans to buy state-of-the-art weapons to defend itself with, then it is not in a position that allows it to stand on its own feet; not in the manner that Erdogan wishes it to stand. He should take heed and look at history. Mehmet Al-Fatih built his own guns to breakdown the defence walls of Constantinople. Even though the engineer who built them was from the Balkans, but they were Mehmet’s guns and they were the biggest in the world at the time.

I am not advocating that Erdogan should build his own nuclear arsenal, fighter jets and defence and attack missiles. In the ideal world, no one should. But to add to his list of contradictions, if Erdogan wants to wear the Turban of the Sultan, huff and puff at Russia, he cannot be riding Don Quixote’s donkey at the same time.

And if he thinks that he can now make a U-turn and be the loyal NATO leader and dump Russia, he will find himself again facing the same impasse he had with the Americans over the Kurdish issue. Furthermore, what will this do to his trade deals with Russia and his gas supplies?

And if Erdogan also thinks that America would come forward to save him in Idlib, one would have to remember that the illegal American presence in North East Syria is hundreds of kilometres away from Idlib and separated by the Russian-backed Syrian Army. Why would America, even Trump’s America, risk a confrontation with Russia to save his hide?

Erdogan has thus far evaded Karma because he has been hedging his bets in all directions, working up his enemies and allies against each other. But unless one is powerful enough to stand on his own feet when he needs to, then such a strategy in the long run can only leave one with no friends, a long list of enemies and a hoard of untrusting onlookers.

Above all, what do Turkish people want from the Turkish presence in Syria? Turkey hasn’t been at war for a whole century. The leader that once promised “zero problems” with neighbours is digging in his heels and seems determined to engage in an all-out war with Syria. The average Turkish citizen may ask why and to what end?

Erdogan has hopefully finally wedged himself into a corner that he cannot weasel his way out of without losing face. He will either have to bolster his military presence in Syria and fight the Syrian Army and Russia, or back off. If he takes the former option, he will not find any international supporters, and possibly the support of his own people will become questionable. But if the psychopathic, megalomaniac feels that he has to retreat, he will be scrambling for a face-saving exit, and the options are running out.

Russia was prepared to put the deliberate Turkish downing of the Su-24 in November 2015 behind and move forward. A lifeline was given to Erdogan back then, based on the promises he made and the later agreements he signed. But time proved that he was only looking for buying time, and that window with Russia is up.

Body bags have already been sent to Turkey and there are unconfirmed figures of how many Turkish soldiers have been killed defending Al-Nusra fighters. What is pertinent here is that, in the event of an all-out war with Syria, Syrians will be fighting an existential battle, aided by Russia and regional allies. Turkey however, will be fighting a different type of existential battle; one for Erdogan, not for Turkey itself.

Turkey has no reason for having a military presence and fight in Syria. It is only Erdogan’s ego and dreams that do.

Freedom Rider: Trump Has No Opposition


By Margaret Kimberley
Black Agenda Report

The Bloomberg cash onslaught and the anti-Bernie conspiracy have laid bare the degree of collusion among the rulers.

“The blatant war crimes committed against Venezuela elicit either nonchalance or outright support from the so-called resistance.”

The Democratic Party is every bit as corrupt as its pretend rival, the Republican Party. The theatrics of phony opposition have been on full display in recent days but no one should be fooled by the cheap theatrics. The impeachment show, Iowa caucuses, and State of the Union address all put a spotlight on the fraud of democracy in this country. 

Among other crimes, Donald Trump uses the presidency to enrich himself, and assassinated an Iranian general in violation of United States and international law. But the only article of impeachment the Democrats were willing to put forward focused on Trump’s foolish effort to involve the Ukrainian President in an investigation of Joe Biden.

This gift to the Democrats was milked for all that it was worth but not before the Democrats gave Trump everything he wanted. Nancy Pelosi and congressional Democrats gave Trump a border wall, a trade bill, a new branch of the military known as the Space Force, and a more than $700 billion military budget.

“The Democrats gave Trump everything he wanted.”

One wouldn’t know about any of these capitulations and collusions after listening to Democrats wax poetically during the impeachment debate. They droned on endlessly about the founding fathers and the greatness of a democracy that doesn’t really exist. Even members of the Congressional Black Caucus joined in the charade of praising people who enslaved their ancestors.

The farce continued at the State of the Union address. Pelosi and Trump behaved like enemies and he refused to shake her hand. She did him one better in the publicity stunt department by ripping up his speech.

But the torn pages were not the highlight of Democratic Party treachery. The Trump administration is still trying to overthrow the Venezuelan government and invited their hand picked pretend president Juan Guaido to attend the SOTU spectacle.

Pelosi jumped to her feet when Guaido was introduced, proving that disagreements over anything substantive are practically non-existent. Not only did Pelosi give Guaido the stamp of approval but Bernie Sanders used the most recent debate to continue his tirades against Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping too. He went right along with the imperialist narrative.

“Disagreements between Democrats and Republicans over anything substantive are practically non-existent.”

The manufactured impeachment drama even turned Mitt Romney into a hero for liberals. The man rightly despised as a hedge fund chieftain who condemned half of the population -- the 47% who receive some public benefit -- is now revered after voting to convict Trump in the senate trial. The fact that one-time villains can become heroes is proof that the differences in the duopoly are small and getting smaller. Image making and public relations count for more than any policy differences.

The rank and file are largely taken in by the nonsense. Any semblance of ideological difference occurred so long ago that there is little expectation of real change. The sight of Rush Limbaugh receiving the meaningless Presidential Medal of Freedom may raise ire but the blatant war crimes committed against Venezuela elicit either nonchalance or outright support from the so-called resistance. 

The impeachment farce and State of the Union capped a week of comedy and criminality from the duopoly. The seeming incompetence in declaring a winner in the Iowa caucuses proved just one thing. Bernie Sanders won that contest but the party establishment has already decided that he won’t be allowed to get the nomination. The Democratic National Committee changed debate rules to allow Michael Bloomberg to take part even though he is his only donor. One is expected to ignore the fact that he also made a $300,000 donation to the DNC. Bloomberg paid good money to get his way but it is unlikely that the DNC had their collective arms twisted. They are in sync with the billionaire and are glad to get paid to do what they already intended.

“The differences in the duopoly are small and getting smaller.”

The cheating has begun in earnest, and the only thing Democrats are resisting is any turn to the left. Even a little bit of reformism is off limits for the supposed leaders who are little more than errand boys and girls for the billionaires. The Bloomberg cash onslaught and the anti-Bernie conspiracy have laid bare the degree of collusion among the rulers.

The Democratic rank and file do hate Donald Trump but the machinations of the DNC and others may well put him back in office for a second term. Any real change is off limits for them. They hope to skirt around the issues of low wages and health care and all of the ills that create so much suffering. They hope that some nibbling around the edges with denunciation of Trump’s open racism will be enough to win. But if they are wrong they prefer Trump 2.0 to allowing millions of people to think they will be allowed to enjoy a resuscitated welfare state. There is more misery ahead regardless of who wins in November. Thanks to the Democrats’ treachery, that person may well be Donald Trump.

~ Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well at patreon.com/margaretkimberley and she regularly posts on Twitter @freedomrideblog. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com. 

Friday, February 14, 2020

Karl Grossman space video



Enviro Closeup #642

Unless it’s stopped, Donald Trump will have opened space to war. Trump’s establishment of a U.S. Space Force as the sixth branch of U.S. armed forces has come despite the landmark Outer Space Treaty that designates space as a global commons to be used for peaceful purposes.

Trump and the U.S. military claim a Space Force is needed because China and Russia have been moving into space militarily. But, in fact, China and Russia—along with U.S. neighbor Canada—have for decades been seeking to expand the Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits weapons of mass destruction in space, to banning all weapons in space. The U.S. has repeatedly voted against this, the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space, or PAROS treaty, essentially vetoing it at the UN.

And despite their efforts to expand the Outer Space Treaty, China and Russia—with the U.S. moving ahead to achieve what Trump calls “American dominance in space”—will meet the U.S. in kind. They’d be followed by other nations. And the heavens will be turned into a war zone.

The program features Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.

~ Karl Grossman is a life-long journalist and professor at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury on Long Island.  He began working on space issues in the late 1980's when he wrote an article for The Nation alerting the world that the ill-fated Challenger space shuttle's next mission was to carry a plutonium-238 payload on-board.  It was that article that got Karl linked to the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice - a connection that in 1992 helped establish the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Judge Field again supports non-violent protesters at BIW

Phil Berrigan being arrested at the Pentagon after one of his many actions. In 1997 he led a plowshares action at Bath Iron Works (BIW) in Maine and was called "a moral giant, the conscience of a generation" by Judge Joseph Field.  (Etching by Tom Lewis)


On June 24, 2019, 22 non-violent peace activists were arrested at BIW during another destroyer 'christening' as they blocked buses and cars full of people trying to enter the shipyard for the event.

On that day nine in the group refused to pay the $60 bail commissioner fee and spent two nights in jail.  In the end some of those arrested paid a $152 fine (being told they would lose their drivers license if they did not pay the fine), some had their charges dropped (after a screw up at the DA's office) and seven decided to take their case before the West Bath District Court in a bench trial.

(The entire group had wanted a jury trial but the state reduced the charges to a 'jay walking infraction' that was not severe enough to warrant a jury trial.  Thus a bench trial, before a judge only, was in order.)

This morning four of the remaining defendants (Brown Lethem, Natasha Mayers, Ridgely Fuller & Ashley Bahlkow) appeared before Judge Joseph Field for the bench trial. After a long period of sitting around the court house the case was finally called before Judge Field around 11:00 am.

Judge Field is known in peace movement circles as the presiding judge in 1997 following a plowshares action at BIW.

Before dawn on February 12, 1997, Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian season of Lent, six religious peace activists, Steve Baggarly from Norfolk, VA, Philip Berrigan, a former Josephite priest from Baltimore, Mark Colville of New Haven, CT, Susan Crane, from Baltimore, Tom Lewis-Borbely of Worcester, MA and the Rev. Steve Kelly, a Jesuit priest from San Jose, CA, calling themselves Prince of Peace Plowshares, boarded the USS The Sullivans, an Aegis destroyer, at BIW. Inspired by Isaiah’s prophecy to turn swords into plowshares, they poured their own blood and used hammers to beat on the hatches covering the tubes from which nuclear missiles can be fired and unfurled a banner which read Prince of Peace Plowshares, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks…Isaiah 2:4.”

On that same day in 1997 in Sagadahoc County District Court, when the Prince of Peace Plowshares were brought to arraignment, Judge Joseph Field felt impassioned enough to say, “Anyone of my generation knows Philip Berrigan. He is a moral giant, the conscience of a generation.”

When we entered the court room today we didn't know who the presiding judge would be.  It wasn't until the proceedings were over that we realized that Judge Field had once again made an impassioned statement for peace and our constitutional rights.

When the judge began this morning he said the following:

I personally agree with what you are doing.  I support your right to speak out.  No damages occurred by your action.  I am horrified about our rights being taken away these days.

I want you to know this. We are not seeing any [positive] leadership out of Washington DC.
Judge Field went on to cancel the $152 fine the District Attorney's office was requesting.  Instead he gave the four activists 20 hours of community service at a place "where real people are being touched".

He then sent his clerk back into his office to retrieve his laptop which he used to search for something that he tearfully read in full before the courtroom.  It was a quote by former President Eisenhower:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Judge Field asked each of the four defendants if they wished to make a statement.  Natasha Mayers told the story about a Labor Day rally at BIW in 1994 joined by President Bill Clinton, Sen. George Mitchell, Rep. Tom Andrews, BIW President Buzz Fitzgerald and other national and local labor leaders. They all called for the conversion of the shipyard to civilian production so there is indeed a tradition in Bath along these lines to ensure job and community stability.

The judge responded by asking what kinds of products could be built at the shipyard?  Attorney Logan Perkins (Belfast), representing the four, replied, "These are people of conscience who risked their freedom to take a stand against climate change by peaceful assembly.  They are not anti-worker, not anti-BIW.  They insist we convert the Pentagon - the world's biggest polluter which is on a death march of producing destroyers at BIW. They have a bold and creative vision to transform our economy to sun, wind, and rail systems."

Judge Field closed the legal proceedings with these words, "Go ye hence and continue to do good work.  Keep it non-violent without property damage."

As the judge rose those in attendance applauded this remarkable man and this incredible experience - unlike any we've ever experienced in an American courtroom.

Bruce

History lesson: Come together



In 1969, the Chicago Black Panther Party formed alliances across lines of race and ethnicity with other community-based movements in the city, including Latino group the Young Lords and the southern whites of the Young Patriots. 

Banding together in one of the most segregated cities in postwar America to confront issues like police brutality and substandard housing, they called themselves the Rainbow Coalition.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

People were nicer - there used to be a collective feeling



Has a boomer ever told you that everyone who ever lived under socialism hated it and was trying to escape? Have you ever met a defector who has nothing but terrible things to say about the land they traded for a life in the West? Well, it's time to meet the silent majority of those who stuck around under socialism! 

The Revolution Report presents Donald Courter: Donald is an American journalist, political analyst, & historian living and working in Moscow. 

He is an avid anti-imperialist, internationalist, an advocate for friendship between peoples, and a supporter of socialism in the 21st Century.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Collecting signatures for Lisa Savage



I hit a rough patch - my ice caused flying fall onto my ribs was followed by a several day bout of the bug with sneezing, runny nose and coughing. 

Due to these temporary disabling maladies I have missed the last two weeks of productive door-to-door work on behalf of Lisa.  I probably lost out on at least 50 signatures and every one of them are needed badly for us to hit our goal of 2,000 by March 15.

Fortunately there have been other things I could do such as mailing materials to others around Maine who are helping and working with our signature coordinator Isaac to package and mail voter registration cards and completed petitions to various towns for their verification.

Working on a campaign is quite detail oriented and a complex process.  I've worked on campaigns a couple times in the past but never to this level of involvement.  It's been a real learning process.

Amazingly our great candidate Lisa Savage has stayed well (although I am sure tired as hell).  She has kept up a blistering pace with her devoted husband Mark driving her from one end of the state to the other.  She is representing the issues dear to our heart in a good way and we are proud to stand with her.

This coming Saturday many of us are going north to Belfast, Maine to hit doors there and Lisa will work the downtown area around the shops to talk with people.  So we should have a good presence there for the day.

Next week we will be doing a tour of four colleges across the state - spending an entire day at each one in Orono, Unity, Farmington and Portland.  Arrangements have been made at most of the schools to invite students to hear Lisa speak.  Should be an exciting time.

People often complain that our movements are only talking to the choir and we rarely have interactions with young people.  So far this campaign has proven to be a blessing in that we are reaching out way beyond our normal boundaries.

The primary issues Lisa is talking with students about include erasing student debt, dealing with climate crisis (Green New Deal), stopping endless war$ and conversion of the military industrial complex to sustainable technology development.


Lately the Lisa for Maine team has been working hard to register voters (with the green cards pictured above) as new Green Independent Party members so they can sign her ballot access petition.  In this current environment, where all the media is focused on the Democratic Party primaries, let me say it is a real challenge but we are doing our best.

Fortunately the donations have been coming in real strong from Green Party members across the nation during the past month (thanks to fundraising calls by Jill Stein and Lisa) so we've been able to hire some people to help gather signatures.  Even these professional signature gatherers say that finding Greens is the hardest signature collecting they have ever done since there are so few of them in comparison to the major corporate parties and the unenrolled (independents).  Right now we have almost 900 signatures in hand.

Today I am heading out with a local friend to get back to doors in the nearby town of Topsham.  Wish us luck and keep our struggle to give the people of Maine a real choice in the next election close to your heart!

Bruce

Monday, February 10, 2020

Permanent greed & endless war$



Abby Martin sits down with Peter Phillips, former director of Project Censored and professor of Political Sociology at Sonoma State University. 

His book “Giants: The Global Power Elite” details the 17 transnational investment firms which control over $50 trillion in wealth—and how they are kept in power by their activists, facilitators and protectors.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Weekend movie feature: Dalton Trumbo's last stand



Ten years after John F. Kennedy's murder, Dalton Trumbo, Edward Lewis, David Miller, Mark Lane and Garry Horrowitz created a film which could be dubbed “Trumbo’s last stand”.

Scripted by one of the infamous "Hollywood Ten," blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo ("Johnny Got His Gun").

This film was called Executive Action (1973) and starred Kirk Douglas’ long-time collaborator Burt Lancaster as a leading coordinator of the plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy.

Edward Lewis, who had also produced Spartacus with Douglas earlier, spearheaded this film which tells the story of a cabal of oligarchs who arrange the murder of John Kennedy using three teams of professional mercenaries (former CIA men fired after the Bay of Pigs fiasco).

This incredibly well-researched story-line infused fiction with powerful facts and was based upon the work of Mark Lane - a close friend of the Kennedy family, NY State Attorney, and civil rights activist (the only legislator to be arrested as a Freedom rider fighting segregation).

Although the film was pulled from most American theaters, it still stands as one of the most direct and chilling refutations of the lone-gunman narrative and introduces other important reasons for the killing of JFK.

~ By Matthew Ehret

Sunday song