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, ME, United States

The collapsing US military & economic empire is making Washington & NATO even more dangerous. US could not beat the Taliban but thinks it can take on China-Russia-Iran...a sign of psychopathology for sure. @BruceKGagnon

Friday, January 13, 2006


I’ve been watching the C-SPAN hearings on TV this week about the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito.

My first reaction to the guy is that he is a liar. When asked to explain his membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton University, which challenged the admission of women and minorities to the institution, Alito told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “Well, Senator, I have wracked my memory about this issue, and I really have no specific recollection of that organization.”

The truth was when he applied to work in the Reagan Administration in 1985 Alito listed the organization on his resume. Why did he do that? Alito obviously thought that showing he was a reactionary would HELP him to get a job with the ultra-conservative Reagan team.

It’s amazing to watch Alito, over the course of several days, have tremendous ability to recall facts, names, legal theory, caseload history, and the like but then when it came to his membership in a bigoted organization – he could not remember a thing! Remarkable.

But my biggest concern about Alito goes beyond that. Alito should not be allowed to be on the Supreme Court because he wants to make Bush a king. It is clear, by studying his 15 year record as a federal court judge, Alito believes in giving the president unlimited police-state powers. His record as a judge shows time and again how he has sided with AUTHORITY to limit the rights of citizens. Alito wants to give corporations greater ability to limit the rights of workers and allow corporations to pollute the environment, screw workers on the job, and limit the ability of Congress to control the excesses of big business. As a federal judge Alito voted against individual rights 84% of the time. Alito is a corporate hack.

Law professor Francis Boyle (Chicago) says about Alito, "Consistent with standard Federalist Society propaganda, Judge Alito preaches the theory of 'unitary powers' for the American Presidency: i.e., that the President is above and beyond any accountability under the U.S. Constitution, to Congress and the Courts, or to the Rule of Law, whether domestic or international. This perverse ideology has been directly responsible for the Bush Jr. administration's torture scandal, kangaroo
courts, the Gulag in Guantanamo and elsewhere ,'extraordinary renditions,'
criminal NSA spying on American citizens, the bogus categorization of 'enemy
combatants,' massive religious and racial profiling against Muslims/Arabs/Asians of Color,wholesale violations of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture, a criminal war of aggression against Iraq, assassinations, gutting the Bill of Rights, etc."

Alito, as everyone knows, also in 1985 wrote a memo saying there were no constitutional grounds for a woman’s right to an abortion. He has taken the position that a woman must have the “permission” of her husband to seek an abortion. He has voted to allow the strip searching of a 10 year old girl. What is the difference between Alito’s position and the Taliban in Afghanistan?

When Clarence Thomas came before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his Supreme Court confirmation hearings he told them that he would honor legal precedents. But since being on the court Thomas has voted consistently to overturn established law. Alito will likely do the same when it comes to civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, rights to privacy, and much more.

Unfortunately, with all that said, it appears at this time that enough Democrats are going to support Alito to confirm him without a real fight. There are no signs that the Dems will filibuster his nomination as they very well should.

I will be calling my two “moderate” Republican senators to urge them to vote no. They say they are pro-choice. But I would venture to guess they will vote for Alito. They will put a man on the Supreme Court who wants to make Bush a king and the citizens the serfs to the multi-national corporate agenda.

Hang on folks, it’s going to be a rough ride.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


I spent six hours sitting in the office of Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) today in Portland. During that time, as we again read the names of American GI’s and innocent civilians in Iraq who have been killed, we had about 40 people join us. Just two blocks away, in the office of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) another 25-30 people were doing the same thing in her office. The two protests were organized by Karen Wainberg, the president of Peace Action Maine.

This was the eighth such action held in Maine. As in the past, we called for a town hall meeting so the citizens can have a public opportunity to speak to our two “moderate” senators about this war. They both keep voting for more money for the war and they keep refusing to hold a public meeting. They say they are willing to meet with us individually in the private confines of their office. Sen. Collins has told several of our folks that she does not like “crowds.”

We got a bit of TV coverage and Maine Public Radio gave us a tiny bit on their 5:30 pm news. As usual, the largest newspaper in the state, the Portland Press Herald ignored the action. They rarely, if ever, are willing to report on local peace activity. They have taken the editorial position that they “know” there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The papers says that the U.S. had to invade Iraq because Saddam was a “destabilizing” force in the region. And the paper, amazingly enough, has editorialized that the U.S. had to grab their oil to continue our way of life here at home. Now that is what you call “liberal” bullshit for sure.

So on we go. We know that we have to continue to hold these events, which are now taking 6 ½ hours to finish. When we first began doing the readings 13 months ago it took four hours. But each day the roster of dead grows.

One thing that is happening though is that this group of office occupiers is growing. More and more new people are joining us each time. Today we saw many new faces amongst the people sitting on the office floor reading the names and marking the X’s on the Iraq War Cloth that took up much of the office floor. It won’t be long that we will have to stay all night to finish reading the names.

The politicians think that if they ignore us long enough we will give up and go home. But they underestimate our peace movement here in Maine. We are in it until the end. The sooner our senators get their act together the less headaches they will have over this war.

If you are from Maine, give us a hand and call this toll-free number and ask Snowe and Collins to hold a town hall meeting. If you are from another state, call your own Congressional delegation. 1-888-355-3588

Bring the troops home now! Stop funding the war now! Fund human needs back here at home.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


My friend Maria Telesca from Rockledge, Florida led the protest on behalf of the Global Network at the gates of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station last Saturday. Maria, the mother of two children, has been by our side at space center protests for almost 20 years. She lives in the launch danger zone and is clear what would happen if there was an accident and plutonium release from a NASA mission like New Horizons. The launch will carry 24 pounds of radioactive plutonium and is set for lift-off on January 17.

Maria reported extensive media coverage of the protest and told me that the striking Boeing workers, who normally would prepare the Atlas launch rocket, are still on their picket line near Cape Canaveral's gates. Maria, and the other protestors, walked over after their rally to talk with the striking union workers. She told me the Boeing workers are still warning that the management strike breakers, now doing the rocket preparations, are not qualified to carry out the task. Rumors persist about fuel-tank leaks and further delays in the launch date.

The pro-space web site ran part of our news release on their web site announcing our protest and since then I've had about 25 (mostly nasty) e-mails from folks. Here is a sample from one of them:

"First I just want to say, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. So
here's mine... Ok Your organization is to protect the environment, animals,
people, and the planet. Well one day the earth might not be here, we have
all heard about comets, and asteroids, black holes, supernovae, and such.
Putting earth in harms way, it is in man kinds future that that we leave this
planet behind, being its destroyed, or plain uninhabitable, seeing as how
we’ve damn near used every mineral this planet has to offer, but it is with
nuclear power, and ion drive that we can achieve space travel beyond our
moon, beyond our solar system, to find a new home. NASA is here to help...
let them do their work, help man kind survive, and understand this complex
universe we live in..."

This was one of the milder ones.

I do understand the desire to explore space. But if in doing so we endanger life on this planet after a space nuclear accident then what have we accomplished? For those who say it won't ever happen - that NASA has taken all the safety precautions necessary - well it has happened! Here is a list of past space nuclear accidents.

NOVEMBER 1996: Russian Mars ’96 space vehicle disintegrates over Chile and Bolivia, likely spreading its payload of nearly half a pound of plutonium. Searchers found no remains of the spacecraft which was believed to have burned up. Eyewitnesses saw the flaming reentry over the mountains in the region.

FEBRUARY 1983: Soviet Cosmos 1402 crashes into South Atlantic ocean carrying 68 pounds of Uranium-235.

JANUARY 1978: Cosmos 954 blows up over Canada with 68 pounds of Uranium-235 and other nuclear poisons, much of which is thought to have vaporized and spread worldwide.

APRIL 1973: Soviet Rorsat lands in the Pacific Ocean north of Japan. Radiation released from the reactor was detected.

APRIL 1970: Apollo 13 lands near New Zealand with the 8.3 pounds of Plutonium-238 believed to be still in the spacecraft at the bottom of the ocean floor.

1969: Two Cosmos lunar missions fail. Radiation detected as crafts burn up in the atmosphere.

MAY 1968: U.S. Nimbus B-1 lands in the Santa Barbara channel off California with 4.2 pounds of Uranium-238 but was recovered by NASA.

APRIL 1964: U.S. Transit 5BN-3 hits the Indian Ocean with its 2.1 pounds of Plutonium-238 vaporizing in the atmosphere and spreading worldwide. Dr. John Gofman, Professor Emeritus of Molecular and Cell Biology in the University of California at Berkeley studied the 1964 accident and believes it is a major contributor to the increase in cancers around the world today. Gofman co-discovered protactinium-232, uranium-232, protactinium-233, and uranium-233.

So this is what motivates our protest against the launching of plutonium on rockets that blow up from time to time. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that space technology can and does fail. Mix deadly plutonium into the equation and you are asking for trouble.

Help us by calling NASA and tell them to cancel the New Horizons mission. Contact:

Michael Griffin
NASA Administrator
300 E. Street SW
Washington DC 20546
(202) 358-0000