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. We must all do more to help stop this western corporate arrogance that puts the future generations lives in despair. @BruceKGagnon

Saturday, May 31, 2008


By Garrison Keillor

What's patriotism got to do with fat men with ponytails on Harleys?

May. 28, 2008 Three-hundred thousand bikers spent Memorial Day weekend roaring around Washington in tribute to our war dead, and I stood on Constitution Avenue Sunday afternoon watching a river of them go by, waiting for a gap in the procession so I could cross over to the Mall and look at pictures. The street had been closed off for them and they motored on by, some flying the Stars and Stripes and the black MIA-POW flag, honking, revving their engines, an endless celebration of internal combustion.

A patriotic bike rally is sort of like a patriotic toilet-papering or patriotic graffiti; the patriotism somehow gets lost in the sheer irritation of the thing. Somehow a person associates Memorial Day with long moments of silence when you summon up mental images of men huddled together on LSTs and pilots revving up B-24s and infantrymen crouched behind piles of rubble steeling themselves for the next push.

You don't quite see the connection between that and these fat men with ponytails on Harleys. After hearing a few thousand bikes go by, you think maybe we could airlift these gentlemen to Baghdad to show their support of the troops in a more tangible way. It took 20 minutes until a gap appeared and then a mob of us pedestrians flooded across the street and the parade of bikes had to stop for us, and on we went to show our patriotism by looking at exhibits at the Smithsonian or, in my case, hiking around the National Gallery, which, after you've watched a few thousand Harleys pass, seems like an outpost of civilization.

There stood Renoir's ballerina in pale blue chiffon and Monet's children in the garden of sunflowers. And Mary Cassatt's "The Boating Party," which I stood and stared at for a long time. A lady in a white bonnet sits in a green sailboat, holding a contented baby in pink, as a man rows the boat toward a distant shore. (Perhaps the boat is becalmed.) The man wears a navy blue shirt, he is preoccupied with his rowing, and the lady looks wan and mildly anxious, as well a mother should be. The baby is looking dreamily over the gunwales. Is the man a hired hand or is he the husband and father?

A work of art can lift you up from the mishmash of life, the weight of the unintelligible world, and vulgarity squats on you like an enormous toad and won't get off. You stroll down past the World War II Memorial, which looks like something ordered out of a catalog, a bland insult to the memory of all who served, and thousands of motorcycles roar by disturbing the Sabbath, and it depresses you for hours.

If anyone cared about the war dead, they could go read David Halberstam's "The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War" or Stephen Ambrose's "Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army From the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, June 7, 1944, to May 7, 1945" or any of a hundred other books, and they would get a vision of what it was like to face death for your country, but the bikers riding in formation are more interested in being seen than in learning anything. They are grown men playing soldier, making a great hullaballoo without exposing themselves to danger, other than getting drunk and falling off a bike.

No wonder the Current Occupant welcomed them with open arms at the White House, put on a black leather vest, and gave a manly speech about how he'd just "choppered in" and saw the horde "cranking up their machines" and he thanked them for being so patriotic. They are his kind of guys, full of bluster, giving off noxious fumes, and when they leave town, nobody misses them.

Meanwhile, the man pulls at the oars, the lady wonders if this trip was a good idea or if some disaster is at hand, and the child lolls on her lap, dazed by the sun. They started this trip in 1894 and haven't advanced an inch, meanwhile half the people who ever stood and watched them have reached that distant shore and the rest of us are getting closer every day.

I am the boatman and maybe you are, too -- it is quiet on the water, we lean on the oars, and we are suspended in time, united with every other man, woman and child who ever voyaged afar.

Friday, May 30, 2008


Brunswick, Maine (6 folks with me today on the street on my 7th day of solidarity hunger strike)
United Nations Plaza in New York City



Prague (Where 70% of the people oppose the Star Wars radar and demand a national referendum)

Byron Bay, Australia




Will you please help us spread the word? Have you signed the on-line petition yet?

Peace in space and here at home on Mother Earth. Convert the global war machine now before it is too late.


Our friend Peg McIntire died last night. Her devoted son, Jo, and daughter-in-law, Sali, were by her side. She will be missed by untold numbers of people whose life she lovingly touched.

I don't remember the exact year that I met Peg, it just seems like I've known her forever. For many years she served as the able Treasurer of the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice where I worked. She was at every meeting, every protest, and went to jail several times for crossing the line at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida when we would protest against the nuclearization and weaponization of space. Once while in jail she was telling dirty jokes to the prostitutes who shared her cell.

Every summer for years I organized a Youth Peace Camp and Peg would work in the hot humid kitchen all week just as hard as the rest of us. She would lecture us about how we were cutting the celery or the carrots wrong but I just always loved her in those moments. She was always present.

One year when my son Julian was in middle school, and I didn't have enough income to give him a proper summer vacation, Peg invited us to her St. Augustine Beach condo for a week so we could relax, swim in the ocean, and visit Alligator Farm.

Peg lived for many years in Rome, Italy and loved Italian food and wine. She worked on the famous movie, Ben Hur, as the assistant to the producer and said she never liked Charlton Heston. She said he was arrogant.

Practically everyone I knew said the same thing about Peg - "When I grow up I want to be like Peg McIntire."

Visits with Peg at her home were always wonderful for me because she loved to cook pasta together and then eat out on her back patio. She was the slowest eater in the world and always complained that I didn't enjoy my food enough. When she came to Maine for a visit each summer she wanted a lobster and took her dear time eating every possible bit of meat on it.

In the end Peg was my friend, really more like a mother to me than even my own mother was. She supported me always, through my good times and bad. She saw the good in me even when I might wonder about it myself.

Peg touched lives in many corners as she was the most social person I've ever known. She had more friends in St. Augustine than probably any other person in that community. She was a treasure and the best ambassador the peace movement could ever hope for.

Peg lived to be an active 97, she was at a Memorial Day protest just last weekend, because she had a rich full life. She kept her mind focused and her body engaged with the living....she had no time to waste.

Peg will live forever on this Earth in the hearts of people all over the world. It was an honor to call her a friend.

You can see Peg's Obituary and personal blog at this link:

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Dear Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar:

It is impossible for me to say strongly enough how important your efforts are in the Czech Republic to oppose deployment of U.S. so-called missile defense bases. Your leadership is being watched and is appreciated all over the world.

While in Congress I voted against every iteration of so-called missile defense--Star Wars--that was authorized or appropriated. I want you to know that I deeply understand the dangers that will come from a decision to accept the U.S. Star Wars radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland. There is no doubt that a new cold war is underway here that could once again bring Europe back into the middle of another U.S.-Russia conflict.

Your hunger strike in Prague since May 13, and now joined by others including Bruce Gagnon in the U.S., is an important effort to bring this issue to the public consciousness. The American people have been deceived at every turn by this Bush Administration and have yet to learn of the dangers and enormous cost of this new arms race we are creating. Thank you to you and to Bruce for your courageous and determined stand.

Let me assure you that as a candidate for the U.S. Green party presidential nomination, and a former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, I very well understand the importance of your citizen action to demand a national referendum in your country on this deployment issue. I also understand your desire to prevent the U.S. from establishing military bases in your country after your long history of occupation by Nazi Germany and the former Soviet Union. I am touched by your desire for real democracy in your country and agree that occupation and democracy are not compatible.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once remarked that the United States was the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet. Sadly, that has not changed. Please know that as I campaign, I will share your stories with those I meet as I cross our nation.

Thank you all again for your demand for peace and democracy.

Cynthia McKinney
Candidate for President of the United States
Green Party


Jan Bednar (left) and Jan Tamas share a moment during hunger strike in Prague

Day 6 of my solidarity hunger strike

It is day 17 for Jan Bednar and Jan Tamas in their hunger strike. The latest report from the Czech Republic is that Jan Bednar's liver failure is critical. He was taken to the hospital today but will not end his hunger strike.

In a meeting today with Czech Foreign Affairs Minister Karel Schwarzenberg it became obvious, despite his cordiality with the two strikers, that the government will not accept any of the peace movement demands.

Jan Tamas urged him to suspend talks with the Bush administration, since their country is divided and the political atmosphere in the Czech Republic is poisoned. Jan told him that it is much more sensible to wait for the next U.S. administration and in the meantime begin a real and transparent debate on the issue, involving all social forces in the country.

Opposition Social Democratic Party Secretary Jiri Paroubek, the former Czech Prime Minister, visited the protesters today and made a heartfelt appeal that they stop the strike. He assured them that his party is committed in their opposition to the radar agreement with the U.S. and that they will do everything possible to stop it.

Crowds are swarming to the Prague hunger strike headquarters, people bringing flowers and fruit drinks.

At today's news conference in Prague a journalist started crying when Jan Bednar, now almost completely yellow, told them "the Prime Minister declared on television today that he has 30 days to answer us. This is the domineering attitude of our government which will impose it's will at any cost. I cannot stop, it is an issue of democracy."

Protests have now spread from Prague to over 30 cities around the world.

Today in Brunswick, Maine we had 10 people at my daily vigil on the street during the lunch hour. The local newspaper sent a reporter and photographer to interview me and earlier in the day I did a radio interview with the progressive station WERU in northern Maine.

More than a 100,000 people have now signed the online petition.

Unlimited hunger strike today: Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar in Prague since May 13, Dino Mancarella in Trieste since May 14, Federica Fratini and Eduardo Calizza in Rome since May 19, José Alvarez in Spain since May 22. Bruce Gagnon and Sung-Hee Choi in the USA, Gareth Smith in Australia, Joaquin Valenzuela in Bologna since May 24. Ivan Marchetti and Andrea Casa in Turin since May 26 and Dr. Hassan Nayeb Hashem in Austria since May 29

My heart is heavy tonight because at the same time we learned about Jan Bednar being taken to the hospital I also learned that our longtime dear friend Peg McIntire, who is 97 years old and lives in Florida, is nearing death. I've worked with Peg in the peace movement for well over 20 years and she has come to Maine to visit us each year since we moved here in 2003. Just weeks ago she was asking if she could come again this summer, even as her health was failing.

The loss of Peg is just too hard to imagine. In my heart though I know she would be proud that I am participating in this hunger strike and I know she would be cheering me on.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Activists at Union Square in New York City on Monday

Day five of my solidarity hunger strike

We had nine on the street in downtown Brunswick today for the hour. Reception was better than yesterday but still people are unsure about this "hunger strike" about Star Wars bases in Central Europe - and just where is Central Europe?

We got the following message from Prague this morning:

"We have obtained the dialogue we were looking for!!! Tomorrow, Thursday May 29, there will be a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the one who will have to sign the agreement with Condoleezza Rice.

After the open letter of Dennis Kucinich, we have received also a letter from Luisa Morgantini, Vice-president of the European Parliament, who supports the protest against the space shield and commits herself to inform the Parliament about it.

There is also more space in the mass-media.

For all these reasons our friends in Prague think that it is not necessary now to send protest letters to Czech embassies and to the president Klaus. It seems that in these days hundreds of mails and fax have arrived to their embassies all over the world and perhaps this has contributed to this first opening."

I would venture to guess that the Czech government figures they must stem the tide now before this hunger strike, and growing support, becomes more of a political problem. While I'd like to hope that this means some level of negotiations and compromise by their government I would venture to guess it is more of a public relations move. They likely just want to appear in the Czech media to look like they are "listening" to the opposition rather than seriously changing policy.

But even with that said, this is a great step forward because at the very least this meeting will likely insure major media coverage for the hunger strikers. It really is a strong signal of recognition, always the first step that is required before negotiations can seriously take place.

So clearly the European and worldwide protests are having some effect on the government. My feeling is that now is the time to step up the pressure. Now is the time to sign the on-line petition at and it is also a good time to send a solidarity message from your local peace group to the hunger strikers in the Czech Republic.

As for me, I am doing fine today. Went for a short walk after the vigil today which felt nice. But now I am back on my bed with my laptop getting my work done. My energy level is low and I've lost 10 pounds already. Having a high metabolism like I do makes me burn the pounds away fast I guess.

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Day 4 of my solidarity hunger strike

We had seven folks on the windy street today in Brunswick, Maine holding signs and handing out flyers made just for the occasion. It was easy to tell that most people passing by knew nothing about U.S. deployments of Star Wars technology in Poland and the Czech Republic. They knew even less about a hunger strike that began in Prague on May 13 and has slowly grown to involve more people, including myself.

And that is just the reason why I joined the hunger strike on May 24. The time has come for the American people to hear about this new arms race that our government is creating in Europe. We are going to pay for it, in more ways than one. We ought to know something about it and should be talking about it in our communities.

In fact, even the peace movement in the U.S. knows little about Bush’s planned Star Wars deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic. Until we get the attention of hard working activists, who are understandably preoccupied with Iraq, then we will have little chance of reaching the public in general.

By the end of the hour on the street today, I was ready to sit down. But I will be back out again on the corner on Wednesday and every other weekday as long as this hunger strike goes on. I am committed to continuing my own participation in this hunger strike in solidarity with Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar in Prague as long as they continue with theirs.

It is my hope that people will begin to see the connection between the war for oil in Iraq and this new U.S. aggressive military move to essentially surround Russia -- which just happens to hold the world’s largest supply of natural gas and large deposits of oil. The U.S. is undertaking a global military strategy to wrest control of the planet’s remaining fossil fuels. This means massive military spending in the years to come and endless war, instability and occupation.

We have to begin to get the American people to see this larger strategic picture if we hope to stem this tide of growing militarism. It will take endless war with all nations that have fossil fuel resources in order to run our over-consuming lifestyle here in the U.S.

I am not interested in debating whether this hunger strike will stop the so-called “missile defense” interceptor and radar deployments by Bush in Central Europe or not. I am more determined than ever to make sure that people begin to know about them. As Noam Chomsky says, “The public can’t react to something that they don’t know about.”

The American people have been well trained to bury our political emotions behind alcohol, drugs, food, TV, shopping, sex, and sports. My task right now is, in my small way, to help bring these feelings back to the surface where we can scratch them a bit and trigger some kind of creeping consciousness.

I will be posting daily updates on my blog while I am on this hunger strike so please stay tuned.

If you haven’t already, please be sure to sign the Czech petition at

Monday, May 26, 2008


Day 3 of my solidarity hunger strike.

We went early this morning to join my fellow members of Maine Veterans for Peace (VfP) in the Brunswick Memorial Day parade. The local peace group PeaceWorks walked behind us and then the group Military Families Speak Out was behind them. There were about 65 folks all together dressed in black.

The parade is two-miles long, beginning in Topsham, then goes over the Androscoggin River bridge and into the heart of downtown Brunswick. The crowd watching was quite large when he arrived in Brunswick and we got a good applause all along the way.

The Hair & Nail Salon float and Modern Pest Control cars were right in front of us and several Army National Guard Humvees and trucks were behind us. Our members were passing out leaflets for Maine VfP's upcoming Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) conference in Portland on June 7.

It's a real glimpse of America to watch these "patriotic" parades which are really little more than an excuse for the business community to flaunt their names, beauty queens to ride in fancy cars and wave, and high school bands to play military songs.

Our VfP group today had two signs in the front of our group listing the number of U.S. war dead and wounded in Iraq. We were the one dose of reality in the parade.

A couple of times we saw older guys turn their backs on us in disgust but that was not the norm.

By the end of the parade I was ready to sit down by a tree as I was feeling a bit weak. Once home I began working on signs for my one-hour vigil tomarrow in Brunswick. I will do the vigil each weekday as long as the hunger strike continues. Several friends today told me they would join me on Tuesday.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Jan Tamas (second from left) and Jan Bednar (far right) at a recent press conference in Prague.

Word came from the Czech Republic this morning that Jan Bednar, who together with Jan Tamas, is on his 12th day of hunger strike against deployment of a U.S. Star Wars radar base, is suffering from liver failure. His health conditions are worsening day after day and the medical team, as well as his friends and family, have urged him to interrupt the hunger strike. He has decided, however, to continue. "I have seen no sign that the Czech government is willing to open the dialogue on this issue and the European Parliament is silent," he stated.

Unlimited hunger strike: Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar in Prague since May 13, Dino Mancarella in Trieste since May 14, Federica Fratini, Isabel Torres, Eduardo Calizza in Rome since May 19, Josa Alvarez in Spain since May 22. They have been joined on May 24 by Bruce Gagnon, the Korean Sung-Hee Choi in New York, Gareth Smith in Australia and Joaquin Valenzuela in Bologna (Italy).

Solidarity messages pour in daily from hundreds of organizations and personalities such as: Noam Chomsky, Dario Fo and Franca Rame, Giorgio Schultze, Giulietto Chiesa (European Parliament member), Luisa Morgantini (Vice President of the European Parliament), Nichi Vendola, president of Puglia Region in Italy, French bishop Jacques Gaillot and Pulitzer prize winner Chris Hedges.

Protests against the military occupation of the Czech Republic by the U.S. and Europe's nuclear rearmament policies are continuing in Amsterdam, Berlin, Bologna, Budapest, Copenhagen, Florence, London, Malaga, Milan, Paris, Toulouse, Trieste e Turin. They are echoed in Australia, New York City, and Brunswick, Maine.

Friday, May 23, 2008


I met Jan Tamas (in red sweater) last October when I went to Prague to attend a conference he and others in their growing coalition organized to oppose the U.S. Star Wars radar from being deployed in their country. I was immediately impressed with him.

He is very gentle and unassuming but when he speaks I noticed that people looked to him with great pride and respect. He is a leader.

Jan recently came to Colorado Springs and to Omaha for our annual Global Network conference. Following those events we helped arrange for him to do a speaking tour as part of the No U.S. Bases Movement that is just taking hold here in the U.S. He visited several key cities on the east coast including a stop in Brunswick, Maine and finished up in Washington DC.

Jan has a PhD and works as an IT professional in the computer industry. I think he creates software programs. But on his free time he does his peace work, is a member of the Humanist Party, and frequently travels to Africa for development projects.

I love to hear him talk about democracy and how after the fall of the Soviet Union the people in his country, and Poland which is to get the U.S. "missile defense interceptors, thought they were at last free from foreign domination. He concludes that his people cannot allow themselves to be shackled by another military empire - this time the U.S.

In the U.S. we have become a bit too cynical and jaded. It is hard for us to be moved anymore because a fog of sadness seems to have engulfed the people of our country as a result of our immoral and illegal occupation of Iraq. People here in many ways are sleep walking through life. Sometimes I hear people say they are resigned to the death of the planet because of our destructive way of life. Many Americans have given up - they have forgotten why we should want to live.

Jan, and the hard working coalition he is a part of, is a breath of fresh air helping to blow this deep fog from our American minds. The Czech people, by a count of 70%, oppose the U.S. radar base coming to their nation. They are urging our hearts to reawaken and beat to the sound of life again.
Please take a small step and sign the petition to oppose the radar in the Czech Republic.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


My friend Sung-Hee Choi from South Korea has written that she will join the hunger strike in support of our friends in the Czech Republic this Saturday. Sung-Hee is an art teacher in New York City and a long time loyal Global Network member. Sung-Hee has asked her art students to help her not eat during their all-day class on Saturday and for the next week.

Also joining the hunger strike on Saturday, in response to my appeal for others to join me in helping to widen knowledge of the Czech Republic effort, is Gareth Smith who lives in Byron Bay, Australia. Gareth writes "I will join you on Saturday for a 7-day hunger strike as President (doesn't that sound grand for a little tin pot group?) of Byron People for Peace and Justice. From my Christian days I remember an inspiring verse: 'For God has used the base things of this world to confound the mighty'; may this be true of the present campaign. You know, Bruce, when I think of all us baby boomers who have reached the 50-70 age range and consider that in most cases we don't have the worry of losing a job/promotion, don't have a mortgage, have children off our hands, etc, there is no sound reason why our group should not be the most vigorously active for peace and disarmament in the world. I want to reach retirement homes and displace the people from the golf courses onto the streets - bannerize them! Good luck as you step away from the plate!"

So on Saturday I will indeed step away from the plate and join the hunger strike of Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar in Prague who have been at this hunger strike since May 13. I will stay on the hunger strike for as long as they do and during each weekday I will go out onto the street in nearby downtown Brunswick, Maine from 12:30-1:30 pm to hold a sign and pass out leaflets about the U.S. plan to put Star Wars systems into Poland and the Czech Republic and the growing movement across Europe to join this hunger strike in protest of these U.S. military bases.

I urge others to join this hunger strike in solidarity with our friends in the Czech Republic and throughout Europe. Particularly, I believe it is important for activists in the U.S. to stand against these deployments since it is our country that is creating a dangerous new arms race in Europe.

You can also join this hunger strike by stepping away from the plate. Let's remind our friends in the Czech Republic that they are not alone.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


On May13 Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar started a hunger strike in Praque. "The issue of the U.S. military base is not only an issue of international security for us, but also an issue of democracy. It is about whether we will once again allow a small group of elite politicians to ignore the wishes of the majority of the population on an issue of great importance to their fate. These methods remind us of times before 1989 -- times we don't want to be repeated," they said.

Now the hunger strike is spreading throughout Europe. The photo above is from Berlin were supporters have joined in solidarity with the hunger strikers.

Now the task is to spread the hunger strike to the U.S. which is only right since our country is the one who is trying to deploy these so-called "missile defense" systems in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Europeans clearly remember the 1983 deployments of nuclear cruise and Pershing II missiles in Europe by Ronald Reagan. These missiles were aimed at the former Soviet Union and made Europe the battleground stuck in the middle of the superpower conflict.

Europeans don't want their lands to get stuck in the middle again as the U.S. now is forcing an expansion of NATO eastward to surround Russia who has the world's largest supply of natural gas.

This simple hunger strike is creating energy and movement in Europe. The time has come for us in the U.S. to step away from the plate and join the effort.

I will join this hunger strike starting Saturday morning. Please let me know if you will join it as well in solidarity with our friends Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I feel like I just walked this long road. It's been one heck of a busy weekend.

Saturday morning I was up early to tape a new edition of my cable TV show called This Issue. I had four guests, usually I like to have just one, but this time I did a show about the militarization of our schools so I had some local parents on to talk about what is happening in their kids middle schools where the National Guard has muscled their way into the classroom to teach courses. The military knows they have to start the kids young if they hope to "brand" their minds.

I got home and had to immediately prepare for a radio interview from British Columbia in Canada about the connections between U.S. and Canadian militarism and what we can do about it. Just that morning I had received an email from GN board member Tamara Lorincz in Halifax, Canada informing me that Lockheed Martin had just given Dalhousie University a $2 million"gift" that will begin to militarize that institution of higher learning. Tamara had made a protest sign and propped up her courage and stood right behind the podium at the official ceremony where the gift was made and a photo of her standing there made it into the local newspaper. (Amazingly they did not haul her off. I guess that is still the difference between Canada and the U.S. Here she'd have been not so gently removed.) She told me that while she was standing there she kept thinking of all the good GN folks she had recently been with at our annual space organizing conference in Omaha, Nebraska. Tamara also informed me that Canada had made a major increase, $30 billion more, in their national military budget last week. Social programs will suffer in Canada as a result.

Following the radio interview MB and I helped a couple of friends who just moved to nearby Brunswick unload their moving van. Heavy stuff up to the second floor tested by already delicate back.

This morning I was out early again to attend the Maine Green Independent Party state convention where I gave the speech on behalf of Cynthia McKinney who is running for the Green Party presidential nomination. I also made a pitch for funds for her as our state needs to raise $5,000 so that Cynthia can have 20 states each giving her that amount which will qualify her for federal matching funds. We are up to about $1,800 in Maine so far. Come on Mainers, let's kick in some bucks! You other states too!

After that I scrambled home to get ready to attend a Democratic party congressional debate here in Bath where all six prospective candidates were in attendance. Our Addams-Melman House members set up a table at the entrance to gather signatures for a new campaign here in Maine to repeal our state's terrible decision to enact the "Real ID" which is a step toward a national ID card and a furtherance of the surveillance society. In Maine they have a thing called the "People's Veto" and if we get 55,000 signatures before July 17 we force the issue onto the November 2008 general election ballot. Tonight we got about 50 signatures. There is a large organizational effort now underway across Maine to get signature gathering at the voting polls statewide on June 10, the day of our primary elections.

I am now laying on my bed, typing on my laptop, to write this entry. I am much to tired to even get ready for bed. Maybe I'll sleep in my clothes tonight. I want to take Monday off. Wish me luck.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


We did another all-nighter. Things began yesterday at noon with a picket line outside the office of Sen. Susan Collins in Portland. TV channel 13 showed up and interviewed me live at the top of the noon news with our protesting crew in the background. Very nice. I kept saying that we need folks to call the politicians.

We stayed on the streets for several hours and handed out over 700 leaflets. People began sitting in the office about 2:30 pm and I remained outside holding a sign and leafletting until about 4:30. By 6:00 we had 17 people inside and wrote the statement just below and had it sent out over the email to folks around Maine.

At 10:00 pm the police arrived and threatened (very nicely though) to arrest those of us who did not leave. Several left and the photo above, of those willing to risk arrest, was taken by a very friendly policewoman. By 10:30 the police were outside negotiating with someone and decided not to arrest us. Instead they posted one cop inside the inner office and said we could stay the night.

All during this time we had the TV on in the small office waiting room where we were sitting in and I was watching the Boston Red Sox - Baltimore Orioles (my team) baseball game. The Orioles won in a dramatic fashion with a grand slam late in the game. The sound on the TV was muted but I was content.

Before the game came on we sang every peace song we could think of and several folks shared readings, including one profound excerpt from the George Orwell's book 1984.

In the end, as an organizer, I recognize that Sen. Collins will continue to vote for the Iraq occupation funding and that it will be incredibly difficult to move her from that position. But we know that 70% of the American people want us to leave Iraq. So it is not really about convincing the public of our position. Instead it is about getting the public to (1) Know this war supplemental to the tune of $178 billion is about to be voted on. Most people have no clue and the media is not saying much about it. (2) Helping motivate people enough to pick up the phone, pick up a sign, or just talk to others about this issue and act to help stop this endless war.

So our action in the office is really a public participatory drama that is intended to draw people emotionally/intellectually into the issue in hopes that they will break out of their blind participation in the daily grind long enough to come alive and do something to help make a difference.

I am told the piece they used on TV 13's evening news had me talking about how Maine's share of the Iraq war money could have been used in our state for positive purposes. So all this effort in recent days paid off with us having that bit of a time slot on TV to put out that message. Since we don't have the $$$$ to buy TV time, this is how we have to do it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. On we go.

This letter was composed by a group of 17 Mainers from throughout the state while in the office of Sen. Susan Collins on May 14.

We are joined tonight in a united purpose: to remain in Sen. Collins office on the 14th and the 15th of May to represent the vast majority of Mainers who want the Iraq Occupation to end, and who want the troops to return home now.

The Iraq war was a premeditated criminal act. Neither further funding nor continuing the occupation should be allowed. This war embodies the most serious of war crimes: crimes against the Iraqi people, and our own American soldiers. The cost is extreme in terms of human suffering, creating two million war refugees in addition to the 2.5 million Iraqis who are displaced in country.

In addition, this war creates suffering for our own people at home. Many of our own residents have no food, no heat, no jobs, and inadequate health care.

We want our tax dollars back in our own state and country to rebuild our own communities.

Any further Iraq funding should go only toward military withdrawal, reconstruction, and reparations -- not continued military presence. It is immoral and unconscionable to make Iraqis pay for the reconstruction.

Just as Sen. Collins is responsible for her acts, we are responsible to remind her of a previous statement to end this war. We urge Sen. Collins, as our elected representative, to vote against any further funding of the Occupation of Iraq.

We urge people to spread the message of our resistance and take action to help to bring an end to this atrocity, to this madness.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


The Congress, originally scheduled to vote on the "Iraq Emergency Supplemental" bill last week, is now expected to have the vote on another $172 billion for the occupation sometime this week. With that in mind a decision has been made to return to the Portland office of Sen. Collins on Wednesday, May 14th at noon to resume the office sit-ins.

In addition to sitting in the office on May 14 there will also be a day long street protest just outside the office of Sen. Collins where activists will pass out leaflets urging the public to call her office asking her to vote against any more funds for the Iraq occupation. The leaflet will urge the public to also call Sen. Olympia Snowe and Rep. Tom Allen.

According to the National Priorities Project the Iraq debacle has already cost the country over $519 billion since 2003. Taxpayers in Maine have paid $1.4 billion as their share. These funds could have been used in our state for many social programs and infrastructure needs.

This event will be organized by the Stop the Iraq Occupation Coalition (Made up of local members from Veterans for Peace, Peace Action Maine, PeaceWorks, and WILPF)

Sunday, May 11, 2008


May 2, 2008
Speech by Bruce K. Gagnon
Global Greens Congress
Sao Paulo, Brazil

My name is Bruce Gagnon and I live in the state of Maine in the United States.

I work for the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.

A recent U.S. military report called "Transforming the way the Pentagon looks at energy," says that in order to ensure a "reliable" source of oil for the long term the military will increase its efforts to maintain control over foreign sources.

Soaring global demand for dimishing resources means strong international competition in the coming years.

Global power, the Pentagon says, will reside in the hands of those who control the distribution of declining natural resources.

One way to keep control of the global economic system is by holding the keys to the world's economic engine - oil.

During the two terms of the Bush administration, George W. Bush has doubled military spending. The U.S. military now controls just over 50% of every federal tax dollar.

The U.S. Congress is now sharply cutting remaining social programs, public education, and environmental programs.

To fund the occupation of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan the U.S. is spending more than $14 billion a month. The U.S. now spends more on the military than the rest of the world combined.

The Republicans and the Democrats are partners in funding and promoting the U.S. military empire that consists of more than 750 military bases around the world.

The weapons corporations are now giving more campaign donations to the Democrats than the Republicans. The two Democratic party presidential contenders, Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama, have pledged to expand the U.S. military by adding more soldiers and building a new generation of weapons.

And now the weapons industry wants to move the arms race into space. Weapons corporations say that weapons in space (Star Wars) will be the largest industrial project in the history of the planet Earth. The new arms race will be so expensive that the U.S. can't pay for it alone and is bringing its allies into this new space weapons arms race. Many European countries have become partners as has Japan and Australia.

The Pentagon says that under corporate globalization every country will have a different role. There will be no significant industry in the U.S. (except weapons production). No automobile manufacturing, no clothes or shoe production. Instead, the military says our role in the U.S. will be "security export" which translates to endless war to benefit the corporate interests.

Today the U.S. is surrounding Russia with the help of an expanding NATO alliance. Why Russia? Russia has the largest supply of natural gas on the planet and also has huge supplies of oil.

The U.S. is also attempting to deploy so-called "missile defense" interceptors in Poland and a space warfare radar system in the Czech Republic. We need Green parties in Poland and the Czech Republic, and throughout Europe, to speak out louder against these new U.S. bases.

The U.S. today is militarily surrounding China with the help of a military alliance with Japan, South Korea, and Australia. The Washington Post newspaper several years ago reported that the U.S. is moving to "manage" China by doubling its military presence in the Asian-Pacific region and by deploying missile defense systems throughout the region. This will create a new and expensive arms race.

The U.S. Space Command for the past several years has been war gaming a first-strike attack on China, set in the year 2016. The attack uses the military space plane, now under development, that would fly from one end of the Earth to the other in one hour and drop a devastating attack on China and then return to space.

Space technology coordinates all war on the planet today. When the U.S. launched the "shock and awe" invasion on Iraq in 2003 over 70% of the weapons used in the initial attack were directed to their targets by military space satellites. Thus the Pentagon says, whoever controls space will control the Earth below.

In addition the U.S. is now preparing an attack on Iran in order to control their oil and natural gas.

The U.S. is demonizing Venezuela because they had the audacity to nationalize their oil.

And the Pentagon has just recently created a new military command called AfriCom. The Pentagon says we will be fighting in Africa in 20 years to control the oil of Nigeria, Angola, and Algeria.

Everyone acknowledges that the U.S. is a major contributor to global warming and that we in the U.S. must immediately change our entire consuming culture if the planet is to survive. But where will the massive investment for solar, wind, rail, and conservation come from when the U.S. is instead preparing for endless war?

In fact, if the U.S. successfully draws Russia, China, the European Union, and Japan into a new arms race in space, how will any of our societies be able to afford to produce the alternative technologies we will need to avoid the coming global energy crisis?

Global Greens must make a unified demand for the conversion of the global war machine, or as we call it, the military industrial complex.

We know that conversion of the global war machine will create more jobs than we currently get from military spending. We know that if we don't convert the military industrial complex then the future generations will suffer even more.

In the proposed 21 Point Declaration I would like to comment on point number 20. I believe that two key items must be added. The first is that a statement is needed calling for the prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS). This new space arms race will be what the weapons industry calls the most expensive industrial project in human history.

Secondly, there must be a specific call for the conversion of the global war machine in the Declaration so that our global budget resources can be dramatically and quickly used to deal with climate change.

The Native Americans, the Indian people, in my country say that the sacred hoop, the sacred circle, has been broken. It is our job to heal the broken circle.

Political power means little if we don't show the determination to stop the madness of endless war and successfully deal with climate change.

Thank you.


Let's set the scene. It's 4:30 am in the office of Republican Sen. Susan Collins. I am fast asleep laying on the floor. Collins staffer Jennifer Duddy decides that the chair on wheels needs to be moved from behind the desk in the photo (just to the left) to another location in the office. She runs me over. I wake up from my slumbers and reach for my eye glasses (inside my shoe) which she is about to step on. Luckily my friend Peter comes running with his camera to film the deed.

Friday, May 09, 2008


It was a 17 and 1/2 hour office occupation that began just after the lunch hour yesterday in Portland. We gathered outside the office of our Rep. Tom Allen's office at around 11am and began handing out leaflets and holding signs calling for an end to funding of the Iraq occupation. Just as we were ready to enter Allen's office to sit-in we learned that he had decided to vote against any more funding for the occupation unless there was a "withdrawal goal timeline" in the bill. Even though this was not exactly what we wanted, these timelines are non-binding, it was still progress and we decided to move on to the next target. The vote was supposed to happen yesterday but has been delayed because the Democrats coalition is dissolving.

So we marched our way a few blocks to the office of Sen. Susan Collins, the Republican who has of course also voted over and again for the occupation funding. We entered the office with 20 people and jammed into her outer office waiting room. After a bit the staff of the senator invited us into their conference meeting room further inside the office. Two of her staff then asked us all to introduce ourselves and to state why we came. The statements made by the group were strong and moving and after we finished the staff promised they'd pass on the remarks to the senator and then invited us to leave. We said we needed to know how she planned to vote. The staff reluctantly replied that the senator would be "supporting the troops." We said we were not going to leave until the senator agreed to vote against anymore funding. The impass began.

We sat in the conference room and the staff left and closed the door. After an hour or so I suggested me might move out of the conference room, where we were highly contained, into the office itself where we'd be more of a bother to the staff. So we did and the staff was not at all happy about it.

By the early evening we were 12 people left and it was clear that they were not going to do anything to get us to leave because the senator, who is running for reelection this year, did not want anymore bad press after she had a week of it following the jury acquittal of the Bangor 6 who had similarly sat in her office last year and had just gone to trial and won their case.

The staff did make sure that we could not use the bathroom and kept a security guard on the front door so that if any of our folks left the office they'd not be allowed back in.

We spent the hours reading poems by those being held prisoner by the U.S. in Guantanamo and singing songs.

At 12:30 am some of the older women with us had to leave because they needed to go to the bathroom so badly. That left six of us. By 3:30 am we were down to 4 sitting-in. Actually we were laying on the floor trying to sleep by that time. At 4:30 am I had fallen asleep and one of the staff ran a chair on wheels into me as she continued her nasty tactics of intimidation. She had previously pulled a chair out from under my legs and taken my shirt off the back of one chair and thrown it onto a table. Then she turned the office TV up very loud onto an obnoxious commercial marketing station but one of our folks reached up and turned it off.

At 5:00 am the four of us left and went to the nearest diner and headed for the toilet and then had a well deserved breakfast. I was home by 6:30 am and spent much of the day sleeping.

As we were leaving the office of Sen. Collins early this morning her tired and very grumpy staffer, who had tried to run me over with the chair, was sitting by the door. I said "We'll see you next week." The look on her face was priceless.

We meet tomarrow to discuss our next steps to continue our opposition to Iraq occupation funding. We can't forget the suffering Iraqi people and those GI's who are being sent back to Iraq for the 3rd or 4th time. This madness must end and we have a big role to play in making that happen.

Those with us yesterday included Mary Beth Sullivan, Karen Wainberg, Sally Breen, Phil Weyenberg, Selma Sternlieb, Debbie Leighton, David W. Chipman, Elizabeth Streeter, Suzanne Hedrick, Lawrence Reichard, Peter Woodruff, Laurie Dobson, Luke Gizinski, Julian Holmes, Jeffrey Soule Phillips, Ronnie Wilson, Mair Honan, and Louise Lora Somlyo.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


This report covers the period of April 29 – May 5 as I traveled to Sao Paulo, Brazil to speak at the Global Greens Congress.

This was the second such Global Greens (GG) event and was attended by hundreds of people from 88 countries. There were 21 African countries represented at the conference.

My speaking invitation came from U.S. Green Party member Julia Willebrand whom I met while speaking in New York City last August. She arranged, with some difficulty I learned, to have me speak on a plenary panel and specifically asked me to address the impacts of militarism on climate change.

I took the bus to Boston, the train to New York, and then flew to Sao Paulo from there. Fellow Mainer, and long-time Green Party stalwart John Rensenbrink was on the same plane and we roomed together in a downtown Sao Paulo hotel. The plane trip was about 10 hours long and only 1/3 of the seats were full so we each got to stretch out across three empty seats during the flight.

The conference was largely focused on climate change and the stories from around the world were heart breaking. A Peruvian Green talked about the “extinction by human intervention” in the Amazon where 20% of the reptiles, 20% of the birds, and 34% of the fish are now gone.

A Mongolian Green told a tragic story about how gold mining is poisoning the water, killing nature, creating sickness for the people and causing 50% of the forests to be lost. He urged us to boycott gold. Easy one for me.

Several Africans told similar stories about desertification on the continent, lakes drying up, fisherman having no livelihood and moving to the big cities where poverty and disease await them. Wild animals are disappearing. (And now the U.S. has created the new military command called AfriCom to be used to help take their oil.)

Brazilian cars run on alcohol made from sugar cane – another story about agricultural land feeding cars rather than people. (Just like in the U.S. where corn production is now more profitable for ethanol than for food.)

As I made this trip, food was big in the news. Rising gasoline prices have dramatically impacted the price of the global food supply. Climate change has had enormous impact on food production as we see the cost of food rising by 40% in 2007 and 80% in 2008. Protests around the world, just in recent days, are a foretelling of the future.

Brazilian Green Fabio Feldmann, a member of the parliament, told the audience that needed changes must come from political action. “We need new governance models,” he said. Feldmann also reminded us that the U.S. had not signed the Biodiversity Convention in 1992 because the pharmaceutical industry opposed it. I wrote “death culture” in my notes as he spoke.

I was the only one to speak about militarism and the connection to the environment and climate change. I was very surprised by this. The fact is that all the speakers made dramatic appeals for immediate and massive structural change and investment in green technologies and conservation if we are to save the Mother Earth. How, I asked in my plenary presentation, can we effectively deal with climate change if we allow a new expensive and destabilizing arms race in space to happen? We must convert the global war machine immediately and use those resources, now wasted on endless war, for the needed investments to deal with climate change. I suggested that the proposed 21-point Declaration that would be approved on the last day of the Congress needed to include calls for the prevention of an arms race in outer space and conversion of the military industrial complex. As I finished my talk I was given a rousing applause by the several hundred people in the audience.

One U.S. Green delegate approached me and asked me to write down the specific language I thought should go into the final Declaration, which I immediately did. He made sure it was formally introduced into the process. Sadly, the final document made no reference to either point.

It is quite clear that the German Greens, European Greens, and Australian Greens run the Global Greens movement because they are the regions that had the most electoral success over the years. I heard from several U.S. delegates that they have been told by the German Greens that the U.S. Green Party is too “radical.”

One telling panel was called “Between Government Responsibilities and Fundamental Opposition.” This session addressed the question “What changes occur if Greens engage in parliaments and governments? Does this affect the relationship between Green parties and social movements and how do we deal with conflicts between ‘ethics of conviction’ and an ‘ethics of responsibility’?” In other words, once in power should Greens go along to get along? Or should they stick their neck out on “controversial” issues?

A Green member of parliament from the Czech Republic, that is now in power as part of a coalition with their right-wing government, talked about how taking cautious steps was important if one hoped to remain in power to do the “good works” required to deal with climate change. Surprisingly she never mentioned the current controversy and enormous challenges facing the Czech Green Party as they now hold the deciding votes which will determine whether or not their parliament supports the planned U.S. deployment of a Star Wars radar base in their country. I later learned from another Czech Green member that out of their six Green members of parliament, two of them are likely to support the radar, which will likely be the winning margin for Bush in an evenly divided government.

A member of the European Greens told me that they had recently met and wanted to pass a strong region-wide resolution against the proposed deployment of the U.S. radar in the Czech Republic. He said one of the Czech Greens, who will likely support the radar, insisted that the resolution be weakened to say that if NATO supports it then it would be acceptable. Apparently this amended resolution was passed.

Reinhard Buetikofer, Co-President of the German Greens, while addressing this issue of cooperation with more conservative power blocs, argued that military intervention to support “human rights” was necessary and thus should not be ruled out. “What would we do if another Adolf Hitler was to come along?” he asked. We have one today I thought to myself – his name is George W. Bush. Are we all doing enough to stop his program of empire building and endless war, I wondered?

The German Greens, once in power but now out of the ruling coalition, have experienced this “dilemma” first-hand. Their party supported the U.S. attack and invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. A year or so later I was speaking at a conference in Southern Germany and was on a panel with a German Green Party leader. In the Q & A many peace activists in the audience were furious with the Greens for having supported the U.S. invasion. The German Greens fell out of power in 2005.

One truly inspiring moment at the Congress was watching a video of the speech by Ingrid Betancourt from Columbia at the last Global Greens Congress that was held in 2001 in Australia. Ingrid is a politician, former senator and anti-corruption activist. She was kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2002 while campaigning for the Colombian presidency as a Green, after she decided to campaign in an area of high guerrilla presence in spite of warnings not to do so. She is still being held hostage by the FARC.

In her 2001 speech Ingrid called the global economic machine a “system of self destruction.” “The first thing we must defeat is our own skepticism,” she said. Her call to relentlessly organize and remain passionate moved the audience of Greens once again.

In a crowd this large, from so many nations, one can imagine that many different views existed about how best to proceed. Several people really hit the mark for me. Rebecca Harms, a German member of parliament, said “The movement has to be a participatory democracy if we hope to show the people of the world how things can change.”

A Green from Greece said, “We are a global movement but be careful because power corrupts.”

Haidar El Ali from Senegal touched me deeply when he said, “Love and faith will save us, not politicians. We need to reach the hearts of the people. Do we love the Earth enough to save it?”

One evening while eating dinner one of the Greens from Mongolia, a businessman, was sitting at a nearby table. He congratulated me on my talk and told me that at first he was “shocked” that I was being publicly critical of my government. He said that he believed it best to work with existing governments and not to be publicly critical of them. But he then went on to tell me that he learned a lot from my speech and appreciated it by the end. I told him that I thought democracy meant that citizens, and political leaders, should challenge their governments when they know they have gone wrong.

Many other Greens from places like Sweden, Canada, Japan, Dominican Republic, Holland, Hungary, New Zealand, Belgium, Norway, Portugal, Africa, and the U.S. gave me strong positive feedback after my plenary speech. Several asked me to send them the text of my talk so they could pass it around in their country.

I was extremely grateful to have been invited to speak before such an important conference and such wonderful people who are doing the good work to help protect all life on this beautiful planet. The question of political parties and power, how they should work and compromise with existing power structures, is an important topic to debate. But in the end it is equally important to create new alternative political formations that give voice to the important issues of our time. The tensions over power and compromise will always be with us.

In the end, I come away reminding myself that I am an activist first and I am certain that my job is to stand strong for what I know must be done if we are to survive on this spinning satellite we call Earth. I need not worry about negotiating this point or that. My job is to speak for all life, to represent those who cannot speak. My task is to remain steady during those moments when those in power seem most intractable. My role is to tell it like I see it and let the chips fall where they may.

That I shall continue to do as long as I draw breath on my mother planet.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


On April 30 at 6:00 a.m. in the morning morning three Christian activists from "Ploughshares Aotearoa" entered the Waihopai Spy Base in New Zealand and used sickles to deflate one of the two 30 metre radomes covering satellite interception dishes. The members then built a shrine and prayed for the victims of the war with no end - the so-called 'War on Terror' led by the U. S. Empire which also controls the New Zealand taxpayer funded Waihopai spy base.

Samuel Peter Frederick Land, 24, of Hokianga, Adrian James Leason, 42, a teacher from Otaki and Peter Reginald Leo Murnane, 67, a Dominican friar from Auckland, were arrested by police who are considering charging the men with sabotage under the Crimes Act, an offence which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years' jail.

Damage to the radome is estimated at more than $1 million.

The three have been granted bail and released and have a June 9 pre-depositions hearing.

Supporters rallied outside the courtroom in Blenheim on May 5 and yelled "What do we want? Waihopai Closed''.

The action has brought worldwide attention to the fact that the U.S. spy satellite base in based in New Zealand and should be a positive boost to the long standing campaign against the base by
the Anti-Bases Campaign in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Monday, May 05, 2008


Plane, train, bus, and then car brought me home from the long journey to Brazil. My mind is like mush right now so I won't write much. I am not a big airplane sleeper but I did actually get a couple of hours of sleep (if you can call it that) on the red eye special from Sao Paulo to New York's JFK airport.

The sun is shining here at home and many emails and phone calls are waiting on me. First though a good dinner and a real sleep will be needed before I can do much work. Luckily my week is a relatively quiet one.

Next up will be some meetings later this week and this weekend to discuss sit-ins at our congressman's office unless we hear from him soon that he will vote against the Democratic plan to give Bush another $172 billion for the occupation of Iraq. So far his office is not returning our calls. And he wants us to vote for him as he runs for the Senate against current Republican Sen. Susan Collins. Democrats just think they own us.

More later.

It's good to be home.