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

Monday, July 28, 2008


The surge means CHARGE.

You remember the old cowboy and Indian movies? The Indians, savages they were called, were just trying to protect their lands and people from being overrun by the U.S. cavalry. Gold had been discovered in the Black Hills, South Dakota. Forget that treaties had already mandated that the Black Hills would belong to the Lakota people as long as the grass grew green.

When the cavalry would attack the horns would blow the dat-adat-dat-da-da and the troops would yell CHARGE. And charge they did. Cannons would fire, soldiers on horses, swinging their sharp swords and firing their guns, would massacre a whole village in no time at all.

That is what the U.S. did in Vietnam, the Philippines, and a whole lot of other places.

That’s what we are doing in Iraq, and in Afghanistan. Except now it is done in a more high-tech way but the outcome remains essentially the same.

Last night I finished Michael Uhl’s book called “Vietnam Awakening.” Michael is a Vietnam vet (was an officer in an intelligence unit) and belongs to our Maine Veterans for Peace chapter. He was a leader in the early days of the anti-war movement when he returned from Vietnam.

He tells the story about Truong Khanh, Vietnam, where on April 18, 1969 the “notorious Calley Brigade” (11th Brigade of the Americal Division) gunned down sixty “unarmed and unresisting villagers, mostly women and children, in cold blood”. A different My Lai.

The organization Michael worked with, called the Citizens Commission of Inquiry which was led by Tod Ensign and Jeremy Rifkin, organized several public hearings in the late 60’s in Washington DC trying to force Congress to do war crimes investigations of those at the top who were making the war policy rather than those troops on the ground who were forced to implement the policy.

Michael quotes New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan at the time as writing, “the army….will not enforce military law and judge itself” and “there does not seem to be the stomach for such an inquiry in Congress now”.

The question of Congressional stomach remains today as we saw another example this past week in the House of Representatives with the pretend inquiry on impeachment.

Rep. John Conyers appears to have been given the go-ahead from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a teaser hearing outlining Bush transgressions but he had to be sure to announce that this was not a real impeachment hearing. (Pelosi had just been informed that anti-war mother Cindy Sheehan had attained ballot status in San Francisco in her quest to run against Pelosi in the November election. Pelosi is a bit worried and wanted to cover her tracks so she figured she could appease the critics of her “impeachment is off the table” pronouncement by offering the pseudo-investigation to the rabble.) But the Democrats don’t have the stomach, or heart, for real hearings.

Then Tuesday morning I read that Pelosi had been on TV’s The View show where she said she would support impeachment if someone could please tell her one little teeny illegal criminal act Bush had committed. Once again the bile spews from the mouth of a leading Democrat.

On Monday afternoon, in Portland, Maine, the state Supreme Court announced its grand finding that Independent U.S. Senate candidate Herb Hoffman’s signatures would be thrown out because of “irregularities” in the collection process. My well-trained activist nose smelled that one coming the second the Maine Supreme Court Chief Justice sashayed into the courtroom and took us on a intellectual ride down a dark alley where we witnessed a high-level legal mugging of Hoffman’s attorney during the hearing.

We heard no horn sound that day but the smell of blood was evident as we left the hallowed courtroom.

OK, so you know that I turn to baseball when these massacres pile up on me and I need a place to hide from the storms. But I have not previously shared that I am even haunted while watching the great game. Because just when the game is getting exciting, just when my team gets a runner on base and a leading hitter comes to bat, in that very moment of hope, the organist blares over the public address system that familiar horn call dat-adat-dat-da-da and the crowd yells CHARGE!

In that split of a second my mind flashes back to Wounded Knee, South Dakota or Vietnam, or Iraq.

In that moment I know that militarism has become us and we have become militarism. Killing is our culture. The surge is 7th inning stretch entertainment.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Yes my birthday is Sunday and someone with a great sense of humor posted this greeting from Bush in the Comments section of my MySpace profile.

There is a backyard party for me and Jean Parker (who is also having a birthday) on Sunday at the home of Selma and Herschel Sternlieb in Brunswick. Selma is the one who just did the layout on our Space Alert! newsletter which is now at the printer. It was very thoughtful of her to organize the party.

Today I worked the Green Party table at the International Festival in Portland. Got some good interest from folks and it was a perfect Maine day - sun shining and nice and cool out.

On Monday MB and I go away for 5 days to stay in a cabin on an estuary in nearby Georgetown owned by a dear friend in the peace movement. It's a wonderful place, connected to a state park, and the ocean is just a short kayak ride away. We need some time off, my mind is nearly mush, and our friend was kind enough to offer us this place where we can relax, read, walk, swim, and just take it easy for awhile. Likely won't do much with the blog while away. You'll just have to look at Bush for awhile longer.

Friday, July 25, 2008


I attended the hearing yesterday before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in Portland. The case was over Independent Senate candidate Herb Hoffman's ability to get on the November ballot. The Maine Democratic Party, after attempting to get Hoffman's 4,000 petition signatures thrown out, appealed the Secretary of State's decision to give Hoffman ballot status to the Maine Superior Court. That court ruled in favor of Hoffman as well. Then the Democrats took the case to the Supreme Court.

I'd never been to any Supreme Court hearing before - anywhere. It was an interesting experience. The courtroom had an old English-style ornate dark wood interior. Just to make it really quaint there was no air conditioning and the place was as hot and humid as could be.

Dan Walker was the attorney for the Democratic Party and he went first. (One local Maine political news outlet reported that no one was telling who was paying Walker's attorney fees. Walker himself was only saying that he was getting funding from "here and there".)

Walker told the court that Hoffman should be denied ballot status because he had violated the oath that one makes when they sign the petitions saying that they had witnessed the signatures on the sheet. In the previous Superior Court hearing the Democrats had subpoenaed three persons who had signed the petition and had them swear under testimony that Hoffman had not specifically witnessed their signatures.

Walker also claimed that the 4,000 signatures were a "minimal" display of public support and thus denial of ballot status should not be seen as a significant harm to voters.

John Branson, who made his legal services available to Hoffman as a public service, told the court that it all came down to the definition of "presence". Hoffman, he said, had visual contact with those signing his petitions which gave him confidence that he met statutory requirements. Thus his oath was true when he swore that petition signers were legal. Branson reminded the court that fundamental constitutional rights were at stake in this case - the issue was really about whether legitimate legal petition signatures would be honored.

Branson had a hard time being able to finish his thoughts as the chief justice continually interrupted his statements and kept trying to take the "legal arguments" off into wild hypothetical questions about mentally deranged persons gathering illegal signatures and knowingly swearing an oath that they were valid. Branson attempted to remind the supremes of the logic behind the ruling from the lower court but they did not seem at all interested.

As I sat there listening to this I kept asking myself: how far up does the Democratic Party political machine extend? How many of these supremes were appointed by Democrats? Are the supremes just looking for a wild-hair legal theory in order to protect the Democratic Party senatorial candidate (Tom Allen) from a challenger on his left-flank?

After the hearing about two dozen of Hoffman supporters went to lunch at a Greek restaurant near the court house. While there I heard two stories that got my attention. One local activist, and a Democrat who is supporting Hoffman, said he had spoken to one of the men who had been called as a witness to testify against Hoffman in the previous court hearing. The man said that he felt "entrapped" by the state Democratic Party to testify against Hoffman.

A second man, who testified in court that he had signed the petition but had not seen Hoffman, has since his testimony been given a job working for the Maine Democratic Party. Sounds to me like a fishy deal.

The court is to rule next Monday on this question. It will be interesting to see if there is truly justice in Maine. One has to wonder though because the evidence so far is that the arm of the Democratic Party seems to reach far and wide when it comes to ensuring that real democracy is not to be allowed in our state.

One final thought. I've been to many meetings where candidates for office pass around clipboards with their petitions to get on the ballot and have people sign them. The candidate was "present" but not exactly witnessing each and every signature. I've seen Democrats do this too. I have no problem with the practice. The Democrats don't seem to have a problem with the practice either - that is until someone who is running against them does something similar. Then it becomes a Supreme Court case.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I have previously written briefly about a new book I recently read entitled JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died & Why It Matters. Long-time peace activist James Douglass wrote the book and worked on it for 12 years.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. You should read it, you will be shocked and moved by this story, and you will want to tell others about it.

In a few words, this book tells the story about why and how the military industrial complex (MIC) had JFK killed. This book is part history, part mystery story, and part moral lesson. James Douglass does a phenomenal job of researching and documenting the story. I’ve known Douglass for years. He was a founder of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Bangor, Washington and is a highly respected writer and Christian activist. Orbis Press, a Maryknoll enterprise, published the book. I first heard about this book when Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton mentioned it in his speech in Omaha last April during our annual Global Network space conference.

JFK admittedly ran for president as a cold warrior. Most people know that. What they don’t know about JFK is how shaken he was by the whole Bay of Pigs invasion fiasco and the Cuban Missile Crisis. We had narrowly averted war with the Soviet Union and the Pentagon was not happy about that fact. Kennedy understood afterwards that the CIA-Pentagon-MIC plan was global domination and it would likely lead to a nuclear war. Kennedy had experienced enough death (his own family history) and war (his participation in WW II) and wanted to find another way.

Early in the story Douglass points out that, “What Eisenhower in the final hours of his presidency revealed as the greatest threat to our democracy Kennedy in the midst of his presidency chose to resist. The military-industrial complex was totally dependent on a ‘Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.”

Following the Cuban missile crisis JFK set out to do three things. First he began negotiations with the Soviet Union on a nuclear test ban treaty. Douglass reports that “The Joint Chiefs and CIA were adamantly opposed to Kennedy’s turn toward peace.”

Kennedy and Soviet leader Khrushchev (who carried on a secret pen pall relationship for some time) eventually signed the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. They wanted to go much farther but there was a push back. The August 5, 1963, U.S. News & World Report carried a major article headlined, “Is the U.S. Giving up in the Arms Race?” The article cited “many authorities in the military establishment, who are now silenced,” as thinking that the Kennedy administration’s “new strategy adds up to a type of intentional and one-sided disarmament.”

At the time JFK confided “One of the ironic things about this entire situation is that Mr. Khrushchev and I occupy approximately the same political positions inside our governments. He would like to prevent a nuclear war but is under severe pressure from his hard-line crowd, which interprets every move in that direction as appeasement. I’ve got similar problems.”

Testifying against the test ban treaty US Navy Admiral Lewis Strauss said, “I am not sure that the reduction of tensions is necessarily a good thing.”

Another of JFK’s sins was to begin to open up back-door communications with Fidel Castro in Cuba. By doing this JFK wanted to reduce the chance of another severe miscalculation like that which happened during the missile crisis. After JFK’s death, Lyndon Johnson put on permanent hold any dialogue between the White House and Cuba. No president since has dared to restart serious talks with Cuba.

Kennedy’s third mistake, as seen by the MIC, was Vietnam. JFK was tortured by the early deaths of American GI’s in Vietnam. He began looking for a way out. On October 11, 1963 he signed his presidential order for an initial withdrawal of 1,000 US troops from Vietnam by the end of the year, anticipating a complete troop withdrawal by the end of 1965.

Douglass eloquently says about those troubled times, “What is unrecognized about JFK’s presidency, which then makes his assassination a false mystery, is that he was locked in a struggle with his national security state. That state had higher values than obedience to the orders of a president who wanted peace. The defeat of Communism was number one.”

Today one could substitute the word terrorism for communism and the story would remain much the same.

JFK’s Congo policy was also being subverted by the CIA, which had been arming the Congo’s secessionist regime in Katanga in order to promote Belgian mining interests.

The US coup d’etat was about corporate control. A shadow government was taking over. As evidence to that fact Douglass unearthed the words of Washington Daily News reporter Richard Starnes alarming article on the CIA’s “unrestrained thirst for power” in Vietnam. Starnes had cited a “very high American official” in Saigon who “likened the CIA’s growth to a malignancy, and added he was not sure even the White House could control it any longer.”

Douglass reports, “The consequence in the early 1960’s, when Kennedy became president, was that the CIA had placed a secret team of its own employees through the entire US government. It was accountable to no one except the CIA.”

Douglass shares the mystery part of the book by thoroughly documenting the conspiracy to convince the public that Lee Harvey Oswald was the “lone gunman” who killed Kennedy. In fact “Oswald was a CIA asset” first trained by the agency at Atsugi Naval Air Station near Tokyo, a plush super secret cover base for special operations.

Douglass takes the reader through the entire operation to kill Kennedy and then the brutal cover-up that followed. This is the part of the book that read like a compelling mystery story, keeping one riveted to each page. This section hit me hardest – as I found a link between me and my peace work and the assassination of JFK.

I was 11 years old when JFK was killed. I was living with my family at Ellsworth AFB in Rapid City, South Dakota at the time. I was in the school lunchroom when we were informed that “our president” had been shot. I was devastated at the time. In a way my youthful innocence died right along with Kennedy that day.

In his book Douglass outlines how the CIA moved Oswald around the country in order to set up a storyline that made the case for him being JFK’s killer. Oswald had CIA handlers in New Orleans where they had him become publicly identified with a “pro-Cuba” group in order to eventually set the notion in people’s minds that Castro wanted Kennedy dead. Later Oswald was moved to Dallas where a Quaker woman by the name of Ruth Hyde Paine became his host. When I read this I nearly fell out of my chair.

I knew Ruth Hyde Paine, or at least I thought I did.

While living in Orlando, Florida in 1983 I became the first staff person for the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice. The organization was actually created in 1982 as a loosely organized network of peace groups in the state and the initiating organization was the St. Petersburg, Florida office of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which was based in the Quaker Meeting House. Ruth Hyde Paine was a leader of the St. Pete Friends Meeting and I had occasion to sit in peace meetings with her over the years. What could she have had to do with the assassination of JFK?

Douglass reports that the controversial Warren Commission’s star witness against Lee Harvey Oswald was Ruth Hyde Paine. Ruth Paine took Oswald’s wife into her home when they moved to Dallas. It was Ruth Paine who arranged for Oswald’s job at the Texas School Book Depository in October 1963. It was Paine’s car that was used as a get-a-way car after the deadly shots were fired. Was Ruth Hyde Paine just an innocent victim here?

Come to find out Ruth Paine’s husband Michael worked at Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth, Texas. His stepfather was the inventor of the Bell Helicopter and the corporation made enormous profit selling the weapon system to the Pentagon for use during the Vietnam War. Michael’s mother, Ruth Forbes Paine Young, was closely connected to Allen Dulles who hated Kennedy. Dulles was appointed by Lyndon Johnson to serve on the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination. (JFK had asked CIA Director Allen Dulles to resign after the Bay of Pigs disaster. Kennedy then tried to cut the CIA budget by 20% and had threatened to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”)

Ruth Hyde Paine was the daughter of William Avery Hyde who worked for the Agency for International Development - a known CIA front-organization. Right after Kennedy’s death William Hyde received a three-year government contract with AID in Latin America to promote the US insurance industry. Ruth’s younger sister also worked for the CIA.

Assassins in Dallas, Texas killed JFK on November 22, 1963. At the very moment Fidel Castro was having lunch with JFK’s secret emissary, Jean Daniel, in Varadero Beach, Cuba. Douglass reports that when they received news of Kennedy’s death Castro said, “Everything is changed. Everything is going to change.”

Just months before JFK had delivered the commencement speech at American University in Washington DC. The speech was hardly reported in the U.S. In it Kennedy said, “Some say that it is useless to speak of world peace or world law or world disarmament – and that it will be useless until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it. But I also believe that we must reexamine our own attitudes – as individuals and as a Nation – for our attitude is as essential as theirs. And every graduate of this school, every thoughtful citizen who despairs of war and wishes to bring peace, should begin by looking inward – by examining his own attitude toward the possibilities of peace, toward the Soviet Union, toward the course of the cold war and toward freedom and peace here at home.”

Douglass concludes that JFK had a conversion. He had turned away from the Cold War. The MIC came to the conclusion that Kennedy had betrayed the goals of empire. He had become a traitor. He had to be killed.

Rejecting the goal of a “Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war,” Kennedy asked the nation in his American University speech to reexamine our attitudes toward war, especially in relation to the people of the Soviet Union, who suffered incomparable losses in World War II. Now nuclear war would be far worse: “All we built, all we worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours.” Douglass reminds us that then Kennedy called for “general and complete disarmament.”

His fate was sealed.

Near the end of the book Douglass reports that former President Harry Truman had an article published in the Washington Post on December 22, 1963, one month to the day after JFK was killed. Truman wrote:

“I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency - CIA…..

“For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.

“We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to maintain a free and open society. There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it.”

Douglass writes that Truman’s warning was met with total silence. The coup d’etat had happened. There was no turning back for those now running the nation. Eisenhower’s, and now Truman’s warning to the American people seemed to fall on deaf ears.

It is my belief that since the JFK assassination the secret government, the CIA and the MIC, have been running the show. They have not allowed anyone to become president, from either party, that was not under their control.

This remarkable and moving book raises serious questions about the time we live in today. How do people of good will who truly seek peace operate when we live under a government that is run by the MIC? How can we support candidates for Congress or the president who are under the control of the oligarchy?

To me these are the real questions that must be debated and be answered if we are to re-establish the idea of democracy in America. As long as we delay having this discussion we will remain like a small boat drifting aimlessly at sea.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I went to get a haircut today from Maria Holt who cuts my locks for free. She lives here in Bath, and has been cutting my hair for the past couple of years. Maria, a nurse by profession, is in her late 70's and is recovering from cancer and now faces knee replacement surgery. She lives in a small but cozy house up on a rise with a great view of the Kennebec River. Her son, a gardener with magical hands, has created a wonderous assortment of colors in her park-like back yard. Imagine sitting on a stool, with garden in view and frogs croaking in the garden pond, looking at the river in the distance. Heaven on Earth it is.

Maria has been a peace and environmental activist for many years. During the Vietnam War she, and a few others, opened a storefront in our small town to organize against the war. She started an alternative school, campaigned for many years against the nuclear power plant just up the road (which was finally closed down), and represented Bath in the state legislature.

Maria asked me today to share with her the latest news. I told her I didn't have any good news to report and we proceeded to go through all the bad news that is fit to make the print these days. She suffers deeply worrying that the world she is leaving the future generations is not the one she would have picked for them to face.

The photo above really speaks to me of this suffering. The expression on the young GI's face in Iraq, just weeks ago on the 4th of July, is one of sadness, depression, home sickness, and more. The hot dog and hamburger, token symbols to make the soldier feel close to home, lack the necessary condiments of family and a real sense of purpose.

As I was leaving Maria's house today she asked me about Obama. I had intentionally not brought up the issue because I did not want to burden her with my severe doubts about him. But she knows me well enough now to scratch the surface just enough to elicit my true feelings about a subject. After I shared my thoughts she expressed deep emotion about having once been idealistic but now being more pragmatic. I could hear the pain in her voice, the pain of a woman who has given her entire life to making things better only to see it all slipping away in her later years.

I know quite a few elderly activists who are in the same boat. They are seeing the drowning of democracy, one that they've worked so hard to resuscitate, and they are frantic to save it now. They know that Obama won't be the lifeguard to do the job, but have not much else to offer as a solution. They are frustrated, broken hearted, angry, and feeling desperate.

I told Maria as I was leaving that I would never criticize her for voting for Obama. I told her that I though, having spent my entire adult life doing this work, could never forgive myself if I did not stand for what I know in my heart to be right.

Maria lovingly, with a smile on her face, told me to go home. I did and I carried her in my heart.

I don't mean to keep writing about Obama but this is the subject that people are thinking and talking about. The Obama question keeps intersecting my life no matter how I try to avoid it. Since I see my blog as essentially my daily political journal, this is what I have to share. But I must also try to put the Obama issue into a larger context.

After all, I can only mention baseball just so often.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


* It's all about money. The "business" of America they like to say is "business." And oh man, the corporations are sure giving us the "business" these days.

The media is reporting this morning that Wachovia Corp. lost a staggering $8.9 billion in the second quarter of this year, leading the nation's fourth-largest bank to cut its dividend and slash 6,350 jobs in response to mortgage-related losses.

Look for some kind-hearted politicians to soon be calling for us to "bail out" Wachovia Corporation because after all - what is good for "business" is good for America.

We've all been taught that the "free enterprise system" is the most efficient system, the best system that is available. The market system corrects itself and plows ahead we are told making discussion of any other way of ordering our societies off the table.

* In recent days I've been working hard to get our GN (Space Alert!) newsletter done. This next issue will be larger than usual, 16-pages, and has just been layed out by Selma Sternlieb who lives in nearby Brunswick and volunteered her time to do the job. It's a huge task and many thanks to Selma. Next it goes to the printer and then to the mailing house. If you are not on our mailing list, and would like to receive a copy of the newsletter, drop me a line right away with your mailing address.

* We did a window washing spree here at the Addams-Melman House this morning. Mary Beth, Karen and I all took two hours to do the zillions of windows in our big community house. I was on the ladder outside and MB and Karen on the inside. Tomorrow we will be up in the attic making some space for our good friend Maureen Block who will join our intentional community in mid-August. Maureen now lives north of here in Lincolnville and is an artist, a strong activist, a gardener, and a true great mystical soul. She will be a wonderful addition to the community.

* We've been eating squash (zucchini and yellow) the last couple of nights as our garden is now popping with it.....cucumbers are next. Of course, I will keep you posted.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


* Worthy of note that the Air Force Times just came out with a story about escalating bombing over Afghanistan. They say that "For the first half of 2008, aircraft dropped 1,853 bombs — more than they released during all of 2006 and more than half of 2007’s total — 3,572 bombs."

* Speaking of Afghanistan (America's forgotten other war) Sen. Obama arrived there yesterday for a visit and accused John McCain of waffling on whether to send more troops to the war zone. Obama has called for another 10,000 troops to be sent to Afghanistan - the right war he calls it.

* Here in Maine the Democratic Party saga continues. They lost their recent appeal to keep Independent Senate candidate Herb Hoffman off the November ballot and are now appealing to the Maine Supreme Court. In a related matter the Maine State Democratic Executive Committee has kicked two anti-war activists (Lu Bauer and David Bright) off the committee for supporting Herb Hoffman's Senate run. Both Bauer and Bright are Kucinich Democrats and could not stomach supporting the Democratic Party Senate candidate Rep. Tom Allen from Portland.

* Our Addams-Melman House mates are all going out into the woods today, on land owned by a friend of ours, to cut down a tree for firewood. Let's hope we don't do any serious damage to life or forest. Wood is getting so expensive that our friend has said she'd donate a tree to us if we cut it down/up. T-i-m-b-e-r!

* Impeachment action nationwide is heating up again as we get closer to the November elections. On July 25 Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is going to get a chance to appear (at last) before the House Judiciary Committee although there is some concern they might try to limit the scope of his testimony. A call has been put out for all hands on deck. Do want you can to throw a log on the fire.

* My Baltimore Orioles (now 2 games under .500) won a thriller last night in extra innings. They came back from a 7 run deficit and won 11-10 in the 10th inning. I turned the game on when they were losing 7-2, went for a walk, and came back to see the score was 9-9. Very tough on the heart.

Friday, July 18, 2008


I had a phone call from a friend in Maine yesterday. He was very upset about the recent passage of the FISA surveillance bill in the Senate and wanted to know what should be done about it. He cares very much about civil liberties issues. He mentioned that he was disappointed that Obama had voted in favor of the bill.

I listened to him for some time. When I finally spoke I told him that I was losing patience with my progressive friends who keep complaining about how badly the Democrats performed (on Iraq occupation, possible Iran attack, no impeachment hearings, civil liberties, etc) and then turn right around and vote them back into office without a mumbling word.

He acknowledged that he, like many, has donated to Obama and volunteered for his campaign. He said he fears that John McCain would be a dangerous president - after all just look what McCain had said when he spoke at the recent AIPAC convention........

I told my friend that in the end the right to vote is a sacred thing. We each must be free to do what we have to do and friends must remain friends. But with that said I told him I needed to tell him a story.

I voted for Jimmy Carter when he ran for president (1977-1981) largely because of his statement during his campaign that the "arms race was a disgrace to the human race." Then he went and built the huge Trident nuclear submarine base in St. Marys, Georgia right on the Florida-Georgia border. I spent many days and nights protesting at this base in the years thereafter.

I told my friend that after the Vietnam War the American people were suffering from the "Vietnam syndrome" which meant the people were not eager for any more "foreign entangling alliances". David Rockefeller at the Trilateral Commission sent the executive director of that high-brow organization, Zbignew Brzezinski, out to find a fresh face, someone who could offer "change" to the public. He recruited Jimmy Carter, the unknown Georgia governor and peanut farmer, to run for president. With the support of this hidden elite Carter became president. I fell for the trap. Brzezinski became Carter's national security adviser and is the one who helped us arm the Taliban in Afghanistan so they could give the former Soviet Union their own version of a Vietnam quagmire. The U.S. has now built six permanent military bases in Afghanistan.

Zbignew Brzezinski went on to write a book called The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives that was published in the late 1980's or early 1990's. In this book Brzezinski talks about the importance of the Middle East and Central Asia because of their vast supplies of oil and natural gas. He says, "... But in the meantime, it is imperative that no Eurasian challenger emerges, capable of dominating Eurasia and thus of also challenging America. The formulation of a comprehensive and integrated Eurasian geostrategy is therefore the purpose of this book.”

He continues, "In that context, how America 'manages' Eurasia is critical. Eurasia is the globe's largest continent and is geopolitically axial. A power that dominates Eurasia would control two of the world's three most advanced and economically productive regions. A mere glance at the map also suggests that control over Eurasia would almost automatically entail Africa's subordination, rendering the Western Hemisphere and Oceania geopolitically peripheral to the world's central continent. About 75% of the world's people live in Eurasia, and most of the world's physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. Eurasia accounts for 60% of the world's GNP and about three-fourths of the world's known energy resources."

How though, Brzezinski asks, will we be able to convince the American people to expend the enormous amount of money it would take to secure Eurasia on behalf of the American corporate empire? How can we talk the American people into giving up their favorite social programs (Medicare and Social Security) so that permanent bases can be established in this region in order to control the extraction of resources?

He answers the question by saying, "Moreover, as America becomes an increasingly multi-cultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat."

Translation - terrorism. The war on terror. Endless war to protect us from the dark, hard to find, cave dwelling forces of evil.

Today the American people are beginning to suffer from the Iraq and Afghanistan syndrome. Since 2001 we have been in a perpetual state of war which has been supported by both the Republicans and Democrats. How can we ever convince the American people to press on, to keep our feet in "Eurasia" when they have begun to show such a proclivity to tire of these foreign entanglements?

A new fresh face is needed.

I recently read an interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski that was published in a British progressive journal. In the interview Brzezinski, who is now one of Obama's chief foreign policy advisers, brags that he had early on "vetted" the potential presidential candidate and was quite certain that he was the right man for the job at hand.

The official definition of the word vetted: to evaluate for possible approval or acceptance.

I told my friend that the fresh face of change was a facade. A false, superficial, or artificial appearance. A trick. A lie. A humiliation.

I told my friend that I cannot spend my life doing the work I do and then turn around and betray my own being by voting for someone that I know in my heart is pulling a fast one on us - pulling the wool over our eyes.

The great black abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass said it back in the 1880's. "I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


This report covers the period of July 9-13 as I traveled to Chicago, Illinois to attend the Green Party national convention. I had two purposes for attending this event - the first was to present the work of the Global Network in two different workshops I was invited to speak at. The second reason was more personal, I intended to be a participant in the convention proceedings. This report is intended to cover the Global Network related portion of the trip.

The Greens have long shown an interest in our work to prevent the nuclearization and weaponization of space. During campaigns in 1989, 1990 and 1997 to stop NASA launches of deadly plutonium-238 into space, various local and state Greens have been very involved in helping us with those efforts.

The proposed Green Party platform for 2008 carried a section called "De-Militarization of Outer Space" and stated among other things that "We oppose militarization of space in any form. We reject the U.S. argument that it needs to militarize space to protect its satellites." Another line in the platform reads, "We oppose testing and deploying anti-satellite weapons (ASATS) from the land or the air."

The first workshop I presented in was called "The Role of the Peace Movement in an Election Year" and was sponsored by the Peace Action Committee (GPAX) of the Greens. In the program's workshop description it stated that speakers would address the current "state of the peace movement" and what the role of GPAX should be in the national movement. I began my talk by saying that I felt the peace movement was now overworked, over stressed, focused by necessity on Iraq (and coming Iran), and needed to provide a positive alternative vision of the future. I told the story about Col. Suminsby from Kirtland AFB in New Mexico who publicly stated last April that "If left unchecked, the growth of spending on Social Security and Medicare will eventually crush the defense budget." This got quite a laugh from those in the packed room. But I told them we should take these comments seriously as the Air Force was now campaigning nationally to convince the American people to support serious cutbacks in "entitlement programs". We must directly connect militarism to the growing attacks on social progress.

I shared that it was crucial that people in the peace movement, now working to put out fires in Iraq, Afghanistan, and/or Iran, must begin to learn about and share how space technology plays a key role "enabling the war fighter," as space satellites now coordinate all warfare on Earth. These very expensive space technology programs, all tremendously over budget, are the very reason that the Air Force is taking a leading role in convincing the public that we have to cut social programs in order to pay for the high-tech weapons programs of the future.

This contradiction between guns and butter must become a greater part of our articulation as we do our peace work.

The second workshop was one that I lead called "Endless War and the Military-Industrial-Governmental Complex" and Mike DeRosa from Connecticut was a co-presenter. I asked friend and songwriter Tom Neilson to share a song to start this workshop.

I began my remarks with a story about Thomas Barnett, the former Naval War College instructor, who wrote the book entitled "The Pentagon's New Map." I've seen Barnett several times over recent years speaking on C-SPAN about how we in the U.S. won't have jobs to make cars, shoes, steel, TV's and the like anymore. Our role under corporate globalization Barnett says will be "security export" - endless war. This truth, when related to the quote above from Col. Suminsby, to me stands as ample evidence that the corporate powers that control our nation have decided that our job in the next century will be to supply the weapons and troops that enable the multi-national corporations to grab the oil, the water, and control the labor of the world to their benefit. Thus Barnett's vision is endless spending for endless war.

On the last day of the convention in Chicago I was asked to stand before the National Committee (NC) to give a brief report on my recent trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil where I spoke at the Global Greens Congress. I reminded the NC that the Sao Paulo event was about climate change and that I was specifically invited to make the connections between climate change and militarism - in fact I was virtually the only person at the event who addressed the issue of the military and the global war machine. I told the NC that I had called for the conversion of the military industrial complex in my speech if we ever hoped to have the funds in any country to effectively deal with the coming enormous impacts of global warming. I told them I had also called for the Greens in the Czech Republic and Europe to organize to reject the proposed U.S. "missile defense" deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic which are now leading to a new arms race and cold war in Europe. I explained to the NC that the Czech Greens hold four seats in the evenly divided parliament in their country and that they will essentially be the deciding votes when their assembly takes their formal vote on the recent agreement signed by Condi Rice and the Czech foreign minister. I told the NC that it now appears that the Greens in the Czech Republic government were split on the issue - despite the fact that their grassroots membership is adamantly against the deployment. I said that this is an important example to all of us that just taking power is not the whole story. Political parties must, I told the NC, just as I had earlier said in Sao Paulo, stand for what is right and not give way to the fleeting appeal of power and horse trading. All of us must hold our leaders, no matter which party we might belong to, accountable. Just because the "good guys" get into power does not mean they will not sell their constituencies down the river if given half the chance.

It would be nice to be invited by the Republicans, Democrats or Libertarians to do a workshop on issues of concern to the Global Network at their national conventions. Sadly though this is not likely to happen anytime soon. In fact the Republicans and Democrats are working hard to have local police deny peace protest permits in their respective convention cities in coming months. Police are trying to set up "free speech zones" for the containment of protests - like cages for animals in a zoo. Court challenges are being filed in hopes that adherence to democratic principles will in the end prevail.

We live at a time where democracy is being drowned by the domination of the corporate agenda.

We must not surrender our spirit to this destruction of freedom. We must press on with more determination than ever.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Finally I've just arrived home. The long trek to Chicago and back is over. I pulled into Boston on the train at 10:00 pm last night and Mary Beth (MB) was there to meet me. My Maine traveling mates continued on back to Portland but MB and I stayed at her brother's home in Boston last night so that we could attend the funeral for her dear Aunt Ruth who passed away just days ago.

MB has a huge Irish Catholic family in the Boston area and Ruth was always more than welcoming to me when I attended weddings, funerals, and the holiday parties that drew the loud and joyous family together. The service in the church today was especially meaningful for me as my own mother, also named Ruth, died just months ago in Las Vegas and due to the fact that my family is largely broken and dysfunctional, my mom preferred not to have any formal services and instead was cremated in what was a sad and lonely end to her life.

We took a bus today from Boston all the way home to Bath. It feels good to find ways to travel these days by bus and train - token gestures to help deal with rapidly escalating climate change whose impacts are being seen worldwide by those with open eyes and open hearts. Those of us with children of our own, who believe in preserving life on our Mother Earth so our kids can actually have a future, must do these things to change the way we travel and live. We are trying our best to step outside that constricting box that keeps us locked in the status quo.

Once home the first thing I wanted to do, after petting our dogs Red and Seamus, was to go out and see the progress of our garden. The tomato plants are getting so tall and wild and baby tomatoes are popping to life - late in most places but this is Maine where gardening doesn't get going until the end of April. The peas are now in full production, the pole beans and lettuce are yielding abundantly, the basil ready to swim in my next pasta sauce, and the beet greens and kale more than ready for eating. The squash plants are taking over their allotted areas in the garden and I can't wait to be out there in the morning pulling weeds and thinning where needed.

What I need most now is a week at a beach, walking over some hills and through the woods, reading while lounging on a comfortable porch chair and falling asleep as the book falls into my lap. But this will not yet be possible as the Space Alert! newsletter beckons me and a week's worth of mail waits to be opened and dealt with. I still must write a trip report as well.

I don't want to sound like I am complaining. I know I am very lucky that I get to travel and attend events and speak to groups. But I also am a home body - I love to be home to cook and help clean the house and to do the mundane things that make life what it is. After many years of hectic travel it always feels good to say - I am home again.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


The Greens chose Cynthia McKinney on the first ballot today in Chicago to be the party presidential nominee. Cynthia then nominated Rosa Clemente to be her running mate who was quickly approved by near unanimous acclaim.

Born and raised in the South Bronx she is a graduate of the University of Albany and Cornell University. Clemente is a highly regarded commentator, political activist, community organizer, Hip-Hop activist, and independent reporter.

Chuck D of Public Enemy says that Clemente "is one of this generations' most important political voices and community organizers."

In her acceptance speech McKinney defined winning as setting a goal to garner 5% of the national vote which would give the Green Party major party status on the national level. McKinney made it clear that her run for president is all about building an alternative to the two war parties. The corporate parties have to flip-flop on the issues she said "because they have to appear to agree" with our progressive values while they then do the bidding of the corporations who pay their freight.

Maine delegates gave McKinney the 5th most votes of any state during the first round of balloting. Only New York, Illinois, California, and Wisconsin gave her more presidential delegate votes.

Ralph Nader came in a distant second in the presidential balloting which indicated that while people still respect him, his day of gaining the ballot lines via the Green Party across the nation are over. At this point McKinney will be on the ballot in at least 25 states across the nation next November . Greens in other states are still attempting to cross the enormously difficult ballot status barriers that keep the Republicans and Democrats from being challenged.

Just after the nomination process concluded 2004 Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb made a rousing introduction speech of McKinney. It was Cobb, and the Green Party, that challenged the well-documented vote fraud in Ohio in 2004 that put Bush in the White House again. While John Kerry, and the Democratic Party, violated their promise to "fight for every vote" it fell to the Greens to file the legal challenge to protect disenfranchised voters in Ohio.

Before McKinney's acceptance speech, a video was played on the huge screen above the stage in the Chicago Symphony Center with John Lennon singing his song "Power to the People." McKinney has adopted that slogan as her campaign theme and it brought tears to me eyes to see her dancing on the stage during the Lennon song.

I felt that it was a moment of liberation for McKinney and the Green Party. McKinney was free of the restraints that come from being a "good" Democratic Party elected official where you are expected to toe the party line and not challenge the party orthodoxy. Now McKinney is free to be herself - to speak truth to power as she so effectively does. In fact on the podium, as McKinney spoke, was a sign that read TRUTH.

With the nomination of McKinney and Clemente the Green Party is now free to become the real radical alternative party that it should be - radical in the sense of "getting to the roots" of the issues at hand and building the political base to make the needed changes. The Green Party took a huge step today in the creation of a multi-ethnic party with leadership from black and Latino communities. This is a must as we look at the coming demographic changes in America. There will be no progressive movement in America without active leadership from people of color working alongside of progressive white activists.

To say the least it was refreshing.

I've been a McKinney watcher for years as she was one of the key voices in the Congress who time and again spoke on behalf of "the people". McKinney has been run out of office twice by the power structure and vilified by the corporate media for having the audacity to speak against war and corporate domination. I am sure her nomination will be greeted with scorn by the corporate masters.

For me today was a revolutionary moment. Since working on the Jesse Jackson presidential campaign in 1984, and seeing the hope of a "Rainbow coalition" whither away, I've thirsted for the coming together of the movements. Today's event clearly indicated the enormous possibilities that exist for revolutionary peace, social justice, and ecological organizing in the U.S. if people are willing to step into this historic moment.

The change we all long for will not come from the Democratic Party. A new positive and earth shaking train has just left the station. The question remains will people who see themselves as progressive have the wisdom to get on-board and not be left behind sorting through the crumbs left behind by the corporate parties.

Friday, July 11, 2008


I don't like big cities much any more but I must say that Chicago is quite a nice place. There are alot of trees, people have been very friendly and helpful, and the neighborhoods have a real character to them. The elevated subway as the feel of a beach boardwalk.

Several of us from Maine who took the train to get here are staying in a hostel. The Green Party convention is being held downtown in the fancy Palmer Hotel. I did two workshops today and had a good number of folks in each one. Musician friend Tom Neilson played a song to start each workshop - one of them he just wrote for the occasion.

A debate was held this evening amongst the four Green Party candidates for president. Cynthia McKinney really stood out and her previous experience in Congress showed as did her strength and straight forwardness. The votes will be taken on Saturday for the nomination. McKinney is expected to carry the nomination. The party seems pretty unified.

No signs of fights or major contention so far.

It is quite refreshing to be in an environment where there is total agreement that Obama is tacking toward the right and ain't swinging back. No one here to say that we just have to swallow hard and vote for the "necessary evil."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Condi Rice clinks glasses with Czech Foreign Affairs Minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, in Prague yesterday as they signed the agreement to deploy the U.S. Star Wars radar in the Czech Republic.

Five thousand people were on the streets yesterday in Prague protesting the plan that will certainly be the match to light a new arms race between Russia and the U.S. in Europe. The Russians were not at all happy with the announcement which they know is a key component of the U.S. first-strike system now being put in place near their borders. (Imagine how the U.S. would be reacting if Russian "missile defense" systems were now being deployed in Canada and Mexico.)

The radar agreement must next be ratified by the Czech Parliament which is evenly divided on the issue. The Green Party, with four seats in the ruling conservative government alliance, will essentially have the deciding vote. Last we heard the Greens were split 2-2 on the question which could very well ensure passage.

With that in mind I am sitting in the Boston Amtrak station waiting for my train to Chicago. I will be doing two workshops on space issues at the Green Party convention which begins on Thursday and runs through the weekend. I will be sure to mention the sad reality of the Czech Greens complicity in the radar controversy.

Activists in the Czech Republic, who have organized an impressive campaign of opposition to the radar deployment, vow to continue on and are now organizing a Europe-wide conference in Prague later this month to further their resistance.

Mary Beth was planning to attend the Chicago convention as well but has to remain in Boston as one of her relatives is near death and the family is now standing vigil by her side.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


I interviewed Herb Hoffman this morning at a coffee shop in Brunswick about his Independent campaign for the U.S. Senate seat representing Maine. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rep. Tom Allen (D-ME) are the other candidates in Maine for that seat.

I've previously reported on this blog that the Maine Democratic Party has challenged Hoffman's 4,000 signatures that he was required to gather to get his name on the ballot. After witnessing the Maine Secretary of State deny the Dems challenge and give Hoffman the go-ahead to be on the ballot, the Democratic Party has now appealed that ruling to the Maine Law Court. Herb told me that the court will hear the case this Thursday and I can't imagine the court not honoring the decision by the Secretary of State to authorize ballot status for Hoffman. Portland Attorney John Branson is representing Herb pro bono to defend his right to be on the ballot in November. John is a long-time highly respected Democratic Party activist in Maine - but he is also a peace activist and an honest man.

I asked Herb why the Dems were working so hard to put him through so many hoops. His response included these points:

  • The Dems wish to bleed him financially
  • They are trying to intimidate him
  • They want to tie him up in court so he won't have any time to campaign

Herb said, "I think they have made a strategic error. I could never have gotten the kind of media coverage that I have if they had not challenged my ballot status."

Herb told me that over the past few months Tom Allen had been working hard to get him to drop out of the race. Several times Rep. Allen, and members of his staff, have called Hoffman supporters and urged them to convince Herb to quit the campaign. In one case, Tom Allen called a mutual friend of both men and tried to get this person to talk Herb into not filing his petitions with the state. When it was clear that this strategy was not working, the Democrats began to play hard ball by challenging the validity of the signatures.

Tom Allen also requested a couple of times that Herb meet with him personally at his Portland office. While there Rep. Allen admitted to Herb that he had not listened closely enough to the concerns of Maine's anti-war community. He offered Herb a position in his campaign if he would quit the race, re-register as a Democrat, and become his "bridge" to the peace community. Herb declined the offer.

This is a fascinating story to me because it fully illustrates how politicians take voters in the peace community for granted. In the case of Tom Allen he has played the peace community like a fiddle for years - always promising that "I am almost there" on issues like cutting funding for the Iraq occupation at the very time that he kept voting for war appropriations over and over again. It was only in the last two votes that he has finally begun to vote against war funding as it became clear that he would probably lose the Senate race.

Just recently Tom Allen decided to co-sponsor the Iran resolution in the House of Representatives that gives Bush the authority to put a military blockade around Iran which would clearly be the first-step in a likely U.S. attack. When a woman recently challenged Rep. Allen on this at one of his campaign appearances he denied being in favor of a military blockade.

When I was a kid in grade school we were taught that America had the greatest democracy in the world. We were told that we were better than the rest of the world because people in our country were free to stand for election and not suffer intimidation and reprisals like we see in totalitarian countries. All of these "freedoms" were enshrined, we were taught, in our Constitution - the greatest document in the history of the world.

Today, as people try to practice real democracy in America, we learn it is a different story. Those with money and power want to keep it. People who wish to challenge the existing two-party monopoly, which has a strangle hold on our nation, are given one hurdle after the other to jump over.

It should not be so. Put all the names on the ballot and let the public decide who wins. That is the way democracy is supposed to work.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Condi Rice lands in the Czech Republic early this coming week to sign the agreement between the U.S. and the Czech government to allow the Star Wars radar deployment there. In recent days, throughout Europe, activists have been holding vigils at U.S. and Czech embassies to protest the deployment. The Polish side of the "missile defense" deployments, once a slam dunk for Bush, has now fallen on hard times. The growing anti-Star Wars fever in Europe is having an impact.

I finished the book JFK and the Unspeakable while on the train ride home from Florida. This is a must read must get it, read it, and tell others about it. It's like reading history, a mystery story, and a moral lesson all in one. I will have to write more about it soon.

Mary Beth and I get back on the train this coming Wednesday for a trip to Chicago where we will each be doing workshops at the national Green Party Convention. It will also be exciting to witness the presidential nomination of Cynthia McKinney, former Democratic party congresswoman from Atlanta, Georgia. On my free time I will be volunteering for her campaign. If you have not yet watched her award winning documentary video called American Blackout about the stolen elections of 2000 and 2004 then you should see it and share it with others.

Speaking of Democrats and elections, the controversy here in Maine is heating up as Rep Tom Allen (D-ME) continues to get the Maine Democratic party to try to keep Independent candidate Herb Hoffman off the ballot. Allen is running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Hoffman has successfully collected over 4,000 signatures to get himself on the ballot in that race. The Dems though contested Hoffman's signatures claiming they were invalid but state authorities ruled they were acceptable. Fearing electoral competition the Dems have now challenged the state ruling and are taking the matter to court in their attempt to block the electoral process. The Dems are showing Maine voters how they can play the same corrupt games to subvert free and fair elections that the Republicans are famous for.

While on the way home from Florida, changing trains in New York City, I picked up the Washington Post newspaper and had to laugh (and cry) when I read the front page headline Obama May Consider Slowing Iraq Withdrawal. It's starting to be like a joke - each day lately Obama has been backing away from an earlier campaign position as he swings hard to the right. But his backing away from Iraq, supposedly his signature issue, underlies the reality that Obama is proving to be like any other political hack. Maybe when he says he is for change he means that he promises to change his positions to match those of John McCain.

Try to stay sane as you watch all this nonsense develop.

Friday, July 04, 2008


Thursday, July 03, 2008


Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Here in north Florida you will find lots of Spanish moss hanging from the trees - especially the old oak and pecan trees. It is a haunting and beautiful site and in the winter, when the trees have shed their leaves, the moss is even more spectacular.

The memorial service for Peg McIntire on Monday night was attended by a couple hundred people from all over. The pot luck supper, with lots of pasta, had a line a mile long and there were more desserts than anyone would want to imagine. Lots of her favorite red wine too.

During the program Mary Beth and I were invited to speak about Peg. I concluded by saying that Peg did more to stretch herself outside her normal boundaries - her box - than anyone else I have ever known. I urged everyone to honor Peg by thinking about how they could push beyond their usual boundaries. Some of St. Augustine's best musicians also sang Peg's favorite songs. The whole event, held on the beach at the covered city pier, was a moving experience. We saw a couple young people who had years ago attended the summer youth peace camps I organized while working for the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice. One of the young women, Cara Jennings, is now an elected city council member in Lake Worth, Florida.

We are staying in Peg's condo on the beach and hanging out with Peg's son Jo and his wife Sali. They are both active in Cuba solidarity work and have over the years organized many delegations of people to go to the forbidden island. Sali told us they mostly take Republicans from St. Augustine who have come back and become advocates for an end to the economic blockade of Cuba.

We head back to Maine on the train, leaving from Jacksonville, on Thursday afternoon. We'll arrive in Boston and pick up our car and drive home. During the July 4th weekend our town of Bath will hold their Heritage Days celebration so we will be in the park at those events gathering signatures opposing Maine's participation in the Homeland Security program called "Real ID."