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

Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Obama's choice of Steven Chu as Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE) looks to be a mixed blessing.

Nuclear Watch of New Mexico reports that "Chu comes to the cabinet from the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California [a major nuclear weapons development site], where much of his research was on renewable energy. His selection could signal big changes in how the US uses science to tackle the challenge of national energy independence. DOE spends around $6.6 billion a year on nuclear weapons research and production -- compared to about $4.6 billion on applied energy research and $4.7 billion on basic science. With tight budgets and new priorities, science could now finally be favored over weapons."

Emphasis, I'd suggest, on the word "could".

Journalism professor Karl Grossman was a co-founder of the Global Network in 1992. His expertise has always been in the field of nuclear energy and recently Karl wrote an extensive piece on the Chu appointment.

In the article Karl writes, "Although he has a keen interest in energy efficiency and solar power and other clean forms of renewable energy, Chu is a staunch advocate of nuclear power."

“Nuclear has to be a necessary part of the portfolio,” declared Chu, the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, at an economic gathering last March in Palo Alto, California organized by Stanford University.”

Grossman then calls on two leading anti-nuclear power activists for their views on the Chu appointment.

Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project of Beyond Nuclear, asks whether Chu “can afford to squander his commitment to renewables by pouring all these resources down the nuclear rat hole. You can’t have both worlds—particularly in the economic depression we’re sliding into. We’re at a crossroads and we have to make definitive choices.” Gunter says it’s “time to leave 20th century mistakes” such as nuclear power “behind and commit to renewables.”

“He’s really big on efficiency and renewables,” says Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, of Chu. But he is “looking at nuclear as well. He and President-elect Obama are not anti-nuclear, and not perhaps as versed on it as they should be.” Mariotte has a major concern that “they will accede to demands to fund nuclear power made by Congress”—awash in contributions from the nuclear power industry and with many members loyal to the national nuclear laboratories in their districts.

These will be tough questions for Obama, Chu, and the Congress to answer. Invest diminishing national resources in "green technology" job creation or waste mountains of cash on the nuclear mess? This will be another area where splitting the baby in half, a prime Obama tendency, will be a fatal mistake.

And still the problem remains, what does the nation do with nuclear waste? Would you like it stored in your backyard?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


The Israeli attack on Gaza is getting personal for me.

In 1966 while visiting my mothers family in Connecticut my Italian grandfather took me into the dining room and opened a chest of drawers. He took a bag from the chest and handed it to me and said, "These have been in the family for generations. I want you to have them." Inside the bag were a bunch of old hand-knitted yarmulkes. It was then that I learned that his family, back in Italy, had been Jewish. At some point the family had hidden this fact and become "Northern Baptists" as a way to fit into American culture.

You can imagine my surprise at 14 years-old to learn this story. No one had ever spoken a word about this to me or anyone else. My grandfather said nothing else about the subject. My mother would not even comment on the matter until she was near death just this past year when she finally admitted the truth. Somewhere along the way she had taken the bag of yarmulkes and hidden or destroyed them. I've never seen them since about 1970.

When the 1967 Arab-Israeli six-day war began I wanted to go fight for Israel. I began to read everything I could about the history of the Jewish people. I wanted to make up for lost time.

While going to school at the University of Florida some years later I got a part-time job working for a disabled woman. She was writing a book on the many forms of genocide and one day she had me go to the library and copy a page from a book. This particular page was a table called "The Caloric Reduction Intake Schedule," one of Hitler's occupation Army documents from the Warsaw, Poland Jewish ghetto. Hitler had a plan to reduce the amount of food that the Jews inside the ghetto would eat over a period of time knowing it would cause their premature death. Another form of genocide. I was stunned as I copied the page. Pure evil it was.

In the 1990's, while coordinating the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice, at that time based in Orlando, I got a phone call from the Jewish Federation Board of Directors asking me to come to their next meeting. I had no clue what they wanted. When I arrived they had me stand at a podium in front of about a dozen board members sitting behind the dais. The chairman began to yell at me telling me that the federation would never donate to the Florida Coalition again because I ran an article in the last edition of our newsletter, Just Peace, that was sympathetic to the cause of the Palestinian people. I let him rave on and didn't say a word until he was finished. Then I calmly told him that in fact the Jewish Federation had never given the Florida Coalition a single penny and that we had always furnished the newsletter to them as a courtesy. I also told him that many of our members across the state wanted peace in the Middle East and were committed to fair treatment and justice for the Palestinian people and that position was not going to change. At that point I was escorted out of the room to shouts from the chair.

As I look at the news I see that 370 Palestinians have been killed during the last few days of Israeli bombing, unknown hundreds have been wounded. I also heard that six Israeli citizens have been killed by rockets fired by Palestinians.

I also see that recent Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney is aboard the 60-foot, pleasure boat called Dignity that was rammed earlier today by Israeli naval vessels. The Dignity was attempting to bring medical volunteers and supplies to Gaza. Those on the boat included the crew and 16 passengers -- physicians from Britain, Germany and Cyprus and human rights activists. The Dignity was severely damaged in the attack.

"I would call it ramming. Let's just call it as it is," McKinney told CNN. "Our boat was rammed three times, twice in the front and one on the side. Our mission was a peaceful mission to deliver medical supplies and our mission was thwarted by the Israelis -- the aggressiveness of the Israeli military," she said.

Throughout my years as a peace activist there has always been pressure excerpted on our movement to stay away from the Palestinian issue. While many Jewish Americans in the peace movement show great courage and work to oppose Israel's heavy-hand against the Palestinians, many influential Jewish citizens make it their job to block any real organizing to criticize Israel and to stop efforts by the peace movement to show any solidarity with the Palestinian people or to cut U.S. military aid to Israel.

I have come to believe that Israel's Palestinian policy is genocidal. When we see Israel blocking food and medical shipments into Gaza it is clear that they know this will lead to the premature deaths of many people who live there. The constant state of war on the Palestinian people is an attempt to destroy their culture and shorten the life spans of the people. When I see the pain and suffering in the eyes of the Palestinian people I see the American Indians. Gaza is an Indian reservation. The Indians had bows and arrows to stand up against the U.S. cavalry's cannons and repeating rifles. The people in Gaza fire wayward rockets and Israel uses state-of-the-art U.S. military high-tech weapons systems. It's David vs Goliath.

The Israeli military has created a two-mile war cordon along the Gaza border and their commanders say that a ground force invasion is now a distinct possibility. The international media reports their access to Gaza is being closed off.

We know Bush will remain silent. In her CNN interview Cynthia McKinney calls on Obama to make a statement. But he is playing golf and body surfing in Hawaii and will likely also remain silent. Most American people remain silent as well because they know that to speak out on behalf of the Palestinian people means they will often be accused of being anti-Semitic.

But it is not anti-Semitic to say Israel has lost its soul. It is not wrong to stand up and say stop the genocide of the Palestinian people.

Monday, December 29, 2008


Rioting and unrest hit Greece after the police shooting of a 15-year-old boy in Athens on December 6. Most of the clashes have occurred in university cities and have involved students. By December 11 thousands of students were joined by striking workers. The uprising mirrors growing discontent among youths in many European countries over outdated education systems, lack of jobs, increased militarization, and a general apprehension about the future.

Many of the student protests were non-violent but then began turning to violence when it appeared that youths not associated with the students became involved. One protest leader, Zoé Kazakis an economics student in Athens, told the media, "We're overwhelmed by weirdos, guys who are not students and who act violently during our protests. They're the ones who throw marble blocks on the police and firemen. This morning, I went to the Polytechnic school, where the protests started. There were no more students there, but weird guys setting fire to things. When I asked them who they were, they told me to get lost. I wonder who those rioters are. I even wonder whether they haven't been paid by the government to make the protests get out of hand. We students are non-violent, we marched alongside our teachers; my parents and grandparents will join us tomorrow in the street during the nationwide general strike."

We've been hearing this story many times in recent years. Well intentioned non-violent protests suddenly are turned into violent events by unknown participants. I personally witnessed this in Minneapolis at the Republican National Convention late last summer. Often, long after the events are over, we learn that police agents had indeed been used to help provoke violence in order to publicly discredit the message of those protesting. The "violence" then gives the power structure the excuse to crack down hard on future protests.

In Greece something else quite wonderful has come out of these protests. Hundreds of Greek soldiers from 42 Army camps have issued a statement called: We Refuse to Become a Force of Terror & Repression Against the Mobilization; We Support the Struggle of School/University Students & the Workers.

The soldiers statement continues: "We hear that Athens, Thessaloniki & an ever-increasing number of cities in Greece become fields of social unrest, fields where the outrage of thousands of youths, workers & unemployed is played out.

"We hear whispers & insinuations from the army officials, we heard the government's threat, made public, about the imposition of an 'alarm state.' We know very well what this means. We live it through intensification [of work], increased [army] duties, extreme conditions with one finger on the trigger.

"The political & military leadership forgets that we're part of that same youth.


"We won't accept becoming complimentary tools of fear which some attempt to instill over society as a scarecrow. We won't accept becoming a force of repression & terror. We won't stand against people whom we share that same fears, needs & desires/common future, perils & hopes with.


"As a youth in uniform, we express our solidarity with the people who're fighting & we scream that we won't become pawns of the police-state & of state repression. We'll never stand against our own people. We won't allow the imposition of a situation in the army corps that will be bringing to mind 'days of 1967' [when the Greek army had his last coup d' etat]."

Such words of solidarity from soldiers can only happen when you have a generation of young people (they still have a draft in Greece) who know their history and have a political consciousness.

Their example both inspires and gives hope that in some places around the world there is a rising against this ever growing militarism that wishes to subjugate the people under authoritarian rule.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


This message came in last night from the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom, "Just before we send this out we participated in a near spontaneous protest against the bloodbath on Gaza. At least a thousand activists got together after frantic use of email, phone and sms and held a march through the streets of Tel Aviv, harassed by mounted police (5 young activists got arrested), culminating in a rally outside the Defence Ministry gates. Olmert was holding there his warlike press conference."

In a similar solidarity message from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation they report, "While the scope of civilian casualties in today's attacks [Dec 27] is not yet clear, it is unmistakable that Israel carried out these attacks with F-16 fighter jets and missiles provided by the taxpayers of this country. From 2001-2006, the United States transferred to Israel more than $200 million worth of spare parts to fly its fleet of F16's. In July 2008, the United States gave Israel 186 million gallons of JP-8 aviation jet fuel. Last year, the United States signed a $1.3 billion contract with Raytheon to transfer to Israel thousands of TOW, Hellfire, and 'bunker buster' missiles."

One could say it's not even a fair fight. It comes as no surprise that Hamas, elected by the Palestinian people and never "accepted" by Israel or the US, feels they must defend their people as they are essentially being starved to death and their culture driven into the dust. Again the US Campaign describes it well when they say, "These Israeli attacks come on top of a brutal siege of the Gaza Strip, which has created a humanitarian catastrophe of dire proportions for Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinian residents by restricting the provision of food, fuel, medicine, electricity, and other necessities of life."

The Bush response is to tell Israel not to attack civilians but this is totally disingenuous. The US cares nothing about the Palestinian people and never has.

We are told that the in-coming Obama administration can't comment because "we only have one president at a time" but the Washington Post reports this morning that the president-elect has voiced sympathy for Israel's "predicament". During his visit to Israel last summer, he held a news conference in Sderot, the southern town that has borne the brunt of the Gaza rocket attacks, saying he does not "think any country would find it acceptable to have missiles raining down on the heads of their citizens."

Should the Palestinians find it acceptable to have their land stolen, a huge wall built, with US financial support, separating their remaining broken bits of lands and olive groves, and live under a constant state of siege from a militaristic state fully backed by the US military industrial complex?

I cannot imagine Obama having any chance of changing the Palestinian-Israeli dynamic as long as he remains a captive of AIPAC and the US weapons industry.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Dennis Blair, former four-star Navy admiral, has been selected by Obama to be his Director of National Intelligence (DNI). The DNI is a position that was created after the Sept. 11 attacks to improve coordination among the 16 agencies that comprise the U.S. intelligence community.

Blair served as head of the Pentagon's Pacific Command (CINCPAC) while in the Navy and is likely to face questions about his role in maintaining U.S. ties with Indonesia's military during a period in which it engaged in human rights violations, and about his corporate ties to a company involved in the F-22 Raptor program. There are also members of Congress who remain uncomfortable with giving the top intelligence job, with its range of priorities, to a former military officer.

Blair, who has had stints with the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA), would be the third recently retired four-star officer nominated by Obama for a top post, an unusual trend for a Democratic administration and one that has surprised both political camps. Former Marine Gen. James L. Jones is the nominee for National Security Adviser, and former Army chief of staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki has been tapped as Secretary of the Veterans Administration.

Blair, a 34-year Navy veteran, helped turn the Joint Intelligence Center in Hawaii into the largest such center in the world. After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, he led an interagency effort to identify, capture or kill members of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in the Philippines. He organized a team of special operations forces and CIA agents that worked closely with the Philippine army on tactical operations.

After retirement Blair joined the board of directors and owned stock in EDO Corp., then a subcontractor for the F-22 Raptor fighter program. His corporate ties became the subject of a Defense Department probe after IDA issued a study endorsing an EDO contract for the program. The department's inspector general found that Blair had violated IDA's conflict-of-interest rules.

Bradley Simpson, an assistant professor of history and international affairs at Princeton and Director of the Indonesia and East Timor Documentation Project, has written extensively about Blair. In a recent article he outlined Blair’s role in the US-Indonesian military alliance. “For in the period leading up to and following East Timor’s August 1999 referendum on independence from Indonesia, Blair, from his perch as US Commander in Chief of the Pacific (CINCPAC) from February 1999 to May 2000, ran interference for the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) as they and their militia proxies committed crimes against humanity on an awesome scale.”

“He went on to insist that US training of the Indonesian Armed Forces had paid dividends, with ‘many of those officers who did have training and education in the United States … are leading a very strong reform movement within TNI.’ As Dana Priest of the Washington Post later reported, however, fully one third of the Indonesian officers indicted by Indonesia’s national human rights commission for ‘crimes against humanity’ committed in East Timor in 1999 were US trained. The links between US training and TNI terror clearly did not trouble Blair, who spent much of his remaining time as CINCPAC fighting to restore the military ties to his allies in Jakarta that grassroots activists and their Congressional allies had worked since 1992 to sever, finally winning their resumption in 2002.”

“Blair’s apologetics for murder and torture by the Indonesian armed forces in East Timor, and his opposition to trials, international or otherwise, for the high level perpetrators of mass violence, offers a sobering indication of the positions he is likely to take as Director of National Intelligence. President-elect Obama’s choice suggests that he will resist - as Blair almost certainly will - demands for the prosecution of high-ranking Bush Administration officials, much less lower level employees in the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency, for torture, rendition and other crimes carried out in the name of the so-called War on Terror.”

Friday, December 26, 2008


Retiring Illinois Republican Congressman Ray LaHood, a 14-year veteran of the House, has been chosen by Obama to be Secretary of Transportation.

Hood has a lifetime League of Conservation Voters score of 27% on his key environmental issue votes. Except for voting to expand Amtrack last year, and not wanting to see it privatized in Illinois, I have not been able to find any real transportation background that he might have had.

Rep. Hood was the chairman during most of Bill Clinton's impeachment in the House of Representatives a decade ago.

LaHood’s appointment should translate to sales opportunities and benefits for Caterpillar Inc., which is based in his Peoria, Illinois district. Caterpillar is a serious supplier of road building equipment and would stand to make big money from the Obama stimulus package that will put alot dollars into road work.

Brian Imus, director of the public interest group Illinois PIRG, said LaHood would face a difficult task rebuilding "a federal [transportation] system that is truly broke," adding, "It appears as though others with longer, more distinguished resumes were bypassed [for the job of Transportation Secretary]."

Among those LaHood maintained a friendly relationship with over the years is White House chief of staff-designate Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., whose aggressive style infuriated many Republicans but whom LaHood praised publicly for competence and pragmatism.

President-elect Obama should make it a top priority to build a national mass transit network. But early indications are he is talking about rebuilding roads and bridges which are fundamental to the car culture in the U.S. I’ve yet to hear him utter the words mass transportation – but coming from Chicago public mass transit should not be a foreign concept to him.

The Progressive reports that such a major expansion of mass transit would be keeping with his pledge to jolt the economy back to work and to take seriously the crisis of global warming. Economically, a coast-to-coast high-speed rail network would put Americans back to work in big numbers.

In California alone, planners estimate creating nearly 160,000 construction-related jobs to build such a system, with an additional 450,000 permanent jobs by 2035. Overall, the state anticipates more than $1 billion in annual revenue could come from such a rail system.

The University of Mass-Amherst Economics Department study in October, 2007 showed that investing $1 billion of our tax dollars in mass transit production would create 19,795 jobs but if that same $1 billion is instead spent on military production only 8,555 jobs would be created.

Your call - which shall it be? More and wider roads or a national rail system. Speak up now please.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I'd like to wish all my friends and readers a happy holidays and only the best in the coming year. Know that I appreciate that you come and graze in this pasture called Organizing Notes now and then. I hear from some of you and am happy to know that you place some value on this meager blog. God knows I love selecting the photos (if you only knew how much fun that is), writing the bits and correcting the bad grammar and punctuation after I've posted them (thanks to the few of you who send me notes tipping me off to my mistakes), and then hearing from you that you've learned something from my ramblings on occasion.

It's kind of like a community gathering spot - long distance - where friends can come and visit and check in.

It's been a tough year, a hard eight years of Bush-Cheney, and my feet are sore from it all. I feel like taking off my shoes and flinging them at someone. I am in complete harmony with my friends at who are pushing for the prosecution of the Bush pirate team. Go get em!

But with that said, I am also feeling like a dog with a bone when it comes to making sure we are on the case when Obama swears in on January 20. Not soon after his inauguration the Congress will begin working on the next fiscal year budget and I will be one of those demanding that we cut the damn Pentagon budget that now, in reality, is running at $1 trillion a year. People are hurting out here in the real world and we need to get off the dime!

MB has been helping the Good Samaritan Club at her neighborhood church this winter. They raise money and give it to poor folks to help them heat their homes, keep from getting evicted, and recently have been giving money and gifts to people so they can provide their kids with a few Christmas presents. MB told us recently that the majority of the children in the city of Bath qualify for free lunch at school, which means their families are poverty level. And we need to "rebuild the military"? Bullshit, please excuse my French.

It's a hard time for people here in Maine. The state will cut $140 million from their budget by next June. Education and poor people's health care will feel the most cuts. Then in the next two years the state will slash $800 million more and Maine will begin to look like a Third World country. This is our future I am sad to say. It really pisses me off as I see the Republicans in Maine cheering as our compliant Democratic governor swings the sharp axe. It's like frick and frack. You can hear the politicians saying, "We feel bad but we have to do this....." It reminds me of a paddling in elementary school. You are trying to figure out what you did that deserved four big whacks.

What's an organizer to do? I keep trying to do my bit by organizing locally, statewide, nationally, and internationally. I do my cable TV show, I do a radio show with a good friend, and I write letters to the editor as often as possible. But we are sliding down the hill and there is a pit of vipers waiting for us when we land head first in their nest.

What keeps me going is knowing that I am not alone. I know that all over there are good folks working hard, doing their best to be living examples that humanity is not all a bunch of greedy war making thieves. And to each of you that give of yourself I bow and thank you for your grace, your kind hearts, and your gentle spirits. I thank you for your inspiration and your friendship. You are the stars in the dark night.

As they say in the commercials, this blogs for you.

Peace dear ones.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Fundamentalist pastor Rick Warren is in the news. Obama has picked Warren to give the opening prayer before a world audience on his inauguration day.

Warren has a big church in Southern California and was active in his state's recent referendum (Proposition 8) to outlaw gay marriage. Warren is opposed to abortion, believes women should submit to the authority of their husbands, and a whole lot more. The good reverend recently gave George W. Bush "The International Medal of Peace." First, one is inclined to wonder how he came to decide that he, Rick Warren, has the authority to bestow an "international medal" on anyone? Secondly, what does it say about his politics that he would give such an award to Bush?

Recently appearing on Fox TV News, Warren endorsed conservative commentator Sean Hannity's statement that the U.S. should kill the president of Iran. Warren said that stopping evil "is the legitimate role of government. The Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers." OK, now I see why he gave Bush the award.

Obama's decision to have Warren pray for his presidency and the nation has created a firestorm of criticism, particularly from the gay and lesbian community. One writer, Joan Walsh, had this to say about Warren: "Beyond his noxious political views -- Warren has compared homosexuality to incest and bestiality, and supports the Iraq war.....I have come to distrust Warren personally. He looks to be from a long line of religious leaders more concerned about their own glory than the glory of God. I didn’t like him high-fiving with Obama about their million-dollar book deals, or complaining with McCain that $250,000 isn't rich in Orange County [Southern California]. . . . I object to the full Warren package, I think he's a force for division, not inclusion, and a terrible symbol for this inspiring new administration."

The first openly gay member of Congress has remarked that it was a mistake for President-elect Obama to invite the Rev. Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. "Mr. Warren compared same-sex couples to incest. I found that deeply offensive and unfair," said Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA).

"If he was inviting the Reverend Warren to participate in a forum and to make a speech, that would be a good thing," Frank said on CNN. "But being singled out to give the prayer at the inauguration is a high honor. It has traditionally been given as a mark of great respect. And, yes, I think it was wrong to single him out for this mark of respect."

Obama's response to all of this controversy is that he is trying to reach out to Christian fundamentalists in order to bring the country together. But Obama seems to miss the point that for many Americans, both gay and straight alike, taking such an insensitive decision does not bring the country together but in fact rakes hot coals over many festering wounds. Obama appears to be so obsessed with "unity" that he shows no boundaries. His "reaching out" is pushing away his friends and embracing those who have shown no hesitation in repressing millions of our gay brothers and sisters. This is not leadership that Obama is displaying but in fact is pandering.

Kate Clinton, writing on the subject in The Progressive, says, “We, the 70% of the gay vote for Obama, are told it’s no big deal. It’s not a cabinet appointment; it’s just a prayer. And p.s. we didn’t get a gay cabinet appointment. We are told to wake up and smell the political coffee. This is what it means to reach out to the other side. We are told to grow up.”

Monday, December 22, 2008


Last night housemate Levi and I were outside shoveling our long and wide driveway in this kind of weather. The wind was slashing snow against our faces. I loved every minute of it. I spent about four hours at different times shoveling yesterday. Levi spent even more. MB did a couple hours with me.

This morning we had 18 inches of snow in some places that had to be cleared away. Luckily our main driveway only had about 2 inches that needed to be removed. There is still alot more that could be done.

Last week we had an ice storm in Maine that knocked out half the electricity in the state, some for several days. We were lucky and never lost ours. Yesterday I heard on the radio that some places in Massachusetts still have no power from that storm - 10 days later.

Housemate Maureen had to clear out her car this morning (from our second driveway) so she could get to work. The city snow plows come all during the night and pile up walls of snow that block our driveway entrances. That is what Maureen was struggling with at 7:00 am. She said when she got to work she was going to have to shovel snow to unblock the way there. She teaches art at a program for developmentally delayed adults.

Housemate Karen was clearing the way this morning to the wood pile that sits in the far corner of our back yard. Must keep that path open. MB and I were finishing up the opening to our main driveway.

Our two dogs are not eager to venture out. Little Seamus, just five pounds, has to be forced out the door. Red, a bit bigger, will reluctantly go outside but lifts his leg and goes back in pretty fast.

MB, Karen and I went across the street for breakfast this morning to a place called The Galley, a nice little working class neighborhood joint. It was quiet when we walked in but by 9:30 am the second shift of customers were rolling in. You hear the stomping of feet as everyone enters.

As we trudged back and forth to The Galley we saw neighbors out shoveling snow, one older woman said, "You have to love Maine to do this." Kids, home on school break, were playing in the snow. Trees are filled with the clean white stuff, mounds are piled on each side of the road, driveways are mostly still under cover of the fresh white, and the spirit of aliveness and community fills me with joy. This time of year everyone in the neighborhood shares a common fate - we must deal with the cold and snow. It is a bonding time that makes this place special.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Chicago teacher Jesse Sharkey writes, "In the past couple years, Arne Duncan [Obama's pick for Secretary of Education who hails from Chicago] has been turning public schools over to private operators--mainly in the form of charter and contract schools -- at a rate of about 20 per year. Duncan has also resuscitated some of the worst 'school reform' ideas of the 1990s, like firing all the teachers in low-performing schools (called 'turnarounds'). At the same time, he's eliminated many Local School Councils and made crucial decisions without public input."

"To me, the thing that made Duncan's role clear came after three months of organizing at Senn High School, the community school where I teach, against the Chicago Board of Education's proposal to install a Naval Academy."

"After an inspiring campaign that involved literally hundreds of people in the biggest education organizing effort in the area in decades, we forced Duncan to come up to our neighborhood to listen to our case for keeping the military out of our school. More than 300 of us -- parents, teachers, and community supporters -- held a big meeting in a local church and, at the end of the meeting, we asked Duncan to postpone the decision to put the military school at Senn."

"Duncan's answer was a classic. He said: 'I come from a Quaker family, and I've always been against war. But I'm going to put the Naval Academy in there, because it will give people in the community more choices.' " [The word from Chicago is that there are now three Army public schools, soon to be the Navy one, and an Air Force one on the way.]

Arne Duncan is an advocate of Bush's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and is closely associated with the Daley family political machine in Chicago. Duncan has a market view of education – the business model of schooling. Many education experts claim that he made no real progress in the last 7-8 years in Chicago leading that public school system. Real education comes when we teach kids to play with ideas, to learn to think. This Duncan corporate model on testing, “reform," teaches kids to take tests, to memorize, and to become automatons.

Educator Jim Horn, who has written extensively about Duncan at School Matters, notes, “If Obama is committed to moving backwards to a time when the most that public schooling could do was to ‘rake a few geniuses from the rubbish,’ as Jefferson would have it then the stupidifying corporatization of public education is just the ticket ..... Arne is entirely capable of leading the charge.”

Greg Palast, who devoted part of his instructive book Armed Madhouse to NCLB, describes its workings : “At the heart of the program is testing. And more testing. Testing instead of teaching. When tests go badly, the solution is to push the low-test-score kids to drop out of school. If the triage isn’t enough, then attack their teachers.”

“Here’s how Duncan operates this program in Chicago at Collins High in the Lawndale ghetto. Teachers there work with kids from homeless shelters from an economically devastated neighborhood. Believe it or not, the kids don’t get high test scores. So Chicago fired the teachers, every one of them. Then they brought in new teachers and fired THEM too when, surprise! test scores still didn’t rise.”

The bigger view is necessary here. I have written and spoken extensively in recent years about the Pentagon saying that America's role under corporate globalization will be "security export." We aren't going to have jobs making things in our country anymore. Our job will be building weapons and waging endless war to grab declining resources around the world. In order to pull that off you need a growing cadre of young people who have no ambition, no dreams, no ability to get into college -- you need a dumbed-down generation.

My friend Richard Rhames, a vegetable farmer in Biddeford, Maine writes an award winning column for his local newspaper. He wrote about education last week and had this to say: “The US educational system has, since working class kids gained entry in the early 20th century, functioned largely as a sorting mechanism, where children were indoctrinated, trained in docility, but sometimes, through the work of motivated teachers, exposed to a world of ideas, and perhaps the subversive minefield of independent thought.”

The days of teachers having the time and the ability to motivate and inspire kids to expand their minds is under frontal attack.

Obama has made another pick that benefits the corporatization and militarization of American culture. His children have always attended, and will continue to attend, private schools where the elite ensure their kids get a stimulating education.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Obama is picking many people for his cabinet who are directly associated with the Clinton-controlled Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). The DLC has been the conservative rallying place for corporate Democrats to gather and find ways to undercut the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, just appointed by Obama to be his Secretary of Agriculture, is a DLC kind of guy.

According to the Organic Consumers Association, “Obama’s appointment of Vilsack indicates that agri-business will control the Agriculture Department. Vilsack supports genetically engineered pharmaceutical crops, especially pharmaceutical corn. The Biotechnology Industry Organization named him Governor of the Year. He was also the founder and former chair of the Governor's Biotechnology Partnership. When Vilsack created the Iowa Values Fund, his first poster child of economic development potential was Trans Ova and their pursuit of cloning dairy cows.”

“Vilsack was the initiator of the seed pre-emption bill in 2005, which many people in Iowa fought because it took away local government's possibility of ever regulating seeds - where genetically engineered (GE) seeds would be grown, having GE-free buffers, banning pharma corn locally, and the like. Representative Sandy Greiner, the Republican sponsor of the bill, bragged on the House Floor that Vilsack put her up to it right after his state of the state address.”

Vilsack has a reputation as being an errand boy for agribusiness biotech giants like Monsanto. Vilsack often traveled in Monsanto's corporate jet.

Tom Vilsack is an ardent supporter of corn and soy-based biofuels, which use as much or more fossil energy to produce as they generate, while driving up world food prices and literally starving the poor. Listen to the recent cries of peasants in Mexico who can’t afford to make their tortillas because of corn price increases.

Vilsack has been a partner at a lobbying firm that used his “expertise” in agribusiness development and renewable energy. This appears to run counter to Obama’s promise to bar his appointees from working on issues related to their lobbying history for two years.

One organic farming activist said about Vilsack, “Obama has picked someone who is fundamentally undemocratic in the service of destroying organic farming and establishing an economic anti-trust monopoly.”

Another president from Illinois, Abe Lincoln once said, "I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."

Friday, December 19, 2008


I thought I'd post a few things about some of Obama's cabinet picks in the coming days. Most people don't have alot of time to follow all of these things.

The earlier "economic team" has already been looked at quite closely so I won't do much with them. I've already had a couple blogs on some of the key players on the "national security team" as well. For now though, before moving on the Obama's choice for Secretary of Interior, let me just open with these words from William Greider, national affairs correspondent for The Nation.

"A year ago, when Barack Obama said it was time to turn the page . . . I, for one, failed to foresee Obama would turn the page backward. . . . Virtually all of his leading appointments are restoring the Clinton presidency, only without Mr. Bill. In some important ways, Obama's selections seem designed to sustain the failing policies of George W. Bush."

Then from The Progressive let's hear from columnist Ruth Conniff, "The economic crisis calls for massive, bold action, not pouring money into firms that now have the temerity to pay out the taxpayer-financed bailout money as dividends, which is what they are doing. Tim Geithner [Treasury Secretary designate] and Larry Summers [Chair of Nat'l Economic Council designate], who helped create the lax regulatory environment [during the Clinton administration] that led to this crisis, as well as the bailouts that followed, can't be counted on."

Now for Obama's man at the Interior Department. He is the current Senator from Colorado, and timid mainstream corporate Democrat, Ken Salazar. My friends in Colorado say he is from the rancher class and before becoming a U.S. Senator was the Attorney General in Colorado. Loring Wirbel from Colorado Springs says, "Well, Ken Salazar is a known right-of-centrist guy who was a staunch defender of [Sen. Joe] Lieberman after everyone else dissed him. He has consistently played both sides of the fence on the Pinon Canyon Army-expansion issue, to the point where many ranchers called him a Bushie."

While the Colorado Attorney General Salazar worked hard to ensure that corporate mining, ranching, and agriculture interests prevailed in cases concerning water use, Indian land rights, and the like.

“He is a right-of-center Democrat who often favors industry and big agricultural interests in battles over global warming, fuel efficiency and endangered species,” Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, which tracks endangered species and habitat issues told the New York Times.

Daniel R. Patterson, a former official of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management and now southwest regional director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, described Mr. Salazar as the most controversial of Mr. Obama’s cabinet appointees.

“Salazar has a disturbingly weak conservation record, particularly on energy development, global warming, endangered wildlife and protecting scientific integrity,” said Mr. Patterson, who was elected last month to the Arizona House of Representatives from Tucson and supported Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona [a real progressive] for the Interior Department job. “It’s no surprise oil and gas, mining, agribusiness and other polluting industries that have dominated Interior are supporting rancher Salazar — he’s their friend.”

Much is made of the fact Salazar grew up in rural Colorado without electricity. Less is made of the fact his family has received over $200,000 in farm subsidies over the last 10 years. Not surprisingly, the Salazar family are stout defenders of these agri-business subsidies – a stance seemingly at odds with Obama’s promise to eliminate waste in government.

Don't see any real change here. I'll keep looking.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Our state and nation are at a crossroads. The deepening recession has eroded the financial standing and optimism of a majority of Americans, nearly two-thirds of whom say that they have been hurt by the downturn and that the country has slipped into long-term economic decline. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost in recent weeks.

The state of Maine has to cut $140 million from its budget by June 30 and anticipates slashing another $800 million more in the next two years.

Education, health, and human services programs share the bulk of the state budget. As programs are put on the chopping block constituent groups will have to compete for the diminishing piece of the economic pie. It’s time to come together to demand that the federal government reconfigure its budget priorities and help states like Maine during this recession and beyond.

A majority of states in the nation are now in similar fiscal crisis at the very time that we are engaged in two wars costing taxpayers $14 billion per month.

Unless real and dramatic changes occur quickly, the divide between rich and poor will continue to grow. Maintaining tax breaks for the wealthy in addition to the Wall Street corporate bailouts indicate fiscal policy is moving in the wrong direction. Those in power must be held accountable.

The time has come to share the burden. The time has come to connect the dots.

This is the moment to begin mobilizing the public so that we the people can give vision and support to our elected officials so they can make transformative change possible.

We, the undersigned, are calling for a public town hall meeting in early March at USM in Portland that will allow the people to speak out about the issues that concern them.

Our recent election was a turning point and is full of possibilities. We must keep the momentum going so we can manifest our hopes and values. We must always remember that change comes from the people. By sharing our concerns from the heart we educate and inspire others and build community.

We are now inviting organizations throughout the state to join as co-sponsors for this Town Hall Meeting. Please let us know immediately if we can count on your support as we invite our Congressional delegation, the Governor, the State Senate President, and the Speaker of the House to come and listen to the public.

Please respond about co-sponsorship by emailing or by calling 443-9502.

Thank you for your support.

* Organizations listed for identification purposes only

· Peggy Akers, Portland, Nurse Practitioner
· American Friends Service Committee Maine
· Sue Andersen, Portland, Teacher
· John Eric Baugher, Cape Elizabeth, USM Department of Sociology
· John Branson, Portland, Attorney
· Sally Breen, Windham, Action Committee of Peace Action Maine
· Michael Brennan, Portland, Muskie Institute
· Ellen Brown, Belfast, LCSW
· Andy Burt, Damariscotta, Environmental & local foods activist
· Jack Bussell, Portland, Maine Veterans for Peace
· George Caffentzis, Portland, USM Department of Philosophy
· Jonathan Carter, Lexington Township, Forest Ecology Network
· Dr. Bill Clark, Woolwich, Physicians for a National Healthcare Plan
· Susan Cook, Bath, Psychologist
· Paul Cunningham, South Portland, Peace & justice activist
· Michael Cutting, Portland, WMPG’s “This Better Be Good”
· Morgen D'Arc, Portland, Cumberland County Green Independent Party
· Christine DeTroy, Brunswick, WILPF Maine Chapter
· Lynn Ellis, Brunswick, Maine Campaign for a U.S. Dept. of Peace & Nonviolence
· Jamilla El-Shafei, Kennebunk, Kennebunks Peace Department
· Food for Maine's Future
· Bruce Gagnon, Bath, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
· Debra Gordon, Freeport, Maine Campaign to Impeach
· Green Horizon Foundation
· Kate Harris, Belfast, Belfast Co-op
· Dud Hendrick, Deer Isle, Island Peace & Justice
· Eric Hooglund, Portland, Bates College Department of Politics
· Dexter Kamilewicz, Orr’s Island, Military Families Speak Out
· John Kaminski, Freeport, Attorney
· Peter Kellman, North Berwick, President, Southern Maine Labor Council
· Tamsin Kemos, Brunswick, Brunswick Area Obama Supporters
· Bob Lezer, Freeport, Maine Veterans for Peace
· Paul Manoff, Portland, University instructor
· Natasha Mayers, Whitefield, Union of Maine Visual Artists
· Kathleen McGee, Bowdoinham, Maine Toxics Action Coalition
· Midcoast Peace & Justice, Rockland
· Danny Muller, Portland, Peace Action Maine & Meg Perry Center
· Rev. Gerald Oleson, Bangor, Sunny Corner Fuel Assistance, Inc.
· Laura Price, Littleton, MGIP
· Jon Queally, Portland, Common Dreams
· Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine
· PSR Maine
· John Rensenbrink, Topsham, Maine Green Independent Party
· Judy Robbins, Sedgwick, Peninsula Peace & Justice
· Rachel Talbot Ross, Portland, NAACP Portland Branch
· Cullen Ryan, Portland, Community Housing of Maine
· Joan Saxe, Freeport, Environmental activist
· Shelley Schweizer, Portland, Maine Education Association
· Tina Smith, Portland Green Independent Party
· Robert Shetterly, Brooksville, Americans Who Tell the Truth
· Bill Slavick, Portland, Pax Christi Maine
· Wells Staley-Mays, Portland, Maine Haiti Solidarity
· Selma Sternlieb, Brunswick, PeaceWorks
· Bob St. Peter, Sedgwick, Farmer
· Tom Sturtevant, Winthrop, People for Peace
· Mary Beth Sullivan, Bath, Addams-Melman House
· Karen Wainberg, Bath, Cool Communities
· Bob Walter, Kennebunk, Kennebunks Peace Department
· Lynne Williams, Bar Harbor, Maine Chapter National Lawyers Guild
· Peter Woodruff, Arrowsic, BIW worker
· Donna Yellen, Portland, Homeless Voices for Justice

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I've recently read a long but very interesting article by Andrew G. Marshall called Creating an "Arc of Crisis": The Destabilization of the Middle East and Central Asia. I highly recommend it in full.

I'm going to post some excerpts from it below. I think they are good for offering us a sad but historically realistic view of where U.S. foreign policy will be heading in the coming years - even under an Obama administration. We should remember that the oligarchy transcends party and national elections.


So in the early 1990s, Western intelligence maintained its ties to these Islamic terrorist groups. Yugoslavia is a very important case to analyze in relation to current events. The break-up of Yugoslavia was a process undertaken by Anglo-American covert interests with the aim of serving their imperial ambitions in the region. In the early 1980s, the IMF set the stage in Yugoslavia with its Structural Adjustment Programs, which had the effect of creating an economic crisis, which in turn created a political crisis. This exacerbated ethnic rivalries, and in 1991, the CIA supported the Croat move for independence.

In 1992, with the start of the Bosnian War, Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists began operating with the ethnic Bosnian Muslim minority in fighting the Serbs. In turn, these Al-Qaeda affiliated groups were supported with training, arming, and finances by German, Turkish, Iranian and US intelligence agencies; with additional financial support from Saudi Arabia. In 1997, the Kosovo War began, in which the militant-terrorist-drug trafficking Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) began fighting against Serbia, with training, arms and financial support from the US and other NATO countries. The CIA, German intelligence, the DIA, MI6 and British Special Forces (SAS) all provided training and support to the KLA.

The aim was in breaking up Yugoslavia, using ethnic rivalries as the trigger for regional conflict and ultimately war, leading to the dissolution of Yugoslavia into several countries, justifying a permanent US and NATO military presence in the region. [See: Breaking Yugoslavia, by Andrew G. Marshall, Geopolitical Monitor, July 21, 2008]

The CIA developed close ties with the [Pakistan intelligence] ISI in the late 1970s, as the CIA used the ISI as a “go-between” for CIA support of the Afghan Mujahideen. This relationship was also pivotal in supporting the Afghan narcotics trade, which again is rampant. The relationship between the two agencies continued throughout the 1990s, in areas such as Chechnya, Yugoslavia and India. [See: Michel Chossudovsky, Al Qaeda and the "War on Terrorism". Global Research: January 20, 2008]

A week prior to the 9/11 attacks, the head of Pakistan’s ISI was on a visit to Washington, D.C., where he met with several key policy figures, such as Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage; Senator Joseph Biden, who is going to be Obama’s Vice President; and with his counterparts in the CIA and Pentagon, and several other officials. He was in Washington right up to and after the 9/11 attacks, and was engaged in several key consultations with US officials, pledging support for the US War on Terror instantly. However, the very same Chief of the ISI also happened to have previously approved of wiring $100,000 to the lead 9/11 hijacker, Mohammed Atta, which was also confirmed by the FBI. Thus, the ISI suddenly became a financier of the 9/11 attacks. Yet, no action was taken against the ISI or Pakistan, apart from the ISI Chief being fired upon this revelation making it into the media.

Collaboration between the ISI and CIA did not end with these disturbing revelations. In 2007, it was reported that the CIA was arming and funding a terrorist organization named Jundullah, based in Pakistan’s tribal areas, with the goal of “sowing chaos” in Iran. Jundullah not only is funded and armed by the CIA, but has extensive ties to Al-Qaeda, and the ISI, as the CIA’s financial support for the group is funneled through the ISI, so as to make it more difficult to establish a link between the CIA and the terrorist outfit. [See: Andrew G. Marshall, Political Destabilization in South and Central Asia, op cit ]

The International Financial Institutions (IFIs) often create the conditions for political instability, while covert Western intelligence support to disaffected and radical groups creates the means for rebellion; which then becomes the excuse for foreign military intervention; which then secures an imperial military presence in the region, thus gaining control over the particular region’s resources and strategic position. This is the age-old conquest of empire: divide and conquer.

The results of these conditionalities [IFIs and Pakistan] are predictable: Pakistan will lose all subsidies; fuel prices will drastically rise, as will food and other necessary commodity prices. At the same time, a tightening of monetary policy and World Bank/IMF control over Pakistan’s central bank will prevent Pakistan from taking measures to curb inflation, and the cost of living will skyrocket as the currency value plummets. All this is going on while taxes are increased and expanded greatly, and public jobs such as bureaucratic positions, education, etc., are downsized or altogether disbanded. Money will likely continue to flow to the ISI and Army, which will create discontent among Pakistan’s deprived and disillusioned. A military coup would be likely, followed by rebellion en masse, which would in turn pit the various ethnicities against one another. This could lead to either a war against India, ultimately ending with a consolidated national security state to act as a conduit for Anglo-American imperial ambitions, such as in Rwanda; or, it could result in ethnic conflict and wars, ultimately ending up in the break-up of Pakistan into smaller states divided among ethnic lines, such as in Yugoslavia. Or, it could end with a combination of the two, a divided, warring, region engulfed in crisis.

The break up of Pakistan is not a far-fetched idea in terms of Anglo-American strategy. In fact, the plan for the destabilization and ultimately, balkanization of Pakistan has originated in Anglo-American-Israeli military strategic circles. As I previously documented in Divide and Conquer: The Anglo-American Imperial Project [Global Research, July 10, 2008], the destabilization and balkanization of the near-entire Middle East and Central Asia has been a long-held strategy for the Anglo-America-Israeli Axis since the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Anglo-American strategy in the region thus developed and changed at this time [1970's], as “There was this idea that the Islamic forces could be used against the Soviet Union. The theory was, there was an arc of crisis, and so an arc of Islam could be mobilized to contain the Soviets. It was a Brzezinski concept.”[37] Bilderberg member, Bernard Lewis, presented a British-American strategy to the Bilderberg Group during the 1979 meeting, which, “endorsed the radical Muslim Brotherhood movement behind Khomeini, in order to promote balkanization of the entire Muslim Near East along tribal and religious lines. Lewis argued that the West should encourage autonomous groups such as the Kurds, Armenians, Lebanese Maronites, Ethiopian Copts, Azerbaijani Turks, and so forth. The chaos would spread in what he termed an ‘Arc of Crisis,’ which would spill over into the Muslim regions of the Soviet Union.”[38] Since the Soviet Union was viewed as a secular and atheist regime, having oppressed religion within its sphere of influence, the rise of radical Islamic influence and governments in the Middle East and Central Asia would ensure that Soviet influence would not enter into the region, as radical Muslims would view the Soviets with more distrust than the Americans. The Anglo-Americans positioned themselves as the lesser of two evils.

Bernard Lewis was a former British intelligence officer and historian who is infamous for explaining Arab discontent towards the West as not being rooted in a reaction toward imperialism, but rather that it is rooted in Islam; in that Islam is incompatible with the West, and that they are destined to clash, using the term, "Clash of Civilizations." For decades, "Lewis played a critical role as professor, mentor, and guru to two generations of Orientalists, academics, U.S. and British intelligence specialists, think tank denizens, and assorted neoconservatives." In the 1980s, Lewis "was hobnobbing with top Department of Defense officials."[39] Lewis wrote a 1992 article in Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, titled, "Rethinking the Middle East." In this article, Lewis raised the prospect of another policy towards the Middle East in the wake of the end of the Cold War and beginnings of the New World Order, "which could even be precipitated by fundamentalism, is what has of late become fashionable to call 'Lebanonization.' Most of the states of the Middle East - Egypt is an obvious exception - are of recent and artificial construction and are vulnerable to such a process. If the central power is sufficiently weakened, there is no real civil society to hold the polity together, no real sense of common national identity or overriding allegiance to the nation-state. The state then disintegrates - as happened in Lebanon - into a chaos of squabbling, feuding, fighting sects, tribes, regions and parties."[40]

It was in this context that in 1979, as Zbigniew Brzezinski later admitted, “According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.” He claimed that, “We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.” What a perfect example of what George Orwell would call “double-speak,” saying that the Americans “didn’t push the Russians to intervene” but rather, “increased the probability that they would.” In other words, they “pushed” them to intervene.[42]

This is when the [Afgan Taliban] Mujahideen were created, and through this, Al-Qaeda, and a variety of other radical Islamic groups which have come to plague global geopolitics since this era. Terrorism cannot be viewed, as it often is, in such a simple manner as “non-state actors” reacting to geopolitics of nations and corporations. In fact, many terrorist groups, particularly the largest, most well organized, extremist and violent ones, are “proxy state actors,” receiving covert support – through arms and training – by various state intelligence agencies. They are not simply “reacting” to geopolitics, but are important players in the geopolitical chessboard. They represent the perfect excuse for foreign militaristic adventurism and war; domestic tyranny in the form of developing police states to control populations, stifle dissent and create a totalitarian base of control.

In 2000, the Project for the New American Century, an American neo-conservative think tank, published a report called Rebuilding America’s Defenses, in which they openly advocated for an American empire in the Middle East, focusing on removing the “threats” of Iraq and Iran.

Shortly after the US invasion of Iraq, prominent members of the Council on Foreign Relations had begun advocating the break-up of Iraq into at least three smaller states [the Joe Biden plan], using Yugoslavia as an example of how to achieve this.

Pakistan is a strategic lynch-point in the region. Pakistan borders Iran, Afghanistan, India and China. It lies directly below the Central Asian republics of the Former Soviet Union, which are rich in natural gas resources. With NATO’s war in Afghanistan, and the Anglo-Americans in Iraq, and American forces in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the occupation of Pakistan would position Western imperial militaries around Iran, the central Middle Eastern target. With the balkanization of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, destabilizing forces would cross the borders into Iran, ultimately creating the conditions for political and social collapse within the country.

A conflict between Pakistan and India would not only have the effect of dismantling Pakistan, but would also greatly deter India’s rapid economic and social development as the world’s largest democracy, and would force it to come under the influence or “protection” of Western military might and International Financial Institutions. The same is likely for China, as destabilization would cross Pakistan’s borders into the most populated country on earth, exacerbating ethnic differences and social disparities.

A large Anglo-American military presence in Pakistan, or, alternatively, a NATO or UN force, combined with the already present NATO force in Afghanistan, would be a massive military strategic position against advancement of China, Russia or India into the region. With China’s massively increasing influence in Africa threatening Anglo-American and European domination of the continent, a massive military presence on the border of China could act as a powerful warning.

[To see the footnotes please click on the original article]

Monday, December 15, 2008


I went to an Obama supporter meet-up in Brunswick last night. There were about 35 folks there who impressively drove from many towns in the region, some from at least an hour away. They had come because the Obama team asked them to gather across the nation and to send him their thinking on what issues were priorities for the new administration.

I wanted to go to listen to what people had to say. I wanted to go so I could get a sense of what the Obama supporters were like, what kind of people they were, how strong were they on the issues? I wanted to go and see if there was common ground on which we could work together in the future.

After the introductions they asked folks to list what issues were important to them: Jobs and economy, health care, green energy, education, financial sector corruption, domestic violence, Maine fisheries, trade agreements (By now I'm wondering, is Iraq and Afghanistan on their minds?), returning veterans, .....on it goes and the list is being written down on paper and hung on walls, several sheets of paper now hung and still wondering......

There were four of us there from the local PeaceWorks group but we were mostly listening and waiting......then the facilitator, who we know and knows what issues we are concerned about, looks at us and says, "I don't see Iraq and Afghanistan on the list and think they should be."

This is our signal so a couple of us peaceniks speak up. When I do I say that I want to mention three things: Just saying health care is too vague, we need to give more direction here, are we in favor of "single-payer health care, Medicare for all" or continuing to leave things to the insurance corporations? The facilitator, to her credit, asks how many people support single-payer and two-thirds raise their hands. But then one talkative woman interrupts and says that single-payer will never happen and she doesn't care what we have as long as we get something. That was that and the group moved on - health care remained vague.

My second and third points were Afghanistan and Iraq. I suggested that we need to look at the larger U.S. policy in the region which is all about controlling oil and pipeline distribution routes and thus we don't intend to leave either country for the next 50-75 years. The facilitator responded by saying, "Obama has a plan to get out of Iraq and will use diplomacy in Afghanistan."

The group felt confused enough about Afghanistan that they decided to ask the Obama team to clarify his policy on that country. A victory of sorts I thought.

It was nearing 7:00 pm and Mary Beth and I had to soon leave to get home for a birthday dinner being held at our house. But just before we left the meeting one local Democratic party town committee person stood up and said, "You have forgotten why we are in Afghanistan. It was because of 9-11 and the Taliban. We have to stay there until we have killed every last Taliban." In the introductions this woman had introduced herself as a Hillary Clinton supporter. She must be pleased that Hillary will now be the Secretary of State.

On the Afghanistan issue two other points were made during the discussion. One was that "We need to put more money in Afghanistan" and the other was "We need nation building" there.

Frankly, trying not to sound judgemental here, I was not impressed. The people were very nice and I'm sure they want change but "change to what" is an important question. I know this is just one sampling of the Obama supporters from this very big country. But it indicates to me a certain reality that I think we will face in the future.

When the Obama forces talk about needing to push him I can't help but ask myself "Push him where?" If you don't have a corporate analysis of our government today then the direction you are pushing very well might be the wrong direction. Do we need to push Obama into more health care by the insurance companies that are only interested in covering those who are healthy and leaving those who are sick to fend for themselves? Do we need to push Obama to "nation build" in Afghanistan when the reality is that our bases are there to ensure that pipelines moving Caspian Sea oil remain in the hands of the U.S./British oil corporations?

I am sad to say that there very well might be a collision in the making here as those in the peace movement will be running headlong into those Democrats inside the Obama camp who for whatever reason are going to stand with their new president on issues like health care, Iraq, and Afghanistan. And these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Just an early observation and warning signal. Time will tell us more I am sure. Keep your eyes on the bouncing ball.

"Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality against which they are dashed to pieces." - Sigmund Freud

Saturday, December 13, 2008


My cabbage boat in the water

Preparing to sail
The ocean in the distance
Standing by the Aegis "missile defense interceptor" vertical launch hatches
I took a tour today of the Navy's USS Stockdale (DDG 106) that is still being worked on at Bath Iron Works (BIW). A friend and I went in during worker appreciation day to take a look at one of the ships that we are always protesting from outside the shipyard. They took us through the 7 or 8 deck Aegis destroyer and showed us the galley, the combat room where they use the radars to fix targets and computers to fire cruise and "missile defense" interceptors and finally the bridge. Then we went out on the main deck where these two photos were taken.

The photo of me standing by the hatches is where the missiles are fired from and the other picture has me flashing a peace sign standing in front of the five-inch guns. There were a bunch of people taking the tour along with several from the crew standing behind the camera operator watching me give the peace sign.

Most of the time while taking the tour I was thinking of our friend Becky Farley who was the officer on deck of one of these ships in 2003 when the U.S. launched the shock and awe invasion of Iraq. She was a Lieutenant and her ship, the USS Cowpens, fired the very first cruise missile at Baghdad in the attack. Becky's job in that moment was to keep the ship on course. After the attack was over she went below to watch the TV coverage of the attack and the crew cheered wildly as the missiles hit their targets causing explosions and fire. It was in those moments that Becky began to reevaluate her life in the Navy. Today she is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and participated in their Winter Soldier Hearings in the spring of 2008. I met Becky a couple of years ago when she attended a talk I gave in Boothbay Harbor just north of here. She hung around after the talk and went out for a beer with Mary Beth and me and we've been close friends ever since. Mary Beth accompanied Becky to the Winter Solider event.

Later this afternoon our housemates were invited to a party in nearby Georgetown along the estuary by Reed State Park. Each year our friend Rosie invites people to come and make little boats out of natures bounty and launch them into the water by her home. Then we have a big bonfire and a great potluck supper. Tonight it is severely cold outside - supposed to be 8 degrees - so it was a challenge to stay outside for long.

I made my little boat out of a cabbage leaf and added a few berries from a holly bush and a few pine needles. Very simple. We have a bit of a friendly contest to see whose "boat" stays afloat the longest. Last I looked many of the others were sinking and my cabbage leaf was bobbing along nicely.

Needless to say it was an interesting and moving day for me. I got a view of two kinds of navies. One where the Aegis ships, at the cost of $1.2 billion each, are being built to launch first-strike attacks. The other navy is the peace fleet of creativity, nonviolence, and good spirit.

During the tour, where many BIW workers and families came to see the final product, little kids sat in the captain's chair and I could imagine many of them seeing themselves as sailors one day.

We are taught in this country to glorify war and the expensive high-tech weapons.

I know this because when I was a kid I had a big framed photo my dad gave me of a bunch of Air Force planes on the base flightline. As we moved from base to base around the world I carried that photo with us and it always hung in my room just opposite my crucifix. After high school I too joined the Air Force just like my dad. I wanted to be a career man. But then I got turned around by the GI resistance movement in the Air Force during the Vietnam War and became a peace activist. Today I am a proud member of Maine Veterans for Peace.

Sometimes those making the wars have a change of heart. As I looked deeply at the members of the crew giving us the tour today, I wondered which of them will have a change of heart about their "mission". From my experience, and Becky's as well, I know it will happen as sure as the sun rises and the tides change.

Friday, December 12, 2008


This photo is not from here though it could be. We will have a full moon tonight - in fact it will be the biggest and brightest full Moon of the year.

We have many of these big Christmas trees with lights in town squares this time of year. And we are right now in the middle of an ice and snow storm. So yes, this could be Maine. Isn't it lovely?

Can you imagine that I lived in Florida for 30 years and longed for this kind of weather?.....Cold and quaint little snow-capped towns. And now here I am. Dreams can come true.

I must put on my boots and go for a walk in all of it today.....I don't care how cold it will be. I must do it.

Let's see, should I say something political here now?......there is so much to be said......but I just want to enjoy the weather and the's so warm by the wood stove this morning.

I've got to bring in some more wood. Maybe I will do that now.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


According to the Washington Post today, "The Pentagon is moving to get three of the four combat brigades requested by commanders into Afghanistan by summer, [War] Secretary Robert Gates said as he traveled here to meet with military leaders."

The plan is to add at least 20,000 more troops to the "good war" as quickly as possible.

The peace movement in the U.S. is far behind our counterparts in Canada, England, and throughout Europe in actively opposing this war that has now lasted even longer than the Iraq occupation.

Gates told the media, "I do believe there will be a requirement for sustained commitment here for some protracted period of time. How many years that is and how many troops that is I think nobody knows at this point."

There are 31,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, including 13,500 with the NATO-led coalition. Over 17,500 Afghan troops are fighting the Taliban who were essentially created and armed by policies of former Carter administration National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

The Democrats in Congress by and large do not oppose the Afghanistan war.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


* Illinois (you've probably heard about this state alot lately) Governor Rod Blagojevich was charged by federal prosecutors yesterday for attempting to extort money and favors by trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder. As governor, Blagojevich would appoint a successor for the remainder of Obama's senate term.

The 76-page federal criminal complaint also alleged that Blagojevich conspired to pressure the Chicago Tribune to fire editorial writers, who had often criticized him, if they wished the state to help it unload Wrigley Field [baseball field where Chicago Cubs play owned by the Tribune] to ease its crushing debt.

Blagojevich, a Democrat, was wiretapped by the FBI and was heard to say that Obama's senate seat “is a fucking valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.”

As one friend told me this morning, Blago got caught doing what is standard horse trading in national politics in America.

Blagojevich is likely to end up in jail and would be the fourth Illinois governor in the past 35 years to go to prison. Must be something there in the water.

* Also in Chicago, the workers occupying the Republic Windows and Doors factory appear to be winning their fight. Bank of America has announced that they are prepared to "provide additional loans" to the company so that the workers could be payed money owed to them.

The workers are remaining vigilant and will stay inside the plant until the deal is certain and they have cash in hand. The amount of money in question is the tiny sum of about $2 million.

* With the U.S. economy collapsing it is hard to imagine how the Obama team can justify the extravagant inauguration parties that are now being planned in Washington in late January. The official theme for the inauguration will be "Renewing America's Parties" - I mean "Renewing America's Promise."

One benefactor has decided to rent an entire hotel along the inauguration parade route for the cost of $1,000,000. The donor, Earl Stafford, has added to the package a prayer breakfast and luncheon on the 19th (to celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday) and two balls (one adult, one youth) on the 20th. He will also be providing gowns, tuxedos and hairstylists for the Balls. One-third of the tickets to his "ball" will go to poor folks. They will dress up for the day in their fancy clothes and pretend they are like the rich and after the party is over they will return home to their poverty and growing unemployment. It's a version of "let them eat cake for awhile."

Stafford owns a military-related company and is funding this through his foundation.

* It's winter meeting time in professional baseball and the teams are in Las Vegas (of course) to made trades and sign free-agent players. This years top available player is pitcher C.C. Sabathia and the New York Yankees (the evil empire) have just signed him to a deal worth $160 million over the next seven years. It's getting harder to be a ball fan........some are predicting that he will purchase a certain window and door factory now for sale in Chicago.

It's called the free enterprise system.