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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Jim Hightower "debates" John McCain on Afghanistan. He could also be debating Obama as well. Bush neocon and McCain supporter Max Boot wrote recently in Commentary, that Obama’s Afghanistan/Pakistan approach “was pretty much all that supporters of the war effort could have asked for, and probably pretty similar to what a President McCain would have decided on.”

To top it off, Boot said Obama is “essentially continuing and expanding [Bush’s foreign] policy.”

Monday, March 30, 2009


Here are some of my predictions about the near term future:

1) Due to economic decline in the US more and more poor and working class kids will join the foreign legion to fight resource wars for the corporate barons. Young kids are now being prepared for a life of "be all you can be" endless warriors.

2) The US will not be leaving Iraq even at the end of 2010 as now promised by Obama. New instability there will "necessitate" new agreements with the puppet government in Iraq to allow the US to remain on permanent bases for years to come.

3) The war in Afghanistan, Obama's "right war", will continue to widen into Pakistan and the government there will collapse and the US will "have to occupy" Pakistan in order to "bring stability" to that nuclear armed nation. Check out the map and see how control of Afghanistan and Pakistan are necessary for the oil corporations to build pipelines from the Caspian Sea south to the Arabian Sea. (This will also please India who the US wishes to recruit for the long-term goal of containing their neighbor China.)

4) Israel will continue to smash the Palestinian people and push them bit by bit out of Gaza. The US will look the other way and keep talking about the need for peace in the Middle East. Israel will attack Iran at some point with the US offering military support via satellite technology and military funding assistance.

5) The Obama administration will continue to talk about getting rid of nuclear weapons and their desire to have good relations with Russia while at the same time pressing hard for NATO to expand eastward right up to Russia's borders. This will make Russia less inclined to get rid of their nuclear force which the US will use as evidence to show that the "raging Russian bear" is on the loose again and can't be to a new Cold War and it is "all their fault"!

6) The US will continue to use fear of North Korean rocket capability to cover its massive offensive military expansion in the Asian-Pacific that is being used to surround China. China, as a result, will continue to steadily expand its military and the Obama administration will use that expansion as evidence that we must be tough with an "aggressive and expansionist" Communist China.

7) The US will use AfriCom to initiate a massive military expansion onto the African continent in a play for the vast natural resources that exist there. Using rhetoric about saving Africans from "genocide" the first US black president will lead the US into hot wars in Africa.

8) The peace movement in the US will remain divided between those who "support the president" and those who don't feel that an effective peace movement can be an agent of any political party. The Democrats will use this divide-and-conquer strategy to keep the peace movement at bay for much of Obama's first-term in office and will get much of the progressive community clamoring for more Democratic seats in Congress in the 2010 elections "so we can really take care of business now." The strategy of some so-called peace groups to declare the Iraq occupation over, take no position on Afghanistan, and to virtually ignore the issue of military spending will make any real foreign policy changes extremely difficult to bring about. Despite this divide within the peace movement those who have an honest and consistent analysis of US empire will continue to work and to chip away at the bedrock of American corporate imperialism.

9) There will be no real health care in the US as the insurance industry ensures they maintain control of the nation's "health insurance" system.

10) OK, there will be some green jobs created by Obama. He does promise to spend $15 billion a year creating green jobs and I think he will do it....but compare that with our present spending of over $12 billion per month on Iraq and Afghanistan and ask yourself this question: where is the real priority? Climate change will continue to worsen as we fiddle in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa with resource wars.

11) I don't try to depress people but I refuse to drink the Kool-aid and ignore obvious reality. In my view of the world nothing changes as long as we refuse to see the writing on the wall. Wake up and then we can react - that is my mantra for real change - and dare I say - real hope.

Keep track of my predictions and you can grade me a year from now.

Peace out.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


On March 26 members of a German left-wing political party protested in their parliament about NATO's anti-democratic clamp-down of the public in Strausbourg, France where the NATO 6oth Anniversary celebrations will be held in early April.

Police in Strasbourg have already forced local people to take down rainbow peace flags emblazoned with the slogan "No to NATO" which they had hung from their balconies. NATO's insistence that protests be banned during the "celebration" have led police to deny all permits for public demonstrations in the city. Residents are even being told they must stay off the streets while NATO is in the city.

Major protests are planned in Strausbourg by European activists on April 3-5. Last week over 400 peace activists were arrested in Brussels, Belgium when they tried to non-violently occupy and shut down NATO headquarters which are based there.

Sadly few activists in the US are even aware of the growing anti-NATO movement sweeping Europe. Since the US drew NATO into Afghanistan, and is now using the "alliance" to surround Russia, activists in Europe understand that the once "defensive" NATO is now an integral component of aggressive US empire building plans.


In preparation for my upcoming trip to South Korea for the Global Network’s annual space organizing conference I’ve been reading some about the post-WW II history of the country.

Keeping in mind that today the US and Japan are working overtime to create further tensions with North Korea, threatening to attack any satellite launch they might do in coming days, it is important to put present events in the larger historical context of the region.

Often in the US we just blindly follow our governments foreign policy pronouncements as gospel because we are simply ignorant about history.

So with that in mind I thought I’d share a few items that seemed particularly relevant to me.

Japan’s long brutal occupation of Korea was supported by the often-held notion of all colonizers - manifest destiny. In a memorandum, kept secret until 1924, Washington recognized Korea as a Japanese protectorate and Tokyo recognized US sovereignty in the Philippines.

After Japan was defeated in WW II, the US appointed pro-Japanese collaborators in Korea as the core of the new governing power structure between 1945-48.

A reporter for the Chicago Sun wrote in 1946 that the US military set up in Korea, “a government by [pro-Japanese] collaborators representing a conspiracy of insufferable corruption,” and “a police state so savage in its suppression of man’s elementary liberties that it was difficult to find a parallel for it.”

When the Republic of Korea was established in 1948, this right-wing state apparatus was handed by the US to Syngman Rhee.

According to Kyungmo Chung, “Syngman Rhee’s government was incapable of redressing popular grievances. Yet he pushed through one illegal constitutional amendment after another in order to perpetuate his corrupt power. The abuse of his presidential power reached its zenith when he ran for a fourth term at the age of 85 in 1960 and rigged the election to a degree unprecedented in Korea. The accumulated haan (hard knot formed from accumulated frustration and resentment due to grievous wrongs done) developed into the April 1960 Student Revolution that toppled Rhee’s regime and led to a new government…but it was short lived as Park Chung Hee seized power at gunpoint in 1961 and ruled brutally.”

Bruce Cumings, author of Origins of the Korean War, wrote, “The division of Korea [into North and South] occurred in the last five months of 1945. The first occurred during a nightlong session of the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee in Washington, DC, August 10-11, 1945. Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy, a figure of maximal importance in postwar US diplomacy, later to be designated by New Yorker political correspondent Richard Rovere as the ‘chairman’ of the eastern establishment, asked two colonels, Dean Rusk and Charles Bonesteel, to withdraw to an adjoining room and find a place to draw a line across Korea; they were given thirty minutes. Rusk, of course, went on to become a key figure in US Asian diplomacy in the 1950s and later Secretary of State during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Bonesteel later commanded US forces in Korea.

“The decision on the 38th parallel, although made in thirty minutes, was based on years of planning, as were other decisions at the time. Within a year of Pearl Harbor, planners in the State Department had begun to worry about Soviet involvement in or control of Korea, viewing this as a threat to Pacific security. They thus began the decisive reversal of the traditional US policy toward Korea, one of non-involvement and acquiescence in or support for Japanese designs on the peninsula.”

During the Korean War (1950-1953) the US bombed 99% of all above-ground structures in North Korea. Even though a ceasefire was agreed to on July 27, 1953 the Korean War is not officially over.

In 1952 Robert Oliver, a US political adviser to Syngman Rhee, said, “Its [Korea's] primary role has been that of a buffer state. Never strong militarily and never ambitious for expansion, Korea has not in itself been a threat to anyone. Its significance lies now (as it has in the past) in the fact that it occupies the strategic heartland of north Asia, surrounded by China, Japan and Siberian Russia.”

Russians have long maintained that the US-South Korea-Japan military alliance would inevitably perpetuate military tensions in the region rather than promote peace on the Korean peninsula. They were right. Today the US uses the “threat” of North Korea to set up a massive offensive military machine in the region that is really being used to help surround Russia and China.

The Korean people in North and South do not want another war or a permanent division of their country. They aspire to peaceful reunification without negative interference by foreign powers.

North Korea is not a significant threat to anyone. They can't even properly feed their own people. They are not going to fire a missile unprovoked at Japan or the US. The US is once again playing mind games.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Dave Webb is my brother - blood brother, brother in peaceful arms, good friend, and co-worker. He is having his 60th birthday bash this weekend and I was invited. The only problem is that he lives in Leeds, England and I can't be there for the party. So here is the next best thing. Here's a toast to you Dave.....

To one of the great spirits - you are without any doubt one of the damn nicest and most dedicated guys I've ever met. You are giving of your time, your energy, your heart, and your soul. You keep your ego in check. You are one hell of a person, one hell of a friend.

Dr. Dave Webb teaches engineering at Leeds University and also teaches Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies. He is national vice-chair of Britain's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and he is the chairperson of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.

Dave is loved and respected by all. He's been the web master for the Global Network for years and in addition to all that he does, he also runs about 4,000 other web sites for causes he cares about. His dear wife Leslie says he never sleeps and I believe it. She has to take his laptop away from him when they go on holiday. Good luck Leslie.

Leslie was organizing a surprise party for Dave this weekend and invited MB and I to come along. Sadly it was not in the cards. But it would have been great to be there. (The party is no longer a surprise as Leslie had to tell him about it because Dave hates surprises.)

On top of all the wonderful things you can say about Dave, there is one more big one. Dave is also a fan of The Kinks. On one of my previous trips to England he got tickets for a group of us to go see Ray Davies (singer/songwriter from The Kinks) in concert.

Luckily we'll be seeing Dave soon in Korea for the Global Network annual space organizing conference. So we can tip a beer with him then and wish him a belated happy birthday.

Many more to you Dave - and in good health. No one deserves it more than you.

I love you.

Here's one that describes you well brother.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Navy Aegis destroyers are outfitted with "missile defense" systems and are built in Bath, Maine

I've had quite a lot of emails today in response to sending out the Jan Tamas announcement last night that the Czech Republic government had fallen. People know that this was an issue high on the priority list of the Global Network and I've tried to keep it fresh in the minds of those who follow our work. Without a doubt this is a great achievement for those in the Czech Republic but it also gives all of us heart. It's not often our side sees a victory like this.

Another interesting article that landed in my email box last night was from DoD Buzz which describes itself as an "Online Defense and Acquisition Journal." The publication reported on the just finished Pentagon Missile Defense Agency (MDA) conference in Washington where they acknowledged that the testing program for the Ground-based Midcourse Missile Defense program – or GMD – was not going well. In addition the MDA admitted that the Airborne Laser program was four years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. These two programs, and others facing similar problems, are likely to see some level of cutbacks in funding.

In a speech at the MDA conference Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) stated, “Missile defense is an important element of our nation’s defense. For example, it is a high priority to field effective defenses for our forward-deployed forces against the many hundreds of existing short- and medium-range missiles. Patriot and the Aegis BMD system are already providing such protection, and THAAD is expected to begin fielding soon. We will need more of these capabilities.”

Sen. Levin was acknowledging that these programs are having much greater success in their testing phase and thus will continue to receive funding and priority deployment consideration.

I think the key point here is that there are going to be some changes in the Star Wars and "missile defense" programs in the coming months. Largely because of the economic crisis here in the US the Pentagon has to start justifying some of their programs that just flat out are not working well. Some of them will be cut and others pushed back onto slower production and testing schedules.

But other programs (like the Navy's Aegis missile defense system pictured above) are having success in their testing phase and will continue to be "forward deployed" in the Asian-Pacific, Middle East, and other "hot spots" where the US wishes to show the flag.

So while we are excited that the Czech Star Wars radar deployment is now in doubt, and that the GMD program could be cut back, we've got to keep our eyes on these other "more successful" programs that will not only continue but will also likely be expanded.

So it's a mixed bag - we've got to stay on top of the details if we hope to understand what is coming down in the near future on these space technology issues.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


The government in the Czech Republic has fallen.

The Associated Press reports, "The lower house of Parliament voted 101-96 to declare no confidence in the three-party coalition government, after four lawmakers broke rank with their parties and voted with the opposition.

"The government has struggled to resolve deep divisions within Parliament over whether to allow components of a U.S. missile defense shield on Czech territory, and whether to adopt the EU reform treaty to streamline decision-making in the bloc."

In an email from Prague activist Jan Tamas he says, "For us it is a great victory: we knew that the only way to stop the installation of the US radar base was the fall of the government and we worked for more than 2 years in this direction with permanence and coherence. A government that represented the interests of the US military industry has fallen.

"Our work has been fundamental in encouraging the members of the Parliament who already were against the radar and to spread doubts in the ones who were in favor. And it was just the change of mind of some deputies that made the fall of the government possible. On the other hand, pressed by the hunger strike, the Social-Democratic Party had to take a clear position supporting us and this will make it more difficult for them in the future to change their opinion about the radar. The collaboration with the Communist Party, that has always supported our initiatives, has been decisive as well. Thanks to all of you for the support you gave us in many activities, support that was critical."

This is indeed a wonderful moment for the folks in the Czech Republic who have worked so hard to defeat the deployment of the US Star Wars radar. They should feel proud and it should be an example to all of us that determined activism, seemingly against all odds, can bear fruit.

Our best regards to our friends in the Czech Republic.

Monday, March 23, 2009


This trip report covers the period of March 12-20 as I traveled to Florida and Portugal.

I must first acknowledge that, initially, my reasons for going to Florida were quite selfish. I had a free ticket on AirTran and was going to use it to attend three spring training baseball games in Ft Lauderdale where my favorite team, the Baltimore Orioles, play. But right after making all the arrangements, I received an invitation to go to Portugal to speak at their Green Party National Congress so my baseball plans were cut short.

I still went to Florida, where I saw one baseball game on March 11, and then spoke at an event sponsored by Pax Christi in Ft Lauderdale at a local Catholic church. While there, I stayed at the home of Linda Raymer who was one of our most loyal participants years ago when I frequently organized peace walks up and down the state of Florida while working at the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice. Linda's son Gareth picked me up when I arrived at the airport. Years ago a shy, skinny Gareth regularly attended the Youth Peace Camps that I would organize each summer for young people from throughout the state. Jeffrey Keating filmed my talk at the church that night and intends to send it to Free Speech TV for airing.

On March 12, I boarded a plane in the early evening for the overnight flight to Lisbon, Portugal. I arrived in Portugal on a sunny and cool spring morning about 8:00 am. After standing in line a long time to get through passport control, I took a cab to the hotel where folks attending the Green Party Congress were staying. I was invited because two leaders of the group, Manuela Cunha and Victor Cavaco, had heard me speak at the Global Greens conference last year in Brazil. I later learned that when they returned to Portugal they began making plans to invite me to speak. They wanted me to make the connections between climate change and global militarism and to offer some thoughts on what the world could expect to see from the newly elected Obama administration.

After trying to catch up on my sleep, I arrived at the Green Congress on March 13 soon after that day's session began. The hall that the event was held in is owned by a community of artists who also provide on-site housing for low-income retired artists. The logo for the conference, a sunflower with the green Earth in the middle of the flower, was displayed on a huge banner on the stage. The hall was filled with several hundred people and I was immediately impressed with the cooperative and patient spirit of everyone involved in the event.

The Greens in Portugal have two members of Parliament (MP's) as they share a coalition with the Communist Party in their country. They also have many local elected officials across their small nation.

As I sat listening to speakers at the Congress, Victor Cavaco translated the key points of the speeches that were underway. Delegates to the Congress were speaking against nuclear power, against privatization of hospitals, water, education, and the railroads. The current Socialist government in Portugal is cutting social services and government jobs. (Just the day before I learned that the public sector unions had organized a protest of over 200,000 people in response to the cuts.) The Socialists promised that, if elected, they would allow a referendum on the European Union (EU) constitution but broke their promise.

I was told by Francisco Madeira Lopes (one of the MP's) that Portugal is the least energy efficient country in Europe but the government continues with corporate dominated energy policies. (Like in the US the car culture is strong in Portugal.) The energy industries are now making big profits on what were once public sector entities before privatization. Victor told me that "The public is losing faith in politicians - they say one thing and do another."

While at the Global Greens conference in Brazil last year, I witnessed that not all Greens in Europe were the same. Some that get into power begin to shave the edges on issues in order to stay in power. It was very clear to me that the Portuguese Greens do not suffer from that malady - they are the real deal. In a country of 10 million people the Greens in Portugal are fighting alongside the people on issues that matter to them in their daily lives.

Victor, who is a paid staff person for the party, arranged a four-day program to have me visit four cities north and south of Lisbon while I was there. On March 15 I took a train north three hours to Porto where I was met by Maria Joao and her husband Pedro. They showed me some of the sights in the beautifully lit city as we headed down to the river. There one finds many of the port wine companies that the city is famous for and we crossed the river on a bridge built by the famous Gustave Eiffel, who also built the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The bridge was constructed using much of the same technology so the similarities were obvious. We had dinner at a beautiful restaurant along the river and had a wonderful political discussion. Maria was very interested in the recent AIG bailout controversy. Maria's conclusion was, "The public is frustrated. We must change the system. Just bailing out the rich greedy bankers and leaving them in place would not make much difference," she concluded.

On March 16, I was picked up by Celso Ferreira who drove me from Porto to Braga which is about two hours further north. There I did two newspaper interviews and was given a tour of the ancient city which is an archaeological treasure. Churches, Roman ruins, narrow ancient cobblestone streets with famous Portuguese tiles on walls telling stories about the history of the city, were abundant. Two of Celso's friends, one of them a Green city councilman, took me around after we all had shared a wonderful lunch at a favorite restaurant.

On March 17, I took the train again south to the city of Santarem where Manuela Cunha and a friend picked me up at the station. Both women serve on their local city council as Green Party officials. The city was described in tourist literature this way: "The foundation of Santarem takes you back to Greek-Roman and Christian mythology, recognizing the mythic origins of the names Habis and Irene. The first documented signs of human occupation date back to the 8th century B.C. The population of the village had collaborated with Roman colonizers when they arrived in 138 B.C." Needless to say it was an impressive tour they gave me of this ancient place. Manuela made arrangements for me to do a TV interview with a regional station and then treated me to one of Portugal's most famous meals, stone soup, which I loved. Every meal begins with olives, bread and wine and ends with espresso coffee - Italian style. I skipped the coffee but loved the wine. Victor later told me the former fascist dictator had a saying that drinking wine was a patriotic duty as it "employed a million people" across the country. So I did my bit to help create jobs.

Portugal had a military coup in 1926 which installed a dictatorship that remained until another coup in 1974. The military gave way to democracy and granted independence to all of Portugal's African colonies in 1975. During the years of the military dictatorship many Portuguese democracy fighters were forced to leave the county. Victor's family moved to France (where he was born) and Manuela's family escaped to France as well. They had to go to France because nearby Spain was also living under Franco fascist rule. They didn't return from France until after the 1974 revolution.

Before leaving that night, on the train to head back to Lisbon, Manuela told me that "It's not the politicians who change things, it's the pressure from the people on the powerful who makes the's the same with all the governments." I was very impressed with Manuela. As we toured the city it seemed like she knew everyone we ran into on the streets. You could tell she was a respected political leader.

My last day in Portugal was March 18 and Victor picked me up in Lisbon at the hotel and we walked to the local subway line. From there we crossed the city to the port area and walked about a half-mile to the ferry that would take us across the river. Then we took a tram and a train to Setubal (40 km south of Lisbon). We were met by another Green Party worker who took us in his car to the natural park of Arrabida. After another fabulous meal with olives and wine, of course, we went for a ride in the hills overlooking the ocean and for a walk on the beach.

Later that evening, after another great meal, we went to a local bar in Setubal where I was to speak alongside of Heloisa Apolonia (the second Green Party MP). Things don't seem to get started until about 10:00 pm in Portugal so our talks began then and most of the questions from those attending the event were about Obama. I told the people that the person to watch in the Obama administration was Gen. James Jones who Obama appointed as National Security Adviser. In recent weeks the Washington Post has run two important articles about Obama giving Gen. Jones expanded powers in his role as head of the National Security Council. He will not only be in charge of foreign policy, overseeing the 16 intelligence agencies, but also homeland security and the US economy. When the Post's reporter asked Jones why the job of overseeing the economy, Jones replied that the US economy was now "a national security" issue.

I got up very early on March 19 to head to the Lisbon airport so I could return home. It was a remarkable trip for me to see this small country that once was a great colonial power. The Portuguese people still talk about the "discovery period" when their ships would sail the world's seas looking for the new world and for new colonies to conquer. At several of the ancient churches I visited in the country I saw statues of soldiers in armor holding a sword and a cross. The colonial mission was a divine one - blessed by the church and God. I wondered how much different it is today as the US fights wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - to bring "peace and democracy" to these lands - the noble mission blessed by "American exceptionalism". There is always a blessing and a rational for control and domination.

I thank my new friends in Portugal for this great experience. Most of all I take home with me their spirit of dedication to serving the public. They showed me that it is possible to build an alternative political party, to make a difference in people's lives, and maintain your dignity and sense of purpose. For that I thank them very much.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Yesterday Mary Beth and I went north to Bangor for a mini-conference put on by the Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine. The topic was "Organizing in the Obama Era". They had a good turnout and MB did an excellent job on a plenary panel where she spoke about conversion. I shared a Foreign Policy workshop with Maine Veterans for Peace leader Dud Hendrick. We had a spirited discussion in the session. Folks are starting to come around to the conversion idea.

My mind now turns to Korea. Our Global Network annual space organizing conference will be held there on April 16-18. The US and South Korean military forces are now engaged in war games to practice attacks on North Korea. This is a key reason why the North Koreans are so intent on launching a missile in the coming days - to show they can defend themselves.

The US is threatening to shoot the North Korean missile out of the sky and would likely use an Aegis destroyer (made right here in Bath, Maine) to do that job. These ships are outfitted with "missile defense" systems - they should be called missile offense systems.

We are going to have very good attendance at the GN confab in Seoul. From the US we will have activists coming from Maine, Colorado, Nebraska, Hawaii, Florida, and New York. Other key peace movement leaders and GN friends will come from England, Sweden, India, Japan, Australia, Philippines, Italy, and of course from South Korea. I'll post the full conference schedule in the coming days once it is finally complete.

I've got to get my speech written soon for the conference so they can get it translated in time. I am a bit behind in my work and need to get caught up. My Portugal trip report comes first and then I can fully turn my attention to Korea.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Treasury Secretary Geithner (left) shakes hands with Sen. Christopher Dodd

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) is in trouble. National media yesterday reported that Sen. Dodd admitted "that he had been involved in key legislative changes that helped pave the way for AIG to pay controversial bonuses to its employees."

His hometown newspaper, Hartford Courant, reported "In a retreat from earlier statements, Dodd said Wednesday that U.S. Treasury Department officials had approached him last month, urging him to modify an amendment to the federal stimulus bill that capped bonuses for executives at companies receiving aid. On Tuesday, Dodd said that he was not a member of the conference committee that crafted the final compromise bill and said that the exception had not been in the bill as he drafted it. But late Wednesday, Dodd admitted in an interview with CNN that he had been involved in the change."

Dodd said he "agreed reluctantly" to the changes because Obama administration officials "were insistent." He refused to disclose which administration "officials" asked him to make the changes that benefited executives at AIG who were awarded massive bonuses at taxpayer expense.

We could speculate who it was that convinced Sen. Dodd to make these changes. Was it Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner? After all he worked for two Republican administrations and for Henry Kissinger's private consulting firm. Geithner orchestrated the recent bailouts of Citigroup and AIG.

Maybe it was President Obama himself who asked Sen. Dodd to change the legislation so it would benefit AIG. We know that during the recent presidential campaign Obama raised the most money in US history. Obama got nearly $7 million in campaign donations from Wall Street investment firms.

Just to illustrate the point here are the top 10 recipients of AIG campaign donations for 2008:

1) Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) $103,100
2) Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) $101,332
3) Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) $59,499
4) Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) $35,965
5) Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) $24,750
6) Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) $20,850
7) Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) $19,975
8) Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) $19,750
9) Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) $18,500
10) Former N.Y. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R-N.Y.) $13,200
Source: Center for Responsive Politics

Notice how many Democrats are in the top 10. It goes to show that Washington corruption is an equal opportunity business.

Keep your eyes on the ball. This story is likely not over.


In Monday's Washington Post the Obama administration signals their opposition to the legislation passed in the House last week that would tax 90% of the bonuses paid to AIG.

"I think the president would be concerned that this bill may have some problems in going too far -- the House bill may go too far in terms of some -- some legal issues, constitutional validity, using the tax code to surgically punish a small group," Jared Bernstein, the top economic adviser to Vice President Biden, said on ABC's This Week. "That may be a dangerous way to go."

Excuse me - talk about going to far! These corporate fat cat bonuses are about as far as you can go. What is Obama drinking over there at the White House? Is he not hearing (or caring about) the cacophony of voices across the country expressing utter outrage at these bonuses?

Obama says he was angry about the AIG bonuses but now he is backing off doing anything about them.....this ain't going to go over well with the public. Obama is leaving himself open to right-wing populism on this out, the hope and change express is coming off the tracks.

His left hand and right hand are not in sync.


I made it home. I had to be dragged up the stairs to my bed with a rope tied to our two dogs. (Just kidding. Anyone who knows our two SMALL dogs knows that is not possible.)

This morning I was still in bed when everyone from our house came into the room to hear about the trip. Of course I talked all about the food, what I ate for each meal, as I usually do when I return. What sights did I see? Oh yeah, sure, but first let me finish about the food!

The photo above was taken Wednesday night when I spoke in Setubal at a bar. The Greens in Portugal have two members of the national parliament. The woman on the left in the photo is Heloisa Apolonia who is one of these MP's. The man on the right is Victor Cavaco who is a paid worker for their party. He organized my trip and made sure I was well taken care of.

These folks in Portugal are very well organized and are very serious about serving the people by working on issues that are important to them. I'll write more about all this in the coming days when I do my usual trip report. But clearly the Green Party in Portugal is one that could be used as an example of how to do it right.

As I write this I am listening to a music CD Victor gave me by the artist Carlos Do Carmo. It's very beautiful. My feet are tapping the floor - not bad for someone who has little energy.

When I visited a town called Santarem I was interviewed by a regional TV station and was told it will be available on-line soon. Once I find it I will post it here so you can see it. They filmed me and my hosts that day walking throughout the ancient city so there should be some interesting footage to go with the interview.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


This is a photo taken yesterday just outside of Setubal, Portugal where I was taken by my hosts. Nice beach, I was tempted to shed my clothes and jump in.....

Later that evening I did a talk at a local bar in Setubal and made it back to my hotel in Lisbon right at midnight. Then I had an hours worth of emails to catch up on and was in bed by 1am. The hotel wake-up call was right on schedule at 6am and by quarter-to-seven I was in a cab on the way to the airport.

I'm writing this from the airport in Newark, NJ waiting for my plane to Boston that has been delayed for an hour. That means I won't get back to Maine until 10pm if all goes well. I have to grab a bus from Boston to Portland and then MB will pick me up in Portland for the 45-minute drive back to Bath. All this travel is not so glamorous at times.

I am beat and can look forward to one day of rest before heading to do a workshop at a conference in Bangor on Saturday. MB will also be a speaker and friend Joseph Gerson, who just led the effort to plan the No US Bases Conference in DC, will be the keynoter. He always has something interesting to say.

I could go for a beer right now.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Shouldn't we be talking about changing the entire economic system in the US? Isn't it time to recognize that giving more money to these Wall Street crooks is just plain stupid?

I am back in Lisbon after two days up north visiting ancient cities and seeing the sights in the countryside. Various members of the Portugal Green Party have been showing me around. They are really great folks and have built a solid national organization. They are crystal clear that you build the movement around issues and the political power flows from that. They don't try to run candidates without having first become deeply involved as a party in the life of the people. They know what they are doing.

I've done several media interviews and came up with a line that all the media here love. They all ask about Obama and I say: Bush was a bad cowboy, Obama is a good cowboy, but he is still a cowboy.

Today I will be taken for a day of touring south of Lisbon and I leave for home early Thursday. I'm saving my best stories for my trip report. So you will have to wait.

In the meantime let me share with you some of the heat in Portugal - watch the video above, it will make you hot under the collar.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


By: Chris Bowers from Open Left

Due to the overwhelming public backlash at the AIG executive bonuses, the federal government will write new rules into the contract for the $30 billion they are about to give AIG:

[T]he administration would use a $30 billion installment of bailout funds approved March 2, to bring some pressure to bear. The official said before AIG can draw down funds from the $30 billion, new rules would be written into AIG's contract. The idea: to ensure no government money goes toward paying financial products division bonuses and that the cost of bonuses already paid would be recouped for the taxpayer.

However, the official said, Treasury has determined there is no way the government can actually extract the money from the individuals who received the bonuses.

This isn't nothing, but it still raises several questions, all of which come to point at Larry Summers and Timothy Geither:

1) Why weren't these rules written into the AIG contract in the first place? Geithner is in charge of that department, both as Treasury Secretary now and as the backer of the original AIG bailout when he was head of the New York Federal Reserve. Given that he was in charge of both AIG bailouts, why isn't he taking a lot more of the blame for this? More than anyone else in the government, Geithner could have prevented these bonuses. He failed.

2) Further, given that we were promised improvements in TARP under the Obama administration, why did it take a public outcry to actually improve these contracts? Larry Summers sent a letter that dissuaded Senator Chris Dodd from passing legislation to legally mandate improvements TARP. Given the promises that were made, why aren't there guarantees against this sort of excess in all TARP contracts written by the Obama administration? Larry Summers promised us there would be. He failed. Maybe its time for the "very severe hostility" Chris Dodd had threatened?

3) Why isn't everyone at AIG involved in the scandal about to be fired? We own 80% of the company, so we should be able to hire and fire people, right? And even if we can't just hire and fire people, we can apparently still change the contract. As such, why can't we make firing people involved in the scandal conditions in the contract? Everyone involved in this should be fired.
They took $170 billion in government money than used it to line the wallets of already wealthy employees. Fire them now.

4) Finally, there is a fairly obvious legislative solution that will allow us to get the money back: just pass a law requiring a 100% tax on bonuses paid to employees at companies that have received bailout funds. In fact, Representative Carolyn Maloney is about to introduce a version of said legislation. In the current political environment, where only 14% of the country opposes giving back these bonuses, it probably has about a 99% chance of passing. As such, why do Summers and Geithner keep saying there is no way to get the money back? Clearly, there is a way. Are they lacking in imagination, or are they protecting the executives?

I am getting really sick of Geithner and Summers. If they were serious about fixing TARP, then conditions against employee bonuses would already have been in the contracts they wrote (Geithner) and promised us they would write (Summers). If they were serious about punishing the people involved, they would include requirements to fire those people in the new contracts (which they are not talking about doing), and they would not have incorrectly stated that there was no way to get the money back (they would have at least said they were looking into it).

It is becoming hard to avoid the conclusion that Geithner and Summers are working to protect the Wall Street executives at the financial institutions that are receiving TARP money. Its either that, or they are demonstrating a lot of incompetence. No matter which is the case, I have created a petition asking President Obama to replace Geithner and Summers on his economic team. We need people who are serious about changing TARP to be running TARP. Geithner and Summers ain't it.

Monday, March 16, 2009


And now ladies and gentlemen, for your listening pleasure. A five-minute diatribe by one of our noble American military (heroes) in Iraq instructing a group of Iraqi policemen how to be "men" and how they should go out and kill them some bad guys. As I listen to this I can't help but see the picture in my mind of Gen. George Crook instructing the Apache scouts on how they need to step it up and go out and find Cochise and Geronimo who are hiding in the mountains of Arizona so the US can capture and kill them.

Today Geronimo's skull sits in the Skull & Bones Tomb at Yale University where the Bush family and Sen. John Kerry both cut their teeth on learning Empire 101.

It's no wonder the people of Iraq love us the way they do.


I am now in the city of Porto up in the north of Portugal. It is a very old city and a beautiful place. My hosts last night drove me around to take a quick look at the sights before we went to dinner at a lovely restaurant along the river. This church is just in the square across from my hotel. It is just magnificent at night when it is all lit up. They told me last night that many of the most beautiful old buildings are now owned by the banks. Surprise, surprise.

I arrived here on the train from Lisbon yesterday afternoon. My talk to the Green Party Congress on Saturday seemed to have been well received. I was very impressed with their party which seems very active and issue based. I sat through most of the agenda as did the couple hundred people in attendance. Usually, at such events that I go to, by the end of the day most people have left. Not so in Lisbon....they stayed, the spirit was really fine, and one of their two elected MP's ended the day with a rousing speech calling on their party (which is in coalition with the Communist Party) to stay focused on the issues that matter and remain true to their ideals.

Some Greens in Europe, as they get power, have begun to shave the edges off their opposition to war and other important questions. The German Greens are one such example. The Green Party here seems refreshingly different.

For the next couple of days I will be visiting different communities in the country for touring around and meeting with local activists. I am being treated so kindly it is just remarkable.

More later.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Huge protests are planned in France in early April at the time of NATO's 60th anniversary celebrations. The key issues with NATO are their expansion eastward surrounding and provoking Russia; the alliance's role in Afghanistan; and the plans to make NATO a global military tool of the US and corporate powers and essentially a replacement for the United Nations.


I made it to Lisbon about 7:00 am this morning and it took an hour to get through passport control. I got to my hotel near the center of the city by 9:00 am and they told me to come back at 1:00 pm. Of course I had not slept at all on the plane. I was reading a sad but excellent book about the US government extermination of the Apache Indians in Arizona and New Mexico during the late 1800's. Has a very familiar ring to it as I see parallels to Iraq and Afghanistan today. "Peace thru superior fire power" they call it at the Pentagon.

So after the hotel told me to cool my heels I walked to a nearby park and stretched out on a bench and watched the pigeons fly over me for a couple hours - of course just waiting for them to drop something white and wet on me but gladly they did not. I finally got into my room by 1:30 pm and took a nap. The hotel charges about $15 a day for Internet connection so I passed that up and went to a local MacDonalds that only charges half that amount.

I've seen bits of news about the space station being in danger from space junk. Years ago I remember reading an article where a scientist predicted the space station would be destroyed by space junk before it was ever completed. Remember that originally the station was to cost $10 billion but today the price tag has grown to $100 billion and not yet finished....that is real money.

In the hotel room I turned on the TV and found CNN just as they were reporting on Japan's threats to shoot the North Korean missile launch out of the sky. You should know that if Japan does try to do such a provocative thing they will use an Aegis destroyer outfitted with "missile defense" systems on-board. Of all the MD programs it is the Aegis system that has had the most success in the testing phase. It was an Aegis destroyer that the US used last year to knock out the falling military satellite that was supposed to be a danger to the Earth. (It was later disclosed, but not widely reported, that the hydrazine fuel on that military satellite was nearly used up as it fell to Earth. Clearly an anti-satellite test and not about protecting the planet as the Pentagon claimed at the time.) CNN said that North Korea is set to launch their rocket around April 1 - our Global Network space organizing conference in South Korea will be mid-April so we are walking into a firestorm in that region.

My question again is what right does Japan (and the US who is of course encouraging Japan's aggressive behavior) have to tell another nation when they can and cannot launch rockets? The US does it all the time. I hope the public is not falling for the bravado and is seeing the glaring hypocrisy here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


The Baltimore Orioles at "spring training" in 1944

I made it to Florida and went to see the Orioles play the Minnesota Twins today. The O's lost 4-3 but it was a good game and I got to see alot of the new young guys play. I had a great seat under a large overhang in the stadium so I was in the shade which will help reduce my exposure to skin cancer. There was a nice breeze blowing - it actually kept one possible Oriole home run ball in the park. The game was attended by mostly aging men. Many of them could barely make it up to the top of the steps in section 13 where I was sitting. One old guy got to the top and started to fall backwards right in front of me but recovered just in time.

I got there two hours before the game started so I could see batting practice. Watching some of the old timers trying to get autographs from the players was as enjoyable as watching the game. Many of them still have that "little boy" look in their eyes. I had it too when I saw Mike Cuellar (the Cuban lefty), who is now probably in his late 60's, but at one time years ago was a great Orioles pitcher. He was in uniform today, brought to spring training to help the younger pitchers learn from one of the best.

My local hosts took me to a wonderful Indian restaurant for dinner this evening before we headed to a local Catholic church where I spoke to 25 people. The talk was filmed by Jeff Keating who I've known for many years and he intends to get it on Free Speech TV which airs nationally on the satellite dish channels. I also ran into a couple of other friends from long ago including Jim Worl who is about 86 years old but still goes to Haiti a couple times a year to help the people there.

I'm staying at the home of Linda Raymer, one of the great activists I worked with at the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice. I used to frequently organize peace walks up and down the state and Linda would always be there to join the walks. When we got home tonight after my talk I was looking through her photo album that recorded the Walk for the Earth that I organized some years ago. The 700-mile walk wangled its from the Everglades in South Florida all the way to Tallahassee in the north. It took seven weeks and Linda said she will always remember it as a highlight in her life. That is a beautiful thing to hear.

At 3:00 pm tomorrow I head for Portugal. No snow is expected there and I doubt I will see any baseball either. I do expect quite an interesting trip and in an email from folks there they said they have arranged to send me north and south of Lisbon to meet with activists who will show me around and also arrange for meeting with local media. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Yoni Goodman, director of animation for the Academy Award-nominated film, "Waltz with Bashir", created this new animated film on the closure of Gaza.

Monday, March 09, 2009


I've never been to Portugal before. But after doing some Internet surfing I can picture it a bit now. I arrive there on the 14th and will stay until the 19th. In addition to speaking at the Portuguese Green Party conference they say they are going to set me up with some other talks in the area. I am going with an open mind.

But first I buzz down to Ft Lauderdale for a ball game and a talk. It's a different bunch of clothes that I will need for this trip - things like shorts, T-shirts, lighter socks - no long-john underwear. I had to do some digging to find some of these clothes as they were put away in the attic. After searching everywhere for my shorts I still couldn't find them. Mary Beth found them tucked away with some of her clothes. I thought I had lost them somewhere. Imagine a man without his shorts in Florida.

We've got a meeting tonight in Portland of our April 3 Town Hall Meeting on Economy, Health Care, War and the Environment planning group. There are now 45 organizations around the state co-sponsoring this event and have invited our governor, our congressional delegation, and leaders from the state legislatureto attend. So far we have heard from our new Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and her daughter Hannah Pingree (Speaker of the State House of Representatives) that they are coming to the Town Hall meeting. Our idea is to give the public a chance to speak directly with our elected officials about their deep concerns on these crucial issues. The Town Hall will be held at USM (Hannaford Hall) in Portland beginning at 6:30 pm on April 3. Last time we did one of these in 2006 on the war we got about 500 folks to turn out. It should be another fine event.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


Climate change to me means increasingly weird weather - severe disruptions of the normal weather patterns in a particular location. Virtually every place I visit these days folks always talk about how their weather is really screwed up.

We had a relatively warm day yesterday and the snow is melting - there is still alot of it too. But weather reports say we will get more snow next week, so back and forth we go. People here are getting garden fever and want to be outside digging in the soil and planting seeds. But that will have to wait.

I head to Ft Lauderdale, Florida on Tuesday afternoon and on Wednesday I will get to go to an Orioles spring training baseball game during the day. I'm praying for no rain. That evening I will speak to Pax Christi at a local church and then the next day I head to Portugal where I will speak at a national conference of the Portuguese Green Party next weekend.

The airline ticket I am using to go to Ft Lauderdale is a free-bee I got on Airtran for giving up my seat last year when they were over booked. I was actually given two free tickets and every time I tried to use one of them Airtran turned me down saying that there were not any open seats on the flight I was requesting. So in the end I lost the second ticket because a year had passed since they were issued to me but they felt sorry for me and gave me the Ft Lauderdale flight. The whole "frequent flyer" program on the airlines is getting to be a real racket as they rarely let you use your "free miles" and often end up charging you double miles for a particular flight.

I was going to do as I often do and rush right back from Portugal after my talk but my sister Joan, my travel agent, insisted I stay for a few days and see Lisbon. After all, I'm not likely to get to Portugal again any time soon. It's hard to argue with your travel agent.

Here's an interesting bit on military spending from today's Washington Post:

"It was Democrats who stuffed an estimated $524 million in defense earmarks that the Pentagon did not request into the 2008 appropriations bill, about $220 million more than Republicans did, according to an independent estimate. Of the 44 senators who implored Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in January to build more F-22 Raptors -- a fighter conceived during the Cold War that senior Pentagon officials say is not suited to probable 21st-century conflicts -- most were Democrats.

"And last July, when the Navy's top brass decided to end production of their newest class of destroyers -- in response to 15 classified intelligence reports highlighting their vulnerability to a range of foreign missiles -- seven Democratic senators quickly joined four Republicans to demand a reversal. They threatened to cut all funding for surface combat ships in 2009.

"Within a month, Gates and the Navy reversed course and endorsed production of a third DDG-1000 destroyer, at a cost of $2.7 billion."

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Mess O'Potamia

Just can't resist posting another Jon Stewart segment from The Daily Show.

He has busted Mr. Obama again for impersonating George W. Bush. Isn't it sad that a comedy show has to bring us the real news about what is going on?

Friday, March 06, 2009


"No drama" Obama sure is stepping into the deep shit on this one.

When his team decided to go after right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh they made a big mistake. Rush is the king of lies and distortion. He is the commander of dirty politics and mean spiritedness. In recent days, since Obama decided to make Rush the face of the Republican Party, his radio audience has doubled.

The Democratic Party is using Rush's statement that he "hopes Obama fails" to raise money for their candidates in the next election. The Democrats have declared war and have entered the slimy world of Republican back-stabbing ugliness. I'm not sure they are prepared to play in this league.

It's all really a distraction though from Obama's decision to "surge" the troops in Afghanistan and to keep up to 50,000 soldiers in Iraq (plus the 100,000 or more corporate mercenaries) there as well. It's a distraction to keep the public from focusing on the collapsing stock market, more bailout money for Wall Street, and growing unemployment (the highest rate in the last 25 years) here at home.

Obama is proving early on to be another politician just like the rest of the sharpies in Washington that he so fervently ran against in the recent election. Smoke and mirrors, the shell game, get into a food fight with Rush and watch all the media follow along. Which hand is the peanut in now?

Remember those words - "I'm going to go to Washington and change the tone."

So what's new?

Thursday, March 05, 2009


This is one of the best segments yet from Jon Stewart's Daily Show. In this piece he reveals the utter hypocrisy and ignorance of the Wall Street pimps and hustlers.

If anyone had the slightest doubt that the taxpayers are being fleeced they should watch this.

And Congress just keeps handing over the money to them.....but single-payer health care for everyone in America? Sorry, we can't do that.


This report covers the period of February 26 - March 3 as I made my way to Washington DC for two important events. Mary Beth Sullivan and Tom Sturtevant from Maine joined me on the trip as we took a bus to Boston and the train the Washington.

The three of us were treated to wonderful hospitality by an always busy Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House (DDCW) in DC. When we arrived at Washington's Union Station, Art Laffin (long time member of the DDCW) picked us up in the house van and got us back to the DDCW just as the weekly extended community dinner was finishing. We saw Kathy Kelly and others there who were in DC for the "100 Days to Close Guantanamo and End Torture Campaign". During the first 100 days of the Obama administration they are holding a daily vigil at the White House to keep the pressure on not only about Guantanamo, but also Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan where the US detains, and has been torturing people, for years.

The next day the three of us joined the Guantanamo protest at midday right in front of the White House. Global Network board member Tim Rinne, the coordinator of Nebraskans for Peace, and Robert Epp (a Nebraskan farmer) arrived in time to stand with us as well.

Tim and Robert came to DC to be a part of the Security without Empire:National Organizing Conference on US Foreign Military Bases, which was the primary reason for my trip to Washington. I was a member of the conference organizing committee that was ably led by Joseph Gerson who works for the AFSC in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The conference was held at American University (AU) and began on February 27. Early on, I had suggested that we begin the conference with a protest vigil at the Pentagon as people got off from work.

We had 75 folks turn out for the Pentagon vigil. Steel fencing was there to corral us into a "designated protest area" but it was a good spot - right next to the bus and subway lines which people use to come and go from the Pentagon. Tom Sturtevant and I tied a very long banner that reads "Stop Endless War - Convert the War Machine" to the steel barrier and as others joined the vigil they put their banners along the fence so it was easy for the steady stream of people passing us to see our messages.The vigil was attended by folks from Italy, Czech Republic, Okinawa, Germany, Korea, Japan, Guam, Hawaii and from all over the US. A few speeches and some songs made up the program which ended with words from Art Laffin who has vigiled at the Pentagon each week for the past 20-some years. He closed his talk by saying that the five sides to the Pentagon should be converted - one for a hospital, one for a child care center, another for a center for peace & nonviolence, an alternative energy research center, and the last side for a bakery.

Later that evening the conference officially began at AU with a panel of excellent speakers, including Zia Mian who directs the Project on Peace and Security in South Asia at Princeton University. Zia is originally from Pakistan and is an excellent speaker. He critiqued Obama's recent speech before a joint session of Congress and began by saying that "Obama's crisis is really a crisis of empire." Zia reported that 50% of US citizens now believe that reducing US military presence around the world would help reduce threats to our security. But he warned, Obama is showing his allegiance to previous administrations by maintaining some of the same positions on US military empire. Zia quoted Obama as saying, "We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waiver in our defense of it"...."We will revitalize our military"....."I will not hesitate to use military force unilaterally."

Zia maintained that when Obama promises the "return of the American dream," we should remember that you can't have the American dream without the US military empire. Zia suggested that Obama's version of "change" in foreign policy would be manifested by outsourcing wars to local client states as we are now doing with the creation of Africa Command (AfriCom). The Obama administration is calling it "soft power" which will translate to the US training more local troops in contested regions and the "interoperability" of weapons systems where host nations purchase weapons from the US that can then be integrated into US war fighting operations by satellite and computer technology. (This way US trainers and advisers can really direct the wars much like was done recently in Georgia when they attacked Russian peace keepers with assistance of US advisers and equipment.)

On February 28, I presented a workshop entitled "Space as the Ultimate Base: How Space Dominance is Key to the US Imperial Designs" along with Tim Rinne from Nebraska and Jana Glivicka from the Czech Republic. Tim explained the importance of StratCom which is based in Omaha, Nebraska and now tasked with maintaining America's nuclear deterrent, space warfare preparations, cyberspace control, reconnaissance, surveillance, full spectrum global strike, and combating weapons of mass destruction. Jana spoke about the hard work in the Czech Republic that has led 70% of their population to oppose the proposed US Star Wars radar base in their country. The Czech parliament is split 50-50 on the issue and they are anxious to see how Obama will move on the question.

Later that day I spoke on a plenary panel that was given with the title "Developing Winning Strategies." My bottom line was that the dismantling of the US military empire was unlikely to happen until the people in our nation had a change in their current appetite for military production jobs. Unless we increase support for the conversion of military industries to building "green" technologies it was unlikely that the public or the Congress would agree to serious cuts in Pentagon spending. Even environmentalists I suggested, who are demanding the president and Congress spend big money on green technologies, have yet to make the connection to cutting the military budget which in 2010 will be over $650 billion.

While at AU, I picked up the student newspaper and read an article on the front page about students at the nearby University of the District of Columbia (UDC) who are now protesting against tuition increases which are nearly doubling the cost of their education. UDC is one of the few "affordable" institutions available to poor and working class students. The door to higher education is now closing for many.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) is calling for a 25% cut in military spending and has sent out the message to all progressive movements that without such a cut in the Pentagon'sa budget there is little hope to fund many of the kinds of programs the left usually supports.

Today the US has nearly 1,000 military bases outside the country costing about $140 billion a year. These outposts of empire are found in 80 countries, on every continent, including Antarctica. At the conference, women from Okinawa talked about the environmental devastation and cultural impacts from the US bases in their country. Activists from Vicenza, Italy spoke movingly about US plans to dramatically expand the existing air base in their community despite massive protests in their city and throughout the country.

Dominican sisters Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert were among the 200 folks at the conference. They live nearby in Baltimore, Maryland at Jonah House which is a nonviolence and resistance community started by Phil Berrigan and Liz McAlister. It is always wonderful to spend time with Ardeth and Carol who have such clarity about US empire and the need to stand in faithful resistance to it.

On the evening of March 1 we went to an event led by Bill McKibben and Wendell Berry that was designed to promote the Capitol Hill Coal Plant Protest scheduled for the next day. Over the weekend 12,000 young people from throughout the country gathered in DC for a conference on climate change. On Monday they put on green hard hats and worked the halls of Congress to pressure their elected officials to end the use of "clean coal" which is a primary cause of carbon emissions. Over 4,000 of the students marched from capitol hill to the nearby coal plant that provides electricity for Congress. Surely if our government intends to really do something about climate change they should first stand up to the coal corporations and stop using the deadly fossil fuel in Washington. MB and I marched with the young folks in the extreme cold but our hearts were warmed by the experience.

Earlier that morning Mary Beth, Dud Hendrick (president of Maine Veterans for Peace) and I joined Art Laffin and a visiting group of students from Loyola University in Chicago for a 7:00 am vigil back at the Pentagon. There was a blizzard blowing snow as we stood there holding signs and banners at the entrance of the empire's military headquarters. One man, dressed in civilian clothes, walked up to us and said, "You people are the reason we have so many wars." I was never able to figure that one out.

By the early afternoon of March 2, Mary Beth and I were exhausted and needed a cup of tea to warm up. We went into the basement of one of the Congressional office buildings and found a coffee shop and ran into several of the folks from the No Bases Conference who had been lobbying all morning.

Jana Glivicka from the Czech Republic was still a bit stunned as she described the meeting they had with a high-level staff person for the House Armed Services Committee. They were told that the US would not be closing down any bases, but in fact, was going to be adding bases in Albania and Bulgaria. When they asked what the role of the bases would be they were told "training and interoperability" which directly echoed the words of Zia Main's speech at the opening of the conference just days before.

Dud Hendrick and Michael Uhl, representing Maine Veterans for Peace, also went to lobby Congress members on March 2 and were similarly disheartened by what they heard. Michael reported in an email about their meeting with Maine's newly elected Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (liberal Democrat). "Congresswoman Pingree countered the argument [that the US could save $140 billion a year by closing our network of foreign military bases], however, suggesting that since foreign bases are subsidized substantially by ‘host’ governments, and, calculating the costs of dismantling and clean-up of these installations and repatriating personnel and equipment, etc., the savings in DOD expenditures would be negligible."

This was a very important trip for me as it gave leading anti-war activists from around the US an opportunity to begin developing a more clear picture of the Obama administration's direction on foreign policy. While some things are still murky (like what he will do about missile defense deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic) the broader picture of continued US militarism for control of diminishing natural resources appears to be coming into focus. The present expansion of US and NATO bases around the borders of Russia and continued US buildup around China are signs that the role of America under corporate globalization for the foreseeable future will remain "security export".

The Democrats in Congress are doing much at this time to deliver more social spending (butter) as we face economic decline. But at the same time it appears that the Democrats generally remain committed to also providing enormous funding for the military industrial complex. Despite much uncertainty these days there is one thing I am certain about - we as a nation can't afford guns and butter. We can't solve the problems of climate change, health care, education, job creation and infrastructure repair without making substantial cuts in military spending. Unless the American people resoundingly demand butter, and not guns, there will be little chance of us recovering from this economic collapse. The empire is killing us.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


I'm home again, worn out like an old shoe, but still breathing. When I got here I raked the snow off the parts of our roof that I can reach - it appears we had a load of it from what I pulled down.

We were able to stretch out a bit on the train and got some sleep. The further north we went the more it looked like we were in a scene from the movie Reds heading into Siberia. The train conductors kept saying over the intercom that some of the doors might be frozen shut when we stopped to let people off and at one point they were shoveling snow from the passage way separating our car from the next. But with all that said I love riding the train even if it is slower than planes. I had a good book. We need more rail.

This video above is a pretty good review of what happened yesterday in DC at the climate change-No coal protest and lobby day. I do hope these young folks don't allow themselves to be steered into the Democrat party corral - that would be a huge mistake if that happened.

Monday, March 02, 2009


I'm sitting in Union Station in DC waiting for the 10pm train to Boston. MB and I are worn out from a long day. The protest at the capitol coal plant was splendid with several thousand in the march. Young folks were also filling the halls of congress with their easily identifiable green hard hats on. The cops refused to arrest anyone. It was very cold.

* In the photo above the latest right-wing working class "star" who goes by the name "Joe the Plumber" (remember him from the recent campaign?) was in DC this past weekend to promote his new book. At his book signing at Borders he only sold five copies and the event, which was to last for three hours, was called off after the first hour. The market for hate shock-jocks appears to be over saturated.

* In a piece posted on Counterpunch, former Reagan administration official turned anti-war critic, Paul Craig Roberts has the following to say about Obama's proposed 2010 budget:

"Obama is requesting $130 billion for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan during 2010 plus a $75 billion supplemental request for the wars during 2009. This $205 billion is on top of $534 billion for the Pentagon in 2010, for total military spending of $739 billion.

"The Chinese government’s budget shows China’s military spending at $59 billion in 2008. (The Pentagon claims Chinese military spending is between $97 billion and $139 billion.) Russia’s military spending in 2009 is projected to be about $50 billion.

"In the midst of the greatest economic crisis in US history when trillions of dollars are being added to US national debt, Obama’s budget spends more on two pointless wars than the total military spending of China and Russia combined. Obama’s wars serve only the profits of the military/security complex and the promotion rate of military officers. The longer the wars continue, the larger the number of officers who can retire at higher ranks, thus further swelling future annual deficits and the national debt.

"Moreover, as is becoming apparent, the Bush/Obama war in Afghanistan cannot be fought without fighting a war in Pakistan."