Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Brunswick, ME, United States

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

Saturday, June 06, 2009


See Max Blumenthal's shocking footage of the reaction by some Israelis and American Jews in Jerusalem to Obama's speech to the Muslim world.


My wood pile is done and drying out. I take great pride in also collecting all the little wood chips for kindling. Inside of our shed I have about four trash cans full of the pure gold. I think we've got enough wood for this winter. Last winter we ran out of cured wood toward the end but this time we should be all set as they say here in Maine.

Looks like today will be a walk and picnic on the beach. We have a place called Morse Mountain nearby that requires a brisk walk through the woods before you get to the ocean. Along the way you climb a hill and are able to see for miles in every direction. Great exercise and great beauty - all in one.

I am looking forward to a statewide meeting that will be held in Augusta on Saturday, June 13 to develop a coordinated Afghanistan-Pakistan campaign across Maine. The war supplemental is back before the House of Representatives next week and across the nation the opposition is still not where it should be. The public is showing in poll data that they are growing increasingly skeptical about that quagmire but still not at the 70% rate of opposition we've seen against the Iraq occupation. Despite the fact the US has been bombing the hell out of Afghanistan for many years the American people really know very little about that part of the world.

Our Keep Space for Peace Week (October 3-10) posters are now printed and I've just mailed them out to our key folks in the US and across the world. The poster was created to give folks a visual idea how space technology is used these days to fight wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's), or drones as some call them, are essentially flown via satellite with pilots sitting safely in front of video screens at bases in the US (Creech AFB outside of Las Vegas for one). The poster idea came from a remarkable discussion we had in Seoul, South Korea during our annual membership meeting last April. We had several of our members saying how difficult it has been to get the public to understand how space systems are being used to coordinate war on Earth. So we came up with the idea of a collage of images that hopefully will do the trick. The group process really worked that time.

Friday, June 05, 2009


See journalist Robert Fisk's (The Independent, UK) column on Obama's trip to the Middle East here


Another Maine friend writes:

Some SOLUTIONS. Yes I've thought of some of them myself - lots of people have - but maybe someone will LISTEN to Michael Moore - they sure aren't listening to me. Now here is what is bothering me today: The Democrats - once considered the 'party of the people' still TALK LIKE THAT, but when they get into office, they do exactly what the GOP wants them to do - even when in the majority. Of course I know why. Money has poisoned our political system and unless we can take it out of the system, democracy doesn't have a chance. That means no more political paid-for ads, just a requirement that the media present all points of view and cover political campaigns as the vital news they are, without charge or LOSE the damn license that we, the people, grant them! It means rescinding the sick, stupid idea that a corporation is a person with all the attendant rights of a person (except, apparently, Death and Taxes), and that money equals 'speech.' For one thing the corporate 'person' is forbidden to do anything decent socially or environmentally if it will take away in any amount from shareholders' profits!

A corporation is not a person - it is a business partnership involving human beings who must be held responsible for their actions.

Money is not speech - when injected in large amounts into politics, it is bribery.

To perpetrate environmental destruction and ill health without compensation on the people and animals of a foreign country is a human rights violation and if the shareholders don't like paying their share to fix stuff up, they should be fined.


Now for some suggestions from the filmmaker Michael Moore:

As I sit here in GM's birthplace, Flint, Michigan, I am surrounded by friends and family who are filled with anxiety about what will happen to them and to the town. Forty percent of the homes and businesses in the city have been abandoned.

The President must tell the nation that we are at war and we must immediately convert our auto factories to factories that build mass transit vehicles and alternative energy devices. Within months in Flint in 1942, GM halted all car production and immediately used the assembly lines to build planes, tanks and machine guns. The conversion took no time at all. Everyone pitched in.

We are now in a different kind of war -- a war that we have conducted against the ecosystem and has been conducted by our very own corporate leaders. This current war has two fronts. One is headquartered in Detroit. The products built in the factories of GM, Ford and Chrysler are some of the greatest weapons of mass destruction responsible for global warming and the melting of our polar icecaps. The things we call "cars" may have been fun to drive, but they are like a million daggers into the heart of Mother Nature. To continue to build them would only lead to the ruin of our species and much of the planet.

The other front in this war is being waged by the oil companies against you and me. They are committed to fleecing us whenever they can, and they have been reckless stewards of the finite amount of oil that is located under the surface of the earth. They know they are sucking it bone dry. And like the lumber tycoons of the early 20th century who didn't give a damn about future generations as they tore down every forest they could get their hands on, these oil barons are not telling the public what they know to be true -- that there are only a few more decades of useable oil on this planet. And as the end days of oil approach us, get ready for some very desperate people willing to kill and be killed just to get their hands on a gallon can of gasoline.

President Obama, now that he has taken control of GM, needs to convert the factories to new and needed uses immediately.

Don't put another $30 billion into the coffers of GM to build cars. Instead, use that money to keep the current workforce -- and most of those who have been laid off -- employed so that they can build the new modes of 21st century transportation. Let them start the conversion work now.

Initiate a program to put light rail mass transit lines in all our large and medium-sized cities. Build those trains in the GM factories. And hire local people everywhere to install and run this system.
For people in rural areas not served by the train lines, have the GM plants produce energy efficient clean buses.

Transform some of the empty GM factories to facilities that build windmills, solar panels and other means of alternate forms of energy. We need tens of millions of solar panels right now. And there is an eager and skilled workforce who can build them.

See this incredible film called Taken for a Ride that tells the story about how GM destroyed the public transit system in America.

So those are very good suggestions by Michael Moore. I might add that we convert the military production system as well toward the same purposes.

Please start to use the "conversion" word in all your conversations. Help people began to understand and dream about the possibilities.

When the government talks about economic "recovery" we must ask them - recovery to what? We don't produce anything but weapons in the USA. We won't recover unless we begin to integrate the coming ecological destruction and militarism into the equation. Anyone who tells you otherwise is living in a day gone by.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


Here is another comment, from a Maine CodePink activist this time, in response to my request for reflections on our new president.

The same day I clicked on your blog and saw Barack Obama in a USMC t-shirt playing some basketball, I saw the breaking news story that a Marine recruiter in San Pedro, CA (my old town) had been arrested for pimping a 14 year old girl to two teen aged potential recruits. Nice work, all at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer.

Obama had the following to say when appointing a new secretary of the Army yesterday: "... keeping the American people safe demands keeping our armed forces strong..."

Is this the change that many voted for? The third sentence in the quote is a boilerplate talking point that could just as easily have issued from the mouthpiece of Bush Jr., Bush Sr., Cheney, etc.

In America we avoid political discussions because if we don't, relationships with our family and friends may be rendered asunder. I have many well-meaning friends and family who consume mainstream media only. They think listening to NPR is better than listening to Fox News, but this false dichotomy is analogous to thinking that Barack Obama is better than John McCain as president. It may actually be worse, because it allows them to pretend that Afghanistan is "the good war," that they are progressive, against "bad" wars, in favor of universal health care, and so on. Especially, it allows them to ignore the robot drones that President Obama has ordered to bomb civilians, burning up children in their beds at night. It allows them to ignore the fact that single-payer health care advocates aren't allowed to testify during congressional hearings on health care reform. It allows them to ignore...anything that might cause them to rise up and educate themselves about what's really going on. While consuming headlines like "What Nancy Reagan has to say about Obama" and "Obama calls on Congress for swift action on health care."

Noam Chomsky said to hold our noses and vote for Obama, because the alternative could lead swiftly to WW III.

I sure hope he was right.
So it appears that CodePink gets it....just wish that the MoveOn folks and the mainstream Democrats could develop the perspective that true citizenship is not just about being a "cheerleader" for the person in the White House. I saw an interview with Jesse Jackson yesterday where he was recalling that even though JFK had been elected president, Martin Luther King Jr. still expanded the civil rights movement protests, including the historic march on Washington, because he understood that you must create outside street pressure on the whole government if you wish to move things along.

But right now it's heading the other direction as "liberals" still give Obama a pass as the evidence mounts that he is clearly a captive of corporate interests. Another "brick in the wall" is the news that Obama gave the green light to 42 more mountaintop coal removal permits. So besides his betrayal of environmentalists on climate change his new EPA director is caving on coal strip mining that has catastrophic environmental consequences.

I am heading to a Portland Sea Dogs (farm team of Boston Red Sox) baseball game at noon today. Got free tickets from a friend and hope to distract myself for two hours from the sad state of affairs here in the America of my birth. Sadly though it won't completely work as my "sociological mind" will see something that will trigger me to reflect on the current oligarchy control in our country.

One positive thing I can leave you with though is news from England. They are having a huge scandal there about their elected officials taking all kinds of financial "benefits" and MP's are resigning left and right. European union elections are soon to be held and the public disgust is go great that the Green Party is up to 15% in the polls which would mean they could win seats in the EU parliament from the UK. So slowly the worm turns.

Until next time, get the lantern fired up - and remember - one if by land, two if by sea. Sound the alarm before it is too late.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


A CodePink friend from New York City wrote last night in response to my request for feedback on the question in the last blog entry. The subject line in her email read "Let me at this one!" Here is her response:

"First I'd like to point out that the smart president who knows he is doing bad things is also doing what he's told. But I don't think he sees them as bad things. I think he is a centrist at best who believes in American exceptionalism, knows exactly what he needs to do to represent the interests of the ruling class and has no qualms about the misery and bloodshed that keeps them in power. Unfortunately, he is articulate, intelligent and supremely self-confident. I believe the Obama presidency is a disaster because millions of people are now lulled back to sleep at a time when alarms are going off all over the place that they should be paying attention to. Americans on the whole are gullible, naive, misinformed and in deep denial about the atrocities done in their name, and clueless about what is coming down the pike for us. Actually, I am terrified by Obama. Look at what he's done already. Look at how little opposition there is to him. What a brilliant selection for president. What a snow job.

"We are doomed if we keep judging our politicians by their personalities rather than by WHAT THEY DO. Obama's record is atrocious, and it's only 100 days into his presidency!

"I am hoping that people will come out of the slumber ASAP! Losing patience with willful ignorance. Thanks for asking!"

In addition she added the following article:

Obama’s Animal Farm: Bigger, Bloodier Wars Equal Peace and Justice
By Prof James Petras
Global Research, May 17, 2009

“The Deltas are psychos…You have to be a certified psychopath to join the Delta Force…”, a US Army colonel from Fort Bragg once told me back in the 1980’s. Now President Obama has elevated the most notorious of the psychopaths, General Stanley McChrystal, to head the US and NATO military command in Afghanistan. McChrystal’s rise to leadership is marked by his central role in directing special operations teams engaged in extrajudicial assassinations, systematic torture, bombing of civilian communities and search and destroy missions. He is the very embodiment of the brutality and gore that accompanies military-driven empire building. Between September 2003 and August 2008, McChrystal directed the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations (JSO) Command which operates special teams in overseas assassinations.

See the rest of the article here

There is some passion out there on this subject even though the corporate media will never give voice to the critique's of Obama coming from the left.

What is in your heart on this subject? If we can't talk about this then we are sunk for sure.

Send me a line at

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


In case you don't know - USMC stands for the U.S. Marine Corps. It's nice to know that our president is helping round up poor and working class kids to go join the military to fight endless wars...........the official U.S. jobs program?

In other news on the "Obama Watch" home front, it was announced today that the president has nominated a Republican Congressman from upstate New York to be the next Army secretary.

John McHugh, who has been in Congress since 1993, is the senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. At the Pentagon, he'll join Defense Secretary Robert Gates, another holdover from the Bush administration.

I know, I know, some folks will tell me that Obama has a brilliant tactical strategy underway here....he is going to fill his administration with Republican politicians which will then give the Democrats a chance to take their seats in Congress.......huh?????

It's reassuring (I guess) to think that the Republicans will bring the change (from endless war) that the Democrat promised the voters in the last election.

Are you confused yet?

I just had an email from a friend in New Mexico who is a public health care worker. She wrote, "I am doing an informal poll to see how the people I respect feel. Is it better to have a smart president who knows he is doing bad things and does them anyway; or a fool like Reagan and Bush II who do what they are told? I am beginning to think it is easier to have a president more easily disliked - at least by progressives. It is very hard to organize against Obama's bad decisions because so many people "like" him and still have HOPE. What do you think?"

I'd like for each of my readers to please think that one over for awhile and send me your answer.

One if by land and two if by sea.....

Monday, June 01, 2009


Leo Panitch, Economist and Professor at York University, talks to Paul Jay from The Real News Network about the relevance of Marxist theories in studying today’s global economy. Panitch discusses the ideological crisis of the free market theory and notes that at this time “Marx would not be offering policy advice to governments about what is to be done in the face of this crisis; he would tell people to overcome their social isolation, form new collective organizations and identities, and make a social revolution.”

Leo Panitch is the Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy and a Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science at York University in Toronto. Panitch is also the author of "Global Capitalism and American Empire" and his most recent release "American Empire and the Political Economy of International Finance".

Sunday, May 31, 2009


* I got an email yesterday from several folks who I worked with 30 years ago on staff with the United Farm Workers Union (UFW) in Florida. They had gotten together for a weekend reunion and tracked me down. I called them and it was quite a lovely chance to catch up with old friends. We worked together from 1978-80 throughout Florida supporting the 1,200 farm workers in the state who had a union contract with Minute Maid orange juice owned by the Coca Cola company. Today the contract is gone as Coke sold off their citrus groves and moved alot of their operations to Latin America.

Working for the UFW was great organizing training for me. I'd say I learned much of what I know about being an organizer from that experience.

* The rally yesterday in Augusta in support of single-payer health care drew several hundred people and seemed to get decent media coverage. I helped set up the Maine Veterans for Peace sound system that gets loaned out for many of these kind of events in the state. I was also the last speaker at the rally and made the point that we have a "corporate arterial blockage of our democracy today" and that we won't see any real fundamental change on any key issue until that reality is resolved. Of course I mentioned that the Democrat's leadership in Congress and the White House is under virtual corporate control.

* We've got a pot luck supper at our house today - our last Sunday of the month shindig. We had sun for most of the day but now it looks like the rain is on the way. We've had alot of rain this week, the gardens like it but some sustained sunshine would be nice to dry things out a bit. My woodpile is a bit soggy.