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....

My Photo
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

Friday, April 16, 2010


Glenn Beck talking about cutting military!

Things went well in Hartford, CT tonight - they liked the Bring Our War $$ Home theme and appear to be wanting to work on it. It's spreading folks. Even to Glenn Beck!

Prediction - If Glenn Beck does too many more shows like this he will suddenly be taken down by some mysterious scandal and will lose his job.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Obama went to the space center in Florida today and made a proposal to send humans to asteroids by 2025 and to Mars by the mid-2030's.

In an interview on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews I heard Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) talking about the plasma rocket that they hope can get astronauts to the red planet in just 39 days. See the interview here

Sen. Nelson mentions former astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz who is working to develop the plasma rocket. In an interview published in 2009 Chang-Diaz talks about the absolute need for nuclear power in space in order to make the trip to Mars. Here are some excerpts:

Seed: We’ve been sending people and machines into space for more than half a century, but we’re still mostly using chemical rockets.

FCD: Well, part of the problem with electric propulsion back then, and to a lesser degree today, is that it’s hard to get enough electricity to power the rocket. Typically, electricity in space comes from sunlight, solar power. That works okay in Earth orbit and other places close to the Sun. But people have to realize sooner or later that, if we’re ever going to explore Mars and beyond, we have to make a commitment to developing high-power electricity sources for space. What we really need is nuclear power to generate electricity in space. If we don’t develop it, we might as well quit, because we’re not going to go very far. Nuclear power is central to any robust and realistic human exploration of space. People don’t really talk about this at NASA. Everybody is still avoiding facing this because of widespread anti-nuclear sentiment [the legacy of the 1997 Cassini campaign].

Seed: What has to happen to make that change?

FCD: In 1958, the first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus, was able to actually navigate under the north polar cap and surface on the other side. No other submarine had ever been able to do that before. It was an eye-opener, a game-changer, a paradigm shift. The idea was that nuclear power enabled a completely different class of missions for these types of ships. Now, nuclear submarines are common. Something similar has to happen in space.

In fact, with the power close to what a nuclear submarine generates, you could use VASIMR [plasma rocket] to fly humans to Mars in 39 days. A chemical rocket makes the trip in eight months. That’s eight months of exposing your astronauts to debilitating cosmic radiation and weightlessness. By the time they get to where they’re supposed to work, they’re gonna be in bad shape—almost invalids! They’ll have to spend a big chunk of their time just recovering from the trip. That’s simply not a smart way to conduct an exploration program. By not addressing the key problems of limited power and propulsion, NASA is forced to work with extremely complicated and expensive mission architectures that are very limited in capability.

Seed: So you believe that in the long run it would be more cost-effective to develop nuclear-electric capabilities in space, even given potential regulatory difficulties?

FCD: Absolutely. People have fears of nuclear power in space, but it’s a fear that isn’t really based on any organized and clear assessment of the true risks and costs. When you send these missions based on chemical propulsion to Mars, they aren’t only going to be extremely expensive, but also extremely fragile. Imagine being on Earth, watching astronauts on an eight-month death trip from which there is no return, all because they made a small mistake or something failed. It would be an agonizing process, and there would be a lot of questions asked if you lost a crew. Well, in space, power is life. You can plan against a lot of contingencies by simply having more power available for a crew to use.

Seed: But the larger versions of VASIMR really need nuclear power to perform. What if NASA chooses not to develop space-based nuclear power?

FCD: We would hope that, if not the US, maybe the Europeans, the Chinese, the Russians, or somebody else will develop a nuclear-electric power capability that we can marry up to this rocket. We have to realize that the US is no longer the only player. The US may choose not to do this, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world will follow—not anymore. We no longer live in a confrontational world like the one that fueled the Apollo program in the 1960s. We live in a world that has to cooperate, to collaborate. The US has a tremendous opportunity to still be the leader here, but if it isn’t, others will be. Information is traveling faster everywhere now; technology has gained a foothold and developed in the nooks and crannies of the planet. The world has changed, and the US no longer has a monopoly on knowledge. We need to collaborate to build a capable space infrastructure so that we can truly explore.

See the full interview here

UPDATE: Journalist Karl Grossman reports the following:

There was an editorial in Space News on March 1 saying that "Obama's NASA budget also includes support for nuclear thermal propulsion and nuclear electric propulsion research under a $650 million Exploration Technology and Demonstration funding line projected to triple by 2013."

It went on: "Nuclear propulsion research experienced a brief revival seven years ago when then NASA-Administrator Sean O'Keefe established Project Prometheus to design reactor-powered spacecraft capable of carrying unprecedented arrays of science instruments to the outer planets.

Mr O'Keefe's successor, Mike Griffin, wasted little time pulling the plug on NASA's nuclear ambitions -- and a billion dollars worth of other technology projects -- as he focused the agency's limited resource on getting astronauts back to the Moon."

Obama is reversing course again and resuscitating the space nuclear program.


In 2008 alone, Boeing earned over $31 billion from military contracts.


* I take the train early Friday morning to West Hartford, Connecticut where I will speak that evening on the Bring Our War $$ Home topic. The event will be held at the St. James Episcopal Church. Hartford taxpayers have spent $419.8 million since 2001 to pay for their share of the wars.

From Hartford I will take a bus to Northampton, Massachusetts to participate in a War $$ Home Teach-In that will be held the Edwards Church. There I will be on a panel and also do a workshop. Taxpayers in Northampton has paid $111.7 million since 2001 on war.

It's been interesting that quite a few peace groups in New England have been picking up on the war $$ home campaign theme.

* I get emails almost every day now from our friends on the Walk for a Nuclear Free Future that we recently hosted here in Maine. They keep checking in to see how our war $$ campaign is going. I think they might be spreading the word about it as they go along - which would be a great help to the cause.

* My son Julian called the other day from New York City where he is a debate coach and said he would be attending the Global Network's annual meeting on May 9 in the city. Very exciting for me.

* Yesterday I taped another edition of my public access TV show and had Edgar Cahn as my guest. He was the founder of the "time bank" movement. Quite an interesting guy, now in his 70's, he went to work right out of college for Robert Kennedy (Justice Department) drafting the poverty program legislation in Washington. Then he moved over to help create the Peace Corp and other such service programs.

Last night I had to do our weekly radio show on WBOR-FM on my own as co-host Peter Woodruff had some personal business to attend to. The show theme was Cuba Week and I had a guest for half an hour who is from the Brunswick-Trinidad Sister City Association. We talked about life in Cuba and played a bunch of Cuban music. I was dancing around the studio a bit.

* Every Tuesday a local church has started a thing called the "Neighborhood Cafe" here in Bath. The church already hosts a food pantry on Tuesday night so now the idea is to cook food and when people come to pick up food at the pantry they can have a meal. It's been a good experience and I have been washing dishes as my contribution to the effort. My old military training coming back to use. My other great skill developed during my time in the Air Force is running a floor buffer.


More GRITtv

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


The Brunswick Times Record today wrote an editorial calling for public hearings in Brunswick and Bath on the war $$ issue. The video above is from the April 5 testimonies of Brunswick PeaceWorks members before their town council.

Tax Day: Where do our $$$ go?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thursday is “Tax Day,” the deadline day for filing our state and federal taxes for 2009. It will be day of scrambling for last-minute filers, a day of rallies for Tea Party Patriots at Augusta’s Capitol Park and Portland’s Monument Square.

And for the rest of us?

Whatever our politics, it’s probably as good a day as any to reflect on where our tax dollars are going ... and whether those hard-earned dollars are being spent wisely and fairly.

In the buildup to Tax Day locally, we had two presentations last week by local peace and social justice activists calling attention to how much of our federal tax dollars are going to warfare funding. At the April 7 Bath City Council meeting, several residents presented a proposed resolution calling on Congress to “Bring our War Dollars Home.” They asked that a hearing be scheduled to allow for public debate on that topic; the council took that suggestion under advisement. A similar resolution presented at the April 5 Brunswick Town Council was received politely without any action being taken.

What seems to be a less-than-enthusiastic response to these two resolutions probably stems from our region’s longstanding reliance on federal defense dollars supporting the Bath Iron Works shipyard and the soon-to-be-closed Brunswick Naval Air Station.

No doubt there’s a similar reluctance in thousands of communities across the nation dependent on Pentagon funding to raise, let alone debate, the troublesome question of whether our nation spends too much on war and building weapons of war. Local political and business leaders — north, south, east and west — learn early in their careers the saying “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

But one could argue that Bath and Brunswick are ideally suited to having a robust and healthy debate about “war dollars,” given the makeup of our local economies and communities.

Why not schedule the public hearings that have been requested and give everyone — shipyard workers, retired and active-duty sailors, peace activists ... apolitical taxpayers — the opportunity to weigh in on critically important questions concerning national priorities and how our tax dollars are being spent?

In the meantime, to stimulate some thinking about those questions on Tax Day, here’s a suggestion: Put 100 pennies on your kitchen table (representing the $3.8 trillion FY 2011 budget).

Now divide them into piles representing where our tax dollars end up: military, 27 pennies; health, 20; interest on debt, 14; government, 10; income security and labor (including Social Security), 9; housing and community, 7; food, 4; veterans’ benefits, 4; environment, energy and science, 3; education, 2; international affairs, 1; transportation, 1. [Percentages .5 and higher were rounded up, resulting in a total greater than 100.]

The exercise, we believe, should bring home the point that Greater Brunswick PeaceWorks and the Maine Bring Our War Dollars Home Campaign ask a fair question: What local needs are not being fully met when 27 cents of every federal tax dollar goes to military spending? Obviously, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are key to that question, with upcoming votes in Congress on war funding being important opportunities to reassess our nation’s priorities.

Tea Party Patriots are not bashful about giving voice to their priorities — and that’s all well and good, so long as those who might differ with them don’t concede the debate because they’re too busy or fearful to speak up.

Why not host public hearings on bringing our war dollars home? What are we afraid of? Ourselves? Our government? Fear itself?


Chomsky Warns of Risk of Fascism in America

By Matthew Rothschild, April 12, 2010

Noam Chomsky, the leading leftwing intellectual, warned last week that fascism may be coming to the United States.

“I’m just old enough to have heard a number of Hitler’s speeches on the radio,” he said, “and I have a memory of the texture and the tone of the cheering mobs, and I have the dread sense of the dark clouds of fascism gathering” here at home.

Chomsky was speaking to more than 1,000 people at the Orpheum Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin, where he received the University of Wisconsin’s A.E. Havens Center’s award for lifetime contribution to critical scholarship.

“The level of anger and fear is like nothing I can compare in my lifetime,” he said.

He cited a statistic from a recent poll showing that half the unaffiliated voters say the average tea party member is closer to them than anyone else.

“Ridiculing the tea party shenanigans is a serious error,” Chomsky said.

Their attitudes “are understandable,” he said. “For over 30 years, real incomes have stagnated or declined. This is in large part the consequence of the decision in the 1970s to financialize the economy.”

There is class resentment, he noted. “The bankers, who are primarily responsible for the crisis, are now reveling in record bonuses while official unemployment is around 10 percent and unemployment in the manufacturing sector is at Depression-era levels,” he said.

And Obama is linked to the bankers, Chomsky explained.

“The financial industry preferred Obama to McCain,” he said. “They expected to be rewarded and they were. Then Obama began to criticize greedy bankers and proposed measures to regulate them. And the punishment for this was very swift: They were going to shift their money to the Republicans. So Obama said bankers are “fine guys” and assured the business world: ‘I, like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.’

People see that and are not happy about it.”

He said “the colossal toll of the institutional crimes of state capitalism” is what is fueling “the indignation and rage of those cast aside.”

“People want some answers,” Chomsky said. “They are hearing answers from only one place: Fox, talk radio, and Sarah Palin.”

Chomsky invoked Germany during the Weimar Republic, and drew a parallel between it and the United States. “The Weimar Republic was the peak of Western civilization and was regarded as a model of democracy,” he said.

And he stressed how quickly things deteriorated there.

“In 1928 the Nazis had less than 2 percent of the vote,” he said. “Two years later, millions supported them. The public got tired of the incessant wrangling, and the service to the powerful, and the failure of those in power to deal with their grievances.”

He said the German people were susceptible to appeals about “the greatness of the nation, and defending it against threats, and carrying out the will of eternal providence.”

When farmers, the petit bourgeoisie, and Christian organizations joined forces with the Nazis, “the center very quickly collapsed,” Chomsky said.

No analogy is perfect, he said, but the echoes of fascism are “reverberating” today, he said.

“These are lessons to keep in mind.”

- Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine

Tuesday, April 13, 2010



Spring has come to Jeju Island in South Korea. So has more arrests.

Prof. Yang Yoon-Mo, the movie critic, was recently arrested for breaking a gate the Navy had created by the area where they want to build the Navy base. He was fined $4,000 and released the next day. Yang refused to pay the fine.

(Please remember that the South Korean embassy in Washington DC has told several of the people that have called about the base that it is the U.S. that is pushing the construction of the base.)

He has lived in this tent, along the rocks by the ocean, for more than eight months. Two villagers put a banner made by visiting high school students, on the top of his tent, on the day he was arrested early in the morning by the Jeju police. The banner says, “Please Keep Gangjeong!”

Inside the tent there are lots of items the villagers have given to him, including a couch.

See many more photos of the village Gangjeong and the resistance to the Navy base here

We must not forget about the struggle on Jeju Island. The courts are expected to rule on the lawsuit against the proposed base on April 22. The Navy is anxious to get the bulldozers moving. Hard days are still ahead.

Monday, April 12, 2010



I am feeling rather grumpy this morning. I've had a second cup of tea and it has not helped.

Maybe it is because I read last night that in order to sweeten the pot for the next Obama $33 billion war supplemental to be voted on in the next few weeks the administration is going to stick a $2.8 billion amendment inside the bill for Haiti recovery aid. Talk about cynicism. (That $2.8 billion is the same amount of $$$ the taxpayers of Maine have spent on war since 2001.)

Or maybe I am grumpy because I saw another panicked appeal from the Democrats as they face losing a slew of House and Senate races in November. They are pushing the fear button about the Republicans taking over Congress. Maybe the Democrats should look in the mirror and begin to wonder if they have created this problem for themselves as they have turned into Bush-lite and expanded wars, continued detentions/torture/assassinations, continued the corporate bail-outs, and a whole lot more.

The Dems base is dispirited and angry and is planning to stay home in droves. Why vote for the Dems when in most cases you are just playing a shell game with the peanut under the cup being the corporate domination of the government.

It's pretty hard to honestly evaluate Obama and see much difference between him and the last administration expect for the nice smile and better elocution.

We've now put 900 of the war $$$ door-hangers in Bath and I will put out more on Tuesday. Want to get it up to about 1,200-1,500 distributed in our city. I notice as I go through the working class neighborhoods how depressed so many people look. When I ran into a few folks and handed them the door hangers they had a sad look on their face like "We know this is bad and killing us" but in most cases I think folks have given up faith and their hope that anything can change.

This is where I again blame the Democrats because they have helped increase this sense of despair and resignation among the people who genuinely wanted to believe that Obama and control of the Congress was going to mean something. To me it is one of the biggest political betrayals in American history and that sorry party is going to pay for it in the next couple of years.

UPDATE: A Maine friend sent me this in an email tonight:

I read your blog and I have to say that I felt the same way this morning, grumpy, dispirited. I have another issue to add to your list of Obaminations. The systematic dismantling of public education and the union busting of the administration's Race to the Top school "reform"/funding game.

My concern about the current political climate is the vast number of people still cheerily and blindly lionizing Obama. It is clear that few are paying attention to what is really going on and how they are getting screwed. The Dems have found in Obama the perfect embodiment of their party, lots of empty rhetoric about workers, the environment, peace, health care but still the same corporate state.

Apologies I had to rant, carry on.

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The Obama administration is steamrolling the privatization of the U.S. public schools, imposing a corporate model in which there is no place for teachers unions or for “anything resembling community control.” Education chief and Obama buddy Arne Duncan’s public school demolition derby would be denounced by “every progressive force in America” – if he were a Republican.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Socialism - let's count the ways:

  • Social Security
  • Medicare/Medicaid
  • Public schools
  • Food stamps
  • City recreation facilities (public parks, ball fields, tennis courts, swimming pools, skating rinks, etc.)
  • Sidewalks
  • Fire and police departments
  • Taxpayer funded professional sports stadiums
  • Public water and sewer systems
  • Homeless shelters
  • Federal student financial aid for college
  • After school programs for children
  • Publicly funded day care centers
  • Public highways
  • Public libraries
  • Public museums
  • Public snow removal
  • Public access TV programming
  • Publicly owned air waves
  • Free health care in the military
  • Bailouts for big banks, hedge funds, and insurance corporations
  • Welfare for the military industrial complex
  • Welfare for agribusiness corporations

I am sure I have left out many examples, please feel free to add more in the comments.