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, May 22, 2010


Friday, May 21, 2010


Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) taking the Iraq war tour

By David Swanson

Even Congress members who voted against the war supplemental in June 2009 are refusing to say they'll vote against an escalation supplemental in the coming days. Some of them, in fact, such as Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) have told me that they will vote No if it's a stand-alone vote, but might very well vote yes if lots of other stuff is packed into the same bill.

Morally, this is like a cop telling you that murder will be allowed if you also do some good community service.

Strategically, this is like playing poker with your hand turned around to display all your cards.

Pingree says the war makes us all less safe, but she won't commit to not voting to fund it.

Here's what Pingree's office just sent me: "Congresswoman Pingree has urged leadership to give Members a clean vote on a supplemental---and in that situation she would definitely vote against additional funding for the war in Afghanistan."

Here's her statement of regret upon voting YES this week for a massive military and war bill in the Armed Services Committee (a standard bill, not the supplemental which is separate):

1st District of Maine

Statement for the Record, National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2011, HR 5136

Mr. Chairman, thank you for your continued efforts to provide the members of our armed forces with the resources and equipment they need to defend the country. The important work of this committee cannot be overstated, it is essential to the national security of the United States.

As long as the men and women in the armed forces are in harms way, we have an obligation to provide them with every protection and all the equipment and technology necessary to protect themselves and the United States. I am encouraged that this legislation goes a long way in accomplishing that goal. However, I am extremely disappointed that the committee chose to authorize an additional $33.1 billion for the President’s FY10 budget request for the surge in Afghanistan as well as $159.3 billion for FY11 overseas contingency operations, the majority of which will no doubt be spent in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The escalation of the war in Afghanistan has not improved the situation there, and is in fact making matters much worse by providing a recruiting tool for those who seek to do our military harm. The people of Afghanistan view the U.S. Military as an occupying force, which makes them more sympathetic to the Taliban and its goals of killing American troops. President Obama’s decision, with this committee’s support of continued military operations and additional U.S. forces in Afghanistan can only lead to the loss of more American lives. We are pursuing a failed strategy at a tremendous cost to the American people. The loss of one American serviceman or woman is simply too high a cost for a mission that does not strengthen our national security.

Beyond the enormous costs of the loss of human life, I must also stress the skyrocketing financial costs associated with continuing this war. Maine’s taxpayers alone have contributed more than $2.5 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During these difficult economic times, and with a total cost of $1.05 trillion and counting for both wars, our priorities must be reducing the deficit and investing in job creation -- not fighting a war that puts the lives of our young men and women on the line and does nothing to make us safer here at home or abroad.

The men and women of the military have performed selflessly and heroically in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have done everything we have asked of them and more. I will continue to advocate for the equipment and resources they need to protect this country. After nine years and two wars, it is time to truly support our troops and bring them home, safely and quickly from both Afghanistan and Iraq. We should not be spending money on military operations that in the long run do not strengthen our national security.

Oh, if only talk were expensive and actions spoke more quietly than words!

MY TAKE: Rep. Pingree is just another politician who says one thing and does another. She is talking anti-war but finding ways over and over again to vote for more war. Last December she voted for the 2010 Pentagon appropriation bill that funded the Iraq and Afghanistan war and brought billions to Maine to build Aegis destroyers at Bath Iron Works. Her vote today in the House Armed Services Committee for $159 billion more for war in 2011 belies her words against war spending.


Thursday, May 20, 2010


Unless black leadership quickly calls for an end to war spending and an end to corporate bailouts there will be little chance for any real change for the growing numbers of unemployed in their communities.

Still there is far too little critique of Obama's administration in the black community. Cornell West campaigned for Obama but is now beginning to speak out. More of this is needed by black activist leadership.

As the great Abolitionist movement leader Frederick Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand." Black leadership in America must make strong sustained demands on the president and Congress.

White activists must echo these demands as well since we must create a more connected broad movement to save the nation from control by the oligarchy. The road to feudalism is right in front of us and only a determined and powerful multi-issue movement can save us.


The line outside the closed textile mill of folks waiting in 2009 for the "Give and Go" sale

Today I volunteered for three-hours on behalf of our local peace group Peaceworks in Brunswick to help set up for the annual "Give and Go" sale. (I do another three-hour shift again next week as well.)

Each year students at nearby Bowdoin College bag up things they don't want as they prepare to leave for the summer vacation. These items (clothes, food, sports equipment, school supplies, furniture, etc) are then sorted by volunteers from local community groups and then in June a big public sale is held. Last year $42,000 was made from the sale and profits from the sale are distributed to participating non-profits based on the number of hours they have volunteered to work at the event.

It is truly a fascinating experience to see some of the stuff these students get rid of. Bowdoin is generally known as a rich kids school and many of the bags of clothes that I emptied today indicated that to be true. Brand new shoes, new clothes with price tags still on them, bed linens still in their original plastic wrappings, and other assorted items all indicating an excess of possessions - likely gifts from parents back home that were never wanted or needed.

It is indeed a good thing that all this stuff does not just end up in the garbage. I imagine some years ago that is just what happened. Many working class and poor people in the community get in line before dawn on the day the public sale is held in order to get first crack at all the riches. Some good shopping deals will be made on that day next month.

I learned today that they used to call it "Dump & Run" at Bowdoin College but likely changed the name to "Give & Go" because the former was just a bit too elitist sounding. You know like "dump your shit on the poor folks".......

But in another way it is a sad commentary on our "modern" lives that we consume so much stuff that we don't need or even really want. People give us gifts of junk because they think they must or we buy things we know we don't really need because we have been taught to be shoppers and consumers.

So today I was in the middle of this sociological swirl and had mixed feelings about the whole experience.

And for me that is about the way it goes these days - few things are black and white for me anymore.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010



Here is an example of your hard earned tax $$$ at work in Afghanistan. This is being done with your money and in your name.

How will the Democrats in Congress vote on Obama's war supplemental? How will your member of Congress vote at the very time when teachers are being laid off and libraries are being closed all over the country?

Isn't it time we began talking about boycotting the Democrats? If this is what the Democrats have to offer, shouldn't we say no thanks?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010



* I spent a couple of hours last night beginning to compile the large stack of surveys we have been receiving from all over Maine in response to our call for folks to take the Bring Our War $$ Home survey out to their neighbors. In the mail yesterday we got a package with 183 completed surveys from Belfast, Maine where the Waldo County Peace & Justice group and the Raging Grannies spent several days on the street collecting responses. We have a planning meeting on May 22 here at the Addams-Melman House to review the survey results and to brainstorm our next steps in the campaign. You can see the survey here

Once I am finished tabulating all the surveys I will post the final results on the blog. I am actually quite amazed by the responses to several of the questions.

* The Portland Press Herald (under new conservative ownership and becoming a really bad newspaper) reported the other day that Obama's Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was in Japan to ride on their high-speed rail as the U.S. is now getting ready to award $8.5 billion in contracts for 13 regional mass transit rail projects. The U.S. will be taking bids from Japanese, German and French rail manufacturers. The absolutely sad part of the story is that there is virtually no expertise in the U.S. when it comes to building rail systems. Why can't we convert weapons manufacturing sites into rail production facilities? Why is the Congress not demanding that we do this conversion to rail? Instead of doing that Congress is getting ready to hand Obama another $33 billion for more war in Iraq and Afghanistan which is now costing us $12 billion per month. Think about that number for a moment - we spend more on war each month than we will spend ($8.5 billion) to build 13 regional rail systems across the U.S. (which will take many years to complete). Absolutely disgusting!

* The New York Times reported yesterday that the Aegis destroyer based "missile defense" interceptor program has not been performing as claimed by the Pentagon. The Navy had been suggesting that the testing program of the SM-3 interceptors was going quite well (they said that 84% of the tests hit their targets), and in 2008 we know they fired one of the missiles into space to knock out a failed satellite proving that the system had "anti-satellite" (ASAT) weapons capability. But new studies by scientists Ted Postol (MIT) and George Lewis (Cornell) "finds only one or two successful intercepts — for a success rate of 10 to 20 percent."

The Times report continues, " Most of the approaching warheads, they say, would have been knocked off course but not destroyed. While that might work against a conventionally armed missile, it suggests that a nuclear warhead might still detonate. At issue is whether the SM-3 needs to strike and destroy the warhead of a missile — as the Pentagon says on its Web site.

"The political implications of the critique are potentially large. Democrats, traditional critics of missile defense, have been largely silent about Mr. Obama’s enthusiasm for this new generation, which for the moment is aimed only at shorter- and mid-range missiles, rather than ones that fly between continents."

I think this is a huge story because the Pentagon had been fooling everyone until this Postol-Lewis study came to light. The Democrats, who love this new program of SM-3 interceptors being promoted by Obama for deployment throughout the Asian-Pacific and the Baltic Sea as a way to surround China and Russia, will now have to back track on their cherished program. It also throws serious doubt upon the Navy's plan to build more expensive Aegis destroyers in Bath, Maine if the interceptors on-board are not working!

Monday, May 17, 2010



I've been meaning to put this on the blog for some time but hadn't gotten around to it. A very good discussion about populist organizing in the past and the need for more of it in the future if we are to whup corporate power.

I love the line by Hightower when he calls the Democrats, "Weaker than Canadian hot sauce."

We are going to miss Bill Moyers once his show is gone.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Protesting BP in Baltimore, MD from William Hughes on Vimeo.



* Denis Delestrac gave me a DVD of his new award-winning film Pax Americana and the Weaponization of Space while we were in New York City. He told me not to put it on the Internet. But for the first time I was able to watch it all the way through and it is indeed a very good film. The voices of the pro-weaponization of space crowd are also featured in the film which is part of what makes it so effective at telling the story and helps make the case that we are in big trouble. My favorite scene is Loring Wirbel driving through Colorado Springs showing Denis all the big new weapons corporations/bases that now provide jobs for 1/3 of the people in that city. We just have to hope Denis finds a U.S. distribution deal soon.

* I have started work on our next newsletter, Space Alert, which is long overdue. I had been waiting for Obama to release his new space policy, and the U.S.-Russia START Treaty to be finalized, and for the NPT Review Conference to happen. By now I have stacks of articles to wade through which is always intimidating but once I get passed the emotional blockage of that I whip through it pretty quick. My favorite part of the newsletter process is finding small bits of items that I put in a section called Odds & Ends (toilet reading I like to call it). Last night I was picking out the photos and cartoons that will be added and writing the captions. Deadline is May 31 if you would like to send me anything.

* We are now in spring here in Maine so gardening time has come. We have our garlic, peas, potatoes, beets, carrots and some squash in the ground. Going to wait a few more days to add more things. Nights are still a bit too cool for tomatoes.

* Our artist friend Maureen Block found the house in the woods she has been dreaming of so she moved out last weekend and yesterday Amanda Hoag and her three-year old daughter Amelia moved into our Addams-Melman House. Amanda has been a community member of the house since we moved in more than three years ago so she feels right at home. Maureen organized the "All Species Day Parade" in Brunswick last week and the police say about 1,000 people showed up - mostly kids in costumes of different animals. Our house members went and carried the ocean and were surrounded by fish (felt right to do that as the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster -more than a spill - is heavy on my heart.) The intention of the parade is to get young people to become more connected to nature. Was a beautiful event.

* Back to the oil disaster - how many people will go to jail over this? If this is not the epitome of corporate malfeasance then I don't know what is. Why did Obama keep the video of the undersea pipeline gushing oil from the public for so long? Why is the government not pressuring BP stronger than it has been? Why is Congress moving to limit the amount that oil corporations can be held liable for in such disasters? Does anyone now doubt that our government is controlled by these greedy, dirty, self-serving corporations? Is evil the right word to describe these corporations that are literally killing our Mother Earth? Of course we should be boycotting BP, but shouldn't we all be looking hard at how we use oil?