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, December 11, 2010


Two of the leaders of the new peace group called Paint (Peace Activists in Training) at the University of Maine-Farmington were recent guests on my public access TV show.

See them in action....they are wonderful young women leaders.


There was another of the Advent Bath Iron Works vigils today here in town. Twenty of us were out there for an hour as weekend shift workers left the plant. BIW worker Peter Woodruff was with us again holding a big sign that read "Onshore Jobs from Offshore Wind" and had some nice photos on it of huge wind turbines planted in the ocean.

A worker was walking down the other side of the street and I saw him yell over to Peter -something about the ships we make here protect your right to protest. I heard Peter answer, "I've been working here for 30 years." The guy on the other side of the street was stunned, took a second, and incredulously replied, "What are you doing?"

He couldn't understand why any worker would be outside BIW calling for the company to build wind turbines. In his mind BIW builds warships and that is all there is to it.

But Peter understands that our country can't afford to keep sinking massive amounts of money, that we are essentially borrowing from China, into building more Navy destroyers and then parking them off the coast of China. At some point very soon China is likely to pull the plug on this deal. Then what happens to BIW and the thousands of jobs there?

What happens to BIW when in the midst of this economic collapse Congress is forced to dramatically cut the military budget?

Wouldn't it make more sense to begin planning for conversion of the military industrial complex now? Wouldn't workers, who stand to lose their pay checks, and local towns like Bath which stand to lose their primary employment base be wise to begin talking about and planning for conversion of these facilities now? Shouldn't everyone be calling on our elected officials to begin lobbying hard for funds to convert from military production to building solar, wind turbines, and rail systems?

Who ever thought that the Navy base in nearby Brunswick would be closing in 2011 as is now the case? The community is scrambling to come up with a plan to replace the thousands of jobs that are gone because of the base closing.

America has a long legacy of ghost towns. If BIW closes, and there is nothing to replace the jobs, then this town dies a slow death.

My question to the workers at BIW, and the leaders in Bath, is what are you doing? Why are you not planning for conversion now?

Your golden goose can't lay these eggs much longer.


Immortal words from MLK

Friday, December 10, 2010


People all over the world are organizing to support the right of WikiLeaks to inform us about government corruption and lies.

There is something in the air....people are lifting the war machine boot off their necks.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


    Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff likes a big back drop just so you understand he is the head man at the Pentagon

  • I don't usually miss a war $$ vote in Congress but I did this time. I spend my days surfing the Internet looking for such things but the December 8 House of Representatives vote on 2011 Pentagon and war spending appropriations slipped by without a trace. Democrats once again did their best impression of right-wing war mongers by pushing it over the top with a vote of 212-206. Only 35 Dems voted against this endless war spending measure, all of the 212 votes in favor were Democrats. From Maine, Rep. Mike Michaud voted no but our other representative, Chellie Pingree who is also a Democrat, voted yes. Pingree keeps telling us she is against more war spending but votes like this indicate she is pulling our chain.

Rep. Michaud, who has consistently opposed additional war funding and represents the most conservative part of the state, was concerned that the bill contained $159 billion more for endless war. “I believe that we must finalize a responsible plan to end our time in Afghanistan. Our service members are doing their best, but corruption is rampant there and I will continue to oppose these types of funding measures in the absence of a plan to bring our troops home. It’s long past time that we invest in America so that we can improve our economy and start creating jobs again.”

I've seen nothing in any of the newspapers that I daily track about this vote. I only learned about it after a friend tipped me off.

  • Ralph Nader has harsh words for Obama's approach to politics: "He has no fixed principles. He's opportunistic - he goes for expedience, like Clinton. Some call him temperamentally conflict-averse. If you want to be harsher, you say he has no principles and he's opportunistic. He's a con man. I have no use for him," Nader said. Nader went on to report that as he travels the country he is encouraging people to run against Obama in the 2012 election.

At this point the mainstream media, while acknowledging Obama has big troubles with his base, is also doing all it can to discourage anyone from running against the magician. With two more years of Obama's (and Democratic Party) sniveling weakness it is likely that someone will take the plunge and run against him.

  • Students in London have been rioting after hearing that their college tuition fees will triple. What did the British government expect after making such an announcement? The new party in power in England, the Lib-Dems, had promised before their recent election that they would oppose these student fee hikes but quickly betrayed their promise. One media outlet reported that "rampaging student protesters attacked a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife Camilla. One group of protesters, some chanting 'Off with their heads!' smashed one of the royal couple's rear car windows and splashed white paint on the vehicle. Charles and Camilla were visibly shaken, but unharmed."

Ah yes, the sounds of feudalism returning......the peasants marching on London once again and coming so close to a royal family coach. A security investigation must be undertaken immediately!


One of the major sticking points in the upcoming referendum on south Sudan's secession from the north is the future of Abeyi, an oil-rich border region which both sides want to control.

Solving the dispute temporarily, a deal has been made to postpone the decision over who controls the nation's oil wealth.

We don't hear enough about how control of resources, like oil, is behind much of the conflict in Africa.

Maine is a major resettlement state for African war refugees and I will never forget listening to one man during a panel discussion a couple years ago say that the weapons that are used to kill so many innocent people on the African continent are not made there. They are supplied by the major powers who have created instability in the region in order to take control of the abundant resources on the African continent.

The Pentagon's creation of the Africa Command (AfriCom) is but one key example of how the U.S. is moving to expand its military control over the continent so that the corporations can control the extraction of resources.

The people? They are just in the way of making big money.


Words from Chief Seattle.....


We need to build rail systems connecting every corner of the nation. These public transit systems could be built inside the converted factories that now make weapons for endless war.

We must demand that our government develop these technologies to help solve for climate change (while admittedly these would not be perfect solutions at least they would be a start) and in doing so we know that we get more jobs by building rail.

The UMass-Amherst economics department study of $1 billion spent on weapons production reveals that 8,555 jobs are created, but if that same amount of $$$$ was spent on public transit we'd get 19,795 jobs per billion $$$$.

Which would you rather have?

Help make it happen. Move your lips and make words come out of your mouth that sound like this - we want public transit....we want more jobs.

Let's hear those teeth chatter.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


Today is the day John Lennon was killed in 1980.

I remember the date well because only five days later my son was born and we named him after Lennon's first son - Julian.

John Lennon was special because he was not drowned by society. He maintained his own mind and his own heart. He said what he thought and that is what made him dangerous.

He was a hero. A real one.


Why We Walk Promo 1 from Salt Student on Vimeo.

The Maine Walk for Peace, Human Needs, and Veterans Care traveled across the state to promote awareness on the personal, economic, and environmental costs of war. Read the story inside the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies on December 16th, 5-8 p.m.

Salt is in downtown Portland in the Arts District, 561 Congress Street.

Writing by David Bersell, Photos by Alana Kansaku-Sarmiento

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


A group of Internet activists calling themselves Operation Payback have taken credit for shutting down the website of a bank that earlier Monday froze funds belonging to WikiLeaks.

Operation Payback also promised a hack attack on PayPal, the online payment service that last week cut off WikiLeaks, denying the group a major tool for collecting donations from supporters.

With the financial noose tightening around WikiLeaks even as a legal one tightens around its founder's neck, Operation Payback has effectively declared war on the organizations working to hobble WikiLeaks.


Japanese activists have been very busy lately opposing their nation's participation in the U.S. "missile offense" program. Japan (along with South Korea, Taiwan, Australia) is becoming a major deployment site for U.S. systems that are being directed against China and North Korea. In addition the U.S. has been pushing the Japanese government to change their laws to allow for greater Japanese aerospace corporation partnership with U.S. weapons corporations like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin who are selling various so-called "missile defense" (MD) systems worldwide.

According to Global Network board member Makiko Sato in Japan, "The U.S. has for some years urged Japan to lift the ban as it allegedly wants Japan's sophisticated technology in optics and robotics as well as engineering for new MD missiles. The U.S. really wants the optical technology for its control of earth from space, and may want the robotics technology for its new wars for energy hunting. According to the TV news I saw, the U.S. is to deploy heavy, awkward robotic gadgets in real warfare beginning in 2015, so if Japan is to lift the ban, it would horribly change the scene of future warfare, with its skillful humanoid and animal robot technology."

But thanks to Japanese peace movement organizing Makiko reports, "Our prime minister made up his mind that he was not going to include the revision of the ban on weapon exports in the Basic Defense Plan to be issued on 17th, in order to tide over next Diet session with the help of the Social Democratic Party again. So this is small victory. The Basic Defense Plan, which is to be renewed every five years, was to be issued for the next renewal on 10th this month, but has been delayed because of this very agenda of the ban on weapon exports. Citizens have been sending opposition voices to Diet [parliament] members, and even today some Tokyo activists gathered in a Diet building room."

The U.S. has been working overtime to promote major Pentagon military build-ups in Okinawa, Guam, and South Korea by using the North Korea bogeyman as an excuse for this growing militarism in the region that is ultimately directed toward China.

Makiko warns though that her government will not give up. She concludes, "This time it has been avoided, but soon the U.S. and Japanese industry-military complexes will employ next approach. This must be just a lull."

Note: The banners in the photos above from Japan have slogans opposing PAC-3 - it is the Patriot (3rd generation) missile defense system now built by Lockheed Martin.


Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) appeared disgusted Monday over a recently reached deal between the White House and Republicans that would allow the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans to be extended for two years in return for GOP cooperation on the reauthorization of unemployment benefits for a 13-month period, among other concessions.

Monday, December 06, 2010


The number of prisoners in the U.S. detention centre in the Afghan city of Bagram has risen by 40 per cent since the beginning of the year.

Many of the prisoners are thought to be members of the Taliban.

The increase in the number of detainees comes after a surge in U.S. troops in the country.


My friend Tom Weis has reached Washington DC after his long bike ride from Boulder, Colorado. His 2,500 mile ride was done to promote the vision of a sustainable energy future.

He shares some final thoughts as he approached Washington. His long ride was simply good grassroots organizing and I think he is already lamenting the end of the trip. He's made great connections with thousands of people along the way. I'm certain that he has opened many hearts and minds during his peddle for Mother Earth.

As we cast about for organizing strategies to help make real change, it is creative actions like this that have very big impact. Keep that in mind.


  • We are getting our first snow this morning. It's not a huge amount but the lightly swirling white stuff always warms my heart. I went out and played with the wood pile a bit and put snow shovels by all the doors. I'm sitting in the kitchen close to the wood stove - my upstairs office is too cold.

  • Maine's Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home met here this past Saturday and sixteen folks attended from around the state. Several new folks came which is always nice because it reflects growing interest and new energy. Local efforts to hold public forums and pass town resolutions is spreading and some big action ideas were discussed. The Republicans have taken over the state legislature in Maine and our new governor is a tea-bag Republican. They are committed to further dismantling social programs. They promise a revitalized state economy but that is a lark. We intend to keep the war spending issue in front of the state legislature. They are the place that the citizens of Maine will be most focused on during this coming period. We've got to encourage everyone connect the dots.

  • I am not surprised by the U.S. effort to shut down the WikiLeaks web site but it sure is a sign of desperation by the empire. The demonizing of Julian Assange (who I admittedly know little about) is being done 24-7 by the corporate dominated media and reveals the brutal nature of the U.S. war machine as much as anything else. They try to spin the release of the information as not that damaging, but then turn around and declare that Assange is a "terrorist" who has done the nation great harm. Taking the 20-year view of this I feel the work of WikiLeaks will be remembered as one more significant step in the dismantling of the dangerous and deadly U.S. killing culture. Keep going WikiLeaks!

  • Right on schedule the Dems and Repubs (with a helping hand from the magician) are moving toward a "compromise" to assure the richest in America keep their Bush-era tax cuts. I've seen enough of the Obama campaign speech replays to make me sick where he makes the audience cheer as he throws out the red meat of progressivism - in this case his promise to end tax breaks for the rich. What truly amazes me though is to see the numbers of people on Facebook who still defend "their president" in the face of all his betrayals. Incomprehensible. For those worried about the debt - the $60 billion per year that would be saved by not extending the cuts for the rich would save as much as the elimination of earmarks, a federal pay freeze, a ten percent cut in the federal workforce and a 50 percent cut in foreign aid - combined.

  • Speaking of the magician and his betrayals, I watched a news clip this morning of him doing his best impersonation of George W. Bush (bomber jacket and all) in front of U.S. troops during his "surprise" visit to Afghanisnam.

"You will succeed in your mission," Obama told more than 3,500 cheering troops in a huge hangar. "We said we were going to break the Taliban's momentum. That's what you're doing. You're going on the offense, tired of playing defense."

You can count on the fact that the reason Obama went to Afghanisnam is because support for the war is fading back here on the home front. He knows he must keep "selling" the war to the troops and the public at large. For those of you who are interested in seeing Bush reincarnated in action take a look below:

Sunday, December 05, 2010


I need a day off......a holiday