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

Saturday, January 08, 2011


You can click on this picture for a better view. It is from Sarah Palin's political action committee web site during the recent election where she "targeted" Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona) for being taken out. Palin urged followers to "reload" and "aim" for Democrats. Notice the gun site cross-hairs for each candidate on the list. Apparently since the shooting in Tucson, Arizona today of 18 people, including Rep. Giffords, Palin has taken this graphic down from her web site.

Palin, and much of the right-wing in the U.S., has recently been celebrating the joys of guns and routinely used shooting metaphors and violent images when they talk about their political opposition. There can be no doubt that the right-wing in this country is fostering a violent political culture. Thus it is sadly no surprise today when this killer goes on the rampage and kills six people, including a nine-year-old girl.

At one campaign event held by Rep. Giffords in August 2009 the threat of violence led her aides to call the police after one attendee dropped a gun. In last November's election she was hounded constantly by Tea Party members, some of whom were photographed firing rifles at a shooting range while wearing her Republican opponents campaign T-shirt. The Republican governor of Arizona has encouraged armed vigilantes to "patrol" the border between Mexico and Arizona as part of her anti-immigrant policies.

Pima County sheriff, Clarence W. Dupnik offered an emotional indictment of the state of political discourse. “The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, I think Arizona has become sort of the capital, we have beome the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry,” he said. “There’s reason to believe that this individual might have a mental issue, and I think that people who are unbalanced might be especially susceptible to vitriol.”

Any self respecting politician should be calling for a scaling down of the aggressive violent talk in U.S. politics today.

We don't yet know much about the killer except that he has had some "anti-government" ideas on the Internet and that he had been rejected for military service.

I am indeed worried that we are going to see more of this as the economy continues to collapse and more "angry" people turn to violence. The worst part is that politicians like many on the right, including Palin, are making a living encouraging this political violence.

The public must speak out loudly against this violent culture that is deep in America's core.

Below is a video from 2010 where Rep. Giffords was interviewed after her office was attacked because of her vote on health care.

Friday, January 07, 2011


More at The Real News

Journalist Glen Ford interviewed about Obama's new chief of staff William Daley, a J.P. Morgan executive and former commerce secretary during the Clinton administration.

Daley is most remembered for helping Clinton push NAFTA through Congress.

I agree with Ford's analysis in the video that Obama is not a "reluctant" agent of Wall Street. He is more than willing to carry water for the banksters and corporate crooks who now own the government lock, stock, and barrel.

The longer Obama is in office the more we see the outlines of his pro-corporate loyalty.

Thursday, January 06, 2011


Republican California Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon is the next chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. He doesn't have any military experience -- he spent the Vietnam era on a Mormon missionary retreat.

At around the two minute mark the video gets really interesting as he talks about how the "lord" set America aside for the religous folks and how our military is all about making the world safe for missionaries to go do god's work around the globe.

The American holy warriors you might say.


I'd hate to be that tree, or the ants who live under it.

  • We've got the weatherization folks at our house doing a total top to bottom intense energy conservation make-over. They've been here since Monday. It ain't cheap but we should get our money back in saved energy costs over time.

  • Thanks to my friend Tom who recently sent me a homeopathic remedy while I was suffering from severe back pain. It helped, along with the chiropractor treatment that I swear by.

  • We are now into our 4th year of living at the Addams-Melman House. There are currently seven folks here (including two kids). We are having a potluck supper to celebrate on Sunday, January 30 from 5-7 pm. All are welcome to join us. We'll play political bingo after eating.

  • A small group of us in our area have come up with an idea called "Vital Connections" where we are going to try to organize a quarterly pot luck supper for all kinds of organizations and small business in the Midcoast community to meet and share our work and struggles with one another. The idea is to build a grand coalition event where we occasionally set aside our separate single-focused agendas and come together recognizing that each of our groups are losing and that maybe by expanding our view of our world just a bit, and meeting new people with good hearts, we can all benefit over time by listening and learning from each other. We are going to begin with a smaller supper in February for some key leaders of some groups to see how they like the idea and then if they go for it we will then undertake organizing the larger events and invite every organization we can identify in the area. The general thought is that at each quarterly potluck three of the groups would get about seven minutes to talk about what they do and what difficulties they face. The hope is that each participating organization would invite their membership to these events and over the course of time we'd all expand our consciousness and our vision. The hope is that we'd have folks sit and talk with people they don't already know and cross-fertilize each other's brains and hearts. Sort of like the dogs in the photo above, they are all different but still are dogs and they share a similar goal - getting at the tree. It's a radical notion - getting to the root of our problems.


In states across the country, elected officials and right-wing pundits are calling not just for cuts to wages and benefits in the name of austerity, but even proposing laws to undermine labor unions’ influence, and in fact, their very existence.

Democracy Now hosts a roundtable discussion with New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse; Michael Zweig of the Center for Study of Working Class Life; and Art Levine of the Washington Monthly.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


Some in my household have asked me to think about and clarify a rant I did earlier this week. It is the one about a meeting I attended on January 1 where I critiqued some of the discussion in that meeting. It appears that I may have offended some with my rather harsh words about "going inside". The feeling is that I was judgemental with those words.

To this charge I fully admit I am guilty and would like to amend my words.

I do not think badly of the going inside process. I think it is a divinely inspired spiritual practice. The native people did it, Jesus and Mohammad did it, Gandhi did it, zillions of people I admire today still do it. Even I at times do it. Let me apologize to anyone I offended for seeming to discredit this spiritual practice.

I also recognize that not everyone is going to go to a protest or go to jail. Not everyone will become a farmer, or a street protester, or a Buddhist. I understand we each have to follow our own path. I respect that.

My blog is like a diary for me - a daily record of what I am politically seeing, and thinking, and speculating about - my observations about the world around me. Things that touch my soul and break my heart. Sometimes my humor comes out, other times my rage. Sometimes my judgements....for good and for bad.

I don't like it when others judge me though I've been around long enough to know that it happens when you do this kind of work so I understand that it is a two-way street. I do alot of judging of people and institutions on this blog .....Obama, the Democrats, corporations, etc. Sometimes I judge others in our movements who I think are off-base on a particular point. Sometimes I go over the edge with it I am sure.

But like basketball, politics is a contact sport. Elbows fly at times and I can have sharp elbows with the best of them. I try not to be mean-spirited with my words but I know at times they can have some very rough edges. Sometimes I want my words to sting - at other times they sting more than I'd like them to.

At this moment people all over the nation, and around the world, are thinking about and debating what we should do to get out from behind the corporate eight-ball that blocks real change. Alot of the debate is very spirited. There are many opinions about what should be done and I have my own very real and strong ideas about what I think is needed to make things happen for the better. I try to use this blog to project my thoughts onto the public wall so people can see what I think. In doing so I also make evaluations of the opinions of others. When I make these judgements I try not to make it personal but sometimes there is a fine line between the personal and the political. I don't mind walking that narrow edge - it is who I am. I put my elbows on the table and say what I think. Sometimes, I acknowledge, I step over the edge a bit and it can be a bit messy.

Let's take Gandhi for a moment. He was alot about "going inside" and walking the spiritual path and learning to love even his enemies. He simplified his life to the lowest level imaginable - I've seen one of his ashrams in India and it was spartan for sure. He grew his own food and spun his own cloth. He rejected the British system fully. I don't come close to measuring up to what Gandhi did with his life. I respect anyone who is trying to follow that path.

But Gandhi did more than that. He also organized virtually his entire country to move into active civil disobedience against the British empire and led active protests over and over again that landed him and many others in jail. Many were killed due to his resistance organizing and still he pressed on - always trying to keep their disobedience non-violent - but still pushing things forward, not ever certain about the short-term implications of his work.

I think the point I have been trying to make, and have not always done so well, is that the inside personal work is important but in my opinion not enough if we are serious about overturning the corporate empire we face today. And I hold to my strong belief that many in our middle class consumptive society, even many so-called liberals, would rather talk a good game than take those unknown steps forward into the uncertain world of resistance to empire.

At the same time many I know are genuinely struggling with what they should do....maybe they are not ready to do certain things, or don't think what I do is right for them, but they are trying to do what they think is best. OK problem....glad they are moving. It is good they are doing something that they think is important.

I just happen to believe that "we" must all do more to change things. I think we must talk more in our communities about what the next steps are, without judging the things we each are presently doing, but recognizing that we must ultimately move ahead into full Gandhian resistance to empire.

I will keep saying these things, and will keep trying to do better at practicing what I preach.


On January 9, 2011 the people of Southern Sudan will decide by referendum whether or not to separate from Sudan and form a new, independent nation.

Sudan's North and South have already fought 37 years of civil war that devastated the country and took the lives of 2.5 million Sudanese.

Differences of race, tribe and religion, as well as exploitation of the South's natural resources and unequal development are all major grievances driving Southerners to choose separation from their Northern brothers.

However the Sudanese are also deeply linked by culture, blood and geography, whether they acknowledge it or not.

Filmmaker May Ying Welsh journeyed down the Nile to try and understand the tensions that exist - not only between North and South - but also between the peoples of what may soon be Africa's newest country.

Watch as the Nile current sweeps a nation toward its destiny.

See a longer video on the history of the conflict in Sudan here

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


Just as I had figured would likely happen, the government has dropped the charges against those of us arrested at the White House on December 16 who were planning to go to trial. About 2/3 of the 131 who were arrested that day paid a $100 fine and were facing no further charges. One-third of the group refused to pay the fine and intended to go to trial and it is obvious that Obama did not want a bunch of veterans, and their supporters, to go into the courts and shine more light on the Afghanistan occupation. This way Obama helps to limit the "damage" of the protest. There can be no doubt that the protest got the government's attention.

Judge Dismisses Cases Against Military Veterans and Anti-war Activists Following December 16th Washington, D.C. Arrests

For more information, contact: Ann Wilcox (202-441-3265) or Tarak Kauff (845-249-9489)

Washington, D.C. – January 4, 2011: Anti-war military veterans and other activists celebrated a breakthrough victory today in DC Superior Court, when charges were dropped, following arrests in front of the White House, on December 16, 2010. Over 131 people were arrested in a major veteran-led protest while participating in non-violent civil resistance in a driving snowstorm. US Park Police charged all 131 protesters with “Failure to Obey a Lawful Order,” when they refused to move. All remained fixed to the White House fence demanding an end to the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and further US aggression in the region.

Among those arrested were members of the leadership of the national organization Veterans for Peace , Pentagon Papers whistleblower Dr. Daniel Ellsberg; Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges; former senior CIA analyst Ray McGovern; and, Dr. Margaret Flowers, advocate for single-payer health care.

Forty-Two arrested opted to appear in court and go to trial with the first group appearing in DC Superior Court on January 4, 2011. Prosecutors from the DC Attorney General’s office stated that the Government “declined to file charges due to missing or incomplete police paperwork.” Presiding Magistrate Judge Richard Ringell confirmed that the cases were dropped and defendants were free to leave.

Those who participated in this action make this statement:

“This is clearly a victory for opposition to undeclared wars which are illegal under international law, have led to the destruction of societies in Iraq and Afghanistan, bled the US Treasury in a time of recession, and caused human rights violations against civilians and combatants. Many of us will return to Washington, DC, to support an action on Tuesday, January 11, 2011 to protest the continued use of Guantanamo detention facility, including torture of detainees in violation of international law.”

The defendants were represented by co-counsels Ann Wilcox, Esq. and Mark Goldstone, Esq. Ms. Wilcox stated: “clearly the Government and Police felt that these veterans and their supporters acted with the courage of their convictions, and did not wish to spend the time and funds necessary for a trial proceeding. This is a major victory for the peace movement.”

For more information visit or on Facebook.


Outgoing Republican California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wants Obama to hire him.

They would make a good team - Hollywood and the magician - two peas in a pod.

Maybe Obama will put him in charge of terminating his critics on the left.


  • The incoming Republican leadership, who will now control the House of Representatives in Washington, is proposing $100 billion of cuts in education, law enforcement, medical and scientific research, transportation, Medicare, Social Security, and much more. They plan to exclude cuts to the Pentagon and Homeland Security - in fact they intend to call for increases in war spending. If you want to help stop the $10 billion a month Afghanistan bleeding then fight like hell to defend social progress in your community. The train called human needs and the train called endless war are heading for a full-on collision. Sadly both trains are loaded with innocent victims of the corporate money grab gambit.

  • Under the new Republican controlled House of Representatives there will also be an acceleration of attacks on Muslims across the US. This demonization and fear mongering will be linked to further attacks on our civil liberties and justification for continued military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), the incoming chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said he plans to investigate the apparent "radicalization" of some Muslims in the US. Look for more FBI "sting" operations where they set up Muslims in phony domestic terrorist operations and then make high-profile prosecutions as they have been doing in recent years across the country.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.

- Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) was an ardent nationalist and prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last 7 years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

  • The 9th year of the prison at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba will be marked on January 11 with protests by Witness Against Torture. On that day activists will gather at the White House for a news conference with a coalition of human rights and grassroots groups and then proceed in a “prisoner procession” to the Department of Justice, where they will engage in nonviolent direct action. Two years into Obama’s administration the outlook for the remaining 174 prisoners in Guantánamo is bleaker than ever. Despite Obama's campaign promise to close the prison and end torture it appears to be another sad example of the magician at work where he says one thing to get elected but then governs in virtually an opposite manner.

Monday, January 03, 2011


I went to a meeting on January 1 at the home of a local activist. About two dozen folks were there and most were local peace or environmental activists. The general theme of the meeting was to discuss what we all might do in the year ahead.

To be blunt about it I was severely disappointed by the meeting. Several people talked about wanting to find joy, wanting to "go inside" to find out what their values are (these are people in their 50-60's), or that they wanted to have fun.

Please don't get me wrong. I am not against joy and fun. I like these things as well but as we face the disintegration of our economy, of the environment, and our democracy, I think it is a bit of a white middle class privilege to walk into a meeting like this and claim that your personal angst should trump all else that is around us in this historic moment.

When it was my turn to say my piece I painted a picture of the Lakota sitting inside their tepees in the Black Hills in South Dakota during the 1860's as the U.S. Army was pushing them onto reservations and killing their culture and way of life. In those moments the Native people had to determine whether they would submit or fight. Many of those in the meeting this weekend, as far as I am concerned, decided to submit.

One of the folks quoted a friend who told him that she was going "to turn her back on Empire." I took this to mean that while she understands the horrors of the U.S. military Empire - what it means to the world - for various personal reasons she was turning her back on it. In my mind, as she turns her back on Empire, she also turns her back on all those around the world whose necks are under the boot of Empire, she turns her back on the environmental consequences of endless war, and she turns her back on the economic implications of Empire here at home as the Pentagon now controls 54 cents of every federal discretionary tax dollar. So the roads this woman drives her car on, the water and sewer systems she relies on that are falling apart due to lack of maintenance, and a host of other services she counts on in her middle class existence will all see the back of her hand.

This "escapism" is literally an epidemic here in America. So I grapple with the why? Are these people who want to "turn inward" doing it because they hope to find some magical spiritual source and power that will then enable them to some day tackle the realities of our time? Or are they, in perfect middle class fashion, finding a safe and politically correct way of saying "I want to lay low during these hardball times....I don't want to make any enemies....I want to keep my nose clean...I don't want to lose my job or any friends by stepping outside of the socially acceptable box?"

Personally I find much joy being with courageous and dedicated activists.....I was deeply moved when I was in Washington DC on December 16 getting busted for standing in front of the White House protesting against endless war. And if truth be told, I had some good laughs listening to the jokes being told by Vietnam-era veterans while we sat on the police bus waiting to be hauled away to the jailhouse.

I will close with two quotes that mean alot to me and I think speak to this topic.

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are [wo]men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning.
- Frederick Douglas

It is time to speak your truth, each of you. Do not look outside yourself for the leader. There is a river flowing very fast. Trust the river has its destination. You must let go of the shore, push off into that river. Keep your eyes open and your heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves. We are the ones we have been waiting for.....
- Message from Hopi Elders in Arizona

Sunday, January 02, 2011


The growing student debt crisis in the U.S. is one way the oligarchy has discovered to keep legions of young people politically neutered as the economy collapses and wars rage on.

With bundles of debt notices waiting in their mail boxes, students have to think twice about joining a protest group or going to a political meeting. They fear they might get "labeled" as an activist and then their job prospects, already darkened by the greed merchants on Wall Street, would become problematic beyond imagination.

Young people are being put inside a box before they get out of the starting gate. It will take alot of courage, or the complete rejection of the "system", for them to feel free enough to become real citizens in this so-called democracy.

These young people have been hearing about scarcity their whole lives - fewer college scholarships, few jobs available, and fewer opportunities for "success". They can either join the military or get a couple part time jobs that won't pay much and have their debt turned over to collection agencies who will torment them to death demanding they "pay up" now!

These are the seeds of revolution but first young people will have to break the strong emotional link that keeps them tied to the social mythology of upward mobility and the American dream - a dream that is fast becoming a nightmare for all of us.