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, July 23, 2011


You can sign a petition to draft Sen. Bernie Sanders to run for president here



A couple years ago I saw a nice pair of shoes in a local store here in Bath. Then I noticed they were made in Israel. I told the shopkeeper I won't buy Israeli products. I told her my reasons and she replied, "No one has ever said that to me before."


Mary Beth and I leave this morning for one week vacation on a lake near Jackman, Maine. It's a quiet place with no electricity, no Internet, no phone service. So there will be little for me to do except to read, sleep, walk, eat, canoe, and maybe swim.

I say maybe swim because yesterday I stumbled over my big feet out in the yard and skinned one of my knees so the swimming will have to wait a couple of days. But all the rest should be fine - especially the eating, reading and sleeping parts.

So there won't be much here on the blog for the next week. I know you might be disappointed, considering what you pay to read this thing, but service will resume on July 31.

While I am gone I expect Obama to end the wars, to tax the rich, and to leave Social Security alone. A man can dream you know. Maybe you all will force him to do these things in my absence - if that happens I might consider extending my vacation another week in celebration.

Best to you all.

By the way, I won't really be fishing.

Friday, July 22, 2011


The new form of slavery in the U.S.....prison labor.

During World War II the Nazi's in Hitler Germany put Jews, Communists, gays, prisoners of war, and others they hated inside concentration camps and used them as slave labor.

Inside a mountain tunnel called Mittelwerk Hitler's secret rocket team used slaves to build the V-1 and V-2 rockets. Just outside the tunnel was Camp Dora where tens of thousands of slaves were housed for the operation. An estimated 20,000 Dora forced laborers died: 9,000 died from exhaustion and collapse, 350 were hanged (including 200 for sabotage), and the remainder died from disease or starvation (or were shot).

After slave construction, the rockets were taken to northern Germany to a place called Peenemunde where they were tested under the direction of Werner Von Braun.

Rather than put the Nazi's who ran this place on trial for crimes against humanity, the U.S. smuggled 100 of the top rocket scientists (Operation Paperclip) from Mittelwerk into our country following the war along with 100 copies of the V-2 rocket. These Nazi's were used to create the U.S. space program. Von Braun later became the leading scientist in the US military quest to take control of space.

One can only begin to wonder if the seeds planted back in 1945 have begun to sprout inside the jails of the USA.

See a related story about the U.S. Air Force pulling a Christian-themed training session that used a quote from an ex-Nazi SS officer (Werner Von Braun) and numerous passages from the New and Old Testament to teach missile officers about the morals and ethics of launching nuclear weapons.


Peace activist Bryan Law tried to disarm a military helicopter at Rockhampton airport in Australia, three other peace activists were arrested for trespassing on military training area.

This was part of the resistance to the Talisman Sabre US-Australian military exercises that have become an biennial event.

The bulk of the war games are concentrated at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area which is a pristine environmental area. Shoalwater Bay is a noted dugong habitat and is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Marking 10 years of endless war and occupation in Afghanistan and beyond. The people are being bleed to pay for these wars and need to stand up and rattle our chains. Make something happen in your community in October.


What Could Truly End the Space Program? A Nuclear Disaster Overhead

By Karl Grossman

What is NASA’s future now that Atlantis has landed and the shuttle program is over? If NASA persists in using nuclear power in space, the agency’s future is threatened.

Between November 25 and December 15 NASA plans to launch for use on Mars a rover fueled with 10.6 pounds of plutonium, more plutonium than ever used on a rover.

The mission has a huge cost: $2.5 billion.

But if there is an accident before the rover is well on its way to Mars, and plutonium is released on Earth, its cost stands to be yet more gargantuan.

NASA’s Final Environmental Impact Statement for what it calls its Mars Science Laboratory Mission says that if plutonium is released on Earth, the cost could be as high as $1.5 billion to decontaminate each square mile of “mixed-use urban areas” impacted.

What‘s the probability of an accident releasing plutonium? The NASA document says “the probability of an accident with a release of plutonium” is 1-in-220 “overall.”

If you knew your chance of not surviving an airplane flight—or just a drive in a car—was 1 in 220, would you take that trip?

And is this enormous risk necessary?

In two weeks, there’ll be a NASA mission demonstrating a clear alternative to atomic energy in space: solar power.

On August 5, NASA plans to launch a solar-powered space probe it’s named Juno to Jupiter. There’s no atomic energy involved, although NASA for decades has insisted that nuclear power is necessary for space devices beyond the orbit of Mars. With Juno, NASA will be showing it had that wrong.

“Juno will provide answers to critical science questions about Jupiter, as well as key information that will dramatically enhance present theories about the early formation of our own solar system,” says NASA on its website. “In 2016, the spinning, solar-powered Juno spacecraft will reach Jupiter.” It will be equipped with “instruments that can sense the hidden world beneath Jupiter’s colorful clouds” and make 33 passes of Jupiter.

As notes Aviation Week and Space Technology: “The unique spacecraft will set a record by running on solar power rather than nuclear radioisotope thermoelectric generators previously used to operate spacecraft that far from the Sun.”

The Mars rover to be launched, named Curiosity by NASA, will be equipped with these radioisotope thermoelectric generators using plutonium, the deadliest radioactive substance.

Juno, a large craft—66-feet wide—will be powered by solar panels built by a Boeing subsidiary, Spectrolab. The panels can convert 28 percent of the sunlight that them to electricity. They’ll also produce heat to keep Juno’s instruments warm. This mission’s cost is $1.1 billion.

In fact, Juno is not a wholly unique spacecraft. In 2004, the European Space Agency launched a space probe called Rosetta that is also solar-powered. Its mission is to orbit and land on a comet—beyond the orbit of Jupiter.

Moreover, there have been major developments in “solar sails” to propel spacecraft. Last year, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched its Ikaros spacecraft with solar sails taking it to Venus. In January, NASA itself launched its NanoSail-D spacecraft. The Planetary Society has been developing several spacecraft that will take advantage of photons emitted by the Sun to travel through the vacuum of space.

At no point will Juno (or the other solar spacecrafts) be a threat to life on Earth. This includes Juno posing no danger when in 2013 it makes a flyby of Earth. Such flybys making use

of Earth’s gravity to increase a spacecraft’s velocity have constituted dangerous maneuvers when in recent years they’ve involved plutonium-powered space probes such as NASA’s Galileo and Cassini probes.

Curiosity is a return to nuclear danger.

NASA’s Final Environmental Impact statement admits that a large swath of Earth could be impacted by plutonium in an accident involving it. The document’s section on “Impacts of Radiological Releases” says “the affected environment” could include “the regional area near the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the global area.”

“Launch area accidents would initially release material into the regional area, defined…to be within …62 miles of the launch pad,” says the document. This is an area from Cape Canaveral west to Orlando.

But “since some of the accidents result in the release of very fine particles less than a micron in diameter, a portion of such releases could be transported beyond…62 miles,” it goes on. These particles could become “well-mixed in the troposphere”—the atmosphere five to nine miles high—“and have been assumed to potentially affect persons living within a latitude band from approximately 23-degrees north to 30-degrees north.” That’s a swath through the Caribbean, across North Africa and the Mideast, then India and China Hawaii and other Pacific islands, and Mexico and southern Texas.

Then, as the rocket carrying Curiosity up gains altitude, the impacts of an accident in which plutonium is released would be even broader. The plutonium could affect people “anywhere between 28-degrees north and 28-degrees south latitude,” says the NASA document. That’s a band around the mid-section of the Earth including much of South America, Africa and Australia.

Dr. Helen Caldicott, president emeritus of Physicians for Social Responsibility, has long emphasized that a pound of plutonium if uniformly distributed could hypothetically give a fatal dose of lung cancer to every person on Earth. A pound, even 10.6 pounds, could never be that uniformly distributed, of course. But an accident in which plutonium is released by a space device as tiny particles falling to Earth maximizes its lethality. A millionth of a gram of plutonium can be a fatal dose. The pathway of greatest concern is the breathing in plutonium particle..

As the NASA Environmental Impact Statement puts it: “Particles smaller than about 5 microns would be transported to and remain in the trachea, bronchi, or deep lung regions.” The plutonium particles “would continuously irradiate lung tissue.”

“A small fraction would be transported over time directly to the blood or to lymph nodes and then to the blood,” it continues. Once plutonium “has entered the blood via ingestion or inhalation, it would circulate and be deposited primarily in the liver and skeletal system.” Also, says the document, some of the plutonium would migrate to the testes or ovaries.

The cost of decontamination of areas affected by the plutonium could be, according to the NASA statement, $267 million for each square mile of farmland, $478 million for each square mile of forests and $1.5 billion for each square mile of “mixed-use urban areas.”

The NASA document lists “secondary social costs associated with the decontamination and mitigation activities” as: “Temporary or longer term relocation of residents; temporary or longer term loss of employment; destruction or quarantine of agricultural products including citrus crops; land use restrictions which could affect real estate values, tourism and recreational activities; restriction or bands on commercial fishing; and public health effects and medical care.”

As to why the use of a plutonium-powered rover on Mars—considering that NASA has successfully used solar-powered rovers on Mars—the NASA Environmental Impact Statement says that a “solar-powered rover…would not be capable of operating over the full range of scientifically desirable landing site latitudes” on this mission.

There’s more to it. For many decades there has been a marriage of nuclear power and space at NASA. The use of nuclear power on space missions has been heavily promoted by the U.S. Department of Energy and its predecessor agency, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, and the many DOE (previously AEC) national laboratories including Los Alamos and Oak Ridge. This provides work for these government entities. Also, the manufacturers of nuclear-powered space devices—General Electric was a pioneer in this—have pushed their products. Further, NAS has sought to coordinate its activities with the U.S. military. The military for decades has planned for the deployment of nuclear-powered weapons in space.

Personifying the NASA-military connection now is NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former NASA astronaut and Marine Corps major general. Appointed by President Barack Obama, he is a booster of radioisotope thermoelectric generators as well as rockets using nuclear power for propulsion. The U.S. has spent billions of dollars through the years on such rockets but none have ever taken off and the programs have all ended up cancelled largely out of concern about a nuclear-powered rocket blowing up on launch or falling back to Earth.

Accidents have happened in the U.S. space nuclear program. Of the 26 space missions that have used plutonium which are listed in the NASA Environmental Impact Statement for the Mars Science Laboratory Mission, three underwent accident, admits the document.

The worst occurred in 1964 and involved, it notes, the SNAP-9A plutonium system aboard a satellite that failed to achieve orbit and dropped to Earth, disintegrating as it fell. The

2.1 pounds of plutonium fuel dispersed widely over the Earth and Dr. John Gofman, professor of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, long linked this accident to an increase in global lung cancer. With the SNAP-9A accident, NASA switched to solar energy on satellites. Now all satellites—and the International Space Station—are solar-powered.

There was a near-miss involving a nuclear disaster and a space shuttle. The ill-fated Challenger’s next mission in 1986 was to loft a plutonium-powered space probe.

The NASA Environmental Impact Statement includes comments from people and organizations some highly critical of a plutonium-powered Mars Science Laboratory Mission.

Leah Karpen of Asheville, North Carolina says: “Every expansion of plutonium research, development and transportation of this deadly material increases the risk of nuclear accident or theft. In addition, plutonium production is expensive and diverts resources from the more important social needs of our society today, and in the future.” She urges NASA “to reconsider the use of nuclear” and go with solar instead.

Jeremy Maxand, executive director of the Idaho-based Snake River Alliance, calls on NASA and the Department of Energy to “take this opportunity to move space exploration in a sustainable direction with regard to power. Using solar rather than nuclear to power the Mars Science Laboratory Mission would keep the U.S. safe, advance energy technologies that are cleaner and more secure, be more fiscally responsible, and set a responsible example to other countries as they make decisions about their energy future.”

Ace Hoffman of Carlsbad, California speaks of “today’s nuclear NASA” and a “closed society of dangerous, closed-minded ‘scientists’ who are hoodwinking the American public and who are guilty of premeditated random murder.” He adds: “The media has a duty to learn the truth rather than parrot NASA’s blanketly-false assertions.”

NASA, in response to the criticisms, repeatedly states in the document: “NASA and the DOE take very seriously the possibility that an action they take could potentially result in harm to humans or the environment. Therefore, both agencies maintain vigorous processes to reduce the potential for such events.”

Involved in challenging the mission is the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space ( Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Maine-based organization, says that “NASA sadly appears committed to maintaining their dangerous alliance with the nuclear industry. Both entities view space as a new market for the deadly plutonium fuel.” Says Gagnon: “The taxpayers are being asked once again to pay for nuclear missions that could endanger the life of all the people on the planet…Have we not learned anything from Chernobyl and Fukushima? We don’t need to be launching nukes into space. It’s not a gamble we can afford to take.”

With the return of Atlantis and end of the shuttle program, there are concerns about this being the “end” of the U.S. space program.

An accident if NASA continues to insist on mixing atomic energy and space—a nuclear disaster overhead—that, indeed, could end the space program.

Karl Grossman has been a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury for 32 years. He is a specialist in investigative reporting. He is the author of Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power. He is the host of the nationally aired TV program, Enviro Close-Up.

You can send a comment to NASA opposing the launch of plutonium into space here


Gangjeong villagers were angered by the remarks of Cho Hyun-oh, chief of the National Police Agency, who visited Seogwipo and called for tighter control against "interference of business" and emphasized stronger law enforcement against opponents of Navy base construction. So they took their protest to the police HQ building.

Gangjeong villagers have become a pain in the ass. They are a pain to the Navy, to the police, to the governor of Jeju Island, and to their President Lee. Becoming a pain is how you win struggles like this.

The people of Vieques, Puerto Rico became a pain in the ass to the U.S. Navy in their long-time fight to close a bombing range on their island home. They finally succeeded after they occupied the range, got pushed off and then returned over and over again. They faced arrests and pressed on. They brought people from around the world to visit Vieques which helped make their cause an international concern.

My friends in Perry, Florida were facing the U.S. Air Force creating a bombing range in their rural community and asked me to come speak some years ago. I told them they had to become a pain in the ass if they hoped to win. They took the advice and won their fight by creating lots of non-violent turmoil in their community.

Signs are starting to appear that the Gangjeong strategy of being a royal pain in the ass is working. A mainstream newspaper in South Korea, The Kyunghyang Shinmun, has just written an editorial calling for cancellation of the base. Here is a bit of that piece:

Opinion calling for the construction to be suspended is growing, but the authorities are pushing the construction even harder by doing things like arresting villagers, and in turn are coming under fire for growing tensions.

There are so many reasons why the naval base construction on Jeju-do should be suspended. The construction of the base was initially pushed in accordance with the strategy of creating a "Navy of the Ocean."

This was a call to contain China and Japan by sending warships into more distant seas rather than just the coastal waters at a time when the naval competition in Northeast Asia is intensifying.

This was accompanied by arguments that a forward base was needed to secure stable shipping lanes and protect and develop maritime resources.

At a cost of 958.7 billion won, the South Korean Navy plans to build by 2014 a civilian-military port complex that could simultaneously dock about 20 warships, including Aegis warships, and two 150,000- ton cruise ships.

The base construction plan was full of holes from the very beginning, however. The village chief at the time of the selection lost a no-confidence vote when it was revealed he manufactured village opinion on the matter.

When it was revealed that the area where the base was to go was a preservation area in which construction would be impossible, the GNP-led provincial legislature rammed through a motion to strip it of its protected status. It also ignored that the area was a UNESCO-designated biosphere reserve.

Recently, moreover, there has been a major change in the situation for which this project must be suspended. Since the sinking of the Cheonan, the government has abandoned its "Navy of the Ocean" strategy, placing instead priority on responding to North Korean strength.

In May, a military reform bill that virtually abandoned the Navy of the Ocean strategy was passed by the Cabinet. Accordingly, it is natural that the base construction project be reconsidered from the very beginning.

It also must be seriously considered that if the US navy uses the base in accordance with the Korea-US Mutual Defense Pact, it could provoke China, as pointed out last week by progressive US intellectuals like Noam Chomsky.

The construction of the Jeju-do naval base must be suspended immediately. Even if we accept the claim that there is a need for the base for security reasons, we should reconsider the project after suspending the construction.

As construction is less than 5% complete, it would be no great loss even if construction were stopped. The construction of the base is a grave matter directly tied with national security. It is not something to be pushed by a single province and the Navy alone.

The government must now step forward and resolve these long-pending tensions, not ignore them as something taking place in a small corner of the country. (Editorial, The Kyunghyang Daily News. July 18, 2011)

Couple this with growing international support for the villagers and you have the stars aligning for the eventual defeat of this Navy base plan. With the U.S. Navy pushing the South Korean government behind the scenes to build the base it will be hard to stop but this editorial indicates a growing weariness with the controversy.

My advice to the Gangjeong villagers is to stay at it. It's called stick-to-it-ivness. Keep the pressure on and keep reaching out to folks around the world for their support. It's a strategy that has worked before and can work again.

You can sign the petition to Save Jeju Island here

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Emboldened by the 'Freedom Flotilla's' attempt to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza by sea, some Gazan fishermen have been trying to sail beyond the three nautical mile limit imposed by Israel.

The Oslo Accords allowed fishermen to work within 20 nautical miles of the coast, but Israel later reduced the limit on the premise that allowing more space will potentially allow Gazans to receive smuggled weapons.

Israel responds to the fishers' actions with water cannons, and sometimes with live gunfire.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011


  • Remember that other war and occupation? The one that Obama says is Iraq? There are still more than 45,000 U.S. troops there (and god knows how many "civilian" operators) but they were all supposed to be gone by the end of this year. U.S. authorities keep "hinting" to Iraq that "we'd be happy to stay if you just asked us to do so" but so far no formal request has been made. Things are heating back up in Iraq these days with more bombings and more U.S. troops being killed lately. Watch the magician's hands closely on this one.

  • The latest Republican plan to deal with our fiscal problem is the so-called “cut, cap and balance” measure now under House consideration which would require annual spending caps and a supermajority to approve tax increases. This would ensure the death of any and all social spending in the U.S. and would virtually cement us into paying taxes for nothing more than wars and corporate welfare. It's not likely to go very far as it is but sadly the Republicans have learned that when they propose extreme proposals like this the Democrats end up "meeting them in the middle" and some of it becomes law. Opinion polls are showing that growing numbers of the public have lost all confidence in either party to solve this economic mess. We must keep repeating this line over and over again: Tax the rich and Bring Our War $$ Home.

  • The Navy's Blue Angels will be in Brunswick, Maine to headline an airshow the weekend of August 27-28. Veterans for Peace will hold a protest at the front gate of the former Naval Air Station from 11am to 1:00 pm on that Saturday. These airshows are major recruiting events for the military as they snatch up legions of unemployed young folks and make them think that they will get to fly fast airplanes if they just sign on the dotted line. They later find themselves in a fox hole in Afghanistan or scrubbing the deck of an Aegis destroyer. Not much glamor there. The slogan for the protest will be - Real Angels Don't Drop Bombs!

  • AFRICOM, the newest Pentagon regional command in charge of putting U.S. bases on the African continent, is busy these days buying hearts and minds for the war machine. They've put a black Army general in charge of AFRICOM and are working hard to ensure that the U.S. has control of the vast resource base on the African continent. Of course the U.S. is flooding the continent with weapons and "technical advisers" and will be pushing the many client states they control to make their military forces "interoperable" with the U.S. military. Who can doubt that the Pentagon is the military arm of corporate globalization?

Monday, July 18, 2011


Mr. Ko after his arrest

Not a North Korean, not a man better than North Korean either

Republic of Korea (ROK), why do you arrest my friends? They were just trying to protect Gureombi, the living Rocks which give inspiration. Can you see the beautiful Gureombi? Professor Song, Kang-Ho and Ko Kwon-Il are innocent. They were just men who protect the sea and the beach of Gangjeong, just the keeper of peace.

In the morning of 17th July, before trial, a few people stand alone protesting in front of the Jeju local court. In the silent standing, please listen, please listen carefully the humble shouting.

At 11 am, the Jeju local court started trial, and finished around 12:00. Around 13:00, within the short 1 hour, the decision had been made. Professor Song, Kang-Ho and Ko Kwon-Il, one of the main leader in Gangjeong against naval base, will be detained in prison just like Choi, Sung-Hee’s case. In a very short time, they too will be moved from police station to prison.

If disturbing Samsung or Dalin’s business profit or interfering the ghost-like naval base is a sin, then what about murdering Gureombi, what about constructing the naval base in the absolute conservation area? Isn’t it a sin?

Navy of ROK, you can apply the injunction to 77 villagers. Samsung, Dalin, you can request the police to arrest the keeper of peace and environment for guarding the unjust profit. But all these unwise behaviors cannot undermine the justice. Our mind is clear about this.

When one of my friend protested alone in front of the naval base, a navy solider came and asked him “Are you a North Korean?” For them, are all the people who stand up against the naval base according to their conscientiousness the enemies such like people of North Korean? Is that true?

I wonder what’s the difference? If we all got a chance to look deeply into the eyes of North Korea soldiers, and we look back again the eyes of the ROK soldiers, will we find out big difference between them? If we find the loyalty to the country and the discrimination to each other in both eyes of the North and South, if we also see the love of them to their family and friends, and the happiness, anger, sadness, and joyfulness in both eyes of the North and South, then which side could really be like “North Korean”? What is "North Korea" which they mentioned?

Is the issue of Naval base construction only between North and South? Is the issue of Naval Base construction only the North East Asia regional problem? Isn’t it an issue, an problem or an barrier between just you and me?

Yesterday in the trial, the judge asked Bro Song and Mr. Ko: if we released you, will you repeat doing the same things? They answered that if the police would have monitored and stopped the illegal construction in time which will bring the irreversible damage, then why must we take action like this by our own.

If not, following their conscientiousness, how can they not practice righteousness and justice? Please listen carefully with your heart, listen to the shouting from the humble people.

Emily Wang
Jeju Island

Sunday, July 17, 2011



The reason the scousers never buy The Sun (a Murdoch newspaper) is because after the Hillsborough Football disaster which killed many Liverpool fans, The Sun said that the Liverpool fans themselves were to blame as they were drunk. At the end of the day the inquiry found that it was clearly all the fault of the police. "The word "scouse" is a shortened form of "lobscouse", derived from the Norwegian lapskaus (and/or the German Labskaus), a word for a meat stew commonly eaten by sailors. In the 19th century, people who - supposedly - commonly ate "scouse" became known as "scousers"."

Thanks to Facebook friend Jill Gough (Wales) for that explanation.