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

Friday, December 07, 2012


What's missing from the "fiscal cliff" discussion is spending on wars and the Pentagon.

How can you essentially remove those numbers from the debate and think you can find a solution?  Some groups across the country are now publicly protesting against cuts in Medicare and Medicaid but refuse to say a mumbling word about military spending?  Are they truly looking out for the interests of their beleaguered constituencies?  Or are they ultimately on a short leash that is being held by the political party of the president who does not want these connections to be made?

Admittedly Obama has proposed meager cuts in the military budget over the next 10 years - which can always be reversed by future presidents and Congress.  But it is chump change.

One analyst writing for The Nation reports, " As budget wonks comb over President Obama’s outline for fiscal year 2013, a startling White House plan has become clear: the administration is seeking to undo some mandatory cuts to the Pentagon at the expense of critical domestic programs. It does so by basically undoing the defense sequester that kicked in as a result of the Congressional supercommittee on debt. This wasn’t a featured part of the White House budget rollout, and for good reason—it undercuts the administration’s carefully crafted message of benevolent government action and economic fairness."

Let's tell the truth about the real budget solutions.  Yes taxing the rich is important but will hardly put a dent in the fiscal crisis.  We are going to have to seriously cut Pentagon funding or destroy social progress.  Shouldn't "progressive" groups say that in public?

Let me end with a quote from the birthday boy Noam Chomsky:  “Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it's from Neptune.”

Thursday, December 06, 2012


RT talks to William Binney, whistleblower and former NSA crypto-mathematician who served in the agency for decades.


Future survival is all about what we do to get the American people to rejoin the human race.

Whether it is climate change, endless war and military empire, the destruction of social progress here at home, and the dissolution of our democracy by the corporate oligarchy - the people in the US are MIA (Missing in Action).

It's not that they don't care.  I think most do.  They've just been trained like a dog to sit and lay down and to follow the pack.  They are on a short leash and have grown accustomed to being kept under control while maintaining the illusion of freedom and independence.

The leash is the media, school, work, church, government, mindless consumerism, and more.

I'll never forget when the Berlin Wall fell and mainstream newspapers in the US ran a story about how the people in East Berlin would now be "free" to purchase dozens of different varieties of sausages.  Freedom  equaled shopping.....these words get redefined so that as long as people can buy, buy, buy they feel "liberated".

Can the old dog learn new tricks?  The world is wondering and eagerly waiting to find out......


The Future We Want - Japan VOICES - is visions and proposals for an alternative future described from voices of people who experienced the Megaquake and Fukushima nuclear accidents.


Wednesday, December 05, 2012


  • Folks in Gangjeong village on Jeju Island have lately been using logs and rocks and other stuff to help block the Navy base construction gate.  The idea is to slow down the process which over a period of time adds up to quite a bit in cost overruns.  Currently the debate is escalating in South Korea about next year's Navy base construction budget.  National elections there will happen on December 19.
  • I finished this morning sending out the newsletter to our international list and sending the bulk copy orders to folks around the US.  They will help distribute the papers in their local communities.  
  • I've not been feeling well this week - first fighting a bad lingering cold and then getting dizzy and having assorted pains that were enough to send me to the doctor.  They ran some tests and found nothing to speak of.  Good news there......
  • The weather here is very weird.  It snowed again a couple days ago and since then has warmed up considerably.  So we go from a coat to a light jacket and no wonder my body can't adjust and starts acting strange.  Everywhere I go people comment about how much they enjoy the warmer temperatures....of course I say I am worried about climate change.  They usually mumble something back and move the discussion on to another topic. 
  • My son has arrived in Taiwan where he will be teaching debate.  He is quite excited about living in a different country for awhile.  
  • As if we haven't had enough presidential politics, the mainstream media is already promoting their favorites for the 2016 elections.  Dems - Hillary Clinton and Repubs - Chris Christie.  Nothing to get excited about. 
  •  Obama has taken the formal step of notifying Congress that he has deployed troops “equipped for combat” to Libya and Yemen to "defend" U.S. citizens and property, pursuant to the War Powers Resolution.  Expect to see the Pentagon's Africa Command (AfriCom) very active during the next four years.
  • The Senate (on Tuesday) unanimously passed their version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a $631 billion military spending bill, with 98 votes in favor. The unanimity of the vote, according to analysts, was because of a “lack of controversial issues.”  Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said that the bill, which can tackle everything from military social policy to funding wars, had passed unanimously for only the second time in 51 years.  Anticipating your question - yes Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont (Socialist) voted in favor of the endless war department budget.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


Call Congress December 5th to say NO to cuts for Medicare, Medicaid and vital services

Call your Members of Congress on Dec. 5th and tell them…

We voted for JOBS, not CUTS – WORK not WAR

On December 5th, thousands of Americans will pick up the phone to call their Members of Congress and tell them not to sell out working class families by cutting Medicare, Medicaid, and vital services, destroying millions of jobs and hurting children, seniors and people with disabilities.

Tell them that the best way to reduce the deficit is to create jobs, end tax breaks for the rich, demand that they publicly agree to protect Medicaid, Medicare and vital services, and move funds from the runaway Pentagon budget to meet peoples’ needs.

Call 866-426-2631 to get more background information on the threat to Medicare and Medicaid and 800-998-0180 about Social Security, and either to be connected to the offices of your Members of Congress.

Call 1-866-426-2631 or 1-800-998-0180 on Dec. 5th to say NO to cuts for Medicare, Medicaid and vital services. 



A New York artist has been arrested for his latest art pieces. In his work, Essam Attia designed a series of posters where unmanned drones are targeting innocent civilians and the artist has criticized the technology and the use of it in America.



Why It's Hard to Replace the "Fiscal Cliff" Metaphor

Regardless of how inaccurate it may be, the conceptual metaphor of the fiscal cliff is here to stay, thanks to the way our brains are wired.

Writers on economics have been talking since the election about why the "fiscal cliff" metaphor is misleading. Alternative metaphors have been offered like the fiscal hill, fiscal curb, and fiscal showdown, as if one metaphor could easily be replaced by another that makes more sense of the real situation. But none of the alternatives has stuck, nor has the fiscal cliff metaphor been abandoned. Why? Why do some metaphors have far more staying power than others, even when they give a misleading picture of a crucial national issue?

The reason has to do with the way that metaphorical thought and language work in the brain. From a cognitive linguistics perspective, "fiscal cliff" is not a simple metaphor bringing "fiscal" together with "cliff." It is instead a linguistic metaphor that is understood via a highly integrated cascade of other deeper and more general conceptual metaphors.

A cascade is a neural circuit containing and coordinating neural circuits in various parts of the brain.

Because we think with our brains, every thought we have is physical, constituted by neural circuitry. Because about 98 percent of conscious thought has an unconscious neural substrate, we are rarely aware of conceptual metaphors. And because the brain is a physical system governed by conservation of energy, a tightly integrated cascade of neural metaphor circuits is more likely to be learned, remembered and readily activated.

Let's take a look at the metaphorical complexity of "fiscal cliff" and how the metaphors that comprise it fit together. The simplest, is the metaphor named MoreIsUp, which is a neural circuit linking two distinct brain regions, one for verticality and one for quantity. It is a high-level general metaphor widespread throughout the world, and occurs in a vast number of sentences like: Turn the radio up; the temperature fell, and so on.

The economy is seen as moving forward and either moving up, moving down or staying level, where verticality metaphorically indicates the value of economic indicators like the GDP or a stock market average. These are indicators of economic activity, such as overall spending on goods and services, or the sale of stocks. Why is economic activity conceptualized as motion? Because a common conceptual metaphor is being used: ActivityIsMotion, as in sentences like: The project is moving along smoothly; the remodeling is getting bogged down, and so on. The common metaphor TheFutureIsAhead accounts for why the motion is "forward."

In a diagram of changes over time in a stock market or the GDP, the metaphor used is ThePastIsLeft and TheFutureIsRight, which is why the diagram goes from left to right when the economy is conceptualized as moving "forward."

When Ben Bernanke spoke of the "fiscal cliff" he undoubtedly had an mind a graph of the economy moving along, left to right, on a slight incline and then suddenly dropping way down, which looks like a line drawing of a cliff from the side view. Such a graph has values built in via the metaphor GoodIsUp. Going down over the cliff is thus bad.

The administration has the goal of increasing GDP. Here common metaphors apply: SuccessIsUp and FailingIsFalling. Hence going over the fiscal cliff would be a serious failure for the administration and harm for the populace.

These metaphors fit together tightly in the usual graph of changes in economic activity over time, together with the metaphorical interpretation of the graph. From the neural perspective, these metaphors form a tightly-integrated neural cascade - so tightly integrated and so natural that we barely notice them, if we notice them at all.

There is, of course, more content to the "fiscal cliff." Imagine driving toward a cliff with the possibility of going over. The car you are in is out of control. The cliff is a feature of the natural environment. If the car goes over, everyone in it would be harmed or killed. Thus, if the economy is a vehicle moving forward without control toward the cliff, there is great and immediate danger, and so the "fiscal cliff" metaphor engenders fear. Thus, knowledge about driving out of control toward a cliff, together with the metaphors cited above, characterizes the implications of the "fiscal cliff" metaphor.

Because the conceptual metaphors constituting the fiscal cliff fit together so well and so naturally, it is hard to just jettison it and replace it with an even better integrated metaphor for our economic situation.

Progressive economists like Paul Krugman and Robert Reich have rejected the fiscal cliff metaphor, but with different arguments and different alternative metaphors. Krugman points out that the idea of the fiscal cliff is tied to an economically false argument about the dangers of the deficit. He argues instead that the deficit is too small and that we need to invest more, not less, in the development of the economy. The real danger, he argues is that what is called the "fiscal cliff" is really an "austerity bomb." The result would be dangerous cuts in necessary economic investments and safety nets, which would hurt many people and the economy as a whole, as well - just as austerity programs in Europe have done. And Krugman has correctly pointed out that using the fiscal cliff metaphor helps conservatives because it accepts their economic theory of deficits.

Reich suggests "bungee-jumping over the fiscal cliff." He argues that President Obama should be willing to accept the drastic fiscal cliff cuts in the budget as of January 1. This could either be a "bluff" to scare the Republicans into believing the cuts would be pinned on them. Or it could be his "trump card," since the new Congress could reverse the cuts after January 1.

I agree with Krugman's economic analysis and think that Reich's political strategy is well worth considering. But from a cognitive linguistic perspective, their alternative metaphors, whatever their policy value, are not going to make it. Take "austerity bomb." The Austerity Frame is about self-denial. As used in Europe, it assumes two conceptual metaphors, TheNationalBudgetIsAFamilyBudget and TheNation'sWealthIsTheGovernment'sCashOnHand. Both are terribly misleading. Great Britain is richer than it has ever been, just as America is, if you count the total wealth of their corporations and citizens. The nations are far from broke, but the requisite money is not in the government's coffers. A family budget is nothing like a national budget, because the nation has vastly more resources and possibilities than any typical family. These are the austerity metaphors. The causal structure of austerity contradicts the causal structure of bomb. Austerity implies a long-term responsible form of self-denial that makes your situation better. Bombs blow up instantly and harm or kill you.

The idea is that austerity as a national policy would be destructive, and it most likely would be, but the metaphor doesn't have anything like a tightly integrated cascade of component metaphors.

Reich's "bungee-jumping" contradicts the inferences that arise from the tightly fitting component metaphors of the "fiscal cliff." And though Reich's "bluff" and "trump card" metaphors are instances of the commonplace BargainingIsGambling metaphor, it suggests a political strategy, but does not characterize our economic situation.

There are two morals here. First, metaphors cannot be proposed at will and be expected to work, even if they are intended to fit reality better than existing metaphors. Second, when metaphors are tightly integrated, they are going to be hard to replace and we may have to live by them, as misleading as they may be. The national economic debate will most likely continue to be about the misleading fiscal cliff, not the reality that "austerity bomb" is intended to convey. This is a sad scientific truth.

Monday, December 03, 2012



One of my all-time favorite books - Lame Deer Seeker of Visions.  I highly recommend it to everyone.  He was a great storyteller with a wonderful sense of humor.


An impromptu documentary capturing Israeli soldiers' threats of violence, by Harry Fear.

Sunday, December 02, 2012


The 2nd night of Sit-in protest in Seoul urging the entire budget cut of Jeju naval base. . .Enduring the coldest night of this winter with the music. . .Lee Tae-ho, secretary general of PSPD, is playing the alto recorder (flute) ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’ of ‘The Mission’. . Video by Fr. Youngmin Choi, Jesuit priest (Facebook post by Regina Pyon)