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. We must all do more to help stop this western corporate arrogance that puts the future generations lives in despair. @BruceKGagnon

Friday, October 31, 2014

Protest at Obama Rally in Portland

Just over a dozen people gathered in a peace protest yesterday in Portland, Maine as several thousand mostly Democrats lined up to get into a political rally that was headlined by Barack Obama.  We have a tight race for governor in our state and the Democrat Mike Michaud (who I am voting for) invited the president to come and help whip up support amongst loyal party faithful and on-lookers.

I got there at 4:00 pm and worked the front of the crowd as folks got into the very long line to enter.  Other protesters arrived after a while and eventually I got someone to help me hold the banner calling for conversion of the military industrial complex. We stayed until 6:30 pm... people were still in line when we left.   The protest was organized by CodePink Maine.

In the news spot above my short interview comes up at four minutes into the report.  I tried to make factual and moral appeals to the public.  One thing I repeatedly said was that we need the 'liberal Democrats' to call on both Republicans and Democrats in Washington to end war spending so that we can deal with climate change and growing global poverty.

Another rap I made to folks was that when George W. Bush was president we would get hundreds, and often thousands, to protests held outside places where he spoke.  But after Obama got elected most liberal Democrats quit on the peace movement because they didn't want to have to protest their own party's war policy - which has turned out to be virtually identical to the Bush policy.  I told the crowd that the choir wasn't singing the song - in fact the choir isn't in the church anymore!

It was well worth the time I put into it - you don't often get that kind of captive audience - it was an organizers dream come true.

Washington's Syria Confusion

Washington is now reaching out to Moscow and Tehran for ways to negotiate with the Assad government - after years of shunning diplomacy with Syria. That's according to US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Jeju: The Beloved Community

Catholic Worker Art Laffin (2nd from left) reports from Jeju Island, South Korea.  Also in the photo (in red jacket in center) is Yang Yoon-Mo who has been jailed several times and nearly died during successive hunger strikes from prison. 

Art Laffin lives and works at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in Washington DC.  Back in the 1990's he used to come to Florida to help us organize protests at the space center.  For many years he has held weekly vigils at the Pentagon and White House.

Dear Friends,

Today was a rainy day in Gangjeong village. At 7 a.m. Fr. Pat Cunningham and I joined several other friends for the daily bowing ritual at the main entrance of the new naval base under construction. As a Buddhist meditation about peace and compassion is recited over a sound system, 100 full prostrate bows are done. I stood and bowed as my knees ain't what they used to be. As the rain fell, my meditation brought me back some 37 years ago as I recalled the Thames River in New London/Groton being dredged so that the soon to be Trident submarines would not scrape the river bottom. Yesterday, I saw massive cranes dredging the port where this new naval base in under construction. God forgive this unspeakable desecration in which the U.S. is fully complicit!

After the ritual, Fr. Pat took me on a trail where I could see another side of the base being built. The trail stretched alongside a small stream that fed into the beautiful South China Sea. As I was told yesterday, and was reminded again today, the ancient Gureombi rock formation is now nonexistent, as it was blasted away two years ago. In the March 2014 issue of the Gangjeong Village Story newsletter, the lead article lamented the second anniversary of the destruction of this sacred formation: "For thousands of years, Gureombi has been a playground, a garden, and a mother's arms, embracing and embraced by the people of Gangjeong. Thus it was perhaps the most painful and sorrowful moment of this eight year struggle to experience the partial destruction of the Gureombi Rock. Still, though we cannot see Gureombi anymore, it lives on in our memories."

My friend, Fr. Pat, who has been an enormous help to me, departed for the mainland later in the morning. I then attended the daily 11 a.m. Eucharist at the main entrance of the construction site, where I sat next to Fr. Mun, the renowned and revered peacemaker. The reign of God was truly at hand as rain came down for most of the Mass. Like yesterday, those were sitting directly in the path where vehicles enter and exit, were moved several times out of the way by police. Shortly afterwards, those who were moved went back to their blocking positions. Like yesterday, no arrest were made for this action. As the caravan of cement and supply trucks entered and exited the site, I pondered how the needs of countless poor could be met if the resources going into this site could be redirected.

Right before the sign of peace, Fr. Mun always sings a beautiful prayer for peace. He later commented to me that he often feels like crying whenever he sings the song. At the end of the Mass, Fr. Mun, conveyed to me what a beautiful Mass it was. He said: "this is our church--in the streets." Following the Mass the gathered community prayed the rosary. When the rosary was finished, a human chain was formed by about 30 people at the main entrance of the site. I was much honored to be asked to sing several songs during this time. When the human chain ended, all gathered broke out into a synchronized dance that was most impressive. Even though there was a heavy rain, this did not dampen the spirits of those dancing. Rather, the people danced with even more spirit and swagger. It was truly an amazing sight to behold!

Later in the afternoon, I was interviewed by a longtime activist and writer who is doing a story about the Catholic Worker for a progressive Catholic publication in South Korea called "Now and Here." Part of the reason she was doing the story was that several Catholic Workers have previously come to Jeju and she was very interested to know why. She also wanted to know more about the Catholic Worker, my involvement in it, and why I had come to Jeju. We had a great two hour interview which included a translator.

The rain has stopped. I am so grateful to be here. I carry all of you who read this in my heart and prayers. Thank you for your loving support and prayers. Please pray for all those who are resisting the construction of the new naval base here. Thank you for all you are doing to help create Beloved Community.

With love and gratitude, Art

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Our Rotting Soul

The word is jobs
on the tongue
of politicians
the 'job creators'

we can't cut
military $$$$
it will hurt
the economy

Few say it
out loud
or in public
'we are a
killing culture
we can kill 'em
or we can kill 'em

We do the bidding
of the military
industrial complex
keeps wall st. stocks
and control of
planetary resources

Luxury living for
the execs
big pickup trucks
for the workers
investors happy
everybody happy

It's well past time
for a frank
public discussion
about our
rotting soul 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Manufacturing Food in the Lab

SynBio Explained

Video Animation Explores Risks of Treating Life as a Machine


29 Oct. 2014–On the eve of the largest annual gathering of synthetic biologists in the world, ETC Group and the Bioeconomies Media Project are launching a new animated explanation of the workings of this emerging “SynBio” industry, often dubbed extreme genetic engineering. Thousands of scientists, students and vendors will converge at the International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) Jamboree in Boston to share the latest advancements in what has become a multi billion dollar industry based on the industrialization of life at the molecular level.

Increasingly, scientists and civil society are sounding the alarm about the risks posed by unregulated commercialization of SynBio’s untested, experimental and unprecedented manipulation of life forms. The new ten minute video, produced in collaboration with award-winning Canadian animator Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre and narrated by ETC’s Jim Thomas, is the first output from a new Bioeconomies Media Project. Featuring work of researchers from Canadian universities and funded by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the video provides a succinct introduction to the science and emerging industry of synthetic biology as well as some of the ethical, biosafety and economic impacts that these "genetically engineered machines" may have.

"The synthetic biology industry is already a multibillion dollar enterprise involving some of the worlds largest food, chemical and agribusiness companies," said Jim Thomas, ETC's Programme Director. "The leaders of that industry are targeting markets supplied by small farmers in the around the world; this is likely to have real negative impacts on poorer communities in the global south."

SynBio companies have commercialized several products already, including a vanilla substitute grown by synthetically modified yeast, a coconut oil replacement produced by engineered algae, and engineered versions of patchouli and vetiver fragrances. Less than two weeks ago, 194 nations at the United Nations convention on Biological Diversity unanimously urged governments to establish precautionary regulations and to assess synthetic biology organisms, components and products. Many countries had called for a complete global moratorium on the release of synthetic biology organisms.

"Small farmers feed over 70% of the world; if SynBio companies cut into the tiny profits they are able to make, it could have a growing negative impact on the world's food supply," Thomas added. "Given how little we know about the potential effects of these highly novel life forms, there are also concerns about the risk of synthetic microorganisms escaping into the air and water."

The video released today features the work of Montreal-based animator Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre, who has dozens of film festival awards to her name, most recently for Best Short Documentary at the Saint Louis International Film Festival in 2012. Saint Pierre’s last animation was featured at the most recent Cannes International Film Festival.

"Since I started working on this video, I've learned that synthetic biology is quite dangerous, and without regulations it can have repercussions for workers and farmers," said Saint-Pierre. "It was important for me to make something that’s easy to understand, so that anyone can access information about SynBio and process it."

Elections & Voting Almost Over

Most eligible voters
don't vote
it's hard to argue
with them
their reasons
are based on
their graduation
from the school
of hard knocks

People feel betrayed
by the system
where the human
is free to get crushed
in the grinders
of greed

Nature is only
a tool
a commodity
to make $$$$
which always comes
and in the middle

My first vote
in '72
I take pride
in never voting
for Bush dynasty
Clinton dynasty
or Obama
but I still go
to the polls

I believe in the idea
that the people rule
but the problem
is the people
can't decide on
what they don't
corporate media
drowns the story
and upgrades
and sports pages

As the old
saying goes
you are what you eat
same goes for media
we become what we
are told
by the oligarchy
that owns the TV,
radio, newspaper,
(with a couple
notable exceptions
here or there)

One time
in the voting booth
I had no one to
even if I held
my nose
So I put
the ballots
thru the machine
as blank
as when they
were handed to me

I don't want
to give up my vote
I just can't wait
for the elections
to be over
so we can
get back to work
on what counts

Space Launch Privatization Costing Taxpayers Dearly

An Orbital Sciences Corp. rocket carrying a cargo spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) exploded seconds after liftoff on October 28. The Antares rocket lifted off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia. Approximately ten seconds after liftoff, however, an explosion took place at the base of the rocket’s first stage. The rocket fell back to the ground near the launch pad, triggering a second, larger explosion.

Reports from Orbital were that the cargo module was carrying hazardous materials and they warned residents to avoid any contact with debris. That could mean many things including radioactive materials were onboard - one thing you can be sure of - neither Orbital nor NASA will inform the public what the 'hazardous materials' really are.

The mission, valued at more than $200 million, is part of the Obama administration's program of privatization of launch services.  Orbital has a $1.9 billion contract to launch eight such missions to the ISS in the coming years. This ill-fated mission was the third.

There appears to be on-going problems with the engines on the Antares rocket.  Last May when the engine was tested at the NASA Stennis Space Center in Mississippi there was an explosion and a $17.5 million loss.  

US launch services are turning out to be highly problematic.  Since NASA retired the shuttle program in 2011 the space agency has had to rely on the Russians to ferry astronauts to the ISS.  (The ISS cost taxpayers $100 billion to build.) Orbital and Space X have been awarded the contracts to transport supplies to the space station.  Luckily for NASA and the present international crew of six astronauts on the ISS the Russians were planning a cargo resupply launch on October 29.  If that launch goes haywire the six astronauts could be hurting.

The Russians have given NASA notice that they will stop transports to the ISS in 2020.  After that the US will have to figure it out for themselves.  One Russian leader suggested that NASA use a trampoline to get astronauts to the ISS.

Last night I was called by RT and did an interview about this launch accident via Skype.  In the interview I was asked why the US had privatized the NASA launch program.  My response was that the aerospace industry is eager to make space operations a profit generating enterprise by having the taxpayers pay them to venture into the heavens.  The corporations are particularly eager to advance space technology to the point that they can begin space mining operations.  There were apparently some experiments on the cargo re-supply mission that had to do with asteroid mining.

Aerospace corporation lawyers are very active these days trying to rewrite the U.N.'s Moon and Outer Space Treaties that forbid individuals, corporations, or particular countries from claiming ownership of the planetary bodies.  So the agenda is clear - privatize space operations and rewrite space law to allow the aerospace industry to claim ownership of the heavens.  But clearly they want the taxpayers to pay the freight charges.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Amtrak Goes Spy Crazy

Are you nervous or calm on a train? Do you look around when you're on the phone or stare straight ahead? Are you the first to leave the train or do you loiter behind other passengers? Well, you better know the answer to these questions otherwise the US National Train Service "Amtrak" will report you to the cops. RT's Marina Portnaya explains what classifies as "suspicious activity".

My Techno Talk in NYC

Space Technology’s Role in Corporate 
Full Spectrum Dominance

I live in Bath, Maine where Navy destroyers are built.  These ships are outfitted with so-called “missile defense” systems that the Pentagon is today using to help surround Russia and China. Few people in my community, including  activists, are interested in where these ships go or what their military mission is.  It’s not popular to raise these questions – especially when Bath Iron Works is the largest industrial employer in our state.

In the US today 59% of every federal discretionary tax dollar goes to the Pentagon to fund the cancerous war machine. Our communities have become addicted to military spending as our physical and social infrastructure continues to deteriorate. There is virtually no money for anything else these days as we witness austerity cuts in social programs all around the globe. 

The Pentagon says that America’s role under corporate globalization of the world economy will be “security export.”  We won’t have conventional jobs making things useful to our communities; instead we will build weapons for endless war and send our kids overseas to die for the oil corporations.

In fact, today weapons are the number one industrial export of the US. And when weapons are your number one industrial export product, what is your global marketing strategy for that product line? What does it say about the soul of our nation that we have to keep selling weapons and killing people in order to provide jobs so workers can feed their families?

In addition to coordinating the Global Network I am a member of Veterans For Peace, and just days ago we completed a low-tech 125-mile walk across parts of our state that we called Walk for Peace & a Sustainable Future. Increasingly, the only real job investment money coming into Maine (and across the nation) from the federal government is for military weapons production.  Now, nearly 10% of Maine’s economy is reliant on weapons contracts.

We began the walk up in the beautiful mountain and lakes region called Rangeley where the Pentagon’s ‘Missile Defense Agency’ is considering putting up to 60 so-called ‘missile defense interceptors,’ which, in fact, are key elements in US first-strike attack planning and are aimed at Russia and China. Narrow, winding roads would have to be bulldozed and widened and huge holes would have to be blasted into the mountains in order to insert the missile silos. Toxic rocket fuel would be trucked in and stored – the same rocket fuel that is now contaminating water sources in 22 states across the nation. The whole plan would be an environmental disaster and would cost taxpayers more than $4 billion.

This program is an important illustration of how the nation increasingly puts blind faith in space technology to fight modern wars.

Come to find out the Pentagon didn’t want this expensive program, but pressure on Congress from the Boeing Corporation forced it to go forward with an environmental impact statement process and public hearings in four states (including Maine) to select an ‘east coast deployment’ site for the missile defense base.

Another major weapons program being built that the Pentagon did not actually want is also in Bath, Maine. General Dynamics Corporation owns Bath Iron Works where destroyers for the Navy are built. The standard destroyers cost $1.5 billion each and are outfitted with another version of these ‘missile defense’ interceptor missiles – which have had much success in their testing program.  But after Obama became president he forced the Pentagon to build the new high-tech ‘stealth’ destroyer called the Zumwalt the job of which is to sneak up on China and blast it with electro-magnetic rail guns and other weapons systems. This is part of Obama’s ‘pivot’ of 60% of US military forces into the Asia-Pacific to provocatively confront and control China.

As it turns out the majority stockholders in General Dynamics are the Crown family in Chicago who helped Obama get elected to the presidency. So he owed them, and the new Zumwalt stealth destroyer, at a cost to taxpayers of between 4 and 6 billion dollars per copy, is their reward.

As part of the US pivot to China the Pentagon needs more airfields for warplanes, barracks for troops, and ports of call for the warships being re-deployed into the Asia-Pacific. So in places like Jeju Island, South Korea we see a 500-year-old farming and fishing culture being torn apart and UNESCO-recognized world- heritage soft coral reefs just offshore being destroyed as a naval base is being built for US nuclear subs, aircraft carriers and the destroyers made in my hometown of Bath.  

Endangered coral reefs in the Philippines, Australia, Hawaii, Okinawa, and other places are similarly being severely impacted by US military expansion across the region. The Global Network is working hard to build international support for the local struggles against US military devastation of the environment and way of life of these communities.

The Pentagon has the largest carbon boot print on the planet… but sadly, there is little acknowledgement of that fact by most climate change groups, which well illustrates the “off limits” nature of the growing military domination of our society.

Some environmental leaders have told me over the years that they don’t want to negatively impact their ‘positive working relationship’ with Democrats in Congress by taking on the more controversial military issues, which most Democrats fully support because they bring jobs to their districts.

We have become an occupied nation.  The corporate oligarchy that runs the show in Washington uses space-based technologies to spy on us and to direct all warfare on the planet. In a way, you could call today’s expensive military satellites the “triggers” that make the high-tech weapons like drones and missiles work.  These satellites allow the military to see everything, hear everything, and to target virtually every place on the planet.

The military industrial complex has become the primary resource-extraction service for corporate capitalism and is preparing future generations for its dead end street of endless war.

In the US, approximately 40% of all scientists, engineers and technical professionals currently work in the military sector. This is a colossal waste of talent and intellectual resources as we face the coming reality of climate change.

Due to the fiscal crisis across the nation, engineering, computer science, mathematics, astronomy, and chemistry departments in colleges and universities have become increasingly dependent on Pentagon funding. We are sold the line that high-tech robotic war will save American lives and will be a cheaper way to fight.

One key reason for the militarization of space is resource extraction on the planetary bodies.  The aerospace industry says they need nuclear power in space for mining the sky.  International space law is now being re-written to allow corporate control of the planetary bodies.  The plan is to scrap the United Nations Moon and Outer Space Treaties.

Rovers on Mars are powered with plutonium-238.  I organized campaigns to oppose nuclear launches in 1989, 1990, and 1997.  Space entrepreneur Elon Musk says we must move our civilization to Mars.  The Mars Society says the Earth “is a rotting, stinking, dieing planet” and that we have to move to Mars.  Imagine how much money that would cost?

The militarization of everything around us is a spiritual sickness.  Lakota holy man Lame Deer talked about the green frog skin – the dollar bill – and how the white man was blinded by his love for the paper money.  His spiritual connection to Mother Earth was broken. 

In 1877, the great Lakota warrior Crazy Horse was brought onto the reservation in South Dakota as the Indian wars came to an end. Along with the end of the Civil War just 12 years earlier the military industrial complex at the time saw an end to its massive war profits. It needed an enemy to keep the military production lines humming. So a strategy was developed: Journalists and artists were paid to fabricate stories about Crazy Horse breaking out of the reservation and going back on the warpath killing innocent white children, raping white women, and burning their houses to the ground. These stories were printed in major papers across the nation and the American people were afraid and outraged. Congress swung into action and appropriated more money for weapons production, while Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull sat inside their tepees on the reservation without a gun to their names.

Similarly in our times we’ve seen the military industrial complex fabricate stories about ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in Iraq, and today we see ISIS (which was trained, armed, funded and directed by the CIA and Saudi Arabia) as the justification for the US to get back into Iraq and bomb Syria.

Studies by the economics department at UMASS-Amherst show that military spending creates the fewest jobs – while spending on solar, rail, wind turbines, education, health care, or repairing sewer and water systems and our roads and bridges creates more jobs with the same amount of money.

Abolitionist Frederick Douglas reminded us that power concedes nothing without a demand. When it comes to our current evil economic system, called militarism, we should be talking about its conversion and the jobs that would result from that transformation. 

Good jobs can be created by home weatherization and building rail systems that get us out of our gas guzzling cars. Legions of unemployed workers can be hired to run town and city organic gardens. As we reject our military industrial base we lessen the impact of the war machine on our lives. 

Without massive cuts in the Pentagon budget now we cannot kickstart our needed social redirection.

The integration of the economic conversion issue into the existing work of the peace, environmental, labor, and social justice movements could be a transformative strategy that would unify our disparate efforts and provide the despondent American people with a positive vision for the future. We don’t have any time to waste.

Thank you.