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, March 05, 2016

What Happened to Rail in Our Cities?

The ugly story about how General Motors Corporation (GMC) bought up and shut down the trolley systems across the country in order to force the public to have to purchase their cars.

Not only did our cities become a polluted traffic mess but the nation became addicted to fossil fuels which created a foreign policy of endless war for oil.  Due to the massive scale of automobile emissions worldwide we now face the tragic future of climate change.

Isn't it time to rethink the entire global transit system?  Isn't it time that we converted the war production  machine to help us dump the cars which keep so many people in debt to the banksters and the oil corporations?

Standing at Bath Iron Works

It was really cold today when 14 of us stood during our weekly Lenten Peace Vigil at the gates of Bath Iron Works (owned by General Dynamics) as the Saturday shipyard shift change happened at noon.

Several of us got positive feedback today from workers about our signs that call for conversion of the shipyard to build rail, solar, wind turbines and hospital rescue ships.  A worker told one of our folks, "I'd like to build those."  Our message of a different vision - especially at this crucial time where we face the coming harsh reality of climate change - is steadily being endorsed by the community.

Think of the changes that could be made - BIW could build commuter transit rail systems that would run throughout Maine getting us out of our gas guzzling cars that are major contributers to global warming.  Here is one very real and practical measure the public can demand rather than staying in a state of frozen resignation - call for the conversion of the military industrial complex so we can build a sustainable future for the coming generations.  But we've got to speak up now!

At our vigil closing circle I briefed the group on the proposed 'mass gathering' ordinance now before the Bath City Council.  It will be holding the final public hearing on April 6 at 6:00 pm.  People agreed that on some level it is a sign of our growing effectiveness when the city (and likely BIW) want to make it harder for us to assemble and speak out.

We are not going to accept restrictions on our fundamental constitutional rights and plan to fight these proposed restrictions all the way into the courts where past cases show we will ultimately prevail.  If the City of Bath wants to waste a bunch of scarce local tax dollars in legal fees than I guess we'll see them in court.

I Know Nothing..........

Vitaly Klitschko, the boxing champion who now serves as mayor of the Ukrainian capital Kiev, was quizzed in a recent Al Jazeera interview.

Host Mehdi Hasan confronted him on abuses committed by Ukrainian troops. Klitschko seemed to know nothing......

Friday, March 04, 2016

What Constitutes 'Free Speech'?

We were shocked here at the Addams-Melman House to read a story in our local newspaper yesterday that reported our City of Bath was working on an ordinance adopting rules for mass gatherings.  (See the article here)

A quick review of those in our house made it clear we all felt that this ordinance was more than problematic for local activists who wish to exercise their constitutional rights of free assembly and free speech - emphasis on the word 'free'.  The City of Bath wants to put a price tag on 'free speech'.

First thing I did was to call the City Clerk to get a copy of the ordinance.  I next called a lawyer and then filed an official complaint with the Maine ACLU.  I also sent an email around to local activists notifying them of the following:

This morning I called Bath City Hall and got a copy of the proposed ‘mass gathering’ ordinance.  I’ve put in a call to the chief of police and am awaiting his response.  I believe the proposed ordinance violates our first amendment free speech rights by putting a price tag on peaceful assembly.  The $100 admin fee plus the requirement to have $1 million liability insurance policy is an onerous impediment to public assembly.

The Bath City Council will hear this ordinance at 6:00 pm (first item on the agenda) on Wednesday, April 6.  I plan to go and speak out against this ordinance.  I would hope others will take a look at this attempt to regulate free speech as well.  Let me know if you want a copy of the ordinance and I can email it to you.

I’ve been through this fire drill once before while living in Florida.  In 1983 in Orlando the city created a new ordinance that gave the police the right to assign a price tag to their monitoring of protests.  In our case the Orlando police decided we had to pay $1,500 to cover the cops they assigned to our protest before they would give us a permit.  We got a lawyer and took them to local court and lost.  We then appealed to the Federal District Court and won and then the City of Orlando appealed to the US Supreme Court which eventually upheld the ruling of the Federal District Court that was in our favor.  So the city had to strike their ordinance, refund our $1,500 and pay considerable legal fees to our lawyer.  (See a similar court ruling from Maine here)

In the proposed Bath ordinance they say:  “The operator of the mass gathering shall provide a cash deposit to the City covering proposed City costs, which amount shall be determined by the Chief of Police.”

This is what I would call unnecessary arbitrary powers that could restrict free assembly and speech.  What happens if someone as poor as a church mouse wants to organize a protest and they can't pay the fees?

It’s déjà vu all over again...... 

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Honduran Environmentalist Killed Last Night

Honduran indigenous and environmental organizer Berta Cáceres was assassinated last night. At least two individuals broke down the door of the house where Berta was staying for the evening in the Residencial La Líbano, shot and killed her. She was one of the leading organizers for indigenous land rights in Honduras. 

In 1993 she co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). For years the group faced a series of threats and repression.

According to Global Witness, Honduras has become the deadliest country in the world for environmentalists. Between 2010 and 2014, 101 environmental campaigners were killed in the country.

In 2015 Berta Cáceres won the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s leading environmental award. In awarding the prize, the Goldman Prize committee said, “In a country with growing socioeconomic inequality and human rights violations, Berta Cáceres rallied the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras and waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam.” 

Clinton's Role in Libya Fiasco

The New York Times has published a major two-part exposé titled "The Libya Gamble" on how then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushed President Obama to begin bombing Libya five years ago this month.

Today, Libya is a failed state and a haven for terrorists. How much should Hillary Clinton be blamed for the crisis? Democracy Now speaks to journalist Scott Shane of The New York Times.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Honduran Women on Hillary Clinton

teleSUR talked to feminists in Honduras, where the U.S. State Department backed a military coup in 2009, about Hillary Clinton’s so-called feminism.  (Part of the story below)

U.S. Democratic Party presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has built her campaign around her self-proclaimed dedication to fighting for women’s rights, as well as her superior experience in the realm of foreign policy.

Many feminists have disputed that, and the women on the receiving end of her foreign policy, in particular Latin America, are even less likely to see the former Secretary of State as a champion of their rights.

For Honduran feminist artist Melissa Cardoza, Clinton’s policy in Central America has shown her true colors as an instrument of empire representing patriarchal, not feminist, ideology.

“As is well known, she supported the coup d’etat in my country, which has sunk a very worthy and bleeding land further into abject poverty, violence, and militarism,” Cardoza said of Clinton’s legacy in Honduras. “She is part of those who consider only some lives to be legitimate, obviously not rebel women and women of color that live here and who do not, at least not all, fit in with imperial interests.”

Cardoza added that so-called feminists calling on women to support Clinton should be warned against voting solely on the basis of identity politics, and made aware of the neoliberal lining of Clinton’s agenda.

“Sure, there is a very neoliberal feminism, although that formula seems unthinkable to me, but it’s those who think they can humanize the most violent way of life of heinous, criminal, ecocidal capitalism,” she said.

In Honduras, women suffer widespread gender violence amid a broader crisis of human rights, fueled by ever-increasing militarization and impunity since the U.S.-backed 2009 coup that ousted democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya. Under then-Secretary of State Clinton, the U.S. State Department aided the coup by blocking Zelaya from returning to power after he was ousted.

In her autobiography “Hard Choices,” Clinton admits that she used her power to bring pro-U.S. "stability" to Central America, even if it meant forgetting about democracy.

“We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot,” Clinton wrote. Those “free and fair” elections entailed a media blackout, targeted assassinations of anti-coup leaders, and a generalized and grave deterioration of human rights ahead of the polls. No international institutions monitored the elections.

Neesa Medina of the Honduran Women’s Rights Center told teleSUR that the coup has had a lasting impact on the human rights situation in the country, particularly with respect to women.

“The 2009 coup had repercussions for sexual and reproductive rights for Honduran women,” said Medina. She says she doesn't want to be partisan, in terms of U.S. electoral politics, but she does wish to shed light on the impact U.S. politics has had on women living in Latin America.

“As a member of a feminist organization severely affected by the support of the U.S. for militaristic policies of recent governments, I must say that it is important that voters take the time to do a critical structural analysis of all of the information in the campaign proposals and previous actions of those running for president,” she said. “United States support for militarily invasive policies in other countries has a negative impact on the women in these countries."

Cardoza agreed that Honduran women have suffered gravely from U.S. policies, including those pursued by the State Department under Clinton's watch.

“The current dictatorship under Hernandez is part of her creation,” said Cardoza. “The misery doesn’t just affect women with more brutality, but also our bodies are exposed to the militarist ideology with which they uphold poverty and kill us; to the conservative fundamentalism with which they deny the exercise of our sexual autonomy; and to the possibility of being creative people and not just workers for their factories and way of life.”

Cardoza added that the actions of “Clinton and her white, rich, neoliberal and patriarchal friends” has created a situation in Honduras that has pushed movements to be more radical in their struggles to resist oppression.

Unleashing Racism

Young Black woman repeatedly assaulted at a Donald Trump rallyUPDATE (5am): We have now determined that many of the men assaulting this young girl, a teenager, are open white supremacists who have been clearly idenfitied members of hate groups and Neo-Nazi organizations. I have an article coming out on them shortly. Full story @: my language, but I am fucking furious. Blood boiling. This is in Louisville at an official Donald Trump rally. This young peaceful Black woman, reportedly a teenager, is shoved and pushed and repeatedly assaulted by grown white men at a Donald J. Trump rally. Police looked on as this happened. White women, like they did with Little Rock 9 and others, screamed in her face with hate in their eyes. Men cussed her out and yelled right in her face as they pushed her to and fro and repeatedly put their hands on her.
Posted by Shaun King on Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Delegate Count

The Washington Post reports that after Super Tuesday the Democratic Party delegate count now stands as the following:
Hillary Clinton has 1,052 and Bernie Sanders has 427.  To win the Democratic nomination 2,383 delegates are needed.

The Democratic party sends 712 'super delegates' to its national convention unpledged. These delegates, generally state party leaders and elected officials, are free to support any candidate. So far Clinton has 457 of those pledged to her and Sanders has 22.

I've read several times that Sanders would have to win virtually every primary to over come the obstacle created by the 'super delegates'.

The 'super delegates' were created by the Democratic Party after South Dakota Sen. George McGovern won the 1972 Democratic nomination when the anti-Vietnam war left took over the party.  (McGovern was defeated in the national election by the Republican Richard Nixon.) Since that time the institutional party apparatus created the 'super delegates' to ensure that the left was not able to repeat the 1972 story.

Corbyn Shows Political Courage & Leadership

England's Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks to the thousands of protesters who assembled in central London last Saturday for Britain’s biggest anti-nuclear weapons rally in a generation.

Corbyn, who joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament when he was 16, urges MPs to consider ‘the humanitarian effects on wholly innocent people anywhere across this globe, if [Trident] is ever used.

Ann Wright on U.S. Military Empire

Retired Army Col. Ann Wright (and current Veterans for Peace member) reports on Hawaii public access TV about her recent travels for events opposing US military bases around the world.

She is interviewed by Liz Rees.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Environmental Report from the U.S. POW Camps

In this episode of teleSUR's Days of Revolt, Chris Hedges and two Native American activists (Charmaine White Face from the Oglala Tetuwan Nation in South Dakota and Petuuche Gilbert from the Acoma Nation in New Mexico) discuss the violation of land and lives of Indigenous peoples, particularly the decades of open-pit uranium mining that is responsible for spreading nuclear contaminants across the continent today. 

What is the Sanders Strategy Now?

Today is 'Super Tuesday' with Democratic Party primaries in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.

Sen. Bernie Sanders appears to be headed for a defeat in most of these primaries - the exception being his home state of Vermont and maybe a close race in Massachusetts and one other if his younger base turns out in big numbers.  [He won in Vermont, Oklahoma, Colorado and Minnesota.] In the last couple of events in South Carolina and Nevada his touted young folks didn't turn out the way his campaign had hoped.

It is true though that the Sanders campaign raised more than $42 million during February.  So the zillions of small donations keep pouring in.  But my question is now - what is the Sanders strategy?  When you add up expected Clinton victories on Super Tuesday and her massive lead in 'Super Delegates' to the convention (who are mostly Democratic Party big wigs who support Clinton) it will be virtually impossible for Sanders to win.

Is Sanders just trying to rack up as many delegates as possible so that he can have influence in writing the party platform - which of course no one will ever read and Hillary Clinton will just ignore?  Is Sanders hoping that he will be invited to speak at the convention?

It is true that Democratic Party voters by a large margin think that Bernie is more honest than Hillary.  So people in his party appear to like him - for some odd reason though they still think Hillary is the better candidate.  Is it because she has 'more experience' helping to create wars and giving Wall Street all the bail-outs they demand?

The only bit of strategy that I can come up with that might motivate Sanders to stay in the race is the FBI investigation into the former Secretary of State’s email usage, particularly whether she sent classified information in them.  Maybe Sanders thinks she will be charged with a crime and then the party will turn to him at the last minute.  I can't imagine any of this actually happening but I am lost trying to figure out what else might be moving Sanders to be staying in the race.

He'd need a massive voter surge in his direction today and beyond in order to overturn the enormous Clinton advantage of institutional support from the 'Super Delegates' and the love she continues to get from the mainstream media.

The Bernie revolution appears to have run into the predictable wall of corporate domination of the Democratic Party.  He has been late to make an issue of the Clinton dynasty's attack on social progress.  He has yet to really take on the Clinton support for endless war.  The fact that neo-con dirt bag Robert Kagan (Project for a New American Century) endorsed Clinton should have been a moment for Sanders to raise holy hell but I've not heard a word from him about that.  He's saying virtually nothing about foreign policy - one of the many areas where he could show that Hillary is in fact a right-winger!

So what is the Sanders strategy?  If anyone out there has a clue please let me know.......

One thing we do know for sure - Sanders has long ago pledged to support Hillary in the general election.  Why did he run for president in the first place?  That is the big question.....

Monday, February 29, 2016

Testing Out Repression in Israel

Jeff Halper, co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, sees the brutal practice of destroying Palestinian homes and similar tactics as part of an experiment in social repression that can have broader implications as income inequality spreads across the globe, as he told Dennis J. Bernstein.  (Reprinted in part from Consortium News)

Dennis Bernstein: Let’s talk about how you say Israel uses the occupied territories as a training ground, a weapons and control of people training ground, which is then exported. It’s sort of Israel’s front line, forward trade. This concept, and these weapons, and this technology, and these techniques, are then sold to the rest of the world. Set that up for us.

Jeff Halper:  You have a neoliberal world system. OXFAM came out with a report two weeks ago. Now, 1 percent of the population controls half the resources: most of humanity has been excluded as surplus humanity. You have more and more repression, especially as resources are being extracted from poor people. And they’re excluded. So there’s more and more resistance. … You had the Occupy Movement and you’ve got Black Lives Matter. There’s more and more resistance, so that the capitalist world system, itself, and all the different elites that are dependent upon it, somehow have to start looking more and more towards repression.

In other words, capitalism always tried to have a happy face: Ronald McDonald, and Hollywood and Walt Disney. But the more people are starting to see through it, and are starting to see those inequalities …, the velvet glove over the iron fist has to come [off]. And so the elites are getting more and more insecure. But the kinds of wars they’re fighting are not the wars we think of. You know, Rambo and F-16s and tanks … they’re not those kinds of wars. They are what generals actually are calling, “Wars Amongst the People.” … I took that to say what that really is, which is, “War Against the People.” In other words, urban warfare, counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism. It’s also called asymmetrical wars. There are a million terms.

So, really the elites in every country, and then if you take it within the world system, the capitalist elites certainly, the capitalist part of the corporation, and so on, are looking for, “How do we keep the people under control?” Now, where’s a better place to go for a model than Israel? The United States doesn’t have that experience. Europe hasn’t had colonial wars for 50 years now. So Israel is in the middle of an ongoing century-long war of counterinsurgency against the Palestinian people.

All these years, it has the tactics, it has the methods, it has the weaponry. It has the systems of security, systems of surveillance, all in place to export. And so that’s, I think, how you can explain how Israel gets away with it. It delivers for the elites. “We’ll deliver you the means of repressing your own populations, and in return you let us keep the occupation.”

Boston-area Veterans Stand with Muslims

Historic solidarity rally organized by the Smedley Butler Brigade of Veterans For Peace, Boston-area, February 27 at The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center.

See the Boston Globe article on this event here
Video by Regis Tremblay.

Don't Take this Planet for Granted

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Who is Now the Biggest Threat?

There are those in Washington who are projecting Russia as the latest 'biggest threat to the US'.  The US always needs a #1 boogey-man and a couple smaller ones just to keep the fear factor alive back here at home.  The endless war machine has become quite skilled at keeping the public distracted by their incessant fear-mongering that makes the war-mongering possible - along with the huge weapons production profits.

This all goes back to the days when the weapons industry created false stories that Lakota warrior Crazy Horse was back on the war path after having actually been brought onto the reservation in South Dakota in 1877.  Not satisfied with their 'victory' over the Indians in the Black Hills the weapons industry had artists do renderings and journalists write fake stories depicting Crazy Horse back on the war path killing and raping white settlers.  Congress immediately swung into action appropriating more $$$ for the Indian wars out west when in fact Crazy Horse and his ragged starving band had settled onto the reservation.  Truth is meaningless when $$$ stands to be made by perpetuating fear.

One must actually pay attention to detail so as not to get taken in by the hucksters.  Most people don't have the time, or the desire, to sort out all the sordid lies and deception.  Many people eventually fall for the enemy creation script that is constantly promoted by the likes of the NY Times, Washington Post, BBC, MSNBC or NPR.  The ruling corporate oil-i-garchy has all the bases covered.

Sunday Song