Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

My Photo
Location: Brunswick, ME, United States

The collapsing US military & economic empire is making Washington & NATO even more dangerous. US could not beat the Taliban but thinks it can take on China-Russia-Iran...a sign of psychopathology for sure. @BruceKGagnon

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Reflections from space law conference in India

My long-time friend JV Prabhakar hands me flowers at the Visakhapatnam, India airport as Peter Kuznick (American University Professor of History from Washington DC) on left in blue and I just arrived.  On the right side is Dr. Aruna Kammila (Global Network board member and organizer of the space law conference at the DSNLU law university.)

My flight from Newark, NJ was 13 hours to Mumbai with a seven-hour layover before catching the flight to Visakhapatnam.  When we arrived we were treated to a traditional southern India meal at the law school cafeteria and then went to bed where I slept like a new born baby.

The conference was opened by a terrific welcoming speech by Professor S. Surya Prakash, Vice-Chancellor of the DSNLU law university.  He made a moving connection between space exploitation for profit and degradation of the Earth as humans have lost their spiritual connection to our mother planet.  When I rose to speak I noted that I have attended many conferences over the years and usually most welcoming words from university leaders are perfunctory with little substance.  On this occasion the welcomes by Prof. Prakash, and another by his mentor Prof. A. Subrahmanam, were full of substance and were deeply connected to the subject at hand.  It was an important beginning .

The hall was full of students and faculty from 20 law universities across India.  Throughout the first day students and faculty from these law schools each made presentations on various aspects of space law.  After the students made their presentations a panel of faculty members from schools in Kolkata and Bhopal critiqued the student presentations.

I was surprised and happy that during breaks students would approach me with questions concerning space issues - my thoughts on Mars colonization, the use of nuclear power in space, could they intern at the Global Network - and as I began to answer the questions crowds of students formed to hear my responses.  Simply amazing.

In one discussion I lamented how it was so costly and wasteful that individual nations are organizing their own space exploration programs rather than having one program representing all of humanity from our tiny spinning satellite called Earth.  One student commented to me, "The problem sir is that we don't trust the US thus we must do our own space program."  That observation speaks for itself - sad but dripping with reality. I constantly raised the question - what kind of seed are we carrying with us as we venture off into the heavens? 

India now has a robust space program and recently launched a moon mission.  India is soon to become the most populated nation on Earth with over 300 million living in poverty.

I was handed a cell phone by another Global Network member, Prabhu Yadev from Nepal, who had one of our most revered GN board members J. Narayana Rao from Nagpur, India on the line.  Rao, a retired railway union worker, is the father of the peace in space movement in India.  For many years he has been traveling across this country organizing students and faculty to learn about space issues.  Due to cancer treatments he was unable to attend the conference here but I am certain he would be reduced to tears of pride if he had been able to come.

Today we will continue with even more presentations.  We will hear from Peter Kuznick and Global Network board members Lindis Percy (UK) and Subrata Ghoshroy (MIT in Boston).

I'll post my own speech soon with more photos as I get them.  I still do not have a cell phone - out of rebellion over the expense and health implications.  Thus I must rely on others to provide me with photos.  When I went through immigration in Mumbai the man working at the station checking my Visa and passport was stunned that I left blank the space for cell phone number.  I'm likely one of the few people in the world without such a device.


An outstanding book - must read

I've just finished reading this incredible book by Kate Brown on the aftermath of the 1986 nuclear reactor disaster at Chernobyl, Ukraine.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I learned so much from this monumental work.  Probably the most impressive thing about Brown's writing is that she is a great story teller who weaved in tales about the people and doctors who were involved in dealing with the hellish contamination for many years following the event.

It's an eye opening story as the US Department of Energy, the UN's World Health Organization and other international pro-nuclear bodies did their best to downplay the contamination and deaths caused by the accident.

Stories about how the USSR was totally overwhelmed by the human and environmental impacts are heart breaking and the courage and tenaciousness of a few medical professionals to push on defending the men, women and children who suffered so badly are deeply moving.

I was already anti-nuclear but after reading this book I am even more so now.

It's amazing that very recently the elected President Zelensky in Ukraine has moved to make the Chernobyl contamination zone a tourist site. That is just insane.

Many years ago while living in Florida I organized several large delegations of peaceniks to travel to Cuba to 'pick the forbidden fruit'.  While there on one of the trips we were taken (in the mid-1990's) to a Pioneer kids camp that had been turned over to host children of Chernobyl who were contamination victims.  I met one child, born after the nuclear accident, who had what looked just like deer hide growing on his face and arms.  That stunning revelation of the effects of contamination still lives inside of me.

Here is one important bit from the book.  Brown writes about her meeting with a Ukrainian married couple who were physicists and had been working hard to investigate the health impacts of the accident.  She writes:

Vsevolod showed me around the circa 1953 solar telescope he and Natalia managed in an observatory, hidden in a courtyard garden of flowers and fruit trees in central Kyiv....One evening Natalia was out, and Vsevolod could dwell on his favorite topic unhindered over a meal of stuffed peppers.  He said the solar telescope taught them not just how the sun affects the earth, but also how the earth and the actions of humans on it impact the sun.  He showed me charts of sun eruptions over 150 years of observation.  The biggest jet occurred in 1946, which he interpreted as right after the bomb fell on Hiroshima.  More eruptions followed in quick succession during the years of atmospheric nuclear testing.  I listened skeptically, though later I found articles about how Americans and Soviets exploded high-altitude nuclear bombs in the early 1960s with the specific purpose of changing the electromagnetic fields and radiation belt surrounding the planet. [Playing god.] The bomb, Vsevolod read into his graphs, was a mistake, a huge error that altered the heavens itself.  "Before we turn the earth into something miserable for human life," Vsevolod wanted me to know, "we have to recognize that mistake."

Friday, October 11, 2019

History lesson: Building the U.S. 'business' empire by hook & by crook

The Untold History of the United States (also known as Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States) is a 2012 documentary series created, directed, produced, and narrated by Oliver Stone about the reasons behind the Cold War, the decision to drop the atomic bombs, and changes in America's global role since the fall of Communism.

Oliver Stone and historian Peter Kuznick (director of American University's Nuclear Studies Institute) began working on the project in 2008. Stone and Kuznick co-wrote the script.

Lisa Savage announces campaign for Maine's U.S. Senate seat

October 10, 2019 | Media Release

For Further Information: Sam Pfeifle

207-749-0298  @SamPfeifle

Lisa Savage, a teacher and grandmother from Solon, will announce her exploratory campaign for U.S. Senate on October 10 at noon in Congress Square Park, Portland. Savage is testing the waters for a run on the Maine Green Independent Party ticket in the first U.S. Senate race to use ranked choice voting.

“People are hungry for real change, but the political establishment fails to listen, year after year,” she said. “I’m exploring a run to give Mainers a Senator who represents everyday people again, rather than big corporations, lobbyists and billionaires who are calling the shots in Washington.” Savage has pledged not to accept donations from for-profit corporate lobbyists or PACs.

“As a teacher in rural Maine, I work every day with children whose families are struggling to survive in an economy that has thrown working people under the bus,” said Savage. “I believe, as residents of the richest country in world history, we all deserve the fundamentals of a secure life, like good union jobs through a Green New Deal that will put millions to work tackling the climate crisis, a Medicare for All healthcare system that provides health care as a human right for everyone and stops driving sick people into bankruptcy, and quality education for all, including free public higher education without student debt.”

As a strong independent progressive candidate, Lisa’s campaign would increase the turnout of progressive and independent voters in the first Senate race ever to use ranked choice voting. Under this new system, Lisa’s presence in the race would not “split the vote”, but rather increase the vote to unseat Sen. Collins who has increasingly aligned herself with Donald Trump’s far-right Republican agenda.

Lisa Savage has a long history of service on behalf of people, planet, and peace. She has fought for and won better health care, wages, and job security for working people as former vice president and chief negotiator for her local bargaining unit of the Maine Education Association.

To jump start a Green New Deal for Maine and beyond, Lisa has been leading a campaign initiated by Bath Iron Workers decades ago to convert the factory to supply green energy and transportation needs for the nation. “We can make Maine the source of Green infrastructure for the Northeast and beyond, building solutions like commuter trains, solar panels and offshore wind towers - rather than wasting billions on needless, polluting war ships that make the climate crisis worse,” Lisa noted.

Lisa has been watch-dogging the use of our federal tax dollars as past coordinator of the Bring Our War Dollars Home campaign.  “Global warming is already harming our farms, fisheries and coast,” said Savage. “Yet Congress is diverting almost 60% of our federal discretionary budget to the Pentagon for endless, unwinnable wars that make the world less safe and worsen climate change. It’s time to put those wasted dollars to work for true security here at home, building the green technology of the future. This is a win-win-win for our workers, our state and our world.”

Lisa has organized for social justice in partnership with Showing Up For Racial Justice - Central Maine and Maine Wabanaki-REACH, and she helped get legislation passed to end the demeaning use of Native Americans as school mascots in Maine.

Prior to becoming a teacher Lisa managed a family-owned small business in Skowhegan for seven years. She has a history degree from Bowdoin College and a masters degree in education from the University of Southern Maine. Lisa and her husband, self-employed woodworker Mark Roman, have five grown children and four grandchildren.

“People are fed up with business as usual in Washington DC,” Lisa stated. “The political establishment has brought us endless wars abroad, impoverished us at home, and sold our democracy to the highest bidder. Now we have an historic opportunity in this first Senate race with Ranked Choice Voting, which gives everyone the freedom to vote for the greater good."

"We’ve never had a better opportunity - or a more urgent need - for a people-powered campaign to make history. Together, we can create a Maine and a nation that works for all of us!"


[Lisa is a dear friend and I will be volunteering on her campaign.  With Rank Choice Voting for this US Senate race in Maine anything is possible.  I write this from the Mumbai, India airport.  It is 4:30 am time back in Maine now.  I am a bit tired but excited for Lisa.  You can find her web site here.  Bruce]

Thursday, October 10, 2019

A new expensive arms race in space?

Video by the Union of Concerned Scientists

Politicians have called for "space-based missile defense" for years. Unfortunately, it's not a very good idea.

This video shows how a system using space interceptors would work. It demonstrates why such a system is necessarily expensive and vulnerable--and why, as a defensive shield, it's not particularly useful (and even dangerous).

And ultimately these systems are highly provocative and will unleash a new arms race in space - something the aerospace industry desperately wants.

The warmongers intend to pay for this new arms race by defunding Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and what little is left of the tattered 'social safety net'.

These 'pharaohs' of our time want to build pyramids to the heavens and we the people will be the slaves to hand over everything to them so they can militarize, weaponize, and privatize space to their benefit.

I'm at the New York airport now waiting for my flight to India where I'll attend a conference on this very subject.  In order to pull this all off the US corporate oligarchs must shred the United Nations Moon and Outer Space Treaties that say no country, no corporation nor any individual can make land claims in space.  The planetary bodies are the 'province of all human kind'.


Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Request for support for Global Network

Preparing to head to India for the Space Law conference.  Concerned about the colonization of the planetary bodies for 'profit, exploitation, and militarization'.  I will post reports while on the trip.

Dear Friends,

I write to ask for your support as I prepare to leave on a month-long organizing journey on behalf of the Global Network. This will be my schedule.

  •   Oct 11-14 Visakhapatnam, India
  •   Oct 15-17 Kathmandu, Nepal
  •   Oct 18-23 Moscow, Russia
  •   Oct 24-30 Train to Lugansk People Republic (LPR) and the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine near the Russian border
  •   Nov 1-Nov 13 Simferopol & Yalta, Crimea

India:  Our board member Aruna Kammila is a professor at the Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University in Visakhapatnam and has organized an International Space Law Conference on the theme "Explore but don't exploit." We will focus on building an international consciousness and support to demand that United Nations space law treaties (Moon & Outer Space Treaties) be respected and followed rather than ignored by creating the mad rush to privatize space on behalf of the aerospace industry and the rich. 

Just like the US withdrawal from other treaties in recent years (ABM, Iran Nuclear Deal, and INF) there is growing concern that Washington’s number one agenda for space is to turn it toward privatized domination and exploitation.  We’ve had enough of that. Aruna’s hard work to organize this conference will allow for deep learning. GN board members Lindis Percy (UK) and Subrata Ghoshroy (Boston) will also be there.

Nepal:  I’ve been invited to return to Kathmandu where I will meet with GN chapter leaders and speak at several colleges across the city about our work.  During our previous visit to Nepal in 2016 (see the reports from that India-Nepal trip here) a group of local college professors asked if they could create a chapter of the Global Network in Kathmandu.  We of course said yes. Since then, delegates from Nepal tried to attend our annual conferences in Alabama and England but their Visa applications were rejected.  Thankfully this past spring they were allowed to join us in Moscow during our Russia study tour. Their persistence inspires us all.

Moscow:  Here I will meet with a number of political activists, including our newest board member, Leonid Ilderkin from Ukraine who now lives as a political refugee in Russia. Among the topics of discussion will be their perspectives on the 2014 US-orchestrated coup d’état in Ukraine which put into power many fascists backed by Nazi death squads primarily from western Ukraine. Few westerners know that tens of thousands of people in eastern Ukraine, near the Russian border, were killed and arrested by the new regime in Kiev, the capitol of Ukraine. More than one million other Ukrainians escaped to Russia because of the constant shelling of the Donbass (the part of Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine near the Russian border).  The US-NATO have been key players in arming, training and directing these attacks in the Donbass.  A good article for background information on these events is here.

Lugansk & Donetsk: Leonid will take me via overnight train to Lugansk in the Donbass at the invitation of a labor leader there.  A few months ago this gentle labor man, whom I met at a conference in Moscow one year ago, asked me to create an Online petition calling on the US & Canada to stop arms sales/grants to Ukraine.  He was so grateful for the support that he invited me to visit, and is planning to have me speak at a conference in nearby Donetsk. We will spend several days meeting with people there who are trying to get the world to understand their current struggle for survival as they are daily under attack by the Ukrainian Army and the Nazi death squads that still operate with impunity.

The west claims that Russia invaded Ukraine, but there is no evidence of that.  Following the 2014 coup, and the indiscriminate killing of citizens in the Donbass by the Ukrainian government, a self-defense force was created in the region – primarily in the region of Lugansk and Donetsk.  Coal miners, musicians, teachers, electricians, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers joined the self-defense forces to protect their communities and families.

The Pentagon established a base in western Ukraine and rotates in US Army Special Forces troops from Ft. Carson, Colorado who are sent to train the Ukrainian Army.  The Ukrainian fascist “godfather” was Stephan Bandera who donned a Nazi uniform during Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union during WW II and helped Hitler kill Jews, Communists, Poles and more.  Today the Ukrainian Nazi death squads have been brought into the newly formed ‘National Guard’ and are being trained at this US-run base.  See a video of Obama’s ambassador visiting the base in early 2016 here.

Crimea: Last spring during our Russia Study Tour we visited Crimea where local citizens reported on their successful 2014 citizen referendum to re-join Russia rather than wait for Ukraine to bring its violent repression to their peninsula. We were able to participate in the May Day parade in Simferopol which celebrated working people around the world.  That same day local leaders hosted a conference and invited all our 24 tour members to attend.  They spoke to us and asked us to speak to them in return.  Four from our group expressed that we were ordinary people who had come in the spirit of peace.  We told them we worry about war, about US-NATO expansion now encircling Russia and China, and wish to build peaceful bridges among our peoples.  They received us with deep respect and generosity.

I was asked by one of the leaders of the Black Sea Association for International Cooperation in Simferopol to bring some US veterans back to Crimea for further conferences in early November.  So Simferopol will be my last stop on this month-long journey. 

Needless to say this trip is costing the Global Network some funds.  Only a small part of my expenses will be reimbursed by my hosts.  Most of the places I will be visiting are living in hard circumstances.  It is my hope that you can make a special donation to the Global Network’s travel fund to help with this trip.

Some years ago the GN board asked me to work harder to build better relationships with peaceful people and groups in Russia and Eastern Europe.  It has not been easy, but since 2016 we’ve made major steps forward in that direction.  Clearly it takes traveling and establishing personal relationships to make that happen.  It also costs money.

This trip will offer a profound privilege and opportunity to the GN to deepen our solidarity with friends in India, Nepal, Russia and eastern Ukraine.  We need each other now more than ever.

I wish you the best as we approach the fall season and the end of the year festivities.  Always let’s keep in mind our earnest work to bring a loving spirit to this beautiful Mother Earth that we all have the good fortune to live on.

In peace,

Bruce K. Gagnon

PS  You can donate by sending a tax-deductible check to the GN at PO Box 652, Brunswick, ME 04011 or by going to our web site and clicking on the secure Green Donate Now button.  Thank you very much.  

Report from Global Network's Russia Study Tour

Video from the Global Network's spring Russia Study Tour produced by board member Will Griffin.

The video includes interviews with several members of our study tour delegation.

See more Global Network videos here

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Report from Syria on Turkey, the Kurds and the USA

Tom Duggan is a Middle Eastern war correspondent living in Damascus, Syria.

Extinction Rebellion growing

It's now or never.

Time to make the changes we know are needed to protect the future generations.

Which politicians are just talking about it and which ones really mean to do something serious about the problem?

That is the real question that must be answered.

Promises to be 'carbon neutral' by 2040 or 2050 just don't get it.

23 Arrests as XR Peace Blockades Victoria Embankment outside MoD

23 people have been arrested October 7 after blocking Victoria Embankment in London outside the UK Ministry of Defence complex, amid calls for UK to redirect resources from military to address Climate Crisis, and as part of the XR London Extinction Rebellion.

The protesters, from the XR Peace group, blocked the Embankment with a car and by attaching themselves to a mock Trident missile. Among the protesters were Rewilding North, a group from Wales, a group from Cornwall, a group from Yorkshire, people from Scotland and other parts of the country.

Among those arrested is Quaker Sarah Lasenby, 81, a retired social worker from Oxford. She said:

“For twenty-one years my main concern has been to help get rid on UK nuclear weapons. I am still keen to do this but once I came across XR I was so relieved to have something I could do about the ghastly state we have got our planet in. The directness of the students with statements 'There is no planet B' and 'it is our futures' has driven me on.. The whole thing is so urgent that it is imperative the Government should take serious actions and put pressure on other states and Global Powers to radically reduce the use of fossil fuels even if this means we need to reduce our comfort at home and so much flying. The future life of the planet is so important. So I protest with XR Peace.”

Also arrested is Angie Zelter, founder of the nonviolent direct action nuclear disarmament campaign group Trident Ploughshares, who said “Climate change causes war and war causes climate change. About 6% of global carbon emissions are from military activity. As the climate crisis gains pace there will be increasing tension. If countries continue to resort to war as a means of solving conflict we will not be able to avert climate crisis.”

XR Peace is a coalition of peace groups including Trident Ploughshares, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Scottish CND, CND Cymru, Stop the War, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, War Resisters International, Nukewatch, Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre, Iona Community and Nipponzan Myohoji UK Peace Pagodas. 

Monday, October 07, 2019

Space week in Asheville, North Carolina

Ken Jones from Asheville, North Carolina wrote to us about the event he has organized in his city this year for space week.

I just got home from our first day walking around Asheville for the week. As you know, last year I did this on my own, couldn’t get anyone from Veterans For Peace to join me. But this year, I have some takers. Today, 4 of us walked around town - I led with the banner, then we had a drummer, a woman costumed in a shroud with a sign and another passing out flyers. And not only was it Saturday in Touristville, but it was Octoberfest! So many people out on the streets for our parade! We got a lot of attention, handed out close to 100 flyers and had some pretty good conversations. We went for about an hour and a half. I came home elated. Just wanted to share my successful day with you.....

From the flyer I am handing out:

"NATO was created 70 years ago to contain the Soviet Union which no longer exists. Still, NATO has grown to be a global military alliance.

US/NATO military bases, war games, and weapons are now deployed directly on Russia’s border and around China. A nuclear WW III could start in a flash.

The continuing development of US “missile defense” systems and space weapons are creating an expensive new arms race.

Militarism is the largest single contributor to carbon emissions on the planet, accelerating our planetary climate emergency.

“The US is already spending $1 trillion a year on our endless war empire. The only way to fund Space Force is to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and what little is left of the welfare program. Are you going to stand for that?” - quote from Bruce Gagnon"

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Space week begins in India

Some in Visakhapatnam, Ukraine gathered yesterday to stand with Keep Space for Peace Week which first began in 2001.  They plan to hold events all through space week across their city.

Each year people around the world hold various kinds of events in order to bring our space concerns to people in their communities.

The man in the white shirt behind the banner is JV Prabhakar, a former regional director of technical schools in his community - from high schools to colleges.  So each year all during space week he goes to various schools and makes presentations and holds protests.

A couple of years ago several of our Global Network leaders went to Visakhapatnam where Prabhakar took us from lower level schools to higher level engineering colleges.  He has wide reach and he works to bring all classes into these important discussions.

There are about 300 million poor people in India and their nation is spending alot of money to become a 'player' in space.  Like here in the US, poverty is neglected in order to support the financial interests inside the aerospace industry.

I am returning to Visakhapatnam on October 10 for the Space Law conference being organized at the Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University by one of our Global Network board members.  Two other leaders from the GN will be there - Lindis Percy (UK) and Subrata Ghoshroy (MIT in Boston).  I will also be eager to hear from American University History Professor Peter Kuznik who is best known for working with Oliver Stone to create the excellent 10-part documentary The Untold History of the United States.

It should be a great conference.  I will be happy to see Prabhakar again as well.  I am Facebook friends with him and love to scan his photos - he is always working hard to feed the poor, deal with environmental crisis impacts on the people and other political concerns across India.  He's a real inspiration to me.


Sunday song