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, June 20, 2020

Val Demings rising to top of Biden's V-P list

Former Orlando police chief, and current Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), is being considered as Joe Biden's V-P running mate

The Biden Vice-President sweepstakes is getting more interesting all the time.  Just yesterday once highly probable candidate for the post, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), withdrew from consideration.  It's likely that her former role as chief prosecutor in Minnesota, where she had a bad record with black-white relations, nixed her from the job.

Moving to the front of the pack is Rep. Val Demings (D-FL).  It kind of makes sense from Biden's perspective.  Florida is a key electoral state that must be won in order to secure the presidency.  He's already said he would 'prefer' to pick a woman or a person of color.  One leading candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) comes from a state that Biden is likely to win anyway.  Plus during the presidental debates she was exposed for having a bad record of treatment of black prisoners when she was her state's Attorney General as well.  What is it with these Democrat women prosecutors anyway?

I lived in Orlando, Florida for 20 years so am following this story with additional interest.  I can tell you that Orlando is about as racist as any city in America.  There is no way that Val Demings would have been selected as chief of police in that city unless she was someone who the local white power structure was certain would not rock the boat.

Demings grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and was one of seven children born to a poor family; her father worked in orange groves, while her mother was a housekeeper.

She attended Florida State University, graduating with a degree in criminology in 1979.

In 1983, Demings applied for a job with the Orlando Police Department (OPD); her first assignment was to patrol Orlando's west-side black community. Demings was appointed Chief of the Orlando Police Department in 2007, becoming the first woman to lead the department.

Demings was the Democratic nominee to represent Florida's 10th congressional district in the US House of Representatives in both 2012 and 2016. She lost the general election in 2012 but won in 2016.

A 2015 article in The Atlantic reports:

The [Orlando police] department has a long record of excessive-force allegations, and a lack of transparency on the subject, dating back at least as far as Demings’s time as chief. From 2010 to 2014, the department paid out more than $3.3 million in damages following at least 47 lawsuits alleging false arrest, excessive force, and other complaints against the department’s officers. (Records about these cases and other allegations of police misconduct in Orlando are not centrally housed or publicized, and some lawsuits are still outstanding.)

"This has been a problem for a while, through her administration and others. The problem is the leadership of the department,” said Lawanna Gelzer, president of the National Action Network’s Central Florida chapter. “… She’s not going to get my vote.”

In 2010, an Orlando police officer flipped 84-year-old Daniel Daley over his shoulder after the man became belligerent, throwing him to the ground and breaking a vertebra in his neck. Daley alleged excessive force and filed a lawsuit. The police department cleared the officer as "justified" in using a "hard take down" to arrest Daley, concluding he used the technique correctly even though he and the other officer made conflicting statements. Demings said "the officer performed the technique within department guidelines" but also said that her department had "begun the process of reviewing the use of force policy and will make appropriate modifications." A federal jury ruled in Daley's favor and awarded him $880,000 in damages.

“Joe Biden would be an idiot to put her on his ticket. People are already on the fence about him,” Hawk Newsome, chairman of Black Lives Matter, Greater New York chapter, told media. “When black people become police officers, they are no longer black. They are blue. And I have been told this by numerous officers.”

 Florida's 10th congressional district now represented by Val Demings (click on link to enlarge)

While in Congress Rep. Demings has served on these committees in the House of Representatives:

  • Committee on Homeland Security (Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security)
  • Committee on the Judiciary (Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations - Vice Chair) and (Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law)
  • Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (Subcommittee on Defense Intelligence and Warfighter Support) and (Subcommittee on Intelligence Modernization and Readiness)

On December 18, 2019, Demings voted for both articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. She was selected as one of seven impeachment managers who presented the impeachment case against Trump during his trial before the United States Senate.

Demings supports and has vowed to defend Obama's 'Affordable Care Act' which likely means she does not support Medicare4All which Joe Biden has also said he opposes.  This position would be quite acceptable to the mega-insurance corporations on Wall Street.

It appears to me that Rep. Demings is just the kind of black woman that the Democrats would choose as a V-P candidate along with Biden.  Her record as chief of police in Orlando and her committee assignments in Congress indicate that the military industrial complex, which is quite strong in Central Florida and of course is dominant in Washington, would be pleased with this choice.

I still wonder if the Dems will dump Biden at the convention and bring in a new candidate.

Hold onto your hat. We shall see how it goes.


Friday, June 19, 2020

The Military Must be De-Funded Along with the Police

The desperate and collapsing U.S. military empire, with more than 800 bases worldwide, is bound to treat its own citizens the same way the Pentagon treats people around the planet when push comes to shove. 

By Dan Kovalik

As Vijay Prashad explains in his book, Red Star Over The Third World, domestic fascism in the West has reflected the West’s pre-existing colonial practices abroad. Citing Martinique communist Aimé Césaire, Prashad explains: “What had come to define fascism inside Europe through the experience of the Nazis – the jackboots and the gas chambers – were familiar already in the colonies. . . . [F]ascism was a political form of bourgeois rule in times when democracy threatened capitalism; colonialism, on the other hand, was naked power justified by racism to seize resources from people who were not willing to hand them over. Their form was different but their manners were identical.”

As Prashad and Césaire teach us, the fascist tactics used by our Western governments in the Global South will inevitably be brought home to be used against us. In the case of the US, these tactics have surely been introduced here, and we are now seeing this clearly as our police, sometimes backed by the military itself, are battling protestors in the streets in the same manner that a military force does as a foreign occupying power. Indeed, as a number of commentators have pointed out, the very tactic which killed George Floyd – the knee on the neck – was imported by the Israeli Defense Forces (themselves bankrolled by the US) who use this tactic against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories and who are now training US police units, including the Minneapolis police force, to use it as well.

Moreover, the police are using not only the cruel military tactics used to oppress people abroad, they are also using the military’s very equipment to do so.

Democratic President Bill Clinton opened the door wide for this police militarization in the 1990s with the National Defense Authorization Act which created a program, the 1033 program, through which police departments are given surplus military equipment. As recently explained by Michael Shank in an article in The New York Review of Books, entitled “How Police Became Paramilitaries,” pursuant to this program, “local law enforcement began to adopt the type of military equipment more frequently used in a war zone: everything from armored personnel carriers and tanks, with 360-degree rotating machine gun turrets, to grenade launchers, drones, assault weapons, and more. Today, billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment—most used, some new—has been transferred to civilian police departments.”

And, once the police receive this equipment, they must use it. As Shank explains, the 1033 program “requires that law enforcement agencies make use of such equipment within a year of acquisition, effectively mandating that police put it into practice in the public space.”  In other words, the police are actually required to turn the military’s high-tech guns against their own people.

The militarization of the police, moreover, can be seen as a by-product of the US’s over-reliance on the use of military force and war to solve all of its problems, to the near exclusion of all other alternatives. Indeed, the US has given up on trying to lead the world through economic and technological prowess, or through moral suasion. Instead, our leaders have decided that brute military force alone will allow the US to dominate the planet, and our nation’s coffers are being looted to the tune of over $1 trillion a year to do so. The result is the starving of our educational system, our social safety net and our nation’s vital infrastructure. This, of course, then leads to mass deprivation and despair which then leads to mass unrest. And, just as it deals with the rest of the world, our rulers have decided to deal with the unrest at home, not by solving the social ills plaguing this nation, or by fixing a few bridges or dams, but by beating us down with military-style violence.

Military force, indeed, has become the only instrument in our government’s toolbox, as quite starkly illustrated recently by the White House’s decision to give our valuable medical workers military flyovers costing $60,000 an hour instead of providing these workers with the protective equipment they have been desperately demanding. As with all things, our government has money and resources for instruments of violence, but none for human needs. This is literally killing us, just as surely as it is killing hundreds of thousands of people – nearly all people of color, not coincidentally – in foreign lands. The fight against police brutality and racism must therefore be linked to the fight to de-fund our military and to the broader fight to de-militarize our very society and culture.

~ Dan Kovalik teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.  His latest book is No More War: How the West Violates International Law by Using ‘Humanitarian’ Intervention to Advance Economic and Strategic Interests.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Poor People's Assembly

On June 20th, 2020, the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, will host the Mass Poor People's Assembly and Moral March on Washington Digital Justice Gathering.

Rise With Us!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

History lesson: Burned to the ground in Tulsa

In the early 1900s, Greenwood, Oklahoma was home to a thriving, independent "Black Wall Street" until the violence of the Tulsa Race Riots changed the community's legacy forever. 

Trump was scheduled to hold a political rally in Tulsa on 'Juneteenth' (June 19) where as many as 300 black people were killed by white mobs.  This announcement drew a strong push back so he changed the date to June 20.  The message is still clear. 

"It's almost blasphemous to the people of Tulsa and insulting to the notion of freedom for our people, which is what Juneteenth symbolizes," said CeLillianne Green, a historian, poet, lawyer and author of the book, "A Bridge, The Poetic Primer on African and African American Experiences."

"I'm speechless. That day is the day those people in Texas found out they were free. The juxtaposition of the massacre of black people and Juneteenth, the delayed notice you are free, is outrageous. Juneteenth symbolized our freedom."

Juneteenth is one of the oldest official celebrations commemorating the final end of slavery in the United States. Celebrations of Juneteenth - which combines the word June with Nineteenth -- began in 1866, a year after Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger landed on Galveston Island with more than 2,000 Union troops. Texas slave owners had refused to acknowledge the end of the Civil War and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

U.S. global surveillance system

Video by Global Network board member Will Griffin.  Will is an Army Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran who lives in Pennsylvania.

One way that Washington is trying to 'control and dominate' the world is by global surveillance.

Through these military satellites and fiber optic cables (that run under the seas) they can hear everything, see everything and target every place on the planet.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Got my 'Savage for Senate' shirt

Our Lisa Savage for US Senate in Maine T-shirts have begun to arrive from the printing house.  I bought two - red and baby blue.

Some of the funds from each shirt goes toward Lisa's campaign.

You can order one here if you'd like.  They come in five different colors.

Lisa did a great interview in recent days on The Humanist Report and already has over 7,500 views.  Watch it here.

Support is growing, Bernie Sanders-style Democrats in Maine are increasingly telling Lisa they want to put her as their #1 choice in the November Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) election.

A campaign manager has just been hired - a young man from rural Maine who worked on the RCV referendum in Maine and who also was a field office coordinator for Bernie in a couple New England states.

So things are moving along.  I am helping out as a volunteer when I have time.  Very exciting.


Five Eyes membership threatens New Zealand’s foreign policy independence

In 2008 peace activists in New Zealand deflated a large inflatable globe housing a satellite dish at a top secret spy base in protest of US military actions. The group, ANZAC Ploughshares, cut through fences and razor wire and avoided electronic sensors before using a sickle to slash one of two 30-metre white globes at the Waihopai base near Blenheim at the top of the South Island.

By Bob Rigg

As World War II drew to a close, the anti-Nazi alliance which had won the war was already imploding.

The United States and Great Britain, the two major western members of this alliance, began to cooperate closely on anti-Soviet intelligence gathering at an early stage. What we today know as the Five Eyes began life as the two eyes. In the meantime both Canada and Australia were invited to join, making up a total of four members. While Canada was already a military middle power of some significance, Australia then played second fiddle to a weakening Great Britain.

In terms of military and intelligence-gathering capacity it is not immediately apparent why New Zealand was invited to join, in 1956. We were not a military power by any stretch of the imagination. Nothing is officially known about the rationale for New Zealand’s inclusion in this exclusive white post-colonial club. A former head of New Zealand’s intelligence services valued the fact that he was welcomed into the homes of his counterparts in the Five Eyes club, and frequently enjoyed golf with them and dinner with their families. In the 1950s, especially where the British were concerned, spycraft was still a gentlemen’s occupation.

But as the Soviet Union was collapsing, the nature of intelligence‑gathering was being completely transformed, initially from US spy stations in Australia and New Zealand, and later by the US National Security Agency (NSA), which was secretly developing its capacity to hoover up all communications of any kind, and to analyse this rich material with extraordinarily powerful computers, in a programme called ECHELON.

When Edward Snowden leaked this information, backed up by hundreds of thousands of previously highly classified documents, the US political and intelligence establishment was shaken to its foundations. However, instead of rewarding Snowden for his public-spirited initiative the establishment declared him to be a rogue, a rascal and a traitor. He had to seek asylum in Putin’s Russia, where he still languishes in exile.

All Five Eyes intelligence agencies have continued to be supported and generously funded by their governments, seemingly without restriction, although Snowden’s damaging revelations are internationally known.

In the meantime the NSA continues to hoover up prodigious volumes of data. We also know that one way in which Five Eyes partners show and share mutual respect and trust is by spying on each other, although they have formally undertaken not to do so. For example, the US embassy in Wellington plays a key role in collecting and intercepting sensitive data about leading political and other figures in New Zealand.

The Five Eyes sully themselves with their relentless and all-enveloping violations of the privacy and the legal rights of their citizens. Just how much do Jacinda Ardern and Andrew Little know of all this? At the very least they must know of Edward Snowden.

By virtue of New Zealand’s membership of the Five Eyes they, and with them all New Zealanders, are trapped in a moral maze. According to Edward Snowden, Australia’s ASD, the UK’s GCHQ, and Canada’s CSEC have all collaborated actively with the US in the mass hoovering up of their own citizens’ most personal data. Apparently this has not yet been true of New Zealand. If it were true, would Jacinda Ardern and Andrew Little even know of it?

A national debate is needed about New Zealand’s continuing participation in the Five Eyes. Helen Clark recently sought to draw attention to this by declaring that New Zealand has “lost some of its independence within the Five Eyes intelligence alliance”. She also said that “sources in officialdom” had told her that “New Zealand had got a lot closer back in”, something which could even threaten our independent foreign policy. The comatose New Zealand media were not interested.

Such debate is all the more necessary as the global constellation that applied after WWII, pitting the west against the Soviet Union in a Cold War, has been replaced by an increasingly hot conflict in which the US is now huffing and puffing at China. A bilateral build-up of angry and intemperate rhetoric is being accompanied by increasing expenditure on deadly and technologically advanced weaponry in our region, which the US has renamed the Indo-Pacific, reflecting its desire to surround China with its bases, air force, vessels and submarines, backed up by Australia’s rapidly escalating  investments in  its own air force, surveillance facilities and submarines.

The risk of a military confrontation is growing as the drums of war are beating in Washington, Beijing and Canberra.  As was the case during the Cold War, the US military-industrial establishment is publicly and falsely lamenting its failure to keep up with its adversary of the moment, the Chinese military machine, although its own [annual] one trillion dollar expenditure on defence is at least three times as much as China’s.

If, as is unlikely for the moment, a regional war broke out, would a New Zealand government follow the other Five Eyes nations into a war against China? Because of our membership of the Five Eyes, our ability to act independently would be seriously restricted.

Sadly enough, there are tentative indications that, even if Trump loses the forthcoming presidential election, Biden’s Democrats may also continue to pursue an aggressive foreign policy against China.

~ Bob Rigg is former senior editor with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and a former chair of the New Zealand National Consultative Committee on Disarmament. He is a freelance researcher and writer specialising in nuclear issues, the Middle East, Central Asia, and US foreign policy.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Comedian Dave Chappellle on speaking out

From Dave: "Normally I wouldn't show you something so unrefined, I hope you understand."

Sunday song

Feel the grief & get back to making the world a better place

Lisa Savage, candidate for the US Senate seat of Susan Collins in Maine under ranked choice voting, talks about grieving: for victims of police violence and for white people's loss of belief that we live under a system of justice for all.