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: Bath, Maine, 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.

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Election reflections

 

After a full year of intense activity the campaign to elect Lisa Savage for the US Senate is over.  She got 5% of the vote, securing 40,191 votes across every corner of the state, while the Republican incumbent Susan Collins won the race with 51% of the vote.  Because Collins got 50% plus one vote Maine's new Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) system was not needed.

Polls prior to the election asked voters who they would rank as their 2nd choice under RCV and Lisa led in that ranking with 33% - more than any of the other candidates.  I believe this reveals quite clearly that Lisa did in fact make a deep impression on Maine voters with her calm, articulate, respectful, and knowledgeable performance as a candidate.  This was particularly evident in the first four debates in which she participated - with most debate watchers saying that Lisa had won them.

There were various issues that arose during the campaign which indicated that the Democrats worked overtime to disrupt Lisa's growing likeability with Maine voters.  We repeatedly heard from key activists across the state that rumors were being circulated that included the following:

  • The Democrats were spreading lies that Lisa's campaign was being funded by the Republican Susan Collins as a way to defeat the Democrat Sara Gideon.
  • One person I know in Maine sent me this message: "A lawyer prof friend of mine sent out a message last night to probably a lot of people, urging them to rank Gideon #1 for two reasons.  The first was an apparently incorrect interpretation of RCV. [In other words, don't trust RCV, it won't work as advertised.] However, the second one posited a scenario in which Collins pulls a  Poliquin [former Republican Congressman who lost his seat due to RCV] and contests an RCV loss in court, persisting further than Poliquin to an obviously iffy situation in the new Supreme Court."

  • "I know the law prof is a Gideon supporter, but she has a long history of integrity and sometimes-ground-breaking work in civil rights and gender issues, and it's hard to fit dirty Dem politics into her worldview, so I'm not sure she is being a Dem tool."

Thus many loyal Democrats - hearing from a 'law professor' - were frightened to death. If they had the slightest inclination to rank Lisa first they surely gave up the idea on a false claim that RCV doesn't really work!

The money raised in this campaign was obscene.  Sara Gideon led the pack with over $68 million and Susan Collins came in next with more than $26 million.  Lisa Savage raised about $193,000 which to me is one hell of alot of money.  One Lisa campaign volunteer created this graphic to show the cost per vote in the election.  It's not exact but close enough to make the point.

According to analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, 92 percent of individual contributions to Collins and 93 percent received by Gideon came from outside of Maine. 

I've marginally helped on a few campaigns in my time but my volunteer work on this campaign was more than any other before.  I can say without hesitation that my vote for Lisa Savage was my most proud vote of my life. The other was with my vote for Sen. George McGovern in 1972 when he lost the race for president against Richard Nixon.  I was in the Air Force at the time - during the Vietnam War.

There have been many times over the years when I went into the voting booth and walked away not having chosen any of the candidates - thus handing in a blank ballot.  

Reading the many comments by Lisa supporters on various Internet platforms I can say that there were many voters in Maine with similar views.  They were inspired by the teacher/activist who gave voice to their demands for Medicare for All, deep concerns about Climate crisis, opposition to endless war and much more.  To have Lisa in the four debates speaking to these issues was a great victory.

Lisa was denied entry into the last debate when the WMTW TV station in Portland (owned by the Hearst media corporation) refused to allow her to participate.  The corporation's lawyer claimed that Lisa and the other Independent candidate were not 'newsworthy'. Lisa's team quickly posted an online petition that was signed by 2,600 people and on the evening of the debate Lisa and about 30 supporters went to the station attempting to enter the event.  The station blocked her entry and refused to take a copy of the petitions. A video of this attempt was viewed on Facebook over 8,600 times.

It seemed fairly obvious to me that the two mainstream parties pulled strings at the corporate level to get Lisa excluded from the debate.  Particularly the Democrats had the most to lose by having Lisa in the last debate as it was likely the time when many 'undecided' procrastinating voters tuned in to make their final decision on who they would support. It was a dirty trick but once again revealed to anyone paying attention the lengths the two big-money parties will go to in order to shut out alternative voices.

 

 

Quite a number of people are urging Lisa to run again for another office but it is unlikely that she will do so.  She does intend to stay involved in the issues that she cares most about - people, planet and peace.  She is already talking about wanting to ensure that we keep many of the new people attracted to her campaign involved in on-going work here in Maine.

Yesterday Lisa and I spent five hours driving around various parts of Maine picking up campaign signs from the side of roads.  We had lots of time to talk about the past year.  I remember so many days when she was dog tired but still she got herself out the door and drove to various communities in order to attend farmers markets.  It was one of the few places she could go during this pandemic to actually talk with voters - masked and social distancing - but still doing the work of a candidate.

It was an honor to have Lisa stay with us at our home in Bath during the past few months due to the fact that she needed a good Wifi connection to run her campaign.  Her home in rural Maine, like so many others in the state, have poor broadband connection.  Her husband Mark came most weekends for a visit.

So now life must return to 'normal' and Mary Beth and I have one campaign task left to do.  On Sunday we will drive on Hwy 27 to Farmington to pick up the last batch of campaign signs I planted in the ground.  After that it will all just be one great fleeting memory.

Bruce

Friday, November 06, 2020

Well worth a listen....


Bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges sits down with Ben Makuch at the Toronto VICE office to discuss what it takes to be a rebel in modern times. 

Hedges discusses his new book Wages of Rebellion, an investigation of the social and psychological factors that cause revolution, rebellion and resistance. 

From Wall Street corruption to why the elites in corporate media have eviscerated traditional investigative journalism, Hedges tries to make sense of the world we live in.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Hard truths about 'progressive' politics in America

 

 

By Glenn Greenwald at Double Down News

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

The Weapons Industry Doesn’t Care Who’s President

 

CEOs of arms manufacturers and their investors are confident about their prospects, regardless of which candidate wins the election.

By Greg Shupak

The Nation

This summer, Dave Calhoun, CEO of Boeing—builder of the intercontinental ballistic missile—declared himself cheerfully indifferent to the presidential election. “I think both candidates, at least in my view, appear globally oriented and interested in the defense of our country and I believe they’ll support the industries,” he said on a media call. So don’t expect any official endorsements from him and his colleagues. “I don’t think we’re going to take a position on one being better than the other,” he concluded. While many industries fret over how potential election outcomes could affect their profits, US military contractors like Boeing—whose Apache helicopter is seen killing civilians in Wikileaks’ infamous “Collateral Murder” video—are directly and indirectly funding both President Trump and former vice president Biden’s campaigns.  

According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a nonpartisan research group that tracks the effects of money and lobbying on politics, one of the top contributors to Biden’s campaign is Paloma Partners, a multibillion-dollar hedge fund and Democratic coffer-stuffer. The fund has given Biden just under $10 million, at least 90 percent of which comes from S. Donald Sussman [former husband of Maine's Democrat Congresswoman Chellie Pingree], Paloma’s founder and chief investment officer. And apart from Joe Biden for President, a branch of the campaign, the vice president’s largest source of funding is the PAC Priorities USA Action, which has chipped in $125 million—Paloma is one of the groups most responsible for the PAC’s war chest.

Securities and Exchange Commission filings also indicate that Paloma has more than 260,000 shares in Raytheon, a preeminent weapons manufacturer. Raytheon is a major supplier of weapons to Saudi Arabia, which has dropped the Massachusetts-based company’s bombs on such places as a funeral hall in Sanaa, Yemen, killing at least 140. Raytheon’s CEO, Gregory Hayes, concurs with Calhoun. “Defense has always been a bipartisan issue,” he recently told CNBC, dismissing the idea that Biden might cut military spending.

President Trump’s reelection campaign’s funders have similar ties. One key contributor is an Arkansas-based private investment company called Stephens Inc, which owns roughly 213,000 shares in Raytheon, 27,000 in Boeing, and 18,000 in Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of a missile system with which NATO once killed 12 Afghan civilians. Stephens also has 50,000 shares in Kratos Defense, whose products include unmanned ground vehicles and the XQ-58 Valkyrie drone—the US Air Force’s top acquisition official envisions the Valkyrie as part of a prototype artificial intelligence program called Skyborg. 

 


In the same vein, Euclidean Capital has lavished Biden with $7 million. Euclidean is the family office of the billionaire Jim Simons—Jim and Marilyn Simons account for 90 percent or more of the organization’s political largesse. Jim Simons founded the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies and, while he retired from the firm in 2010, he continues to have a role at a Renaissance and to benefit from its funds. According to CRP, Renaissance’s “individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals’ immediate family members” have given to the Biden campaign to the extent of putting Renaissance in the top 10 of Biden contributors; both Euclidean and Renaissance are in the upper tier of Priorities USA financers.

Renaissance holds 1.2 million shares in Raytheon worth almost $75 million, and has over 130,000 shares in Lockheed Martin valued at nearly $50 million. Among Lockheed’s most lucrative clients are Israel and Saudi Arabia, two vital US proxies and central contributors to Middle Eastern bloodshed. Israel used Lockheed’s F-35 Lightning II aircraft to bomb Gaza as well as Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria. In 2018, a US-Saudi coalition air strike hit a Yemeni school with a 500-pound laser-guided bomb made by Lockheed and killed dozens of children.  

 



Others making a killing off killing include the $500 billion private equity firm Blackstone Group, a leading Trump backer. The company has 100,000 shares in Kratos. Blackstone’s chief executive, Stephen Schwarzman, has spent $27 million bankrolling Republican candidates this election cycle, including the president, and is an unofficial Trump adviser. In August, Blackstone hired lobbyist David Urban, a member of Trump’s reelection advisory committee and a crucial architect of the president’s successful 2016 campaign, in an effort to try to work with the Department of Defense and State Department on “issues related to military preparedness and training.”  
 

The pipeline goes both ways—Trump’s administration already bears evidence of weapons industry ties, featuring both Defense Secretary Mark Esper, a former Raytheon lobbyist, and Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, once a vice president at Lockheed. Further back, William Lynn was Raytheon’s top lobbyist before the Obama administration made him deputy secretary of defense. Tom Kelly, deputy assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, said of arms exports under the Obama-Biden administration in which he served: “[We are] advocating on behalf of our companies and doing everything we can to make sure that these sales go through.” In 2017, Kelly became Raytheon’s vice president for policy and advocacy.

It’s difficult to imagine that the wealthiest investors in the world disburse millions of dollars to political campaigns without the occasional peep at their portfolios. The institutional logic at work here is such that, no matter the outcome of Tuesday’s vote, the occupant of the White House for the next four years will be there thanks in considerable part to people with a stake in Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed’s earnings. 


 

War industry firms themselves directly donate to candidates in a fairly bipartisan fashion. Aerospace companies in the war business focus their political donations on members of the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees, which dole out federal money, and on members of the Armed Services committees, who help shape military policy and thus can create demand for what this industry sells. Of the money this sector has donated to 2020 presidential candidates, slightly more has gone to Trump. Yet the opposite is true of “defense” electronics, the field concerned with components and systems designed to ensure technological supremacy in war. Companies working in this arena have given more to Biden than to Trump, even though this sector has tended in the past to direct its money to the party in power. CRP numbers that take into account PACs and individuals who gifted $200 or more to candidates show that the weapons industry as a whole has given $1.6 million to Trump and $2.4 million to Biden.

While Trump has made a show of disavowing any involvement in quid pro quos with American corporations like Exxon, it’s safe to say that major industry sees government as a source of opportunity. Arms dealers and their patrons are no exception; they exist to make money. They don’t pour cash into the political system out of pure ideological commitment—they expect a return on investment. Whoever is inaugurated in January, companies whose profits depend on the US military can be expected to have his ear.

~ Greg ShupakGreg Shupak writes fiction and political analysis. He teaches English and media studies at the University of Guelph-Humber, and is the author of the book The Wrong Story: Palestine, Israel, and the Media. 

It is not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel

 

 

Andrew Feinstien: “As the son of a holocaust survivor I find the use of antisemitism to fight political battles hard to stomach”

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Last call.....


 

Monday, November 02, 2020

Our vision for the future....

 

Do we have a right to be hopeful? With political and ecological fires raging all around, is it irresponsible to imagine a future world radically better than our own? A world without prisons? Of beautiful, green public housing? Of buried border walls? Of healed ecosystems? A world where governments fear the people instead of the other way around? 

 “A Message From the Future II: The Years of Repair” is an animated short film that dares to dream of a future in which 2020 is a historic turning point, where the lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic and global uprisings against racism drive us to build back a better society in which no one is sacrificed and everyone is essential.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Sunday song - election time bonus