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 28, 2020

Add your organization to this statement opposing Flournoy as Secretary of War

 

Action item: To add your organization to this sign-on statement please respond to Marcy Winograd at winogradteach@gmail.com

Also please immediately contact your Congressional delegation expressing your opposition to Flournoy

 

Statement Opposing Michèle Flournoy as Defense Secretary

 

The following statement, initiated on November 30, is being signed by organizations and individuals deeply concerned about the prospect that Michèle Flournoy could become Secretary of Defense.

 

We urge President-Elect Joe Biden and U.S. Senators to choose a Secretary of Defense who is unencumbered by a history of advocating for bellicose military policies and is free of financial ties to the weapons industry.

 

Michèle Flournoy does not meet those qualifications and is ill-suited to serve as Secretary of Defense.

 

Flournoy’s record includes emphatic support for the failed and tragic military surge in Afghanistan, troops on the ground in Syria and military intervention in Libya -- policies resulting in geopolitical disasters and tremendous human suffering. Flournoy has opposed a ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, while that country has continued to inflict massive suffering and death in Yemen.

 

While urging a U.S. pivot to Asia that would include ramping up a Cold War with China, Flournoy has called for a boost in spending on cyberwarfare and drones, as well as more troop deployments to the South China Sea to conduct roving war games near two nuclear powers -- China and North Korea.

 

Flournoy’s approach to China is potentially catastrophic. On January 15, 2020, she told Congress the U.S. must prepare to fight and prevail in a future conflict with China by credibly threatening to sink the entire Chinese navy in 72 hours and investing heavily in unmanned systems. At a time when we must work with China to fight the coronavirus and save the planet from an existential climate crisis, Flournoy’s approach would undermine such efforts by preparing for war with China.

 

Security consultants who have endorsed Flournoy and who may be encouraged by her intention to restart arms control talks with Russia or her skepticism on nuclear “modernization” need to look more closely at Flournoy’s congressional testimony and essays on investing in space-based weapons systems that could increase the chances of nuclear war on earth.

 

The revolving-door aspects of Flournoy’s career have raised additional concerns. For instance, as The American Prospect recently reported: “Since Flournoy joined the board of weapons contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Washington paid the company $3 million for consulting fees, while Flournoy’s Center for a New American Security accepted millions from foreign governments, including the United Arab Emirates which donated $250,000 in return for a report on missile defense.”

 

As the Project On Government Oversight noted in a November 2020 report, Ms. Flournoy “co-founded the second-most heavily contractor-funded think tank in Washington, the highly influential Center for a New American Security.” Following a stint as an undersecretary of defense, “she rotated­­ to the Boston Consulting Group, after which the firm’s military contracts expanded from $1.6 million to $32 million in three years.” In addition, Ms. Flournoy “joined the board of Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm laden with defense contracts. In 2017 she co-founded WestExec Advisors, helping defense corporations market their products to the Pentagon and other agencies.”

 

In the interests of national and world security, we must close the revolving door that enables military contractors with close ties to government officials to propel us further into a costly, unnecessary and dangerous high-tech arms race. 

 

The people of the United States need a Secretary of Defense who is untethered to the weapons industry and committed to ending the arms race. Michèle Flournoy should not be put in charge of the Pentagon, and neither should anyone else failing to meet those qualifications. We are opposed to her being nominated, and we are prepared to launch a major nationwide grassroots campaign so that every senator will hear from large numbers of constituents demanding that she not be confirmed.

 

Organizations initiating this statement: CodePink, Progressive Democrats of America, RootsAction.org, World Beyond War

Greenwald interviews Snowden

 

How did we travel so far from the original vision of the internet as the one place humans could communicate and organize free of state and corporate control?

The NSA reporting of 2013, enabled by the heroic whistleblowing of Edward Snowden, was widely perceived at the time time to be about violations of the right to privacy. It was, of course, about that, but the revelations implicated numerous other vital liberties, including free speech, a free press, the need for transparency over state actors and especially the always-lurking security state, and the dangers of allowing governments to make the most consequential decisions in the dark, with no democratic consent or accountability.

But the overarching cause uniting all of those specific concerns was a belief in and defense of internet freedom. In one of the earliest interviews we conducted with Snowden in Hong Kong, he explained that he was driven in large part by the central, vital role which the early version of the internet played in his life: one that was free of corporate and state control, that permitted anonymity and exploration free of monitoring, and, most of all, fostered unrestrained communication and dissemination of information by and among citizens of the world without corporate and state overlords regulating and controlling what they were saying.

It was that Wild West vision of the internet that led so many to herald it at its inception as one of the greatest and most potent innovations in modern history for fostering individual freedom, human liberation, empowerment of ordinary citizens, and the ability of people to organize and communicate without having to depend on corporate giants and the governments they fund and control. In many ways, that vision is a feint memory — submersed in the mass surveillance Snowden exposed but which still persists, the corporatization of the most influential online venues and, increasingly, the control over the flow of speech and information by unseen oligarchical overlords whose decrees require no identifiable rationale and afford no appeal. The power of these unseen discourse-regulators is final, arbitrary and absolute.

It does not have to be this way. A free internet is still worth fighting for and is still salvageable. But it faces growing threats: from corporate media outlets eager to suffocate anything that threatens their discourse-monopoly by ginning up pressure on Silicon Valley to censor various dissidents and independent voices even more so than they are now; from political parties and politicians who wield great influence with tech giants and know they can exploit that influence to silence their critics and adversaries; and the increasing concentration of power over the internet in the hand of a few monopolies whose power and wealth makes it irresistible for power centers to try to harness to suffocate dissent.

On Monday I spoke with Snowden for a special episode of SYSTEM UPDATE, for roughly 40 minutes about the growing dangers of Silicon Valley censorship, why a tech industry that never wanted the power or responsibility to regulate discourse has had that obligation foisted upon them by politicians and journalists, the lurking dangers to press freedoms, and how a Biden/Harris administration may make all of this worse.  

~ Glenn Greenwald

Friday, November 27, 2020

On China: FDR & John Kerry Descendants of Drug Dealers

 

‘The China Opium Trade’

James Bradley is the author of the best-selling The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia (Little Brown, 2015). In these excerpts from his interview with John Pilger, he describes how modern America was built on the ‘China trade’.

James Bradley: For most of American history, it was illegal for someone like me to know a Chinese. The Chinese came to America to mine gold and build the railroads, and Americans decided we didn’t like competition. So in 1882 we had the Chinese Exclusion Acts, which kept the Chinese out of the United States for about 100 years. Just at the point we were putting up the Statue of Liberty saying we welcome everybody, we were erecting a wall saying: ‘We welcome everybody except those Chinese.’

John Pilger: And yet, for the American elite in the 19th century, China was a goldmine.

JB: A goldmine of drugs. Warren Delano, the grandfather of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was the American opium king of China; he was the biggest American opium dealer, second only to the British. Much of the east coast [establishment] of the United States – Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Princeton – was born of drug money. The American industrial revolution was funded by huge pools of money – where did this come from? It came from illegal drugs in the biggest market in the world: China.

JP: So the grandfather of the most liberal president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was a drug runner?

JB: Yes. Franklin Delano Roosevelt never made much money in his life. He had public-service jobs that were very lowly paid, but he inherited a fortune from Warren Delano, his father. Now if you scratch anyone with the name Forbes, you’ll find opium money… such as John Forbes Kerry…

JP: That’s the present Secretary of State [during Obama's administration].

JB: Yes. His great-grandfather [Francis Blackwell Forbes] was an opium dealer. How big was opium money? Opium money built the first industrial city in the United States. It built the first five railroads. But it wasn’t talked about. It was called the China trade.  

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Remembering the real story....


For America’s indigenous communities, the Thanksgiving holiday is a reminder of loss and genocide. 

In Plymouth, Massachusetts we join the United American Indians of New England as the group plans their annual National Day of Mourning in 2017.  

The 2nd coming.....

 


  • Trump will keep alive the hope that he will run for prez again.  He might even declare for 2024 soon after leaving the White House.  That way he gets the first big headline after Biden's inauguration - right on the money. But since Trump loves to eat at McDonald's don't expect him to live long enough to make it to 2024.
  • Christian evangelicals are hugely angry that Trump didn't win.  They were repeatedly told by leading preachers that God was sending 'Angels from South America and Africa' to save his ill-fated reelection from defeat.  The Republicans understand the importance of the Black and Hispanic vote and will take every possible opportunity to shine some love on them - without of course any significant financial support during this time of crashing economies.  
  • The pandemic is the perfect 'opportunity' to support Wall Street's strategy of 'capital re-accumulation'. The couple trillion dollars of bailout money for the banksters was just the beginning.
  • The city of Gary, Indiana was created virtually out of nothing by US Steel Corporation in 1906 as the location for a new steel plant.  Much of the steel industry was moved out of Chicago to Gary which was twenty-five miles south of the windy city on Lake Michigan. The new steel city was named after US Steel founder - Elbert Henry Gary.
  • One of the key reasons for the move to Gary was the growth of unions in Chicago. The workers were militantly challenging Chicago's industrial elites.  The workers had to be restrained and punished for daring to make collective economic and social gains. Thus began the 'period of capital re-accumulation'.
  • The Pullman Strike of 1894 was the first national strike in US history. Before coming to an end, it involved over 150,000 persons and twenty-seven states and territories and would paralyze the nation's railway system. The entire rail labor force of the nation would walk away from their jobs. In supporting the capitalist side of this strike President Grover Cleveland for the first time in the nation's history would send in federal troops, who would fire on and kill strikers and their supporters. The federal courts would outlaw striking by the passing of the Omnibus indictment. This blow to unionized labor would not be struck down until the passing of the Wagner act in 1935. This all began in the little town of Pullman, Illinois, near Chicago.

 

  • So the rich fat cats put their big heads together and decided that the unions had to be broken and that local communities had to be destabilized which the move to Gary did in fact accomplish.  It was a sociological and political act of evil.  The impacts on workers, their families, local shops frequented by workers, churches - the entire fabric of the local community was broken and lives were destroyed.  
  • Oligarchs, and their minions, are always blinded by their worship of the 'almighty dollar'. Their spiritual connection to the earth and to fellow living creatures is snapped by this love for money and power.  It is a deep sickness - a wickedness one might say.

 

  • I had a Palestinian friend when I lived in Orlando, Florida.  (I was organizing along with the Callahan Neighborhood Association to stop the city from destroying their historic downtown neighborhood in order to build a sports arena and hotels in the now lucrative real estate market.  The once palmetto scrub land where black people were told to settle had become prime real estate in Orlando's exploding city after Disney World came to Central Florida.) The Palestinian owned a small grocery in the neighborhood and gave us food to share with the neighborhood when we organized big rallies in a park calling on the city government to stand with the black people in Callahan.  In the end the city had to compromise because of the determined organizing and steps were taken to 'Save the Callahan' as the campaign was called.
  • So we either fight to save our neighborhoods and our communities or else the ruling elites will run us over with bulldozers and send us packing.  Look at how many are facing no jobs and loss of health insurance today (if they ever had an insurance policy they were one of the lucky ones).
  • Millions of people all over the country are currently living similarly close to the edge. "Congress is set to cut off 12 million Americans from the only thing holding them back from falling into financial wreckage and disaster," says Andrew Stettner, a co-author of the new study from the think tank called the Century Foundation. Unemployment benefits - once they are gone the homeless population will explode.
  • We always have to be vigilant.  Only the rich can take time off to lick their wounds after constant battle.  But for us on the bottom of the heap there is only this moment.  What are we each doing today to protect our Mother Earth and all of our children - including the generations to come?
  • This is the discussion that was largely missing during the recent election campaigns.  The two corporate dominated political parties carried freight for the mega-rich while betraying the poor and the working class.  With no one to speak for them many Americans turned to Trump who was able to astonishingly keep their attention.  His acting experience paid off big-time for him. After all, the show must go on.

Bruce

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The rulers don't care about you....

 

 

George Carlin (May 12, 1937 – June 22, 2008) was an American stand-up comedian, actor, author, and social critic. 

These words are taken from his last stand up routine, "Life Is Worth Losing" (2005).

Carlin was one of the greats.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Worst coup ever


Obsessing about Trump's dead-end lawsuits is a distraction from the task at hand: gearing up to oppose Biden's presidency.
 

by Ben Hillier

Donald Trump is refusing to concede the presidency, but he will not remain in office past 20 January, when his term officially ends. Despite the groundswell of hysterical liberal opinion that for months warned of a Trump “coup”, and which demanded that everyone back Joe Biden as an act of anti-fascism, the situation in the United States, for all the sound and fury, is one of relative normality.

Not a single legitimate ruling-class institution or observer has backed Trump’s baseless claims of massive electoral fraud. Nor will any state institutions refuse to recognise Biden as president. No section of or leaders from the armed forces, of which Trump is still commander-in-chief, has declared loyalty to the “real president”. Nor are any ranking federal, state or city law enforcement officials pledging allegiance to Trump. Nor has any state governor. No state legislature has overridden any certified election result—and none will.

Prior to the election, an article in the Atlantic, the pre-eminent magazine of US liberalism, gamed scenarios in which Trump might deploy the military on polling day, halt the delivery of mail-in ballots or dispatch federal agents to seize ballots at polling stations. It wasn’t an outlier piece; the press was full of commentary about the imminent threat Trump posed to constitutional democracy. Some of the most unhinged outbursts came not from liberals but from socialists. Back in May, Nathan J. Robinson, socialist editor of Current Affairs magazine, tweeted: “The threat Trump poses cannot be overstated. A 2nd Trump term might well bring the country into outright dictatorship ... There might never be another election in this country”.

In the days after the election, the derangement continued. “What Donald Trump is attempting to do has a name: coup d’état”, wrote Timothy Snyder, Levin professor of history at Yale University and author of The Road to Unfreedom, in a Medium post on 13 November. “Poorly organized though it might seem, it is not bound to fail.” On the same day, Neil H. Buchanan, a scholar at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law, wrote: “It is terrifying to think just how possible a Trump coup still is”.

What we have seen, however, is not an unfolding coup by a strongman crushing the liberal institutions before him, but a man almost totally impotent in the face of the opposition. The court system, the key institution in the regular Republican arsenal for minority rule, thus far has ruled against Trump’s legal challenges. The latest, by federal Judge Matthew Brann, a former Republican Party official, dismissed a request by the Trump campaign for an injunction against the certification of Pennsylvania’s election results.

Trump’s own Justice Department, as Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky noted in a 22 November article in the Washington Post, “has met [the president’s] fantastical claims of widespread voter fraud with two weeks of skeptical silence, not taking any overt moves to investigate what Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, claims is a globe-spanning conspiracy to steal the election”.

A day earlier in the New York Times, Jim Rutenberg and Kathleen Gray wrote that “President Trump has revealed the fragility of the electoral system—and shaken it”, before admitting that “both parties agree he has no real chance” of overturning the election and that he “continues to draw losing rulings from judges who bluntly note his failure to present any evidence of significant fraud or irregularities”.

Even Fox News, which until recently was basically the propaganda arm of the White House, is now considered an enemy by Trump because it has called the election for Biden, and some of the network’s personalities have questioned his assertions of mass voter fraud.

Yet all Trump can do in response to his mounting losses and narrowing base of allies is cry on the internet and wander aimlessly around the golf links. Hitler at least burned down the Reichstag to usher in dictatorship; Trump fumes in his bedroom, all-capping into the wee hours. Some coup leader.

The president has encouraged his supporters to protest in the streets. And without question, the far right in the US does pose a threat. It has grown under this presidency and is likely to continue growing under the next. But the post-election demonstrations were relatively small—as has been the case for pretty much all far-right mobilisations in the last four years. They may be menacing, but the situation remains a far cry from the Ku Klux Klan’s third wave in the mid-1960s.

Trump’s weaknesses were pretty clear well before the election. While liberals insisted that the president was undermining the country’s institutions, those same institutions were launching investigations against and prosecuting Trump’s allies. His campaign chair, Paul Manafort, was jailed. So was his lawyer, Michael Cohen. So was his adviser, Roger Stone. So was his campaign deputy chair, Rick Gates. Trump himself is facing several investigations. He hasn’t been able to stop any of it. Some strongman.

But if Trump was and continues to be so obviously weak and isolated, why did such hype take hold? In part because establishment liberals, and even conservatives, did believe that Trump posed a threat—to the credibility of US capitalism’s governing institutions and to its international standing. In their New York Times piece, Rutenberg and Gray admit even now that the real threat is that Trump casts doubt on the legitimacy of the US electoral system. That is, they think it would be terrible if people didn’t believe in the greatness of one of the most corrupted democracies in the West. 

The hype was also about mobilising mass electoral support for Joe Biden. The US ruling class and its representatives do not want a genuinely democratic system of government. And they sure as hell don’t want wealth redistribution or social welfare befitting an advanced economy. Their candidate, Biden, promised little would change for the US working class. But Joe Biden vs. fascism guaranteed a strong voter turnout without the overhead of promises to materially improve people’s lives.

It was so compelling that even socialists fell for it. That it continues to be a talking point even now, when it is so clearly over for Trump, is testament to the argument’s utility in distracting from the task of criticising and mobilising against Biden. For it is Biden, not Trump, who soon will be the most dangerous man in America—and indeed the world. Biden has been elected to rehabilitate US imperialism and to rebuild confidence in the murderous institutions of American capitalism. He has been entrusted with the job of providing stability, so that the US ruling class can have a degree of certainty; so that bosses can do what they do best: exploit labour.

Democracy is under attack in the United States. Mass voter suppression, gerrymandering, an anti-majoritarian political geography—there is a long list of ways in which the will of the majority is subverted. But the anti-democratic nature of the US system is not “Trumpian”. It is embedded in the institutions that Biden hopes to rehabilitate. That the establishment has succeeded in framing the most recent election as a struggle for the soul of democracy is an insult to all of the serious fights for democracy ongoing in the US and around the world.

Joe Biden has won the election, yet progressives are still being mobilised in his defence and in the name of democracy because the outgoing president is tweeting bad things and proceeding with dead-end litigation. So if Trump’s is the worst, the most pathetic coup ever, it is exceeded in its piteousness only by the outlandish response it has generated. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

More on Biden's 'forever war' team

 


Donald Trump is out, but the new Cold War is here to stay. 

With Michele Flournoy and Tony Blinken guiding foreign policy, the Biden administration is seeking to dominate China, Russia and any other country challenging the US empire's supreme reign over the world. 

Biden just today named Blinken as his choice for the post of Secretary of State.

Behind The Headlines' Dan Cohen exposes how the brains of Biden's foreign policy team have been key architects of numerous wars and are planning for a dangerous high-tech confrontation with China.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Sunday song