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

Saturday, April 13, 2013

MILITARY BUDGET IS KILLING THE COUNTRY

  • I went to Brunswick this morning to join with local activists to hand out literature about the federal budget at the post office.  They had a good bunch of folks there so I went along Main Street and handed out our Fair Budget for All....Why Not? flyers to every shop keeper in the downtown area.  Then I walked over to the mill where the weekend flea market and farmers market are happening.  There the people were coming and going in droves and I handed out about 300 flyers in an hour. 

  • While at the mill I had some nice conversations with several of the people.  Many thanked me for being out there as I told them that we were trying to defend social progress.  When I mentioned Obama's proposed cuts to Social Security to older people their ears perked right up.  One guy told me that we all need to listen to the Graham Nash song "Military Madness" - we've got to cut the military budget he shouted.  Music to my ears so I thought I'd post that song below.

  • It is always encouraging to see folks come alive a bit when you are handing out flyers.  I'm just getting started and have several thousand copies of the flyer to put on doors here in Bath during the coming days.


Friday, April 12, 2013

GERMAN ANTI-WAR SURGE



Massive Antiwar-Protest @ Berlin University on April 10:
Students shouting down German Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière


German Defence Minister wanted to speak at Berlin’s Humboldt University on the role of the Bundeswehr

But students did not let him speak at all. The CDU politician finally gave up.

Dozens of students on Wednesday prevented  a speech at the Humboldt University in Berlin by German Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière. The CDU politician wanted to give a lecture on “Army of Unity – The contribution of the Bundeswehr to social cohesion”.

But right from the beginning the minister was greeted by about 300 students with rhythmic clapping and chanting as “Thomas, we love you” and was prevented from speaking. After some time, however the protesters shouted exclusively slogans like “Never again Germany”, “Germany sucks” and “No more war”.

Several groups had mobilized in recent days over the Internet to protest against the event.

De Maizière then tried to come up with the students this week, writing on a computer, “Who’s afraid to hear an argument?"  It remained just as unsuccessful as the request of University President Jan-Hendrik Olbertz.
After about half an hour the defense minister left the university.

Upon leaving de Maizière told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur, “I think it is not a sign of strength, to avoid such a discussion It’s of no use.” Nevertheless, he would continue to occur at universities. “I do it gladly. Berlin is not everywhere.”

DRONE BILL STALEMATED IN MAINE LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE

Maine Legislature & the Debate Over Drone Surveillance Warrants
 
Maine's Joint Judiciary Committee had their work session on LD 236 "An Act To Protect the Privacy of Citizens from Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Use" yesterday in our capital city of Augusta.  After a long debate between the Attorney General and the ACLU the assembled committee members voted unanimously to kick the drone bill can down the road - they decided to postpone any decision for another two weeks.

The session began an hour late so four of us stood outside the hearing room and held signs opposing drones.  In another hearing room next door a packed crowd was debating the merits of gun control and many Tea Party members were there.  They were very interested in our anti-drone signs and we found most agreed with our concerns about drone surveillance without warrants.

One of the gun-rights supporters showed us a bumper sticker that had a drone on it and the words "Protect our 2nd amendment rights to shoot down drones."  It was heartening to have discussions with these Tea Party folks about an issue that we could agree on and felt good to have a civil exchange for once. In that moment we could see each other’s humanity and agree that the power structure often keeps us divided against one another.  So it was good to hear they were thinking along those lines like we are. I intend to follow up with some of their leaders to see if we can work together on the drone bill.

Once the hearing began it was clear that Maine's Attorney General (AG) Janet Mills (former V-P of Maine Democratic Party) was hardly in a mood to negotiate with the ACLU over the fundamental question: Should law enforcement in Maine be required to have a warrant before they can use a drone for surveillance of citizens?

AG Mills made the following case:
·    We have a serious disagreement with the ACLU on several points
·    It's a burden on law enforcement to get warrants - you can't always find a judge to authorize them
·    The bill contains too many cumbersome procedures for law enforcement
·    The ACLU bill weighs the scales against law enforcement
 

Instead AG Mills proposed a temporary moratorium until July 1, 2014 to allow a consortium of law enforcement agencies to come up with "minimum standards" that would include prior authorization by "some official" before drones could be used for surveillance. She didn't specify who the official should be - hopefully someone that is not too difficult to reach on weekends like those hidden judges. 

Most important for me though was her last point, sort of slipped into the conversation almost as an after thought.  But this one had clearly been thought out.  AG Mills said that the drone bill should in no way impede the possibility of a drone test center in northern Maine.  Bingo!

I am convinced that the leadership of the Democratic Party in Augusta is under intense pressure these days on the drone bill.  They are hearing strong support from the grassroots who obviously understand the fundamental importance of protecting our tattered civil liberties against coming unwarranted drone surveillance. But the Democrats, who now control the Maine legislature, but not the governorship, also have their eyes on that big prize.  In 2014 the Democrats want to win the governorship again.  And they want the support of the police, the growing aerospace industry interests in Maine, the fledgling drone manufacturing folks in our state, and the citizens up north surrounding the now closed Loring AFB who think a drone test center and a missile defense base located there would be a big job creator.
 

The Democrats understand that the federal government's national jobs policy these days is military production and endless war.  They've seen the writing on the wall that declares military projects are the priority of the corporate dominated government we live under.  The Democrats think that if they want to win the governorship they have to throw a bone to folks around Loring and to the aerospace industry
 

The fact is that 37 states are now in full capitalist-competition for the six drone testing sites around the US that Obama has announced will ultimately bring 30,000 drones into our skies.  It will become a bidding war, and sweeteners will have to be thrown at the feet of the Pentagon to entice them to come to a particular community.  One such piece of candy could be the promise that the Maine state legislature will not require drone operators to have a warrant before they do surveillance on citizens across our state.
 

I came away from the Judiciary Committee work session on LD 236 seeing the deadly connection between the bill's key element - protecting our civil liberties - and the proposed drone test base in Maine. 
 

For those wondering if drones will ever come to Maine, the question has been answered.  They are here now and we'd better look up before it is too late. 

JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY

Committee Clerk: Susan Pinette
Policy Analysts: Margaret Reinsch, Susan Johannesman
Fiscal Analyst: Alexandra Avore
Hearing Room: Room 438, State House - phone (207) 287-1327
Chairs' Office: Room 433, State House
Mailing Address:
Committee on Judiciary
c/o Legislative Information
100 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333
MEMBERS:

District No. 5 
Linda M. Valentino
Boom Road
Saco, Maine 04072
(207) 282-5227 residence
1-800-423-6900

State Capitol Address
Senate Chamber
3 State House Station 
Augusta, ME 04333
(207) 287-1540
(800) 423-6900
Legislative Web Site

home: (207) 838-3013
office: call his legislative aide, Marc Malon, @ (207) 287-1515
street: 176 Cottage St., Sanford, ME 04073

home: (207) 733-8856
office: (207) 287-1505

street:
159 Dodge Rd.
Whiting ME 04691

Address: 9 Bowker Street, Brunswick, ME 04011
Home Telephone: (207) 725-5439
Business Telephone: (207) 622-3789
Fax: (207) 622-3792
Home E-Mail: cpriest1@comcast.net
Legislative Web Site: www.maine.gov/legis/housedems/priestc/index.html
(Additional information, news, etc., from the House Democratic Office)
State House Message Phone: (800) 423-2900
State House TTY Line: (207) 287-4469

Address: 6 Russet Lane, Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107
Cell Phone: (207) 749-9443
Home E-Mail: kmderrig@maine.rr.com
Legislative Web Site: www.maine.gov/legis/housedems/monaghan-derrigk/index.html
(Additional information, news, etc., from the House Democratic Office)
Personal Web Site: Facebook: Kim Monaghan-Derrig
(This link is outside the Maine Legislature web site)
State House Message Phone: (800) 423-2900
State House TTY Line: (207) 287-4469

Address: 1008 Middle Street, Bath, ME 04530
Home Telephone: (207) 442-8486
Legislative Web Site: www.maine.gov/legis/housedems/dechantj/index.html
(Additional information, news, etc., from the House Democratic Office)
State House Message Phone: (800) 423-2900
State House TTY Line: (207) 287-4469

Address: 17 Pine Street #2, Portland, ME 04102
Cell Phone: (207) 332-7823
Home E-Mail: matt.moonen@gmail.com
Legislative Web Site: www.maine.gov/legis/housedems/moonenm/index.html
(Additional information, news, etc., from the House Democratic Office)
Personal Web Site: www.mattmoonen.com
(This link is outside the Maine Legislature web site)
State House Message Phone: (800) 423-2900
State House TTY Line: (207) 287-4469

Address: 34 Blanchard Road, Cumberland, ME 04021
Home Telephone: (207) 829-5095
Business Telephone: (207) 774-7000
Cell Phone: (207) 318-3238
Home E-Mail: smoriarty108@aol.com
Legislative Web Site: www.maine.gov/legis/housedems/moriartys/index.html
(Additional information, news, etc., from the House Democratic Office)
State House Message Phone: (800) 423-2900
State House TTY Line: (207) 287-4469

Address: P. O. Box 427, Harrison, ME 04040
Cell Phone: (207) 712-5222
Legislative Web Site: www.maine.gov/legis/housedems/villal/index.html
(Additional information, news, etc., from the House Democratic Office)
State House Message Phone: (800) 423-2900
State House TTY Line: (207) 287-4469

Address: P. O. Box 701, Bethel, ME 04217
Home Telephone: (207) 875-5075
Business Telephone: (207) 824-0717
Cell Phone: (207) 739-9971
Legislative Web Site: www.maine.gov/legis/house_gop/_reps/rep.php?rep=crockett
(Additional information, news, etc., from the House Republican Office)
State House Message Phone: (800) 423-2900
State House TTY Line: (207) 287-4469

Address: 27 Sherman Avenue, Auburn, ME 04210
Home Telephone: (207) 784-0036
Cell Phone: (207) 577-6962
Home E-Mail: mike@mikeformaine.org
Legislative Web Site: www.maine.gov/legis/house_gop/_reps/rep.php?rep=beaulieu
(Additional information, news, etc., from the House Republican Office)
Personal Web Site: mikeformaine.org
(This link is outside the Maine Legislature web site)
State House Message Phone: (800) 423-2900
State House TTY Line: (207) 287-4469

Address: 17 Pine Street, Milford, ME 04461
Business Telephone: (207) 827-7296
Legislative Web Site: www.maine.gov/legis/house_gop/_reps/rep.php?rep=haskell
(Additional information, news, etc., from the House Republican Office)
State House Message Phone: (800) 423-2900
State House TTY Line: (207) 287-4469

Address: 79 Phillips Road, Glenburn, ME 04401
Home Telephone: (207) 884-7118
Cell Phone: (207) 249-0472
Home E-Mail: repguerin@gmail.com
Legislative Web Site: www.maine.gov/legis/house_gop/_reps/rep.php?rep=guerin
(Additional information, news, etc., from the House Republican Office)
Personal Web Site: Facebook Representative Stacey Guerin
(This link is outside the Maine Legislature web site)
State House Message Phone: (800) 423-2900
State House TTY Line: (207) 287-4469

Address: 14 Oak Hill Street, Penobscot Nation, Indian Island, ME 04468
Home Telephone: (207) 827-0392
Business Telephone: (207) 817-7300
Tribal Telephone: (207) 817-7300
Home E-Mail: waymitch10@hotmail.com
State House Message Phone: (800) 423-2900
State House TTY Line: (207) 287-4469

Thursday, April 11, 2013

BAN ASSAULT WEAPONS IN SPACE



Citizens for Peace In Space and other groups protest the opening banquet of the annual Space Symposium at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs on April 8, 2013.

The protest was to counter the message of the military industrial complex's annual celebration of greed and secrecy and this year highlighted America's favorite weapons system, the killer Drones.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop, General Dynamics and Raytheon lead the way but a host of other smaller companies who feed at the pork barrel banquet were there.

Organizer, Bill Sulzman said, "This is the epitome of business as usual. These are the major players who lobby for and then get the lions share of the $800 billion Pentagon annual budget. There will be a lot of civilian space stuff on display also. It's the spoon full of sugar that helps the medicine go down. In this sense it is a rip off of bona fide space enthusiasts."

This event and others like it set the priorities for our future military policy. This is the continuation of a wrongheaded policy which is sending us off the cliff of overreach.

And all those Pentagon dollars coming our way will not lead to a better tax base for our local and state governments. Tax exemptions for local military bases take a big bite out of public revenue. This includes the thousands of "civilian" personnel who work in tax free government buildings at bases such as Peterson and Schriever.

The symposium bills itself as a look into a better future. It's just more of the same.

In 2009 a Brookings Institution study estimated that for every "militant" killed by these unmanned drones, there were 10 civilian casualties. Each of them will have 10 grieving relatives who will become "militants", combatants or enemies.

The New America Foundation estimates between 261 and 305 civilians have been killed in Pakistan. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism says 475 - 891.

Last weekend a NATO air strike killed 20 people in eastern Afghanistan, including at least one woman and 10 children ages 1 to 12. The attacks came at the end of one of the bloodiest weeks of the entire US occupation, which began in 2001. NATO claims 2 combatants were killed in the strike.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

LATEST EDITION OF THIS ISSUE



The latest edition of This Issue features my interview with Richard Rhames from Biddeford.  He has been a public access TV activist in Maine for well over 20 years and presently serves on the Biddeford City Council.  

Richard is a vegetable farmer and offers his views on agriculture, public education, Iraq, cuts in social programs, drones and more.

MY LETTER TO MAINE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE


Maine's Attorney General Janet Mills (Democrat) is now formally opposing our bill to require warrants for police before they can do surveillance of the public with drones.

She says: "The Legislature finds that evolving technology regarding unmanned aerial vehicles ('drones') presents a potential economic driver for the State of Maine, an opportunity for research and development, a very real benefit for security and search and rescue efforts and for disaster prevention and relief, a potential aid to the investigation of crime, as well as potential privacy threats from private use and a potential threat to the privacy of Maine citizens if widely used by law enforcement in the conduct of criminal investigations without appropriate guidelines and supervision."

I will go to our state capital on Thursday to attend the Joint Judiciary Committee work session on the drone bill which is being shepherded by the Maine ACLU.

Here is a letter that I just sent to Judiciary Committee members:

Dear Judiciary Committee Members:
    
Today we learned that Maine's Attorney General Janet Mills intends to offer an amendment to LD236 - the drone bill.

Likely under pressure from the drone industry and law enforcement AG Mills appears to be putting the civil liberties of Maine citizens much further down the priority list.

We can't go along with that.

The ACLU contends that, "The heart of the [AG's] amendment seems to be a moratorium until agencies develop their own policies in line with minimum standards set by the Board of Trustees of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy and the AG regarding drone use.  We are not convinced that we’re going to like the minimum standards these law enforcement agencies come up with.  Standards developed by law enforcement could be so broad as to be meaningless.  Similarly, under their bill, they’re supposed to come up with data retention limits.  They could decide they want to keep everything – even incidentally collected data on innocent people – for 5 years and datamine it (that’s what NJ’s AG has decided to do with ALPR data)."

We concur with the concerns expressed by the ACLU. We fear that without serious requirements written into law, mandating that police agencies must obtain warrants before undertaking surveillance of citizens, the people of Maine will be exposed to violations of our civil rights.  This will lead to political unrest, litigation, and general distrust of government and police - none of which is a good thing for our state.

 The Judiciary Committee should first represent the public and the constitution of Maine.  The interests of drone manufacturers and police should not trump civil rights.

In recent weeks many people and groups around Maine have been spreading word about LD 236 and urging the public to take heed of this important bill.  Hundreds of Mainers have signed a petition in support of the requirement that police must have a warrant before they do drone surveillance of citizens.
    
We urge you to do the right thing and support the ACLU version of LD 236.
    
Thank you for your attention to this serious matter.
    
Bruce K. Gagnon
Secretary
Maine Veterans For Peace
Bath
443-9502

TWO HUMAN CATASTROPHES CLASHING WITH EACH OTHER



Amira Hass, the only Jewish-Israeli journalist to have spent almost 20 years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank, recently suffered a torrent of hate mail and calls for her prosecution after she wrote an article defending the right of Palestinians to resist violent occupation.

In the article, Hass defended the throwing of stones by Palestinian youth at Israeli soldiers, calling it "the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule." Hass said Israelis remain in denial about "how much violence is used on a daily basis against Palestinians. They don’t like to be told that someone has the right to resist their violence."

Hass joins Democracy Now to discuss the reaction to her piece and her response to the latest regional visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Despite vows to revive peace talks and free up the Palestinian economy, Hass says the Obama administration wants to preserve the status-quo of occupation.

A FAIR BUDGET FOR ALL



  • I had a very busy day yesterday.  I spent hours working on the drone bill now pending in Augusta.  Tomorrow is the Judiciary Committee work session on the bill so I sent a news release out about our concern with drones snooping on us in Maine.  I also sent the drone petition with all the names we've gathered to each member of the Maine House of Representatives and many members of the Senate.  (It was interesting to find that Maine Senate Republicans had their emails available while Democrats require you to fill out a form to reach them which didn't allow for the petition with all the names to be transmitted.)

  • In the afternoon four boxes full of 10,000 door hangers arrived at the house. In the coming days folks in about 20 communities will spread these door hangers across the state which give information about the ever expanding military budget and urge people to take action to demand a fair budget for all.  They look really great and I can't wait to get started taking them door-to-door in Bath.  I spent several hours dividing them into stacks of 100 and then packaging them up to put in the mail today.

  • Last Sunday there was a fantastic Teach-In called "A Budget For All -- Why Not?" at the University of Maine-Orono that was organized by the Peace & Justice Center in Bangor.  More than 120 turned out from all over the state to hear great keynote speeches by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers.  They were followed by an outstanding panel of Maine activists - one of the best talks was by Lisa Savage from CodePink Maine and our co-leader of the Maine Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home.  You can read her speech here. Two workshop sessions were also held and I facilitated one of them on the theme of Bring Our War $$ Home.  Because the event was on Sunday Mary Beth was able to attend - her new schedule at work has her working every Saturday so she's been missing many activist events on those days. 
  • In latest news from Jeju island, Gangjeong villagers held a vote to oppose the military residence building project.  In addition to destroying the rocky coastline the Navy has announced they want other parts of the village for housing for military personnel at the base. Among 118 voters present, opposition to the project was 114, in favor of the project was 3 and there was one abstention. There can be no doubt that the Navy will try to take most of the village before all this is over.
  • Last night the Santa Monica, California City Council voted for final passage of a Sustainability Bill of Rights Ordinance by the margin of 7-0.  The law is the first in the nation that protects the rights of nature and community rights as fundamental and interdependent.  Natural community and residents rights supersede corporate interests under the law.  See the ordinance here

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

DON'T CRY









A series of short videos from Gangjeong village on Jeju Island where yesterday people blocked the Navy base construction gates. 

The polluted water from the construction site is now moving further off-shore into the area where the UNESCO recognized endangered soft coral reefs are located.  The South Korean government once called this entire place a "Special Preservation Area" but this designation has been washed away by the US demand for the Navy base that will be used as part of Obama's pivot into the Asia-Pacific to control China.

A couple of days ago a retired US Navy man was identified in Gangjeong village and told a witness that he now "lives" there.  Why would an American and former Navy man be living in this tiny fishing and farming community?  He is most likely working as a consultant on behalf of the Navy to help direct the base construction project.  For years the US has vigorously denied that they have anything to do with the Navy base.

Monday, April 08, 2013

FERTILIZING WITH OIL


Sunday, April 07, 2013

THE WAR EFFECTS STILL REMAIN.......



Nao Rozi is a former soldier and lives and struggles with the Afghan Peace Volunteers, seeking a better life, seeking a better world.

He is a very beautiful human being.

SUNDAY SONG