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, May 18, 2013

SETTING THE STAGE FOR MORE WAR



A Pentagon official predicted Thursday the war against al-Qaeda and its affiliates could last up to 20 more years. The comment came during a Senate hearing revisiting the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, enacted by Congress days after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. At the hearing, Pentagon officials claimed the AUMF gives the president power to wage endless war anywhere in the world, including in Syria, Yemen and the Congo. "This is the most astounding and most astoundingly disturbing hearing that I’ve been to since I’ve been here," said Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine. "You guys have essentially rewritten the Constitution here today."

Democracy Now plays excerpts of Thursday’s Senate hearing and their recent interview with Jeremy Scahill, author of the new bestseller, "Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield."

CHANGING THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT WAR

This drum belonged to long-time Maine VFP founding member Tom Sturtevant who passed away in 2012.  Our chapter is now named after Tom.  When ever we gather we always hold Tom close to our heart.  In this photo his son-in-law presents the drum to our chapter.

  • I attended the Maine Veterans for Peace war trauma symposium held today in Portland.  Dr. Paula Caplan was the keynote speaker.  She is a clinical and research psychologist currently serving as an Associate at Harvard University's DuBois Institute.  She has been working to change the language we use to describe victims of war from the overused "PTSD" instead to "war trauma".  PTSD is a clinical description which emphasizes that people have a "disorder" as if they were crazy. The words war trauma acknowledge that people were indeed traumatized by an experience that was thrust upon them by our government's endless war policy and it is quite normal for them to have a severe reaction to this.  Caplan called the US a "war illiterate nation" and felt that if more people would deeply listen to veterans we'd begin to not only help them deal with their traumatic experiences but would also help us all learn more about the real human outcomes of our wars.
  • On Thursday and Friday I spent three hours each day dropping our pizza-style door hangers on doors here in Bath.  These pieces of literature share how 57% of every 2013 discretionary tax dollar goes to the Pentagon.  The literature describes how Mainers have paid $3.5 billion since 2001 for our wars and asks our neighbors to imagine how those $$$ could have been used in our state doing good things for people.  The population here in Bath is about 8,500 (2011) and I figure that we've distributed door hangers to over 1,700 houses in the community in recent days.  The weather was beautiful while I did this work and it felt good to know that this message was reaching so many families in our community.  The literature asks people to call our members of Congress and tell them to cut the military budget instead of cutting programs of social uplift.  I found that virtually everyone that I spoke with while going through the neighborhoods thanked me for passing out the information.
  • I don't necessarily think that everyone will make the calls to politicians but I do think that when we reach a high percentage of people in our communities with this message - when they see that there is some positive action around the budget - they begin to feel less isolated and become more empowered to speak out in their own circles.  I don't want to over hype this but I do think that at some point people begin to talk about this military spending issue in ways that the consciousness of the community expands.

Friday, May 17, 2013

HELD FOR ELEVEN YEARS WITHOUT BEING CHARGED



May 16 marks a dark milestone in the history of the world's most controversial  prison - 100 days of a mass hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay. Out of 166 inmates - 130 are on strike according to prisoners, while the military only admits to 102. At least a third of them are being force fed - a procedure recognized by various medical organizations as painful enough to constitute torture. And by all accounts - there's no end in sight to the protest.

The last few minutes of the video feature Lt. Col. Barry Wingard (Judge Advocate General US Air Force) who comes down hard on Obama for continuing to keep Guantanamo open.  Very courageous words from an active duty military officer.

CONTROL THE MEDIA - CONTROL THE PUBLIC MIND



Charles and David Koch are among the richest people in the world, and are known for supporting right-wing causes. The rumor that the billionaires might buy the Tribune Company is hitting a nerve in liberal corners of the U.S. Among the prized media outlets that are part of the Tribune Company are the Chicago Tribune, and the LA Times newspapers.



You can help buy the newspapers here

ANOTHER MISSILE OFFENSE TEST



On Wednesday, May 15 the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency (MDA) ran another test of its Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor.  The agency said the test was a success.

The dummy (target) missile was launched from the Navy's Pacific Missile Test Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii.  The SM-3 interceptor missile was fired from a Navy Aegis cruiser (USS Lake Erie).  The MDA's cost for the test was $32 million (not counting the costs to the Navy).

The SM-3 interceptor missiles cost between $12-15 million each.  The follow-on version of these missiles will double in price.

The Navy currently has SM-3 interceptor missiles on 26 ships with plans to place them on 36 ships by 2018.  These "missile defense" systems are being used today to surround Russia and China.  Their role in military strategy is to serve as the "shield" to take out Russian or Chinese nuclear retaliatory strikes after a US-NATO first-strike attack.

Last fall Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said, "This missile defense concept is global and mobile, and it creates unpredictability...the [US] fleet will invariably appear in our northern seas [Baltic, Barents, and Bering Seas]... The radius of use of these weapons makes them a real threat to us."

China has expressed similar fears as Obama's "pivot" of 60% of US naval forces into the Asia-Pacific destabilizes the region.  More ports are needed for these warships thus we see the pressure to build the new base on Jeju Island in South Korea and talks with Vietnam, Philippines, and other nations about allowing US access to their bases.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

DO GOOD THINGS


  • I got a call from a media outlet last night just after 11:00 pm as I was climbing into bed.  They said something about a nuclear device that had fallen off a truck somewhere in West Virginia and wanted my comment.  I told them it was late and to call back in the morning.  I knew they wouldn't.  This morning I did some searching on the Internet and found the story.  Yes, indeed do call if you find it!  Here it is:  
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is searching for a nuclear gauge that apparently fell off a truck on Interstate 81 near the Pennsylvania/West Virginia line. The device is yellow and about the size of a shoe box. DEP officials said the device, which was lost on May 3, contains a small amount of radioactive material. If tampered with, the device could release radiation. The device is used to measure the density of soil or concrete. Anyone who finds it should call the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at 301-816-5100.

  • I have begun thinking about my court proceedings due to my arrest at Hancock Air Field drone base near Syracuse, New York.  I saw a list yesterday of 56 activists from three recent civil resistance actions at the base that are now facing trial.  It appears that the small town court of Dewitt, NY that has to handle these cases is backed-up.  God only knows when my trial will happen.  This morning I emailed a lawyer friend in Maine to ask his help with preparing me for the process since I don't qualify for a court appointed attorney.  He called and we talked about some of the first steps I should take to get ready.  He used to be an oil corporation attorney but left that job because he could not stomach the work on behalf of Mr. Big.  He once told me that his job, as part of a large stable of ambitious young attorneys, was to bury any opposing attorney in paperwork that dared represent some aggrieved person who had a legitimate claim against the corporation.  The goal was to drive up the cost of the legal case to the point the solo lawyer and his client would either drop the case or settle for a small amount of money. He now tries to put his life energies toward a greater purpose.
  • The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the U.S. requires $3.6 trillion in infrastructure investment by 2020 to bring our current D+ grade to safe standards. The only way we could ever come up with that kind of money is to end the wars and cut military spending in a dramatic way.  We should be fixing bridges, repairing railroad tracks, replacing aging water and sewer lines, and be building rail systems through every state rather than wasting our $$$ on more weapons for war.
  • With that in mind we are holding a meeting of the Maine Bring Our War $$ Home campaign on Sunday, May 19 from noon to 3:00 pm at the Addams-Melman House in Bath.  We will be discussing our anti-drone efforts here in Maine as well as ways to expand public outrage against war spending.  Power concedes nothing without a demand and organizing to back it up. All who are interested are welcome to attend the meeting. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

THE TOTALITARIAN & SECURITY SURVEILLANCE STATE



The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges joins Democracy Now to discuss what could mark the most significant government intrusion on freedom of the press in decades. The Justice Department has acknowledged seizing the work, home and cellphone records used by almost 100 reporters and editors at the Associated Press. The phones targeted included the general AP office numbers in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Connecticut, and the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery. The action likely came as part of a probe into the leaks behind an AP story on the U.S. intelligence operation that stopped a Yemen-based al-Qaeda bombing plot on a U.S.-bound airplane.

Hedges, a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and former New York Times reporter, calls the monitoring "one more assault in a long series of assault against freedom of information and freedom of the press."

Highlighting the Obama administration’s targeting of government whistleblowers, Hedges adds: "Talk to any investigative journalist who must investigate the government, and they will tell you that there is a deep freeze. People are terrified of speaking, because they’re terrified of going to jail."

ODDS & ENDS

VFP members Tarak Kauff (left) and Bill Gilson carry the lead banner in a Tuesday protest in New York City.  More than 500 people marched from Bryant Park to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel where Obama was attending a fundraising dinner.


  • James C. Goodale, has been called the “father of reporters’ privilege” and the author of a new book called Fighting for the Press.  Mr. Goodale, 79, was the general counsel of The New York Times during the 1971 Pentagon Papers case, when President Nixon ordered the newspaper to cease publication of excerpts from a 7,000-page document, which detailed America’s involvement in Vietnam over the course of three decades. The Times published the first excerpt on June 13, 1971. Now, the man who successfully fought Nixon says President Obama has an even more troubling record. He has indicted six leakers to Nixon’s one, and just this week came word that federal investigators had seized two months of Associated Press phone records without notice. Mr. Goodale believes that a grand jury has secretly indicted Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks and the publisher of the Afghan War Logs, one of the more substantial leaks since the Pentagon Papers. The father of reporter’s privilege is doing everything in his power to make sure the case does not go forward.
  • Corporate profits are at a 50-year high.  The politicians like to call the rich the "job creators".  If this were truly the case we'd be swimming in jobs due to their massive wealth.  But alas the rich are not creating anything but domestic chaos. 

Unlike many European Union countries, Hungary is a nation where genetically modified (GM) seeds are banned. In a similar stance against GM ingredients, Peru has also passed a 10 year ban on GM foods.

- See more at: http://www.whydontyoutrythis.com/2013/03/ungary-destroys-all-monsanto-GMO-corn-fields.html#sthash.ID8j6PV9.dpuf
Hungary has taken a bold stand against biotech giant Monsanto and genetic modification by destroying 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds, according to Hungary deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development Lajos Bognar.

Unlike many European Union countries, Hungary is a nation where genetically modified (GM) seeds are banned. In a similar stance against GM ingredients, Peru has also passed a 10 year ban on GM foods.

- See more at: http://www.whydontyoutrythis.com/2013/03/ungary-destroys-all-monsanto-GMO-corn-fields.html#sthash.ID8j6PV9.dpuf
  •  Hungary has taken a bold stand against biotech giant Monsanto and genetic modification by destroying 1,000 acres of maize found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds. Unlike many countries, Hungary is a nation where genetically modified (GM) seeds are banned. In a similar stance against GM ingredients, Peru has also passed a 10 year ban on GM foods. 
  • Studies shows that charter schools don’t typically outperform public schools and they often tend to increase racial and class segregation. Compared to public schools, charters schools are an extremely unregulated business. They contract with private companies to provide all kinds of services, from curriculum development to landscaping. Most of the regulations that bind charter schools are implemented at the state level. And unlike public institutions, the finances of charter schools are managed on a school-by-school basis. Because they are not consistently held accountable to the public for how they distribute funds, charter schools are often able to keep their business practices under wraps, and thus avoid too much scrutiny.  And even by the flimsy legal standards in place to protect the public against charter school industry corruption, charter schools across the nation are failing. They are mired in financial scandal—and have become known in many districts for mismanagement.
  • A United Nations investigator probing discrimination against Native Americans has called on the US government to return some of the land stolen from Indian tribes as a step toward combatting continuing and systemic racial discrimination. James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said no member of the US Congress would meet him as he investigated the part played by the government in the considerable difficulties faced by Indian tribes.
  • A great activist resource is the web site called Occupy Washington DC.  I find great organizing reports from around the world there - from a multi-issue perspective.  I use some of the videos they post.  See it here

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

SOUTHERN FUSION MOVEMENT UNDERWAY


If North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory (R) is concerned about his place in history, it looks like he's got something to worry about. Several of the world's top historians, three of whom appear in this video, have been arrested in recent days protesting what Rev. Dr. William Barber II called an "avalanche of extremist policies that threaten health care, education, voting rights." McCrory has said he will sign bills that threaten the poor, the elderly, and minorities while giving tax cuts to the 23 wealthiest families in the state.

The civil resistance campaign is being led by Barber, head of the North Carolina NAACP. Each Friday for the past three weeks, they have announced their intentions for the following Monday. So far, over 50 people have been arrested.

The strategy of the corporate oligarchy is obvious these days.  Drain the energy of the left by making poor and working people fight on every conceivable issue front.  It is all the more difficult to fight back when the president of the US is not on the side of the people.  The Congress, by and large, stands with the oligarchy as well.

The positive sign here is that the people are realizing that they need to rise together or perish.  They are starting to rise.

WEST CALLS OBAMA WAR CRIMINAL



Cornell West on BBC calls Obama a war criminal.  He also calls the poverty levels in the US spiritually profane.

The Obama team has taken to calling West un-American for having the audacity to tell the truth about the president and his right-wing policies.

Sadly not many "progressive" black leaders are willing to speak out against Obama for fear of retribution.  But it's basically the same story with many white "progressives" as well.  Those who are attached to the Democratic party are neutralized and unwilling to speak the truth about Obama's role in perpetuating endless war, destroying social progress, desecration of our civil liberties, and letting Wall Street off the hook for their fiscal crimes against the nation.

You can see an extensive story in the Guardian about West's visit to the UK here

Monday, May 13, 2013

AS WE WAKE UP......



  • I saw this new film, The Company You Keep, yesterday and really enjoyed it.  You know you are getting old when the stories of your youth become "historical pieces".  The film follows a young newspaper reporter played by Shia LaBeouf, and after the arrest of a Weather Underground suspect (Susan Sarandon), LaBeouf sets out on a journey to track down another at-large member (Robert Redford) of the American radical left organization. They got in some good statements about corporate control of the government and our propensity to kill legions around the world.
  • It's been raining here for days but today the sun is shining which means doing some more gardening while I can.  I stuck our tomato plants in the ground during a lull in the rain two days ago.  It's also a day for some house cleaning as our mud room is full of mud and the kitchen floor needs washing.  Let the truth be told about the life of an organizer.
  • Friend Regis Tremblay has finished his documentary film about Jeju Island that he is now calling Ghosts of Jeju which I think is an excellent title.  Going to look at it today and he is then going to turn it over to a couple hot-shot young film guys he's known since they were in college.  They are going to fine tune it.  Regis has worked day and night on this project for more than six months.  A true labor of love and necessity.
  • Word from Gangjeong village on Jeju Island is that Mayor Kang and another villager were released from jail (several others still remain in the slammer) after the tragic events of last Thursday when he was almost hung to death trying to defend their protest tents across the road from the Navy base gates.  I was touched when I read that after being released folks gathered for a meeting and song and they finished with this one:  "A march for the Beloved." The lyrics include.. "Without trace of love, honor, and name, we have made a hot pledge to go together on this way.... Our hot cry as we wake up... As we stand in front, please go along with us, all the livings..."  Remember to boycott Samsung products.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

SUNDAY SONG