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, August 10, 2013

PRAYING FOR GILCHUN


The wonderful Jeju Island artist Koh Gilchun has fallen down with a cerebral hemorrhage on the last day of the March for Life and Peace on August 3.  I was shocked to learn this news and my heart is heavy.  We all should pray for him.

I briefly met Gilchun while on Jeju but really had the chance to get to know him better last year at the end of my month long west coast trip that ended in Seattle.  On my last day there Leonard Eiger organized a protest at the South Korean consulate in downtown Seattle and Gilchun was there.  He had been doing an art show at a gallery in Seattle.  A more dear man you will never meet.

Gilchun was instrumental in getting Noam Chomsky into the Jeju issue and is the featured artist at the April 3, 1948 museum on Jeju that tells the story of the 60,000 islanders massacred under the direction of the US military following the ouster of Japan from Korea.  In the new documentary The Ghosts of Jeju much of Gilchun's work from the museum is featured.

WE ARE BULLIES......



In Japan Oliver Stone lays the truth down.....half way through the video he talks about Jeju Island Navy base as well.

Friday, August 09, 2013

GOVERNMENT IS EXPLOITING OUR AMNESIA



Some have claimed that Americans don't care about the revelations that the NSA is conducting massive surveillance on our private communications. But Oliver Stone isn't buying it.

In a video produced with the ACLU, Director Oliver Stone shares some of his reflections on the NSA spying program and the disastrous legacy of unchecked government abuse of power. All Americans should stand up for our civil liberties at this critical moment in history, he says-- by asking our representatives in Congress to roll back the surveillance state.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

ARRESTED IN MADISON FOR SINGING



At the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin

BLOCK THE DESTRUCTION


WAR ON HOMELESS



Set against the backdrop of modern life in the city of Los Angeles, the poem "LA is Full of Pigs" weaves together a narrative that touches upon growing fears and anxieties of working people around such pressing issues as housing, healthcare and police brutality. It is a poem born of the anger these times demand.

Matt Sedillo is the author of For What I Might Do Tomorrow (Caza De Poesia 2010), a member of the Inland Empire Lionlike Mindstate national slam team of 2009, member and Grand Slam Champion of the Damn Slam Los Angeles national slam team of 2011 (of which a story appeared in the Los Angeles Times), participated in the 2012 San Francisco International Poetry Festival, has appeared in a number of anthologies and has performed at countless universities across the nation.

BIW WANTS MORE TAX RELIEF FROM CITY

Bath Iron Works in Maine where only Navy destroyers are built

Last night Mary Beth Sullivan and I went to the Bath, Maine city council meeting.  We had read in the local newspaper that Bath Iron Works (BIW), owned by General Dynamics, was going to ask for another round of public subsidy as they undertake expansion and modernization of the ship yard.  We learned that this item would not come up in the city council meeting until 9:00 pm after the regular business was handled.  We also learned that public comments would not be allowed in this "workshop".

Recognizing that we'd not be allowed to speak at the "workshop" we decided to make our five-minute comments during the allowed public comment period at the start of each meeting.

One thing we heard over and again during the regular city council meeting was that Bath does not have enough money to pave the roads in our city.  Local schools have also taken a hard hit in recent years as the state cuts back on its share of education funding.

During the "workshop" BIW's corporate lawyer John Fitzgerald complained about looming federal cutbacks in military spending.  He also reported that BIW now has more competitors across the nation.  "We need the City of Bath's help to meet the challenges," he said.  He also posed a veiled threat by saying, "There are real concerns about BIW's affordability.  BIW's partnership with the City of Bath is essential."

Following BIW's very sketchy and brief presentation in the "workshop" no questions were broached by the city council.  It was then stated that BIW would come back on September 4 for another "workshop" at which time they will give details of their request for tax relief by the city.

Here are the comments that I delivered early on in the city council meeting:


Public comment on BIW TIF Request

I am here to speak against the request by General Dynamics (which owns BIW) for the citizens of Bath to fork over another round of tax breaks for this very wealthy corporation.

BIW is seeking a tax break from the city known as tax increment financing for an expansion project, which would be completed in 2015, and they don’t even this time promise more new jobs.

This ongoing transfer of public funds to private corporations is corporate welfare that Bath, our state, and the nation cannot afford.

But sadly, tax dollars get shifted from schools and roads, from the needs of real people to the bottom line of the already well-endowed corporations. 

Corporations often trade corporate welfare for promises to hire more workers.  BIW is a classic example. After being given $197 million in state and local tax subsidies to modernize its Bath plant, employment went from nearly 7,700 in 1999 to below 5,200 in 2011.

Modernization often means increasing mechanization of production facilities, which ultimately translates to fewer jobs.  But hey, who is paying attention anyway?

Corporations pit community against community in a race to the bottom.

At the same time corporations like General Dynamics make massive profit and their top executives come away with big bucks.

Former General Dynamics CEO Jay Johnson’s annual compensation in 2011 was over $16 million.  Last year his compensation from General Dynamics was just over $18 million.

Current General Dynamics CEO Phebe Novakovic’s compensation, so far in 2013, comes to $6,887,772.

General Dynamics generated $2.6 billion, I’ll say that again $2.6 billion, in profits in 2011 on almost $33 billion in revenue.  The company's value (known as "market cap") as of 6/30/13: $29,858,000,000.

I was at a conference in Washington DC last weekend where I learned the world’s largest weapons corporation, Lockheed Martin, has built a hotel in Montgomery County, Maryland.  They got the state to pass a law that exempts L-M from paying the state hotel occupancy tax.  Then L-M tried to get the county to exempt them from their occupancy tax as well but public outrage halted those plans.

Not to be denied though L-M then went back to the state and got them to pass a law requiring Montgomery County to exempt L-M’s new hotel from their occupancy tax.  

The examples of corporate greed these days are numerous and outrageous.

The UMASS-Amherst Economics Department has done the definitive study on jobs created by government spending.  They found that $1 billion spent on domestic priorities (education, health care, home weatherization, creating clean energy systems, etc) will create substantially more jobs within the U.S. economy than would the same $1 billion spent on military production. 

So while we think that giving corporate welfare is good for Bath’s local economy the study shows that if we invested those same dollars in building rail systems for instance at a place like BIW we’d double the number of jobs created.  Military spending is capital intensive – all other spending is labor intensive.

The city council is likely to give General Dynamics everything they want.  I felt it was at least worth the effort to stand before you and offer good economic reasons not to do so. 

But the corporations rule our political system these days – you acknowledged as much when you recently unanimously agreed to pass a resolution calling for a ban on corporate money in our elections.

The facts are though that the public is growing tired of seeing our meager funds go for more corporate welfare. 

But when it comes down to the people versus corporate power we know who triumphs. 

It’s a sad commentary on our current state of affairs.  Democracy has been trumped by corporate power and profits.


Bruce K. Gagnon
212 Centre St
Bath
(207) 443-9502

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

ARSENAL OF HYPOCRISY


This year marks 68 years since the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9).  The US is the only country to ever use an atomic bomb against another country.

The US talks alot (both Republicans and Democrats) about how evil nuclear weapons are.  Who could ever argue with that?  But the US practices the height of hypocrisy as our nation has more nuclear weapons than any other country.  The US has also assisted other nations such as Israel, UK and now recently India in building their nuclear weapons.  Accordingly the US only judges some nations like Iran, North Korea, Russia or China when they build nukes.

Despite rosy speeches by Obama about the need to get rid of nuclear weapons his administration is doing the opposite.  More tax dollars are being spent today on development of US nuclear weapons than during the average years of the Cold War.  There is money in the current budget request for US Department of Energy nuclear laboratories to undertake development of a new warhead to launch nuclear war either from a land-based silo or a submarine.

But any hopes for real negotiations for serious reductions in nuclear weapons between the major powers will not be possible in this day and age.  Why?  Simply because Obama, and the Congress, insist on surrounding Russia and China with so-called "missile defense" systems.  Deployed as ground-based launchers and on Navy Aegis destroyers, these interceptor missiles are the shield that would pick off any possible retaliation by Russia or China after a Pentagon first-strike attack.

Hard to imagine that the US would launch a first-strike attack?  Ask Iraq.  The Obama "pivot" into the Asia-Pacific is putting in place the weapons systems to launch such an attack.  And the US Space Command annually war games a first-strike attack on China, set in the year 2016.

Some years ago I watched a Pentagon news conference on C-SPAN where a reporter asked a military officer about missile defense deployments.  The question: "What if the missile defense system did in fact knock down a particular nation's nuclear missile.  What would happen to the radioactive fallout?"

The answer from the Pentagon official shocked me.  He replied:  "The nuclear fallout would land on the offending nation because we'd take out their nuclear missile near their territory."

The Pentagon officer had never heard of the law of physics...the wind blows.

It's this kind of mindless arrogance that keeps the nuclear arms race growing.  It's also profit for the weapons industry.

While in Washington DC last weekend for the War Resisters League conference I heard this incredible story that well illustrates the greed of the military industrial complex.

I learned that the world’s largest weapons corporation, Lockheed Martin (L-M), has built a hotel in Montgomery County, Maryland.  They got the state to pass a law that exempts L-M from paying the state hotel occupancy tax.  Then L-M tried to get the county to exempt them from their occupancy tax as well but public outrage halted those plans.

Not to be denied though L-M then went back to the state and got them to pass a law requiring Montgomery County to exempt L-M’s new hotel from their occupancy tax.  

We've got to dismantle the war machine if we hope to halt the nuclear threat and the drive for endless war on behalf of corporate globalization.  Our rallying cry must be to convert the military industrial complex for peaceful production.  Build rail systems rather than nukes or missile defense systems. 

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

SHUTTERED EMBASSIES A PROPAGANDA MOVE?



The Obama administration has announced it will keep 19 diplomatic posts in North Africa and the Middle East closed for up to a week, due to fears of a possible militant threat. On Sunday, Senator Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the decision to close the embassies was based on information collected by the National Security Agency. "If we did not have these programs, we simply would not be able to listen in on the bad guys," Chambliss said, in a direct reference to increasing debate over widespread spying of all Americans revealed by Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian.

"Nobody has ever questioned or disputed that the U.S. government, like all governments around the world, ought to be eavesdropping and monitoring the conversations of people who pose an actual threat to the United States in terms of plotting terrorist attacks," Greenwald says. Pointing to the recent revelations by leaker Edward Snowden that he has reported on, Greenwald explains, "Here we are in the midst of one of the most intense debates and sustained debates that we’ve had in a very long time in this country over the dangers of excess surveillance, and suddenly, an administration that has spent two years claiming that it has decimated al-Qaeda decides that there is this massive threat that involves the closing of embassies and consulates around the world. The controversy is over the fact that they are sweeping up billions and billions of emails and telephone calls every single day from people around the world and in the United States who have absolutely nothing to do with terrorism."

Greenwald also discusses the NSA’s XKeyscore Internet tracking program, Reuters’ report on the Drug Enforcement Agency spying on Americans, and the conviction of Army whistleblower Bradley Manning.

PHILIPPINES BUYS US WARSHIP



Philippines President Benigno Aquino has welcomed the arrival of the country's newest warship. It will be used in territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Al Jazeera's Marga Ortigas reports from Subic Bay, where the ship is docked.

In this clip the reporter mentions that the Navy would look into fitting the ship with a "missile defense" system when they could "afford" to do so.  That's the big question as the Filipino people are in need of jobs, health care, education and more and exorbitant spending on "modern" US weapons technology aimed at China is not exactly a good way to create social progress.

Amid reports that several US P3C Orion spy planes and a warship are patrolling Philippine seas in the guise of military aid and protection, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said the activities being conducted by the US military constitute “serious breaches in the country’s national sovereignty” and should be immediately investigated by Congress.

“First, US troops conduct joint military exercises in the country. Next, they dump toxic wastes in Subic and damage Tubbataha Reef nonchalantly. Then the US goes and asks for access in our naval bases. Now, their warships and spy planes are patrolling our seas! The last time I checked, the Philippines is not part of US territory, yet the US military is acting as if we’ve already been annexed to the US,” Ridon exclaimed.

Monday, August 05, 2013

HERDING GOATS

I just returned this afternoon from several days in Washington DC attending the 90th anniversary conference of War Resisters League.  The event was held at Georgetown University where I was asked by conference organizer Leslie Cagan to speak in a workshop and a plenary panel.  (In 1987 when I worked for the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice we organized the largest peace protest in Florida history at Cape Canaveral when more than 5,000 people marched against the first flight test launch of the Trident II nuclear missile.  Leslie Cagan then was national coordinator of Mobilization for Survival and they threw themselves fully into helping us turn the event into a national demonstration.)

On Sunday morning I showed The Ghosts of Jeju film in the final workshop session at the conference.  Much to my surprise in that early morning session 15 folks actually showed up to watch the film.  It went over very well as it always does.

After that dear friend Art Laffin (Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in DC) made sure that I got on the right metro line to head into Virginia where my cousin Diane (daughter of my mother's brother) met me and drove us someplace out in the countryside of western Virginia to their small farm.  They raise Nigerian dairy goats and I was thrilled to get the tour and hear about the whole operation.  And then last night, in the darkened barn by lantern light, it was my turn to try to milk one of the goats.  Needless to say I need alot more practice as the goat had quite enough of my poking and prodding technique and began kicking up a storm.  So I was sacked on the spot and Diane had to calm the goat down and finish the job.

Diane and one of her daughters who got into goat herding as a 4-H project, now breed them and have had quite some success winning goat shows and selling them.  They make cheese and I had goat milk in my tea this morning at breakfast.  Diane then drove me to the Washington airport for my 1:00 pm flight home and sent me back with soap made from goat milk.

It was a great visit, even though short, but I hope to return and try my hand at goat milking another time.  In the meantime I need to get some rest as I am worn out from all the recent traveling.

My next job is to get to work on our next Space Alert newsletter.  I promise not to fill the pages with photos of goats in space.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

HUMAN CHAIN ENDS WEEK OF JEJU ACTIONS



1,000 people lined up for finale human chain in Gangjeong village on August 4 to surround the Navy base construction zone.
Song is "Gangjeong ~ you are the smallest village in this land, however, peace all over the world will start from you."  
Video by Dunguree Park Seong-su 
See a good article in South Korean English language newspaper about Oliver Stone's visit to Jeju here

SUNDAY SONG