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 17, 2013

LOCAL PAPER OPPOSES MORE CORPORATE WELFARE FOR BIW

Protesting outside a "Christening" of an Aegis destroyer at BIW some years ago.

Our local newspaper, the Times Record, wrote a brave and forward thinking editorial in their weekend edition on August, 16, 2013 opposing another tax break for Bath Iron Works (BIW).  In the same edition another Bath resident had an Op-Ed also opposing BIW's request for more corporate welfare.  There seems to be some rumblings in the community. Just maybe people have had enough.

Bath needs tax dollars kept here

8-16-13
Times Record Editorial
We know the importance of national defense, and we know well the city of Bath’s proud shipbuilding heritage.
We also know the city has huge capital needs, for infrastructure, housing, tax relief for the elderly, code enforcement, parks — you name it.

So, regarding General Dynamics’ imminent request for a local tax break, if you balance the need for a class of overpriced [destroyers] — which even analysts say are of limited use to national security — against a variety of pressing local needs, we’d take the money and re-do the viaduct area, open new areas for public recreation, refurbish or relocate Morse High School, and a host of other local projects that could put local people to work.

Yes, we are aware that BIW is one of the largest private employers in the state, paying above average wages. The Mid-coast economy leans heavily on its success. And using tax dollars to lure or retain solid companies can be good policy when used with precision.

The problem is — as was the hallmark of our national economic policy during the George W. Bush administration — tax breaks alone have not been shown to create jobs. Rather, there is significant evidence to the contrary. Tax breaks have been lavished on BIW even as the labor force there dropped and executive compensation jumped. Nationally, the evidence is even clearer: Jobs suffered as corporate tax rates were cut.

So it’s a stretch — if not outright ludicrous — to say BIW jobs rely on the contributions of local tax dollars. It’s even possible an equivalent number of jobs can be created using the local tax base to fund local projects — not bonuses for out-of-state executives.

Bath’s municipal budget in 2013 is not quite $15 million. Compare that to former General Dynamics CEO Jay Johnson, who was paid $16.1 million in 2011 and $18 million in 2012 — more than the city’s entire outlay.

It’s true that, at 35 percent, the United States has the highest nominal corporate tax of any of the world’s developed economies. But the effective corporate tax rate — what companies actually pay after credits, exemptions and loopholes — actually fell to 12 percent in 2011. That’s the lowest level of corporate taxation since before World War I.

Compare that to how Bath’s local property tax rate has performed. From 1999 to 2005, it rose from $20.60 to $25.75 per $1,000 valuation — up 25 percent.

Liberals want to demilitarize our nation to generate a peace dividend. Conservatives bristle against pork and federal usurpation of local control. Everyone in the center wonders why corporations get big breaks while making false economic promises as aid to the poor is slashed and the rest of us pay more in local tax.

Given the tight-knit links between city and shipyard, it’s likely Bath residents will end up opening their wallets to pay a multinational corporation for costly warships no one is sure we need, forgetting the chance to fix more shattered roads or provide food to more of our hungry neighbors.

A false choice — but one the city seems happy to make, unfortunately.

U.S. TAKES THE LOW ROAD ONCE MORE.....



The United States was reportedly able to target an alleged al-Qaeda operative named Adnan al-Qadhi for a drone strike after U.S. allies in Yemen convinced an eight-year-old boy to place a tracking chip in the pocket of the man he considered to be his surrogate father. Shortly after the child planted the device, a U.S. drone tracked and killed al-Qadhi with a missile. He was killed last November, less than 24 hours after President Barack Obama’s re-election. Gregory Johnsen writes about the case in his new article "Did an 8-Year-Old Spy for America?" published in The Atlantic.

MOVING EVENING AT THE PEACE PAGODA

Vanessa has become one heck of an activist

I am sitting in a bakery in Bennington, Vermont due to the fact that Highway 9 is closed because of a major accident.  Police said the road would be closed for at least 90 minutes as they clear the two-lane country highway that runs east-west.  I am heading east.  Or I was heading east.

Early yesterday I took my scooter from Bath to nearby Brunswick and rented a car to make the six-hour drive to Grafton, New York for the 20th anniversary Hiroshima observance at the Nipponzan Myohoji Peace Pagoda.  I arrived early enough to be greeted by Buddhist nun Jun-san who set me up to take a very hot soak in their wood-fired hot tub.  I'm talking hot.....so hot I had to jump out and add a bunch of cold war.  Even then when I finally got out my body had turned rosy red.

But the hot soak relieved the road tension from my body and I took a short nap before about 30 people loaded up and made the 4.5 mile drive into the center of Grafton.  From there we walked back behind the chanting and drumming monk and nun to the Peace Pagoda which is set in the countryside of rolling hills that borders New York and Vermont.  When the walk arrived back at the Pagoda it was just turning dark and we were greeted by about 40 more people who had come for the ceremony.  As we walked up the rocky driveway thru the woods to the Pagoda a line of white paper bags with a candle inside had been placed along the path to light our way.

The first thing we did was enter the temple and Hattie Nestle, long time anti-nuclear campaigner from Western Massachusetts, did a moving and troubling slide show about Fukushima and the condition of the nuclear power plan now running in Vermont.  Hattie and others have been organizing monthly protests and civil resistance actions at the troubled nuclear power plant.

Following that we went outside and were each given a white paper bag with a candle which we took up to the Pagoda and they were placed all the way around the peaceful monument which was quite a site to behold.  Then we all gathered on wooden benches near the front of the Pagoda and a series of spiritual leaders made prayers for peace.  One Mohawk first nations man from Canada told the moving story of how his people this very weekend are meeting to remember the story about how they had long ago buried their weapons in an effort to move from constant wars to a more peaceful way of life.  They wanted to bury their dark side.

One of the people who was at the gathering is dear friend Vanessa Whitney Zorlu who I've met on several Nipponzan Myohoji peace walks over the years.  This young woman has become a remarkable activist and last year spent three-months walking across Western Australia to bring attention to uranium mining on indigenous lands.  Vanessa hopes to come to Maine to join our Oct 10-19 drone peace walk.

I was asked to speak about nuclear power in space to the gathering last evening and I told the story about many years of opposition to the launching of plutonium into space by the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice and the Global Network.  I invited the assembled to join us for the October walk in Maine.

About 10:00 pm, after most people had left, the remaining couple dozen folks at the Pagoda came inside to share some hot miso soup and rice balls.  A young woman approached me and asked if I recognized her.  Sadly I told her I did not.  Then she introduced herself as Olga Ehrlich, daughter of long-time friends Tony and Beth Ehrlich from Florida.  A very young Olga was arrested at Cape Canaveral in 1987 at our largest ever protest at the space center when nearly 200 people tried to non-violently block the first test launch of the Trident II nuclear missile.  I told her she looked much different in those days - a bit wild and rebellious but it is clear that her parents raised a fine person.

Once the road opens I'll head east again for Maine.  I've got to get home because on Sunday there will be a showing of The Ghosts of Jeju in Bath at the local Episcopal Church and I don't want to miss that.

On the side of the Pagoda were the last words of Budda:  Life is a like a river flowing, don't hold onto the past, work hard.  Words to live by for sure.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

WHO GOT THE GOLD?



The world is losing trust in the dollar as a safe haven. A major blow came after Germany's Bundesbank demanded the repatriation of a big chunk of its gold being held in the US. Because as RT's Gayane Chichakyan reports, some are concerned the assets of foreign nations in the Federal Reserve are not secure or even there. The Germans were infuriated when the US Federal reserve didn't even let them examine their own assets properly. Peter Boehringer, the founder and chairman of 'German Precious Metal Association', says that's a bad sign.

MIXED BAG


  • I've been going at a frenetic pace all week and today is my day to stop.  I've been like a man obsessed and I need to slow down.  I type this still in my pajamas. It's a good start.
  • This morning I was greeted to many back-and-forth comments in my email box relating to Bradley Manning's sort of apology yesterday at his trial sentencing for spilling the beans on the US governments deception and war-mongering.  Some folks were upset with him that he didn't throw himself on a sword and others were much more understanding and supportive, especially after the revelations about his tragic childhood.  I come down on the gentle side, the guy is facing 2-3 life in prison sentences, he's been tortured already in prison, why expect him not to want to save his skin.  He shown great courage releasing the mountains of documents, his part of the truth telling has been done.
  • I got an email from a local Bath resident yesterday after a second Op-Ed I wrote about proposed corporate welfare for Bath Iron Works (locally called a TIF) was published in our local Times Record newspaper.  The person wrote:
FYI, when BIW approached the people of Maine for initial TIF funding for the Land Level Transfer Facility [in the late 1990's] it was made quite clear that the expressed purpose of the modernization was to achieve a 1/3 decline of its workforce. That was understood by all parties, from the get-go, and publicly financed anyway. The deception, if one views it as such, was that BIW succeeded in gaining permitting by claiming that it could not modernize elsewhere than at the existing facility, while allowing the public, somehow, (by their never reading the permitting filings!) to assume that lack of public funding might prompt BIW's departure. BIW is very adept in such matters, and the public's supposed watchdogs are very lazy.
  • What we are seeing here in Maine is the local and state governments paying BIW (owned by General Dynamics) to cut the work force in hopes they will stick around anyway.  As it turns out only 500 of the couple thousand workers at BIW actually live in Bath.
  • One local friend reminded me that when BIW gets more tax cuts from the city of Bath other local towns that share the cost of the regional school district get the shaft.  That's because the share that Bath can put into the regional school pot gets reduced and then other small towns have to pay more.  My friend called this whole BIW tax credit scam "The TIF of the iceberg".  A nice turn of phrase for sure.
  • In the morning I rent a car and head to the Grafton Peace Pagoda in Petersburg, NY for the 68th Commemorative Ceremony of Hiroshima-Nagasaki by Nipponzan Myohoji.  Buddhist nun Jun-san Yasuda invited me to share some words there about nuclear power.  They are putting special emphasis on the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  New revelations from Fukushima suggest that the Pacific Ocean is becoming a radioactive mess due to the dumping of eons of nuclear waste into the sea. How could anyone still support nuclear power?
  • Word from the Philippines this morning:  "Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City was approached by the US to use the old airport as a military base, starting with its drone program, speaks of a US military design in Mindanao as part of the US pivot to Asia."  Mayor Duterte turned the US down.  Already the US has hundreds of troops on Mindanao which is the second largest and southernmost island in the Philippines. Davao City is the largest city in Mindanao.  Mindanao is the only area of the Philippines with a significant Muslim presence. Due to widespread poverty the island has been the site of a separatist movement by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Fighting between MILF and Philippine forces has displaced more than 100,000 people.  US troops are there to ostensibly fight against "terrorism".

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

MAINE DRONE PEACE WALK SCHEDULE

October 10-19, 2013


Welcome & Register


We invite you to consider joining the October 10-19 Preserve our Privacy: No Drone Spying in Maine peace walk.   The walk is being organized by the Maine Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home and Maine Veterans for Peace.

The peace walk will be led by Buddhist nun Jun-san Yasuda (Grafton, NY) from the Nipponzan Myohoji order.  They are an order from Japan and specialize in doing peace walks all over the world.

We must push back against the expanding use of surveillance drones in the US and weaponized drones around the world that are killing many innocent people.  There is much talk about bringing drones to Maine and making the Presque Isle airport a weaponized drone test center, thus our reason for starting the walk in Aroostook County.

Below you will find the daily walk schedule.  Please note that we will usually begin walking at 8:30 am each day and walk about three miles per hour. Most evening’s local hosts will organize a potluck supper for us around 6:00 pm.  The public is invited to attend any and all events.  On most of the nights a short program will follow the supper.

We would like for you to let us know if you plan to be with us for any part of this peace walk so we can more effectively make our logistical plans.  Contact us at globalnet@mindspring.com or 207-443-9502 and let us know the date(s) you plan to join us, your name, and contact information for each person.

What to Bring?

If you plan to walk we recommend you bring:  good walking shoes; water bottle; rain gear (including rain pants); sleeping bag (some nights we will be provided with home hospitality, other nights we will sleep on church floors); a cup/bowl/chopsticks/spoon; and hat.

We will have a covered truck to haul all walker gear so you will not have to carry anything.  We will also have vans to give people rides when they get tired during the walk or need to get back to their cars.

This will be a community building experience for all of us.

Drone Walk Schedule

·       October 10 (Thursday) Begin in Limestone (former Loring AFB) and walk to Caribou.

·       Oct 11  (Friday) Walk to Presque Isle

·       Oct 12  (Saturday) Drive to Indian Island (near Old Town) and walk into Bangor and have program that night

·       Oct 13  (Sunday) Walk to Skowhegan (need to drive some part of the day) with program that night

·       Oct 14  (Monday) Walk to Mercer

·       Oct 15  (Tuesday) Walk to Farmington with program that night

·       Oct 16  (Wednesday) Walk to Waterville (need to shuttle some part of the day)

·       Oct 17 (Thursday) Walk to Belgrade

·       Oct 18  (Friday) Walk to Augusta and hold closing ceremony at state capital (Potluck & program at Mediation & Facilitation Resource Center, 11 King St)

·       Oct 19 (Saturday) Shuttle to Bath and join protest against BIW "Christening" of first stealth destroyer - we urge folks to join us from around state 

Maine Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home  http://www.bringourwardollarshome.org/index.html

Maine Veterans for Peace  http://vfpmaine.org/vfp.asp

CLOSING IN ON RUSSIA


The US, and a cancerous NATO, has their eyes on bringing Georgia into the alliance next.  Already more than a dozen former members of the Soviet-era Warsaw Pact block have been brought over into NATO.  Georgia, sitting along the strategic Black Sea on Russia's southern border, would be the grand prize.

In 2008 the US encouraged Georgia to attack the two break away provinces Abkhazia and S. Ossetia (which have large Russian populations).  The brief war was a disaster for the US and Georgia as Russia counter-attacked and pushed Georgian forces back.  I blogged quite a bit about all of this at the time and you can see it here.

In the summer of 2008, just as the smoking embers were subsiding, then Senator Joseph Biden made the trip to Georgia to beat the war drums and threaten Russia with "consequences" if they didn't leave Georgia alone. "When Congress reconvenes, I intend to work with the [George W. Bush] administration to seek Congressional approval for $1 billion in emergency assistance for Georgia, with a substantial down payment on that aid to be included in the Congress' next supplemental spending bill," Biden said at the time.

Since Obama and Biden took power in Washington they've increased efforts to bring Georgia into NATO and they've continued sending money and military equipment there.

Last weekend the US Navy Destroyer Bulkeley arrived at a Georgian Black Sea port for several days of "maneuvers". Very recently two Georgian combat battalions were undergoing training at a US Army base in Southern Germany.

Reminder:  After the reunification of Germany the former Soviet Union was worried what this could mean as a unified Germany had previously tried to invade the Russian territories.  Although then-Secretary of State James Baker had assured Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev at the time of German reunification in 1990 that NATO would not be moved one inch eastward, a unified Germany was brought into NATO and the capitalist military alliance immediately began moving east to the borders of Poland and Czechoslovakia and closer to that of the Soviet Union.  Today NATO perches in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia along Russia's western border.  Georgia and Finland (both bordering Russia) are on the NATO expansion list.  At the same time we see Russia being demonized in the corporate dominated media in the US and in Europe and the US/NATO "missile defense" system continues to grow in its encirclement of Russia. 

Put two and two together and what do you get?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

NEXT STEP IN DRONE ORGANIZING - TALKING ABOUT THE SATELLITES & GROUND STATIONS


Someone has subscribed me to the magazine called The Atlantic.  I don't know who it was.  I used to read The Atlantic back in the 1970's while in the military, before I knew much about alternative media sources.  I'd say it's a centrist publication - Clinton and Obama Democratic Party with Cadillac car ads.

The cover story in the edition that arrived in my mailbox today is called Drone Warrior: Has it Become Too Easy for a President to Kill?  The article raises many good questions but then gives Obama a pass at the end by concluding, "Obama's efforts to mitigate the use of drones have already made a big difference in reducing the number of strikes...."

The author of the article, Mark Bowden, also reports on Gorgon Stare.  He writes:

Drones collect three primary packages of data: straight visual; infrared (via a heat-sensing camera that can see through darkness and clouds); and what is called SIGINT (Signals Intelligence), gathered via electronic eavesdropping devices and other sensors.  One such device is known as LIDAR (a combination of the words light and radar), which can map large areas in 3-D.  The optical sensors are so good, and the pixel array so dense, that the device an zoom in clearly on objects only inches wide from well over 15,000 feet above.  With computer enhancement to eliminate distortion and counteract motion, facial-recognition software is very close to being able to pick individuals out of crowds.  Operators do not even have to know exactly where to look.

"We put in the theatre [in 2011] a system called Gorgon Stare," Lt. General Larry James, the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, told me.  "Instead of one soda-straw-size view of the world with the camera, we put essentially 10 cameras ganged together, and it gives you a very wide area of view of about four kilometers by four kilometers - about the size of the city of Fairfax, [Virginia] - that you can watch continuously.  Not as much fidelity in terms of what the camera can see, but I can see movement of cars and people - those sorts of things.  Now, instead of staring at a small space, which may be, like, a villa or compound, I can look at a whole city continuously for as long as I am flying that particular [drone] system."
In another part of the article Bowden quotes James Poss, a retired Air Force major general who helped oversee the Predator drone's development.  Poss says he is tired of the fascination with the drone vehicle itself and wants people to understand that cut off from its satellite links and its data processors the drone is basically worthless.  This is an important point because I think many anti-drone activists today concentrate nearly solely on the drone plane and talk (or maybe even know) little about the entire military satellite system in space and/or the downlink station network around the globe that basically fly the drones.

The satellites are very expensive to build and the rockets that launch them into space are not cheap either.  I've taken to calling the satellites that make drones possible the triggers.  It would help the public become more anti-drone if they had a better understanding of just how expensive and deadly this whole system really is.  And once the public has a better understanding just how systems like Gorgon Stare can be used here at home to monitor the American people they will move even more rapidly into opposition.

Monday, August 12, 2013

THE MILITARIZATION OF AMERICAN CULTURE



Was just sent the video of my talk in Berkeley, California at the Moana Nui conference organized by Jerry Mander and the International Forum on Globalization. Most of the other speakers were from the Pacific.

The event was held last June.  My topic was the Militarization of American Culture.

You can watch many of the other speakers here

MARCHING IN MADISON

The Forward Marching Band from Regis Tremblay on Vimeo.

During the recent national Veterans For Peace convention in Madison, Wisconsin a march was held through the center of the city. 

Mainer Regis Tremblay put together this video from the march which ended at the state capitol building.

GETTING THE NEWSLETTER OUT


  • I've got most of our Global Network newsletter Space Alert ready to go to our layout person.  I had to edit the articles submitted by various folks, write some of my own, and then go through pages and pages of good related space news articles to pick out gems to put in our two-page spread we call Odds & Ends.  I worked for 12-hours straight the other day on the newsletter copy, once I get on a roll it is hard to stop.  I also tried to include some good action reports and photos from protests in order to make sure that the newsletter was not just filled with bad news.  Always a tough tight-rope to balance.  It's also fun to match photos and graphics (which I have lots of on the computer) with various articles giving us a chance to use imagery to help folks better understand these at times complex high-tech issues.  Thanks to MB for proof reading.
  • After the newsletter gets laid out by a real pro, Nancy Randolph who lives in nearby Topsham, it goes to the printer.  Nancy also does the annual Keep Space for Peace Week poster and flyer and occasional other jobs during the course of the year.  She's been doing alot of our graphic design work since we moved to Maine ten years ago.
  • After the printing is done comes distribution.  We mail copies of the newsletter to our membership list in the US and overseas which costs us some real bucks.  (Your annual donation helps make it possible for us to put out this vital educational tool.)  We also put it on our web site and email the link around to our extensive email list.  (You can see past editions of Space Alert here.)  We also have some folks request bundles of the newsletter that we ship to them for local distribution.  We only ask for a donation to cover our cost of postage so if you'd like to help us spread the word please give me a jingle at globalnet@mindspring.com 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

HE WAS WORKING FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE


SUNDAY SONG