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, September 21, 2013

HEADING HOME


     
  •  I'm on the Amtrak regional train heading back north to Boston.  This train makes more stops but the seats are much roomier and more comfortable than on the more expensive express train.  When I get to Boston I'll then hop on a bus back to Portland where MB will pick me up for the ride home.  I hear that eggplant parmesan is on the menu for supper tonight at the Addams-Melman House.  Perfect!
  • My talk last night at the Catholic Worker Mary House in NYC was quite stimulating.  Lots of interaction with those in the audience.  It was a mix of veteran activists, curious people who'd never been to one of the Friday night events held there, and others.  One 86 year old man told me he worked on the Henry Wallace Progressive Party campaign for president in 1948 and is disgusted these days because most people he knows only think and talk about the New York Yankees.
  • Much to my surprise VFP friends Tarak Kauff and Ellen Davidson came to the event.  Ellen arrived on time (she lives nearby in the city) but her partner Tarak drove down from his house in Woodstock and spent about an hour trying to find a parking place near Mary House.  He made it in time to hear the question and answer period - I repeated a few of my key points for his benefit.  We went out for a beer and a bite after the event at an Indian restaurant a couple of blocks away.  Tarak and Ellen are helping to organize a VFP protest in NYC on October 7 at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza that closes at 10:00 pm.  Last year quite a few VFP members and supporters were arrested there for reading the names of Afghanistan war dead beyond the closing time. 
  • Mary House organizers made a small room in the large building available for me to sleep in.  I was up on the third floor and there was at least one more floor above me.  I read that it used to be a music school before becoming a Catholic Worker house.  There is little information about the history of the house on the Internet.  I was told that currently there are about 30 people living there, several of the leaders that I spoke with have been involved with the house since the 1970's.
  • There is alot of history on the walls of the community room where I spoke.  Posters of Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King Jr were among the other anti-war messages in view.  There was much buzz about the new Catholic Pope Francis - similar to what I have been hearing everywhere else I go.  Long disaffected Catholics are feeling hopeful that the church might be changing.  I'd guess the church finally realized that recent priest sex scandals, declining church participation (in Europe and the US at least), the hypocrisy of the church as their Vatican Bank invests in weapons production and birth control, and refusal to allow serious roles for women in church hierarchy made those at the top decide they needed to make some major adjustments before they slid into total obscurity.  They still might.
  • The New York Times today has an interesting story about a Republican congressional primary race in Mobile, Alabama.  One of several Tea Party candidates in the race is quoted as saying “We are witnessing the end of a Western Christian empire.”  It's a point I made in my talk last night that some folks across our land just can't get over this "American exceptionalism" mythology that believes we should be running the world because we are #1, god's chosen people, the smartest, the wisest etc.  Just amazing to see this - not much difference between that thinking and the thinking of radical Muslim fundamentalists.  Both similarly dangerous.  Goes to show that the long brainwashing of the American people along these lines still holds fast in many parts of the country.

PROTECT OUR MOTHER EARTH


ENJOY THE SHOW



Global Network board member Holly Gwinn Graham (Olympia, Washington) doing her rock-folk love show.

On horns, flute and harp is John Croarkin. On piano is Brian Kinsella. Dan Walker played guitar. Singing were Hilary Lewis, Anne Kerr, and Margi Carlson.

All songs were originals by Holly Gwinn Graham, aside from Love Train (the O'Jays), Children's Crusade (Sting), Common Ground (Ivan Lins and others), Save The Country (Laura Nyro), Five Pound Box O' Money, Imagine (Lennon), and Redemption Day (Sheryl Crow).

Set 1

Common Ground,
Earth Anthem,
Love Will Prevail
No Frackin' Way
A Little Blue and Green
Imagine
Save the Country

Set 2

Camp Lemmonier's Drones
Redemption Day
Children's Crusade
Song for a Russian (Afghan, Iranian, Iraqi, Pakistani) Mother
Love Will Lead Me
Put Your Shoulder to It
Five Pound Box o' Money
Love Train
Flying Bras at Sunset

Drone was written for Holly's upcoming jazz/folk/rock musical about America's endless wars and the cost on the human psyche and the soul, to honor the 100th birthday in 2014 of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Video by Robert Whitlock

Friday, September 20, 2013

PETRAEUS GETS HIS REVENGE


Six CUNY Students Violently Arrested Protesting Ex-General David Petraeus

News Release

Six students were arrested Tuesday evening in an unprovoked police attack against a peaceful protest lead by City University of New York (CUNY) students and faculty decrying the University’s appointment of former CIA chief and ex-General, David Petraeus as an adjunct professor to the Honors College. Students were punched, pushed against parked vehicles and thrown to the pavement by police captains and officers after the NYPD forced them off the sidewalk and into the street. Tuesday’s demonstration was called for by the Ad Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY.

The arrested students were arraigned Wednesday evening, September 18, at the Manhattan Criminal Court located at 100 Centre Street. The courtroom was flooded with supporters ranging from activists, to fellow students, to CUNY faculty outraged at the NYPD’s response to their student’s attempts to peaceably assemble.

“As students were chanting ‘War Criminal Petraeus Out of CUNY Now,’ I was shocked to see several police officers grab and brutalize one of the demonstrators,” said City College student Yexenia Vanegas. “This was completely unprovoked, as demonstrators made [it] clear that they were there to defend our university in a peaceful protest.”

The attack occurred in front of CUNY’s Macaulay Honors College, where Petraeus has been appointed to teach a class on public policy. “Protestors were marching in a circle on the sidewalk and chanting, but the police forced them into the street and then charged. One of the most brutal things I saw was that five police officers slammed a Queens College student face down to the pavement across the street from Macaulay, put their knees on his back and he was then repeatedly kneed in the back,” said Hunter student Michael Brian. “The student was one of those pointed out by ‘white shirt’ officers, then seized and brutalized. A Latina student was heaved through the air and slammed to the ground.”

 A broad range of CUNY students, faculty and staff members, have been carrying out a campaign of “protest and exposure” against the Board of Trustees’ appointment of Petraeus, whose documented actions as Iraq/Afghanistan war commander and CIA chief include drone strikes on civilians, the use of “enhanced interrogation” centers and the use of white phosphorus weapons in Fallujah, despite international restrictions on their use. 

FOOD STAMPS OR MORE WEAPONS OF DESTRUCTION? CUT CORPORATE WELFARE FOR ONCE!


  • I am sitting in the train station in Boston with time on my hands.  It's a three-hour wait for my train to New York City where I speak tonight at the Mary House.  This is the Catholic Worker house created by Dorothy Day many years ago.  It's been a long tradition there to hold an event every Friday night that they call "Clarification of Thought" where they host various folks to speak on a particular subject.  I was invited to talk tonight about the militarization of space, its costs, and the Global Network's upcoming Keep Space for Peace Week on October 5-12.  It's really an honor to be invited and I look forward to the experience.
  • I head back home Saturday on an early morning train.  On Sunday I'll be up to the popular Maine Common Ground Fair to help staff our Veterans For Peace table.  We'll be promoting the upcoming Maine Drone Peace Walk during the three-day fair.  A banner has been made for the walk and will be hung at the VFP booth during the fair.  Leaflets will be handed out to fair goers inviting them to walk with us.
  • The food stamp vote last night in Washington DC is emblematic of the kind of hypocrisy and corruption of the spirit that we find in Congress these days.  The video below by the California congresswoman clearly reveals how members of Congress use taxpayer funds to lavish themselves with expensive "fact finding" trips around the world where they enjoy the finest food and drink.  Then they come home and complain about our huge national budget crisis and "welfare cheaters".  This is the kind of corruption that revolutions are made out of.
  • From my hometown of Bath I got an email this morning from another person who is helping to organize city wide opposition to General Dynamics Corporation's (which owns Bath Iron Works - BIW) request for a massive tax break from our city of about 9,000 residents.  In the email to me my fellow Bath concerned citizen reports on a recent conversation with the city tax assessor who said that the city council has "had overwhelming input from citizens, all against the TIF [tax break]."  A growing number of concerned citizens in Bath are requesting a public forum so that the people can have a chance to learn more about the intentionally complicated formulas behind this thing they call a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) which is nothing more than a mind-numbing way of handing out real serious welfare to already well-to-do corporations.
  • Last year the CEO of General Dynamics made $18 million in compensation.  The entire annual municipal budget of our small city of Bath is about $15 million.  But in order to keep profits at high levels, at a time when the outrageous Pentagon budget is being trimmed just a teenie-weenie bit, these greedy weapons corporations are squeezing everyone they can.  The workers at BIW are being squeezed by a pay freeze, lay-offs that mean workers have to do the jobs of 2-3 others, and now efforts are being made to get taxpayers in Bath to pay for shipyard expansion.  The city is threatened by General Dynamics that they might have to pull-out of Maine if they don't get their way.  I'd call that extortion.  BIW is increasingly mechanizing their operation thus enabling them to lay off more workers and maximize profits.  So Bath residents are asked to fork over more money to help General Dynamics lay off more workers!  It's an outrage.  No wonder that the citizens of Bath are "overwhelmingly" opposed to more welfare for this fat corporation.
  • At some point it just might be good to begin talking about ending the profit making system that drives the appetite of the military industrial complex.  Where does it say that we have to make weapons production a profit making scheme?  Isn't it time to nationalize the weapons making process and begin the conversion of the industry to peaceful and sustainable production?  Let's build rail systems and not more weapons of destruction.

WHO IS HUNGRY?



Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) decided to make an unconventional pitch on the House of Representatives floor Thursday to defend food stamps. Speier used a cooked steak, a bottle of vodka, and a can of caviar to point out members of Congress who had large numbers of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients in their districts but opposed the program. The congresswoman pointed out many of the same members of Congress took trips around the world with large stipends for food and lodging.

Thee House of Un-Representatives voted last night by a margin of 217-210 to cut $39 billion from the food stamp program.  It's becoming "unpopular" to feed the poor.

The Senate is not likely to agree with the House on such a high level of cuts.

According to the Census Bureau, almost 14 percent of households in the United States received food stamps in 2012, a total of 16.6 million households. Almost half the recipients, 48 percent, are non-Hispanic whites; 26 percent are black and 21 percent are Hispanics.

The five states with the biggest share of people on food stamps are, in descending order, Mississippi (19 percent) and Kentucky, Maine, Michigan and Tennessee, all at 18 percent. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

HEARING FROM ASSAD



Fox News interviews Assad in Syria.  Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich and a regular Fox News reporter do the interviewing.

Kucinich needs to look for another job - he is a lousy interviewer and missed an opportunity to really provide the American people with a clearer view of Assad and Syria.  The regular Fox News reporter was even worse.

Assad saved the interview by telling the truth about US, British, French, and Saudi intervention in the internal affairs of Syria by funding the "rebels" who are largely Al-Quida terrorists.

There are many citizen critics inside Syria and they should have been left to deal with their political problems without the "exceptional" nation, the USA, deciding to fund and direct chaos and destruction there.

We've got enough problems here in the US and have no moral or ethical right to be lecturing other leaders about violence, transparency or democracy.

TPP IS LIQUDATION OF EVERYTHING WE'VE BUILT



In this parody of Star Wars, episode 4, a new hope- It is a period of class war. The DIDACTIC EMPIRE, striking from a hidden base, have won a major victory against the OPEN ALLIANCE with the passage of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). During the battle to fast track the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), Luke Whistleblower managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, which has enough power to make nations subservient to corporations. Pursued by Emperor Pipeline and Dark Banker with their captive Barack Obama, Princess Laidoff is able to foil the DIDACTIC EMPIRE and help the OPEN ALLIANCE Destroy the TPP DEATH STAR.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

MAINE DRONE PEACE WALK

Preserve our Privacy: No Drone Spying in Maine
Limestone to Bath
October 10-19

Peace activists from Maine and beyond will walk through large portions of our state from October 10-19 in order to bring the issue of drone surveillance at home and drone killing overseas to the public’s attention.  The walk will begin in Limestone in Aroostook County and end in Bath.

President Obama has announced that as many as 30,000 drones will be flying around the US doing surveillance of the American people in the coming years. Thirty-seven states have applied to host one of six military drone test centers across the nation.

There is much talk about bringing drones to Maine and making the Presque Isle airport a weaponized drone test center, thus the reason for starting the walk in Aroostook County.

Last spring the Maine legislature passed a bill that would require police to obtain a warrant before snooping on citizens across the state.  Gov. LePage vetoed the bill.

According to Lisa Savage, co-coordinator of the Maine Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home, “This walk is important to raise awareness of how the government spends our tax dollars on very expensive drones to keep us all under surveillance. Drones are being used to kill thousands of innocent civilians, including hundreds of children, around the world. People here in the U.S. say they want their tax dollars spent on health care, education, jobs and veterans benefits -- not drones.”

Doug Rawlings from Maine Veterans For Peace said, “As I walk down these Maine roads that I have driven for the past 35 years, I will be going past bridges and schools that have been built since World War II military expenditures were converted over into infrastructure funds. My father's generation put away the munitions and started building the country that has given us the life we now lead.  Over forty years ago I served in an artillery unit in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Our howitzers dropped rounds on countless Vietnamese peasants, and I didn't blink an eye. Now I realize the anguish we wrought then, and visit now on Afghan and Pakistani children with our Predator drones.  I cannot, in good conscience, accept or support such a use of my tax dollars.”

The drone walk begins in Limestone on October 10 and will pass through Caribou, Presque Isle, Old Town, Bangor, Skowhegan, Mercer, Farmington, Waterville, Belgrade, Augusta and Bath. (Some driving will be necessary between some of these communities.  The walk will average about 13 miles per day.  In the evenings walkers will be fed at local churches and will stay in local homes.)

On October 18 the walkers will hold a protest against drones inside the Hall of Flags at the state capital in Augusta at 3:00 pm.

The walk will conclude on October 19 with a 10:00 am protest in Bath at the “christening” of the Navy’s first “stealth” destroyer at Bath Iron Works. 

Buddhist monks and nuns from the Nipponzan Myohoji order will lead the non-violent peace walk. 

The walk is being organized by Maine Veterans For Peace and the Maine Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home.  The walk will be held during Keep Space for Peace Week and is just one of many such events that will be held around the world.

The daily schedule and entire walk route can be found at http://www.bringourwardollarshome.org/Maine%20Drone%20Peace%20Walk%20Schedule.pdf

WORKERS ARE YOU READY?



September 5th, 2013, Raleigh, NC - As Walmart workers petition managers to reinstate employees who have been unfairly treated, a flash mob breaks out.

Did you know it's your right to form a union?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

BEYOND AMBITION

My father, Kenneth Gagnon (front center), with his family around 1926


A dear friend once told me that her parents thought I had no ambition.  But that wasn’t quite the case; it is more complicated than that.  The real issue, summed up in my long-lost father’s worn letters to my mom (kept secret until I finally got to read them at 23 years old) written soon after their separation around 1954, was that “I couldn’t imagine making money off other people’s misery.”  My mother (Gaetana Ruth Amelia DiCapua), the product of a social climbing Italian immigrant family, had asked him in a previous letter why he didn’t become a lawyer like her Uncle Arthur instead of wanting to be a farmer.  In my mother’s world my dad had no ambition.  Something had to be wrong with him for sure – he didn’t seem to grasp the essence of the American dream.

My mother married my French-Canadian father (Kenneth Gagnon) who was a chicken and turkey farmer in Maryland and had no electricity.  His first 14 years were spent living in upstate New York near the Canadian border, the family moving to Maryland around 1930 when Western Union offered his father a job in the Washington DC area.  My mother’s sister remembered my dad as a shy person who quietly read books when the family got together.  She called him a genius and a nice person.  He appeared to be a back to nature guy way ahead of his time.  He put electricity into the farm, bought a TV for his new bride, but mom grew bored with the country life and eventually got him to sell his beloved small farm.  He was never the same after that.  They moved to Florida to start a new life. 

When I was about two years old dad came home one day saying he wanted to go to Georgia to pick peaches. Mom threw him out and we really never saw him again.  (My oldest sister remembers him coming by one time but mom called the police and had him chased away.  He wrote on the side of our house with charcoal “I love you kids” and was gone for good.)  In another of his letters, that my mother kept secret all those years, he wrote, “By now you’ve probably taught the kids to hate me.”  He knew my mother well, but underestimated the deep feelings we had developed for him in our short time together.

My cousin Bob Jr. said dad moved in with them for a while after the divorce, and cried a lot. Uncle Bobby was dad’s younger brother, and one day came home to find the keys to dad’s car on the table with a note.  "Bobby you take the car” my dad wrote to his brother; “I’m going away for a while.” A good long while it turned out to be.  Uncle Bobby only heard from his big brother once more, around 1961, when he got a postcard from Paris that said, “I’m traveling around Europe.”

By then mother (with her three young children) had met and married an Air Force enlisted man from Rumford (a town in western Maine’s logging country).  He grew up in that paper mill culture where his father worked.  He was wild and rebellious and the story was that Wesley, who was very bright and talented but also a hard drinker, got in trouble with the law at an early age and was given a choice of either the military or jail.  He picked the military.

In 1961, the Air Force moved us all to Leicester, England, at the same time dad was “traveling around Europe.”  Throughout my younger years I often had the feeling my vanquished father was watching me from the shadows.  Once in the mid-60’s while living in Wiesbaden, Germany I stopped dead while playing basketball on the school’s outdoor court, convinced that I “felt” his presence nearby.

My mother and stepfather used to argue about money all the time.  Wes took in my mom’s first three kids and they had three more together – the large combined family barely getting by on an enlisted man’s pay.  Like a true Mainer, Wes could fix anything and worked many nights repairing people’s cars to bring in extra cash. But even with that extraordinary effort mom still hounded him about money.  I began having horrible nightmares where an evil little man came to me demanding “money, money, money” or else he would kill me.  I woke up crying and would go downstairs and sit between the feuding couple and tell them about my dream.  For the moment they’d stop their money-wars and my peacemaking task would be over for the night.  But their fights continued, and so did my bad dreams.

So I don’t think I ever lacked ambition, I just didn’t have the killer instinct that is often seen as a positive trait in our overly competitive dog-eat-dog American culture.  I didn’t want to “make money off other people’s misery” – or put another way I didn’t “want to be miserable making money”.  I am now convinced that my dad, in those first two years of my life, had a profound spiritual impact on me.

In 1984 while living in Orlando I had a dream one night.  There was a knock on the door and when I opened it a man stood there with a book in his hand.  “Are you Bruce Gagnon,” he asked?  Yes I replied.  “Your father just died,” he told me.  “He wanted you to have this book.”

Two weeks later, in the real world, the phone rang.  When I answered it a woman on the other end asked me a familiar question, “Are you Bruce Gagnon?”  “Yes” I replied.  “Your father died two weeks ago.  I was married to him the last eight years of his life.  You should come to Tucson to pick up his things.”

My two older sisters and I went to Tucson and began to learn about our mystery man father.  He met his wife at a senior citizen dance and was the citywide shuffleboard champion.  She gave me his trophies.  He had lived in Latin America for some time.  He told his wife about his three kids but made excuses for having no contact with them.  She said I looked like dad, walked like him, laughed like him, and more.

When my son Julian was still a baby, during pre-language time, I showed him a brick wall in an alley teeming with bug life.  In that moment I realized that we were communicating on a level beyond language.  He understood everything I was saying to him.  I figure that my father and I had experienced the same kind of connection – a spiritual bond.

I obviously rejected the traditional route with my life.  After being treated like an expendable number, and feeling like a prisoner while serving in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, I was looking for meaning beyond dollar signs and other such status symbols like cars, expensive houses, and fancy job titles. 

All my life I’ve been striving for something that seemed more real to me.  I remember that one of my sisters once said to me, “I hope you find what you are looking for.”  Upon reflection I have to say that I have.  It’s a peace of mind.  I found a life where I am a free agent – free to think for myself, and most importantly free to speak and act, as I feel compelled by my conscience.  No amount of money could every replace that kind of freedom. 

In many ways I have to thank my dad for that gift.

CATCHING UP


  • The Washington DC Navy Yard shooting yesterday appears to have been done by a man who had been discharged from the Navy active reserves after several years service.  The Navy Yard is home to the Naval Sea Systems Command and home to Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command that oversees support, integration and acquisition of the U.S. Aegis "missile defense" systems deployed throughout the Navy and around the world. It is also home to the Chief of Naval Operations for the US Navy.
  • I need to make a correction from our recent Global Network newsletter.  In our Odds & Ends section we had a bit about NATO wanting to bring Finland into the alliance.  In recent years a large drone test area has been established in Finland right alongside of Russia's border.  I made a mistake in the newsletter when I said that during the Cold War Finland had been part of the Warsaw Pact military bloc.  In fact Finland was a neutral country during that period and has, since the end of WW II, tried to maintain positive relations with the former Soviet Union and now Russia.  (Finland was used by Nazi Germany during WW II as a base of operations.)  This current drive by the US-NATO alliance to militarily surround Russia is escalating tensions and peace activists in Finland are deeply worried about the implications for increased instability between their country and Russia due to NATO expansion.
  • I taped another edition of my public access TV show This Issue yesterday.  Peace activist, and former micro-biology professor, Leonard Yannielli from Vinalhaven, Maine was my guest.  He's written a book called Moon Shadow of War about his experiences being fired from a teaching job for opposing the Vietnam War.  We mostly talked about the Syria issue and our Maine congressional delegation's positions on the war - in particular the views of Sen. Angus King which I reported on in previous posts.  Leonard was especially eloquent about the hypocrisy of the US when it comes to past use of Agent Orange in Vietnam and more recent use of depleted uranium in Iraq.
  • The Maine Drone Peace Walk will occupy most of my time in the next few weeks.  The walk route is now mapped and most of the big logistical issues (housing and suppers) are being worked on by local hosts.  My job now is to continue to spread word and recruit walkers and begin media work.  I've got to get the lead walk banner made next and a flyer to hand out to the public as we walk.  Looks like we are going to have a good number of folks walk with us.  Tarak Kauff, a leading activist with national Veterans For Peace, called the other day and said he'd be joining us near the end of the walk.  Kathy Kelly is coming as well near the end and I've heard that Medea Benjamin is going to try to join us as well.  We'll have some powerful speakers for our October 18 walk finale ceremony inside the state capital Hall of Flags (at 3:00 pm). The October 19 Bath Iron Works new stealth destroyer "christening" protest (10:00 am) will also be bigger than usual this time around.
  • We continue to hear from people ordering bulk copies of our latest Space Alert newsletter.  Just yesterday I sent bunches to peace activists in northern California and to a Veterans For Peace chapter in southern California.  We've never had a response like this to any of our newsletters before.  I'm afraid we are going to run out of them - might have to do a second printing!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

FIGHTING FOR CONTROL OF SEEDS



In Colombia after 21 days of a nationwide strike by thousands of farmers, blocking more than 40 roads nationwide, protesting farmers forced the Colombian government to negotiate the rejection of a farm bill and the release of detained protesters.

SUNDAY SONG





David Petraeus may be regretting taking a teaching position at the City University of New York system. A video recently posted to YouTube shows the former director of the CIA and retired Army general being followed down the street on his way to his first class by a small, but passionate group of students. It’s hard to make out a lot of what they’re saying, but there’s a lot of “war criminal!” And a general sense that they don’t like him very much. This comes after Petraeus’ salary was lowered from a controversial $200,000 to just one dollar to teach a course at the honors college this fall titled “Are We on the Threshold of the North American Decade?” The whole experience must be a major culture shock for a retired four-star general. Generals enjoy a tremendous amount of special treatment, including personal chefs and valets, and are revered in the military community. Now, he’s being chased down the street and screamed at by a group of young students.