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

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

WHAT ARE WE DOING?



The trailer for the feature length documentary Our Blue Canoe. The Voyagers continue their Journey across the Pacific, highlighting the the plight of the Pacific Ocean and spreading the message of hope

IN THE CROSSHAIRS


I was back out on the streets of Bath yesterday after taking a day off from my door-to-door efforts around the Bath Iron Works (BIW) tax break issue.  My legs were tired and it rained on Thursday so it worked nicely for me.

I will finish the last of our flyers today by hitting the remaining part of town we'd not yet visited.  By this evening we should have done the vast majority of houses in the city. Nine of us have been doing this door-to-door work.

From reports I am hearing many local business people are now asking the question:  "Can we ask the city of Bath for a tax break as well if we expand our business operation?  Why should BIW be the only one to get corporate welfare."

Three nights ago (Wednesday) the city council chambers were packed with BIW workers (including many middle management types) and people opposing the proposed corporate tax breaks. BIW's lead council Jon Fitzgerald again led off the testimony as the city began their first official public hearing on the BIW request for $265,000 a year tax breaks for the next 25 years.  He said: "You are going to hear a whole lot about General Dynamics [which owns BIW].  But this not not about General Dynamics, it's about BIW which stands on its own.  This is not about padding anyone's profits.  The city has a responsibility of stewardship, 125 years of building ships here.  Some folks want to distract your attention from these facts.  BIW needs to cuts costs."

One BIW worker got up and marveled at the amazing capability of the destroyers made at BIW and said, "These ships have shot a satellite out of the sky!"  She was referring to a 2008 demonstration that the "missile defense" systems on-board Navy Aegis destroyers could also function as Anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons. Like the other BIW workers that spoke, she feared that unless the taxpayers of the city subsidized the wealthy corporation, then they might close up shop and leave town.  (This is the same tune we are hearing all over the nation as greedy corporations threaten local communities in order to extract tax subsides.  It's basically socialism for the corporations.)

Our side had several good speakers including retired University of Southern Maine law professor Orlando Delogu who has studied these corporate tax breaks for 30 years.  He said, "It is disingenuous for the corporation to come into a forum such as this and imply that BIW is on its last legs, and to make the town as a whole fearful that BIW may close, to make their employees fearful."

You can watch it yourself here and go to 2:38:56 in the meeting to see his testimony.

Next up is the public forum being organized by our local citizens group on Wednesday, Nov 13 at city hall here in Bath.  Then the city council will hold its 2nd public hearing on Nov 20 and make their final decision at that time on the tax break request by BIW.

I told a friend yesterday that while going door-to-door I was thinking about Sister Stella going to trial on Jeju Island for trying to block Navy base construction vehicles. I can't avoid the links between corporate profits at BIW, the expansion of Obama's "pivot" to surround China using Navy destroyers, the destruction of Gangjeong village on Jeju Island, the taking of more lands in Hawaii, Guam, Okinawa for US bases, and the possibility of a new Cold War.  It's all connected.

Better we convert places like BIW and build rail, wind turbines and solar.  More jobs would be created doing things that are vitally needed on our mother spaceship.

Friday, November 08, 2013

OIL SPILLS - DON'T WORRY


SISTER STELLA GOING TO TRIAL



Sung-Hee Choi reports from Jeju Island:
Catholic Sr. So Stella who is deeply loved and respected by many people, including me, is told to stand in the court for her activities opposing the Jeju naval base project in the Jeju Court on Nov. 14. It is told for the 1st time in the 200 years of Catholic history in Korea that a Catholic nun gets trial. She is told to have been charged for obstruction of business, obstruction on government affairs and injury, which is unverified. She is not guilty and her acts were by self-defense. Please pray for Sister So Stella whose courageous activities have inspired other Catholic Sisters and quite moved people in Gangjeong. Fr. Mun Jeong-Hyeon and Fr. Kim Sung-Hwan delivered the news.
So this is what it comes down to now....non-violent nuns going to trial, and likely jail, for protesting against the Obama "pivot" into the Asia-Pacific.  The US Navy will port nuclear subs, aircraft carriers and Aegis destroyers outfitted with "missile defense" systems in tiny Gangjeong village - just a stones throw from the coast of China.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

MORE FROM STONE



Oliver Stone speaks about JFK and the untold history of America in this uncensored interview with Buzzsaw. Stone debunks the white lies and mythology of American history, and goes into the roots of the cold war and war on terror, and how they have been used to keep people oppressed from the former Soviet Union to the current American collapse. Obama and the willingness of presidents to play ball with warhawks is laid out cold in this talk with hosts Tyrel Ventura, and Stone's own son, Sean.

LATEST FROM FUKUSHIMA



Japan is bracing itself for the most dangerous operation at the Fukushima nuclear plant since it was crippled by a quake and tsunami in March 2011. The company running the facility plans to move radioactive fuel rods to safe storage. RT's Alexey Yaroshevsky is in Japan for us. Christina Consolo, Founder and Host of Nuked Radio, doubts that engineers will be able to pull this off - given the level of damage at the plant.

KILLING THE WHALES



Blackfish, a powerful new documentary film by Gabriela Cowrperthwaite explores the inhumane capture and treatment of killer whales by marine entertainment parks.

The documentary takes the viewer on a roller coaster ride from breathtaking footage of orcas swimming in the wild to the cruel capture of orca babies. In their natural habitat, these magnificent mammals swim 100 miles a day.  In captivity, they are barely able to move around, damage their teeth on metal railings, and act out aggressively towards each other.

Interviewee John Crowe cried as he describes the legacy of orca capture for entertainment purposes, spotlighting the notorious Penn Cove captures in 1970 by scientists in Washington state.  Mothers and mature family members refused to leave the babies behind in the nets; several adult whales died.  The scientists then cut the whales open, filled their bodies with rocks, sinking them, to destroy of evidence of what they had done.  Orcas' brains are much more developed emotionally and socially than those of humans; they live in social groups called pods; males never leave their mothers. Separating members from their pods is an enormous act of emotional and social violence.

Blackfish explains how killer whales become deformed (their tails bend in a weird way); their teeth and health are compromised, and why their life span is reduced from that of human lifespan equivalent to 25-30 years in captivity. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

DOOR-TO-DOOR IN BATH


Each day this week I've been taking flyers door-to-door in Bath about a public forum a group of us are organizing on November 13.  Bath Iron Works (BIW), which is owned by the $31 billion aerospace and military conglomerate General Dynamics Corporation, is requesting a $250,000 a year tax break for the next 25 years from the City of Bath.

I've been trying to do four hours each day dropping flyers and I know of at least eight others (Bath Citizens for Responsible TIF Action) who have been helping do so as well.  Two volunteers went to the voting polls in Bath yesterday for a couple hours and reported, "Most reactions were very positive in that people basically see this as corporate welfare and unfair to them as average citizens who don't get a break. Lots of people said they would come next week to the forum."

That's what I've seen as well as I've gone from the most run-down neighborhoods right near BIW to the expensive homes on the north end of Bath along the river.  I'm not knocking on doors but just putting the flyers in their doorway and moving on.  But now and then I run into folks and no one so far has argued in favor of a tax break for BIW.

One man, before I could get anything out of my mouth, said, "This is corporate welfare."  A man yesterday near the shipyard chased me down a block after I put a flyer at this house.  He wanted to know which side of the issue I was on and told me, "We'll all have to pick up the slack in the city budget if they give BIW more tax breaks.  BIW has done nothing for this neighborhood."  (In fact the neighborhoods around the shipyard are littered with dusty parking lots and run-down rental housing.  The noise from BIW is ever present.)

Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised when I ran into three young guys in a parking lot and handed them a flyer.  One of them really knew the details of the BIW tax break request - $250,000 a year for the next 25 years.  I was impressed that word is getting around.

There has been good media coverage including a front page story in the Portland paper earlier this week.  Regular letters to our local paper have been running against the tax break.

Bath is a classic example of a community that is job dependent on the military industrial complex.  Most people have a relative or a friend that work there.  People often speak fondly about the time when BIW was locally owned.  Someone told me today that in those days they had a day care center at the shipyard but when General Dynamics bought BIW they closed it down.

Many workers have told me that working conditions are increasing hard as more layoffs force people to do the job of 2-3 others.  The workers are being squeezed by the corporate drive for increased profits and now they are putting the squeeze on the taxpayers in the city once again.

Times are hard for alot of people and many of them are having a tough time paying property taxes that generally keep increasing each year.  I know that the taxes on our house go up every year while city services are being trimmed.  I think that the public has taken to this BIW tax break request so strongly because they see the unfairness of it - especially while the head CEO at General Dynamics made $18 million in compensation last year.  The municipal budget of Bath is just around $15 million per year.

In their defense General Dynamics says they have to compete with the Ingalls Shipyard in Mississippi which is getting local and state tax breaks as well.  I'm sure there is some truth in that but the bigger issue has to be that the public is paying for the military industrial complex on two ends these days and our lifeline is getting shorter all the time.  At the national level Congress gives 57% of every discretionary tax dollar to the Pentagon and then at the state and local level the taxpayers are being tapped again to give even more "corporate welfare" to these military giants.  That's an unsustainable situation.

What this boils down to me is this - the weapons industry should not be a profit making business.  When profits drive military production then war is endless and the profits are never enough.

Some historical perspective on this might be useful.


“The committee listened daily to men striving to defend acts which found them nothing more than international racketeers, bent upon gaining profit through a game of arming the world to fight itself.”

With these words Republican Senator Gerald Nye of North Dakota neatly summed up the findings of 93 Senate hearings held from April 1934 to February 1936. Nye headed the Senate Munitions Investigating Committee, known to history as the Nye Committee, whose purpose was to investigate four topics: the munitions industry; bidding on Government contracts in the shipbuilding industry; war profits; and the background leading up to U.S. entry into World War I.

In April of 1936, the Nye Committee issued its final report. Of the seven members, four called for nationalization of the munitions industry. The three remaining members called for “rigid and conclusive munitions control.”

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

STONE ON JEJU NAVY BASE PROTEST



Democracy Now interview with three-time Academy Award-winning director, producer and screenwriter Oliver Stone. He discusses recent NSA protests, his visit to Jeju Island in South Korea to join protests against a planned naval base to house a U.S. missile defense system close to China, the militarization of space and more about the assassination of JFK and his series, The Untold History of the United States.

PERMANENT WAR

DARPA Plans to Arm Drones With Missile-Blasting Lasers

By Allen McDuffee (Wired)

The Pentagon this week edged closer to mounting missile-destroying lasers on unmanned and manned aircraft, awarding $26 million to defense contractors to develop the technology.

Under the name Project Endurance, DARPA, the Department of Defense’s research agency, awarded Northrop Grumman $14.6 million and Lockheed Martin $11.4 million in contracts for the effort, according to Military & Aerospace Electronics. Called “Project Endurance,” the research will “develop technology for pod-mounted lasers to protect a variety of airborne platforms from emerging and legacy electro-optical IR guided surface-to-air missiles,” according to DARPA’s 2014 budget request.

The project focuses on “miniaturizing component technologies, developing high-precision target tracking, identification, and lightweight agile beam control to support target engagement,” as well as “the phenomenology of laser-target interactions and associated threat vulnerabilities.”

Those vulnerabilities have been a particular concern when it comes to slow-moving drones, whose job it is to loiter more than it is to evade, making them a potential easy target to be shot out of the sky.

In 2011, Iran claimed to have struck a RQ-170 Sentinel drone. Although the U.S. initially insisted the report was false, officials later acknowledged a drone had gone missing.

“We’ve asked for it back. We’ll see how the Iranians respond,” Obama said in a December 2011 press conference. However, a top Iranian military official said it had no intention of returning it.

“No nation welcomes other countries’ spy drones in its territory, and no one sends back the spying equipment and its information back to the country of origin,” Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy commander of Iran’s military, told the semi-official Fars news agency, calling it “an act of invasion and belligerence.”

According to DARPA, the design phase of the laser technology will be completed by the end of its 2013 fiscal year. In 2014, fabrication, assembly and testing of the systems will occur with an eye toward full implementation in 2016.

Project Endurance evolved out of DARPA’s Excalibur program, which was designed to “develop coherent optical phased array technologies to enable scalable laser weapons that are 10 times lighter and more compact than existing high-power chemical laser systems,” according to DARPA.

Monday, November 04, 2013

JOIN US AT VANDENBERG AFB



Global Network 22nd Annual Space Conference
March 14-16, 2014
Santa Barbara, California

The 2014 Global Network space organizing conference will be held near Vandenberg AFB, California on March 14-16.  We will meet at the La Casa de Maria Retreat and Conference Center in Santa Barbara.  On Friday, March 14 we’ll organize an afternoon vigil at the front gate of Vandenberg and on the evening of March 15 we will hold a public event at a local church in Santa Barbara.  GN Board member Dennis Apel from the Guadalupe Catholic Worker House in nearby Santa Maria will be our host organizer.  

We will have limited sleeping space (dormitory style) available at the La Casa de Maria Retreat center so reservations will be necessary.  (Other hotel information will be available if you would prefer those arrangements.)  We will provide meals for those staying at the conference center.  A sliding scale charge will run from $50-$150 (pay what you can best afford.)

There will be no charge for the Saturday, March 15 public event that will be held at Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara.  More details will follow.

Events will conclude on March 16 after lunch.

___ Please sign me up for a sleeping space at the retreat center on March 14 & 15.  
Enclosed is _________ (Pay what you can best afford between $50-$150)  Meals are included.

___ Please send me local hotel information in the Santa Barbara area.


Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
www.space4peace.org
207-443-9502

WHEN I HEAR A DRONE......



The Pakistani government is warning of a new rift with the United States after a CIA drone strike that killed the head of the Pakistani Taliban. Hakimullah Mehsud and six other militants died on Friday when U.S. missiles hit their vehicle in North Waziristan. Mehsud had a $5 million bounty on his head and was accused of responsibility for thousands of deaths. The attack came just as the Pakistani government had relaunched peace talks with the Taliban.

In a broadcast exclusive, Democracy Now airs a documentary that highlights the stories of civilians directly impacted by drone attacks in Pakistan: "Wounds of Waziristan," directed by Madiha Tahir. "Waziristan is only half the size of New Jersey. How would it feel if bombs rained over New Jersey for nine years?" asks Tahir in the film. "Would you be frightened? If they killed your son, your cousin or your husband, and got away with it, would you be angry? You probably couldn’t forget about it if you tried. You’d be haunted."

LETTERS FROM JEJU PRISON



Sung-Hee Choi writes from Jeju Island:
Manseuk (nickname), a young female activist in her early 20s made this video for Kim Eun-Hye (23) who was directly arrested from the court on Oct. 8, this year, for the unverified charge of violence to a police woman last year. In the video, Manseuk narrates the letters between Eun-Hye and Jaein, her best friend and with whom she has lived in a container in the village for near two years.

Before the day of her arrest , Eun-Hye cried suffering from unfairness, saying, “Please trust me, I have never hit the policewoman.” As she was arrested the next day, Jaein cried putting the daily post on prisoners in front of the construction gate.

Eun-Hye also writes that she heard from her inmate friend later that an old man was doing a sit-in in front of the Jeju prison. She became to know later it was Catholic Fr. Mun Jeong-Hyeon

Another testimony about Eun-Hye is from Kristin Douglas who lives in Hawaii and spent alot of time in Gangjeong villager before being chased out of the country by the South Korean government.  She writes:

Forget Kim Eun-Hye? NEVER, ever! When I first visited Gangjeong in the summer of 2012, I stayed in an upstairs room in Sobu minbak which is on the main street of Gangjeong, just a few doors down from the Peace Center. The main street that runs through Gangjeong is a quiet street, especially during the evenings and night times. After long hot days of protesting the destruction that was being done to Gureombi to make way for a US/ROK naval base, activists were tired to the bone. But, as I would soon learn, exhaustion was not something that deterred the young activists from any aspect of the struggle. It was during the early evenings that, while upstairs in my room in the minbak, with windows wide open in the summer heat, that I often heard the voices of young activists while riding their bicycles up the hill on their way home for the night. On one hot evening in particular it occurred to me that the language I was hearing was English. WHAT???? I looked out the window onto the street below to see who was speaking in English. It was Eun-Hye. I listened more closely and realized that she was teaching the other young activists how to say various phrases in English. Phrases like "how are you today?" and "thank you for coming to Gangjeong". It was probably at that moment that I felt something in my heart that has forever changed my life. But this is not about me, it is about Eun-Hye, and the extraordinary young woman that she is. Over the course of knowing her for a little over eight months I watched her grow and become a serious and disciplined young activist. I watched her learn how to maintain strength in the face of exhausting police brutality. I watched her ask a police woman why she deliberately stepped on her prescription glasses. I watched while she wore cracked lenses for the rest of the summer and never complained. I watched while she and other young activists had their skin gouged by police, their limbs twisted and sometimes broken. I watched while their love for the vision of peace and a Korea without war grew in the face of such unwarranted brutality. I grew to love Eun-Hye and the other young activists with all my heart. I learned from them. We learned from each other. Kim Eun-Hye is one of the young activists that gives us all hope for the future. She should not be in jail for such a minor and arbitrary infraction as obstruction of business. Eight months? Seriously? Shame on the government! Please write to Eun-Hye. Don't worry about not being able to write in Korean... please, just write.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

WE CAN'T AFFORD THE PIVOT


I'm at the Washington airport waiting to fly home.  The three days of meetings on Obama's "pivot" of 60% of US military forces into the Asia-Pacific went very well.  I'll write more about the meetings later on.  For now it's evident that we are building a good national/international working group around the US military strategy to surround and provoke China.  We came up with some good plans to help the peace movement and the broader public get engaged in thinking and talking about this expensive, provocative and dangerous strategy.

I was up early this morning and left the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House where I stayed the last three nights.  As I was waiting at the metro stop for it to open at 7:00 am I saw a big rat scurry by.  Then finally on the subway we passed over the river and I was struck by the rusting bridge.  Even the towering Washington monument is framed with supports as a recent earthquake tremor cracked the nation's leading phallic symbol.  The signs of internal decay and collapse are all around us if we just open our eyes and see.

As the metro headed toward the airport we came to the Pentagon subway stop.  I noticed a series of propaganda signs there - all colorful and bright - lit up just for the thousands of Pentagon personnel who daily pass through this metro stop heading to work.  One of the signs really stuck with me - it pictured a phalanx of US Navy warships steaming ahead with the words "Securing Our Shores".  (Other weapons industry sponsored mind washing signs had similar messages like "Security Through Strength").  

The "Securing Our Shores" one though really grabbed me.  It represents the pivot - or "re-balancing" as the Pentagon is now calling it.  An aircraft carrier led battle group "forward deploying" to the Asia-Pacific to encircle China's coastline.  The Zumwalt "stealth" destroyer with the capability to sneak up on China and blast them with the new "electro-magnetic rail gun".  What's this got to do with "securing our shores"?  Absolutely nothing.

It's all about offense.  That is what the Pentagon and their legion of weapons corporation allies do these days.  They encircle China and Russia and when those nations respond the Pentagon uses that response as fuel on the fire.  I've heard our Maine congressional delegation say many times, "OMG, look at China!  They are building up their military.  We need more $$$ to build more destroyers at BIW!"  That's how the game works.

For a long time the American people could afford to ignore this kind of talk and go on with their lives.  But the rats are running around in broad daylight these days and our physical and human infrastructure across the nation is crumbling and collapsing.  So now folks are starting to pay attention.  The details matter - we can't afford the pivot.  

What is really out of balance these days is the ratio between Pentagon spending and domestic spending.  It might just be time to consider redefining the word "security".  How secure are we at home if there is no money to repair water and sewer systems, to fix our roads, to fund our schools, to pay for health care and to feed our families?

The Pentagon and their corporate leeches are bleeding us dry.  It's more than time that we not fall for the propaganda that has been fed to us for so long.

SUNDAY SONG