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

Thursday, November 24, 2016

For the Children: Go Solar!


Under Trump, GOP to Give Space Weapons Close Look

Programs to account for a significant share of defense budget boost 
 
Roll Call

Missile defense and military space programs are likely to get a substantial funding boost under the incoming Republican-dominated government, lawmakers and analysts say.

Coming soon are a greater number of more capable anti-missile interceptors and radars deployed around the globe — on land, at sea and possibly in space, say these legislators and experts, several of whom have consulted with President-elect Donald Trump’s advisers. More government money will be directed at protecting U.S. satellites from attack — potentially including systems that can ram into or otherwise disable another country’s satellites. And senior Republicans who oversee Pentagon spending said in interviews this week that they support considering all such systems.

“I believe we need lots of platforms for every eventuality, including those,” said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, the New Jersey Republican who is expected to chair the House Appropriations Committee in the next Congress.

Trump’s thoughts on missile defense and military space programs have gotten next to no attention, as compared to the president-elect’s other defense proposals, such as growing the Army and building more warships. As a candidate, Trump said little on the subject. But experts expect such programs to account for a significant share of what is likely to be a defense budget boost, potentially amounting to $500 billion or more in the coming decade.

Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican on House Armed Services, said the GOP’s newly strengthened hand in Washington means a big payday is coming for programs aimed at developing weapons that can be deployed in space.

“It was a Democrat mindset that caused us to step back from space-based defense assets to ostensibly not ‘weaponize space,’ while our enemies proceeded to do just that, and now, we find ourselves in a grave deficit,” Franks said. “In every area of warfare, within the Geneva Conventions, America should be second to none. That includes satellite warfare, if it’s necessary. We cannot be victims of our own decency here.”

See the rest of the article here

Arriving in Vijayawada

Global Network board member and organizer of our trip to India J. Narayana Rao (on right).  Dave Webb from the UK on left.  One Indian woman wrote Rao after the conference in Visakhapatnam and told him even though she had never met Gandhi she felt that meeting Rao was a close second.  I fully agree.


We took more than a six-hour train ride south early this morning from Visakhapatnam to our next speaking spot - a community named Vijayawada.  We speak here tomorrow and then head further north to Nagpur in central India before moving on to Nepal via Delhi for our final stop before heading home.


Yesterday we spoke three times in a very rural poor region.  It took two hours car drive to get there from Visakhapatnam.  We left at 8:00 am in the morning and got back to our guest house at 9:00 pm.  So it was a long day.

The last of the three spots was at a private school of about 1,400 kids in what was described to us as one of the poorest places in the country.  Come to find out the 'Call center' corporate entities that have sprung up around India like to draw on some of these kids since they are likely to work real cheap - like about $100 a month.  So learning English is a big deal for these kids and the school embraced our visit with open arms.

The kids were bright eyed and the light of life was shining at us as we sat down in panel form to take questions from the teachers.  Initial questions were 'Do you like India' and 'What food do you like'?  But these were followed by questions about Gov. Bobby Jindall (R-LA) who is of Indian heritage.  I answered that he is bad news but then went on to give glowing remarks about Seattle, Washington's new city council member Kshama Sawant who got elected as a Socialist after leading the local fight to raise the minimum wage for working people.

The final question at the school was 'What is the mission of the Global Network'?  Between Dave, Will, Rao and I we did a good job of sharing our views with the kids and school staff.

On the ride back in the dark, through the tangling traffic and ever honking horns, I looked through the car window into the night sky but could not see any stars - even when we were far from the city lights.  The air pollution is so bad here that the smog prevents the heavens from being visible.

Earlier in the day at our first talk in Vizianagaram at a specially organized event called 'Ecological Balance and Global Peace' the concluding speaker (always a highly acclaimed person in the community) commented on how when he was a kid people did not have to purchase bottled water.  Soon he said only the rich will be able to afford to purchase fresh air masks due to the growing pollution that comes with India's massive growth index.

Everywhere you turn in India are signs that the mega-global-corporations have stuck a pin into the India map and are calculating how many cars, TV's, cell phones, refrigerators, washing machines, fashionable clothes and the like can be sold to the 1.3 billion people in this country.  The corporations are salivating at the thought of the profits to be made.

You can't blame the people - 25% of whom are living in dire poverty - for wanting a better life.  But add in China and the many other nations in the developing world and you get the picture.  Our Mother Earth is in trouble - she just can't sustain this ecological pressure.

Now in all fairness it must be remembered that in the US we are only 5% of the global population yet we consume 25% of the resources on our failing planet.  So things have to change there too and quickly if we hope to have any chance for survival on this spaceship Earth.

In many of my talks to students here I've been mentioning the Native American belief that we must look at how each decision we make impacts the next seven generations.  It's obvious that much of the world is not following this advice as we head full bore into the face of climate change.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Weed Killer in Cheerios



A complete US media blackout continues on this breaking information... Monsanto’s bestselling weedkiller has been found in alarming levels in Cheerios, Stacy’s Pita Chips, Oreos, Goldfish, Ritz crackers, Doritos and a whole lot more. It's made the front page in Europe but what about here?

Levels found in these product are well above the levels found by independent peer-reviewed studies which show that ultra-low levels of glyphosate can cause organ damage starting at 0.1 parts per billion (ppb). This is 1,750 times lower than what the EPA currently claims is safe. The highest levels detected were found in General Mills' Cheerios, which were simply off the charts, at 1,125.3 ppb or nearly twice the level considered potentially harmful according to the latest scientific research in a single serving for young children.

As a result, we’re calling on the EPA Inspector General to investigate the agency’s failure to properly test and regulate glyphosate, end the practice of pre-harvest spraying of Roundup as a drying agent and release ALL of the industry data submitted to federal agencies, but kept hidden from the American public as "trade secrets."

Intrigue in Seoul Grows



South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye has agreed to a bill that would allow a special prosecutor to probe the corruption scandal that’s crippled her presidency.

Good Coverage in Visak


The largest English language national newspaper in India is The Hindu.  During the weekend conference at Gitam University several of us were interviewed by the paper and this article was published as a result.  The journalist did a good job of writing about the dangers from the Pentagon's 'missile defense' system that is now being used to encircle China and Russia.

This morning on our way to our first speaking event at a private school, where we spoke to 150 middle school students, Global Network board member J. Narayana Rao showed us one of the local papers that also ran a story on the conference.  He said that a couple other local papers had also covered the event quite well.

After our talk at the private school (Mary Beth and I had also spoken there on our first trip to India in 2011) we were taken to a government run technical school where we spoke to another group of about 150 students who were high school age.

In both places we got a good reception with students wanting to get selfies taken with us afterward.

After the tech school talk we had a fantastic lunch at the home of JV Prabakar (a retired engineering school administrator and leader of the Visakhapatnam chapter of the Global Network).  Prabakar works closely with J. Narayana Rao and has traveled to several of our past GN conferences in other countries.  It is obvious to us that Prabakar is widely respected in this community as at each of the five school talks we have done here in this city so far (which he appears to have set up) he has usually been the one to speak first setting the stage for Dave Webb, Will Griffin and myself.

This afternoon at 6:00 pm we went back to the Andhra University where we spoke with about 50 students in the foreign language department. It was quite amazing how on top of various issues these students were commenting on US military operations, our banking system, Trump and more.

Because Global Network advisory board member Koohan Paik (from Hawaii) got sick and could not make the trip, I've been including some of her research about US-India military agreements into my talks.

Koohan learned that US-India had signed the Defense Technology & Trade Initiative (DTTI) which will pump large sums of American $$$$ into India's largest industrial corporations for the development and manufacturing of weapons of war.  DTTI will effectively shift India's power from the people to a domestic elite who will be complicit with US corporate interests.  Koohan wrote that this will be India's 'Colonization 2.0' and their participation in expanding US militarism will be part of the US 'pivot' to control China.

India will lose its independence and sovereignty and the elite in India from Tata, Reliance Industries, Mahindra and other corporations will join with global war industrialists like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Boeing to bring down India's democracy and help make the world a more dangerous place.

This is largely new to most Indian students (and faculty) and they seem to be quite appreciative to get this information and feel glad knowing that there is a growing international movement standing up against the globalization of corporate power.

In the morning we will be out early to drive about 30 miles from the city to speak to another group of college students - we are told there will be about 200 of them. 

Bruce

Monday, November 21, 2016

Reaching More Students in Visakhapatnam


We are still in Visakhapatnam and today spoke in three schools.  Dave Webb (UK), Will Griffin (VFP) and I were taken first to a government college where youth from the poor and working classes attend.  More than 100 students heard our talks there.

After that we were taken to a private school where you could see the difference in educational opportunities for the children of parents of higher income.  Again more than 100 students listened to each of us speak.  I asked for a show of hands of those who were familiar with the Star Wars movies and every hand went up into the air.  Then I asked for a show of hands of those who believe that war in space was inevitable - about one-quarter of the hands went up.  I asked for a show of hands of those who have looked for the moon on a dark night.  All hands went up - then I told the story of Coca Cola wanting to put a massive sign on the moon advertising their addictive sugar filled drink.  Luckily they were deterred from carrying out such a barbarous plan.

Our final talk was at another university where we were invited to address about 30 students from the Psychology Department.  Several of the students were from Ethiopia and Somalia, now in India working on their advanced degrees.  The head of the department spoke movingly about the 'deadly connections' between growing militarism in the US and India and cutbacks being made in programs to help those who suffer from poverty and mental illness.  Dave and William made their best presentations yet.

Tomorrow we again will make three more talks at various schools here in Visakhapatnam before moving on to another city the following day.  Our dear Indian friends who have a Global Network chapter here in this city are working hard to expose our message to as many people as possible while we are their community.  Below we hold a banner used during the recent Keep Space for Peace Week here in Visakhapatnam - the college soccer team helped us hold the banner.

Bruce

Stand Up and Live


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Goodbye, American Neoliberalism. A New Neo-Fascist Era Is Here


By Cornel West

Guardian UK

Trump’s election was enabled by the policies that overlooked the plight of our most vulnerable citizens. We gird ourselves for a frightening future

The neoliberal era in the United States ended with a neofascist bang. The political triumph of Donald Trump shattered the establishments in the Democratic and Republican parties – both wedded to the rule of Big Money and to the reign of meretricious politicians.

The Bush and Clinton dynasties were destroyed by the media-saturated lure of the pseudo-populist billionaire with narcissist sensibilities and ugly, fascist proclivities. The monumental election of Trump was a desperate and xenophobic cry of human hearts for a way out from under the devastation of a disintegrating neoliberal order – a nostalgic return to an imaginary past of greatness.

White working- and middle-class fellow citizens – out of anger and anguish – rejected the economic neglect of neoliberal policies and the self-righteous arrogance of elites. Yet these same citizens also supported a candidate who appeared to blame their social misery on minorities, and who alienated Mexican immigrants, Muslims, black people, Jews, gay people, women and China in the process.

This lethal fusion of economic insecurity and cultural scapegoating brought neoliberalism to its knees. In short, the abysmal failure of the Democratic party to speak to the arrested mobility and escalating poverty of working people unleashed a hate-filled populism and protectionism that threaten to tear apart the fragile fiber of what is left of US democracy. And since the most explosive fault lines in present-day America are first and foremost racial, then gender, homophobic, ethnic and religious, we gird ourselves for a frightening future.

What is to be done? First we must try to tell the truth and a condition of truth is to allow suffering to speak. For 40 years, neoliberals lived in a world of denial and indifference to the suffering of poor and working people and obsessed with the spectacle of success. Second we must bear witness to justice. We must ground our truth-telling in a willingness to suffer and sacrifice as we resist domination. Third we must remember courageous exemplars like Martin Luther King Jr, who provide moral and spiritual inspiration as we build multiracial alliances to combat poverty and xenophobia, Wall Street crimes and war crimes, global warming and police abuse – and to protect precious rights and liberties.

The age of Obama was the last gasp of neoliberalism. Despite some progressive words and symbolic gestures, Obama chose to ignore Wall Street crimes, reject bailouts for homeowners, oversee growing inequality and facilitate war crimes like US drones killing innocent civilians abroad.

Rightwing attacks on Obama – and Trump-inspired racist hatred of him – have made it nearly impossible to hear the progressive critiques of Obama. The president has been reluctant to target black suffering – be it in overcrowded prisons, decrepit schools or declining workplaces. Yet, despite that, we get celebrations of the neoliberal status quo couched in racial symbolism and personal legacy. Meanwhile, poor and working class citizens of all colors have continued to suffer in relative silence.

In this sense, Trump’s election was enabled by the neoliberal policies of the Clintons and Obama that overlooked the plight of our most vulnerable citizens. The progressive populism of Bernie Sanders nearly toppled the establishment of the Democratic party but Clinton and Obama came to the rescue to preserve the status quo. And I do believe Sanders would have beat Trump to avert this neofascist outcome!

In this bleak moment, we must inspire each other driven by a democratic soulcraft of integrity, courage, empathy and a mature sense of history – even as it seems our democracy is slipping away.

We must not turn away from the forgotten people of US foreign policy – such as Palestinians under Israeli occupation, Yemen’s civilians killed by US-sponsored Saudi troops or Africans subject to expanding US military presence.

As one whose great family and people survived and thrived through slavery, Jim Crow and lynching, Trump’s neofascist rhetoric and predictable authoritarian reign is just another ugly moment that calls forth the best of who we are and what we can do.

For us in these times, to even have hope is too abstract, too detached, too spectatorial. Instead we must be a hope, a participant and a force for good as we face this catastrophe.

What Do the Democrats Really Stand For?



Big Picture Interview: Ralph Nader, Breaking Through Power: It's Easier Than We Think, has a plan for progressives that could really shake things up.

Sunday Song