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, March 30, 2013

SEEKING PEACE & JUSTICE


Solidarity action with Guantanamo hunger strikers at Times Sq. in NYC last Thursday

  • On Sunday, March 24 human rights activists throughout the US (including NYC, Chicago, Ohio) began a seven day fast and series of actions in solidarity with the men currently on hunger strike at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The US Navy now reports that three hunger strikers have been hospitalized and that ten are being force fed — a practice condemned by human rights organizations and used in efforts to “break” prior hunger strikes at Guantanamo. Some hunger strikers have lost consciousness and are experiencing severe drops in body weight.
  • Defense attorneys for hunger-striking prisoners at Guantánamo Bay are accusing military officials of imposing harsh conditions in a bid to halt their protest. An emergency motion filed in federal court says guards are denying prisoners water and keeping camp temperatures at "extremely frigid" levels to increase their discomfort. Dozens of prisoners have refused food for nearly two months over intrusive searches and their continued detention without charge. The allegations come as the International Committee of the Red Cross has begun a fact-finding mission at Guantánamo to evaluate conditions for the hunger-striking prisoners.

  • Today was the last of the Lenten season peace vigils at Bath Iron Works (BIW) here in Maine.  BIW Security, for the first time since I began joining these vigils 10 years ago, was present and stayed for the full-hour that we stood on the sidewalk holding signs as the Saturday shift left work.  These vigils have been organized at BIW for the past 13 years during the Lenten and Advent seasons by the Smiling Trees Disarmament Farm based in Hope, Maine.  Maureen Kehoe-Ostensen told us the story today of their first vigil when just three of them stood in the -4 degree cold while a couple TV stations  interviewed them.  After that TV coverage more people began to join her and husband George. We will be back out to BIW during Keep Space for Peace Week in early-October and throughout the Advent season.

Friday, March 29, 2013

FRIDAY BONUS NUMBER


GO AHEAD AND SAY IT......


DRONES AND MORE DRONES

Eight activists were arrested blocking the gates at Creech AFB drone base in Nevada on March 27 as the finale event of the annual Nevada Desert Experience peace walk.

  • The Judiciary Committee of the Maine state legislature will meet on Thursday, April 11 at 9:00 am (4th floor) at the capitol in Augusta for a work session on drone bill LD 236.  The bill is called "An Act To Protect the Privacy of Citizens from Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Use" and would require law enforcement agencies in Maine to obtain warrants before using drones to gather information on a private citizen.  There appears to be strong support in the legislature for the bill although the Maine Attorney General (a Democrat) is presently opposed to the bill because she does not want to restrict the state police.  We urge Mainers to join us on April 11 to show the state that the public is indeed deeply concerned about drone surveillance.  We also urge you to contact members of the Judiciary Committee and let them know you support the bill.  The committee list is here
  • We are now gathering petition signatures of folks across Maine to present to the state on April 11.  If you'd like to sign give me your name and town in Maine by April 8.  Send to globalnet@mindspring.com 
  • Rumors are mounting that aerospace interests in Maine want to establish drone operations in the northern part of the state.  This would be in addition to the efforts already underway to put a "missile defense" base in northern Maine near the community of Caribou.  The lack of jobs is a huge issue in Maine and the military is the only institution with any money these days.  The goal appears to be to turn our state into a military colony.
  • The entire month of April is being dedicated as a month of actions by the national Stop Drones campaign.  You can see the growing list of events planned across the country at the national CodePink web site.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN DESTINY



Teachers, workers and activists hope to pressure Chicago to abandon plans to close 61 schools.

OBAMA'S GIFT TO MONSANTO



On Tuesday, Obama signed the Agriculture Appropriations Bill into law. Within the legislation exists a provision, "The Monsanto Protection Act," that has many concerned about the future safety of food because it protects genetically modified seeds patents from litigation over health risks. Since Obama signed the bill nearly 250,000 have signed a petition to the president.

RT's Margaret Howell has more on the bill and how "frankenfish" could be making their way into supermarkets across the nation.

GLOBAL REPUTATION FOR HYPOCRISY

 
  • As the wealthy have gotten wealthier, a new study reported by the Washington Post found, an economic arms race has been created in which the middle class has been spending beyond their means in order to keep up with the Joneses. The study calls this “trickle-down consumption.” The result? Americans are saving less, bankruptcies are becoming more common, and politicians are pushing for policies to make it easier to take on debt. As the rich spend more on things like expensive preschools or fitness clubs or even fashion, their middle-income neighbors start spending more on these goods too — without cutting back elsewhere. It's the "success" mythology in action.  Another example, in this declining economy, 32% of US couples in 2012 spent more than $25,000 on their wedding.

  • In 2011 the wealthiest Americans (those with earnings in the top 20%) contributed on average 1.3% of their income to charity.  By comparison the poorest Americans at the bottom of the income pyramid donated 3.2% of their income to charity.  The poor tend to give to religious organizations and social-service charities, while the rich prefer to support colleges and universities, arts organizations, and museums.

  • The Boston Globe reports that Gregory Foster, a former Army officer and West Point graduate who now teaches national security studies at the National Defense University in Washington, has leveled blistering charges of misplaced power and a morally bankrupt culture in the nation’s “military-industrial complex”.  While attending a military budget conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts Foster's speech was laced with accusations of “militaristic civilian officials” who serve not as civilian overseers as intended but “military advocates” who are “politically afraid of the military.”  What we have is an “American way of war” on autopilot that is too expensive, wasteful, and indiscriminately destructive—“killing people and breaking things”—and a growing global reputation of hypocrisy.

  • Natural Society reports: Genetically modified humans is the next venture for biotechnology companies working with the US military, with the admitted goal of producing a ‘super soldier’ that does not require food or sleep to perform Olympic-style physical feats. The genetically modified humans, or ‘super soldiers’, will even be able to regrow limbs that were destroyed by enemy fire and live off of their fat stores for extreme lengths of time. Backed by $2 billion a year in funding, the Pentagon’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently unleashed the news after years of secret experimentation and study. The organization did not say whether or not genetically modified humans currently exist to such an extent, however it is known based on previous reports that human chimeras have already been created outside of the public spotlight. Such scientific experiments have drawn fire from scientists and activists alike, who are demanding for laws to forbid the creation of ‘monsters’. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

UNDERSTANDING CYPRUS



Depositors in the Bank of Cyprus, the biggest bank on the island, will reportedly lose from 30 to 40 per cent on their holdings above 100,000 euro as result of a bailout agreement which Cyprus and the troika of international backers signed on Monday.

WHAT IS BRICS?



A new powerful institution, the BRICS joint development bank, is set to emerge on the international financial arena - that's as the 5th annual summit of the world's fastest emerging economies has kicked off in South Africa.

The leaders of Brazil, Russia, China, India and the host nation this year are joined by Egypt's president Morsi - who's hoping to book a place in the club. RT's Alexey Yaroshevsky has more.

Update:  The BRICS group has unveiled a new development bank, which is aimed at breaking the monopoly held by Western-backed institutions. Under the deal, the two largest economies of the emerging power groups, China and Brazil, agreed to remove nearly half of their trade exchanges out of the US dollar zone. See more here

GATHER YOURSELVES

I am so happy to see the Idle No More indigenous movement spreading throughout Canada and the US (and around the world).  The native people understand how to live on Mother Earth - they know the rhythms of the planet, they don't have to be told how important it is to protect the water and the air.  They deeply acknowledge our (human) connection in the web of nature.

The arrogance of the white civilization has tried to drown the wisdom of the native people.  The white culture, so self-assured and violent, long ago lost its spiritual connection to the Earth.  So-called modern society with its roads, air conditioned homes, polluting factories, wars, and resource gouging appetites is a broken mess.  It's a way of death and the native people have been warning us for hundreds of years that disaster would be the result of our out-of-balance way of living.

The coming harsh reality of climate change offers us a clear choice.  One direction is to immediately stop all the techno fixes to the human-made calamities that we face.  Things like the insane geo-engineering plans to mess with the ionosphere and inject the dieing oceans with chemicals.  That is more of the sick crazy way of trying to control and dominate nature.  It's a dead-end street - a death road.

The other choice is to simplify our lives, get rid of our cars, create public transit, grow our own food, weatherize our homes, reduce our consumption dramatically, and limit our fossil fuel addiction. We must demand the dismantling of the Pentagon and convert it to the Natural Guard that works to help people face the coming storms from a wounded and thrashing Mother Earth.

The deck is stacked against us.  The corporations control our governments and they are locked into the profit and domination mentality.  We've all got to begin to make this transition in our daily lives and each of us must help break the corporate arterial blockage of our democracy.

We are indeed talking about what kind of life the next seven generations will face.  It is our moment in history that determines the future.  

The Hopi Elders in Arizona long ago passed the following words to us:

"It is time to speak your truth, each of you.  Do not look outside yourself for the leader.  There is a river flowing very fast.  Trust the river has its destination.  You must let go of the shore, push off into that river.  Keep your eyes open and your heads above the water.  See who is in there with you and celebrate.  The time of the lone wolf is over.  Gather yourselves.  We are the ones we have been waiting for...."

LET'S MAKE A PLAN AND STOP THIS SHIT



Crystal Zevon, now on the road documenting the resistance movement across the US, made this video and writes:

On March 18th near Ponca City, Oklahoma, the first Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance Camp began with a ceremony and talks by local Indigenous speakers from the Ponca Nation. Casey Camp-Horinek is a longtime environmental activist and her brother, Carter Camp was one of the leaders of A.I.M. (the American Indian Movement) and he figured prominently in the standoff at Wounded Knee in 1973. 

Their message went straight to the heart of the evil that is upon us with the Keystone XL Pipeline. They have been in this battle for their survival for a long time, and they came to spread the message that stopping this Tar Sands Pipeline is no longer just about their lands, it is about survival for all of us.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

MERCHANTS OF DEATH



Protest demonstration at New York City headquarters of L-3, a manufacturer of electronic components for drones, on the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War.

MISSILE DEFENSE ARC BEING CREATED ACROSS ASIA-PACIFIC

As part of Obama's recent announcement about expanding "missile defense" (MD) systems in Alaska, along with studies to determine a possible site for an East Coast base in the US, the Pentagon also announced a second MD X-band radar would go into Japan.

The US military uses X-band radars to precisely track the trajectory of an "enemy" ballistic missile, allowing its forces to launch Army ground-based (PAC-3) and Navy sea-based (SM-3) interceptors as soon as a missile is detected.

The Kyogamisaki base in Japan, on the Sea of Japan coast, has been selected as the site to deploy the second radar unit.

While the US claims that its MD program is aimed at North Korea's tiny nuclear program, the growing numbers of systems now being deployed in Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and Okinawa (and the direction they point) indicate they are in actuality being used against China.

Some reports have indicated that the Pentagon is also considering plans to deploy a third radar somewhere else in the region like the Philippines to create an “arc” across East Asia to bolster MD capabilities.

Monday, March 25, 2013

BREAKDOWN IN CAPITALISM



As Washington lawmakers pushes new austerity measures, economist Richard Wolff calls for a radical restructuring of the U.S. economic and financial systems. He speaks with Democracy Now about the $85 billion budget cuts as part of the sequester, banks too big to fail, Congress’ failure to learn the lessons of the 2008 economic collapse and his new book, "Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism.” Wolff also gives FOX news host Bill O’Reilly a lesson in economics 101.

MIXED BAG


  • The Pentagon's Southern Command has requested $49 million to build a new prison building at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for "special" detainees prisoners on top of other renovations it says are necessary since Congress has decided to keep it open indefinitely. That brings the potential taxpayer bill for upgrading the facilities to an estimated $195.7 million.

  • While in Iraq Obama's new Secretary of State John Kerry warned that many in the US are wondering how, after Americans “have tried so hard to be helpful” in rebuilding post-Saddam Iraq, the country could not do as they are told.  Kerry demanded that Iraq stop Iran from flying arms across Iraqi territory to the beleaguered Syrian regime, but found Iraq President Maliki unwilling to give ground.... Maliki repeated Iraq’s view that there is no definitive proof that the cargoes are arms, rather than humanitarian aid, as the Iranians contend. Kerry was left to say that he will gather more information to prove his point.
  •  Dungree (Real name: Park Sung-Soo) just got a 28-day jail sentence on Jeju Island for his protest activities - he refused to pay about $1,500 in fines.  The South Korean government is hitting the protest movement hard with fines for blocking Navy base construction efforts.  He has stayed in the Gangjeong village since summer 2011. With his unlimited energy and dedication, he produced the videos of struggle in Gangjeong almost everyday. His video ‘Gangjeong Style’ was a mega hit.  You can see much more about him and his photography here

Sunday, March 24, 2013

LET'S TALK ABOUT JOBS



  • I'm always talking about conversion of the military industrial complex to peaceful production.  And when I do that I always mention the definitive jobs study by UMASS-Amherst Economics Department Professor Robert Pollin. And now you can hear from the man himself.

  • I got lucky this week by having two Op-Eds published in the two biggest newspapers in Maine.  The other day my piece was in the Bangor Daily News and this morning the Portland Press Herald ran a similar piece in their Sunday Maine Telegram.  You can read it here

PEACE OF JEJU IS THE PEACE OF ASIA


Professor Yang Yoon-Mo has ended his 52-day fast against the Navy base on Jeju Island.  He remains in prison and issued this statement yesterday:

As I think that many people suffer from my fast, I don’t want to transfer them suffering any more.

I have taken fast to urge people concern with Gangjeong, to inform them on disappointing National Assembly, thoughtless Ministry of National Defense, and innocent villagers and activists oppressed by the judicature.

I consider those have become enough informed. And I accepted the earnest request by Fr. Mun Jeong-Hyon, Mayor Kang Dong-Kyun and representing group.

There will be no more fast in my life. Even though I stop fast, my struggle for peace will not stop.

I think I would live by 90 years old (laughter). So I state on my permanent struggle for the remaining 30 years. I will strive for demilitarizing the Island for life and peace.

While I am here in prison, I will return many of your favor and encouragement.

As a peace and unification worker, I will show myself, Yang Yoon-Mo,  as a peace activists and movie critic.

I pay gratitude to the concerns for me by elementary school students, parents, Catholic brothers & sisters and protestant devotees and to the letters full of passion for peace, via mail and internet.

Since I am not forgetting those blessings, I think my decision to stop fast is good.

I am grateful to all the messages of support and friendship by distinguished scholars, intellectuals, peace activists and artists from the United States, Australia, Okinawa and Japan, France, Nepal etc.

To return your concern, I intend for my complete change. I will exercise hard to strengthen my abdominal muscles ­(laughter).

I especially thank more than 24 days’ solidarity fast by a Korean woman in Hawai’i. (Ishle Yi Park is a poet and caring mother.)

I deeply thank her to take a spiritual response as an artist, despite my shallow idea and practice. Since I have received undeserved love, I will strive more for the world of peace, human rights and love.

Otherwise, I thank two men, Reverend Kim Hong-Soul and Reverend  Kim Hee-Young for their solidarity fast from March 26 to 29. The two are my true friends and artists, and holly friends that I’ve met in the world of peace. I thank their friendship and will not disappoint them.

The peace of Jeju is the peace of Asia. It contributes for the peace of the world. The agenda of peace is the discourse of the world.

SUNDAY SONG