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, September 28, 2013

IRANIANS SPEAK TO AMERICA




COUPLE OF RADIO INTERVIEWS

  • Here are links to a couple recent radio spots I was involved in.  The first was my talk, along with Shenna Bellows who just left the Maine ACLU after 10 years of great work, at the University of Maine-Orono.  We were invited to speak about drones and organizing against drone surveillance and weaponized drone testing in Maine.  In particular I spent alot of time talking about our upcoming Maine Drone Peace Walk.  WERU radio is a great alternative station north of where I live that covers many progressive issues.  Amy Browne from the station recorded our talk at the university and you can listen to it here
  • Several nights ago I was invited on Voice of Russia radio by John Robles.  He's had me on before and attempts to keep in touch with what we are doing in the Global Network.  This particular interview he broke into three parts and you can listen to each segment here

Friday, September 27, 2013

MORALES: OBAMA SHOULD BE PUT ON TRIAL



RT reports:

In his dramatic speech in New York, Bolivian President Evo Morales called for the UN to be moved out of the US and for Barack Obama to be tried for crimes against humanity. Speaking to RT, Morales explained his controversial proposals.

In his most controversial demand, Morales said that Obama should face an international trial with human rights watchdogs among the judges. The Bolivian president accused his US counterpart of instigating conflicts in the Middle East to make the region more volatile and to increase the US's grip on the natural resources it abounds in. He gave Libya as an example of a country where "they arranged for the president to be killed, and they usurped Libya's oil."

"Now they are funding the rebels that fight against presidents who don't support capitalism or imperialism," Morales told Eva Golinger of RT's Spanish sister channel, Actualidad. "And where a coup d'état is impossible, they seek to divide the people in order to weaken the nation -- a provocation designed to trigger an intervention by peacekeeping forces, NATO, the UN Security Council. But the intervention itself is meant to get hold of oil resources and gain geopolitical control, rather than enforce respect for human rights."

The US also operates in the same imperialist way outside the Middle East, Morales argued. At the General Assembly Obama said that the US "is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure these core interests" in the Middle East. Among the core interests, he mentioned "the free flow of energy from the region to the world." Morales said that Obama's statement should make any country possessing natural resources worried.

"I think that statement poses a threat to all countries that have energy sources, especially gas and oil," Morales said. "But mostly those countries that sell gas and oil to the US. It is a direct threat. I am planning to meet with President Maduro and analyze the issue. I understand that this is a direct threat to Venezuela, because in order to secure his country's energy needs, Obama can invade any country."

Washington's relations with Latin America deteriorated this summer, following the grounding of Evo Morales's plane in Vienna. President Morales was on his way home from Moscow when several EU countries closed their airspace to his jet, on the suspicion that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden -- wanted in the US on espionage charges -- was on board. Bolivia laid the blame for the plane's grounding on the US.

Relations with the US were further aggravated after Latin American countries learned they were being extensively spied upon by the NSA.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff devoted her UN General Assembly speech to condemning the US surveillance, calling NSA practices a "breach of international law."

And Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro skipped his appearance at the UN altogether, citing plans for "provocations" against him.

Maduro's decision to break his UN General Assembly appointment came after Venezuela's foreign minister, Elias Jaua, told the media that the US had denied a plane carrying President Maduro entrance into its airspace. The plane was on the way to China and Washington later allowed it to pass, arguing that the delay was caused by an improperly-filed overflight request from Venezuela.

Morales said he did not believe the incident was coincidental, but was indicative of the US's discrimination against Latin American diplomats.

"I talked about this with the media before, after Bolivian Vice President Álvaro García Linera was not allowed on board an American Airlines flight to the US. Other Bolivian ministers had to go through a similar ordeal; they were also asked to take off their jackets and shoes. This is what happened to ministers, the official representatives of their country. I got a US visa allowing me to stay for six to seven days, which is the short period of time absolutely necessary for me to participate in the General Assembly session. Blackmail over visas, violations of the ministers' rights, air piracy -- all of that raises security concerns."

RENOWNED JOURNALIST: 'THE REPUBLIC'S IN TROUBLE, WE LIE ABOUT EVERYTHING'

Seymour Hersh on Obama, NSA and the 'pathetic' American media

Pulitzer Prize winner explains how to fix journalism, saying press should 'fire 90% of editors and promote ones you can't control'

The Guardian (UK)

Seymour Hersh has got some extreme ideas on how to fix journalism – close down the news bureaus of NBC and ABC, sack 90% of editors in publishing and get back to the fundamental job of journalists which, he says, is to be an outsider.

It doesn't take much to fire up Hersh, the investigative journalist who has been the nemesis of US presidents since the 1960s and who was once described by the Republican party as "the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist".

He is angry about the timidity of journalists in America, their failure to challenge the White House and be an unpopular messenger of truth.

Don't even get him started on the New York Times which, he says, spends "so much more time carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would" – or the death of Osama bin Laden. "Nothing's been done about that story, it's one big lie, not one word of it is true," he says of the dramatic US Navy Seals raid in 2011.

Hersh is writing a book about national security and has devoted a chapter to the bin Laden killing. He says a recent report put out by an "independent" Pakistani commission about life in the Abottabad compound in which Bin Laden was holed up would not stand up to scrutiny. "The Pakistanis put out a report, don't get me going on it. Let's put it this way, it was done with considerable American input. It's a bullshit report," he says hinting of revelations to come in his book.

The Obama administration lies systematically, he claims, yet none of the leviathans of American media, the TV networks or big print titles, challenge him.

"It's pathetic, they are more than obsequious, they are afraid to pick on this guy [Obama]," he declares in an interview with the Guardian.

"It used to be when you were in a situation when something very dramatic happened, the president and the minions around the president had control of the narrative, you would pretty much know they would do the best they could to tell the story straight. Now that doesn't happen any more. Now they take advantage of something like that and they work out how to re-elect the president.

He isn't even sure if the recent revelations about the depth and breadth of surveillance by the National Security Agency will have a lasting effect.

Snowden changed the debate on surveillance

He is certain that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden "changed the whole nature of the debate" about surveillance. Hersh says he and other journalists had written about surveillance, but Snowden was significant because he provided documentary evidence – although he is sceptical about whether the revelations will change the US government's policy.

"Duncan Campbell [the British investigative journalist who broke the Zircon cover-up story], James Bamford [US journalist] and Julian Assange and me and the New Yorker, we've all written the notion there's constant surveillance, but he [Snowden] produced a document and that changed the whole nature of the debate, it's real now," Hersh says.

"Editors love documents. Chicken-shit editors who wouldn't touch stories like that, they love documents, so he changed the whole ball game," he adds, before qualifying his remarks.

"But I don't know if it's going to mean anything in the long [run] because the polls I see in America – the president can still say to voters 'al-Qaida, al-Qaida' and the public will vote two to one for this kind of surveillance, which is so idiotic," he says.

Holding court to a packed audience at City University in London's summer school on investigative journalism, 76-year-old Hersh is on full throttle, a whirlwind of amazing stories of how journalism used to be; how he exposed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, how he got the Abu Ghraib pictures of American soldiers brutalising Iraqi prisoners, and what he thinks of Edward Snowden.

Hope of redemption

Despite his concern about the timidity of journalism he believes the trade still offers hope of redemption.

"I have this sort of heuristic view that journalism, we possibly offer hope because the world is clearly run by total nincompoops more than ever … Not that journalism is always wonderful, it's not, but at least we offer some way out, some integrity."

His story of how he uncovered the My Lai atrocity is one of old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism and doggedness. Back in 1969, he got a tip about a 26-year-old platoon leader, William Calley, who had been charged by the army with alleged mass murder.

Instead of picking up the phone to a press officer, he got into his car and started looking for him in the army camp of Fort Benning in Georgia, where he heard he had been detained. From door to door he searched the vast compound, sometimes blagging his way, marching up to the reception, slamming his fist on the table and shouting: "Sergeant, I want Calley out now."

Eventually his efforts paid off with his first story appearing in the St Louis Post-Despatch, which was then syndicated across America and eventually earned him the Pulitzer Prize. "I did five stories. I charged $100 for the first, by the end the [New York] Times were paying $5,000."

He was hired by the New York Times to follow up the Watergate scandal and ended up hounding Nixon over Cambodia. Almost 30 years later, Hersh made global headlines all over again with his exposure of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Put in the hours

For students of journalism his message is put the miles and the hours in. He knew about Abu Ghraib five months before he could write about it, having been tipped off by a senior Iraqi army officer who risked his own life by coming out of Baghdad to Damascus to tell him how prisoners had been writing to their families asking them to come and kill them because they had been "despoiled".

"I went five months looking for a document, because without a document, there's nothing there, it doesn't go anywhere."

Hersh returns to US president Barack Obama. He has said before that the confidence of the US press to challenge the US government collapsed post 9/11, but he is adamant that Obama is worse than Bush.

"Do you think Obama's been judged by any rational standards? Has Guantanamo closed? Is a war over? Is anyone paying any attention to Iraq? Is he seriously talking about going into Syria? We are not doing so well in the 80 wars we are in right now, what the hell does he want to go into another one for. What's going on [with journalists]?" he asks.

He says investigative journalism in the US is being killed by the crisis of confidence, lack of resources and a misguided notion of what the job entails.

"Too much of it seems to me is looking for prizes. It's journalism looking for the Pulitzer Prize," he adds. "It's a packaged journalism, so you pick a target like – I don't mean to diminish because anyone who does it works hard – but are railway crossings safe and stuff like that, that's a serious issue but there are other issues too.

"Like killing people, how does [Obama] get away with the drone programme, why aren't we doing more? How does he justify it? What's the intelligence? Why don't we find out how good or bad this policy is? Why do newspapers constantly cite the two or three groups that monitor drone killings. Why don't we do our own work?

"Our job is to find out ourselves, our job is not just to say – here's a debate' our job is to go beyond the debate and find out who's right and who's wrong about issues. That doesn't happen enough. It costs money, it costs time, it jeopardises, it raises risks. There are some people – the New York Times still has investigative journalists but they do much more of carrying water for the president than I ever thought they would … it's like you don't dare be an outsider any more."

He says in some ways President George Bush's administration was easier to write about. "The Bush era, I felt it was much easier to be critical than it is [of] Obama. Much more difficult in the Obama era," he said.

Asked what the solution is Hersh warms to his theme that most editors are pusillanimous and should be fired.

"I'll tell you the solution, get rid of 90% of the editors that now exist and start promoting editors that you can't control," he says. I saw it in the New York Times, I see people who get promoted are the ones on the desk who are more amenable to the publisher and what the senior editors want and the trouble makers don't get promoted. Start promoting better people who look you in the eye and say 'I don't care what you say'.

Nor does he understand why the Washington Post held back on the Snowden files until it learned the Guardian was about to publish.

If Hersh was in charge of US Media Inc, his scorched earth policy wouldn't stop with newspapers.

"I would close down the news bureaus of the networks and let's start all over, tabula rasa. The majors, NBCs, ABCs, they won't like this – just do something different, do something that gets people mad at you, that's what we're supposed to be doing," he says.

Hersh is currently on a break from reporting, working on a book which undoubtedly will make for uncomfortable reading for both Bush and Obama.

"The republic's in trouble, we lie about everything, lying has become the staple." And he implores journalists to do something about it.

SHOCKING NEWS


We learned this morning that our newest Global Network board member Luis Gutiérrez-Esparza from Mexico City has unexpectedly passed away.  This is sad and shocking news for us.

Luis had been on our email list for several years and came to our Sweden space conference last June.  His humble and open personality quickly endeared him to many of us.  We enjoyed his quick wit and were thrilled to have him agree to join our board of advisers - our first board member from Latin America.

Luis was a journalist and an academic and as soon as he got back to Mexico he wrote an article for a newspaper about our conference.  Since our board members are spread around the world we mostly communicate via email and he was always one of the first to respond to any board matters.

I learned this tragic news from GN board convener Dave Webb in England.  He wrote in part, "It's a great shock. I saw him not so long ago in Sarajevo and he seemed fine. We spent quite a bit of time together."

We become family very quickly in the activist world - our work, our meetings, and our lives are intense.  When we make new friends we hold them close to our hearts.  This loss will be hard to handle.  Luis was a good man and was becoming a good friend to many of us.

We send our love and best wishes to his grieving family and friends in Mexico.

GREENLAND URANIUM MINING


  • I received an email this morning from Greenland. Kuupik Kleist, the premier of Greenland from 2009 - 2013, wrote to ask for Global Network support as people there struggle to stop uranium mining on their lands.  Kleist attended and spoke at our Global Network space conference in 2002 that was held in Leeds, England.  Unfortunately there is not yet much information about all of this available in English.  Activists in Greenland have started a Facebook page called "Naamik qujaannarpunga".  Kleist writes:
"I wanted to draw your attention to a movement against lifting Greenland's zero tolerance towards excavation and export of uranium in Greenland. The government will present a bill for the Parliament on lifting the 0-tolerance in few days, October 8. The company holding the license to the project which potentially could be one of the largest uranium mines (open pitch) in the world is Australian - 'Greenland Minerals and Energy' (GME) - a subsidiary of another larger company. Their license is actually not for uranium but for Rare Earth Elements (REE) - but the deposit in question is a mix of both REE's and Uranium. The company now claims that it will not be feasible to go only for the REE's if they do not get a permit for including the uranium, as a bi-product. But we do suspect that uranium will be the main product over time."
  • Our efforts here in Bath, Maine to oppose more tax breaks (corporate welfare) for General Dynamics continue to blossom.  Because I am so busy working on the Maine Drone Peace Walk others in the community have picked up the effort and are doing tremendous outreach across the community.  I might have previously mentioned this but it is worth saying again, we recently learned from a city worker that the Bath City Council was hearing "overwhelming" opposition from city residents to any further tax breaks for General Dynamics.  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

DOG EAT DOG CULTURE



Watch this woman steal a baseball from a little girl.  It's the perfect example of the mindless greedy me-first culture we live in.  Not a thought that she'd taken away some little girl's great pleasure of getting a foul ball at the game.  Then she goes and high-fives (something I don't like doing under any circumstance) as if she'd done something real spectacular.

Fortunately the announcers had enough heart to send a ball down to the little girl.  But surely this girl learned an important lesson about the way things are in America.  Take what you want even if you have to run over a little girl.  That's American "exceptionalism" in a nut shell. 

It should also be noted that this game was played in Houston, Texas. Enough said.......

LATEST SHOW



Interview with Leonard Yannielli from Vinalhaven, Maine.  He was real easy to interview, very smart and quite eloquent.  A real nice man.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

OBAMA'S DECLARATION OF IMPERIALISM



In an address to the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama openly embraced an aggressive military doctrine backed by previous administrations on using armed force beyond the international norm of self-defense.

Obama told the world that the US is prepared to use its military to defend what he called "our core interests" in the Middle East: U.S. access to oil.

"[Obama] basically came out and said the U.S. is an imperialist nation and we’re going to do whatever we need to do to conquer areas [and] take resources from people around the world," says independent journalist Jeremy Scahill. "It’s a really naked declaration of imperialism ... When we look back at Obama’s legacy, this is going to have been a very significant period in U.S. history where the ideals of very radical right-wing forces were solidified. President Obama has been a forceful, fierce defender of empire."

KATHY KELLY TO JOIN MAINE DRONE PEACE WALK



Veteran peace activist Kathy Kelly (Voices for Creative Nonviolence) will join the Maine Drone Peace Walk for our last two important events.

On Friday, Oct 18 the walk will reach the state capital in Augusta and hold a 3:00 pm closing ceremony inside the Hall of Flags.  This permitted event will give us the chance to bring our message of "no unwarranted drone surveillance" and "no weaponized drone testing" directly to the state house and the office of Gov. LePage.  Kathy Kelly will be among the speakers at this closing.  The public is invited to join us. 

Then on Saturday, Oct 19 we will meet at the Addams-Melman House (212 Centre St) in Bath at 9:30 am and walk together as a group to BIW for our protest at the "christening" ceremony of the new Zumwalt "stealth" destroyer.  The protest will be from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and the police have agreed to block off a street for us to use as a rally site just across from the public entrance to the BIW ceremony.  We'll gather on the corner of Washington & Hinckley Streets.  Kathy Kelly will also speak at this event as will national Veterans for Peace activist Tarak Kauff and others.

You can see a Raytheon promo video about the Zumwalt destroyer just above. These new destroyers are going to cost about $4 billion each.  Previous versions of Navy destroyers were costing $1.5 billion each.

For details about the daily schedule of the entire Maine Drone Peace Walk please click here

If you are planning to walk for only a day please feel free to meet us at the morning start spot listed on the above schedule.  We'll help you shuttle your car.

If you plan to spend one or more nights with the walk please let us know ASAP so that we can inform our local hosts who are arranging local home hospitality for walkers.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

DIGGING IN THE DIRT


  • I brought in wood this morning and filled up the racks near our two wood stoves.  The weather is turning here, getting colder at night, and time to prepare for the change.
  • I also started digging up one of our potato beds - rough on the back - but very satisfying to find big and small taters beneath the black dirt.  Had to take a break and will do more later today and tomorrow.  Need to run to Brunswick and drop off the DVD's from my latest TV show to the station there and check the mail.  My Italian scooter, had it about three months now, is proving to be good for those short trips.
  • Getting more calls about the drone peace walk, as we get closer more people are making the decision to participate.  Years ago in Florida I always had folks register in advance for a walk but here in Maine have not done so.  It's one less task to have to keep track of but does limit my ability to make people have to decide on paper what they intend to do.  It does help planning when you know how many folks are going to join in.  Six of one, a half-dozen of the other.
  • Wednesday night is our weekly radio show called Truth Radio Underground Experience (TRUE), with co-host Peter Woodruff, on WBOR at Bowdoin College in Brunswick.  We do two-hours of political music and commentary from 6-8 pm (EST).  Usually when a new semester begins we get moved to another time slot but this one we got to keep our regular show time.  Helps build an audience when you have some predictability.  It's always a nice experience to get away from the computer and listen to some good music.  Peter does a great job finding new songs and commentaries for us to play.

GREAT ACTION IN DC



This is a video of activists working in the coalition FlushTheTPP.org dropping multiple banners from the US Trade Representatives Building in Washington, DC to protest the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  The groups sought to expose the secret negotiations that have been ongoing throughout the five years of the Obama administration and mobilize people concerned about workers, the environment, banking, food, water, Internet freedom and other issues to take action to oppose the TPP.  The TPP will give large transnational corporations absolute power over our lives and make them more powerful than governments.

Monday, September 23, 2013

RESIST THE DRONES



On September 19th the Congressional Drone Caucus had a joint party and exhibit with the drone lobby AUVSI. Horrified by the smug relationship between our elected officials and the merchants of robotic death, CODEPINK decided to remind party goers about all the innocent people killed by their drones.

Learn how you can resist drones and the war machine at the 2013 CODEPINK Drone Summit- more info can be found here

MAINE DRONE PEACE WALK UPDATE

Nipponzan Myohoji monk Br. Senji Kaneda from Bainbridge Island, Washington will lead our Maine Drone Peace Walk on October 10-19
Buddhist nun Jun-san Yasuda

  • I talked with Jun-san Yasuda this morning about our upcoming Maine Drone Peace Walk.  She told me that it is confirmed that Nipponzan Myohoji monk Br. Senji Kaneda (from Bainbridge Island, Washington) will be joining us for the walk.  I walked for two days with Kaneda-shonin some years ago on their annual Hiroshima-Nagasaki peace walk out in the northwest.  So we are thrilled that he will be leading our walk.  It appears that a large delegation of Japanese will be coming as well - likely around eight or so.  It's going to be special.  The Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist order does peace walks and builds peace pagodas all over the world.
  • I also spoke this morning to our hosts in Presque Isle, way up in northern Maine where we will stay on our second night of the walk.  They vigil weekly on a bridge in their community - about four of them.  So this small, isolated and determined peace group is quite happy about having an infusion of peaceniks in their otherwise conservative part of the state.
  • Yesterday I worked at the Veterans for Peace (VFP) table at the Common Ground Country Fair for several hours.  VFP had a booth for the whole three-day fair and I was lucky to get our banner for the walk made in time to hang it over our tables.  It was reported that 27,000 people came to the fair just on Saturday so alot of eyes during the course of the weekend read the words "Maine Drone Peace Walk" as they passed by.  While there yesterday our Maine Attorney General Janet Mills (Democrat) came up to the table with a friend and I tried to hand her a flyer about the walk.  She declined to take it.  During our effort last spring, along with the Maine ACLU, to get a bill passed in the state legislature that would require police to have a warrant before they could do surveillance with a drone it was Mills who tried to kill they bill.  It was from her that we learned about the Presque Isle airport wanting to put a "weaponized drone test bed" up in Aroostook County.  Mills claimed that drones could become "an economic driver" in the state and that nothing should be done to inhibit that from happening.  That's why we decided to start our drone walk up in that very rural and isolated area of Maine.
  • I'm having alot of fun organizing the walk.  I am getting to do some statewide work which is my greatest joy because you can often see more immediate results from your efforts.  I also love the logistical parts of organizing a walk.  I guess this must make the 7th walk I've organized, the 3rd here in Maine and while working for the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice I put together four of them.  Each time I say "this will be my last one" but they are magical experiences.  There are always rich stories to tell about people we meet and extraordinary moments of kindness that they bring to us on these walks.  I am very excited.

NEW TWIST IN TRAYVON CASE

Sunday, September 22, 2013

SUNDAY SONG