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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

'That's the Challenge'

In early July Roy Pingel and his son visited our house here in Bath.  Artist and housemate Brown Lethem lived in New York City for many years and often gets visitors from the city.  This summer has been pure joy as we've seen a poet, author, painter and friends visit Brown from New York.

I'd never met Roy Pingel before but he was very interested in talking and I showed him and his son the short video about our April 1 arrests at BIW during a destroyer 'christening' ceremony.  I handed him one of the Global Network newspapers and he promised to stay in touch.

A week or two later I received a letter in the mail with a donation from Roy.  But most importantly, and exciting for me, was to see his words describing his clear understanding about the need for 'defense' conversion.  I'd like to share his good thoughts on the subject.  We need more folks to be talking about (and demanding) conversion of the war machine.

A very good friend of ours has also mentioned to me your work and interest around the retooling, converting, weapons industries into production that supports and improves life, not destroying it, and ultimately creates more jobs.

'Retooling America for Peace' (hey, maybe that can be used as a slogan for a campaign for industrial conversion, maybe it already is) stimulates a lot of interest but the conversion process to a peacetime economy - how does that start and move forward without major labor dislocation, especially at the initial stages?  How to confront the massive counter reaction by 'defense' contractors and financial elites, causes abundant fear, hesitancy, resistance, among labor leaders, workers and, of course, the politicians?  I guess that's the challenge, how to increasingly win over more of a US populace to Retooling America for Peace when much of the people seem disengaged from the reality that their country is an empire unmatched in history.

Good luck in your trial and all your work for demilitarizing space!

Roy Pingel

My only real response to Roy would be thanks for the great letter and thanks for seeing this big picture that is not adequately being addressed by the peace and environmental movements, the media, Congress nor the so-called 'Democratic Party' which says it is for peace and prosperity for the workers.  They ain't....

So folks that really understand this issue need to put our heads together and organize more discussion and action - everywhere.  The other necessary message, which is getting more play, is the devastating carbon bootprint of the Pentagon and its endless wars.  Climate change is worsened by the ever cancerous US military empire that impacts the environment and cultures of people in places like Guam, Jeju Island, Philippines, Australia, and Okinawa.

Thus we need conversion, and conversion campaigners, to be organizing particularly in communities where manifestations of the military production system are located.  We've got to keep looking for local people who will help us connect to labor unions that represent the workers at these production sites.

It would be helpful if labor would recall the words of William Wimpisinger (1924-1997) the 11th International President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.  During the early 1980's 'Wimpy' (as he was called) became a national leader in the united effort by his union and the peace movement to promote conversion.  In a speech at a conference in 1980 Wimpy spoke in favor of disarmament saying economic conversion of the weapons industry was key to economic stability in the US.  He maintained that weapons production is a capital intensive industry that doesn't do much in creating additional jobs. Instead it causes inflation and unemployment.  You can hear Wimpy's talk here

Most 'defense' workers just want a decent job with healthcare.  They'd be happy with conversion to building commuter rail, solar, wind, and tidal power systems. If we actually went that direction we'd also not have to go to war for oil.

That would make the local workers happy too because in the end it is often the case that their children are the ones dying in US wars for the oil corporations. 

Build it and they will come.


Monday, July 24, 2017

To Serve the Present Age

Late Sunday afternoon Mary Beth and I drove with Regis Tremblay about 15 miles from our house to Reid State Park for a picnic along the ocean.  This beautiful place happens to be a sacred spot for Regis who began coming here as an eight-year old Catholic alter boy when his Waterville, Maine parish would sponsor annual trips for the kids and their parents.

I met Regis some years back at a protest event and immediately saw strong similarities between him and my step-dad who my mom married when I was about three years old.  My step-father Wes was from Rumford, in western Maine, and was the son of a paper mill worker.  Wes was wild and independent minded and joined the Air Force in order to escape Rumford and we spent our life moving around the world to various Air Force bases.

Regis is friendly, smart, direct, and does not suffer fools lightly.  It's been quite amazing to watch him travel to South Korea and make the excellent documentary called Ghosts of Jeju and then follow that up with his new truth telling film called Thirty Seconds to Midnight.  In between these films he's traveled the world and made many shorter videos on various subjects including the one from Odessa, Ukraine when we both went there for the May 2, 2016 event to stand with the mothers of those massacred by the Nazis two years before at the Trades Union Hall.

He's got quite an amazing back catalog - see it here.

Here is Regis standing in front of the spot where as a kid he and other alter boys would catch crabs under the bridge.  He says it has not changed one bit in the last 60 years.

MB and I always love to go to this state park either to walk along the beach or sit upon the rocks where we can lose ourselves as the waves crash up against the shore line. So when Regis invited us to join him in a picnic at his favorite spot we jumped at the chance.

We brought along our little propane grill to do some cooking and ate way more than we should have but enjoyed every moment.  We always have very stimulating conversations when the three of us get together about politics, sports, people, the 'movement' (or lack of one), our personal futures and the futures for our own children.  Like most parents these days we worry about how our kids will fare in this world as we all face climate change and the growing economic divide between the rich and the poor.  We struggle with the question what more should we each be doing?

Being around nature helps us keep things in perspective as we know that humans are just one of many life forms on this beautiful planet and certainly not the most important.  But we agree that humans have to take responsibility for the mess we've made here on Mother Earth and we are frustrated that people are not more engaged in pushing for fundamental and needed change.  We have lots of theories why people don't do more to help but have fewer ideas how to get them to wake up and act.

Regis is working on some exciting upcoming travel and film projects while MB and I lately have been doing alot to help friends who have lost love ones.  MB is a social worker with a homeless agency in Portland (now just working three days a week) but her four days off are nearly always spent doing volunteer social work in our local community with various folks who are in need of a caring and devoted listener, companion and helper.

My vegetable gardening keeps me occupied when I am not on the computer doing organizing work or traveling.  I love nothing more than playing with my tomato plants and trying to get stubborn pole beans to climb their appointed paths.

In the end we each agreed last evening that we are lucky to live in this beautiful part of Maine and to have found the good work we are each doing. 

Years ago while working in Florida I used to organize an annual peace retreat at a camp that had a slogan painted on the wall that read 'To serve the present age'. I'd say that in the end each of the three of us are doing our best to remain faithful to that sacred calling.


Hear the Forbidden Story

Just had lunch with New York City friends artist Anne Gibbons and her husband Ivan who've been on vacation in Maine during the past week.

We frequently use Anne's cartoons (syndicated as Six Chix) in our Space Alert newspaper.  Much of our conversation was about this whole 'Russia election hack' being run by the Democrats.  It's good to know someone else who is not buying this dead fish story.

Comedian and activist Jimmy Dore does a nice job sinking this big lie in this short video.

It's all about distraction and mind manipulation to keep the public away from the real stories of endless war and complete destruction of social progress in America by both corrupt political parties.

Think good cop-bad cop or professional wrestling.  Think of a magician - you've got to watch both hands.

In the old days there was a saying in the former Soviet Union that people had to learn to read the Pravda newspaper upside down.  I'd strongly recommend that people today need to learn how to read the New York Times or Washington Post upside down - or watch CNN or MSNBC with the sound turned off.

During lunch we asked each other this question:  Why do so many liberals buy this BS recycled red-baiting story from the Democrats?

Our conclusion:  Most liberals are 'educated and comfortably middle class' and they don't really want to confront the corrupt corporate oligarchies that run this country and much of the world.  It would cause them to fall out of favor in their middle class social circles.  So comfort and social standing trump the god awful truth of our current moment....


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Song

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Why Does Seoul Ban Another Korean-American Trying to Come Home?

ACTION ALERT: Email South Korean President Moon Jae-in to lift the ban on Korean-American peace activist Juyeon Rhee from entering the country

Juyeon Rhee, a member of the Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea’s (STIK) peace delegation to South Korea was blocked from boarding a Delta Airlines flight today on her way to South Korea.

At approximately 9:00 AM at the LaGuardia Airport in New York City, Rhee, the STIK peace delegation coordinator, was told by Delta Airlines that she could not board the plane. Last year, Rhee was blocked from entering South Korea by the previous right-wing administration of recently impeached and jailed Park Geun-hye. With the newly elected Moon Jae-in in office, Rhee and members of the peace delegation expected her ban to have been lifted.

Rhee said in response to being blocked from boarding the plane to South Korea:

This is how Korea's division impacts overseas Koreans. I was wrongly labeled as a 'threat to national security' by the previous Park Geun-hye administration with no explanation. The burden is now on me to prove that I pose no harm to South Korean society. I refuse to accept that as a democratic and fair process. The ban was wrongly imposed on me without any warning or explanation.

The STIK task force is calling for a rapid response by way of sending an email to current President Moon Jae-in to demand the ban on Korean American peace activist Juyeon Rhee be lifted immediately. 

Below is a sample email to the South Korean President and the Blue House composed by STIK. Feel free to modify according to your own views.

Send to:

In Subject Line put – Lift the Entry Ban on Juyeon Rhee Immediately

Sample Text

President Moon Jae-in
Blue House
Seoul, ROK

Re: Lift the Entry Ban on Juyeon Rhee Immediately

Dear President Moon Jae-in:

I am writing to strongly protest the ban imposed this morning on Ms Juyeon Rhee today at LaGuardia Airport, New York, preventing her from boarding her Delta flight to Incheon. The ban was imposed by South Korean officials. Juyeon Rhee is the coordinator for the Stop THAAD in Korea (STIK) peace delegation visiting your country and hosted by the National People’s Action to Stop the Deployment of THAAD in South Korea (NPA). The STIK delegation includes prominent peace activists Jill Stein, 2016 U.S. presidential candidate for the Green Party, USA, Medea Benjamin, founder of CODEPINK, Reece Chenault, National Coordinator for U.S. Labor Against the War, and Will Griffin, Veterans for Peace and STIK.

The delegation arrives with the endorsement of more than 80 U.S. and international organizations and 270 individuals including such widely respected peace advocates as Professor Noam Chomsky, author and social critic, Daniel Ellsberg, Women for Genuine Security member, Gwyn Kirk, Academy Award-winning director, Oliver Stone, religious scholar and public intellectual, Cornel West, and former U.S. State Department official and Army colonel, Ann Wright.

I am deeply troubled by the actions of your authorities to prevent Juyeon Rhee from entering your country especially in view of the welcome promise of your administration to seek peaceful and negotiated settlements to longstanding conflicts and to recommit the nation to open dialogue and respect for democratic processes. Ms Rhee has demonstrated a life-long commitment to the desire of all Koreans for a peaceful resolution to decades of conflict and to U.S. policies that respect the sovereignty of the Korean people and value equally the human needs of all Americans.

In the spirit of the candlelight revolution I urge you to fulfill your pledge to eradicate problems left over from the previous administration, champion democratic rights including freedom of expression without fear of reprisal, and immediately lift the travel ban imposed on Juyeon Rhee by the previous administration.


Please be sure to include your affiliation with your signature and your email address, if possible.

Afghans Don't Know Why U.S. is at War with Them

And neither do most of the American GI's deployed in Afghanistan.....

Friday, July 21, 2017

Guest on My Own Show

The latest edition of This Issue features Maine high school teacher and activist Lisa Savage who turns the table and interviews me about US foreign policy.

Lisa is the founder and coordinator of the Maine Natural Guard and lives in Solon with her husband Mark Roman.  Lisa and Mark were arrested last April 1 while doing civil disobedience at Bath Iron Works during a ‘christening’ ceremony of another Navy Aegis destroyer.

This Issue has been on public access TV in Maine since December 2003 and is produced by Eric Herter.  Camera work for this edition of This Issue was done by Peter Woodruff while Dan Ellis worked in the control booth.

This Issue runs on Brunswick, Bath, Harpswell, Portland, Phippsburg, Freeport, Madison, Skowhegan, Anson, North Anson, Solon, Belfast, South Portland, New Castle, and Biddeford public access cable TV at random times.  Check local listings. 

Space Alert! Newsletter Now Available Online

We've got our Space Alert! newsletter up on our web site now for public viewing.  You can find it here

If you’d like to help us distribute printed copies please let us know how many you want and we will mail them to you – all we ask is that your reimburse us for postage once they arrive at your door.  Just call us at 207-443-9502 or drop us a line at