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.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Stupid Phones


Hung Parliament in London

Jeremy Corbyn arrives at the vote count in his Islington North constituency.

The Guardian this morning reports:

Jeremy Corbyn has defied the pundits and the pollsters to restore the Labour party as a serious electoral force and deliver a devastating blow to Theresa May’s political authority. But how?

This remarkable election saw a surge in both Conservative and Labour votes as the first-past-the-post system amplified the return of the two-party system after an absence of nearly 20 years.

 More than anything else it was a night in which Britain’s younger generation flexed their political muscles to real effect for the first time.

Despite their calamitous campaign, the Conservatives increased their share of the vote to 42% – up five points since 2015 – which in any other election in the past three decades would have been enough to build a commanding majority.

But Labour outperformed even that achievement as a unique alliance of enthused younger voters and previous non-voters combined with older austerity-hit, anti-establishment Ukippers to deliver a 10-point rise in Labour’s vote compared with two years ago, to 40%. This is just below the 41% secured by Tony Blair in his 2001 landslide victory.
Thus in order to stay in power the Conservative Tory party must find partners to form a clear majority.  It appears they will turn to a small conservative party from Northern Ireland that includes climate change deniers, is anti-abortion, anti-gay rights and more.  Again from the Guardian:

The Democratic Unionist leader and most recent first minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, says she wants to “bring stability to our nation” by backing Theresa May and the Conservatives to continue in power.

Foster said in Belfast on Friday afternoon that she was entering discussions with May over the details of any arrangement that would prop up a minority government.

Foster said the election in Northern Ireland, which saw 10 DUP MPs, including two new ones, elected to the Commons, was a “great result” for the union.

She confirmed that May had been in contact with her on Friday morning about gaining DUP support for a Tory administration.

Corbyn's Labour Party was down 20% in the polls when the election was called and everyone agreed that his campaign lit a fire that drew the final Labour vote within 2% of the Tory total.  Thus the Tories will have at most a slim and unsteady majority in Parliament which means that Corbyn's side of the aisle will be able to slow down many of the planned austerity measures by the conservatives.

With the surging youth vote it is quite conceivable that in the next election Labour could take power.

Jeremy Corbyn has long been a leader in the UK's peace movement.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Forgive Us, We Were Fools


To those born later

By Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956)

I.
Truly I live in dark times!
Frank speech is naïve. A smooth forehead
Suggests insensitivity. The man who laughs
Has simply not yet heard
The terrible news.

What kind of times are these, when
To talk about trees is almost a crime
Because it implies silence about so many horrors?
When the man over there calmly crossing the street
Is already perhaps beyond the reach of his friends
Who are in need?

It’s true that I still earn my daily bread
But, believe me, that’s only an accident. Nothing
I do gives me the right to eat my fill.
By chance I've been spared. (If my luck breaks, I'm lost.)

They say to me: Eat and drink! Be glad you have it!
But how can I eat and drink if I snatch what I eat
From the starving
And my glass of water belongs to someone dying of thirst?
And yet I eat and drink.

I would also like to be wise.
In the old books it says what wisdom is:
To shun the strife of the world and to live out
Your brief time without fear
Also to get along without violence
To return good for evil
Not to fulfill your desires but to forget them
Is accounted wise.
All this I cannot do.
Truly, I live in dark times.

II.
I came to the cities in a time of disorder
When hunger reigned.
I came among men in a time of revolt
And I rebelled with them.
So passed my time
Given to me on earth.

I ate my food between battles
I lay down to sleep among murderers
I practiced love carelessly
And I had little patience for nature’s beauty.
So passed my time
Given to me on earth.

All roads led into the mire in my time.
My tongue betrayed me to the butchers.
There was little I could do. But those in power
Sat safer without me: that was my hope.
So passed my time
Given to me on earth.

Our forces were slight. Our goal
Lay far in the distance
Clearly visible, though I myself
Was unlikely to reach it.
So passed my time
Given to me on earth.

III.
You who will emerge from the flood
In which we have gone under
Bring to mind
When you speak of our failings
Bring to mind also the dark times
That you have escaped.
Changing countries more often than our shoes,
We went through the class wars, despairing
When there was only injustice, no outrage.
And yet we realized:
Hatred, even of meanness
Contorts the features.
Anger, even against injustice
Makes the voice hoarse. O,
We who wanted to prepare the ground for friendship
Could not ourselves be friendly.
But you, when the time comes at last
When man is helper to man
Think of us
With forbearance.                                                                   
[1940] 

Liberals & the Return of Feudalism



Last weekend 1,000 Democrats rallied in Washington DC calling for investigation of Trump and Russian 'interference' in our last national election.  Across the country there was also a smattering of local protests including one in Portland, Maine that drew a couple hundred people.

Usually protests of this small size are totally ignored by the mainstream media but in this case they received major newspaper reporting across the nation and broad TV network coverage.

The video above gives us a hint to how many Democrats are picking up the 'talking points' about Russian collusion and hacking from mainstream sources like the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC.  But in reality when challenged these Democratic party partisans cannot effectively articulate any real evidence about these allegations because there has not yet been anything of substance revealed. 

The operative question should be what is behind these fabricated claims about Russian election interference?  Obviously one key thing that must be considered is that the Democrats, now out of power, need an agenda to rally the troops.  The Democrats don't do 'peace' anymore - in fact they stand in unity with the Republicans on the US imperial military empire with its more than 800 bases.  The Democrats, again like the Republicans, are in bed with the military industrial complex thus they are strongly in favor of cranking up a new Cold War with Russia and China in order to continue US global dominance.  The Dems don't really want to talk much about the growing economic disparity across the US - especially as we saw the cozy relationship between Wall Street and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

 At the start of the video we hear one of the rally organizers say that former Democrat congressional staffers put the protests together so it is quite clear that the 'movement' is really nothing more than a party platform to project their agenda.  I am certain that foundations closely linked to the Democrats (like the George Soros Open Society Foundations) are heavily funding these operations.  (You don't think the explosion of all those 'Pink Pussy' hats was organically organized do you?) They are using the party members as tools and have no serious interest in creating democracy, peace or real justice in America.  It is all about an internal fight between competing oligarchic interests. These rallies that were organized across the US last weekend were put together by local Democrat party apparatchiks.  The one in Portland was led by the Democratic party Attorney General in Maine - a woman who is a real piece of work.

The size of these events was shy of what organizers likely were hoping for - in spite of all the help they got in publicizing them from the corporate media.  It's becoming abundantly clear that legions of Democrats, and former Democrats, are not buying the line and are abandoning this corrupt corporate shell of a political party.  How activists of good will can remain inside this rotting corpse is a mystery to me.

Some people have drifted into third party formations like the Greens or the Libertarians.  Many working class former Dems voted for Trump because he at least spoke to the economic hardships they are facing.  (Even though his actual policies are now walking away from his economic promises.)

Sadly many people have given up on the political system.  It's actually hard to argue with their analysis that says Washington is a corrupt mess and that we can do virtually nothing to reform Congress. But in the end when people abandon political action they leave it to the lobbyists from Wall Street and the weapons industry.

Our only way out of this mess is to work outside the ossified corporate structures to build an independent movement across America that is linked with similar progressive forces around the world.  Capital has gone global and our movement building must do the same.  Only by rejecting the corporate dominated parties and working with people worldwide can we hope to deal with those who are determined to bring feudalism back.

Bruce

Live Love


National Antiwar & Social Justice Conference in Richmond, Virginia


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MEDIA CONTACT:  Phil Wilayto - Editor, The Virginia Defender; Coordinator, 2017 UNAC Conference   Ph: 804-247-3731 or DefendersFJE@hotmail.com

Hundreds of activists from around the United States and many other countries will gather in Richmond, Virginia, June 16-18 for a national conference: “Stop the Wars at Home & Abroad: Building a Movement Against War, Injustice & Repression!”

The conference, to be held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, is being hosted by the United National Antiwar Coalition, one of the largest progressive coalitions in the country. An all-volunteer organization, UNAC was founded in 2010 on two basic principles: opposition to all U.S. wars and interventions, and support for the right of all oppressed peoples to self-determination.

The conference will consist of three days of panels, workshops, discussions, a Saturday evening rally with cultural performances and a Sunday march to Richmond’s African Burial Ground to declare UNAC’s support for the Community Proposal for a nine-acre Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park.

As of June 6, more than 100 organizations will be represented, with more than 60 speakers, including:

  • Adeeb Abed, Founder & President, Arab American Association of Central Virginia

  • Ajamu Baraka, 2016 Vice Presidential Green Party candidate; Founder, Black Alliance for Peace

  • Brian Becker, Director, ANSWER Coalition

  • Medea Benjamin, Co-Founder, CODE PINK

  • Matyas Benyik, Chair, ATTAC-Hungary (Budapest, Hungary)

  • Maurice Carney, Executive Director, Friends of the Congo

  • Ana Edwards, Chair, Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project

  • Sara Flounders, Co-Coordinator, International Action Center

  • Glen Ford, Executive Editor, Black Agenda Report

  • Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space

  • Ewa Groszewska - Co-Organizer, Social Forum of Eastern Europe​ & Coop. Bet. East & South​ (Wroclaw, Poland)

  • Tamara Hansen, Mobilization Against War & Occupation (Vancouver, Canada)

  • Jaribu Hill, Executive Director, Mississippi Workers Center for Human Rights

  • Rebecca Wooden Keel, Southerners On New Ground (SONG) (Richmond, VA)

  • Margaret Kimberley, Editor & Senior Columnist, Black Agenda Report

  • Ray LaForest, Director, Haiti Support Network

  • Joe Lombardo, Co-Coordinator, United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC)

  • Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst; Co-Founder, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

  • Charo Mina-Rojas, Afro-Colombian activist with the Colombian Ethnic Commission for Peace (Colombia)

  • Prigarin Alexandr, Professor, Dept. of Archaeology & Ethnology of Ukraine, Odessa National University (Ukraine)

  • Adria Scharf, Director, Richmond Peace Education Center

  • Malcolm Suber, Take Em Down NOLA; New Orleans Workers Group

  • David Swanson, Co-Founder & Director, World Beyond War (Charlottesville, VA)

  • Clarence Thomas, International Longshore & Warehouse Union (Oakland, CA)

  • Carolina Velez, ICE Out of RVA (Richmond, VA)

  • Gail Walker, Executive Director, IFCO / Pastors for Peace

  • Whitney Whiting, A leading Community Activist in the campaign to stop the Atlantic Coastal Pipeline (Richmond, VA)

  • Phil Wilayto - Editor, The Virginia Defender (Richmond, VA)

  • Ann Wright, Ret. U.S. Army Colonel, former diplomat & now active member of CODE PINK and Veterans for Peace

  • Kevin Zeese, Director, Popular Resistance

  • And a Representative from Raise Up Fight for $15

Plus speakers are from many other countries, including Canada, Colombia, the Philippines, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine and Venezuela, as well as participants from Burundi, Nepal and Nigeria.

The admission fee for the conference is $35, or $15 for youth and low-income workers. Those with more means are encouraged to contribute more. People will be able to register at the conference, but space is limited, so those planning to attend are encouraged to register as soon as possible on the conference website: www.unacconference2017.org 

For more information: www.unacconference2017.org, Facebook: UNAC Conference 2017 or DefendersFJE@hotmail.com

United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC)
PO Box 123,  Delmar, NY 12054  

UNACpeace@gmail.com  
518-227-6947  
www.UNACpeace.org

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Songs are meant to be sung



Bob Dylan received the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".

Who Can We Trust?



  • I saw a person on Fazebook this morning post the question, "Who can we trust?"  Someone replied, "Trust no one."  I don't agree with that - I can't help but feel that the oligarchies would love for us to wander around the wilderness with a sense of disempowerment that comes from having no mooring and sense of trust.  But with that said we've all got to become much more discriminating about which media, politicians, organizations, and even friends that we put our faith in.  That can only be done by taking the time and energy to investigate and experience what is truly going on around us.  Sure, I understand that many say they can't stomach 'politics' - but how can one stomach the endless wars, corporate rule, environmental destruction and all the rest that comes with current oligarchic rule?  We look away at our own peril.
  • I drove south about 90 minutes to Biddeford last night to tape a public access TV show with Maine vegetable farmer friend Richard Rhames.  His show is called 'Out in Left Field' and we talked mostly about the current Russia 'controversy' and all that comes with it.  Richard is a modern version of the Renaissance man - he is smart as a whip, a several times elected Biddeford Town Councilman, a political radical, has one of the state's longest running public access TV shows, plays lead guitar in a local rock band and much more.  It's always fun to be on his show - he brings out the best in me.
  • I'm praying for a miracle in the UK this week.  A Jeremy Corbyn victory would shake up the global corporate system big time.  Come on UK......
  • I am sad to see legions of self-declared leftists buying into the Russia demonization program being run by the Democratic Party.  Each day it gets worse and my life experience is that when leaders and countries are continually demonized like this (Panama, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Libya, Syria....) war usually comes next.  One would hope that the people have figured out by now that the corporate criminal syndicate that controls much of the west has a modus operandi. 
  • As part of Trump's plan to sell more coal they appear to have found a willing new customer for the dirty stuff dug up in places like West Virginia.  The Ukrainian government has been at war with itself since 2014 and its coal mining region is mostly in the Donbass (eastern Ukraine) near the Russian border which is now being attacked by the US-NATO backed regime in Kiev.  So the announcement has just been made that Kiev will buy American coal.  Imagine the cost of shipping to Ukraine.  The folks running this puppet show are indeed crazy.
  • Afghanistan and Iraq war veteran Will Griffin and I will be doing a workshop together at the UNAC (United National Antiwar Coalition) national conference on June 16-18 in Richmond, Virginia.  The conference is called 'Building a Movement Against War, Injustice & Repression!'  Our workshop will be about the US pivot into the Asia-Pacific to encircle China and Russia.  I've traveled with Will to South Korea, Okinawa, India and Nepal on peace making trips.  He's quite a great up and coming activist.  It will be a pleasure to do the workshop with him. 
Bruce

Monday, June 05, 2017

Stone: "The CIA has always been a dicey operation"



After conducting hours of interviews with Vladimir Putin, film director Oliver Stone says the Russian leader is misunderstood by the West.

Movie Review: War Machine




Brad Pitt Does Stanley McChrystal: When Netflix’ War Movie Stops Being Funny

By David Swanson

The new movie, War Machine, on Netflix starring Brad Pitt begins as a hilarious and satisfying mockery of General Stanley McChrystal, circa 2009, as well as of militarism in general. Hilarious because of the deadpan sincere idiocy. Satisfying at least to those of us who have been screaming “What are you idiots doing?” for the past fifteen-and-a-half years.

Should we be glad that a Hollywood movie can still be made mocking the murderous malevolence of true believers in militarism, or should we be disturbed that theaters won’t show such movies and they have to end up on Netflix? Should we be glad that a war satire set in Afghanistan didn’t have to wait decades for a different war, in the manner of Mash, or should we be disturbed that most viewers will not know a current war is being mocked because they either believe the war on Afghanistan has ended or they simply can’t keep up with the proliferation of wars?

Regardless, I recommend making sure every movie-lover, Brad Pitt fan, young person, and old person watch this movie. Watch a sincere true-believing military commander and his sycophants consciously choose to win an unwinnable war, proposing straight-faced to work on protecting people while not killing them — or killing them less, or something.

The basic truth that people don’t want armed foreigners in their towns and would rather not be bombed is presented here in straightforward dialogue as well as comedic exchange. And Brad Pitt’s character, based on Stanley McChrystal, and on Michael Hastings’ account of McChrystal, is depicted as having turned himself into a human hammer, unable to see any problem as anything other than a nail — his ambition to “win” a war driving his blindness to the absolute unwinnability of foreign occupations or “counter-insurgency” or “counter-terrorism,” also known as terrorism.

The whole thing stops being funny three-quarters of the way into the movie, when the protests of troops that they cannot distinguish civilians from enemies becomes an actual demonstration of that inability. When we get to watch the General in charge articulate all of his usual platitudes and nonsensical pep-rally lies (even if lies to himself, still lies) to a man whose child has just been murdered by U.S. troops, the laughter is gone.

Even when we see a village leader ask the General to “please leave now,” there’s little satisfaction in this plea of the Afghan people for the past decade and a half finally making it into U.S. ears, because we know that the U.S. military will not ever listen.

We also know that this movie constitutes the extent of the punishment that the real Stanley McChrystal will ever receive for his crimes. There will be no trial, no legal judgment.

Speculation as to the cause of death of Michael Hastings continues, but speculation as to whether the individuals crashing the U.S. war machine into Afghanistan year after year have committed murder in a futile and criminal attempt to advance their personal interests should end. There is no doubt that they have done and are doing just that on a massive scale. They are, as this movie points out, and as no U.S. newspaper or television station dares to state, endangering the United States under the banner of slogans claiming they are defending and protecting it.

Here’s part of an open letter to President Donald Trump that anyone can sign here:

The United States is spending $4 million an hour on planes, drones, bombs, guns, and over-priced contractors in a country that needs food and agricultural equipment, much of which could be provided by U.S. businesses. Thus far, the United States has spent an outrageous $783 billion with virtually nothing to show for it except the death of thousands of U.S. soldiers , and the death, injury and displacement of millions of Afghans. The Afghanistan War has been and will continue to be, as long as it lasts, a steady source of scandalous stories of fraud and waste. Even as an investment in the U.S. economy this war has been a bust.

But the war has had a substantial impact on our security: it has endangered us. Before Faisal Shahzad tried to blow up a car in Times Square, he had tried to join the war against the United States in Afghanistan. In numerous other incidents, terrorists targeting the United States have stated their motives as including revenge for the U.S. war in Afghanistan, along with other U.S. wars in the region. There is no reason to imagine this will change.

In addition, Afghanistan is the one nation where the United States is engaged in major warfare with a country that is a member of the International Criminal Court. That body has now announced that it is investigating possible prosecutions for U.S. crimes in Afghanistan. Over the past 15 years, we have been treated to an almost routine repetition of scandals: hunting children from helicopters, blowing up hospitals with drones, urinating on corpses — all fueling anti-U.S. propaganda, all brutalizing and shaming the United States.

Ordering young American men and women into a kill-or-die mission that was accomplished 15 years ago is a lot to ask. Expecting them to believe in that mission is too much. That fact may help explain this one: the top killer of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is suicide. The second highest killer of American military is green on blue, or the Afghan youth who the U.S. is training are turning their weapons on their trainers! You yourself recognized this, saying: “Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghans we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.”

The withdrawal of U.S. troops would also be good for the Afghan people, as the presence of foreign soldiers has been an obstacle to peace talks. The Afghans themselves have to determine their future, and will only be able to do so once there is an end to foreign intervention.

We urge you to turn the page on this catastrophic military intervention. Bring all U.S. troops home from Afghanistan. Cease U.S. airstrikes and instead, for a fraction of the cost, help the Afghans with food, shelter, and agricultural equipment.

~ David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Come on UK - Make it Right!



The Labor Manifesto is right on - truth telling time.

Hope the folks in the UK can toss the Tories out on their arses!

The India We Don't Hear About


Sunday Song Bonus Track



Lila June Johnston, Dine (Navajo) and Tsetsehestahese (Cheyenne) activist musician at the Veterans For Peace rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on May 30.

Sunday Song