Coordinator Report - California
30 January 2002
From January 14-27 I toured California (north to south) visiting 11 cities. The trip was coordinated by Global Network (GN) board member Sally Light from our affiliate group, Nevada Desert Experience.
During the visit I met with people in Berkeley, Santa Clara, Stockton, San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Orange County, Santa Monica, and Ventura.
I was able to speak on several college campuses: Santa Clara University, New College (San Francisco), Cal Poly, and Cal Tech. At Cal Tech, which has a strong relationship with NASA's Jet Propulsion Labs (JPL), my talk was attended by students and scientists from the university. In fact, one was Dr. Stephen Edberg who was assigned to track and debate us during our 1997 campaign to Cancel Cassini, the space probe that carried 72 pounds of plutonium into space. I made sure during this talk to remind the scientists that the public was becoming aware of the military control of the "civilian" space program. I warned them that as the public becomes more aware of this relationship, that support for NASA will dwindle and that scientists must "decouple" themselves from the military by speaking out against the nuclearization and weaponization of space. They were not particularly thrilled by my remarks that suggested the time had come for an international debate about the ethics of space science and technology.
Two TV, five radio, and two newspaper interviews were arranged for me while on the trip, including one on KPFK, the embattled Pacifica station in Los Angeles. Following my largest talk of the trip in Santa Monica, ably organized by Randy Ziglar and Chris Gutierrez, I was interviewed by a Swedish journalist working for the equivalent of their NPR week-end edition.
This trip provided me with the opportunity to promote the GN's May 10-12 International Space Organizing Conference & Protest that will be held in Berkeley this year. I was able to do planning with Sally Light, who will be our host coordinator, and to directly invite hundreds of people to attend. While at Santa Clara University, Sally and I got commitments from many students who plan to attend our May 10 kick-off protest at Lockheed Martin's Sunnyvale aerospace test facility that today is working on lasers for Star Wars.
At each stop people inquired about my probation status as a result of being found guilty at the December 6, 2001 civil disobedience trial in Los Angeles. At this point I am still not sure if my travel will be restricted during my two year probationary period. But I worry that as the L.A. probation people turn me over to the more conservative Florida federal probation process, the Florida folks will make good on their threat to "protect me from further trouble" by restricting my right to travel. Lawyers are now attempting to get clarification from the court about my future status.
At the end of my trip I flew back to Berkeley, at the invitation of Dr. Helen Caldicott who was speaking in that city on January 25. Over 500 people turned out to hear her speak and during her remarks she asked me to stand and praised the efforts of the GN to prevent a new arms race in space. She held up our latest newsletter and urged people to pick one up before going home. Following the talk the audience took all the literature off our table and bought up all remaining Karl Grossman books and bumperstickers that I had with me. Many expressed great interest in attending our May 10-12 events in Berkeley. It was a wonderful opportunity to reach many people, a great finale to my tour.
Over the next two days Helen held a meeting in nearby Walnut Creek to discuss her plans to create a new think tank to promote progressive voices in the media -- challenging the current supremacy of right-wing groups like the corporate funded Heritage Foundation. She brought together several key activists from around the country to advise her on the formation of the Institute for Common Sense in the Nuclear Age. I was honored to be invited and involved in the discussions.
As I reflect on this very successful western trip two things remain large in my mind. One is the growing Eron scandal which shows signs of weakening the hard-crusted Bush administration. The second is Bush's recent call for $48 billion in 2003 for the Pentagon, on top of an already obscene military budget in the face of mounting national deficits. It is crucial that all of us step up our work in the coming months to stand against Bush and his budget busting plans. We must speak out for education, health care, social security, the environment, and a positive future for the children.
Thanks to all those who helped make my California trip such a great one.