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.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tell General Dynamics no more corporate welfare


Policy Wonk: Enough is never enough for Bath Iron Works

By Orlando Delogu (The Forecaster, Maine)

Bath Iron Works wants another $60 million from Maine taxpayers. The Legislature’s answer should be no.

Not content with the roughly $20 million it secured in the early 1980s from the state and the city of Portland for a failed dry dock facility; the $198 million for plant renovation provided by the Legislature and the city of Bath in the late 1990s (portions of which are still being paid out to BIW), or the additional $3.7 million squeezed out of Bath in 2013, BIW now wants another $60 million from Maine’s taxpayers via LD 1781.

Let’s get some facts on the table. First, Maine is a relatively poor state. Recent data indicates that per capita income nationally is $46,000; per capita income in Maine is less than $41,000, or 33rd in the nation. The per-capita income in every other New England state is above the national average and well above income levels in Maine.

Second, the budgetary needs currently facing the state are huge. The legislative session now underway is charged with finding $50 million to $60 million to fund Medicaid health insurance expansion. Another $30 million to $50 million will almost certainly be needed to repay the federal government as a result of mismanagement at, and the decertification of, the Riverview Psychiatric Center. The state’s roads and bridges continue to be woefully underfunded, as is the state’s battle against the opioid crisis.

General Dynamics (the parent corporation of BIW) is the fifth-largest defense contractor in the world, and ranks 90th on the most recent list of Fortune 500 companies; from the late 1990s to the present it has climbed steadily from 375th on the Fortune list to its present position.

General Dynamics had $31.3 billion in revenues in 2016 (roughly four times the annual budget of the state of Maine) and earned just under $3 billion in profits (a 9.4 percent return on revenues). It pays its chief executive officer $21.2 million annually, and four others in corporate leadership earn a combined $21 million annually.

Finally, BIW is acknowledged to be one of the most profitable of the company’s divisions; it has a near  10-year backlog of work. General Dynamics is so profitable and generated so much cash on hand that from 2009-2016 it engaged in stock buy-backs totaling $12.9 billion. As of September 2017 it still had $2.7 billion in cash and short-term investments on hand.

That’s 27 times more money than the $100 million BIW is committed to invest in plant modernization over the next 20 years under the provisions of LD 1781 – two-thirds of which ($60 million) would be reimbursed by the taxpayers of Maine if this legislation is adopted.

This is corporate greed run wild. BIW and its parent company are awash in money; they do not need $60 million from Maine taxpayers. They can bear the cost of any and all plant modernizations they deem necessary from cash on hand. Their competitive position versus the Huntington-Ingalls Shipyard in Mississippi is not at risk in the least degree.

The argument that BIW needs another $60 million in corporate welfare to keep up with Ingalls is a sham, and has always been a sham. It is a ruse used by both corporations to extort state and local tax concessions from their respective hosts –concessions that fatten executive salaries, returns to shareholders, and the corporate bottom line.

These two corporations are big, powerful, and an important part of the nation’s defense strategy, but they are not equal. Ingalls’ 2016 revenues were less than a quarter of General Dynamic’s revenues, and it ranks 380th on the Fortune 500. Its 2016 profit margins are comparable, but General Dynamics’ is slightly higher. Theirs is a friendly competition to produce military vessels for a single buyer, the U.S. government.

This buyer divides its purchases almost evenly between both of these yards. It wants the best and builds-in adequate profit margins to get the best. For strategic reasons, the government needs the geographic separation that Ingalls and BIW provide. The Trump defense budget suggests that both of these yards will do well for many years to come.

In short, LD 1781 is not needed. BIW and General Dynamics should be embarrassed to put this measure forward; it is an unconscionable corporate overreach. Maine has far more pressing demands for scarce tax dollars. The Legislature should say no.

~ Orlando Delogu of Portland is emeritus professor of law at the University of Maine School of Law and a longtime public policy consultant to federal, state, and local government agencies and officials. He can be reached at orlandodelogu@maine.rr.com 

This is pure evil



This an absolutely ignorant and evil display of fascism - it sickens me.

I love baseball and to see the corporations that control the sport at the pro level allow the game to be used like this to sell war makes me furious.

The message to the public is clear.  We control everything now - including the ball and the pitchers mound. Be a good lackey and you will be fine.  But step out of line and our homegrown terrorists are ready to take you down.

Look what they did in Ferguson and many other places in this nations history like Wounded Knee and more recently at Standing Rock.

We are literally at the tipping point where we either push these evil powers back or they take full control.  That is where we are today.

Bruce

The big 10


See more at here

Monday, January 15, 2018

King: Radical redistribution of economic power


Reflections on national No U.S. Foreign Military Bases Conference


We are on the train from Baltimore heading back to Boston.  Then we hop on a bus to Portland where our car is parked for the final ride home to Bath.  It's a 12-hour journey.

The Conference Against US Foreign Military Bases this weekend at the University of Baltimore was one of the best I've ever attended.  The series of plenary panels were top of the mark and we all learned so much.

There will be videos available soon and I will post links to them.

The panel on the US-NATO Asia-Pacific Pivot which I moderated went very well and got excellent reviews.  It was the youngest panel during a weekend where we heard lots of concerns about not having enough young people present.  In fact I gave up my speaking slot so the 'youngster' Will Griffin from VFP could speak - so they made me moderator.  But this is how we attract more young folks - some of us gray hairs need to sit down and give up our seats to the lesser known but very talented up-and-coming activists.  This is the way they will get experience and recognition.

It was Dr. Manning Marable (renowned black history professor, social critic and author) who gave me my first invitation to speak at a national peace conference around 1982 at Fisk University in Nashville where he was then teaching.  I was 30 years old at the time and working in Orlando, Florida with a black neighborhood group that was struggling to save their downtown community from redevelopment and gentrification.  I had invited Marable to come to our annual meeting as keynote speaker and we became friends.  He then invited me to the conference he organized at Fisk and asked me to speak about the connections between militarism and attacks on social progress.

Marable's book How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America had a huge impact on me and cemented my thinking about the obvious and crucial links between militarism and growing poverty in the US and around the world.

In the late-1980's, once I was working for the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice, we invited Dr. Marble to come back to Central Florida to speak at our annual peace conference and it was there that I first heard anyone talk about the coming demographic changes in the US that would make people of color the majority population.  Marable accurately predicted that some day soon the corporate oligarchies that run America would move to create 'candidates of color' that they controlled. Thus the rise of Obama and now talk of Oprah Winfrey as possible Democratic Party candidate for president in 2020 indicate Marable's correct analysis.

The conference speakers in Baltimore repeatedly touched on these same themes of military expansion  and capitalism's never ending heartless drive to destroy programs of social uplift as Dr. King called them.  Capitalism exists to maximize profit, control and power.  Mr. Big cares nothing about the 'great unwashed' and only sees the public as tools to be used and discarded toward their goal of corporate domination.

Those who hope for and work for peace should recognize that the rich and powerful use war as a blunt instrument of profit and control.  Thus simply calling for 'peace' is not enough - we must also demand the complete restructuring of society away from a culture that worships $$$$ to one that values all lives and sees our sacred connection to nature.

I am so glad that MB and I went to Baltimore.  The next step will be to take this conference to an international setting in order to further build a unified anti-base, anti-war movement that links hands around the world.  Only by working together can we hope to stop global capital's insatiable appetite for control of our planetary resources and the people who live on this beautiful tiny fragile orb.

Bruce

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Coverage of No Bases Confab in Okinawa


Okinawa newspaper runs photos from No Bases Conference in Baltimore.....great event. One of best conferences I have ever been to. Fellow Mainer Ridgely Fuller told me it was one of two best she has ever been to - I'd agree. One tremendous panel of speakers after the other.

More later.

Bruce

Maine State Rep. Calls Peace Activists ‘Trigger Happy’


By Alex Nunes

In November of last year, Maine peace activists began contacting state Rep. Jennifer DeChant (D-Bath) and Sen. Eloise Vitelli (D-Arrowsic) to voice their opposition to a proposed $60-million tax deal being considered on behalf of General Dynamics subsidiary Bath Iron Works.


“As your constituent, I urge you to reject any tax breaks for General Dynamics,” Mary Beth Sullivan, of Bath, wrote in a Nov. 30 email to Vitelli, cosponsor of the tax bill made available online for the first time last week. “General Dynamics spent $9.4-billion buying back its own stocks between 2013-2016…General Dynamics, like most weapons corporations, gets the vast majority of its operating funds from the federal treasury. The taxpayers are paying the freight from the start.

“Before General Dynamics gets any more state taxpayer dollars it should be required to begin a transition process to build commuter rail systems, tidal power and offshore wind turbines to help us deal with our real problem – global warming.”

The message was among several emails disclosed by Vitelli in response to a Maine Freedom of Access Act request filed by a reporter last month with the intent of gaining greater insight into the development of the Bath Iron Works tax bill. A similar notice was sent to DeChant, who acknowledged its receipt but has yet to provide the requested documents.

After hearing from Sullivan, Vitelli forwarded her constituent’s email to DeChant, accompanied by the message: “Jennifer, Are you getting these?”

“Yep,” DeChant emailed back. “I am responding ‘Thank you for your feedback.'”

Vitelli replied, “Good idea. Do you know what spurred this action?”

“Likely they saw the bill title,” DeChant wrote. “They are trigger happy over corporate greed. Interestingly I share those concerns too. They are among the people demonstrating against war machines of BIW/GD. that is where we differ [typo in original text]. Better to have discussion early to keep communication clean as possible.”

In response to an email seeking comment on this story, DeChant erroneously insisted she did not make the comment.

“I did not say that,” DeChant wrote, “Perhaps you should ask Senator Vitelli. That is not my phrase.”

When pressed and provided a screen grab of the correspondence provided by Senate Democratic Office Chief of Staff Darek Grant, DeChant replied, “Oh. I apologize. I did not understand your question. I meant that people were responding to the bill had not even been released yet.”

In a separate follow up email, she said, “I apologize if that phrase was a poor choice of description. I continue to work with opponents. I understand that this is a passionate issue for people.”

trigger happy

When reached by email, two peace activists said they found DeChant’s use of the term “trigger happy” striking. Both characterized DeChant as a representative who willfully prioritizes the demands of a wealthy corporation over the concerns of Maine taxpayers.

Activist and educator Lisa Savage, who has contacted DeChant via email and has since been blocked from following the representative on Twitter, suggested the pejorative label was ironic.

“My online dictionary defines this phrase as ‘ready to react violently, especially by shooting, on the slightest provocation,'” Savage said. “Since protesters at BIW have for decades maintained a strictly nonviolent approach in opposition to building weapons of mass destruction, the phrase is particularly inapt.”

She added, “Rep. DeChant is a confused neoliberal who can’t quite understand if she’s against corporate greed (as she claims)” or not.

Bruce Gagnon, an activist with Veterans For Peace, appeared taken aback by DeChant’s characterization:

“‘Trigger happy’ for doing what I learned in high school civics class — participating in our nation’s public affairs — democracy,” Gagnon said. “Were Democrats in Maine ‘trigger happy’ when they occupied Sen. Susan Collins offices in Portland and Bangor opposing Trump’s huge federal tax cut for corporations? Now Democrats are sponsoring a corporate welfare bill for mega-corporation General Dynamics. Double standard? I’m confused.”

Since stating publicly her intent to extend a $60-million tax giveaway, originally enacted in 1997, that would allow Bath Iron Works to annually keep up to $3-million of employee income taxes for 20 years, DeChant has had an increasingly strained relationship with opponents of the bill.

Tensions escalated in late December when DeChant prohibited video recording of a meeting at Bath City Hall with constituents opposing the deal. The incident was made public in a Dec. 28 article in the Times Record of Brunswick. DeChant has apologized for blocking a videographer, calling her reaction a “mistake.”

Fallout from the meeting is well documented in the emails turned over by Vitelli.

“My response is that it was a mistake,” DeChant said in an email response to Savage she cc’d Vitelli on. “It was a misunderstanding. Human error. I thought it was meeting for 4 people who I did not know invited the camera [typos in original text]…Not sure what else I can do but apologize and make sure the situation doesn’t happen again.”

The email disclosures show DeChant and Vitelli both use private Gmail accounts to conduct official business. One email sent from Vitelli’s official legislative account contains language notifying recipients that her messages “may become a matter of public record as indicated in the Maine Freedom of Access Act.”

Vitelli also provided one email exchange from an @main.edu address dated prior to her winning back her District 23 seat in November 2016. Based on her correspondence, Vitelli’s email contact with officials at Bath Iron Works appears limited but congenial.

“Thank you again for your time and for providing [Sen.] Brownie [Carson (D-Harpswell)] and me with such a thorough background on BIW,” Vitelli wrote in a July 2016 email to Bath Iron Works General Counsel Jon Fitzgerald sent from her @maine.edu account.

She continued, “The shipyard has been a presence in my life for the 40 years I have lived in Arrowsic and as indicated I was lucky to have a tour as part of Leadership Maine back a few years. Our conversation with you has given me a much deeper understanding and appreciation of BIW as a business, an employer and an economic driver of our local and state economy. I look forward to future conversations about several of the issues we touched on.”

Carson followed up with Fitzgerald later that day: “Have a great summer, and see you later in the fall. Of course, we need to have success in this election cycle first–so lots of work between now and then.

“Best regards, Brownie.”

Sunday Song




Saturday, January 13, 2018

Rally in Baltimore starts No Bases confab


Yesterday we gathered from 3:00-5:00 pm at a busy intersection in downtown Baltimore for a protest event to kick-off the No Bases Conference being held this weekend at the University of Baltimore.

You can watch live streaming from the event by clicking here

Dems help push spy bill thru Congress



Here are the Democrats who voted to give Trump more warrantless spying powers:


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Close U.S. Overseas Military Bases

At a newly refurbished base to house US Marines in Darwin, Australia a few years ago

Mary Beth and I are on the train from Boston to Baltimore to attend this weekend's national Conference on US Foreign Bases.  I was on the planning committee for the event and will be chairing one of the plenary panels entitled Asia-Pacific/Pivot to Asia on Saturday afternoon.  The full conference schedule is available here

The conference sold out about a week ago but an overflow room has been secured where folks can watch the proceedings at a cheaper rate.  The entire conference will also be live streamed so you can watch from home by using this link.

This will be an important event for the national and international peace movement.  We've been needing to build greater unity for years between various groups across the US and around the world.  We've also needed badly to connect the dots about US military intervention and occupation showing how the more than 800 Pentagon bases around the world are used as the global fist of corporate capitalism.  Mr. Big wants to run the world - wants to control all the resources around the globe - and US bases are the primary instrument to implement that strategy.

In my organizing I've long tried to highlight these deadly connections.  I've worked to connect the dots between my home town (Bath, Maine) and the warships built there and how they impact places they are sent such as the new Navy base on Jeju Island, South Korea.  When we do civil non-violent resistance at destroyer 'christenings' at Bath Iron Works (BIW) we are trying to get the local citizenry and the Navy crews to also begin to see these connections.

In a related note we finished our Aegis 9 jury selection last Tuesday and go to trial on February 1-2 at the Sagadahoc County Courthouse (corner of High & Centre Street) in Bath at 9:00 am.  The public is welcome to attend any part of the trial.  Three of the nine arrested at BIW on April 1, 2017 are repeat offenders and the prosecutor is asking for jail time for us (Jason Rawn, Russell Wray and myself).

The Pentagon is chewing up the national treasury of the US making it virtually impossible to have money for any social programs across the land.  Until we deal with the voracious appetite of the military industrial complex I am afraid that our very severe domestic collapse will only accelerate.  Thus closing overseas US bases and converting military production factories at home to sustainable production is a must.

Bruce