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.

Monday, November 20, 2017

BIW parent company in poor house - Needs Maine state welfare check

General Dynamics (which own Bath Iron Works - BIW) is embarking on a statewide public relations campaign to ask the state legislature in Maine for a $60 million tax break over the next 20 years for their Navy shipbuilding operation in Bath.

They claim that in order to stay competitive they must have the state financial support - what I'd call corporate welfare.

Already over many years General Dynamics has received $197 million in state and local tax breaks for BIW.  In 2013 BIW asked for another $6 million tax break from the City of Bath.  I worked with a small committee that organized a local campaign to oppose the tax cut and in the end a very reluctant city council voted to cut the request in half giving General Dynamics/BIW $3 million. That meant that citizen intervention saved the community $3 million that could be used for other local needs like salaries for firemen, police, and for fixing crumbling infrastructure.

Now they dare to come around to an already financially strapped state of Maine with their corporate silver cup in hand asking for another $60 million. 

On top of this I recently discovered an article in the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal entitled Defense firms spend big on lucrative stock buybacks.  The article reports (as shown in the photo above) General Dynamics spent $9.4 billion buying back its own stocks during 2013-2016.

In the article William Lazonick, an economist at UMASS-Lowell and an expert on stock buybacks says, "I think, as taxpayers, we're being taken for fools.  At a minimum, I would have a rule saying, 'You're not getting any subsidies if you're doing buybacks.  You're showing us you don't need the money.' "

The article also suggests that buybacks are bad for workers and average shareholders because the real beneficiaries are savvy traders who can time their sales and corporate brass with pay packages linked to stock performance and earnings per share.

In fact the top CEO at General Dynamics, Phebe Novakovic, last year made $21 million ($5 million of which was bonuses). It was Novakovic who accelerated General Dynamics stock repurchases since taking over the corporation in 2013 - so her bonuses are likely due to these fiscal shell games.

Novakovic netted $49 million in take-home pay in her first four years as General Dynamics CEO, with an annual average 43% of her total compensation coming by way of stock-based pay.  So essentially this whole thing is a scam to bleed the taxpayers.

What is most disgusting is how they play one state against another saying that if they don't get more tax breaks in Maine then they can't maintain their operations because a similar shipyard in Mississippi gets tax breaks from their state.  So the poor in Maine are pitted against the poor in Mississippi and all the politicians - Republican and Democrat alike - get on their knees and give these thieving corporate pirates everything they want.

Of course some of the politicians get a kick-back too in campaign donations for having played the Wall Street game.  It's sick.

General Dynamics, like most weapons corporations, get the vast majority of their operating funds from the federal treasury.  The taxpayers are paying the freight from the start.  But then the military industrial complex adds another twist – a strategy to extract even more profit from the taxpayers by going to the states and even to small cities like Bath demanding additional tax breaks.

We all should demand that our state legislators oppose this corporate welfare giveaway. Before General Dynamics gets anymore state taxpayer dollars they 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.

We have the right, and the responsibility, to speak out and demand this nonsense stops now.  We are handing a collapsing nation, facing the ravages of global warming, to our children and grandchildren.  The least we can do is call upon on state legislators to go to Augusta and say no to General Dynamics. Enough is enough.

Let General Dynamics take back some of the extravagant pay increases and bonuses from their top executives before they come poor mouthing to our already financially barren state treasury.


Stop Navy Attacks on Sea Life

In 2013, the Navy EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) for sonar testing and military training stated that the Navy would be permitted to harm whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals nearly 9.6 million times while conducting high-intensity sonar exercises and underwater detonations over a span of open ocean surrounding Hawaii greater in area than the continental U.S.

Then, in 2015, Earthjustice sued and got the Navy to agree to refrain from such testing in very sensitive areas of Hawaiian waters.

But now, the current proposal under discussion is that in 2018, the Navy would be allowed to resume practice of this mid-frequency active sonar and explosives in these sensitive areas around the Hawaiian islands and along the southeast Atlantic Coast of the US (Florida-Georgia coast) which happens to be the prime breeding ground of the North Atlantic Right Whale - one of the most endangered whales of all.

In your comments you can pick the 'No Action Alternative' – Under this alternative, the Navy would not conduct proposed training and testing activities, and a permit under the Marine Mammal Protection Act would not be issued.

Please send in your comments before the deadline of December 12! Instructions to do so are here:


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Song

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Throw it all away.....

Friday, November 17, 2017

Living in the midst of imperial collapse

  • After two buses (from Brunswick to Portland and Portland to Boston) I am now in Boston South Station waiting for Amtrak train to New Haven.  I speak tomorrow at a peace conference that will be held at Middlesex Community College in Middletown, Connecticut.  Looking forward to being there with everyone.  Peace organizing in Connecticut has a long and strong tradition. 
  • I selected this photo above because it depicts so well all that is wrong with the US these days.  Our addiction to fossil fuels, denial of climate change (that largely is a result of this addiction), endless war to control oil and natural gas around the world, and the mounting drug addiction of the American people as they face moral and spiritual neglect by the corporate oligarchies that run the country. 
  • To illustrate that point just yesterday the House of Representatives in Washington voted for a colossal tax cut for the top 1%.  This tax cut, and increases in taxes for the working class, will widen the national debt and put the few remaining social programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in further danger of being impaled in order to give the rich even more profits.  It's a clear sign of a decaying empire in the final stages of collapse.  People are very dispirited right now as they have come to understand that our 'democracy' has been drowned under the backwash of corporate money.
  • At the same time our local newspaper in Bath yesterday reported that the Bath Iron Works (BIW owned by General Dynamics) is demanding the state give another massive tax break to the shipyard over the next 20 years.  This is how the weapons corporations rig the system (don't forget they already get hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to build the weapons).  Our local 'liberal' Democrat state representative is writing the bill which will pass near unanimously at the capital in Augusta.  More corporate welfare for sure.  Not even a hint of any thought to require BIW to move toward building sustainable technologies as a condition for those funds.  Our state legislators are supplicants before the imperial war crown.
  • Another thing driving me nuts is Washington demanding that RT sign up as a foreign agent.  Since when does a foreign news agency have to be treated with such disrespect and censorship in the US?  In reality this has all come about as the Democrats try to mask their own electoral failures by blaming Russia for damn near every problem in the universe!  No other foreign media outlet working in the US has been subjected to such barbarism.  I heard that the Russian Duma (parliament) has passed a bill to require that US media should have to similarly register in their country.  Why not?  My mom used to say, "What is good for the goose is good for the gander."
  • One more item on censorship.  Fazebook is still blocking my post links to this blog when I put them on my profile there.  I'm hearing alot from other activists who are having their posts on FB blocked.  So the other day a friend suggested I look at a new alternative social media site called MeWe.  I did and have set up two pages there - one for me and one called Keep Space for Peace.  I figure our days are numbered at FB as Zuckerberg has joined the 'deep state'. I might as well get started creating new opportunities to share information without restrictions.  Check out MeWe here

RT: One of Best Media Outlets Today