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.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Korean people want peace



Singing 'Imagine' by John Lennon

Pence displays U.S. arrogance at Olympics



Many years ago I went to an international peace conference in Athens, Greece.  I met a Greek journalist who told me the story behind the founding of the Olympics.

At that time Greece was full of city-states which were all walled off from one other in a constant state of war.  So they came up with the idea of the Olympics and each year which ever city-state won the most athletic events had to return home and tear down their walls.  It was created as a disarmament policy.

Pence and Trump are violating the spirit of the Olympics by using the event to justify more military weapon walls on the Korean peninsula.

The Korean people are obviously trying to create peace and remove the divisions amongst their peoples that the US has played a huge role in creating.

Leave the Korean people alone and let them have unity and peace!

Bruce

Where is our Solidarity?



General Dynamics is asking the Maine legislature for $60 million in corporate welfare. It’s top CEO made $21 million last year and they have so much cash on hand that between 2009-2017 GD bought back $14.4 billion of their own stocks driving up market share.

There are now 43,000 kids living in poverty in Maine. There is no money to fix pot hole filled roads and our bridges are deemed ‘deficient’ by DOT. Thousands in Maine have no health care. In rural Maine hospitals, schools and factories are closing. What could Maine do with $60 million that GD does not really need? 

I learned about solidarity as a union organizer with the United Farm Workers Union. In the spirit of solidarity with those in need across Maine I will be doing an open-ended hunger strike starting February 12 to try to stop LD 1781 in Augusta. I will stand in front of BIW at noon and 3:30 pm each work day during the hunger strike with a sign and hand out flyers to the workers.

Bruce K. Gagnon
Bath
(207) 443-9502

Friday, February 09, 2018

Maine Taxation Committee Work Session reveals General Dynamics control of state


Rep. Jennifer DeChant (D-Bath), along with a coterie of other Democrat legislators and BIW executives, appeared before the Taxation Committee today with her ‘amendments’ to LD 1781 – the bill to give General Dynamics $60 million in corporate welfare over the next 20 years.

Earlier in the day I had received an email from a fellow Bath resident that had originated from Rep. DeChant in response to my friend’s request that she not vote in favor of the controversial bill.  In the email DeChant told my friend: “I will recommend changing the amount for half in half the time and require review (of data collected) before renewing it again.”

Rep. DeChant’s amendments called for ‘improvements in BIW reporting’ on how they spend the proposed funds from the state.  During the previous $200 million tax credit that BIW/GD got back in 1997 there was no reporting by the company on how they spent the funds or how many workers were hired.

The committee had some questions like the one from Rep. Denise Teplar (D-Topsham) who asked, “What is the state’s interest in providing a 90% tax credit in years when jobs are reduced?”

The best exchanges of the day though were between BIW V-P John Fitzgerald and a couple committee members.

Rep. Ryan Tipping (D-Bangor) asked, “Is this credit going to make a difference?  Is there a smaller amount the state can invest? Can we audit BIW’s books?”

Fitzgerald responded to Rep. Tipping, “It would be a challenge to answer that question.  What would you ask the auditor to find?”

Sen. Justin Chenette (D-Saco) then asked, “I’m not understanding why the investment of $60 million can’t come from your parent company?  In order for me to make decisions I need a commitment from you [BIW] to disclose the profits of the company.”

Fitzgerald responded emphatically:  “The answer is no.”

At one point during the meeting Fitzgerald cried out, “For us to be punished because our owner has capital seems unjust!”

DeChant’s amendment to “changing the amount for half in half the time” is actually no more than a legislative smoke and mirrors gambit.  In the end the amendment calls for BIW to spend $100 million per year in ‘qualified investments’ and if done, then after the first 10 years the second round of $30 million more in corporate subsidies would automatically kick-in for the next 10 years.  So in the end GD would still get their $60 million.

In the amended bill ‘qualified investments’ is defined as virtually any cost that BIW has except for salaries or other compensation paid to employees.  So all other expenses on Aegis destroyers that cost $1.5 billion each and Zumwalt destroyers that cost between $4-7 billion each would count toward the required annual BIW investment of $100 million per year.  Easy as pie – no tough nut to crack there.

Recognizing that BIW is currently building two Zumwalt and four Aegis destroyers with at least 1-2 being ‘christened’ per year there is virtually no way in the world that BIW/GD would not meet those meager criteria to qualify for state support.  Under questioning Fitzgerald admitted that currently GD is bidding on 10 more destroyers and anticipates likely getting half of those contracts from the Navy.

Training of a new generation of BIW workers is still GD’s key talking point to sell the bill even though their Navy contracts include funds for all their costs – including training and reimbursement for their taxes to the state of Maine.

Currently BIW is receiving an $81 million property-tax break from the City of Bath that runs out in 2022.  In addition BIW got another $3.7 million from Bath in 2013.

Fitzgerald reluctantly admitted that BIW/GD also receive an unknown about of money via Maine’s Pine Tree Development Zone program.  The Press Herald reported late last year that “BIW is a participant in the Pine Tree Zone program and believes it has been an important incentive for businesses to locate in Maine or stay here while continuing to invest in operations that provide jobs and economic activity,” Fitzgerald wrote.  The amount that any individual company benefits from the program is usually not disclosed under state laws that protect the confidentiality of tax returns and shield proprietary information from competitors.

In the end the Taxation Committee tabled LD 1781 but it appears that most members of the committee are prepared to support the bill once all the new amendments are fully added and understood by those on the committee.

It is ever more clear to me that GD not only runs Bath but also runs the State of Maine – as any colonizer controls the land and people where they have set up operations.

It will be up to the people of Maine to wrest back control of its own state treasury from this mega-corporation that bought back $12.9 billion of its own stocks between 2009-2016.

We’ll let you know when the next Taxation Committee Work Session will be held.  Despite what some might want you to think this show ain’t yet over.

Bruce

Thursday, February 08, 2018

The battle to keep a peaceful Guam....



Thanks to Ann Wright and Will Griffin for putting this all together.  Guam is left out of the discussion far too often when people are considering starting WW III in the Asia-Pacific.

The occupation and environmental devastation in Guam must end.  Americans must begin to take some responsibility for their nation's empire.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Living in a state of war



  • During the past year I've been getting monthly recorded phone calls from a company doing political surveys.  The last call was asking if North Korea is a threat to the US.  This morning they called back and reported that over 400,000 people responded to the North Korea question and 55% of responders felt that North Korea was a threat and only 5% did not think they were a threat to the US.  I was one of the 5%.  The question for this time was 'Are we going to have more celebrity presidential candidates in the future - like Oprah Winfrey?'   I voted I don't know.  America is such a friggin mess.

  • President Trump’s vision of soldiers marching and tanks rolling down the streets of Washington DC is moving closer to reality in the Pentagon and White House, where officials say they have begun to plan a grand military parade later this year showcasing the might of America’s military. “The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France,” said a Pentagon official. It's going to be very expensive but is all part of the overall plan to make sure that the public accepts our new role in the world which is 'security export'.  We won't make shoes, TVs, cars, clothes, steel or much else anymore but we will make weapons and endless war on behalf of resource extraction corporations.  

  • We've had very spotty coverage in the Maine media about our Aegis 9 trial dismissal last week.  No real surprise.  One local weekly newspaper has posted a story about the judge's dismissal and actually got the facts right.  I was asked to send some comments for the article and I am pleasantly surprised that they picked the strongest words from my statement for their article in the Coastal Journal.  They printed: “The obvious take away for us is the enormous power that General Dynamics has over the City of Bath and the State of Maine,” said Bruce Gagnon, one of the Aegis 9 and member of Veterans for Peace. The group is also protesting a proposed $60 million in tax credits being offered General Dynamics by the State of Maine. You can read the entire article here.
  • Video above produced by Regis Tremblay who wanted to do something to help get the word out more about GD's $60 million grab from Mainers.   In the video I said GD is 'selling' back their own stocks - I should have said 'buying' back their own stocks driving up their market value.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Latest Space Alert newsletter now online


You can read our latest Space Alert newsletter by clicking on this link. 
 
 
 ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis is talking about using nuclear weapons and pledging to win a war in space.  This is a dangerous moment. Hang onto your hat and get organized! 

The sorrows of empire


Chalmers Ashby Johnson (August 6, 1931 – November 20, 2010) was an American author and professor emeritus of the University of California, San Diego. He served in the Korean War, was a consultant for the CIA from 1967 to 1973, and chaired the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California, Berkeley from 1967 to 1972. He was also president and co-founder with Steven Clemons of the Japan Policy Research Institute (now based at the University of San Francisco), an organization promoting public education about Japan and Asia.

He wrote numerous books including, most recently, three examinations of the consequences of American Empire: Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. A former cold warrior, his fears for the US changed:

    "A nation can be one or the other, a democracy or an imperialist, but it can’t be both. If it sticks to imperialism, it will, like the old Roman Republic, on which so much of our system was modeled, lose its democracy to a domestic dictatorship."

Monday, February 05, 2018

Divide and conquer



Enviro group joins NO $60 million campaign


Resource for contacting your personal local legislators: http://legislature.maine.gov/house/townlist.htm

Sunday, February 04, 2018

See the full story here.....


On news stands in MidCoast Maine now!


This monthly arts and cultural magazine out of Portland hit the news stands yesterday in Bath.  Be sure to get a copy.  The online version can be read here.

This cover story is an example of exceptional journalism and we congratulate author Chris Busby.

Sunday Song