Monday, March 19, 2018

The Struggle Against Corporate Goverment Receives Little Attention In Mainstream Press

This is a photo from our weekly bridge vigil. This month marked the 15th year of coming to the bridge with my husband; we met there protesting the impending Shock and Awe attacks on Iraq. Seven U.S. troops died there just last week when their helicopter went down near the border with Syria.

Fifteen years in and we're still bleeding money and actual blood, as are the unfortunate targets of all our many missiles and bullets.

A hardy core of us keep coming back to the bridge bring the anti-war message to roughly 1,000 people driving by each Sunday. That, and it keeps our own heads from exploding.

Abby and Fang changed up their signs recently producing REGIME CHANGE 4 AMERICA on the one hand and the message visible in my sunglasses on the other: KLEPTOCRACY IS GOVERNMENT OF THIEVES. Because I was walking backwards in front of Abby and another friend, they noticed the reflection of Ab's sign. You can see her hand and her phone above the sign as she photographs it.

Aegis 9 protesters about to be arrested for alleged criminal trespass, a charge for which we were acquitted.

Yet another example of the government of, by, and for corporations came to light this week when the police chief in the town where General Dynamics operates its Bath Iron Works shipyard refused to share information with a journalist. The Freedom of Access request filed by Alex Nunes sought to know what communications pass between the police and the corporate managers around security for warship "christenings" where protesters gather. 

According to Nunes, Bath PD Chief Michael Field wrote, 
“The document relating to the planning and communications between the Bath Police Department and the Bath Iron Works were related to security planning and procedures and risk assessment. As such, these are not public records and are exempted under the provisions of 1 M.R.S. Section 402(3)(L).” 
According to text of the Freedom of Access law posted online by the Maine Legislature, the exemption cited by Field allows police to block the release of 
“Records describing security plans, security procedures or risk assessments prepared specifically for the purpose of preventing or preparing for acts of terrorism, but only to the extent that release of information contained in the record could reasonably be expected to jeopardize the physical safety of government personnel or the public.”

Not surprisingly, Chief Fields has not responded to Nunes' request for clarification of the claim that non-violent protests at the shipyard constitute terrorism.

video of Justice Billings' ruling at conclusion of the Aegis 9 trial

Justice Dan Billings ruled that Bath Iron Works had "outsourced" its security to the Bath Police Department at our trial in February for criminal trespass as the Aegis 9. He also granted the motion for acquittal of those charges and chided the police for following BIW's orders to arrest us. "That's not how it's supposed to work," he said.

I guess Justice Billings has not gotten the memo about our government under corporate influence. Or, more likely, he is committed to the idea of an independent judiciary. 

General Dynamics had profits in the billions last year based on Pentagon contracts funded by the tax-paying public. Its subsidiary Bath Iron Works receives tax breaks from both the city of Bath and the state of Maine, and is also quite profitable.

Now, there is a gigantic fight on to block legislation to grant Bath Iron Works another $45 million in state tax giveaways over the next 15 years.

Their original ask of $60 million has been reduced by 25% in the face of huge opposition from ordinary people in Maine who are worried about hungry children, crumbling bridges and other proper recipients of public funding.

A press conference at the Maine State House last week drew only a handful of mainstream news reporters. Channel 8 was among the few who showed up to interview Bruce Gagnon who has been on a hunger strike against LD1781 that has now lasted more than a month. No one has been able to find the coverage archived on Channel 8's website, but activist Bob Klotz did manage to get this screen grab when the segment aired:

Why aren't more Maine news outlets interested in reporting on opposition to the corporate welfare bill?

Why did none of them investigate the development that BIW's largest union, S6, split 50/50 in the vote on whether to endorse LD1781 (a bill being sold as benefiting workers by providing jobs)?

Why haven't any news outlets in Maine pursue the very interesting story of multiple layers of taxpayer support for every project at Bath Iron Works, including arresting peaceful protesters who object to building weapons of mass destruction?

In a kleptocracy, who does the for-profit press works for?

Luckily, citizen journalists like Martha Spiess, Regis Tremblay, Brian Leonard, and Alex Nunes are on the job. And hundreds of letters to the editor have now been sent, with only a fraction of those being published (I've sent four myself that have yet to appear).

Spiess' video of testimony against LD1781 in the Joint Standing Committee on Taxation

I appreciate the dedication and skills of citizen journalists, and I will continue to share the very important information they provide in my ongoing struggle against corporate government.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Tax Giveaway For General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works Runs Into Trouble In Maine

I've revised my cartoon again to reflect the 25% reduction in the price tag for Maine taxpayers of this giveaway to General Dynamics' BIW shipyard. Here's a press release about why that happened that includes news that the largest union at BIW, S6 Machinists, is deeply divided on the bill and has declined to endorse it.


Lisa Savage


Augusta, March 12 -- A controversial bill to extend a $60 million tax giveaway to General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works shipyard ran into trouble in the Joint Standing Committee on Taxation of the Maine Legislature

During a work session for the bill co-sponsored by Rep. Jennifer DeChant and Sen. Eloise Vitelli amendments untended to make the bill more palatable to Maine taxpayers, reduced the amount of the tax giveaway to $45 million over 20 years.  

The bill was voted 9-2 “ought to pass” and will now be taken up the legislature. Letters from opponents have continued pouring in to Maine newspapers, with 107 published in 30 different papers as of yesterday. Opponents are also using an online petition and a email tool from RootsAction to send messages directly to their Maine legislators.

The largest union at BIW, S6 Machinists, has declined to endorse LD 1781. Following a meeting on the bill attended by about 100 members, a vote was taken on the question. As the results were evenly split (50/50), the union leadership decided to take no action. Hunger striker Bruce Gagnon of Bath reports that he has been “spending a lot of time at BIW talking with workers.  There are many workers who understand GD’s fiscal posture and oppose this fat welfare subsidy.” Gagnon is in the 28th day of fasting until a vote is taken on LD 1781.

General Dynamics Corporation is the 5th largest weapons contractor in the world and owner of BIW. Although jobs are often cited as the rationale for tax giveaways, opponents point out that General Dynamics has used past Maine subsidies -- $200 million since 1997 -- to mechanize the operation which has led to job loss.  Also that General Dynamics has used the money to buy back their own stocks, driving market value and executive compensation higher. Last year General Dynamics’ CEO made $21 million.

Mark Roman of Solon testified at the public hearing for LD1781 in opposition, and he attended the four taxation committee work sessions on the bill. “I cannot stand by and watch Maine lawmakers waste money that could be spent on education, health care and housing for the 43,000 children in Maine living in poverty today,” Roman explained.

The figure derives from the KIDS COUNT analysis of U.S. Census data, which also reveals that of the 43,000 there are 20,000 living in deep poverty i.e. their families have half or less the income established as the poverty line by the federal government.


Cartoon by Suzanna Lasker