"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Corporate Welfare... From Sea to Shining Sea


Boeing has proven (once again) that it will stop at nothing to increase its profits. Machinists voted to reject a contract that, while guaranteeing that the 777X project be built in Washington, would have been unfair to workers.  Even with Washington State Legislators offering an estimated $8.7 billion in tax breaks to Boeing through 2040, the company is already searching for another state to build the mammoth aircraft.  And as the Seattle Times headline indicates - "States salivating for 777X feast" - many states are anxious to "give away the farm" to lure the Corporate master to a new home.

All this unfolds as Boeing's commercial division "reported a surprising 12 percent jump in quarterly profit and raised its full-year forecast on soaring commercial aircraft production and margins, sending its shares up as much as 6 percent to an all-time high" (Reuters).

It's the age old story, whether on the commercial or military side of production, of giving away much while receiving crumbs in return.  From coast to coast, it's the same narrative.  In Bath, Maine, the story is playing out where Bath Iron Works builds some of the mighty warships that help project the American Empire around the globe.  Bruce Gagnon, of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space writes about the continuing saga. I have included his entire article below.

As you read Bruce's article, remember that Boeing builds not only commercial aircraft (on which the corporate media tend to focus), but also a vast array of systems that make it one of the largest "defense" contractors (Defense, Space & Security), right up there with General Dynamics, which owns Bath Iron Works.

So here's the news from Bath (as reported by Bruce in Organizing Notes):


BIW's Sails Got Trimmed a Bit 

The Bath, Maine City Council last night voted 7-1 to give Bath Iron Works (owned by the General Dynamics Corporation) a tax break for the next 15 years. The council approved a 15-year tax rebate for BIW that is expected to save the company about $265,000 annually for the first 10 years and an additional $212,000 annually for the following five years. The entire tax subsidy package is estimated to come to about $3.7 million.

The one vote against the tax break came from the one member of the council who tried to dramatically reign in the tax break but was unsuccessful when he proposed two amendments to further shorten the years of the tax break and the amount given by the city.

Initially the city considered a tax break for BIW that would have given them more than $6 million over a 25-year period. But the intervention by concerned citizens successfully trimmed the request by a couple million dollars. To the struggling city, with a population of about 8,500, that is alot of money.

About 30 people from Bath spoke up during the final public hearing before the council made its decision. The speakers were nearly evenly split with just a couple more opposing the tax break. Virtually all of the speakers in favor of the tax break were BIW workers/management.

ring the public portion of the meeting was a University of Southern Maine professor of finance who lives in Bath. The professor said she studied the city budget and "strongly recommended against" giving the

The point was frequently made that BIW doesn't really need this tax break as they have contracts to build multi-billion dollar ships for the next 10 years. (Just as the meeting began last night a story appeared at the web site of the Portland Press Herald about BIW being in the running for a $20 billion contract to build destroyers for Saudi Arabia. This clearly indicates that the Obama administration has extracted economic rewards for the US led campaign to destabilize Syria and Iran who are long-time foes of the monarchy in Saudi Arabia.)

BIW's strategy throughout this process has been to frighten the community about the boogeyman in some other state that just might steal the shipyard away if the city faltered in the "partnership" with the corporation.

During my time to speak to the city council I told the story about the Boeing Corporation in Seattle, Washington that has similarly threatened to pull out of that community unless they got more corporate welfare. I said:

The latest big deal everyone is talking about is Boeing in Seattle where the company is threatening to move manufacturing of their new 777X airplane to an anti-union state in the south unless they get big tax breaks from the state of Washington and major health care and pension concessions from the Machinists Union. Union leaders were quoted as calling the deal “crap” and in recent days union members voted to reject the Boeing proposal with 67% opposed.

But the state has voted to give Boeing the largest corporate tax break in US history. The tax breaks are expected to be worth $8.7 billion and would run through 2040. Despite this record tax subsidy, Boeing still hasn’t committed to building the 777X in Washington.

And guess what….Boeing has not been paying any federal corporate taxes in recent years…..zero.

BIW's chief council, Jon Fitzgerald, told the council, "We are gambling that we can improve our productivity, not certain that we will build the new outfitting hall.... we need this [tax break]."

Most of the city council talked about how complicated and agonizing the decision was. I'm sure that is true because the pressure on them from the public was heavy. None of the councilors told stories about hearing from the public who opposed the tax break. They only told particular stories about those who said, "Give BIW the break." But in spite of that public posturing by the council they still did vote to trim BIW's request by a couple million dollars.

They really didn't want to trim the subsidy. Bath is fundamentally a corporate colony. They trimmed it because they heard from residents all over the city and got more than 300 emails from people around Maine that opposed the tax break (thanks to Roots Action for the help).

Key in this public uprising was the door-to-door work that we did that enabled us to reach about 90% of the homes across the city. It's not easy in Bath to speak out against BIW but many people found a way to make their voices heard.

I concluded by remarks last night with this:

This truly is a race to the bottom of the barrel as taxpayers are being squeezed left and right. Its no wonder when I was helping take flyers door-to-door in Bath virtually every person I spoke with opposed these tax giveaways to BIW. I heard over and over again that people were going to have to sell their homes because they couldn’t afford to pay property taxes anymore.

Not only taxpayers get squeezed by these corporate subsidies but workers do as well. The Boeing workers in Seattle are refusing to go along with the program. Workers at BIW are seeing their health care being cut and continuing layoffs at the shipyard are forcing many workers to do the jobs of 2-3 others. In order to increase profits corners get cut in the production and quality gets impacted. At the same time General Dynamics profits are at record highs and top CEO compensation is larger than the municipal budget of Bath.

In the end this was a victory for the struggling citizens of Bath. They made it happen and they should be proud that their collective voices forced a reluctant city council to make serious adjustments to BIW's tax break request.

Our local committee, called Bath Citizens for Responsible TIF Action, did a great job on this campaign. Many of us had never worked together before but we all became friends and I would imagine we'll find other local work to focus on in the future. One of the members last night, a former BIW worker, called for the city to establish an economic conversion commission to begin planning for a new way of providing jobs in the community.

The work goes on......

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Resistance (to Save Jeju Island) Needs YOU!

Dear Friends,

For the first time in 200 years of Korean Catholic history, a nun - Sr. Stella Soh Hee-sook - has been indicted by a Korean court. Her crime??? Nonviolent direct resistance to the Naval base being built on Jeju Island in South Korea.

Sr. Stella is one of countless Catholics (and so many others) who have dedicated themselves to supporting the people of Jeju Island (the Island of Peace) in their struggle against the rampant militarism that threatens the peace and environment and the very lives of its inhabitants.

The story of Jeju Island and the current struggle against the base, which is being built for US warships (even though the US and Korea both already have more than enough bases from which to deploy around the region!!!), goes back much farther - back to the 1948 massacre (and even beyond that). A new documentary helps us better understand the current struggle in the historical context so that we can engage the issue!

Please learn about the documentary The Ghosts of Jeju at its Website. Order the film and show it in your communities. Sharing this powerful story is a most important way to engage others in this struggle that is about so much more than the construction of the naval base. It is about the larger struggle against militarism and the continuing, disastrous expansion of Empire that threatens all of us and the small planet that supports us.

Click here to watch a video interview with Sr. Stella (that is from the documentary).

More information on the struggle to Save Jeju is at the Save Jeju Now Website and Justice for Gangjeong Village Facebook page.

Please support Sr. Stella and all those who struggle to Save Jeju Island. Click here to learn how! This is OUR struggle... the PEOPLE'S STRUGGLE!!!

In the Spirit of Nonviolent Resistance,


Monday, November 11, 2013

Ring the Bells (for PEACE) on Armistice Day!!!

(Editor's Question to consider as you read the following message from Veterans for Peace - Why did Congress (in 1954) change Armistice Day to Veterans Day??? Note: Portions in bold typeface are my emphasis.)


Veterans For Peace calls for the observance of Veterans Day to be in keeping with the holiday’s original intent. Congressional Act (52 Stat.351: 5 U.S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made November 11th of each year a legal Federal Holiday,“A day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”

The ceasefire on the, “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918 along the European Western Front was such a relief to all those involved as the world had never seen such horror and carnage as World War I. The horrible conflict that had come to be known as the “War to End War” brought the bulk of humanity to contemplate abolishing war.

Veterans For Peace calls on its members and allies to observe Veterans Day by rejecting militarism and the glorification of war. We call on the nation to honor veterans and all those who have died in war by working for peace and the prevention of war. There is no better way to honor the dead than to protect the living from the fear, terror and morale deprivation of war.

VFP Resolution Submitted by Bob Heberle, VFP Chapter 27, (Endorsed by VFP Chapter 27)

Whereas bells worldwide were rung on November 11, 1918 to celebrate and recognize the ending of WWI, "The war to end all wars", and

Whereas to commemorate that peaceful pledge, bells were rung November 11 for over 35 years, and

Whereas, legislation making November 11 a holiday passed in 1938, " Shall be a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." and

Whereas the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars, and

Whereas the substitution of the word "Armistice" to "Veterans" changes the focus from peace to war by celebrating and honoring warriors and war, and

Whereas that November date symbolized the nation's desire to hold to a peaceful future and away from war, and

Whereas, too often rhetoric and patriotic symbols are used instead of genuine compensation for the extraordinary sacrifices and services of military personnel, and

Whereas 90% of victims of wars are now civilians and by honoring only veterans, the public is distracted from the awful price paid by those other than military members, and

Whereas Chapter #27 has for over 17 years promoted the ringing of a bell eleven times at its ceremonies on November 11 and at other solemn occasions such as funerals to remind the public of that Armistice Day peace pledge, and

Whereas the ringing of bells is so much more fitting and peaceful than the often practiced gun salutes and fighter plane flyovers.

Therefore Be It Resolved that Veterans For Peace, Inc. urges its membership to adopt the procedure of honoring peace by focusing on bell ringing on Armistice Day, November 11 and other solemn occasions.

Approved at the 2008 VFP national convention

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

One day we'll all be branded terrorists!

Dear Friends,

The National Security Snake continues to lash out as the Empire it represents continues its last gasps.

Edward Snowden continues to be hounded by the US government, while the information he provided continues to uncover the egregious abuses of power perpetrated by that same government.  When the madness will stop, no one can say.  One thing, however, is certain.  Nothing will change so long as people continue to let their institutions do their sinning for them (paraphrasing South African Methodist Bishop Peter Storey).

George Orwell once said that "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." Orwell was referring to just this sort of time and this sort of act.  Snowden, and all who have preceded and will follow him commit revolutionary acts.  And the Empire certainly does not appreciate revolutionaries of any sort.

In this video, on Reality Asserts Itself with Paul Jay, Ray McGovern comments on the British Gov. calling journalist Glen Greenwald's partner a terrorist and on awarding Edward Snowden the Sam Adams award. Ray speaks truth to power in a sharp, compelling, and sometimes humorous, fashion, and we should listen and share this truth far and wide.