Friday, March 23, 2018

Impending Theft of Resources From Children In Poverty To Enrich Millionaires Who Own General Dynamics' BIW

Yesterday my husband had a hard day.

Mark found our representative in the Maine Legislature, Bradlee Farrin (R-District 111), and spoke with him about opposing LD1781, a $45 million tax giveaway bill that will likely come to a vote next week.

Photos: Peter Woodruff, retired BIW worker

Mark's been going regularly to Augusta, a 2+ hour round trip, to lobby against corporate welfare for General Dynamics/Bath Iron Works. This week he went twice, once on Tuesday and again on Thursday.

He's been leaving phone messages for Farrin but had not had a return call yet, so he was on the lookout to speak with him in person.

A former legislator now lobbying for outdoor recreation, Jeff McCabe, helped Mark find Farrin in the throngs of school children on field trips and lobbyists in expensive shoes. McCabe pointed Farrin out in the crowd saying, he's the guy with the amazing tan. (Farrin is from the central Maine town of Norridgewock, and represents a district marked by profound poverty.)

My husband waited for Farrin to finish talking to a man he recognized as the lawyer from Preti Flaherty who was always by BIW vice president John Fitzgerald's side in taxation committee work sessions for LD 1781

Farrin told Mark he will vote yes on a tax giveaway for GD/BIW because we "need jobs," and then he began badmouthing waste in schools, and unions driving up the cost of doing business at BIW. Mark told him the biggest union at BIW, S6, had voted not to endorse LD1781. This news appeared to alarm Farrin who quickly consulted his phone. Then he told Mark that S6 hasn't endorsed yet because they are waiting for further negotiations.

Photo: Portland Press Herald

Preti Flaherty is a lobbying firm that bills many, many hours working for corporations like General Dynamics. As GD/BIW survives on Pentagon contracts that our federal taxes fund and that have the costs of doing business (and paying state and local taxes) built in, you could say that the Preti Flaherty lawyer arguing for corporate welfare for his client is paid by me and thee.

The 43,000 children living in poverty don't have Preti Flaherty lawyers on their side for the simple reason that they cannot afford them.

Ditto the 20,000 of them living in deep poverty, many of whom reside in inadequate housing in Farrin's district.

Advocacy organizations like Maine Equal Justice Partners that track and address childhood poverty must compete with lobbyists who can offer inducements like trips and big campaign contributions. (The $$ is often laundered through PACs that make their origins hard to trace.)

Mark came home yesterday from Augusta angry and discouraged.

He's afraid the bill will pass in a floor vote likely to come next week. 

Despite hunger strikes, hundreds of letters to editors, and constituent contacts that Senator "Brownie" Carson of Brunswick (a town adjacent to Bath) told one of our band of citizen lobbyists exceeded any other issue he's ever heard from voters about.

Mark was angry about the impending theft of resources from the poor children of our state in favor of the millionaires and billionaires who own and operate General Dynamics and BIW.

He was discouraged because its hard for him to spend the day surrounded by slick lobbyists on expense accounts telling lies and offering bribes in what should be the government of, by and for the people of Maine.

My husband is idealistic. He believes the roughly 30% income tax rate that he and I pay should go to fix the roads, fund education, house and feed needy children. It makes him feel slightly sick to spend the day among cynical opportunists. He cherishes his beloved community of citizen lobbyists who have returned again and again to speak up for those without the resources to be there themselves.

I'm idealistic, too. But I'm uplifted by his report that every time he goes to the State House there are class field trips ranging in age from elementary to high school. Those children read the signs our side is holding even if their teachers won't let them take the informative flyers that Mark is handing out. 

Photo: Peter Woodruff

I tell Mark, the children see their teachers censoring your message. That makes your information more appealing to many teens and tweens who witness the fact that the adults seem scared to let them find out more about why you're against General Dynamics.

Of course my mood is probably better because I get to spend the day with little kids while Mark is in Augusta. It's a dirty rotten job for my sweetheart, but somebody's got to do it.

The Progressive Caucus meets next week to hear from Democratic "leadership" as they try to justify opposing the Republican tax bill benefiting the 1% while endorsing corporate welfare for, um, the 1%.

We hope for a big turnout at the State House on Tuesday, March 27 from 9:30am on. If you can't make it, you can use this tool to send legislators an email: NO corporate welfare for General Dynamics!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Bozo The Clown Is Trending On Twitter But Not Stephon Clark? #BlackLivesMatter

Bozo the Clown is trending on twitter this morning, but not Stephon Clark, the black father killed by Sacramento police in his own backyard this week -- for holding a cell phone.

Bozo was played by an obscure actor who died in Boston yesterday at age 89.

Clark died at age 22 leaving behind two toddler sons. The Sacramento Police had a sheriff's department helicopter track a suspect after a 911 caller reported someone breaking car windows (this leads me to picture $1000 bills being whirled in the air by chopper blades as opposed to, say, feeding hungry children).

Two officers shot 20 times at the unarmed Clark and then delayed seeking medical help for him as he died.

Black lives do not matter when law enforcement takes them, because the officers involved almost always walk away from their trials exonerated. Their most common defense: they were scared.

To go back to the school shootings problem, I see there were two more this week, plus a spate of package bombs in Austin that killed black and brown people before the white bomber blew himself up yesterday. So a bunch of armed school personnel like the NRA is proposing will be less scared than trained police in the capital of California? I doubt it.

And if police are so scared, why don't they find a job more suited to their temperament?

And if it's about fear, why do they delay seeking medical attention while black men like Philando Castile, Michael BrownStephon Clark, Chance David Baker et al. bleed out in front of them?

Chance David Baker, shot and killed by police in Portland, Maine last year for carrying a BB gun (Maine is an open carry state).

Many people in the U.S. believe the law enforcement agencies that work for the public have been infiltrated by white supremacists.

It's the only explanation that makes much sense when trying to understand why the police in other wealthy countries don't gun down citizens like ours do. Or when trying to understand why the officer responsible for brutalizing the late Sandra Bland after pulling her over for failing to signal a lane change walked away from a perjury charge this week in a deal with authorities in Texas.

Other people would argue that law enforcement has always been racist and white supremacist in this country, and that the rise of cell phone cameras, body cam footage and social media to share it is mostly what has changed.

Which brings me full circle to the point about information sharing and white privilege owning the channels of communication. Bozo the Clown is literally of more interest to twitter users than a victim of police brutality. At least, so twitter would have us believe.

Those who want real information not produced by our corporate overlords to manufacture consent have come to rely on news curated by our contacts on social media platforms. We now know that all such platforms are entirely accessible to the Pentagon as the NSA has been given back-door access to facebook, twitter and phone networks like Verizon. This means the NSA doesn't have to ask twitter for information; it can search through twitter's user data on its own anytime it wants to do so.

Meanwhile there are people who make their living driving the trending topics lists seen by me and thee. If I'm too successful at seeing posts by activists I admire, facebook changes its algorithms to make sure I have to actively seek out and connect (again) with my preferred sources. I believe this is done to give our corporate overlords and the NSA even more useful information about who's connected with whom -- because otherwise my facebook friend list is a collection of people I went to second grade with, once lived next door to 50 years ago, and barely remember from college. Not super useful to the most sophisticated spying machine ever built.

Maybe it's my old journalism training but I vow to go to the end seeking real information from the best sources I can find.

I'll still use the nasty spy machines because that's where I find out about the tragic murder of Stephon Clark. May he rest in peace, and may his family find justice.