Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Will Maine's Senator Susan Collins Sell Out Her Constituents To Enrich The Wealthy? She's Saying Yes, She Will


I wish I could say I was shocked to hear that Maine's Senator Susan Collins, often viewed as a moderate Republican swing vote, is going over to the dark side on tax reform.

That is "reform" that would saddle teachers like me with even more federal taxes than the 30% I already pay, and would eliminate most low and middle income tax shelters e.g. the mortgage deduction. Also tax student financial aid as if it were income.

Oh, and personhood for fetuses -- which is not a tax issue. But blocking access to legal, safe abortion is a signature of the nasty corporate party currently at the helm of the sinking ship of state. (You can view their whole stinking 429 page bill here.)

If I were wealthy enough (and creepy enough) to own a private jet, I would get a hefty write-off under the new law.


The bill already passed the House and was rushed along through the Senate's Budget Committee yesterday, before the requisite analysis by the Congressional Budget Office could be completed.

Now, a mere week before the Senate is likely to hold their vote, the analysis is out. Here's how it will affect taxpayers at all income levels:


Susan Collins had been sucking up to her corporate sponsors for years while trying to maintain a facade of moderation as she allegedly represents voters in a chronically poor state.


She's obviously ambitious and she knows which side her bread is buttered on. Here are just a few corporations that she has accepted $$$$ from in the last few years:


Anyone who cares to let Collins hear from them can use these numbers. But hurry, because they are rushing this legislation through Congress like Scrooge himself on the eve of Christmas:

Augusta:         (207) 622-8414
Bangor:         (207) 945-0417
Biddeford:         (207) 283-1101
Caribou:         (207) 493-7873
Lewiston:         (207) 784-6969
Portland:         (207) 780-3575
Washington, DC     (202) 224-2523

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

$197 Million In Tax Breaks Isn't Enough For Greedy General Dynamics -- They Demand More

General Dynamics will claim that the jobs created at its Bath Iron Works shipyard are the reason to extend it even more tax breaks in Maine. However, research shows that building weapons is a poor job creation program. Building anything on Patsy's sign would generate as many as 50% additional jobs.

Will Griffin of The Peace Report has made a great informational video about war profiteer General Dynamics' request for a state tax break from Maine. Their request is about to be rushed through the special session of the Maine legislature in January. Now is the time for  people to raise their voices against the gutting of state coffers for a company whose CEO got a $5 million bonus last year.

Should children in Maine go to bed hungry and cold so that General Dynamics executives can become even more wealthy?


The video shows how to contact the Legislative Council whose members will decide whether or not to take up the General Dynamics tax relief bill. 

https://youtu.be/s44OXnO3vTM




General Dynamics is also a terrible polluter and despoiler of the environment.

It has a huge carbon footprint, and it regularly assaults the Kennebec River ecosystem with dredging and pollutants. Yet another reason to say NO to corporate welfare for General Dynamics!

Email addresses for Maine's Legislative Council members are as follows:

Sara.Gideon@legislature.maine.gov,
mike@mainesenatepresident.com,
Garrett.Mason@legislature.maine.gov,
amy.volk@legislature.maine.gov,
Troy.Jackson@legislature.maine.gov,
Nathan.Libby@legislature.maine.gov,
Erin.Herbig@legislature.maine.gov,
Jared.Golden@legislature.maine.gov,
Kenneth.Fredette@legislature.maine.gov,
Ellie.Espling@legislature.maine.gov

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Corporate Welfare On The Rise -- Onward, Kleptocracy


The tax reform bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives this month is full of corporate welfare measures like deductions for private jets. As reported on Democracy Now! 
An analysis by the Center for American Progress Action Fund shows President Trump’s family and Trump’s Cabinet members would, combined, reap a $3.5 billion windfall from the proposed repeal of the estate tax alone.

The bill aims to fund tax breaks for those already wealthy enough to own a jet by removing the deductions for state and local taxes paid by the middle class, and treating the financial aid that college students receive as taxable income. This is far from a complete list of the horrors contained in the bill. You can contact your senators to object if you have not already done so.


On top of that came news that the Maine legislature is being pressured take up a bill to provide tax relief to weapons manufacturer General Dynamics.

It will have to be introduced as a bill in the session that begins in January, and whether or not it proceeds to a vote depends largely on the Legislative Council at this point.

In our descent into kleptocracy, I will not go quietly.

I was arrested at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works protesting the "christening" of a warship with eight other people on April 1, 2017. The Aegis 9 trail begins January 4, 2018 in West Bath District Court. I'm the one dressed as Sentor Susan Collins, her red power suit covered with the logos of her corporate sponsors.

Below is my letter to the Legislative Council objecting to any such bill and explaining my reasons. Feel free to send one of your own. I've pasted in the email addresses of the council members at the end of this post, or find them here.


Dear Legislative Council members,
Bath Iron Works owner General Dynamics is applying to the State of Maine for a big tax break. It claims it cannot remain competitive in the warship building industry without Maine taxpayers excusing BIW from paying its share of taxes.
 
But for the last three years, General Dynamics spent $9.4 billion buying its own stocks back.* This enables it to give enormous salaries and bonuses to its top executives. CEO Phebe Novakovic made $21 million last year. But, she claims General Dynamics can't afford to contribute its fair share of state taxes. 
Our roads and bridges in Maine are crumbling while our elders and children are worried about where their next meal is coming from. But we are asked to give even more to General Dynamics executives because of the jobs needed at BIW. 
Jobs are needed in Maine, it's true. Conversion to building something besides warships would generate thousands more jobs.** But giving General Dynamics/BIW a break on state taxes will go right into the pockets of their already wealthy executives and shareholders. General Dynamics does not need another tax break. 
Sincerely,Lisa SavageSolon
References:*Stock buybacks by General Dynamicshttp://www.providencejournal.com/news/20171103/defense-firms-spend-big-on-lucrative-stock-buybacks

**Jobs generated by investment in building weapons vs. building other things
https://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/.../PERI_military_spending_2011.pdf

Sent November 21, 2017 to:Sara.Gideon@legislature.maine.gov,
mike@mainesenatepresident.com,
Garrett.Mason@legislature.maine.gov,
amy.volk@legislature.maine.gov,
Troy.Jackson@legislature.maine.gov,
Nathan.Libby@legislature.maine.gov,
Erin.Herbig@legislature.maine.gov,
Jared.Golden@legislature.maine.gov,
Kenneth.Fredette@legislature.maine.gov,
Ellie.Espling@legislature.maine.gov

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Skywriting Dicks: Pentagon Climate Crimes Are No Joke

U.S. warplanes have been menacing the people of Afghanistan for more than 16 years now.

As a thought experiment, I decided to imagine that I lived under the threat of bombs raining down on my family from U.S. airplanes. Say, in Somalia.

I could live in any one of dozens of countries for this to be my reality. Not Canada, though, which borders Washington State and was treated to this expensive, polluting display of sophomoric scrawl by a U.S. Navy warplane earlier this week:



In my thought experiment I tried to imagine how a grandmother in Somalia or Afghanistan might view this picture of boys just having fun.

In the era of #metoo and the sexual predator in chief, what is my own context for viewing this costly image?

Corporate media works hard to avoid meaningful context, simply reprinting the bland lies of the Pentagon's pr department. Most ran the news with a headline referencing "obscene" images. But what is the real obscenity hiding in plain sight here?

Media outlet SF Gate's coverage of the prank included footage of the Blue Angels stunt team practicing over San Francisco in advance of their upcoming show there.

The Blue Angels are a carbon belching nightmare

(At our expense. As we learned from the Panama and now the Paradise Papers, rich people don't pay taxes. As a public school teacher, my tax rate is around 30%.)




Here in Maine, they literally burn napalm as part of the "entertainment". Those watching do so no doubt in the context of having watched thousands of fires kindled in cinema for their viewing enjoying. (Hollywood has a pretty gruesome carbon footprint, too.)

The thing is, you may be able to evade taxation, but the cost of climate chaos falls upon rich and poor alike.

Climate justice organizers know that low income communities suffer more from the toxicity of late stage capitalism. 


"Pentagon Planet" by Anthony Freda

But we're all here on the same planet, buffeted by hurricanes and scorched by forest fires.



Whether skywriting or scoping out their next civilian bombing targets, the U.S. military is filling the atomosphere with more greenhouse gas than any organization in the world.

But if you search for information about the Pentagon and air pollution, what Google will let you find are articles about planning for the impact of climate change on coastal military bases. Or about the U.S. Navy greening itself, which is a bigger joke than a dick in the sky, for sure.

Our corporate masters can manage information and cheat inquiring minds of the truth, but ultimately they can't fool Mother Nature. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Cult Of Violence Prevails In The Waning Days Of U.S. Empire

A child places flowers at a memorial for victims of a mass shooting in Texas this month. Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
There are so many mass shootings and other attacks these days it is nearly impossible to keep up with them. Northern California? Yikes, my family lives there. Lower Manhattan? Yikes, my family works there. Las Vegas? We've all been there. And so forth.

What does the accelerating pace of these attacks even mean? Some say they signify a nation built on genocide and institutionalized violence in the form of slavery. What hope is there for a people with such bad collective karma?

Australia is a similar nation, one founded on European colonists practicing land theft and virulently racist subjugation of traditional groups. Many argue that Oz does not suffer from the same epidemic of mass murder because of a successful gun control initiative that bought back weapons and melted them down beginning in 1996.

Source: NationalPriorities.org


Others say they signify our nation occupying and bombing hundreds of other nations around the globe, at vast expense, while its own citizens literally starve, freeze or go without adequate medical care unto death.



Social observers differ over which is the cause and which is the effect: the national religion of organized sports delivers millions of viewers for lavish, psychologically crafty advertising to lure the broke generations into enlisting in the military. Veterans are well-represented among mass shooters, nearly all of whom are white, all of whom are male, and many of whom are known domestic abusers.

Of course, not all veterans continue to worship in the cult of violence. (Link to Support Veterans RESIST Hate video on facebook, embedded below.)





What do the various targets of domestic mass murder have in common? Churches, concerts, schools and bike paths seem to offer a simply a large group of people to attack in one easy location.

Live by the sword, die by the sword. As the U.S. dangles the prospect of nuclear annihilation over the tiny nation of North Korea -- a  nation whose elders still remember the bloodbath of the Cold War era -- it cannot escape its own death wish. 

Who will die today, unremarked by corporate media, a "blug splat" killed by drone operators attacking Somalia from Nevada? 

Who will die tomorrow? Who can stop our descent into madness?

If you are in Maine, join us at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works (BIW) shipyard where nuclear-capable warships are built to menace the world. Each Saturday during Advent (December 2, 9, 16 and 23) peaceworkers will be present at the noon shift change, calling on weapons workers to rethink their choices and join the movement for conversion.

There is no actual reason why BIW needs to build weapons systems in order to provide employment for the surrounding area. U.S. factories could still produce things that support life and that people actually need; war profiteers need not apply.



Also consider joining the support team of the Aegis 9. We were arrested at the BIW shipyard last year and charged with criminal trespass as we stood outside the gates with messages calling for a nonviolent path forward. Our jury selection date was postponed this month and moved to January 4 at 8:30am in West Bath District Court.

Converting U.S. industrial capacity to building sustainable energy solutions is a path forward. Continuing to build and export weapons of mass destruction will only accelerate our death spiral.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

#VeteransDayWeekend2017 A Poem For His Children's Teachers On Armistice Day, From A Veteran

"Glorify peace, not war: Armistice Day vs. Veterans Day" by Rory Fanning via PopularResistance.org

It is Armistice Day again, 11/11, the ceasefire that ended the imperial war that ushered in the death and destruction of the 20th century. The seeds of violence, industrialized killing, and wars for peace (or to end all wars, or to save the innocents of Belgium, or of your country here____) were sown.

The activist Bernarda Shahn once told me that her mother returned home from a war resistance meeting in New York City prior to the outbreak of what would come to be known as World War I. As she hung up her coat her daughter heard her say, with furious tears springing from her eyes, "This whole thing is about nothing more than Mosul Oil."

The more things change, the more they stay the same.
My own grandfather went to the war fresh out of high school. He was a popular, good-looking boy who looked forward to getting right back to Maine to help his family run their ice business. He was injured on the last day before the Armistice, catching shrapnel in his leg and then being gassed as he lay wounded on the field.

It took his family over a year to locate him in a hospital in New York; eventually he returned home, went to college, and married a registered nurse. His leg was saved by fusing the knee so that all his life he was unable to bend it. His lungs and heart were permanently affected too, and he died of heart failure when his only child, my father, was 19.

"Don't believe them when they say the next war is a good war," my father reported his father told him. "There is no such thing."

My own father believed the gung-ho propaganda hyping the "Good War" of his youth -- World War II, which grew directly from the bloody roots of WWI. He believed the recruiters, who told him Korea was a good war, too -- the front line in stopping the march of China and Communism. Because his father begged him to go to college and not enlist, he didn't make it to Seoul until after his father had died and combat had been ended by a ceasefire that perpetuates the war to this day.

My father went to Korea as an occupier and was profoundly affected by the poverty and suffering observable in the wake of a war that had killed more than 4.5 million people.

My dad taught me that wars are a way for the rich to get richer, and the poor to get poorer.

Every year I take the flag off his grave, and that of his father, and that of my brother -- a man who never went to war at all. The cemetery workers who take orders from the VFW don't know who was actually a veteran. I guess they figure that any man between the ages of 18 and death was some kind of a soldier.

Every year now, I share this video of veteran father Will Griffin addressing his children's teachers about what he would like them teaching (here's a direct link for those of you reading this blog post as an email:  https://youtu.be/wmMTLnU_hsY ).



Monday, November 6, 2017

Skowhegan On The Map Again For Racist Chamber Of Commerce Campaign To Hunt The Indian



Since the insistence on clinging to the racist "Indian" mascot of Skowhegan Area High School has in the past brought national press attention, I expect the blundering of Skowhegan's Chamber of Commerce will do so as well.

As a fun holiday promotion the Chamber, composed of local businesses who proudly display signs supporting the racist team mascot, decided to create the first annual "hunt the Indian."

You can't make this shit up. Here, in their own words, (from a screenshot of a post later taken down after the Chamber began hearing from lots of offended people):



Now the Chamber has apologized for their (white privilege-induced) blind spot and promised to rename the scavenger hunt.



They have not, and I suspect will not, addressed the problem of the original large wooden statue that they are basing their identity on. That "Indian" (pictured above) was created decades ago by Bernard Langlais, a sculptor whose works can be found throughout the town. Native people are not keen on this artifact of cultural appropriation. As Penboscot chief Barry Dana observed to me, "It doesn't look like any Indian I ever knew."

Native people struggle every Halloween with Pocahottie costumes and every sports season with "war paint", "war whoops" and Tomahawk chops. Just this fall Wells High School in southern Maine saw a display of these offensive practices on behalf of a team named "the warriors" and against a team headed up by a Native quarterback. The quarterback's mother Amelia Tuplin made a huge fuss about it, as well she might.

I have repeatedly heard Native adults say how difficult it is to explain to their children why their culture is being publicly mocked.

The historical underpinnings of this gruesomely insensitive aftermath of attempted genocide of the Native people in North America are about as bad as it gets.


Rick York was a Skowhegan Area High School coach when he sent this photo of a "scalp towel" accompanied by a joke to school board member Jennifer Poirier, who also appeared to find it pretty amusing.

Commonly portrayed in popular culture and cartoons as scalpers, Native people were in fact the scalpees in the early centuries of European invasion and occupation of their homelands. 

From the record of a 1749 war council by English military forces led by aristocrat George Cornwallis:

"For, those cause we by and with the advice and consent of His Majesty's Council, do hereby authorize and command all Officers Civil and Military, and all His Majesty's Subjects or others to annoy, distress, take or destroy the Savage commonly called Micmac, wherever they are found, and all as such as aiding and assisting them, give further by and with the consent and advice of His Majesty's Council, do promise a reward of ten Guineas for every Indian Micmac taken or killed, to be paid upon producing such Savage taken or his scalp (as in the custom of America) if killed to the Officer Commanding."

Micmacs (a word also rendered in the Roman alphabet as Mi'kmaq) are part of the Wabanaki confederacy which is comprised of Native groups still living in North America.




Other reasons why a cutesy "Indian hunt" is anything but cute:

  • Native children were being removed from their homes and placed into abusive foster care en masse in Maine as recently as the 1970's. The Wabanaki Truth & Reconciliation Commission compiled a report of this tragedy which you can read here.
  • Native people have been resisting capitalism's destruction of the balance in our natural environment for profit for hundreds of years now. We should listen to them, else we will continue down the path of climate chaos and extreme weather.

Aftermath of the nor'easter of October, 2017 in Portland Maine, a storm which knocked out electric power for days and affected more than one million customers in New England. It also resulted in raw sewage flowing into rivers, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle.

I hope the Skowhegan Chamber of Commerce will do the right thing, but I'm not holding my breath. The idea that profit trumps all other considerations is the hallmark of the stunted thinking that led to where we find ourselves today.

Now where is that Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) group I keep waiting for in Skowhegan? If there's not one by the time I retire, I pledge to start one myself.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Too Scared To Protest, Or Too Foolish To Be Scared? #Aegis9


I learned with sadness that a former colleague had passed away. In my very first classroom -- an overcrowed trailer in Belgrade, Maine -- my Title I ed tech support for struggling readers was an experienced educator with a warm heart.

As a career change teacher I had a lot of adjusting to do to wrap my head around the often loony world of educating the whole public.

It began the day this ed tech took me aside and complained that a parent volunteer had her 5th grade daughter seated on her lap during reading group and was whispering the answers in the girl's ear.

Many years later I was the literacy coordinator at the district's middle school and my ed tech friend had transferred there as well. She stopped me in the hall to compliment a letter to the editor I had written supporting the importance of protecting Social Security under the W. Bush administration.

She described her own family's reliance on SS after her father passed away while the children were still growing up. I encouraged her to write a letter to the editor because people need to know that. She looked shocked and said that our superintendent "would not appreciate that." I countered that he had never said anything about my letters to the editor, to which her reply was "but that's you."

Apparently my lot in life is to do the things that other people yearn to do, but are too scared to try.

I was raised by parents who encouraged this sort of thinking if not action, and my mother was famous for slapping my father's boss after he pinched her butt at a party. My father laughed as he bragged about it to us children the next day.


 Organizer Toby Blome being arrested for blocking access to Creech Air Base in Nevada October, 2017.
Actually I know many people who have a far more impressive track record than I do of civil disobedience, or civil resistance if you prefer that term. My whole rap sheet consists of one arrest at the White House protesting Obama's continuation of imperial wars (failure to disperse from the fence, fined and released by bored Capitol police honoring my privilege as a white middle class woman). And now being a member of the Aegis 9.

The Aegis 9 were arrrested in an April Fool's Day snowstorm at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works shipyard.

A director of the school board I work for now tried to block my internal transfer after news of my arrest became public.

The board's lawyers billed some expensive hours explaining to them why they did not want to do that as my right to freedom of expression on my own time was protected by the Constitution.

This turn of events caused the publicity surrounding my case to spread through my union, the Maine Education Association; my school district; and the law firm that represents almost all the school districts in Maine. Not bad for a few hours of my time on April 1.


Many of the Aegis 9 continued to bring their messages to Bath Iron Works during Maine's annual peace walk in October.
But as experienced civil disobedience/resistance defense lawyer Phil Worden reportedly said, the process is the punishment. And we haven't gone to trial yet.

I'm already feeling guilty for leaving my students and current teaching partner in the lurch on November 9 as my presence is required in court for jury selection. 

Those interested in reading more background on our actions and the legal proceedings thus far can use the links on this list. 

Which Side Are You On In The Struggle Against Corporate Government? #Aegis 9

#Aegis9 Video + Corporate And Local News Coverage Of Arrests At Bath Iron Works

Denied Entrance To Warship Christening[sic], #Aegis9 Arrested For Criminal Trespass

Is "Good German" Status Quo The Order Of Our Day? #Aegis9'

It pains me to compare my departed colleague to the "good Germans" who permitted the rise of Nazi government and the Holocaust on their watch.

But I think the comparison is apt. Most Germans weren't Nazis, but they were scared, and their timidity mostly ensured their silent complicity in WWII. The above-linked essay by my co-defendent Jason Rawn does a good job of laying out this argument.


This former Nazi Party member refused to salute Hitler -- at a shipyard in Hamburg in 1936.

If you're in Maine and want to step out of your comfort zone to support the Aegis 9, you can do so in West Bath District Court on November 9 at 8:30am. Our actual trial date will likely be set at that time, and is expected to be either in November or December.

UPDATE: Jury selection was postponsed in November and actually goes forward today, Friday, January 5, 2018 and our trial date is now tentatively Feb 1 & 2, 2018.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Too Good To Be True: Information Wanted To Be Free But...

Our relative the Kennebec River spilling out of its banks the morning after the nor'easter of October 30, 2017.

I had noted that it was eerie living in a pocket of apparent calm, uneasily enjoying a remarkably warm autumn in New England while Houston flooded and the Florida Keys were leveled and California burned and Puerto Rico went without electricity or potable water for weeks on end.

To those who choose not to see, the occupation of the entire planet by the U.S. military is largely invisible; its role in global climate catastrophe, even more so.

Let's make cider and gather leaves to till into our gardens, said the people around my neighborhood. Should we harvest the carrots and leeks yet? Then came the rogue nor'easter of Halloween eve.


My husband stands on the road I drove on my morning commute about an hour before several pine trees fell on it, taking  power lines down with them. I drove under a downed power line before encountering this barrier a half mile later. I abandoned my car after Mark rescued me by driving as far as he could from the opposite direction, and then hiking through the woods to where I was stranded.

Suddenly almost half the households in Maine were without electricity. For many, this meant without heat as well. Temperatures began to dip toward frost overnight and people were sleeping at my local school while they waited for power to be restored. Some people are still waiting, and others have been told restoration is not possible without rebuilding the infrastructure.

No showers or blogging for this household. We cooked by candlelight and scuttled around storing frozen food in various alternative spots, watching as the contents of our refrigerator slowly died. We took sponge baths with water heated over a woodstove. We charged our phones in the car or at work. First world problems.



The Hallmark card sentiment that every sunrise is a blessing could not truly be felt until I had been in darkness 12+ hours several days in a row.

Ditto the wonder of light spilling from last night's full moon.

So it is in this context that I encountered news that social media platforms are groing dim,  visibly being brought under kleptocracy's control.




I was saddened, but not surprised.

The internet with its troves of curated information always seemed to me too good to be true

Like the sexual revolution of the 60's, when for a few years pre-AIDs affluent baby boomers had access to reliable birth control, drugs that cured venereal disease, and liberation from the Puritan inhibitions claiming our sexuality and its expression were deadly sins. Something that good and free just doesn't seem to last.




Facebook began censoring two thinkers I've come to rely on -- Australian Caitlin Johnstone and fellow Mainer Bruce Gagnon -- even as Congress heard testimony that social media companies must do the dirty deeds, or be themselves punished.

From Andre Damon's reporting published on the World Socialist News website (a non-corporate news and opinion site which, incidentally, no longer appears as a source turned up by a Google search even though I've gone to it many times over the years):
Over the course of four hours, senators argued that “foreign infiltration” is the root of social opposition within the United States, in order to justify the censorship of oppositional viewpoints.
... 
Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii demanded...that the companies adopt a “mission statement” expressing their commitment “to prevent the fomenting of discord.”

The kleptocrats are worried and well they should be. Talk of gutting mortgage deductions --  the primary middle class tax shelter -- is a harbinger of austerity for the many. History shows that discord inevitably follows homelessness, hunger, or watching a loved one die from lack of affordable health care. Poor people and, disproportionately, people of color have known this all along. Those of us who've been coasting on our white and class privilege are about to have a rude awakening.

As the lights flicker on and off in the gathering gloom, I hear an out of season tree frog chirping in a warm November before dawn. Neighbors have noticed no birds at their feeders this fall. I suspect the frog's song may the requiem for our unsustainable lives on this planet.