The Myth of General Dynamics-Electric Boat and Its ‘Middle Class Jobs’

Follow on Twitter @AlexLNunes

The author Joan Didion famously wrote, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

In Rhode Island and Connecticut, we tell ourselves myths about Electric Boat in order to justify building war machines.

There are the obvious myths: that a fleet of nuclear-armed submarines costing upwards of $104-billion will be a force for peace in the world; that executives at parent company General Dynamics gobbling up millions of dollars in compensation each year on the taxpayer dime are “patriotic”; and that some other community will build these weapons systems anyway if Southern New England doesn’t—so why shouldn’t we?

The fourth myth, which might be the most rich, is that the top brass at General Dynamics-Electric Boat actually care about our community, that they’re people committed to providing us with “good middle class jobs,” the kind of “blue collar” work that still provides an income you can raise a family on. Continue reading

Bath Police Chief Says He Does Not ‘Characterize’ Peace Activists as Potential Terrorists

Follow on Twitter @AlexLNunes

Michael Field, chief of police for Bath, Maine, clarified his position on activists who have staged protests at Navy contractor Bath Iron Works, in an email one day after a story published on this website reported his invoking of an exemption for anti-terrorism planning in denying a recent state Freedom of Access Act request.

“I do not characterize the protestors as terrorist,” Field wrote Tuesday. “Having said that, the planning and operational details that go into the events at BIW are more broad than just protestors.”

The Freedom of Access request sent to Field and his administrative assistant earlier this month sought “an opportunity to inspect or obtain copies of public records that show communications between the Bath Police Department and Bath Iron Works concerning policing of protests at the Bath Iron Works shipyard” over the past two years. Continue reading

What Issues Take Priority and What Gets Shut Out on Sheldon Whitehouse’s Twitter Feed

Follow on Twitter @AlexLNunes

In today’s world, tweets by members of Congress can tell you a lot: what they’re prioritizing, how they’re using their political capital, and the messages they want to get out to constituents, colleagues, and the media.

Because of all that, I decided recently to analyze Twitter feeds for the four members of Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation using a social science research method called coding. Coding essentially means categorizing data to help you draw conclusions from the information you want to evaluate.

In the case of congressional tweets, I created topical areas—such as gun control, climate change, Russia, health care, immigration, and police reform—and tallied up the number of tweets that referenced each issue. Continue reading

Bath Police Chief Denies Freedom of Access Request, Citing Terrorism Exemption

Follow on Twitter @AlexLNunes

Bath Police Chief Michael Field has denied a Maine Freedom of Access Act Request seeking communications between his police department and security personnel at Navy contractor Bath Iron Works regarding the policing of protests at the company’s shipyard.

Field cited an exemption in the law, which allows law enforcement authorities to block public access to documents related to the “purpose of preventing or preparing for acts of terrorism.”

“This is in response to your e-mail to me and my Administrative Assistant sent March 7, 2018 with regard to written communication between the Bath Police Department and the Bath Iron Works regarding policing of protests at the Shipyard, from January 1, 2016 to the present,” Field wrote in a letter to this reporter, dated March 12.

“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,” he continued. “As such, these are not public records and are exempted under the provisions of 1 M.R.S. Section 402(3)(L).” Continue reading

Despite State Law, Rhode Island Has Never Evaluated Its Business Tax Incentives

[NOTE: An audio version of this story aired on Rhode Island Public Radio.]

Follow on Twitter @AlexLNunes

In 2013, Rhode Island lawmakers directed the state’s revenue department to analyze tax incentives created to spur economic development. The idea was to assess whether those incentives were actually working.

Linda Katz, co-founder and policy director of the non-profit Economic Progress Institute, was one of the people who supported the law.

“It’s the bang for the buck,” said Katz, whose organization advocates for policies that benefit lower-income Rhode Islanders. “We want to know if we’re giving away money in order to either attract a company here, keep a company here, try to ignite some activity, that we know that, at the end of getting that tax break, we’re actually better off than we were before the company got here.”

But there’s one key problem: the state has yet to produce a single evaluation required under the law. The first report was due last June. Continue reading

Bruce Gagnon Is Right; Maine Has Been ‘Outsourced’ to Bath Iron Works

Follow on Twitter @AlexLNunes

I’m skeptical of bold claims.

That’s why I wondered last week if peace activist Bruce Gagnon was indulging in a little hyperbole when he sent me an email alleging a local newspaper, the Maine legislature, and the city of Bath’s police department were all abdicating their duty to the public and instead doing the bidding of Navy contractor Bath Iron Works.

Gagnon is currently leading the campaign against a proposed $60-million tax credit to BIW, a builder of Navy destroyers and a subsidiary of defense industry behemoth General Dynamics.

“The Bath PD was outsourced to BIW/GD,” Gagnon’s email read, “the Times Record newspaper has been outsourced to BIW/GD, and the Maine state legislature has been outsourced to BIW/GD.”

But, after looking into each of these claims, I can’t say I disagree. Continue reading

Jingoism From the So-Called Left

[NOTE: A version of this opinion article was published on RIFuture.org.]

Follow on Twitter @AlexLNunes

There are many people on the left who think “Russiagate” merits wall-to-wall news coverage and MSNBC’s near-singular focus.

I’m not one of them. In fact, I’m beginning to find the rhetoric coming out of the Democratic Party on Russia, with its comparisons to the deadly attacks of 9/11 and Pearl Harbor, more than misplaced. They’re irresponsible and frightening. Continue reading

Koch Funnels Millions Into Brown University

[NOTE: A version of this story was published in The Providence Journal.]

Follow on Twitter @AlexLNunes

Visit the website of the Political Theory Project, a think tank at Brown University, and you’ll see a homepage that appears not so out of place for a group based at an Ivy League school with a long-established liberal-progressive reputation.

Featured prominently is a photo of radical political theorist Noam Chomsky, a reference to the Enlightenment and “the rise of democratic ideas and institutions,” and an excerpt from a letter to Karl Marx by French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

But critics of the think tank and its director, Prof. John Tomasi, say look closer: What you’re really seeing is a clever veneer meant to project a commitment to free speech and unfettered academic inquiry while distracting outsiders from the group’s true aim — to advance extreme free-market ideology on the Providence campus.

Their alleged smoking gun? For starters, the more than $653,000 in donations the project received in 2016 from the Charles Koch Foundation, according to an Internal Revenue Service 990 form filed by the charitable organization named for the billionaire CEO of Koch Industries, a conglomerate operating in the chemical, pipeline, agriculture and energy sectors. Continue reading

Maine State Rep. Jennifer DeChant Sought Corporate ‘Talking Points’ to ‘Counter’ Activists

Follow on Twitter @AlexLNunes

When faced last year with growing criticism over her plans to propose a $60-million tax deal to one of Maine’s largest private employers, state Rep. Jennifer DeChant turned to an apparently reliable ally: the very company she was advocating for.

“Jon- I am sure you have seen the Op Ed piece below,” DeChant said in a Dec. 4 email to Bath Iron Works attorney Jon Fitzgerald, following the publication that same day of a commentary in Portland’s Press Herald by peace activist Bruce Gagnon, titled, “General Dynamics has no business asking for more tax breaks.”

DeChant continued, “I am looking for some talking points to counter this.” She suggested they would be used in an upcoming meeting with constituents. Continue reading

Professor Puts Brown University’s Koch Connection Under the Microscope

Follow on Twitter @AlexLNunes

The Koch-funded “Political Theory Project,” founded at Brown University in 2003, has come under closer scrutiny in recent weeks.

The critique comes from an anonymous faculty member who worked with the advocacy group UnKoch My Campus to speak out against what the academic says, in a blog post published Jan. 23, is a nationwide and “unabashedly political project to advance the interests of the rich and powerful.”

The article, meticulously researched with 34 end notes, connects the larger Koch-backed effort at American colleges and universities to the specific project at Brown, which the unnamed professor argues has opened the door for “radically” conservative, free market influence on the Providence campus. Continue reading