Kansas City MO anti-nuke ballot initiative – vote is tomorrow!

April 1, 2013

Peace activists and groups in Kansas City, Missouri, including our Peace Action affiliate PeaceWorks KC, have been waging an impressive local struggle around the oddball government-corporate (Honeywell – don’t buy their products!) partnership that was concocted to build a new plant in KC that will manufacture the non-nuclear components of U.S. nuclear bombs (why such a thing is needed as we downsize our nuclear arsenal is quite a head-scratcher). They succeeded in getting an initiative on tomorrow’s municipal ballot to prevent such shenanigans from being repeated or expanded in the future. The local NPR affiliate ran a story on the issue this morning, give it a listen and if you have friends or relatives in KC, make sure they vote yes on Question 3!

Here’s the text of the story on KCUR radio:

The National Nuclear Security Agency contracted that work to a company called Bendix (after a merger, it’s now called Honeywell).  At the height of the Cold War, in the 1980s, the factory employed some 8000 workers.

That was when psychologist Rachel MacNair first got involved in the movement against nuclear weapons.

“Back in the 1970s and 80s, people were really afraid the world was going to end in a nuclear holocaust,” MacNair says.

She joined a group in Kansas City that advocated converting the Bannister facility to a factory that made some other product.

“At the time it was a pie-in-the-sky, starry-eyed idealist,  easily-dismissed kind of idea,” MacNair says. “And then the Cold War ended. And the Cold War has been over for a couple of decades.  And nowadays we have retired military people, we have military experts, we have the same people who set up mutually assured destruction saying that it’s time to get rid of nuclear weapons.

According to The Kansas City Star, the Honeywell plant currently employs about 2000 workers, who “maintain the W76 missile warhead, a submarine-based weapon which is seven times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb.”

The factory is getting old, though, and Kansas City officials were afraid of losing the plant, and the jobs, to New Mexico. So, they offered tax incentives to a private developer. And in 2010, ground was broken on a $1 billion new facility.

MacNair thought the project made no sense, since the Obama administration is talking about reducing nuclear arsenals.

“I just could not stand the idea of building a whole new plant as if we were going to be making new parts for decades.”

Anti-nuclear weapon activists in Kansas City tried to stop the incentives with previous petitions. And two years ago, some 50 people were arrested in a protest at the construction site.

The building’s complete now. The NNSA and Honeywell have been transferring operations already. It’s supposed to go online in August of 2014.

The question on the ballot isn’t about shutting down the new plant down, but rather, it prohibits the city from offering any futures incentives to “facilities that produce or procure components for, assemble, or refurbish nuclear weapons.”  This would apply to companies that work exclusively with Honeywell or any future nuclear weapons plant.

According to city councilman Scott Taylor, this makes Kansas City look like an unappealing place to do business.

“A company, regardless of the size, is looking to locate a new facility.  They will usually have a site selection process, that has multiple sites,” Taylor says. “And if one of those sites happens to have something that’s different from all the others, that’s a little strange and  really might require some additional legal work, or research to see if they have some legal issues, they’ll just take us off the list and move to the other options because it will be a lot easier for them.”

Taylor is the at-large councilman in District 6, where the new plant is located.  He says the new building has already helped bolster Kansas City’s construction industry through the recession. And he’s hoping it will anchor development in a struggling part of town.

‘Specifically in South Kansas City, we’ve really been fighting hard for the Three Trails re-development, the old Bannister Mall,” Taylor says. “We’ve had an incentive package on all that property; it’s already in place, we’ve already done that. If a company has any ties to this facility there’s a question as to whether they can even locate there if they wanted to. If they can’t locate there, it’s just as easy for a lot of these companies looking to locate near this plant to locate in Overland Park, Leawood, Grandview and other areas.  I’d rather have them in South Kansas City.”

Taylor says the old Bannister facility is on federal land, so it doesn’t generate taxes for the city and the school district.  The new plant is on private land, so despite the incentives, it will bring in property taxes for Kansas City, Missouri, as well as the Grandview school district, which dips into KC at that spot.

Taylor says he understands the intent behind the ballot question.

‘We all agree that it would be nice if all countries would disarm nuclear weapons,’ Taylor says. “But that’s not the world we live in and quite frankly the language of this doesn’t address disarmament or doing anything with the federal government specifically.  My concern is that the unintended consequences of this would be very dramatic for our local economy.”

Other opponents say that the ballot question would not stop the production of nuclear weapons, anyway, that it would just shift the jobs elsewhere.

But proponents say they want to raise awareness that the nuclear weapons plant is here, and that it’s controversial.

This story was produced for KC Currents, which airs Sundays at 5pm with a repeat Mondays at 8pm. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KC Currents podcast.


Lockheed Martin Made How Much Money Last Year? And They Still Need to Shake Down Maryland Taxpayers?

March 13, 2013

Thanks for Stephen Miles of Win Without War for this legwork. To put this amount of money in context, Lockheed Martin’s sales last year were more than double the gross domestic product for the country of Afghanistan. And Lockheed needs $1.4 million in corporate welfare from me and other Maryland taxpayers (whose federal tax dollars already fund Lockheed’s war profiteering)? Seems they need to look up “chutzpah” in the dictionary.

From LM’s 2012 Annual Report and 2013 Proxy Statement. A few fun facts to keep in mind.

- 2012 was another banner year for LM with a record sales of $47.2
billion.
– Former LM CEO Robert Stevens actually did see a dip in his pay last
year, bringing in a meager $16.5 million in total compensation. Rest easy
though as LM’s Proxy Statement indicates he’s in for a golden parachute of
$36.6 million. He’ll also continue to earn a healthy salary in his new role
as Executive Chairman of LM’s Board of Directors.
– In 2012, LM increased its dividend by 15%, representing the 10th
consecutive annual double-digit percentage increase in dividends
– LM ended 2012 with a total backlog of $82.3 billion (another record,
up from $80.7 b in 2011), $35.0 or 43% of this is expected to be converted
to sales in 2013. The majority of this backlog is already funded ($54.8 b).
The backlog only includes firm orders and does not include existing
unexercised options or potential indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity
orders.
– As in 2011, LM earned 82% of its sales directly from the US government
(61% from DoD), 17% from international sales (roughly half of which were
Foreign Military Sales contracted with the US government and half were
Direct Commercial Sales) and 1% from everything else. Bonus points to
anyone who can figure out how much of that 17% in international sales is
derived from foreign military assistance funding (ie money the US gives
other countries to buy weapons from us).


Marylanders – Let’s Stop a Corporate Welfare Handout to the World’s Biggest War Profiteer!

March 11, 2013

Lockheed Martin lobbyists and their friends are working to squeeze millions of dollars from Montgomery County tax payers. They have written a bill, specifically for Lockheed Martin, that would require the County to redefine a hotel in order to exempt the guests at Lockheed Martin’s hotel on its Bethesda campus from paying the county’s 7% hotel tax. This law would affect no other facility in the state.  In addition, the bill requires the county to reimburse $1.4 million to the company for legally required taxes it has already paid.

The Montgomery County Council has refused to consider awarding Lockheed Martin such special favors twice.

This week the state legislature is making an end run around the Montgomery County Council decision with its bill in the General Assembly.

Call your Senators and Delegates Now! 

Ask senators to oppose Senate Bill 631 and delegates to oppose its companion bill in the House, HB 815.   http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2013RS/fnotes/bil_0001/sb0631.pdf

For more background, read this story in Maryland’s premiere state political blog.

Lockheed Martin is making mega profits, so why won’t they pay their fair share of taxes like everyone else?

Call your Senators and Delegates Now! 

Singling out one company for preferential treatment, at the expense of the rest of county businesses and individuals, who pay their taxes, is not right.

When WIC supplements for babies and pregnant women are being cut, when children are being deprived of Head Start, when unemployment benefits are being reduced–why in such a time should one of the wealthiest companies in the state receive this kind of special tax favoritism?  

We’ve won this battle twice before, at the County Council level. We can win again, if you will help us. Please call now!

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action


Excellent Op-ed in the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal by Mike Helbick of Peace Action Wisconsin

November 2, 2012

http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/shift-us-spending-priorities-save-state-jobs-8p7ehg2-176860871.html

By Mike Helbick
Nov. 1, 2012
On Oct. 25, Oshkosh Corp. announced that 450 employees will find themselves without jobs in January. While the national debate rages over economic recovery and job production, hundreds of Wisconsin families are left in uncertainty, with unemployment and hardship waiting to greet them in the new year.

Oshkosh Corp. has been a stable employer for longer than most of us can remember. What began as the Wisconsin Auto Duplex Co. in 1917, today Oshkosh Corp. sells and services products in more than 130 countries. Oshkosh Corp. has worked its way to its current position as the seventh-largest military contractor in the nation, while providing good-paying union jobs to Wisconsin families.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the need for all-terrain, mine-resistant vehicles prompted Oshkosh Corp. to aggressively ramp up its production between 2008 and 2011. However, as the wars wind down and the urgent need for these vehicles disappears, so disappears stable employment for 450 workers.

This reality must force us to re-evaluate the foundation of our industry in Wisconsin and across the nation. Wars are profitable, but the long-term impact is disaster because layoffs are inevitable when wars end. Thus, the building of industry on top of the unreliable and ever-changing realities of conflict and war is not a permanent plan for permanent employment.

This much is clear: We must diversify our economy. To do this, we must re-evaluate our federal spending priorities.

Military spending at the federal level is a very low job creator in comparison to similar spending in other areas. For every $1 billion of federal money spent on the military, 11,200 jobs are created. Spending that same amount in education creates 26,700 jobs, or in health care creates 17,200 jobs, or in clean energy creates 16,800 jobs (according to University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute).

Although the Fox Cities continue to benefit greatly by the presence of Oshkosh Corp. and the federal money paid to that company, nationally speaking, military spending is a very poor job creator.

Our federal spending must now set as a high priority the conversion of military production by companies such as Oshkosh Corp. to production of products that enjoy a more stable market. The United States has done this before, and on a much larger scale.

After World War II, for example, the successful transition from a wartime to civilian economy took place due to extensive planning and protections at the local, state and national levels. The success of such diversification throughout our nation’s history has depended largely on this federal planning and assistance.

As the wars wind down, as soldiers begin to return home from the war in Afghanistan, as Oshkosh Corp. returns to peacetime levels of production and as 450 Wisconsin workers will begin the new year without employment, now is the time for diversification and a long-term plan for good, union jobs.

Neither Oshkosh Corp. nor its workers should have to go it alone. Let’s refocus our federal spending priorities and ensure that industry and communities can thrive in America in times of war and peace.

Mike Helbick is program director of Peace Action WI. Email: Mike@peaceactionwi.org


GOP Convention Delayed a Day, But Let the Exposing of their Hypocrisy Begin!

August 27, 2012

Concerns over Hurricane Isaac have postponed the Republican convention by a day (and I hope the Gulf Coast gets lucky and receives nothing but some much needed rain for a parched landscape), but why wait to expose GOP hypocrisy over military spending and war? (Not that the Dems are all of the sudden the party of Gandhi of course! Presidential kill lists anyone?)

Politico got things started early with its report on Saturday that the GOP platform had been posted online, by mistake. It’s a doozy, with prominence given to “American Exceptionalism.” (Thanks to Stephen Schwartz, Editor of The Nonproliferation Review, for the heads up on this.)

Also over the weekend, Carol Giacomo’s New York Times editorial “How Mitt Romney Would Force-Feed the Pentagon” calls Romney and Paul Ryan to account for their alleged fiscal restraint, which of course doesn’t apply to our gargantuan Penatagon budget. Our own Larry Wittner, Peace Action national board member and Professor Emeritus at SUNY/Albany, writes in a similar vein in his article “The Republican Small Government Fraud” on the History News Network.

Finally, some videos from our colleagues at Brave New Films, in an ongoing series called War Costs. These first two bash at some low-hanging Pentagon budget fruit – NASCAR sponsorships and golf courses – but they’ll soon have films on more serious Pentagon boondoggles.

All of this is terrfici grist for our Move the Money mill! More soon on our Move the Money grassroots training program.

 


Ban the Bomb, Don’t Bank on It!

August 6, 2012

Published on Monday, August 6, 2012 by Common Dreams

Ban the Bomb, Don’t Bank on It!

by Jennifer Nordstrom and Kevin Martin

August 6th and 9th mark the 67th anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Close to 200,000 people were killed in mere moments in these attacks by the United States, in some of the most gruesome and horrific ways possible. Each year, people around the world reflect on this solemn occasion, and peace activists rededicate themselves to abolishing nuclear weapons worldwide.

We owe it to the Hibakusha (a-bomb survivors) to analyze how well we are doing in this quest. While substantial reductions in sheer numbers of nuclear weapons have been made, particularly in the giant arsenals of the U.S. and Russia, we are not moving nearly fast enough toward a nuclear weapons-free world. This is largely due to a combination of public indifference, lack of political courage and will in elected officials and the vested interests and power of the Dr. Strangeloves in the nuclear weapons establishment. An honest assessment of the global nuclear disarmament movement calls for new strategies to “Ban the Bomb.”

Our movement needs new energy, new activists, and new strategies to revitalize the vital work for nuclear abolition. It is time to learn from other vibrant and creative new movements targeting the corporate powers that undermine the will and interests of the people. Our colleagues at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) have produced a powerful tool to help us do exactly that. Don’t Bank on the Bomb is a comprehensive study of the largest nuclear weapons corporations worldwide and the companies with whom they do business. The report outlines ideas for boycott and divestment campaigns targeting the corporations that make or help fund nuclear weapons.

Most of the large nuclear weapons producers – Babcock and Wilcox, Bechtel, Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, to name a few – are hard to boycott, as they don’t make much in the way of consumer products one can choose not to buy. (One nuclear weapons company that may be a surprise is Rolls-Royce, but the cost of their cars means they are under a de facto boycott by all but the top 1%!).

However, a veritable Who’s Who (or perhaps a rogues’ gallery) of U.S. and international corporations invest in or help finance the corporations making nuclear weapons – JP Morgan Chase, Key Bank, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, MetLife, Allstate, Mass Mutual, Travelers Insurance, TIAA-CREF (a large mutual fund that is supposedly “socially screened”) and Nuveen Investments are among the hundreds of firms involved in the Bomb-making business. They are all ripe for targeting in boycott and/or divestment campaigns to pressure them to stop banking on the Bomb.

Pull out your wallet – look at your ATM and credit or debit cards – you are most likely doing business with companies who finance nuclear weapons. The companies holding your mortgage, providing your life insurance and holding your mutual funds or other investments may well help finance nuclear weapons. So you have the opportunity to have a direct and immediate impact on the production of nuclear weapons: you can stop doing business with the corporations that profit from making nuclear weapons.

This also presents an opportunity for peace and disarmament supporters to link with activists boycotting or divesting from corporations for other good reasons, over their banking, environmental, labor, trade or policy practices (the Move our Money campaign, which encourages consumers to take their deposits out of big banks and put them instead in community banks and credit unions, being a great example).

Boycott and divestment campaigns have been successful tools for social change around the world and are a needed companion (and for some, a necessary alternative) to the painstakingly slow (and some would argue unresponsive and undemocratic) legislative process, especially on military and foreign policy. This kind of campaign gives us an opportunity to build our movement with an achievable strategy and short-term winnable goals, which will energize old and new activists alike while it moves us a step closer to a nuclear-weapons-free world.

Public opinion polls consistently show strong public support for ending the war in Afghanistan, serious cuts in military spending, and the global abolition of nuclear weapons, to name just a few peace movement priorities, yet progress on those issues is glacial, with one key reason being the economic and political clout of the war machine.

Divestment organizing is a different ball of wax from consumer boycotts, as it seeks to put pressure from institutional investors on corporations in order to change their behavior. The largest churches or mutual funds divesting from companies over their support for the nuclear weapons industry would send a powerful message, and we hope to help catalyze campaigns in this vein.

Whether engaging in boycott or divestment campaigns, or both, people taking action, together, that reflects their values and aspirations for a more peaceful and just society, is empowering, and it’s what is needed to change the world. A-bomb survivors determined that the horror they experienced 67 years ago never happen again is one of the most inspiring examples of activism we know.

As our Hibakusha friends teach us:

No More Hiroshimas! No More Nagasakis! No more Hibakusha! No More War!
May we add: No More Nuclear Weapons Profiteering!

Jennifer Nordstrom

Jennifer Nordstrom serves on the board of directors of the Peace Action Education Fund.

Kevin Martin

Kevin Martin is Executive Director of Peace Action, the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with 100,000 members and over 70,000 on-line supporters. Please contact him at kmartin@peace-action.org if you are interested in being involved or supporting a new boycott/divestment campaign targeting nuclear weapons makers and their investors.


Kev’s Summer Reading List

July 9, 2012

Here are four books on Peace Action related issues I’ve read recently, all written by colleagues (okay maybe I need to balance these now with some non-political books!). What are you reading this summer? Please share your favorites, whether political or peace-related or not.

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control by Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink: Women for Peace and Global Exchange

Medea Benjamin, an indefatigable drum major for peace and justice, provides a real eye opener to how U.S. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) or “drones” are not only killing innocent civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries (most of whom the U.S. is not at war against), but how drones are lowering the bar for warmaking and spying on Americans. Clear, concise, well-argued and passionate, featuring interviews with drone victims and activists working to limit the proliferation of drones and other robotic warfare technology, this book is a must-read for peace activists wanting to learn more about this pernicious threat to peace and our civil liberties and how to stop it.

Working for Peace and Justice: Memoirs of an Activist Intellectual by Lawrence Wittner, Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York at Albany and a member of the Peace Action national board of directors

Perhaps because I admire and like Larry Wittner so much,  I really enjoyed this coming of age story of a shy, intellectual boy from Brooklyn who went on to become a civil rights, labor and peace activist, and the authoritative scholar of the global nuclear disarmament movement. While I enjoyed that “political” part of the book, Larry’s personal journey is very compelling too, as he overcame numerous serious personal and professional obstacles to become a much-respected and well-liked stalwart in the fields of academia and activism.

Here is the blurb I wrote for the book:

Larry Wittner’s life and work are inspiring on their own, but he recounts them in such a frank, open manner that he has crafted a real page-turner. Working for Peace and Justice takes you along on a joyful ride of discovery through the life of a model citizen/scholar/activist.”

The Peacekeeping Economy:  Using Economic Relationships to Build a More Peaceful, Prosperous, and Secure World by Lloyd “Jeff” Dumas, Professor at the University of Texas at Dallas

If you are looking for a Marxist screed about war and capitalism, Jeff Dumas’s latest work is not the one for you. But if you like practical ideas on how a more just U.S. and global economy could work better for everyone, and how a more peaceful world is possible with more equitable economic policies, then you will dig into this book, part of “an unintended trilogy” by Dumas. For good measure, he throws in a fascinating chapter on nonviolence. It’s a bit of a serious, somewhat academic read, but very rewarding, even to someone who was not very strong on Economics in my academic career! Dumas’s aim is true, and he aims to make a difference, not wow you with economics wizardry.

 Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military Industrial Complex by William Hartung

Okay I only got to read part of this book, but it was great, as everything Bill Hartung writes always is. It’s a fascinating history of how Lockheed began as a small airplane company and then metastasized into the largest merchant of death on the planet. As anti-corporate organizing grows, we need to sharpen the focus on some of the worst corporations, those who profit from and lobby for endless wars, bottomless weapons contracts and gargantuan military budgets. This book is an invaluable resource for doing just that!


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