The Commandeering of the USS Fitzgerald: A Tale of War Industry Greed

The USS Fitzgerald is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, a large ship designed to carry out many different types of missions. It is one of over 400 ships in the U.S. Navy’s arsenal.

The U.S. war industry, the corporations that manufacture and market weaponry to the U.S. Armed Forces and allied foreign nations, has sold many goods and services to the U.S. Navy for use on Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. These include, but are not limited to: Argon ST Inc. anti-torpedo systems, Boeing anti-ship missiles, Northrop Grumman navigation software and control systems, Lockheed Martin radar, Lockheed Martin vertical launch systems (VLS), General Electric engines, propulsion systems from Philadelphia Gear and Timken Gears & Services, and Honeywell and Northrop Grumman torpedoes (featuring L-3 electro-optical sensors). Raytheon missiles like the Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) and the Tomahawk also feature prominently on Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The USS Fitzgerald is stacked.

On 17 June 2017, the high-tech USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship southeast of Japan. What followed was a classic case of war industry greed and Pentagon complicity.

Continue reading The Commandeering of the USS Fitzgerald: A Tale of War Industry Greed

Russia, Syria and the New Political Objectivity

On September 30th, The Brown Daily Herald ran an article about an analysis of an alleged Russian disinformation campaign on Twitter. The analysis was performed by two undergraduates, Ethan Fecht from Brown University and Jack Nassetta from George Washington University, as part of a report issued by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California. The authors examined the sudden appearance of seemingly fake pro-Trump Twitter accounts after the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, on April 7th, 2018. The Nassetta-Fecht report, totaling 50 pages, claims these accounts were created by the Russian Federation to discourage US intervention in Syria after the attack. Evidently, this supposed disinformation campaign was not enough to prevent a US-British-French coalition from bombing three Syrian government installations on April 14th.

Nassetta and Fecht call the reader’s attention to what they claim is the grander Russian “counternarrative” campaign to “defame Western institutions”, and for this they have received national acclaim. On September 17th, Nassetta and Fecht published an article in The Washington Post which included a “cheat sheet” which can be used to identify Twitter trolls seeking to deceive Americans. Later, The Brown Daily Herald spoke approvingly of the report, one of the authors being a Brown student. The Herald article quotes William Potter, head of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, who lauded the two students’ “significant contribution” to our understanding of social media.

There would seem to be no questioning the merit of the Nassetta-Fecht report, which, like other recent attempts to detect propaganda and “fake news” used statistical and supposedly objective methods. Searching through a data set of 850,000 tweets, the authors discovered the alleged Russian disinformation campaign by examining graphs of Twitter account creation, tables of word frequency and a very Trumpian “word cloud” with a large “MAGA” in its center. Accordingly, their report uses some technical terminology:  the authors conclude that “synthetic actors” displaying “inorganic activity” on Twitter used “counternarrative messaging” to engage with political leaders on a “linear plane”. This is a far cry from the vague and imperfect methods of traditional journalism, relying instead on objective measures, “big data”, and convincing “visualizations”.

Yet, closer inspection reveals that the methods of Nassetta and Fecht are a thin veneer covering what is a remarkably explicit endorsement of American military interventionism. Indeed, the report’s unsubtle premise is that wholehearted support for the anti-government opposition seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad at any cost is the only sensible and safe resolution to Syria’s beastly war. Until recently, this was essentially the White House line on Syria, a position treated with rolling eyes by serious journalists and basically anyone outside of highly indoctrinated American foreign policy circles. Though claiming to use new and fashionable methods, the Nassetta-Fecht report is actually a very traditional exercise in American foreign policy discourse: a myopic endorsement of US military domination and a disregard for its victims. Continue reading Russia, Syria and the New Political Objectivity

The Hypocrisy of Blasting Trump While Cheerleading For General Dynamics

Anyone who has ever read coverage in The Providence Journal of a keel laying at General Dynamics knows there’s a better chance of being struck by lightning while riding a unicorn than seeing Gov. Gina Raimondo and our congressional delegation pass up a photo opportunity at the Quonset submarine shipyard.

Raimondo, along with fellows Democrats Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Sen. Jack Reed, Rep. Jim Langevin, and Rep. David Cicilline, have trumpeted GD’s subsidiary Electric Boat as a valued corporate “partner,” a “jobs creator,” and a reliable ticket to the “middle class” for “hardworking Rhode Islanders.”

Their PR messaging, of course, ignores the company’s role in producing advanced weaponry, submarines included, that intimidates nations and destabilizes the globe, while simultaneously pushing said countries to pursue nuclear weapons programs in hopes of maintaining some sense of security against the U.S. war machine—never mind General Dynamics’ status as a corporate welfare giant that’s secured, through political strong-arming, nearly $480-million in state subsidies nationwide on top of the billions it gobbles up in federal taxpayer dollars every year. Meanwhile, much of that money—nearly $11-billion since 2013—has gone to dubious share repurchasing that inflates executive compensation at the expense of workers.

But the extent to which Rhode Island politicians are willing to turn their heads to General Dynamics’ rapaciousness and the moral bankruptcy of the company’s leadership took on a new dimension this week, when it was widely publicized that GD holds a lucrative contract to track detained immigrant children separated from their parents under Donald Trump’s deplorable immigration policy. Continue reading The Hypocrisy of Blasting Trump While Cheerleading For General Dynamics

An In-Depth Look at the U.S. Nuclear Arsenal and Modernization Program With Weapons Expert Hans Kristensen

I first came across the work of Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, while reporting a series for The Providence Journal on the new fleet of ballistic missile submarines due to be built by General Dynamics-Electric Boat at its Connecticut and Rhode Island shipyards. The Navy currently has 14 nuclear-armed Ohio-class submarines in service and plans to replace them with 12 Columbia-class ships. Kristensen, however, had analyzed publicly available information and found the Navy may need only eight operational subs, with an additional two in refueling, to meet the demand of its deterrence missions—a conclusion that, if acknowledged and acted upon, would mean cost savings for taxpayers and lost revenue for Electric Boat. “Of course, the Navy vehemently denies that [its submarine fleet is too large],” Kristensen later told me in an interview.

I quickly discovered Kristensen’s work—which includes the comprehensive FAS “Nuclear Notebook”—was among the most detailed and fact-based analysis on worldwide nuclear weapons arsenals available to the public. His reports are empirical and objective, to a degree that seems almost detached given the implications of the subject matter. Consider, for example, this passage from a 2017 article he co-authored with Matthew McKinzie and Theodore Postol on advancements in U.S. nuclear warheads and their potential impact on perceptions of possible nuclear scenarios: Continue reading An In-Depth Look at the U.S. Nuclear Arsenal and Modernization Program With Weapons Expert Hans Kristensen

Paul Roselli Wants to Fix Transportation, Healthcare, and the Environment—and Get Rhode Island’s Economy Out of a ‘1940s Mode’

Paul Roselli has worn many hats in his life: documentary filmmaker, environmental activist, land steward; he’s even worked stints in corporate America and university relations. Now he wants to add the title Governor of Rhode Island to that list. Prior to announcing his candidacy last September, Roselli was best known as a leading opponent of the fracked gas power plant in Burrillville, where Roselli runs a local land trust. The Democratic challenger to Gov. Gina Raimondo says his decision to enter the race was initially inspired by his disappointment in Raimondo’s “arrogant” and disingenuous response to the concerns of Burrillville activists opposed to the power plant and her acceptance of campaign contributions connected to Invenergy, the Chicago-based company behind the project. But, Roselli says, his message has since broadened, and his goal is to fix Rhode Island’s transportation, healthcare, economic and environmental challenges through a “holistic” approach no longer stuck in the 1940s.

When Roselli and I sat down recently to discuss his campaign, we began by talking about Gov. Raimondo’s focus on building the state’s military-based economy, including her awarding of millions of dollars in subsidies to nuclear-armed submarine maker Electric Boat, a division of General Dynamics, a Fortune 100 company and one of the nation’s largest Pentagon contractors. Below is an edited and condensed version of our conversation. Continue reading Paul Roselli Wants to Fix Transportation, Healthcare, and the Environment—and Get Rhode Island’s Economy Out of a ‘1940s Mode’

Corporate Accountability Is Not a Priority in Rhode Island

When writing the headline for this piece, I initially went with: “Corporate Accountability Is an Afterthought in Rhode Island.”

But I quickly realized that would be a little misleading to readers, as the word “afterthought” implies a person, or group of people, actually starts thinking of something at some point. And I don’t get the impression our governor and her administration ever became too concerned about holding accountable the corporations that have leaned on taxpayers for years.

Take for instance the case of Navy contractor General Dynamics-Electric Boat and its use of jobs training funding in Rhode Island. Continue reading Corporate Accountability Is Not a Priority in Rhode Island

General Dynamics and the Undermining of Democracy in Rhode Island and Connecticut

If you’re a Connecticut resident who was caught off guard last week by Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy’s announcement of an $83-million subsidy package to U.S. Navy contractor General Dynamics-Electric Boat, don’t worry—you weren’t alone.

That’s because, while Malloy’s self-described “historic long-term partnership” with Electric Boat had been in the works for months, the giveaway to cover infrastructure expansion and workforce development costs at Electric Boat’s Groton shipyard was virtually impossible for the public to follow and weigh in on in any meaningful way.

From what the public could see, it all started in January when Sen. Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) announced her plan to introduce a bill offering $100-million to Electric Boat for facility expansion, and another $50-million for employee training. A placeholder for the “Act Concerning Funding For Submarine Jobs and Opportunities” was posted online with zero details and then never updated. Continue reading General Dynamics and the Undermining of Democracy in Rhode Island and Connecticut