Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Please note I have a new phone number...


Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Democratic Party and the 2008 Elections

The Democratic Party, including the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party, is hard at work trying to project its image in preparation for the 2008 elections.

One might ask, "What is wrong with a political party doing this?"

There is nothing wrong with this, EXCEPT the Democratic Party is trying to project an image based upon the war in Iraq, the health care mess, global warming & environmental issues, and labor issues.

Again, what is wrong with this scenario? Nothing, EXCEPT the Democratic Party controls both the state legislature here in Minnesota and both houses of the United States Congress and the image they should be concerned about projecting is that the Democratic Party has been the Party that ended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and prevented a war from starting in Iran; should be passing single-payer, universal health care legislation so as to be able to tell voters they solved the health care mess; should be able to tell voters that they saved thousands of jobs and created millions more; and really did something to halt global warming by holding up the Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant as an example of the direction industry needs to move in rather than allowing this plant to be shut down and demolished.

The leadership of the Democratic Party is very shrewd... they encourage all these different people to run for President from all the various constituencies that make up "the big tent" while knowing that Hillary Clinton is going to be nominated.

We are all being played for fools by those who have become experts at playing this game called "The Two Party Trap."

If in fact the Democratic Party and the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party was really interested in projecting an image for the 2008 Presidential Elections it would concern itself with taking the appropriate steps to end these dirty wars; bring forward single-payer, universal health care legislation; and making sure the Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant stays open. Then there would be a legitimate reason to be projecting these issues on the 2008 Presidential Elections... but, without being successful on any of these issues any image the Democratic Party projects will be a farce and a fraud... Elmer Gantry had more legitimacy than Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party... it is only a question of time before working people in the United States decide to build an alternative to the Democratic Party... the sooner the better.

One has to wonder if the dumb donkeys are those like Hillary Clinton and Walter Mondale or those of us that continue to vote for these pathetic excuses that pass themselves off as politicians?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Against War: Resisting Empire and the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan

Please note: I left my blog up on "China to Upgrade Rail System; Will Minnesota Workers Get Jobs?" for several days because it was getting so many comments. You can still read this blog in the "Archives"... all past blogs can be accessed through the "Archives" from the column on the right; just click on each date for the title of the blog.

Please note: I am posting something that originated in Canada today. I usually do not republish the work of others, but I think this contains so much information that we do not have access to that it requires reprinting on my daily blog. I hope you will distribute this widely. It comes from a group of student and labor activists in Canada... it is my opinion we need to continue moving in a similar direction here in the United States. By clicking on the title you will be taken to the web site of "The Socialist Project."

Against War: Resisting Empire and the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan

**York Ad Hoc Committee Against the War**
It is now five years since Canadian troops were first deployed to Afghanistan, entering from the outset into a combat position. Canada moved into a war in Afghanistan without any Parliamentary sanction or debate. The Liberal government of Prime Minister Jean Chretien engineered both an endorsement and accommodation to the American 'war on terror' by moving into Afghanistan without directly supporting the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. The policy was a classic case of Canada trying to have it both ways. The Canadian mission in Afghanistan was thus begun with neither wide discussion and even minimal accountability nor strategic thought. It was undertaken to affirm Canada as the American empire's key ally. In this case, Canada would act would support U.S. and western imperialism under the rubric of a NATO mission given legitimacy by a resolution rammed through the UN Security Council in the wake of 9/11, when rational and calm debate and analysis was completely fo! regone.

Prime Ministers Paul Martin and Stephen Harper both subsequently raised Canada's commitments to the Afghanistan mission in terms of troop levels, arms expenditures, and operational deployments. Notably, Canada moved into a forward combat position in Southern Afghanistan in the winter of 2006 to directly engage Taliban forces. Canada is scheduled to play a larger role in the NATO command structure. Relative to domestic population levels, more Canadians have been killed in Afghanistan than any other of the NATO allies. And more Canadian soldiers, as well as civilian officials, will be killed in the coming months, given the chaos that is continuing to spiral upward in Afghanistan and, indeed, across the Middle East.

There are other disturbing aspects of the Canadian deployment that the government of Canada has been less than forthcoming about. Canada will soon be at war in Afghanistan as long as any war Canada has fought in, notably WW II. The Canadian mission is primarily combat and not development-related, with only about 10 percent of expenditures being related to development work. The Karzai government in Kabul being defended has no real democratic mandate. It is a cesspool of corruption, with aid moneys transferred and taxes collected soon vanishing into any number of pockets. The so-called Afghan parliament is full of ex-Taliban and warlords. The government is making next to no progress on women's and human rights. The Canadian Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence, in its February report, “Canadian Troops in Afghanistan: Taking a Hard Look at A Hard Mission”, came to most of these same conclusions. It all but admitted that the war cannot be 'wo! n' (in the eyes of a foreign military force intervening in another country). But the Senators then illogically concluded that Canada must stick it out because of the need to support NATO allies and for peace and security. Yet, the Senate Report itself had just observed what is apparent to all but the willfully ignorant: the war and conflict is spreading, as is the range and violence of various terrorist acts. It is the ideological need to support NATO, as one of the foremost institutions of western militarism and imperialism, re-engineered in the post-cold war period to project military power into wayward states in the 'global south', that remains at the heart of the Canadian intervention in Afghanistan. When a mission lacks justification and is faltering, as with the Canadian and NATO mission in Afghanistan, all that is left is for the bankrupt rulers to assert, as they so often have in the past, that 'war is peace'.

The Canadian war in Afghanistan has been barely discussed in Parliament, with only the briefest debate in May 2006 on a motion extending the Canadian mission. A much deeper process of discussion, education, and mobilization needs to ensue across Canada. The Canadian Peace Alliance and other peace groups have called for nation-wide demonstrations across Canada for March 17. We must begin to work toward that now in our workplaces and communities across the country.

We are supporting an anti-war teach-in at York University on February 22 as part of this process. And we are calling on university, college and high school campuses across Canada to engage in similar teach-ins. Anti-war activists, students and professors, workers and all citizens simply concerned with democracy, peace, international restraints on militarism, and democratic sovereignty must work to build a wide opposition against the war. We need to bring Canadian troops home and get them out of Afghanistan, and get NATO and American troops out of Iraq and the Middle East.



Thursday February 22, 2007
A day of panels and workshops about building the anti-war movement.

Opening Plenary: Resisting Empire, Racism and War
CFA (Centre for Fine Arts) Room 312

You can check the location here:

(Map - bldg 36, Joan & Martin Goldfarb Centre for Fine Arts)

Sherene Razack, Professor of Sociology & Equity Studies at OISE, University of Toronto, author, "Dark Threats and White Knights: The Somalia Affair, Peacekeeping and the New Imperialism"

Michael Mandel, Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, author, "How America Gets Away With Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage and Crimes Against Humanity", and activist, Lawyers Against The War, Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians

Angela Joya, Graduate Student in Political Science, York University, member of the Middle East Socialist Students Network

Workshops in the York Student Centre:

3:15pm - 4:30pm
Trade Unions and Anti-War Organizing - GSA Lounge, Room 425
Canadian Foreign Policy and Imperialism - Room 311C

4:45pm - 6:00pm
The Student Anti-War Movement - GSA Lounge, Room 425
Anti-Imperialism - Room 311C

Social at The Underground

This teach-in is sponsored by a network of anti-war groups, including: Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG), Grass Roots Anti Imperialist Network (GRAIN), Graduate Students Association (GSA), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3903, International Solidarity Working Group, CUPE Ontario International Solidarity Committee, Latin America Solidarity Committee (LASC)


Questions About Canada's Involvement In Afghanistan

**Trade Unionists Against the War**

Canada is at war in Afghanistan. Many Canadian soldiers have been killed - the highest percentage of lives lost of any of the foreign armies that are engaged there. Canada currently has 2,300 troops in Afghanistan and it seems that almost every day the Harper government is escalating our country's commitment to the "mission" by providing new tanks, more troops, fighter planes and billions of dollars towards an open-ended war that could last decades.

We are told that the intervention is helping the people of Afghanistan rebuild their country and prevent the return of the hated Taliban, and that our soldiers are there to bring democracy, equality and economic well-being for the Afghan people. Even more, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Foreign Affairs Minister Peter McKay tell us that fighting in Afghanistan is necessary to stop terrorism and that it is part of a world-wide struggle for freedom, echoing U.S. President George W. Bush. Leading Liberal leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff called our involvement there a question of morality.

Yet, in spite of all of these claims, the majority of Canadians either oppose or have grave concerns about Canadian participation in the war in Afghanistan. Many working people share these concerns and are increasingly opposed to the government's policies. Lately, our unions are speaking out against the war as well. Ordinary Canadians have raised a number of questions about Canadian intervention in Afghanistan. We attempt to address some of them below.

Isn't the current government of Afghanistan concerned about democracy and equal rights?

The current Afghan government was installed as a result of the U.S. intervention in 2001. That government is neither democratic or nor stable and, protected by the American-led occupation force, rules today over an extremely unequal society.

Human Rights Watch estimates that 60 percent of Afghanistan's legislators have links to the country's warlords. One European diplomat reckoned that about 20 legislators have active private militias and that at least 20 more have been involved in drug smuggling.

In other words, the Afghan government is corrupt, repressive and weak. It is dependent on the occupying armies of the United States, Canada and the other NATO countries. Recently, the most senior British military commander in Afghanistan described the situation in the country as "close to anarchy", with feuding foreign agencies and privately controlled security companies compounding problems caused by local corruption.

What is life like for the Afghan people under the Karzai government?

Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world. According to a young Afghan woman legislator, Malalai Joya, in Afghanistan:

* 700 children and 50 to 70 women die each day for lack of adequate healthcare.
* 1,600 to 1,900 per 100,000 women die in childbirth.
* Life expectancy is less than 45 years.
* 40 percent of the population is unemployed.
* Afghanistan stands 175th out of 177 countries on the UN Human Development Index

Won't the American, British, Canadian and NATO intervention make things better there?

No. The principal goal of the intervention force is to seek out and destroy those who are fighting against the puppet Afghan government. This overwhelming focus on a military solution to the country's problems will not bring economic development or improvement in the lives of the people.

Everyone talks about the opium industry in Afghanistan - what is the issue?

Afghanistan is the world's largest supplier of opium, supplying 92% of the world heroin market. This remarkable statistic reflects the desperate situation facing Afghan farmers. The years of invasion, occupation and war have destroyed the country's fruit, vegetable and industrial production and trade. Farmers are forced to cultivate opium poppies in order to survive. Instead of providing Afghans with legal ways to use opium products (opium is the key ingredient in morphine, codeine and other opiate-based pharmaceuticals) or developing alternative crops, the American occupiers have concentrated their efforts on eradicating the poppy. This has, in turn, has made it more difficult for Afghani's to feed themselves. Meanwhile, the warlords in the Karzai government play a major role in running and benefiting from the opium trade.

Isn't there a danger of religious fundamentalists and terrorists coming back to power, if we leave?

The Taliban government was overthrown by the American-led bombing and military intervention in 2001. But it was replaced by a puppet government, friendly to American interests. The rebels fighting the current government include some of the former Taliban and Al-Q'aida, as well as nationalistic members of different ethnic groups, religious conservatives and others who are disgusted with the continuing occupation of their country by the U.S. and NATO forces and the continuing corruption of the government.

Today, the Karzai government includes many of the same repressive religious extremists that terrorized the Afghan people in the early 1990s. The current constitution and courts make Islamic law supreme. The Americans' allies also threaten the lives of any potential opposition as well as those who dare to argue for equality and political rights. In other words, the current government that we are defending includes both fundamentalists and terrorists.

As journalist Eric Margolis has recently commented: "Western troops are not fighting 'terrorism' in Afghanistan, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper claims. They are fighting the Afghan people. Every new civilian killed, and every village bombed, breeds new enemies for the West."

What about the condition of women and girls in Afghanistan today? Isn't this mission supposed to protect women and girls to get back their rights?

As Afghan woman's activist and legislator Malalai Joya recently noted, "Contrary to the propaganda in certain Western media, Afghan women and men are not 'liberated' at all", because the present government has continued many of the repressive policies towards women and girls. She noted at the Federal NDP convention in September 2006: "I think that no nation can donate liberation to another nation. Liberation should be achieved in a country by the people themselves. The ongoing developments in Afghanistan and Iraq prove this claim."

Amnesty International noted in 2005 that: "Violence against women and girls in Afghanistan is pervasive; few women are exempt from the reality or threat of violence. Afghan women and girls live with the risk of abduction and rape by armed individuals; forced marriage; being traded for settling disputes and debts; and face daily discrimination from all segments of society as well as by state officials.... Strict societal codes, invoked in the name of tradition and religion, are used as justification for denying women the ability to enjoy their fundamental rights, and have led to the imprisonment of some women, and even to killings. Should they protest by running away, the authorities may imprison them." (From Afghanistan: Women still under attack - a systematic failure to protect, May 30, 2005).

Why is Canada in the war?

For all the talk about freedom and democracy, the Canadian mission in Afghanistan is primarily about supporting the United States and redefining Canada's role in the world. Canadian troops were originally sent to Afghanistan to ease the pressure on U.S. troops in Iraq and to curry favour with Bush in order to "make up" for Canada's refusal to participate in the Iraq invasion and the Bush's "Star Wars" anti-missile program.

Many businesspeople and politicians argued that helping the American war effort would help offset U.S. threats to limit investment and trade with Canada. Canadian Chief of Staff Rick Hillier has also pushed for closer integration with the U.S. military.

When all is said and done, the Canadian establishment shares a number of common interests with the American ruling elite: in protecting the interests of large corporations and banks around the world; in helping the U.S. to use its power to guarantee that no country challenges private enterprise; and controlling important sources of raw materials.

This is the motivation for Canadian intervention in Haiti (where we helped to overthrow a democratically elected government that threatened business), our support of Israeli aggression in the Middle East and the protection of corporate rights at home.

Paul Martin's Liberal government supported this mission and Stephen Harper's Conservatives have continued it. Has anything changed?

Like many previous Canadian governments, the Martin Liberals talked publicly about pursuing independent Canadian interests through peacekeeping initiatives while they actually lent aid and support to the Americans. The big difference is that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives have dropped the pretence of independence. They openly support George Bush and identify themselves with the USA.

The Harper government, backed by right-wing elements in the military establishment, also wants Canada to drop its pretence of independence and neutrality and is working to create a foreign policy more openly aligned with American interests. This means that the Canadian military would concentrate on aggressive missions, geared towards fighting ground wars in support of U.S. campaigns against "terrorism" - the role that the military is increasingly playing in Afghanistan.

Canadian Chief of Staff Rick Hillier is a major spokesperson for this point of view, which involves massive investments in armaments and soldiers and a redirection of social resources away from humanitarian aid towards offensive weaponry. In order to succeed, this effort requires a massive propaganda campaign, designed to convince the Canadian people that there is an "enemy" - and that the enemy must be destroyed. This is why Hillier commented that the rebels in Afghanistan are, "detestable murderers and scumbags" who should be killed.

But aren't Canadian forces bringing development and reconstruction, as well as fighting the Taliban?

Most of Canada's politicians and many of our media outlets would have us believe that it is possible to combine reconstruction and humanitarian aid, along with efforts to "pacify" the opposition through military action. This is not true. Issues of development, education, economic growth and social justice must be handled differently. They require fundamental changes in society. The puppet Karzai government is not about to embark on such changes and this is clearly not what the Canadian mission is all about.

Looking at the actual spending of the Canadian mission, we can see that successive Canadian governments don't even believe their own propaganda. Between 2001 and 2006 Canada spent over CDN$ 4 billion (US$3.6 billion) on its military deployments, but has spent and pledged less than US$1 billion for humanitarian and development aid.

A Canadian vet from an earlier war, interviewed in a major newspaper, put the issue clearly: "If they can't get a resolution to it, then bring them home or pull them back and put them on peacekeeping. We don't have a big enough force to be peacemakers. I don't believe you go into a man's country and shoot him to bring him democracy. It's a funny way of doing it."

We are told that the Afghan people support the U.S.-backed government there. Is this true?

Even though TV accounts show pictures of Canadian troops giving candy to Afghan children, the Canadian army is waging an aggressive war against Afghan rebels, many of whom are fully integrated with the civilian population. This inevitably leads to the death of innocent people. As a result, many Afghans see little difference between the Canadians and the Americans there. Why would they?

After resigning his post, a former aide-de-camp to the commander of the British taskforce in southern Afghanistan commented that: "All those people whose homes have been destroyed and sons killed are going to turn against the British,.... It's a pretty clear equation if people are losing homes and poppy fields, they will go and fight. I certainly would."

After the most recent, Canadian-led NATO offensive, supposedly against the Taliban, a Globe and Mail reporter noted that: "Many of the fighters killed - perhaps half of them, by one estimate - were not Taliban stalwarts, but local farmers who reportedly revolted against corrupt policing and tribal persecution. It appears the Taliban did not choose the Panjwai district as a battleground merely because the irrigation trenches and dry canals provided good hiding places, but because many villagers were willing to give them food, shelter - even sons for the fight - in exchange for freedom from the local authorities." What does this tell us about the will of the Afghan people and the reasons they are fighting?

Isn't this a UN and NATO-sponsored mission? Does that matter?

The original U.S. bombing and invasion - Operation Enduring Freedom - was supported by the United Nations, after intense American pressure in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Regardless of this endorsement, it was wrong. The current Canadian mission is part of NATO. It too is wrong.

Canada is a member of NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), a 26- country alliance originally formed at the height of the cold war to "protect the west against a Soviet attack" and to promote American and Western European economic interests in the third world. After the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO continued to tie Western, Eastern and Central European countries, as well as Canada, to the American project of maximizing its global power. The U.S. has used NATO to support its occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

There are times when the international community of nations should unite to stop a real threat to the world's peoples. In this case, the Afghan resistance is not a threat. The reality is that NATO is helping to extend American power there, acts as an extension of American power.

Should Canada be concerned about "maintaining its commitment" to NATO? Should we be lecturing other countries to increase their commitment to the war?

No! We should be questioning the very existence of NATO and prepare to get Canada out of the organization. Canada could play a leadership role here, as people in other NATO countries are raising the very same questions and concerns.

What is the likelihood of winning the war?

Stephen Harper says, "We will be there as long as it takes". But there is no end in sight and even military strategists know this.

In a candid comment, Canadian Defence Minister O'Connor - a former arms company lobbyist - recently said, "We cannot eliminate the Taliban, not militarily anyway. We've got to get them back to some kind of acceptable level so they don't threaten other areas.'' Even the former American Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist, recently admitted that the war cannot be won militarily.

In any event, what does "winning" mean? If it means keeping the present Afghan government of corrupt, fundamentalist warlords and their allies in power, do we want to win?

Are we undermining our troops by calling for them to withdraw?

No! When our country sends its military into combat, we have a moral responsibility to be absolutely sure that we are doing so for the right reasons. If the overall mission is wrong - if it is supporting oppression and results in the needless deaths of innocent people, as well as those of our soldiers, and is doomed to failure - our soldiers are needlessly risking their lives for the wrong reasons and need to be brought home.

This is the best way to support our men and women who are fighting there. It is also the way a democratic society makes decisions about military interventions.

What should we do?

Canada's "mission" in Afghanistan must end and our troops be pulled out. We must also pressure the U.S. and other NATO troops to do the same.

Supporters of the war claim that pulling out would allow the "terrorists and extremists" to take over the country, but as we have seen, the government itself includes both.

As well, half of Afghanistan is already controlled by rebel forces. NATO cannot stop this. Continuing the mission will only postpone the time when Afghans can begin controlling their own destiny. Our presence there needlessly increases the toll of civilian and military deaths, making it more difficult for real reconstruction and development to begin.

Withdrawal can and should be part of a negotiated settlement. But the Harper government refuses to consider negotiations. Regardless, foreign occupation forces need to be removed. The people of Afghanistan must be free to determine their future without outside interference.

The Soviets tried to impose their vision of society in Afghanistan in the 1980's and they failed. The U.S. has also tried to impose its vision and it is failing as well. Democracy, equality and social justice can only take root from within a society because they must be the work of the people themselves. They cannot be brought from the outside, through an occupying army. As Malalai Joya has bravely noted "No nation can donate liberation to another nation."

How did this war start?

This conflict has its roots in the American intervention in Afghanistan that began during the cold war.

What do we need to know about the history of this conflict?

The U.S. has a long history of intervention in Afghanistan, which resulted in instability, inequality, poverty, many deaths and injuries and hardship for the people of that country.

In the late 1970s, a regime came to power in Afghanistan that sought to modernize the country and bring in social reforms. It also had close ties to the Soviet Union. In response, the American government sponsored and armed a group of fundamentalist fighters, called mujihadeen, to oppose the government.

The U.S. also hoped to draw the Soviets more directly into Afghanistan, seeking to tie their cold war adversaries down in an unwinnable war. The mujihadeen included some of the most brutal and corrupt warlords in the country as well as the wealthy Saudi Arabian, Osama Bin Laden. The U.S. lavished aid and resources on these movements. The mujihadeen were involved in the opium trade and persecuted Afghans who argued for democracy and social equality. In this way, the Americans built-up the very same fundamentalist forces that they oppose today and undermined the possibility of creating a democratic society, one that was not dominated by religion.

The Soviets did invade in 1979 and after waging a long and brutal war their occupation armies were unable to defeat the mujihadeen. When the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan in 1990, the various warlord groups engaged in a bloody four year war among themselves for control of the country. Thousands of Afghans were killed, injured or forced to become refugees. Agriculture and trade were destroyed. These fundamentalist warlords closed women's schools and attacked the real rights of women and girls that had previously existed in Afghanistan.

In 1996 a new group of religious zealots called the Taliban, defeated the other warlords, came to power and succeeded in extending their control over most of Afghanistan, by promising stability and protection from the warlords. Once in power, the Taliban deepened the ruthless and repressive control over women and enforced a strict medieval form of Islamic law. The U.S. refused to oppose them, citing the need for stability (and protection of a proposed oil/natural gas pipeline). But with the growing influence of Bin Laden's Al-Q'aida group inside the country, the Americans began to challenge the Taliban.

The 9/11 attack in New York (by Al-Q'aida operatives), brought a swift and brutal response from the Bush Administration. "Operation Enduring Freedom" unleashed a massive bombing campaign against Afghanistan, using Cruise missiles with cluster bombs, and resulted in the deaths of between 3000 and 3400 civilians. Another 20,000 Afghans reportedly lost their lives due to disease and starvation as a result of the invasion.

This bombing campaign was unnecessary. The Taliban made a number of offers to negotiate the surrender of Bin Laden and the expulsion of Al-Q'aida fighters, but Bush refused to talk. The U.S. was more interested in sending a message about its power, than seeking justice for the 9/11 attacks.

Ultimately, the Taliban were driven out by a group of warlords called the Northern Alliance, allied with Washington. These warlord groupings included many of the same corrupt and repressive factions that the Americans had originally bankrolled in the 1980s. In the process, the American authorities arrested hundreds of "suspected terrorists" and subject them to torture and humiliation in Guantanamo and elsewhere, in violation of the Geneva Accords.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(((( T h e B u l l e t))))~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Bullet is produced by the Socialist Project. Readers are encouraged to
distribute widely. Comments, criticisms and suggestions are welcome.
Write to info@socialistproject.ca

If you wish to subscribe: http://socialistproject.ca/lists/?p=subscribe

The Bullet archive is available at http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet
For more analysis of contemporary politics check out
'Relay: A Socialist Project Review' at http://www.socialistproject.ca/relay

Saturday, February 17, 2007

China to Upgrade Rail System; Will Minnesota Workers Get Jobs?

The Friday, February 16, 2007 Wall Street Journal (Page 4) reported in a lengthy article that China has begun to upgrade its rail system, and will be the world leader in rail (freight and passenger) in less than 15 years.

Canadian, European, and American business will make a bundle selling China what it can't produce itself cheaper, everything from rails and signaling devices to locomotives... for both diesel and electric.

There is no reason why the Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant shouldn't be producing much of this equipment.

Gearing up the Twin Cities Assembly Plant to produce energy efficient "green" rail transportation could easily employ over 14,000 workers in four shifts working six hour days (30 hours a week) at forty hour pay. Rail is a high profit, labor intensive industry requiring highly skilled workers.

An additional 2,000 jobs would be created on the Iron Range in the mining industry.

In fact, what the Iron Range needs is a modern steel mill; one that can supply the Chinese with rails cheaper then they can get them anyplace else... and creating a state-wide world class rail system in Minnesota to transport freight and people is something that we need, too.

The time has come to talk to the Chinese about investing in joint enterprises... publicly owned enterprises.

Private enterprise has wreaked havoc with the livelihoods of workers and the environment of Minnesota... it is time to seriously investigate the possibility of public enterprises as Minnesota's two socialist governors (and most popular governors) Floyd B. Olson and Elmer Benson suggested... they were right then and such an approach is right now.

We are talking "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs;" Jobs with top pay and excellent benefits.

The time is right for Minnesota legislators to broach a joint venture with the Chinese; time is of the essence. As the Wall Street Journal points out, China is developing very rapidly and they are making economic decisions very quickly... If Minnesota Legislators continue to snooze, Minnesota's workers are going to lose.

If legislators are not going to act, maybe it is time for the United Auto Workers, the United Steelworkers, and the International Association of Machinists to send their own delegation to China... I would be willing to bet that George Lattimore will help set up the connections; someone should ask him.

Business has been making all the decisions at the expense of working people for far too long; the time is now for workers to take some initiative to protect their jobs and their livelihoods.

Will Minnesotans stand for the perfectly good Twin Cities Assembly Plant to be demolished by Ford Motor Company? If so, this will be the worst decision ever made in the history of Minnesota.

I would urge every Minnesota Legislator to read yesterday's Wall Street Journal page 4... it wouldn't hurt for Ray Waldron the President of the Minnesota AFL-CIO to read it too; I hear his little buddy, Mark Froemke, had a few friends that just visited China and met with some high level Chinese government and Communist Party officials... maybe they could make the connections over there if no one else is going to.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Will Public Funds Be Used to Finance Private Industry or to Finance a Publicly Owned Enterprise?

Between the federal and state governments and the Iron Range Resources Board tax-payers will be putting up over ONE BILLION DOLLARS for the construction of a new coal gassification power plant near Taconite, Minnesota that will create less than 200 full time jobs. Even after tax-payers put up this money, they will own absolutely nothing.

Something to think about:

The same politicians supporting this power plant that no one wants have refused to invest one single penny in keeping the Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant operating under public ownership. At least two thousand jobs are at stake.

If people can't see anything wrong with priorities here there is something very wrong.

Why would a perfectly good manufacturing plant which operates on clean "green" hydro be demolished while tax-payers foot the bill to the tune of over ONE BILLION DOLLARS for another coal fueled power plant that will create more contamination for our environment then all existing power plants in Minnesota combined while hiding this truth behind slickly produced corporate advertising claiming this plant will burn coal cleaner?

Get out your calculators. Would it be cheaper for tax-payers to invest in retaining the jobs for two thousand workers; or, to create 200 new jobs? Discuss this around the kitchen table.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

How to save the Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant...

... and create more jobs in the process.

I have heard every conceivable excuse about why the Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant is doomed.

I find this doomsday scenario very strange, especially when it comes from those politicians, state legislators, and media pundits along with newspaper editors who lecture us daily about what a great democracy we are living in.

I would challenge those who have such an infatuation with voting to put this matter before Minnesotans; they won't do this because they know the outcome of such a plebiscite in advance... the vote would be as overwhelming as that of the vote by MNDFL State Convention delegates who voted in support of single-payer, universal health care... in fact, three issues could be put before Minnesotans in a special election very easily and very cheaply: 1. The war in Iraq; 2. Single-payer, universal health care; and, 3. Public Ownership of the Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant.

We all know the politicians will not put these issues to a public vote because the results will be for ending the war in Iraq now (why not include a vote on whether the U.S. should launch another war before it starts against Iran?); for single-payer, universal health care; and for public ownership of the Ford Plant would be in the affirmative for each issue... completely contrary to what these politicians, the military-financial-industrial complex, and the big business community are doing now.

EvTac, the huge taconite operation in Eveleth, Minnesota was kept going after Cleveland Cliffs found a partner in the Chinese government to keep the plant open as UnitedTac. We are told this operation is going full bore.

The question about keeping the Twin Cities Assembly Plant open and in operation seems to boil down to money. Certainly a plant that Ford is willing to demolish isn't worth anything so the company would not expect any payment for the plant itself. As for the machinery and equipment in the plant this has been paid for by tax-payers many times over through the tax abatements, etc. that Ford has received over the years... any payment for this equipment would be very minimal once the accountants start figuring.

As for the land... well, Ford workers generated billions of dollars in profits for the Ford Motor company over the years... I would be willing to guess that Ford workers would be willing to call it all even-Steven if Ford would deed the property to the State... if not we can find partners in China, Venezuela, and Cuba.

Former Senator Mark Dayton said he would be pursuing a career bringing Chinese and Minnesota business partners together. This could be his first job; certainly with his philanthropic outlook he would be willing to undertake this project pro bono.

The question that begs asking is why Mark Dayton has not proposed a joint venture with the Chinese government to keep the Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant open as a publicly owned enterprise producing environmentally friendly "green" mass transit equipment and a new breed of private transportation? The Venezuelans who have lots of oil money, and the Cubans who have lots of nickle could be brought in as partners also.

My suggestion is that we send a delegation headed up by Mark Dayton which would include union and community leaders and individual citizens and a few legislative leaders known to be sympathetic to saving and creating jobs, like Tom Rukavina and Tony Sertich to China, Venezuela, and Cuba to check out the feasibility of such a joint venture. Perhaps George Lattimore could be convinced to participate and would use his Chinese connections, too.

We can do this... We can keep the Twin Cities Assembly Plant open and producing; and we can do this with cooperative partners instead of capitalist parasites.

The only thing that needs to be changed is the sign... just take "Ford" off the sign by painting over the name. Or we could make a new sign, "The Friendship Twin Cities Assembly Plant."

The Chinese can teach us how to take maximum advantage of public ownership, the Cubans can, too. I think this would be a lesson worth learning.

In fact, if we follow the lead of the way the Chinese and Cubans organize their manufacturing facilities according to articles that have appeared in the Wall Street Journal... we could anticipate the creation of perhaps sixty thousand new jobs in the Twin Cities. Click on the title of this blog, scroll down, and read for yourself how the Chinese do it. What is a burden to capitalists is a better life for working people.

Our tax dollars are financing a massive new plant for the Minnesota based Mattracks Corporation in China; this new plant will include housing and dining for the workers on site. No reason why we can't do the same thing here... after all, some politicians are proposing turning the Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant property into upscale housing that Ford workers would not be able to reside in with their meager buyout payments... there is plenty of property in the area to develop into housing for workers... why should Chinese workers have free housing at the expense of American tax-payers when Minnesota workers don't get the same? We can learn how the Chinese do this.

Something to talk about around the kitchen table.

I have been receiving dozens of e-mails and phone calls daily from people asking me what they can do to help save the Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant. Typically this is the way I respond and I hope readers of this blog will consider pitching in:

Thanks for your letter.

Actually there has been a great deal of interest in our proposal for public ownership whenever people have had the chance to read our article, and some legislation is now being introduced in the Minnesota legislature to prevent Ford from demolishing the plant as they intend to do (see link below).

My blog postings on this issue have attracted quite a bit of attention.

However, the main reason for “so little interest” is the fact that the major media seems to be kind of “boycotting” any discussion of the concept of “public ownership” of the plant at this point; I think this speaks directly to the issue of what kind of “free press” we have in this country and who this “free press” is beholden to. I sent out an op/ed piece to over 25 newspapers around Labor Day; “coincidentally” not one got published even though several of the papers have often published my views on a variety of issues from the rights of casino workers, to mine closings, contract negotiations, ending the war in Iraq, the minimum wage, etc. It seems the issue of “public ownership” is taboo… but if the media becomes aware that many other people consider this a legitimate alternative then they will start picking the issue up, if for no other reason than to attack the proposal, which would create more interest.

Anything you can do to use the Internet, etc. to get more interest in this question would be fantastic! Perhaps send out an e-mail with links to my blog and the links below and encourage everyone receiving the e-mail to send it to everyone they know.

Try to get a letter to the editor published. Even if they won’t print it, it lets the media know people are considering the idea.

One thing you and others can do is to circulate very widely the article that Christine Frank and I wrote; ask others to post the article or a link to it. We are each like little snowflakes, we don’t amount to much… but if we all start circulating this article widely we will have the effect of a Midwest blizzard.

Here is a link to an updated article:


I would encourage you to contact as many Minnesota legislators as possible to get behind this proposed legislation... it is very important that Ford not be allowed to demolish this plant so we have time to continue community and state-wide grassroots and rank and file efforts for public ownership of the plant.

I have not had time to post this article to my blog yet… but will do so today.

Another link I would encourage you to look at and circulate widely: www.laborandsustainability.org

I am cc’ing your letter on to Christine Frank, perhaps she also has some suggestions for you; and to State Representative Bill Hilty. I have bcc’ed your letter to several other people who have expressed a similar concern. Perhaps they will contact you with their ideas, too.

I would appreciate it if you would keep me posted on what you decide to do.

This is for sure one situation where “out of sight, is out of mind.” It will take tremendous grassroots efforts to get things moving.

I would encourage you to contact State Representatives and push the idea of public ownership (you might want to include their e-mail addresses if you decide to send out an e-mail to your friends: Bill Hilty- rep.bill.hilty@house.mn ; Tony Sertich- rep.tony.sertich@house.mn ; and Tom Rukavina- rep.tom.rukavina@house.mn ; Tom Anzelc- rep.tom.anzelc@house.mn I believe these legislators will be key to moving this issue forward… especially Bill Hilty and Tony Sertich.

I am also including the link to my daily blog for your convenience if you want to put all of this together for an e-mail… or even just forward this e-mail on to others and ask them to do the same: http://thepodunkblog.blogspot.com/

The link to our article is: http://laborjournal.blogspot.com/2006/12/ford-twin-cities-assembly-plant.html

Some people have told me the issue of “public ownership” is too controversial. However, I don’t hear any other better alternatives than what Christine and I have proposed in our article to keep this plant open. I would think throwing two thousand auto workers out into the streets and demolishing a perfectly good plant would be more controversial than who owns the plant.

Quite frankly, I believe that in a democracy such decisions as plant shut-downs should be made with the full participation of all affected and not in secrecy behind the closed doors of corporate board-rooms… I believe this issue is one that if so basic and fundamental to what kind of democracy we have in this country that everyone should be raising their voices demanding a say in the future of the Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul, Minnesota… if we can’t be part of the decision making process on such basic questions, democracy becomes kind of a farce.

By the way, where do you live and work?

Let’s keep in touch.

Yours in the struggle,


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Do the Democrats really have a "strategy" to end the war in Iraq?

I think we have to say "No;" the Democrats do not have a strategy to end the war in Iraq... not over the short or long term. The fact that the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party refused to consider this question at its "Business Meeting" last weekend in North Branch, Minnesota helps to confirm this. The Democrats are willing to play games with this war as the carnage continues... they know no shame.

Click on the title of this post to go to one such article of many to come forward in recent days saying the Democrats have some kind of strategy aimed at "slowly ending the war in Iraq;" the insinuation is that the Democrats are trying to straddle the fence with anti-war activists on one side and pro-war Democrats on the other side.

The results from the November Election are very clear... the majority of Americans (the new democratic majority--- notice the lower case "d") want this war ended now... people understand that the Democratic Party is playing games with this issue... worse yet, most people think (and rightly so in my opinion) that Democrats are going to support going to war with Iran in the same way they did with the war in Iraq. After all, it was Democrats in congress who have said all along that Bush is fighting the "wrong" war... that he should have gone after Iran instead of Iraq because this is the war the Israeli lobby wants.

No one should fall for this crap that Democrats have a "strategy" to end the war--- long-term or short-term; no such "strategy" exists or is even being contemplated. In fact, the longer the war continues the bigger the war gets and the more difficult it will be to stop the war.

So far, other than the call of "Out Now," only George McGovern's "Blueprint" to end the war makes any sense at all and Congressional Democrats are refusing to even acknowledge the existance of McGovern's "Blueprint" which I publish below.

The leadership of the Minnesota DFL refuses to even make the McGovern Proposal available to all members of the State Central Committee; and even those in the Minnesota DFL Progressive Caucus have refused to consider McGovern's "Blueprint" as a topic for discussion... but this is nothing new since they refuse to even acknowledge issues like the destruction of the Big Bog and United States Steel's Minntacs operation contaminating the streams, rivers, and lakes of northern Minnesota. Someone should ask Charley Underwood or Jack Nelson-Palmeyer why they are so timid?

McGovern met with members of the Congressional "Progressive Caucus" a week after the November Elections to present his "Blueprint;" to date even the members of the Progressive Caucus have shamefully refused to advocate McGovern's plan to end this dirty war in Iraq out of fear of being accused of "letting down the troops."

It is time for Democrats in Congress to have the courage to govern from a position of morality and constitutional responsibility... instead of being ruled and bullied by fear. But, don't hold your breath waiting for this courage to develop in the United States Congress. Except for a few lone voices like Senators George McGovern and Wayne Morse the entire bunch was cowardly as the Vietnam War dragged on claiming so many lives with the terrible destruction left behind.

Again... here is the McGovern "Blueprint;" he has a book out that is available at, or through, your public library or at Barnes and Noble: "Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now."

The Way Out of War
A blueprint for leaving Iraq now
Posted on Wednesday, November 8, 2006. Originally from October 2006. By George S. McGovern and William R. Polk.

Staying in Iraq is not an option. Many Americans who were among the most eager to invade Iraq now urge that we find a way out. These Americans include not only civilian “strategists” and other “hawks” but also senior military commanders and, perhaps most fervently, combat soldiers. Even some of those Iraqis regarded by our senior officials as the most pro-American are determined now to see American military personnel leave their country. Polls show that as few as 2 percent of Iraqis consider Americans to be liberators. This is the reality of the situation in Iraq. We must acknowledge the Iraqis’ right to ask us to leave, and we should set a firm date by which to do so.

We suggest that phased withdrawal should begin on or before December 31, 2006, with the promise to make every effort to complete it by June 30, 2007.

Withdrawal is not only a political imperative but a strategic requirement. As many retired American military officers now admit, Iraq has become, since the invasion, the primary recruiting and training ground for terrorists. The longer American troops remain in Iraq, the more recruits will flood the ranks of those who oppose America not only in Iraq but elsewhere.

Withdrawal will not be without financial costs, which are unavoidable and will have to be paid sooner or later. But the decision to withdraw at least does not call for additional expenditures. On the contrary, it will effect massive savings. Current U.S. expenditures run at approximately $246 million each day, or more than $10 million an hour, with costs rising steadily each year. Although its figures do not include all expenditures, the Congressional Research Service listed direct costs at $77.3 billion in 2004, $87.3 billion in 2005, and $100.4 billion in fiscal year 2006. Even if troop withdrawals begin this year, total costs (including those in Afghanistan) are thought likely to rise by $371 billion during the withdrawal period. Economist Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, a former assistant secretary of commerce, have estimated that staying in Iraq another four years will cost us at least $1 trillion.

Let us be clear: there will be some damage. This is inevitable no matter what we do. At the end of every insurgency we have studied, there was a certain amount of chaos as the participants sought to establish a new civic order. This predictable turmoil has given rise to the argument, still being put forward by die-hard hawks, that Americans must, in President Bush’s phrase, “stay the course.” The argument is false. When a driver is on the wrong road and headed for an abyss, it is a bad idea to “stay the course.” A nation afflicted with a failing and costly policy is not well served by those calling for more of the same, and it is a poor idea to think that we can accomplish in the future what we are failing to accomplish in the present. We are as powerless to prevent the turmoil that will ensue when we withdraw as we have been to stop the insurgency. But we will have removed a major cause of the insurgency once we have withdrawn. Moreover, there are ways in which we can be helpful to the Iraqis—and protect our own interests—by ameliorating the underlying conditions and smoothing the edges of conflict.The first of these would be a “bridging” effort between the occupation and complete independence.

* * *

To this end, we think that the Iraqi government would be wise to request the temporary services of an international stabilization force to police the country during and immediately after the period of American withdrawal. Such a force should itself have a firm date fixed for its removal. Our estimate is that Iraq would need this force for no more than two years after the American withdrawal is complete. During this period, the force could be slowly but steadily cut back in both personnel and deployment. Its purpose would be limited to activities aimed at enhancing public security. Consequently, the armament of this police force should be restricted. It would have no need for tanks or artillery or offensive aircraft but only light equipment. It would not attempt, as have American troops, to battle the insurgents. Indeed, after the withdrawal of American troops, as well as British regular troops and mercenary forces, the insurgency, which was aimed at achieving that objective, would almost immediately begin to lose public support. Insurgent gunmen would either put down their weapons or become publicly identified as outlaws.

We imagine that the Iraqi government, and the Iraqi people, would find the composition of such a force most acceptable if it were drawn from Arab or Muslim countries. Specifically, it should be possible under the aegis of the United Nations to obtain, say, five contingents of 3,000 men each from Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt. Jordan and Syria might also be asked to contribute personnel. If additional troops were required, or if any of these governments were deemed unacceptable to Iraq or unwilling to serve, application could be made to such Muslim countries as Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. Other countries might be included if the Iraqi government so wished.

It would benefit both Iraq and the United States if we were to pay for this force. Assuming that a ballpark figure would be $500 per man per day, and that 15,000 men would be required for two years, the overall cost would be $5.5 billion. That is approximately 3 percent of what it would cost to continue the war, with American troops, for the next two years. Not only would this represent a great monetary saving to us but it would spare countless American lives and would give Iraq the breathing space it needs to recover from the trauma of the occupation in a way that does not violate national and religious sensibilities.

The American subvention should be paid directly to the Iraqi government, which would then “hire” the police services it requires from other governments. The vast amount of equipment that the American military now has in Iraq, particularly transport and communications and light arms, should be turned over to this new multinational force rather than shipped home or destroyed.

* * *

As the insurgency loses its national justification, other dangers will confront Iraq. One of these is “warlordism,” as we have seen in Afghanistan, and other forms of large-scale crime. Some of this will almost certainly continue. But the breakdown of public order will never be remedied by American forces; it can only be addressed by a national police force willing to work with neighborhood, village, and tribal home guards. Ethnic and regional political divisions in Iraq have been exacerbated by the occupation, and they are unlikely to disappear once the occupation is over. They are now so bitter as to preclude a unified organization, at least for the time being. It is therefore paramount that the national police force involve local leaders, so as to ensure that the home guards operate only within their own territory and with appropriate action. In part, this is why Iraq needs a “cooling off” period, with multinational security assistance, after the American withdrawal.

While the temporary international police force completes its work, the creation of a permanent national police force is, and must be, an Iraqi task. American interference would be, and has been, counterproductive. And it will take time. The creation and solidification of an Iraqi national police force will probably require, at a rough estimate, four to five years to become fully effective. We suggest that the American withdrawal package should include provision of $1 billion to help the Iraqi government create, train, and equip such a force, which is roughly the cost of four days of the present American occupation.

Neighborhood, village, and tribal home guards, which are found throughout Iraq, of course constitute a double-edged sword. Inevitably, they mirror the ethnic, religious, and political communities from which they are drawn. Insofar as they are restricted each to its own community, and are carefully monitored by a relatively open and benign government, they will enhance security; allowed to move outside their home areas, they will menace public order. Only a central government police and respected community leaders can possibly hope to control these militias. America has no useful role to play in these affairs, as experience has made perfectly clear.

* * *

It is not in the interests of Iraq to encourage the growth and heavy armament of a reconstituted Iraqi army. The civilian government of Iraq should be, and hopefully is, aware that previous Iraqi armies have frequently acted against Iraqi civic institutions. That is, Iraqi armies have not been a source of defense but of disruption. We cannot prevent the reconstitution of an Iraqi army, but we should not, as we are currently doing, actually encourage this at a cost of billions to the American taxpayer. If at all possible, we should encourage Iraq to transfer what soldiers it has already recruited for its army into a national reconstruction corps modeled on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The United States could assist in the creation and training of just such a reconstruction corps, which would undertake the rebuilding of infrastructure damaged by the war, with an allocation of, say, $500 million, or roughly the cost of two days of the current occupation.

Withdrawal of American forces must include immediate cessation of work on U.S. military bases. Nearly half of the more than 100 bases have already been closed down and turned over, at least formally, to the Iraqi government, but as many as fourteen “enduring” bases for American troops in Iraq are under construction. The largest five are already massive, amounting to virtual cities. The Balad Air Base, forty miles north of Baghdad, has a miniature golf course, 2 PXs, a Pizza Hut, a Burger King, and a jail. Another, under construction at al-Asad, covers more than thirteen square miles. Although Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated on December 23, 2005, that “at the moment there are no plans for permanent bases. . . . It is a subject that has not even been discussed with the Iraqi government,” his remarks are belied by action on the ground, where bases are growing in size and being given aspects of permanency. The most critical of these are remote military bases. They should be stood down rapidly. Closing these bases is doubly important: for America, they are expensive and already redundant; for Iraqis, they both symbolize and personify a hated occupation. With them in place, no Iraqi government will ever feel truly independent. It is virtually certain that absent a deactivation of U.S. military bases, the insurgency will continue. The enormous American base at Baghdad International Airport, ironically named “Camp Victory,” should be the last of the military bases to be closed, as it will be useful in the process of disengagement.

We should of course withdraw from the Green Zone, our vast, sprawling complex in the center of Baghdad. The United States has already spent or is currently spending $1.8 billion on its headquarters there, which contains, or will contain, some 600 housing units, a Marine barracks, and more than a dozen other buildings, as well as its own electrical, water, and sewage systems. The Green Zone should be turned over to the Iraqi government no later than December 31, 2007. By this time, the U.S. should have bought, or rented, or built a “normal” embassy for a considerably reduced complement of personnel. Symbolically, it would be beneficial for the new building not to be in the Green Zone. Assuming that a reasonable part of the Green Zone’s cost can be saved, there should be no additional cost to create a new American embassy for an appropriate number of not more than 500 American officials, as opposed to the 1,000 or so Americans who today staff the Green Zone. Insofar as is practical, the new building should not be designed as though it were a beleaguered fortress in enemy territory.

Withdrawal from these bases, and an end to further construction, should save American taxpayers billions of dollars over the coming two years. This is quite apart from the cost of the troops they would house. America should immediately release all prisoners of war and close its detention centers.

* * *

Mercenaries, euphemistically known as “Personal Security Detail,” are now provided by an industry of more than thirty “security” firms, comprising at least 25,000 armed men. These constitute a force larger than the British troop contingent in the “Coalition of the Willing” and operate outside the direct control—and with little interference from the military justice systems—of the British and American armies. They are, literally, the “loose cannons” of the Iraq war. They should be withdrawn rapidly and completely, as the Iraqis regard them as the very symbol of the occupation. Since the U.S. pays for them either directly or indirectly, all we need to do is stop payment.

Much work will be necessary to dig up and destroy land mines and other unexploded ordinance and, where possible, to clean up the depleted uranium used in artillery shells. These are dangerous tasks that require professional training, but they should be turned over wherever possible to Iraqi contractors. These contractors would employ Iraqi labor, which would help jump-start a troubled economy and be of immediate benefit to the millions of Iraqis who are now out of work. The United Nations has gained considerable knowledge about de-mining—from the Balkans, Afghanistan, and elsewhere—that might be shared with the Iraqis. Although cleanup will be costly, we cannot afford to leave this dangerous waste behind. One day’s wartime expenditure, roughly $250 million, would pay for surveys of the damage and the development of a plan to deal with it. Once the extent of the problem is determined, a fund should be established to eradicate the danger completely.

These elements of the “withdrawal package” may be regarded as basic. Without them, Iraqi society will have little chance of recovering economically or governing itself with any effectiveness. Without them, American interests in the Middle East, and indeed throughout the world, will be severely jeopardized. These measures are, we repeat, inexpensive and represent an enormous savings over the cost of the current war effort. Building on them are further actions that would also help Iraq become a safe and habitable environment. To these “second tier” policies we now turn.

* * *

Property damage incurred during the invasion and occupation has been extreme. The World Bank has estimated that at least $25 billion will be required to repair the Iraqi infrastructure alone—this is quite apart from the damage done to private property. The reconstruction can be, and should be, done by Iraqis, as this would greatly benefit the Iraqi economy, but the United States will need to make a generous contribution to the effort if it is to be a success. Some of this aid should be in the form of grants; the remainder can be in the form of loans. Funds should be paid directly to the Iraqi government, as it would be sound policy to increase the power and public acceptance of that government once American troops withdraw. The Iraqis will probably regard such grants or loans as reparations; some of the money will probably be misspent or siphoned off by cliques within the government. It would therefore benefit the Iraqi people if some form of oversight could be exercised over the funds, but this would tend to undercut the legitimacy and authority of their government, which itself will probably be reconstituted during or shortly after the American occupation ends. Proper use of aid funds has been a problem everywhere: America’s own record during the occupation has been reprehensible, with massive waste, incompetence, and outright dishonesty now being investigated for criminal prosecution. No fledgling Iraqi government is likely to do better, but if reconstruction funds are portioned out to village, town, and city councils, the enhancement of such groups will go far toward the avowed American aim of strengthening democracy, given that Iraqis at the “grass roots” level would be taking charge of their own affairs.

We suggest that the United States allocate for the planning and organization of the reconstruction the sum of $1 billion, or roughly four days of current wartime expenditure. After a planning survey is completed, the American government will need to determine, in consultation with the Iraqi government (and presumably with the British government, our only true “partner” in the occupation), what it is willing to pay for reconstruction. We urge that the compensation be generous, as generosity will go a long way toward repairing the damage to the American reputation caused by this war.

Nearly as important as the rebuilding of damaged buildings and other infrastructure is the demolition of the ugly monuments of warfare. Work should be undertaken as soon as is feasible to dismantle and dispose of the miles of concrete blast walls and wire barriers erected around present American installations. Although the Iraqi people can probably be counted on to raze certain relics of the occupation on their own, we should nonetheless, in good faith, assist in this process. A mere two days’ worth of the current war effort, $500 million, would employ a good many Iraqi demolition workers.

Another residue of war and occupation has been the intrusion of military facilities on Iraqi cultural sites. Some American facilities have done enormous and irreparable damage. Astonishingly, one American camp was built on top of the Babylon archaeological site, where American troops flattened and compressed ancient ruins in order to create a helicopter pad and fueling stations. Soldiers filled sandbags with archaeological fragments and dug trenches through unexcavated areas while tanks crushed 2,600-year-old pavements. Babylon was not the only casualty. The 5,000-year-old site at Kish was also horribly damaged. We need to understand that Iraq, being a seedbed of Western civilization, is a virtual museum. It is hard to put a spade into the earth there without disturbing a part of our shared cultural heritage. We suggest that America set up a fund of, say, $750 million, or three days’ cost of the war, to be administered by an ad-hoc committee drawn from the Iraqi National Museum of Antiquities or the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, the British Museum, the World Monuments Fund, the Smithsonian Institution, and what is perhaps America’s most prestigious archaeological organization, the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, to assist in the restoration of sites American troops have damaged. We should not wish to go down in history as yet another barbarian invader of the land long referred to as the cradle of civilization.

* * *

Independent accounting of Iraqi funds is urgently required. The United Nations handed over to the American-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) billions of dollars generated by the sale of Iraq petroleum with the understanding that these monies would be used to the benefit of the Iraqi people and would be accounted for by an independent auditor. The CPA delayed this audit month after month, and it was still not completed by the time the CPA ceased to exist. Any funds misused or misappropriated by U.S. officials should be repaid to the proper Iraqi authority. What that amount is we cannot predict at this time.

Although the funds turned over to the CPA by the U.N. constitute the largest amount in dispute, that is by no means the only case of possible misappropriation. Among several others reported, perhaps the most damaging to Iraq has been a project allocated to Halliburton’s subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root as part of a $2.4 billion no-bid contract awarded in 2003. The $75.7 million project was meant to repair the junction of some fifteen pipelines linking the oil fields with terminals. Engineering studies indicated that as conceived the project was likely to fail, but KBR forged ahead and, allegedly, withheld news of the failure from the Iraqi Ministry of Petroleum until it had either spent or received all the money. Despite this, KBR was actually awarded a bonus by the Army Corps of Engineers, even though Defense Department auditors had found more than $200 million of KBR’s charges to be questionable. There would seem to be more greed than prudence in the repeated awards to Halliburton in the run-up to the war, during the war itself, and in contracts to repair the war damages. Especially given that Vice President Dick Cheney was formerly CEO of Halliburton, the U.S. should make every effort to investigate this wrongdoing, prosecute and correct it, and depart from Iraq with clean hands.

* * *

The United States should not object to the Iraqi government voiding all contracts entered into for the exploration, development, and marketing of oil during the American occupation. These contracts clearly should be renegotiated or thrown open to competitive international bids. The Iraqi government and public believe that because Iraqi oil has been sold at a discount to American companies, and because long-term

“production-sharing agreements” are highly favorable to the concessionaires, an unfair advantage has been taken. Indeed, the form of concession set up at the urging of the CPA’s consultants has been estimated to deprive Iraq of as much as $194 billion in revenues. To most Iraqis, and indeed to many foreigners, the move to turn over Iraq’s oil reserves to American and British companies surely confirms that the real purpose of the invasion was to secure, for American use and profit, Iraq’s lightweight and inexpensively produced oil.

It is to the long-term advantage of both Iraq and the United States, therefore, that all future dealings in oil, which, after all, is the single most important Iraqi national asset, be transparent and fair. Only then can the industry be reconstituted and allowed to run smoothly; only then will Iraq be able to contribute to its own well-being and to the world’s energy needs. Once the attempt to create American-controlled monopolies is abandoned, we believe it should be possible for investment, even American investment, to take place in a rapid and orderly manner. We do not, then, anticipate a net cost connected with this reform.

* * *

Providing reparations to Iraqi civilians for lives and property lost is a necessity. The British have already begun to do so in the zone they occupy. According to Martin Hemming of the Ministry of Defence, British policy “has, from the outset of operations in Iraq, been to recognize the duty to provide compensation to Iraqis where this is required by the law. . . . [B]etween 1 June 2003 and 31 July 2006, 2,327 claims have been registered . . .” Although there is no precise legal precedent from past wars that would require America to act accordingly, American forces in Iraq have now provided one: individual military units are authorized to make “condolence payments” of up to $2,500. The United States could, and should, do even more to compensate Iraqi victims or their heirs. Such an action might be compared to the Marshall Plan, which so powerfully redounded to America’s benefit throughout the world after the end of the Second World War. As we go forward, the following points should be considered.

The number of civilians killed or wounded during the invasion and occupation, particularly in the sieges of Fallujah, Tal Afar, and Najaf, is unknown. Estimates run from 30,000 to well over 100,000 killed, with many more wounded or incapacitated. Assuming the number of unjustified deaths to be 50,000, and the compensation per person to be $10,000, our outlay would run to only $500 million, or two days’ cost of the war. The number seriously wounded or incapacitated might easily be 100,000. Taking the same figure as for death benefits, the total cost would be $1 billion, or four days’ cost of the war. The dominant voice in this process should be that of Iraq itself, but in supplying the funds the United States could reasonably insist on the creation of a quasi-independent body, composed of both Iraqis and respected foreigners, perhaps operating under the umbrella of an internationally recognized organization such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies or the World Health Organization, to assess and distribute compensation.

In the meantime, a respected international body should be appointed to process the claims of, and pay compensation to, those Iraqis who have been tortured (as defined by the Geneva Conventions) or who have suffered long-term imprisonment. The Department of Defense admits that approximately 3,200 people have been held for longer than a year, and more than 700 for longer than two years, most of them without charge, a clear violation of the treasured American right of habeas corpus. The number actually subjected to torture remains unknown, but it is presumed to include a significant portion of those incarcerated. Unfortunately, there exists no consensus, legal or otherwise, on how victims of state-sponsored torture should be compensated, and so it is not currently possible to estimate the cost of such a program. Given that this is uncharted legal territory, we should probably explore it morally and politically to find a measure of justifiable compensation. The very act of assessing damages—perhaps somewhat along the lines of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission— would, in and of itself, be a part of the healing process.

* * *

America should also offer—not directly but through suitable international or nongovernmental organizations—a number of further financial inducements to Iraq’s recovery. These might include fellowships for the training of lawyers, judges, journalists, social workers, and other civil-affairs workers. Two days’ cost of the current war, or $500 million, would ably fund such an effort.

In addition, assistance to “grass roots” organizations and professional societies could help encourage the return to Iraq of the thousands of skilled men and women who left in the years following the first Gulf war. Relocation allowance and supplementary pay might be administered by the Iraqi engineers’ union. Medical practitioners might receive grants through the medical association. Teachers might be courted by the teachers’ union or the Ministry of Education. Assuming that some 10,000 skilled workers could be enticed to return for, say, an average of $50,000, this would represent a cost to the American taxpayer of $500 million. Roughly two days’ cost of the war would be a very small price to pay to restore the health and vigor of Iraqi society and to improve America’s reputation throughout the world.

We should also encourage the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and similarly established and proven nongovernmental organizations to help with the rebirth of an Iraqi public-health system by rebuilding hospitals and clinics. One reason for turning to respected international organizations to supervise this program is that when the CPA undertook the task, funds were squandered.

At last count, some seventeen years ago Iraq possessed an impressive health-care infrastructure: 1,055 health centers, 58 health centers with beds, 135 general hospitals, and 52 specialized hospitals. Many of these facilities were badly damaged by a decade of sanctions and by the recent warfare and looting. If we assume that fully half of Iraq’s hospitals and health centers need to be rebuilt, the overall outlay can be estimated at $250 million, one day’s cost of the current war. Equipment might cost a further $170 million. These figures, based on a study prepared for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals project, throw into sharp relief the disappointing results of the American “effort”: one American firm, Parsons Corporation, has been investigated for having taken a generous “cost plus” contract to rebuild 142 clinics at a cost of $200 million; although the company put in for and collected all the money, only twenty clinics were built.

Estimating the cost of staffing these facilities is more complicated. Theoretically, Iraq has a highly professional, well-trained, reasonably large corps of health workers at all levels. Yet many of these people left the country in the years following the 1991 war. The Iraqi Health Ministry has estimated that about 3,000 registered doctors left Iraq during the first two years of the American occupation. Hopefully these workers will return to Iraq once the occupation and the insurgency have ended, but even if they do so, younger replacements for them need to be trained. The UNMDG study suggests that the training period for specialists is about eight years; for general practitioners, five years; and for various technicians and support personnel, three years. We suggest that a training program for a select number, say 200 general practitioners and 100 advanced specialists, be carried out under the auspices of the World Health Organization or Médecins Sans Frontières, especially given that some of this training will have to be done in Europe or America. Even if the estimated cost of building and equipping hospitals turned out to be five times too low, even if the American government had to cover the bulk of salaries and operating costs for the next four years, and even if additional hospitals had to be built to care for Iraqis wounded or made ill by the invasion and occupation, the total cost would still be under $5 billion. It is sobering to think that the maximum cost of rebuilding Iraq’s public-health system would amount to less than what we spend on the occupation every twenty days.

* * *

The monetary cost of the basic set of programs outlined here is roughly $7.25 billion. The cost of the “second tier” programs cannot be as accurately forecast, but the planning and implementation of these is likely to cost somewhere in the vicinity of $10 billion. Seventeen and a quarter billion dollars is a lot of money, but assuming that these programs cut short the American occupation by only two years, they would save us at least $200 billion. Much more valuable, though, are the savings to be measured in what otherwise are likely to be large numbers of shattered bodies and lost lives. Even if our estimates are unduly optimistic, and the actual costs turn out to be far higher, the course of action we recommend would be perhaps the best investment ever made by our country.

Finally, we as a nation should not forget the young Americans who fought this war, often for meager pay and with inadequate equipment. As of this writing, more than 2,600 of our soldiers have been killed, and a far greater number wounded or crippled. It is only proper that we be generous to those who return, and to the families of those who will not.

That said, we should find a way to express our condolences for the large number of Iraqis incarcerated, tortured, incapacitated, or killed in recent years. This may seem a difficult gesture to many Americans. It may strike them as weak, or as a slur on our patriotism. Americans do not like to admit that they have done wrong. We take comfort in the notion that whatever the mistakes of the war and occupation, we have done Iraq a great service by ridding it of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. Perhaps we have, but in the process many people’s lives have been disrupted, damaged, or senselessly ended. A simple gesture of conciliation would go a long way toward shifting our relationship with Iraq from one of occupation to one of friendship. It would be a gesture without cost but of immense and everlasting value—and would do more to assuage the sense of hurt in the world than all of the actions above.

About the Author
George S. McGovern, the United Nations Global Ambassador on Hunger, was the Democratic candidate for president in 1972. He is the author of numerous books, including The Third Freedom: Ending Hunger in Our Time. William R. Polk was a member of the Policy Planning Council responsible for the Middle East and, later, professor of history and founder-director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago. His latest book on the Middle East is Understanding Iraq. This essay was adapted from the book Out of Iraq, which is being published this month by Simon & Schuster.

This is The Way Out of War, a feature, originally from October 2006, published Wednesday, November 8, 2006. It is part of Features, which is part of Harpers.org.

Permanent URL
Copy and paste in your browser: http://harpers.org/TheWayOutOfWar.html

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

World Water Day - March 22... time to act

People from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan will be focusing on a number of water related problems for "World Water Day" on March 22.

Among our primary concerns are:

1.)the intent to mine peat in Minnesota's Big Bog which is one of the world's largest and most pure freshwater aquifers;

2.) the intent of United States Steel's Minntac operation in Mt. Iron, Minnesota to purge billions of gallons of contaminated water from its "Clear Water Reservoir" into the St. Louis River watershed which will end up in Lake Superior... at present Minntac is allowing this highly contaminated water to flow north through the Dark River System contaminating the streams, rivers, and lakes of northern Minnesota;

3.) we are opposed to the Nestle Corporation's intent to pump billions of gallons of water from the headwaters of the White River in Michigan for the purpose of bottling and selling the water;

4.) Oppose building coal-fired power plants and insist that existing plants be fitted with adequate devices to safe guard our air and water;

5.) We will focus on keeping the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant open because it is one of the most environmentally clean manufacturing facilities in the world and an example of the type of manufacturing we need to be encouraging, not eliminating.

It is ironic that politicians talk about creating a few jobs by destroying the environment but will not lift a finger to save thousands of good paying jobs where workers are protected under a union contract where environmentally friendly methods of production have been a centerpiece of labor's collective bargaining efforts with the company.

By joining together in grassroots efforts like this in activities for "World Water Day" on March 22 we hope to create greater public awareness and real grassroots involvement in a way that empowers working people who have a right to live in healthy environments with the right to clean, healthy water resources.

Both the Dark River in Minnesota and the White River in Michigan are designated trout streams in addition to primary freshwater aquifers.

We find it unconscionable that water has been turned into just one more capitalist commodity to be bought and sold; and our streams, rivers, and lakes turned into sewers for the corporations to get rid of their wastes by the cheapest means possible without any regard to nature, or the working people who live in these communities.

The corporations are contaminating our fresh water aquifers and then selling us bottled water to drink. The corporations profit both ways; we pay, and Mother Nature suffers.

Corrupt corporate politicians continue to put forward the lie that workers want jobs at any price. In fact, workers want jobs working in healthy environments at the place of employment, and workers want their communities to be free from contamination so they and their families can live healthy and happy lives.

Please consider taking some form of action with your family, friends, neighbors, and fellow workers for "World Water Day" on March 22... Focus on a water resource in your community that is threatened.

*Don't buy any bottled water on World Water Day... insist that politicians act to protect our freshwater resources and aquifers. It is immoral that we would have to purchase bottled water to drink because politicians have allowed our freshwater aquifers to become contaminated. Existing freshwater aquifers like the Big Bog in northern Minnesota and the headwaters of the White River in Michigan should be protected for the freshwater resources that they are.


Write letters.




Boycott bottled water and peat products... send the greedy, multi-national, capitalist corporations a strong message that water is one of our vital resources needed for survival; not a commodity to be bought and sold, or used to carry away pollutants.

Air and water pollution are closely related and often linked.

Organize a group in your community to focus on water related issues for World Water Day.

Be creative in voicing your concerns on World Water Day - March 22

The Roseau County DFL convention passed a resolution calling for the permit to mine peat in the Big Bog to be revoked and that United States Steel’s Minntac operation be prohibited from contaminating the streams, rivers, and lakes of northern Minnesota. The Minnesota DFL “leadership” has prevented a discussion of these issues… most recently at its “Business Meeting” on Saturday in North Branch, Minnesota. Obviously, to move state legislatures on these water related issues is going to take tremendous grassroots efforts… if we can’t have a voice in water related issues that are so vital to our quality of life, democracy is a rather shallow and hollow concept.

Many people are suffering from illnesses related to problems with drinking water, including deadly cancers… yet, these same politicians who refuse to allow any discussion on water issues are stonewalling similar grassroots efforts to achieve single-payer, universal health care. Greedy profit gouging corporations have spun a dangerous web; everything from water to health care has become a scam and a racket under capitalism… working people and our communities are their prey as these capitalist parasites search out maximum profits… something we are not supposed to talk about, lest we get labeled as “controversial.” It is amazing that what these capitalists are doing is not seen as the source of “controversy.”

The next time you pass through the grocery store isle lined with bottled water for sale, ask yourself why water is being sold.

Boycott all Nestle Corporation bottled water.

Boycott all Scott and Miracle Grow peat products. The Canadian multi-national, Berger Corporation, is the major supplier of peat to each company... this company is being allowed to mine the peat in the Big Bog and truck away the profits on a road built with tax dollars.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Ford intends to demolish the Twin Cities Assembly Plant...

But workers and the community and the Minnesota Legislature have yet to have a say in all of this.

Ford never thought that they would receive such stiff opposition to closing the Twin Cities Assembly Plant. That opposition is just getting off the ground and only now is it beginning to sink into the minds of workers across the state of the dire consequences this plant closing will have.

Public ownership of the plant is a widely accepted idea but it has yet to be transformed into a mass political movement.

To date, all decision making concerning this plant has taken place behind the closed doors of the corporate boardroom and people readily see the hypocrisy of "democracy" in the way this has all gone down.

Very few people are willing to accept Ford's "right" to close this plant and demolish it to boot without public input on the plant's future.

Ford will not get the last word... Minnesotans will.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The "New Democratic Majority"

I have been traveling through Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan the past couple weeks. There is definitely a "new democratic majority" that politicians and the media refuse to consider. I have been talking with people about their views concerning the results of the November 7th Election. The overwhelming sentiment of the people I have been talking with is that the Democratic Party is continuing to serve the interests of the military-financial-industrial complex and is refusing to adequately address the longstanding grievances of working people, which includes:

* Ending the war in Iraq and using the funds for socially necessary programs that include public education, public housing, public libraries, infrastructure maintenance, environmentally clean mass transit, child-care centers, and single-payer, universal health care. Global warming, environmental pollution and contamination are on top of every one's list of priorities; working people have a right to live and work in healthy environments with clean air, water, and land.

* Bringing forward legislation in support of no-fee, comprehensive, all-inclusive, universal health care that is publicly funded and publicly administered is the number one item on every one's mind when talking to people. People are thoroughly fed up with this health care mess and want a health care system that takes the profit gouging insurance companies completely out of the picture.

* Working people are fed up with the insurance company rip-offs and scams at every level from health insurance to auto and home insurance. The insurance companies could easily be pushed right out of the picture in all three areas--- health, home, and auto. Publicly administered programs could easily replace these insurance company parasites that make such extravagant promises when pitching their scams but deliver so little when a claim is made. Health insurance should be financed like social security through a payroll tax while home and auto owners would pay into government administered universal programs where everyone pays at the same rate based upon what is being insured.

* Public ownership of the energy producing industry is now being talked about by many working people.

In my travels I talked to many people about the shameful, despicable, and Draconian conditions casino workers have been forced to work under at poverty wages in smoke-filled casinos. I could not find one single person in Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan who did not find this problem shameful... the casino managements and mobsters who really own these casinos and the politicians they have paid off for this "favor" are alone in defending this most outrageous abuse of human rights. As more people become aware of the plight of casino workers politicians become hard pressed as they try to pretend they are concerned about working people because with over one hundred thousand casino workers employed under these conditions in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan this is widely recognized as a club hanging over the head of every worker and an impediment to union organizing efforts everywhere. The public is becoming aware that good union contracts are better than any government anti-poverty programs and a whole lot cheaper. Anyone who steps foot in a casino readily understands that our proposed contract that we describe as "one roll of quarters, per hour, per employee" which would include wages and benefits (provided single-payer, universal health care legislation is implemented) would be a fair first contract for casino workers.

The proposed legislation that would see a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour over many years is entirely inadequate; just high enough to push many people beyond the threshold levels and off of social programs; it is a poverty wage by any standard and the AFL-CIO, Change To Win and those advocating this miserly minimum wage are only doing so for political reasons and to try to bolster their own sagging images as they have presided over contract negotiations resulting in millions of jobs being lost by their own members and drastically reduced wages and benefits for their remaining members. Sweeney, Hoffa, and Andy Stern are viewed as big jokes by the workers they claim to represent. They can't defend the living standards of their own members and now they want to give poverty wage workers the shaft, too. Working people understand that every job is a good job if the job pays a real living wage--- with adequate benefits; any job that needs to be done requires a real living wage. A real living wage is easily ascertained from the calculations of the what the United States Department of Labor calculates a living income to be... we need look no further than the United States Department of Labor to determine what the minimum wage should be.

Students everywhere in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan are upset with rising tuition and the high interest rates on student loans... the proposals by the Democratic Party are completely inadequate, and students are universally disappointed with the mediocre educations they are receiving for the amount of money they pay.

Consumers are upset with rising prices at the grocery store and with the rip-off at the gas pumps.

In general, there is a massive ripoff and profit orgy in every area of life.

Foreclosures are everywhere and nothing is being done about predatory lenders in Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan. Outfits like "Rescue Mortgage" based in Edina, Minnesota continue to rip people off left and right without any intervention from an a newly elected Attorney General here in Minnesota who made ending predatory lending practices her main platform plank. For generations we have heard that home ownership is the working person's hedge against inflation and a good investment; today those homes are being stolen out from under working people left and right... if not by scam artists like Rescue Mortgage Company than they are being seized as payment for health care and nursing home bills.

In every area of life working people are getting screwed and coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan in body bags with another Republican war with Democratic Party support in Iran looming before us as the death toll and destruction in Iraq continues without any end in sight.

In my travels through Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan I found a "new democratic majority" coming together in very loose ways with people beginning to see the need to look beyond the Democratic Party for real change.

In fact, the Democratic Party is not in any real way part of the "new democratic majority" reflected in the November Elections... very few working people harbor any illusions of real gains coming from their votes for Democratic Party candidates which they voted for simply to protest the war in Iraq and the need for single-payer, universal health care as they tried to get attention for their other accumulating grievances.

It is now up to working people to decide around their kitchen tables how they will become involved in the political process and discuss the need to get rid of this rotten capitalist system that has turned everything from the war in Iraq to health care into scams and rackets enriching the few.

Until working people are willing to put the need for creating a cooperative socialist system at the center of political debate chances are things will not change as a bunch of crooked and corrupt politicians paid to serve the military-financial-industrial complex continues to call all the shots.

In short, working people in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan are not buying into the phony "proposals" of the Democratic Party that pretend to alleviate problems.

The real question now is: What will working people do to turn their unions around and create the kind of community, statewide, and regional organizations capable of uniting the "new democratic majority" of the working class to struggle for an alternative agenda based upon the politics and economics of livelihood with public ownership of major industries including: power-generating, health care, mining, and auto as the solution?

Let there be no mistake; the "new democratic majority" exists solely outside and separate from the the Democratic Party no matter how feverishly Democratic Party hacks and pundits work overtime to explain the results of the November Elections; those who fail to comprehend this have missed the boat once again.