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...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Governor Granholm and Michigan Legislators Sign Away Workers' Rights by approving "Compact" for new casino in West Michigan

Michigan Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm signs onto another "Compact" with the Gun Lake Band which is fronting for the Kansas City mob and the Fertitta family empire of Station Casinos; Granholm signs away workers' rights without batting one of her hollywood eyelashes and without one iota of concern for human rights.

Michigan State Representative Barbara Farrah is leading the legislative drive to approve this new casino venture that has been distorted in every aspect by local media... which has pushed the lie that jobs will be paying on average--- $40,000.00 a year.

Representative Farrah has long been known to be closely associated with organized crime figures, big-business, and the insurance industry so it comes as no surprise to anyone that she is now the voice of the Kansas City mob in this new casino venture which will, again, see profits placed before the rights of working people.

Below is an article which appeared in the Grand Rapids Press, historically a right-wing, racist, anti-labor, Republican rag which has never failed to come to the defense of employers and the military-financial-industrial complex... and now in defense of all the corruption associated with casino capitalism.

It is no coincidence the Fertitta family has bank-rolled some of the most corrupt and reactionary politicians in this country.

Not only is this casino venture where the State of Michigan is an actual partner a threat to workers' rights; this compact will also have very detrimental effects on democracy as this dirty money will be used to finance the political campaigns of politicians who are only concerned about money and corporate profits and what they can get from the funds that will be "skimmed" by the "silent partners" in this corrupt deal, cheating both the Gun Lake Band members and the State of Michigan from needed revenues.

The Fertitta Family has a long history of being partnered with those involved in "skimming" casino funds and the murderous and corrupt dealings associated with "skimming" casinos.

The Kalamazoo Michigan Chamber of Commerce has pushed for this casino knowing that low wages paid to these more than 1,800 casino workers will push wages down in the area. It is very interesting the Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce has issued a statement claiming widespread public support for this casino with the full and complete knowledge the public has not received the real facts concerning: 1.] Wages; 2.] Working conditions; 3.] exactly who the Gun Lake Band is fronting for.

Click on the link below to see the statement from the Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce and note for yourself what facts are omitted:


The Anderson Economic Group also did a study for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce which does not use actual wages which will be paid, nor make any reference or comment concerning the impact of 1,800 workers employed in a smoke-filled work place:


I find it very interesting that no concern has been demonstrated for the rights of, and conditions of employment, by the more than 1,800 workers who will be employed in this casino.

Even the religious community, social justice organizations, and both the Michigan AFL-CIO and Change to Win labor federations and their affiliates have also remained silent at a time they could have the greatest impact.

The connections between organized crime and the Teamsters Union with previous ventures of the Fertitta Family might provide a clue as to "why?"

It is also interesting to note that the Michigan Building and Construction trades unions have allowed their members to be employed in other casino construction projects in Michigan... including those now underway in Petoskey and Escanaba even though the union members who are employed on these construction projects rely upon the general contractors to enforce health and safety regulations... something unheard of. Also, business agents are not allowed on the construction sites to enforce contracts. There is a similarity in these construction jobs where workers are paying union dues but not getting the full protections of collective bargained agreements which appear to be remarkably similar to the way organized crime "skims" casino profits.

WE can conclude that the way these "Compacts" are approved not only denies casino workers their rights, but, enables the political process to be corrupted, construction workers placed at risk, and the ripping off of Michigan tax-payers.

I challenge anyone to demonstrate where this present "Compact" with the Gun Lake Band fronting for the Fertitta Family is in the best interest of working people, the local community, or, the State of Michigan... in fact, when all facts are considered this "Compact' is a bad deal for workers, a bad deal for the local community, and a bad deal for the State of Michigan; which leads one to wonder why in the world would Governor Granholm sign such a bad deal and what would make legislators give this "Compact" their stamp of approval?

There is only one conclusion: Dirty money has created a dirty deal; and, if dirty money is demonstrating its corrupt influence at this early stage of the project, what might we anticipate from this "Compact" in the years to come? A question no one seems to want to address or answer.

Native American newspapers have also refused to address the issues of workers rights and working conditions in these casinos. They also are the recipients of casino advertising revenues, as is evidenced from this article which concerns itself with the logo for the Gun Lake Casino; but has never considered the issue of workers' rights or working conditions:


Note: My response to the Grand Rapids Press article which is riddled with lie after lie was sent to Michigan State Representatives and others... at the bottom I provide the complete list. Not one single member of the Michigan Legislature has raised any question of workers' rights and the conditions under which working people will be employed in this casino.

Note: Communications between myself and the Governor's legal counsel in all of this will be provided upon request; these communications have already been made available to the Michigan AFL-CIO and the editor of the Grand Valley Labor News as well as the editor of the Grand Rapids Press. All members of the Michigan Legislature have received these communications.

Barbara Farrah has refused to acknowledge the issue of workers' rights; human rights apply to the rights of working people, including casino workers.

My response to the Grand Rapids Press article published in its entirety.

Note: The Grand Rapids Press refused to publish my response even though it was sent to both Mr. Knape and Grand Rapids Press Editor, Mr. Lloyd.

Mr. Knape,

Interesting how you, as a reporter for the Grand Rapids Press and your Republican editor, continue to peddle the lie of $40,000.00 a year jobs in order to use the plight of unemployed people to suck them in on this casino venture in Gun Lake. But, your newspaper stands to make big money in advertising revenues off this casino, right? So, I guess we can’t expect the most objective reporting from you when millions of dollars in advertising revenue and corporate profits are at stake.

I assume you are related to the Knape family which has long exploited working people by paying poverty wages in West Michigan. Your editor sure knows who to assign a story like this to.

You show me a casino any place in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Iowa where casino workers make that kind of money “on average.” Why don’t you publish the facts; list all the employment positions that will be open and what the positions will pay? Come on Mr. Knape, what is preventing you from doing this? Absolutely nothing; except you don’t want people to know the truth--- especially not those people who are unemployed and you have them all worked up looking forward to $40,000.00 a year jobs. I suppose the next thing you are going to tell us is that this pay will be contingent on hard work and loyalty to management.

You probably don’t even make 40k a year peddling these lies for the rag you work for.

You completely evade the issue surrounding the lack of very basic labor and human rights in these casinos; never bothering to even question or raise this issue with band officials or state public officials in spite of me having sent to you and the Grand Rapids Press the exchanges between myself and the Governor’s legal counsel on this matter--- John Wernet.

You completely evade the health issue of so many workers employed in what will be a smoke-filled casino. Wait until these workers start dropping of heart, lung, and cancers at a rate of more than 8 to one in the general population and these people have to contend with home foreclosures to pay their medical bills after they get fired for not showing up for work regularly due to these second-hand smoke related illnesses.

Jobs: with no security at poverty wages in a smoke-filled casino operation… not your lies of $40,000.00 a year jobs is what awaits those who will be working in this Gun Lake Casino.

I challenge you to show me the pay stubs and W-2 forms along with the payroll records of one single casino in the State of Michigan where the average pay for hourly employees in these casinos is $40,000.00 a year. This is a brazen and outright lie you are peddling which should cause any thinking person to question the truthfulness of anything they read in your Republican rag which passes itself off as a “newspaper.”

When discussing the lives of some 1,800 workers who will be employed in this casino, who, even according to Mr. John Wermet--- Governor Granholm’s legal counsel on this matter--- employees will have not one single right in the workplace. Under this circumstance your reporting becomes even more atrocious.

I spent three weeks meeting with people in the area where this casino is going to be built… and when I showed the people the correspondence I had with Mr. Wermet, they all said they felt like they were being played for suckers and fools. But, that is what the casino industry is all about, isn’t it… playing everyone from the tax-payers to the patrons and employees for suckers and fools.

I intend to post this on my blog for all to see, along with the list of people, unions, and organizations this has been sent to listed in the “Cc.”

Mr. Knape, all I can say is: Shame on your lack of integrity, morals, and ethics in reporting.

Perhaps you should ask these Gun Lake tribal officials fronting for the mobsters who will really be operating this casino if they would like to sit down with me and negotiate a contract covering all the hourly employees since they are in such a generous mood; and, allow the employees to vote on the contract before the casino opens as a test of what kind of voice at work the employees will have and what kind of democracy there will be in this fabulous place of employment.

Grand Rapids Press article:

Gun Lake casino clears hurdle with House

Friday, July 20, 2007

By Chris Knape

The Grand Rapids Press

LANSING -- The state House appears game for a Wayland casino.

Members of the House, led by Rep. Barbara Farrah, D-Southgate, introduced a resolution Thursday that could lead to legislative approval of a Wayland Township casino.

The resolution essentially would give the House's blessing to a revenue-sharing compact agreed to by the Gun Lake Band of Pottawatomi and Gov. Jennifer Granholm in March.

With 57 co-sponsors and a majority of members present needed for passage, the resolution has more than enough support to win approval in the 110-member House. However, no area House members have signed on to support it.

Farrah said the resolution is not a pro-gaming measure.

"We don't decide if there is going to be gaming or not," she said. "We need to do the compact for the state of Michigan to make sure we have the revenue and regulation."

The proposed compact calls for the tribe to pay 8 percent of the take from electronic games such as slot machines to the state for its first $150 million in gross revenue. The share scales up to 10 percent if the gross exceeds $150 million, and to 12 percent if the gross is more than $300 million.

In exchange, the tribe receives the exclusive right to operate a casino within a nine-county region surrounding it. An exception in the compact would allow for a different tribe's first casino to be built in the nine-county region while preserving revenue-sharing payments.

It's unclear when the resolution might make it to the House floor. Farrah is chairwoman of the House committee where the resolution is likely to be referred.

The state Senate, which has yet to introduce such a resolution, would need to approve a similar one.

The Legislature's approval of the compact is one of the last hurdles that must be cleared by the tribe before it goes ahead with what could be a $200 million a casino off the Bradley exit of U.S. 131 in Allegan County.

The facility is expected to employ 1,800 people, with average compensation of $40,000 a year, according to the tribe.

The Gun Lake Band is the only one of Michigan's 12 federally recognized tribes not to have a gaming compact with the state.

"After six years of playing by the rules, the tribe is still asking for the same thing -- fairness," said John Shagonaby, vice chairman of the Gun Lake tribe. "The compact will also ensure thousands of good-paying jobs and millions of dollars in new revenue for local and state government, as well as the business community."

On July 30, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., is expected to receive the final written documents in a suit by casino opponents that seeks to prevent having land for the casino put into trust as the Gun Lake Band's reservation. Oral arguments and a final ruling on the case could come later this year or early next year.

Two similar suits involving casinos in New Buffalo and near Battle Creek have failed. The Pokagon Band of Pottawatomi's casino in New Buffalo is slated to open in August. Work on the Huron Band's casino near Battle Creek is expected to get under way soon.

Farrah said there was no point in waiting for the case -- which she believes the tribe will win -- to be decided before introducing the resolution.

"The process is moving. We need to move with the process," she said.

Send e-mail to the author: cknape@grpress.com

Alan L. Maki

Director of Organizing,

Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council

58891 County Road 13

Warroad, Minnesota 56763

Phone: 218-386-2432

Cell phone: 651-587-5541

E-mail: amaki000@centurytel.net

Check out my blog:

Thoughts From Podunk


The following have received all information on this "Compact," the names and e-mail addresses pretty much explain who each party is--- if you have questions, please feel free to contact me.

'cknape@grpress.com'; 'miaflcio@voyager.net'; 'gdubovich@usw.org'

'GVLNpaper@aol.com'; 'editor@indiancountry.com'; 'mnaflcio@qwest.net'; 'mlloyd@grpress.com'; 'GVLNpaper@aol.com'; 'pulse@grpress.com'; 'localnews@grpress.com'; 'mradigan@grpress.com'; 'creister@grpress.com'; 'pshellenbarger@grpress.com'; 'bvanochten@grpess.com'; 'jbauer@grpress.com'; 'ncrawley@grpress.com'; 'chair@pdwm.org'; 'lamarlemmonsjr@house.mi.gov'; 'jackbrandenburg@house.mi.gov'; 'edclemente@house.mi.gov'; 'bertjohnson@house.mi.gov'; 'andycoulouris@house.mi.gov'; 'edwardgaffney@house.mi.gov'; 'tomcasperson@house.mi.gov'; 'jeffmayes@house.mi.gov'; 'fredmiller@house.mi.gov'; 'tompearce@house.mi.gov'; 'timmelton@house.mi.gov'; 'terrybrown@house.mi.gov'; 'andymeisner@house.mi.gov'; 'stevenlindberg@house.mi.gov'; 'mikenofs@house.mi.gov'; 'barbbyrum@house.mi.gov'; 'virgilsmith@house.mi.gov'; 'franamos@house.mi.gov'; 'kimmeltzer@house.mi.gov'; 'representativesak@house.mi.gov'; 'stevetobocman@house.mi.gov'; 'davidpalsrok@house.mi.gov'; 'joanbauer@house.mi.gov'; 'craigderoche@house.mi.gov'; 'pambyrnes@house.mi.gov'; 'kevinelsenheimer@house.mi.gov'; 'billhuizenga@house.mi.gov'; 'rickshaffer@house.mi.gov'; 'matthewgillard@house.mi.gov'; 'judyemmons@house.mi.gov'; 'johnespinoza@house.mi.gov'; 'fultonsheen@house.mi.gov'; 'kennethhorn@house.mi.gov'; 'arlanbmeekhof@house.mi.gov'; 'tonyaschuitmaker@house.mi.gov'; 'glennsteil@house.mi.gov'; 'richardball@house.mi.gov'; 'briancalley@house.mi.gov'; 'repbrianpalmer@house.mi.gov'; 'marshacheeks@house.mi.gov'; 'barbarafarrah@house.mi.gov'; 'rephildenbrand@house.mi.gov'; 'ginopolidori@house.mi.gov'; 'bobconstan@house.mi.gov'; 'mikelahti@house.mi.gov'; 'hoon-yunghopgood@house.mi.gov'; 'rickjones@house.mi.gov'; 'frankaccavitti@house.mi.gov'; 'kathleenlaw@house.mi.gov'; 'andydillon@house.mi.gov'; 'colemanayoungii@house.mi.gov'; 'johnproos@house.mi.gov'; 'shanellejackson@house.mi.gov'; 'dspade@house.mi.gov'; 'darwinbooher@house.mi.gov'; 'howardwalker@house.mi.gov'; 'almasmith@house.mi.gov'; 'stevebieda@house.mi.gov'; 'johngarfield@house.mi.gov'; 'jackhoogendyk@house.mi.gov'; 'mikesimpson@house.mi.gov'; 'bettiecookscott@house.mi.gov'; 'paulopsommer@house.mi.gov'; 'davidrobertson@house.mi.gov'; 'martyknollenberg@house.mi.gov'; 'chrisward@house.mi.gov'; 'robertjones@house.mi.gov'; 'markmeadows@house.mi.gov'; 'lorencewenke@house.mi.gov'; 'paulcondino@house.mi.gov'; 'billcaul@house.mi.gov'; 'phillippavlov@house.mi.gov'; 'johnmoolenaar@house.mi.gov'; 'kathyangerer@house.mi.gov'; 'aldovagnozzi@house.mi.gov'; 'brucecaswell@house.mi.gov'; 'martingriffin@house.mi.gov'; 'nealnitz@house.mi.gov'; 'jimmarleau@house.mi.gov'; 'davidlaw@house.mi.gov'; 'johnstahl@house.mi.gov'; 'lisawojno@house.mi.gov'; 'georgecushingberry@house.mi.gov'; 'kevingreen@house.mi.gov'; 'phillajoy@house.mi.gov'; 'richardleblanc@house.mi.gov'; 'rebekahwarren@house.mi.gov'; 'johnstakoe@house.mi.gov'; 'KateEbli@house.mi.gov'; 'garymcdowell@house.mi.gov'; 'dougbennett@house.mi.gov'; 'robertdean@house.mi.gov'; 'maryvalentine@house.mi.gov'; 'morrishood3rd@house.mi.gov'; 'marccorriveau@house.mi.gov'; 'joelsheltrown@house.mi.gov'; 'mariedonigan@house.mi.gov'; 'tedhammon@house.mi.gov'; 'johnpastor@house.mi.gov'; 'gabeleland@house.mi.gov'; 'goeffhansen@house.mi.gov'; 'leegonzales@house.mi.gov'; 'richardhammel@house.mi.gov'; 'toryrocca@house.mi.gov'; 'chuckmoss@house.mi.gov'; 'brendaclack@house.mi.gov'; 'joehune@house.mi.gov'; 'daveagema@house.mi.gov'; 'danielacciavatti@house.mi.gov'; 'timmoore@house.mi.gov'; 'swilliams@metrodetroitaflcio.org'; 'divers@metrodetroitaflcio.org'; 'thill@metrodetroitaflcio.org'; 'info@mostimportantdecade.com'

This is another Associated Press article announcing that the House Committee has approved this "Compact." Please note: no comments on this article were allowed.

House starts clearing the way for Gun Lake casino

Posted by The Associated Press July 24, 2007 14:49PM

Categories: Breaking News

LANSING (AP) -- A deal letting an American Indian casino open in southwestern Michigan won initial backing Tuesday in the Legislature.

The House Regulatory Reform Committee voted 6-0 to approve a compact negotiated between Gov. Jennifer Granholm's administration and the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, also known as the Gun Lake tribe. Two lawmakers passed instead of voting yes or no.

Under the compact, the state would receive 8 percent of the casino's take from slot machines for the first $150 million, 10 percent between $150 million and $300 million and 12 percent in excess of $300 million.

The tribe plans to build a casino in Allegan County's Wayland Township, about 20 miles south of Grand Rapids. It would employ about 1,800 people and have about 2,500 electronic gambling machines and 80 gaming tables.

Supporters of the compact, which needs legislative approval, stressed it would create jobs and said it's better for state government than existing compacts because the Gun Lake tribe would have to make revenue-sharing payments unless a non-tribal casino opens within a surrounding nine-county area.

Other tribes with casinos -- including the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, which runs one of the nation's largest tribal casinos in Mount Pleasant -- stopped making payments when Detroit casinos opened in the late 1990s. The casinos were considered a violation of their deals with the state because the compacts applied to new casino competition coming from anywhere in the state, not just threats in the area where one tribal casino was located.

Opponents of the compact said the casino would be an economic drain, unfairly competing with existing entertainment venues, increasing crime and harming families.

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The Associated Press has also refused to acknowledge the problems associated with this "Compact." So, add to the other problems associated with the lack of workers' rights and what I have previously cited, the problem of fairness in the media covering this issue.


This how the vote went in the Regulatory Reform Committee of the Michigan House Chaired by Democrat Barbara Farrah who has been pushing this casino project without any concern for the rights of working people (the Democrats are the majority):

The votes you requested are below. The minutes are not up online yet but should be available later today. They will be located at


to report HR 158 with recommendation.


YEAS: Reps. Farrah, Virgil Smith, Wojno, Palsrok, Gaffney, Ward. (6/9)

NAYS: None. (0/9)

PASS: Reps. Scott, Marleau. (2/9)

to report HCR 39 with recommendation.


YEAS: Reps. Farrah, Virgil Smith, Wojno, Palsrok, Gaffney, Ward. (6/9)

NAYS: None. (0/9)

PASS: Reps. Scott, Marleau. (2/9)

Rep. Meadows was absent

For further commentary see:


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Shame on John Conyers

Some interesting thoughts have come from a variety of different viewpoints concerning the arrests of Cindy Sheehan and others at John Conyers’ office.

I join with those who say: Shame on John Conyers for using the police instead of dialogue and discussion. Shame on John Conyers’ most loyal supporter, Al Fishman of Detroit, for supporting what Conyers did. Shame on those who use red-baiting, and have tried to make this an issue involving racism, which it is not; it is an attempt by the “center” and “moderate” forces in the Democratic Party to smear Cindy Sheehan and focus debate in this country away from the real issues in a way that will permit the Democrats in the 2008 elections to evade any discussion of having to put forward solutions to our problems--- ending the war in Iraq and single-payer, universal health care, to name two.

Nobody twisted John Conyers’ arm to be Chair of the House Judiciary Committee… He wanted the position; he got it… apparently because he agreed to play on Pelosi’s team. He takes the heat that goes with the position. To think that he should be treated with kid gloves is ridiculous.

The fact of the matter is this: It was John Conyers who started all of this talk about impeachment in the first place in case Al Fishman and others have forgotten. It was John Conyers who got people all worked up that Bush and Cheney should be impeached. It was Conyers who stated, and I heard him with my own ears, “The only way to stop this gang of criminals (Bush-Cheney-Rove) is through impeachment.”

Well, what has changed now? If what Conyers stated prior was in fact grounds for impeachment, the case for impeachment is definitely stronger today.

And, if what has been published about Bush’s intent to turn our country into a fascist state by creating dirty deeds and blaming it on terrorists is true… then the case for impeachment is even stronger… personally, I wouldn’t have published this unsubstantiated piece of fear-mongering, but, many have; and it seems many believe Bush is capable of this kind of dirty deed; which, if even being considered by Bush and Cheney is a highly impeachable offense.

Obviously, Conyers was only talking impeachment because to talk this way was politically expedient at the time. Now that people all across this country have been convinced by his arguments that Bush and Cheney should be impeached, Nancy Pelosi says “no” and he withdraws; in the process telling everyone, “Just vote for more Democrats like me and Nancy Pelosi and put a Democrat in the Whitehouse.”

Apparently Conyers went on the road all across America as some kind of cute, cheap little political stunt in order to bring people out to vote for Democrats; people who voted because they really believed Conyers was sincere about his intent to initiate impeachment proceedings. Now we find it was all a hoax and a cheap little gimmick used to trick people into voting for Democrats. Naturally, people now feel offended in being used in this way.

Just what we need, another Democrat like John Conyers or Nancy Pelosi in the Whitehouse. John Conyers previously said, “Give us a House and Senate majority and I will move forward with impeachment as the Chair of the Judiciary Committee in the House.” Conyers, an attorney of some renown, didn’t move forward with what he said was an air-tight case for impeachment. What has happened to Conyers’ H.R. 676… single-payer, universal health care; it now has fewer supporters than previously. Why? Will voting for more Democrats like himself and Pelosi plus one of the candidates now running for President get us closer to having H.R. 676 come into law? How can it when all the presidential hopefuls in the double-digits are all opposed to H.R. 676 and are offering up their own schemes that will leave the insurance and pharmaceutical companies in control? And, the rest of the Democrats are leery to sign on because they know their political futures will be tied to supporting whatever scheme the Democratic President will be pushing… they sure don’t want to be accused of “waffling” by their own constituents who just might start occupying their offices in an attempt to hold them to support for single-payer.

If Conyers has been sincere in his liberal and progressive statements, I would think Conyers would welcome Cindy Sheehan being elected to Congress over Nancy Pelosi… Sheehan’s only stated purpose is helping Conyers accomplish that which he states he is for. Cindy Sheehan’s election would strengthen democracy and Conyers’ own positions. Obviously, a Republican has no chance in the district no matter how close the race would be between Pelosi and Sheehan because Pelosi has done such an excellent job pushing a progressive agenda over the years, albeit a progressive agenda which has only framed the issues without the kind of progressive solutions advocated by Sheehan; so, the argument can’t be used that this would give the Republicans a chance of winning this Congressional seat.

I think people have a right to vote for candidates of their choice who reflect their stand on issues best, and I am glad to see Cindy Sheehan taking both John Conyers and Nancy Pelosi to task.

I won’t believe much of what John Conyers ever says about anything ever again. I figured he was one of the few Democrats who could be trusted; and trusted to be compassionate and understanding with people… it would have been different if someone was threatening him or his staff with physical harm… there has been no suggestion that anything other than words were exchanged. In fact those people could have sat in his office until the proverbial “hell freezes over” and no one would have been hurt.

If Conyers is the progressive or liberal he claims to be, he would have served them all meals and told them to make themselves at home and to stay as long as they like.

There is something drastically wrong when someone like Al Fishman has to question “who” someone is, as if you have to be “someone” in order to have a say in this country… isn’t just the fact of being a person, with a thought and a concern you want to share with an elected official, enough?

I have seen much of Conyers’ campaign contributions and where they come from… he doesn’t come into politics with such open and clean hands himself… and, Al Fishman knows this, perhaps better than anyone else.

Just because Conyers himself won a tight race years ago doesn’t give him any “right” to continue to hold public office without a challenge. So what if a more progressive candidate was to challenge him and win? This is about issues; not anyone’s “claim” to an office. I would think Fishman and his peace organizations would welcome someone like a Cindy Sheehan replacing Conyers… after all, Conyers must be getting ready to retire by now… after what he has pulled, this would probably be a good time for him to give retirement consideration.

I really resent people trying to silence others through this kind of sleazy campaign pretending that something else is involved when everyone knows it is not.

I also resent Al Fishman and others trying to make us believe holding hearings to investigate everything to death is a substitute for real solutions to our country’s problems. If we are to believe the polls (and for the polls to be wrong there would have to be one heck of a margin of error) most Americans seem to believe the Democrats are not doing what they expected of them at the time they cast their votes for them on Election Day.

I don’t know anything about Cindy Sheehan other than she is voicing her concerns as a grieving mother whose son has been killed in Bush’s senseless war based upon lies and deceit which the Democratic Party has just about unanimously signed onto; initially, in providing Bush the opportunity to go to war--- then with continued funding for this carnage which sinks us deeper and deeper into a quagmire by the day as the Democrats have yet to explain how they propose to get us out.

I give Cindy Sheehan a whole heck of a lot of credit for coming forward as she has.

Shame on John Conyers; arresting progressive activists like Cindy Sheehan with very legitimate grievances and concerns is no solution to any problem.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Campaign for America's Future

I have attended several conferences organized by the Campaign for America's Future hosted by this think tank of the AFL-CIO.

I will never forget the 2001 conference organized by the Campaign for America's Future for several reasons... one is because while I was waiting for a bus not far from the Capitol Building where I had met with several members of Congress, a great big rat ran between my legs... I mean it was a huge rat... as big as a cat.

But, the main reason I will never forget this conference is because it failed to bring forward the issue of peace.

The leaders of this organization--- Campaign for America's Future, Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey--- have learned well from linguist extrodinaire--- George Lakoff--- and know how to "frame" issues prettied up with progressive sounding packaging very well in what are called "progressive policy directives."

But, anyone ever attending these conferences--- well controlled in a way not to allow any progressive solutions to problems to surface--- comes away with great disappointment, unless of course the purpose for participating is to control the progressive movement and channel progressive activity into a narrow dead end alley.

Check out the link below:


I was sharply critical of the Conference sponsored by the Campaign for America's Future, this "progressive think tank," for refusing to have the courage to take on Bush's vicious saber rattling at the time (several months before 9/11)... This conference was billed as "The Next Agenda... Blueprint for a New Progressive Movement".

Already, at this time if you will recall, Bush was bound and determined to go to war in Iraq... the unrelenting saber rattling was well underway... all Bush was looking for was an excuse... months later he found the pretext for war with 9/11.

It is interesting how Borosage and Hickey cleverly try to conceal the fact that this saber rattling was not addressed at the 2001 "Next Agenda Conference;" nor in their book of the same name. I have never figured out how anyone could write three-hundred and eighty six pages in a book titled, "The Next Agenda; Blueprint for a New Progressive Movement" distributed through the "Campaign for America's Future" at this conference and not mention the issue of peace.

Anyways, here is what a search on the Internet turns up about the 2001 America's Future Conference:


Go ahead, click on the link... what you will find is the call for "The Next Agenda Conference" by the Campaign for America's Future; remember, this is the 2001 conference we are talking about... yet, this call has attached to it at the top an article against the war written in 2003!

This is some way to "frame" and "package" your message... or, rather, conceal that peace was not an issue at this conference; nor, in the book by the same name, "The Next Agenda," especially prepared for this conference... Not one word about peace... not one word in opposition to Bush's saber rattling which was already setting the stage for the war in Iraq and a massive increase in "defense" spending.

I never could figure out how you write a book about reordering priorities in America without clearly calling for cutting and redirecting military spending towards meeting human needs; but, leave it to Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey to cleverly pull off such a feat to meet the wishes of those who fund their think tank.

I remember this conference well, not just because of the huge rat that scurried between my legs as I waited at the bus stop to catch a ride to the National Press Club, or because of the lack of attention to peace issues at a "progressive" conference; but, because it was the last time I ever talked to Paul Wellstone in person.

Paul and I had a lengthy discussion that the issue of peace was not included in this conference... nor in the book. We talked about how it is possible to completely separate and detach the issue of peace at a time Bush was marching the Nation into war. This, at a conference billing itself as creating a "Blueprint for a New Progressive Movement."

We never agreed on an answer to this question; however, to Wellstone's credit he was just about alone United States Senate in opposing the war in Iraq... and we had a lengthy phone conversation about his opposition in which he said, "This should have been at the top of the agenda for the conference in 2001 like you said at the time."

In fact, I was told, by the conference organizers, to stop my distribution of leaflets--- because I had not secured permission for distribution in a timely manner--- a leaflet about the need for peace to be a centerpiece of any agenda claiming to be a "progressive agenda."

I was also "asked" to stop distributing a leaflet about a labor dispute at Buhler Industries in Winnipeg, Manitoba which was spilling over into the United States after the company President, John Buhler, threatened to move his operation to the "right to work" state of North Dakota during a bitter strike that was underway where members of the Canadian Auto Workers were locked out of their jobs. My leaflet made known the fact that the Winnepeg Labour council had called for the public takeover of Buhler Manufacturing... formerly owned by Ford and only saved after the Manitoba New Democratic Party government brought it under public ownership; only to later have Conservatives push for its sale to the wealthy industrialist John Buhler. This is another issue, though. Although, the way this industry was saved has some lessons for how we might save the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant.

I do find it interesting, to say the least, that some of these "progressives" are so fearful of any ideas other than their own--- which they like to package and sell--- that they will try to stifle the opinions of others.

Now, today, the war in Iraq was "the" hot topic at the Campaign for America's Future Conference called "Take Back America" held in Washington D.C. in June.

While Iraq made the agenda this time, no real solutions for ending the war in Iraq were discussed. In fact, the conference provided a "progressive" cover for those Democrats like Keith Ellison and Amy Klobuchar who have talked against the war then turned around and voted for it to continue through continued voting to fund the war.

Common sense says you can't be for ending a war when you cast a vote in the House and Senate to finance the continuation of that war.

Here in Minnesota, Klobuchar is known among progressives as Amy "Republican Lite" Klobuchar because she talks like a progressive and votes like a reactionary Republican along the lines dictated by her AIPAC backers.

You can check out the "new" Campaign for America's Future web site for yourself... here is the link:


Notice how well the issues are "framed" in order to avoid solutions to any problems.

While Borosage and Hickey helped provide the "progressive" cover to Democrats who voted for the war by refusing to allow this question to be addressed at a conference where the saber rattling for the war was well underway, they now have served as the front for these same Democrats to get away with voting for more funding to continue the war by twisting this support to mean that it was really a vote to end the war...

The only "progressive" organization to do this, that I know of. Well, there might be one other, but the members aren't to happy about it.

Who was the "progressive" voice Democrats trotted out before the media to justify voting to continue funding for the war? Robert Borosage.

Here in Minnesota, as reported in the media, one lone peace activist could be found to support Keith Ellison's vote to fund the war; just one. The media couldn't even find support for Ellison's position in the American Legion and VFW halls they visited trying to find it... all they talked to said "get the hell out of there, and get the hell out of Iraq now."

Here is the problem as I see it. This outfit, The Campaign for America's Future, would like us all to believe there is no progressive movement outside of the Democratic Party. This is a major miscalculation, which if bought into, leaves the progressive movement hamstrung because many, many progressive minded people in the United States have given up on the Democratic Party as being a vehicle to bring about change and now work outside of the Democratic Party structure and have no use for the "two party system;" Cindy Sheehan is perhaps the most prominent reflection of this.

I happen to believe that those progressives who do not see the need to continue to work inside of the Democratic Party are as wrong as those who believe the Democratic Party is the only vehicle for change. In fact, where ever there are people, this is the place for progressives to be active and involved--- provided, as progressives, we are seeking real solutions to very real problems and we are heading in a common direction. There is no reason why progressives working in the Democratic Party can't be working towards the same solutions to problems as progressives outside of the Democratic Party in a way that eventually brings these forces together. Whether the issue is ending the war in Iraq or saving the Ford Plant or working towards ending the injustices of casino workers or on the issue of single-payer universal health care, or global warming.

Properly "framing" issues in a progressive manner is only part of what we need to do; framing issues with solutions is another part of what we need to do. This all needs to be part of a process of educating the American people in a way that empowers them to take united action.

Where is this "action" around concrete solutions to our problems coming from within the Campaign for America's Future? There is none... except another conference, and another conference after that, and so on. At some point, progressives need to insist that solutions be brought forward. Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey talk a lot, but say nothing about real solutions to problems; and, they do nothing but talk.

Don't get me wrong, talking is good... but at some point that talk needs to lead to concrete progressive action.

I don't call providing the cover for allowing the majority of the Democrats to to vote for a war in the first place, a progressive action. Then, to compound this by urging a vote for continuing to fund the war as another cover under the guise of progressivism the kind of solution to the problem we need.

Think about this: Had not Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey, the voices of the Campaign for America's Future, not stepped forward and into the limelight to defend the vote to continue funding for this war in Iraq, what other progressive cover would these Democrats have had to appear as if they were really voting for peace and an end to the war in Iraq? None. Zilch.

People talk about how this was a "compromise" vote. How does one "compromise" on the issue of halting this carnage in Iraq? You can't. There is only one solution... and, that solution has to be based upon the understanding that the United States never had a legitimate reason to go to war in Iraq and there is no legitimate reason to stay in Iraq. The solution is simple; there is nothing to compromise about... you do what is necessary to get the troops on planes and boats as quickly as possible and get them back home. You don't "redeploy" them anyplace. You don't prepare for a war with Iran. You don't send them to Afghanistan.

There is still talk among major sections of the Democratic Party that this war in Iraq can be "won." This is ludicrous. There has never been anything to win except for oil and regional domination.

Anyone who considers any kind of compromise as a way to end this war should be the very first standing in line to go over there and replace those who do not want to be in uniform fighting this dirty imperialist war; and this is what this war is, an imperialist war for corporate profit in every aspect. There is no getting around this fact. I challenge anyone to tell me what there is to "win" in this war. For every single person who talks about "winning the war in Iraq," I will show you an apologist for capitalism and its most decadent, barbaric, and inhuman stage: imperialism.

Everyday this war continues it becomes harder to stop because the warmongers become more entrenched in power.

Only a complete fool would look at the present Democratic Party and believe that if these Democrats controlled the House, the Senate, and the Presidency today this war would come to an end.

Lyndon Johnson muddled along in dragging us further and further into a quagmire in Vietnam and if any of the present Democratic Party contenders for the White House manage to get get elected this war will continue on... Unless, progressives--- inside and outside of the Democratic Party--- are united in bringing it to an end.

This will require a great deal of work. There are no short cuts. The American people have to be educated and empowered to wrest power from this maniacal bunch of imperialist warmongers of the military-financial-industrial complex.

This education has to take place in our homes, in our communities, in our schools and churches, where we work... wherever there are people.

The present bunch of Democrats aren't even competent to defend our democracy by initiating the required impeachment proceedings against Bush and Cheney for what they have done.

In essence, when one listens to their arguments, be it Bernie Sanders, Keith Ellison, or Amy "Republican Lite" Klobuchar, what we have are bunch of dumb donkeys who can not walk and chew gum at the same time. Listen to them. Just click on this link and hear for yourself what they had to say about impeachment at the Campaign for America's Future conference (its just over an hour video but well worth watching and listening to; impeachment comes up towards the end of this kitchen table discussion):


In fact, while the Democrats use the excuse that they could not deal with other problems if they proceeded with impeachment; they are not solving any of the pressing problems as promised anyways.

There isn't going to be any shortcuts to ending this mess that our country is in. We need to get on with the laborious, tedious, and time consuming work of building a liberal/progressive/socialist movement to turn this country around. We need not wait for the coming of a "new" Democratic Party to accomplish this.

If the Campaign for America's Future was in the least bit sincere they would have placed the struggle to save the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant high on their agenda because in this struggle we find every single issue the Campaign for America's Future claims to be concerned about... every single one. Neither Keith Ellison nor Amy Klobuchar raised the issue of the Ford Plant at this conference; ironically, neither did the leaders of the United Steelworkers, the United Auto Workers, nor the leaders of the Sierra Clubs.

I am guessing that if the wrecking ball strikes, the Ford Plant will be high on the agenda of the Campaign for America's Future; but, not before; unless it gets placed there by say some rank and file Ford workers.

I think we need to ask "why?"

Was it because they focussed on solving some other problem which brings these issues together in a better way in a struggle with greater chances of success? The answer in "no."

This is the problem. Without taking on a specific struggle no solutions to our problems can be found. We are not dealing with some kind of mythical or mystical concepts involving plant closings, job losses, problems of global warmimg... these are very tangible problems, very specific problems that form a very distinct pattern as the lives of very real working class families are being destroyed. We are not simply talking numbers and statistics in newspaper op/ed pieces. We are talking about the lives of living, breathing human beings... the future of families, entire communities, and life on this planet. If specific problems can't be addressed and resolved, you can't address the larger problem... in fact, it helps to have a specific problem to work on in finding solutions to the larger pattern of problems.

For those not yet aware of the situation involving the Ford Plant in the Twin Cities you can get up to speed here:


It is easy, and safe as George Lakoff points out, not to engage in any discussions where you need to address specific solutions to specific problems. When dealing with generalities you can always claim your movement is gaining ground, accomplishing things, and winning because there is nothing to compare with. You simply proclaim the last election a "progressive" victory. Has it saved any jobs? Has it raised the standard of living for any working person? Has it halted the war in Iraq? Has it saved the Ford Plant? Has it reversed global warming?

While you are sitting around your kitchen table, think about this:

Isn't saving the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant along with over two thousand present jobs and thousands of future jobs really about the real campaign for America's future?

We in Minnesota--- with the exception of Keith Ellison, Amy "Republican Lite" Klobuchar, and the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party which is dominated by the Summit Hill crowd, the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce, and the DFL Business Caucus--- we really are convinced that the struggle to save this Ford Plant, the jobs, and the Ford Dam which powers the Plant which has been built and subsidized by tax-payers for so many years is about the our future... we believe the campaign for America's future is tied up in the outcome of this struggle which needs to take on the likeness of a campaign.

If we can't come together as a united progressive movement to save this one plant and a hydro dam through public ownership (all other means have been exhausted)... what can we accomplish as far as solving any of the very real problems working people in this country are experiencing? This is a very legitimate question... those who evade answering this question are not being honest in projecting progressive ideas.

By the way... at the entrance to the St.Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant is a huge, huge sign placed there by management supporting this dirty war in Iraq... something else to think about and ponder while sitting around your kitchen table. Not only are the oil companies in this war for the profit, so is the Ford Motor Company.

One last thing. At this conference in 2001 I sat next to one of the most distinguished progressive op/ed writers in the country... and I said to him: "You know, compared to George Bush, Lyndon Johnson wasn't such a bad president, was he?" And, he looked at me like, "Are you nuts?" and after a long silence, he said, "What about Vietnam?" I responded, "Well, what about Iraq?" He said, "Ok, point well taken; I guess its a point we are missing at this conference." Paul Krugman understood; too bad Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey still don't understand.

Maybe if Paul Krugman writes about the struggle to save the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant in the New York Times and how this struggle is integral to the campaign to save America's future, progressives will act; I don't know.

This really isn't about liberals convening at a Campaign for America's Future conference for liberals to air differences as this article in "Truthout" states:


What is at issue is understanding that any alternative progressive agenda has to include real solutions to real problems.

I find it interesting that Democrats in the United States Congress and the Senate claim to be so involved in the struggle to protect us in other ways that they don't want to get involved in impeachment proceedings... is that why their overall rating in the public opinion polls has the new Democratic majorities in the House and Senate scoring even worse than Bush for the work they are doing?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hillary Clinton accepts support from one of the worst human rights abusers in the world--- Melanie Benjamin

On November 10, 2005, United States Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton sent a letter to George Bush urging him to take up the question of human rights with Chinese government officials.

The conclusion of this letter reads:

"...Finally, regarding worker’s rights, eighteen months after rejecting the AFL-CIO's Section 301 petition alleging China's repression of workers' rights was an unfair trade practice, the Bush Administration has yet to progress in raising the issue with China. The Chinese government has failed to make any significant reforms, either in its labor laws or enforcement practices. As the bilateral trade deficit with China soars, and American workers lose manufacturing jobs, employers take advantage of Chinese workers who cannot exercise their right to form independent unions and bargain. Unfortunately, the only concrete outcome of the high-profile visit by Secretary Chao to China in the summer of 2004 was a series of letters pledging more seminars, high-level visits, and dialogues on workplace issues. But this dialogue has yielded few, if any, tangible results, on issues of crucial importance, both to Chinese and American workers. U.S. concerns over worker’s rights should be re-emphasized during this summit.

I strongly support continuing efforts to improve the relationship on all levels between our country and China. It is to our mutual benefit to work together to address the range of challenges facing both of us. However, economic and social advances will be lasting only if they are built on a foundation of respect for human rights.

This letter from Hillary Clinton to George Bush is very interesting because in 2007, the same Hillary Clinton accepted a huge financial contribution and endorsement for her presidential aspirations from Melanie Benjamin--- one of the worst violators of workers' rights; and, one of the worst human rights abusers in the world.

Given that Senator Clinton, now a Democratic Party candidate for President of the United States is boasting Melanie Benjamin as one of her leading Minnesota supporters, one has to wonder if her concerns for human rights are more for political posturing (and financial contributions) than out of genuine concern.

Using Hillary Clinton's own measuring stick, Melanie Benjamin is one of the worst human rights abusers in the world; she heads up the Mille Lacs Band's casino operations which includes restaurant and hotel ventures employing thousands of workers employed in these smoke-filled casinos, all receiving poverty wages without any rights under state, federal, international, or tribal labor laws.

Hillary Clinton's own Party, the Democratic Party, has not whimpered a peep of protest as more than 2,000,000 casino workers all across the United States are employed under similar circumstances.

In over fifteen years, the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party which welcomes the likes Melanie Benjamin who is responsible for the worst human rights abuses and violates workers' rights routinely on a daily basis, has remained silent... with the exception of one lone DFL County Unit... the Roseau County DFL which took a principled stand at its most recent County Convention calling for casino workers in Minnesota to enjoy the protection of the rights all other workers in Minnesota are protected by. Although, leaders of the Minnesota DFL have not been able to locate this resolution.

Hillary Clinton has taken the financial contributions of Melanie Benjamin and the casino managements but can't bring herself to condemn the human rights abuses twenty thousand Minnesotans are forced to endure daily...

So much for Hillary Clinton and human rights.

It is noteworthy that one of Hillary Clinton's big boosters, in addition to Melanie Benjamin, is the AFL-CIO which has not once protested the Draconian conditions under which so many Minnesotans and workers all across this country are employed in the casino industry.

It is also noteworthy that Melanie Benjamin has hired some of the most brutal thugs to harass, intimidate, and beat-up casino workers attempting to organize; thugs from the Blackwater Agency whose dirty deeds are overseen by USIS--- the premier union busting company of choice for some of the largest corporations in the world.

I wouldn't vote for Hillary Clinton for dog catcher.

I would point out as far as China and workers' rights are concerned... every worker in China has rights. Right now there are several Chinese officials awaiting having their sentences carried out for abusing workers' rights to a much lesser extent than casino workers' rights have been violated on a daily basis for the last seventeen years here in Minnesota without a single Democratic Party politician or a single leader of any AFL-CIO affiliated union taking any initiative to halt this intentional continuing abuse of working people.

Apparently the greed of these casino capitalists in quest of ever greater profits which are financing the political campaigns of Democratic Party politicians like Hillary Rodham Clinton is acceptable.

Oh... the sentence awaiting the Chinese officials convicted of violating workers' rights in China? The death sentence...

... While human rights/workers' rights abuser Melanie Benjamin is a welcomed addition to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign... yes, it is all about money, money, money.

I haven't even addressed the health problems of these workers employed in casino operations... heart, lung, and cancers from having to work daily in these smoke-filled casinos.

Shame on Hillary Clinton; Hillary Clinton needs a good dictionary to help her define human rights and workers' rights... not our votes.

No one had better come to casino workers telling us: Look at the choices for president... Hillary or a Republican; I will tell them where to go.

At some point working people are going to have to look at the pattern that has developed towards working people by the Democratic Party hacks and elected officials...

A pattern as distinct as the cancer cluster on the Iron Range... the same Democratic Party elected officials who have looked the other way as casino workers have been employed under these most atrocious and unjust conditions turned their backs on saving over two thousand union jobs and the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant which could employ thousands more working people in the years to come...

... and, they have looked the other way as casino workers get heart and lung diseases and the associated cancers.

Democratic Party legislators and political hacks projected the same lethal silence as a huge cancer cluster has been allowed to develop on the Iron Range over many years--- only in this case they told everyone including United States District Court Judge Miles Lord to keep his mouth shut because at stake were "JOBS, JOBS, JOBS"... only raising their voices in the most pathetic and opportunist manner for political expediency; rather than out of concern for the lives and well-being of working people.

Those employed on the Iron Range at Giant's Ridge would probably tell us this is all just "par for the course."

"Jobs, jobs, jobs" or "Profits, profits, profits?"

If these politicians were the least concerned about jobs and the health and well-being of working people, and their rights, these DFL politicians would have voted to save the Ford Plant where workers have struggled for years to win good pay along with fundamental protections in the workplace and healthy and safe working conditions.

Instead, these politicians will encourage Ford workers to go to work in smoke-filled casinos without any rights for the likes of Melanie Benjamin. No doubt Ray Waldron, Mark Froemke and other AFL-CIO officials will join behind Melanie Benjamin in picking up "Hillary for President" signs, parade around the state DFL convention hall like high school cheerleaders--- chanting "Hillary, Hillary, Hillary;" and, urge the rest of us to vote for Hillary Clinton and her acquiescence to the continued abuse of casino workers.

Make no mistake... a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote to continue the deplorable working conditions casino workers are forced to endure.

Let me be perfectly clear: Hillary Clinton should be advocating the same rights for Minnesota's casino workers which she advocated for Chinese workers in her letter to George Bush. Anything less is sheer hypocrisy.

In conclusion, I point out that in less than two years since Hillary Clinton sent the above letter to George Bush, the Chinese government has made tremendous strides according to all concerned, including the International Trade Union Confederation--- the largest labor organization in the world, in bringing forward legislation protecting workers' rights, and human rights. During this same time frame, Hillary Clinton and her "dumb donkeys" have done absolutely nothing to improve the plight of Minnesota's more than 20,000 casino workers--- many of these casino workers employed by Melanie Benjamin under the most Draconian working conditions, far worse than anything in China.


Minnesota Leaders Endorse Clinton

Not one of these so-called Minnesota "leaders" has ever condemned the daily abuse casino workers are subjected to. It is no wonder these "leaders" would not object to Melanie Benjamin being in their midst.

What kind of "leaders" sit in silence as 20,000 of their fellow Minnesotans are forced to go to work in smoke-filled casinos without any rights receiving poverty wages and without any voice at work.

Workers employed without any rights in the workplace have no rights in the communities where they live... I would encourage this well-heeled bunch of "leaders" to ponder this.

Mark Dayton sat next to Hillary Clinton all those years in the United States Senate and never informed her of the plight of his 20,000 fellow Minnesotans. Former Senator Mark Dayton wouldn't have taken his dog with him to work if smoking was allowed in Senate offices.

Prosecutor Gaertner wants to become the next governor of Minnesota but remains silent as twenty thousand of her fellow Minnesotans are forced to endure the most devastating working conditions causing health problems, including cancers, destroying working class families as she pontificates on radio and television her visions for Minnesota as she, too, ignores the plight of casino workers.

Yes, I am sure Hillary Clinton is grateful for the support she has received from this well-heeled bunch of uncaring politicians and political hacks who have begun to pander for favors...


Minnesota Leaders Endorse Clinton

Hillary Clinton received the endorsements of more than 40 leading Minnesota officials and community leaders today.

"I sat next to Senator Clinton for six years in the Senate Chamber and I saw her experience, dedication and tremendous ability at work for all Americans," said former Senator Mark Dayton. "I know that she will be our party’s best nominee and our country’s best President."

Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said Hillary has the focus and resiliency needed to be President. "Americans are ready for change, and Hillary Clinton is the only candidate with the experience to do the job from her first day in office."

"I am grateful for the overwhelming support I’ve received in Minnesota," Clinton said. "With the help of these local leaders, we’ll take our message of change across the state and this nation."

Leading Minnesotans Endorsing Hillary Today:

* Mark Dayton, Former US Senator
* Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney
* Sandy Pappas, State Senator
* Nora Slawik, State Representative
* Sandra Peterson, State Representative
* Barbara Johnson, President, Minneapolis City Council
* Gary Schiff, Minneapolis City Council Member
* Lisa Goodman, Minneapolis City Council Member
* Dave Thune, St. Paul City Council Member, and Susan Thune, RN
* Colleen Landkamer, President, National Association of Counties; Blue Earth County Commissioner
* Ann Wynia, Former House Majority Leader
* Matt Entenza, Former House Democratic Leader
* Ember Reichgott Junge, Former Senate Assistant Majority Leader
* Joan Anderson Growe, Former Minnesota Secretary of State
* Emily Anne Staples Tuttle, Former State Senator
* Carol Flynn, Former State Senator
* Gordon O. Voss, Former State Representative
* Al Patton, Former State Representative
* Koryne Horbal, Former Ambassador to U.N.
* Betty Folliard, Co-owner Strategy Partners; Former MN State Representative
* Tom Foley, Former Ramsey and Washington County Attorney
* Joan Niemiec, Former Minneapolis City Council Member
* Vance Opperman, President, Key Investments
* Lois Quam, Business Leader
* Melanie Benjamin, Chief Executive, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
* Mohamed Jibrell, Somali Community Leader
* Hubert "Buck" Humphrey
* Jackie Stevenson, DNC Member
* Rick Stafford, DNC Member, Chair of the DNC's LGBT Caucus
* Elsa Leven, MN DFL Latino Caucus
* Mari Urness Pokornowski, Co-Chair DFL State Platform Commission
* Lynn Wilson, Chair, Olmsted County DFL
* Tammy Tesky, Vice President, DFL Feminist Caucus
* Megan Thomas, Former Chair, Stonewall DFL
* Cheryl Poling, DFL Party Activist
* Ruth Usem, Community Activist
* M. Kathleen Murphy, Women's Rights Activist
* Bill Pohlad, Film Producer & Michelle Grabanski Pohlad, Social Activist
* Susan Burns, Attorney
* Paul Cassidy, Minneapolis
* Jill Sletten, Public Policy Consultant
* Andrew Luger, Attorney; Former Candidate, Hennepin County Attorney and Ellen Goldberg Luger
* Sarah Youngerman, Minneapolis
* Rebecca Yanisch, Former MN Commissioner of Trade and Economic Development
* Lori L. Jacobwith, Consultant
* Patsy Green, Robbinsdale Area School Board Director
* Amy K. Rotenberg, Communications Consultant, and Mark B. Rotenberg, University General Counsel
* Paula Maccabee, Former St. Paul City Council Member, and Paul Maccabee, President, The Maccabee Group

Thursday, July 19, 2007

My call for "accountability" in Minnesota State government continues to anger some...

Below is the blog I wrote on Monday, April 23, 2007. The title was: The "DFL Business Caucus" dominates the Minnesota DFL

Today I had a phone call from Lisa Sarne the secretary for Senator James Metzen's MN DFL dominated committee which voted against saving the St. Paul Twin Cities Ford Plant and over two-thousand industrial, manufacturing jobs.

Ms. Sarne has objected to the way I wrote about her taking of the minutes.

I have been hearing for almost three months now without let-up from DFL party hacks and legislators saying how unfair my blog was because the Senate "rules" permit minutes to be kept in the manner Ms. Sarne compiles them in a less than amateurish manner without any accountability to Minnesota voters--- the majority of whom are working people.

I will be happy to publish Lisa Sarne's opinion of all of this should she provide what she has to say in defense of her record keeping in writing to me as a courtesy to her and in the interest of gaining a better understanding of how our state government operates without any accountability.

Today Ms. Sarne suggested that if I wasn't happy with the manner she records Committee minutes that I should attend all committee meetings in person.

Unfortunately, because neither Senator Metzen nor his staff contacted me per my request to be informed of the time and place of this Committee meeting until half an hour before the Committee went into session I was not able to make the drive from Warroad to St. Paul to view this DFL sell-out of working people. Again, so much for democracy through manipulation in order to control in favor of big-business with the intent of prohibiting people from participating in the decision making process.

Here is my original blog... I leave it to the reader to determine whether or not I have fairly and accurately portrayed the problem...

The "DFL Business Caucus" dominates the Minnesota DFL

The “Business Caucus” of the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party wants to silence progressive thought. The well-heeled “Summit Hill Crowd” and the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce along with the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis have teamed up and been hard at work trying to stifle all discussion on single-payer, universal health care in the same manner that they have tried to derail the struggle to end this dirty war in Iraq, to revoke the permit to mine peat in the Big Bog, to keep the Ford Plant open, to halt predatory lending, and on the issue of global warming… in each and every one of these areas very serious problems relating to human needs and our living environment are at stake.

Yes, the "DFL Business Caucus" dominates the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party... But, there is no "B" in the name. "B" for business... make that double B for big-business.

There is a common thread that links these groups of the most reactionary elements in our state. That link is the drive for maximum corporate profits and these groups all have a vested interest in seeing to it that a real open and democratic discussion does not take place… to this end these powerful wealthy, corporate interests have engaged the services of one Merritt Clapp-Smith to carry forward the corporate anti-people, anti-environment agenda.

We have seen how Merritt Clapp-Smith has been made a cheerleader for the “Summit Hill Crowd” and she is closely associated with all of these very conservative and reactionary business interests… as a board member of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy which is nothing more than a front for the forestry, mining, and power generating industries who drag this organization out every time they want to create another environmental mess. Check it out:


That is Merrit Clapp-Smith, board member in the orange shirt… this organization set out to disrupt our struggle to save the Big Bog--- our primary freshwater aquifer up here in northern Minnesota… Merritt Clapp-Smith is a past president of the Summit Hill Neighborhood Association and presently is a member of that board… it becomes very interesting to see how these business interests operate… Merritt Clapp-Smith, working with the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis chose a Catholic School community center in which it would be easier to control and manipulate the “public work” of the Ford Site Planning Committee rather than use the public facilities of the UAW-Ford-MnScu Training Center.

I have asked both St. Paul Councilman Harris and Merritt Clapp-Smith to provide us with some of their family histories, both have refused. There is ample reason to believe that both Merritt Clapp-Smith and Councilman Harris have a conflict of interest in the work of the Ford Site Planning Committee.

It is very interesting to note how Merritt Clapp-Smith fosters and advances the work of this extremely wealthy ruling clique composed of the “Summit Hill Crowd,” the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce, and the “DFL Business Caucus.” It is this same grouping that has been in the center of being against everything that working people need in each of the issues I have noted. Make no mistake, on the issue of single-payer, universal health care this grouping has worked in the Minnesota Legislature to derail single-payer, universal health care movement in the exact same way that they have blocked the attempt to save the Ford Plant and the jobs of over two-thousand union workers.

Now, if this doesn’t send a clear signal to all of us working on these various issues that we need to come together in order to counter this powerful grouping of the well-heeled and wealthy I don’t know what ever will… but consider the fact that it is this very same conservative and reactionary bunch that denied Bishop Thomas Gumbleton the right to speak yesterday morning at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church… and it was this group’s favorite Bishop, Harry Flynn, who did their dirty work just as Merritt Clapp-Smith has been doing.

Finally we are getting a glimpse of how this undemocratic, corrupt little group works together in order to make the decisions over the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink and the jobs we have.

It is no wonder why Red Lake Gaming Enterprises has approached this little group with the idea of using its last gaming license to build a huge new casino along the St. Paul Mississippi River bank and why the Ford Motor Company wants to maintain ownership of this 15 acre parcel of prime real estate.

I think we need to ask how much DFL Chair Brian Melendez and DFL Executive Director Andrew O’Leary know about all of this… and we need to know why a DFL Senate Committee composed of eleven DFL members and only seven Republicans could not carry forward the legislation to protect the Ford Plant from the wrecking ball last Thursday in committee.

I would note that it is the very same DFL legislators, who are in fact the majority of the DFL caucus, whom have looked the other way in indifference as over twenty thousand Minnesotans go to work every day in smoke-filled casinos at poverty wages without any rights under state or federal labor laws… something that autoworkers may want to keep in mind as they apply for all those casino jobs that will be replacing their present employment with the Ford Motor Company.

Perhaps there is “an inconvenient truth” in all of this; that the well-heeled and the wealthy have created the game and made all the rules so they can profit at our expense exploiting our labor.

This is all very interesting indeed seeing how Merritt Clapp-Smith sits on the Board of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, the same organization that tried to stick a monkey wrench into the struggle to save the Big Bog from another crooked and corrupt deal involving Red Lake Gaming Enterprises trading off its opposition to peat mining for favorable consideration of a casino operation in International Falls… a dirty deal orchestrated by one of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy’s favorite DFL Congressmen… James Oberstar, who just happens to be a favorite Congressman of Harry Flynn and the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce.

And the Saint Paul Police Department and the FBI want to know what I am doing three hundred and fifty miles from home sticking my nose into what is going on with the Ford Plant.

Oh, and on a final note: It took me over a year to obtain the letter signed by Red Lake Nation Chairman Butch Brun dropping opposition to peat mining in the Big Bog in return for the right of Red Lake Gaming Enterprises to build a new casino in International Falls… it will be relatively easy for me to obtain the birth certificates of Councilman Harris and Merritt Clapp-Smith to begin to explain their long term associations with the business and financial community in St. Paul… but if it took me a year to wrest this letter signed by Chairman Brun of the Red Lake Nation that was on file with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the Minnesota DNR, the Koochiching County Board, the Red Lake Tribal Council, and in the files of United States Congressman James Oberstar… how long is it going to take me to research and obtain the records associated with the Ford Site Planning Committee and the present underhanded work of Merritt Clapp-Smith and the Ford Motor Company, this “DFL Business Caucus,” and the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce?

Keep in mind… Ford Motor Company intends to bring out the wrecking balls in about a year.

I think there are members of the DFL Caucus in the Minnesota Legislature who know a lot more than what they are saying about how the Minnesota DFL is being manipulated and controlled by these business interests. It is time they save us all a lot of time and step forward and tell us what is going on.

It is time for the UAW’s Gettelfinger to put the full resources of the United Auto Workers Union into this struggle to save the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant and not sell autoworkers’ jobs down the river as he has done at Bradford-White; and it is time for the rail unions to do the same thing… not only with research, but to insist that the politicians who have been the recipients of campaign contributions of autoworkers and the rail unions now do their part in this struggle to save the Ford Plant which is closely related to all of these other struggles. Let there be no more “Dirty Thursdays” as Senator Cohen develops a new legislative approach towards saving the Ford Plant. It is time for Senator David Tomasonni, and Representatives Tony Sertich, Tom Rukavina, and Tom Anzelc to step boldly into this struggle and insist that there be unity in both the DFL controlled Senate and House.

We all know that the only way this Ford Plant is going to be saved is through public ownership of this plant… we are not talking about “mothballing” a plant structure, and the equipment inside of this plant… we are talking about keeping at least two thousand workers employed in an operating industrial production… this should be the focus of Senator Cohen’s future legislation and the UAW’s Gettelfinger should make this clear to Senator Cohen, Sertich, Rukavina, and Anzlc who will have to carry the ball for working people on this struggle… they have been dropping and fumbling the ball, now it is time for them to shape up before Ford and the Ford Site Planning Committee bring in the wrecking ball.

A lot can be done in one year, all is far from futile; the Ford Plant can be saved; but, if we are going to be successful we have a lot of work to do. Powerful influences of big money have to be overcome.

We prevented Red Lake Gaming Enterprises from building a new casino in International Falls with a door-to-door informational campaign, we have established casino worker organizing committees throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa, we have held off a Canadian corporation’s attempt to mine peat in the Big Bog, we got seventy percent of the delegates at the last DFL State Convention to go on record supporting single-payer, universal health care; we successfully beat back attempts in several home foreclosure cases without any help from the DFL in spite of all their talk about predatory lending… we can beat back the drive to demolish the Ford Plant if we take off the gloves and confront these powerful economic interests by bringing the Ford workers, the people of the Twin Cities, and all Minnesotans into this struggle.

If anyone doubts that the struggle for an end to this dirty war in Iraq is not closely related to the struggle to save the Ford Plant through public ownership, take a drive or a walk through the community surrounding the Ford Plant… the only sign supporting this dirty war in Iraq in the entire community was placed at the entrance gate to the Ford Plant by company management… the rest of the surrounding community is filled with signs to stop the war.

The UAW should consider putting as much into making this a full scale community organizing effort as what they put into supporting DFL politicians... this spring, let's see some yard signs sprouting up like dandelions insisting the Ford Plant stay open under public ownership with people going door-to-door talking to their neighbors in much the same way the UAW uses its resources to get out the vote on Election Day. Petitions, leaflets, rallies, and demonstrations... let's see organize labor marching through the communities like they marched around the DFL State Convention floor in support of Mike Hatch and Amy Klobuchar.

We can no longer afford to heed the narrow vision of those who want us to view all of these issues ranging from single-payer, universal health care to the Ford Plant closing to the rights of casino workers as somehow unrelated… the “Summit Hill Crowd” understands that all of these issues are interconnected, even if we do not… anyone care to ask Merritt Clapp-Smith or Councilman Harris their views on the war in Iraq?

Senator Metzen’s Committee met to consider Senator Cohen’s proposed legislation, SF 607 from 3:15 to 4:34 on Thursday, April 19, 2007 with fourteen of eighteen members of the Committee present and by the time the vote was taken for which the person responsible for taking the minutes conveniently left out how the remaining members voted from the minutes… the vote was recorded as seven opposed and three for. We must remember DFL Senator Metzen is the Chair of this committee made up of eleven members from the DFL and seven Republicans. How then, can a Party which claims to represent labor not pass this legislation [Note: at the bottom I have attached the “minutes” of the meeting such as they are as I received them from Lisa Sarnes; I have placed “minutes” in quotation marks because based upon what one reads one has to ask if Lisa Sarnes is competent to be the clerk of such an important Committee; or, was a political decision made to have the “minutes” kept in this fashion]?

Below is a link to the voice recording of that Senate Committee meeting which I received from Ms. Sarnes:

Dear Mr Maki,

Here is the information you requested-

To listen to the audio, copy and paste this in your browser. After scrolling past the blue boxes you will see that the very first meeting listed is the Business, Industry and Jobs Committee and that is the date you are looking for. I have also attached the minutes and the agenda.


Lisa Sarne

Legislative Assistant

Senator James Metzen

Capitol 322


How dare Democratic Senator Metzen not require that his own legislative assistant (LA), Lisa Sarne, who is responsible for taking the minutes of this meeting not record how each and every member of this Committee voted and who was absent at the time of the vote on this very important piece of legislation.

What does this tell us about the collusion of business interests and the DFL to deprive working class Minnesotans of their right to participate in the democratic process?

Perhaps Harry Flynn could enlighten us as to the meaning of the term “blasphemy;” because how else would you describe this conduct on the part of elected and public officials who preach to the rest of the world that we live in the world’s greatest democracy when these public officials can’t even maintain the proper minutes of a Committee meeting that was called for only one purpose… to vote on SF 607 and which lasted only one hour and nineteen minutes? Any secretary of a high school student council can, and does, keep better minutes.

There needs to be accountability.

The UAW leadership of Mr. Gettelfinger from Solidarity House first put forth the idea that “We need to elect Mike Hatch the Governor of Minnesota and the UAW’s delegates to the state DFL convention got up and danced around the convention floor for Hatch like a bunch of teenage cheerleaders at a high school football game at half-time; and, according to Gettelfinger by putting all of our eggs in the Hatch basket we will be all set and things will work out with the Ford Plant… our members will be taken care of.”

Well, Gettelfinger chose a loser in Hatch; and the UAW is poised to lose two thousand members in the Twin Cities.

Then we heard from Solidarity House we will resolve this in the state legislature… oh, how the UAW political action people heaped praise on the DFL caucus members who chaired the committee meetings in the House and Senate on this proposed legislation.

What has this groveling of the Gettelfinger bunch achieved to date? Not one thing of substance for Ford workers who will now have difficulty saving their homes from foreclosure as the parasitic and predatory lenders of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce and the DFL “Business Caucus” circle like vultures over road-kill.

Is anyone getting a clear picture here of how all of these issues are interrelated?

Who will pay their health care bills? For too long the Reuther bunch of which Gettelfinger is a member has put forward the losing proposition that the UAW will solve all of its problems by developing a cozy relationship with the employers; and, the politicians hand picked by these employers... the results of the Reuther bunch have been coming home to roost in plant closings, job losses, autoworkers suffering the consequences of the health care mess like the rest of us.

Now there is Gettelfinger’s great brain-fart: Interest Based Bargaining (IBB). I have photographs of all the campaign signs the UAW supported in the last election from the State DFL Convention… not one of these politicians, with the exception of Senator David Tomassoni, do we know showed up to support SF 607; not one.

A one hour hearing starts out with fourteen of eighteen members present with DFL’er Roger Skoe missing in action and probably out to dinner with his Republican colleagues and this committee ends up with ten members voting; seven to three in opposition to Senator Tomassoni’s motion to support! This is what passes for democracy? Where is the accountability in any of this.

The Republicans who knew their DFL colleagues didn't have the courage to support this legislation were so confident the DFL was opposed they were no-shows, not only for the vote but the hearing itself.

Look, the Republicans had nothing to do with defeating this most important piece of labor legislation that UAW members were counting on. The business controlled DFL legislators did the dirty work of their own volition.

Are the DFL members of this committee now going to have the political and moral courage to step forward to tell us why they left the committee hearing prior to the vote or voted against HF 607? Or, do we have to pry it out of them?

Rumor has it United States Congressman Keith Ellison apparently is awaiting a call from Walter Mondale to get his instructions on what to do about the Ford Plant closing. Mondale sure is taking his time to phone Ellison.

We have been hearing from the DFL leadership that they were unable to accomplish anything of importance for working people in the last legislative session because the Republicans had been in control… now, the Democrats are in complete control of the House and Senate here in Minnesota and they can not even get a very significant piece of legislation approved by one tiny little committee which they overwhelmingly and completely dominate.

We have faced the same thing on health care; and all of these other issues right on down the line. In place of Republicans we get DFL’ers like Leroy Stumpf, Frank Moe, Brita Sailor, and David Olin… big deal.

I went to a little party at the home of Bob Bergland for Ford Bell… David Olin was there. I said, “Oh, are you supporting Ford Bell for United States Senate?”… Olin walked me over into a corner where no one could hear and whispered very sofly, “Of course, or I wouldn’t be here.” I asked him, “Are you going to publicly endorse Ford Bell for the United States Senate against Amy Klobuchar?” He looked around to make sure no one was listening and whispered even softer into my ear, “Shhh, no one has to know I was here this evening, right?” This is the kind of two faced double dealing politicians that comprise the majority of the DFL caucus in both the Senate and the House… here in Minnesota, and in the United States Congress. How can working people accomplish anything backing these kinds of opportunist, back-stabbing, sleaze-balls?

Several days before the election Olin boasted to the media that he was more conservative than his reactionary Republican opponent… I would be willing to bet that Representative David Olin has formed a fast, lasting and deep friendship with Harry Flynn and the “Summit Hill” gang. And Olin was chosen to run by State Senator Leroy Stumpf whose claim to fame is that he has never voted against a piece of legislation that business is for; coincidentally… Roger Skoe and Leroy Stumpf are great chums; and Skoe doesn’t show up for the hearing on SF 607; coincidental? I don't think so.

That the Minnesota DFL is playing games as two thousand jobs in the auto industry go down the river so several thousand poverty wage jobs in a casino can be created is the epitome of what one would call a “sell out” and “betrayal” of working people considering the fact that the very same Democratic Party is also responsible for casino workers having no rights in Minnesota… and Wisconsin, and Michigan, and Iowa… and all across this country.

Yesterday these powerful economic interests silenced the progressive voice of Bishop Thomas Gumbleton… it is now up to us to carry Bishop Gumbleton’s message for peace and social justice out into the communities across Minnesota.

For three days Legislative Assistants have been scurrying about the State Capitol frantically seeking advice on “How should we respond to these questions Maki is asking now?”

I think rather than worrying about how these legislative assistants have been sent scurrying by their bosses trying to figure out how to prevent me from gaining access to information… someone should whip the DFL caucus members into line.

Tell Harry Flynn, Merritt Clapp-Smith, the Summit Hill crowd, the DFL Business Caucus, and the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce to go to hell.

It is a sad day in Minnesota when working people get shafted like this… casino workers understand because we have been getting shafted like this by the DFL and the Democratic Party for a very long time.

Alan L. Maki

Director of Organizing

Red Lake Casino, Hotel, and Restaurant Employees’ Union Organizing Committee


Member of the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party State Central Committee

Agenda and minutes of the:

Business, Industry and Jobs Committee

Senator Jim Metzen, Chair

Thursday, April 19, 2007

3:00 p.m. – Room 15 State Capitol


1. S.F. 607-Cohen: Motor vehicle manufacturing plant maintenance requirement.

Proponents: Bob Kailleen, United Auto Workers

Don Gerdesmeier, Joint Council 32 DRIVE

Phillip Qualy, United Transportation Union

Opponents: Mary Culler, Director of Government Affairs, Ford Motor Company

Cecile Bedor, City of St. Paul Director of Planning & Economic Dvlp.

Mark Moeller or Sandra Westerman, St. Paul Chamber of Commerce



Senator James Metzen, Chairman of the Business, Industry and Jobs Committee, called the meeting to order at 3:15 p.m. on Thursday, April 19, 2007 in room 15 of the State Capitol.

The clerk noted the roll. The following members were present:

Metzen, Chair

Saltzman, Vice-Chair













The following members were absent:





Meeting began with a quorum.

1. S.F. 607-Cohen: Motor vehicle manufacturing plant maintenance requirement.

The following people gave testimony in favor of S.F. 607:

Bob Kailleen, United Auto Workers

Don Gerdesmeier, Joint Council 32 DRIVE

Phillip Qualy, United Transportation Union

Questions and comments from the committee followed.

The following people gave testimony in opposition to S.F. 607:

Mary Culler, Director of Government Affairs, Ford Motor Company

Cecile Bedor, City of St. Paul Director of Planning & Economic Development

Mark Moeller, St. Paul Chamber of Commerce

Questions and Comments from the committee followed.

Senator Cohen and Phillip Qualy gave closing remarks in favor of S.F. 607

Senator Tomassoni moved that the bill do pass and be re-referred to the Committee on Rules and Administration.

The Chair was in doubt and called for a division.

The motion did not prevail.

The meeting adjourned at 4:34 p.m.


James Metzen, Chair

Business, Industry and Jobs Committee


Lisa Sarne

Committee Clerk

Posted by Alan L. Maki at 10:15 AM