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...

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?