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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.

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- Ben Franklin

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The I-35W Bridge... two views

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I have noticed that in your Progressive Calendar you tend to ignore local issues during a period when people could be effectively organizing around specific local issues, only to condemn the consequences after our chance to act have passed; and, columnists like James Clay Fuller write about things in general, like about infrastructure and dams but never get to local specifics (please see Fuller's blog below).

In this case I would note the Ford Dam powering the St. Paul Twin Cities Ford Assembly Plant which has been heavily subsidized by tax-payers since it was initially built in one way or another--- either through direct government handouts or tax abatements, or simply allowing Ford to use a public resource without compensating the community in any way. Actually, ditto for the manufacturing plant and the equipment inside of it, too. I notice the concept of “public ownership” is seldom broached as a solution.

I would think in an article that, on the surface, appears to be so thorough in covering “everything;” what is being completely ignored by the media, the bloggers, and the politicians in pointing out what is going under our radar, concealed by the “surface” as in the case of the I-35-W Bridge--- one of the first things which should be brought forward is the fact of how much money tax-payers are already coughing up for bridges, roads, and other infrastructure repairs, routine maintenance, replacement and new construction; and pointing out the fact that the architectural firms and contractors in this sector are second only to the military-financial-industrial complex in feeding at the public trough as tax-payers subsidize their huge and obscene profits.

Caterpillar Corporation makes big profits selling its huge, used bulldozers no longer of use in road construction for which they have already been paid the cost of this equipment many times over by tax-payers--- by selling this written-off, junk equipment to Israel for bulldozing over Palestinian homes and an American protester on occasion.

If corporate profits were to be eliminated by doing all of this work through real public works projects without the hand of private industry in the mix in the first place, all this work could be done for much less and at a great savings to tax-payers--- where is there a real tax-payers league when you need them?.

Second, the entire highway system of roads and bridges is a farce in this country as public transit never even is considered as the main and primary way to transport people… just stand on any highway overpass in the Cities on any given morning or evening and look at all the vehicles with only one person in it… wasting all kinds of resources from what is consumed in building the vehicles to the fuel they are using to building the extensive and high priced highway system to begin with. Think about it… what do most people use transportation for these days--- to get to work. Vacations? Who needs an automobile for vacations any more; vacations are a thing of the past as many working people now have to have a second job just to pay for the gas to get to their first job; and, even a third job to pay a lawyer to file for bankruptcy or to fight against a home foreclosure as another set of rip-off artists posing as your friendly lending institution take away what has been referred to as a working person’s greatest investment in the capitalist system.

All of these people could be happily using an efficient mass transit system. There is no longer any justification for transporting wage-slaves to and from their places of employment in private automobiles… especially since there are so many automobiles being produced overseas with even cheaper labor by people living in tar paper shacks and tin hovels within walking distance of their jobs making cars for us.

It is not like such a mass transit system is all that difficult to create. One only has to experience the mass transit systems of Vancouver, British Columbia; Toronto, Ontario; or Montreal, Quebec to understand that it really is possible to create a very high quality and efficient mass transit system which can take you where ever you want to go--- from suburb to city, and, even from city to city… I was able to get to a labor/Communist Party sponsored rally against racism from downtown Vancouver to Burnaby, British Columbia in minutes using public transit. I was able to ride the transit system for twenty- four hours sight-seeing in Toronto after meeting with the federal Minister of Immigration trying to deport me before getting off the bus for the Canadian Labour Party Convention for less than two dollars! In Montreal I traveled from the monument erected in the memory of Doctor Norman Bethune the Canadian Communist Party member who is widely considered a hero in Canada who gave birth to the modern movement for socialized health care to participate in a demonstration of unity with hundreds of Kurdish Communists who were protesting at the Israeli consulate; again, costing me just over one dollar--- and after Montreal’s finest on horse-back got done beating us all up… I was able to continue on my way using my transfer riding around the city for the rest of the day.

There is but one obstacle to creating a truly sensible, peaceful, and safe way of living: capitalism, which turns every single thing into a question---- of not what is best for people, society, and the environment--- but into a question of what is most profitable for corporations.

Liberals like James Clay Fuller and the Greens just aren’t capable of making these connections in a way that we can educate, organize, and mobilize people to take united action around issues like saving the Ford Plant and the Ford Dam. You are always willing to talk about the generalities and for some reason those generalities you can always spin into making it look like a comprehensive assessment even though you leave out of your equations discussion of the very specific at the local level, and fail to include the general thrust of everything centering around corporate profits; these corporate profits, and how they are generated through the exploitation of labor, are seldom spoken of--- so seldom, in fact, one would have as difficult time seeing this aspect as much as any motorist would have a difficult time seeing for herself/himself the true condition of any bridge they cross on their way to and from work.

I found it very interesting that James Clay Fuller could write what at first glance appears to be such a wonderful and comprehensive look at that which is not being discussed; but, then, upon thinking, I had to ask myself why would such a comprehensive piece like this not make any mention of that which the media really hides, like the surface of the I-35-W Bridge hid from motorists, its real condition?

It seems there is constant pressure to keep the real truth from the people; be it the condition of the bridges we need to go across daily; or, what really is the underlying problem of it all… a rotten capitalist system.

And then we throw our hands up in the air and wonder why people are willing to put up with everything from this dirty war in Iraq to collapsing bridges to the Ford Plant being leveled to make way for high-rise condos working people in the area receiving poverty wages will not be able to afford as they have to pay through the nose at the pumps and drive in to work over bridges that are in disrepair and collapsing; creating a system where legislators boast of legislating smoke-free environments--- supported by the Greens--- yet, almost two-million casino workers in this country continue to go to their jobs in smoke-filled casinos without any rights because these same politicians who let the I-35-W Bridge collapse are the ones who have negotiated the Compacts creating these casinos where greedy, money-grubbing capitalists pay these politicians off for their “services” in the manner of the construction firms and the merchants of death and destruction.

Yes, once in a while this gets challenged in the Progressive Calendar like when Michael Parenti’s book was reviewed… the exposure of this rotten system and how all of this is integrally connected in a complex web spun by capitalism which has advanced to its barbaric and cannibalistic stage is seldom, very seldom, exposed or mentioned.

Unless people, especially working people, are educated to the true nature of this rotten capitalist system and its most decadent stage of imperialism we will continue to see bridges collapse and our entire infrastructure go to hell as the corporations profit by exploiting labor and feeding like pigs at the public trough building bridges in the most profitable manner rather than in the interest of public safety... like the Kansas City mob and the casino business, the capitalists “skim” the cream from everything… leaving us nothing of substance; then claiming the cream isn’t healthy for us anyways so they are actually doing us a favor.

I am sorry… I didn’t even mention the health care system… I sure hope those hundred or so people injured in the I-35-W Bridge collapse had the maximum auto insurance if they don’t have any health insurance; or they are likely to be losing their homes to pay the medical bills… and now there is one less bridge for them to sleep under.

Let’s keep playing games with the health care issue, too, by telling people we are for single-payer, universal health care and assuring them we are not on the road to socialized health care; again hiding the real problem just like the Minnesota Department of Transportation failed to disclose to the general public the true condition of the I-35-W Bridge--- until after it collapsed.

We have such an open and democratic society… the world’s great bastion of democracy where a government is so free with the information our tax-dollars pay some private consulting firm to collect because the government official who has pulled themselves up by their bootstraps in kissing the ass of some political hack has found a nice cushy job working for the government but is a complete incompetent in doing anything other then passing the boss an envelope with a campaign contribution every few years… and then these pathetic excuses who pass themselves off as human beings tell us the “public sector” has failed and we need to hire private contractors to run the government for us.

Until a Bridge like the I-35-W collapses this entire bunch of parasites is allowed to get on with their daily routines without any accountability what-so-ever.

Gees, speaking of things “collapsing” and the truth being told to people in order to protect themselves from crashing into the Mighty Mississippi River and being buried in the debris as they are on their way home from being exploited… when are we going to talk about how the capitalist system comes crashing down in depressions every so often… are there any large cracks in the economic system that remain hidden from view we should be worried about?

Oh, I forgot… no need to worry, we working people have experts doing our thinking for us… no need for working class think tanks like Communist Party Clubs anymore, these are relics of the past to be buried in obscure cemeteries along with the Red Finns of the Iron Range--- all relics of the past from when there used to be a class struggle in America; but now we all get along just fine with the ruling capitalist class. Toss out the books by Karl Marx and don’t wear t-shirts with Lenin’s or Che’s likenesses on them because we lose all credibility; and, we lose our ever so important friends “friends” in the Democratic Party. Abandon Marxism which could take a closer look at all of this and prepare us for what is in store and get us ready to prevent another “bridge” of sorts from collapsing… capitalism has a few cracks, a little rot here and there; but, nothing we need to be too concerned about at the moment. Ya, sure… you betcha. If you believe any of these problems will be solved under capitalism, I have a nice I-35-W Bridge I would like to sell you… at a “sub”stantially reduced, almost submerged, price.

You know, I heard John Sweeney, the President of the AFL-CIO talk in glowing terms about how great it was that the Canadian Labour Congress backs the New Democratic Party--- the socialist oriented labour party in Canada; the problem is, he made his remarks in Toronto at the Canadian Labour Congress convention… what does he do before fifteen-thousand trade unionists assembled at Wrigley Field in Chicago? He stands with a bunch of dumb donkeys like Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton.

Alan L. Maki

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



Jim FULLER is a retired veteran journalist, 30 years with the
Minneapolis Star Tribune, as their business reporter. He now has a blog

at http://www/jamesclayfuller.com/

Monday, August 06, 2007

Infrastructure funding: abridged too far

by: Jim Fuller


The collapse of that Hwy. I35W bridge across the Mississippi in downtown
Minneapolis could have, and should have, big-time consequences, but I
have yet to see any mention of what may be the most significant of the
likely long-term outcomes.

They involve further cuts to programs and systems necessary to the
well-being of most citizens -- not, as you might expect, improvements.

For now, of course, there is a Greek chorus chanting about how we must
not talk about blame, nor outcomes; we must simply honor the losses of
those who were directly affected by the terrible event.

It's not difficult to understand such feelings, particularly in
Minnesota, where people do tend to rush to the aid of others in times of
emergency – even if they are among those who ignore pedestrians in
crosswalks and run red lights at other times – but it should be noted
that the loudest of those condemning “the blame game,” are those on the
right whose favorite politicians deserve to be in career-ending trouble
over this mess.

Those who cry “Don't bring politics into it,” are the same people who
most surely were figuring a way to cover their sorry asses within 10
minutes of hearing of the tragedy.

Politics is in it, has to be in it, because it is the political and
social views of a powerful minority in our society that got us into the
mess we're in now with a rapidly failing infrastructure.

It is their political maneuvering that is likely to trade on the
Minneapolis bridge collapse to lead us further down the road toward the
ruination of American democracy, along with America's roads, bridges,
dams, transit, communications, air travel, utilities and other systems.

They are the same people who created the circumstances under which our
bridge, or some other bridge, or a dam, or an airplane, simply had to
fall down.

The Star Tribune's Nick Coleman is the only commentator, local or
national, I've seen to address that fact head on, and he obviously has
been taking considerable heat from the “Don't talk blame” phonies.
Unfortunately, Coleman is like others with public platforms who have yet
to recognize the worst of the likely consequences.

Here's what we're almost sure to see when the talk has died down and the
network and cable news crews have gone back east:

First, the promised federal funding to rebuilding the Minneapolis I35
bridge will come through – though maybe not as promptly nor as
adequately as promised under the scrutiny of television cameras.

But not too far down the road, the White House and its sycophants in
Congress will begin a push to “privatize” more of our infrastructure.
The argument, bolstered by millions of dollars worth of propaganda
provided by industry, will be that government simply can't afford to
maintain public highways and major bridges at a safe and efficient
level. Our collapsed bridge will be cited as proof of that claim.

Therefore – ahem – we should sell those bridges and roads and suchlike
burdens at very low prices to corporations that are courageously
offering to take them off our hands and run them as toll roads and bridges.

The propaganda will not mention – nor will most of the undertrained
scribes who pass themselves off as journalists these days – that the
tolls, in providing enormous profits for the corporations, will cost us
far more, in perpetuity, than would the taxes to bring our
infrastructure up to acceptable levels.

Neither will there be any notice of the fact that by turning roads and
bridges and other public assets into businesses, the rich, the corporate
elite, get a permanent protection against paying their fair share of
taxes. The poor and middle class tax rate will, in effect, rise,
however, because tolls will, in the long run, cost us more than adequate

I know this is coming, because the push began long before the
Minneapolis bridge collapsed, though it's still largely under the public
radar -- and anyone who knows anything about news, selling and marketing
knows that those who seek to turn the entire country over to profiteers
simply cannot let such an opportunity pass.

Second, dead certain, outcome:

There will be a strong effort to pull money away from public
transportation, especially light rail transit, to fund some repairs to
roads and bridges.

This is an opportunity the right will not miss. Despite occasional
claims to the contrary, they despise public transit; they don't use it,
they have a deeply emotional fear of being “forced” from their cars onto
trains and buses with the great unwashed, they mostly live in burbs
which public transportation doesn't effectively reach, and some major
funders of right wing politicians, notably executives of the oil and
auto industries, are enraged by efforts to increase use of public

Third certain outcome:

Both the Republicans in Washington and Minnesota's neocon governor, his
department heads and the right wing extremists who still hold many seats
in our state legislature, will block every move to start repairing our
crumbling infrastructure that doesn't include “practical measures” to
“keep spending within reasonable limits.”

What that means, bluntly, is further cuts to virtually every state
service that aids the poor, children, elderly citizens, anyone who now
relies on state aid for survival at some level.

It also means further cuts in funding for education at all levels – a
favorite target of those right wingers through the years they controlled
the legislature – and for aid to cities. If the right wins this battle,
the burden of paying for such already tragically sagging services as
police and fire departments will be shifted further to property taxes
and away from income taxes, which have been cut substantially for the
state's richest residents.

They have a good chance of winning, given the usual weak-willed, feeble
responses of Democrats to such attacks on the public good.

As widely reported in the past week, almost 600,000 road bridges in the
United States are classified as “deficient” by the American Society of
Civil Engineers. But as the coverage of the Minneapolis mess dies down,
we'll start to be told, over and over, that “deficient” really doesn't
mean dangerous until a bridge actually falls down.

Not so widely reported, but still out there, is the fact that one third
of our country's dams are rated as “hazardous.” I won't take the space
to list examples, but if you want an idea of what that can and at some
unknown point will mean here, Google “failed dams” or “dam collapses” or
some such.

It's possible we'll see a move to sell our publicly owned dams, too.

Another disaster that will (not just “may”) occur at any time is a major
airline crash, or two or three.

There have been numerous reports on the disastrous state of our air
traffic control system – overworked and undertrained controllers,
grossly outdated computer systems and more. If it isn't completely
overhauled, soon and, yes, at great expense, the crashes are coming.
Should we somehow avoid that for another year or two or three, it will
be only because of heroic efforts on the part of the remaining competent
controllers -- who are bailing out at a fearsome rate, by the way.

The anti-government, anti-tax right is responsible for all of these
messes. Our president, our mad vice president, the right wing nutters in
Congress, are as responsible for the deaths and maimings that have
occurred and that will occur in result of neglect of our infrastructure
just as surely at they are responsible for the horrors in Iraq.

Our governor and his sponsors, the Minnesota Taxpayers League, and their
servants in the legislature are responsible for all sorts of human pain
because of their program cuts. We have fewer cops on city streets
because of them, more kids are going without medical care because of
them, more young people are unable to afford college because of them,
and so much more.

At the moment, talking about the bridge, they're singing a different
dirge, but it's an act. Any course changing they're doing is only minor,
and temporary.

Our governor, Tim Pawlenty, slavish servant of the Taxpayers League, is
playing statesman at the moment, in the most obvious and phony way possible.

At first he lied blatantly, proclaiming that 2005 and 2006 bridge
inspections showed that there were “no structural defects” in the I35
bridge. He backed down quickly on that after being caught.

He ordered inspection of all bridges in the state, with immediate
attention to a handful that are of the same type as the one that went
down. He is being sympathetic to the people who were hurt and the
families of those who were killed or injured. He is pledging quick
replacement for the bridge, and generally doing a good job of following
the politicians' script for such events.


Carol Molnau, Pawlenty's lieutenant governor, whom he also appointed as
commissioner of the state's Department of Transportation, is firmly and
repeatedly proclaiming that despite the thousands of bridges in the
state that also are known to be “deficient,” and few of which have
repairs or replacement scheduled, her department is doing a fine job.

She insists on that even though the Star Tribune and some national news
outfits have reported that the department knowingly rejected
recommendations for adding steel plates to reinforce the bridge that
went down because, and only because, it was cheaper just to inspect it
more often.

She also had her chin jutting out when pushed on the need for further
spending now that the true dangers of deteriorating bridges have been

“We put together a system in this state that addresses the needs that we
have within the fiscal restraints we have, as well,” she was quoted as
saying by the Strib.

Note: Many of those “fiscal restraints” exist only because of Republican
cuts in taxes paid by the rich, and because Pawlenty and the rest of the
Republican crew have squeezed spending on infrastructure until there is
no juice left.

And then there is Mary Liz Holberg, a Republican senator from semi-rural
Lakeville, a still powerful member of the Senate Transportation
Committee, who grew visibly angry on Minnesota public television's
“Almanac” a couple of days after the bridge collapse when one of the
show's hosts tried to get her to admit that much more spending on
infrastructure, and bridges in particular, is necessary.

Democrats must give in on a number of Republican demands for cuts in
other programs before her party can agree to pay for making bridges
safe, she insisted, though she didn't phrase it quite that way.

“Something will get done,” she repeated two or three times, but she
wouldn't say what, and she still insisted that the money had to come
from elsewhere in the state budget because Republicans will not allow
tax increases (or taking back substantial cuts they gave the rich).
Fixes in funding of infrastructure repairs “can't happen overnight,” she
said, and “We still have to respect the family budget,” which is
Republican code for “hold taxes on the rich to a bare minimum.”

Conclusion: The right wingers in the legislature will stall, obfuscate,
dig in and refuse to fund even bridge repair, let alone other badly
needed infrastructure fixes, unless the Democrats cave in and agree to
take the money from the usual places: education, food programs, health
care programs and the like.

The only thing that could change that is honest and complete press
coverage of every ploy and a resulting public outcry of considerable volume.

Don't hold your breath.