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, April 29, 2008

Water, water everywhere

Water, water, everywhere? Just bottle it and turn water into another commodity for big-business to profit from using cheap labor?


...protect our most precious resource from the clutches of the corporate profiteers?

I would encourage everyone to join in this important discussion taking place on the Great Lakes Town Hall web site. If this isn’t an issue we should be able to expect every single candidate from township board to the presidency to provide their views on, I don’t know what issue would be… On this issue of defending our water, progressives should be able to find common unity like in no other issue… after all, we are talking about our very lives… water is life. If we can’t find common ground in defending our water, what can we find common ground to work on?

Please circulate and distribute this e-mail widely to all your lists; post on blogs and website; print and distribute to friends and neighbors; bring it to school for discussion.

I will continue adding the ongoing discussion so keep checking back on this issue... it will be listed on the side.


The Great Lakes and Humankind

Gary Wilson (Chicago, Illinois)

At the highest levels, our society operates based on policies – those mission statement type declarations that determine a course of action. Our constitution could be looked at as a policy statement.

How we manage our natural resources also needs guiding policies, including for this region’s abundance of water.

We are fortunate to have in our circle of Great Lakes experts, Dave Dempsey -- author, conservationist, and policy advisor.

Dempsey recently gave a policy speech on our role as stewards of 20% of the Earth’s fresh surface water, the Great Lakes. The speech was timely as we are now debating and considering a document, the Compact, that may guide our water policy for decades, if not centuries.

The venue was Michigan State University’s Alumnus Lecture Series and the presentation was titled: Stewardship of Water in the 21st Century: Our Responsibility as Great Lakes Basin Inhabitants.

This was a substantive talk that should challenge us to think beyond our normally provincial viewpoints. Whatever I could write about the speech wouldn’t do it justice. I’ll instead give you excerpts designed to encourage you to read further. You won’t be disappointed.

But I ask one favor. Reflect on the speech for a few days before coming to conclusions. Dempsey’s comments deserve more than a summary judgment.

Here are some highlights.

On consideration for the people of the world who do not live with the abundance of fresh water that we in the Great Lakes region have.

“I hope my remarks today will be a small curative…..helping you and me alike stretch our thinking and expand our empathy to take into account people we will never know...These are people we need to keep in mind as we in the Great Lakes Basin define our stewardship of nearly one-fifth of the world’s available surface fresh water.”

On the overall scarcity of water in the world.

...”I think there are perhaps near-imminent circumstances under which the U.S. and Canada and their peoples will be asked to share water with human sufferers in crisis. Would we really say “no” to hundreds of thousands of whose lives were at risk?

On this region’s permissiveness towards private corporations who are allowed to sell our water for profit, while many suffer without water.

“I would ask you to consider, then, why it might be unthinkable to give away Great Lakes water, so essential to life, to the distressed – but it’s fine to sell water to those who are not distressed.”

Dempsey’s speech should be required reading for every legislator and policy maker in the Great Lakes Basin.

It’s that important


You can find the entire text below.

Editor’s note – Dave Dempsey is a co-editor of the Great Lakes Town Hall

02:32 pm 04/27/2008

Stewardship of Water – the Oil of the 21st Century:
Our Responsibility as Great Lakes Basin Inhabitants

By David Dempsey

Dave Dempsey is a co-editor of the Great Lakes Town Hall

The venue for this speech was Michigan State University’s Alumnus Lecture Series and the presentation was titled: Stewardship of Water in the 21st Century: Our Responsibility as Great Lakes Basin Inhabitants.

You know, probably one of the hardest things for any one of my background to do – anyone born Caucasian and thus privileged, middle-class and comfortable in the mid-20th Century into the most affluent society ever -- anyone raised to believe that the U.S. was the hope of all humankind, anyone confident that time was a linear march of progress – one of the hardest things for us to do has been to visualize the world from a non-American perspective. To think beyond what I was raised to believe was the inherent greatness of America.

Sure, my earliest memory of public life as a child is the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the murders of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy are also vivid, and cast some doubt on the legends which I’d been spoon-fed. The Vietnam War was a blot on our nobility. And when the Watergate scandal toppled a corrupt President, I had even more cause to wonder.

Come to think of it, how did I live through such dark history and still think America was the last best hope on Earth?

I suppose part of it was our technological prowess – dramatized by the successful U.S. moon landing in 1969, when I was 12.

I suppose part of it was the sense that despite the loss of Dr. King, we were beginning to make a run for the far-off promise of a truly just, fair and civil society.

I suppose part of it was the idealism of my own father, who having survived infantry combat in World War II returned home to build a better society and taught me that public service was a noble calling. He spent his best and most productive years in that service.

But I am pretty sure part of it was the singular, secular faith of Americans at that time – that we were smart, hard-working, and downright good-intentioned. We loved our society so much we wanted the whole world to join us in it! We made mistakes, but we were still the world’s envy.

Contrast that with one of the memories that persists in my mind from a graduate-level class that I took eight or nine years ago. As was typical then, about half the students were from what we call the developed world, and half from the developing world. During one of the class discussions, a student from a Latin American nation shamed us into silence with a litany of the destructive foreign policies the U.S. had pursued in that nation in order to protect major American corporations.

In the effort to keep that nation ‘safe for democracy,’ the U.S. had helped overthrow a lawful government, sided with the corporations against indigenous peoples, and looked the other way at a surge of violence that caused heavy casualties across the rural landscape. Summing up his nation’s experience, this student visiting America looked at us somberly and said, “You Americans are nice people, but you don’t have a nice government.”

I recall this episode not to make the point that America is an imperfect nation – we all know that – or to condemn any particular foreign policy. In the context of what I agreed to talk to you about today, I recall it to remind us that we in the U.S. are a uniquely self-focused people. It’s not just that our government sometimes commits acts in our name that are uncivilized, and undemocratic – it’s also that many of us are ignorant about these acts, and the toll they take in human lives and hope in faraway lands.

I hope my remarks today will be a small curative for that, helping you and me alike stretch our thinking and expand our empathy to take into account people we will never know, but who are every bit as human and complicated and deserving and damnable as we are. These are the people we need to keep in mind as we in the Great Lakes Basin define our stewardship of nearly one-fifth of the world’s available surface fresh water.

That’s right – about 18% of the world’s surface fresh water – but only about 0.5% of the world’s population. We may have only about 1/200th of the globe’s people, but we have close to one-fifth of humankind’s responsibility for freshwater.

Enough fresh water to pour out over the 48 contiguous states and create a continent-wide swimming pool 9.5 feet deep.

Enough fresh water coastline to reach 44% of the circumference of the earth at the equator.

Enough fresh water to fill up 6 quadrillion gallon containers.
What do all these numbers really mean?

I suggest they mean that as we consider the fate of these Great Lakes, we must widen our circle of consideration beyond the eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian Great Lakes provinces…beyond the U.S. and Canada…beyond the Native American tribes and First Nations peoples who first cherished and drew sustenance from the Lakes.

We must widen our circle of consideration beyond the limits of nationalism, binationalism and even North Americanism to include all of humanity. What responsibility do we have as Great Lakes stewards to all of humanity? How do we exercise that responsibility with care? And as an American, I want to know, how can we avoid in the area of fresh water policy the mistake of self-involvement that has enabled our government to commit acts in our name that many of us would never dare undertake as individuals?

Unfortunately, for most of the quarter century that I’ve been tracking the Great Lakes water question, self-involvement has been the rule. No matter how you define “self.” State, regional or national self.

In the early and mid 1980s Michigan had unemployment that reached 17% and the sardonic expression was coined, “Last one out of Michigan turn off the lights.” As Sunbelt states drained our jobs, we feared they would drain our water, too. And so Michigan said “no,” and we took the lead in fashioning the first regional (and relatively weak) agreement to protect the Great Lakes. It was the right thing to do – but it was motivated as much by fear as enlightenment, or love of the lakes.

In the late 1990s, when a Canadian company proposed shipping 50 tankers of Lake Superior water per year to high-end markets in Asia, we reacted viscerally again. The answer again was “no,” and the Great Lakes region began the seven-year process that led to the water compact and agreement that are now being considered in this region. It was the right thing to do – but it was motivated as much by xenophobia as by enlightenment, or love of the lakes.

And where are we today when it comes to considering the husbandry of the lakes?
I’m afraid we’re still mostly talking about whether the Sunbelt, or corporations, or wealthy foreign markets will get our water. And we’re still debating whether our laws or policies or practices will meet that goal. Those are legitimate issues, but they overlook the biggest consideration of all.

It’s called water scarcity, and it’s coming to a continent near you…no matter what continent you live on.

You’ve probably heard the news. By the year 2025, it was predicted late in the 20th Century, one in three human beings will be affected by water scarcity. That alarmist prediction turned out to be wrong.

At a 2006 conference, the International Water Management Institute reported that a comprehensive assessment, carried out by 700 experts from around the world over five years, indicated that one third of the world's population was then already living in places where water is either over-used – leading to falling groundwater levels and drying rivers – or couldn’t be accessed due to the absence of the appropriate infrastructure.

As one author of the assessment said, “[W]hile a third of the world population faces water scarcity, it is not because there is not enough water to go round, but because of choices people make…People and their governments will face some tough decisions on how to allocate and manage water. Not all situations are going to be a win-win for the parties involved, and in most cases there are winners and losers. If you don’t consciously debate and make tough choices, more people, especially the poor, and the environment will continue to pay the price.”

What does that mean for our conversation today about the Great Lakes? A lot of things, obviously. But I’d like to point to a few words in the pending Great Lakes compact that have a lot to do with global water scarcity. And practically nobody is talking about them.

Those words are: “To use in a non-commercial project on a short-term basis for firefighting, humanitarian, or emergency response purposes.”

For those of you keeping score, they are found in section 4.13, “Exemptions,” page 21 of the Great Lakes Compact. The half-sentence defines exemptions to the compact’s ban on water exports.

In other words – without any definition – the states are saying it is permissible to take water out of the Lakes “on a short-term basis” for “humanitarian or emergency response purposes” that are “non-commercial.”

Think about that a moment.

Too often in the last 25 years the rhetorical skirmishes over the future “sharing” of the Great Lakes have played out in public as Sunbelt greed versus Great Lakes hoarding. As a Michigan-born man I understand and share the instinctive local opposition to water exports from the Great Lakes to anywhere on earth, and the resulting perception of outsiders that a colony of human water hogs inhabits the region. But no one has really asked the people of Michigan or any of their Great Lakes neighbors whether they are willing to relinquish some basin water to save human lives.

The closest we’ve come to this point is not very close. In 2005, when Katrina walloped New Orleans and the adjoining Gulf shore, the Great Lakes water commercialization industry smelled an opportunity. We all watched as helpless thousands of our fellow citizens lived in bestial conditions for days. In the late summer heat, elderly and vulnerable refugees slowly died awaiting medical attention, air-conditioning, food—and water. Major water bottlers were happy to help, shipping planeloads and truckloads of water to address the suffering. Here in Michigan, Governor Granholm temporarily lifted a state ban on new bottled water exports in a symbolic gesture of humanity.

But as dramatic as the Katrina catastrophe and the governor’s directive was, it was also unique in the long-running fight over Great Lakes water exports. At no other time since the fight began in the 1980s have American citizens on such a mass scale been in need of emergency drinking water. One can only hope the disaster does not repeat itself in the future.

The unasked and unanswered question after Katrina is whether
Michigan or any of the Great Lakes states would have been as quick to relax a Great Lakes export restriction for sufferers in South America, Africa, or Asia. And, barring further federal government malfeasance and incompetence on the scale seen after Hurricane Katrina, this is likely the next scenario in which Great Lakes water may become a humanitarian resource.

Water scarcity abroad—threatening human survival—is likely to be a persistent theme of the twenty-first century. And such scarcity could last much longer than the post-Katrina weeks in which New Orleans residents languished. How will we respond? How much if any will we share? How long will it last? Who will decide?

We might want to start thinking about those questions. In fact, it’s our responsibility to do so.

Did any of you have a chance to read The Price of Loyalty by David
Suskind? It’s one of the earliest exposes of the inner workings of the Bush II Administration and to me, still one of the most powerful and heartbreaking. It’s about the two-year stint of former Alcoa CEO Paul O’Neill as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.

Secretary O'Neill took an extraordinary tour of Africa in May 2002. Accompanied by international rock star Bono, he spent over a week visiting villages with no safe water and AIDS hospitals with woefully inadequate care.

Conservative Republican Paul O’Neill returned from his trip determined that the United States should do something real to help Africans, particularly in the areas of clean water and AIDS. He was confident that with concerted American assistance, there might be dramatic improvements in providing clean well water with a relatively small amount of money.

O'Neill recognized that force alone will never suffice to eliminate all the sources of antagonism towards the United States and terrorism directed at our nation.

He said, “We needed a nonmilitary side to our foreign policy, where the U.S. could start treating much of the beleaguered developing world – the source of so many of the threats to our security–in a way that showed we valued and respected them. We needed to do some things that showed measurable good – that the U.S. could be a force for good in people’s lives.”

He didn’t get much support from his peers in the Cabinet.

But he persisted, and sought a personal meeting with the President. In one of the most defining scenes of the post 9/11-era, O’Neill asked the president to fund a $25 million demonstration project to provide clean water in Ghana. The President did not seem to comprehend why O’Neill was taking up his time on this. O’Neill left the office without an answer. Before long he was out of the Bush Administration. The idea went with him.

As commentator Thad Williamson said, “This is not simply another story of the powerful and comfortable turning a deaf ear to the cries of the sick and poor, or a story of half-hearted excuses being used to rationalize inaction. The rejection of O'Neill's initiative – paralleled by a headlong rush into military confrontation with Iraq – also represented a major strategic decision by the Bush White House.”

I bring up the point today because I think there are perhaps near-imminent circumstances under which the U.S. and Canada and their peoples will be asked to share water with human sufferers in crisis. Would we really say “no” if hundreds of thousands of lives were at risk? What would it take to get us to say “yes”?

I suggest it might take an initiative like what Bono and Secretary O’Neill envisioned – short-term relief coupled with the development and conservation of water resources in the home nations where scarcity exists. In that unique American combination of selflessness and self-interest, we could save lives, export our water technology abroad and make a profit, and promote water self-sufficiency in some developing nations. We might then also restore to a mild degree our tarnished image abroad.

But you won’t find any more than a passing reference to this scenario -- I think the most likely mid-term scenario of out-of-region water demand upon the Great Lakes – beyond those few cryptic words in the compact. It’s time that we corrected that.

Now there may be some who strongly disagree with my suggestion that we entertain the idea of water sharing with the distressed and dying. And there are many who think selling and exporting Great Lakes water in bottles is no different from selling and exporting juice made with Great Lakes water in bottles. In other words, you don’t see the big deal about the so-called bottled water exemption in the Great Lakes compact.
How many of you feel that way?

I would ask you, then, to consider why it might be unthinkable to give away Great Lakes water, so essential to life, to the distressed – but it’s fine to sell water to those who are not distressed.

Or even more importantly – how it can be ecologically unsound to ship 300 million gallons a year of water out of the Great Lakes in tanker trucks or vessels – but perfectly permissible to ship 300 million gallons a year of water out of the Great Lakes in 16-ounce plastic bottles? That’s the logic or illogic behind the Great Lakes compact. And I’m worried that it betrays a fatal gap in our thinking and feeling.
We have begun, I believe, to allow the Great Lakes to be converted to a product. And this we must never do.

In treating water as the common heritage of mankind, we have plenty of law and plenty of poetry – some of it in court rulings – that stands behind us.
In a landmark public trust case, Collins v. Gerhardt, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in 1926 that the rights of citizens to fish, swim, boat and enjoy public trust waters “are protected by a high, solemn and perpetual trust, which it is the duty of the state to forever maintain.”

Going back even farther, the U.S. Supreme Court held in 1892 that “the basic common law principle of the public trust doctrine is that the trust can never be surrendered, alienated, or abrogated. It seems to be a rule, beyond question, that the rights of the public are impressed upon all navigable waters, and other natural resources which achieve a like public importance [emphasis added]. And the state may not, by grant or otherwise, surrender such public right any more than it can abdicate the police power or other essential powers of government.”

This all stems from an ancient Roman code, and an equally venerable human belief, which holds that some natural resources are not ownable – they cannot in the end be private. They are the property of all humanity. It is called the public trust doctrine. And as the Michigan Supreme Court said in 1926, protecting this public trust is a high…solemn…and perpetual duty.

And yet here we are, 82 years later, and our governments are abdicating their police power and they are surrendering the public’s rights in the Great Lakes. For even if you don’t think there’s anything wrong with putting the public’s water into bottles and selling it, don’t you think the public should be asked to decide whether that’s OK? But the public has not yet been asked that question – and large-scale commercial capture and sale of water is now happening in the Great Lakes Basin. Without any open debate, any law authorizing it, or any clear public affirmation that this is consistent with the public trust.

It’s absurd, and it should be stopped. We are giving humanity’s water to private interests, who are selling it at an outrageous profit and benefiting the public almost not at all.

The one thing we must not do as brothers and sisters of humankind is the one thing we have done so far this century – sanctioning the privatization of our water.

Do we really want water to be, literally, the oil of the 21st Century?

Do we really want water to be subject to the same erratic, exploitative control and pricing that petroleum is subject to? Imagine a 20 cent per gallon price rise in one day for water, as I witnessed last week for gasoline at the corner service station.

With water, such a jump wouldn’t be a mere inconvenience – it could kill.

Water is different.

Water has a spiritual value.

Water is life.

And now let us turn to Michigan’s responsibility as steward of the Great Lakes. How can it be that Michigan is one of the laggard states in the nation in promoting water conservation? Michigan, which has more to gain or lose than any other state in the nation from fresh water policy.

Until two years ago, Michigan didn’t even have a statute that regulated the most mammoth water users in the state. If some upstream neighbor – a golf course or a Nestle -- came along and pumped the river running past your property dry, no government agency would come to your aid. Or the river’s aid. You had to hire a lawyer and go to court.

Now Michigan does have such a law, but it’s riddled with holes. It needs to be fixed.

I hope that advocates like the Michigan Environmental Council will be able to persuade the legislature to do the fixing in the right way this year.

But I’m now old enough to realize that environmental laws aren’t enough.

Environmental ethics are also necessary, and in some ways, more powerful. It’s time for Michiganians to develop a water conservation ethic.

I say this as some who has closely studied, and passionately loves this state’s conservation history. Like many in the Western world, and many other states in the U.S., Michigan has been governed by what I call ‘the myth of inexhaustibility.” First the white pine forests…then the fish and game…now the land over which development sprawls. With each of these resources we’ve gone on a binge that has led to enormous public costs later. Because we’ve assumed with each of these resources that no amount of human consumption could possibly deplete them.

Let’s not do that with the Great Lakes. Let’s not assume they’re so vast that Michigan can continue wasting water. It makes no sense politically – why would the other seven Great Lakes states respect our wishes that they not export water if Michigan is treating the same resource as though there’s limitless supplies?
It makes no sense ethically, either.

Think back to our experience with the forests that covered most of the state when European settlement began. In the 1850s, although a large area of Michigan contained marketable stands of species such as oak, maple, beech, cherry, elm, hemlock, cedar and balsam, the early speculators and lumbermen had eyes chiefly for the so-called cork or white pine. Often found on ridges and uplands, these choice trees were the kings of the forest, anywhere from 100 to 300 years old and between 120 and 170 feet tall.

The race was on. By 1870, Michigan was the leading timber producer among the states. The trees fell fast, but the predictions of 500 years of prosperity from the native forest persisted. There was simply too much timber to use up.

But just 30 years later, here’s what one observer said of a trip through northern Michigan: “ In traveling nearly two thousand miles through some forty counties in the lumber regions of the State, I cannot now recall having seen in any one place as much as a single standing acre of white pine in good condition.” Riding from Manistee on the Lake Michigan shore to Saginaw, this observer added, he had seen an almost continuous succession of “abandoned lumber fields, miles upon miles of stumps as far as the eye can see…”

Out of those fields of stumps and slash here and in neighboring states rose murderous fires that burned whole counties and killed hundreds of residents. And out of that ruinous lesson came the modern 4-million-acre state forest system, nurtured by public servants now for 100 years. It’s a treasure for this state, but it was earned the hard way.

As Michiganians, let us not repeat that mistake with our water, and with the Great Lakes. Let us conserve now, and set an example for other states, other peoples, and the future.

As Frank Ettawageshik, Chair of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians memorably said, “One hundred and fifty years ago we had a resource in the Great Lakes region that was considered inexhaustible. It lasted barely two generations. This was the White Pine forest. The White Pine of this century is Water.”

I want to close by talking briefly about what growing up in Michigan, surrounded by fresh water, meant to me.

In our grainy family black-and-white snapshots, whose ends are now curled with age, three young brothers under the age of nine with crew cuts stand squinting and smiling in the shallow water off a Lake Michigan beach. One of the boys – me -- has what would be termed a beer belly in an adult, and is gleefully unconscious of the fact.

Wearing shoulder-strap undershirts and swim trunks, the boys are facing landward for the photographer, their father or mother. Behind them is a tinted gray horizon unbroken by waves or the sight of land. In the snapshots, time has stopped in 1962; like summer, the Great Lakes are eternal.

So we all thought, those of us who grew up among the Great Lakes or visited them as children. They’ve always been here, and they always will be. The Lakes were part of our earliest memories, our inheritance, and our hope.

Only as adults did we acquire the statistics that struggled to express that childhood wonder at Great Lakes water.

But it is the curse of adulthood – and politics – to need numbers to justify what the heart knows: that there are no lakes like the Great Lakes, no place like the Great Lakes, and no fresh water more worth defending than the Great Lakes.

As Dr. David Ehrenfeld of Rutgers University once said, “I am afraid that I don’t see much hope for a civilization so stupid that it demands a quantitative estimate of the value of its own umbilical cord.”

Numbers are the province of politics and economics. Wonder has no dollar value. Eternity cannot be quantified. So it happens that in the equations of public policy – including environmental statutes and cost-benefit analyses – the majesty, lineage and future of the Great Lakes carry no weight. But to me and to you, they are powerfully important.

As I said a few moments ago, there are no lakes like the Great Lakes…

There is no place like the Great Lakes Basin…

And there is no fresh water more worth defending than the Great Lakes.

But for whom are we defending them?

For ourselves?

For our immediate descendants?

Or for all humankind and other living things?

These are the questions worth answering. I hope I’ve successfully encouraged you to consider them.

Thank you.

Question and comments

Alan Maki (Warroad, Minnesota)

This is am important speech which should receive very wide distribution because for once the issue of water is placed in the proper perspective; as is the question of who "owns" the Great Lakes' water.

This speech goes far beyond the self-serving and hypocritical lecture I heard United States Congressman James Oberstar deliver for "Water Day" during the 2008 Freeman Forum at the University of Minnesota.

A question:

The figure of 300 million gallons of water a year is used. Is this the actual figure for how much bottled water is being "used" for bottling at the present time? Do you have the figure beginning the first year of commercial water bottling? Do you have any projections to what this figure will be in the years ahead?

You state: "I suggest it might take an initiative like what Bono and Secretary O’Neill envisioned – short-term relief coupled with the development and conservation of water resources in the home nations where scarcity exists. In that unique American combination of selflessness and self-interest, we could save lives, export our water technology abroad and make a profit, and promote water self-sufficiency in some developing nations. We might then also restore to a mild degree our tarnished image abroad."

I don't think it is correct to say that America has this "combination of selflessness and self-interest." In another part you refer to "people" making decisions.

What does exist is a culture that has been shaped by capitalist greed and the drive for corporate profit where those in the corporate boardrooms are making the decisions that none of us have a say in... this is something quite distinct from the generic term of "people."

In this statement, I think you damage your argument for maintaining water as a public resource not to be commercialized in the Great Lakes Region (which I wholeheartedly and very strongly agree with you on), by stating, "we could save lives, export our water technology abroad and make a profit."

Why must everything always center around making a profit? Why would we suggest it is okay to profit from the misery of a poverty stricken country (which these countries usually are when there is a problem with water supplies), yet take the approach of non-commercialization of Great Lakes water?

Yes, "we" could save lives with a highly developed humanitarian policy on the water question. Yes, we should export our water technology abroad where ever it is needed and requested. But, why must this humanitarian assistance be predicated on "profitability?"

As for your comparisons of water to oil... I do not think that people realize that we are at present paying the exact same price for one pint of water as you do for oil at the Holiday Station/Convenience store.

Who profits? Who pays? Who suffers?

I see a pattern linking these questions; those who profit do so at the expense of those who suffer. Of course, like the people who suffer, the ecosystem suffers as the corporations are the only ones to profit.

I don't see the questions and problems of water being resolved as long as we put up with a social and economic system driven by a quest for maximum profits.

Is there anything which leads you to think that water will be treated any differently from iron ore, oil; or, even human labor under this system?

Here in Minnesota we have three major watersheds to look after... the Great Lakes, Lake of the Woods and Red Lake watersheds and the Lake of the Woods and Red Lake watersheds are fairing even worse than the Great Lakes due to peat mining and iron ore mining; both major contributors to polluting and contaminating all three watersheds.

On top of this you have sulfide mining going into operation in Michigan and Minnesota. Again, threatening all three watersheds. Again, the reason: corporate profits.

Rather than being concerned about the profits in developing water technologies we should finally be truly concerned for a change with creating "jobs, jobs, jobs" in the new "water technologies" that will have to become part of any "greening" of American society and the rest of the world.

Competition for profits has outlived any use it ever had and it is time to start considering a cooperative approach to these problems.

If the competitive drive for profits continues to dominate American society and our thinking we are most likely doomed.

There will always be greater profits in war for the military-financial-industrial complex than what there is in making life better for people.

Einstein explained all of this many years ago in answering the question, "Why Socialism?"

06:07 pm 04/28/2008

Re: The Great Lakes and Humankind
Dave Dempsey (St. Paul, MN)


Thanks for your thoughts and questions. You are always thought provoking. I appreciate your interest in the Town Hall.

I'll answer your questions now and think about your comments over the next few days.

The 300 million gallons refers only to the Nestle Corporation's exploitation of Michigan water from two pumping sites. The company has plans to take more there and the figure Basin-wide is substantially bigger. Until the last six months of anti-bottled water publicity, the projections for the future were alarming. They may still be.

You say, "Why must everything always center around making a profit? Why would we suggest it is okay to profit from the misery of a poverty stricken country (which these countries usually are when there is a problem with water supplies), yet take the approach of non-commercialization of Great Lakes water?"

Touche. I am not against profit in any way, shape or form, but I agree that emphasizing profit in the way I did is a form of pandering. I'm more interested in the U.S. showing that it genuinely cares about human beings far away by assisting them, at no profit if required, in dealing with their sustainable water needs.

What alarms me most beside our indifference to faraway water scarcity is the failure of our governments in the Great Lakes Basin to be awake to, or to care about, the imminent danger of commercialization of fresh water. It's happening under our noses and the regional compact going through ratification does little to stop it -- it even creates a loophole expressly designed to permit such commercialization.

11:20 am 04/29/2008

Alan Maki (Warroad, Minnesota)

Thanks for the info on the bottled water.

As I mentioned, I was at the 2008 Freeman Forum which featured Congressman James Oberstar for the main lecture: "Water, Water, Everywhere?"

Notice the question mark.

At the conclusion of Oberstar's lecture, a guy asked him why he wasn't drinking tap water instead of bottled water.

Oberstar arrogantly responded without the least little bit of concern:

"I am sure this water came out of a tap somewhere." He then held up the bottle and took a big swig.

This from a guy who just got done boasting about what a great environmentalist he was.

Just unbelievable.

Water bottling is a big-business not only in Michigan, but Wisconsin and Minnesota, too.

You have probably noticed in many places it is hard to find a drinking fountain any more... everyone wants to sell water to you.

I met with a group of people from White Cloud, Michigan who fought Nestle Corporation. It is really hard for people to fight off these corporations when the government always sides with the corporations.

I think the fight to protect water from corporate domination of this important resource could be a very key unifying factor in getting people to coalesce to begin electing politicians who are not controlled by the corporations.

In spite of a few differences, I think your speech should receive the widest circulation possible. It is the best speech I have read by an environmentalist to date. Hopefully you are sending it to all the environmental organizations.

I sent it to Carl Pope at the Sierra Club and several unions and community organizations.

I don't mean to put all the work on you, but I think if you have the funds, every single state, federal and the provincial politicians should get copies of your speech by snail mail with a cover letter from you enclosed.

You might even ask others to sign on to it kind of "endorsers" of the direction we want to see this issue around water go.

You might even consider something like a "petition" or "an open letter" signed by a bunch of people who say they support the views you express.

People are bound to have some differences with some of the views you express in this speech; but, I think you are going to find the overwhelming majority of the people are going to be very supportive in opposing the commercialization of "our" water as you have articulated here.

11:53 am 04/29/2008

Neoliberal economics and water

Alan Maki (Warroad, Minnesota)

I was asked by William Willers, one of the founders of Superior Wilderness Action Network and a long time environmentalist from Wisconsin to post and circulate this for him as part of our discussion on water. William Willers is Professor Emeritus of Biology, University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh.

Note to readers: This response was a result of an e-mailing I sent out which I later posted to my blog because of the tremendous response I received.

My blog is: http://thepodunkblog.blogspot.com/

-----Original Message-----

From: William Willers [mailto:willers@charter.net'>

Sent: Wednesday, April 30, 2008 10:30 PM

To: Alan L. Maki

Subject: Fwd: Discussion continues... Water, water, everywhere? Just bottle it and turn water into another commodity for big-business to profit from using cheap labor? Or...

Alan: I hope this is not offensive to your beliefs, or to anyone's. I sent it out to get feedback, because I'd like to get a feel for opinions on this issue. I don't know how large your email list is, but if there is a discussion going on I'd appreciate you putting it out to see what reactions it might bring. Bill


Begin forwarded message:

From: William Willers

Date: April 29, 2008 4:00:28 PM CDT

To: Alan Maki

Subject: Re: Discussion continues... Water, water, everywhere? Just bottle it and turn water into another commodity for big-business to profit from using cheap labor? Or...

The coming water shortage in the U.S. and elsewhere has been known for many years. In the U.S., Marc Reisner's "Cadillac Desert", published in 1986, invoked history and all that is known of geology and water use to warn society. It was ignored, of course, as desert cities - Phoenix, Tucson, Los Vegas, etc. - went full speed ahead with cancerous growth and libertarian "freedom" and the religion of property rights above all, even as water tables were dropping and rivers being tapped out. The apparent attitude has been "There's money to be made, and sure, we can arm-twist the Great Lakes people when, some day, our actions have caused a crash." Yea free market!

The question becomes one of "When does a person - or a society - have to face the consequences of its decisions and actions?" By extension, "What is the obligation of the Great Lakes to bail out regions or countries whose "leaders" have, with eyes wide open, put themselves and their communities into an entirely predictable situation?"

The Great Lakes Basin is the center - the freshwater "heart", if you will - of North America. It's not that it HAS water, it's that it IS water and ABOUT water. Do take note that even now, with lake levels down, "experts" have no definitive answer as to why. But hell, if you're a Chicago-School, neoliberal economist, it makes all the sense in the world to pipe water to New Mexico, or bottle it and sell it to yuppies, or ship it out of the Basin in tankers to other parts of the Globe, if the "free market" says it's economically feasible.

Sorry, but if nature has taught anything, it's that it has a reservoir of unintended consequences for "experts" who thought they knew what they were doing. And it doesn't matter if shipping water out of the Basin is done with profit as a motive or as humanitarian gesture. I don't know who Dempsey is, and I wouldn't want to disparage someone's honest efforts, but in reading his appeal to my humanitarian sensibilities, I felt I was being set up.

If it is an obligation of Great Lakes people to deal with the water issues of poor nations (even as their populations continue to grow at an absolutely insane rate), it would be most effective, not to mention protective of the Basin Ecosystem, to work for population control in those countries and for improvement THERE of water resources, whatever that might mean in terms of creation of wells or education or water purification plants. One's first obligation is protection of one's home.

09:26 am 05/01/2008

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


Thursday, April 24, 2008

David T. Young... the liar doing the dirty work for the Michigan Democratic Party and the Fertitta Family

David T. Young... the face of an uncaring, deceitful, lying hypocrite:

David T. Young publishes a blog:

Compulsory News

David T. Young knows full well that more than 1,800 workers will be going to work in the Gun Lake Casino south of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

David T. Young knows these 1,800 casino employees will go to work in a loud, noisy, smoke-filled casino.

David T. Young knows these 1,800 casino workers, among whom will be his neighbors, will have no rights under tribal, state or federal labor laws.

David T. Young knew when Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed the Gun Lake Casino Compact the situation these workers were going to be put into.

David T. Young knew when the Democrats in the Michigan House led by Steve Tobachman gave their approval to this dirty, anti-labor "Compact" exactly what was going on.

David T. Young, like Fox News, talks about the "truth" with the very same hypocrisy as Fox News.

David T. Young stands to make hundreds of thousands of dollars advertising for this Gun Lake Casino so this two-faced, lying hypocrite talks about how he is telling the truth about this dirty casino deal involving some of the most notorious mobsters and corrupt politicians in the United States.

David T. Young's blog, Compulsory News, should be called the "Yellow Journal of Lies and Deceit."

David T. Young should more appropriately be called a pimp for organized crime and a peddler of corruption.

David T. Young has published his "views" knowing that one-thousand eight-hundred workers are going to suffer while he reaps great profit$.

It is amazing that of all the newspapers, radio and television stations from Grand Rapids to Kalamazoo, not one single one of these newspapers--- not even the pathetic little "labor" rag known as the Grand Valley Labor News--- has had the courage or common human decency to allow the issues of casino workers and their rights to surface in the hundreds of thousands of words that have been written and spoken about the Gun Lake Casino.

Not even a peep about the history of the Station Casinos and the Fertitta Family who will manage this casino operation.

With the Fertitta's and their Station Casinos coming to town... the people, those people David T. Young refers to as the "Flat Earth Society" have good reason to worry about the future of their communities.

When you bring together a casino operation, combined with a huge workforce without any rights being paid poverty wages you come up with a formula for some of the most deviant and perverted behavior known to human-kind.

But, as long as these people like David T. Young can get rich they are willing to look the other way in the face of injustice.

What is one more casino out of some four-hundred casinos spread out across this country like little right-to-work-for-less-without-any-rights colonies?

God Damn America!

God damn liars like David T. Young who are willing to cover-up the truth are what make it all possible.

Alan L. Maki

Director of Organizing,
Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day 2008 and The Freeman Forum

April 22, 2008

Earth Day

-----Original Message-----

From: Alan Maki [mailto:amaki000@centurytel.net]

Sent: Tuesday, April 22, 2008 9:36 PM

To: 'Denise Pfeifer'; 'peter.makowski@mail.house.gov';'Jody Beaulieu'; 'carl.pope@sierraclub.org'

Cc:'mmiron@bemidjipioneer.com'; 'bswenson@bemidjipioneer.com'; 'editor@orionsociety.org'; 'editor@outdoornews.com'; 'Laurel'; 'William McAuliffe'

Subject: RE: Freeman Forum Lecture Follow Up

Ms. Pfeifer,

Thank you for inviting me to the Freeman Forum; it was a great learning experience in so many ways.

I am looking forward to next year’s Freeman Forum… what will the topic be?

Also, you might want to pass on the link to my blog about my experiences at the 2008 Freeman Forum:


You might also be interested in circulating this blog:


I am wondering how I can obtain the recording of the question period following Congressman Jim Oberstar’s lecture.

Also, I asked for a receipt for the twenty dollars I paid for the luncheon as I get reimbursed provided I have a receipt; I was told the receipt would be e-mailed to me; it was not. Would you please provide me with the receipt?

On a final note, do you think on behalf of the Freeman Forum, you could ask United States Congressman James Oberstar to make a written and public apology to me for calling me a “liar?” I am sure you understand the seriousness of this kind of slanderous remark. As you are aware, James Oberstar did in fact “orchestrate a racist, back-room deal” regarding peat mining in the Pine Island State Forest located at the center of the Big Bog, our most important freshwater aquifer now that Congressman Oberstar has allowed the mining companies to pollute Lake Superior. As you are aware, truth is the only defense against a lawsuit for libel and slander; I hope I will not have to proceed with a lawsuit to defend my good name from the untruthful, vicious and vile statements Congressman Oberstar made about me. Congressman Oberstar was well aware that his remarks were being brought to a much wider audience, and Congressman Oberstar was fully aware that he lied in denying any knowledge of the peat mining permit in the Big Bog. Further, Congressman Oberstar was fully aware the Red Lake Nation is in complete and full opposition to this peat mining. I think we need an explanation from Congressman Oberstar why he lied about his involvement in this dirty deal. Needless to say, an apology to me is in order.

I stand by my remarks that Congressman Oberstar’s lecture on “Water” was the “most self-serving and hypocritical speech I have ever heard from a politician.” As you are aware, I am entitled to my opinion; as Congressman Oberstar is entitled to his opinion. His response that he was “offended” by my characterization of his speech is very legitimate. On the other hand, calling me a “liar” as Congressman Oberstar did is an outright slander prohibited under state and federal statutes… you may consult with Mr. Freeman who is an attorney of sorts from what I hear.

Again, you may read the statement which was posted for many years on the Minnesota Environmental Partnership’s web site concerning Congressman Oberstar’s involvement in obtaining the permit for a Canadian multi-national corporation to mine peat in the Big Bog. I have posted this statement in its entirety on this blog:


Perhaps you and the facilitators of the Freeman Forum might want request an explanation of Congressman Oberstar about his role in all of this… I assume the Freeman Forum had a sincere desire to want to provide information enabling people to act to protect our freshwater aquifers as required; anything else would be seen as hypocrisy by the public.

One other concern I have. I noticed the extremely high level of involvement on the part of numerous public officials including the Secretary of State and a former State Governor as well as Mr. Gene Merriam and current members of the MN DNR along with numerous organizations and foundations very prominent in the public eye; on the other hand I noted that the audience and ALL panelists were white. I assume the facilitators of the Freeman Forum attempted to involve people of color? What went wrong? Is there some underlying institutionalized racism involved? I note this event took place at the Humphrey Center, which is part of the University of Minnesota. I am sure you must have noted that people of color were not represented at all as panelists or as audience. I find this very strange and something which should not be tolerated by those concerned with civil and human rights. Was there a fear that to include people of color might have resulted in accusations of racism regarding how the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party resolves issues involving “water?” Might not you have invited the head of the Red Lake Nation’s Department of Natural Resources to have been a panelist if you were truly interested in hearing from all concerned? I am suggesting that the American Civil Liberties Union’s Task Force On Race Relations look into this. Perhaps the Minnesota Department of Human Rights should be requested to look into this, also.

I think it is important to note, and you must be aware, that none other than the United Nations has pointed out that the destruction of ecosystems and the pollution and contamination of fresh water aquifers is often found to be related to racism and genocide. I would assume that organizations like the Sierra Club would be very concerned to find out that people of color were excluded from the Freeman Forum’s 2008 “Water, Water Everywhere?” In a situation like this perception really is everything.

I thank you in advance for your attention to these matters.

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


-----Original Message-----

From: Denise Pfeifer [mailto:info@minnesotaruralpartners.org]

Sent: Tuesday, April 22, 2008 7:59 PM

To: amaki000@centurytel.net

Subject: Freeman Forum Lecture Follow Up

Freeman Forum Attendees,

Thank you for attending the 2008 Freeman Forum.

As a follow up to the event I wanted to share with you Deb Swackhamer's summary along with a link to an audio of the Freeman Forum lectures from April 8th, 2008.
Attached is Deb Swackhamer's summary paper of the Water lecture program is a spectacular piece of work that underscores the stature of the lecture program series in a way that we've never been able to do before. It also illustrates the value of the work that all of us involved in putting together these programs can see in a tangible form. Freeman Forum Synthesis Swackhamer 041708.pdf

The audio from all the Freeman Forum lectures on April 8, 2008, is now available on the Humphrey Institute podcast. You can find this at http://blog.lib.umn.edu/hhhevent/news/. Please feel free to share with your colleagues.

Thanks for your attendance. We look forward to seeing you next year!

Best, Denise

Denise Pfeifer
Minnesota Rural Partners

Monday, April 21, 2008

More on "Doing Elections" A reply to Carl Davidson and "Progressives for Obama"

-----Original Message-----

From: Alan Maki [mailto:amaki000@centurytel.net]

Sent: Monday, April 21, 2008 9:49 AM

To: 'carld717@aol.com'

Cc: 'Carolyn Laine'

Subject: RE: Are Democrats about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Three Views... a reply to Carl Davidson; another response to Carl Davidson's reply

Okay, Carl…

Let’s take it point by point regarding your response:

-----Original Message-----

From: Carl Davidson [mailto:carld717@aol.com]

Sent: Monday, April 21, 2008 7:06 AM

To: 'Alan Maki'

Cc: 'Carolyn Laine'

Subject: RE: Are Democrats about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Three Views... a reply to Carl Davidson

Read a little closer, Alan

We don't even endorse Obama; we say he's 'the best option' of the three.

I don’t understand the difference; seems to me a play with words.

We don't call him a progressive, either. We say he's taking a centrist position in a left-center coalition that needs a progressive poll to curb rightward drift.

There is no left-center coalition; there is a coalition of sorts of the center, right, and those--- among the majority of Obama’s enthusiastic supporters, who have coalesced around a meaningless phrase of “hope.”

We're independent of his campaign, and don't have to defend every word he ever uttered--and don't.

“Independent?” No way. The name, “Progressives for Obama” says it all. The word “for” means a little something, eh?

Plant closings? I've already posted on that topic here. We've probably got more closed plants around here than Minnesota has plants, period. We've pushed him to come out for the Apollo Alliance as an antidote, and recently he has.

The “Apollo Alliance” is a front for the class-collaborationist labor “leaders” and pseudo “environmentalists working, as class-collaborationist do, with corporate managements and Wall Street coupon clippers looking to make their next big bucks in the “greening of America;” the only “green” they care about is “money green.” Where could you find phonier leaders of either group than Carl Pope, Leo Gerard, David Foster and Maurice Strong. One day Carl Pope and Leo Girard are standing in front of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant saying “Save the plant and two-thousand jobs;” the next day they are working in league with, and part of a “coalition” including, the Ford Motor Company’s land development division, the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce, the Summit Hill Club and, oh yes… all the Democrats who are supporting Obama.

Carl, we both know where Obama will stand on this issue of the closing of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant, the sale of the hydro dam that has powered Ford’s manufacturing operations to a foreign corporation; and, most importantly, the loss of two-thousand union jobs. Are you going to come to Minnesota next and make sure all workers who might gain employment in the model “green” yuppie community of cute little boutiques and racially segregated upscale housing and research and development centers receive wages and benefits in line with what Ford workers had (minus the two-tier wages) before the Plant is demolished and their incomes will be secure until these workers are rehired? Obama could come to St. Paul and walk the strip of Ford Parkway up the hill from the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant and assure the thousands of workers now employed in this area at mostly minimum wages, or slightly higher up to about nine dollars an hour, without any benefits?

The IAM's honcho is attacking Obama from the right, with a red-baiting, terrorist-baiting smear. I wouldn't associate myself with it , if I were you.

I associate myself with Buffenbarger’s remarks to the extent he has articulated “why” he is not supporting Obama. As to Buffenbargar coming from the “right” with a “red-baiting,” “terrorist-baiting” smear, I would appreciate you providing me with the evidence of all three since the weakness I heard in his speech was that he did the same thing you are doing… only urging support for Hillary Clinton. If we are talking about Buffebargar’s speech which became the speech so widely referred to and characterized “as a vicious attack on Obama,” I heard none of what you refer to as “right,” “red-baiting,” and “terrorist-baiting smear.”

You can watch and listen to Buffenbargar’s complete speech from my past blog, in which you will find my criticism of his speech, too; however, either Obama did what Buffenbargar said, or he didn’t--- to date, I have heard no refutation from Obama of Buffenbargar’s remarks. Check out his speech for yourself:


In PA at the moment, I'd guess a majority of the young workers are for Obama, while those over 30 split evenly between Obama, Clinton and McCain. Those in the working class here willing to break with both racism and war are, in their majority, for Obama. However you want to slice it, he has a base of support in the working class here. But it's very tight, the Clintons and McCain are using all sorts of crap, and we'll see tomorrow. Clinton was ahead by 18 points going into this; we'll see if it shrinks.

I have little pull with Obama's speaking schedule, but I've read his speeches at other sites of plant closings, including some back in Illinois years ago. They're very good; and he doesn't shy away from the issue at all. Talk to the Dem Farm-Labor people in your state. You may get your wish .

As a matter of fact, the MN DFL’ers leading the drive for support of Obama, are among the most corrupt politicians in Minnesota. Anti-communism, red-baiting and smearing people in every conceivable way is their stock in trade in trying to avoid any real issues of importance to working people.

It matters to us whether McCain is in the White House. If it matters to you, do something about it.

As you are well aware, it does matter to me that McCain does not sit in the White House. That is why I wonder why any “progressives” would bother wasting their time with a “Progressives for Obama” campaign… I would suggest that you would be better off spending your time and resources organizing around the real issues of importance to working people… if Obama then wants these votes he can come ask for the votes by explaining what he will do if elected concerning solving the problems of working people. If you are telling me that Obama supports the Apollo Alliance as the basis for supporting him, this is all I need to know to tell me I shouldn’t bother wasting my time working to get him into the White House.

Carl, come to the Twin Cities to rally against the Republicans in September… bring along Obama and “The Boss” to join our picket line demanding passage of SF 607 and public ownership of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant and the hydro dam so we can save two-thousand jobs and pave the way for similar struggles to protect the livelihoods of workers “Born in the USA.”

Yours in the struggle for peace and social & economic justice,

Alan L. Maki

Keep On Keepin' On!

Carl Davidson


From: Alan Maki [mailto:amaki000@centurytel.net]

Sent: Monday, April 21, 2008 1:10 AM

To: carld717@aol.com; WCS-A@yahoogroups.com

Cc: 'Carolyn Laine'

Subject: RE: Are Democrats about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Three Views... a reply to Carl Davidson


If I had any influence with Springsteen I would certainly suggest he look a little closer at the real issues facing working people, as I would you, before endorsing Obama.

Let us get one thing straight, neither Clinton nor Obama are “progressive;” neither have a “progressive” position on any issue at all.

Isn’t it simply good enough to say: “Vote against McCain?”

I’m not making any more of a “backhandedly” attempt to help Clinton or McCain then what you “Progressives for Obama” have done with the issues of working people.

As far as I can see, and if the IAM’s Buffenbarger is telling the truth about Obama, there is no reason why progressives should be endorsing him or working for him. There was a time when the term “progressive” meant that one had to align themselves with being for peace and social and economic justice and demonstrate a clear concern for the rights and problems of working people.

Since no one ever asked my opinion of starting “Progressives for Obama” I’m not asking for anyone’s opinion or approval in what I have to say. I am merely voicing an opinion which isn’t getting attention even though I find many working people agreeing with me.

Maybe you should consider asking Obama to tour the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant telling the workers exactly what he intends to do regarding the plant and saving these two-thousand jobs?

Perhaps you could post the position of “Progressives for Obama” on the plant closing issue on your web site?

You might want to check out my blog below for further comments about all of this.

Quite frankly, Carl, this is one time I “hope” I am wrong but there is nothing to suggest that I am… Obama is every bit the equal of Hillary Clinton, and that does not bode well for the country or for the working class.

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


-----Original Message-----

From: Carl Davidson [mailto:carld717@aol.com]

Sent: Friday, April 18, 2008 12:28 PM

To: 'Alan Maki'; WCS-A@yahoogroups.com

Cc: 'Carolyn Laine'

Subject: RE: Are Democrats about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Three Views

I don't have to come to Minnesota to talk with workers losing their jobs, or who've already lost them. There's plenty right here in Beaver County, PA, where the 'Progressives for Obama' website is run from. And I'm talking with them every day.

I'm will to make a small wager, though. There's plenty of discontent here with elections generally, both parties, and all three candidates, some more than others. Even so, I'll bet more working-class votes turn out this time than any election in recent memory.

Our http://progressivesforobama.blogspot.com project is independent of the campaign, critical of Obama and pushes him on jobs and the war. So unless you want us to sit it out, or run our project to backhandedly help Clinto or McCain, I'm not sure of the reason behind your little dig at us. It's not like there aren't working class people invlved in it, as well as a few Hollywood folks lending their names. Or would you have Springsteen take back his endorsement?

Keep On Keepin' On!

Carl Davidson


From: Alan Maki [mailto:amaki000@centurytel.net]

Sent: Friday, April 18, 2008 1:06 PM

To: WCS-A@yahoogroups.com

Cc: 'Carl Davidson'; 'Carolyn Laine'

Subject: Are Democrats about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Three Views
Are Democrats about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

From Friday, April 18, 2008, New York Times Digest


Obama’s Decline

In Iowa, Barack Obama promised to be
something new — a leader who would confront
unpleasant truths, embrace novel policies and
unify the country. If he had knocked Hillary
Clinton out in New Hampshire and entered
general election mode early, this enormously
thoughtful man would have become that.

But he did not knock her out, and the aura
around Obama has changed. He sprinkled
his debate performance Wednesday with the
sorts of fibs, evasions and hypocrisies that
are the stuff of conventional politics. He also
made a pair of cynical promises.

He made a sweeping pledge never to raise
taxes on anybody making less than $200,000 to
$250,000 a year. That will make it impossible
to address entitlement reform. It will also
make it much harder to afford the vast array
of tax breaks, health care reforms and energy
projects that he promises to deliver.

Then he made an iron vow to get the troops
out of Iraq within 16 months. Neither Obama
nor anyone else has any clue what conditions
will be like when the next president takes office.
If Obama is elected, he will either go back
on this pledge, destroying his credibility, or he
will risk genocide in the region and a political
war at home.

Then there are the cultural issues. When
Obama goes to a church infused with liberation
theology, when he makes ill-informed
comments about working-class voters, when
he bowls a 37 for crying out loud, voters are
going to wonder if he’s one of them.

It was inevitable that the period of “Yes We
Can!” deification would come to an end. It was
not inevitable that Obama would now look so
vulnerable. He’ll win the nomination, but in a
matchup against John McCain, he is behind in
Florida, Missouri and Ohio, and merely tied
in must-win states like Michigan, Minnesota,
New Jersey and Pennsylvania. A generic
Democrat now beats a generic Republican by
13 points, but Obama is trailing his own party.
One in five Democrats say they would vote for
McCain over Obama.

General election voters are different from
primary voters. Among them, Obama is lagging
among seniors and men. Instead of winning
over white high school-educated voters
who are tired of Bush and conventional politics,
he does worse than previous nominees.

John Judis and Ruy Teixeira have estimated a
Democrat has to win 45 percent of such voters
to take the White House. I’ve asked several of
the most skillful Democratic politicians over
the past few weeks, and they all think that’s
going to be hard.

A few months ago, Obama was riding his
talents. Clinton has ground him down, and we
are now facing an interesting phenomenon.

Republicans have long assumed they would
lose because of the economy and the sad state
of their party. Now, Democrats are deeply
worried their nominee will lose in November.

Welcome to 2008. Everybody’s miserable.

From Minnesotans for Peace and Social Justice


Thursday, April 17, 2008

For Peace, Jobs and Social Justice

The political pundits and think tanks continue to try to divide working class voters into liberals, progressives and conservatives; a new and shameful twist in trying to divide the working class along racial lines by political ideology as Democrats seek to explain their dwindling support in the polls in spite of massive working class rejection of the Republican Party.

It is almost like the Democrats are conceding defeat to the Republicans before the election is held as they attempt to affix blame for the defeat on working people rather than upon themselves.

But, this is nothing new, since the Democrats have been caving in to the Republicans for over thirty years now, and acquiescing to wars and driving down the standards of living of working people.

These same pundits and think-tank gurus continue to evade the problem of why so many working class people refuse to vote.

We think there is a reason why workers are not voting.

The reason is no one is bringing forward a progressive agenda based upon the needs of working people to solve pressing problems of rising food prices, home foreclosures and evictions along with high rents, poverty wages, plant closings, unemployment, the high cost of education, lack of access to health care, polluted & contaminated waters, land and air, the crisis of global warming and a dirty war for oil and regional domination in Iraq--- together with the robbery at the pumps... to name just a few of the problems, for starters, which the Democratic Party refuses to address.

Addressing these problems by bringing forward real solutions is not the same as acknowledging these problems which the Democrats are so eager to do as they continue to play political games with our lives and our futures.

Failure of the Democrats to address these issues with real solutions could lead to a defeat at the polls on Election Day. This would not be the first time Democrats have ignored the problems of working people only to snatch defeat from what should be a hands down, and overwhelming, victory.

In our opinion, the three key issues nationally, which should become the focus of the 2008 Election are:

• The need to end the war in Iraq

• The need for socialized health care

• The need for the minimum wage to be a legislated real living wage

We want to know why Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have not articulated a very clear and specific program on these very basic issues of importance to working people?

A national organization called "Progressives for Obama" has begun to campaign for Obama. We don't understand why these progressives have done so while allowing Obama to leave these three issues off of his agenda.

What happens if Obama is elected and turns on these young voters who have become mesmerized with his baseless and meaningless calls, devoid of any specifics, to vote for "hope?" Will these young people revolt and coalesce around a progressive agenda; or, will they retreat in despair and discouragement from further political activity?

Here in Minnesota the issues of the Ford Plant closing has gone without being addressed by the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party. The issue of the hydro dam which has powered this operation for over eighty years; and, most importantly, the jobs of two-thousand workers are at risk and in peril of vanishing forever.

As progressives, we ask: If the Democrats can not solve these very basic problems confronting working people, what problems can, or will, they solve?

As progressives, we believe both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama along with candidates for state legislative offices should fend for themselves until they can articulate very clearly what they intend to do towards finding solutions to these problems.

Here in Minnesota, we progressives don't believe any politician who refuses to publicly state support for S.F. 607--- legislation aimed at saving the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant together with the hydro dam and two-thousand jobs--- should be given any consideration by working class voters. If ever there was a "litmus test" for candidates to pass, it is on this very basic working class issue. To date, the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party has failed to pass this test.

Public ownership of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Plant and the hydro dam is the only solution... politicians have acknowledged all other alternatives have failed. It defies all reason and logic that these politicians would openly acknowledge and admit that saving this plant and the two-thousand jobs is what they want to do, but then cop out by failing to consider a very valid alternative to the plant closing: Public Ownership.

Failing to consider public ownership of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant and Hydro Dam demonstrates a complete lack of confidence in anything other than private/corporate ownership.

This is dead wrong.

This lack of confidence in public institutions and public enterprises by elected public officials is what has created a breakdown in support for our public schools, public health care, public libraries and public infrastructure including the bridges, roads and highways.

Minnesotans understand public institutions, cooperatives and publicly owned enterprises are the key to human survival and an integral part of maintaining a quality life and high standard of living for working people. From food coops to support for a myriad of public institutions with a view towards the successful use of public ownership by our neighbors to the north in Manitoba whose government saved a huge bus manufacturing operation in Winnipeg, to the publicly owned Green Bay Packers owned by our neighbors to the east, to the long-standing successful example of the publicly owned bank of North Dakota, Minnesotans know and understand that public ownership is the solution to saving the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant.

Politicians should stop lying that they have tried every way to save the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant when they have not even explored the public ownership alternative; nor have they bothered to consider that some kind of joint venture with the Chinese might be the solution as it was on the Iron Range with the taconite industry.

The Chinese could teach us a great deal about the benefits of publicly owned industries.

There is no reason why the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant and Hydro Dam cannot produce a better, more environmentally friendly product under public ownership while saving two-thousand jobs than what the Ford Motor Company has done over the years; all the while having their corporate profits subsidized to the hilt by tax-payers as we never heard any complaints from the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce, the Summit Hill Club or the MN DFL Business Caucus.

But, as soon as it is suggested that tax-payers should own what they have invested in through their subsidizing the Ford Motor Company's St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant we hear a scream in unison from this business community which dominates both the Republican and Democratic Parties that they will not listen to the pleas of the people to save this Plant; nor, the pleas from Ford workers to save their jobs.

If anyone wants to look at the real reason why the Democrats could snatch defeat from what should be an overwhelming victory come Election Day, they need look no further than the abandonment, by the Democrats, of the working class here in Minnesota... thanks to State Senator James Metzen who abandoned Ford workers at the request of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce, the Ford Motor Company, the Wall Street coupon clippers and money grubbing real estate investors and bankers who are not yet done kicking working class families out of their homes and they are already well on their way to destroying the livelihoods of two-thousand Ford workers in quest of even greater profits, which once again will all be subsidized by tax-payers who, again will end up holding nothing but another bag of debt as they pay for upscale housing in a new "green" yuppie community with which they intend to replace the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant.

Maybe Barbara Ehrenreich, Bill Fletcher, Jr., Danny Glover, Tom Hayden, Robert Borosage and these other progressives should make a trip to the Twin Cities and have a chat with Ford workers about to lose their jobs as a perfectly good plant is turned to rubble and the hydro dam turned over to a foreign corporation before jumping the gun to endorse Obama.

If Obama can call for the boycott of the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in China in support of a bunch of feudal monks who have been living off the blood and sweat of poor peasants for hundreds of years, he certainly can support efforts aimed at saving the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant and the jobs of two-thousand workers if he is at all worthy of becoming the next President of the United States of America.

Minnesotans and all Americans have a right to discuss these issues and questions addressed here, and we have a right to expect those who are now campaigning for Obama and Clinton under the guise of "progressivism" to stop trying to sweep these issues and questions under the rug for the purposes of political expediency.

Minnesotans for Peace and Social Justice
Posted by Progressives 2008 at 9:51 AM

Another perspective:

The working class...

By Alan Maki | April 12th, 2008 - 10:02pm GMT

Mr. Borosage,

I am glad to see you are finally using the term working class although you fail to mention that labor "leaders" and the Democrats have failed to advance one single specific program/solution to any pressing problems the entire working class is experiencing; thus creating divisions within the working class based upon sex, age; and, yes, race.

What I find is workers of all colors are fed up with the two-party system which they are coming to see more and more as a "trap" set to prevent the solutions to problems.
One solution which comes to mind is the minimum wage.

The time has come to redistribute the wealth in this country and by legislating a real living minimum wage which would be tied to the scientific calculations of the United States Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Standards using the real figures associated with what is required for a decent standard of living comprising a living--- non-poverty income--- wage... we could unite the entire working class; especially if unemployment compensation, welfare and Social Security were all based upon the same scientific calculations tied directly to legislation.

The wealthiest country in the world can afford to eliminate poverty and raise everyone who works to a decent and comfortable standard of living.

There is no reason that those who are forced into unemployment by a mean big-business driven corporate policy should not be living decent lives, either.

With programs and initiatives like this, real progressivism, we unite the entire working class.

I find most working people far more progressive than academics, who by the way, we are supposed to be able to rely upon to teach each generation the truth about what a rotten system capitalism is and the socialist solution. If working people are confused, it is because confusion is intentionally sown in the United States as one method of maintaining the status quo.

Your dividing the working class along racial lines according to "progressive" and "conservative" does not help matters any.

Start bringing forward real universal solutions to pressing problems and we will see the working class in its multiracial, multi-national, multi-ethnic make-up unite very quickly behind a progressive agenda.

Don't blame working people because after Roosevelt the Democratic Party lurched right-ward under the banner of anti-communism and abandoned the needs of working people in favor of corporate America as the capitalist sooth-sayers peddled a pro-war imperialist agenda that placed corporate profits before the needs of working people.
These capitalist sooth-sayers who remain at the helm of the Democratic Party , like the Republican Party, are responsible for the conservative, right-ward shift in American politics... not working people.

Even during this critical election where there is an urgent need to defeat the Republicans we find both well-heeled Democrats, Clinton and Obama, wallowing in the cesspool of neo-liberalism; i.e. conservatism... neither of whom have voiced anything remotely akin to a "progressive agenda" on any issue.

Give working people a truly progressive agenda and then let's see how conservative America's working class is; my hunch is that we will find the working class more progressive than most Democrats and the Wall Street coupon clippers would like.

Alan L. Maki
Director of Organizing,
Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council

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


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Doing Elections

The essay below by Bill Fletcher, Jr. raises a number of very important questions... the most important question is: Should progressives follow the lead of Bill Fletcher, Jr. and the new group "Progressives for Obama?" I don't think progressives should follow these progressives in jumping off the bridge into muddy waters of undetermined depth.

Fletcher has repeatedly written in vague generalities, unwilling to confront specific problems like the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant closing even though he has entered the debate in opposition to the most recent sell-out contract "negotiated" by the UAW.

Fletcher and one of the groups to which he belongs, the "Center for Labor Renewal" has focused on "two-tier" wages without any consideration that plant closings are an integral aspect of the "two-tier wage" problem.

Here we find Fletcher writing a column for the "Freedom Road Socialist Organization" stating that the left should reconcile itself for "decades" in developing any kind of credible alternative to the two-party trap. Fletcher writes as if the left has no experience with left forms and alternatives winning elections.

In fact, like the closing of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant, Fletcher, Freedom Road Socialist Organization and the Center for Labor Renewal intentionally ignore the successful left-wing alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans that have been very successful over the years... one of the best examples being the Farmer-Labor Party... perhaps its most successful campaigns were right here in Minnesota and it is not by chance that workers at the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant played a most important role in the success of the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party.

To listen to Fletcher and Freedom Road Socialist Organization, one would think the U.S. working class has no experience to build on, which simply is not true. Perhaps if this experience was widely written about as what kind of independent political action is possible we would see similar formations take shape very quickly, especially given the numerous problems besetting capitalism which are making life unbearable and miserable for working people--- I think we all know the problems. Less known and talked about are the solutions to these problems.

If Fletcher thinks alternatives to the Democratic and Republican Party are far into the future by "decades;" one can only surmise how far off into the future Fletcher would speculate that socialism is.

Putting time-tables to either finding alternatives to the two-party trap and socialist revolution is very dangerous because this becomes an impediment to bringing forward more advanced demands, which if fought for in the right way could hasten both.

Fletcher writes of "urgency" as if working people can wait until academia comes up with solutions to their problems... this isn't going to happen.

As Bill Fletcher, Jr., Freedom Road Socialist Organization and the Center for Labor Renewal are very well aware, working people made their greatest advances when the Communist Party USA was at its strongest; further ignored is the fact that Communist Party Clubs which were the think-tanks and action centers of these movements were at the heart of working people winning on both the electoral front and in the streets where these activities complemented each other.

Yet, knowing this, Fletcher, Freedom Road Socialist Organization and the Center for Labor Renewal put forward, in one way or another--- Freedom Road Socialist Organization openly state this erroneously:
"We believe that a multi-tendencied left can bring strength to the mass movements for progressive change in our country; movements that are crucial to the struggle for socialism."
This is very dangerous thinking because the working class will never be united in action with such thinking.

No thinking person can really believe that an Obama or Clinton victory over McCain will in any way advance any kind of progressive agenda or alternative. Clinton's and Obama's thoroughly reactionary stance regarding the Olympics in China is but one example; suffice it to say not one of those, including Bill Fletcher, Jr., identified with "Progressives for Obama" has made any attempt to challenge Obama on this issue. Why not? Because they know to do so will immediately put them at odds with Obama and many--- if not most--- of his supporters. The Olympics is all about people getting along and the lessening of tensions between peoples and nations and about cultivating friendships... if anything, the Olympics should be seen as a way to support China in trying to resolve the problems in Tibet; not supporting a bunch of parasitic feudal monks who want poor peasants to support them while they go on with a life of leisure.

I am sure Barack Obama will appreciate this essay below written by Bill Fletcher, Jr.; I am not so sure workers at the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant will agree that the defense of their jobs should proceed at such a leisurely pace; lest the lack of urgency to respond by asking Obama or Clinton how they will resolve this issue proves an embarrassment to Clinton and Obama. I would note that Bill Fletcher, Jr. and his fellow "Progressives for Obama" has completely ignored International Association of Machinist President Buffenbargar's attack on Obama... why?

Perhaps not coincidentally, Bill Fletcher, Jr., Tom Hayden, Carl Davidson would like to evade the issue of "plant closings?"

Further, perhaps these "progressives," many, like Fletcher and Davidson, who claim to be for socialism, too, would like to evade this issue because the solution brings into view a remedy to the two-party trap which is the need for a labor party on the one hand, and calls into question the "legitimacy" of the capitalist system... in other words, bringing forward the public ownership question as the solution to individual plant closings, and the complete nationalization of entire industries like auto, steel, finance and power generation and distribution begins to place socialism on the table.

I find it very interesting that not one single one of the "Progressives for Obama," not even Bill Fletcher, Jr. have added their voices to supporting SF 607 here in Minnesota... the legislation aimed at keeping the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant and hydro dam intact as an industrial unit aimed at saving two-thousand jobs.

One would think that Fletcher, Davidson and even "The Boss" Bruce Springsteen would have added their voices to support of SF 607 long ago if they were really interested in the "urgency of defeating McCain" because this is a real empirical issue that has the potential to unite the working class and with support from Obama or Clinton, preferably both, there would be an outpouring of working class voters on Election Day.

Instead, Fletcher, Hayden and Davidson would have us believe that "hope," or, "the hope for change" is good enough.

I'm all for "Doing Elections" but those running for public office should not receive any help from progressives unless, and until, we have something of substance from the candidates which merits this support.

Of course, what every worker does in the secrecy of the election booth is her/his own business and I don't think most working people--- definitely not progressives--- need Fletcher, Hayden or Davidson telling us that we don't need McCain in the White House. On the other hand, the working class does need progressive ideas addressing their urgent problems brought forward into the "public square" and the political arena.

Ironically, not only do we not know what Obama will do about plant closings, we don't even know where Bill Fletcher, Jr., Carl Davidson or Tom Hayden stand on what needs to be done to save the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant... nor do we know where any of these organizations like Freedom Road Socialist Organization, the Center for Labor Renewal or the Democratic Party or any of the organizations with which the endorsers of the "Progressives for Obama" stand on something as simple and basic as SF 607 and public ownership of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant.

I couldn't care less that Obama isn't capable of scoring over 30 bowling. I would like to hear Obama's thinking on SF 607... maybe Fletcher, Hayden and Davidson could put this question to Obama... doing so might give them the courage to come forward on this issue, too.

Something to think about. But, remember, while thinking, there is an urgency to this question the Tibetan monks do not understand, and I don't think working people want to be told they should wait for real solutions to their problems for "decades;" and this is what Bill Fletcher, Jr. is asking working people to do... to be patient with capitalism. I find it strange that the Freedom Road Socialist Organization has a similar "patience" and tolerance for the social and economic injustices working people are experiencing. We Communists, never have--- and never will share this patience for social and economic injustice.

Of course, the problem isn't limited to the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant; I could have cited the two-million casino workers employed in the more than 400 loud, noisy, smoke-filled Indian Gaming Casinos spread out across this country where workers receive poverty wages and have no rights under state or federal labor laws, forced to work at the mercy of sleaze-balls like the Fertitta Family whose ill-be-gotten financial gains are footing the bill for Hillary Clinton's campaign or the dollars that are pouring into the Obama campaign from Brownstein/Hyatt/Farber/Schreck--- a lobbying outfit none of the "Progressives for Obama" want to talk about... like the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant; or I could have cited the problem with the minimum wage not being a legislated real living, non-poverty, wage.

Fletcher and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization like to promote

Doing Elections

by Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Sunday, 13 April 2008

Some recent controversy in connection with the statement on the US Presidential elections by Jamala Rogers posted on the FRSO website, along with a odd exchange that accompanied a piece that I wrote at The Black Commentator on the now-halted John Edwards campaign, caused me to reflect some more on the radical Left and elections. Is there a point for the radical Left to be thinking in terms of participating in elections, be they national or local? If so, in what capacity?

Contrary to those, such as the Greens, who suggest an immediate third-party run for national (and local) office, I believe that the actual conditions plus the nature of the electoral system do not justify it. To borrow from the remarks offered by long-time writer and activist Frances Fox Piven at the recent Left Forum in New York City, there are those who wish to engage in an electoral politics that does not exist in the USA and wish to avoid the electoral politics that does.

Central to a radical left practice must be a concrete analysis of concrete conditions. Among other things this means understanding the nature of the state in a particular social formation, including how it operates, its history and the class forces operating within it. The US state is extremely undemocratic, particularly when it comes to electoral politics, making it difficult for minor or third parties to operate and be considered relevant. This reality has often led many left activists to turn entirely away from electoral politics and focus on non-electoral social movement activity. While this work may at times be exemplary, it is often disconnected from the fight for political power and can be condemned to the realm of resistance-only activity. This is not a criticism of the work, but a criticism of the decision to turn away from electoral politics.

Another view is to engage in symbolic politics, such as the current Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney campaigns for President of the USA. Neither campaign has a chance of winning but both are posed by their supporters as ways of suggesting an alternative to the two-party system. While this is noble, it is not about serious political strategy. It is rooted in justifiable anger, but does very little to build the sort of social-political bloc that we need to combat the empire and introduce significant structural reforms (not to mention, to open discussions on the possibility of an alternative system).

Yet another view suggests that local electoral work may make sense, but that it is unlikely for the radical Left to have any real impact at the national level; therefore, in this case, the presidential elections are of little importance. This view is grounded in a more accurate assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the radical Left and turns away from symbolic political activity. Yet it makes the mistake of missing the opportunity for significant action even within the context of candidacies that may not be left, and in some cases, may not be particularly progressive.

The radical Left can engage in electoral work to raise issues. This can take place at the level of local or statewide initiatives or referenda, or it can take place in the context of battling over the platform of a particular candidate. Initiatives and referenda are very straight to the point. With candidates such as that of Democratic nominee for Congress Donna Edwards (from Maryland), their candidacy can become a means to push a very progressive agenda--in her case, around the war.

At the national level it is certainly trickier, particularly given who is generally running. Yet here is where an assessment of the moment becomes very important. In our situation, for instance, a victory of John McCain would be most dangerous. He makes noises about (and actually sings about) bombing Iran; keeping the USA in Iraq for 100 years; and privatizing Social Security. His social base shares nothing in common with the progressive movement and he owes progressives nothing. He would continue the offensive, albeit with a softer voice, against the bottom 80 percent of this country.

So, one issue, as far as I am concerned, is that McCain needs to be defeated in the election. This is more than about educating people on the issues, though it is not enough, particularly when resource-strapped organizations need to make decisions about the level of involvement in a particular campaign--if any. The question is whether the radical Left and progressives can influence an anti-McCain candidate. My sense is that it is definitely possible but not on all or often most issues. Thus, a Clinton or Obama win might open up the chances of pushing genuine national healthcare, but only if there is a social base that is organized and can demonstrate its organization. If there is anything that can and should be learned from the practice of the Christian Right, it is this point.

An additional factor, which is particularly relevant to the Obama campaign, is the level of energy that it has produced and inspired and the deep desire for change that appears to be inspiring record numbers of voters. This energy, however, is very unfocused and will more than likely dissipate following the election season unless there are vehicles to channel it. It is with this in mind that it is worth considering two initiatives that I proposed in a column at www.blackcommentator.com. One, a "progressives for Obama" initiative that could either be a very loose network or a platform that unites those that wish to find a means to support the Obama candidacy, but do so without reserving their principled criticisms of his policies, e.g., on the Middle East. A second approach, which is more long-term, is the development of locally based mass electoral organizations along the lines of the original conception of Mel King's, and later Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition. Specifically, independent political organizations that are not political parties but can engage in locally based legislative and electoral work (inside or outside of the Democratic Party). Work to build such organizations can start now, but with a set of objectives that go way beyond the November 2008 election.

Much can be said about the idea of locally based organizations, but by way of conclusion let me suggest that locally based organizations do not aim to replace non-electoral social movement activity. They are not being suggested as something into which every activist should jump. Rather, this form of organization is suggested as a means of linking together social struggles and giving voice to them in the electoral arena. The aim is to think in terms of building local social-political blocs that can move to win local political power, ultimately aiming to affect a national political realignment. Such formations can be one means to channel those who get motivated by the excitement of a national political campaign, e.g., Obama's, but are unsure how they will continue to operate at the end of the election cycle.

We on the radical Left must be thinking in terms of decades. While urgency is critical, the development of a viable social-political bloc that can win power is a process that is deeply connected to both electoral and non-electoral activism. There is no straight line of stages in moving to electoral politics. We must be building the links from the very beginning because a well-considered and grounded strategy for power is the real source of the hope that millions so desperately desire.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the executive editor of The Black Commentator and the co-founder of both the Black Radical Congress and the Center for Labor Renewal.