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...

Monday, June 30, 2008

An Open Letter to voters about Health Care reform...

I have received a number of letters and phone calls over the past several months telling me that Minnesota State Senator John Marty’s health care legislation is patterned after the federal H.R. 676.

This is not the case at all, which anyone can tell from simply reading the two pieces of legislation.

If this is the case, then what are the costs involved in the Marty legislation and why is how this plan will be financed, along with the real costs, so hidden?

The Marty legislation doesn’t read anything like H.R. 676.

As you probably know, the Democratic leadership has already stated, that even if they win the Presidency and control both Houses of Congress, they will not support H.R. 676. Like on impeachment, Congressman John Conyers will back down--- and have those visiting him arrested just as he did those who came to his office seeking he follow through with promises of impeachment.

And, I am sure you know the Marty legislation here in Minnesota will never pass. Democratic Senator Rod Skoe has even told me he endorsed it just to get all of us supporting socialized health care off his back. I think Skoe’s endorsement is even more devious than just getting us off his back… Skoe, and most of those who have endorsed the Marty legislation have done so with a very devious intent; intending to go along with the even more reactionary proposals as a “compromise” alternative to the Marty legislation. I am sure many of your other endorsers have equally sinister and corrupt motives like Skoe who cannot be trusted for anything.

We are very well aware most Minnesotans want just what the Canadians have in the way of health care; yet, there isn’t a single proposal in keeping with this--- not H.R. 676, not the John Marty legislation. Even the Conyers proposal is too costly for most working people; again, those uncritically supporting H.R. 676 conveniently ignore the costs and who will pay the costs--- very dishonest on their part, even though politically expedient.

The Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition (MUHCC) could easily draft something in line with what the Canadians have. So could the Physicians for a National Healthcare Policy. This would solve everything. Everything, that is, except for the profiteers wrecking the system just like this is ruining the Canadian single payer universal health care system. Most Canadian labour union people will tell you the solution is outright socialized health care; as will most of the socialist supporting New Democratic Party voters.

To me, it is quite dishonest that MUHCC and others have written off socialized health care without even giving it any consideration since here in Minnesota the majority of voters could be won to support it. Simply because there are those business people and those like doctors, hospital administrators, HMO’s and insurance company CEO’s who deathly fear ant talk of “socialized health care” is no reason not to discuss this solution which would be no different than public education or Social Security.

In fact, as we approach the Fourth of July, we can say that it is downright undemocratic for the Democrats and Republicans to scheme to prevent an open public dialogue and public discourse on the question of socialized health care.

In fact, we could go even further knowing that there are so many millions of people suffering not only the consequences of their illnesses, but the double whammy of paying outrageous medical and health related bills; trying to pay them even though for many it means being foreclosed on and evicted from the family homestead and then thrown out of nursing homes when they can no longer afford to pay the bills.

We saw how Democrats used dirty-tricks and schemed to deny the liberal Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer the U.S. Senate nomination; we see how these same corrupt forces in the Democratic Party are scheming to push Obama even further to the right as they force him to provide the most minute detail of the neoliberal agenda while they make sure he remains very vague and inconsistent when it comes to ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on health care reform, Social Security, the minimum wage and the rights of working people.

I, along with others, went to Obama’s “Unite for Change” events, and in most cases, we found no one home for these publicly promoted and advertised events… similarly, we will find no one home at the White House on the day after the Election unless we immediately begin to use our very limited resources to organize rank and file and grassroots initiatives dedicated to fighting for real solutions to our pressing problems; it would be all the better if such initiatives are geared towards organizing progressive independence from the Democrats and Republicans.

When those promoting Obama’s “Unite for Change” event at 722 Upton Avenue North in Minneapolis found out that I was coming intending to raise the issues of socialized health care, a real living minimum wage and with a plan to end these dirty wars in Iraq and Afghanistan everyone arrived at a home with no one home--- not even an explanation provided. I have since heard of many other such “cancellations without notice” all over the United States.

Obama refuses to define what “change” he is for. People are fast losing “hope” in Obama’s rhetoric.

John McCain has one pathetic claim to fame which he says qualifies him to be President of the United States of America: he got shot down reigning death and destruction on the Vietnamese people and Obama can’t even bring himself to denounce McCain for the warmongering murderer he really is. Make no mistake, McCain is no hero… McCain is a war criminal who deserved to get shot out of the sky for what he was doing in Vietnam. McCain received better medical care from his Vietnamese captors than what most working people receive when they go to a doctor or hospital and McCain walked out of Vietnam without a bill for the medical care he received and Uncle Sam has never paid his bill or compensated the Vietnamese for the death and destruction they suffered at the hands of John McCain and his “buddies.” And here we are, in another quagmire in Iraq, another boon-doggle in Afghanistan; and Obama and McCain are cheering on Bush to go to war with Iran while both ignore the real health care needs of their own people as money is wasted creating death and destruction in the countries of others.

It is too bad that honesty in politics will not be a consideration this Fourth of July as the capitalist sooth-sayers hawk their snake-oil cure-alls.

Something to consider around the dinner table as we finance bombs doing more damage to other peoples instead of simply “bursting in air;” of course, as we all know, we can’t pay for socialized health care and continue dirty imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for dope, oil and world domination… although the by-product of Afghan poppies might relieve some pain.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Labor Needs to Improve Conditions for Nonunion Workers, Official Warns

Labor Needs to Improve Conditions for Nonunion Workers,
Official Warns…

Ed Ott, the AFL-CIO and CtW might take note of the more than two-million workers employed in smoke-filled casinos, hotels, restaurants and theme parks getting poverty wages without any rights under state or federal labor laws at more than 400 casinos comprising the Indian Gaming Industry; where not even the minimum wage, lunch and breaks, nor the Family Leave Act are not enforced… workers employed under these Draconian conditions in these “right-to-work-for-less without-any-rights colonies” created under terms of “Compacts” which give the state and federal government the responsibility of enforcing and regulating the compliance of slot machines are clubs over the heads of every worker in this country; one would think the human rights of casino workers would come before the rights of the one-armed bandits.

Also--- like Barack Obama--- Ed Ott was short on any specific solution to the problem he articulated so well. The obvious solution is to make the minimum wage a real living wage based upon the facts, figures and calculations of the United States Department of Labor and its Bureau of Labor Statistics relating to real cost of living factors… as Alan Greenspan pointed out in his book, “The Age of Turbulence,” these calculations are made weekly… and as Greenspan also pointed out, the digital electronic age has made it possible to make all kinds of rapid adjustments concerning economic matters… so, there is no reason why federal legislation shouldn’t mandate the minimum wage be adjusted just as rapidly as the rest of the economic conditions in our country; a response to the welfare of working people should be at least as important as responding rapidly to falling stock markets and share-holder profits.

Never mind casino workers; Mr. Ott, the AFL-CIO and CtW might want to look at the deplorable conditions of adjuncts in colleges and universities across this country--- from Northern Michigan University to New York City… Just shameful… but then again, there isn’t much good to say about a rotten capitalist system when it comes to the plight of any workers, anywhere... auto workers getting $14.00 an hour, a disgrace.

The time has come for unorganized workers to bring forward real solutions to Ed Ott and John Sweeney as well as local and state labor leaders and labor councils for action… we need to find out what Barack Obama has to say about all of this, too; and, what solutions he is proposing.

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

Labor Needs to Improve Conditions for Nonunion Workers, Official Warns

Patrick Andrade for The New York Times

All union workers’ gains are vulnerable, says Ed Ott of the New York City Central Labor Council.

Published: June 23, 2008

Ed Ott, the executive director of the New York City Central Labor Council, an umbrella group for the city’s labor unions, has an unexpected and unnerving warning for New York’s more than one million union members.

He warns that their wages and living standards will be threatened unless the city’s unions do far more to lift the incomes and living standards of the city’s nonunion working poor, including restaurant workers, supermarket cashiers and taxi drivers.

“Going forward, if we don’t raise the standards for the lowest-paid workers in the city, and there are literally hundreds of thousands of them, our own levels that we achieved — of wages, pensions and time off — they’re not sustainable,” said Mr. Ott, whose group is a federation of 400 union locals. “For a working class that is going to be making minimum wage or slightly above, what’s going to happen is that as taxpayers, that will create a social base for an attack on our own standards.”

Mr. Ott’s remarks, made in a recent speech at City University and in a follow-up interview, were an impassioned plea as well what he said was a “wake-up call” to the city’s labor movement. New York’s union movement has far more members than any other city’s, although it is widely viewed as less aggressive in unionizing and helping low-wage workers than the labor movements in Los Angeles and several other cities.

He said that many low-income workers who receive no paid vacation or sick days were bound to ask why many municipal workers are entitled to 40 days off per year — combining vacation days, personal days and sick days — in their first year on the job.

“There’s a danger that in the eyes of the majority of people we might be seen as too expensive,” said Mr. Ott, a former official with the Communications Workers of America and the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union who became leader of the labor council in 2006 after its previous president, Brian McLaughlin, was indicted on embezzlement charges. “If you have an extremely low-paid strata, you can’t believe they’ll say, ‘You should have another two sick days when I don’t have any.’ We have to find ways to elevate their status.”

Mr. Ott is glad that many union members — for instance, construction workers, telephone workers and teachers — have achieved middle-class status. But he voiced frustration that many unions showed little concern about lifting the status of low-wage nonunion workers. He made his remarks at a time when the number of nonunion workers has soared in traditionally union-dominated industries like construction and hotels.

Mr. Ott sees two working classes in New York: a unionized one that is doing well and a nonunion one that is struggling to get by.

“You see a working class on the subway at 6:30 in the morning and you see them at 8:30 at night heading home,” he said. “They work in the back of restaurants, they clean buildings nonunion, they’re child care workers, they’re in retail. Frankly, I marvel that these guys can find a way to live in this city. They work very hard. Most of these workers who work outside a union setting, they work more than one job or they work one job many hours.”

Mr. Ott said the union movement needed to work closely with less-well-off groups of workers — taxi drivers, domestic workers, restaurant workers, even freelance writers and computer workers — to help raise their living standards, not just for moral reasons but also for their own self-interest. “Every time you go to the bargaining table now, there’s downward pressure,” he said. “Even in the public sector, it’s ‘Any improvements you want, you have to pay for with concessions.’ That’s downward pressure, too.”

As part of his strategy, Mr. Ott took the unusual step of inviting the Taxi Workers Alliance, a group of several thousand nonunion immigrant taxi drivers, to join the Central Labor Council.

In his view, unions need to embrace immigrant workers and work closely with their advocacy groups. The labor council is working with Domestic Workers United to help enact legislation in Albany to improve wages and benefits for nannies and housekeepers. The labor council is also trying to make common cause with the Freelancers Union, a Brooklyn-based group that is seeking to provide affordable health and disability benefits to tens of thousands of freelancers and independent contractors.

In his view, a major problem is that many struggling workers are viewed as independent contractors and do not have many of the basic protections guaranteed regular workers, including the right to overtime pay and workers’ compensation.

Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the Taxi Workers Alliance, praised Mr. Ott’s strategy and agreed with his analysis.

“Unless we lift the floor, the ceiling is going to collapse,” Ms. Desai said. “Some of the mainstream labor movement is all about fending for yourself as opposed to working together to raise conditions across the board for all workers.”

Mr. Ott said several New York unions have become more serious about helping low-wage workers. He cited the United Federation of Teachers, which has unionized 28,000 home-based child care providers, as well as the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which has organized nearly 1,000 workers at H & M clothing stores in Manhattan. He also praised the efforts of Unite Here to raise wages for Aramark workers, who earn an average of about $20,000 a year in corporate cafeterias at Goldman Sachs, Bank of New York and other financial institutions.

“One of the dangers we have in this city is the city is polarizing economically,” Mr. Ott said. “There is some fabulous wealth toward the top. And there is this growing body of working-class folks. The middle could collapse. The danger is, are our standards not sustainable in a city’s that’s politically and economically polarized?”

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Booting US Sugar from the Everglades

$1.75 Billion Dollars of tax-payers’ money to bring United States Sugar Corporation under public ownership; not a penny to save the Ford Plant.

This is nothing but a huge subsidy to stock-holders losing money in a failing industry under the guise of environmentalism.

Apparently public ownership of a huge corporation by a Republican Administration is OK… spending money to save two-thousand jobs in Minnesota just isn’t doable.

Public ownership of a private corporation to bail out Wall Street coupon clippers is appropriate; public ownership to save jobs in St. Paul is interference with free enterprise.

Fidel Castro would have given the Florida governor some free advice about how to bring United States Sugar Corporation under public ownership and tax-payers wouldn't have had to pay a dime for the company which they have subsidized for years.


Booting US Sugar from the Everglades


Florida Governor Charlie Crist could be turning his constituents into sugar barons. And he's about to set the stage for the Everglades to come back from the dead.

At a news conference Tuesday morning near the imperiled "River of Grass", Governor Crist announced a $1.75 billion deal to buy the U.S. Sugar Corporation, including 187,000 acres of farmland that once sat in the northern Everglades. If the deal goes through, it will extinguish a powerful 77-year-old company with 1,700 employees and deep roots in South Florida's coal-black organic soil. It will also resurrect and reconfigure a moribund 8-year-old Everglades replumbing effort that is supposed to be the most ambitious ecosystem restoration project in the history of the planet.

"It's mind-blowing," said Kirk Fordham, the executive director of the Everglades Foundation, before the announcement was made. "Who would have thought we'd see this in our lifetimes?"

The purchase would give the state control of nearly half the 400,000 acres of sugar fields in the Everglades Agricultural Area below Lake Okeechobee, although sources said U.S. Sugar would lease back its land for six years. Environmentalists hope that eventually, the area will become storage reservoirs, treatment marshes and perhaps even a flowway reconnecting the lake to the Glades. This could help recreate the original north-to-south movement of the "River of Grass", and eliminate damaging pulses of excess water into coastal estuaries. That would be good news for panthers and gators, dolphins and herons, ghost orchids and royal palms.

Crist has been mentioned as a possible running mate for Senator John McCain, and they both took a lot of flak in Florida last week when they dropped their opposition to offshore drilling. But Crist has been true to his pledge to be "the Everglades governor," replacing many of Jeb Bush's industry-friendly aides with eco-friendly appointees, blocking the Legislature's efforts to eliminate funding for restoration, and stopping the sugar industry from pumping polluted runoff into the lake. In a recent interview with TIME, he hinted that he was planning some "breathtaking changes" for the Everglades. "Putting your heart and soul into it really makes a difference," he said.

The end of U.S. Sugar would clearly have ramifications. Florida Crystals, the agribusiness controlled by the well-wired Fanjul family, would be all that's left of Big Sugar. Founded by General Motors executive Charles Stuart Mott in the Everglades back in 1931, U.S. Sugar currently produces 9% of America's sugar - thanks to a massive federal water-control project that its executives helped design, and a lucrative federal sugar program that artificially boosts its prices. The company has always been popular in its headquarters of Clewiston, "The World's Sweetest Town," but labor activists have accused it of mistreating its workers, and environmental activists constantly blame the firm for ravaging the Everglades.

Big Sugar did block the flow, and suck the water out of the Everglades, and sent nutrients into the Everglades, converting its sawgrass marshes into cattail clumps and inspiring one of the most contentious pollution lawsuits in American history. But ever since the litigation was settled in the mid-1990s, Big Sugar has done an impressive job of cleaning up its act; development has been a much greater threat to the health of the Everglades. Still, U.S. Sugar executives have often warned that they might grow condos someday, and environmentalists have dreamed of locking up their land.

Now their dreams appear to be coming true. They're about to become part-owners of Big Sugar. "This could be a game-changer," said Everglades activist Alan Farago before the press conference was held. "The biggest obstacle has always been the EAA. Now we can try to salvage restoration." There are still plenty of details to be worked out, such as how the state will raise cash during a fiscal crisis, and the sugar industry has a troublesome history in Florida. The Crist administration will have to negotiate land swaps with Florida Crystals, and it will have to figure out what to do with a mill, a refinery and a railroad that are now the property of the state. And there's no doubt that the new opportunities for water storage in the agricultural area will require a revamping of the original restoration plan from 2000, which envisioned hundreds of underground storage wells. But that's a good thing; the storage wells would have been ridiculously expensive, and the original plan was dead in the water.

The Everglades has been under siege for over a century, in part because it doesn't look the way people expect environmental treasures to look. "To put it crudely," wrote Everglades National Park's first superintendent Daniel Beard, "there is nothing in the Everglades that would make Mr. Johnnie Q. Public suck in his breath." If Crist can reverse the flow of history and help the Everglades flow again, that really would be a breathtaking change.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Please don't abandon the Democratic Party in our time of need

A Democratic Party hack called me two days ago with this "request;" then the same issue was brought forward on a progressive list serve/discussion board to which I have been posting my views on Obama and progressive politics:

Alan, please don't abandon the Democratic Party in our time of need.

My response---

Don't abandon the Democratic Party in its time of need?

The fact is the Democratic Party abandoned the working class long ago... when Harry Truman replaced Henry Wallace.

I thought I made it very clear; I work "in the Democratic Party," not FOR the Democratic Party.

I work "in the Democratic Party" for the singular and sole purpose of bringing specific issues and their solutions forward concerning the problems working people are experiencing.

If the Democratic Party, their politicians and party hacks were the least little bit concerned with "being abandoned in time of need," perhaps they should have given this some thought when:

1. They refused to stand up and defend Al Gore's victory over Bush and ABANDONED US to the likes of George Bush--- knowing full well what Bush was about;

2. They should have fought for a minimum wage that is a real living wage based upon the actual cost of living factors and the Democrats should have invited us all to march on Washington to back up this demand;

3. They should have brought forward legislation for single-payer universal health care as the first step towards socialized health care;

4. And, finally, the Democrats should not have abandoned the American people in their full and complete opposition to this dirty war in Iraq.

Just yesterday, the Democratic Party once again abandoned the working class and the American people by groveling at Bush's feet for a "bi-partisan compromise" that includes fully funding this dirty war while attaching extended unemployment compensation benefits, veterans' education benefits, and funding relief for flooding victims; as if the working class thinks it is appropriate to receive a few "bones" as this barbaric carnage and destruction continues in Iraq.

To make matters worse, as far as I am concerned, since I represent some 250,000 casino workers employed in the Indian Gaming Industry who work in smoke-filled casinos at poverty wages and without any rights under state or federal labor laws; these same Democrats continue to approve more of the "Compacts" which have led to some 400 (four-hundred) "right-to-work-for-less without-any-rights" Colonies spread out across the entire United States; now employing over two-million workers under these most Draconian conditions... not one single Democratic politician has had the moral or political courage to stand up and say that this wholesale abuse of the human rights of working people must end. The Indian Gaming Industry is nothing but a front for some of the most violent and vicious mobsters--- including the Kansas City Mob. By the way, the Democratic Party and Barack Obama are reaping millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the likes of Frank Fertitta and his "Family," which owns the huge Station Casino empire which is a "management firm" for the Indian Gaming Industry.

Check out the law-firm/lobbyist of choice for the Indian Gaming Industry and the mobsters in this country: Brownstein/Hyatt/Farber/Schreck and then come back and talk to me about who is abandoning whom. Check out the campaign contributions being made to the Democratic Party coming from this group of law-firm/lobbyists.

I am not ruling out supporting Obama IF he comes on-side on the three core progressive issues and their solutions which I will recapitulate here for you since you seem bent on avoiding and evading their discussion:

1. The war in Iraq. End it on the day of taking office;

2. A minimum wage that is a real living wage as calculated by the United States Department of Labor and its Bureau of Labor Statistics taking into consideration real cost of living factors and legislate a mandatory recalculation every three months based on these cost of living factors;

3. Single payer universal health care based upon the Canadian example using the Canada Health Act as a "template" because this is what Americans say they want more than any of the other fraudulent health care schemes.

After being under attack without let-up since the day Harry Truman assumed the Presidency, the working class is entitled to something in return for votes for Democrats; don't you think?

Corporate lobbyists purchase the votes of Democratic politicians every single day just as they do the Republicans... now, it is time for Democrats to buy the votes of working people... the price is a real bargain: Peace, living wages and health care.

By the way, it is only fair that I declare my own "conflict of interest;" I am the Director of Organizing for the Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council so we have a real ax to grind here with the Democrats and Barack Obama, and you better believe we intend to "make some political hay" during this election cycle.

Yours in the struggle,

Alan L. Maki

Thursday, June 19, 2008

House votes to provide $162 billion in war funding

Shame on the Democrats for including extended unemployment benefits and education for veterans along with funding programs for victims of flooding to further finance this dirty war in Iraq.

There is a real hypocritical irony to funding an extension of unemployment benefits to workers here in Minnesota as the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has joined with employers in depriving workers of unemployment benefits to start with, including Iraq war veterans.

Recently Mystic Lake Casino, owned by SMSC Gaming Enterprise, fired a casino worker because he advocated for clean air and water in his community by opposing the "Midtown Burner Project," in no way connected to his employment at Mystic Lake Casino.

An adjudicator with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development ruled the Iraq war veteran and casino worker was ineligible for unemployment benefits because he exercised his First Amendment Right of Freedom of Speech.

People, outraged by the firing and the decision to deny unemployment benefits, are encouraging the organization of a boycott of Mystic Lake Casino and the Little Six Casino, owned by SMSC Gaming Enterprise a front for some of the biggest and most violent mobsters in the United States. SMSC Gaming Enterprise is among the ten largest employers in Minnesota.

The corrupt Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party has been as shamefully silent on the attacks on veterans by employers and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development as its elected officials have been in acquiescing to Bush's war in Iraq

While the U.S. House voted to provide $162 billion in war funding... Minnesota politicians and the bureaucrats they appointed to oversee the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development are working to prevent Iraq war veterans from getting the unemployment benefits to which they are entitled in the first place after they are unjustly fired from their jobs.

Democrats and Republicans sure can work quickly when it comes to funding death and destruction but they haven't been able to provide socialized health care for the American people in over sixty years... now, this is something to think about.

House votes to provide $162 billion in war funding

Jun 19, 10:08 PM (ET)


WASHINGTON (AP) - A much-delayed Iraq war funding bill sailed through the House on Thursday, along with a doubling of college aid for returning troops and help for the unemployed and Midwestern flood victims.

Republican allies of President Bush provided the winning margin in a 268-155 vote to provide $162 billion to fund U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan well into next year.

Democrats opposed to the war, however, succeeded in using the Iraq funding bill as an engine to drive past White House resistance a sweeping revision to GI Bill college benefits and a 13-week extension of unemployment checks for those whose benefits have run out.

Lawmakers separately approved those domestic add-ons by a 416-12 vote, sending the combined bill to the Senate for a vote next week. The White House issued a statement supporting the legislation.

The measure also provides a quick $2.7 billion infusion of emergency flood relief for the Midwest, though more is expected to be needed to deal with the major losses in Iowa, Illinois and other states.

The bill would bring to more than $650 billion the amount provided by Congress for the war in Iraq since it started five years ago. Nearly $200 billion in additional funding has gone to operations in Afghanistan, according to congressional analysts.

It also would give Bush's successor several months to set Iraq policy after taking office in January - and spares lawmakers the need to cast more war funding votes closer to Election Day.

"The way it's been set up now, whoever ... is president will have a few months to think through how we are going to extricate ourselves," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., a key negotiator.

The relatively brief debate featured only glimpses of the bitterness that consumed Congress last year as the new Democratic majority tried - and failed - to force troop withdrawals and other limits on Bush's ability to conduct the war. Most war opponents expressed frustration and a sense of resignation at having to yield to the lame duck president.

"The president basically gets a blank check to dump this war on the next president," said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. "I was hoping George Bush would end his war while he's president."

Republicans cited progress in Iraq since Bush beefed up troop levels last year in an effort to create stability in the war-torn nation.

"Our troops have made tremendous gains, and forcing them to reverse course - as most in the Democratic majority want them to do - would be both irresponsible and reckless," said Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

The new GI Bill essentially would guarantee a full scholarship at any in-state public university, along with a monthly housing stipend, for people who serve in the military for at least three years. It is aimed at replicating the benefits awarded veterans of World War II and more than doubles the value of the benefit - from $40,000 today to $90,000.

The GI Bill measure, authored by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., had such extraordinary support from both Democrats and Republicans that White House objections were easily overridden.

Administration representatives sought to curb its costs in closed-door talks, Obey said. Instead, the chief concession by Democrats was to add an administration-backed plan - costing $10 billion over 10 years - allowing veterans to transfer their benefits to their spouse or a child.

The White House tried much harder to kill the effort to extend unemployment benefits as part of the war funding bill. Just two weeks ago, it appeared the administration would probably prevail. But after the unemployment rate jumped a half-percentage point to a nationwide average of 5.5 percent, House Democrats engineered a veto-proof tally in support of the 13-week extension.

In late-stage talks with Boehner, a key figure in negotiating the overall agreement, Democrats dropped a plan to extend unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks in states with particularly high unemployment rates. They also agreed to require people to have worked for 20 weeks in order to be eligible for the extended payments.

In another key concession, House Democrats dropped a provision to pay for the GI college benefits by imposing a half-percentage point income tax surcharge on incomes exceeding $500,000 for single taxpayers and incomes over $1 million earned by married couples.

The move was long expected, but nonetheless riled moderate and conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats upset that rules requiring additions to federal benefit programs be paid for with additional revenues or offsetting cuts to other programs.

Democrats, many Republicans and governors across the country emerged the victors in a battle with the White House to block new Bush administration rules designed to cut spending on Medicaid health care for the poor and disabled.

On war spending, the bill would prohibit U.S. money from being spent on Iraq reconstruction efforts unless Baghdad matches every dollar spent. But negotiators dropped a demand that Bush negotiate an agreement with Baghdad to subsidize the U.S. military's fuel costs so troops operating in Iraq aren't paying any more than Iraqi citizens are.

Last month, after a bitter debate, the House passed the unemployment benefits extension, the GI Bill improvements and a series of restrictions on Bush's ability to conduct the war. The war funding part of the legislation failed amid the partisanship.

The Senate restored the war funding and folded in more than $10 billion in additional non-war spending backed by Republicans and Democrats alike. Most of that money is now eliminated.

Democratic-led Congress to vote on war funding, unemployment benefits extension

Pick up any newspaper in the United States today, and this is the story you will see with this headline blaring out at you:

Democratic-led Congress to vote on war funding, unemployment benefits extension

Link: http://www.startribune.com/politics/national/congress/20496409.html?page=1&c=y

Democratic-led Congress to vote on war funding, unemployment benefits extension

By ANDREW TAYLOR , Associated Press

Last update: June 19, 2008 - 5:24 AM

WASHINGTON - The Democratic-led Congress finally appears ready to give President Bush his request for $162 billion in long-overdue funds for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A deal worked out Wednesday between House Democrats and Republicans and the White House, if it passes as expected, would put to rest Bush's long-standing battles with the Democrats over war funding. At the same time, Democrats would win help for the unemployed and a remarkably generous increase in GI Bill education benefits for military service members.

The House was to vote on the compromise Thursday. (Note: This is TODAY… Alan Maki)

Progressives have some serious questioning to do here.

When I first learned of this being in the works a couple weeks ago, I called the offices of every single congressperson and the two senators from Minnesota asking to be kept informed as this legislation was progressing. I never received a single follow-up phone call, nor even an e-mail.

Obviously, elected public officials did not want citizen participation or input from working people and the unemployed concerning this legislation.

Now I take my morning walk with Fred, pick up a newspaper and read this headline…

Democratic-led Congress to vote on war funding, unemployment benefits extension.

Is this the way we want to see the working class “united for change?” In return for supporting funding this dirty war in Iraq, working people will get an extension of unemployment benefits. This does not sound like the kind of “unity for change” progressives would be seeking; of course, it isn’t. But, this is an example of what Barack Obama has in mind. This is a very clear and perfect example of the reactionary, ultra-right, neo-liberal agenda Obama supports.

Obviously, Democrats hope to buy the votes of working people and the unemployed with this disgraceful “package.”

This is the kind of bi-partisan “unity” we can look forward to from an Obama presidency.

Again, working people were intentionally kept out of the decision-making loop on this; by both the Democratic Party politicians and labor "leaders."

The AFL-CIO and Change to Win labor federations are shamefully supporting this “compromise” that will pump hundreds of millions of dollars more--- billions of our hard earned dollars--- into the death and destruction taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is an outright disgrace, insult and slap in the face to every worker in this country, the overwhelming majority of whom were, have been and are opposed to these dirty wars.

Military spending destroys jobs. More unemployment results from military spending in spite of George Bush’s claim that “military spending creates a few jobs;” another big lie from Bush, just like the lies that he used to start this dirty war in Iraq.
Legislation for unemployment compensation should have been stand-alone legislation; certainly not tied to military spending… a package including for educational benefits for veterans would have been appropriate and this alone would have been enough to create “bi partisan unity.” There would not have been a single Democrat or Republican who would have dared vote against such legislation with a hotly contested approaching election.

Obama has called for “Unite for Change” meetings, discussions and forums to be held all over this country on Saturday, June 28.

These “Unite for Change” meetings should be turned into the beginning of grassroots educational and organizing efforts that will unite the working class in boldly challenging the neo-liberal agenda of increased military spending to support the carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan and insist that the priorities of this country be reordered away from war and military spending to meet human needs, first and foremost--- no-fee, comprehensive, all-inclusive single-payer universal health care which is publicly funded and publicly administered.

The way to unite the working class is to bring forward a bold progressive agenda that drops funding for military spending, coupled with legislation for a minimum wage that is a real living wage which would tie Unemployment Compensation and Social Security to the same cost of living factors. In this way, we defend the “New Deal” reforms of the past by winning a “new” New Deal for today.

For anyone to suggest that we should give up our vote to support these kinds of worthless, sleazeball politicians who would be so unconscionable to attach the needs of working people for survival to funding an illegal, immoral war based upon lies and deceit is all the justification needed for working people to sit home on Election Day as far as I am concerned.

In fact, on the eve of an Election, working people could have gotten this very same package from a Republican controlled House, Senate and Presidency… so, why do we need Obama and the Democrats?

This shameful scenario seeing Democrats cower to the merchants of death and destruction and the military-financial-industrial complex of which they are an integral part, once again brings forward the need for working people to take up the question of re-establishing a labor party in this country along the lines of the old Farmer-Labor Party which served Minnesotans so well for a decade.

In my opinion, supporting and voting for Cynthia McKinney in this Election can help us work our way towards such independence from the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Perhaps what is most interesting is that neither Obama's nor McCain's comments were even sought for this article concerning this dirty deal that is every bit as dirty as this imperialist war for oil itself.

With the capitalist economy already on the skids to oblivion... this huge increase in military spending now being appropriated by the Democratic controlled Congress will speed up this process leaving untold human misery in its wake... unemployment will soar out of sight as industrial plants from small operations like Northern Engraving Corporation in Waukon, Iowa to the the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant close their doors, and the wrecking balls are brought in.

The time has come for working people to become full participants in the decision making process.

Corporate executives at the Northern Engraving Corporation tried to with hold the news of their decision to close the Waukon, Iowa plant which will cause economic hardship to hundreds of people in this small community without their participation in the decision-making process just like the huge Ford Motor Company did in the Twin Cities... in return, working people are supposed to jump for joy that their unemployment benefits are extended for a few more weeks as the bottomless pit of the merchants of death and destruction continues to be fed.

Working people can not survive under capitalism.

Cynthia McKinney is the only politician who has taken the time to meet with workers at the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant to ask how she can help them...

Barack Obama came to the Twin Cities, addressed over 30,000 people, and he had the unmitigated gall, audacity and arrogance to ignore the plight of the two-thousand workers who will lose their jobs if the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant is allowed to close according to the decisions made behind the closed doors of Ford Motor Company's corporate boardroom in Detroit without any input from workers or the community.

Something to think about, and discuss, around the dinner table this evening.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Health Care and the Circus in the Cities

Google and Microsoft have the ability to wage a major political fight, the kind appreciated in Washington for the money it generates in lobbyist fees and political donations for lawmakers. Both companies began their Washington operations as one-man bands but now have large presences.

To understand the quote from the New York Times above, read on---

Many people look at the Circus in the Cities which tries to package itself as an expression of democracy and they wonder why, and how it is, that these clowns making a pretense of being democratically elected politicians can spend so much time on seemingly petty issues and they can't manage the time of day to resolve our problems of everyday living over which they have control.

Things like health care and the minimum wage never surface and we are told, "Wait until after Election Day and we will take care of you"...

Well, in the case of single-payer universal health care only thirty Election Days--- 60 years--- have come and gone.

And what do we have? One big expensive mess where we can't afford to stay well and we can't afford to die.

Lot's of progressives are enamored with John Conyers and his House Resolution 676... Conyers and his mesmerized progressive friends are telling us, "Wait until after Election Day."

What is there to wait for? H.R. 676 isn't going to be brought forward by Conyers anymore than his promises of impeachment proceedings against the most corrupt President and Administration in U.S. history.

Supporters of H.R. 676 point to a pile of resolutions in support of H.R. 676 by labor unions which mean absolutely nothing because the labor bureaucracy providing the endless trail of resolutions supporting H.R. 676 state before the resolutions are even passed that they will be looking at other health care reforms.

The American people, and especially Minnesotans, when asked what kind of health care system they want point north across the border towards Canada and say, "We want the same thing the Canadians have."

The Canadians do not have anything like the phony health care proposal Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party Senator John Marty is proposing with huge, un-affordable premiums... and people know H.R. 676 isn't going to fly any better than the flying saucers Dennis Kucinich has seen.

Minnesotans have good reason to say they want what the Canadians have because Floyd Olson and Elmer Benson came up with the idea in the first place and Tommy Douglas and Dr. Norman Bethune put single-payer universal health care on the agenda in Canada as a first step towards socialized health care where all the for-profit motives are finally removed from the health care system and keeping people well and treating their illnesses when sick is the only concern... not how much some Wall Street coupon clipper is going to be making off his pharmaceutical, health management, insurance or hospital stocks.

So, why is it we can't even get a hearing on the issues involving health care when everyone in this country knows that there is a serious problem here needing immediate attention?

It is all about lobbying and the money associated with lobbying.

Politicians, including that darling of the limousine liberal crowd--- John Conyers, all they care about are issues that have well-heeled lobbyists on both sides of the issues.

The Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition can't afford to pay for office space, let alone to purchase the services of high-end lobbyists.

If we had big-money lobbyists willing to bribe their way through the capitol building and house office building we would see action real fast.

Don't believe me?

Well, consider this article from the New York Times and note what I have put in bold type:

Any antitrust inquiry in an acquisition of Yahoo is likely to be complex and last months, at least.

Published: February 5, 2008
WASHINGTON — It could be payback time.

Related stories:

Google Works to Torpedo Microsoft Bid for Yahoo (February 4, 2008)

Google Assails Microsoft’s Bid for Yahoo (February 3, 2008)

Yahoo Offer Is Strategy Shift for Microsoft (February 2, 2008)

Eyes on Google, Microsoft Bids $44 Billion for Yahoo (February 2, 2008)

Microsoft's Yahoo Bid
Full coverage of Microsoft's offer to buy Yahoo, who is advising, who else might be in play and where the bid goes from here.

Dennis Brack/Bloomberg News

Senator Herb Kohl and Representative John Conyers indicated willingness to hold hearings on the proposed deal.

An expensive legal and political campaign last year by Microsoft helped delay completion of Google’s $3.1 billion bid for the online advertising company DoubleClick. Microsoft filed briefs against the deal in the United States and abroad, testified against it in Congress, and worked with a public relations firm to generate opposition.

Now Google is preparing to strike back.

With Microsoft bidding nearly $45 billion to buy Yahoo, Google has begun to lay the groundwork to try to delay, and possibly derail, any deal. Google executives have asked company lobbyists to develop a political strategy to challenge the acquisition, which could threaten Google’s dominance of Internet advertising. Google’s top legal officer posted a statement Sunday that criticized the proposed deal.

Spokesmen for the two companies in Washington declined to comment Monday about a looming legal and political battle, which has yet to fully emerge and is likely to stay below the radar at least until the control of Yahoo seems clear.

Moreover, some antitrust specialists and government officials said Google might tread carefully in opposing any deal since it could backfire.

Google dominates the market for Internet advertising, and to the extent it portrays the deal as encroaching on that dominance, it could help make Microsoft’s case that its acquisition of Yahoo would create a more competitive marketplace.

Lawmakers are responding to the takeover attempt. Representative John Conyers, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he would hold hearings to examine any proposed deal.

And Senator Herb Kohl, Democrat of Wisconsin, who leads an important antitrust subcommittee, said he was interested in the proposed acquisition. “Should Yahoo accept Microsoft’s offer,” he said, “the subcommittee expects to hold hearings to explore the competitive and privacy implications of the deal.”

Google and Microsoft have the ability to wage a major political fight, the kind appreciated in Washington for the money it generates in lobbyist fees and political donations for lawmakers. Both companies began their Washington operations as one-man bands but now have large presences.

Microsoft enlarged its Washington staff in the late 1990s after it came under antitrust assault in the Clinton administration. Its lobbying shop is considered among the most effective in the capital, and it has retained more than 20 law firms, lobbying companies and press relations operations for an array of political and regulatory issues.

Google’s Washington office is less than three years old and has been steadily growing. In fall 2006, it established a political action committee and has since used Democrats from the Podesta Group lobbyists, two former Republican senators — Connie Mack and Dan Coats at the law firm of King & Spalding, and the law firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.

Google recently moved to larger quarters, with 27,000 square feet of space including a game room, open work areas, free lunches and environmentally friendly features like recycled rainwater — a smaller version of its Silicon Valley headquarters.

While Microsoft and Google have been occasional allies in Washington — they have worked together on intellectual property legislation and issues of open access — they clashed last year on legal and regulatory fronts.

In addition to the fight over DoubleClick, Google lodged a complaint in antitrust proceedings against plans for Vista, Microsoft’s new operating system. Google said these were anticompetitive because they unfairly discouraged the use of Google’s desktop search program. By lobbying in state capitals, Google persuaded prosecutors to intervene on its behalf. Ultimately, Microsoft agreed to modify the operating system to make it easier for users to decide which search application they wanted.

As they are gearing up now, a legal fight, if at all, is months away. Federal regulators will not begin to consider any deal until it is completed and formally presented. It is not certain whether the deal would be considered by the Justice Department, which has overseen previous antitrust proceedings against Microsoft, or the Federal Trade Commission, which reviewed and approved Google’s purchase of DoubleClick. (That transaction has not closed as European regulators continue to review it.)

Moreover, the size and complexity of a Microsoft-Yahoo deal is such that a government review is unlikely to be completed quickly, particularly in an election year, and may not be final before a new administration takes office in 2009.

Should Yahoo finally agree to be acquired by Microsoft, a focus of the political and legal debate will be the products and markets that could be affected. Microsoft has said the acquisition would increase competition in two related and large markets: Internet search and online advertising. Many ad industry executives, who have watched Google’s rise with some trepidation, agree.

But Google wants the focus of any antitrust debate to shift to issues other than search and advertising. In a statement posted on his company’s blog Sunday, David Drummond, Google’s general counsel, noted that a combined Microsoft and Yahoo would have an “overwhelming share” of the instant messaging and Web e-mail markets, and that the two companies run some of the most trafficked portals on the Web.

“Could a combination of the two take advantage of a PC software monopoly to unfairly limit the ability of consumers to freely access competitors’ e-mail, I.M., and Web-based services?” Mr. Drummond asked.

It is not hard to see why Google wants to shift the focus. In the search market, a combined Microsoft-Yahoo would have about 33 percent of the market, still trailing Google’s 58 percent, according to comScore.

But in Web-based e-mail, comScore ranks Yahoo, with 256 million visitors worldwide in December, and Microsoft, with 255 million, as the top two providers. While there is bound to be overlap among users of the companies’ e-mail services, a combined Microsoft-Yahoo would command a much larger share than Google, which comScore ranks in third place with 90 million visitors in December.

Yahoo and Microsoft also rank No. 1 and 2 in financial news, and No. 2 and No. 1 in instant messaging, according to comScore.

Stephen Labaton reported from Washington and Miguel Helft from San Francisco.

You see, we have a Circus in the Cities and an even more fabulous and spectacular show under-the-big-top in Washington D.C. because of this:

Google and Microsoft have the ability to wage a major political fight, the kind appreciated in Washington for the money it generates in lobbyist fees and political donations for lawmakers. Both companies began their Washington operations as one-man bands but now have large presences.

Until working people can move beyond being manipulated and played for suckers and fools by politicians who always have their hands open behind their backs we aren't going to see a resolution to this health care mess it is as simple as that.

Organizations like the Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition and others seeking real health care reform are going to have to understand that without the big money to turn over to the lobbyists to put into the pockets of politicians there just isn't going to be any legislative action in the form of H.R. 676 or the Marty proposal here in Minnesota and John Conyers and John Marty know that all too well as this one little paragraph of truth from the New York Times points out:

Google and Microsoft have the ability to wage a major political fight, the kind appreciated in Washington for the money it generates in lobbyist fees and political donations for lawmakers. Both companies began their Washington operations as one-man bands but now have large presences.

You know, I have been searching for one little kernel of truth from the New York Times for years... and this is the first time I ever found it... now, to get the Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition to believe it, this is another matter.

Without having the money to turn over to the lobbyists to bribe politicians just to start the debate, we need to consider what we do have and how to use what we have to generate the real debate to win the change we need--- single-payer universal health care as a step towards socialized health care.

What do we have? We have ourselves. Alone we don't amount to anything as far as getting anything from politicians in the way of health care reform... what the heck, our annual pay-checks wouldn't cover walking into one legislators office with a decent bribe.

So, we have to educate our friends, neighbors and fellow workers; we have to organize; we have to begin sending a message to the clowns in the Cities and in Washington D.C. that we aren't buying their line of, "wait until after Election Day" because we now understand the game.

Besides, with the price of gas we probably won't be able to afford the trip to the polls on Election Day... Barack Obama might want to think on that.

I certainly won't waste a penny on gas to drive five miles to vote for a guy who lacks the political and moral courage to turn to the north... smile... point his finger towards Canada... and say: That is what you will get when I enter the White House if you vote for me on Election Day.

We don't need this crap, "But, look at what we will get if we don't vote for Obama." We certainly don't need "Vote Democrat, impeach Bush" John Conyers lecturing us, "We are going to look after you if you put a Democrat in the White House.

This Election kind of reminds me of a friend who recently got a new job. The employer made all these promises that she was going to get this and going to get that if she would agree to work for substantially less than what she thought the job should pay. The other day I asked her how the new job was going, and she said to me, "Well, I should have got all those promises my boss made to me in writing; I am getting the lower pay, but none of the promises."

Something to think about as you are sitting around the kitchen table.

You might want to take a walk to your local library for the book "Livin' the Blues" by Frank Marshall Davis who is sure to become more controversial than Reverend Wright in this election campaign. Barack Obama in his book called Frank Marshall Davis his "mentor." We might be able to learn something from Frank Marshall Davis about how to go about winning real health care reform... but, don't let anyone kid you, there is only ONE WAY >>>>> to real health care reform and that solution is what our neighbors to the north have... don't settle for giving up your vote for anything less.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Some thoughts on Obama and Change

I have been active in the Minnesota DFL and the Democratic Party most of my life.

Lately people have a lot of questions about Obama using the phrase, “Unite For Change.” People want to know what Obama means by “Unite for Change.”

People come up to me and ask, “What kind of “change” is Obama talking about?

Quite frankly, I don’t know what kind of change Obama is after since he doesn’t spell it out and articulate any specifics.

But, what kind of change is needed really isn’t up to Obama anyways, is it?

We know the social fabric of our country will continue to be torn asunder should we get another four more years of Republican rule. Quite frankly, and I am ashamed to say this, given the way the Democrats have acquiesced and gone along with Bush the last eight years I’m not all that confident Democrats will do any better controlling the Presidency, the House and the Senate. Part of the reason I feel this way is because the Democrats have had ample opportunity to stop Bush in his tracks; they didn’t.

Working people have been pushed out of the decision-making loop for quite some time in our country and we have to figure out a way to get back in the mix.

It is up to working people to clearly chart the course for progressive change and to unite for change behind the agenda we articulate. We need to make politicians understand that they work for us, not the other way around.

Several very basic changes come to mind that I think about:

1.)In the area of health care we need single-payer universal health care which will be a stepping stone to get us to socialized health care. Obama’s idea of health care “reform” leaves much to be desired; he wants to leave the profit gouging insurance companies, HMO’s, doctors and the pharmaceutical industry in control when most of us know this is what is wrong with the system--- profits come before people; and, it should be the other way around.

2.)We need a minimum wage that is a real living wage. Any job that an employer needs done should provide the worker doing that job a real living wage. The way to arrive at what the minimum wage should be is to use the statistics and calculations of the United States Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics based on real cost of living factors rather than having some politicians pull a miserly figure out of their hat at election time. If employers don’t like this let them do the work themselves; with the robbery at the pumps it won’t be long before it won’t pay to go to work anyways. What’s Obama’s stand on the minimum wage? I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter. We need to seize the initiative and make it clear to him the change we want.

3.)We need to end this dirty war for oil in Iraq; it’s a war that was based upon lies and deceit right from the beginning and it has taken a terrible toll, not only on the people in Iraq, but on us here, too--- to the point where we can say that every bomb dropped and every bullet fired is destroying our society, too. We can’t have a foreign policy which sees wars as solutions to complex problems. As far as I can see Obama doesn’t really offer much change in this area either so we are going to have to take the initiative in charting a course for change as we expect things to be and make our voices heard.

4.)We need to make it clear that in any program aimed at “greening” America through massive government subsidies to business and industry, that what taxpayers finance, taxpayers should own--- including the profits.

5.)Public ownership of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant needs to be considered. Saving two-thousand jobs is a major priority for Minnesotans in this election.

In the end, we should see ourselves and our unity as the surge for change, and stop waiting for Obama or any other politicians to explain what kind of change they are for.

Change should be about solving real problems. The people experiencing these problems, you and me, should be able to articulate the solutions… this is what real change is about.

In a democracy people are supposed to be active participants in movements for social change, not mere cheerleaders clapping and waving placards for politicians mouthing hollow, meaningless platitudes about “change.”

“Yes we can” bring about “change” if we get together where we work and in our communities.

In reading Barack Obama’s book I learned about his mentor, Frank Marshall Davis. I then got interested in finding out more about who this “mentor” was. I think Frank Marshall Davis would be somewhat disappointed in Obama today because Frank Marshall Davis didn’t mince any words when it came to articulating the problems of working people and bringing forward real solutions to the problems. Frank Marshall Davis understood that working people once educated, organized and united are a powerful force for “change.” Frank Marshall Davis understood something Barack Obama doesn’t seem to have learned from his “mentor;” that in order to get “change,” you need to articulate and clearly define and spell out what kind of “change” is being talked about. Of course, as we all know, Frank Marshall Davis was a Communist and he had a very good understanding of the underlying source of problems which all too often goes unstated and unchallenged and remains hidden because of the high fear-factor level in this country; I am referring to capitalism--- a thoroughly rotten system. Frank Marshall Davis also understood through his thorough studies of the situation that socialism provided the only workable alternative to capitalism.

Education starts in our homes, gathered around the kitchen table discussing our problems with family and friends. From there these discussions need to find their way into our places of employment and into the larger community.

There really isn’t much for us to learn about “change” from Obama, but there is quite a bit to be gleaned from the writings of Frank Marshall Davis and I thank Barack Obama for bringing him to my attention… now I can say that Frank Marshall Davis is in many ways my mentor, too.

Obama has called on all of us who want change, irrespective of our differences, to come together on June 28, 2008 under the auspices of “Unite For Change;” I think this is a good idea. We can use this opportunity to discuss what kind of change we need in our communities and in our country.

I would encourage people to exchange contact information, e-mail addresses and phone numbers so we can start networking and organizing around our problems and their solutions.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mystic Lake Casino

The management of SMSC Gaming Enterprise and SMSC, owners of the Mystic Lake Casino and Little Six Casino, are engaged in a rash of firings of workers and management personnel as they are trying to cover up massive high-level theft and stealing.

Speculation is growing that heads are about to roll in the Tribal Government of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community as rumors of slot-machine fixing and table game rigging persist.

Stay tuned.

Something to think about... the Crooks are in control.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Ford may review truck plant closure plans, Coleman says

Two news stories, two approaches towards plant closings:

One headline reads:

Ford may review truck plant closure plans, Coleman says

Another headline blazes:

CAW boss disappointed after meeting with GM on plant closure, considers strike, other options

Obviously this closing of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant is far from the “done deal” that many, including the Minnesota AFL-CIO, Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, the UAW leadership and others have proclaimed as an excuse for not uniting working people in a struggle to save the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant and hundreds of jobs.

The time has come for Minnesota DFL State Senator James Metzen to boldly step forward pushing to pass S.F. 607 now!

It is time for the leaders of UAW Local 879 to fully mobilize the retired and active workers, flex their political muscle, and demand pay-back from the MN DFL for many years of loyal support.

The MN DFL has slavishly and shamefully been manipulated by the architects, contractors, bankers and real-estate speculators along with reactionary leaders of the building trades unions who have piggishly put a few jobs for their own members before the rights of autoworkers to continued employment and the welfare of the local community and the economy of our state.

Republican Norm Coleman opportunistically got involved in this issue to try to take the wind out of the sails from the huge Obama rally. However, what Coleman has done is reignite what we all know are the feelings of the vast majority of the people who want to see this plant kept opened.

If Ford won’t keep the plant open now; then, as we have been saying, public ownership is the only solution to saving this plant.

Working people should not be relying on Norm Coleman and the Ford Motor Company to keep this plant operating… this plant can easily and cheaply be re-tooled to produce many other socially necessary and useful products--- from the components for rail to electric or solar or wind generating equipment to making a product making hydro-electric generating plants more productive and efficient or even manufacturing hi-technology systems to bring fresh water to millions of people languishing from drought around the world to pollution control equipment to retrofit a vast assortment of polluting industries... what can be produced in the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant is only limited by our imaginations to turn production in this country towards meeting the needs of people and our living environment rather then seeing production which now takes place with the sole motivation of expanding the bottom line of the Wall Street coupon clippers.

The time has come to take the concept of "people before corporate profits" from mere rhetoric to reality in a way that creates a better life for working people and all of humanity.

Look, let’s be frank; a factory is a factory--- only a fool would destroy this kind of wealth embodied in the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant by taking a wrecking ball to it; workers don’t care what they produce, just so they continue getting a pay-check. Obviously, there are products which could be produced that are more socially useful and beneficial than others--- but, right now, our goal is to save hundreds of union jobs by saving this plant. If Ford doesn’t want to continue production, that is their problem--- our problem is to see that workers continue producing in this plant.

It is time for those like Norm Coleman who talk about “democracy” to bring Ford workers and Minnesotans who have subsidized this operation for over eighty-years into the decision making process. Up until now, politicians like Norm Coleman and Mayor Coleman have maneuvered to prevent working people and tax-payers from having a say in the decision-making process so fundamental to democracy.

It is shameful that Norm Coleman would opportunistically raise expectations about keeping this plant open for his own self-serving political reasons while leaving the final decision on the future of this plant to a bunch of greedy, exploiting parasites and Wall Street coupon clippers operating behind closed doors in Ford’s Detroit corporate boardroom.

It is time to bring the decision-making process over the future of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant to Minnesota--- where it belongs: with Ford workers and tax-payers having the final say.

The response from United States DFL Congresswoman Betty McCollum is equally as shameful as Norm Coleman’s self-serving attempt to use this issue as she belittled Coleman’s efforts instead of offering to join him and by bringing pressure to bear on State Senator Jim Metzen to get S.F. 607 through his Senate Committee on Business, Industry and Jobs which is dominated by the DFL over Republicans--- eleven to seven.

Which brings me to wonder if Coleman is really sincere; why doesn’t he pressure the seven Republicans on this Committee to get behind passing this very straight-forward piece of legislation which brings the decision–making process into Minnesota?

Why DFL Congressman James Oberstar and his staff of displaced iron ore miners has been in hiding every time this issue is brought forward needs to be explained, also; perhaps Peter Makowski would like to explain?

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s Iron Range staff member, Jerry Fallos, has been shamefully silent, too.

The Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party state convention is underway in Rochester this weekend… what will we hear from the Minnesota DFL on where it stands on the future of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities assembly Plant?

In the past, James Oberstar has mesmerized convention delegates with his outstanding oratory of “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs;” will Congressman Oberstar have the moral and political courage to open his big mouth in defense of the jobs of Ford workers… which is also a defense of his constituents in the iron ore mines and taconite industry.

It is also time for Canadian and U.S. autoworkers to join hands in searching for solutions to the issues involved in these plant closures... combining the militancy and left-wing thinking of Canadian auto workers with cross-border calls for public ownership of these auto plants and/or nationalizations of the entire industry could prove to be a very powerful force for real change, which someone might want to talk to Barack Obama about; Canadian NDP leader Jack Layton should be up for this discussion.

Let's get former Manitoba NDP Premier Ed Schreyer involved in helping us in finding a solution to saving these auto plants... he managed to save a huge bus plant and hundreds of jobs in Manitoba... we could use his help here in Minnesota. Is anyone curious about how Premier Ed Schreyer, with help from the Communist Party of Canada-Manitoba, saved the bus plant in Winnipeg?

CAW leader Buzz Hargrove might want to consult with Ed Schreyer and the leaders of the CAW in Manitoba, too, in looking for a solution to keeping auto plants open. His sleazy affair with Liberalism hasn't seemed to pay off in saving a single job.

Ford may review truck plant closure plans, Coleman says

By KEVIN DIAZ, Star Tribune

June 6, 2008

WASHINGTON - Sen. Norm Coleman left a meeting with Ford Motor Co. officials Friday expressing optimism that the automaker will review its decision to close the plant in St. Paul that makes the Ranger pickup.

"I'm not raising any false expectations; all I've done is raise the curtain," Coleman told reporters during a conference call from Detroit.

"We'll see if it's fruitful or not."

The Minnesota Republican said he was given no time frame for the review. Ford plans to shutter the plant in September 2009, and Coleman acknowledged that "nothing's been changed, as of right now."

But he said that Ford officials told him that the changing vehicle market responding to $4-a-gallon gasoline is prompting sweeping reviews of operations, including the future of the Ranger, a medium-size pickup that is made exclusively at the plant in St. Paul's Highland Park neighborhood.

"It was clearly expressed to me that Ford is looking at all aspects of their operations," including the company's plans to close the plant, Coleman said. "That decision is being looked at. It is being reviewed."

Ford spokeswoman Angie Kozleski said Friday that the plan to close the plant has not changed, but that all operations are under review. "We are aggressive in lining up our capacity with demand, and are examining all areas of our business," she said.

Coleman flew to Detroit on Thursday, a day after he wrote Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally, asking that the company review its decision about the truck plant. Coleman noted that Ranger sales have increased this year, as car buyers move away from bigger and heavier sport-utility vehicles and pickups.

Coleman met Friday with Joseph Hinrichs, Ford's vice president for global manufacturing, and Curt Magleby, the company's director of government relations. He said the meeting came at "an opportune time," in light of two recent industry reports praising the Ranger and the plant where it is built.

On Wednesday, a J.D. Power survey ranked the Ranger second in its market segment for quality. On Thursday, a Harbour report ranked the St. Paul plant first in productivity.

"The [1,000] workers of the Ford plant should feel very proud of what they're doing," Coleman said.

Coleman, who has been criticized for not including other Minnesota politicians in his overtures to Ford, said he would talk Friday with Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a fellow Republican. He also said that he plans to talk with some Democrats.

"There are internal things that Ford has to do," Coleman said. "The good news is that all options are on the table."

CAW boss disappointed after meeting with GM on plant closure, considers strike, other options

By TOM KRISHER , Associated Press

June 6, 2008

DETROIT - The Canadian Auto Workers could strike or take other action against General Motors Corp. because the company won't budge on plans to close an Ontario pickup truck factory, the union's president said Friday.

Buzz Hargrove said the automaker committed to keeping the Oshawa plant open in a contract agreement on May 15. But earlier this week, GM said it would close the plant in 2009. It employs 2,600 hourly and 300 salaried workers.

After meeting with GM CEO Rick Wagoner on Friday in Detroit, Hargrove said the company wouldn't change its latest stance.

"We're walking away incredibly disappointed," he said. "We still feel betrayed."

GM said it can idle factories if market conditions warrant. In May, U.S. pickup sales fell more than 38 percent, and the company has said the market declined more rapidly than expected last month.

Detroit-based GM announced Tuesday it was closing Oshawa and three other pickup truck and sport utility vehicle factories as $4 per gallon gas has caused sales to tumble.

Union officials described the 90-minute meeting as tense. Hargrove said the CAW would decide its next move after its national convention later this month. Other moves could include arbitration, legal action or filing a complaint with Canada's labor board, he said.

A union blockade of GM's Oshawa offices will continue, union officials said.

Hargrove said market conditions haven't changed in the 2 1/2 weeks since GM agreed to the new three-year deal with the CAW.

"We haven't seen any evidence of that whatsoever," he said, adding that gasoline prices haven't changed since then.

Hargrove said the union has time to decide its next move because the plant isn't scheduled to close until 2009.

"They made a clear-cut commitment on the truck plant" to keep it open and invest in it, he said.

Wagoner told Hargrove and other union officials there was some promise of new products for the Oshawa car plant, Hargrove said. But the CAW president said that wasn't good enough.

Chris Buckley, president of the union local at the truck plant, said GM wrecked any trust it had with the union.

"They fractured the relationship severely," he said.

GM spokesman Stew Low said the factory commitments in the CAW contract are contingent upon board approval, market conditions and making a viable business case.

At the time of negotiations, GM still believed that the slumping pickup market could recover, Low said. Since then, the the trend away from trucks to cars has accelerated, he said.

"We're not in a situation where this is a cyclical type of economic condition where we can wait it out," he said. "We think it's a fundamental shift."

The decision to cease production at the four plants, including Oshawa truck, was made just a few days before Tuesday's announcement and after the bargaining was concluded, he said.

"We absolutely bargained in good faith," Low said.

Oshawa truck was picked for idling because it makes high-end pickups with more expensive options, a segment of the market affected severely by the sales decline, Low said.

Low said GM committed during contract talks to build a second car at the Oshawa car plant, and is looking at a third because the plant is flexible enough to build several models. He would not say what models.

The union's office blockade has forced GM employees to work from their homes, Low said.

GM shares fell 83 cents, or 4.9 percent, to $16.22 Friday after sinking to a 52-week low of $16.20 earlier in the session.

Friday, June 6, 2008

St. Paul police to apologize for detaining antiwar activist

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

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

Sent: Friday, June 06, 2008 8:36 AM

To: 'ppheifer@startribune.com'; 'rfurst@startribune.com'

Cc: 'Eric Lee'

Subject: Re: Democracy and the anti-democratic Policy of the St. Paul Police Department and City of St. Paul

Like the guy in your story, the St. Paul police detained me on Election Day for “taking pictures of the Ford Plant” and handing out leaflets advocating public ownership as the solution to saving the Plant, hydro dam and two-thousand jobs--- an alternative Senator Norman Coleman and other politicians refuse to consider in spite of all their empty rhetoric around election time on this issue. The police came out of nowhere and blocked off half of Ford Parkway claiming they “had a complaint of a stranger taking unauthorized photographs.” Several officers held me while another took my wallet out of my pocket and searched it for identification. After I complained to the Mayor, the police later--- about three months later--- “apologized” in a telephone call, saying they were “sorry for the inconvenience.” This is very typical behavior on the part of the St. Paul Police Department from what I understand in talking to others. One has to wonder if such anti-democratic conduct is not part of the training process of the St. Paul police department. I have photographs of the police detaining me and blocking off Ford Parkway as if I was some kind of bank robber or terrorist. In fact, the Sergeant on the scene who physically assaulted me by twisting my arm behind my back as another pulled my hair stated so another officer could grab my wallet stated, “In this day and age of terrorism we have a right to be concerned about a stranger taking unauthorized photographs.”

Police, concerned about the “crimes” of leafleting and photographing! Aren’t there some lights turning on upstairs in the dead-heads passing themselves off as elected officials?

The St. Paul Police and Ford Security routinely prohibit, under threat of arrest, the distribution of leaflets concerning the future of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant outside the doors of the UAW-Ford-MnScu Training Center even though there are newspaper stands at these same doors and tax-payer dollars have financed this “public” institution.

The time has come for a real in-depth story on the state of democracy in St. Paul.

The real question is: Why hasn’t the American Civil Liberties Union sued the St. Paul Police Department and the City of St. Paul already?

I had been intending to participate with a group of people leafleting the Obama event at the Xcel Center concerning saving the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant but I knew, from my past experience and run-in with the St. Paul police department that they would be out to harass people for exercising their First Amendment Rights and I figured it wasn’t worth the hassle… I wonder how many other people have been intimidated from participating “in the democratic process” in the same way? And then these same cops and politicians boast about the United States being the worlds’ greatest democracy.

While all of this police repression of our democratic rights goes on and continues unabated the circus in the Cities continues with politicians hypocritically calling for “citizen participation;” yes, come participate; get slapped around by the police; have your picture put in a police “red-squad” file, get detained; get arrested… get ticketed and tossed into a police car and driven ten blocks away and left off… what comes next? The Gestapo?

I am told by a St. Paul elected public official that the St. Paul Police Department together with the FBI and Homeland Security have been monitoring my postings on the “Labour Start” Facebook page. What the heck is going on in this country?

Alan L. Maki

St. Paul police to apologize for detaining antiwar activist


June 5, 2008

St. Paul police said Thursday that they will apologize to an antiwar organizer who was detained Tuesday outside the Obama campaign rally at the Xcel Energy Center for handing out leaflets promoting a Sept. 1 march on the Republican National Convention.
The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota said the arrest of Mick Kelly, 50, of Minneapolis, does not augur well for the way authorities will treat protesters during the convention.

"We're concerned the police so quickly violated Mick Kelly's First Amendment rights," Charles Samuelson said.

Mayor Chris Coleman said Thursday that he did not think the arrest presages anything about how convention protests will go. "It just says we need to educate our officers," he said. "The First Amendment is a core value of me as mayor and [John] Harrington as [police] chief.

Coleman praised police for moving quickly "to correct what was a mistake." He added, "We are going to move quickly to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Tom Walsh, a St. Paul police spokesman, said police initially believed that Kelly's leaflet distribution was in violation of an ordinance that prohibits peddling within a certain distance of the Xcel Center.

"But it's not," he said. "It's a free speech issue. He wasn't selling or vending, so in this case he was within his rights."

The citation will be dismissed, Walsh said, and the event commander, Cmdr. Joe Neuberger, will apologize to Kelly. Walsh said free speech issues will be part of the training officers receive for the convention. That training has begun but has not been completed, he said.

Walsh said there were no other arrests at the event. Peddlers (who had been selling campaign souvenirs) who were within the radius of the ordinance were asked to move and did, he said.

"It was an impromptu event," Walsh said. "A limited amount of resources were available. ... The safety and security of people attending the event was our priority."

Jack Larson, vice president and general manager of the Xcel Center, said he thought the ordinance barred leafleting on the Xcel sidewalks, but learned Thursday that it referred only to peddling.

If it happens again, he said, he might ask police to check to make sure the leafleteers were not peddling.

Coordinating activists Kelly, a member of the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, was coordinating five activists who handed out 3,000 fliers to supporters of Barack Obama. Xcel security told him that he could not leaflet in front of the Xcel, and when he continued, police were called.

Kelly said police officers told him to leave. "I said, 'That's not right. I don't have to leave. I'll continue leafleting.'"

He said he was put in a police car, driven about 10 blocks, issued a citation and released. He said he hurried back to the Xcel to hand out more fliers.

Kelly's arrest was witnessed by Teresa Nelson, an ACLU attorney who fired off an e-mail to the St. Paul city attorney's office, protesting the arrest.

The city attorney's office referred a reporter's questions about the ordinance Thursday to Bob Kessler, St. Paul's director of safety and inspections. Kessler said the ordinance was designed to stop ticket scalpers who were creating congestion.

Kelly is part of a group that objects to the route the police gave for the Sept. 1 antiwar march to the Xcel.

"I'm angry because we have the right to speak out against the war," he said. "The city's talk about all of St. Paul being a free speech zone is a joke."

ppheifer@startribune.com • 651-298-1551 rfurst@startribune.com • 612-673-7382

A comment: Mr. Kelly has a right to be angry.

A question: Why haven't we heard similar anger coming from Obama, the Democratic Party and the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party?

Is this kind of police behavior part of what we can expect from an Obama Presidency?

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, June 5, 2008

Coleman to make case for Ford plant in St. Paul

Comment by Alan Maki on article below as posted on Pioneer Press web site:

Norm Coleman should be applauded for trying to keep the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant open even if it is only a cheap campaign gimmick on his part.

What is really unfortunate is that the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party has betrayed the trust of working people and completely abandoned all efforts to save this important plant which creates so many jobs; a plant powered for free by clean, green hydro-electricity.

Tax-payers have subsidized this entire operation to the hilt and if Ford refuses to keep the plant open the whole works should be placed under public ownership with the plant being re-tooled as part of the plan to "green America" as proposed by Obama.

Strange Obama didn't find the ingenuity to mention the need to save this Plant as part of his "green" scheme.

I'm sure the Obama Campaign is just thrilled that Norm Coleman took the wind out of their sails after spending millions turning out a huge crowd at the Excel Center... only to be done in by Republican Norm Coleman's call to keep the Plant open and save the jobs.

Perhaps Norm Coleman should consider adding his weight towards ending this dirty war in Iraq and that money saved could finally be used for the real peace dividends to finance retooling this plant after it is brought under public ownership.



Coleman to make case for Ford plant in St. Paul


By Frederic J. Frommer
Associated Press Writer

Article Last Updated: 06/04/2008 06:09:49 PM CDT

Senator Norm Coleman addresses the Republican Convention after receiving their endorsement Friday afternoon May 30, 2008 at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, MN.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Norm Coleman announced plans today to travel to Detroit to urge Ford Motor Co. to scrap plans to close the company's St. Paul plant.

The Minnesota Republican also made the appeal in a letter he sent today to Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally. The plant is scheduled to close next year when production of the U.S. version of the Ford Ranger is expected to end.

"The Twin Cities assembly plant has a strong history of producing light, fuel-efficient vehicles that are now in high demand due to the escalating price of gasoline," Coleman wrote, "and I encourage you to consider a long-term mission for this plant that utilizes its contributions to the international automobile market."

Coleman, a former St. Paul mayor, noted that sales of Ranger have increased this year over the same period last year. And he argued that Minnesota is "the perfect environment for the manufacture of light trucks and flex-fuel automobiles," given the ethanol plants and E-85 pumps located in the state.

Ford spokeswoman Angie Kozleski said that the company "welcomes the interest of government officials. We will review the letter when we receive it."

But she noted that company's current plans are to close the plant in the third quarter of next year.

Coleman plans to travel to Detroit for the meeting in the next couple of weeks, said his spokesman, LeRoy Coleman.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Conference on Disinvestment canceled for "lack of interest"

What was being promoted in the Twin Cities labor community as a big trade union "Conference on Disinvestment" was abruptly canceled last week by the initiators and organizers; supposedly because of "lack of interest."

A conference of this nature is desperately needed here in Minnesota.

One has to ask how there possibly could have been a "lack of interest." If there was this "lack of interest" we need to get to the bottom of why there would be a "lack of interest" on such an important topic.

Given that this "Conference on Disinvestment" was "initiated and organized" (organized about as well as the trade union bureaucracy undertakes organizing of the unorganized or the attempt to save closing plants and thousands of jobs) by the "leadership" of the trade union movement and the Labor Education Service of the University of Minnesota.

It is fair to ask why the Minnesota AFL-CIO and Change to Win labor federations and their affiliated state and local unions and labor councils could not pull off a successful conference of this nature.

In fact, the conference was doomed from the start as the leaders of the Minnesota AFL-CIO and Change to Win refused to allow the question of saving the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant to be the focus for this "Conference on Disinvestment."

In fact, the regional and local "leadership" of the UAW did not even push forward the need to focus on saving this important Ford Plant, some two thousand jobs and the hydro-electric generating dam which powers the Plant with electricity to spare.

In fact, the organizers of this "Conference" wanted to have a conference which would make them look good but lead to no action locally... all talk, no action.

The United Steel workers were among the endorsers as were the building trades unions and even AFSCME and SEIU. Even the Teamster's Union was involved.

So, how could there have been a "lack of interest?"

One would think so many unions with high paid staffs who made a commitment to organizing this conference would have had no problem getting interest in this conference.

The initiators and organizers of this conference need to explain why this conference did not come off.

There was a very good article by Carl Bloice (a former editor of the Daily World--- formerly "The Daily Worker")who writes "Left Margin" and publishes on "Black Commentator." One of Bloice's essays is on the "reinvestnow.org" website:

Taking the Train to a Clean Environment, a Sustainable
Economy & Jobs

There was once a train that ran straight from downtown
Los Angeles to Santa Monica on the coast. I think it
was painted red - memory being what it is and being
that is was when I was a kid. My family would leave
home in South Central and be at the amusement pier or
the beach in about an hour. It was part of the Pacific
Electric Railway, at the time the largest trolley
system in the world, running 1,100 miles around
Southern California. Unfortunately, it went the way of
so many rail lines in the country as LA yielded to the
oil industry and the auto companies in their desire to
put everybody into a car (or cars; there are two and a
half cars for every family in the state.) or an
exhaust-spewing bus. Now the only way to traverse that
distance is on a thick maze of congested freeways.

I got to thinking about the red train the other day
when I came across Paul Krugman's May 19 column,
"Stranded in Suburbia," in the New York Times. Noting
that oil prices continue to soar, and the idea that oil
production will soon peak and go no higher is being
widely assumed, Krugman noted that Europeans "who have
achieved a high standard of living in spite of very
high energy prices - gas in Germany costs more than $8
a gallon - have a lot to teach us about how to deal
with that world." He was writing from Berlin.

"If Europe's example is any guide, here are the two
secrets of coping with expensive oil: own
fuel-efficient cars, and don't drive them too much."

"I have seen the future, and it works," Krugman wrote.
Those words immediately recalled to mind the feeling I
had in making my way around Berlin last summer. My
feeling was not so much that I had seen the future but
rather that I was experiencing the present and my
homeland was so far in the past.

Krugman might have also mentioned Berlin's advances in
environmentally-friendly building construction methods
or the provision of other alternative transportation
means such as widespread safe bike lanes and provisions
for the physically challenged to get around.

The day after the Times column appeared, columnist
Derrick Jackson took up the subject in the Boston
Globe. He noted that over lunch with an Amtrak
machinist, Presidential candidate Barack Obama
commented, "The irony is, with the gas prices what they
are, we should be expanding rail service." The previous
week in Michigan, Obama had raised the question of fuel
efficiency standards, concluding "We are taking steps
in the right direction. American automakers are on the
move. But we have to do more."

We can expect a lot of pandering to the auto industry
between now and November, wrote Jackson. "Everyone
knows that whatever Obama says about the US auto
industry is subject to the obvious. American automakers
are on the move all right, but to Washington, to lobby
against higher fuel efficiency. Any steps in the right
direction have been baby steps. High-speed rail could
use some of this pampering and pandering."

Higher fuel efficiency standards are a given. The
European Parliament is right now taking up a proposal
to have every car sold on the continent in 2020 use
less fuel than nearly all autos sold there today. And
Jackson is quite right that right now in Washington
fuel efficiency is the political battlefield. But
that's a far cry from sane and sensible national
transportation and environmental policies that will
bring Americans even close to the Europeans. That's
where his comments on Amtrak come in.

"It is obvious that the pressure will mount on Obama,
the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for
president, to bow to the interests of the auto and
airline industries," wrote Jackson. "In 2000 and 2004,
two-thirds of campaign contributions from both those
industries went to Republican causes, according to the
Center for Responsive Politics. In the 2008 cycle, the
Democrats are getting about half of the money from both

"It is one thing to meet with an Amtrak worker for a
photo-op," wrote Jackson. "It is another to get on
board for the rail service America needs for a green
economy, less urban congestion, and a more civilized
future. Obama says, 'Detroit won't find a better
partner than me in the White House.' In the past, that
has also meant making a pariah out of Amtrak. Nothing
would symbolize a break from this past more than a
whistle-stop tour in the presidential campaign, to
promote trains themselves."

Both Krugman and Jackson cite some reasons for
optimism. Jackson notes that rail travel is sharply on
the rise in response to soaring gas prices. The problem
is that it is a drop in the bucket. And Amtrak doesn't
go everywhere people want - or sometimes need - to go.
And it's expensive. It still cost more to go from one
region of the country to another on the train than it
does by air - even with the extra $15 a bag.

"There have been many news stories in recent weeks
about Americans who are changing their behavior in
response to expensive gasoline - they're trying to shop
locally, they're canceling vacations that involve a lot
of driving, and they're switching to public transit,"
says Krugman. "But none of it amounts to much. For
example, some major public transit systems are excited
about ridership gains of 5 or 10 percent. But fewer
than 5 percent of Americans take public transit to
work, so this surge of riders takes only a relative
handful of drivers off the road."

It was reported last week that many working people in
the country are deciding to give up on trying to meet
their mortgage payments in order to be able to pay off
their car loans - having no other way to get to their

Krugman speaks of the need to retreat from suburbia and
learn to live in more compact areas, saying "Any
serious reduction in American driving will require more
than this - it will mean changing how and where many of
us live." While that's not exactly utopian it's not
likely to happen soon.

Jackson is quite right that the country needs greatly
expanded rail service "for a green economy, less urban
congestion, and a more civilized future."

However, there is one thing glaringly left out of these
recent commentaries on the cost of fuel and the need
for an improved public transportation system at all

Jackson suggests that Obama and others are pandering
not just to the auto industry as such but to auto
workers as well. There's a reason for that.
Unemployment rates are increasing and the ability to
secure good, adequately remunerated jobs has to be one
of the principle challenges before the nation.

There's been a lot of talk recently about the need to
do something about repairing and upgrading the
country's infrastructure, including roads, bridges and
levees (another area where the Europeans and Asians are
way out ahead). But mostly it's lip service. What we
need is a massive public works program to create a
physical environment suitable for the rest of the 21st
Century. Any program to create a "green" economy or
reducing dependency on petroleum must include the
project of getting us out of the present cul-de-sac of
over dependence on the automobile. There are new rail
cars to be built, tracks to be laid, computer networks
to be constructed and power lines to be erected. What
better way to create meaningful work for those who can
no longer depend on machinery production to fully meet
the need and the urban youth increasingly faced with a
dismal economic future?

Given the dismal depths to which the current electoral
campaign has fallen, it would be hard to generate a
sensible, comprehensive discussion of the country's
future transportation policies. But it would be a good
thing if it were somehow injected into the debate. It's
a tall order but one that has to be faced up to if we
are to avoid falling further behind. The future of
train travel would be a good place to start.

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Carl Bloice
is a writer in San Francisco, a member of the National
Coordinating Committee of the Committees of
Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and formerly
worked for a healthcare union.

For some reason, Carl Bloice has not written about public ownership of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant and this is unfortunate.

Had the initiators and organizers of the Twin Cities "Conference on Disinvestment" made saving the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant the centerpiece of their conference, the conference would have been a great success. A previous "Labor and Sustainability Conference" held at the UAW Local union hall and at the UAW-Ford-MnScu Training Center drew hundreds of labor activists.

The crux of the problem in mobilizing the working class to take united action to defend their own interests was recently pointed out by Lynn Williams--- the former International President of the United Steelworkers who said that labor leaders look negatively upon rank and file activism when they should be encouraging such activities even if it means rank and file activity makes going a little uncomfortable for the union leaderships once in awhile.

Perhaps the Conference initiators and organizers made a mistake in not inviting Lynn Williams and former Manitoba Premier and Manitoba New Democratic Party member Ed Schreyer, who initiated the public takeover of the bus plant in Winnipeg, Manitoba which saved the plant and hundreds of jobs, as participants in the "Conference on Disinvestment."

The cancellation of this "Conference on Disinvestment" for "lack of interest" is not the kind of message we want our class adversaries to be getting during this important election year. First of all, the signal sent is that education of the working class is not taking place. Second, the message this sends to our class adversaries is that working people don't care. Third, the message sent is that working people are not capable of thinking through their problems and formulating alternatives to the "crisis of everyday living" working people are experiencing because capitalism is on the skids to oblivion and is going to take us all down with this rotten system based upon the exploitation of workers where the capitalist class takes all the wealth created by workers and lives high on the hog while so many working people are forced to go without decent jobs, housing, health care and even the basic requirement of food and clothing not to mention clean air to breath and good water to drink.

The signal this cancellation sends to the Republicans and those in the "Summit Hill Club" and the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce who dominate the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party is that working people don't have the means to stand up to them in bringing forward a progressive, working class agenda with solutions to the problems which have been created by the neo-liberal agenda promoting capitalist globalization of which United States imperialism is the pillar.

I find it strange that I find the highly paid staff members of these unions very interested in the free booze and all the "goodies" at the Minnesota AFL-CIO conventions and the keggers at the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party conventions yet there is no enthusiasm to conduct outreach to the rank-and-file to stimulate interest in a "Conference on Disinvestment."

The Labor Education Service of the University of Minnesota, the prime "mover and shaker" behind this "Conference on Disinvestment," could use a little reorganizing itself to bring it into line with the reality that there really is a class struggle and capitalism is the source of our problems with socialism the solution. Breaking from the grip of the cowardly business-dominated Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party might also be of some help to the Labor Education Service in pulling off a successful conference of this nature which is sorely needed if we are going to bring forward real solutions to the problems confronting the working class.

We all know this "Conference on Disinvestment" wasn't canceled for "lack of interest; this "Conference on Disinvestment" was canceled because the initiators, organizers and conveners ran away from the real issues just like the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party State Convention later this week will run from the issues of importance to working people... from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to single-payer universal health care to the myriad of problems plaguing the working class here in Minnesota ranging from the "Casino Compacts" intentionally created with an anti-worker bias to the problem of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development being biased against working people to bringing forward solutions to global warming in a way which will create jobs and livable communities.

In general, there remains a big fear in talking about the politics and economics of livelihood... working class, socialist politics which have deep red roots here in Minnesota; the time has come to do a little cultivating to assist fresh shoots of rank and file activism in breaking through the hard, crusty soil of class collaboration and capitalist apologetics.