Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

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Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"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...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

From Capitalist Crisis to Building a Movement to Win a New Era of Justice and Peace: A Worker's Perspective

When I headed out for three weeks with ten-thousand leaflets printed by a United Auto Worker’s local and a United Steel Worker’s local with my “Letter to the Editor” (see below), I never thought so much interest and discussion was going to be generated.

To date I have received over 6,000 e-mails and over 300 contributions in the mail with people offering me housing and meals for my fall follow-up trip where we will set up committees for advocating a real public health care system… the real “public option.”

People are not happy with the direction this country is going… what I found was anger wherever I went in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan… not just anger over the health care mess; but I met people everywhere who were eager to talk… people who are losing their homes or already lost their homes, many filing bankruptcy. Many people did not know where their next meal was coming from or what the future held for them and their families when unemployment compensation runs out... for many the unemployment checks have already stopped with no chance for a job in sight. I stopped at many garage sales as I traveled. People were trying to sell things they worked hard to buy, not to clean out their garages and homes--- but to make a few bucks to purchase groceries or gas… but, even at the cheap prices they were asking for nice things, there weren’t many buyers because the people looking didn’t have much money either… everyone was talking about how tough it has become to survive.

On the Indian Reservations I found deep, deep despair… people have concluded that racist hiring practices that made it darn near impossible for them to get a job when the economy was moving along… Now find that with the economy on the skids, so to are their lives because they know they will be the last to get hired.

I met students who were forced to drop out of college because they couldn’t afford rising tuitions. They dropped out of college looking for jobs hoping to work long enough to get a little money so they could go back to school only to find they can’t even get jobs at McDonalds or Burger King.

Many people would break down and cry as they told me their problems. They just don’t know how they will ever recover.

More than anything what I am experiencing after traveling and talking to people is that people are looking for a way to make themselves heard. They are not happy with the direction Barack Obama is taking the country and what he is doing is nothing like they were expecting… getting rid of Bush was a relief but Obama has been a real let-down and disappointment. Often one person would be talking about what a let-down Obama has been and another person would say, “Give the guy a chance.”

Outfits like the AFL-CIO and Campaign for America’s Future promised coalition organizing and activity to struggle for the kind of change these Obama backers claimed he was for… now, these organizations, like Obama, have retreated and backed away from their promises to struggle for the reforms they claimed they, and Obama, were for. People feel abandoned and they are glad to see someone trying to do something.

The “stimulus money” is creating some jobs, but people of color are are finding themselves not even being considered for the jobs… a lot of the jobs end while the notices are still posted or advertised in the paper and when people show up to apply for these jobs, they are told the jobs were finished days or weeks before… this is especially the trend in the construction industry where people are getting the jobs through friends and word of mouth... if you move in the right circles--- white circles--- you hear about the jobs in time to apply. Autoworkers who used to make thirty to fifty dollars an hour are finding themselves lucky to get jobs paying twelve dollars an hour. Same thing with miners.

People are instinctively figuring out that the further Obama plunges the nation into debt the more unemployment and the lower the wages which results in growing working class poverty. There is a general understanding beginning to take shape where people have figured out that saving the banks ends up killing working people.

Along with growing dissatisfaction and a growing understanding that capitalism is in deep, deep trouble; there is confusion being spread by the mass media which prevents working people from fully understanding the issues.

Working people will continue to suffer because liberals, progressives and left forces who have historically been the centers of resistance to injustices, are themselves very confused and disoriented by Obama and the Democrats who are doing the thinking for most of these people when they should be applying their own thinking skills based upon what is right, what is wrong and what is just and what is needed. Instead, many of these liberals, progressives and the left see their objective as supporting Barack Obama and many are already talking about squelching struggles because these struggles for justice will hinder Obama’s opportunity for a second term.

For working people, politics is not about saving the political butts of Wall Street politicians--- which Obama is; rather, for working people, politics is driven by the purpose of creating better living standards for the working class.

We have seen how Barack Obama has paid back auto workers for their unconditional support he received from them… tens of thousands of auto workers are now without jobs because Obama places the interests of corporate profits before the needs of the people. Workers need jobs to survive; Obama and his middle class liberal, progressive and left supporters have no concept of what it means to working people to be without jobs paying decent wages with good benefits… for these middle class intellectuals, unemployment is a statistic used to play a political game since football is too rough for them and the class struggle involves much more than writing a book or making a speech.

If this is not true, what other reason can there be for so many of the organizations these middle class intellectuals lead backing away from the fight for single-payer universal health care?

Check it out; the high-paid union leaders whose abilities don’t go beyond moving their lips to make a nice speech, have almost all turned their backs on the real health care needs of working people… choosing instead to cover Barack Obama’s political butt. Why should any union leader worry about Obama beyond the extent to which Obama joins the struggle for real health care reform that puts people before profits… and these same middle class intellectuals refuse to condemn Obama’s dirty wars.

We were told by the middle class intellectuals and sell-out labor leaders that electing Barack Obama would open up the door wide to initiate real struggles for real reforms making life better for people. Instead of action; we get excuses.

Those labor leaders like Richard Trumka have taken to railing against racism; but, there is no struggle to end racism in employment matching his militant sounding words… just ask any workers of color if this is not so. If Trumka was sincere, the AFL-CIO would have been helping the two-million casino workers employed in loud, noisy, smoke-filled casinos at poverty wages without any rights under state, federal or tribal labor laws in the Indian Gaming Industry; helping casino workers to organize… instead, we see unions holding meetings, conferences and conventions in these casinos that their union pension funds helped to build. Where is Richard Trumka as plumbers and pipe-fitters are meeting at the Fortune Bay Casino & Resort in Tower, Minnesota on Minnesota’s Iron Range this week?

If these middle class intellectuals were sincere, they would be helping to initiate real grassroots and rank-and-file movements capable of forcing Barack Obama to do what is right and just not what is only politically expedient for his political future.

The time has come for working people to insist on something of substance in return for their votes… a public health care system, the real public option, would be a good start; even the single-payer universal health care like the Canadians have would be better than what we have. Obama needs to be told to go fight his own dirty imperialist wars.

Below is some of the discussion generated when my letter was published in the International Falls Daily Journal in International Falls, Minnesota located on the Minnesota/Ontario border with paper mills in both countries on each side of the Rainy River.

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

Health care reform needed

Submitted by Journal Staff on June 9, 2009 - 12:46pm.

Letters to the Editor

To the editor,

Our country is embroiled in controversy and debate over health care reform.

Focus on the purpose of health care has been lost. Health care has two purposes:

1. Keep people healthy.
2. Get people well when sick.

Our public officials squander our limited and scarce resources — during a period of a crumbling economy — financing wars in three countries; subsidizing the Israeli military machine; and spending trillions of dollars financing 800 U.S. military bases on foreign soil dotting the globe; and then they tell us there is no money for health care.

Instead, we should be building 800 public health care centers stretching out across the United States providing a public health care system which includes:

• No-fees/no premiums.
• Comprehensive (cradle to grave).
• All-inclusive (general, dental, eyes, physical therapy, prescription drugs).
• Universal (everybody in; nobody out).
• Publicly funded.
• Publicly administered.
• Publicly delivered.

The United States is the wealthiest country in the world.

We can afford to provide a first-rate, world-class, free public health care system for our own people — if we get our priorities straight.

We need health care reform based upon: Everybody in; all the profiteers out.

Health care is supposed to be about people, a human right; not about profits.

Representing workers employed in smoke-filled casinos suffering from cancers and heart and lung problems, I know a little something about why we need health care reform now.

Alan L. Maki
Warroad, MN


Sounds good on paper, Mr....

Sounds good on paper, Mr. Maki, but is too ideologically driven to be desirable.

When you say "universal" what you are really saying is "no exceptions." That is the ideological position and one that many Canadians hold, even when it means that things like hip replacements or MRI's are put on hold if there is a swine flue outbreak. Or if there the quota of such "extras" has been met.

To say it is universal is like saying that all children must attend public schools -- no exceptions. What we know, however, is that the best model is a good public system accompanied by a great private system. If your model were applied to education, we would close down Harvard, Stanford, Macalester, and even Oak Hills Bible. The thing that makes our university educational system the best in the world is the combination of public and private each keeping the other honest.

The oldest national health care system in the world [Started by Otto von Bismarck-- hardly a liberal] is the German system that allows the existence of a dual system, public and private. "Currently 85% of the population is covered by a basic 'Statutory Health Insurance' plan, which provides the standard level of coverage. The remainder opt for private health insurance, which frequently offers additional benefits." [Wikipedia] What it means is this: everyone is covered. What it doesn't mean is that there is a state monopoly on health care.

Profits are, for the most part, a good thing. If the Daily Journal isn't profitable, it closes down. If General Motors isn't, it goes into Chapter 11. The fact is that medical advances are made exclusively in countries where innovators can profit form their efforts. That is why Minnesota is the home of Medtronic and St. Judes, among others. That is why Americans created the polio vaccine and will likely solve malaria.

I am known on this blog as a "liberal" -- whatever that means. As you can clearly see, I am a moderate who is less interested in ideological purity than in results. In the world we live in, a mixture of public and private almost always wins. Ideological purity reads like a simple recipe, but the product that comes out of the over doesn't taste very good.

But thanks for posting; we need to be discussing something other than figure skating on this site,

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Submitted by Thomas L. Johnson on June 10, 2009 - 4:08pm.
Thomas L. Johnson, a...

Thomas L. Johnson, a Bismarck-happy self-described "liberal" (see above), writes that Alan Maki's proposal "sounds good on paper".

Indeed it DOES -- which is far more than can be said for the Obama administration's Kafkaesque hodge-podge which is suddenly being fast-tracked in Congress in an attempt to over-run the nation-wide demand for Single Payer NOW. (Note that our cowards in Congress have suddenly put off dealing with the financial debacle until "after the August recess", if ever, in order to try to short-circuit the nation-wide demand for Single Payer NOW.)

Johnson's choice of Dr. Jonas Salk to illustrate the (supposed) "fact is that medical advances are made exclusively in countries where innovators can profit form their efforts ... That is why Americans created the polio vaccine" is particularly inept and dishonest.

To quote Wikipedia back at Johnson, Salk did NOT profit, nor seek to profit, from the development of the polio vaccine to which he devoted much of his life (and developed at a PUBLIC university):

"When news of the discovery was made public on April 12, 1955, Salk was hailed as a "miracle worker," and the day "almost became a national holiday." He further endeared himself to the public by refusing to patent the vaccine, as he had no desire to profit personally from the discovery, but merely wished to see the vaccine disseminated as widely as possible."

Another counter-example would be Gavriil Abramovich Ilizarov, the Soviet Jewish physician who invented the Ilizarov apparatus for lengthening limb bones. Dr. Ilizarov did his early work -- to help war vets who'd survived, because of the development of sulfa drugs, with drastic orthopedic injuries -- with bicycle spokes, in Kurgan, Siberia.

Bravo to Alan Maki for his Letter.

Submitted by Alice Faye on June 10, 2009 - 7:22pm.

I agree with TLJ on this...

I agree with TLJ on this one.

Re a totally national health care plan. So far these plans have ALL resulted in rationing. Recently 2 business associates of mine both required knee replacements. The one in Ohio was back on the golf course inside of 3 months. The one in Canada is not yet through his 4 1/2 month wait for the 1st appointment with the specialist.

How long do you think his wait will be for the surgery after he finally gets to see the specialist?

Re the implied suggestion to quit supporting Israel and withdraw from 800 military bases on foreign soil.........I guess that's OK if you're willing to write off Israel and set a match to a mid-east nuclear holocaust, and just who are you willing to turn over the global military dominance to? Somebody WILL take the position. Al Quaida, Hamas, China, Russia...?
Keep Well

Submitted by RJ1127 on June 10, 2009 - 10:19pm.

And bravo to Alice Faye for...

And bravo to Alice Faye for wikipediaing Jonas Salk to discover that the good doctor did not profit from his discovery. But he reaped tremendous rewards and also suffered the privations of fame. But his shining example does not suddenly provide support for Alan Maki's demands that are so ideological as to be frightening.

Freedom-loving people deserve freedom. If we were North Korea or Cuba, we could create a totalitarian health-care system and successfully demand that everyone participate, no exceptions. As far as I can tell, this has not been the American model in very many areas -- and when it has, as with the draft that existed through the Viet Nam era -- it felt all wrong.

A single payer system NOW [gotta love capital letters] would make ideologues happy indeed, but would we love our system? When I talk to Europeans, I am always impressed with the degree that dissatisfactions increase when a system is all-encompassing -- when it is Single Payer and that payer is the same organization that mismanages the mail, the railroads, the military, and a good chunk of education.

When I hear Obama talking as he did in Green Bay this week, I hear a common-sense but committed President who is basing his approach on real solutions to real problems, not some statist ideology. I believe that is why I voted for him and why 62% of Americans approve.

So if his moderation doesn't work you Alice Faye and Alan Maki, so be it. But if it takes a hodge-podge to retain the best of the American system [People really do fly to Minnesota for health care] and solve the problem of underinsurance and non-insurance, then he is headed towards solutions, not "socialized medicine."

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Submitted by Thomas L. Johnson on June 12, 2009 - 11:11am.

We need to expand these kinds of discussions and this kind of dialogue; this is what democracy is all about.

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

58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763
Phone: 218-386-2432
Cell phone: 651-587-5541
E-mail: amaki000@centurytel.net

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