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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...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

My thoughts on the struggle against sulfide mining.

My thoughts on the fight against this hideous sulfide mining they want to bring to Minnesota:

When former DNR Commissioner under Pawlenty, Gene Merriam, asked to meet with me in Waskish up in the Big Bog about the concerns people had with peat mining that is taking place in the Pine Island State Forest; I showed him pictures I took of a family of four Moose and asked him: What will become of these moose, this is their home?"

Merriam responded, "You are a good photographer. The moose will just have to find a new home."

I then showed him pictures of Timber Wolf tracks I took right in the middle of the land being cleared asking him, "And what about the Timber Wolves?"

Again, his response was, "The wolves will just have to find new homes."

If people want to see and hear how Congressman James Oberstar responded to my questions about the peat mining in the Big Bog which he was a main party to initiating they should request to see the video made by the Humphrey Center where the Freeman Forum sponsored Oberstar as the main speaker and gave him an award for being a good steward of our waters; the theme was, "Water, Water Everywhere."

The video is now "stored away." Made unusable by the University because of the filthy and foul language Oberstar hurled at me simply for asking these kinds of questions of him.

Sitting in the audience were many "dignitaries"--- including Gene Merriam who suggested, "This is not the time or place for such questions."

I would note, that to his credit, after I asked Merriam how he could call the Big Bog "one of Minnesota's crown jewels" and then sign the permit for a foreign multi-national conglomerate to mine peat and drain the bog, our largest freshwater aquifer--- Merriam responded, "I never signed the permit or authorized this peat mining; you are a liar for saying I did this." He made this statement in front of about 150 people.

When I showed him the permit with his signature on it, he responded: "That is my name but not my signature."

He then said, "This concludes our conversation. I will look into this and get back to you within two weeks."

Merriam never got back to me; but, he did resign.

At the "Water, Water Everywhere" forum, Merriam insisted I stop saying he was responsible for the peat mining; asking me, "What more do you want from me, I resigned?"

I told Merriam he had had a responsibility to revoke the permit after he found out that his signature was forged on the permit. He turned around and walked away.

Merriam was a Democratic state legislator at the time Pawlenty appointed him.

It is all the good ol' boys club; Democrat, Republican; it makes no difference.

The Minnesota DNR is a corporate mouthpiece.

It is darn near impossible to find any supporters of this hideous peat mining now going on in the Big Bog. But it goes on anyways over massive opposition.

Merriam summoned me to meet with him in Waskish in front of a crowd of mostly Republicans thinking my opposition to the peat mining would be attacked.

What he found was not one single supporter of the peat mining.

It is going to take one heck of a fight to stop this hideous sulfide mining and playing "Minnesota nice" with these mining companies, the Chamber of Commerce and the politicians isn't going to stop sulfide mining.

These big-business interests don't care about people--- do you think they are going to care about the moose?

The mining companies have swindled thousands of miners out of the pensions they are entitled to and not one single politician has stepped forward to help stop this swindle--- mine after mine, LTV, now National Steel.

One would think these politicians would at least insist these mining companies honor the pensions of workers before they would approve another mining permit of any kind--- but people, the environment, the moose, the Timber Wolves mean nothing to these politicians and the corporations they represent; it's all about profits.

Profits derived from exploiting labor to rape the land; profits shared with the politicians willingly accepting their bribes.

We need to consider what kind of fight and struggle it takes to win anything as we go up against these mining companies and the crooked and corrupt politicians and DNR officials they bribe.

What kind of fight did it take to force these mining companies to recognize the union?

It took a war in the north country to win union recognition.

If it took a war in the woods to win union recognition from these companies, think about what kind of struggle it will take to stop this sulfide mining.

Huge profits are at stake.

In Michigan and Wisconsin the mining companies have hired a bunch of mercenary thugs to defend their interests... just like the mining companies have always brought in these thugs to beat up and beat down workers fighting for their rights and their livelihoods.

In my opinion, this struggle against sulfide mining is more likely to be won by joining with workers who have been swindled out of their pensions by the mining companies and insist that not one more permit to mine is issued until this pension fund swindle has been resolved to the level of all pensioned ever agreed to in the collective bargaining process have been honored and lived up to.

Moose and Timber Wolves are victims that can not fight back; rank-and-file miners and their families know how to fight like hell for their rights, their livelihoods and a safe and healthy working environment at work and in their communities.

A few so-called "environmentalists" have sown division between working people who should be natural allies in this struggle.

At the very center of this struggle to put an end to sulfide mining is the class struggle. And, in my opinion, it is on this basis that this struggle should be waged.

Jobs, like pensions, are a very important issue on the Iron Range which has become the Appalachia of the north.

More jobs could be created in the existing mining industry than what will ever be created by sulfide mining.

The work week in the taconite industry could be reduced with workers receiving forty-hours pay; the retirement age could be reduced--- provided the mining companies are forced to honor pensions; vacations could be extended.

Existing jobs at the casinos, Wal-mart, Target, McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Menard's, etc. could be turned into real living wage jobs--- by either raising the Minimum Wage to a real living wage or union contracts. Workers with benefits like real vacations will create more jobs in all of these workplaces.

There is no reason why every job that needs to be done should not be a "good job."

Again, it is rank-and-file union members who can push these campaigns forward for a real living Minimum Wage and to organize--- are the environmentalists opposing this sulfide mining willing to pitch in and do their part in return for miners and all workers and their families joining this struggle?

If this struggle against sulfide mining is going to be won everyone concerned is going to have to re-think and adjust to a position of what is the basis of greatest possible unity.

There is no way this struggle will be won with "environmentalists" pitted against miners and jobs.

Look around you; what success have these environmental organizations like the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Sierra, Audubon, Izaak Walton League had? Their only "success" has been in fundraising to pay their staffs.

It is time to re-think what it is going to take to stop this sulfide mining as part of this struggle.

I also think it does no good to antagonize the Iron Range DFL delegation in the State Legislature--- probably the only real friends working people have down there in the Cities... I believe most are seriously concerned about jobs and are probably not being bribed by the mining companies... they should be engaged and pushed to confront the realities of what it will take to create more jobs in the the existing taconite industry and the need for a real living Minimum Wage. They should be pushed to become part of the struggle to honor the pensions or no more expansion of mining in Minnesota.

State Senator David Tomassoni has been one of a very few Minnesota legislators with the courage to stand up for the unemployed, he brought forward legislation for a "People's Bailout," he has stood with working people losing their homes to foreclosure, he has been in the forefront of Citizens United... it seems to me he, and his constituents--- hard rock miners--- have more to gain by standing up for what is right on this sulfide mining issue. But this won't happen until everyone is willing to sit down and discuss all of this.

Tom Rukavina has fought like no other politician in modern Minnesota history for the rights and livelihoods of working class Minnesotans. Does that mean he should be cut slack on this sulfide mining issue? No; but he should be extended the courtesy of being a full participant in this dialog and discussion about how to create jobs, protect and defend pensions in the context of protecting and defending the environment.

Some kind of public roundtable discussion needs to be organized on the Iron Range to discuss all of this with all parties and opinions from a working class perspective involved.

I have disagreed with Tomassoni and Rukavina on several issues but calling them names like the "Iron Range mafia" isn't going to do any good.

It is the same corporate interests promoting this hideous sulfide mining who are behind the pension fund swindles, preventing every job from being a "good job" and who oppose a real living Minimum Wage.

This issue will not be resolved in these Environmental Impact Statement hearings now being manipulated by the DNR for the sake of big-business employed lobbyists who just love to see this kind of animosity from which their business--- and profits--- thrive; lots and lots of money for them to make as long as this continues to play out in such a way that divides working people.

I am sure the well-heeled crowd from the foundation-funded environmental outfits will never understand the class basis for this kind of struggle... but others should.

After all, these foundation-funded outfits receive a lot of their funding from whom?

The great "philanthropists" who are the robber barons of the mining and forestry industries:

The Rockefeller Brothers Foundation.

The Ford Foundation.

The Blandin Foundation.

The Northwest Foundation.

And... surprise, surprise; from our billionaire Governor's personal foundation.