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This is the archive for June 2009

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

He's done.

A bigger jackass than Norm Coleman I am hard pressed to name. This has been my feeling towards the guy since 1996. Those were days we lived in my home state of Minnesota and Coleman switched from Democrat to Republican in order to better turn St. Paul (where he was mayor) into a corporate office park on the taxpayer's dime.

Below is my good riddance review of this awful man. Note how he appears alongside Senator Susan Collins in many of the items where their lack of oversight of U.S.-involved war corruption allowed Iraq (and the U.S. taxpayer) to be hammered while their hyper-attack on the U.N. over the 1990s Iraq Oil-for-Food program unfairly sullied reputations.

Previous posts re Norm Coleman:
Please post your own favorite Norm Coleman tales in comments below.
That's the insurance companies, not sick people. (h/t Atrios)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Full program from Saturday June 27 event at Pickering Square:


Running time = 24 minutes

The program featured several short speeches generally promoting national-level legislation for universal public health insurance that would be affordable for everyone and would actually pay the doctor bill (unlike the so-called insurance many people in this country have currently). There are notes of support for what roughly is the direction taken by President Obama to get Congress to include such a public plan in reform legislation now under consideration.

While "Medicare for everyone" is mentioned by one of them, speakers at this rally do not necessarily demand that the solution be single payer, just that it fixes what are seen to be extreme harms to the American people because insurance companies are cruelly organized with insistence for high financial return and callous disregard for health outcomes. The quality of the speakers and the compelling stories told along those lines make this event very worthwhile.

The speakers were
  • Don Todd, activist from Etna, Maine
  • Dr. Elizabeth Weiss, Bangor physician
  • Leslie Mansfield, Bangor business owner
  • Dr. Benjamin Schaefer, Bangor cardiologist
  • Alice Knapp, Esq., Attorney in Richmond

WLBZ/WCSH television provided statewide coverage, story HERE. The Bangor Daily News also has a story up on the web, HERE.

Locally the Maine People's Alliance (MPA) and Food AND Medicine supported this event. The related national organizing effort is under the flag of Health Care for America Now, a broad coalition of labor, economic justice, and a huge spectrum of social change groups. The organization has "10 principles for reform that have been endorsed by President Obama and more than 190 members of Congress," easily found at their website.

My personal view is that the Obama-style reform will end up not being adequate to the task of eliminating the harms in the system described by our speakers and within the principles of Health Care for America Now. My view is that that only a mass transition to a single payer along the lines of the Canadian system (or better yet the French system) can really re-direct the resources needed to ensure people get their doctor bills paid while the costs are fairly born by society as a whole.

I would not abolish highly regulated private insurance as an extra option, but everybody has to be in the public system or it just is going to end up a failure. The Obama reform already is in big trouble before a bill in Congress even exists. Because it will not re-direct enough of the insurance company premiums people pay now into a robust public plan instead, the Obama reform looks too expensive. The figures that came last week out of the Congressional Budget Office are truly killer--more than $1 trillion on top of current obligations. A universal plan covering all people within the public system actually would be cheaper.

More importantly, the harms of the private, financialized system ought to be made to disappear immediately. That would be real reform. Obama falls short. What he wants to do will preserve all the cost (people)-chopping insurance bureaucrats and out-of-pocket co-paying that in this country stand between people and their doctors and thus prevents the system from improving health like it should.

These notions ought to be a major discussion in the activist community. There is quite a divergence between the MPA, labor-supported, Obama-style organizing efforts and we who favor single-payer. Discussion?

Related media posts:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Would this happen on television nowadays?

It's amazing how growing up with a television on affects a person. This man was in our living room five nights a week through most of the sixties and seventies. It's not so much that I'll miss Ed McMahon. It's the whole milieu of my childhood that's disappearing and leaving a void. Thank goodness there's YouTube for filling that sentimental, nostalgic place. God rest your soul, Ed.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Trip to Ferry Beach

Rose rugosa
Rose rugosa, common sight on Maine beach dunes

Saco Bay
Saco Bay

Summer solstice occurs during the wee hours of June 21, overnight tonight (0546 UT, 1:46 am EDT). We used the last full day of 2009 spring to poke around Old Orchard Beach and Saco.

Friday had featured big rains. Most places received five to ten centimeters. So the Tupelo Swamp at Ferry Beach State Park was good and wet. Find more pictures in the supplemental gallery, HERE. I'll be adding more images to this and additional special pages in the future.
"Fraud did take place in the 2008 election-conducted for, and paid for by, the Republican Party."

The California Republican operative responsible in this pretty massive case, Mark Jacoby, was given probation this past week, but "two felony counts of perjury and one felony count of voter registration fraud were dismissed under the deal."

The accusations last fall against ACORN from the McCain/Palin camp became so crazy that false does not even begin to describe the absurdity. The Republicans must just reason that it is easy to distract the American people from the real fraud in which they engage because no one with a grasp of the truth would vote for them.
These claims chiming from the bells of wingnuttia utterly are without merit.

Friday, June 19, 2009

What they bought in the junked-up appropriations bill:


Robert Greenwald collects the bits of news that Americans get and weaves in the real story of Afghanistan

Now that the U.S. Senate has voted 91-5 to extend and expand war in south Asia, the Democrats have no more excuses. They really, really own the wars now.

I'm just glad our two Reps. have courage of their convictions. Let's not let them (or Obama) forget that a lot of us out here want funding attached to a plan to bring the troops home, not just more Bush-like blank checks.

And let's not let the Leadership forget that the excuse they used last year--a "hostile" White House made them do it--doesn't work any more. Sadly, President Obama, Rahm Emanuel, and Democratic Congressional Leadership now are all too happy. The faux disgust of Speaker Pelosi after the War Supplemental passed last year gave way this year to a sickening display of glee by top Democrats. Their conduct should be that of a funeral.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

BDN story takes jaundiced view of the listing

Weather vane at Veazie Salmon Club
Weather vane at the Veazie Salmon Club

20090617-salmon_count.jpg
Salmon scorecard for 2009 at the Veazie Dam

The Bangor Daily News has THIS story today:

Will the salmon clubs survive?
Seasoned anglers say federal endangered status for species is a "kick in the teeth" and could spell the end of a storied Maine pastime
By John Holyoke | BDN Staff
In the days before the scheduled opening day of this year's month-long catch-and-release salmon season on the Penobscot River, Douglas "Cap" Introne and his 14-year-old son, Christopher, made plans to spend as much time as possible on the river. Then everything changed. The Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission changed tack in response to a meeting between federal officials and Gov. John Baldacci. The season was scuttled. There would be no fishing.

"When [Christopher] learned that he couldn't go fishing this year, he started to cry" ...
On Monday, the federal government decided to list wild Atlantic salmon as endangered in the Penobscot, Kennebec and Androscoggin rivers while designating a large swath of nearby rivers and lakes as critical habitat. This is described in the BDN article as "another blow" to salmon anglers.

The article goes on to quote a number of people who are upset, and some, including Governor Baldacci, provided the (evidently rejected) reasonable alternative of merely listing the salmon as threatened.

I do think I understand the feelings of many people who will be shut out of a traditional recreational activity for a long time. These views are very important to the story. However I think commentators who argue against the value of scientific study and science-based policy-making (see the comments below the article), or those who feel that because many salmon currently are hatchery-raised the fishery is somehow "artificial," are barking up the wrong tree. What they say may contain truth, but without science and hatcheries, "natural," fishable salmon runs never will be restored like everyone wants.

These comments both within the main story and many of those from the general public below do not represent the full range of information necessary to understand the story. The article itself almost lacks entirely the crucial perspective of proponents of the listing and it contains no explanation at all of the motivation behind the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration deciding at this time to apply the strongest protection available under the Endangered Species Act. THIS press release from an organization that promotes this listing action may help:

Endangered Atlantic Salmon Earn Expanded Protection in Maine, Receive 12,000 River Miles of Critical Habitat
RICHMOND, Vt.? Responding to lawsuits filed in 2007 and 2008 by the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups, the National Marine Fisheries Service has protected Atlantic salmon in three additional river systems in Maine under the Endangered Species Act, including the Penobscot, Kennebec, and Androscoggin rivers, and designated about 12,000 miles of rivers and estuaries, as well as 300 square miles of lakes, as critical habitat.

"Maine's wild salmon deserve a fighting chance, and now they have it," said Mollie Matteson, conservation advocate for the Center. "Dams, pollution, water withdrawals, and other threats must be curbed or stopped if Atlantic salmon are to have a future in Maine."

Atlantic salmon populations have declined dramatically throughout most of their range along the eastern seaboard and in the rivers they return to for spawning. Dams, overfishing, degradation of river habitat, introduction of nonnative fish species, and water diversions have all taken a heavy toll.

Designation of critical habitat is a key component of protecting and recovering endangered species, and is required by law. In 2000, salmon in several smaller rivers in eastern Maine were listed as endangered, but the government failed to designate federally protected habitat. The Center and the Conservation Law Foundation filed suit in 2007. In May of 2008, the Center, along with Friends of Merrymeeting Bay and activist Douglas Watts, filed suit to expand salmon protection to include Maine's most significant rivers. The Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a preliminary decision on both critical habitat and listing expansion in September of last year. This week's action finalizes the initial proposal made last fall.

Conservationists are celebrating the new legal protections for the imperiled fish, but point to a significant shortcoming in the critical habitat designation. Only currently occupied habitat is protected at this time.

"The point of federal protection is to recover species," states Matteson. "The salmon is in grave danger of extinction, in part, because of its severely and artificially limited range. It makes no logical sense to say we will only protect its present range. Its historic habitats must be protected, too, if recovery is ever to become reality."
I visit the Veazie Salmon Club many times each week as an appreciative neighbor. I do not fish for salmon, though I do some lake fishing. I suppose without a local tradition of salmon fishing, this marvelous little spot on the river would not be there like it is.

I'll leave this discussion with a plea for everyone to look at the big picture: the changes in the habitat over the last two centuries are utterly profound. This is a clash between industrial society and the environmental conditions the salmon population needs to survive and build. Since the dams first went up, the salmon basically are the losers. Change in their favor will take a long, long time and will require a lot of different communities, stakeholders, government entities--including sport fishers--to understand this big picture and pull in the same direction.

In that sense, I think that this is a positive story. Government policy and money is essential to survival of the habitat and hence the salmon. I'm certainly no Republican, but I think the Penobscot restoration and Forest Legacy project is something that really happened right during the Bush years. But seeing the results? That will be very, very long term. I hope the Salmon Clubs can evolve and survive in the meantime.

Related archive posts:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

U.S. pullback proceeding: LINK

A Whole New Ballgame in Iraq
US Troops Leaving the Cities
Patrick Cockburn
Baghdad. There are few American patrols on the streets of Baghdad and soon there will be none. In just over two weeks time on June 30, US military forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities. The occupation which began six years ago is ending. On every side there are signs of the decline of US influence. ... The knowledge that the US forces in Iraq will go is already transforming the Iraqi political landscape, long before the exit of the last American troops. It is no longer politic for any Iraqi leader to be identified in the eyes of Iraqis with the American occupation. ...
Cockburn covers the story in his unique way, trying to make sense of dozens of observations and reports about certain incidents that happen (some unfortunately very violent) and the activities and behavior of important officials. He describes tension along "a 300-mile-long unofficial frontier, of areas which are outside the boundaries of the highly autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government but have a Kurdish majority" and points to the struggle "over oil, which is being discovered in large quantities in the KRG under contacts the Oil Ministry in Baghdad denounces as illegal."

Cockburn concludes on a hopeful note, "One of the main destabilizing factors in Iraq for the last six years has been the presence of a large US army and with its departure Iraq's many simmering conflicts might just be kept under control."

I have my suspicions about the extended presence of U.S. forces and its continuing control over its central embassy palace and airport bases. Supposedly the new War Supplemental funding measure prohibits "permanent bases", but how long will they "endure"? But despite the bases and embassy, when I add up the entire picture of Iraq since 2003, I believe the U.S. did not acquire anything resembling the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld vassal originally intended.

True, U.S.-connected cleptocrats stole tens of billions of dollars of Iraqi wealth, recklessly destroyed Iraqi towns and cities, while millions in the population suffered unspeakable death, injury, and displacement. There is good reason for officials now not wanting to be seen to have anything to do with the Americans.

No clear, absolute American control of Iraqi oil seems to be in place. A U.S. attempt at privatization on behalf of Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, BP, and Chevron desired by Bush a year ago didn't fly. The Pentagon later greased a deal for Shell, but that has faced Iraqi resistance along the way as well.

The U.S. remains destined to be involved in the affairs of Iraq for years to come. But it hasn't turned out to be the model of imperialism often wrongly conceived by Americans as "liberation."

Update: The missing link to the story was added.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Progress made, 36 of 39 votes needed to block war funding secured in House, Michaud and Pingree still both reported by staff to be voting "no"

I called Mike Michaud?s D.C. office around noontime today. Mike is holding "no" on the War Supplemental. He is standing by his original statement against the bill:
Just like the Iraq War, I believe that we need an exit strategy for our operations in Afghanistan. Until I see clearly defined benchmarks for progress and a plan to bring our troops home, I will continue to oppose these types of funding measures.
Still, the discussion with the staffer included the quote, "as of now." So it is imperative to continue making calls!

The bill number is H.R. 2346.These direct links to the Representatives give full contact information:

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE MICHAUD
REPRESENTATIVE CHELLI PINGREE

The scorecard by Jane Hamsher at Fire Dog Lake suggests 36 of 39 needed House anti-war no votes are of this moment confirmed.

Now, HERE is something unbelievably awesome!! Our good work is noticed!



I've struggled for a long time (six years) of marginally-read blogging, often wondering if it was even slightly worth it. At moments like this, when a small group of committed people take on a wrong policy that appears to be sailing, unhindered by the slightest consideration of its morality--and we make some progress--yes, every word of every post suddenly seems a lot more worthwhile.

AND BIG THANK YOUS TO REPRESENTATIVES MIKE MICHAUD AND CHELLI PINGREE. You listen. You help make Maine's politics some of the best anywhere.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

20090614-lupine-1-2.jpg
What kind of country allows an election to be stolen?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Oil price speculation captures Maine senator's imagination


World oil production situation underlies "speculative" trading



This graph from Atrios shows that a commodity price will rise steeply if supply quantity cannot or DOES NOT rise beyond a certain point when aggregate demand wants to do so. It's economics 101. Read Atrios posts on this matter HERE and the recent follow-up HERE.


A Friday McClatchy story printed today in the Bangor Daily News today under a somewhat fawning headline, "Collins 'gets it,' taking on Street oil speculators," makes Senator Susan Collins out to be some sort of brilliant analyst and critic of oil markets.

Why a Maine GOP senator is taking on oil speculators
David Lightman and Kevin G. Hall | McClatchy Newspapers | Fri. June 12
WASHINGTON ? Oil prices shot past $72 a barrel this week, and a growing number of experts point to Wall Street speculators as a key reason why Americans are suddenly paying a lot more for oil and gasoline.

Although soaring oil prices threaten the fragile economic recovery, most Capitol Hill lawmakers have remained silent about them, but not Sen. Susan Collins. The Maine Republican pumps her own gas and heats her Bangor home with oil, and on trips home, she gets an earful from angry consumers, who, like her, blame speculators.

"Constituents get it," she said. "They don't see the reason for it. They don't see (supply) shortages. They don't see (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) greatly reducing production or other reasons prices are going up so much."

Collins has been one of the few on Capitol Hill and even fewer Republicans who blame the rising oil prices in part on Wall Street investors. She and her allies, mostly Democrats, are trying to limit speculative investments in oil and other commodities, but they say they need more support from President Barack Obama. [emphasis added]
Damn! Now I know! She's just like us at the gas pump! And she thinks just like us as we blame those dastardly traders for the gasoline and heating oil prices going through the roof. And later in the article, more on the "ordinary" Collins: "She returns home every weekend. Asked if she knows the current price, she quickly shot back, 'You bet I do!'"

Beyond the unnecessary stroking of Collins, I'm not going to disagree with the suggestion in the article that "investors" now are seeing opportunity in oil, given a situation where "a weaker dollar and bullish views on a global economic recovery are driving speculators back into the oil market, prompting a new wave of speculative investment from non-commercial traders ? those who don't actually use the product ? into contracts for future delivery of oil."

But I also believe the Collins analysis promoted by the article ignores the important underlying issue of world oil depletion, is basically wrong that mere financial speculation is the driver behind oil prices, and leaves key questions unanswered. According to a quote in the article, current oil prices are "divorced from the underlying fundamentals of weak demand, ample supply, and high inventories." True, due to economic meltdown, we have an oil market where potential supplies are well above present fundamental physical consumption. But why the divorce from reality? Why doesn't the market correct itself? Can "non-commercial" trades, as Collins believes, explain everything?

Friday, June 12, 2009

A chapter out of the book of Delay

House Democratic leadership very much wants the IMF credits to ride through on the War Supplemental. I thought that since November 2006 the public had voted for "change" in Washington D.C. I guess not.

House Democrats Pressed to Back War Supplemental
CQ TODAY MIDDAY UPDATE | June 12, 2009 ? 1:56 p.m.
Despite deals cut late Thursday to wrap up the fiscal 2009 war supplemental, some House Democrats say they do not yet have enough support to pass the final bill. ...

Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said the Speaker continues to push for support for the bill. "The vote is scheduled for next week, and we're moving forward," he said.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey of California, a leader of the antiwar Democrats, said the White House is threatening to withdraw support from freshmen who oppose the bill, saying "you'll never hear from us again."

She said the House leadership also is targeting the freshmen.

"It's really hard for the freshmen," she said. "Nancy's pretty powerful."
Funny how this beltway drama is generating very little news coverage. There were a few articles today.

H/T Gerald & Jane Hamsher.

Update: Read THIS. It emphasizes that it is the White House that is dealing out threats to freshmen Democrats.
Thrust and twist in the heart

The Obama DOJ has filed arguments in the Smelt/Hammer challenge to the Clinton-era federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Obama's arguments are "despicable" and "homophobic" according to John Aravosis.

The Obama filing is a panoply of legal arguments we are bound to hear in the coming election fight to keep Maine's new same-sex marriage law.
HERE is a complete run-down on the War Supplemental, showing its pork in full bloom. Be sure to read through the excellent comment by Hugh.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Emanuel making like Pink Floyd as the pork flies

THIS is amazing:

Rahm's Game Plan: Blackmail Progressives With "Cash For Clunkers"
Jane Hamsher | Thursday June 11, 2009 7:00 am
Sources on the Hill say they've never seen anything like it coming out of the White House. Rahm is dealing as furiously as he did during NAFTA, and will stuff everyone with so much pork that they have to vote for the supplemental.

They will evidently try to jam Cash for Clunkers into the conference report -- a $4 billion bid to buy votes from progressives in auto manufacturing states ...
We have another chance to block funding for war expansion. A couple of weeks ago, it looked like the $100 billion War Supplemental (H.R. 2346) would pass through Congress with hardly a bleat of opposition. To their great credit, Maine's two Representatives, Chelli Pingree (1st Congressional District) and Mike Michaud (2nd Congressional District) joined a small group of 60 in the House who opposed the original bill. Unfortunately the off-budget appropriation for continuing and expanding the U.S. south Asian military adventures (including full-throated covert war) flew through both chambers in May.

However, in reconciling the passed versions in conference, there were two extremely interesting developments. First, an outrageous provision was added at the behest of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the White House to carve out a special exception to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This would have prevented the release of detainee abuse photos. Supposedly, the sky would fall if more visual evidence of American war conduct became public.

Glenn Greenwald has much, much MORE on the story and implications of the Graham/Lieberman amendment, now apparently out of the conference report.

Second, a $5 billion appropriation for guaranteeing $100 billion in IMF credits to troubled foreign financial institution was added by the Senate. It quickly became evident that this provision is extremely dear to the administration and its chief bailout enabler, Rep. Barney Frank.

The foreign bailout provision has peeled off all of the Republicans. From my own point of view, I agree with THIS piece on how the IMF imposes destructive neoliberal policies, "forcing draconian budget cuts and high interest rates that are strangling economic activity" in countries where poverty already is endemic.

So, the handful of anti-war and progressive Democrats who initially voted no on the War Supplemental--including Mike and Chelli--now are essential for the administration to switch to yes in order to get it passed.

We know what to do. Call Mike and Chelli right away with your views, and ask them specifically how they are planning to vote on the supplemental. It would be helpful to report your results HERE.

Below is the Kucinich/Woolsey letter urging colleagues to oppose the War Supplemental:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More of it HERE from NPR.
Killed for their hospitality

Destruction of defenseless civilians is the main outcome of U.S. drone attacks, as in the Pakistani village of Khaisor on May 20. According to a dear friend of the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine:
Kathy Kelly: A U.S. drone airplane fired a missile at the village at 4:30 AM, killing 14 women and children and 2 elders, wounding eleven. The previous day, some travelers had come to Khaisor, and the villagers had served them a meal. "This is our custom," my friend relates. "It is our traditional way." But these travelers were members of the Taliban, and their visit was noted by U.S. forces. It is possible they were identified through pictures taken by unmanned U.S. drones. Although the visitors had left right after their meal, the U.S. responded to this act of hospitality by bombing the homes of the hosts early the following morning.
Write to President Obama and ask him how he would feel if his own wife and children were buzzed and then blown to bits by a diabolical remote-control killing machine.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Maine PUC/Verizon case voided by Wednesday ruling

Judge Tosses Telecom Spy Suits
David Kravets | Wired | June 3, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO ? A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed lawsuits targeting the nation?s telecommunication companies for their participation in President George W. Bush?s once-secret electronic eavesdropping program.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker upheld summer legislation protecting the companies from the lawsuits. The legislation, which then-Sen. Barack Obama voted for, also granted the government the authority to monitor American's telecommunications without warrants if the subject was communicating with somebody overseas suspected of terrorism.
This case a couple of years ago had folded in the Maine PUC "truth-in-filing" demand concerning phone records snooping--resisted by both the subject of the request, Verizon, and the federal government. A lot of the details are in my WERU interviews with Maine Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Shenna Bellows found HERE and HERE.

I'm noting that the MCLU does not yet have up a release on the ruling. (An informative March item on the subject is HERE.)

For even more information, there is a tremendous volume of local and national blog material available on the FISA revision/telcomm immunity struggle of 2007-2008. The current ruling shows why civil liberties bloggers were right, while Mr. Obama and a majority of Congress were wrong--save for heroes like Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd. Of course, Glenn Greenwald is the premiere national blogger on state secrets and telcomm immunity.

Despite how this issue is discussed by lawmakers, the administration, and the press, the snooping involved is not necessarily targeted upon foreign "terrorists," but rather upon the public as a whole. Here are a few questions we must continue to ask our politicians and fellow citizens about the Bush-era spying programs that appear to be protected and are continuing under President Obama: If you did understand that the surveillance involved "large net" capture of all domestic as well as international electronic communications would you still support it? Would you support creation of databases of peaceful people (of any persuasion)--based on their communications network and political beliefs--that could be employed for authoritarian purposes in creating a climate of fear and squelching free speech? If the courts now are enjoined from addressing this, what guarantees do we have that untrusted officials (maybe those in a political party we oppose) will not be able to create enemies profiles without proper warrants and without Constitutionally supportable evidence of actual illegal activity?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

One of my goals with the Maine Owl Calendar project was to note events in labor history that I find particularly meaningful. This week marks the 93rd anniversary of such an event: the Great Mesabi Mine Workers Strike of 1916. At the time, my father was a young boy born to a Finnish immigrant family on the Mesabi Iron Range in northern Minnesota.

Here is how the late Philip S. Foner described the beginning of the strike in Vol. 4 of the 10-volume "History of the Labor Movement in the United States":
On June 2, 1916, an Italian miner, Joe Gruni, employed underground at the St. James mine near Aurora, opened his pay envelope and saw that his check was for a sum much less than he had understood his contract called for.

"To hell with such wages," he cried; he threw down his pick, and decided to quit.

To his surprise, the entire shift in the underground mine went along with him. Gruni and his coworkers went from stope to stope it Aurora, crying: "We've been robbed long enough. It's time to strike."

By June 4 every mine in Aurora was shut down, and every miner was a striker. The strikers appointed a committee and sent an appeal to the mine owners to meet for the purpose of adjusting the miners? grievances. The request went unanswered.

Thus began the great strike of 1916. The word "strike" began to reverberate out of Aurora as a group of Finnish and other Socialists spread the news throughout the Range. Parades were organized, and the striking Aurora miners marched over 75 miles of mountain road from town to town, passing the word "strike" from place to place. The procession, sometimes augmented by children and wives wheeling baby carriages, picked up recruits for the strike. Within a week, many of the mines throughout the Range were closed.

Philip S. (Philip Sheldon) Foner, "History of the labor movement in the United States, Vol. 4: The Industrial Workers of the World 1905-1917", International Publishers Co, 1972, ISBN 0717803961
This strike apparently had serious consequences for my grandparents, who were merchants in Gilbert, Minnesota. I have little specific information. But what I believe happened at this time is that too many miners not working during the summer of 1916 and who owed money to my grandfather could not pay their bills for work clothing. He also was stuck with a shop full of inventory on which he owed money but which could not be sold, a double whammy. Nobody was going to bail him out. My grandparents were bankrupt and forced to liquidate all of their property. They had no love lost for strike leaders, Finnish radicals, or organizers from the Industrial Workers of the World like Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.

The main issue in the strike was pay. Striking miners wanted $2.75 to $3.50 per day versus less than $2 per day net under the harsh contracts in force at the time. They also wanted to be paid twice per month instead of once, to be paid full wages owed immediately upon quitting, and to have an eight-hour work day. They did not even demand recognition of a union!

The rest of the story is one of anti-striker newspaper attacks, brutal physical repression, even killings. After three months, the strike basically was lost as miners slowly returned, working under the same terms they had before the strike. However, Foner explains that most of the companies involved had increased wages 20-30% within a few months. The strike did have some effect.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The most dangerous lunatics in America are those who see domestic terrorism as "pro life."


HERE it is quite illuminating to hear Bill O'Reilly do everything he can to inspire formation of a lynch mob to avenge the babies. (The responses are very good and worth a listen.)