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Raise Your Voice

Raise Your Voice

By PETER MOLENAAR Patriot’s Call: Tax the Rich “It is shameful that billionaires profit off the suffering of working families as the pandemic ravages the economy…”, so said our congressperson, Ilhan Omar. In fact, because of gaping loopholes in the tax code, the wealth of America’s billionaires can go untaxed forever, and even when taxed, the rate is about half that of taxes on wages. Consider organized labor’s Sept. 9 letter to lawmakers: â€œThe wealth of our country’s 708 billionaires alone rose by $1.8 trillion, or 62%, during the pandemic—enough to pay for half the ten-year cost of the $3.5 trillion package.” What package? President Biden’s â€œBuild Back Better” vision includes a vital infrastructure plan which will create millions of jobs. Universal childcare along with universal preschool is also in the mix. Hey, let’s lift up every child. Tuition free community college (okay, let’s take it all the way). Let the nation building begin! Will â€™Tax the Rich/Build Back Better’ also address the pressing matter of climate change? Well, for example, if nothing is done, a young worker entering the outdoor workforce today can expect his or her exposure to hazardous heat conditions to quadruple before retirement. Outdoor workers are already 35 times more likely to die from heat exposure. So, for farm workers and construction workers the answer is most definitely: yes. Here in â€œthe hood”, more than once I personally suffered heat exhaustion while working at Smith Foundry. However, it was indoors with fans in place, plus a livable wage. Want to try your hand at farm labor, 100 degrees under the sun, at the current average $10.80 per hour? In any case, for the time being, it seems to me that we should unite around the social-democratic policies which are emanating [...]

Manoomin Speaks

Manoomin Speaks

RAISE YOUR VOICE By PETER MOLENAAR Indigenous leaders at the State Capitol. Photo courtesy Camp Migizi social media. Manoomin is the â€œwild rice” which sustains the Anishinaabe. The word is especially familiar to the Ojibwa among us. Sadly, the manoomin has faded due to habitat loss, degraded water quality… climate crisis. Like the canary in the mine shaft, manoomin speaks… and speaks to us all. My place in the world… Molten iron flows just north of Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery, and just south of the Roof Depot on 28th Street. Smith Foundry is the place I labored for 35 years: repetitive motion, 500,000 molds of sand… ankles worn down to bone on bone. Was once a â€œpeople’s soldier”. Now with titanium and plastic surgically implanted, perhaps I will march again. July 14, 2021… The old soldier sported a fancy ankle brace and wielded an aluminum crutch. Hobbling along, he traversed the granite flat before ascending. Minnesota’s grand rotunda was occupied by the manoomin spirit. The call rang out: STOP LINE THREE! Actually, the original Line 3 was the source of millions of gallons of oil spills (check online: line 3 pipeline). Want to go tit for tat over the merit of fresh pipe? Hey, we are talking tar sand oil here, at a time when we desperately need to be weaned from fossil fuels, period. No number of temporary high wage â€œman camps” will compensate for the loss of a viable planet. To which I will add: the assertion of â€œwhite privilege" by some of these campers must end immediately. WORKERS AND OPPRESSED PEOPLES UNITE! The fog of COVID has lifted now. So, let’s self-educate and begin marching in stride. Ilhan Omar put it this way: The decision that U.S. entities make on line 3 is a decision for the entire [...]

Scratch Your Head

Raise Your Voice By PETER MOLENAAR “The Rich Really Do Pay Lower Taxes Than You!” Such was a recent caption in the New York Times. For the first time, thanks to Trump’s tax cut, the 400 wealthiest Americans now pay a lower overall tax rate than any other income group… and some folks had the gaul to steal the election by casting their votes! Actually, wages have always been taxed at a higher rate than stock dividends, etc. Naturally then, for generations the ruling class has spawned progeny who inherit the lot without lifting a finger. Never mind that the value of a commodity is determined by the socially necessary labor time embodied in it, i.e., labor is the source of all wealth. What’s this got to do with our neighborhood? Think â€œbuild back better” jobs, and note: the East Phillips Urban Farm has received something of a green light… but what? The Republican Party is working overtime to blunt Biden’s infrastructure vision in favor of â€œno new taxes". How then will a marketing professional and technical staff be paid if and when the farm is launched? The idea that capital gains taxes should be raised to the level of taxes on wages is a modest one. Even so, Republicans are keen to smash it and thereby blunt the rebuilding of our nation.  Standing to the left of Biden are senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders who, with the support of progressive congress persons (note: Ilhan Omar is once again functioning under death threats) have proposed a special tax bracket for â€œultra-millionaires”. The measure would provide some $3 trillion over 10 years for our people… but no, not a chance with Republicans sucking up air. Obviously, were we in a revolutionary situation, the call for outright expropriation would be the patriot’s demand. However, for the time being, two suggestions: 1.) elected representatives who [...]

Cover Crop Seeds

Cover Crop Seeds

RAISE YOUR VOICE By PETER MOLENAAR Peter Molenaar From time to time, readers of the alley are reminded that Wendell Phillips, our neighborhood’s namesake, was an abolitionist. I will assert here that, were he still alive, he would be opposed to the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people. Now days, this opposition to all forms of oppression circulates via this paper in surrounding communities, including the Land Stewardship Project (LSP) which maintains an office in the Powderhorn Neighborhood. The LSP is splendidly adept at mingling strains of progressive rural thought with the corresponding urban strains. Our nation’s soil health is an overriding issue for the LSP. Why bother? Well, an estimated 1/3 of our topsoil has already washed away. The applied math does not bode well. But hey, just add more chemicals… right? Wrong. Actually, the world’s supply of phosphate is nearing exhaustion. (Note: President Biden has initiated a supply chain analysis for all vital commodities.) Moreover, cover crops are the key to a â€˜regenerative agriculture’ which is poised to sequester enough carbon to seriously stem the tide of climate catastrophe. However, any mandate that our farmers comply with this strategy will be deemed by â€œconservatives” and well armed â€œpatriots" to be a "socialist tyranny”. So, seemingly light years ahead of most Republicans, Biden has proposed to compensate farmers who convert. However, another reminder: cover crops are grown from seeds (!) which ideally would exist ahead of time (i.e., prior to launching the full scale program, our government must contract for an adequate initial supply)… But oh, gosh golly, would not such thoughtful planning constitute yet another â€œtyranny”? â€œMarket forces” will handle the matter in due time. Right? Note: Cargill Inc., one of the world’s largest [...]

On Entering the Twilight Zone

On Entering the Twilight Zone

RAISE YOUR VOICE By PETER MOLENAAR Peter Molenaar Sales of color televisions began in 1954, but it was not until September of 1961 that the premiere of Walt Disney’s World of Color persuaded consumers to purchase color televisions. Having entered the realm of consciousness prior to â€™61, â€œbaby boomers” like me now imbibe black and white reruns as a type of â€œfood for the soul”. Indeed, we have existed long enough to relive The Twilight Zone. “The Twilight Zone is a place that exists at any moment of Time, of space or of mind… but always  when you least expect it. When you find yourself in this realm of unlimited possibility, be careful what you say or do. The right decisions may help you find your way back out…” Sunday, April 11, 2021… Fading after a long day, before turning in I became aware that Daunte Wright had been killed. With apologies to the family, I will state that my arthritis was earned at Smith Foundry, here in South Minneapolis. Which is to say: I am no longer a foot soldier in the people’s movement. Okay? Next day… Yet, committed to the belief that â€œhope is alive”, I returned to the drawing board. My vertical-axis-wind-harvester will eventually desalinate sea water… irrigate deserts… help avert climate catastrophe… after all, our youthful multi-racial activists will tend to Daunte’s memory. But then at day’s end, unaware of the curfew, I drove to Cub Foods. The parking lot was empty. You are now entering… Once upon a time, in broad daylight, I was driving on Lake Street with one headlight out. Fortunately, when pulled over by the police, my very intense â€˜fight or flight’ impulse was overruled by the superego: sit still, Dutch/Scandinavian one, and you very likely will survive. Tragically, Daunte’s legitimate [...]

Democracy and the Wizard of Oz

Democracy and the Wizard of Oz

RAISE YOUR VOICE By PETER MOLENAAR A few blocks east of Cedar on Riverside Avenue is the People's Center where, at age 70, I received the Moderna Vaccine. Given that my father died of COVID-19 at age 99, I look forward to voting in seven more presidential elections. Right? Looking back, at age 20, I was actually fit enough to assist in voter registration in Carthage, Mississippi. Mrs. Hudson was our guardian while the three of us faced down a comparable gathering of hostile young men. Subsequently, for fear of a lynch mob, we wisely deflected a deployment of flirtatious southern belles. Then, at age 32, I would tour the Soviet Union in the midst of electoral activity. To facilitate the voting process, everyone there had the day off with pay! Fast forward to this country... major sections of the working class remain captivated by Trumpism, and are imprisoned by racist thinking. Do you remember the Wizard of Oz and the associated cast of characters? From behind a curtain, strings were (and are) pulled on behalf of big business. To cast divisions among the masses, the Wizard busied himself with sound effects and flashing lights. Observant intellectuals like Marx and Lenin pondered the inner workings of this â€˜bourgeois-democracy’. Actually, it was Lenin who elaborated the revelation that a dictatorship operates behind a facade. Nonetheless in his day, Fred Engels advised workers to utilize the franchise to incrementally advance whenever possible. Note: fascism is an open-faced dictatorship. Question: why was a massive transfer of wealth to the super rich allowed to happen recently? Biden is now compelled to save our country via the American Rescue Act, even as this will exacerbate the nation’s deficit beyond Trump’s original sin. Republicans will hoot, holler and obstruct without agreeing to raise taxes, let alone agreeing to cut back on military expenditure… never [...]

CCC: Applause, Applause

Raise Your Voice By PETER MOLENAAR Yes, yes, yes…! In response to decades of popular mass action and the concerted effort of such stalwarts as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, President Biden has signed an executive order to create a Civilian Climate Corps. This CCC, reminiscent of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the Great Depression, will train and employ (hopefully) millions of people in environmental careers. The restoration of public lands, parks, and waters… storm water management systems, solar panel installations, toxic waste clean up, and urban garden development is foreseen. Hey, with this new impetus, will the East Phillips Urban Farm proposal advance to transform the Roof Depot building? Better believe it! Cautionary note: “Small government’ voices and associated militias will denounce this New Deal as “socialist tyranny.” Again from the local front: Our Powderhorn headquartered Land Stewardship Project deserves huge scoops of praise. LSP has developed and introduced a bill to our state legislature which dovetails perfectly with Biden’s CCC. HF 701 will provide “motivating resources” to ensure that agricultural soil health practices are profitable from day one. “We can reach 100% soil health farming in Minnesota by 2040—clean our water, prevent erosion and run-off—sequester carbon as well as foster healthy pollinators, wildlife, people and more.” Will the new CCC address the problem of homelessness?  Everyone knows that homelessness has seriously vexed this neighborhood. Tragically, the camps have been largely Native American, and yes, heroin was in the mix. However, I know from experience: addicted persons long to prosper as contributing members of society. It follows that in addition to the resolution of logistical questions, the new CCC must become culturally aware and sensitive. Moving forward on the basis of the [...]

Path of the Lemming

Raise Your Voice By PETER MOLENAAR Gardeners in the Phillips Community are probably familiar with the vole. Like all rodents, voles are highly intelligent within their own realm. However, within the span of a day, one of them might take down every red beet sprout. “Oh”, they smile sheepishly, “I couldn’t help it”, before scurrying back to the hole. Sadly, compassionate gardeners are compelled to purchase traps. I purchased mine from Welna Hardware.  Living low in the northern tundra is a species of vole called the lemming. Lemmings are famous for their periodic mass “suicides”.  Are there bigots in our neighborhood? Actually, I did meet one once. The poor white man was ranting about a display of Native regalia at the American Indian Center, and was disdainfully whining about similar expressions in Africa. Hey, I have a Sudanese immigrant friend who celebrates his traditional regalia in a series of smart phone photos. He is an engineer in the field of medical devices who, once invited to join a Native circle dance here, did so without missing a beat.  38th and Chicago…  On a hot day in the early aftermath, Native women danced in full regalia. Fists clenched in the air, they declared: BLACK LIVES MATTER!  Who does not love the bigot? Our simple neighbor would do well to ponder Cahokia, an ancient city in the land now called Illinois. These were the mound builders who organized commerce on a vast scale. Perhaps some knowledge of Tenochtitlan, once the biggest and “most beautiful city in the world”, would nudge his consciousness. However, some educators suggest a “hands on approach”, i.e., task the bigot with building a canoe from birchbark!  After all, the free and full development of every individual is in the national interest… is it not? Ijeoma Oluo has written the book: Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male [...]

The Forest Through the Trees

Raise Your Voice  By PETER MOLENAAR  Folks from this part of the world are familiar with the “signers” who regularly occupy every niche at the intersection of Franklin and Cedar avenues. For some, it is a desperate way to “make ends meet”, while others panhandle for their next “fix” of heroin. Normally, I avoid eye contact. Hey, the new land lord raised my rent by over $300.00. Social Security, plus a union pension and one “odd job” barely covers expenses. So, I grow and sell vegetables in the summer months.  One day…  From his post at the intersection, a young mixed blood man beckoned. I recognized him from the community garden’s homeless camp. Window down, I elaborated my refusal to support the heroin trade. Then, while rubbing the site of his war wound, he explained that he was in constant pain and hoped to be admitted to a methadone program. This soldier reminded me of the guardsmen who had been deployed to protect the grocery at 26th Street… so polite and respectful. He accepted a squash from the back of my truck.  Back to the Peace Garden…  A hefty “two spirit” person was absconding with the fruits of my labor. I won the battle of words. She won the fruit. “Workers and Oppressed People Unite” sometimes ain’t easy. However, the main threat to our collective existence comes from “above”, not from “below”.  Fascism, an inherent tendency within the capitalist system, has emerged now as a visible trend. It is a movement which fosters a union of all social classes (including a section of the working-class) with the most greedy, racist, and imperialistic section of the capitalists. As such, fascism constitutes a reactionary right-wing “popular-front”. Naturally, the left must respond with its own popular-front, i.e., the campaign of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.  How to [...]

Raise Your Voice: Commentary Honor The Community’s Vision Of A Better World. Please!

Raise Your Voice: Commentary Honor The Community’s Vision Of A Better World. Please!

Our Righteous Community By PETER MOLENAAR Note: In the realm of politics and leadership, the designation of “opportunist” intends a pejorative, i.e., it describes a person whose self-interest supersedes the longterm benefit of the whole. By now, every reader of “the alley” newspaper, is aware that governance of Minneapolis intends to demolish the Roof Depot building which rests directly across the from Smith Foundry, and kitty-corner from the Bituminous Roadways Company asphalt plant on East 28th Street. Actually, the demolition has secretly commenced, out of sight, within the walls. The intent is to create a staging ground for the city’s fleet of industrial trucks, many diesel, and their water and sewer pipes. In reality, this plan is a mean spirited slap to our face. Hey, community activists have invested no small sum of time and money to draw up an alternative plan. Their plan, our plan, envisions green jobs, organic food, low rent housing, and more. But, no more pollution in this already over burdened neighborhood! Park the diesel truck fleet where foundry and asphalt fumes are not in the mix! UPHOLD THE FUTURE OF THE CHILDREN OF LITTLE EARTH! It gets deeper…Presently, despite the pandemic and the heat of summer, Smith Foundry workers continue to make molds from sand, pour molten iron, process and ship castings. Why? Because there are military contracts involved, and these workers are deemed “essential” by the federal government. Pray for them, please. Recent science has revealed that COVID-19 attaches to fine dust… iron foundries are dusty places. and deeper…The Roof Depot building and parking lot encapsulates ARSENIC and slows the movement toward the Mississippi River of the arsenic-laced groundwater, samples from which register 700 times above the level deemed to be “safe”. Should this site be reduced to rubble and ARSENIC DUST? What fate awaits? I have [...]

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