Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Daisy May Proves One Person Can Indeed Do Something to Make a Difference Beautifully

It's a half day's drive from Mount Pleasant to the middle northern part of the Upper Peninsula, but it is one of Michigan's most beautiful and least settled parts of the state and a huge corporation could wind up doing to the UP what strip mining did to parts of Kentucky and West Virginia many years ago.

Dead fish and polluted streams could be the UP's fate when Kennecott uses a problematic method of mining and fudges environmental impact statements and a small band of folks are trying to stop it. In Mid-Michigan we know what Dow Chemical has done to the Tittibawasee and Saginaw River watersheds and they've been in denial for decades and just south of us millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent to clean up the Pine River in the St. Louis area.

Can a small band of folks in the UP actually do anything to stop what some folks see as inevitable?

I've never met Daisy May, but she and the folks up there have made a statement with music and pictures that reaches out to us in a way that reminds us that all of us live downstream even though we don't always think that way. What happens up there in the UP is important for generations to come, just like it happened to us.

After you take a moment to listen to Daisy May's clear voice sing her poetry and remind you why our environment is worth fighting for, click on the donate button to make a small or large contribution and then click over to our website too where you can click to help us keep our office open here in the heart of Michigan.

Then think about using your talents whatever they are to help us think globally and act locally to elect officials who really care about all of us and not just the large corporations who keep them in office.

Here is Daisy May's Message

And here is where you can contribute to help fight Kennecott

And here is where you can act locally to contribute online. Just go to our web page and click on Contribute just below the main header.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Big Sell on Nuclear Plants Doesn't tell the Real Story About French Nuclear Power

The pro-nuclear drums are beating harder and faster. Now I just hear old Newt Gingrich pointing to France as the model we should emulate. The French produce about 80% of their electricity from nuclear and they export electricity. Pollution? Those French nuclear power plants run clean, Newt points out. All of the conservatives are making it sound like nuclear power is the obvious answer to getting away from fossil fuels that contribute to global warming. Newt Gingrich is all for it. So are a bunch of other friends of big business. But wait just a minute.

There is more about the French and American nuclear programs those pro-nuclear power advocates don't want you to know. The truth is France and the United States went down different paths in the long term development of nuclear power. They are not comparable in any way.

Let's take a closer look. France chose a government agency to design and develop its nuclear capacity and most plants are based on the tried and true pressurized water reactor design. Over the years the French program stuck with the same basic design for every power plant, Thus a trained nuclear reactor operator in France could operate any reactor in France. As newer plants came on line some additional safety and operational improvements were added and older plants were easily updated with the improvements. One plant design made it easier to provide training for plant operators and safety standards applied to all plants equally.

And, oh yes, the French taxpayers paid for all of it and have benefited equally from the system they helped pay for. When it came time to build a costly nuclear fuel reprocessing plant or two French legislators didn't have to hassle over which province to bury nuclear waste in. It was all seen as a cost of having the benefits of nuclear power. And as France looks to the future they are NOT looking to privatize their system either. France has an energy policy that was NOT set by energy tycoons and it includes more nuclear power. Safety and the environment are prime considerations.

Now compare that to the good old free market American style of nuclear power development. In the United States taxpayers paid with large subsidies for the development of the first commercial nuclear power plants. Investors in utility stocks reaped the benefits and no one wanted to build a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, because they were expensive and America was so large that the cheapest way to handle nuclear waste was to bury it and American taxpayers were expected to pick up the lions share of the cost. Whoever came up with that bright idea should be tried for treason.

There's more. There was some good old competition in the American nuclear power industry. Not your rip-roaring kind of open market competition, mind you, but good old boy kind of competition that included just a few companies with Westinghouse and GE at the top of the heap. Some smaller outfits tried and failed against the oligopoly and the net result was that weaker players arose and the arrogance of American-trained nuclear engineers kept wanting to try something a little different. Michigan's Fermi nuclear plants were a prime example of that we-can-do-it-better crowd. Good old American competition is good for business. But it didn't turn out to be good for America. Fixing the mistakes were costly to the ratepayers of Detroit Edison. Back in the good old days of regulation it was easy to pass on costs to consumers so it didn't matter.

Then, of course, there was the American wake-up call at Three Mile Island. It wasn't a design problem as much as it was a training problem. Plant operators there didn't really understand what was going on until it was too late. France's safety record is impressive. They have a continual improvement program and because all plants are similar it's simple to change operational procedures and upgrade training.

America's nuclear plants are a hodge-podge and they are all aging and not well. Improvements are not standardized and made more costly.

The dirty little secret that the new pro-nuclear advocates don't want to tell you is that some things are better accomplished by governments and not the private sector.

It seems ironic, doesn't it, that those same conservative free market foghorns don't want you to know that the French nuclear power program is government owned, government run and yes it does work very well indeed.

If Newt Gingrich wants us to emulate the French nuclear program, perhaps we should take a closer look. What's the opposite of privatization? The French nuclear program puts a lie to the conservative framing that government can't do anything right.

We know the American program hasn't worked out very well for any but the rich folks who benefited from American taxpayer subsidies and when it came to picking up the hidden costs, well that was a government responsibility.

Well, I just saw on TV a few weeks ago how some Americans with costly diseases have moved to France where they have a medical system that is run by the government too and everyone gets free medical care.

Amazing. Where do these France folks come up with all these innovative ideas? Those crazy French people also don't spend a huge amount of money on defense either.

OK, Newt, you got me. Let's adopt those French policies all the way. How about some Freedom Fries to munch on while you think about it, eh?

Friday, October 26, 2007

WCMU Set to Cut Last Progressive Radio Program in Mid-Michigan - Please Sign Petition, E-Mail or Call

Many of you may be aware that within the next week or so WCMU Public Radio is planning some changes in their programming and among those changes will most likely be the elimination of Alternative Radio, the Monday night at 9 p.m. nationally syndicated show that is now the only progressive radio show on our local public radio station.

We had a long phone chat with John Sheffler, WCMU's radio director and he concedes that the show may be cut. He seems like an intelligent reasonable guy who is genuinely interested in hearing listener's views, but claims the numbers he has seen including some surveys of WCMU listeners indicates little support for shows like Alternative Radio. But no one was asked specifically about this show and their political views. Sheffler may know quite a bit about his listeners demographics, but nothing about their politics. But he has had a request from a right wing group to balance out Alternative Radio with a wacko show to the right of Rush Limbaugh and Sheffler rejected that to his credit.

But he has not heard from many folks concerned about the lack of good progressive radio like Diane Rheim and others in our region I would urge each of you to add your voice via phone or e-mail to those of us like Charles Novitksi and Rob Barker who have already let John Sheffler know there is a large progressive community in our area and we do care about public broadcasting and its content. Below is a link to an online petition that Andy Leavitt has put together that you can quickly respond to.

Please take a few moments and let WCMU Public Radio know we do care about what they do. Many of us responded to the plea to save public radio a little while back and many of us are regular contributors, but we don't usually mention our party affiliation or political views when
we do that. Maybe that was a big mistake.

You may call John Sheffler at 989-774-3105 or e-mail him at john.sheffler@cmich.edu

To sign the petition go to http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Proradoiowcmu/

Thursday, October 18, 2007

How Much Attention Needs To Be Paid To An Unethical Political Trickster and His Dirty Tricks?

Those of us who understand both the history and day-to day workings of political campaigns can't help but chuckle a little when we see a modern-day political trickster named Dennis Lennox using modern tools to play nasty tricks on some of our Democratic friends.

Some of us know the history of Dick Tuck a political operative of questionable ethics who devised what were in his time some clever political strategies that confused and confounded the opposition because they were unaware of his goals. Some of what Dick Tuck did was unethical and perhaps bordering on illegal, but Tuck was unique and clever.

Today here in Mount Pleasant right in the hallowed halls of Central Michigan University we have a clever young man who is employing an old strategy with some high tech tactics that is confounding university officials, our local prosecutor, students and others, but he is not fooling everyone, thank goodness.

The young man in question is allegedly a junior student at CMU named Dennis Lennox. We do know he travels a bit and has an unknown source of funds or means of support. He knows quite a bit about video techniques, how to use his skills to embarrass people in front of his camera, and how to get them posted on the Internet. He also knows how to manipulate the media a bit and he is regularly being underestimated, just like Dick Tuck and Karl Rove.

One can only conjecture that he may be a good chess player as well, because Dennis is always thinking two steps ahead of the people he confronts. And he knows it and often laughs when others think his laughter comes at inappropriate times. But he may be chuckling at how well his dirty tricks are working. He has a level of awareness of political trickery that most Michiganders are not used to. Nasty politics is well known in many, if not most parts of Michigan, but here in Michigan's heartland, politics are still a bit on the naive level. There are many Democrats and Republicans in our area who still shake hands with each other and believe that the national Republican party couldn't possibly be as sinister and corrupt as some folks are saying.

Young Dennis may think he is onto something new, but the tricks he is pulling are not unique at all, in fact there is some evidence to indicate that Republican dirty tricks and worse are going on in many places in our country right now. Is Dennis just one of many politically dedicated young ideologues who have been trained and paid for by some right wing group? Or is he just a clever young man copying what Dick Tuck did many years ago with some new technology? There is so much we don't know.

What we do know is that what Dennis is doing is not ethical in the way most experts understand ethics today. Is it illegal? Well, it certainly confuses our current local prosecutor who just happens to be a Republican. Of course, many things confuse him. He can't figure out, or maybe, doesn't want to figure out. what Dennis is doing is illegal.

There is also that crazy little thing called the First Amendment that needs to be dealt with and because some excellent teachers taught him at CMU about that marvel of American justice, Dennis fully understands how he can use it to his benefit.

So pardon me, if I just sit back and chuckle a bit more about a young Karl Rove wannabe as I watch him practice his craft. The kid knows stuff. Not as much as he thinks he does though.

If anyone is interested I learned a few things about how to deal with the people named Dick and Dennis, but I am not sharing those secrets cheap except to smart Democrats I like and whose values I share.

Do we have to stoop to their level of ethics? No.

Can we ignore Dennis Lennox? That may not be wise.

Is it smart to get mad at Dennis? No, provoking is part of his strategy.

So what do we do? Learn more about political strategy and tactics and what is legal, ethical and the best way to deal with politics we don't understand. Politics and campaigning is not rocket science but it does have a body of knowledge that may be helpful to understand.

So what are dirty tricks? Wikipedia has a good definition and some wisdom about political dirty tricks. If you want to know more you may wish to check it out here.

And who was Dick Tuck? Again Wikipedia is helpful right here.

Is Dennis getting much attention? Yes, too much.

In the local campus paper see here.

In the Detroit News see here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ain't Nothin' Like the Real Thing, baby....

I cast my first ballot as a democrat in kindergarten. One morning in early November, the Weekly Reader challenged us to vote for a presidential candidate. The first picture shown was of a grey-haired, elderly man, with his mouth wide open, presumably yelling at a large body of people, and the second a younger, dark-haired man smiling and waving at the camera. To a five year-old, Michael Dukakis was the clear winner. Too bad the country didn’t agree.

The idea of voting for someone for their charm or charisma is often sneered at, but irresistible nonetheless. Our current President doesn’t have much to offer in achievements or experience, but he has folksy charm. Most of us like to think of ourselves as more sophisticated than just kindergarteners perusing the weekly reader, but are we? Should we be?

I’ve spent the last few months trying to pick a democratic candidate to support, this time the way I’m supposed to: studying the issues. But for all the importance we place on them, the issues have gotten me nowhere.

While examining the issues and where the candidates stand, I’ve learned two things: 1) I don’t know enough about the issues to pick a candidate on the issues, and 2) I don’t actually care about them.

Take global warming. How should we regulate carbon emissions? Cap and trade? Carbon Tax? Carbon Credit? Quite honestly, do most of us understand the differences between these systems? I don’t. And even if I did, am I qualified to decide which one is best for our nation? Then consider the Iraq war, education, same-sex marriage, or health care. The answers are too complex to be determined in a wikipedia search or a candidate soundbite.

What I really want is to have the same sensation I did in kindergarten – to look at a man and feel a good feeling. It sounds dumb, I know, but maybe if you knew my favorite president, you’d understand.

Yes, President Josiah Bartlet. If you don’t recognize his name from the scrolls of history, you’re looking in the wrong genre. President Bartlet served for eight years as the on NBC’s The West Wing. Chuckle at my naiveté, but when I see Martin Sheen, I quietly hum hail to the Chief under my breath.

On the show, Bartlet’s staff describes him as “the real thing.” He makes mistakes, big ones even, but you know he cares deeply about the nation and its people. This is what I want from a president. That even if I don’t agree with what he decides to do, I know that he’s a thinking person, a trustworthy person. Not a saint, but not a swindler – someone with integrity.

Can what I’m looking for be only found in the realms of fiction? Today’s candidates read stump speeches with meticulously tested language, bow to endless polling data and perform at scripted public events. It’s impossible to know who the real candidates are behind the duplicitous masks of the well-crafted campaign.

As an American citizen, my vote is the most personal thing I have to offer to our democracy. It may be a fool’s errand in this day and age, but I’m going to keep watching each debate, listening to each interview, searching for the “real thing." If you find it, let me know.

Note: I wrote this blog for gather.com's election 08 people's press corps blogger competition. If you're a member there, look for my article under mmcottrell, and leave a comment or rate me if you like. Thanks for reading....

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Democracy Matters Starting New Fall Season

ICDP-TV began shooting its new season of Democracy Matters on Thursday night. The growingly popular political discussion show with host John Dinse starts the season with two special guests, the co-founders of the Michigan Democratic Party's Justice Caucus, Paul Stevenson and Judge Rudy Serra.

The Detroit area attorneys have been long time progressive party activists and Judge Serra was an honored debater at CMU while working on his undergraduate degree. The first show of the season is scheduled to be seen in Gratiot, Isabella and Clare counties on Charter Cable Channel 3 as early as Oct. 10. We'll update with scheduled air times soon. We will also be uploading to Google video as well.

Our trained volunteers manned the studio cameras and control booths and this year we have a completely newly designed logo and graphics to give the program a fresh updated look. Check out some more pics of the pre-taping activities here.

ICDP-TV is back on the air this season. We have some other interesting productions planned after we get done editing tons of tape we've shot in the past few months. It's not exactly Ken Burns stuff, but we think you will be informed and perhaps even entertained.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mark Brewer on Mich ID Voting Law