Friday, November 30, 2007

Love Mountains?

This is a follow-up to Scott’s post.  Eighteen coal-fired power plants in Michigan are connected to mountaintop removal, a radical form of coal mining in which mountains are literally blown up. The video, Kilowatt Ours, forcefully links the destruction of our mountains by the simple flicking of a light switch. If you want to see the connection between your own power plant and the mountaintop it's removing, go to I Love and plug in your zip code.

There are seven new dirty coal plants proposed for Michigan, including one in Alma and one in Midland. These coal plants will join the other Michigan coal plants that are leaving a giant carbon footprint that, in addition to destroying our atmosphere, are literally destroying our mountains. You can take action with Michigan lawmakers to help block these new coal plants by going to Stop the Coal Rush.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Help stop coal power plants from being built in Michigan

Michigan's energy future is in the crosshairs. Our state is threatened with an onslaught of at least seven more dirty coal-fired power plants that will keep Michigan locked in the energy dark ages, dependent on imported fossil fuels and producing more dangerous global warming pollution. More outdated dirty coal plants will hamper the development of clean energy and the good paying jobs that come with it.

But the Legislature can stop this from happening NOW by passing a NO NEW COAL PLANT policy until Michigan has a strong Clean Energy Plan that would:

  • Enact a strong renewable energy standard that requires energy providers to generate 20 percent of their electric power from renewable sources by 2020.
  • Enact strong statewide utility funded energy efficiency programs that result in at least 1% energy savings per year.
  • Protect consumers from having to absorb the skyrocketing future costs of coal burning.
  • Implement a long term energy plan that guarantees energy efficiency and renewable power are used before any more outdated coal plants are built.
  • Develop new standards for controlling the emissions of CO2.
  • Governor Granholm has been working tirelessly bring renewable energy to the state, which will help improve the health of both our environment and our economy. Increasing coal production will hurt our environment without offering much promise for many more new jobs. So be sure to visit and let your lawmakers know that you support our environment and our economy and oppose the building of coal-fired power plants in Michigan.

    And while you're at it, visit and take the pledge to do your part.


    Wednesday, November 14, 2007

    Truly supporting the troops

    The phrase "Support the Troops" is often used as somewhat of a cliché that isn't usually backed by action. While some like to say they support the troops, not many people actually do anything to back up their words with deeds.

    Now, thanks to Blogging for Michigan's Troop Care fund, we have an excellent opportunity to put our words into action. Now through November 25, BFM is taking donations which will be used to help provide material support to Michigan-based troops currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Donations are being accepted online or by mail. They will appreciate any donation, large or small. If you don't feel you can afford to donate, please be sure to spread the word so that more people know about Troop Care.

    "Support the Troops" should be more than a phrase - it should be a way of life. Here's your chance to show that you really do care about those who are serving their country in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Labels: , ,

    Sunday, November 11, 2007

    Thoughts on Veterans Day, 2007

    In 1950, when I was five-years-old and living in a small town in Kentucky, my first contact with anything military happened when my next-door neighbor, Mr. Abbot, gave me a disarmed shell he had brought back with him from World War I. Not long after that, my mother took me to a parade where Mr. Abbot and other old men paraded down the main street of town wearing uniforms. Mom told me that the men had been soldiers when they were a lot younger. As I looked around, I saw men take off their hats and put their hands over their hearts as the American flag passed. I noticed several of them were crying.

    All over the country on that particular day, Mom said, there were parades like this one. It was a special day called Armistice Day. Personally, I was disappointed because I had assumed there would be clowns and animals–maybe even elephants–in the parade. Why else would people be excited about a parade, and why would men cry because a flag passed by?

    Jump forward to November 11, 1995. I was standing on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City with my grown-up son as we watched veterans from all American wars since World War II parade up Fifth Avenue. It took more than an hour for the parade to pass us. There were lines of cars carrying vets who were no longer able to walk. Some groups of veterans had tried, without much success, to organize themselves into discernible marching units. The desert camouflage of the veterans of the recent Gulf War looked peculiar to me, mixed in, as they were, with the solid colors of the uniforms from the other units.

    But the groups that affected me the most were the veterans of the war in Vietnam. That was my war, a war that I had tried, unsuccessfully, to put behind me for so long. Tears blurred my eyes as I peered through the telephoto lens of my camera, hoping to spot a familiar face although I knew there was little hope in finding anyone I served with in 1970. Even if I had recognized them, I doubted they would recognize me. The twenty-five years that had passed had changed me from a cynical, sarcastic draftee into a middle-aged man with a receding hairline and expanding paunch, who would not be ashamed to stand on the steps of St. Pat’s silently weeping for the all the soldiers who had died in that unnecessary war.

    My son put his arm around me and asked if I was okay. I told him that I was, but I didn’t say that I was immeasurably sad when I thought of what my beloved country had lost in that war: all the young men and women who had died, and the millions of veterans who had survived physically but who had never truly “come home.”

    On Veterans Day this year, I will once again feel the sorrow of loss, but also a burning anger. When I consider what the warmongers in Washington have done with the lives our sons and daughters in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, and what these new veterans face when they return home, I am filled with rage. When I think about the impotence of our elected officials of both parties to end this senseless war, and when I hear the drumbeats for starting yet another war in Iran, despair washes over me. Will we never learn?

    For most of my fellow citizens, this Veterans Day will pass unobserved as have so many others. But if there were a parade in Mount Pleasant on this Veterans Day, and if a five-year-old boy saw an old man with his hand over his heart and tears running down his face as our flag passes by, he would be looking at me.

    Labels: , , ,

    Saturday, November 10, 2007

    The Maroon and Gold goes green

    As a junior here at CMU, I like to make sure that CMU's administration is not only spending our tuition dollars wisely, but also making this school a socially responsible institution - that is, one that encourages people not only to take action to improve our communities and our world, but one that actually does so itself.

    From CMU's online newsroom:
    The use of woodchips as a renewable fuel source for steam requirements saves the university up to $2 million annually in fuel costs. An additional $1 million or more, over the course of the four-year contract, will be saved as a result of a university contract with Wolverine Power Marketing Cooperative to purchase electricity.

    Facilities management and residence life also are in the process of modifying nearly 11,000 bathroom fixtures by installing special water conservation aerators and discs in order to reduce water and sewer costs. The new faucet diffusers will reduce water flow from 2.0 gallons per minute to 0.5 g.p.m.

    Last year, it was decided that all future new buildings and major renovations would follow the U.S. Green Building Council guidelines. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program provides very specific guidelines that buildings must meet in order to become certified. According to Lawrence, the new education building will be the first on CMU's campus to follow the LEED criteria.
    But it's not just the higher-ups at CMU who are doing their part for our environment - students, faculty, and staff are getting in on the act:
    Meanwhile, recycling on-campus has doubled. In June 2007, CMU averaged 38 tons of recycling materials per month, a 19-ton increase from August 2003.


    Thursday, November 08, 2007

    At Griffin Forum, lawmakers promise pay cut, touch on 2010

    I had the chance to attend the semi-annual Griffin Policy Forum, put on by the Robert and Marjorie Griffin Endowed Chair in American Government at CMU. (One Gary Peters currently holds that chair.)

    This fall's Griffin Forum was titled "Now What? Managing the budget crisis while promoting a positive future for Michigan." Their panelists were Andy Dillon, Mike Bishop, Craig DeRoche, and Mark Schauer, with Tim Skubick as moderator. Seeing as how the panel consisted of four titans in Michigan politics, there was no way I was going to pass up the chance to go.

    Few points were made by either side that I hadn't heard before then. Schauer discussed the uncertainty of the budget process and how that likely scared off businesses that would have otherwise invested in Michigan. Dillon called out the Repubs for not doing their jobs. DeRoche kept parroting the old GOP talking points: 'Taxes are bad!' 'We need reforms!' 'Why did I go to CMU? Go Broncos!' (Okay, he didn't use that last one.) All in all, not much besides what both sides have been saying for months now.

    That said, not many of the hundreds of people in attendance had followed the budget battle as closely as I have, so for them to argue the same points was understandable.

    They all agreed that extending the 6% tax on services was not a good idea; they disagreed as to where the new revenue should be replaced. Mike Bishop said he supports increasing the sales tax to 6.5%. Schauer supports retooling the new Michigan Business Tax. I'll have more on Republican tax hypocrisy in an upcoming post.

    Tim Skubick seemed to take his job as a journalist seriously. Not that I haven't been unhappy with some of the things he's said and done, but props to him for giving the panelists some tough questions. After DeRoche went on about reforms, Skubick held him to account by asking, "Where were all the reforms when Engler was governor?" He's also good for a few laughs, though: "Here's the score of the game: Western 3, CMU 102." While discussing a forum on political stability which he moderated: "At the time, we were all in favor of it."

    Mark this down: When asked if they would take a pay cut, all four of them said they would. Schauer and I believe one other person said they and some of their colleagues return a portion of their salary to the Treasury. (While you might think this recent proposal offers hope in that regard, this proposal affects future lawmakers, not themselves.)

    Another thing to mark down: When asked if they would run for governor, Dillon, DeRoche, and Schauer all said No. Bishop's response? "You never know." Expect more definitive answers on this following next year's Presidential election.

    Following the forum, Bill Ballenger, the previous Griffin Endowed Chair, congratulated Peters on a job well done. I second Ballenger's remark. For him to get these heavyweights in Michigan politics under one roof is a rare feat. Peters should be commended for helping to enhance our education at CMU by bringing these titans to Mount Pleasant.

    Labels: , ,

    It’s Time to Put the Lid Back on the Hamper…

    You’re standing in the grocery checkout line, perusing the magazines when the person in front of you points to one of the covers.

    “That Angelina Jolie. How can she dare to put her face on the cover of a magazine? Home-wrecker. My husband’s been sleeping with his secretary for six months, and she wouldn’t dare look me in the eye.”

    It’s the person in the bank line who’s howling, explaining loudly to teller how their ex spent it all on internet poker, and how consequently, they shouldn’t be charged all those overdraft fees. The child who tells you exactly what mom said to dad last night at the dinner table.

    It’s an old adage: never air your dirty laundry out in public. Taken both literally and figuratively, I’m sure we’d all agree. No one wants to see your dirty drawers, and there are just some things that are better left to be discussed in private.

    A few months ago, Democratic candidates were in the spotlight. Hillary said this. Barack promised that. Edwards did what? Lately when I hear about Democratic candidates in the news it’s about what they’re not doing: campaigning in Michigan and Florida.

    We’re simply not there. Insert your latte-lapping limousine liberal crack here. Democrats come to fill up their coffers but can’t stay to have a conversation. We’re the party of the people, except that we don’t have time to talk with the people, or even wave to them on the way to and from our $1000-a-plate dinners.

    My question is this: honestly, do we have to do this now? Yes, the primary system is seriously flawed. We need to figure out a different way of choosing our nominee that doesn’t heavily favor a few small states, many of which are about as racially and ethnically diverse as a box of Q-tips. And although I admire the seriousness with which these states take in choosing the nation’s nominee, the process needs to equally represent everyone. We need a new solution… but can’t it wait until next year?

    Being from Michigan, I’m a bit partial to this issue. But beyond my own state, there’s Florida. I mean, Florida. FLORIDA. Are we really going to do this again? Have the last eight years with an overgrown frat boy for president given us amnesia? Fifty states, and the one we choose to pick a fight with is the one that got us into this mess in the first place.

    We have practically everything we could ask for: Presidential approval ratings in the doldrums. Three vibrant candidates at the top, all with great, lively campaigns. The Republicans can’t even pull one candidate out of their crotchety old hat that has widespread appeal within their party. A pro-choice, pro-gay rights east-coast mayor? An actor? A Mormon? Come on!

    We have everything in our favor, and this is the moment we choose to air our dirty laundry in public. Shame on us! Our country is desperately seeking leadership, and our party is divided, quibbling over calendar dates like little old ladies bickering over whether to play mahjong before or after Wheel of Fortune.

    For goodness sakes, can’t we compromise, even if it’s just to get the story off the news? Can’t we agree to follow the rules as they stand for now and make an agreement to fix the system after we’ve gotten these fools out of office?

    It doesn’t matter who decides to be the better man: the states postponing their primaries by a mere few weeks or the national party deciding to shrug its shoulders. But someone’s gotta do it. We can’t afford to mess this up again.

    Wednesday, November 07, 2007

    The Absurdity of the Bush Administration on Pakistan from a NYT Writer

    Rarely do you get see or read satire perfectly crafted.

    When you do, it is a rare gift and when I read Maureen Dowd's latest column in the New York Times, it was with a little glint in my eye and a smile on my face. Maureen nailed the Bush attitude, approach to the world and the insanity that is George Bush in one article in a way that few other writers could do.

    Bill Maher would love to have her writing skills working for him. He is good comedian and commentator, but with writers on strike, he is mute.

    But Maureen obviously saw the need in these trying times to use wicked satire and mocking to point out the obvious. Way to go Maureen. Great piece of writing.

    Click above on the headline or here to check it out.

    Monday, November 05, 2007

    Today (Monday, Nov 5) at CMU: Leaders of Mich Legislature

    CMU has not widely advertised this, but here is an opportunity to hear and meet with these top leaders in the Legislature who are responsible for the ongoing budget crisis.

    Political leaders representing the Democratic and Republican parties
    will discuss the state's stretched budget and the role of higher
    education in Michigan's economic future during the Griffin Policy Forum
    Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. in Plachta Auditorium. The panelists are Speaker of
    the House Andy Dillon, House minority leader Craig DeRoche, Senate
    majority leader Mike Bishop, and Senate minority leader Mark Schauer.
    WKAR's Tim Skubick will moderate. Both the forum and a reception
    immediately following are free and open to the public.