The Marc Steiner Show

Archive for Politics

Democracy in Crises: The Fire and The Fury

democracyincrisislogoAugust 10, 2017 – Democracy In Crises

We hosted the newest edition of Democracy in Crisis! I talked with co-host Baynard Woods about the the now present specter of nuclear war and Trumps latest comments on the situation with North Korea. Democracy in Crisis is produced by Calvin Perry.


Baltimore Ceasefire: What Success Means & Where We Go From Here

August 10, 2017 – Baltimore Ceasefire

Today we launch our first podcast since our daily show closed. At the very least we will be bringing you a new podcast every week.

Baltimore Ceasefire captured the hearts and minds of our community when it launched the campaign for a weekend without killings in our neighborhoods. Last weekend was that weekend when I was unfortunately away in Memphis.  As we all know Baltimore Ceasefire went viral over the last month and no less so last weekend when dozens and dozens of groups of people craeted Ceasefire events around this City. Yes, two were murdered in a 72 hour period but a movement, a consciousness, a spirit has been born. This first podcast reflects that spirit as we talk with Erricka Bridgeford who inspired and created Baltimore Ceasefire and community theater activist and Steiner Show commentator Koli Tengella who was not part of the planning but was one of thousands to spontaneously and creatively participate respond to the call of  Baltimore Ceasefire.

Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons, and the Racial Divide

joy ann reidFebruary 4, 2016 – Segment 1

We speak with Joy-Ann Reid at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, about her book Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons, and the Racial Divide. Reid is a national correspondent for MSNBC.

Baltimore Mayoral Candidate: Councilman Nick Mosby

Councilman Nick Mosby (Credit: City Paper)February 2. 2016 – Segment 2

Joining us is Baltimore’s Democratic Mayoral candidate, Councilman Nick Mosby, who shares his vision for the city. Councilman Mosby currently represents Baltimore’s 7th District in West Baltimore.


Political Roundtable: Iowa Caucus Results

24589983121_74924d1356_nFebruary 2, 2016 – Segment 1

We begin the show with a Political Roundtable on the results of the Iowa Caucus.  Sitting in is  Charles Ellison, political strategist and Host of The Ellison Report on WEAA and Lenny McAllister, Republican strategist, former congressional candidate and host of both Night Talk: Get To The Point on the Pittsburgh cable news channel and Get Right with Lenny McAllister on NewsRadio 1020 KDKA in Pittsburgh. We are also joined by Dr. Mileah Kromer, Director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center, and Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Goucher College.


How Did The Democrats Do At The Iowa Brown And Black Forum?

Iowa Brown and Black CaucusJanuary 12, 2016 – Segment 2

Today our panel of guests reflect on the Iowa Brown and Black Forum, the nation’s oldest minority-focused Presidential forum. All three Democratic Presidential candidates will participate. Our panel of guests includes Charles Ellison, political strategist and Host of The Ellison Report on WEAA; Dani McClain, contributing writer for The Nation and Fellow at the Nation Institute where she focuses on race and reproductive justice; and ER Shipp, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Journalist-in-Residence and Associate Professor of Journalism at Morgan State University.


Verdict In The Trial Of Officer Porter: Mistrial

william porterDecember 17, 2015 – Segment 1

Today we begin with a panel discussion on the mistrial declared in the trial of Officer William Porter in the death of Freddie Gray.

Our panel of guests include Dominque Stevenson, Program Director for the American Friends Service Committee and co-author with Eddie Conway of Marshall Law: The Life and Times of a Baltimore Black Panther;  Eddie Conway, producer at Real News NetworkMichaela Duchess Brown, head of communications for Bmore Bloc and Doug Colbert,  Professor at University of Maryland School of Law.


Bernie Sanders Coming to Baltimore

17915112353_d4b65628e3_cDecember 8, 2015 – Segment 4

Today we talk with former Ohio State Senator, Nina Turner, who withdrew her support of Hillary Clinton last month to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders.  The Democratic Presidential candidate is visiting the communities of Baltimore city today.


US Allies Saudi Arabia & Turkey’s Role in the Islamic State

December 8, 2015 – Segment 3

15199025651_aafbd2f4aa_nToday we look  US allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey and their roles in Islamic State. We are joined by Loretta Napoleoni, author of Islamist Phoenix: Islamic State and the Redrawing of the Middle East.


Local Roundtable: Sheila Dixon Leading Baltimore Mayoral Polls

city hallNovember 24, 2015 – Segment 1

Today we begin our show with a Local News Roundup, focusing on the latest Baltimore mayoral race poll that shows former mayor Sheila Dixon with a substantial lead.

Our panel of guests includes: Steve Raabe, Founder and President of OpinionWorks, who conducted the poll; Luke Broadwater, reporter at the Baltimore Sun, where he covers Baltimore’s City Hall and local politics; ER Shipp, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Journalist-in-Residence and Associate Professor of Journalism at Morgan State University; and Charles Ellison, political strategist and Host of The Ellison Report on WEAA.


Rojava, Kurdish Resistance and ISIS

paris memorialNovember 17, 2015 – Segment 2

 We now turn to the international scene and talk with Kurdish and Turkish activists about the uniqueness of the Rojava political movement and the Kurish war with ISIS; joining us is Sinam Mohamad, former co-President of the People’s Council of Rojava (the main political body working for the liberation of Rojava since the beginning of the civil war in Syria). She currently serves as the Democratic Self-Rule Administration’s European representative, is a member of the Kurdish Supreme Committee in Rojava, and works for the Democratic Society Movement. We also have Johns Hopkins PHD student, Serra Hakyemez, who is also a member of Rojava Solidarity group in Baltimore.


Green Party & The 2016 Mayoral and City Council Elections

Baltimore Green PartyNovember 5, 2015- Segment 2

Today we talk with the Green Party about the 2016 Baltimore Mayoral and City Council Elections with Bonnie Lane, advocate for the homeless and current chairperson of the Baltimore Green Party, and Apostle Richard White Jr., Baltimore Green Party candidate for 6th District City Council.


Islamophobia in Our Society

ahmed mohamedSeptember 22, 2015 – Segment 2

We unpack Islamophobia in light of 14-year-old Muslim student, Ahmed Mohamed, arrested by police at his school after school officials thought the clock he made was a bomb, and presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson’s remarks that a Muslim would not be fit to serve as President of the United States. Our guests are: Zainab Chaudry, Maryland Outreach Manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations; Laila el-Haddad, Palestinian journalist, blogger, activist ; Imam Derrick Amin, Muslim Chaplain at Morgan State University; and Farajii Muhammad, Host of Listen Up! on WEAA 88.9FM and member of the Nation of Islam.


International News Roundup: Baltimore’s Role in Syrian Refugee Crisis and Britain’s New Leader of Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn

Syrian Refugees

September 15, 2015 – Segment 1

We look at the role Baltimore will play in the Syrian refugee crisis and the newly elected leader of the Labour Party with Bhaskar Sunkara, Founding Editor of Jacobin and Charles Faddis, author of novel Kaffa.


National News Roundup: Ben Carson & Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis

Dr. Ben Carson (Photo Credit: Paul Lynch on Flickr)September 10, 2015 – Segment 1

Dr. Kimberly Moffitt sits in as guest host for Marc Steiner.

Today we look at the phenomenon of Dr. Ben Carson’s popularity in the national polls and recently released Kentucky clerk, Kim Davis, with Leah Wright Rigueur, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and author of The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of PowerCatalina Byrd, media consultant and political strategist; Andrea Plaid, one of Ebony.com’s “8 Dynamic Black Women Editors in New Media,” contributing editor at The Feminist Wire and Dr. Mileah Kromer, Director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center and Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Goucher College.


Ted Cruz for President?

ted_cruzMarch 24, 2015 – Segment 2

Republican strategist Lenny McAllister offers a commentary on yesterday’s announcement that Texas Senator Ted Cruz has thrown his hat into the ring for the 2016 Presidential elections. McAllister is host of NightTalk: Get To The Pointon the Pittsburgh cable news channel and Get Right with Lenny McAllister on NewsRadio1020 KDKA in Pittsburgh.

 


State Politics Roundtable: Legislative Session Nearing End & Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s Retirement

flagMarch 16, 2015 – Segment 2

With less than a month left in the Maryland State Legislative Session and news of Senator Barbara Mikulksi’s retirement, we host a Maryland State Roundtable discussion, with: Jenna Johnson, Reporter for the Washington Post; Bryan Sears, Government Reporter forThe Daily Record; and Charles Robinson, Political and Business Correspondent for Maryland Public Television.


Dr. Cornel West: Black Prophetic Fire

Dr. Cornel WestOctober 28, 2014 – Segment 2

I talk with the inimitable Dr. Cornel West! The author and Union Theological Seminary professor joins me to discuss his new book Black Prophetic Fire (in Dialogue with and Edited by Christa Buschendorf). In Black Prophetic Fire, West offers a new perspective on six ninetheenth- and twentieth century African American leaders: Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker, Malcolm X, and Ida B. Wells.

 

LINK


‘Love and War: Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters, and One Louisiana Home’ by James Carville & Mary Matalin

Mary Matalin and James CarvilleFebruary 14, 2014 – Segment 3

We close out the week with a conversation Marc hosted last week at the Enoch Pratt Free Library with husband and wife political commentators James Carville and Mary Matalin, about their new book, Love and War: Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters, and One Louisiana HomeYou will hear this power couple talk about his ADHD, her love of stray cats, and more!

This segment originally aired January 17, 2014.

LINK


James Carville and Mary Matalin

imagesJanuary 17, 2014 – Segment 3

We close out the week with a conversation Marc hosted last week at the Enoch Pratt Free Library with husband and wife political commentators James Carville and Mary Matalin, about their new book, Love and War: Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters, and One Louisiana Home. You will hear this power couple talk about his ADHD, her love of stray cats, and more!

LINK


Election Day 2013: What To Watch

Bill DiBlasio and familyNovember 5, 2013 – Segment 2

Tuesday is Election Day, and we take a look at five key elections to watch. Joining us will be Brentin Mock, who serves as Reporting Fellow on Voting Rights for Colorlines.com, is web editor for the citizen-journalist driven blog site Bridge the Gulf, and helped launch the investigative news site The Lens.

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Politics: Outcome Of The Shutdown | Implementing The Affordable Care Act

President Obama, Affordable Care ActOctober 22, 2013 – Segment 2

On this morning’s national news roundup, we discuss the implications of the government shutdown and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, with:

  • Dr. Lawrence Brown, Assistant Professor of Public Health at Morgan State University;
  • Dr. Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Assistant Professor of Communication and Affiliate Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies at Loyola University Maryland;
  • and Dr. Richard Vatz, Professor in the Department of Instructional Leadership & Professional Development at Towson University.

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Government Shutdown

shutdown signOctober 11, 2013 – Segment 2

We continue our discussion about the effects of the government shutdown with: Bryce Covert, Editor of the Roosevelt Institute’s New Deal 2.0 blog and regular contributor to The Nation; and Lenny McAllister, Republican strategist and former congressional candidate.

LINK


The Politics And Culture Of The Government Shutdown

shutdownOctober 7, 2013 – Segment 1

We discuss the cultural and political roots of the stalemate in Washington that has led to the government shutdown. We are joined by Bob Somerby, Editor of The Daily Howler; Dr. Lester Spence,  Associate Professor of Political Science and Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University and Center For Emerging Media Scholar in Residence; and Dr. Anne McCarthy,  Dean of the Business School at Hamline University in Minneapolis and former Republican candidate for Comptroller of Maryland.

Government Shutdown

October 1, 2013government shutdown – Segment 1

Last night at midnight, the federal government shut down. Joining us to discuss the politics that led to this and the potential ramifications are: ER Shipp, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Journalist-in-Residence and Associate Professor of Journalism at Morgan State University; Brad Jackson, Front Page Contributor at RedState.com and Host of Coffee and Markets; Imara Jones, Colorlines.com economic justice contributor; and Jackie Wellfonder, conservative activist, blogger, and host of Raging Against the Rhetoric Radio.

LINK


National News Roundtable

cruzSeptember 25, 2013 – Segment 1

We begin our show with a roundtable on national news. We discuss the potential government shutdown, sequestration, and the battle over the Affordable Care Act. We are joined by: Marta Mossburg, ; nationally syndicated columnist; Mark Newgent, one of the founders of Red Maryland and the Maryland state editor for Watchdog Wire; Adar Ayira, project manager of the More in the Middle Campaign for Associated Black Charities and facilitator and analyst at Baltimore Racial Justice Action; and Bob Somerby, Editor of The Daily Howler.

LINK


A Discussion With Gar Alperovitz

9781603585040_500X500May 6, 2013-Segment 4

Gar Alperovitz  joins us to talk about his new book, What Then Must We Do?: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution.

10-Year Anniversary Of The Iraq War

Iraq Ten Years Later

March 19, 2013 – Hour 2

We reflect on the Iraq War on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of the country. Joining us are:

  • Dr. Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, College Park, non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, and author of the forthcoming The World Through Arab Eyes: Arab Public Opinion and the Reshaping of the Middle East;
  • Dr. Adil Shamoo, professor and former chairman of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, and Senior Analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus;
  • Dr. Richard Vatz, professor in the Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies at Towson University, and regular contributor to Red Maryland;
  • and Dr. Thabit Abdullah, associate professor in the Department of History at York University in Toronto, and author of A Short History of Iraq: From 636 to the Present.

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Mayor Dixon Announces Her Resignation

Mayor Sheila Dixon’s pending resignation is a real tragedy both politically and personally.   

We don’t know the details of the bargain she made with the judge and the prosecutors, although that will all  come out shortly. My guess is that there will not be another trial and that she will fight to keep her  pension. I predict that she may run again in the future.

It is hard to say what a Stephanie Rawlings-Blake administration will be like. The hope is that she will  keep on some key personnel to make the transition easier for our city. However, rumors abound that Frederick  Bealefeld’s tenure as police commissioner will be short under acting Mayor Rawlings-Blake. Many feel that  the pending acting Mayor, along with her ally Governor Martin O’Malley, did want to see Bealefeld named  commissioner, that they favored former D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey. The commissioner believes that  public safety comes first and that massive arrests are not the way to ensure the safety of the public. He is  a tough, smart cop who needs the years ahead of him to turn the culture of the department around.

I have questioned Mayor Dixon about her integrity on my program on such issues as voting on the Board of  Estimates to give contracts to Utech (a company that employed her sister), taking free tickets to an event  at 1st Mariner Arena, and awarding a computer contract to her campaign manager–if you remember, a contract  paid out in sums small enough to not have to be disclosed officially. But she was not indicted for any of  those events. She was indicted for perjury because she did not disclose fur coats given to her by her  boyfriend, albeit a contractor. She was found guilty of taking less than $600 in gift cards. What happened  in the state prosecutor’s office that they could not indict her on issues of substance?!  

The mayor has made some bad personal blunders. But I don’t think they merit her going to jail or having to  resign. She should have apologized to this city, and the whole mess should have been a matter for an ethics  hearing that could have forced her to repay the money and face the voters. I find using gift cards meant for  poor children to be abhorrent, but it’s hardly an offense worthy of resignation.

Having said that I do not think Mayor Dixon should go to jail over these offenses, I want to add that I  don’t think anyone else should, either. Thousands of people have languished in the Baltimore Detention  Center for stealing far less than the mayor did. This should be a call to reform our entire justice system.  

We will see what the administration of Stephanie Rawlings-Blake brings to us. More importantly, I hope we  see the people of this city bring something to her, to force some creative thinking about the problems we  face and to build our own dynamic future.


Marc on Last Night’s Elections

photo by Michael Cantor

Last Night’s Elections

 

Woke up this morning to the headlines about last night’s elections. Republican wins for Governor in New Jersey and Virginia, gay marriage overturned in Maine and the much ballyhooed battle over the 23rd New York Congressional District was a lesson about the future of Republican conservatism.

 

The elections in NJ and Virgina should be a wake up call to the Obama White House and Democratic leadership. I fear they won’t be. American voters put Obama into office because they had real hope that it was not going to be politics as usual. Many feel their hopes are being dashed.

 

In Virginia, enough of a portion of Obama’s base among progressives, young people and African Americans stayed home to hand a defeat to an uninspiring and lackluster Democratic candidate and campaign.

 

In New Jersey, a Democratic Governor with deep ties to Goldman Sachs and Wall Street (much like Obama’s inner circle) went down to defeat in a failing economy, unemployment, distrust of corporate capitalists, and disappointment in the hopes that he was a reformer.

 

In New York City, Bloomberg barely won for the exact same reasons that Corzine lost.

 

It is interesting that even though most Americans say they are satisfied with their health insurance, a majority of Americans, 56% at the least, want a strong public option. A majority of Americans are upset or very angry at a bail out and stimulus that seems to be going to the financial industry and not touching the lives of ordinary people. Citizens are worried about their jobs, paying for the needs of their children, the rising cost and intensity of just living normal lives day to day. The economic issues, not health care, are the issue gripping America.

 

The defeat in New York shows that, even in Republican districts, the harsh, mean spirited, hate-filled, conservative, Fox-fueled, Limbaugh, crippled point of view is an anathema to most Americans.

 

What Obama and the Democrats need to learn from this is that many Americans are upset that he has come into office and conducted things as his predecessors would have done. He is surrounded by Wall Street and the financial industry interests seem to be cleaning up with our money, killing new regulations to safeguard people, and none of the stimulus money is going to jobs or saving our homes from foreclosures.

 

What they need do have done is to have fought for a public option to counter the interest of insurance and pharmaceuticals. A very simple, straight forward message of health reform that would have inspired Obama’s millions to back him and force Congress to respond.

 

I fear the message they will hear from this is to play the same conciliatory game even harder than they have done before. The uninspired will not inspire us to support them.

 

Gay Marriage Referendum

 

We have come a long way since we thought sweet Uncle Harry was a little light in his loafers and spinster Aunt Peggy was just a little different than the rest of us. A majority of Americans have come to accept an open gay and lesbian world and support equal rights for gays and lesbian. But most of our citizens are not ready for gay marriage. It might have passed in Vermont, or San Francisco, or New York City, or Eugene, Oregon, even in Salt Lake City. The young and the urban cosmopolitan worlds are there. The battle will continue, it just might take a little longer.


A First-Person Account From Iran

(WARNING: You may find the images of death and violence contained below disturbing.  Please do not scroll down if you do not wish to see them.)

I received this post from our colleague, William Kern, the Managing Editor of WORLDMEETS.US, last night, before the images hit the newspapers this morning.  It is part of this continuing dialogue with his friend and colleague in Iran.  Below is their very moving and telling conversation via Skype.

While the world of the web, Twitter and Facebook, may be driving this Iranian revolt in ways we could not imagine forty years ago, or even 5 years ago, it is part of a tradition that is much older and deeper.

In my lifetime it is connected to the 1956 revolt in Hungary against the Soviet Union’s domination of their nation.   The world watched in awe, but that is all we did was watch, as the Soviet troops and tanks mowed down the resistance fighters and crushed their revolution.  The same thing happened again in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1968, when lovers of freedom stood up against the Soviets demanding freedom.   At that time it was part of a worldwide revolutionary movement for change that grew out of the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960’s here in America.   We had our own standoffs with the police and the establishment powers of our nation, which used its federal power through efforts like COINTELPRO to intimidate and murder those who stood against the war and racism.

In recent years, we have seen Tiananmen Square and the demonstrations in China in 1989, the bursts of Burmese resistance in 2007 against their own tyranny, and the Tibetans demanding freedom from the Chinese government.   We could see all these as defeats; I suppose in their immediate aftermath they felt like stunning losses.

Having been part of movements like this in my past I understand the intensity, passion and power of those moments.   How quickly events change around you.   How the spirit of resistance kept your spirits high enough to face any response.   Even when you knew the moment was lost, you could not back down to the might around you.

If the Iranian rebellion is crushed, it will not be a defeat.  It is a part of a continuum of resistance to tyranny and working to create a culture of justice and human rights in our world.   Every such powerful moment widens the cracks in the weakening walls of oppression.  It sows seeds for the power of change in generations to follow.

Already in Iran we are seeing deep divides, even within the ruling circles of the theocracy.  Who knows how all this will unfold in the days ahead?

The photograph and Skype dialogue below shows us the power of this moment.  The photo itself should sear itself into the consciousness of the world as a symbol of why we stand for freedom.

-marc

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Andres Alonso Blasts Michael Steele

Michael Steele is making numerous headlines today for his apology to Rush Limbaugh.  Locally, he is also making headlines after being called out by Baltimore School’s CEO Andres Alonso at a public forum which also featured Governor Martin O’Malley last night at Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore.  Alonso demanded an apology from Steele for promises he made to that school in the past, which he never kept.


Our reporter Melody Simmons was there.  Click the podcast player to hear her recording of Alonso’s remarks on Steele, and also on Governor O’Malley.



Marc on Mayor Dixon’s Indictment

I hate watching this happen.  It is no small matter for a sitting Mayor to be indicted.

I have known Sheila Dixon for over thirty years.   We are not close friends.   We have not been in a private social setting together in 32 years. We met when we were both counselors and teachers at Baltimore Prep, a program at Westside Shopping Center for street kids who had just come out of prison or had been kicked out of school, whose lives were on the corner instead of the classroom.   Sheila was committed to those kids. She didn’t take any stuff from them and she knew every game they could play, because she came from the same streets that they did.  Baltimore Prep is also where she met Mark Smith, who later became her husband, with whom she raised her nephew Juan Dixon and his brother.   The boys’ parents had died from heroin addiction.  Sheila and Mark saw those boys to manhood.  This is the Sheila Dixon I know.

I knew her a little in the intervening years.  I remember when she was first elected to the city council.   I remember when she banged her shoe on the table exclaiming it was our turn now.   She was committed to working class black folks. She lived and knew their pain, joys and struggles.   A lot of white journalists, politicians and others thought she hated white people.  I don’t know what her innermost thoughts about race were, but I can say that anyone who came up in a certain way who was from a certain place had historical reasons to have a mistrust of white people.  Whatever she thought then, however, she has grown from that place, as did William Donald Schaeffer from his place of not caring about Black folks before he became Mayor.  She bleeds working class blue in her veins.   That is the Sheila Dixon I know.

So, these indictments are just tragic.  If they are true, they show stupidity and sheer greed.  

As I wrote last week, the only difference between the actions of our city officials and indicted power developers, and goings on in Congress between politicians and corrupt corporate leaders, is the thin but sturdy line of legality.  

Politicians are always doing favors for the powerful and their friends.  It is part of human existence.   Nevertheless, it was not the fur coats that bought Ron Lipscomb city contracts, but rather all of his city and corporate contacts.  

I am not excusing anything here.  If Sheila and others broke their sacred trust with us, they have to leave elected office at the very least.   It cannot be tolerated.  

The worst offence would be if she actually took gift certificates that were intended for poor families and children to enjoy Christmas.   I hope that even if the bribery and malfeasance indictments are true, that stealing from street kids and poor families is not true.   That could break a city’s heart.

That would not be the Sheila Dixon I know.   Soon we will know whether she broke the law.  If she did, then the court will decide her fate.  If she is exonerated, she could become one of our greatest Mayors. If not, she will become one of our greatest disappointments and tragedies.


City Hall Indictments – Mayor Sheila Dixon Indicted

Update: We just received news, at 2pm today (Friday January 9) that Mayor Dixon has been indicted on 12 counts.  Read more in the Sun.

We will see what the day brings but the rumor mill has it that Sheila Dixon will be indicted today, just as Helen Holton and Ron Lipscomb were indicted yesterday.

My feeling is that if she had just declared those coats she would not be in front of a grand jury. If she had just recused herself from voting for a company her sister worked for there would be no investigation.

If Helen Holton had declared that Ron Lipsocmb paid for her poll then how she voted or what she pushed for would not be an issue.

It is not what they did but how stupidly they played the game. That for me is the issue.

Like Governor Blagojevich they were too blatant and not slick enough to get it done. Sure it was greed on some level but many politicians are greedy. Many participate in a life full of graft and influence buying but do it on the edge of the line of law so they get away with it. Notice I wrote many politicians not all. There are many men and women who are highly ethical in this business of politics. Most start that way but some get lost in the power.

Two articles recently in the New York Times brought home for me the glaring reality of it all. One was about New York Senator Chuck Schumer. He was accused of being one of the culprits in deregulating banking and Wall Street that led to this economic disaster we are facing. The article pointed out that Wall Street billions backed his campaigns and campaign fund/. In Congress he did their bidding.

The other article was about the junior Senator form New York, now Secretary of State designee, Hillary Clinton.
She helped push through legislation that aided contributors to her husband’s foundation and library.

All this was all legal influence peddling. The corruption in the marriage of corporate wealth and political power is insidious. It must be exposed at every turn and reformed. It is how we ensure the survival of a real democracy.

Our local elected officials played the same game but on the wrong side of the thin but sturdy line of legality.


16 Arrested During Election Night Celebration in Charles Village

Here’s a letter that we received and wanted to share with everyone.  If anyone else would like to publicize first-hand information about the police misconduct in Charles Village on Election Night, or has other Election Night experiences they’d like to share, please post your comments here or email us at cem@centerforemergingmedia.org.

 

Marc,

During the night following the election, my roommates and I walked
down to 33rd and St. Paul and started celebrating the election of
Barack Obama. We quickly gained support of local students, and our
group of seven quickly grew to over 400. What was a beautifully
patriotic evening, filled with unity and gentle celebration, quickly
turned into fear and chaos as the Baltimore Police Department randomly
(and illegally) assaulted, intimidated, and arrested many members of a
peaceful crowd.

Last Spring, President Ungar invited you to speak at Goucher to a
group of Goucher students, faculty, and staff. President Ungar
personally invited me at the last moment, claiming it was essential
that I hear you speak. Your discussion inspired me to want to get more
involved with our city, and this semester several of my friends and I
moved down to Charles Village from Towson, in order to become true
Baltimoreans.

On November 4, the six of us – all sophomores at Goucher, voted
for the first time. Sending in my absentee ballot to my native
California was one of the most exciting things I have ever done, and
we were all excited to partake in making history. Just a month before
hearing you speak at Goucher, I had the opportunity to shake now
President-elect Obama’s hand at an election rally in Wilmington. I
took the train up to Wilmington by myself, and I instantly befriended
a group of students from the University of Delaware. The feeling of
unity was overwhelming, and I instantly knew this campaign was unlike
anything else in history.

The night of Nov. 4th was no exception. My roommates and I had to get
outside to celebrate. People joined quickly and we were suddenly
flanked by members of the community, students from several
institutions, schoolteachers, and professors – all united and chanting
"USA! USA!". The Hopkins Campus Security respected the crowd and kept
it under control, and it became a truly beautiful event. I was
surrounded by people I had never met before, of all colors: black and
white, Muslim and Jewish, old and young, from near and far all
celebrating under American flags.

You have already heard about what the police did last night. They
arrested two of my roommates and another one of my friends, for
reasons that were never disclosed. I stood and watched while my
roommate, a 19-year-old girl from New Jersey, was grabbed by the
throat by two policemen twice her size and had her arms bound so
tightly behind her back, she was screaming in agony.

I have talked with Goucher President Sanford Ungar, and he has already tried to help us get our
voice heard. The fact is that this happens every night in this city,
without a single mention in the Sun  or on the local TV news. These
students and the professor that were arrested were never told their
rights and were fingerprinted, photographed, intimidated, and forced
to spend hours in cells with people charged with violent crimes.
Fortunately, my friends and the rest of these aforementioned sixteen
that were arrested are lucky enough to be backed up by institutions
like Goucher College and Johns Hopkins University.

I know this letter is far from brief, and I appreciate that you have
taken the time to read this. I was inspired by your discussion at
Goucher, and wanted to know what I could do to change something in
this city. I think Baltimore is a beautiful place buried in an
inconceivable amount of filth. Before election day I couldn’t fathom
how I could help, or what I could even help with. I now know the
intricacies of how the Baltimore Police Department detains citizens
without Mirandizing them, charging them, or respecting their basic
freedoms. I feel I can speak on behalf of everyone who witnessed
Tuesday night’s atrocities when I say that we want to help.

The sixteen people arrested last night were picked randomly. It could
have been anyone. I have spoken with and know personally several of
those arrested and can tell you that they were all respectable and
respectful citizens that have done so much already to make this city a
better place. Will these volunteers, public school teachers, artists,
and professors voices be drowned out?

I hope not.

Thank you again for speaking to us at Goucher. Baltimore needs you,
and is lucky to have you.

Thank you,

Nick Bourland
Goucher College class of 2011


Day After the Election by Marc Steiner

Last night, I went to my daughter Chelsea’s home to watch the returns.   She was having a watch  party.  It was the perfect venue for that night for many reasons.     Chelsea’s mom, Sayida Stone, my first wife and a dear friend, is African American.   Chelsea is a Black woman, a mixed race child of America.   She has three children, my grand children.  Their father, Ebon, a schoolteacher, martial artist and musician, is Afro-Italian-Puerto Rican.   From the beginning, Chelsea was deeply moved by Obama’s candidacy.  It was their time, it was their day, and it is their time now. 

Chelsea’s sister, Alana, her mom’s daughter with her husband who is Jamaican, is 21 years old, a brilliant artist and a junior at MICA.   I call her my daughter once removed, she calls me Saba, which is Hebrew for grandfather.   Alana was there with a dozen of her classmates.  Young, African American, Latino, Asian, mixed race and white who worked for this campaign, who believed in this message of hope.

Chelsea’s friends who were there ranged from 28 to their early forties, every color of the American rainbow.  Her mom, her husband Jenel, and others of our generation were there, as well.

The feeling in her home was electric and explosive, but explosive with peace and hope.   When Obama was announced the next President of the Untied States of America, there was a pandemonium of joy, screaming, shouting, hugging, singing and champagne corks popping.  

I looked around realizing this was their day.  These young people believed so deeply and were so full of what the future might bring to us all.  

While watching television it was hard not to notice the contrast between the Obama supporters in Grant Park in Chicago and the McCain supporters.   Obama’s in a public park with thousands of people of every generation and race in America and McCain’s in a private club for the wealthy and all, well not all, but almost all, white.  

This was an election of the two Americas from which we were born and in which we still live.   Our great nation has no state religion.   Our state religion is our democracy, our belief in freedom and liberty.   The USA was founded on liberty and slavery in the same breath.  Imagine that and think about that for a moment.   Liberty and slavery are the foundations of our nation.   The roots of the contradiction and the hope that dwell uneasily together in our nation’s soul were alive and palpable last night in this election.  

Maybe the tenor is about to change.   Race and racism hurt America.   It is a deep wound in the Black American spirit.  It is a burden of pain in white America, as well.  

The man who was voted in to become the 44th President of the United States of America may be changing the tenor and tone of our nation.  In the spirit of the civil rights warriors, he was unbowed and non-violent in his stand against his tormentors in this campaign.   When Barack Obama was faced with lies and low blows dealt by his opponents, the Republican Party and their independent advocates, he responded with dignity, strength and love.  So many of his supporters screamed that he should fight back, blow for blow  and spit in their eye.  Barack Obama chose to hold his head and his sense of morality and ethics high, so he kept walking straight ahead amidst the verbal blows and lies.  He set a standard for his supporters and the America he believes in.  The roots of that way of responding politically come from Martin Luther King, the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee, Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s that they gave birth to and that gave birth to them.   It bodes well for what we may be able to do in America together.

I am not naïve about the difficulty that lies ahead of us.  Barack Obama is not the savior; he is the embodiment of hope for many Americans.  The struggle is now on to define our future.  We can now fight for something rather than against it.   We will have a seat at the table for the debate on our nation’s future.   We have serious work ahead of us.

Good gumbo, too, last night… A gumbo of America in the room, a gumbo of America who voted Obama,  and a great gumbo in the pot.


Change We Cannot Quit On by Stavros Halkias

Here are some thoughts written late last night by CEM intern and UMBC student Stavros Halkias.  We’d like to encourage everyone to send in their post-election thoughts.  Post comments here, email us at cem@centerforemergingmedia.org, or call us on the air today between 5-6pm at 410-319-8888.

Voting for the first time in my life was legitimately exciting. From the moment I entered my polling place, which happened to be my elementary school, I was overcome with emotion. In the building where I first learned what the office of the president was, I would have a hand in choosing the next person to occupy that office. Even better, I was supporting a candidate I actually believed in and held incredible hopes for. My nerves and elation were held together by an overarching sense of purpose. I was part of a societal change, with my ballot serving as tangible proof. Why can’t I feel like this everyday? Why can’t every day be Election Day? 

Despite these feelings, as I walked out of that polling station I couldn’t help but wonder “What’s next?” Barack Obama had the kind of campaign and following that was unprecedented in this nation’s history. His campaign deposed Democratic royalty in the primaries, broke all kinds of fundraising records, and truly inspired vast numbers of people for the first time in decades. The sobering realization I came to was that campaigns and administrations are two very different things. Historically, the energy campaigns create largely dies after the immediate goal of election is met. We can’t allow that to happen this time. All the people who voted for Barack Obama on Tuesday, all the people that were part of the historic movement for change in our country, must challenge themselves further.  To borrow a few words from the President elect’s victory speech, “This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It can’t happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.”

So, don’t let things go back to the way they were before Barack came along. Don’t rely solely on his administration to make change. Let Barack Obama’s election be the beginning–not the end–of your efforts. Become more civically involved. Start helping your community in any way you can. Identify problems and work towards them yourself. Volunteer. Tutor at-risk youth. Protest injustice. Support more change-minded politicians. Study social change movements. Do something! Take the energy you put into the campaign and move it to your community, don’t let it go to waste. Don’t just get excited and wait for change– make change and make everyday Election Day.

-Stavros Halkias


More Follow-up on Protests and Arrests During RNC by Sonia Silbert

Sonia Silbert, Co-coordinator of the Washington Peace Center, wrote last week with updates on the mass arrests and detentions by police of activists during the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities.  Here are some more reports from her from later in the week.  You can also listen to her interview with us during the RNC on The Marc Steiner Show – click here.

Click here to read more!

In The Jail – treatment and abuse.

Tuesday morning we called the jail and learned that Jonathan and Kari were being held on felony charges, which blew us all away.  There was no way they could have the evidence to back that up, so we were sure the charge would be reduced when they finally saw a judge, but it meant that they would be held another night in jail.

As of Tuesday evening, our friends had been in jail over 24 hours.  Kari, the 20-year old, had managed to call her mom in Pennsylvania, who called the legal line in a panic.  I got her phone number and called her back to reassure her regarding why she got arrested (photographers are scary, I guess), how she would be treated (kept with the protesters, not the general prison population, and I didn’t tell her about the rumors of prisoner abuse that were seeping out of the jail), and what would be the repercussions of this (she’ll be freaked out, but there’s no way she’ll be convicted of a felony…Inshallah).

JAIL SUPPORT

Wednesday afternoon, I went down to the jail where people had been doing a vigil all day.  Everyone who had been arrested on Monday had to be charged and released by today since it had been 36 hours – it turned into many more hours than that, but they started the process at least at the 36 hr mark.  Our friend Tobin, the minor, had gotten out that morning and his dad had flown him back home.  His police report basically just said that he was recognized at an earlier action and that was all the evidence provided – we were all pissed that the public defender didn’t ask for the charges to be dismissed.  He has a court date back in Minnesota in October.

There were about 100 activists sitting in the grass outside the jail talking, playing guitar, eating, etc.  Needless to say, we were surrounded by riot cops, some on horseback, on all four corners.  They continued to group and regroup throughout the afternoon and evening, letting everyone know we could be raided, detained and arrested at any time.  Our crimes?  Some kind of felony I would guess.  Talking too loud or something.

One by one, arrestees were meeting with public defenders, standing in front of  a judge, getting (most of) their possessions back and then being released.  We went into the court building which was surrounded by wire fencing and guarded by National Guard. 

Our friend Aaron, who is an Iraq vet from Chicago, pointed out that even here you could see a huge difference between city cops and the National Guard.  The RNC had $50 million to spend on policing the Twin Cities and every cop had brand-new full-body riot gear – padding from shoulder to toe, helmets, gas masks, tools and toys bulging out of every pocket so they had a hard time walking too fast.  The Guard, on the other hand, were wearing their camo (so they couldn’t be seen in the city?) and a flak vest without any protection in it.  Even in a case like this, the funding doesn’t go to the members of the military.  Funny, because it sure feels like a military state out here.

Kari finally went in front of a judge and got her charge reduced to a misdemeanor, just like Jonathan.  However, for some reason her judge gave her $300 bail, while Jonathan had none.  Some of the main organizers who had been locked up all week were being held on $70,000 bail, which they negotiated down to $1000 bail.  Apparently bail bondsmen usually only charge 10% (this is information I now know), but for the RNC protesters they were raising their charges a lot.  We were told we’d have to pay $200 to get a bondsman to pay her $300, so the 5 of us from our affinity group went to an ATM and split the amont and pay her bail. 

Hours later, I got a collect call from Ramsey Co. Jail on my cell phone from Kari.  I knew that I’ll only have 45 seconds before they’d cut me off and demand money, so I quickly told her that we had paid her bail and were all waiting outside for her.  She said that the money hadn’t shown up in the system yet and they were transferring her back upstairs to another cell. 

She sounded so scared and sad, as if she was never going to get out.  I felt the same – if they had lost the bail money (which had to be cash and we had been given no receipt) or were just going to take forever to process it, she’d have to spend another night in jail, this time without many of the activists she had been in with all week. 
 
About half an hour later – about midnight – a group of arrestees are released all at the same time and everyone rushed over to applaud them and see who it is.  We are all kinda glum, knowing it wouldn’t be our friends, when through the crowd I see Lily, Ryan and David grinning the most honest and joyful smiles I’ve ever seen, and I peak over the heads and I see Kari!  She’s been released and has no idea why and is so happy to be out of there. 

Within minutes Jonathan and a group of guys are walking down the fenced walkway and there is a beautiful Hollywood moment when Kari and Jonathan run towards each other and he picks her up and spins her around with one arm while flipping off the jail with the other hand.  It was pretty great.

The riot cops have backed off – perhaps we’re not as scary when everyone is so happy.  At one point, 2 cops weave their way through the celebration and folks start chanting “You’re sexy, you’re cute – take off that riot suit!”
 
ABUSE IN THE JAIL

As more people get out, we hear more stories from inside the jail that are pretty awful.  There are two guys who have been beaten up pretty badly by the guards inside – one has been released, one they couldn’t find in the system.  The one they couldn’t find was James, Lisa’s friend and a member of the Pagan Cluster.  Jonathan said the 5 or 6 cops went into his cell with batons and beat him up and then moved him elsewhere.

The one who was released was a 19-yr-old named Elliot.  He later spoke at a press conference detailing what had happened.  He and others had been chanting for medical attention and 5 or 6 cops came into his cell, punched him unconsceiounce, then banged his head against the floor, waking him up.  They took him to a separate cell where they put a hood over his head with a gag and used pain compliance holds on him for about an hour and a half – this included disconnecting his jaw and bending his ankles all the way backwards.  He had bruises and scrapes on his face and was obviously still traumatized. 
 
A friend of mine who I was watching the press conference with broke down while listening to Elliot’s testimony – he had had similar pain compliance holds used on him by the cops 4 years ago.  I had felt traumatized enough being detained at gunpoint and feeling vulnerable on the streets – this intense torture by government officials is something that I don’t know if you ever recover from.

Watch Elliot’s testimony here.

On The Streets: harrassment and more mass arrests

Police harassment and arrests continued throughout the week even though the main protests that were designed to block the conventioneers were only planned on Monday.  The police presence and abuse throughout the week is hard to overstate.  Veteran activists said they hadn’t been so scared or seen such police activity since Miami in 2003 – the FTAA protests notorious for its brutality.  That mobilization sent many activists I know into support roles because they couldn’t be on the street anymore. 

This kind of police aggression is not the norm for mobilizations – even when “those scary anarchists” are involved.  It’s amazing how quickly it becomes normalized though – just don’t walk alone, take off that black hat, oh, there’s another row of 40 riot cops, let’s cross the street.  People get used to everything, but this was a rapid normalization of an extreme police state.  “Minnesota nice” was out the window.

TUESDAY

Tuesday afternoon, there was an all day peace concert at the state capital – Rage Against the Machine was going to make a surprise appearance at the end of it, but the cops wouldn’t let them play for some reason.  So the band stood in front of the stage and passed one bull-horn back and forth and sang some of the crowd’s favorites…  they then led the crowd down to join the Rally for the Poor Peoples’ Economic Human Rights Campaign that was started out further down the hill.  The riot cops were out in force and seemed to be looking for a fight I guess.  In any case, they tear gassed and pepper sprayed the crowd again – the Poor People’s March organizers got out of there as the cops started escalating their tactics.

I was at an action in downtown Minneapolis at a party thrown by the American Petroleum Institute for Republican delegates and lobbyists.  We were doing a parady, dressed up as oil execs and thanking the Republicans for supporting more and more drilling.  Billionaires for Bush have now become Lobbyists for McCain and they came to the celebration.  A lone polar bear also made an appearance and got in a death match with Sarah Palin who, as all have been hearing, is pretty tough in situations such as this.  The bear didn’t fare too well.  While we were greeting party attendees, we also were getting text messages that our friends were getting beat up and tear-gassed in St Paul…  our crew got out okay.  Funnily enough, our cynical chants of “Drill!  Drill!  Drill!” were echoed inside the RNC later in the week, but I guess those folks were serious.

Later that night we found out that the Bedlam Theater, a local music venue in Minneapolis that had a punk show on that night, was also surrounded by riot cops.  I think about 100 people were arrested at that show.  It seemed like the cops were using this week to harass local activists or venues they’d had their eyes on for awhile.

WEDNESDAY

I went to Peace Island, a local peace conference, that was perhaps the stereotype of a peace conference – lots of lovely grey-haired aging hippies.  One of them raised her hand and said that she was outraged at the police brutality and harassment throughout the week and how they were targeting protesters based on their appearance.  She suggested that all the grey-haired folks in the audience put on bandanas and black hoodies and go out in the street and protect the activists!  Everyone applauded, but no one rushed outside. 

I still felt uncomfortable walking around in my own black hoodie, even though the temperature had dipped into the 60’s and it was needed.  The targeting based on appearance was scary and continued all week.  I suppose it’s cliché to say, but it’s an amazing reminder of what I think it’s like to walk around as an African-American young man…

RAIDING THE LEGAL OFFICE

As I was leaving the conference, I got a text that the legal office was being raided and was calling for observers.  By the time I got there, the cops were gone and media cameras were everywhere.  The legal office’s location had been kept pretty secret from the general public – you had to be escorted there by someone who was working there – because the consequences of its being raided would be really awful.  They were in the same building as I Witness Video, which was filming the convention.  At the RNC in NY 4 years ago, I Witness’s footage had proven the innocence of a lot of protesters arrested by NYPD. 

The cops showed up at that building because they claimed they had received a phone call from someone in the building being “held hostage by an anarchist”.  They didn’t have a warrant and weren’t let in, but the building almost evicted the legal office and they were restricted to having only 8 people in there at a time after that.  Given that the phone was ringing off the hook from calls from the street and the jail, there were piles of info from those calls that needed to be entered into the database, and lawyers were operating out of that office to collect statements, challenge the use of force by the cops and work to get folks released, this was a big hinderance. 

MORE ARRESTS

On Thursday, most of my affinity group left town, including Jonathan and Kari.  The cops hadn’t returned most of their property, including Kari’s camera, but they had to leave that place.  I agreed and avoided downtown St Paul.  It was the last day of the convention and there was a student anti-war protest.  Apparently they were a little slow on their march and had reached the end of the time on their permit around 5:00 or so and the cops trapped them on a bridge.  My friend who was there said he had never seen so many cops – not this week, not at other protests.  There were lines of riot cops, cops on horses, bicycle cops, and then a row or two of National Guard, plus snow plows and dump trucks to block streets.  The students sat down on the bridge and the cops used tear gas and concussion grenades and arrested about 400 of them.  400!  This included about a dozen journalists, including a Democracy Now!  producer who who had been arrested at Monday’s protests as well.

That night, IVAW member Adam Kokesh and two CODEPINKers got into McCain’s speech and interrupted him.  The CODEPINKers said it was incredibly easy to get into the convention.  There was no way they could’ve gotten into the DNC because the security was so tight, but the RNC was a piece of cake.  All three interrupted McCain’s speech and none were arrested. 

As of Friday, I believe everyone has been bailed out, many though generous donations from allies.

OVERALL

Overall, about 800 people were arrested this week – after seeing the judge, only about 30 of the 130 felony charges are still standing.  There are many civil suits being discussed; I think Amy Goodman and the 30 or 40 or so journalists who were arrested are doing their own suit, and the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild are both planning suits as well.  It’s funny to think back on Friday night and how shocking that original raid of the convergence space was.  It seemed so outrageous and worthy of its own civil suit all by itself.  And then the week began and we realized that was just the beginning. 

HOW TO HELP

Donate to the legal support fund for general arrestees and for the lead organizers who are being charged with pretty serious charges.  Also donate to the Welcoming Committee for organizing all logistics for the weekend.  Links to donate are at www.nornc.org.

Get some media attention!  The police brutality was barely covered in the mainstream media, even more liberal outlets such as NPR or the NY Times.  Call your local station, write a short letter to the editor, and demand coverage of such extremism. 

Also, hug an independent journalist!  Check out Democracy Now! and your local Indymedia site for the news the other guys don’t want you to hear, then forward all this info on to any other caring folks you know.

Read Sonia Silbert’s blog here.


Let The Elderly Never Sound Retreat by Djelloul Marbrook

Here’s a piece contributed to our site by the author Djelloul Marbrook.  Check out his site to see more of his writing and to learn more about him.

The way to take government back from corrupters is at hand. Don’t wait for the press to do it for you. It’s a do-it-yourself job. It’s the perfect job for retirees, because their years and diversity of experience are invaluable tools.
 

Click here to read more! 


But first, learn a little about the muckraker I.F. Stone. You don’t have to read his biography, although it’s worth it. Just consider his ideas:
 
—Government doesn’t belong to politicians, it belongs to you.
—Information about the government, federal, state and local, doesn’t belong to the press, it belongs to you.
—Government leaves a trail. Follow it.
—You don’t need to be a trained journalist to ferret out what government is up to. But you do need to read between the lines and wed your intuition to your common sense.
—Government would like you to believe that it’s paper trail is so hard to follow that only lawyers can do it, and you have to pay them to spit. Don’t believe this. You can follow the paper trail, and very often it can send people to jail.

The news is not where you think it is. It’s not where the camera is. It’s not where politicians are shooting their mouths off. It’s not even at official meetings. It’s in documents. And the press won’t be caught dead reading them because it’s time-consuming and it may lead up blind alleys.
 
So where does that leave us? Up the creek. Because those documents are where the skullduggery is. Anyone stealing your money or your rights has very likely left his paw prints in those documents. Corrupt governments keep records of themselves, just as the Nazis so famously did.
 
Why is the government now taking over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Because forensic accountants from Morgan Stanley spent hours, days and weeks going over their books. Never mind the press conferences, the Sunday talk shows, the pundits. They’re just finding news ways to repeat themselves. The truth is in documents., which almost no one reads, especially not lawmakers.

There is hardly a town hall, city hall or state capital building free of scandal and corruption, but the press doesn’t want to pay reporters to spend hours and days and weeks and months reading reams of papers, microfiche and computerized documents. So many of the most important stories go untold.
 
The dirty little secret about most corruption scandals like the Whitewater foofaraw of the Clinton years and the fact that the Pentagon today can’t say how much it has spent in Iraq is that there are similar scandals all over the nation, in every county, town and city, and the cumulative effect is to send corrupt politicians to Washington and weaken the fiber of the republic.
 
This is what I.F. Stone knew. And he and his disciples spent the time reading the records. But the I.F. Stone Weekly is a memory now, although journalism students, all of us really, should study it.
 
When the federal government intends to impose a new rule or change an old rule, when it posts invitations to bid for contracts, it must by law say so in The Federal Register, the most important fine print in the land. It announces hearings, it sets times for comments, and it closes the comment period in the Register. And it counts on you not to comb through it.
 
Oh, sure, if you ask federal officials, they’ll tell you the Register exists for public scrutiny. But the truth is they don’t want you or the press to pay attention, and they’re usually unhappy when you do. They usually don’t have to worry about the press, because the press is increasingly loathe to spend its money where it can’t gin up soap opera.
 
Each state has its own register which functions very much like the Federal Register. These are public documents. You can’t be barred from them. They are intently studied by people who do business with government, by people who cheat government, by people who want something specific from government, and by lawyers.
 
When local government buys things or services, it usually advertises specifications in local or regional newspapers. It also advertises rules and changes, intent to exercise eminent domain, etc. In other words, it advertises its business. This is a big source of revenue for newspapers,
and local government often tries to punish newspapers for being too inquisitive by rerouting advertising to competing newspapers.
 
But most readers read commercial advertising skip over government advertising, which appears in small print in the classified section. Too bad. Because the first clues that something is fishy are probably going to appear in those advertisements and announcements. They can get pretty tricky, and it can be a lot of fun to analyze them. For example, a city may put out specifications for a new fire truck. It seems on the up and up, because the city is looking for competitive bids. But on closer analysis you might see that the specifications are written so that only one manusfacturer can meet them. In other words, the dice have been loaded and the fix is in. Then the question arises, who was paid under the table to load the dice? Isn’t that as interesting as bridge?
 
This is just the beginning of what a determined citizen can do to keep his local government honest. Those records at town hall and city hall and the county building and the state capital, they all belong to you, the citizens. Some officials will try to make it hard for you to get to them, imposing rules of access; other officials will lean over backwards to accommodate you. Whenever someone makes it hard for you to get to records, you’re smelling a rat. Your common sense and intuition will kick in, you’ll get your back up and persevere. Don’t be afraid to be a gadfly. A republic depends on its gadflies.
 
I’d like to see an army of retired people descend on government across the land and study the records of every single government action. I’d like to see clubs and groups of people come together and strategize about keeping government clean. All with the knowledge, however saddening, that the press isn’t going to do it.
 
Maybe we better explain a bit more why the press isn’t going to do it. First, it’s expensive. Second, many young reporters don’t have the experience to to do  it. Third, there is a pervasive belief in journalism that the subject of government isn’t as interesting as sex, scandal, catastrophe, demolition politics, sports, weather, rich ditzes, you name it. And that’s a catastrophe, because a republic can’t operate without intense scrutiny. Without it, you end up with authoritarian government.
 
There is another reason the press can’t be depended on to open the doors and windows and air government out. The press is very often the recipient of largesse in the form of advertising from the corrupters. For example, a developer who has bought off public officials to get the kind of zoning he wants or the exceptions he needs or the project he is proposing is likely to be a major advertiser. The lenders, realtors, appraisers and everyone else involved in the current sub prime mortgage debacle all advertised in the press. So where was the press’s incentive to keep them honest? The press was riding the gravy train, just like the appraisers, the realtors and the bankers.
 
I believe that legions of retirees, and anyone else with the dedication, can clean government up at every level if they simply follow I.F. Stone’s example: read what government says about itself.
 
Don’t depend on attorneys general and other public lawyers to go after the bad guys, first, because it’s too late by the time they get into the act, and second, because they’ll turn it into cryptology. And, of course, all too often the public lawyers are part of the problem.
 
Reading up on what government is really doing, compared, say, to what the bloviators say it’s doing, might just prove more interesting than bridge or golf. And it will certainly be a public service.
 
But who’s going to print what we find? you say. You are, of course. If you’re reading this, then you can do it—on the Internet, on blogs, by e-mail.
 
And if you get stumped, if you can’t understand something, you can put out a call for help. For example, suppose you’re a retired engineer and you see something you don’t fathom, you can put out an e-mail alert to see if there are any forensic accountants around.
 
Just think of the human resources we have at hand in our elderly population. They could change the face of American government with their combined knowledge and experience. Task groups could be formed to  take on specific projects. This would be grassroots democracy at an unprecedented level, and the upshot would be that none of us would feel quite as helpless as we do now.


Iraq Veterans Against the War

Here’s a guest post by Nick Morgan, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator for Iraq Vets Against the War (IVAW.)  He was a guest on The Marc Steiner Show while in Minneapolis for the Republican National Convention.  Click here to listen to that show.

As a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), my experience in the Twin Cities was a unique one. With our organization on the list of over 200 groups on a list studied by Minnesota National Guard and various police units, it was still no secret that our message was completely non-violent and direct. Our mission was to march in formation and in uniform to deliver a message to Senator McCain informing him of the issues veterans are facing today. As a fellow veteran, we were presumptuous to assume that the presidential candidate would listen to our simple message.

With a permit for our action on the opening day of the scaled-back RNC, no member of IVAW was arrested during our action (or the rest of the convention). We shared a certain level of lateral respect with the law enforcement at the RNC because we have all been placed in similar predicaments in the name of serving our country and democracy. Not to mention the fact that many of them were veterans as well and could relate to our logical viewpoints. The clear difference here is that these men and women are dealing with American citizens on American soil, hired as mercenaries for the RNC to the tune of a 50 million dollar liability insurance policy for their protection.

I have to say that I haven’t been in an environment so unsafe for average citizens since I left Baghdad in 2005. One notable difference is that the police in Minneapolis have better body armor and protection than American soldiers and Marines do in Iraq. It is a sad day for the United States when a kid on a bicycle is pepper sprayed in the face by a cop just for riding too close when there where no violent protests taking place. What does it say about this country when the police are arresting people with press credentials hanging from their necks just for recording and reporting the interactions between police and American civilians.

I hung out for a period of time with some independent media personnel who understandably added an additional level of anxiety to the air. Pardon my vagueness as I don’t want to divulge too much information about individuals. Many of them were just coming back from jail and were on high alert for near by police activity. At one point, myself and a few of my fellow IVAW members were beginning to loose the battle to subdue our PTSD. We decided it was best that we went on a drive outside of the city to get some fresh air and escape all the violence multiplied by paranoia.

Please take some time to consider the implications of the absolute police state that was enforced in the Twin Cities. When the people making the decisions in this country don’t want to hear the voices of the people they are making the decisions for, I am saddened. When the people’s voices are silenced with clubs, tear gas, rubber bullets, and zip ties, I am appalled.  This concludes my humble testimony of how I experience the RNC.

Thanks,

Nick Morgan
Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator
Iraq Veterans Against the War
OIF II, 458th En. Bn., Ist Cavalry Division


Marc on Wal Mart and Unions

When I opened the Wall Street Journal this morning, that centerpiece article Wal-Mart Warns of Democratic Win:

 

"Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they’ll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies — including Wal-Mart.

In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized."

Wow, I just read it and sat there stunned for a minute.  Then I woke up,
and wondered what I was so shocked about. 

Here we have Wal-Mart, a store, that despite its new green image and it’s pronouncements about the Green economy with SEIU boss, Andy Stern, has a history of abusing its employees, paying low wages and few benefits.  

Wal-Mart says they are not telling any employees how to vote or who to campaign for. Right, I am working the cash register at Wal-Mart wearing a big Obama button.  Oops, is that a pink slip floating after me?!  Who’s to know, who’s to protect my rights.   Oh yes, that would be Papa Walton. 

Let me be clear about my past.   I have been a member of union.   I have
been a union organizer.   I am one of those who believe that if had not been for unions we would have had no middle class in the numbers that we have in America.  They fought to ensure that their working class members had a decent life.  

Now, unions have become increasingly irrelevant to life in America.   Partially of their own making by becoming lethargic corporate giants themselves.  Union leaders got too far away from their own members forgetting what it means to work hard to pay your bills and take care of your families.   They stopped organizing.  Yes, unions were victims of this economy and of the erosion of the industrial base of America.  But they have done little to fight it, to change with the times, to organize new workers, to speak up for the unorganized and to enter the 21st century.   They became lethargic dinosaurs. 

They became easy targets for onerous laws to destroy or curtail or cripple their power to organize.   Unions became the media demon and the business
the clean good guys in white shirts that knew how to run a nation. 

Unions are only here because so many employees get screwed.    It is
interesting I can think of five friends who own companies that don’t have unions.  Their workers don’t want or need them.   These owners run the gamut from libertarian to progressive to conservative to liberal.   They don’t have unions because they treat their employees right.  They offer health care, take care of people, worry about their families and take human beings into consideration.  They are small companies, too, from 50 to 200 employees.  They do it right. 

If business leaders don’t want unions, then treat people right.   Meanwhile,
America’s laws should be union friendly.   Unions need to be protected while organizing and have the freedom to do so.  The Employee Free Choice Act that Wal-Mart and others are so worried about is the least our government can do to protect an employee’s right to organize and better their lives.

Senators McCain and Obama, what say ye?   We are waiting here.


Doug Colbert on Criminal Justice Reform

CEM is thrilled that Doug Colbert, a Professor of Law at the University of Maryland, has weighed in with his response to the articles that former Assistant State’s Attorney Page Croyder has been publishing on the CEM website. Check out his article, and Page’s response, by clicking here.

If you have comments on these pieces, please leave them on the page with the pieces, not this page.


Lea Gilmore: With Spies Like Them, Who Needs Enemies?

We’re pleased to bring you a special guest blog today by CEM contributor Lea Gilmore.

When 10 Maryland citizens showed up on March 16, 2005 for an anti-death penalty meeting in Takoma Park to coordinate activities on behalf of Maryland death row inmate Vernon Evans, I am sure they didn’t think they had a spy in their ranks. As they mobilized volunteers, worked on flyers, and discussed their peaceful protests, I am sure it did not cross their minds that they were doing something so subversive that it warranted secret attendance by Maryland State Police (MSP) undercover agents.

Click here to read more.

Well, that’s what they got.

Documents obtained through a Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) lawsuit revealed that the MSP engaged in covert surveillance of local peace and anti-death penalty groups for over a year from 2005-2006. In a press release distributed last week by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, the organization expressed alarm at the incomprehensible spying revealed in 43 pages of summaries and computer logs, none of which refer to criminal or even potentially criminal acts, other than a few isolated references to plans for completely nonviolent civil disobedience.

ACLU of Maryland Executive Director Susan Goering blasted the program stating, “The documents show that the MSP engaged in surveillance operations against peaceful activists similar to those abandoned in the 1970s with the end of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s infamous COINTELPRO program. The ACLU will soon file additional requests under the Maryland Public Information Act to assess other activities and targets of the MSP’s ‘Homeland Security and Intelligence Division’ and will seek legislative reforms to ensure this kind of improper spying never happens again.”

So I ask, just what were the Maryland State Police looking for? Did they think that folks were planning to peace us to death? Did they believe these dangerous peacenik gatherings and rogue anti-death penalty groups must have required extra special undercover surveillance in order to save us from “the tuurist”? Or maybe they are saving us from uh…tourists? That must be it. Rabid tourists are descending on local peace gatherings inspiring and plotting destruction of family values and our way of life.

OK, let me stop being facetious.

I understand completely that when Thomas Jefferson said “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” that that really does mean something. We must remain vigilant in the presence of real threats and real enemies, but we must not abandon and throw out our civil liberties in the process. We must be careful to weigh our fear with reason, and be ever so ready to question the motives of government when our rights start sliding down that slippery slope towards injustice.

It’s a curious thing. Republicans are always complaining about “big government.” That being said, former Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich and his administration, in this secret folly, seemed to embrace their “bigness,” with a warm bear hug, with Bob taking on the awesome responsibility of becoming a “big brother” to us all.

The fact that the Ehrlich administration expended funds to spy on groups that may disagree with them ideologically, and in the process trampling on their and our constitutional rights, is beyond egregious.

Is this just the tip of the proverbial iceberg? How many other innocent groups and individuals in Maryland and beyond have fallen victim to these intrusive and unconstitutional practices?

These actions are now receiving the national attention they deserve. According to The Baltimore Sun, the US Congress will seek to ascertain the Homeland Security Department’s role in this spy game, and whether federal tax dollars were used in the process. With economic collapse happening all around us, dedicating significant funds on this unwarranted chase is just sad and shameful. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, in a letter to the department stated, “These allegations are extremely troublesome and bring to light past domestic covert operations, which were found to be not only unconstitutional but also damaging to the rule of law and America’s democratic principles.” He continued, "Funding of the state police actions with federal taxpayer dollars would constitute a waste of valuable resources, both human and financial."

I love this country. What I most love about this land of ours is that I can scream from the rooftops about how ridiculous and Un-American I believe these actions are, all the while knowing I will not be sent to that mystery place of no return because I did – well, at least not yet.

From creepy and insidious Patriot Acts, to our government leaders having serious conversations about the details of defining torture (torture!), this post “911” political climate has lent itself to allowing us to accept the chipping away of our civil liberties by those who manipulate our reasonable fears in unreasonable ways for political gain.

The political tide is turning. This has spurred something in Maryland‘s electorate and beyond, and is quickly becoming a catalyst for change. The bipartisan outrage at these actions is a sign of life that there are limits to how much and what we will allow done in our name. The ACLU of Maryland is continuing to mount efforts to find out what other organizations and activists have been singled out for this wrongful spying. US Senator Benjamin Cardin and Maryland State Legislators are calling for hearings to delve deeply into these unconstitutional actions. This is not going to be swept under the political rug.

The old folks used to sing a song while marching for equality that rings so true today, “I ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around…gonna keep on walking, keep on talking, marching up to freedom land.” We will not be turned around by generated fears and covert power plays. We will keep those flashlights pointed in the face of injustice — Now that’s eternal vigilance.

 

-Lea Gilmore


Marc on the New Yorker Cover

 

 That infamous cover

The cover of the July 21st issue of The New Yorker

Today I received a flurry of e-mails about the controversy that surrounded last week’s cover of The New Yorker depicting Barack Obama as a muslim in the White House with a picture of Osama bin Laden over the mantle with the American flag burning in the hearth. He is shown fist bumping with Michelle Obama who is sporting an Afro, ala 1960’s revolutionary Angela Davis, with an AK-47 slung over her back, camoflauge pants, and combat boots.

 

My initial response was to laugh at the satirical absurdity of the cartoon.   Ah yes, all of us sophisticated readers of The New Yorker. I am one, I love the magazine. I always find one or two or three articles I can’t wait to read. We are all so erudite, that is why we know how to laugh at the cartoon on the cover, when others do not. (You’re detecting my facetious tone I hope.)

 

But then I stopped a minute. I began thinking about how that cover plays into the hands of racists and those who deeply believe that this cover represents reality.  I heard this morning of one blogger who has used this cover in an animated gif. First you see the cover, then a message that reads “Why take the risk? McCain 2008.” The alleged and purported sophistication of many New Yorker readers not withstanding,(and I run the risk of angering some people here) some liberals often lack judgment that may be inspired by a racism that they would deny, or perhaps are not aware even exists within their consciousness. It runs deep in America. Or maybe it is just real satire that New Yorkers and other cosmopolitans get but others don’t. Maybe it is all the above.

 

I oppose censoring any kind of speech no matter how hateful, racist, sexist, anti Semitic or insulting to any group it might be.   I have a deep American rooted libertarian strain in me that chafes at any rules governing an individuals rights to say what he or she believes whether spoken in truth or satire.

 

Many people coming from minority cultures in America are often accused of being overly sensitive to what can be perceived as hatred, blatant or latent.   I am one of those. I feel the anti-semitic and racial stings deeply. When I read Tim Wise’s critique of that cover cartoon,  I found his comments to be at the very least latently or subtly anti-Semitic, though there was truth in his argument that the media is loathe to satirize Jews but are willing to do it to Blacks. And of course, we are all willing to satirize images of poor whites.

 

The New Yorker’s article became just another distraction in what needs to be a real conversation about this race. It even distracted from the interesting article in that issue about Obama’s Chicago political roots by Ryan Lizza. The story gave us new insight into how Obama got his political roots, lending to speculation about what kind of President he would make.

 

If I was editor of the New Yorker, I would have said no to the cover but maybe yes to it on the inside of the magazine as an illustration to create a discussion.   Satire should attract intense debate not distract us from debate. 

What did you think?

-Marc

P.S. Some cartoonists have made their own versions of this cover, swapping John and Cindy out for Michelle and Obama.  What do you think?


Marc on Money and Political Power

Money and Political Power

The Baltimore Sun came out with a story this morning about the Mayor’s former boyfriend, Ronald Lipscomb, being part of a deal that won a lucrative contract even though another firm was given a higher rating, from the city’s housing commissioner, to receive the contract (read that article by clicking here).

 

I wish I had a dollar for every time we have reported or had discussions on a government contract going to "favored sons" instead of a seemingly more qualified group. I don’t think Mayor Dixon’s relationship with Lipscomb had anything to do with who was awarded this contract. The Sun raises a non-issue here, connecting dots that do not meet.

 

The real story is the cozy relationship between developers and local politicians. The real story is the inside track conversations that take place between the financially powerful and politically powerful over a drink, on the phone, during dinner or at some high priced ticket event.

 

It is almost impossible to keep money out of politics. All we can do is pass laws and have rules of ethics that elected and appointed officials of government must follow. We must have watchdog agencies that do not allow the wheels of power to be greased so they speed passed us unseen.

 

It appears that Mayor Dixon did not follow the rules. Successful politicians and their powerful friends get over on us all because they follow the disclosure rules. Then they go about making their millions perfectly legally (or at least getting away with it because they follow the modicum of procedural rule) though unethically.

 

Mayor Dixon and Senator Ulysses S. Currie (get up to speed on that story here) appear to not have made full legal disclosure of their contracts and contacts. They did not recuse themselves or make their relationships known before voting on contracts involving friends, clients or families.

 

Speaking of power and money…

 

Many of Senator Barack Obama’s supporters and others who want to and may very well vote for him were very disappointed when he did not accept public financing of his campaign. I must admit that I was shocked at how he went about this decision.

 

I was surprised that he, and his advisers, did not enter into serious discussion and negotiations with the McCain campaign to come to an agreement on public financing. If he had entered into those talks they may have come out with a plan that would have worked. Of course negotiations might have fallen apart.  If the latter happened then they could have announced no public financing. Instead, they did not even try. He made great statements about public financing before he became the front runner and then presumptive nominee.  

Given the legal lay of the land he could have accepted public financing as a show of integrity and still counted on hundreds of millions of dollars not covered by the public finance laws. Congressional and Senatorial campaign committees, independent 509 committees and other groups could have raised all the money they need to support anyone’s candidacy.

 

We should not be surprised. In politics, money seems to be the most powerful medium for alleged free speech.

 

Many are upset at what appear to be Obama’s moving to the center and changing positions, but we will save that commentary for another time.

What do you think?

-Marc

 

 


Medgar Evers & Obama

Today is the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Medgar Evers. Medgar Evers was a Mississippi civil rights leader, and the head of the NAACP On this day 45 years ago, June 12, 1963, Medgar Evers was gunned down in the drive of his home, the same day that Alabama’s segregationist Governor (and later Presidential candidate) stood on the steps of Alabama’s all white university to personally block the entrance of two black students.

President Kennedy gave one of his most impassioned speeches about the moral crisis that America was facing. He sent federal marshals to ensure the safety of those children.

The man who killed Medgar Evers was a man tied to the White Citizens Council, Byron De La Beckwith. He was never convicted in two trials, by two all white juries. They were both declared mistrials. It took thirty years but De La Beckwith was finally convicted of those murders before he died.

I will never forget the photos of Medger Evers, the great civil rights warrior lying in his own blood just feet from his home.

I was thinking about how so many died to end segregation in
America
, when Jessica Phillips, my producer, asked if I had seen what Fox News said about Michelle Obama. I had not and I wish I still hadn’t.

They are doing stories on their news about how the Republicans are going to go after Michelle Obama. The title on the screen under the story which ran on TV, that I was shown on the web, said “ Outraged Liberals: Stop picking on Obama’s Baby Mama.”

How outrageous, how disgusting, how blatantly racist. How is it that we have come this far and someone could still think this is ok?!? This is a major TV news operation, owned by Rupert Murdoch, known for its conservative slant and blatant untruths…but this reaches new heights, or should I write, new lows of despicable behavior.

This is the state of our media. This is the mindset that must be defeated. This is why we need to take back our media from corporate, uncaring bottom feeders who only think about the bottom line.

FOX News, Rupert Murdoch, you owe the Obamas, you owe your viewers, and you owe the nation an apology. Local outlets should stand up.

I am outraged.

Since we live here in Maryland, let’s call up Fox 45 to ask them if they will repudiate what their parent company has done.

Medgar Evers and Barak Obama are the bookends of our history of building an
America
that is a nation of hope for all our people and children. Fox News is the expurgated entrails we thought were thrown in the garbage, only to have its slime ooze over the edges onto our floors.


06/10 Marc on Larsen’s resignation from the PSC

 Steve Larsen’s Resignation

I am not surprised that Steve Larsen resigned as the head of the Public Service Commission. When community activists railed against him and O’Malley as sellouts to Constellation Energy, I always defended Larsen as a man of integrity and honesty. He believed in using the tools of the government to make the public sector more responsive to the citizens. He was a quiet, diligent and intelligent crusader on the inside, whether it was health insurance or regulating energy.

I think he resigned not to go back to the public sector to make more money but out of frustration. When the state reached the deal with Constellation Energy that ensured that the PSC would have no subpoena power, it took the teeth out of the PSC. Larsen would not be able to get to the bottom of any sweetheart deals between the Constellation and its subsidiary BGE to unearth whatever potentially unscrupulous deals were made to purchase energy at the consumers’ expense.

I wondered aloud how long Steve Larsen would stay after this. He was crusader for the people who had his cape destroyed. He chose to walk away rather than plummet to the ground.

Given the price of oil, the cost and real crisis we are facing with electricity generation and looming public wars over our energy future we need more caped crusaders or this secure world of ours could be in trouble. -Marc

Related blog posts:

04/09/08 Looking back at the session

03/28/08-Marc’s argument against the settlement

03/03/08 Marc on what is missing in the investigation

 

Banning Little Cigars

What would it really accomplish to ban the sale of small cigars in the city of Baltimore? What I am writing about is the Mayor and Health Commissioner wanting to ban the sale of individual little cigars that many young inner city folks use to make into blunts. Blunts are cigars stuffed with marijuana. Many young people and young adults buy the individual cigars because they can’t afford to buy a whole pack. They come in flavors that are very enticing to some such as watermelon, sour apple, and grape. Some people just like to kick back and have a smoke to relax. Much like more well off patrons who go to cigar shops and throw big bucks for a wannabe Havana cigar. I never did like them even when I smoked though I do like a Havana a few times a year.

 

Let me admit, I always have an initial visceral response to the banning of most anything. Outlawing substances that people choose on their own to ingest does nothing but increase criminalization of what is otherwise activities of individual choice. Tax products, go after unscrupulous manufacturers and distributors, and find creative ways to combat it. Don’t ban it.

 

If you ban the sale of cheap cigars by corner stores in the inner city then some enterprising young hustlers will buy them up and sell them on the street. I understand what the city is trying to accomplish, it is just the wrong way to go about it.

 

As some City Council representatives said to me “What do we do about the young people on the corner who terrify the older neighbors … it really is a generational thing . .lack of respect for the elders….” The response has to be much more profound than banning little cigars.

 

Take this to the state legislature, ban the sale of individual cigarettes state wide, tax the cigars, put warning labels on them, take on big tobacco, their Annapolis lobbyists and friends in the legislature, start an education campaign about health and smoking theses little flavored cigars. Open recreation centers, work programs for youth and hit the streets with street workers to challenge the street culture.

 

Banning cigars sales… a waste of time, money, energy and it is just the wrong thing to do.

 

-Marc

 


Day 2 in Coal River Valley

Butch & Patty Sebok at home in Seth, West Virginia. photo: Antrim Caskey

We spent our first full day in West Virginia visiting people in their homes, taping interviews. People shared incredible stories with us that we’ll be bringing back. I recorded about 6 hours of audio today alone. We saw a 90 year-old woman’s fingers turn black with coal dust from running them across her tv screen. Again and again, people expressed their respect for the old ways of underground mining. At the same time, they spoke with outrage about mountaintop removal and the unprecedented level of destruction coal companies have caused in this area over the past 25 years or so.

Antrim took this picture of Patty Sebok and her husband Harry "Butch" Sebok in their kitchen. Patty is a community activist who works for Coal River Mountain Watch. Butch is a union miner who worked underground for almost 30 years. He was forced to retire when a doctor told him he risked paralysis if he continued working after an injury on the job that resulted in a herniated disk.

We’ll be up bright and early in the morning to tape some more interviews before heading up Kayford Mountain to see an active mountaintop removal site and meet the last man holding onto his home as the mountain is destroyed all around it. I encourage everyone to do their own research to learn more about mountaintop removal and the history of coal mining in West Virginia and beyond. Please let us know if you have any questions or thoughts to share.

-Justin


From Marc – May 8

VIOLENCE AND OUR SCHOOLS

On May 19th, from 6 to 8 PM, I will be hosting a special two-hour, live call-in with Baltimore Schools CEO Dr. Andres Alonso on WEAA, 88.9 FM, your community radio station.

One of the issues we will talk about is violence in our schools. In many city schools, it is palpable when you walk through their halls or when you talk to students and teachers who are in them every day.

It is fine to give more control to individual principals and schools, but there needs to be a system-wide policy to address what is in their control to address. Violence cannot be tolerated. Students who attack teachers and other students have to be dealt with firmly. Students have to know the limitations. The response can be therapeutic and healing, but it must be swift and with consequences.

Then you can talk about what individual schools can do.

So, please, join us on the 19th; it will be great being back on the air with you and taking your calls.

THAT RADIO STATION WHERE WE USED TO BE

So, I wandered over to the WYPR website yesterday. Don’t do that often. Actually, this may the second or third time I have done it since they kicked us off the air. I thought I would take a gander to see what was going on.

The Board of Directors meeting scheduled for May 20th at the Learning Tree has been turned into an internet meeting to be streamed live. Apparently, so many folks still outraged by the senseless cancellation of our show called in to say they were coming to attend the meeting. So, the folks at the top at the station said we could be in compliance with Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) open meeting rules by streaming it on the web.

It is amazing they really have no respect for the people of this community or their station’s listeners and members. It is outrageous and very telling when the leaders of that station are afraid to face and listen to their listeners.

For a while a few years ago, I was excited by how much underwriting was being brought into the station. It was to be a model for the nation’s public radio stations on how to address the dwindling federal support for public broadcasting. Then I realized that while underwriting grew, funds for expanding and building membership were being eviscerated at the station. Underwriting accounted for over 53% of funds and membership was down to the thirties. Underwriting by large corporations has steadily grown at WYPR since the station’s founding. The influence that the corporate money buys is significant, but that is clearly to the liking of the management.

I now realize that this is not the salvation of public radio, but the bells chiming that could be its death knell. Public broadcasting is supposed to be adventuresome, where opinions outside the mainstream are heard and given voice, where creative experimentation is unleashed, where members and listeners actually participate.

We are losing control of our public airwaves and we must demand them back.

THE LIGHT RAIL

I was reading in the Sun about the MTA light rail dilemma, which got me thinking about mass transit. So, more people seem to be using light rail because of high gas prices. That is a wonderful thing. Most seem to believe we can’t get people out their cars into public transit. Well, I think over the long run we can. Keep gas prices high, stop building new developments, squeeze the auto industry to make hybrid/electric/hydrogen vehicles, and for god’s sake put money into mass transit and stop building so many bloody highways. Life can change. It takes, it takes patience …… it takes money.

In the meantime, MTA has to get its act together. The state should take some of that highway money (those highway contractors and developers are powerful lobbies in Annapolis) and put it into MTA and the MARC to buy more cars, high speed (give them a lane) hybrid alternative diesel busses, and more maintenance workers and inspectors. In the long, they should build more rail (so MARC runs faster and the Light Rail has at least two tracks with more routes.)

That is the answer. Short term – buy more cars and busses. Long term – give us more rail.

It can be done. Am I nuts? What do you think?

DEMOCRACTIC PRESIDENTIAL RACE

The common wisdom has been, and primary election vote analyses tell us, that higher income people with more education, African-Americans, and younger voters are voting for Obama and that older voters, white women, Latinos, to a degree, and working people with less education are going with Clinton. No matter what happens, a portion of the Hillary voters will never vote for a Black man and a portion of the Barack voters will never vote for Hillary or a woman. The majority of primary voters, many of them new or voting for the first time in many years, could be Democratic voters in the fall.

It means that the two candidates have to come together and convince their supporters to support a new tomorrow together or they may once again lose despite Americans’ frustrations and anger over the state of the economy and the war in Iraq.

They have to ignore the demagogic demons of cable talk TV, these so-called pundits with nothing to say but divisive viscera of mistrust and hate. Democrats have to stop talking about Reverend Wright, ignore and rise above the media’s obsession with their “bittergate" and dividing people with emotionally charged rhetoric over race and class. Sure, race and class are at the core of our fears, our mistrust, and the most horrendous parts of our history.

They have to speak forcefully, passionately, persuasively and intelligently about those things that concern Americans. You have to speak to people’s hopes and fears about the future. There is no reason why the wealthiest nation on the planet cannot guarantee a decent income, health care, and schools that we want our children to go to. Someone has to make sense of immigration and our relationship to the world economy honestly and clearly. People will hear it. Americans want us out of Iraq; we did not want to be there in the first place. Now it has to be clear that the Republican mess has to be cleared up, and it won’t be easy. Say it clearly; it will be heard. Most Americans want large corporations and the financial investment industry to be regulated and allow small business to flourish. People want immediate help and a vision for the future. Most folks don’t mind paying if they know where they are going. That is as long as the paying for is equitable where the wealthiest and the major corporations are carrying their weight and then some.

Talk about those issues and bring our future into the clear light of day and most Americans will go…"Reverend WHO?”

The Republicans have their vision and their candidate(s). The Democrats better see to theirs unless they want to sit by the gates of the White House panting like a thirsty dog for the next four years.

ABOUT TOWN

So, one of my favorite spots to eat near our new Hampden office is Soup’s On, located on 36th Street in Hampden. They’re closing this Saturday for three months. Just two days left to get your favorite soup, salad, chicken pot pie, iced coffee and dangerous cupcakes. The lovely Cynthia, proprietor and creator of Soup’s On, is going to have a baby. Get her wares while you can, or wait till the end of the summer.

Also, went to Luca’s Café in Locust Point, on Fort Avenue across from the Phillips Seafood HQ. The food was just phenomenonal and prices, well, four of with a few drinks was $96 bucks. Great wine list too. Check it out.

At the Baltimore School for the Arts, students and faculty are putting on four one-act Moliere plays. It runs through Sunday. Don’t miss it. The plays are really well acted by adults and students. My old friend Tony Tsendas is hilarious, right in his element (I think he channels the Marx brothers.) Richard Pilcher directs it all. Don’t miss it. Our School for the Arts (and Carver in Baltimore County) is among the best in the nation.


Dispatch from Indiana – Part 5 – Wednesday May 7, 2008

This is the fifth and final installment in CEM’s series of dispatches from Indiana, courtesy of our intern Christina Arrison, who has been there working with the Obama campaign.

Last Thoughts 


It’s all over, and everyone I’ve talked to has been pleased with the outcome of yesterday’s primaries. While an outright win in Indiana would have been nice, the margin was so narrow in Indiana and he won North Carolina by so much that the night as a whole was certainly a victory. To me, though, one of the best outcomes of the primary was that it led a lot of people in Indiana to participate in politics for the first time. There were so many new volunteers coming into the campaign office who found out that it really is easy to help out. So many people were able to talk to volunteers, or to cast a vote for the first time. When I wrote my first post I was torn between appreciating the chance to give every state a voice and my worry that it would divide the party. But listening to the speeches of both Obama and Clinton last night it seems like the antagonism has been toned down, and now I’m convinced that the positives have outweighed the negatives. The work that the campaign and volunteers did during the primary didn’t stop mattering when people cast their vote yesterday – come this November, and in many elections to come, the people who were energized by this primary will still be there, and hopefully will still remember that their voice matters.


Dispatch from Indiana, Part 4 Tuesday, May 6, 2008

CEM is pleased to be bringing you dispatches from Indiana, courtesy of our intern Christina Arrison, who is working with the Obama campaign. This is the fourth in the series.

Election Day!

Canvassing on election day is usually pretty fun because at that point the universe of voters you’re communicating with has been narrowed to consist almost entirely of strong supporters and undecided people who lean heavily towards your candidate. It’s an exhilarating feeling to go to a neighborhood and find that everyone you’re talking to supports your candidate. It can make it a little more heartbreaking if your campaign loses, though, because after spending a lot of time with staffers and volunteers and talking to supportive voters, a win begins to feel inevitable. Today definitely felt like that – I walked this afternoon in a mostly African American neighborhood where at least two thirds of the adults I saw at their doors and out on the street were wearing "I Voted" stickers. Most of the rest said they were heading out later in the afternoon. It was a really great way to end my time talking to Indiana voters.

Voter Access

In terms of other election day observations, I thought that there were too many gaffes on the part of election officials. This year many polling locations were changed in Indianapolis for the first time in years, and the Obama campaign found this morning that in most of the old places there was nothing to indicate where the new location was. The campaign dispatched people to stay by the old polls and direct voters to their correct location, but while the authorities don’t have a legal responsibility to post the new address, it seems to me like that’s a simple step that could improve voter access immensely. Many of our canvassers also talked to people today who registered before the deadline but were told that they were not on the voter rolls. Instead of the poll workers telling them that they could cast provisional ballots, many of them were simply turned away. While the last time I was able to check the news there thankfully hadn’t been reports of major problems, like running out of ballots or broken down voting machines, I’m frustrated because it seems like these minor mistakes are repeated each election. And now that I know firsthand how difficult it can be to win over each vote, and how excited many new registrants are to cast their first ballot, it angers me even more to see even one person turned away. We all need to do a lot of work before November to ensure that the voting process goes smoothly everywhere across the country.

After the Polls Close

But now that the polls have closed all there is to do is wait. And clean up. And sleep. And hopefully celebrate! I have to head back to Baltimore so I won’t be able to see the returns in Indianapolis, but maybe by the time I land we’ll have a winner, or at least be close to knowing. No matter what happens, I’ve had a great time working on this campaign, and thanks to CEM for the chance to post my observations!


Dispatch from Indiana, Part 3 Monday, May 5, 2008

CEM is excited to be bringing you dispatches from Indiana from our intern Christina Arrison, who is working with the Obama campaign. This is the third in the series.

The Night Before 

This is going to be a short one because I’m about to hop into bed to snatch a few hours rest before going back in tomorrow to canvass. The crazy Obama staffers are still at the office getting packets together for tomorrow, but they turned down offers of help so I got to come home to bed. They are going out at 3am to hang flyers on supporters’ houses so they’ll be there first thing in the morning when everyone leaves for work. I’ll be going in around 6 to do some visibility, which can be pretty fun – standing at busy intersections with campaign signs and waving them around. I’m not sure how many votes it actually gets, but I guess any publicity is good, and maybe it will remind people to get to the polls.

Disenfranchised Voters

Today was surprisingly uneventful for a day just before an election. I knocked on doors in a neighborhood where about a quarter of the houses on my list were empty. I wonder where all of those people went to. I’m sure that many of them moved for benign reasons, but I couldn’t help but think about the foreclosure crisis all day. That got me thinking about the many subtle, indirect ways that people can be disenfranchised. Home foreclosure of course wouldn’t prohibit someone from voting, but it does mean that the voter probably won’t receive any information from the campaigns, and switching your address for voter registration is probably the last thing on your mind if you’re dealing with the trauma of losing a home. In Indiana if you moved more than 29 days before the election and didn’t officially change the registration record you can’t vote at your old precinct. There’s also the fact that this state requires photo identification and proof of residence to vote, which low income, young, and elderly voters are much less likely to have. The recent Supreme Court decision that upholds the legality of such requirements means that even more states will probably establish similar laws. On a smaller scale, the fact that many lower income voters live in apartment complexes means that it’s harder for canvassers to go talk to them, and personal contact at a door is one of the most effective ways of getting people out to vote. Last but not least, of course, there’s the fact that the polls are only open until 6pm at night. And unlike many states, Indiana doesn’t have a law mandating that employees must receive enough time off to vote, if their work schedule would otherwise prohibit them from going to the polls.

Huge Rally

Rather than close on that note, though, I should mention that tonight I was lucky enough to go to a huge rally downtown. We were all packed onto the American Legion mall in downtown Indianapolis. A local radio station put the attendance at more than 20,000, and the energy of the crowd was palpable. Stevie Wonder made a guest appearance, opening the rally with three songs which he played to the end despite a sudden downpour during the third number. The crowd held despite the several bursts of rain, and Senator Obama delivered a fiery version of his stump speech. It was a positive way to end the day and hopefully a good omen for tomorrow. The bulk of the work has been done now – tomorrow it’s only what is called "knock and drag," where you knock on doors until you find someone who says they’re planning on voting and you bring them yourself to the polling location. And so now to get some practice in, I’m going to knock off writing and drag myself to bed.

 

-Christina Arrison


Dispatch from Indiana, Part 2 Sunday, May 04, 2008

CEM is thrilled to bring you these blog posts from our intern Christina Arrison, who is currently in Indiana working with the Obama campaign. Enjoy!

7 Votes

Obama won the contest in Guam yesterday by seven votes, which was really the only thing keeping me going at 1:30 am last night after two hours of putting tiny stickers that reminded voters to bring their photo IDs to the polls onto a seemingly endless stack of doorhangers. The campaign staff and I kept reminding each other about those seven voters, thinking about how the balance of the election could hang on just one sticker, one person remembering her ID who wouldn’t have otherwise, and how maybe that one vote will push us over the edge. Working in the field operation of a campaign requires that mentality, the firm belief that every vote matters. Some people think a campaign comes down to a good debate performance or a savvy piece of election mail; I think it comes down to a 1" by 2" white sticker.

Canvassing

Today I got a chance to put some of those stickers into action by going out and knocking doors. A lot of my work on the primaries so far has been the behind-the-scenes organization of the canvasses, so I really relish any opportunity to get out and talk to voters. Canvassing is one of the most exhausting things that I’ve ever done. It’s physically tiring to be out in the hot sun walking all day, but more than that it can be emotionally draining to talk to people about a candidate I’m so passionate about and be greeted with apathy or anger. It’s obviously not a personal attack on me, but after the all-night sticker marathon I’m not thinking logically today. Thankfully those people are few and far between, but I do still have the urge to go out right now and wake up the 24 year old I talked to today who said that he never votes because "change will still happen whether I vote or not." I tried to convince him otherwise but to no avail. I’m comforted, though, by the thought of two other young men I talked to today, both of whom said that they’ve never thought that voting mattered but that this time they feel inspired to cast a ballot.

It is a very intimate experience to go to the homes of so many strangers. Canvassing has taken me into neighborhoods of all kinds that I usually wouldn’t have a reason to visit. It’s given me lots of food for thought. Why is there, for example, an inverse relationship between the number of items on a house that say "Welcome" and how welcoming the owner is? Why are the front doors in the so-called "bad" neighborhoods always unlocked and wide open, while in the "safe" areas there is always at least one deadbolt fastened?

The issue of race

Knocking on doors also shines a bright spotlight onto the issue of race in this country. Race has obviously played a large role in the campaign in terms of the possibility that we could soon elect our first black president, but it also concretely affects canvassers who cross over racial boundaries to go door-to-door in neighborhoods that are in many cases still very segregated. Last week two of our canvassers, both young black men, were followed around by police in the mostly white neighborhood where they were working. When the pair was done knocking, the police car tailed them the whole way across the city back to our headquarters. Two middle-aged women from one of our unions were in a similar area today when they knocked on the apartment door of an off-duty police officer who told them they were illegally trespassing in the complex (which was not true) and that if he got one complaint from a neighbor he would arrest them right then and there. As a white woman I experience a different side of things – my blood still boils when I think of the woman in Ohio who told me she wasn’t going to support Obama because she didn’t think that America was ready for a black president. She leaned in confidingly and added, "But I suppose he’s not all black. His mother was white."

Still, all of the negative and difficult experiences are far outweighed by positive stories that make me really believe that change is possible. Our team has had thousands and thousands of conversations with voters here in Indianapolis, and stories like the ones above are the exception, not the rule. All of the canvassers I’ve talked to see the chance to go into unfamiliar neighborhoods and talk to people they would otherwise probably not interact with much as an amazing opportunity to build unity, not as an uncomfortable or futile task. Our volunteers have boundless energy – the two women who were threatened by the police officer today came back to headquarters, got another packet, and went back out to knock more doors. And every time the press does another story about the "insurmountable" racial divide in the electorate, I just remember standing in Ohio with an African American coworker of mine as the union volunteers were getting ready to canvass. Most of the canvassers were middle-aged, white and male, many of them current or former meatpackers – definitely not your typical Obama demographic. She turned to me, laughed, and said, "Just look at all these white guys working their butts off to elect a black guy president. Who would have thought?"

Tomorrow’s the biggest day of the campaign, so I’d better go get some sleep. In Indiana the polls are open for an extremely restrictive amount of time – 6am to 6pm. That means that most of the voter turnout canvassing has to be done tomorrow because on Tuesday there won’t be enough time to catch people after work before the polls close. More on that to follow tomorrow.

 – Christina Arrison


Dispatch from Indiana, Part 1, Saturday May 4th 2008

 

Hey folks – one of our interns, Christina Arrison, is in Indiana for the primary. She’s going to be sending us first-hand observations and thoughts from there for the next few days. By way of an introduction, here’s her first dispatch. 

-Justin 

The Dirty Truth

The public face of any political campaign is a polished, powdered, and prepped candidate hopping on and off planes, buses, and trains to deliver speeches in front of supporters and ever-present news cameras. But the dirty truth is that the real work of a campaign is done once the candidate rolls out of town, by an army of sleep deprived, underpaid, junk-food-stuffed, (usually) 20-somethings, who serve as the ground troops for the candidate. I’m a new intern at CEM, and I’m also wrapping up a stint working as one of those sleepy 20-somethings for a group of labor unions that have endorsed Barack Obama in the presidential primary. Since the endorsement I’ve worked in Columbus, Pittsburgh, and the suburbs of Philadelphia, and I’m currently on a plane headed back to Indianapolis for second stint there leading up to next Tuesday’s election. Justin asked me to write a little bit for the site about my experiences working in the primaries, so I’ll be sending a few dispatches from Indiana during these final, hectic days of campaigning.

The Hoosier View

The best part about being on the ground for three important primary contests has been the chance to talk to and work with people who are experiencing this election on an individual and personal level – people who, many for the first time, feel a meaningful connection to Washington and the process that puts politicians there. It’s a nice counterbalance to the Big Media view of the campaign – all scandal and spin and personal attacks and very little examination of what the election means to real people. It’s been four decades since the last competitive Democratic primary in Indiana. From what I’ve seen, many Hoosiers are a bit bemused by all of the attention – voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania are used to the swarms of canvassers and scads of robo-calls and TV ads from past general elections, but in Indiana, a solidly red state, many people are experiencing the invasion for the first time. Overall, though, I think people appreciate the attention and genuinely believe that their voice matters. Every day when our canvassers get back from the field they give reports of talking to voters who say that this is their first time voting, and that for once they think an election offers them a chance to concretely improve their lives – by getting better healthcare or livable wages, by ending the war, and for countless other reasons. We hear heartbreaking stories like the Katrina survivor with AIDS who can’t afford his pills, and asked our union volunteer to have the Obama campaign contact him to get him cheaper medication. But even if the personal connection to the campaign just involves a voter yelling at a canvasser to get off her property, or slamming down the phone on another prerecorded call, at least they are offered the chance to participate.

Rising Tensions

That being said, I am a little worried about the length and tone of the race. Even in just the three primaries I’ve worked on there’s been a shift in voters’ attitudes. When I knocked doors in Ohio, most of the Clinton supporters I talked to were firm in their choice, but polite. On the plane back to DC after the Ohio election, I was seated next to the president of the New York chapter of NOW, and we were able to chat relatively amicably about the election, she in her Clinton button, me in my Obama t-shirt. Canvassing in Pennsylvania, five weeks later, the tone had shifted. Lots more people yelled at me, balled up their flyers and threw them back, or slammed the door in my face. I remember walking up the driveway of one house just in time to hear the woman say to her neighbor "If I get ONE more thing from Obama I’m just going to-" I didn’t quite catch what she was going to do, as I was doing my best to blend in with the trees as I backed away. I think a lot of people (including some campaign staffers I know who literally have not had a day off in 15 months) are ready for this to end.

But in the meantime I hope that the next few days will provide some food for thought, and a chance to look at some of the issues that Indiana voters and the campaign workers and volunteers are thinking about.

-Christina Arrison


4/21 from Marc

Welcome!

Our new website is born. So please spend some time with us here. Our endeavor is to create a new public media that crosses all the platforms and makes you part of all that is going on around you. We have archived our Peabody Award winning series, Just Words and the documentary series we produced on the Vietnam War that we taped here in the states and Vietnam. Our new programming, like conversations with folks from the Wire, Phil Donahue, Andre Codrescu and others is here, as well. There are also video, still photography, and places for your comments.

Speaking of places for your commentary, we opened forums for you to comment on anything that is on your mind. It’s sort of like open phones on the web. Please join us there and send us some story and interview ideas. Tell us what is happening in your communities and things of interest you think we could share with everyone.

Politics and the Media

The Pennsylvania primary is tomorrow. Thank God, at last, we thought it would never get here!

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama debate in Philadelphia.  Photo Credit: AP Photo

I don’t know if you saw last week’s faux debate between Hillary and Barack on ABC. I do mean faux, it was just horrible. What is wrong with major media in our country? Is it just them or are we all becoming that shallow, uninteresting and banal? They are shirking their duty to all of us. Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos were pushing Barack Obama on his relationship with Bill Ayers, former SDS Weatherman who went underground in the sixties. They’re focused on Hillary and her claim that she had to run under sniper fire which turned out to be false. The media created “bittergate” as they call it, and are pushing the capital gains tax! Well that fits, most of the big media stars are so well paid and run with such wealth that I guess they are worried about capital gains. What about the rest of us?!

Where were the questions about Iraq, the economy, health care, our infrastructure, home mortgages, the financial market, No Child Left Behind and our schools, veteran’s benefits, Afghanistan, global warming, the environment and the future of this nation?

It is all about selling product and the drivel they think will sell to the masses. Well, give the masses some credit. Those who are involved and voting deserve better.

In Pennsylvania, they could have devoted the debate to the economy. What are their ideas about the financial markets? Do they believe that hedge funds and speculation of billionaires need the same oversight as banks? What role does the federal government play in stimulating this economy? Can we create a green economy and rebuild the infrastructure of America the same we did in the 30’s or in the 19th century when the federal government stimulated growth by building the canal system and then later the railroads?

Give us something! America is at a crossroads with wars, the economy and a 21st world that will be very different that the last century.

WYPR

One small tidbit that I would like to share. I heard that management will be spending considerable money for an advertising firm to rebrand the station. It feels it must clean its tarnished image of the last several months. It must purge the identification of Steiner with WYPR.

They tried that before, spending at least $20,000 on the 5th anniversary for WYPR.

Oh, well…join me, join us at the Center for Emerging Media as we create a new public media for our community, for all of us, for the 21st century.

-Marc


3/28/08 Constellation Deal

So, what is up with this deal between O’Malley and Constellation? Where are the voices of dissent? Where are the voices in our state legislature, in print, on TV and in radio who are raising questions about this so-called settlement?

Martin O’Malley ran on a campaign to address consumers being shortchanged, over-charged and ripped off by Constellation and their home state company BGE as a result of the 1999 deregulation of the industry. A move pushed by Sen. Pres Mike Miller and one of the forgotten forces behind all that lobbying in Annapolis in 1999 – ENRON.

The state government and Constellation say this will allow us to deal with a looming energy crisis in the next few years that will lead to brownouts across the state. We don’t generate enough electricity for our growth. But how does this “settlement” address that issue?

OK, so now we are getting some credit and rebates and the state won’t have to pay the bill of deactivating Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plants. We all get back $175 if we are lucky and they get to profit millions or even billions. We are still saddled with at least a 72% increase in our rates. Governor and state leaders, tell that to our bank accounts every month!

Because of the settlement, there will be no more investigations into stranded costs paid to Constellation to compensate them for losses that never occurred when they took over BGE plants. What about the investigation into the corporate relationship between BGE and Constellation? What about the accusation that Constellation sells Maryland energy sources outside the state, then sells them back to us, to BGE for huge profits? No further investigations into the wholesale power auctions and our exponentially rising utility bills! Investigations in 2005 and 2006 clearly showed something amiss. It clearly appeared we were being gouged and huge profits were being made. We will never know the answer to what happened to us and what Constellation really did.

No subpoena power for the Public Service Commission! How will they get to the bottom of anything as they look at re-regulation of the industry and plan for the energy future of our state? Steve Larsen, Chairman of the PSC, on my show, said he wanted the answers to this and more. Now his hands are tied.

Constellation stock is now on the rise. They can have outside investors without state regulatory approval.

What about the future? Hydropower will have its end. Our dams can’t handle the load and the silt is building up. Solar, wind and nuclear will take years to make a dent in our total energy supply. Does this give Constellation the power and right to continue to mine coal, spew its death into the air, and make West Virginia look like a moonscape after the tops of our most ancient mountains are lopped off?

We need better answers to what de-regulation did and what was going on between Constellation and BGE. We need a better plan for our energy future than we are getting.

State legislators need to raise their voices and raise questions. Our local media needs to investigate and keep this discussion alive. We all need to be involved at whatever level we can to keep the pressure on.

Dealing with the power of Constellation Energy and the rates we pay was a central theme of Martin O’Malley’s run for Governor. This shows all too well the power that corporate giants have in our state political process. I know Governor O’Malley felt pushed against a wall. We have a very precarious energy future in the next few years. This settlement, however, was not the answer. It was not even close.

-marc


1/28/08 Black Conservatism

I remember in 2006 during the race for Maryland’s vacant senate seat, a hot debate being sparked on our show when a guest said, “Any black person who votes for a Democrat in this election is a patsy.”  Oh, the calls that came in for the rest of the hour-people were SO angry! 

While it was a comment that probably could have been worded in a much more intelligent way, what it implied was interesting.  The implication was that the Democratic party was taking the African American vote for granted by not supporting the candidacy of Kweisi Mfume-and that blacks should vote for the Republican candidate, Michael Steele, an African American.  Most of the callers were offended by the very suggestion that the Republican agenda had anything to offer black voters.

But according to statistics, more and more blacks are finding something about the Republican party to interest them. In 1972, fewer than 10 percent of African Americans identified themselves as conservative; today nearly 30 percent-11.2 million-do.  Those are the numbers presented by Christopher Alan Bracey in his new book, Saviors or Sellouts: The Promise and Peril of Black Conservatism, from Booker T. Washington to Condoleezza Rice. He points to the social issues that African Americans tend to be conservative on-abortion and gay marriage for example-and traces the history of politicla conservatism in the Black world.

Figures like Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell–what appeal did they find in conservative politics?  Why do they remain such polarizing figures?  Join us today to discuss.

-Jessica

P.S. Go here for information on Bracey’s event in Howard County this weekend!


 


010/08/2007 Maria Allwine

“Why is the Steiner Show having a candidate on?” You might say.  “The elections are over!  Dixon and Rawlings-Blake won!”

 Ah, Baltimore.  Where the primary decides it all.  Or at least that’s the accepted wisdom.  Maria Allwine would have it differently.  She’s running as a Green Party candidate for President of the Baltimore City Council.

People loved her at our debates (go here and scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the links to listen).  Her comments elicited lots of applause and cheering, especially when she talked about the War on Drugs and her anger at the treatment developers get and affordable housing.  A lot of people seemed to like what she was selling.  Is she going to surprise all of us in this election by doing better than expected?

 Join us with your comments and questions for Ms. Allwine, today at One.

-Jessica