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Archive for February 2012

NRC: Iowa’s Hero or Villain?

Nuclear Power? No Thanks

During Iowa’s debate over HF 561, an act relating to the permitting, licensing, construction and operation of nuclear generating facilities, it seems unclear whether the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is a villain or a hero. Proponents of nuclear power have cited the NRC as both, which indicates, there is no consensus, but that as many advocates do, they use whichever role best suits the argument of the day.

Representatives of MidAmerican Energy have repeatedly counseled audiences that the regulatory agencies, the Iowa Utilities Board and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, would look out for the interests of the public should they move forward with plans to build a nuclear reactor in Iowa. When a person is trying to assuage concerns, it is only appropriate to remind audiences of the protections of regulatory agencies.

At the same time, in response to my post on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) last weekend, proponents of the technology spoke out in chorus about the dithering of the NRC and how it holds back advancement of a technology that in their words is ready for prime time.

Rod Adams posted this comment on Blog for Iowa, “I take strong exception to the idea that small light water reactors are unproven technology. American engineers invented and developed light water reactors nearly 60 years ago and has (sic) built hundreds of power plants that fit the definition of what we are now calling ‘small, modular reactors’ (SMRs).”

So what’s the problem with SMRs if it is not the technology? Both Adams and other commentators point to the long approval process of the NRC, which is very costly for developers. In my view, there are two things that matter more than the perceived cumbersomeness of the NRC process.

The public doesn’t like the current legislation, as indicated in a recent poll published by the Des Moines Register on Feb 21, where 77 percent of Iowans “oppose rules allowing a utility to charge its customers up front for the costs to plan and build a nuclear power plant.” It is more than anti-nuclear groups such as Friends of the Earth, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Sierra Club who dislike HF 561.The efforts to peg opposition to nuclear power as a left-wing advocacy effort fall flat. The 77 percent who oppose this bill include people from every part of the political spectrum, and such unlikely advocacy partners as Walmart, the Sierra Club and AARP.

Secondly, while the NRC may be the current whipping boy of the nuclear industry, if the technology has been viable for decades, what is the flippin’ problem? Even the most inefficient of industries can produce a product more often than in the 30 years since the last nuclear reactor was built in the United States. Adams cites, “the only reason that no SMRs are currently licensed is that conventional wisdom in nuclear engineering for 50 years was that bigger was better.” This is precisely the argument used by Representative Chuck Soderberg, floor manager for HF 561, during the House debate, that electric utilities require large scale production capabilities that can be turned on and off to meet demand. Apparently proponents of SMRs get no relief from the legislators who favor HF 561, although Soderberg would likely support SMRs if asked directly.

I can understand someone who has worked as a nuclear engineer wanting to see a lifetime of work come to fruition by building a SMR. But seriously, President Obama has supported nuclear power, there is federal incentive money available, the Price Anderson Act transfers excess liability to the federal government in the event of a large scale failure like what happened at Chernobyl or Fukushima, and the Department of Energy holds title to spent nuclear fuel. It seems clear to this writer, that whatever whining the nuclear industry may do, they are already a favored lot.

Nuclear power is a bad choice for Iowa’s energy future, or in the usage of one of my neighbors, “that dog won’t hunt.”

~ Paul Deaton is a native Iowan and regular contributor to Blog for Iowa.

The GOP, Corporate America, And The Powell Manifesto

Progressives and others have been going wild this week over a Rick Santorum remark denegrating college education, basing his statement on something that President Obama didn’t even say.  It is time for us to get over being shocked by every “crazy” statement that comes out of the mouth of any given GOP candidate.  These ideas may seem crazy, but they are not original to Santorum and the others.  They are part of the GOP long range plan.

In the interests of attempting to understand what the GOP is actually thinking, we are re-posting the Lewis Powell Memo (aka The Powell Manifesto) written in 1971, before he became a Supreme Court Justice and went on to write a 1978 decision that effectively invented a First Amendment “right” for corporations to influence ballot questions.

“On August 23, 1971, Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., an attorney from Richmond, Virginia, drafted a confidential memorandum for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that describes a strategy for the corporate takeover of the dominant public institutions of American society.”  Commondreams.org

The manifesto is divided into the following sections:

  • The Campus
  • Television
  • Other Media (radio/newspapers)
  • Books, Paperbacks And Pamphlets
  • Paid Advertisements
  • The Neglected Political Arena
  • Neglected Opportunity In The Courts
  • Neglected Stockholder Power
  • A More Aggressive Attitude
  • Quality Control Is Essential
  • Relaltionship To Freedom

You won’t regret taking the time to read it in its entirety.

Confidential Memorandum:
Attack of American Free Enterprise System
DATE: August 23, 1971
TO: Mr. Eugene B. Sydnor, Jr., Chairman, Education Committee, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
FROM: Lewis F. Powell, Jr.

This memorandum is submitted at your request as a basis for the discussion on August 24 with Mr. Booth (executive vice president) and others at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The purpose is to identify the problem, and suggest possible avenues of action for further consideration.

Dimensions of the Attack
No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack.1 This varies in scope, intensity, in the techniques employed, and in the level of visibility.

There always have been some who opposed the American system, and preferred socialism or some form of statism (communism or fascism). Also, there always have been critics of the system, whose criticism has been wholesome and constructive so long as the objective was to improve rather than to subvert or destroy.

But what now concerns us is quite new in the history of America. We are not dealing with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts.

Sources of the Attack
The sources are varied and diffused. They include, not unexpectedly, the Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic. These extremists of the left are far more numerous, better financed, and increasingly are more welcomed and encouraged by other elements of society, than ever before in our history. But they remain a small minority, and are not yet the principal cause for concern.

The most disquieting voices joining the chorus of criticism come from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians. In most of these groups the movement against the system is participated in only by minorities. Yet, these often are the most articulate, the most vocal, the most prolific in their writing and speaking.

Moreover, much of the media-for varying motives and in varying degrees-either voluntarily accords unique publicity to these “attackers,” or at least allows them to exploit the media for their purposes. This is especially true of television, which now plays such a predominant role in shaping the thinking, attitudes and emotions of our people.

One of the bewildering paradoxes of our time is the extent to which the enterprise system tolerates, if not participates in, its own destruction.

The campuses from which much of the criticism emanates are supported by (i) tax funds generated largely from American business, and (ii) contributions from capital funds controlled or generated by American business. The boards of trustees of our universities overwhelmingly are composed of men and women who are leaders in the system.

Most of the media, including the national TV systems, are owned and theoretically controlled by corporations which depend upon profits, and the enterprise system to survive.

Tone of the Attack
This memorandum is not the place to document in detail the tone, character, or intensity of the attack. The following quotations will suffice to give one a general idea:

William Kunstler, warmly welcomed on campuses and listed in a recent student poll as the “American lawyer most admired,” incites audiences as follows:

“You must learn to fight in the streets, to revolt, to shoot guns. We will learn to do all of the things that property owners fear.”2 The New Leftists who heed Kunstler’s advice increasingly are beginning to act — not just against military recruiting offices and manufacturers of munitions, but against a variety of businesses: “Since February, 1970, branches (of Bank of America) have been attacked 39 times, 22 times with explosive devices and 17 times with fire bombs or by arsonists.”3 Although New Leftist spokesmen are succeeding in radicalizing thousands of the young, the greater cause for concern is the hostility of respectable liberals and social reformers. It is the sum total of their views and influence which could indeed fatally weaken or destroy the system.

A chilling description of what is being taught on many of our campuses was written by Stewart Alsop:

“Yale, like every other major college, is graduating scores of bright young men who are practitioners of ‘the politics of despair.’ These young men despise the American political and economic system . . . (their) minds seem to be wholly closed. They live, not by rational discussion, but by mindless slogans.”4 A recent poll of students on 12 representative campuses reported that: “Almost half the students favored socialization of basic U.S. industries.”5

A visiting professor from England at Rockford College gave a series of lectures entitled “The Ideological War Against Western Society,” in which he documents the extent to which members of the intellectual community are waging ideological warfare against the enterprise system and the values of western society. In a foreword to these lectures, famed Dr. Milton Friedman of Chicago warned: “It (is) crystal clear that the foundations of our free society are under wide-ranging and powerful attack — not by Communist or any other conspiracy but by misguided individuals parroting one another and unwittingly serving ends they would never intentionally promote.”6

Perhaps the single most effective antagonist of American business is Ralph Nader, who — thanks largely to the media — has become a legend in his own time and an idol of millions of Americans. A recent article in Fortune speaks of Nader as follows:
“The passion that rules in him — and he is a passionate man — is aimed at smashing utterly the target of his hatred, which is corporate power. He thinks, and says quite bluntly, that a great many corporate executives belong in prison — for defrauding the consumer with shoddy merchandise, poisoning the food supply with chemical additives, and willfully manufacturing unsafe products that will maim or kill the buyer. He emphasizes that he is not talking just about ‘fly-by-night hucksters’ but the top management of blue chip business.”7

A frontal assault was made on our government, our system of justice, and the free enterprise system by Yale Professor Charles Reich in his widely publicized book: “The Greening of America,” published last winter.

The foregoing references illustrate the broad, shotgun attack on the system itself. There are countless examples of rifle shots which undermine confidence and confuse the public. Favorite current targets are proposals for tax incentives through changes in depreciation rates and investment credits. These are usually described in the media as “tax breaks,” “loop holes” or “tax benefits” for the benefit of business. * As viewed by a columnist in the Post, such tax measures would benefit “only the rich, the owners of big companies.”8

It is dismaying that many politicians make the same argument that tax measures of this kind benefit only “business,” without benefit to “the poor.” The fact that this is either political demagoguery or economic illiteracy is of slight comfort. This setting of the “rich” against the “poor,” of business against the people, is the cheapest and most dangerous kind of politics.

The Apathy and Default of Business
What has been the response of business to this massive assault upon its fundamental economics, upon its philosophy, upon its right to continue to manage its own affairs, and indeed upon its integrity?

The painfully sad truth is that business, including the boards of directors’ and the top executives of corporations great and small and business organizations at all levels, often have responded — if at all — by appeasement, ineptitude and ignoring the problem. There are, of course, many exceptions to this sweeping generalization. But the net effect of such response as has been made is scarcely visible.

In all fairness, it must be recognized that businessmen have not been trained or equipped to conduct guerrilla warfare with those who propagandize against the system, seeking insidiously and constantly to sabotage it. The traditional role of business executives has been to manage, to produce, to sell, to create jobs, to make profits, to improve the standard of living, to be community leaders, to serve on charitable and educational boards, and generally to be good citizens. They have performed these tasks very well indeed.

But they have shown little stomach for hard-nose contest with their critics, and little skill in effective intellectual and philosophical debate.

A column recently carried by the Wall Street Journal was entitled: “Memo to GM: Why Not Fight Back?”9 Although addressed to GM by name, the article was a warning to all American business. Columnist St. John said:

“General Motors, like American business in general, is ‘plainly in trouble’ because intellectual bromides have been substituted for a sound intellectual exposition of its point of view.” Mr. St. John then commented on the tendency of business leaders to compromise with and appease critics. He cited the concessions which Nader wins from management, and spoke of “the fallacious view many businessmen take toward their critics.” He drew a parallel to the mistaken tactics of many college administrators: “College administrators learned too late that such appeasement serves to destroy free speech, academic freedom and genuine scholarship. One campus radical demand was conceded by university heads only to be followed by a fresh crop which soon escalated to what amounted to a demand for outright surrender.”

One need not agree entirely with Mr. St. John’s analysis. But most observers of the American scene will agree that the essence of his message is sound. American business “plainly in trouble”; the response to the wide range of critics has been ineffective, and has included appeasement; the time has come — indeed, it is long overdue — for the wisdom, ingenuity and resources of American business to be marshalled against those who would destroy it.

Responsibility of Business Executives
What specifically should be done? The first essential — a prerequisite to any effective action — is for businessmen to confront this problem as a primary responsibility of corporate management.

The overriding first need is for businessmen to recognize that the ultimate issue may be survival — survival of what we call the free enterprise system, and all that this means for the strength and prosperity of America and the freedom of our people.

The day is long past when the chief executive officer of a major corporation discharges his responsibility by maintaining a satisfactory growth of profits, with due regard to the corporation’s public and social responsibilities. If our system is to survive, top management must be equally concerned with protecting and preserving the system itself. This involves far more than an increased emphasis on “public relations” or “governmental affairs” — two areas in which corporations long have invested substantial sums.

A significant first step by individual corporations could well be the designation of an executive vice president (ranking with other executive VP’s) whose responsibility is to counter-on the broadest front-the attack on the enterprise system. The public relations department could be one of the foundations assigned to this executive, but his responsibilities should encompass some of the types of activities referred to subsequently in this memorandum. His budget and staff should be adequate to the task.

Possible Role of the Chamber of Commerce
But independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.

Moreover, there is the quite understandable reluctance on the part of any one corporation to get too far out in front and to make itself too visible a target.

The role of the National Chamber of Commerce is therefore vital. Other national organizations (especially those of various industrial and commercial groups) should join in the effort, but no other organizations appear to be as well situated as the Chamber. It enjoys a strategic position, with a fine reputation and a broad base of support. Also — and this is of immeasurable merit — there are hundreds of local Chambers of Commerce which can play a vital supportive role.

It hardly need be said that before embarking upon any program, the Chamber should study and analyze possible courses of action and activities, weighing risks against probable effectiveness and feasibility of each. Considerations of cost, the assurance of financial and other support from members, adequacy of staffing and similar problems will all require the most thoughtful consideration.

The Campus
The assault on the enterprise system was not mounted in a few months. It has gradually evolved over the past two decades, barely perceptible in its origins and benefiting (sic) from a gradualism that provoked little awareness much less any real reaction.

Although origins, sources and causes are complex and interrelated, and obviously difficult to identify without careful qualification, there is reason to believe that the campus is the single most dynamic source. The social science faculties usually include members who are unsympathetic to the enterprise system. They may range from a Herbert Marcuse, Marxist faculty member at the University of California at San Diego, and convinced socialists, to the ambivalent liberal critic who finds more to condemn than to commend. Such faculty members need not be in a majority. They are often personally attractive and magnetic; they are stimulating teachers, and their controversy attracts student following; they are prolific writers and lecturers; they author many of the textbooks, and they exert enormous influence — far out of proportion to their numbers — on their colleagues and in the academic world.

Social science faculties (the political scientist, economist, sociologist and many of the historians) tend to be liberally oriented, even when leftists are not present. This is not a criticism per se, as the need for liberal thought is essential to a balanced viewpoint. The difficulty is that “balance” is conspicuous by its absence on many campuses, with relatively few members being of conservatives or moderate persuasion and even the relatively few often being less articulate and aggressive than their crusading colleagues.

This situation extending back many years and with the imbalance gradually worsening, has had an enormous impact on millions of young American students. In an article in Barron’s Weekly, seeking an answer to why so many young people are disaffected even to the point of being revolutionaries, it was said: “Because they were taught that way.”10 Or, as noted by columnist Stewart Alsop, writing about his alma mater: “Yale, like every other major college, is graduating scores’ of bright young men … who despise the American political and economic system.”

As these “bright young men,” from campuses across the country, seek opportunities to change a system which they have been taught to distrust — if not, indeed “despise” — they seek employment in the centers of the real power and influence in our country, namely: (i) with the news media, especially television; (ii) in government, as “staffers” and consultants at various levels; (iii) in elective politics; (iv) as lecturers and writers, and (v) on the faculties at various levels of education.

Many do enter the enterprise system — in business and the professions — and for the most part they quickly discover the fallacies of what they have been taught. But those who eschew the mainstream of the system often remain in key positions of influence where they mold public opinion and often shape governmental action. In many instances, these “intellectuals” end up in regulatory agencies or governmental departments with large authority over the business system they do not believe in.

If the foregoing analysis is approximately sound, a priority task of business — and organizations such as the Chamber — is to address the campus origin of this hostility. Few things are more sanctified in American life than academic freedom. It would be fatal to attack this as a principle. But if academic freedom is to retain the qualities of “openness,” “fairness” and “balance” — which are essential to its intellectual significance — there is a great opportunity for constructive action. The thrust of such action must be to restore the qualities just mentioned to the academic communities.

What Can Be Done About the Campus
The ultimate responsibility for intellectual integrity on the campus must remain on the administrations and faculties of our colleges and universities. But organizations such as the Chamber can assist and activate constructive change in many ways, including the following:

Staff of Scholars
The Chamber should consider establishing a staff of highly qualified scholars in the social sciences who do believe in the system. It should include several of national reputation whose authorship would be widely respected — even when disagreed with.

Staff of Speakers
There also should be a staff of speakers of the highest competency. These might include the scholars, and certainly those who speak for the Chamber would have to articulate the product of the scholars.

Speaker’s Bureau
In addition to full-time staff personnel, the Chamber should have a Speaker’s Bureau which should include the ablest and most effective advocates from the top echelons of American business.

Evaluation of Textbooks
The staff of scholars (or preferably a panel of independent scholars) should evaluate social science textbooks, especially in economics, political science and sociology. This should be a continuing program.

The objective of such evaluation should be oriented toward restoring the balance essential to genuine academic freedom. This would include assurance of fair and factual treatment of our system of government and our enterprise system, its accomplishments, its basic relationship to individual rights and freedoms, and comparisons with the systems of socialism, fascism and communism. Most of the existing textbooks have some sort of comparisons, but many are superficial, biased and unfair.

We have seen the civil rights movement insist on re-writing many of the textbooks in our universities and schools. The labor unions likewise insist that textbooks be fair to the viewpoints of organized labor. Other interested citizens groups have not hesitated to review, analyze and criticize textbooks and teaching materials. In a democratic society, this can be a constructive process and should be regarded as an aid to genuine academic freedom and not as an intrusion upon it.

If the authors, publishers and users of textbooks know that they will be subjected — honestly, fairly and thoroughly — to review and critique by eminent scholars who believe in the American system, a return to a more rational balance can be expected.

Equal Time on the Campus
The Chamber should insist upon equal time on the college speaking circuit. The FBI publishes each year a list of speeches made on college campuses by avowed Communists. The number in 1970 exceeded 100. There were, of course, many hundreds of appearances by leftists and ultra liberals who urge the types of viewpoints indicated earlier in this memorandum. There was no corresponding representation of American business, or indeed by individuals or organizations who appeared in support of the American system of government and business.

Every campus has its formal and informal groups which invite speakers. Each law school does the same thing. Many universities and colleges officially sponsor lecture and speaking programs. We all know the inadequacy of the representation of business in the programs.

It will be said that few invitations would be extended to Chamber speakers.11 This undoubtedly would be true unless the Chamber aggressively insisted upon the right to be heard — in effect, insisted upon “equal time.” University administrators and the great majority of student groups and committees would not welcome being put in the position publicly of refusing a forum to diverse views, indeed, this is the classic excuse for allowing Communists to speak.

The two essential ingredients are (i) to have attractive, articulate and well-informed speakers; and (ii) to exert whatever degree of pressure — publicly and privately — may be necessary to assure opportunities to speak. The objective always must be to inform and enlighten, and not merely to propagandize.

Balancing of Faculties
Perhaps the most fundamental problem is the imbalance of many faculties. Correcting this is indeed a long-range and difficult project. Yet, it should be undertaken as a part of an overall program. This would mean the urging of the need for faculty balance upon university administrators and boards of trustees.

The methods to be employed require careful thought, and the obvious pitfalls must be avoided. Improper pressure would be counterproductive. But the basic concepts of balance, fairness and truth are difficult to resist, if properly presented to boards of trustees, by writing and speaking, and by appeals to alumni associations and groups.

This is a long road and not one for the fainthearted. But if pursued with integrity and conviction it could lead to a strengthening of both academic freedom on the campus and of the values which have made America the most productive of all societies.

Graduate Schools of Business
The Chamber should enjoy a particular rapport with the increasingly influential graduate schools of business. Much that has been suggested above applies to such schools.

Should not the Chamber also request specific courses in such schools dealing with the entire scope of the problem addressed by this memorandum? This is now essential training for the executives of the future.

Secondary Education
While the first priority should be at the college level, the trends mentioned above are increasingly evidenced in the high schools. Action programs, tailored to the high schools and similar to those mentioned, should be considered. The implementation thereof could become a major program for local chambers of commerce, although the control and direction — especially the quality control — should be retained by the National Chamber.

What Can Be Done About the Public?
Reaching the campus and the secondary schools is vital for the long-term. Reaching the public generally may be more important for the shorter term. The first essential is to establish the staffs of eminent scholars, writers and speakers, who will do the thinking, the analysis, the writing and the speaking. It will also be essential to have staff personnel who are thoroughly familiar with the media, and how most effectively to communicate with the public. Among the more obvious means are the following:

Television
The national television networks should be monitored in the same way that textbooks should be kept under constant surveillance. This applies not merely to so-called educational programs (such as “Selling of the Pentagon”), but to the daily “news analysis” which so often includes the most insidious type of criticism of the enterprise system.12 Whether this criticism results from hostility or economic ignorance, the result is the gradual erosion of confidence in “business” and free enterprise.

This monitoring, to be effective, would require constant examination of the texts of adequate samples of programs. Complaints — to the media and to the Federal Communications Commission — should be made promptly and strongly when programs are unfair or inaccurate.

Equal time should be demanded when appropriate. Effort should be made to see that the forum-type programs (the Today Show, Meet the Press, etc.) afford at least as much opportunity for supporters of the American system to participate as these programs do for those who attack it.

Other Media
Radio and the press are also important, and every available means should be employed to challenge and refute unfair attacks, as well as to present the affirmative case through these media.

The Scholarly Journals
It is especially important for the Chamber’s “faculty of scholars” to publish. One of the keys to the success of the liberal and leftist faculty members has been their passion for “publication” and “lecturing.” A similar passion must exist among the Chamber’s scholars.

Incentives might be devised to induce more “publishing” by independent scholars who do believe in the system.

There should be a fairly steady flow of scholarly articles presented to a broad spectrum of magazines and periodicals — ranging from the popular magazines (Life, Look, Reader’s Digest, etc.) to the more intellectual ones (Atlantic, Harper’s, Saturday Review, New York, etc.)13 and to the various professional journals.

Books, Paperbacks and Pamphlets
The news stands — at airports, drugstores, and elsewhere — are filled with paperbacks and pamphlets advocating everything from revolution to erotic free love. One finds almost no attractive, well-written paperbacks or pamphlets on “our side.” It will be difficult to compete with an Eldridge Cleaver or even a Charles Reich for reader attention, but unless the effort is made — on a large enough scale and with appropriate imagination to assure some success — this opportunity for educating the public will be irretrievably lost.

Paid Advertisements
Business pays hundreds of millions of dollars to the media for advertisements. Most of this supports specific products; much of it supports institutional image making; and some fraction of it does support the system. But the latter has been more or less tangential, and rarely part of a sustained, major effort to inform and enlighten the American people.

If American business devoted only 10% of its total annual advertising budget to this overall purpose, it would be a statesman-like expenditure.

The Neglected Political Arena
In the final analysis, the payoff — short-of revolution — is what government does. Business has been the favorite whipping-boy of many politicians for many years. But the measure of how far this has gone is perhaps best found in the anti-business views now being expressed by several leading candidates for President of the United States.

It is still Marxist doctrine that the “capitalist” countries are controlled by big business. This doctrine, consistently a part of leftist propaganda all over the world, has a wide public following among Americans.

Yet, as every business executive knows, few elements of American society today have as little influence in government as the American businessman, the corporation, or even the millions of corporate stockholders. If one doubts this, let him undertake the role of “lobbyist” for the business point of view before Congressional committees. The same situation obtains in the legislative halls of most states and major cities. One does not exaggerate to say that, in terms of political influence with respect to the course of legislation and government action, the American business executive is truly the “forgotten man.”

Current examples of the impotency of business, and of the near-contempt with which businessmen’s views are held, are the stampedes by politicians to support almost any legislation related to “consumerism” or to the “environment.”

Politicians reflect what they believe to be majority views of their constituents. It is thus evident that most politicians are making the judgment that the public has little sympathy for the businessman or his viewpoint.

The educational programs suggested above would be designed to enlighten public thinking — not so much about the businessman and his individual role as about the system which he administers, and which provides the goods, services and jobs on which our country depends.

But one should not postpone more direct political action, while awaiting the gradual change in public opinion to be effected through education and information. Business must learn the lesson, long ago learned by labor and other self-interest groups. This is the lesson that political power is necessary; that such power must be assidously (sic) cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination — without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.

As unwelcome as it may be to the Chamber, it should consider assuming a broader and more vigorous role in the political arena.

Neglected Opportunity in the Courts
American business and the enterprise system have been affected as much by the courts as by the executive and legislative branches of government. Under our constitutional system, especially with an activist-minded Supreme Court, the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.

Other organizations and groups, recognizing this, have been far more astute in exploiting judicial action than American business. Perhaps the most active exploiters of the judicial system have been groups ranging in political orientation from “liberal” to the far left.

The American Civil Liberties Union is one example. It initiates or intervenes in scores of cases each year, and it files briefs amicus curiae in the Supreme Court in a number of cases during each term of that court. Labor unions, civil rights groups and now the public interest law firms are extremely active in the judicial arena. Their success, often at business’ expense, has not been inconsequential.

This is a vast area of opportunity for the Chamber, if it is willing to undertake the role of spokesman for American business and if, in turn, business is willing to provide the funds.

As with respect to scholars and speakers, the Chamber would need a highly competent staff of lawyers. In special situations it should be authorized to engage, to appear as counsel amicus in the Supreme Court, lawyers of national standing and reputation. The greatest care should be exercised in selecting the cases in which to participate, or the suits to institute. But the opportunity merits the necessary effort.

Neglected Stockholder Power
The average member of the public thinks of “business” as an impersonal corporate entity, owned by the very rich and managed by over-paid executives. There is an almost total failure to appreciate that “business” actually embraces — in one way or another — most Americans. Those for whom business provides jobs, constitute a fairly obvious class. But the 20 million stockholders — most of whom are of modest means — are the real owners, the real entrepreneurs, the real capitalists under our system. They provide the capital which fuels the economic system which has produced the highest standard of living in all history. Yet, stockholders have been as ineffectual as business executives in promoting a genuine understanding of our system or in exercising political influence.

The question which merits the most thorough examination is how can the weight and influence of stockholders — 20 million voters — be mobilized to support (i) an educational program and (ii) a political action program.

Individual corporations are now required to make numerous reports to shareholders. Many corporations also have expensive “news” magazines which go to employees and stockholders. These opportunities to communicate can be used far more effectively as educational media.

The corporation itself must exercise restraint in undertaking political action and must, of course, comply with applicable laws. But is it not feasible — through an affiliate of the Chamber or otherwise — to establish a national organization of American stockholders and give it enough muscle to be influential?

A More Aggressive Attitude
Business interests — especially big business and their national trade organizations — have tried to maintain low profiles, especially with respect to political action.

As suggested in the Wall Street Journal article, it has been fairly characteristic of the average business executive to be tolerant — at least in public — of those who attack his corporation and the system. Very few businessmen or business organizations respond in kind. There has been a disposition to appease; to regard the opposition as willing to compromise, or as likely to fade away in due time.

Business has shunted confrontation politics. Business, quite understandably, has been repelled by the multiplicity of non-negotiable “demands” made constantly by self-interest groups of all kinds.

While neither responsible business interests, nor the United States Chamber of Commerce, would engage in the irresponsible tactics of some pressure groups, it is essential that spokesmen for the enterprise system — at all levels and at every opportunity — be far more aggressive than in the past.

There should be no hesitation to attack the Naders, the Marcuses and others who openly seek destruction of the system. There should not be the slightest hesitation to press vigorously in all political arenas for support of the enterprise system. Nor should there be reluctance to penalize politically those who oppose it.

Lessons can be learned from organized labor in this respect. The head of the AFL-CIO may not appeal to businessmen as the most endearing or public-minded of citizens. Yet, over many years the heads of national labor organizations have done what they were paid to do very effectively. They may not have been beloved, but they have been respected — where it counts the most — by politicians, on the campus, and among the media.

It is time for American business — which has demonstrated the greatest capacity in all history to produce and to influence consumer decisions — to apply their great talents vigorously to the preservation of the system itself.

The Cost
The type of program described above (which includes a broadly based combination of education and political action), if undertaken long term and adequately staffed, would require far more generous financial support from American corporations than the Chamber has ever received in the past. High level management participation in Chamber affairs also would be required.

The staff of the Chamber would have to be significantly increased, with the highest quality established and maintained. Salaries would have to be at levels fully comparable to those paid key business executives and the most prestigious faculty members. Professionals of the great skill in advertising and in working with the media, speakers, lawyers and other specialists would have to be recruited.

It is possible that the organization of the Chamber itself would benefit from restructuring. For example, as suggested by union experience, the office of President of the Chamber might well be a full-time career position. To assure maximum effectiveness and continuity, the chief executive officer of the Chamber should not be changed each year. The functions now largely performed by the President could be transferred to a Chairman of the Board, annually elected by the membership. The Board, of course, would continue to exercise policy control.

Quality Control is Essential
Essential ingredients of the entire program must be responsibility and “quality control.” The publications, the articles, the speeches, the media programs, the advertising, the briefs filed in courts, and the appearances before legislative committees — all must meet the most exacting standards of accuracy and professional excellence. They must merit respect for their level of public responsibility and scholarship, whether one agrees with the viewpoints expressed or not.

Relationship to Freedom
The threat to the enterprise system is not merely a matter of economics. It also is a threat to individual freedom.

It is this great truth — now so submerged by the rhetoric of the New Left and of many liberals — that must be re-affirmed if this program is to be meaningful.

There seems to be little awareness that the only alternatives to free enterprise are varying degrees of bureaucratic regulation of individual freedom — ranging from that under moderate socialism to the iron heel of the leftist or rightist dictatorship.

We in America already have moved very far indeed toward some aspects of state socialism, as the needs and complexities of a vast urban society require types of regulation and control that were quite unnecessary in earlier times. In some areas, such regulation and control already have seriously impaired the freedom of both business and labor, and indeed of the public generally. But most of the essential freedoms remain: private ownership, private profit, labor unions, collective bargaining, consumer choice, and a market economy in which competition largely determines price, quality and variety of the goods and services provided the consumer.

In addition to the ideological attack on the system itself (discussed in this memorandum), its essentials also are threatened by inequitable taxation, and — more recently — by an inflation which has seemed uncontrollable.14 But whatever the causes of diminishing economic freedom may be, the truth is that freedom as a concept is indivisible. As the experience of the socialist and totalitarian states demonstrates, the contraction and denial of economic freedom is followed inevitably by governmental restrictions on other cherished rights. It is this message, above all others, that must be carried home to the American people.

Conclusion
It hardly need be said that the views expressed above are tentative and suggestive. The first step should be a thorough study. But this would be an exercise in futility unless the Board of Directors of the Chamber accepts the fundamental premise of this paper, namely, that business and the enterprise system are in deep trouble, and the hour is late.

http://reclaimdemocracy.org/corporate_accountability/powell_memo_lewis.html

 

Which Bills Beat The Funnel?

Thanks to CCI for this legislative update.  http://iowacci.org/

Which bills beat the funnel?

Friday was the first funnel date at the Iowa statehouse – the date by which a bill must pass out of its first committee.

Here is how key legislation we are tracking stands:

Bills that beat the funnel and are still in play:

HF 2092 – Year Round Farmers Markets (CCI supports)
SF 2161 – Earned Income Tax Credit (CCI supports)
HF 589 – Ag-Gag (CCI opposes)
SF 2172 – Kibbie’s Factory Farm Loophole Bill (CCI opposes)
HF 2156 – E-Verify immigration Bill (CCI opposes)
HF 2274 – Corporate Property Tax Reform (CCI opposes)

Bills that did not beat the funnel:

HF 28 – Local Control (CCI supports)
SF 388 – Payday Loan Interest Rate Caps (CCI supports)
HF 129 – Voter Owned Iowa Clean Elections – VOICE (CCI supports)
HF 2060 – Wage Theft (CCI supports)
HF 2192 – IOWA Act (CCI supports)
HF 2271 – Banning Corporate Political contributions (CCI supports)
HF 2041 – Construction Contractor Registration changes (CCI opposes)
HSB 582/SSB3086 – Voter ID (CCI opposes)
HF 2029 – Employer Advocacy Council (CCI opposes)
HF 2199/SF 2116 – Rulemaking Rolling Review (CCI opposes)
HF 2030/HF 2200 – Legislative Rule Approval (CCI opposes)

Here is The Des Moines Register’s lists of bills that are alive and dead for the session.

Alive –   http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20120225/NEWS09/302250013/1011/NEWS10/Bills-still-alive-session

Dead – http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20120225/NEWS09/302250014/1011/NEWS10

 

 

This Week On The Fallon Forum

Monday – Thursday from 7:00-800 pm, join us for the fusion of politics and civility at 98.3 WOW-FM and on-line at 983wowfm.com.  Call (515) 312-0983 or (866) 908-TALK to participate in the conversation.  If you miss the show, you can hear it as a podcast and please help support local progressive talk radio with an online donation  or by check to PO Box 13421, Des Moines, IA 50310.

Monday, Sheree Clark joins Sylvia DeWitt of The Juice Company for our continued conversation on developing a small business. Sheree’s business is called, Fork in The Road. She’s a nutritionist and raw food advocate who gave up her career in advertising to promote a lifestyle of healthy eating. And don’t forget the business develop conference this Wednesday (see my events page for details).

Also Monday, I’m excited to have Adam Bolt join us for further conversation about the AgriSol-ISU-Tanzania triangle. Adam’s a producer and editor for Dan Rather Reports and also edited and co-wrote the Oscar-winning documentary Inside Job. Dan Rather Reports airs every Tuesday on HDNet at 7:00 pm, available in Iowa via satellite on DIRECTV (channel 306) and DISH Network (Channel 362).

Tuesday, Charles Goldman and I talk politics. One question floating around in our fertile minds is whether or not the remaining Republican presidential candidates are, in fact, happy to see gas prices rise. Will they use it as a campaign wedge issue against Obama in the general election?

Also Tuesday, we talk with Anne Dietrich of Truth in Labeling Coalition about the genetic contamination of our food supply and the push to get Iowa’s U.S. Senators and Congressmen to sign-on to the Boxer-DeFazio Congressional Letter to the FDA, asking the agency to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food. For Congressional contact information, please visit my website, and I want to thank Campbell’s Nutrition for helping to sponsor the show.

Wednesday, Stephen Toothman with Occupy Des Moines discusses the campaign to expose the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its highly-partisan, right-wing  agenda.

Thursday, we talk with State Rep Dan Kelley (D-Newton) about the week’s activities at the Iowa Statehouse. We also talk with attorney Jonathan Wilson about the erosion of our civil liberties. Check out his excellent commentary on the subject here.  http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20120227/OPINION01/302270032/Iowa-View-We-are-allowing-our-liberties-to-be-nibbled-away

So, join the conversation Monday – Thursday from 7:00-8:00 pm at 98.3 FM and online. Call-in at (515) 312-0983 or toll-free at (866) 908-TALK.   You can download the Fallon Forum as a podcast, too.  And don’t forget to visit The Fallon Forum website at fallonforum.com.  Thanks!

Ed

Local TV Station Exposes Secret Group Known As “ALEC”

AlecInvestigation: Just Who Is Behind Voter ID?

A Local television station in Omaha, KMTV,  investigated the ALEC connection to the proposed voter ID laws in Nebraska. Iowa is also part of the story.    ALEC has been called the most powerful force in American politics.  We need more hard-hitting journalism like this from our local media outlets.

Watch as the reporter presents the evidence to their GOP State senator who introduced the voter ID bill.

Video and text here:

http://www.kmtv.com/news/local/140379323.html

Here’s an excerpt from the story

The watchdog group says ALEC is writing many of the hot bills our lawmakers claim as their own.
“These think tanks essentially hand state legislatures changes to our laws that they desire,” [Brendan] Fischer [Center for Media and Democracy] added.

Action 3 News’s Liz Dorland has studied both Iowa and Nebraska’s proposed Voter ID bills and both hit on every single point in the ALEC template for “Voter ID Act” that is provided by ALEC Exposed

The co-sponsor of Iowa’s bill is Senator Linda Upmeyer.   She has clear ties to ALEC- in fact, she’s the Treasurer.

How about Nebraska’s bill?

Liz Dorland asked Senator Janssen, “I was looking at your bill and comparing it to Iowa’s bill and there’s a lot of similarities in the language.”

Senator Janssen responded, “I didn’t really use Iowa’s bill to draft my bill.  I used Indiana’s bill originally.”

Dorland examined Indiana’s bill too.   Again ever single point, down to an exception for nursing homes and a Monday deadline for bringing in your late ID, every single point matches the ALEC template.

Liz responded to Senator Janssen, “Indiana’s is very similar to this model draft that ALEC Exposed provides.  They say this is the model draft for a lot of these bills across the entire nation. Do you know about ALEC?”

Sen. Janssen said, “You know what, the first time I’ve talked about ALEC in two years is when you inquired about it.”

“I’m not a member of ALEC.  I’ve never attended an ALEC function either here in Lincoln or they have national conventions,” added the Fremont Senator.

Dorland handed him a document that still lists the Senator on a big ALEC committee.

Janssen admitted, “Yeah, on my first year here I, I signed up for ALEC and then let my dues lapse.”

Dorland asked him to explain why his bill is remarkably similar to ALEC’s model bill and handed both his bill and the ALEC template to him.   “And so your bill is not similar to this? Have you seen that?”

“No.  I do not look at any ALEC materials,” stated Sen. Janssen.

We did and the match is hard to ignore.

Nebraska’s Voter Id Bill, LB239 will be on the Agenda at the Nebraska State Capital on Monday.
Iowa’s Voter Id Bill passed the House in January and is waiting for the next round of approval.

Iowa’s Voter Id Bill can be found here:  http://coolice.legis.state.ia.us/Cool-ICE/default.asp?Category=billinfo&Service=Billbook&ga=84&hbill=HF95

Click on this link to find Nebraska’s Voter Id Bill: http://www.nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/Current/PDF/Intro/LB239.pdf

Indiana’s Voter Id Bill: http://www.in.gov/legislative/ic/2010/title3/ar11/ch8.html

ALEC Exposed: http://alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed

ALEC Voter ID Act Template: http://alecexposed.org/w/images/d/d9/7G16-VOTER_ID_ACT_Exposed.pdf

American Legislative Exchange Council: http://www.alec.org/

Here are some links to Blog for Iowa’s coverage of ALEC:

Every member of the [Iowa] [update] House Republican delegation is a member of ALEC by virtue of not opting out of such membership. Membership dues are paid by the state, that is, by taxpayer money. At last check, all but one Democrat had resigned membership in ALEC.

blogforiowa.com/2011/10/20/the-corporate-bill-mill-which-iowa-legislators-have-alec-ties/

blogforiowa.com/2011/08/04/iowa-legislators-should-terminate-alec-memberships/

blogforiowa.com/2012/02/02/voter-id-law-will-make-it-harder-for-students-to-vote/

blogforiowa.com/2012/01/21/time-to-inform-ourselves-on-alec/

And directly from the ALEC.org page:

Terry Branstad, founding member of ALEC

“Among those who were involved with ALEC in its formative years were: Robert Kasten and Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin; John Engler of Michigan; Terry Branstad of Iowa, and John Kasich of Ohio, all of whom moved on to become governors or members of Congress. “

 

 

 

Abortion Unavailable Or Banned In Nearly 90% Of US Counties.

I read the above line in a story on DailyKos Wednesday. It really got me. This is a procedure that is some cases is needed to save a woman’s life. This means that in all but only a sliver of America a woman can be condemned to death due to pregnancy complications. This is so pre-20th century and totally stupid.

There is no comparable situation for men. If there were make no doubt that it would be dealt with quickly.

As a father of daughters, a husband and a person who has many women as very close friends, I find it hard to believe that these citizens of the United States are denied medical care for conditions that are specific to them by a democratic political system. Unbelievable that our politicians use the medical system to punish women for being women.

No better reason to say it is time to vote some Democratic women into power.

Speaking of Health Care……
While the health care system has been mandated to punish women for being women, it is also set up in this country to punish the poor, the unemployed and many other groups. Now the the old white man’s power structure known as the Republican Party is pushing giving the power to choose what services are covered or not to the personal beliefs of an employer.

I can think of no better reason to keep pushing hard for single-payer health care system like the rest of the civilized world has.

But the “government” would run it.
I am here to let you in on a secret. YOU are the government. And if you can’t trust the government it is because you elected bad representatives. It is finally time to point the finger where it belong’s – at the voter.

I see a government run Health Care system as one where I should have a voice, whether it be by contacting my congress critter or some other representative who is in the end beholden to the public. Try and complain to the head of BC/BS or United Health Care if you have a problem in our current system.

Thanks to that crazy son of a bitch Rick Santorum for sparking the debate again for the need for a single payer system.

Grassley schools us on the inter-tubes.
If any dude is hip to the tubes, it be the Grass-man. Yo, y’all listen to this dude! He warned you about pullin’ the plug on Granny!

Religion in presidential politics
With the insertion of crazy religious discussion by Rick Santorum into the presidential political landscape, it make me wonder what century we are in? Sounds like the 16th or 17th.

Republicans aim to control people and one of the great tools of control is the use of fear of the unknown that religions can whip up in a second. Once the fear of the unknown is raised, then they can deploy their solution to that fear – follow me, do what I say and send me money. Most of the problems we have are not of unknown origin and they are solvable with the use of logical research and reasonable thought.

Heaven help the Republicans if Americans ever start thinking.

Seriously, Santorum – Satan is attacking the US? Seriously? Looks like the product of bad Republican policy to me!

An atheist in charge?
Contrasting the USA’s seeming demand for politicians to talk and act like holy people, there is a country in the western world where the leader is an avowed atheist. The country is Australia and the leader is Julia Gillard. She has been in office since June 2010. Unless you count some of the extreme weather that Australia has experienced in the past few years as vengeance from God, Ms. Gillard’s administration has been pretty normal. She will be facing a leadership challenge from Kevin Rudd Monday (Sunday here) in the Labor Party.

Run! There is a Girl Scout at the door!
Newest enemy of the corporate stooges aka Republican Party - the girl scouts.Let’s be honest, the only thing that scares Republicans about girl scouts is that they teach girls to be independent and strong. We are former girl scout leaders and parents of girl scouts and proud of the kids we worked with in girl scouts.

Republicans push VMI
Yep – the newest push for Republicans is VMI – Vaginal Management Initiatives. Like many in product management lack of knowledge of the product is no deterrent to them managing it.

Sunday Funday – LGBT Accomplishments Edition

I ran across a story this week that a theory by Alan Turing had been proven. As I read this article, it could have some significance in explaining the mechanics of evolution. (I may be wrong). We will have a question on this man who had a quite significant role in history that many never heard of. He is but one of many LGBT people who have contributed hugely to man’s advancement. But many have gotten little credit, or have hidden their sexuality. Can you name some of these LGBT contributors?

1) OK – What did Alan Turing do that was so significant? – hint it was WWII
a) interpreted Mein Kampf to figure out what Hitler’s next moves were.
b) perfected Britain’s response to Germany’s V2 rockets.
c) created the machine that broke Germany’s Enigma code, thus the Allies were able to know Nazi moves ahead of time.
d) created the post war recovery plan.

2) One of the great behind the scenes movers and shakers in the civil rights movement was a gay man named
a) Bayard Rustin
b) E. D. Nixon
c) Homer A. Plessy
d) A. Phillip Randolph

3) There seems to be much evidence that this first lady was lesbian. Funny thing, she is still one of the most respected women ever in history
a) Abigail Adams
b) Eleanor Roosevelt
c) Lou Henry Hoover
d) Dolly Madison

4) This comedian keeps getting attacked for her admitted lesbian life. Yet the more she is attacked, the bigger her audience gets. Recently named spokesperson for JC Penny’s, who is she?
a) Elayne Boosler
b) Paula Poundstone
c) Amy Poehler
d) Ellen Degeneris

5) Let’s reach back for a couple questions. This guy conquered the known world back then. Can’t get much bigger than that. Who is he?
a) Phillip of Macedonia
b) Alexander the Great
c) Ghengis Khan
d) Atilla the Hun

6) This well-known Muslim hero repelled the Christians during the Third Crusade. Often considered to be the greatest Moslem military hero. Who is he?
a) Charles Martel
b) Suleiman
c) Saladin
d) Mehmed the Conquerer

7) This woman fought hard for equal rights for women using her skills with a tennis racket as a springboard for social action.
a) Billie Jean Moffit King
b) Chrissie Evert
c) Martina Navratalova
d) Evonne Goolagong Cawley

8) Once America’s #1 cop, this man often used a form of blackmail on politicians that included references to their sexual proclivities while he hid his. Who is he?
a) L. Patrick Gray
b) William J. Burns
c) Louis J. Freeh
d) J. Edgar Hoover

9) This man helped keep the post-WWII world from turning the cold war hot. He died in an airplane crash on a peace mission in his role as UN

Secretary General. Who was he?
a) Trygvie Lie
b) Dag Hammarskjold
c) U Thant
d) Kofi Anan

10) Well, maybe he didn’t advance humanity, but damn he made me laugh. Pretty much the permanent center sqaure on Hollywood Squares. Who was this master of the one-line retort?
a) Peter Lind Hayes
b) Peter Marshall
c) Paul Lynde
d) Charlie Weaver.

Turing is never given the credit for ending WWII that he deserves. Nor is he given much credit for the predecessor of the computer that he created. The reason many think he gets little credit is that he was homosexual. He died at age 41, most believe he was driven to suicide over his sexuality following a set up outing by British police.

This was kind of an eye opener from me. I got many of the names from this site: http://www.lambda.org/famous.htm
Here we go:

1) c) Turing broke the Enigma code which allowed the Allies to know what when and where the Nazis would strike. Think that wasn’t important?

2) a) Bayard Rustin. He was often shoved into the background because of his homosexuality. He was a brilliant organizer.

3) b) Eleanor Roosevelt. Her name still inspires awe.

4) d) Ellen Degeneris. She is small, but feisty. They try to knock her down, but she comes back with a wallop.

5) b) Alexander the Great

6) c) Saladin. In researching this I discovered that Suleiman was also gay.

7) a) Billie Jean. She worked day and night. remember the stunt where she kicked chauvanist tennis player Bobby Riggs’ butt?

8) d) J. Edgar Hoover who lived for decades with his assistant Clyde Tolson.

9) b) One of the greatest peace keepers ever, Dag Hammaskjold

10) c) Paul Lynde – need some chuckles? go here http://www.classicsquares.com/lyndesquares.html

SMRs and Iowa’s Energy Future

Nuclear Power? No Thanks

During Iowa’s public discussion of nuclear power over the last three years, proponents have frequently mentioned Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) as the solution to some of the problems with nuclear power. That current nuclear technology is flawed, resulting in massive failures as in Chernobyl and Fukushima, is not news. A number of attempts have been made to design a better nuclear reactor, with SMRs offering a paradigm about how to eliminate some of the safety and efficiency problems of a conventional nuclear reactor, like the one installed at NextEra Energy’s Duane Arnold Energy Center in Palo. While the paradigm of SMRs fits into the hyperbole of the recent discussion, the reality is that no SMR design has been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Nor is approval imminent, with talk of the earliest likely approval of SMR design being ten years from now.

A fundamental problem with development of nuclear technology is there has been little commercial interest in new nuclear power over the last three decades. It is an expensive way to boil water and the financial risks to investors and electric utilities have restricted consideration of it. In South Africa, hundreds of millions of dollars were invested in a SMR design called “pebble-bed” and research and development were scaled back dramatically in 2010 for want of a viable path to construction of a prototype (click here to read article). Unless government pays the research and development expense, or steps in to alter market conditions so as to make SMRs more attractive to investors, SMR technology seems unlikely to advance near term. Altering market conditions is what the Iowa legislature has been considering with HF 561.

While it seems ridiculous to talk about SMRs, because their expense is prohibitive, let’s suspend disbelief about costs and look at SMRs. A recent issue of Popular Mechanics presented three types and the article is worth reading.

One of the designs being developed uses a scaled down version of the conventional light water reactor mentioned by Bill Fehrman, the MidAmerican Energy CEO, when he spoke at an Iowa Senate Commerce Committee meeting in 2011. In the event of an emergency, gravity and thermodynamics are used to cool the reactor core with water in lieu of an external pump powered by a diesel generator. Check out the Popular Science article for a brief overview of the light water reactor, as well as two other types, gas-cooled SMRs, which would use helium gas to cool the reactor core; and fast reactors, which make more efficient use of uranium.

While these developments in SMR technology address known issues with nuclear reactor design, it is telling that no SMR design has been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. There is a discussion among nuclear industry experts about installing a single SMR unit at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which is a federally owned corporation created by congressional charter in 1933 to provide navigation, flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing and economic development in the Tennessee River valley. The purpose of a TVA SMR would be to further the NRC design approval process and develop field data about SMR design efficacy. Without government subsidy of this kind, the SMRs seem unlikely to move forward in the United States in the near future.

When proponents of SMR technology talk about it in public, what they say doesn’t make sense. On the one hand they talk about the efficiency and flexibility of modular reactor technology. On the other hand, they talk about the need for centrally located “baseload” power where economies of scale are important to keeping the cost per kilowatt hour low. What this means to consumers is that while a single town or large-scale user may be able to have their own nuclear reactor on-site, if this were done, the cost of the ancillary charges would be much higher per kilowatt hour because efficiencies of scale would be lost. Installing SMRs only makes sense, from a cost standpoint, if they are constructed in clusters as the Nu-Scale and Babcock and Wilcox designs are intended.

Why should the Iowa legislature tinker with the markets around nuclear power in 2012? They shouldn’t. The cost of building a conventional light water reactor is very high, and the proposed technology to address high costs (i.e. small modular reactors) is not far enough along in the development process, maybe ten or more years out, to understand much of anything with regards to design efficacy or costs. The Iowa legislature should stay out of the business of manipulating the nuclear power market until designs have been approved and implemented in other states, and we better understand the cost structures.

Iowa knows too much about the high cost and safety concerns of nuclear power to create incentives for investors as HF 561 would do.

~ Paul Deaton lives in rural Iowa is a regular contributor to Blog for Iowa.

How The Republicans Plan To Steal The Election.

Trying to keep track of all the ways that Republicans have set in motion at state and national levels to win the 2012 election with a little cheat here and a big cheat there and whatever other maneuvers is an almost mind boggling exercise. Republicans in state legislators are trying to squash the vote, Republicans in county auditors offices will do little to help voters vote. And of course we still have thousands of electronic voting machines deployed throughout the country that have no trail of any kind to verify voting on.

As I have brought up a couple times before, I expect gasoline prices to be the Republicans’ secret weapon in this election. Since oil companies can manipulate prices with impunity and since oil companies nearly 100% openly back Republicans, this seems like a good fit. When you add in the corporate media that is 95% leaning right to hammer on gas prices 24 hours a day, we have set up a tailor made issue for any Republican with a huge amount of free hype. In my mind this is probably the biggest threat to Obama’s re-election.

So while I was pondering all of this, I came across a quite similar article where Mr. Doug Marquardt lists the various election projects that Republicans have in the works to influence the outcome of the election. Thus I will cite his fine piece of work and let you read it yourselves. It is a fairly short piece that does seem to hit all the various projects.
To me, all the various ways the Republicans have come up with to cheat the system and to cheat citizens of their right to vote just shouts out that they have no ideas and fewer decent candidates. They continue to paint themselves into a tighter and tighter corner ideologically, such that about the only appeal to a base that is increasingly white, old and male. Nearly everyday, someplace in this country, some arm of the GOP tells another group to go away, we do not want you.

Just in recent weeks they have had a couple of large schisms with women. Now they are condemning Girl Scouts as a front organization for Planned Parenthood.  Amazingly, many union members still seem to be so-called “Reagan Democrats” even though Republicans have demonstrated many times they have little to no regard for working people. Those who work in the public sector are regarded as little more than leeches by Republicans. Immigrants seem to hold a special level of hate with Republicans.

The only thing that Republicans have going for them is an extremely friendly media that helps confuse a tired and stressed out large mass of fairly low informed voters. With two workers in most households barely able to make ends meet, many voters have little time to pay to politics especially to delve into the real issues. So the use of right wing words and bumper sticker phrases that paint issues in a GOP light is one of the greatest helps they can get. Especially when it comes from NPR.

Comment On Voting For Marriage Equality.
Much like many of our cowardly state politicians, Gov. Christy of New Jersey last week vetoed a marriage equality bill in his state saying that this is an issue that the public should vote on. As many of us know, voting on someone elses rights was never the intent of the constitution. Rights are not up to public approval, but are basic to being a human in a democratic society.

Of course here in Iowa Bob VanderPlaats has long pushed for a vote on marriage equality. That way he and his ilk can blame the public for taking rights away. Abraham Lincoln is not remembered in history for pushing really hard for a vote to free the slaves. Whatever privileges are given to one group of people by our government must be given to all. It’s that darn 14th amendment thing.

But I do believe that there is an issue that the public should vote on. There is a group of legislators that is trying to pass a bill that will take money from us and give it to a private company so they can eventually build a privately owned nuclear power plant. The state taking money from us is a tax. Taxing us to directly benefit a private company? Now that has my hackles up big time. The fact that it is a nuclear power plant just adds to the stench of the whole affair.

I have never been one who is in favor of building ballparks or arenas for professional sports teams. Nor am I in favor of using government funds to entice a company to move. What should be the enticement for a company to locate here are things like good schools, quality of life, clean environment etc. All that goes out the window when we tax folks to pay for some company’s workplace with public money.

One Iowa Farmer’s Year In Afghanistan

Denise O’Brien, organic farmer and  advocate from Atlantic, Iowa, who co-founded the Women Food And Agriculture Network (WFAN) in 1997 and was its director for more than 11 years, is now a USDA advisor in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.  Check out her website Nangarharadventure.wordpress.com for more stories and photos from her year in Afghanistan.  This article is published here with permission. 

On February 24, 2011, I left my home in Iowa to start my journey as an agriculture adviser in Afghanistan. First stop was Washington D.C. for four weeks of training. It is nearly one year later and I am looking back on a year that has passed in an incredibly short time! There were moments when time seemed to move at a snail’s pace, mostly when I yearned to be with Larry or my children and grandchildren. But now it is almost time to leave and the next six weeks cannot pass quickly enough. My head is a muddle of thoughts some of which I will now share with you.

It has been a year of personal growth. I have learned to live with the military, learned to function in a government bureaucracy and to adjust to life in an environment of hostility – weather and political.

My life in Iowa has been quiet, fulfilling and somewhat isolated. I am a social person but protect my privacy. Living in a community behind barricades with the majority of the population younger than me in a country at war has been interesting. In order to preserve my privacy, I chose to rise early in the morning to exercise, taking a couple of hours to work out on cardio machines and to do yoga. I have loved the early mornings when very few people are around and things are quiet. I have always been a morning person so it wasn’t hard to get up and out of my room.

Breakfast with up to one hundred people has been quite different from breakfast at home on my own. The day then goes on in endless meetings and reports to write. Many days I go out on mission as I have written about in my blogs. Even though it is a lot of work to go outside the wire, at least I have the opportunity to see the countryside and interact with Afghan farmers.

I leave Afghanistan with a heavy heart. It is a desperate country whose local tribal elders would, I believe, prefer that the country remain in the past. There are wonderful young men who want to work for the betterment of their country but are held back by those who already control the government and its assets. There is corruption and lawlessness that is very similar to the wildwest that was experienced in our country.

The international communities that came to build Afghanistan have created a welfare state instead. Building highways, government buildings and parking lots has been about as successful as throwing money to the wind. Spend, spend, spend was thought to be the solution. Far from it; without involving the people in process of visioning and creating their own country the Afghans feel no ownership of what has been created for them. What they received is what others believed they should have.

Given that my work in the United States has been with women, my biggest disappointment has been the lack of accessibility to work with women. I have never in my life witnessed such a sorry state of affairs. Every day there are newspaper stories of beatings, acid throwing, rape and forced marriage of young girls that it leaves me feeling that my time spent here has been useless. I wish that it would have been possible to be out among women. The women are so scared that they don’t even want to be seen with “foreigners”.  Many think that when the international military forces leave the Taliban will once again conduct a reign of terror.

The time I have spent here has been tolerable given technology. I have talked with my family everyday if not several times a day. I have seen Lily, Caia’s month old baby over Skype, but cannot wait to hold her. I believe my grandchildren think I live in the computer. They always know by the sound when Memaw is calling.

I have met wonderful people within the military and governmental agencies of the United States. I am proud to have worked with many sincere and dedicated people. My life has been enriched by this experience.