Steven Higgs

A conversation with Peter Seybold, Part 1

October 29, 2011

Peter Seybold traces the pernicious influence corporatization has had on the American campus to almost a decade before the Reagan Revolution of 1980, to a memo written by Richmond, Va., attorney Lewis F. Powell Jr. to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in late summer 1971.

Powell, who would be nominated for Supreme Court justice by President Richard Nixon just two months later, said American business had to take the offensive to counter the social movements of the 1960s and early '70s, said Seybold, a sociology professor at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI). Among the institutions Powell said the business world had to recapture was the American campus.

"Part of this was a cultural and political attack on the university," Seybold said.


October 15, 2011

The streets of Bloomington swelled on Oct. 15, 2011, with Occupy Bloomington protesters who demanded a cultural revolution that rewards humanity and justice over avarice and sociopathy. The march began at People's Park and proceeded to the Farmer's Market and back to the park, with stops at Chase bank, the Monroe County Jail and the Farmer's Market.

As motorists, downtown shoppers and market-goers honked, smiled and otherwise demonstrated support, the marchers chanted "We are the 99 percent; you are the 99 percent," "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out," and "This is what democracy looks like."

An estimated 15,000 watched 1936 execution in Owensboro
October 10, 2011

The reaction of Brian Williams and the mainstream media to Republican cheers for presidential candidate Rick Perry's execution record suggests they've never heard of Rainey Bethea or, for that matter, have little understanding of the American character and history. Whites, especially southern whites like the Texas governor, kill blacks, especially when times are tough. And they revel in it.

Bethea has the historic distinction of being the last human being publicly executed in the United States. He was hung on Aug. 14, 1936, in Owensboro, Ky., 120 miles southwest of Bloomington. The New York Times story on his death began, "Ten thousand white persons, some jeering and others festive, saw a prayerful black man put to death today on Daviess County's 'pit and gallows.'"

'Prostate cancer is the least of my worries'
October 1, 2011

Ethan McKenzie didn't have to read Dr. Rob Stone's article "Health care vs. wealth care in America" to know how screwed he is by the U.S. "health-care" industry. What led the 59-year-old to share his story with The Bloomington Alternative was the timing, along with the line, "Self-employed and a pre-existing condition – in America today with those two strikes, you are out."

Until a month before Stone's article was published on Sept. 17, the IU employee had been self-insured with one costly but manageable pre-existing condition. Five days after he read the piece, McKenzie learned he now has two. It will be a few weeks before he learns if he has prostate cancer. But there's no question that until age 65 and Medicare eligibility, he's an economic hostage held by people who would benefit by his premature demise and have no twinge of conscience if it happened.

"Being self-insured with pre-existing conditions makes me feel like Troy Davis," he said, "an innocent man facing a death sentence. But in my case, a swift execution could be the preferred outcome."


September 27, 2011

While brainstorming with editors at NUVO for the Sept. 28 cover story on the Newport prairie controversy, I told them I love covering small-town power struggles because public officials inevitably shoot from the hip. They seldom display the political savvy of, say, a deputy director at a major state agency. By the time I had finished my reporting, the point was proven, in spades. Ditto the argument that citizen input into our democratic process has become little more than a sham.

Jack Fenoglio, for example, is president of the Newport Chemical Depot Reuse Authority and a lifelong member of the Izaak Walton League, a conservation group whose National Director Clara Walters lives in Clinton. She has organized national support for preserving a 336-acre black-soil prairie restoration on the Newport site. When I asked Fenoglio to square his opposition to the preservation with that of the organization, he minced no words.

"The prairie issue really started with one man who kind of led the project when he was working for Mason and Hanger," the retired metallurgical engineer said. "And he has got everybody else on the bandwagon to one degree more or less. But I think a lot of the rank and file members of all these organizations that he has brought to the table probably wouldn't recognize prairie grass if they saw it."


September 9, 2011

West-central Indiana business and government officials made no mystery of their plans for the Newport Chemical Depot (NECD) from almost the moment they learned it truly would be theirs. In the summer of 2008, as the U.S. Army finished eliminating the 1,269 tons of VX nerve agent that had been manufactured and stored there for a half century, the locals declared their priorities in a Terre Haute Tribune-Star article.

“The thing that is the immediate impact is the job loss,” Ed Cole, director of the Economic Development Council of Vermillion County and point person for the Vermillion Chemical Depot Local Reuse Authority (LRA), told the newspaper in July that year. "It is just going to be a tremendously bad hit for us."


August 26, 2011

Tim Maloney wasn't alone when he objected to the U.S. Army's October 2010 finding that a reuse plan for the Newport Chemical Depot would have no significant environmental impact on the Vermillion County environs. That the plan offered no protection for a rare and endangered black-soil prairie on the base wasn't even the most confounding aspect. Proposed by a local reuse authority empowered to determine the 7,100-acre base's future, the plan called for a coal-liquefaction plant on land that had been maintained largely in agricultural and natural states.

The Army's determination that a coal plant would produce no adverse environmental impacts was one of several issues the Hoosier Environmental Council's (HEC) senior policy director said rendered it "inadequate" under federal law. "This would be a major industrial facility, with potential impacts to air quality, water quality, disturbance or destruction of forest, wetlands, and prairie, and dramatic change in the nature of the property," Maloney wrote in Dec. 18, 2010, comments. He called on the Army to complete a full environmental impact statement for Newport.

Army refuses to protect rare grasslands at former Newport VX plant

August 20, 2011

NEWPORT, IND. – Environmental activists in west-central Indiana have lost the first round of their ongoing struggle to protect a patch of endangered black-soil prairie on the U.S. Army's Newport Chemical Depot (NECD). On Sept. 15, the Army is scheduled to transfer the 7,100-acre base to a quasi-governmental group, with no protections whatsoever for the prairie and several endangered species that frequent it.

The restored, 336-acre prairie's fate rests with the Newport Chemical Depot Local Reuse Authority, whose five members are appointed by the Vermillion County Commissioners. So far they have refused to commit either way and at times have been downright hostile toward the preservationists.

Kids are more susceptible to toxic pollution

August 6, 2011

I was reminded of the phrase "children are not little adults" this past week when an assistant commissioner from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) wrote a letter to NUVO in Indianapolis challenging a story I wrote titled "Indiana's toxic air affecting children." I was working as an environmental writer at IDEM in the late 1990s when agency officials began using that soundbite to explain why children were more vulnerable to the effects of toxic pollution than were, say, their parents.

At that time, practically everything IDEM's Media and Communication Services did revolved around was the notion that toxic pollution disproportionately impacted children's health. Ipso facto, polluters needed to clean up their acts. I recall being told that the chief lobbyist for some of the state's most venal polluters accused then-IDEM Commissioner John Hamilton of "playing the kid card" over our emphasis on children's environmental health.

It's hard to tell from the outside how much children's environmental health drives the IDEM agenda under Mitch Daniels, but the agency's Website and a story written for the Indiana Daily Student last year by one of my students suggests at least one program maintains the focus.

Grant Smith retires from CAC, talks about past, present and future

July 15, 2011

Editor's note: Citizens Action Coalition (CAC) Executive Director Grant Smith resigned on June 17 and sat down at his home just south of Broad Ripple in Indianapolis with Bloomington Alternative editor Steven Higgs for a conversation about a variety of topics. Smith started at CAC as a part-time canvasser in 1982. What follows are edited, extended excerpts from their 70-minute discussion.

A version of this story appears in the July 14 issue of NUVO in Indianapolis.

***

Higgs: Do I recall Chris (former CAC executive director Williams) hired you because you wore a suit and tie to the interview?

Smith: No, it was because I didn't. I was in the interview wearing a flannel shirt and jeans. Another guy was in a three-piece suit. Chris was talking to him and not to me. That was in February 1982. CAC was originally the Citizens Energy Coalition and formed in '74. The name was changed to CAC in about '76. The canvass operation began in '79.

Syndicate content