April 17, 2010

Dear Senator Lugar and Governor Daniels:

It would be nice to see some of my taxpayer money going to Hoosiers to create real jobs, rather than the Economic and Alternative Energy stimulus money going primarily to corporate communists who develop new technology and modern jobs offshore with the only local "paying jobs" being the menial, one-time construction or installer jobs that pay less than a "living wage."

The Abatement money the state gave Navistar was given at the same time Navistar had a $1 billion per year Federal Military Contract profit flow; they didn't really need more of my money. Worse than that, they bailed on the deal, pocketed the abatement benefits, shuttered the Navistar plant in Indy, eliminated all the local jobs they were paid to “stimulate” and moved the plant equipment and technology to India.

April 10, 2010

I’ve written about controversial debates like vaccines and autism long enough to know when to expect emotional reactions and what they mean. Along with finding and reporting the best version of the truth available, reacting to critics and re-evaluating how you do what you do is part of the journalist’s job description. Among the things I do: I consider e-mails from critics and readers private and not-for-publication, and I refrain from engaging them in long debates.

I do consider issues raised by critics and my responses fodder for publication, however. And in recent weeks I have written more than once that one of the closest truths I have found on this subject is a July 2008 CBS News interview with former National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Bernadine Healy.

In an interview with correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, Healy, who was appointed to head the NIH in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush, was passionate and tactful and minced few words. When Attkisson pointed out that public health officials say the science proves vaccines do not cause autism, for example, Healy replied:

“I think you can’t say that,” instantly buttressing her position, “You can’t say that.”

April 3, 2010

Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of traveling to Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill. to deliver the keynote address at EIU's 35th annual Communication Day event. Throughout the day, I spoke with students and faculty about my research and, more specifically, how I make use of alternative media in my teaching.

Throughout the presentation, I used examples of alternative media, from short clips featuring Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, to the work of self-styled video activist Ava Lowery. I wrapped up my discussion about alternative media in the classroom with a public service announcement (PSA) about the detrimental effects of radio payola on creative expression and public culture. Students from DePauw University produced this PSA a few years back.

During the Q&A session, EIU students asked some thoughtful questions about the current state of journalism and what, if anything, could be done to improve journalistic performance.

April 3, 2010

One afternoon, the young boy from Lafayette came home from fifth grade classes to discover that his father had been deported.

Before going back to school the next day, the boy dried his eyes and steeled himself to pretend nothing had happened. Otherwise, the suspicion would be directed toward him and his mother and brothers.

Born in Zacatecas, Mexico, the boy stayed in Lafayette and stayed in school. He is now 19 years old, a high school graduate dreaming of attending college. He is also justifiably afraid of having his name appear in a newspaper article.

March 20, 2010

Editor's note: On March 20, Bloomington Alternative editor Steven Higgs gave speeches in Indianapolis to the Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations and the Alliance for Democracy about the state of American democracy and his new book, Twenty Years of Crimes Against Democracy. What follows is a transcript of his prepared remarks.


INDIANAPOLIS -- Thank you for inviting me here today. It's a pleasure to share some of my thoughts with you about the state of our democracy, which, it seems to me, just about every one of you understands is just about dead.

Now, I teach journalism down at IU-Bloomington, and I tell my reporting students to avoid making "Big Statements," like "just about every one of you" and "just about dead," unless they can back them up.

Well, I was invited here today to present the best defense I can muster for my use of such superlatives in this context -- namely the I-69/NAFTA Highway, or the "$3 Billion Boondoggle."

March 20, 2010

Just a few hours ago, U.S. Rep. Baron Hill announced his support for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as "Health Care Reform." Hill's announcement follows that of U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth's own announcement toward the same action, made just a scant 24 hours earlier.

The twin announcements, by two of the bluest-blue dog Democrats in the House, marks the beginning of the end of what has been a long, rancorous and frustrating battle.

A good fight, to be sure, a fight to bring forward a process and a service first hinted at, whispered, over a half century ago by Harry Truman. A fight to redefine access to health care not as some kind of Malthusian market struggle, not as the simple rational choice of humans engaged in a straightforward cost-benefit-opportunity calculus no different than selecting and buying, say, wide-screen TVs or iPods but rather as a basic human right, the kind guaranteed and delivered by any self-respecting advanced civilization.

March 20, 2010

Reader response to my previous column on the 911 Truth movement caught me a little off guard. In retrospect, I should have expected it. After all, the Internet has been instrumental in mobilizing so-called "truthers" from all walks of life -- from first responders and structural engineers to architects and academics.

The majority of the comments my column generated were both supportive and positive. Moreover, a number of readers provided links to additional resources that further challenge the official story of the 911 attacks.

I also received feedback that was less enthusiastic -- again, no surprises. The implications of academic analyses and international news reports that challenge the veracity of the official story are deeply disturbing. As well they should be. Nevertheless, I believe it is important to make sharp distinctions between conspiracy theory on one hand and reasonable doubts on the other.

March 20, 2010

Corporate America is quite capable of communicating political messages that are both false in content and evil in intent. It is never good news when the folks who brought us the fictional characters of Harry, Louise and clean coal are presented with more opportunity to influence public policy.

So perhaps I should not have been surprised that the Supreme Court's recent decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, holding that government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections, was greeted by great wailing and gnashing of teeth, especially among the progressives with whom I usually agree.

Democratic members of Congress grabbed poll-tested talking points and raced to microphones to condemn the ruling, even though Democrats have taken more corporate money than the GOP lately. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) even called Citizens United the worst Supreme Court decision since the Dred Scott case.

March 13, 2010

When Gov. Mitch Daniels told the Washington Post last month that he "will now stay open to the idea" of a 2012 presidential bid, Indiana's scourge became the nation's. Americans who worry that environmental exposures to industrial chemicals can lead to chronic illnesses and diseases like autism, asthma and cancer should be on alert:

Mitch Daniels is not your typical laughing-stock Hoosier politician, like Dan Quayle or Evan Bayh. He poses a serious threat to human health and the environment.

March 6, 2010

This is the time of year when classroom responsibilities overwhelm my journalistic passions, and my writing tends to be more reflection than exposition. And let me tell you, nothing spurs reflexive contemplation like finding yourself in polar opposition to someone whose life work has profoundly influenced your own.

In my case, that someone is Dr. Philip J. Landrigan from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, whose research at the Children's Environmental Health Center there first caught my attention in the late 1990s when I was a senior environmental writer at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). When I began exploring the links between toxic pollution and autism 17 months ago, a 2006 study Landrigan co-wrote titled "Developmental neurotoxicity of industrial chemicals" was the first link that Google produced when I searched for "autism and environment."

Nearly a year and a half later, I am persuaded that mercury and/or other chemicals in vaccines are among the industrial chemicals that caused the autism epidemic of the past two decades. I do not believe that vaccines caused the epidemic, but my work has convinced me that neurotoxins in them contributed to it. And in some children, they did cause autism. The question for them isn't whether, it's how, and it demands an answer.

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