Prominent activist shares lessons from social activism in 1960s and 1970s

A prominent civil and labor rights activist who contributed to the Port Huron Statement shared lessons he learned during the “great upsurge” of the 1960s and 1970s, on Nov. 3 at Eastern Michigan University’s Halle Library.

Kim Moody

Moody emphasized the power of “out-of-control social movements” in evoking positive change

Kim Moody, former member of Students for a Democratic Society and cofounder of Labor Notes, was invited to speak at EMU by local chapters of Solidarity and Organization for a Free Society.

First Law of American Politics

Moody said the first law of American politics is that change is facilitated by social activism, not the electoral process of lobbying and voting.

“Out-of-control social movements are winning these things that could not be won through conventional American politics,” he said.

Moody listed two corollaries to this law:

  • “Revolutionaries do not make mass movements. Mass movements make revolutionaries.”
  • “Leadership cannot be proclaimed…and it cannot be simply elected…Leardership must be earned. It has to be demonstrated…and it has to be responsible, accountable.”

Second Law of American Politics

Moody said the second law of American politics is to make “revolution permanent.”

“Nothing happens without the movement, but what happens when the movement dies because they get the legislation?” he asked. “The answer is, the 1 percent and their politicians and their administrators and their middle level managers come back and rolll back our progress.”

Moody used FDR’s New Deal to demonstrate his point. He said the legislation initially “taxed and tamed the 1 percent,” pushing them into the 80 percent tax bracket by the 1950s.

“The problem was…their property was still intact,” Moody said. “What was their property? It’s what we call the economy…So guess what? They came back in the 70s and 80s.”

Moody argued that much of the New Deal’s progress was reversed, specifically citing increases in poverty and ghettoization.

“If you view these mass uncontrollable movements as the first step of a revolutionary process and you don’t make that revolution permanent, then you’re going to have a retreat,” he said. “We have to find a way to keep the process going.”

The Occupy Movement

Moody expressed enthusiasm for the Occupy Wall Street movement, but stressed that the movement needs to grow and evolve.

“We’re certainly not at the stage at which we can make this revolution, if we have a revolution at all, permanent,” he said.

Moody said he’s especially excited to see the anti-foreclosure movement that has sprung from Occupy, which includes the Washtenaw Eviction and Foreclosure Defense. He said at least 50 cities have programs like that telling banks, “We don’t recognize your claim to property.”

“That’s pretty radical stuff,” he said.

Kim Moody with students

Moody spoke to EMU students and community members from Southeast Michigan.

Moody said he’s starting to observe the effects Occupy has had on the labor unions.

“This last labor notes conference was, to me, different than the previous ones,” he said. “It wasn’t just that it was bigger…what I kind of saw was something like a new layer of union local activists, a new layer of people who are taking responsibility for their local unions.”

“It’s a new generation…as far as being the leaders in the grass roots sense, earning leadership, it’s something new. There’s more of them.”

Moody was reluctant to forecast the implications of the Occupy movement, but he expressed optimism for where the movement is at and where it seems to be going.

“I’m not making the prediction that we’re on the eve of a big upheaval,” Moody said. “The point is that there is more out there on the ground than there has been in quite a while.”

The 2012 Election

[During the Q-and-A section of the talk, I took the liberty of asking Moody about the 2012 election]

When the subject of this year’s election came up, Moody didn’t endorse voting for Obama or Romney. Instead, he encouraged audience members to vote for Roseanne Barr or Jill Stein.

“The ‘lesser of two evils’ thing is the biggest trap in America,” he said. “We’re very weak at developing electoral alternatives.”

Moody argued that the American political system is rigged to favor two parties in a “winner-takes-all” election because it makes it easier for America’s wealthy elite to manipulate.

“A winner take all system is easier to control,” he said.

Moody was also very critical of the architecture of the government, speculating that very little could be accomplished even if a favorable alternative party were ever to gain control of the White House. Moody argued that the convoluted structure of the government was meant to immobilize it, not to check and balance power.

“It was very carefully designed to make sure that nothing happened,” he said.

Advertisements

Eastern Michigan University appoints new police chief after death of Greg O’Dell

Sitting on top of Robert Heighes‘ desk is a large, nearly empty, jar of peanut M&M’s.

“I don’t really eat of those,” Heighes said. “Those are just there for the other officers.”

Heighes, photo courtesy Geoff Larcom

Heighes was Eastern Michigan University‘s interim executive director of public safety and chief of police while EMU searched to fill the position following Greg O’Dell‘s death.

Out of the five finalists that EMU interviewed for the job, Heighes was chosen. His appointment was effective April 20, with a starting salary of $128,000.

“I’m extremely happy, very proud,” Heighes said. “I’m very honored…to be selected as chief after 28 years.”

Having worked closely with O’Dell for several years, Heighes said he plans to lead the department similarly to how O’Dell did.

“We’re going to continue to follow through what Greg had outlined and continue to move the department forward,” Heighes said.

Heighes said O’Dell taught him a lot and would have supported his appointment as chief.

“We had a great relationship,” Heighes said. “I learned a lot of things from Greg. I know if he were still here today, he would have been one of my strongest advocates to achieve this position.”

“I miss him,” he said. “I miss him greatly.”

Heighes, who lives in Pinckney, has worked at EMU since 1984 and has served as a campus police officer, sergeant, and as lieutenant and assistant director of the department. He has also served as interim executive director of public safety on three separate occasions.

Heighes graduated from EMU with a Bachelor of Science degree in public administration in 1995 and is currently pursuing a masters in public safety administration at EMU. He also completed law enforcement executive leadership programs at Northwestern University, Central Michigan University, and the EMU School of Police Staff and Command.

Officer John Phillips, who works under Heighes, said he was very happy that EMU chose Heighes to be the new chief.

“I think Bob is a dedicated, professional leader who cares very deeply for this university and the employees he works with,” Phillips said. “He’s a great boss to work with. I feel honored and privileged to be part of this university’s Police Department and to have Bob Heighes as our chief.”

In an email by EMU director of media relations Geoff Larcom, President Susan Martin was quoted as saying she was “delighted” that Heighes was selected.

Bob knows and loves the campus, and our police force team has done great work,” Martin said. “Bob’s leadership and experience here have been crucial in protecting the campus and in quickly solving crimes.”

Despite his new role as chief, Heighes stressed the value of his officers. He said he was excited to continue to work with other members of the EMU PD to improve the campus environment.

“I have a great team here at DPS,” Heighes said. “I’m sure we’ll all work hard together to maintain the safety of the campus.”

Phillips said he thinks the Police Department has been moving in a positive direction and that Heighes will continue to lead it in that direction.

“I think Bob‘s got a vision for this organization to get nothing but better,” Phillips said. “I think the relationships we currently have and the community policing style that all of our officers are involved with has really been proven to show that we are earning the trust back from this community.”

Heighes said he was “excited” for his new job and looking forward “to all those challenges that are going to come with it.”

“I like it. I enjoy it. That’s the bottom line. If I didn’t like it or enjoy it, I couldn’t do the job.”

Newspapers are dying, the future of journalism is online

The Ann Arbor News, which had been in print since 1835, closed its doors in 2009.

In an interview with Crain’s Detroit Business, Steve Newhouse, chairman of advance.net, said that “losses were going up” at the Ann Arbor News and “the audience was a challenge,” so the parent company closed the paper and opened the web based local media outlet AnnArbor.com.

“We thought we could either keep cutting back and make the daily newspaper work, or transform the model and build a new sustainable product for the community,” Newhouse said.

This example is a microcosm of the transition the entire industry is in.

from Calbuzz.com

from Calbuzz.com

Around 2008, the newspaper industry started to crumble. Revenue from professional and classified advertisements, long taken for granted, dried up. The Internet had changed everything and few if any companies anticipated the shift. Businesses relying as heavily on printed ads because the Internet enabled them to communicate directly with consumers. People didn’t need to pay for classified ads because sites like eBay and CraigsList enabled them to do so for little or no cost.

Contrary to the gloomy forecasts of naysayers who watched the fallout from the safety of its periphery, journalism didn’t die. It endured because many companies did what Newhouse and his associates did. They transformed in order to build a “new sustainable product for the community.”

Online journalism is the present, and as far as anyone can tell, the future. Just about every single legacy media outlet, whether based in television, radio, or print, has an online interface. Some even utilize their online platform more heavily than their legacy platform.

Despite any potential nostalgia for the feel and smell of the daily paper, the transition to web based journalism shouldn’t be lamented. In fact, it should be celebrated for many reasons.

The Internet is instantaneous. Whatever is posted is available immediately. This has infinitely expedited the dissemination of information. Now, if a shooting happens downtown, people see “Shooting Downtown” headlines within hours of the first shot instead of reading about it the morning after. While this expediency raises the expectations of journalists, requiring them to work harder and be even more competitive, it ultimately connects them more directly to their readership and enables them to do their job more effectively.

Furthermore, the Internet has freed publishers from the physical limitations of print and enabled them to integrate and aggregate material in a far more useful and convenient way than ever before. If you read a story on AnnArbor.com, it’s as long as the writer and editor thought it needed to be and it has links to related content. It may even have videos in it. In this way, the Internet has unleashed unlimited potential for journalists and for readers.

Of course, the Internet has also given rise to social media.

These sites have proven to be a bane and boon to journalism and to the dissemination of accurate, meaningful information in general. On one hand, sites like Facebook have enabled journalists to interact with readers more than ever before. Furthermore, it along with Twitter provide citizens with an opportunity to publish news as they see it or hear about it, which further expedites and integrates the sharing of information. These benefits aside, it has also tended to enable people who to insulate themselves further from the outside world if they choose to.

For better or worse, those sites are here and journalists are expected to have a presence on them. Furthermore, almost all news agencies have pages on Twitter, Facebook, and many other social media sites that enable them to spread awareness of recent news stories and provide their readership with a more tangible voice in the coverage of news.

by Steve Snodgrass

Despite the benefits of digital journalism, journalists must not become complacent. The fact of the matter is that as beneficial as the Internet has been for journalism, no one has figured out how to make digital journalism platforms profitable. According to Online Journalism, by James C. Foust, there are three major models.

The first model is to sell advertising, just like newspapers used to. An online journalism outlet can charge companies for advertising on their sites. For example, the Eastern Echo sells the space above its photo gallery to outside companies for ads. The cost of the advertising depends on the size of the ad and the placement on the webpage. The value of a journalism site’s ad space is determined heavily by measurements known as page metrics. Web analytics software measures how many unique visitors a page has and how long each visitor stays at that page. If a page has a large number of unique visitors and if those visitors tend to stay on the page or the website, then the journalism company can charge more money for its ads because more people will see them. While this model has helped generate revenue for news agencies, it hasn’t come close to bringing in the kind of money newspaper ads used to.

The second model is to charge subscription fees. For example, the New York Times allows a visitor to read a limited number of online articles per month for free and charges a subscription fee after the visitor has exceeded that quota. This model has seen setbacks because the Internet has pampered the public with free information for years. The digitized generation simply doesn’t want to pay for information, regardless of its value.

The third major model is to offer value-added services for subscribed users. For example, a website may have open content but then have exclusive content such as videos or other multimedia that users can only access after paying a fee. The New York Times also tried this model but ultimately dropped it.

Despite these hurdles, it is clear that journalism is intrinsic to any free society. The industry will move forward and continue to provide people with accurate and meaningful information.

Kody Jon Klein is a journalism student at Eastern Michigan University. You may contact him at kody.jon.klein@gmail.com.

Male contraceptive may provide an alternative to vasectomies

RISUG, photo courtesy of Male Contraception Information Project

An effective, reversible male contraceptive developed in India may soon be available in the United States.

According to Industry Leaders Magazine, Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance is in Phase III of its clinical trials in India and a small foundation called Parsemus bought the rights to research and develop it in the U.S., where it would be called Vasalgel.

According to Male Contraception Information Project, the compound, a gel polymer of powdered styrene maleic anhydride and dimethyl sulfoxide, is injected via a no-scalpel procedure into the vas deferens, where it coats the walls.

After receiving the injection, a man will still ejaculate, but his sperm will have ruptured membranes, rendering them infertile.

Professor Sujoy Guha (generic photo used by several sources)

The polymer and procedure were developed by Sujoy K. Guha, professor of biomedical
engineering
at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, three decades ago.

Research has shown that the procedure is 100 percent effective and entirely reversible. Men who participated in the Phase I trial have been infertile for 15 years and those who participated in the Phase II trial have been for 10 years. To reverse the procedure, a second injection is made that flushes the polymer coating from the vas deferens. According to , MaleContraceptives.org, one study showed that a simple solution of baking soda and water effectively reversed the process.

Though this procedure would not protect men from sexually transmitted diseases, Industry Leader Magazine reported that it may reduce the risk of contracting HIV.

“The belief is that the styrene maleic acid may reduce pH to a level capable of destroying HIV in semen,” the magazine reported. “The drug is currently being studied to test its effectiveness as an anti-HIV agent.”

Despite these benefits, pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. are allegedly uninterested in developing the polymer or the procedure because it is too inexpensive. Industry Leader Magazine reports that “some estimates say that the syringe could end up costing more than the material it injects.”

However, there is are several petitions to increase interest and funding for the contraceptive as well as continued efforts by Parsemus.

A group affiliated with Parsemus gave poster presentation to the Future of Contraception Initiative conference in Seattle in October 2011.

According to Male Contraception Information Project, Parsemus’ goal is to introduce the contraceptive to the U.S.market by 2015.

Aaron Dwenger wants you to smile :)

Dwenger on EMU's campus.

Aaron Dwenger, a sophomore at Eastern Michigan University, may very easily be the most agreeable person I’ve ever met.

When he enters a room, he neither shies from attention nor demands it. When he speaks, he speaks softly without ostentation and with words both thoughtful and genuine.

“I’ve just never been one to set out to make the biggest splash I can,” Dwenger says.

Indeed, he doesn’t splash much at all. Instead, the gentle ripples of his existence radiate slowly outward and cause those around him to happily swing and sway.

“I want to make people happy,” he says. He laughs and quips, “That’s a terrible thing to say from a journalistic standpoint.”

Dwenger is at EMU studying journalism because he has always enjoyed writing. He took a journalism class in high school and said it “was probably the most enjoyable class I’ve ever taken.”

But Dwenger’s academic trajectory was determined by something deeper than an affinity for manifesting his thoughts into words.

“I feel like people being informed is very important because people need to have their own opinions to be able to judge what’s right or wrong for themselves,” he says. “If you can’t see everything that’s going on around you, you have no way of forming that opinion.”

True as this may be, as he speaks, it becomes clear that Dwenger’s journalistic instinct grows from something deeper: his supreme love of story.

“When I think of myself, I don’t think of myself as a storyteller, but I guess I am,” he says. “Calling a journalist a storyteller kind of discredits him, but I guess at the end of the day, that’s what you are.”

At heart, Dwenger is some one innately interested in expressing the human condition.

“I feel like that’s important,” he says. “That’s the one thing that we share no matter what.”

Dwenger in EMU's Student Center.

Dwenger is that rare soul who observes those around him and endeavors to make them happier.

“At the end of the day, a lot of people are unhappy,” he says. “If I could see one person smile from something I do, that’s pretty much what I set out to do for the day.”

Reflecting on this, Dwenger recalls a fellow student in the high school jazz band he played in.

“She wasn’t really into the whole thing, she was mostly there because we needed trumpets,” he says. “Everyday I looked over and I saw her looking miserable.”

Everyday, Dwenger would try to say something to her to try to make her laugh and enjoy the hour they shared together in jazz band a little more.

“Every time I looked over I thought, ‘she’s not having a good time. let’s change that,'” he says.

Dwenger was a fellow trumpet player and though he hasn’t played much since high school, he still testifies a deep love for jazz. In fact, Dwenger’s usual tactful control of self expression is lost as soon as he begins talking about his hero: Maynard Ferguson.

“I actually got to meet him when I was younger, right around the time when I first started playing trumpet,” he says. “That was the perfect time to meet some one like him.”

Dwenger says Ferguson made him want to play trumpet.

“It made me go, ‘I want to do that,'” he says. “If i could someday I’d like to be just like that.”

Talking with Dwenger, I can’t help but feel that he has a crazy fervent optimism. He seems so positive in everything he says.

Dwenger said that it’s due partly to something that changed his life when he was roughly 13 years old.

“My dad slipped on ice and wound up getting a traumatic brain injury,” he says. “There was a good period of time, a month and half, where the doctors said he was either going to be brain dead or just die.”

But his dad didn’t die, nor was he brain dead.

“It wound up that he woke up from the coma and started moving around,” he says.

Now, Dwenger’s father is home. He can walk again. He can talk again.

“That’s a huge thing because they said that would never happen,” he says. “I came close to losing my dad, and he wound up coming back.”

Dwenger said that event shifted his perspective.

“It made me appreciate things a little bit more.”

Roger Cohen at U-M

As soon as I saw AnnArbor.com’s story about a NYTimes correspondent coming to the University of Michigan, I cleared my schedule for Monday night.

Roger Cohen is Jewish. His lecture focused a lot on current Middle Eastern affairs and how he thinks Israel and the West should respond to them.

Cohen’s lecture stressed peace.

He spoke at great length of the Arab Spring. His view was that this demonstrates a new era in the Middle East.

The people of the Middle East are starting to demand civil rights. They’re starting to think more critically about what’s best for their region.

Cohen said this was a positive development for the Arabian people and that Israel and the West must be encouraging.

Cohen specifically cited debates that have occurred in the Middle East about whether anti-semitism is acceptable. He qualified that while the public incidences of anti-semitism that inspired the debates were unfortunate, the fact that they inspired debate among the Arabian people was a promising development.

He said this showed that people throughout the Middle East are starting to think openly and to focus more on themselves instead of listening to dictators that obfuscate their own injustices by blaming regional issues entirely on Israel and the West.

Cohen also spoke a great deal about Iran. He refuted claims that Iran poses an immediate nuclear threat, saying that at most U.S. intel shows that Iran is making various components that could someday be used for nuclear arms but that pose little or no immediate security threat.

Cohen said that Israel and the West must avoid direct confrontation with Iran. He argued that the Arab Spring has left Iran weakened because no one in the Middle East is looking to it for a governmental model anymore.

Cohen inferred that if military conflict with Iran does occur, it will intensify regional animosity for the West and ultimately stagnate the region’s steady progress towards peace and democratic reform.

All in all, Cohen’s speech seemed to pose a reasonable middle ground in the question of entitlement to the “holy land.” While he expressed support for the Israeli state, he stressed that peace must be actively sought and he even criticized the way that Israel has treated its Arab neighbors.

MPA conference, education, journalism

I attended the MPA conference in Grand Rapids this last weekend. I had a great time, but I was a little disappointed with what I observed during the luncheon on Friday.

There were many politicians dispersed through the crowd, including many Michigan senators and representatives. Governor Snyder was among the crowd and gave a speech while the attendants ate lunch.

During his speech, he referenced a brochure that had been given to all of the guests. It listed the top priorities of the Michigan state government for the next year. They were exactly the things that a room full of journalists would want to hear (e.g. government transparency, increased digital presence and availability, etc.). It seemed like a smokescreen. Why would they waste our time with that stuff? Granted, we understand that they have things that they aren’t going to talk about, but that doesn’t warrant that they provide us with quasi-informative literature. It created a sense of farce for me that only intensified as the luncheon progressed.

After his speech, there was a brief Q&A. I was ecstatic. Here we were, a roomful of journalists with an open floor to personally ask the governor whatever we wanted to.

This is where the farce reached its climax.

Nobody asked him questions that mattered. At best they were softball questions about what news sources he finds most reliable. At worst, they seemed like inappropriate (and sadly successful) attempts to buddy up to him (e.g. the thoughtful question posed by an older gentleman as to what the governor thought of Wisconsin’s recent taking to calling itself “the mitten state”).

We’re journalists. Aren’t we supposed to ask the questions that matter? Granted, there’s not much of anything useful he would have told us. But shouldn’t we have tried? Is it really justifiable for us to allow politicians to patronize us like that?

The whole thing was a joke.

Anyway…

Education seems to be a recurring topic in the news lately. I currently know of two education bills introduced in Lansing: House Bill 4496, and House Bill 5000 (though I’m sure there are others). HB 4496 would allow community colleges to administer baccalaureate programs. It has passed the house and is waiting in the senate. HB 5000 would establish a committee to examine the efficacy of independent governance for public universities (perhaps to raise the question whether governance should be consolidated).

Furthermore, Obama’s recent speech was focused on higher education: how essential it is to the success of our country, how expensive it is, and how he hopes to make it more available and affordable to American citizens.

On a more local level, Ypsilanti school district has seen cuts to its faculty and its programs due to reduced funding. School districts in Detroit and Highland Park have been assigned emergency financial managers and I’m pretty sure I read that the school district in Muskegon Heights is in jeopardy of being assigned one as well.

And as everyone knows, the state of Michigan significantly cut appropriations to all public universities this past year.

I’m not definitively sure what all of this means. But it seems that education is a major issue and one that becomes more complicated each year. It seems like people are demanding change. It seems like politicians are promising it, but I have to wonder whether they genuinely hope to improve and expand education for the good of the people. Are they peddling their legislation with ulterior agendas?

I heard from an anonymous person who consistently interacts with state politicians, that many of the republicans in Lansing despise the state’s relatively liberal institutions of higher education. My source claimed that they think we’re brainwashing students to disavow their good Christian values. Is this true? And if so, are the bills our legislators are proposing designed for the common good?

I also feel skeptical of Obama’s statements about education. Granted, I think a lot of what he said was true. However, I’ve grown a certain skepticism towards everything I hear from politicians. I have to wonder, does he mean anything that he’s saying? I want to think he does. But what if another 4 years pass by and we’re still wondering when we’ll see the changes he’s talking about?

What’s going to happen? Is anything going to happen? Will we see the positive changes that so many politicians talk about? Or is everything going to keep slowly collapsing?

I don’t know. I imagine nobody does. But I’m going to keep trying to understand what’s going on.

I think the one thing I will say confidently is that we have to remain critical. We have to remain skeptical. We have to scrutinize politicians and understand that they’re going to tell us what we want to hear.

So with regards to education reform, or any other issue facing our state or our country, ask tough questions and seek solid answers. That’s our responsibility as citizens and our job as journalists.

If somebody hands you the mic, don’t ask the governor what he thinks about Wisconsin stealing Michigan’s nickname.