It’s hard to sort the information on the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant Story, but for context, here are a couple of items to consider:
- KETV 7 in Omaha ran a story on March 31, 2011 that stated that Fort Calhoun is “one of three reactors across the country that federal regulators said they are most concerned about.”
- On June 6, 2011, the FAA issued a notice banning air flight in a 2 mile radius around Fort Calhoun.
- On June 7, 2011, there was an accident/fire of some sort at the plant. It may have been a small matter, but like turning off the valves at Chernobyl, sometimes small matters at nuclear plants become big matters when the engineering systems develop issues.
- Business Insider has a poorly written piece (sorry, ricky, but who is OPPD?) from Jun 15, 2011 that has some good time line info and some video coverage. OPPD is reported to have requested the video coverage not be aired. (Omaha Public Power District) per coverage from Henry Blodget, also Business Insider story.
- Here’s an interesting story from AP that the local Olympia newspaper that covers the weakening of regulation to accommodate an aging and possibly unsafe nuclear energy industry. (privatized profit, socialized risk model in action)
The timelines and stories, particularly the foreign coverage, do not fit together well, but the March story suggests context that Fort Calhoun is a worrisome plant. The pictures of the plant surrounded by the Missouri River reinforce that context. If you are interested in responsible, accurate coverage of the story, I would go with Pro Publica’s coverage. It does not have the political edge and mission of the foreign coverage and it is likely to be more forthright that the corporate media coverage of nuclear accident stories.Another wrinkle in this story is the report that dry storage is outside the containment area and half-submerged. True? Maybe. A well-informed citizenry needs to study important issues with a keen eye. Or you can watch Fox News if you want Corporate Infotainment.
The real story, and it is being severely under-reported is that the flooding, like the tornadoes this year, are events driven by global warming and climate change. Another aspect of this story is that the nuclear industry is trying to increase its US energy future by noting the low level of greenhouse gas emissions. But as Chernobyl made so clear, nuclear emissions are also a problem.
Two weeks ago, Gov. Chris Gregoire convened a press conference with
corporate leaders from Microsoft and Boeing. They were celebrating a
breakthrough in higher education.
It was a breakthrough, all right — like 60,000 high school graduates
walking out onto thin ice and breaking through. The troika offered a
life ring for 1,000, through “Opportunity Scholarships.” The other
59,000? Let them swim … or sink.
Let’s consider what really happened to public higher education this
year. The Legislature cut out almost a fifth of funding for higher
education: $617.5 million. It raised tuition at the University of
Washington by 35 percent in two years, and by 25 percent at community
Boeing and Microsoft? Gregoire was praising them because they
committed $5 million a year each, totaling 1.62 percent of the
shortfall. That contribution wasn’t free — the state, that is the
taxpayers, had to make a down payment of $5 million, moving money out of
public services and into a corporate-controlled nonprofit. And our
state will have to do that year in and year out in order to get the
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Legislature did not touch these
companies’ tax loopholes. Each year Microsoft gets to keep at least $26
million in sales tax deferrals and exemptions and business tax credits.
That money should go to fund public education. Instead, it pads
Microsoft’s profits, which stood at $19 billion last year. Microsoft’s
$5 million contribution — three one-hundredths of a percent of its
profit — is the equivalent of earning $50,000 and giving away $15.
If Microsoft was really interested in our state’s students, the
company would stop hiding its revenue by claiming its software sales are
conducted in a license and operations office in Reno, Nev. This little
sleight of hand has enabled the company to avoid paying more than $750
million in state taxes over the past decade and a half. Now Microsoft is
pushing the federal government to lower corporate taxes to 5.25 percent
on money they have been stashing overseas. That is $29 billion which
Microsoft has secreted away in other countries, hiding from taxation and
simultaneously withholding investment from job creation and research
and development that could be done in the United States.
What does Microsoft get for its $5 million contribution? A deduction
from its federal taxes. The company’s insistence of the development of a
whole new duplicative nonprofit administrative system, apart from the
state. And the right to determine which students get the assistance,
depending on their choice of courses. If students decide to focus on
areas of study that Microsoft deems important, then they may get some
help. If not, they won’t. Those who get assistance and do not complete
the “eligible education program” (for example, if they switch from
computer science to a liberal arts major, like history) may be forced to
pay back their grants. Their student loan indebtedness only grows
through this program. It is a mockery of opportunity.
And then there is the little problem that the UW just announced
tuition increases of 20 percent. So even with this new financial aid,
students next year will still have to come up with another additional
$1,000 on top of this year’s tuition of $8,700 just to take classes.
Boeing’s $5 million contribution represents fifteen one-hundredths of
a percent of their corporate profits. Recently the company announced
that it expects to receive a net tax refund of $137 million from state
and local governments for 2010. That same year, Boeing paid three-tenths
of a percent in federal taxes on its pre-tax profit of $4.5 billion.
They are skipping away from our state with $3 billion in tax credits
over 20 years, building a new 787 facility in South Carolina. Plus they
have shown the efficiency of corporate global outsourcing, with overruns
on the 787 now exceeding $12 billion.
But they want to appear loyal to higher education in Washington. And that $5 million gives them good cover.
Here is a better idea for good corporate citizenship: Pay your taxes.
You don’t even need to wait for the Legislature to act. You can just
get out your checkbook. Microsoft and Boeing should both start with $100
million a year. That still leaves them benefitting from tax favoritism.
It would give our children a bit of a tuition break, so they can
actually attend classes in our public community colleges and
That’s what we want, isn’t it? An educated, not a debt-ridden, workforce?
Originally published in the Everett Herald
I can’t keep track of all the appearances by Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich in Washington State this year. It’s been more than a few. There will be another on July 9th, when he speaks at the NWroots Conference.
Kucinich stands to get redistricted out of a seat in Congress this year, and is shopping for a new home district so he can continue to serve in Congress. The Congressman has been clear that he won’t run against an incumbent Democrat, which means he will likely have to leave Ohio if he is going to remain in Congress. Washington State is apparently on his short list, although Kucinich denies the existence of any such list.
State Democratic Party chair Dwight Pelz told Kucinich thanks, but no thanks, in a phone conversation earlier this year (I had a conversation with Kucinich about that call, and he implied Dwight was pretty blunt about it). I’ve talked with many others who would rather Kucinich kept his nose out of Washington State. I have mixed feelings. If he could help the Democrats win or hold a seat, I’d be okay with it, but I haven’t imagined a scenario yet where Kucinich would be a good fit. The Tenth, Eighth, Seventh, Third, and First districts are all possibilities. (A rumor is circulating that Seventh District Congressman Jim McDermott might be appointed Ambassador of India. His office denies it.) We won’t know the Demographics or candidates pool until redistricting is complete early next year.
Kucinich will Join Congressmen Inslee and McDermott, Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson, and former Canadian Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh as a feature speaker at NWroots at the Comedy Underground in Pioneer Square.
The meat of the program consists of breakout sessions/group discussions on labor, healthcare, media, immigration, electronic voting, agriculture, Afghanistan, and the mortgage crisis.
Registration is $50 ($25 students), and includes breakfast and lunch. Registration/breakfast begins at 7:30 AM. The program runs 8:30 – 5:30, followed by an after-party at the Central Saloon.
The Nation is picking up a story about a nuclear plant problem in Nebraska from news sources in Russia and Pakistan. The story is that flood waters have created a problem for the plant and that the Obama administration has engineered a news blackout on the problem. I don’t know which part of this story is the bigger story.
Read it at The Nation here.
There is also some buzz out there about ocean extinctions. An Hour Ago India – DNA Daily News Analysis – has some pretty good coverage of that story.
I don’t know how worried to get about these stories. There should be some balance between the level of worry and my ability to address the underlying problems. Chicken Little is a cautionary tale about sounding the alarm, as is the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Chicken Little is a story that teaches courage, but maybe courage is sometimes sounding the alarm and risking ridicule?
It’s a real problem with slow-moving disasters that it’s very hard for a person to time the alarm. I live on a particularly dangerous kind of tectonic plate that promises a large earth quake someday (think Fukushima style), but sounding an alarm is difficult to time with earthquakes.
So, a couple of alarms:
- On ocean extinctions, the timing is easier to see. It’s time to sound the alarm. If the oceans aren’t healthy, the planet is not healthy and the oceans are not healthy.
- Nuclear energy – not a good idea. Not safe in the short term or the long term. Ordering a blackout of news coverage does not change that equation. And it is not courageous to order a news blackout, it is cowardly.