Thursday, January 31, 2008

VIDEO: Dennis Drops Out

Originally published at

On January 25, 2008, Congressman Dennis Kucinich dropped out of the US presidential race. Because the media painted him as a fringe candidate, and because he was excluded from six debates, his views were not given the opportunity to be heard. Nadir interviewed Kucinich when he was campaigning in Michigan. This piece presents the conversation in its entirety.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Michigan’s One-State Recession: Jobs

Originally published at

Stories about the weakening U.S. economy filled the news this week. International stock markets are riding a rollercoaster of fear over America’s slide toward recession.

In Michigan, however, we’ve been suffering what has been called a “one-state recession” for quite a while now. The problems here were an early indicator of things to come for the rest of the nation.

There was a time when an 18 year-old could graduate from a Michigan high school, get a job in an automotive plant, and after a few years, make a six-figure salary with overtime. Those days are gone now.

It isn’t much easier for college graduates either. Sam Harper, chairman of the College Democrats at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, will graduate with a degree in political science this May. When asked what issues were most important to young people in Michigan, his answer was matter of fact.

“As a graduating senior”, Sam said flatly, “I’d like to be able to find a job once I get out of school.”

Michigan has lost 400,000 jobs since 2000 giving us the highest unemployment rate in the country. As those jobs leave the state, residents follow. We’re one of two states (along with Rhode Island) that lost population between July 2006 and July 2007.

The exodus of jobs and people means the state has lost needed tax revenue. The result was a $175 billion budget deficit in 2007. Because the state constitution prohibits government spending unless a balanced budget is in place by October 1, Michigan was shut down for four hours at the end of September. The legislature avoided an even more embarrassing situation when lawmakers signed a budget package that kept public services running.

70% of those lost jobs are in the manufacturing sector. Pharmaceutical companies, appliance manufacturers, and yes, automotive companies are among the firms that have instituted massive layoffs.

The North American International Auto Show was in Detroit this week. It’s the automotive industry’s biggest party, where all of the manufacturers show off their new models. Though industry execs were treated to shows by artists like Mary J. Blige and Kid Rock, the smiles were short lived.

General Motors, once the symbol of Detroit’s economic dominance, has led the world in automobile sales since 1931. 2007 year-end figures find the company in a virtual dead heat with Japanese powerhouse Toyota. GM reported global sales of 9,369,524 units, while Toyota sold 9.366 million vehicles (they won’t release more precise numbers).

In 2003 Toyota overtook Michigan’s Ford Motor Company to become the world’s second largest car company. Today, January 24, 2008, Ford offered yet another salary buyout to all of its hourly employees. The corporation is struggling to become profitable again, and one way to do it is to ask employees to leave voluntarily. The question remains, where will those workers go if they choose to leave?

The United States has long been the engine of the global economy, as a manufacturing giant, and as the world’s most ravenous consumer of products and services. Nowadays we’re not building nearly as many products, and the good paying jobs that help support our buying habits are disappearing. This creates a grim outlook for those Americans who are about to enter the workforce after graduating from high school and college in the next four years.

The current international economic crisis isn’t a new phenomenon. If Michigan is any indicator – and history says that it is – the problems could get worse before they get better.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Clinton Has a Dream

This comes from Akanke:

Enjoy! This is funny...not like we haven't all found ourselves in this situation. I've heard MLK the 3rd speak and I had exactly the same reaction only it wasn't on stage behind the preacher on MLK day.


Friday, January 18, 2008

VIDEO: Uncommitted: Michigan's Democratic Primary Fiasco

Originally published at

Michigan's Democratic Primary was panned as "meaningless" by critics in the media. In fact, it was quite "meaningful" because of what this says about the current primary system. The two small states of Iowa and New Hampshire have a greater say in who the presidential nominee is going to be than the other 48 states. Michigan's residents (and those of many other states) don't think this is fair.

When Michigan chose to move its primary election to January - before its assigned "Super Tuesday" February 5 date - the state's Democratic Party violated national party rules. As a result the Democratic National Convention stripped the state of its 154 delegates to the national convention in August. The move was intended to gain Michigan more influence, but had the opposite effect. Michigan now has no voice. This demostrates the power of Iowa and New Hampshire in the voting process.

Under intense pressure from party officials and Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire, the leading candidates (Barack Obama, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton) took a pledge stating they would not campaign in the state. Obama and Edwards went so far as to remove themselves from the ballot, and wouldn't allow their names to be written in. Only Hillary Clinton, Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel and Christopher Dodd (who had already dropped out of the race by January 15) were on the official ballot.

When you vote in a primary, you're actually voting for delegates who will represent your candidate at the state's party convention (Michigan's is March 29). Those delegates will go to the national party convention to choose the final nominee. Because Obama and Edwards weren't on the ballot, their supporters urged Michigan voters to mark "Uncommitted" when voting on January 15. This would elect delegates who were not committed to any candidate at the convention. In the final talley, Clinton won the primary with 55% of the vote, while "Uncommitted" garnered 39% and Dennis Kucinich gained 4% of the state's delegates.

Even though Hillary and "Uncommitted" made a good showing, unless the national party reverses its decision and agrees to seat Michigan's delegates, the thousands who voted in Michigan's Democratic Primary will have no say in the party's nomination process. Their votes would not count.

For Democrats in Michigan - especially young Dems - the national Democratic party's actions were "frustrating". Michigan was stripped of its delegates because it wanted more of a say in choosing our next president. Instead, the Democratic Party punished the state by taking its voice away.

Is the Democratic Party "Uncommitted" to Michigan and the other 47 states who have primary elections after Iowa and New Hampshire? How does this affect Michigan Democrats who must still rally support for their party during the general election?

This video hopes to answer some those questions by speaking to Democratic Party organizers in Ann Arbor, Michigan and to presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, who states that the Democratic Party is "Uncommitted" on many issues.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

MTV Pounds the Political Pavement with Street Team '08

MTV Street Team '08 reporter Nadir explains that the exodus of manufacturing jobs has Michigan residents concerned about the economy at MTV Headquarters in New York on Jan. 9.

I'm just getting back from a tremendous experience at MTV's Street Team '08 orientation and boot camp. MTV News has assembled a dynamic, diverse and passionate group of 51 citizen journalists to cover each state and Washington DC.

MTV's Choose or Lose and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation have charged us with "uncovering the untold political stories that matter most to young people in [our] states". We'll submit weekly reports that will be published online, and on mobile devices. The goal - as with all of MTV New's Choose or Lose campaigns since 1992 - is to get young people involved in the US presidential elections, to energize the youth electorate, and to help them understand that they can make a difference if they use their voices.

The 2008 election will be critical, and as Jayson Rodriguez of MTV News reports the youth vote is already shaping up to be a significant factor in the race. Jayson said:

And if it hadn't been clear before, now more than ever, the youth vote matters. In fact, Hillary Clinton specifically thanked young voters in her victory speech Tuesday night.

"Young people across New Hampshire who came out," she said, "they asked the hard questions and they voted their hearts and their minds, and I really appreciate it."

That's right. And they did the same for her chief rival Obama in Iowa. If you can get young people excited and engaged, they will be active.

America's youth are largely maligned. It is said that they only caring about Paris Hilton, video games and (...ahem) MTV. To the contrary, this new election cycle is already showing how thoughtful and involved young adults can be when they are inspired by a candidate or a cause.

Rising energy costs, a broken health care system, failing schools, two wars, a struggling economy... our local problems are the nation's problems. Each member of the Street Team had a compelling and unique story, but as we spoke about the most important issues in our individual communities, it was obvious that there are similar concerns everywhere.

Army brat Dani Carlson will explore the life of military families in her state of Alaska. Erica Anderson of Washington DC wants to find out whether the District's lack of a congressional vote will make young DC voters more active during the presidential election or more apathetic.

Nevada's Michael Gonzales and Alabama's David Whiteside are passionate about environmental issues. Christine Begay of the Navajo nation, who will report on the state of New Mexico, inspired many of us to explore the plight of indigenous populations in our own states.

We'll watch for insightful pieces from experienced political journalists like sometime Huffington Post contributor Shelby Highsmith, and Patrick Kennedy, a registered Republican who is Director of Public Programs and Public Policy at the (Bill) Clinton School of Public Service. We'll look for very strong video reports from the likes of Bay Area filmmaker Carl D. Brown, and West Virginia broadcast journalism student Griffin McElroy.

While the United States chooses a new commander-in-chief, MTV has recruited this brigade of political reporters to chronicle the race on the ground, from our own perspectives with our own voices. Street Team '08 will find out what's important to young people in an election where the the youth vote could potentially change the entire game.

Exciting times. Let's get to it!

Read More about MTV's Street Team '08 HERE.