Saturday, August 4, 2007

[update] 'Roots News: Kucinich is sole Dem vote against STEM - America Competes bill b/c of nuclear energy provisions

I copied this direct, Jill does some investigation worth noting here!

This is from Jill's site:

The House bill that provides funding for science, technology, engineering and math programming passed overwhelming yesterday. But, as noted in that news item, Dennis Kucinich was the lone Democrat who voted against it (56 Republicans also voted against it). His congressional primary opponent in his home district, Ohio 10th, Rosemary Palmer, had this to say:

“This is exactly the sort of investment that our regional economy needs,” said Rosemary Palmer, who is challenging Congressman Kucinich for the Democratic nomination in 10th Congressional district of Ohio. “It is obvious that northeast Ohio needs to replace the jobs and industries that we have lost over the past few decades,” she said. “An education-based approach aimed at developing high tech industry would be a major boost in the effort to bring new industry to the Cleveland area,” she said.

No Google or other search I conducted turned up information as to why Kucinich might vote against the bill. His presidential website, under the education issue button, only hinted at the possibility: the focus on these four subject areas is too narrow for Kucinich.

So, I did what people who want answers do: I wrote his campaign and I called. A young man named Hasher, who said that he was in fact in Cleveland, took down my question, my name and my email and promised he'd see what he could find out. He was completely unaware of the bill, the issue or the vote prior to receiving my call. I will say that I was very impressed to get a human and not a voice mail directory. Nice touch. Can't be cheap, even with volunteers. But I liked it.

In the meantime, I was also emailing with Palmer's campaign manager, Anthony Fossaceca, to find out if they knew why Kucinich voted no - and they didn't either.

Then, within an hour, I received an email from Kucinich's presidential campaign, in response to the emailed query I'd sent through the presidential site. It said that they were sorry that they couldn't answer me because the question was, in their opinion, a congressional matter and never the twain shall mix. Gail, the contact person, who is in Iowa, suggested that I fax my question to his congressional office. An excellent suggestion since trying to go through the email labyrinth would weed me out as someone who does not live in Kucinich's district.

I wrote her back a polite thank you and mentioned that although I don't find Kucinich to be my speed of candidate, I admired his chutzpah and wished them well.

Then, I proceeded to do Shabbat with my kids, have a little dinner, do a few dishes and sit down again to do some writing. And what do I find in my inbox?

An email from Dennis Kucinich - no, really - I am quite sure it's actually from himself. The subject line says, "from the congressional record." Just like that in small letters. Now, Hasher had already told me, after I mentioned it, that Kucinich is indeed in Chicago at Yearly Kos. So I would guess this was sent from his Blackberry or something - but I don't actually know. Here's what the email said:

Congressman Dennis Kucinich
Extension of Remarks
August 3, 2007

Madame Speaker:

There is much to be excited about in H.R. 2272, the America COMPETES Act, a bill that endeavors to maintain America's preeminence in math and science. It doubles funding for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy's Office of Science, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. It establishes a number of initiatives to encourage diversity in energy choices and participation. It also establishes a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E), to overcome the long-term and high-risk technological barriers in the development of energy technologies.

However, the directive of ARPA-E explicitly includes provisions for the advancement of nuclear energy. The perils of nuclear energy are numerous. Indeed, in March 2002, workers at the Davis Besse nuclear power plant discovered a deep cavity in the head of the nuclear reactor, leaving only a thin stainless steel lining. Experts have concluded that if the hole were not discovered, the reactor could have ruptured within the next year of operation. Furthermore, the lack of a long-term solution to dispose of nuclear waste necessitates that we dump tons of highly toxic waste on several generations to come. Finally, the economics of nuclear power requires billions of dollars in federal subsidies, which would be far better spent on development of truly renewable energy technologies.

For these reasons, I voted against H.R. 2272, the America Competes Act.

So there you have it. I believe I have the first known from the horse's mouth explanation from Dennis Kucinich as to why he would vote with 56 Republicans and against every Democrat in the House who voted on the STEM - America Competes bill.

It's not the reason I would have expected at all. I hate to call it trivial, but it does seem like posturing when the real money behind the STEM curriculum could be good for a wide variety of students (gifted included, my pet group).

But hey - Dennis responded, he gave a reason and now we know.

So have at it - his reason. And Shabbat Shalom.

UPDATE: Rosemary Palmer's campaign responds:

Once again, Dennis gives up on the possible while demanding the perfect. Here was an excellent opportunity to show potential investors worldwide that there are congressional leaders in Cleveland and northeast Ohio with their finger on the pulse of emerging technologies and the power of ideas. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones understood it. Betty Sutton understood it. Tim Ryan understood it. Instead of coming back later to offer a fix to a very, very minor piece of an otherwise important piece of legislation, Congressman Kucinich lines up and votes with Steve Chabot, John Boehner, Jim Jordan and 53 other Republicans. This is the kind of decision making that has voters in this district scratching their heads again and again.

Well, I have a hard time arguing with that. I also would like to know from the Congressman, did he consult with his constituents on this one?

Permalink posted by Jill at 8/03/2007 07:23:00 PM

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R.D. Laing

R.D. Laing
Speaking on Autonomy