PHOTO CAPTION: Kennedy addresses a capacity crowd at Wayne State University, November 2, 2007. Photographs by Marvin Shaouni.
BOBBY KNOCKS `EM OUT IN DETROIT
If the overwhelmingly favorable reports we’re getting about Bobby’s latest appearance at WSU are any indication, he made a lot of new fans in Detroit this past week.
The local press accounts so far have been outstanding (yes, even hardenend old reporters can still be wowed from time to time): the Metro Times Detroit called his speech “nothing less than spellbinding.” Nearly every article we’ve seen suggests that if this man doesn’t run for president (to roughly paraphrase Shakespeare), our country is seriously out of joint.
Wanted to share a couple of particularly good excerpts from this week’s coverage here on the blog. First up, a taste of Metromode Media‘s Q&A With RFK:
“The Kennedys are by far the closest America gets to an actual royal family. Their political reach is far, wide and bi-partisan, and they have been influencing this nation in one way or another for half a century…
…Stepping out from behind the shadow of his uncle Ted, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has become one of the more prominent members of the family. No stranger to the public eye, nor to controversy, his notoriety is surprising given his apparent lack of interest in running for public office. This approach has afforded him a strong platform on environmental issues that is swayed by neither public opinion polls nor party lines…
RFK: Ultimately, Detroit is a maritime city. It is located where it is because of its proximity to the river and lakes, a nexus between Great Lakes. That’s part of its culture, of the city’s history.
If you look around the country, all of the great urban resurrections that have occurred over recent decades have begun with the restoration of the relationship between the city and its waterfront. Baltimore, San Francisco, San Antonio, Boston have all have made great efforts, focused urban renewal efforts connected to their waterfronts.
What happened during the 20th Century was that in these port cities, including New York City, the public was cut off from the waterfront. In New York, the biggest port in the world, there was no way for the public to access the waterfront. Only one [of the five boroughs] is connected to the mainland and yet people had completely lost their relationship to the water. In recent years, an effort has been made to build waterfront public parks and the public has flooded to them.
We’ve also seen this up and down the Hudson. The Hudson was polluted and its least valuable land was the closest to the river. Now it’s the most expensive land that is near the river. And towns themselves are experiencing revitalization and rebirth efforts.
MM: As rustbelt cities like Detroit work hard to regain population lost over the past half-century while desert metropolises like Phoenix and Las Vegas boom and sprawl, it appears that the US is headed down a scary path…Can you share your thoughts on the subject?
RFK: It’s backwards.
Ultimately, in Detroit, the city’s water is going to dictate its health. [We have an] enormous problem in the Southwest with sprawl development that is irrational, dangerous and careless.
The Colorado River is drained dry, it never reaches the city, evaporating ignominiously in the desert. The Ogallala Aquifer, which provides most of the irrigation water to the American Midwest is being sucked dry in Arizona, with water 100 feet below initial levels. Population increases increase water demand from Louisiana to Texas, and global warming is causing the evaporation of major reservoirs.
There’s a train wreck coming, and the cities that are going to end up with the strongest economies are those with the strongest environmental base, and Detroit can be one of those cities. Detroit has a future based on its waterways, and its water is the best investment that Detroit can make right now: restoring public access to waterways and fighting pollution in waterways.
Detroit — looking at its landscapes and surroundings — is one of the greatest places to live, and that value will be recognized by the marketplace and by people.
MM: What would be your advice for policy makers and business leaders as to where Michigan should go and how to get there in the world of alternative energy?
RFK: Look around. The states with the strongest economy are the states that have invested in energy efficiency. California has the strongest economy and Californians use half the energy per capita as the rest of the country.
One way is to decouple utility profits from sales of energy. Utilities make money by selling you more and more energy, which is not encouraging good social behavior. California utilities are making money by conserving. The utilities are paid premiums for getting their consumers to reduce the amount of energy they use. The utility makes money by doing good things rather than things damaging to society.
Another way is net metering. If an individual installs power generation capacity, like solar or a windmill, he can sell energy when he is not using it. The utility has to buy that energy back, which would encourage millions of Americans to make their homes into power plants.
This is good for the country because it makes us much less vulnerable — not only less dependent on foreign oil — but less vulnerable to terrorist attacks. It’s an easy thing to bomb a power plant, but much less difficult to bomb a million homes.
And there is the automobile, which accounts for 47% of our energy use. Detroit has fought fuel economy standards for 30 years and it has not only damaged our country enormously, but it has made it so Detroit is much less competitive with Asian and European manufacturers.
[Because of emission standards,] it is almost impossible for any American car to be sold in China. That is a billion auto consumers over the next three years that Detroit has no access to.
That couldn’t possibly be good business logic. Detroit automakers dug their own grave.
…Investment in the environment does not somehow diminish our nation’s wealth. It is an investment in infrastructure, like telecommunications and roads. It ensures the economic vitality of our generation and the next generation.
And from the Metro Times Detroit, we get this enthusiastic account:
“News Hits has listened more than its fair share of speeches over the years, but we can think of few that compared with the one Robert F. Kennedy Jr. gave at Wayne State University last week.
Speaking without notes to an overflow crowd of more than 800 people, Kennedy effortlessly covered a vast amount of territory, touching on topics environmental, historical, political, theological and personal, weaving it all together in a way that was nothing short of spellbinding…
…One of the biggest applause lines of the night came when he laid part of the blame for this on a “negligent and indolent press that has simply let down American democracy.”
Calling the White House press corps a “karaoke group for Karl Rove,” Kennedy said the national media — controlled by a handful of corporations and anything but liberal — share responsibility for the war in Iraq because they failed to expose the lies used to justify our invasion.
“We are,” he said, “the best-entertained, least-informed people on Earth.”
These disparate themes were tied together by the overarching issue of corporate control of government, which Kennedy described as the definition of fascism.
…Talking about this country’s use of torture to pry information from captured enemy combatants, and how such actions diminish us in the eyes of the world, Kennedy quoted the line: “America is a great country because it is a good country, and if we ever stop being good, then we stop being great.”
As we sat there listening to this, News Hits found itself wishing that this Kennedy were following in the footsteps of his father and uncle by pursuing the presidency. We’re betting it was a thought that passed through the mind of everyone who heard his speech.
During a question-and-answer session, someone did ask if he thought about running for office. Kennedy replied that he’s supporting Hillary Clinton, and that, if she wins, it’s possible he’ll seek the U.S. Senate seat from New York — a seat once held by his father — that will need to be filled.
Afterward, in a talk with reporters, News Hits asked Kennedy if he ever worries that maybe we’re reached a tipping point in this country, that the corporate grip on power is too tight to be pried loose, and that the public has become too dumbed-down to see through the fog of propaganda we’re subjected to?
The look he gave in response made us think that he’s never been plagued by that sort of pessimism. But he was too polite to chastise. All he did was say, `You have to keep trying.'”
Check out the full story from Metro Times Detroit here.
How many more newspaper, radio and TV journalists, internet bloggers, fans, friends and folks around the world have to yell: “Run, Bobby, Run!” — before he actually does it?
Hang in there, America. This race ain’t over `til it’s run.
“And when the ghost has vanished, what do we see standing before us? A young hero thirsting for revenge? A prince by birth, happy to be charged with unseating the usurper of his throne? Not at all!
Amazement and sadness descend on this lonely spirit; he becomes bitter at the smiling villains, swears not to forget his departed father, and ends with a heavy sigh:
`The time is out of joint; O cursed spite! That ever I was born to set it right!'”
Goethe on Hamlet (pub. 1796)
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