3/28/08 Constellation Deal

So, what is up with this deal between O’Malley and Constellation?   Where are the voices of dissent?   Where are the voices in our state legislature, in print, on TV and in radio who are raising questions about this so-called settlement?

Martin O’Malley ran on a campaign to address consumers being shortchanged, over-charged and ripped off by Constellation and their home state company BGE as a result of the 1999 deregulation of the industry.  A move pushed by Sen. Pres Mike Miller and one of the forgotten forces behind all that lobbying in Annapolis in 1999 – ENRON.

The state government and Constellation say this will allow us to deal with a looming energy crisis in the next few years that will lead to brownouts across the state.   We don’t generate enough electricity for our growth.   But how does this “settlement” address that issue?

 OK, so now we are getting some credit and rebates and the state won’t have to pay the bill of deactivating Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plants.  We all get back $175 if we are lucky and they get to profit millions or even billions.  We are still saddled with at least a 72% increase in our rates.  Governor and state leaders, tell that to our bank accounts every month!

Because of the settlement, there will be no more investigations into stranded costs paid to Constellation to compensate them for losses that never occurred when they took over BGE plants.    What about the investigation into the corporate relationship between BGE and Constellation?   What about the accusation that Constellation sells Maryland energy sources outside the state, then sells them back to us, to BGE for huge profits?  No further investigations into the wholesale power auctions and our exponentially rising utility bills! Investigations in 2005 and 2006 clearly showed something amiss.   It clearly appeared we were being gouged and huge profits were being made.  We will never know the answer to what happened to us and what Constellation really did.

No subpoena power for the Public Service Commission!   How will they get to the bottom of anything as they look at re-regulation of the industry and plan for the energy future of our state?   Steve Larsen, Chairman of the PSC, on my show, said he wanted the answers to this and more.  Now his hands are tied.

Constellation stock is now on the rise.   They can have outside investors without state regulatory approval. 

What about the future?   Hydropower will have its end.  Our dams can’t handle the load and the silt is building up.   Solar, wind and nuclear will take years to make a dent in our total energy supply.   Does this give Constellation the power and right to continue to mine coal, spew its death into the air, and make West Virginia look like a moonscape after the tops of our most ancient mountains are lopped off?

We need better answers to what de-regulation did and what was going on between Constellation and BGE.   We need a better plan for our energy future than we are getting.

State legislators need to raise their voices and raise questions.    Our local media needs to investigate and keep this discussion alive.  We all need to be involved at whatever level we can to keep the pressure on.

 Dealing with the power of Constellation Energy and the rates we pay was a central theme of Martin O’Malley’s run for Governor.   This shows all too well the power that corporate giants have in our state political process.   I know Governor O’Malley felt pushed against a wall.  We have a very precarious energy future in the next few years.  This settlement, however, was not the answer.  It was not even close. 


Intern w/ CEM!

Interested in an intership with CEM?  We’re looking for someone to help us transcribe interviews.  Hours will be flexible, and you can work from home.  We’re looking for someone who will be consistently available and enthusiastic about the work we’re doing.  For more info, write to justinlevy2@gmail.com.

3/20/08 The Wire Podcasts: Nina K. Noble


Nina Noble and friends accepting the Emmy for Outstanding Miniseries for HBO’s The Corner in 2000.  She is on far left.

I have major sympathy for Nina Noble.  We share a job title (okay, well her title has the fancy ‘Executive’ in front of it) and people are constantly asking me “What does a producer DO?”  I imagine she gets the same question.  I always like to answer, “I do all the work” and then flash a smile.  If Marc is around, I will usually add jokingly, “…and he gets all the glory.” (Fair enough, really, considering he also has to bear the brunt of all the criticism!)

But seriously, Nina Noble had a gigantic job as Executive Producer of The Wire.  From convincing the Port of Baltimore to let them shoot scenes on location to keeping track of the hundreds of characters David Simon and the other writers created, it’s a wonder she didn’t burn out long ago.  But as she told Marc when she sat down for an interview about the experience of working on The Wire, this is the only job she is suited for.

Click here to stream the interview.  Right click here and select “Save Target As” in order to download this onto your computer.  Want to get this in iTunes?  Instructions are below, just click “Read More”. Running time is 40:20.

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3/17/08 An Iraqi American view on the Iraq War

Iraqi Americans in Michigan celebrate execution of Saddam Hussein. Not all Iraqi Americans were so happy. Photo Credit: Associated Press

Imagine you are a person who left your native country because you didn’t want to live under its government.  Imagine several decades later, your adopted country chooses to invade your native country and topple the same regime you left under.

What do you do?

Do you celebrate, thrilled that the regime you disliked is now gone?

Or do you mourn as you watch your country, which despite the dictatorship was a vibrant safe place, turn into a place you can barely recognize?

Such is the circumstance of many Iraqi Americans.  Most of the Iraqi’s living in the United States disliked Saddam Hussein.  But that doesn’t mean they were happy to see U.S. tanks roll into Baghdad to topple his government.

The fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq is upon us.  Over the next couple of weeks, we’re bringing you interviews with scholars, veterans, peace activists, and more.  Today, we are bringing you an interview with Dr. Adil Shamoo.  Dr. Shamoo grew up in Iraq, in the Chaldean christian community.  He came to the United States in the 1960’s, and he a professor of bioethics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Click here to stream the interview.  Right click here and select “Save Target As” in order to download this interview onto your computer. Want to get this and other podcasts on iTunes?  Click “Read More” below to find out how. Running time is 25:30.  Click here to read the transcript.

The music heard at the beginning and end of this interview is “Second Baghdad” by the Iraqi musician Rahim Alhaj.

Click Read More to get resources and information on how to get this podcast on iTunes.

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3/18/08 Obama’s Speech Today

Photo Credit: Wall Street Journal

Today, I was a guest on Doni Glover’s show on WOLB.   When we finished our conversation on the air, I stumbled into their lunchroom.   Everyone was glued to CNN listening to Obama’s speech on race.  I sat down.   I became glued to the TV, to the words Obama was speaking to us all.  

I don’t know how many of you heard it, but you can watch and read it here.  I have never heard a politician running for office talk about race in that manner.  He tackled it head on.   

We live in a nation where race has always been at the root of our social and political discussion.   Race is at the root of our national persona.   It is complex, very complex.  Our generation, our race, our region, our gender, and our exposure other races define our feelings and sense of race as a nation.   Barak Obama clearly understands the complexity of race in America.   My own sense of him is that growing up as a Black child raised by a socially and politically open white mother, with conservative white grandparents in a white world, with an African father whom he did know, defined his own search for racial identity in America.   He lived in other cultures and saw race not just through the lens of Black and White but through Asian worlds that most non-Asian-Americans ever touch.   This is a life journey that took him, and continues to take him, wrestling with race through all its American complexities. 

America needs to have this conversation with itself.  Maybe Barak Obama is the only one, at the moment, who is able to create this conversation among ourselves.  

I really understood what he was saying about his minister, Reverend Jeremiah Wright.   White America easily dismisses Reverend Wright because they identify his words with the words of Farrakhan.  Most of us in the white world have to be willing to admit that this visceral reaction is what motivates us to become angry at the words of Reverend Wright.

Obama said he could no more turn against Reverend Wright than he could his white grandmother.   He said Reverend Wright came out of a generation that grew up in segregation and in the face of outright racial hatred in America.   He is still a distrustful and angry man.  He also said how much he learned about his faith and life from Rev. Wright.

Obama went on to say how much his white Kansas rural-raised grandmother loved him.   How much she loved this Black child in her life but how he cringed at her racist remarks. 

This is life in America.   This is an America where love and family cross all those lines.  This is an America that must have a conversation with itself.

When Obama turned his conversation to the white working class of America and its frustrations, it was clear that he understands the anger of white working class Americans who feels like Black folks are getting a free ride, while they worked for everything they have.   He understands how that is all wrapped around the economic conditions they face with factories closing, mortgage foreclosures, and crumbling public schools that intensify the anger around race.

He understands the responsibility Black America must take for itself.   He called on Black fathers to come home to their children while understanding the devastation and desperation of life in the Black inner city streets of America.  

He also understands that to get beyond race we need to have more than just a conversation with ourselves as Americans.  We need to rebuild our economy so that it supports stability and equality.   A nation rebuilding its infrastructure, breeding and teaching creative minds, a nation at work with decent paying jobs, a system that provides health care for all its citizens, and public schools where we feel safe and confident sending our children, just might allow us to go beyond race.  A movement fighting for this America has the power to transcend race.

I hope and pray that Big Media in America will do this speech and this conversation justice.   I am not optimistic but will jump for joy if proven wrong.   Let’s see what sound bites they use from this magnificent speech. 

Let’s see if the rabid hosts of hot talk television and radio and the knee-jerk response columnists can keep their powder dry.   Let’s see if they can stop to think for a moment and help us have this conversation.  

I was sitting with a dear friend at lunch (yeah, I can have lunch these days – what a novel idea) who said his liberal Jewish mother and her friends could not vote for Obama if he defended Rev Wright’s words.  

The first thing that came to my mind was, how short our memories are.   His Mom is obviously part of my Dad’s generation.    I remember growing up in a world where we Jews lived in our neighborhoods apart from the rest.  It was because of discrimination against us and by our own choice to live among one another.  Non Jews were not trusted not to be anti-Semitic until we were satisfied they were not.   Goyim jokes (jokes about those who were not Jews) abounded in the community.   I grew up with cousins with numbers on their arms tattooed on by their Nazi torturers in concentration camps.   I knew that at any moment they .. the proverbial they .. could turn on us before sunset.  There is a distrust born of being a discriminated against minority.

You overcome it, you go beyond it, you fight against it, both in society and within your own being.  It is a complex thing.   I, too, understand the anger in Rev. Wright and in other dear friends of mine.   I don’t agree with it.   Race is both deep and superficial.  It means nothing in the reality of existence but it defines our every move in America.  

President Clinton’s conversation on race when he was in the White House was superficial, elitist and detached.   Maybe now we can have a conversation based in the material reality of our everyday lives.  Obama’s words were eloquent but eloquence is not enough.   If he wins, he must build the America he preaches about.  If he loses, he has to build the movement he talks about.  Words of beauty will only take us so far.  

I hope the substance is as powerful as the speech.   We will see.


3/18/08 The Wire Podcasts: Bob Wisdom


Photo by Anne Hefley

It’s been over a week since the series finale of The Wire aired.  Sad time for Wire fans these days, but we’re continuing The Wire Podcast series to help you get through the end-of-show withdrawal.  Speaking of which, having had a little time to reflect on it now, what did everyone think of the last episode, and Season 5 as a whole?

Click here for an interview with Bob Wisdom, who played Major Howard “Bunny” Colvin on The Wire.  Running time is 15:48.  Click here to open the interview transcript.

What was the real life inspiration for Hamsterdam?  What does he think of the character he portrayed?  What can the experience of The Wire tell us about race and acting in America today?  (Preview quote: “Every actor of color in this country that I ever met wanted to be part of this show.”)

If Marc and Bob sound like old friends, it’s because they are.  They met at Studio Theatre in Washington DC in 1986 or so, where they acted together in a production of American Buffalo by David Mamet.  Bet you didn’t know that!

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the CEM Wire podcast series.

3/17/08 Iraq and the Presidential election

Yes, it has been quiet in here over the past week but that’s only because we’ve been so hard at work!  We’ve got lots of new content that will be coming your way this week, so make sure to check back everyday for something new.


Can you believe that on Thursday, March 20th, it will have been five years since the United States led the invasion into Iraq?  Sometimes it seems like the conflict has been dragging on so much longer.  Other times it seems like just yesterday that we were watching American troops help Iraqis pull down that statue of Saddam.

Does it seem that we are talking about Iraq a lot less than we used to? Has the mainstream media totally abdicated responsibility for covering this story, choosing instead to talk about super-delegates and shocking caucus results?  Have the candidates refused to discuss it?  Are we just so relieved that the violence is below pre-surge levels that we feel we can ignore it ?  Are we just bored with it-and misinformed about it?  Why is there not major mainstream media coverage of the winter soldier hearings?

Whatever it is, we know our audience still cares about Iraq and what is happening there, so over this week and next we are bringing you a series of podcasts talking about Iraq.  We’re going to hear from scholars, journalists, Iraqis and Iraqi Americans, veterans, peace activists and more.  If you have any ideas for points of view you want us to investigate, let us know!

First up, we wanted to take a look at the intersection of the presidential election and Iraq.  Where do  Senators McCain, Clinton, and Obama stand on the war (click on their names to read their campaign platforms on Iraq)?   What is their history in terms of the Iraq war (Go here for Clinton, here for McCain, and here for Obama)?  What can the beliefs of their advisers tell us about their agenda?  McCain has a reputation for being a maverick-does he have a maverick agenda for Iraq?  Does the fact that he is a veteran give his agenda more credibility? Some people say Hillary and Obama agree on most major policies–is that true for their Iraq plans?  To get to the bottom of these questions, we talked with UMBC history professor Brad Simpson.  He is an astute observer and analyst of U.S. foreign policy. Sure, he’s got a point of view and he isn’t afraid to voice it, but he’s got criticism for both sides of the aisle and he dishes it out with a real knowledge of the issues.

Click here to stream Marc’s interview with Brad Simpson.  Right-click here and select “Save Target As” to save the mp3 onto your desktop.  Transcript coming soon. Running time is 27 minutes.

Check back everyday this week for more interviews.  We’ve got more podcasts about The Wire, and we’ll be talking with other folks about Iraq.

Let us know what you think…


3/7/08 The Wire podcasts: Clarke Peters


We stopped by Clarke’s Charles Village rowhome one recent morning to tape this interview.  By interview, I mean a laid back conversation around the dining room table, talking about all sorts of things: Baltimore, theater, race, politics, culture, Europe, America, and of course, The Wire and his character, Detective Lester Freamon.  Oh, have you heard there are discussions of a Wire movie?  Clarke brings it up near the end of the interview.  So, sit back, relax, click here, and listen.  Running time is 43:41.

To read the transcript of the interview, click here.

Check this out – yesterday Time magazine published an article written by The Wire’s five writers: Ed Burns, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Richard Price, and David Simon.  It’s called “The Wire’s War on the Drug War” and they argue for jury nullification on all non-violent drug cases.  Here’s a quote:

“If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented. Save for a prosecution in which acts of violence or intended violence are alleged, we will — to borrow Justice Harry Blackmun’s manifesto against the death penalty — no longer tinker with the machinery of the drug war. No longer can we collaborate with a government that uses nonviolent drug offenses to fill prisons with its poorest, most damaged and most desperate citizens.”

Read the whole article.  In light of the recent news that 1 in 100 U.S. adults are in prison, giving us the highest rate of incarceration in the world, what do you think?

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the CEM Wire podcast series!

And come back tomorrow, the last day before the series finale airs, for a new interview with Andre Royo aka Bubbles aka Bubs!!

3/8/08 The Wire podcasts: Andre Royo

Bubbles is my favorite character on The Wire. I remember hearing an interview with David Simon before the fifth season premiered in which he promised that at least one character would experience a happy ending and total redemption by the end of the series. I immediately forget all about how much I cared about Dukie, Randy, and all the other kids on the show and found myself hopin’ and prayin’ for Bubbles to be the one with the happy ending.

Seems like he is doing pretty good so far this season…we’ll find out for sure tomorrow night whether or not Bubbles ends the season clean and sober. Before that, take a listen to Marc’s interview with Andre Royo, the actor who has so deftly portrayed Bubbles during the last few years. He’ll speak about how intense it was so carry this character over an extended period of time, and why he thinks the character of Bubbles moved so many people. You’ll hear Andre’s plans for the future and what he hopes The Wire has taught people.

Click here to stream the interview. Right click here and select “Save Target As” in order to download the interview as an mp3. Running time is 25 minutes. You can read the transcript here.

Links below, after you click “Read More”

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3/6/08 The Wire podcasts: Viva House


I have a lot of friends from out of town who love The Wire.  I always kind of feel sorry for them because I feel like they aren’t getting the whole picture.  Only someone really familiar with Baltimore can get all the inside jokes, references, and cameos that pepper the series.  But sometimes the reference is arcane enough that not even Baltimoreans quite get what they are looking at.  For example, how many people know that the soup kitchen Bubbles worked at in season five is a real place?

My co-producer Justin brought that up, and we decided that it would make a great podcast to go down and talk to the people who run that soup kitchen and learn about their experience being featured on The Wire.  Their names are Brendan Walsh and Willa Bickham.  They play themselves on television (well, sort of…listen to the podcast to find out more!) They are wonderful people and they have a lot of great things to say about Baltimore, social justice issues, and of course, The Wire.

Click here to stream the interview.  Right click here and select “Save Target As” to download the entire feature as an MP3. The running time is 17:29.  Read the transcript here.

Click “Read More” for a slideshow of pictures from Viva House as well as other resources.

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