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February 29, 2008

Web Exclusive: Rick Karr on Government Secrecy

Are whistleblowers and muckrakers facing insurmountable odds? Correspondent Rick Karr takes stock of the cases of THE NEW YORK TIMES' James Risen and former FBI agent Sibel Edmonds.

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Producer: Betsy Rate
Editor: Paul Desjarlais
AP: Gloria Teal

Update: CUFI

On Wednesday, February 27th, presumptive GOP Presidential nominee John McCain received the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee, a Texas televangelist who leads Cornerstone Church and founded Christians United for Israel (CUFI). In October, BILL MOYERS JOURNAL interviewed Pastor Hagee and profiled CUFI. Click below to watch our report.
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Election Ads, Narratives, and Political Discourse

In her conversation with Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL this week, media expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson suggested that politicians' campaign ads and other media appearances are akin to puzzle pieces that together form a larger, albeit ambiguous, narrative of the candidates' lives, characters, and campaigns:

"We elect a person, not a set of issues... The strength of an underlying biographical narrative is extraordinarily important. You can't underestimate its importance when you're attacked, as every candidate will be, with a counter story... One of the things that advertising is able to do is to make some things more important in your decision about who should be president. And so ads are always a contest about what is important as an issue and what is important as an attribute about the candidate... There's an element of emotion in all of this... And we shouldn't lose track of the fact that advertising doesn't exist in isolation. People are drawing material from news, from what they are talking with their friends about, from the front pages into advertising to create a composite message"

What do you think?

  • Do you agree that Americans vote for candidates as people rather than for their "set of issues?"
  • Can sound bites and 30-second ads sufficiently inform citizens about the issues, the candidates, and/or the policy differences between them? If so, has this happened so far in the race to November?
  • How would you like to see candidates and issue groups use the media to elevate political discourse?


  • Are you a populist?

    In her conversation with Bill Moyers, Nell Painter talks about populism then and now — and how the image it suggests is more often than not, off the mark:


    It sounds as if people who are throwing "populism" around are throwing it around as a dirty word. And if it is a dirty word, they don't know what they're talking about. I think they think it's a dirty word, because it pits Americans against each other, as if we would all be hand in hand if it weren't for populist agitators....They're probably talking in very veiled terms about class issues. Class is the dirty little secret in the United States.

    WEBSTER'S DICTIONARY defines "populism" as "a member of a political party claiming to represent the common people."

    The COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW lambastes the term's use in campaign 2008 for its implied negative associations: "anti-capitalist and backward-looking," and vague positive attributes: "reformist, anti-elitist, and yes, anti-big business."


    Tell what you think about 21st century populism — and whether your consider yourself a populist.


    A little humor from THE ONION


    Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early


    February 25, 2008

    Bill Moyers Rewind: Seyyed Hossein Nasr on Finding Peace in the Middle East (1990)

    In a conversation with Bill Moyers on WORLD OF IDEAS in 1990, three years before the first attack on the World Trade Center, Mideast scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr discussed the prospects of achieving regional peace given increasing unrest in parts of the Islamic world, rising anti-western sentiment, and the first Gulf War.

    "[The symbolism of American and other western troops being stationed near Mecca and Medina] in many Muslims' eyes is kind of a final desecration of things Islam, the final humiliation that Muslims can't defend even the center of their world."

    Click below to watch the interview:


    We invite you to respond by commenting below.


    February 22, 2008

    Policies for the "Forgotten War"

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    Conversing with Bill Moyers on this week’s JOURNAL, former NPR journalist Sarah Chayes discussed many of the complex challenges on the ground in Afghanistan, including what she suggests is a fundamental contradiction in American strategy:

    “We’re paying a billion dollars a year to Pakistan, which is orchestrating the Taliban insurgency. So it’s actually U.S. taxpayer money that is paying for the insurgents, who are then killing – at the moment – Canadian troops... It’s been very clear to me, watching since 2002, that Pakistan has been buying us off by a well-timed delivery of an al-Qaeda operative, which has then caused us to look the other way about the Taliban... so this is why 99 % of the people in Kandahar believe that we are allied with the Taliban. Everybody thinks that America is allied with the Taliban.”

    What do you think?

  • Should the United States remain in Afghanistan? Why or why not?

  • If the U.S. should remain, what should our mission be? Counter-terrorism? Democratization? Nation-building?

  • How do you suggest reformulating U.S. policy and strategy to realistically pursue that mission?

    Note: We’d like to thank Sarah Chayes for adding to the discussion on the blog. Her responses are in bold below.


  • February 20, 2008

    Ask the Reporter and Producer: Exposé on Bill Moyers Journal

    This week BILL MOYERS JOURNAL and the PBS series EXPOSÉ: AMERICA'S INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS offer a hard and fresh look at how earmarks really work. The broadcast profiles SEATTLE TIMES reporters on the trail of how members of Congress have awarded federal dollars for questionable purposes to companies in local Congressional districts—often to companies whose executives, employees or PACs have made campaign contributions to the legislators. The segment also focuses on how earmarks for some products were added to the defense appropriations bill even in cases in which the military didn’t want them in the first place. Example: a $4.65 million patrol boat the Coast Guard hadn’t even asked for and decided it couldn’t use was eventually given away by the Coast Guard to a California Sheriff’s office. David Heath of the SEATTLE TIMES says: “They're selling a product to the military that they're not even using.”

    Watch the show, find out more from EXPOSÉ online and also check out THE SEATTLE TIMES online database of earmarks, The Favor Factory. Watch Video

    There are 13 members of Congress (8 house, 5 Senate) who served the full 1st session of the 110th Congress and did not earmark. Boehner (R-OH), Cantor (R-VA), Flake (R-AZ), Fossella (R-NY), Hensarling (R-TX), Kline (R-MN), Shadegg (R-AZ), Terry (R-NE), Coburn (R-OK), DeMint (R-SC), Feingold (D-WI), McCain (R-AZ), McCaskill (D-MO). Find out more about the candidates and earmarks.


    Then it's your chance to ask the reporter and producer about earmarks and the state of investigative journalism.

    Submit your questions by commenting below. We will post the responses to select questions early next week.


    DAVID HEATH is an investigative reporter at THE SEATTLE TIMES. He has written investigative pieces on corporate deception, terrorism, medical research and Congressional earmarking. Heath has won numerous national awards, including the Goldsmith Prize from Harvard, the George Polk award and the Gerald Loeb Award. He has been a finalist for the Pulitzer three times for work he did with others. He was a Nieman fellow in 2006 and taught a journalism class at Harvard University.

    MARC SHAFFER is an award-winning filmmaker whose documentary credits include numerous specials and series for PBS such as FRONTLINE, NEWSHOUR WITH JIM LEHRER, and CALIFORNIA CONNECTED. He began his career at CBS News, where he produced NIGHTWATCH and 48 HOURS. Shaffer's work has received many honors, including the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Community Service from the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Mental Health Association Media Award, the Cine Golden Eagle, a national Emmy nomination, and many others.


    February 15, 2008

    An Age of American Unreason?

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    Conversing with Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL this week, THE AGE OF AMERICAN UNREASON author Susan Jacoby offered various reasons for what she calls “an overarching crisis of memory and knowledge” in America, including our educational system:

    “You shouldn't have to be an intellectual or a college graduate to know that the sun doesn't revolve around the earth. There's been a huge failure of education. I do agree with many cultural conservatives about this: I think schools over the last 40 years [have been] just adding things, for example African-American history [and] women's history. These are all great additions, and necessary, but what they've done in addition to adding things is they really have placed less emphasis on the overall culture, cultural things that everybody should know. People getting out of high school should know how many Supreme Court justices there are. Most Americans don't.”

    What do you think?

  • Do you agree with Jacoby that America faces “an overarching crisis” of civic irrationality and ignorance?
  • If so, to what extent does the problem lie with America’s educational system? Politicians? The media?
  • Do these outlets reflect the priorities of interest groups more than essential knowledge for the public good? What reforms would you recommend to promote civic intelligence?

    (NOTE: Another interview with Susan Jacoby from the Moyers archives is available here.
    Several viewers have written in stating that the Constitution does not specifically state that the Supreme Court is the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution or all judicial review. Some legal scholars maintain that Article III does imply it and many argue that Marbury V. Madison only formalized that authority. )


  • Where Does (And Should) The Money Go?

    In the JOURNAL this week, WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO? authors and budget scrutinizers Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson contend that Washington’s fiscal irresponsibility is propelling America toward troubled times.

    Scott Bittle said:

    “Eventually, if nothing is done, by 2040 every dollar the federal government has will be taken in by Social Security, Medicare, and interest on the money we’ve already borrowed... Right now, one of the few areas of bipartisanship in Washington is the willingness not to deal with the problem... The war is certainly making our financial problems worse. But it’s not the sole cause and it’s not the sole answer."

    Jean Johnson said:

    “People don’t realize that the country has been in the red 31 out of the last 35 years, in good times and bad... There is no way to solve this problem without either raising taxes or cutting programs, or doing some of both. Right now that is a political death sentence, and we have to change that... We’re all gonna have to give a little and we’re all gonna have to live with some things that are not our first choice, but not doing anything is so much worse.”

    What do you think?

  • How, if at all, do you suggest the tax code be altered to ease the government’s fiscal crunch?
  • What, if any, programs should be reduced or cut to balance the budget?
  • What other suggestions do you have to bring the federal budget into the black?


  • Power Reading: A Final Note

    Watch Video

    We invite you to respond by commenting below.


    Bill Moyers Rewind: Lori Grinker Photo Essay

    This week, Bill Moyers interviews Lori Grinker about her most recent photo show, Iraq: Scars and Exile, which is closing this week at the Naiyla Alexander Gallery. Her exhibition documents the physical and emotional wounds inflicted on Iraqis from the ongoing war in Iraq.


    Lori Grinker's photo series AFTER WAR, which explored the brutal effects of war, was featured on NOW WITH BILL MOYERS in 2002.

    Otis, photo by Lori Grinker


    Watch Video

    We invite you to respond in the space below.


    Bill Moyers Rewind: Susan Jacoby

    This week, Bill Moyers speaks with Susan Jacoby, author of THE AGE OF AMERICAN UNREASON. In the clip below of a 2004 interview from NOW WITH BILL MOYERS, Jacoby discusses her previous book, FREETHINKERS: A HISTORY OF AMERICAN SECULARISM.

    Watch Video

    We invite you to respond in the space below.


    February 8, 2008

    Bill Moyers' Reading Recommendation

    Last week, Bill Moyers asked viewers what book, other than the Bible, they recommend the next President bring to the White House. In the clip below, he reviews many of your submissions and reveals his own pick for the future President-elect.

    Watch Video

    We invite you to continue sharing your thoughts on Moyers' and others' recommendations and submitting your own suggestions for Presidential reading.

    (Please note that due to your overwhelming response our "complete list" keeps growing and growing. We invite you to view our books feature, complete with slideshow of popular suggestions and video of authors, as well as, peruse all the suggestions on the blog.)

    Here are the current top titles.

    • Naomi Klein, THE SHOCK DOCTRINE

    • Howard Zinn, A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

    • Kim Michaels, THE ART OF NON-WAR

    • Jared Diamond, COLLAPSE

    • Chalmers Johnson, BLOWBACK triology

    • Tom Paine, COLLECTED WORKS/COMMON SENSE

    • Al Gore, ASSAULT ON REASON/AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH

    • David Cay Johnston, FREE LUNCH

    • George Orwell, 1984/ANIMAL FARM

    • Naomi Wolff, THE END OF AMERICA: LETTERS TO A YOUNG PATRIOT

    • Greg Mortenson, THREE CUPS OF TEA

    • Barbara Ehrenreich, NICKLE AND DIMED

    • Barbara Tuchman, MARCH OF FOLLY

    • Doris Kearns Goodwin, TEAM OF RIVALS

    • David Korten, THE GREAT TURNING

    • John Steinbeck, THE GRAPES OF WRATH

    • Ayn Rand, ATLAS SHRUGGED

    • John Dean, BROKEN GOVERNMENT

    • John Perkins, CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HITMAN

    • James Carroll, HOUSE OF WAR

    • Thomas Friedman, THE WORLD IS FLAT

    • Lao Tzu, TE TAO CHING

    • Tim Weiner, LEGACY OF ASHES

    • Dr. Seuss (THE LORAX, HORTON HEARS A WHO, THE PLACES YOU'LL GO, IF I RAN THE ZOO)


    Is Amnesty a Winning Strategy?

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    In his conversation with Bill Moyers on this week’s JOURNAL, Hispanic evangelical Samuel Rodriguez argues that Republicans’ opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants could undermine the GOP’s prospects for attracting Hispanic voters:

    “The Republican Party really had it going on. I mean, they really made significant inroads. 44 percent of Latinos voted for George W. Bush in the 2004 elections... All of a sudden, the Republican Party is hijacked de facto by the Sensenbrenners and Tancredos... There's an anti-Latino, a nativism, xenophobic spirit emerging out of the Republican Party. As a result of that, the Republican party will be hard pressed to engage anything close to 25 percent in the 2008 elections. And they may lose the Latino vote for two or three generations...

    [The Latino evangelical vote can be decisive] if the Republican Party nominates a candidate that addresses the issue of immigration reform, that really repudiates the xenophobic and nativist threat, and that apologizes... The question is whether or not McCain will continue to be committed to an immigration reform platform. I mean, there's an incredible amount of push back from the conservative voters in the Republican Party.”

    Polling from Rasmussen confirms Rodriguez’ assessment that many Americans oppose amnesty, but suggests that the “incredible amount of push back” might come from more than just conservative voters:

    “Fifty-six percent (56%) of American adults favor an enforcement-only approach to immigration reform. Only 29% are opposed. However, support falls sharply when 'a path to citizenship' for illegal aliens already in the United States is added to the mix. Just 42% support the more 'comprehensive' approach while 44% are opposed.”

    What do you think?

  • From where do you think opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants is coming?
  • Should either or both parties campaign on an amnesty platform? Why or why not?
  • What are your thoughts on extending amnesty to illegal immigrants?


  • February 7, 2008

    Kathleen Hall Jamieson Answers Your Questions

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    Last week, media expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson, accepted viewer questions regarding the road to November.

    Her response is as follows, and we invite you comment below:

    Should we be talking about McCain's age...we have done gender and race with the Dems?

    The article by Anna Quindlen in NEWSWEEK has explicitly raised the so-called age issue. Now that Senator McCain is the presumptive Republican Party nominee I suspect we will hear more discussion. Discussion of age is most likely a proxy for a very important discussion we should be having -- the concern raised by age is mental and physical health. The candidates should disclose their health records and the press should examine them closely.


    What would have to be done to prevent a President being able to use "signing statements" that end up subverting the intentions of whatever bill is being signed? It seems to me that this must somehow be unconstitutional, or at the very least, "approved lying."

    Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) is supporting legislation that would give standing to Congress to go to court and challenge a President's exception taking to signed legislation. Justice Talking (an Annenberg Public Policy Center NPR program) did a fine program on signing statements. You can hear it by going to the Justice Talking Web site.


    I'm interested in the issue of executive letters - I believe that's the instrument that Bush used several times to extend Presidential powers; but I don't think that the candidates are saying how they will rescind/correct them?

    I agree that the candidates on both sides should be asked which if any of the specific powers President Bush has asserted they would also claim and which if any they would renounce.


    Do you think more journalists should be talking about the Constitutional implications of bringing the Clintons back in the White House - not necessarily against the law, but perhaps against the spirit of the law?

    On Constitutional implications. As you know, there is no Constitutional ban on people from the same family serving as President. As a campaign issue it is expressed in Senator Obama's call to "turn the page" and in Senator Clinton's statement that it took a Clinton to clean up the mess made by the first President Bush.


    Great show! Ms. Jamieson was wonderful. It was such a relief to watch political conversation without all the bias. Our media has taken such a partisan and biased role in reporting about the election that our leaders are no longer selected by the people but through the media. Why can't the American public see through this? What is wrong with us? Are we that easily persuaded? How do we get people to see through the fog that is being created?

    We all have a tendency to seek out information compatible with our own views. We apply stricter tests of evidence to information inconsistent with those views. And we are very good at detecting biases that run against our views but consider biases that favor them an objective accurate reflection of reality. So it is unsurprising that people are more likely to read watch and listen to media that reinforce their own ideology.


    February 1, 2008

    Power Reading

    On the CBS EVENING NEWS, Katie Couric asks candidates from both parties which book, other than the Bible, they would bring with them to the White House and posits:

    "It's true you can't judge a book by its cover, but you can tell a lot about a person by what he or she reads."

    Find out what the candidates said on the CBS NEWS Web site.

    What do you think?

  • Do you agree that you can tell a lot about a person from what he or she reads?
  • Were you surprised by what the candidates picked?
  • What one book do you want your next president to read?

    Greetings to all. This is Bill Moyers, and I want you to know I read every offering this evening. I wish that I could answer all of them because each one of you has made an interesting suggestion for a book. We'll give air time to a few next Friday night and put out a press release with a list of all the books recommended. I appreciate very much your taking the invitation seriously.

    Bill Moyers

    (Please note that due to your overwhelming response our "complete list" keeps growing and growing. We invite you to view our books feature, complete with slideshow of popular suggestions and video of authors, as well as, peruse all the suggestions on the blog.)

    View Bill Moyers' suggestion. Watch Video

    (Please note that due to your overwhelming response our "complete list" keeps growing and growing. We invite you to view our books feature, complete with slideshow of popular suggestions and video of authors, as well as, peruse all the suggestions on the blog.)

    Here are the current top titles.

    • Naomi Klein, THE SHOCK DOCTRINE

    • Howard Zinn, A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

    • Kim Michaels, THE ART OF NON-WAR

    • Jared Diamond, COLLAPSE

    • Chalmers Johnson, BLOWBACK triology

    • Tom Paine, COLLECTED WORKS/COMMON SENSE

    • Al Gore, ASSAULT ON REASON/AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH

    • David Cay Johnston, FREE LUNCH

    • George Orwell, 1984/ANIMAL FARM

    • Naomi Wolff, THE END OF AMERICA: LETTERS TO A YOUNG PATRIOT

    • Greg Mortenson, THREE CUPS OF TEA

    • Barbara Ehrenreich, NICKLE AND DIMED

    • Barbara Tuchman, MARCH OF FOLLY

    • Doris Kearns Goodwin, TEAM OF RIVALS

    • David Korten, THE GREAT TURNING

    • John Steinbeck, THE GRAPES OF WRATH

    • Ayn Rand, ATLAS SHRUGGED

    • John Dean, BROKEN GOVERNMENT

    • John Perkins, CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HITMAN

    • James Carroll, HOUSE OF WAR

    • Thomas Friedman, THE WORLD IS FLAT

    • Lao Tzu, TE TAO CHING

    • Tim Weiner, LEGACY OF ASHES

    • Dr. Seuss (THE LORAX, HORTON HEARS A WHO, THE PLACES YOU'LL GO, IF I RAN THE ZOO)


  • The Case of Lurita Doan and the GSA

    You may have been familiar with the scrutiny of Blackwater¹s mercenary army, or followed the troubles with oversight at the State Department, but chances are you hadn¹t heard of Lurita Doan. She isn¹t exactly a household name. So it might be surprising that, as head of the General Services Administration, Doan oversees $500 billion dollars worth of federal assets.
    capitol


    On the JOURNAL, Rep.Henry Waxman explains how an investigation that started with leaks about possible favoritism in awarding government contracts eventually uncovered documents and testimony that convinced Waxman that Doan had violated the Hatch Act, a law prohibiting federal employees from using government resources for partisan purposes. Waxman was so shocked by what the Committee found that he took the unusual step of asking Doan to resign at the end of the hearings. The Office of Special Counsel, which conducted a separate investigation of Doan, concluded that Doan should be "disciplined to the fullest extent for her serious violation of the Hatch Act and insensitivity to cooperating fully and honestly in the course of our investigation." Yet today Doan still heads the GSA.
    Watch Video

    Be sure to check out Exposé's coverage of the scandal.

    What do you think about the Doan case? Do you think there should be another avenue of recourse for the American people to hold political appointees accountable for their behavior?


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