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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.


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В каком-то блоге я уже встречал такую тематику да ладно

What I really like about Bill Moyers' program in general and the Jacoby piece in particular, is that ignorance is tackled from many different angles. You can't blame people's ignorance and lack of curiosity ALL on the media, or ALL on public education, or ALL on parenting, or ALL on the culture. The media has been scrutinized, as has education, and family involvement. With the Susan Jacoby piece, she puts it on us: have WE read any books lately? Have WE bothered to clarify some things ourselves? Have WE challenged ourselves? What are we doing to enlighten ourselves about our country and system of government? I just love this stuff.

Why is the book "Hell To Pay" not discussed by the news media???? See sample below.

Taken from the book “Hell To Pay” by Barbara Olson.

Chapter One - Hillary’s Baby

"Life is a corrupting process from the time a child learns to play his mother off against his father in the politics of when to go to bed; he who fears corruption fears life."
— Saul Alinksy, Rules for Radicals

Do you remember Hillary’s pre-election baby? In the summer before the 1996 election, when the Clintons’ popularity had waned and it seemed as if the struggle for re-election might not succeed, Hillary Rodham Clinton let journalist Walter Isaacson know that she and the president had "talked about" adopting a baby. She let it slip that they were "talking about it more now." She added, "I must say we’re hoping to have another child."

That baby was never adopted, and the story dropped from sight. It seems the polling numbers weren’t so bad after all, and the Clintons’ Republican opponent, Bob Dole, was having trouble simply walking and talking at the same time.

But the baby story had its intended effect. It softened Hillary’s image as a cold, steely ideologue in the aftermath of the health care debacle. Along with her book, It Takes a Village, the baby story allowed the American people to picture Hillary as a warm and caring person, a potential new mother, a caregiver.

Above all, it transformed her from a liability to an asset in Bill Clinton’s bid for re-election to the presidency. To some, she is Saint Hillary. To others, a high priestess of feminism and a manipulator. Of course, Hillary is no Joan, Antigone, or Lady Macbeth, but she has played each role to the hilt.

I have come to know Hillary as she is—a woman who can sway millions, yet deceive herself; a woman who has persuaded herself and many others that she is "spiritual," but who has gone to the brink of criminality to amass wealth and power.

I came to know Hillary Rodham Clinton when I served as the chief investigative counsel for the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, then chaired by the distinguished and gentlemanly William F. Clinger.

For months, five of us investigated the FBI and Travel Office scandals in a tiny windowless secure committee room on the first floor of the Rayburn House Office Building. This room was chosen after early drafts of our documents were mysteriously spirited from our garbage can to the press.

We changed our locks; not even the cleaning crews had access to our tiny room. I generally arrived at 6:30 am and tried to leave for home before 8:00 pm. My colleague Barbara Comstock continued the vigil and wouldn’t leave until around 4:00 am. It was here that I pored over details of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s role in several of the Clinton Administration’s unseemly political maneuvers. It was here that we wrote and rewrote the interrogatories for her to answer under oath and deposed her friends and loyal soldiers—from Harry Thomason, to Abner Mikva, to Bernie Nussbaum to Bruce Lindsey.

The members of my seasoned investigative staff would each tell you they have never seen anyone better able to keep her stories, however improbable, straight. She was unflappable when presented with damning evidence and was adept at darting nimbly to a new interpretation that put that damning evidence in the best light.

I have never experienced a cooler or more hardened operator than Hillary Rodham Clinton. The investigators working for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr found, as we did, that in one White House scandal after another, all roads led to Hillary. To investigate White House improprieties and scandals, we necessarily investigated her, her life, her beliefs, her friends, her hidden hands guiding the Clinton operation.

We came to see that, essentially, Hillary is a woman animated by a lifelong ambition. That ambition is to make the world accept the ideas she embraced in the sanctuaries of liberation theology, radical feminism, and the hard left. We came to see her as a politician who invented her own strategies of protective coloration, who learned to mask her true feelings and intentions. She has become a master manipulator of the press, the public, her staff, and—likely—even the president.

Only in retrospect have we ever seen the mask slip. Only when we look back and remember the story line of last week, or last year, does the coyness of her soft words seem to be belied by the hardness of her deeds. The real Hillary is visible only when we wonder: What happened to the notion of that baby? Or when we ask ourselves what Hillary knew and when did she know it about Monica Lewinsky—was it before or after she accused The Washington Post and every major news outlet of serving a "vast, right-wing conspiracy?"

More than twenty years before my investigation of her, Hillary Rodham sat in a similar room, perhaps with the same safes and creaky dials, to perform a similar investigation: Watergate. Few Americans realize the extent of the role that Hillary, as a Watergate investigator, played in destroying Richard Nixon. Few Americans realize the extent to which she burnished her political skills in the Watergate cauldron, practicing the bare-knuckle tactics of the highly politicized House Judiciary Committee on the Watergate impeachment committee.

Nor are many Americans fully aware of the extremes to which she has gone in order to protect and abet Bill Clinton’s secret life. The supreme irony is that this 1960s liberal, as a partner to Bill Clinton, has become ever more darkly Nixonian in her outlook and methods—though without Nixon’s self-knowledge, statesmanlike substance, and redemptive Quaker conscience.

Still, the "vast, right-wing conspiracy" was a touch of Nixonian rhetoric — albeit, from the left— for a woman with a Nixonian frame of mind. She has learned the skills of attack and counterattack from the best. White House Director of Administration David Watkins wrote that there would be "hell to pay" if the first lady’s orders were not followed in dispensing of the career White House Travel Office employees. And he understated his case.

Over the years Hillary Clinton has assembled and skillfully used an arsenal of opposition researchers and private detectives her one-time mentor, Dick Morris, now identifies as a "secret police" that have been used in "a systematic campaign to intimidate, frighten, threaten, discredit, and punish innocent Americans whose only misdeed is their desire to tell the truth."

Hillary is not merely an aide and abettor to this secret police operation. She has been its prime instigator and organizer. In the political life of the Clintons, it was she who pioneered the use of private detectives. It was she who brought in and cultivated the professional dirt diggers and smear artists. It was she whose obsession with secrecy was so intense that when White House Counsel and former judge, Abner Mikva finally bowed to the law and delivered subpoenaed documents, she and her White House scandal team lashed at him with such a vicious streak of humiliating profanity that he resigned. And then there is the public Hillary of It Takes a Village—gentle, mother-earth, and caring—sweet-talking the American people into socialism for their children.

Hillary Clinton is a determined, focused leader who rapidly rose to the top ranks of the radical left, and who now seeks to foment revolutionary changes from the uniform of a pink suit. She used Arkansas as a laboratory for her ideas. As first lady, she tried to wield direct power on the national level and failed. Now she is inventing a career beyond her husband’s, to make her own place in history—to find a path to ultimate power. But serving as the junior senator from New York will not provide a stage big enough for such ambitions. Like Eleanor Roosevelt before her, Hillary Clinton seeks nothing less than an office that will give a her platform from which to exercise real power and real world leadership

My name is nicci and I am a 3rd year journalist student from New Zealand. I am doing a research report on investigative journalism and I find Mr David Heath very interesting. I would love to be able to get in contact with him via email. Would I be able to recieve an address? Thank You very much, Nicci.

With Mr. Bushes current ranting and raving to eavesdrop...
Isn't it odd that Mr. Bush is fighting so hard for the eavesdropping on Americans, yet when one turns the tables and ask him and his administration for basic information, or emails from his administration, it is all together a whole different story.
Which brings me to my question. Why is there debate as to whether the Bush administration has authority to secretly spy on you and me, with little oversight, and in a way that was previously illegal? Shouldn't the answer be obvious and beyond discussion?
And, why when asked for basic information, documents, emails, etc., even with a subpoena, does the Bush administration become obstinate, play games, drag on and on, adamantly refusing to give up any information?
While I am aware that water boarding and/or other forms of torture are not an option to use on the President and staff; besides it wouldn’t produce creditable information anyways; but couldn’t the Congress sneak into to the surveillance law a loophole to allow the secret surveillance of Whitehouse emails, phone calls and document? Maybe break into the administration’s offices without a warrant, and download databases and remove documents, all in the name of national security. Our Nation’s security, which is seemingly under attack by this determined administration’s unbridled, stealth surveillance program of we the People. Maybe God spoke to Mr. Bush again, telling him, “Do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.”
Well Mr. President, I'll give up my privacy as soon as you and your administration give up yours.

Why are the candidates never asked to explain their view of the Exec Branch and Signing Statements, or about that highly paid mercenary army in our employ, Blackwater? Why do we need a mercenary army? Why does Obama never answer questions from the audienced, townhall style questions? If both candidates are pretty equal in their positions, shouldn't the female preceed the Afro-American? After all, about 50% of the population is female, and about 12% is AfroAmerican. Seems to me like the woman at the office with 35 years of service is about to be promoted to an opening slot for manager... but here comes another young male in a suit with a fancy degree, and she will be squashed again.

Why were earmarks created to begin with? Were they ever intended to benefit the public (other than the immediate recipients) or were they expressly created to divert funds?

Why were earmarks created to begin with? Was there ever an intent that would benenfit the public at large or are they 100% pork and pork by products?

I am so inspired by your work! I will look more deeply into what you both do and how you do it. One way to approach this problem might be for there to be citizen activist groups in each congressional district, watching and following the trails of the earmarks by their representatives. One possible way to go is for one of us citizen activists to set up a prototype website/webblog to track these earmarks and inform other citizens within the district of them. Then the prototype could be replicated in other districts as well.

I see the larger issue of campaign finance reform as being absolutely essential to our democracy's ability to continue. I think that in the end, our elected officials would be freed from having to rely on this method of financing successful campaigns, and could instead shift back to just doing for constituents what they want to be done, sans earmarks, which are really for business, not for people.

Thanks so much for your efforts and your successes. I truly admire you both.

This is like the elephant in the living room that is being studiously ignored by the media, the press and certainly the folks in D.C. Senator Cantwell's aide told me, when I called, that a "she is working on a response to this news." Shocking, shocking, shocking. Can't we vote Ms. Murray out on grounds on gross incompetence and greed?

I appreciate the database efforts, but the Expose show itself was a little too Dateline-ish and not up to PBS standards. A few too many theatrical pregnant pauses when a reporter finds out that the government wastes money... Bill Moyers you have done and can do better.

One thing I have noticed in watching limitless amounts of cable and network news programs is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to gauge and understand what is at the heart of many of these discussions, whether they be about Iraq, any amount of election coverage, or just about anything that gets air time these days. My question is in an American media world where these news personalities are liable to blurt out the first thing that pops into their heads and every single opinion can be allegedly backed up with studies and statistics of various kinds, how can one judge which "facts" to believe when it seems that facts have all become relative to one's political opinion?

Agreed. We need to wake up and see what current and potential abuses
to the public trust, the government can gravitate to when it comes to
our money and our freedoms, especially under the excuse/ruse that it is
for our own good or for our protection. We need to also resist giving away
hard earned freedoms in snap decisions, esp. responding to emotional
rhetoric designed to take logical rational thought out of the equation.
A tiny bit of governmental paranoia is not necessarily a bad thing,
if it keeps our eyes open to possible threats to our current and future
well being. Human history and human nature tends to repeat itself,
and if we're not aware of history and governments' tendency for abuse of power,
as the saying goes: if we don't learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.
Awareness and early action can help us prevent or at least slow this
governmental proclivity for abuse of power.

Dear David Heath,
You have done a huge service to benefit the educated public here in the USA. Of course, your work has only started as there are all those other earmarks for agriculture, energy, et cetera, to trace similarly (only kidding or maybe not)!
I gave a copy of Eisenhower's Farewell Address to the new (in 2007) Congresswoman here in Tucson, Gabrielle Giffords, and continue to mention the fact that it does not exclusively warn about the military-industrial complex, but goes beyond that point too. In three pages or so, Dwight Eisenhower did the nation a great service. Now we citizens have to keep awake up and do something about it. Thanks again. R. Parson

I recently received an email with an op ed article from the San Francisco Chronicle:
"Rule by fear or rule by law?"
Lewis Seiler,Dan Hamburg
It can be found on their website:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2008/02/04/ED5OUPQJ7.DTL
The article states, for example, that "the government has has entered into a series of single-bid
contracts with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) to
build detention camps at undisclosed locations within the United States.
The government has also contracted " It goes on from there.
How much of this is true?
Can Bill Moyers do a show on this?

Put $20k in and get $20m back?! As a struggling small businessman I want in on the game. Is there a manual somewhere? I've been so naive about earning my keep the old fashion way- with honest work and contributing to society. I see that our elected leaders have taken me for a fool. But no more, I want to be on the game too. Show me your purse.

This expose points out why the only way to have a democracy in the day of media ads determining who can run, is to have total federal funding of elections, like Just$6.org is promoting. Expensive ad campaigns for election and mass media editorial control have made "our" elected officials campaign donation whores instead of legislators.

Michael Couch
910 DeKalb Ave. 4B
Brooklyn, NY 11221

This expose points out why the only way to have a democracy in the day of media ads determining who can run, is to have total federal funding of elections, like Just$6.org is promoting. Expensive ad campaigns for election and mass media editorial control have made "our" elected officials campaign donation whores instead of legislators.

Michael Couch
910 DeKalb Ave. 4B
Brooklyn, NY 11221

EMPOWER THE LEADER FOR “REAL CHANGE”!

Nader running for president
Consumer advocate announces third-party bid on ‘Meet the Press’


updated 10:33 a.m. ET, Sun., Feb. 24, 2008
WASHINGTON - Ralph Nader is launching a third-party campaign for president.
The consumer advocate made the announcement Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." He says most Americans are disenchanted with the Democratic and Republican parties, and that none of the presidential contenders are addressing ways to stem corporate crime and Pentagon waste and promote labor rights.
Last month, Nader began an exploratory presidential campaign and launched a Web site that promises to fight "corporate greed, corporate power, corporate control."

Many of the problems with congress, in my opinion, are the result of the seniority system. Legislators should have powerful positions based upon merit not seniority. We need intelligent representatives who can think and act on what is good for the country as a whole and not just good for their district or state. Stevens of Alaska and Byrd of Virginia are examples of legislators who put the interests of their consituents above those of the country.

To David Heath:

Three cheers for all your work, and for putting the database online (!!!)

Did you find anyone, in or out of Congress, who might possibly be willing to make tracking down these earmarks any easier?

Maybe a Nader-like NGO would take on a lawsuit on the grounds that all the barriers you encountered (the anti-OCR tricks, the non-posting on the web, the "you can't have any copies of this from your government because you're just a mere citizen" jazz.

And how do you find the conference/mark-up committee reports? I remember from "Perfectly Legal," David Cay Johnston's prior book, that it was in a conference report that a tax committee set the (very low) rate at which Jack Welch and other CEOs had to declare the "fair--or maybe fare?--market value of their travel by corporate jet. It wasn't in the bill, it was in the markup committee report. But that's what the IRS treated as "law."

Next question: How long did it take you, and then you and your two interns, to input all of this database?

And do you plan to take on the budget in its entirety (or don't our solons slip earmarks into the main budget appropriation bill? I somehow can't imagine that they don't--anywhere there's money, it'd be like ants to honey, I'd assume.).

Dear Bill and David,

Thank you so much for the work you have done, and for the presentation. I am repeating what Brian wrote above when I ask you to post the database so that citizens can join you in the fight. While it's interesting to know who gives and gets, we can be part of this process if we begin to write our Senators and Congresspersons asking them about specific earmarks.

This year will mark the most open process ever, and for that we can be grateful. But there are on-going projects that will never see the light of day if we cannot be part of it.

Please help us by posting what you have gathered and if I can be of any help tracking down information, I am retired and on my computer all day. I will be happy to do some of the research. This works best when we work together and when citizens are asked to join in -- from all over the States -- to ask their representatives what they are doing and why.

This next vote in 08 is just the beginning of our responsiblity as citizens. We have a lot of work to do if we intend to clean up Washington.

I can only imagine the shape our economy would be in if it were not for these earmarks.

Sincerely,

Thanks to David Heath and the Seattle Times for their superb investigative reporting on earmarks. Your reporting underscores why the country is deparate for anyone who appear sincere and committed to changing the way Washington works.

If it is true that these earmarks are already funded from the approved budgets of the specific departments, doesn't the fact that earmarks for items not needed, not wanted, or for items that just don't work use up or lessen the funding for the initial approved request, resulting then in not enough money for what was originally intended to be purchased?
Because the Gvt. is so huge, I am sure you can argue either way here, with many stories supporting either side.
May I again suggest TERM LIMITS as the only way to really handle this long term!!
Has anyone added up the numbers of the total earmarks for the Defense Dept alone, and perhaps pointed out why there are shortages of things they really need, and were approved, but were prevented from purchasing because the funds got used up by our powerful representatives for ther own "local" earmarked projects thus benefiting their election campaign contributions?

Great reporting!
We must expose the waste and fraud in government, if we are ever to make government work and accountable.
The masses have to be educated if ever something is to be done to fix government, "America's Biggest Problem".

Great reporting!
Thanks for exposing the corruption in our government.
If we are ever to stop them from their crimes, we must educate the masses to their lawbreaking.

David,

Great investigative reporting! You have uncovered vasts amount of information which can be used...if so desired. Someone named Chris Boses hit it right on the nail with the comments of "this stuff is even all an outgrowth of Roberts Rules of Order!" - AMEN! What the public really needs to review is how decisions are made in government. Sometimes it's a combination of Roberts Rules of Order and their own dirty little internal secrets. Here in Florida we have the Sunshine Laws that make reference to meetings, minutes, notices, etc. But it is very vague, and noone in government takes no responsibility for their actions. Maybe this will changes in the future and the governement can be more accountable...unfortunately, we have the same situations here in Central Florida.

Thank you for a great report and for making available the details of earmarks.
The piece mentioned a handfule of legislators, including Jeff Flake, who are not earmarking. Could you, please, let us know who the others are? They deserve our support!

With the increase in the number of earmarks from Congress, maybe someone should evaluate “why” there has been an increase instead of just labeling them as “bad.”

First, a little perspective:

The total amount of money “earmarked” for particular uses is a very small percentage of the overall federal spending each year – one percent or less. To equate earmarking of federal dollars to out-of-control spending is not factually supported, and even if you wiped out every single earmark (begging the question of what an “earmark” really is) the financial impact upon the country would likely be unfelt. If you doubt this, take a look at the FY2007 continuing resolution, which knocked out most earmarks. Did anyone really notice?

The earmarks scrutinized by “Taxpayers For Common Sense,” the Sunshine Foundation, and others are all contained in appropriation spending bills. They do not impact the total amount of funds spent, just where and how they are spent. Think of it this way – during the budgeting process, Congress decides how big a pie to make. They decide how much of an ingredient to put in the pie (tax revenue) and when they finally pass a budget, it’s like putting it in the oven to bake. But once the pie is removed from the oven, they have to decide how to cut the pie and to whom it should be served. That’s the appropriation process. Earmarking a piece of the pie in no way impacts the size of a pie already baked.

Earmarking is part of a constitutionally directed responsibility of the Congress; it decides where money should be spent. Isn’t it ironic that no one complains about the President, Vice President, or executive agencies earmarking federal dollars? Do we really feel so much more comfortable with bureaucrats who do not stand for election, or in the case of the president and vice-president, do so a maximum of two elections in eight years, having the sole ability to decide where money should be spent? Or would we rather have 435 elected congressmen having to answer for their decisions every two years, and another 100 senators every six years?

So why do earmarks appear more popular?

The bureaucratic process of utilizing federal resources is daunting. The cost of applying for funding and the costs that are required to be incurred without any indication of the likelihood of success requires communities and other potentially worthy applicants to undertake significant financial risk. Those persons, organizations, and communities most in need and often the most worthy, are also often the least able to afford the costs and risks the system has come to mean. When that happens, who could blame a potential applicant from turning to the person or persons elected to helping them in our government?

Recipients of earmarked appropriations do not get a free pass. The applicant is still required to meet program requirements and fit the legally mandated criteria. The difference however, is that with an earmark designation in an appropriation bill, the applicant knows that its up front costs – planning, engineering, consulting, etc. – will be utilized and that the cost will not be wasted. In short, the earmark lowers the risk of wasting time and resources to obtain the requested funding. Lowering that risk gives smaller and less affluent communities and non-profit organizations the ability to invest their limited resources more intelligently.

Congressional representatives can serve as a single point of contact for a constituent’s needs. The federal government – rightly or wrongly – is huge, complex, and complicated. There are many agencies and programs, often with overlapping jurisdictions and authority. Unless one is knowledgeable about a particular program or resource, it is often difficult to know where to start. Congressional staffs help serve as a clearing house of resources for communities seeking help. For example, the community seeking help to revitalize its town, develop small business, and create new jobs, might find it interesting that the Department of Transportation, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Department of Commerce all may have programs to help -- but where to start? Congressional offices can serve as that starting place.

More, not less, congressional involvement is needed to address the country’s overall spending habits. Removing congress from the spending process also removes them further from accountability to each of us, the voters. Alternatively, expecting members of congress to be more involved with the real consequences of their spending decisions puts some context on the votes for large number spending bills that may or may not mean anything to their own districts.

A word about transparency. Taxpayers For Common Sense, the Sunlight Foundation, and other media sources focused upon congressional spending should be applauded for helping to shine light on how our tax dollars are spent. Indeed, one day perhaps Congress itself will make review of their spending decisions more easily done. Until that day, however, the media continues to play an important, and at time singular, role as congressional watchdog. Faith in the public’s ability to form its own conclusions about each transaction, assuming it has adequate information about the transaction, is made easier with greater transparency with the earmark process. To pass judgment on the process itself, because of its misuse by some, however, is to declare the media efforts to improve that transparency a failure.


I am amazed at the responses. I will be contacting my congresspeople to confront them on this issue. This is a country of laws and the laws are designed by certain people who have grown sick with their bloated greed. our government is first, a wealth creating system for a minority of private individuals. anything that adds to the quality of life for the majority of Americans that trickles down from that creation of wealth for a specific number of connected individuals is purely coincidental.

we, americans, have the greatest system of government in the world for extracting wealth and creating denial in the majority of citizens who never see but a few pennies of their tax dollars spent on them.

I wonder if our elected officials go to sleep each night counting citizens.

I walk around daily thinking:
'I'm street-smart','a self thinker', 'nobody's fool'...That is, I feel that way until I watch 'yet another' Bill Moyer's Journal...Then I realize, how very ignorant & naive I really am. The many levels & complexities of greed, I find incomprehensible and I also realize (again & again) without Bill Moyer's Journal, by simply allowing 'the truth' to be released that perhaps one day I may actually rise to my own expectations of being street-smart & a self thinker...Thanks again for opening eyes, including mind...

Airing the Seattle Times' expose and placing there database online so citizens can check out their congressman is the best public service I have seen. A magisterial piece of journalism! One hopes this database is continuously updated.

This piece flowed like a suspense movie. It revealed one aspect of why the US is drowning in a sea of red ink.
Thank you so much!

RE: Expose' Mr Heath Goes to Washington.

Terrific piece. Again, this show is the most important thing on TV (you now outrank Frontline in my book, and that's saying something).

My question:

I'm a product of a journalism school education, with a strong grilling (in the 1980s, post "woodstein") in public affairs investigative reporting. However, I was never able to secure a job in this field, much as I would have liked it.

But I just figured checking public records for all governmental actions was SOP and had been for years. In other words, I know, beyond, FOIA, that open records laws off the top REQUIRE at all governmental levels, from county property records to the highest legislative bodies in the land, that the activities of those bodies be available and open to the public.

I even remember basic high school social studies lessons in how the congressional appropriations process works, which I understood as a variant of how it worked with my local county board.

I understand the earmark process and why it exists, and honestly, I am not questioning it. I am questioning its oversight, both within Congress (which has GAO and Inspector Generals, right?), and by journalists.

The journalism school I came out of made it clear that journalists will always be watching, DAILY, the daily records of all governmental bodies. I mean, this stuff is even all an outgrowth of Roberts Rules of Order!

First reading of a bill, second reading of a bill, conference committee versions, public hearing records, etc. This should all be ON A RECORD, or, we could argue, the government is not "acting." The back room deals are not the "government." The government only exists in the records of its actions.

So sometime, in the last 25 years, have news bureaus simply stopped checking government records? We already know that people are passing bills they have not read (absurdly, if I were a congressperson, I would not vote for or against a bill I did not have time to read, and if someone wanted my vote, they would be required to give me that).

Have news bureaus be reduced to the point that Mr Heath was SURPRISED to find what he found? The gist of this story is not outrage at what Mr Heath found (good for him!), but outrage that no one was even LOOKING before now!

You know, there are plenty of us products of journalism schools who were driven out of the field due to low pay and no jobs. We imagined ourselves doing this work, but the field evidently didn't want us there, doing this work. Now, 25 years later, look at this very odd system we have inherited.

Chris

To: Sheila A. Litsch

This is a reply to your post looking for the financing info
on the polyester shirts (InSport) segment of the story:

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/favorfactory/beneficiary.php?id=500

Sorry about the URL but I'm somewhat computer illiterate.

I'm trying to locate the area in the report about the clothing sold to the marines that contained polyester. Could you give me an idea or where to look?

Thanks for the endless hours spent on this report.

Sheila Litsch

RE: earmarks

I put up a previous post on this blog regarding ROI (return on investment)
siting some numbers from the story, but given more detail off the Seattle Times
website, regarding Microvision:

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/favorfactory/beneficiary.php?id=636

it shows the real scoop:

Amount given to lobbyists: $10,000 + $265,000 = $275,000
plus
Amount given as campaign contributions total: $45,250
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
equals amount invested in the current private
campaign financing process totals: $275,000 + $45,250 = $320,250


this returns one, in earmarks a total of:
$1,650,000 + $1,000,000 + $1,000,000 = $3,650,000

so ROI is: $3,650,000 /$320,250 * 100 = 1140%

Not as high a return as calculated in the previous post,
but still a great return. I'm in the wrong business.
This is the way to riches in America, off the backs
of the working middle class. Thank you very much
Washington, D.C. and the Republicans and the Democrats,
for this system.

RE: Expose' Mr Heath Goes to Washington.

Terrific piece. Again, this show is the most important thing on TV (you now outrank Frontline in my book, and that's saying something).

My question:

I'm a product of a journalism school education, with a strong grilling (in the 1980s, post "woodstein") in public affairs investigative reporting. However, I was never able to secure a job in this field, much as I would have liked it.

But I just figured checking public records for all governmental actions was SOP and had been for years. In other words, I know, beyond, FOIA, that open records laws off the top REQUIRE at all governmental levels, from county property records to the highest legislative bodies in the land, that the activities of those bodies be available and open to the public.

I even remember basic high school social studies lessons in how the congressional appropriations process works, which I understood as a variant of how it worked with my local county board.

I understand the earmark process and why it exists, and honestly, I am not questioning it. I am questioning its oversight, both within Congress (which has GAO and Inspector Generals, right?), and by journalists.

The journalism school I came out of made it clear that journalists will always be watching, DAILY, the daily records of all governmental bodies. I mean, this stuff is even all an outgrowth of Roberts Rules of Order!

First reading of a bill, second reading of a bill, conference committee versions, public hearing records, etc. This should all be ON A RECORD, or, we could argue, the government is not "acting." The back room deals are not the "government." The government only exists in the records of its actions.

So sometime, in the last 25 years, have news bureaus simply stopped checking government records? We already know that people are passing bills they have not read (absurdly, if I were a congressperson, I would not vote for or against a bill I did not have time to read, and if someone wanted my vote, they would be required to give me that).

Have news bureaus be reduced to the point that Mr Heath was SURPRISED to find what he found? The gist of this story is not outrage at what Mr Heath found (good for him!), but outrage that no one was even LOOKING before now!

You know, there are plenty of us products of journalism schools who were driven out of the field due to low pay and no jobs. We imagined ourselves doing this work, but the field evidently didn't want us there, doing this work. Now, 25 years later, look at this very odd system we have inherited.

Chris

I would like to thank the publisher, editors and Investigative Reporter David Heath along with the staff that assisted in you doing the earmark story and file for all to use.

I am currently residing in the state of Louisiana and this type of information is very much need for the amount of political corruption that exist in this state.

Will you be creating files for other areas where earmarks are given besides the defense dept? I would like to use this information to send letters to editors to inform the citizens about the politician that they are considering electing to represent them in our congress and senate.

I cannot thank you enough. I'm overwhelmed with the amount of polical corruption in this state and throughout our government.

Every politician bemoans how they HATE fund raising, but they have to do it to get elected/reelected. It is within the power of elected lawmakers to end this promptly. It's called public financing. Guess why they don't pass it? They would be on equal footing with an opponent and might very well loose the election. It is a well know fact that incumbents far outraise their opponents. Now we know how they do this and of course they have to repay their "constituents". Wake up America. Demand change. It won't happen until we vote out the abusers. Then others might get the message (for a while, at leats).

I’m sorry. In my passion, I forgot to thanks you so: Thank you Mr. Moyers and Mr. Heath for your work to preserve our democracy and for giving a voice to the people here on your blog. See following comment - Curtis Davis, SLC UT

I’m sorry. In my passion, I forgot to thanks you so: Thank you Mr. Moyers and Mr. Heath for your work to preserve our democracy and for giving a voice to the people here on your blog. See following comment - Curtis Davis, SLC UT

Isn't there a way to challenge these “ear marks” from a constitutional position. The constitution reads: "to promote the general welfare". It would seem to me that the special interest politics of Washington are unconstitutional. Since the corruption of our government is so widespread that it is impossible to get government officials to make changes (which are unfavorable to their self-interest), how could we get the Supreme Court to rule that these appropriations are unconstitutional?

Could earmarks be considered an inexpensive alternative to the appropriations process? I mean how stupid would it be for our government to spend a million dollars in order to appropriate another million? Secondly, as long as a president has something similar to a line item veto and as long as he vetos all funding except that which benefits his approved legislation doesn't an earmark provide a 'balance of power' for congress?
For sure any process like this that could so easily be misused should have total transparency. So, how about each member of congress maintain a list of their earmarks on their web pages with an explanation of why that funding was approved?

Given what's happening in Congress regarding earmarks, what's happening on our borders, not to mention, our U.S. banks
allowing China and other foreign countries to infuse cash to offset the billions of investor dollars continually being lost, then written-down, not to forget that more and more property in the U.S. is being purchased by foreign investors and that
the borders, which now separate Canada, the United States and Mexico, that these borders will soon disappear, America, as it once was and as former president Dwight Eisenhower warned us about, back in 1960, that day is already here. While I agree with many that we need a Constitutional Amendment to correct what's wrong with earmarks, who's kidding who? To make that happen, America would need to care more about their country than we do about American Idol, Britney Spears, let alone, what's in their own wallet. Let's face it, while we Americans are caring people, that type of caring will never happen.

Danny Nitzen
14531 Clarissa Lane
Tustin, CA 92780

Greetings Mr. Moyers,

Do you think James Joyce said “History is a nightmare from which I’m trying to awaken” hoping that one day his words will wake us up?

Humans, we are strange, aren’t we, Mr. Moyers? All other animals have the survival instinct ON the minute they are born, humans, don’t. The only time our survival instinct kicks in is when we are in a dangerous situation or when we’re diagnosed with a terminal illness. I think we must force ourselves to turn our survival instinct ON. We cannot postpone this date any longer. We have become way too dangerous for our own good. Most Americans don’t know what chaos really means. Just be sure that it is out there, just take a quick glance at your neighbor country, Mexico. How hard must life be there for most people that they rather take the risk of “dying” crossing the border, than to stay in their country?

I wish you all the best in trying to come to senses. United States of America has everything that it takes to be a good leader. Where are all your intellectuals? Where are all your scientists? Where are all your academics? Where are the Ivy Leagues? Where is Stanford? Where is Berkeley?. Intellectuals know that an average brain is structured for fascism, so how come the average brain is left unprotected and wide open for vultures? I’m sorry, but there is a need for better communication. Why? See, it is not just “they”, a lot of Intellectuals get addictive to pain and chaos. Best books are written during the worst times. Gabriel García Márquez “Gabo” as he’s called in his native country, Colombia, is considered one of the best writers of our times. Let’s take a close look to the violence in that country: As of today, our Hillary Clinton, Ingrid Betancourt, has been in captivity for six years. Ingrid Betancourt was going to run for president, she was captured on February 23, 2002 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingrid_Betancourt”. Don’t let this country take that direction. I would urge the intellectuals who have achieved fame to consider the option of writing books about peace and love. Corporations owning a country, here’s a perfect example, Colombia. Just read about it. Corruption is like a vicious virus, and you must deal with it, like you deal with “vicious viruses”. People start selling their values, their principles, their integrity, money talks, Mr. Moyers. They buy people like buying “Manolo Blahnik’s shoes.

Mr. Moyers hypocrisy has been their Ace card, their Wild Card, their Joker, that’s way they keep wining. Time for the mirror, we must face ourselves. Mr. Moyers, we are just human beings who up to now, not anymore, have been playing very dangerous games. We must say Mea Culpa, Mea culpa, Mea culpa, and forgive ourselves for our greed, which almost destroyed us, but an Angel came from the sky and woke humanity up!

AG

I realize that lobbying is an ingrained part of our political system that was adopted from the British Parliamentary system. I also realize that the wealthiest of us get to administer our Republic. It appears to me that the 'real constituents' are not the great unwashed masses but are Corporations.

In an age when campaigns cost millions upon millions of dollars, the peasants cant support the politician with money, only votes. They only pander to us with rhetoric during an election. Therefore, we are not constituents. We do not matter, save for taxes.

The program was introduced with Eisenhower's 'military industrial complex' speech. I believe that what he was truly warning us about was Fascism. In the defining words of Benito Mussolini:

"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power."

So here we stand. A record 9 Trillion dollar defecit (which was a surplus 8 years ago), War without end, A public education system in shambles and woefully underfunded, A collapsing economy, A disappearing middle class, An erosion of Liberty...etc...etc...

To me the reporters shock at the surreality of our earmark system comes a little too late. Only in America can a green piece of paper hold value without anything backing it up. Money can be made from thin air. Wars can be waged on lies. Former Generals and Congressman sit on the boards of the war profiteers of the wars that they rigged. Covert CIA agents can get ratted out (treason) at the highest levels of Government and no one is held accountable. 'Objective' news organization are propagating the propaganda from the government, Every thing I do is monitored by my government.

I suspect that the apathy of the population is responsible for the current state of affairs in this Country. We fell asleep at the wheel long ago. Too much bread and circus.

As far as solutions are concerned, I would lobby to change the legal definition of a corporation from an individual entity that has the same rights as I, to a thing that doesnt breathe and has few rights. Then I would vote the corrupt politicians out of office and hope the people would take back this government before its too late. Unfortunately, I think we're beyond the pale.

It would be important to the voters to see a list of the earmarks each Presidential candidate has endorsed and to whom those earmarks benefitted. Corruption in Washington is nothing new, that is why no elected official should be allowed more than two terms in office. Dynastic politicians are the reason for such behaviour. Public service should be public service, not a career. As far as retirement benefits for our elected officials, it should be based on time in office, otherwords I mean that if an individual works forty years to achieve a moderate income from retirement, then an elected official working no more than an 8 year stint, should recieve one fifth a normal retirement amount.

I just listened to Bill Moyer's Report on earmarks. I think it was well done and definitely needed. In it he quoted the President about his plan to veto any bill that didn't cut the earmarks in half. He went on to say that he had packed in thousands of his own earmarks. Is it really true that the President can change a congressional appropriations bill? It was my understanding that he doesn't have that power. The appropriations bill may have already contained some earmarked funds or projects that he agreed with or supported and had gone through the Congressional approval process but I don't think that he can just add them himself. Am I wrong on this or has the law changed?

Regarding "Exposé: Mr. Heath Goes to Washington"...

This was a sad statement, about both the inundation of corruption of the government but also of the media. Let me start with the first.

Kudos to the reporters for all their hard work and results. It is the standard for "elected" "representatives" to actually be representatives of governmental corruption instead of the people, as the reporters were working hard to find out. They also discovered that the system is designed for this corruption, to allow it, and to make it very difficult to discover. And, once it is discovered, the (In)justice Department will do nothing with it, for the whole governmental system, the important parts at least, is totally corrupt. To put it bluntly--and not just from this report, but from taking a look at the whole picture, see www.ExcaliburBooks.com/RedAlert/--we have an invalid, illegal, and unconstitutional government: a repressive regime, not a constitutional and representative republic (as it should be).

Then, near the end of the report, the establishment press rears its ugly head and reveals its complicity and involvement in this corruption of the government. Amazingly, the establishment press admits that it has politician friends and favoritism--shocking, or at least it should be: WAKE UP PEOPLE! But then the establishment press commandeers the report itself. It allows the politicians, just exposed for political bribery, to give pure (and polished) propaganda without any response from the reporters (which I kept waiting for), smoothing things over with most, less critical, viewers of this report.

Then, to put the final nails in the coffin of the minds of those viewers, the establishment press (likely via the producers and editors of this report) use the existence of this "expose", ignoring how unobjectively it was presented, to sing the praises of the establishment press itself: to exclaim how fair and balanced and investigative it is, as if the establishment press is working the way it should. However, it is not...

And, although I have been a long time supporter of Bill Moyers, I'm beginning to doubt him more and more... perhaps it is his producers and editors that are the problem though... Bill Moyers should be seeing this and responding to it though... "Something strange is afoot at the Circle K."
--
We are being lied to; know the truth:
http://www.ExcaliburBooks.com/RedAlert/

Bringing back Federal spending into the district is "Job 1" for a congressman. I lived in Tom Lantos' district in San Mateo, CA 10 years ago. Right before an election he would publish a newsletter detailing all of the Federal money coming into the district (thanks to him? not!) The table of Federal taxes coming out of the district was not available even when I called his office. {:^q

A congressman not bringing spending into the district is not doing his job and will lose the next election, Ron Paul excepted?

Bringing back Federal spending into the district is "Job 1" for a congressman. I lived in Tom Lantos' district in San Mateo, CA 10 years ago. Right before an election he would publish a newsletter detailing all of the Federal money coming into the district (thanks to him? not!) The table of Federal taxes coming out of the district was not available even when I called his office. {:^q

A congressman not bringing spending into the district is not doing his job and will lose the next election, Ron Paul excepted?

The program was excellent, as usual, and again I thank you for providing a transcript to those of us who have scheduling conflicts. This time in particular I want to also thank those who have posted here in the comments section - the comments have been a most worthy adjunct.

I would add that Ralph Nader is to appear on 'Meet the Press' Sunday morning. With the revelations of Expose' and Mr. Moyers' Journal in mind, I will be watching and listening very carefully.

Thank you Seattle Times, David Heath & staff, and Bill Moyers for the monumental work you have done in gathering all the data and reporting the information on earmarks. It is staggering to contemplate. I am always captivated by the Bill Moyers Journal, the best source of information on television.

I read many of the comments on this blog. First let me give you the definition of insanity. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting differrent results. How many of you complaining on this blog have voted, over and over again for the same individual to go back to congress. We as citizens of this country only havr ourselves to blame. These people are no differrent than a kid getting into the cookie jar, we don't spank their hands and we damn sure don't out them in the news papers, TV. No we just blissfully send them back to do it to us all over again.None of this would be happeming if Congress was to do something they don't want to do. When a bill is presented on the floor, it has to stand on it's own. The only ammendment that can be attached has to do with that bill. The president doen't need line item veto with what I'm proposing. But no matter we Americans would rather sit back and bitch about what is going on in Congress and hope someone else will do something about it. Well for me it starts with my Vote. I'm a Republican, which only means to me I join a party. I have and will continue to vote for just about as many Democrats and Independants as I do Republicans, for that I think of myself as a moderate. I will not vote more than twice for any Senator and no more than six times for a House Rep. that gives them each 12 years and then it's time to go home and find a real job. Also we need to force congress to change their retirement program. If we made them change that along with doing away with the earmarks, SS, could double in it's pay to the hard working people of this country. NOW what are you going to do?

I truly appreciate your determination in locating this information and in putting it in a form that the ordinary citizen can access. One question: you investigated the defense appropriations. Health care would be a different committee, different conference report, is that correct? I am not trying to make your work seem incomplete, I am just trying to get a grasp on the whole picture. An aside: I am always amazed when members of the prevailing administration go to "less developed democracies" and maintain that help from the United Stated is predicated upon the elimination of corruption in their government. I guess it all depends upon how one defines corruption, corrupt policies, transparency, waste, and elitism.

Bill,
Thank you for Bill Moyer's Journal. Our democratic government no longer exist and the earmarks proves this.
I want to thank David Heath for all his hard work.
Corporations now run the goverment. The government does not represent the common working man. I really do not have any faith in the goverment.

I'll soon be 65 still turning a wrench and have savings but do not see any light at the end of the tunnel.

What a wonderful program to witness. I am a full believer that TV is now a programming device that influnces our every decision from politics to clothing, sex, hair styles, the list is disturbing. Now with as many as 500+ stations to view on our programming device called the TV, this station PBS, is currently the only one worth watching. The older I get the more interested I am in politics and family life. My education I'm sure is nowhere near the majority that post here, but my concerns are the same. Mr. Heath did an excellent job, my first thoughts were is he the next Ralph Nader? Corruption is mad in this country. Favoritism is just another word for corruption. How many of you have lost a promotion, or a job because of it. Its not just our Government that practice's this, the whole stinking country does, and i will bet everyone that posted here as done it at least once or twice, who are we to past judgment, just because they (Governement Officials) do it on a larger scale and for bigger $$!
It's sad where this country is going, society is going to the crapper, our kids are being programmed, insurance companies who were established to protect, now they practice the opposite, they give a penny for every dollar recieved, if your lucky!
Please continue to educated us via this program and others like it! What good it will do is still unseen. Without reminding us that orginazation is the key. We the people are at their mercy and we need to be reminded just how small we are in the big picture. Remember this my dear friends, this country is very young, and a revolution is not out of the question. And could be the answer. Ordinary people will only be pushed around just so much before frustration will cloud their minds into fury.

I agree with George and Michael; Who were the 13, and from which states, that did not earmark taxpayer dollars???

I would like to support these individuals.

-Brian

It would be helpful if you would post links as to where one can get a copy of the earmarks and the campaign contributions. It was clear from the program that a large amount of research is needed to reveal the corruption.

Making it easier for interested people in extending this type of expose' could be of use. It would be a constant drip, drip, drip of bad news for sanctimonious incumbents who try to deny any connection between "campaign contributions" and votes or earmarks.

The Seattle Times work on earmarks is both noble and rare. Local newspapers typically praise earmarks rather than question them, which is why newspapers are part of the problem. If someone in your town proposed the building of a letter-opener museum, backers of the project would almost certainly seek federal money and would almost certainly get it. Just as certain is that your local newspaper would praise the politicians who delivered the pork, citing a wildly inflated number of jobs projected to be created by the letter-opener museum. The system is broken, and so are most of the newspapers that cover it. More of them should emulate the Seattle Times.

Dear Mr. Moyers and Mr. Heath:

What a great report! Your journalism empowers the citizens. If we can't clean this up, then we truly will get the government we deserve.

Immediately I sought to apply Think Globally, Act Locally. I looked up my Congressman's earmark values and wrote to him asking for an accounting of how the money was spent. If our representatives and senators cannot fully and completely explain these appropriations to their constituents and have them stand up to the light of day -- hopefully their days will be numbered. Seems that information technology is good for something besides spying on citizens' cell phone records.
Imagine a world in which we can eliminate corruption from our political leaders. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

Thanks for carrying the Expose story about the Seattle Times, and kudus to them for doing the hard work necessary to shine a light on these earmarks.That they are so hard to find and that the GPO shrunk the type size is a sure tipoff that they were not meant to see the light of day.

I was particularly sad to learn that a candidate I had contributed to through Emily's List, Sen. Patty Murray, was so utterly gullible.

I have to agree with Mr. Heath: it's something about the culture, and we need to clean it up, not just posture like John McCain. How ironic that Expose shows him lambasting those useless boats at the same time the Washington Post reveals that most of his campaign staff are lobbyists!

Incredible pieces! Writing to Congress over the past 2 years has done me no good. I have expounded on "my feelings and wishes" to no avail. Congress is just not listening. I've forwarded the link to last night's Journal to about 30 of my friends, hoping that at least some will reach out to Congress after watching or reading the stories on Afghanistan and the horrible waste of my/our hard earned money in Iraq and Afghanistan. Am I the only citizen who works this hard, earns so little, and speaks out so much? Cannot be! Thank you, Mr. Moyers. I am SO pleased to hear such detail offered by Sarah Chayes and your story on David Heath on the failures of policy makers and this war. It is sickening to see the proof, but so much is at stake. Thank you for continuing your journal of wisdom and sharing it with the people. I/we do care!

Is it time for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution permitting the people to directly recall the president, vp, and the administration, and a second clause permitting the people to directly recall members of Congress, and lastly to include initiatives and referenda? Some states, such as California, have such powers invested directly in the people. That's real democracy. The principle reason Congress will not impeach Bush is because Congress has been irresponsible as well, and thus unresponsive and immobile.

Although I had supported term limits in years past, neither this, nor micromanaging the budget process by outlawing earmarks, will bring good government. Systemic failures can't be fixed with proverbial band aids. The political process of electing representatives is now so thoroughly corrupted by corporate money that the people's business will not be attended to in a just manner without removing the sources of corruption. Corporate money should be totally eliminated from elections, and a constitutional amendment also to reverse the "One dollar, one vote" electoral process.

It is time for a Constitutional Convention for the people to consider such matters.

Why cant we as American Voters unite to pass a Constitutional Amendment to remove earmarks from this sneaky process of legislation? Each item should stand on its own merit and vote. Then each dollar could be accounted for and we could get to a balance budget.

I found the Seattle Times investigation very enlightening, adding to other stories regarding earmarks. When they were reporting about the very small print the earmark, documents were printed with, I thought I would pass on a small hint. I recently had to replace my computer mouse. The new one has a built-in magnifier. Hope this helps any one trying to read the small print on anything.

Mr. Moyers, in his follow-up comments to the report on earmarks, read Senator Clinton's name among those US senators and reps who have made a lot of earmark appropriations. Please tell us more about the earmarks sought by (and campaign contributions received by) Senators Clinton, Obama and McCain, our three presidential candidates who are currently US Senators.

Just took a look at the referenced "Seattle Times" database called the "Favor Factory," and it's totally amazing. It made me sick to see the millions of dollars in pork that my state's congressional delegation was allowed to siphon off us taxpayers to pay for idiotic projects to fatten the wallets of cronies, relatives, and campaign contributors. More likely, these projects will be paid for with money borrowed from China, Japan, and other foreign countries, and future generations will be paying it back with interest.

The only thing we as citizens can do is to hold members of Congress accountable for these earmarks by letting them know that we know, by publicizing their actions in local media, and by writing letters to them questioning their pork projects. The more they know that their constiuency is watching them, maybe the less likely they'll be to sponsor this lunacy in the future.

Thank you for a great show and thank you to David Heath and the other "Seattle Times" reporters and staff for providing such an invaluable service. It's extremely important work to shed some light on wasteful pork spending practices and the unethical behavior it can engender.

Dear Mr. Heath,

Here is one for you that I personally have brought to the attention of decision makers in the military from the soldiers guarding the borders entry points of Iraq to levels close to the Pentagon as early as 2005. There was a problem with a Vehicle scanning system, how it was deployed and used on the borders of Iraq .....it was not working as planned, insurgents were crossing the borders at the crossings at will, but nobody was listening.

Background: Various US Military headquartered in Virginia, Baghdad, and organizations supporting the Afghanistan mission had purchased a number of the Vehicle scanning systems from a US based company. In turn this company subcontracted out for the related warranty, maintenance and training support packages.

In February 2005, I entered in a subcontractor’s agreement with this company to perform as a Senior Field Service Engineer (FSE) responsible for the daily operation and maintenance of this Vehicle scanning system, and the training of US military and Iraqi personnel to operate these systems.

Training of Iraqi operators:

The US organization responsible for the selection of Iraqi candidates who would attend the Vehicle scanning system operator’s training and was also responsible for conducting the operator’s training course and the validation of all Iraqi operators. This Operators training course was conducted in a classroom environment with limited hands on training; operators were allowed to drive the vehicle around the US organization’s compound. The students also received a brief introduction to basic image analysis training. All stages of instruction were spoken in English by a FSE instructor, and then translated into Arabic by a local hired translator.

Results of this training:

I was tasked to travel from Baghdad to Basrah and from there on to the border crossing with Iran (400 miles) to service a Vehicle scanning system recently issued to the Iraqi border customs guard force. The system had been reported as inoperable for months. Upon inspection it was evident that the problem was due to operator error – the operator didn’t have a system start-up configuration setting in the correct position. This setting in question required the operator to select whether the Vehicle scanning system was stationary or moving. The system was being used in a stationary position and while the setting indicated moving – the system will not operate in this configuration. On another mission I had the opportunity to visit the Syrian, Jordanian and Iranian border crossings with Iraq and see first hand what was going on with the Vehicle scanning system. I was able to observe how the Vehicle scanning systems were employed on site, their effect on the traffic flow, and the interface between the Vehicle scanning system and the operator - did the operator identify, recognize, understand and assess correctly what was displayed on the Vehicle scanning system’s monitor?

Observations:

The US organization responsible for supporting the border operations had placed two Vehicle scanning systems on the Syrian and Jordanian border crossing. By July 2005, two of the four Vehicle scanning systems were inoperable due to lack of parts and by September that year all Vehicle scanning systems were inoperable due to lack of parts and maintenance issues. Eventually, all four Vehicle scanning systems were sent back to Baghdad for repair where they would remain until sometime after August 2006.

(The US Marine personnel manning the border crossings felt that the US organization trained Iraqi operators were not reliable or could not be trusted with the operation of the Vehicle scanning systems. US Marine detachment personnel operated the systems during the hours the border crossing was open and secured the systems within their compound during hours the border was closed.)


Four Vehicle scanning systems were sent to the US organization unit in the Basrah area and from there two of the systems were employed at the Iraq/Iranian border crossing. During a maintenance service inspection of the system, it became evident that these systems were operated only two to three hours a day at most.

The Iraqi operators complained that the requirement for the vehicle traffic to slow down when passing through the Vehicle scanning system’s scan field hindered the daily traffic flow through the Point of Entry. Also, and this was true when the question was addressed to the US and English speaking operators, they really didn’t know what they were looking for or what they were looking at when viewing the Vehicle scanning system’s monitor screen – other than it was a truck, car etc. They were just going through the motions. Such was the instance when a US Marines detachment on the western border, frustrated with the systems continual break downs, but wanting to keep up the façade of security, posted on line each day their inoperable Vehicle scanning system and “went through the motions.”

The theory of and the technology surrounding Vehicle scanning system is published on the internet and can be readily studied by interested parties.
It has become evident that the insurgents are aware of the means to defeat the Vehicle scanning system and are taking advantage of this shortcoming. Example - an inquisitive operator one day decided to scan incoming vehicles from the opposite side of the road - an insurgent hidden behind material that faced the side of the vehicle normally scanned was detected and arrested along with the vehicle operator.

Cargo vehicles entering the POE stacked their cargo and materials to heights that exceed the Vehicle scanning system scan field. This is normal practice for the Middle Eastern truck drivers and it also presents opportunities to place insurgents undetected within this cargo.

Conclusion:

The Vehicle scanning systems delivered to the units in Iraq in 2004 – 5 were not suited for operation in the extreme weather conditions present in the Middle Eastern countries.
The idea to employ Vehicle scanning technology at the Border Entry Points and the Entry Control Points to US facilities within Iraq for the purpose of identifying hidden cargo of various types was a noble idea at most, but in reality a very costly one. The Vehicle scanning system can be a useful tool providing it is operated by qualified people who have the ability to quickly and correctly assess what the product presents to them on its monitor screen – which will require many months or years of training and experience to reach that level of competency. Any use of the system by operators with less qualification is a waste of funds and places the operator and the assets they are trying to protect in danger such as what was happening in Iraq. The Vehicle scanning system short comings have been identified as early as 2005, however, as of 2007 a fielding plan for 93 plus Vehicle scanning systems was being filled with a price tag of close to 1M USD each.

Quote From Jim Howell:
The common man has no recourse short of the ballot box and then we'd have to throw out the vast majority.

The nature of the 3 clowns we now have as primary leaders shows us how far we have descended into insanity.
Nero fiddles as Rome burns.
300 Million people and this is the best we could come up with.

People should refuse to go to the polls. Less than 50% turnout means no govt can claim a mandate of the people.
Extremely low turnout would effectively announce the failure of and the lack of legitimacy of the corrupt two party system.

The only other alternative solution to the "America of 1984" is the "America of 1776".

Isn't it about time that, a la the boy in" the emperor's new clothes" story,you should stop using the word"contributions" and use the term "LEGAL BRIBERY"to acknowledge what they really are?

Thanks for putting this in the public venue. Lot's of behind the scenes earmark spending. We are a country living beyond it's means and this practice is furthering this poor economic practice. Most common folks are either blissfully uninformed or informed and somewhere between frustrated, overwhelmed, and just plain angry. We are paying for all of this and we don't know about it and cannot afford it. Oversight is painfully lacking and DC'ers see it as not illegal, just immoral so in their eyes it's acceptable. The common man has no recourse short of the ballot box and then we'd have to throw out the vast majority. How do you combat a pervasive culture in DC that abuses the very people who vote them in and bleed to pay these horrendous bills. This country is living beyond it's means and this practice of earmarking is just digging us a deeper hole. The legislative body doesn't appear to care much about the next generation if this is what is being gifted to them.

All the investigative reporting and exposes in the world will do no good because the American people are willfully ignorant, selfish,
materialistic, unconscious sheep and cowards.

Both interviews fantastic (2/22/08). Need earmarkers by states. Please publish. Thanks. Bought her book via Amazon Kindle.

Regarding the "earmarks" story:
I say, scrap the current private campaign finance system,
it's root of the current evils related to Washington's corruption
of the public's interests.

Has anyone calculated the average ROI (Return on Investment)
that the companies which contribute to election campaigns
get back via their earmarks. I would be interested if someone
could come up with that number.
I noticed the few thousand dollars that one Senator got in
campaign contributions in return for $5,000,000 in earmarks.


My calculations based upon examples from your story:

ROI below = Return on Investment

Elected Official | Campaign Gift | Resulting Earmark | ROI
Sen. Patty Murray| $5000 | $5,000,000 | 5000000/5000 * 100 = 100000%
Cong. David Wu | $8800 | $2,000,000 | 2000000/8850 * 100 = 22598%


Based upon the above examples, it looks like the one of the
best hidden and safest investments to make in the US, is paying
your local elected official in campaign contributions,
in return you get multiple orders of magnitude back in profits.
Why isn't this sure and easy way to make money not in an
infomercial? Because it's too lucrative to make it too well known.

Therefore, I think the current campaign finance system
needs to be scraped. It lets too many entities have an
overriding influence on our government's actions,
and based on the above examples, it seems. with relatively
little money, to have the ability to GREATLY supercede the public's
interests.

I think a public campaign finance system would dramatically
shift Washington's focus back to the general public's
interests. It would, in the long run, cost us much less than
what the present system provides to us. Also, since the majority
of campaign funds are spent on tv and radio ads, a good deal of
savings in a public campaign finance system could be gotten
by having all the media (esp. broadcast and cable) commit
a certain amount of FREE air time to candidates campaigning
for public office. They would be-grudgingly give this up;
I know how lucrative campaign commercials are as a source of
revenue, because they are and will continue to use the
PUBLIC'S air waves for the rest of the time not devoted to
campaign air time.

We need to take back control of our government from the
special interests. If we don't, we will have only ourselves
to blame for the situation. I think public campaign financing will
remove the pressure to raise campaign funds, which as the years go
on will only grow greater.

I agree with George's earlier comment about the earmarks expose. I would like to know who were the 13 members of congress who DID NOT earmark any taxpayer money.

The Sarah Chayes interview was very enlightening. Why is she relegated to the media ghetto of "Democracy Now" and PBS? CBS News should be ashamed that "60 Minutes" hasn't done a feature about this brave and brilliant woman.

Wonderful show. It is unfortunate and very suspicious the way the beneficiaries of government spending are hidden from the citizen. Has there been any analysis of where the $15 billion for aids treatment in Africa (a wonderful cause) has actually gone? Seems like a lot of money, with no public knowledge of specifically how it has been spent over past 5 years. Thank you for any followup. Bob G.

Where can I find a database of non-defense earmarks?

This report ignored the issue of what the presidential candidates have done about earmarks (a subject I wrote about at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-k-wilson/clinton-by-far-worst-abus_b_84102.html).

Do individual legislators have the ability and expertise to properly research and vet these things they authorize? I don't for a minute believe that Sen. Murray would know the first thing about what she is authorizing except for the dollar figure associated with the bonanza for her campaign contributors. What do you think of her use of the term "1000 per cent". It exposes her lack of sophistication regarding scientific matters. In the end she is a victim as all of us are of the system of political funneling that the government has become. Sarah Chayse could just have easily been describing our country....

Dear Mr. Moyers.

I love watching your show as well as Mr. Rose show and others on PBS yet I don’t understand you. I start really getting frustrated by the stupidity and nativity of you asking questions… that any child of the post perestroika era in any country east of the Berlin wall can tell you. “Money corrupt…, ultimate money (understand over 5-6-7 digits, sometimes even less) corrupt ultimately”. You are wondering that someone is using unfair tactics to gain money in the case of the, t-shirts, boats etc, by winning government contracts… it’s about making money and that is what America is all about. Fair or not… who cares, as you ones quoted “Greed is good”. Sorry but that is the reality. And now you have to deal with it. Meanwhile that money will build hell of a lot wealth in US, as most of them never left the country.

Afghanistan… Well, what shall I say? I’m feed up by that story too. You poor billions in a country humm…? No actually you don’t the country get a one tenth that you say it gets. The other nine tenths you pay for the services, which American companies and the government should be doing in that country. Money are given to Americans to work on the problem, not to solve it, Some bribes are given to the native lords here and there, understand legal and not so much…, they do, or to be honest, they pretend that they do something, that in reality is nothing. And at the end of the day situation is even worst then it used to be. That was the case everywhere US tried to help. We helped Saddam, then he becomes rogue, we helped the Afghan rebels then they turned against us, and the last drop is Serbia and Kosovo.

I know that average American have no clue of modern history of America what’s left for the small peninsula as the Balkans, yet I would assume that some history lessons have been studied, at least from the higher echelons of the power. But… for yet another time American plain stupidity and arrogance is out of reach, ahead of anybody else. You poor millions and protect the Albanian Mafia, that would say anything you wish just to get to the money and fight for “freedom”, breaking international law. So you can call yourself “Supporters of the democracy and human rights”. Well that will be a very expensive price to pay, but then… nine or ten trillions debt… doesn’t make much of a difference, dose it?

So let me sum it up for all those who have no Idea and are pissed by my writing so far…

First, US government is pouring money (or it says so) in governments around the globe who in later moment turn to be corrupted, undemocratic, and export terror around its
borders. Great job.

Second, then they start causing problems buy attacking us for not supplying them with the money they so generously had before. (You were saying you don’t negotiate with terrorists…, pardon me? Was that a joke?)

Third, the world, not so illiterate anymore, remembers and learns… what have we done, whom did we helped, and what that “whom” has done with our help… And while you asking yourselves why they don like us…? Here is the answer. Well… how shall I phrase this to you…? The world sees you as hideous chimps that have nothing else to do but swing a club and spread violence, by calling it Democracy. I personally don’t mind the first part of the word Democracy as it stands for people, people like you and me, yet I don’t like the second.

I know sarcasm isn’t funny on this part of the pond yet here is my view. I have thought you cannot get in bigger s**t then you were several years ago… I take my words back. I think you are getting in very, very turbulent times. Good luck

While I don't doubt the importance of this expose story, it doesn't compare to your insightful interviews. I hope you won't continue to air anything but your wonderful interviews

I hope that this story will not go away. I like many other citizens are totally amazed that the public as a whole is not outraged about the drunken spending. It appears to me that the only way we will break this cycle is to turn to term limits.

Thank you,

Bob Mooney

I am also from Oklahoma,with US Senators whom I fear are implicit in this earmarking fiasco. The only way I can think this would have a way of dismantling this process is by a small group of "thoughtful, committed citizens" in each of state to put Sunshine on the activities of their state's US Senators and Representatives. I begin tonight.

I understand a member of congress wanting to get money for their constituancy. What I dont like are those members of congress who have complained (in a highly publicized fashion) about others "pork" while quietly producing their own earmark "pork"?
I think that earmarks are really dangerous. Some may author earmarks in a completely honest fashion. Others may actually be attracting bribes. A third who doesnt support the practice doesn't end up on a commitee suggesting something illegal is occuring. Even when its not. If any practice is likely to sow distrust for the system this is it. Even if its used legitimately.

Maybe members of Congress should be prohibited from receiving campaign contributions from any recipient or employee of any recipient of an earmark.

Mr. Heath,

Was it on "Why We Fight" that it was mentioned that Eisenhower's orignal speech had the words:

Military/Industrial/Congressional Complex and that he took Congressional out at the last minute?

Chris Carter of The X-Files used the term:

Military/Industrial/Entertainment Complex.

If you have ever had experience with enormous Californian corporations that do defense contracting and have seen the internal Movies they produce you can see how well the second one applies. Let us not forget that even the Three Stooges did propaganda for WWII in their short films.

Personally, I use all four in the string since they are all members of the same family.

Literally.

They are connected by blood.

If you want to do your next expose, then see if these extensive geneologies are valid:

http://www.illuminati-news.com/royal-trees.htm

A previous poster made comments about Obama being part of the Elite, however no one concentrates on his announcement on Jay Leno that he is a cousin of Dick Cheney.

Have you found a link between campaign donors and blood relation with the recipient?

Aleksandr Mikhaylov, the head of the department of interdepartmental and informational activity at the Russian Drugs Control Agency, was shown saying that economic measures to tackle the problem are foundering on local corruption. "The local authorities draw up seriously forged lists in which an amount is recorded for the amount destroyed and, in fact, the crop has not been destroyed at all. The theft of the money to combat narcotics is going on and is flourishing," he said.

The accusation that US forces are involved in drug-trafficking came from Geydar Dzhemal, chairman of the Islamic Committee of Russia. "Without the control and connivance on the part of the special services none of these things are possible. For example in Afghanistan, the CIA and the special services are quite brazen. Under the protection of the American army they meet the necessary people. They collect the stuff, go to the Bagram airbase and they hand in a large consignment of narcotics, which is then taken away," he said.

The report went on to say that heroin reached the Balkans via Turkey, which "has been a member of NATO since 1952 and is the USA's closest ally in the region". It said it is "another amazing coincidence" that Kosovo hosts the largest NATO base in Europe. The correspondent added that there is a "secret Interpol post" next to this base. "Here they speak almost openly about Afghan heroin in American planes," he noted.

A man captioned as Marko Nicovic, Interpol employee, explained that 90 per cent of heroin goes through the Albanian mafia, which is now more powerful than the Sicilian mafia. He also alleged that members of this mafia bribe European parliamentarians to support the independence of Kosovo.

The report went on to link high levels of drug crime in Russia with the US invasion of Afghanistan. "Since the Americans unleashed war on the Taleban, Russian crime labs have been working non-stop," the correspondent observed over footage of a drugs raid and packages of drugs being opened.

Aleksandr Mikhaylov, the head of the department of interdepartmental and informational activity at the Russian Drugs Control Agency, was shown saying that the production of narcotics in Afghanistan is getting more professional and that drugs have taken a real stranglehold on the Afghan economy. "The situation today is that narcotics have become a substance used for barter in Afghanistan," he observed.

I've seen Expose several times on my local station, despite the fact that it does its best to put it on at a time when no one is likely to see it. It's a good advertisment for journalism today, all the more surprising because ten years ago investigative reporting was a dead letter. I think many ppl would however defend earmarks and log-rolling in general as necessary revenue-sharing rather than corruption.

Excellent interview with Sarah Chayes. Listening to her describe the" criminal enterprise" and "drug trafficking" in Afghanistan thriving thanks to" the international community that put them in power" she could have been describing the situation in Kosovo. The territory is a main drug traffic corridor and rife with corruption beginning at the very top. Start with Hashim Tachi, the prime minister, who was the leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Learn more about him here:
http://www.axisglobe.com/article.asp?article=561

Would not Public Financing of Campaigns go a long way towards suppressing the temptations from special interests?

Would not Public Financing of Campaigns go a long way to reducing the temptations of special interests?

Sarah Chayes' dissection of the realities of Afghanistan is half the story. The other half - all too familiar in other settings - is the disconnect between the policy makers and the recipients of that policy. If the Afghan government is, indeed, a criminal enterprise and if, indeed, this is an opium economy, then our policies simply sustain this arrangement indefinitely.

Mr. Heath,

Your work is admirable and I will not take anything away from it.

New sentence: The work that you did is the responsibility of the GAO.

Why didn't they produce your database before you did?

Bill Moyers:
I was disappointed that you did not list the 13 Congressman who DID NOT take any earmarks. Is it too late? George--Cincinnati

The interview with Sarah Chayes was greatly informational and what a clear view she gave on her experience in Afghanistan. I admired it.

What a mess. Will the country ever clean up its act? I am so discouraged with the direction the country is going.

And as I grow old, these people are running our world.

What a nightmare!

Margie

I love the interview with Sarah Chayes, but listening to her makes me very fearful for her life when she returns to Afghanistan. I hope she is wise enough that she doesn't become a martyr like Benazir Bhutto.

Earmarks can be a good thing when used properly. They are a great way to fund small projects which couldn't hope to receive federal funding otherwise. However, as your report clearly shows, they are often used as a method of rewarding ones political supporters. We need to clean up the system, but how?

Matthew Tobias
Burlington,Vermont

Excellent report on earmarks (so far).

This sounds like a job for a "Wiki" approach, doesn't it? A progressive and conservative joint project to shine the light on this crap! Center for Responsive Politics and heritage Foundation joint earmark wiki?

Keep up the excellent work!

EarmarksMoyersJournal23feb08

After the first wave of anger-turning-to-sadness about this earmarks "culture," about what's happened to "my" country, I look back at what life was like when I was a suburban kid three-score and five years ago.

Back then, my mother stayed home and looked after my brother, sister and me and dad worked at Kodak--for 39 years, as it turned out. His salary supported the five of us, even put all three of us kids through college. All my friends' and school-mates' mothers were "stay-at-home moms" too. We all were very fortunate.

During the war, my Dad had wanted to fly planes in the Army Air Corps, but he was a chemist working on film emulsions and was kept at Kodak, working on aerial reconnoissance film to give it higher resolution and faster exposure speeds.

We had a victory garden in the vacant lot next door. Dad had a very green thumb--he grew up on an Ohio farm during the Depression and by the time he was 8, he was using the family's one horse, Mary, to plow the fields for corn and wheat planting. He was the eldest of the 13 surviving children (one sister died in child-birth; another died in the flu epidemic of 1917) that my grandmother bore.

I remember that all three of us kids could ride our bicycles in safety around our neighborhoods, or roller-skate (with metal-wheeled, clip-on skates) for miles on the sidewalks, on both sides of the street, in our town.

In high school, I remember that my two buddies and I could stay up (during summer) until 2 in the morning--playing cribbage and casino (yes, we carried briefcases and wore pocket pen-protectors, too; geeks). We rode our bicycles to school all winter--even on days when ours were the only bikes in the rack--or when the snow was so deep, we could stand them up in the snow between the racks.

I got drafted after college and, as it turned out, got shipped to Vietnam when I was "short"--a "short-timer"— who had only one month left to serve. So I returned home and mustered out after only 19 days in Vietnam.

I did join the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and my GI benefits mysteriously stopped after a full-page VVAW petition (for redress of grievances) appeared in the NY Times, after the 1968 March On The Pentagon. (A newspaper "Help!" column editor helped the VA "find" my GI benefits six months later, and I got all the back checks.) I was in law school then, and thereafter always added this phrase to the First Amendment: "...but you will pay for exercising these retained rights."

Despite the Nixon constitutional abuses, I saw them corrected by Congress, with impeachment, with the passage of FISA and other laws. The Church Committee had investigated the major abuses of the CIA in the Middle East, in South America, in Vietnam, in Africa. And subsequent presidents (until Clinton) stopped approving CIA assassination plots.

So, despite some really rough patches during my lifetime, I concluded that the government was reasonably self-correcting; that the Constitutional balance of powers did serve us well.

But that's no longer true.

On the economic front, it takes two incomes for most families to have anything even close to the life we had back then. Moms aren't just at work to fulfill their career dreams and capabilities; they're working to support the children they so wanted but no longer get to see very much.

And on the government front, we have massive problems.
I've participated in two local town halls here in Massachusetts in the past two weeks. One was run by Congressman Ed Markey, "my" congressman, the other by Congresswoman Niki Tsongas in the next district over. In each, the topic of a new 9/11/01 investigation--one not controlled by a White House insider like Philip Zelikow—and the impeachment of "acting president" Dick Cheney and President Shrub (as the late Molly Ivins called Dubyuh).

Ed Markey was very, very clear that "the evidence is incontrovertible" that two planes took down two buildings in NYCity's World Trade Center. He did not know that a third building, WTC #7, a 47-story building that housed Mayor Giuliani's emergency command center, the SEC, the CIA, the FBI among others, imploded, collapsed later that day--at 5:20 p.m.

He was also very, very clear than impeachment proceedings, while warranted, would "distract" Congress, and also could not be completed before the November election. I asked, "But what if Congress worked weekends, treated impeachment as if it were a Constitutional emergency?"

The answer: We must work to assure that a Democrat is elected President this November. That's what is important now. Then everything can be straightened out.

And Congresswoman Tsongas echoed the same sentiments about impeachment (I missed her remarks on a new 9/11 investigation) and the election of a Democratic president.

Well, the Democrats have at least had control of the House since Jan. 3--I think that's when they get sworn in-- last year. I see no difference in governance. The Iraq war continues. Funding for it has been approved. Until last week, Congress has approved every bill the President has demanded. The Senate leadership doesn't even force the Republicans who threaten a filibuster to stand up and actually read the Constitution, or the phone book for two days. The mere threat of a filibuster makes the Democratic majority cave in.

Until this week, when the House balked on giving Telcos retroactive immunity for conspiring with the administration to break the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and allow warrantless eavesdropping, there's been no push-back from Congress. (The feckless Senate tanked and passed Bush's bill.)

So here we have earmarks that are still hidden away in Conference Committee reports. They're buried in small type, in language designed to prevent comprehension. The public is not permitted to make copies of these documents.

Not only are Members of Congress looking out for "Number 1" —themselves and their incumbency, but they are also aiding and abetting a completely unconstitutional administration to do whatever it wants, in secrecy, in contravention of the very laws Congress passes and are even signed into law by the "unitary president."

I see so little difference in the effect of either party that I call our "elected leaders" Republicrats and Demicans. Once elected, they're members of the Incumbent Party. The Iraq (and Afghan) war continues. Civilians in both countries continue to be killed in our "precision" bombing raids, "precision" assassination bombings, nighttime searches and seizures.

Congress lets stand the prohibitions against the press photographing the return of our war dead to Dover Air Force Base, the return of our maimed and wounded to Andrews AFB. Congress is perhaps ashamed that it hasn't stopped the killings; the administration continues to do everything it can to prevent Americans from knowing the true cost of the war, from operating in secrecy to refusing to include all the costs of war in the national budget.

And our members of Congress?

They have parked their oaths of office somewhere--maybe in the Capitol cloakrooms--and fight to keep their "earmarks."
They work constantly to get campaign contributions for their next election.

They refuse to pass legislation to publicly fund elections, to order the FCC to set aside a handful of broadcast channels for free political campaign advertising, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

They leave it to non-governmental citizens' advocacy groups to fight the Administration's continuous efforts to gut regulations that are supposed to safeguard workers' rights, environmental preservation, food and drug safety, to attempt blocking the "privatization" of prisons, toll roads, electric utilities, the federalization of our National Guard, the prohibition against using our military might against the people of the United States, the repeal of rights retained by the people, from the Writ of Habeas Corpus, our international treaties, to the Bill of Rights. And the list goes on.

And our court system blocks these advocacy groups at almost every turn, cutting off their effectiveness.

So, what then are our remedies? If our lawmakers will not honor their oaths of office, if our government is working against all but the richest of citizens, what recourse do we have?

Do we have to create a citizens' shadow government to watch over every legislator, to follow them to breakfast, lunch and dinner, sunrise to sunset? Day in and day out? Do we have to occupy every place around Washington where the deals are done, because the Senate and House chambers seem to be mostly empty most of the time? Do we have to fall back to the Declaration of Independence, declare our intention to establish a new government of the people, by the people and for the people, because this one is perishing from the earth?

Really. What can American citizens do when our elected officials refuse to do their jobs, our regulatory agencies refuse to curb the rapacious practices of our military-industrial-service-legislative-contributor-class complex, when citizens' food, clothing and shelter, economic and physical well-being, education and training are in harm's way, are endangered by our own government?

Our government — in our name — has invaded foreign lands, breaking long-standing international treaties that are the supreme law of our land because we ratified them, is torturing and killing other human beings, as if their lives were of less worth than our lust for oil, gas, other natural resources, as if their children, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers did not bleed and die just as ours do, as if the citizens of Iraq are responsible for the US having bombed them back to the age of iron and clay starting in 1992, are responsible for the starvation of their children because of an 11-year blockade of their country, as if they chose to have polluted water, open sewers in their streets, rags for clothing.

And all of this killing is justified because we were supposedly "attacked" on September 11, 2001? We do not even know what really happened on 9/11. Most people do not know that THREE buildings collapsed at the World Trade Center on 9/11, including our Members of Congress. Most people do not know that the testimony of NYCity firemen and other witnesses saw, felt and heard a very large number of explosions before and during the collapse of the Twin Towers, WTC 1 & 2, and the 47-story WTC 7, where the NYC Emergency Control Center was housed, on the 23rd floor. Most people do not know the significance of the fact that all three WTC buildings collapsed to the ground at the speed of a bowling ball dropped from the same height and falling through the air without impediment. Most people do not know that members of the foreign press have established that four or five of the 9/11 hijacking conspirators are still alive, and living abroad, that our government has kept secret the dozens of surveillance videotapes from the Pentagon and neighboring businesses. And most people do not know that these topics were never made a part of the Official 9/11 Conspiracy Report.

I don't know about you, but I'm at a loss for what to do. I know that merely casting a vote on November, even if it is counted, and whichever candidate of whichever party is declared the winner, will almost assuredly make no difference.

Do you ever make it back to Oklahoma which town are you from. David Glover

Your last week segment, 2/15/08, on the debt and deficit never addressed my interest in trust funds used to significantly falsify/"reduce" the reported deficit since Bush took office (I've heard it's been in effect since 1999 which isn't credible since we had a surplus then, but do recall Gore mentioning it at some point). The annual social security trust alone is maybe $250 B.
It's a huge issue that only a right winger would ignore and am surprised you didn't comment on it, or am I missing something. I've made no effort to research it.

What can we do so that the average American can know that they are respresented in Washington? Until then these discussions are pointless. Does anyone in Washington give two cents for what I think?
Our values are upside down. We hide from the facts of truth by saying nothing in many fancy words.
concerned retiree
--bill poole

Why o why can you not dwell on anything but the negative????????????? I am not decryning ypur value in pointng out the NEGATIVE things we need to cure but there is so much that we as a People are doing right that you miss ....... have you ever heard of the " POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING" that is not at the expense of the negative which we need to cure but it is a part of the nations mind.

Dear Mr. Moyers,

Please review the book Citizen Power by Senator Mike Gravel.

Many authors can describe the problem, that our government is a Coporatocracy not a Democracy, but few propose a solution. The National Initiative offers real hope and change.

Currently we give all of our power away on election day and then beg, plead and protest to have the government respond to us. With Senator Gravel's National Initiative, we The People would be empowered to vote on the issues not just politicians, who obviously have other vested interests.

Switerland has this system and they live in peace and prosperity.

Please make an effort to read the book. We need solutions! Your report on earmarks underscores this yet again.

With appreciation,
Lynne Mosier

Is there a correlation between Senator Obama and Fisk (from John Grisham's "The Appeal")? A come-from-nowhere, Obama is almost squeaky clean, no skeletons in his closet and his campaign funding is never ending. Who is funding his campaign? If he is the Democrat nominee and then the President, will his advisors be the special interests who paid for his campaign?

Bill Moyers reminds us how the media is gaining control of what we watch and selectively shaping our opinions on the candidates and issues. Is there a correlation between the people/groups funding Obama's campaign and the people/groups working to change the FCC regulations allowing big media to own local stations?

Grisham's book left me with lingering doubts and fears about not only our judicial system, but the election system as a whole.

Cleo Tomlin. You should have heard some of the opinions of Mrs Lincoln!Is that really an adult criteria for selection of a leader? Do you really mean for it to be or are you just looking for an excuse to attack Obama? Isn't it time we started looking for leaders who can lead all of us. Isn't it time to go back to a reality-based world

What about the comments made by Mrs. Obama's about finally being proud to be an American. This makes me sick and why isn't the media taken her to task about it? We are suppose to elect someone whose wife has an attitude like that.
Thank you,
Cleo Tomlin

Earmarks, smearmarks, the people must rise up to change that which they dislike. We must fight to make things better. And quit complaining! (All the great reporting in the world doesn't matter if we are only bystanders.)

Then, how about taking responsibility for electing a presidential candiate who actually has a solid record regarding national policy? Obama is merely the flavor of the month for the elites. How sad for us all if he is actually elected since he takes donations from the same folks who have created the same process that we claim to abhor. How dumb are we? (He's a "smooth operator" as my sis loves to say!)

Earmarks are a small part of the problem: Black budget items are what kill and impoverish us. Now that they've hit that spy satellite (lucky?)they are ready to bet our lives against incoming nukes. Its like Murrow said about Harry Reasoner's documentary work: "He shows an agonizing injustice in detail, then convinces you it's the 'way of the world,' and gets you to passively accept it as inevitable." Bill, You're making old Harry look like an amateur. BAM!

Dear Mr. Moyers,

Can you please take a very close look at what is going on with the US Coast Guard?

And the Maritime industry and Port Security and more?

Including the DEEP WATER programs allied w/ Boeing?

Sea Launch?

Sea Code?

And programs of Integrated Coast Guard Systems?

And the Coast Guard's use of MILITARY TRIBUNALS of American Civilians?

Or Commandant Admiral Thad Allen's willingness to take over a Civilian Agency as Admiral from a Branch of Military and then fielded Military Forces to attack a hurricane and rescue the victims of Katrina and Rita?

And his wishes to write this off in his most recent National Security Press Release to simply "excuse himself on this as an "anomaly" somehow?

And the Coast Guard's recent involvement in the recent Cosco Busan incident?

Or Commandant Thad Allen's marriage to Pamela Hess of the Hess Oil dynasty where a "REGULATOR" is literally in bed with and married to the regulated... or their relatives....?

And even bring up issues involving the Blackthorne where 23 CG members were killed, and the Exxon Valdez and what has happened from that in the aftermath as to the use of LLC's and more?

Also the COAST GUARD is self-declaring itself to be a Branch of Military, a "Special" Branch at that... that can carry on Civilian Law Enforcement and not just "police" activities, but can also "try" civilians within military tribunals and violate due process and hold and detain them indefinitely?

There are other issues as well like it becoming a GLOBAL FORCE or International Maritime Police?

And whether "Homeland Security" is now actually "Homeland Defense" while our "Defense Department" has been turned into the Department of War?

Much more.

Please contact me if you need assistance with a program or series on what is going on - "On The Waterfront..."

Thanks you for your efforts.. in all regards and please continue to help empower the people with the truth of the matters....

Great work...

It would be grand indeed if journalists asked the simple questions of whether they, themselves, if they were not in office, would want their tax dollars to go for such a project. This lack of connection is often the cloak under which decisions made make the difference of whether legislators are pressured to be accountable to voters, and the one too often not asked that helps to expose the motivation of what taxpayers might consider frivolous or unreasonable earmarks made for personal gain, for favors as campaign paybacks, or to induce reciprocal funding between parties. Taxpayers understand the earmark concept but in being unaccountable, they fear wide leeway to make unnecessary private grants or those for private purpose, not public purpose the way most taxpayers imagine public purpose grants could or should be made.

It also helps to make known whether or not legislators consider themselves as constituents or simply as Samta/legislators - too often their portrayal.

The theory of whether they, themselves would want to be taxed for the earmark, and WHY, goes to the essence of responsible representation as legislative representative of the persons who elected them - a critical feature of integrity.

I hope you will also use this opportunity to discuss the New York Times story on John McCain and his relationship with the female lobbyist and the fairness of the story. I'm having trouble, not knowing all the facts, deciding if this was an imprudent move by the Times.

So, what is the solution?

In the End, you can expose and complain about the status quo, but if there are no practical solutions then what is the point?

I suggested to Obama during his sophomore year that the ONLY thing wrong with the US government is that there is NOT: One Bill - One Vote.

With this system you would know who really voted to save the whales and cut Medicare on the same bill while financing a bridge to Nowhere that was stuck in by some coward late at night.

There's your Solution - now, who has the courage to implement it?

I hope you will also use this opportunity to discuss the New York Times story on John McCain and his relationship with the female lobbyist and the fairness of the story. I'm having trouble, not knowing all the facts, deciding if this was an imprudent move by the Times.

Are not Earmarks just another symptom of the lack of public financed elections? They need these give aways as a quid pro quo come election time.

Can we not take back control of our FCC and the public airwaves they rent to big media? Can we not increase the rent and negotiate free airtime during Presidential elections?

Dear Mr. Heath,

Why are earmarks as your program states, "perfectly legal"?

=
MJA

Could you ask if the Seattle paper is a local owned paper or a part of a large national or international corporation.

If local, I wonder if they believe local ownership provides the flexibility to investigate as much as they do?

Dear Mr. Moyers-
I couldn't agree more with Susan Jacoby's views concerning the dire
state of general public educational acumen. Its not just the youth,
but the older generation, as well. I do lay a lot of blame on the
educational system, but then, the teachers themselves are products of a
generation who didn't get a good foundation either. You can't pass on
what you do not know. In addition, history and government, I feel, are
poorly taught; short shrifted as part of the curriculum, treated as
having little connection to our present, and has been for some years ---
boring! I say, back to basics, including a little philosophy, which
teaches one to empty the mind of preconceptions and connect the dots.
Maybe the educational system needs another required year of high school
to stuff it all in. But then, you have to care, and sadly, as
illustrated by comments of a grocery manager when I asked if she'd voted,
"No, I don't know anything about that stuff. I don't understand it.
I'll just leave it to those who know more about it than I do." Its
like, Where is Sudan? Sudan? Never heard of it before. Scary.

Thanks for your G R E A T contributions,

Corinne B Livesay, White Bear Lake, MN

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