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June 27, 2008

Policies To Save Our Planet?

This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, about her efforts to advance “cap and trade” legislation as a response to climate change.

“We have to have a bill that gets the job done, that reduces greenhouse gas emissions so that temperatures don’t go up, you know, much above a couple of degrees over time, because if they do we’re in a lot of trouble here... There’s never going to be a good time. This is hard, we have to deal with it, and so we have to act. You cannot hide under the covers and say ‘wake me up when gas prices go under a dollar a gallon and then I’ll bring up global warming legislation’... I believe this can be structured in such a way that it actually brings around an economic renaissance.”

An article from the WASHINGTON POST highlights some of the challenges the “cap and trade” model has faced since its implementation in Europe and could encounter in the United States.

“What the snappy name ‘cap and trade’ means is that the market will put a price on something that’s always been free: the right of a factory to emit carbon gases. That could affect the cost of everything from windowpanes to airline tickets to electricity... In some ways, Europe’s program has been a success... in other ways, the approach has been a bureaucratic morass with a host of unexpected and costly side effects and a much smaller effect on carbon emissions than planned...

One key issue is how to deal with imports from countries that don’t price carbon. A U.S. system that raised costs for U.S. firms would make imported goods, especially from India and China, even more competitive, adding to the trade deficit and possibly driving U.S. companies out of business”

What do you think?

  • Should the government act on climate change? If so, should it pursue a "cap and trade" policy, or would you suggest alternative legislation?


  • Ask the Reporters: EXPOSÉ on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL

    This week, BILL MOYERS JOURNAL collaborated with EXPOSÉ: AMERICA'S INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS to tell the story of several journalists investigating working conditions in poultry plants.

    We thank reporters Franco Ordoñez, Kerry Hall and Ames Alexander for taking time to answer your questions about the story. We will post their responses next week.


    Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: It Was Oil, All Along

    Below is an piece by Bill Moyers and JOURNAL writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

    It Was Oil, All Along
    By Bill Moyers & Michael Winship

    Oh, no, they told us, Iraq isn't a war about oil. That's cynical and simplistic, they said. It's about terror and al Qaeda and toppling a dictator and spreading democracy and protecting ourselves from weapons of mass destruction. But one by one, these concocted rationales went up in smoke, fire, and ashes. And now the bottom turns out to be....the bottom line. It is about oil.

    Alan Greenspan said so last fall. The former chairman of the Federal Reserve, safely out of office, confessed in his memoir, “…Everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.” He elaborated in an interview with the Washington Post's Bob Woodward, "If Saddam Hussein had been head of Iraq and there was no oil under those sands, our response to him would not have been as strong as it was in the first gulf war."

    Remember, also, that soon after the invasion, Donald Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, told the press that war was our only strategic choice. “…We had virtually no economic options with Iraq,” he explained, “because the country floats on a sea of oil.”

    Shades of Daniel Plainview, the monstrous petroleum tycoon in the movie THERE WILL BE BLOOD. Half-mad, he exclaims, "There's a whole ocean of oil under our feet!" then adds, "No one can get at it except for me!"
    No wonder American troops only guarded the Ministries of Oil and the Interior in Baghdad, even as looters pillaged museums of their priceless antiquities. They were making sure no one could get at the oil except... guess who?

    Here’s a recent headline in the NEW YORK TIMES: "Deals with Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back." Read on: "Four western companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power."

    There you have it. After a long exile, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP are back in Iraq. And on the wings of no-bid contracts – that's right, sweetheart deals like those given Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater. The kind of deals you get only if you have friends in high places. And these war profiteers have friends in very high places.

    Let’s go back a few years to the 1990’s, when private citizen Dick Cheney was running Halliburton, the big energy supplier. That’s when he told the oil industry that, “By 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty million barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from? While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies.”

    Fast forward to Cheney’s first heady days in the White House. The oil industry and other energy conglomerates have been headed backdoor keys to the White House, and their CEO’s and lobbyists were trooping in and out for meetings with their old opal, now Vice President Cheney. The meetings are secret, conducted under tight security, but as we reported five years ago, among the documents that turned up from some of those meetings were maps of oil fields in Iraq – and a list of companies who wanted access to them. The conservative group Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club filed suit to try to find out who attended the meetings and what was discussed, but the White House fought all the way to the Supreme Court to keep the press and public from learning the whole truth.

    Think about it. These secret meetings took place six months before 9/11, two years before Bush and Cheney invaded Iraq. We still don’t know what they were about. What we know is that this is the oil industry that’s enjoying swollen profits these days. It would be laughable if it weren’t so painful to remember that their erstwhile cheerleader for invading Iraq – the press mogul Rupert Murdoch – once said that a successful war there would bring us $20 a barrel of oil. The last time we looked, it was more than $140 a barrel. Where are you, Rupert, when the facts need checking and the predictions are revisited?

    At a congressional hearing this week, James Hansen, the NASA climate scientist who exactly twenty years ago alerted Congress and the world to the dangers of global warming, compared the chief executives of Big Oil to the tobacco moguls who denied that nicotine is addictive or that there's a link between smoking and cancer. Hansen,
    who the administration has tried again and again to silence, said these barons of black gold should be tried for committing crimes against humanity and nature in opposing efforts to deal with global warming.

    Perhaps those sweetheart deals in Iraq should be added to his proposed indictments. They have been purchased at a very high price. Four thousand American soldiers dead, tens of thousands permanently wounded for life, hundreds of thousands of dead and crippled Iraqis plus five million displaced, and a cost that will mount into trillions of dollars. The political analyst Kevin Phillips says America has become little more than an "energy protection force," doing anything to gain access to expensive fuel without regard to the lives of others or the earth itself. One thinks again of Daniel Plainview in THERE WILL BE BLOOD. His lust for oil came at the price of his son and his soul.

    Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship is senior writer of BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.


    June 20, 2008

    Social Programs For All?

    (Photos by Robin Holland)

    In their conversation with Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL this week, sociologist Orlando Patterson and economist Glenn C. Loury discussed the possibility of redefining the target populations of social programs. Patterson remarked on one approach:

    “There’s always a huge problem in policies with respect to black Americans, and that is whether they’re going to be targeted towards blacks... or whether it’s gonna be universal. That is, you take the view that it is not a black problem... a shift from the targeted approach to a universal approach, in which affirmative action will be for the white poor as well as the black poor.”

    Loury noted that such a policy would not necessarily produce the same results as the race-based system currently in effect.

    “If we say affirmative action at leading American universities is now open to poor people, regardless of their race, no more of these middle class blacks who have lower test scores getting into places like Princeton or Harvard or any place like that. The result of that, the actual result of doing it, just like that and nothing else, will be for every black that might have benefited, there are going to be ten poor whites who could potentially benefit. It will be a significant reduction of the number of blacks at these institutions. Now, maybe that’s okay. Maybe that’s not okay.”

    What do you think?

  • Do you think today’s social programs like affirmative action and desegregation are succeeding?

  • Does class weigh as much race in our nation's divide? Should it weigh as much in social programs aimed at easing racial divisions?

  • How are these programs affected by the growing multiculturalism in the US, when divisions are less black and white?


  • Michael Winship: Let Me Call You Sweetheart... Loans

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    Below is an article by JOURNAL writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

    Let Me Call You Sweetheart… Loans
    By Michael Winship

    Pity poor Ed McMahon. Remember Johnny Carson’s sidekick on The Tonight Show, host of Star Search, the guy who used to deliver flabbergasted citizens those multi-million dollar checks from Publishers’ Clearinghouse? With his own big paydays largely in the past, he’s nearly $644,000 behind in his payments on a $4.8 million mortgage. Countrywide Financial Corporation, the country’s biggest home mortgage lender, may soon foreclose on his Beverly Hills mansion.

    Ed might fare better with Countrywide if he had a government job. Last week, Jim Johnson, former chief of staff for Vice President Walter Mondale and CEO of the federally-chartered banker Fannie Mae, which buys and resells mortgages, had to resign from his position as head of the task force looking for Barack Obama’s running mate. The Wall Street Journal reported that Countrywide – Fannie Mae’s largest mortgage provider – gave him preferential treatment for millions of dollars in personal loans.

    Johnson, a prominent and prosperous Democratic wheeler-dealer, wasn’t the only officeholder to benefit from the generosity of Countrywide, although so far he seems to have been the most favored target of its corporate largesse. In fact, it was Johnson, according to last Saturday’s Washington Post, who handed United States Senator Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, the name and number of his private banker pal at Countrywide, Angelo Mozilo, the company’s CEO.

    Thus did Senator Conrad become an FOA – Friend of Angelo’s – part of an elite who received the occasional favor from Countrywide. For the North Dakota senator, it was help with a million-dollar loan for improvements to his vacation home on the Delaware shore. In a March 2007 e-mail, Mozilo told one of his loan officers to, quote, “Take off one point,” for Conrad.

    In addition, Conrad was given a mortgage for an eight-unit apartment building back in Bismarck, even though Countrywide had a policy against loans for anything larger than four units. In another e-mail, Angelo Mozilo wrote, “Make an exception due to the fact that the borrower is a senator.” Waiving the rules was SOP for an FOA.

    According to the magazine Conde Nast Portfolio, other members of Angelo Mozilo’s VIP club included Democratic Senator Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, who allegedly received savings of as much as $75,000 on two Countrywide loans; former United Nations Ambassador Richard Holbrooke; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson, who recently resigned in the wake of charges of cronyism; and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala. When Shalala applied for a mortgage on a Florida timeshare, an in-house e-mail at Countrywide, announced, “Angelo asked me to ensure that ‘we knock her socks off’ with our great service.”

    Both Senators Dodd and Conrad have denied that there was any wrongdoing and Senator Conrad announced last weekend that he would donate the money he saved on the Delaware loan – $10,500 – to charity.

    Ten and a half grand. We’re not talking graft on the level of the Whiskey Ring or Teapot Dome or Halliburton. But consider this: Countrywide was one of America’s primary purveyors of subprime mortgages, the dubious, lucrative loans that got the country into our current housing crisis. Almost no one paid attention.

    Such loans seemed like a good idea at the time – the mid 1990’s – a way for low-income and minority families that had long been discriminated against to buy property with little or no money down. But then look what happened, as succinctly described by the Center for Responsible Lending’s Kathleen Day: ”Lenders, fat with money made cheap by the federal government, aggressively coaxed millions of borrowers to take out unaffordable mortgages,” she wrote in Sunday’s Wilmington (DE) News-Journal. “They lent money without assessing whether borrowers could repay it. They assumed that most wouldn't be able to do so, and would have to refinance into new, equally unaffordable loans. This would produce an endless cycle of fees for the lenders – but only if home prices rose forever.”

    Which, in 2005, they did not. By that point, in just ten years, the private-label, subprime bond market had grown from $18 billion to almost $500 billion.

    Deregulation led to insufficient or non-existent oversight. Documents were altered, signatures were forged, credit ratings ignored – anything to get a subprime loan approved. In his book, Confessions of a Subprime Lender, former mortgage banker Richard Bitner estimates that 70% of the subprime loans that came from his mortgage broker customers were “somehow fraudulent.” (On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that since March, in the first significant FBI crackdown, more than 400 “real estate industry players” have been indicted for mortgage fraud.)

    Mortgage brokers failed to inform their customers of hidden costs, balloon payments or ways that they could finance their mortgages more cheaply. Until recently, the government looked the other way and now we have a mess that makes the S & L crisis of 20 years ago look like a tiptoe through the T-bills. Over the next five years, financial services giant Credit Suisse predicts an astronomical 6.5 million foreclosures. Already, the average rate is 65,000 a week.

    In the face of such calamity, where was Congress? Counting its financial blessings. The mortgage perks handed out by loan shark Mozilo to his DC pals were a mere bagatelle, part of a much larger campaign of lobbying and political contributions. From 1990, Mozilo and his family donated $110,000 to federal candidates, including $1,000 to Senator Conrad in 1999. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Countrywide’s political action committee gave Conrad $6,000 in 2005 and 2006 and over the last decade has donated $21,000 to Senator Dodd.

    In turn, Countrywide’s handouts to pols were just part of a bigger DC jackpot. As per Kathleen Day, “The financial services and real estate industries are far and away the largest federal campaign donors, giving more than $247 million in the 2007-08 cycle alone. Between 1999 and the end of 2006, the mortgage industry and its trade groups spent $187 million lobbying Congress, blocking efforts to ban abusive practices at the national level.” No wonder so little has been done so far to help those whose savings have been lost. Campaign cash registers and the politicians who love them rule.

    Facing bankruptcy, Countrywide is being taken over by Bank of America for $4.1 billion, but a Federal judge has approved a shareholders lawsuit against the company and Justice Department and congressional investigations have begun. Cold comfort for those who once honestly thought they had a mortgage they could afford and a home to call their own.

    Michael Winship is senior writer of Bill Moyers Journal.

    Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Michael Winship are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.


    June 13, 2008

    The American Dream In Reverse?

    (Photos by Robin Holland)

    Are we living in a second gilded age? Yes, according to historian Steven Fraser, one of Bill Moyers’ guests on the JOURNAL this week.

    “Basically, we left the financial marketplace largely unregulated – a tendency which had begun under Reagan and continued at an accelerated pace all through the years since Reagan, including under the Clinton administration... When push comes to shove, businessmen and their financial enablers may talk the talk about the free market. But when times get tough, they turn to the government to bail them out... That is this close, almost incestuous relationship between business and government.”

    Bill Moyers also spoke with columnist Holly Sklar about the difficulties many workers face in trying to earn a living wage. She said:

    “We’ve been living the American dream in reverse... Adjusting for inflation, average wages are lower than they were in the 1970s. Our minimum wage, adjusting for inflation, is lower than it was in the 1950s. One of the things going on is that income and wealth inequality have gone back to the 1920s. We are back at levels that we saw right before the Great Depression.”

    On the ground in Los Angeles, the JOURNAL introduced Jaron Quetel, a young union member struggling to make ends meet. He said:

    “Working the best job I’ve ever had in my whole life, I’m still a breath away from drowning. I’m $20 away from being on the street. I am one car payment away from being re-poed. I’m barely surviving. I’m leading a substandard lifestyle because I make substandard wages... If I wasn’t trying, if I was a screw-up, if I was taking advantage of things, I couldn’t complain. But what more can I do at this point?”

  • Are you feeling pinched by today’s economy? Are people in your community?
  • What economic policies would you like to see put into place? Do you expect politicians to enact any of them?

    [Please note we have provided a list of sites related to clean elections and you can find sites and research related to economic disparity and the work of Holly Sklar.]


  • Michael Winship: Media Reformers, It's The Economy

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    Below is an article by JOURNAL writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

    Media Reformers, It's The Economy
    By Michael Winship

    Last weekend’s National Conference on Media Reform in Minneapolis was a freewheeling, articulate, committed gathering of activists, policy wonks and everyday citizens dedicated to the idea that there can be no real democracy without a media democracy – independent reporting from diverse communities free of the interference and spin of government and big business. Perhaps nowhere else can you witness an FCC commissioner like Michael Copps get a rock star standing ovation worthy of Mick Jagger or hear the words, “Common carrier rules are hot!”

    Some 3500 assembled to participate in panels and hear a range of speakers that included my colleague Bill Moyers, Senator Byron Dorgan, Center for Internet and Society founder Lawrence Lessig, Naomi Klein, Louise Erdrich and Dan Rather. Participants grappled with mobilizing grass roots movements around such hot button issues as continuing, big media consolidation and net neutrality – two words perhaps more elegantly phrased as “Internet freedom” – keeping cyberspace open and accessible to all, regardless of income. As Moyers has pointed out, neutrality sounds too much like Switzerland, and as my colleague Patric Verrone, president of the Writers Guild, West, says, the notion of fighting for neutrality seems oxymoronic. So, “Internet freedom” it is.

    Marty Kaplan, director of the University of Southern California’s Norman Lear Center, told those gathered they were a crowd that “may not color inside the lines but sure can connect the dots.” Yet as perceptive and informed as attendees were, sadly absent from the weekend’s energetic dialogues was any significant discussion of this country’s economy, the vast gap between rich and poor, the way gross inequality in such desperate times is being largely ignored by the media, our candidates and the progressive movement.

    “The economic crisis is just not that compelling or sexy to the many progressives who are stirred into action by every ugly utterance by Bill O’Reilly,” media activist and journalist Danny Schecter writes. “… Cheering on political personalities or mounting one more issue oriented e-mail campaign is certainly easier than confronting the economic and power imbalances caused by the structural conflicts in our economy.”
    Schecter goes on to quote an executive with the Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank, who describes our current situation as, “A CRISIS OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS.” The exec elaborates: “I’m not talking New Testament biblical; I’m talking Old Testament hellfire and brimstone. This is the worst credit crisis we’ve ever seen.”

    Thirty six and a half million Americans – one in eight Americans, one in six children – that we KNOW of, because there are no good ways to really measure – live below the official federal poverty level, $20,000 a year for a family of four. Half of us – half! – will have gone through a year or more of poverty by the time we turn 60.

    In contrast, behold the woeful case of Alan Schwartz, former CEO of the now defunct investment bank Bear Stearns. As that company nosedived last year, subprime mortgage hedge funds crashing in flames, Schwartz relinquished his usual annual bonus, which meant that his total compensation for 2007 and the prior four years was a piddling $141 million. Poor guy had to rent out his 7800 square foot house in the New York suburbs and squat at his new, $28 million Manhattan apartment; his seven-acre home in Greenwich, Connecticut; and his Colorado condo. Just a couple of weeks ago, shareholders approved Bear Stearns’ merger with JP Morgan, which received $30 billion in taxpayer-funded, federal loan guarantees to take over what little was left.

    John McCain says the fundamentals of the economy are strong but admits it’s a subject he doesn’t know a lot about. He counts among his economic advisors Carly Fiorina, fired chief executive of Hewlett Packard, where you’ll recall she was accused of breathtaking mismanagement and street-bully tactics. Of her role in the McCain campaign, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of the Yale School of Management told The New York Times, “You couldn’t pick a worse, non-imprisoned C.E.O. to be your standard-bearer.”

    Among McCain’s other top advisors are John Green and Wayne Berman, who received $720,000 in lobbying fees from Ameriquest Mortgage, one of the noteworthy, predatory lenders in the country’s mortgage mess. As the New York Daily News reported this past spring, Ameriquest, which has since been bought out by Citigroup, “was forced to settle suits with 49 states for $325 million. More than 13,680 New York homeowners got taken for a ride by the company, records show.”

    Barack Obama believes our current economic crisis is “the logical conclusion of a tired and misguided philosophy that has dominated Washington for far too long.” Nonetheless, his economic policy director, Jason Furman, has been a defender of Wal-Mart and was director of former treasury secretary Robert Rubin’s Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, a group of Wall Street Democrats committed to continuing Bill Clinton’s economic doctrine – i.e., growth based on deficit reduction and free trade.

    Until his resignation Wednesday, Obama’s team also included Jim Johnson, ex-Mondale chief of staff and former CEO of Fannie Mae, the government-sanctioned banker that buys and resells loans from other banks and lenders. According to the Wall Street Journal, Johnson, who was leading the search for Obama’s running mate, was given preferential treatment when he received $2 million in personal loans from one of Fannie Mae’s biggest customers, subprime lender Countrywide Financial Services. A front page story in Wednesday’s Washington Post added that Johnson also was “the beneficiary of accounting in which Fannie Mae's earnings were manipulated so that executives could earn larger bonuses. The accounting manipulation for 1998 resulted in the maximum payouts to Fannie Mae's senior executives – $1.9 million in Johnson's case – when the company's performance that year would have otherwise resulted in no bonuses at all, according to reports in 2004 and 2006 by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.”

    Both candidates need economic advisors untainted by association with corporate interests, folks who know what it’s like to have to live on macaroni instead of meat, to spend sleepless nights in subways or shelters, to let diseases like cancer and diabetes gnaw away at a person’s insides because they can’t afford medicine and doctors. And the media need to tell their stories, not only to make the rest of us aware and stir us to action, but also to validate and empower with Webspace, column inches and airtime the plight of those so afflicted, to bring dignity and gravitas to their predicament. Attention must be paid.

    Michael Winship is senior writer of BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.

    Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Michael Winship are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.


    June 11, 2008

    Bill Moyers' speech at the National Media Reform Conference

    On June 7, 2008, Bill Moyers addressed the National Media Reform Conference in Minneapolis, MN. These are his prepared remarks. (Note: hyperlink is a .pdf)

    You can find out more about the conference and watch videos - including Bill's speech - at FreePress' NMRC homepage.


    June 9, 2008

    Rick Karr on Internet Surveillance

    Congress is still deadlocked over the Bush Administration's efforts to listen in to phone calls and read emails without search warrants. The sticking point is whether or not to allow private citizens to sue telecom conglomerates, the huge firms that provide most of us with phone and internet service - and helped the Administration spy on us. Now, the Administration wants to try to spy on Americans in another way. My colleague Rick Karr has this to bring you up to speed.
    -Bill Moyers
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    We invite you to respond in the space below.

    June 6, 2008

    Ask Greg Mitchell...

    We'd like to thank Greg Mitchell, author of SO WRONG FOR SO LONG, for his comments below and for agreeing to answer your questions. His responses are in bold below.

    Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Greg Mitchell are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.

    From Greg Mitchell, author of SO WRONG FOR SO LONG:

    So what do you feel about the latest revelations in Scott McClellan’s book and a new Senate report that the U.S. was led into war against Iraq based on false pretenses? McClellan flatly calls the administration’s case “propaganda” and accuses the media of being “complicit enablers.”

    This week’s segment with Bill, which probes all of this, felt like a kind of “reunion” for me, even though I had never before met fellow guests Jonathan Landay and John Walcott. But I have been hailing their work for more than five years, going back to the “run-up” to the attack on Iraq in 2003. They were among the few to repeatedly, and accurately, probe the administration’s case for war in the most crucial period.

    At the same time, I returned to the scene of my last sit-down with Bill, in April 2003, just days before the U.S. entered Baghdad. Even then, we were warning that this was only the beginning, not the end, of our stay in Iraq (less than a month later, President Bush delivered his “Mission Accomplished” speech). A transcript of that session with Bill and a lengthy tribute to his 2007 BUYING THE WAR program appear in my new book, SO WRONG FOR SO LONG: HOW THE PRESS, THE PUNDITS – AND THE PRESIDENT – FAILED ON IRAQ.

    In this week's program, Landay and Walcott explore the evidence for war (or lack of) while I focus on the media sins of omission and commission. I have found appalling, if not surprising, the media’s general refusal to truly come to grips with their failures on Iraq, even after five years of war. Most in the media, in response to the McClellan charges, defended their pre-war work, which is stunning.

    Actually, one of the best lines of this past week came from Stephen Colbert. He said that he couldn’t understand why McClellan was saying reporters were not doing their job in the run-up to the war. “What is McClellan complaining about?” Colbert asked. “They were doing HIS job!”

    I am wondering what viewers think of all this – where the fault really lies for the U.S. getting “misled” into war, and if they think the policymakers, and the journalists, have learned any lessons.

    Got a question for Greg Mitchell? Please post below.


    POLL: Is It Possible To Run A Race-Neutral Campaign In America?

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    In this week’s JOURNAL, Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Ron Walters discussed how race has affected the presidential election process and the media’s coverage thereof.

    Jamieson said:

    “I heard a commentator say, when Senator Obama announced, that he’s running to be 'the first black president'... He’s running to be our president, the president of all of us. And to some extent to say that he’s running to be 'the first black president,' I knew what the commentator meant, but I thought that is problematic for that candidacy.”


    We invite you to discuss in the space below.


    June 3, 2008

    Exposé Reporters Answer Your Questions

    We thank reporters Cary Spivak, Susanne Rust and Meg Kissinger for taking time to answer your questions about Exposé's story on their work following the chemical Bisphenol A.

    Please note that the views and opinions expressed by the reporters are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.


    I would very much like to know what is happening in the European Union regarding Bisphenol A. Is the EU addressing the safety of BPA? Thank you so much.

    The European Union's food safety watchdog, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), may review the chemical Bisphenol A, the agency website says.
    "EFSA is aware of the studies on bisphenol published in the United States and Canada. The agency will examine whether it should review its opinion on this product, which dates from January 2007," spokeswoman Anne-Laure Gassin said.


    Bravo! Wonderful reporting. Can you please tell me which plastics contain the toxic substances? Are they marked in any way, i.e. by the number in the triangle on the bottom? Many thanks to you for such a wonderful expose.

    Plastic containers with the recycling number 7 often contain polycarbonate, which contains Bisphenol A. You should know that not all plastic containers have recycling labels on them, including baby bottles and sippy cups. Those with the no. 3 on them are made of polyvinyl chloride which may contain Bisphenol A as well as phthalates, another kind of endocrine disruptor.


    In your opinion, if the government does decide to act and announces that Bisphenol A poses enough of a risk to ban it from products such as water bottles an the linings of metal cans, what will the fall-out or repercussions be? Will the millions(?) of products inflate in cost along with the regular inflating? Will we see certain products being recalled? What other chemicals are we being exposed to that could cause great health risks that the government has ignored due to corporate manipulation and interests?

    Several companies are removing bisphenol A from their products or merchandise, including Nalgene, Wal-Mart and Toys R Us. Many are working to develop alternatives to Bisphenol A. We'll be watching to see what the effects on the marketplace will be.
    There still are many chemicals in use that scientists are suspicious of and others that are known to be dangerous that remain in the marketplace.


    Do you think that there will be more reporters like yourselves -- with specialized science backgrounds? Does the consumer's ability to access more and more information hampering or helping beat journalism?

    There probably will be more reporters with specialized backgrounds in science -- also law, education, the arts, etc. It's a really interesting question to wonder if more information by consumers hampers or helps beat reporters. It probably helps. The more consumers know, the better their questions will be. They will be pushing us to ask more and tougher questions.


    The report says that from 1996 to 2007 --- a period that had both parties in the White House --- the EPA hadn't screened a single chemical. Are both parties compromised by the chemical lobby's influence?

    We will let the educated viewers of PBS figure that out.


    What was the $80 million for endocrine research actually spent on, if not chemical testing?

    The $80 million went for "payroll and program support" to develop the screening program, according to the EPA spokespeople. They had a lot of meetings to discuss how to screen these chemicals. They went through no fewer than three different permutations of the program.


    It's always heartening to see good, relevant journalism. Thank you. How does one determine what plastic items contain Bisphenol A? Can it be purged from the body once ingested?

    Look for recycling no. 7 -- and generally any hard, non-disposable clear plastic is likely to contain Bisphenol A. Children and adults break down Bisphenol A pretty quickly. But there is nearly constant exposure. So, the body gets inundated. Research shows that very young babies and fetuses may not be able to break it down because they lack an enzyme that allows them to do so.


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