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Bill Moyers: After 9/11

Before the terrorists struck on 9/11 I had been scheduled to speak to the Environmental Grantmakers Association on the impact of money in politics, one of my regular beats in journalism. When I went on the air with a daily broadcast after 9/11 I thought of canceling the speech, then five weeks away; it just didn’t seem timely to talk about money and politics while the country was still in mourning. But I began to notice some items in the news that struck me as especially repugnant amid all the grief.

In Washington, where environmentalists and other public-interest advocates had suspended normal political activities, corporate lobbyists were suddenly mounting a full-court press for special favors at taxpayer expense. There was no black crepe draped on the windows of K Street – the predatory epicenter of Washington; inside, visions of newfound gold danced in the heads of lobbyists. And in corporate suites across the country CEOs were waking up to the prospect of a bonanza born of tragedy. Within two weeks of 9/11 the business press was telling of corporate directors rushing to give bargain-priced stock options to their top executives. The WALL STREET JOURNAL would later piece the whole story together: stocks had fallen sharply after the attacks, reaching a low on September 21; families of 9/11 victims were still waiting for some piece of flesh or bone to confirm the loss of a loved one; soldiers were loading their gear for deployment to Afghanistan; and corporate executives were too busy counting their shekels to notice. As stock options grant executives the right to buy shares at that low price for years to come, the lower the price when options are awarded, the more lucrative they are. “Since the house is on fire, let us warm ourselves,” goes an Italian proverb. Translated to English, it reads: “Grab the loot and run.” Some CEOs didn’t need reminding.

During the last days of September, 511 top executives at 186 companies gobbled up stock-option grants—more than twice as many as in comparable periods in recent years. Almost 100 companies that did not regularly grant stock options in September now did so. One company—Teradyne—had begun laying off employees just hours before the terrorists struck; the chairman, nonetheless, helped himself to 602,589 options just two weeks later, and when JOURNAL reporters wanted to ask about it, his spokesman said the CEO wouldn’t be available for an interview because “I don’t want to put him in the position of answering how does he feel about potentially benefiting from the 9/11 tragedy.”

President Bush had already urged us to prove our patriotism by going shopping. New York mayor Rudy Giuliani went on television to say we should “step up to the plate right now and show the strength of the American economy.” Giuliani himself would soon be hauling in a fortune exploiting his newfound celebrity to advise corporations on how to protect against terrorism. And in Washington the marionettes of the military-industrial-security complex salivated at the prospect of windfall profits rising from the smoldering ruins. Grief would prove no match for greed. I decided not to cancel the speech.

AFTER 9/11

Keynote address to the Environmental Grantmakers Association
Brainerd, Minnesota
October 16, 2001

This isn’t the speech I expected to give today. I intended something else.

For several years I’ve been taking every possible opportunity to talk about the soul of democracy. “Something is deeply wrong with politics today,” I told anyone who would listen. And I wasn’t referring to the partisan mudslinging, or the negative TV ads, the excessive polling or the empty campaigns. I was talking about something deeper, something troubling at the core of politics. The soul of democracy – government of, by, and for the people – has been drowning in a rising tide of money contributed by a narrow, unrepresentative elite that has betrayed Abraham Lincoln’s vision of self-government.

This, to me, is the big political story of the last quarter century, and I started reporting it as a journalist in the late 70s with the first television documentary about political action committees. I intended to talk about this today – about the soul of democracy – and then connect it to my television efforts and your environmental work. That was my intention. That’s the speech I was working on six weeks ago. Before 9/11.

We’ve all been rocked on our heels by what happened. We have been reminded that while the clock and the calendar make it seem as if our lives unfold hour by hour, day by day, our passage is marked by events – of celebration and crisis. We share those in common. They create the memories which make us a people, a nation with a history.

Pearl Harbor was that event for my parents’ generation. It changed their world, as it changed them. They never forgot the moment they heard the news. For my generation it was the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, the dogs and fire hose in Alabama. Those events broke our hearts.

For this present generation, that moment will be September 11th, 2001. We will never forget it. In one sense, this is what terrorists intend. Terrorists don’t want to own our land, wealth, monuments, buildings, fields, or streams. They’re not after tangible property. Sure, they aim to annihilate the targets they strike. But their real goal is to get inside our heads, our psyche, and to deprive us – the survivors – of peace of mind, of trust, of faith, to prevent us from believing again in a world of mercy, justice, and love, or working to bring that better world to pass.

This is their real target, to turn our imaginations into private Afghanistans, where they can rule by fear. Once they possess us, they are hard to exorcise.

This summer our daughter and son-in-law adopted a baby boy. On September 11th our son-in-law passed through the shadow of the World Trade Center to his office up the block. He got there in time to see the eruption of fire and smoke. He saw the falling bodies. He saw the people jumping to their deaths. His building was evacuated and for long awful moments he couldn’t reach his wife, our daughter, to say he was okay. She was in agony until he finally got through – and even then he couldn’t get home to his family until the next morning. It took him several days fully to get his legs back. Now, in a matter-of-fact voice, our daughter tells us how she often lies awake at night, wondering where and when it might happen again, going to the computer at three in the morning – her baby asleep in the next room – to check out what she can about bioterrorism, germ warfare, anthrax, and the vulnerability of children. Beyond the carnage left by the sneak attack, terrorists create another kind of havoc, invading and despoiling a new mother’s deepest space, holding her imagination hostage to the most dreadful possibilities.

The building where my wife and I produce our television programs is in midtown Manhattan, just over a mile from ground zero. It was evacuated immediately after the disaster although the two of us remained with other colleagues to help keep the station on the air. Our building was evacuated again late in the evening a day later because of a bomb scare at the nearby Empire State Building. We had just ended a live broadcast for PBS when the security officers swept through and ordered everyone out of the building. As we were making our way down the stairs I took Judith’s arm and was suddenly struck by the thought: is this the last time I’ll touch her? Could our marriage of almost fifty years end here, on this dim and bare staircase? I ejected the thought forcibly from my mind; like a bouncer removing a rude intruder, I shoved it out of my consciousness by sheer force of will. But in the first hours of morning, the specter crept back.

Returning from Washington on the train last week, I looked up and for the first time in days saw a plane in the sky. And then another, and another – and every plane I saw invoked unwelcome images and terrifying thoughts. Unwelcome images, terrifying thoughts – embedded in our heads by terrorists.

I wish I could find the wisdom in this. But wisdom is a very elusive thing. Someone told me once that we often have the experience but miss the wisdom. Wisdom comes, if at all, slowly, painfully, and only after deep reflection. Perhaps when we gather next year the wisdom will have arranged itself like the colors of a kaleidoscope, and we will look back on September 11 and see it differently. But I haven’t been ready for reflection. I have wanted to stay busy, on the go, or on the run, perhaps, from the need to cope with the reality that just a few subway stops south of where I get off at Penn Station in midtown Manhattan, three thousand people died in a matter of minutes. One minute they’re pulling off their jackets, sipping their coffee, adjusting the picture of a child or sweetheart or spouse in a frame on their desk, booting up their computer – and in the next, their world ends.

Practically every day the NEW YORK TIMES has been running compelling profiles of the dead and missing, and I’ve been keeping them. Not out of some macabre desire to stare at death, but to see if I might recognize a face, a name, some old acquaintance, a former colleague, even a stranger I might have seen occasionally on the subway or street. That was my original purpose. But as the file has grown I realize what an amazing montage it is of life, a portrait of the America those terrorists wanted to shatter. I study each little story for its contribution to the mosaic of my country, its particular revelation about the nature of democracy, the people with whom we share it.

Ivhan Luis Carpio Bautista: It was his birthday, and he had the day off from Windows on the World, the restaurant high atop the World Trade Center. But back home in Peru his family depended on Luis for the money he had been sending them since he arrived in New York two years ago speaking only Spanish, and there was the tuition he would soon be paying to study at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. So on the eleventh of September Luis Bautista was putting in overtime. He was 24.

William Steckman: For 35 of his 56 years he took care of NBC’s transmitter at One World Trade Center, working the night shift because it let him spend time during the day with his five children and to fix things up around the house. His shift ended at six a.m. but this morning his boss asked him to stay on to help install some new equipment, and William Steckman said sure.

Elizabeth Holmes: She lived in Harlem with her son and jogged every morning around Central Park where I often go walking, and I have been wondering if Elizabeth Holmes and I perhaps crossed paths some morning. I figure we were kindred souls; she too, was a Baptist, and sang in the choir at the Canaan Baptist church. She was expecting a ring from her fiancé at Christmas.

Linda Luzzicone and Ralph Gerhardt: They were planning their wedding, too. They had their parents come to New York in August to meet for the first time and talk about the plans. They had discovered each other in nearby cubicles on the 104th floor of One World Trade Center and fell in love. They were working there when the terrorists struck.

Mon Gjonbalaj: He came here from Albania. Because his name was hard to pronounce his friends called him by the Cajun “Jambalay” and he grew to like it. He lived with his three sons in the Bronx and was to have retired when he turned 65 last year, but he was so attached to the building and so enjoyed the company of the other janitors that he often showed up an hour before work just to shoot the bull. In my mind’s eye I can see him that morning, horsing around with his buddies.

Fred Scheffold: He liked his job, too – Chief of the 12th battalion of fire fighters in Harlem. He loved his men. But he never told his daughters in the suburbs about the bad stuff in all the fires he had fought over the years. He didn’t want to worry them. This morning, his shift had just ended and he was starting home when the alarm rang. He jumped into the truck with the others and at One World Trade Center he pushed through the crowds to the staircase heading for the top. The last time anyone saw him alive he was heading for the top. As hundreds poured past him going down, Fred Scheffold just kept going up through the flames and smoke.

Now you know why I can’t give the speech I was working on. Talking about my work in television would be too parochial. And what’s happened since the attacks would seem to put the lie to my fears about the soul of democracy. Americans rallied together in a way that I cannot remember since World War Two. In real and instinctive ways we have felt touched – singed – by the fires that brought down those buildings, even those of us who did not directly lose a loved one. Great and ordinary alike, we have been humbled by a renewed sense of our common mortality. Those planes the terrorists turned into suicide bombers cut through a complete cross-section of America – stockbrokers and dishwashers, bankers and secretaries, lawyers and janitors, Hollywood producers and new immigrants, urbanites and suburbanites alike. One community near where I live in New Jersey lost twenty-three residents. A single church near our home lost eleven members of the congregation. Eighty nations are represented among the dead. This catastrophe has reminded us of a basic truth at the heart of our democracy: no matter our wealth or status or faith, we are all equal before the law, in the voting booth, and when death rains down from the sky.

We have also been reminded that despite years of scandals and political corruption, despite the stream of stories of personal greed and lobbyists scamming the treasury, despite the retreat from the public sphere and the race toward private privilege, despite squalor for the poor and gated communities for the rich, we have been reminded that Americans have not yet given up on the idea of ‘We, the People.’ They have refused to accept the notion; promoted so diligently by right-wingers, that government – the public service – should be shrunk to a size where they can drown it in the bathtub, as Grover Norquist said is their goal. These right-wingers teamed up after 9/11 with deep-pocket bankers to stop the United States from cracking down on terrorist money havens. As TIME Magazine reports, thirty industrial nations were ready to tighten the screws on offshore financial centers whose banks have the potential to hide and often help launder billions of dollars for drug cartels, global crime syndicates – not to mention groups like Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda organization. Not all off-shore money is linked to crime or terrorism; much of it comes from wealthy people who are hiding money to avoid taxation. And right-wingers believe in nothing if not in avoiding taxation. So they and the bankers’ lobbyists went to work to stop the American government from participating in the crackdown on dirty money, arguing that closing down tax havens in effect leads to higher taxes on the people trying to hide their money. The president of the Heritage Foundation spent an hour, according to the NEW YORK TIMES, with Treasury Secretary O’Neill, and Texas bankers pulled their strings at the White House, and presto! the Bush administration pulled out of the international campaign against tax havens.

How about that for patriotism? Better terrorists get their dirty money than tax cheaters be prevented from hiding their money. And this from people who wrap themselves in the flag and sing the Star Spangled Banner with gusto. H.L. Mencken got it right when he said that when you hear some men talk about their love of country, its a sign they expect to be paid for it.

But today’s heroes are public servants. Those brave firefighters and policemen and Port Authority workers and emergency rescue personnel were public employees all, most of them drawing a modest middle-class income for extremely dangerous work. They have caught our imaginations not only for their heroic deeds but because we know so many people like them, people we took for granted. For once, our TV screens have been filled with the modest declarations of average Americans coming to each other’s aid.

I find this thrilling and sobering. It could offer a new beginning, a renewal of civil values that could leave our society stronger and more together than ever, working on common goals for the public good. More than a decade ago, the playwright Tony Kushner wrote: “There are moments in history when the fabric of everyday life unravels, and there is this unstable dynamism that allows for incredible social change in short periods of time. People and the world they’re living in can be utterly transformed, either for the good or the bad, or some mixture of the two.”

This is such a moment, and it could go either way. Here’s one sighting. In the wake of September 11th there’s been a heartening change in how Americans view their government. For the first time in more than thirty years a majority of people say we trust the Federal Government to do the right thing “just about always” or at least “most of the time.” It’s as if the clock has been rolled back to the early sixties, before Vietnam and Watergate took such a toll on the gross national psychology. This newfound hope for public collaboration is based in part on how people view what the government has done in response to the attacks. President Bush acted with commendable resolve and restraint in those early days. But this is a case where yet again the people are ahead of the politicians. They’re expressing greater faith in government right now because the long-standing gap between our ruling elites and ordinary citizens has seemingly disappeared. To most Americans, government right now doesn’t mean a faceless bureaucrat or a politician auctioning access to the highest bidder. It means a courageous rescuer or brave soldier. Instead of representatives spending their evenings clinking glasses with fat cats, they are out walking among the wounded. In Washington it seemed momentarily possible that the political class had been jolted out of old habits. Some old partisan rivalries and arguments fell by the wayside as our representatives acted decisively on a fund to rebuild New York. Adversaries like Dennis Hastert and Dick Gephardt were linking arms. There was even a ten-day moratorium on political fundraisers. I was beginning to be optimistic that the mercenary culture of Washington might finally be on its knees in repentance.

Alas, it was not to be. There are other sightings to report. It didn’t take long for the war time opportunists – the mercenaries of Washington, the lobbyists, lawyers, and political fundraisers – to crawl out of their offices on K Street to grab what they can for their clients. While in New York we are still attending memorial services for firemen and police, while everywhere Americans’ cheeks are still stained with tears, while the President calls for patriotism, prayers and piety, the predators of Washington are up to their old tricks in the pursuit of private plunder at public expense. In the wake of this awful tragedy wrought by terrorism, they are cashing in.

How would they honor the thousands of people who died in the attacks? How do they propose to fight the long and costly campaign America must now undertake against terrorists?

Why, restore the three-martini lunch – surely that will strike fear in the heart of Osama bin Laden! You think I’m kidding, but bringing back the deductible lunch is one of the proposals on the table in Washington right now in the aftermath of 9/11. There are members of Congress who believe you should sacrifice in this time of crisis by paying for lobbyists’ long lunches.

And cut capital gains for the wealthy, naturally – that’s America’s patriotic duty, too. And while we’re at it don’t forget to eliminate the Corporate Alternative Minimum Tax, enacted fifteen years ago to prevent corporations from taking so many credits and deductions that they owed little if any taxes. But don’t just repeal their minimum tax; give those corporations a refund for all the minimum tax they have ever been assessed. You look incredulous. But these proposals are being pushed hard in Washington right now in an effort to exploit the trauma of 9/11.

What else can America do to strike at the terrorists? Why, slip in a special tax break for poor General Electric while everyone’s distracted, and torpedo the recent order to clean the Hudson River of PCBs. Don’t worry about NBC, CNBC, or MSNBC reporting it; they’re all in the GE family.

It’s time for Churchillian courage, we’re told. So how would the policies-that-be assure that future generations will look back and say “This was their finest hour?” That’s easy. Give coal producers more freedom to pollute. Shovel generous tax breaks to those giant energy companies. Open the Alaskan wilderness to drilling. And while the red, white and blue wave at half-mast over the land of the free and the home of the brave – why, give the President the power to discard open debate and the rule-of-law concerning controversial trade agreements, and set up secret tribunals to run roughshod over local communities trying to protect their environment and their health. It’s happening as we meet.

If I sound a little bitter about this, I am. The President rightly appeals every day for sacrifice. But to these mercenaries sacrifice is for suckers. I am angry, yes, but my sadness is greater than the anger. Our business and political class owes us better than this. They’re on top. If ever they were going to put patriotism over profits, if ever they were going to practice the magnanimity of winners, this was the moment. To hide now behind the flag while ripping off a country in crisis fatally separates them from the common course of American life.

Understandably, in the hours after the attacks many environmental organizations stepped down from aggressively pressing their issues. Greenpeace canceled its 30th anniversary celebration. The Sierra Club stopped all advertising, phone banks and mailing. The Environmental Working Group postponed a national report on chlorination in drinking water. That was the proper way to observe a period of mourning.

But the polluters and their political cronies accepted no such constraints. Just one day after the attack, one day into the maelstrom of horror, loss, and grief, many senators called for prompt consideration of the President’s proposal to subsidize the country’s largest and richest energy companies. While America was mourning they were marauding. One congressman even suggested that eco-terrorists might be behind the attacks. And with that smear he and his kind went on the offensive in Congress, attempting to attach to a defense bill massive subsidies for the oil, coal, gas and nuclear companies.

To a defense bill! What an insult to the sacrifice to our men and women in uniform! To pile corporate welfare totaling billions of dollars onto a defense bill in an emergency like this is repugnant to the nostrils and a scandal against democracy.

They’re counting on patriotism to distract you from their plunder. They’re counting on you to stand at attention with your hand over your heart, pledging allegiance to the flag, while they pick your pocket!

Let’s face it: the predators of the Republic present citizens with no options but to climb back in the ring. We are in what educators call “a teachable moment.” And we’ll lose it if we roll over. Democracy wasn’t cancelled on the 11th of September, but democracy won’t survive if citizens turn into lemmings. Yes, the President is our Commander-in-chief, and in hunting down the terrorists in Afghanistan who attacked us, he deserves our support. But we are not the President’s minions. If in the name of the war on terrorism President Bush hands the state over to the most powerful interests circling Washington, it’s every patriot’s duty to join the local opposition. If the mercenaries in try to exploit America’s good faith to grab what they wouldn’t get through open debate in peace time, the disloyalty will not be our dissent but our subservience. The greatest sedition would be our silence.

Yes, there’s a fight going on – against terrorists abroad, but just as certainly there’s a fight going on here at home, to decide the kind of country this will be during the war on terrorism.

During two recent trips to Washington I heard people talking mostly about economic stimulus and the national security. How do we renew our economy and safeguard our nation? Guess what? Those are the issues you are here to address, and you are uniquely equipped to address them with powerful language and persuasive argument.

If you want to fight for the environment, don’t hug a tree, hug an economist. Hug the economist who tells you that fossil fuels are not only the third most heavily subsidized economic sector after road transportation and agriculture but that they also promote vast inefficiencies. Hug the economist who tells you that the most efficient investment of a dollar is not in fossil fuels but in renewable energy sources that not only provide new jobs but cost less over time. Hug the economist who tells you that the price system matters; it’s potentially the most potent tool of all for creating social change. Look what California did this summer in responding to its recent energy crisis with a price structure that rewards those who conserve and punishes those who don’t. Californians cut their electric consumption by up to 15%.

Do we want to send the terrorists a message? Go for conservation. Go for clean, home-grown energy. And go for public health. If we reduce emissions from fossil fuel, we will cut the rate of asthma among children. Healthier children and a healthier economy – how about that as a response to the terrorists?

As for national security, well, it’s time to expose the energy plan before Congress for the dinosaur it is. Everyone knows America needs to reduce our reliance on fossil fuel. But this energy plan is more of the same: more subsidies for the rich, more pollution, more waste, more inefficiency. Get the message out.

Start with John Adams’ wakeup call. The head of National Resource Defense Council says the terrorist attacks spell out in frightful terms that America’s unchecked consumption of oil has become our Achilles heel. It constrains our military options in the face of terror. It leaves our economy dangerously vulnerable to price shocks. It invites environmental degradation, ecological disasters, and potentially catastrophic climate change.

Go to and you will find the two simple facts we need to get to the American people: first, the money we pay at the gasoline pump helps prop up oil-rich sponsors of terrorism like Saddam Hussein and Moammar al-Quadaffi. Second, a big reason we spend so much money policing the Middle East – $30 billion every year, by one reckoning – has to do with our dependence on the oil there. The single most important thing environmentalists can do to ensure America’s national security is to fight to reduce our nation’s dependence on oil, whether imported or domestic.

You see the magnitude of the challenge. You understand the work that we must do. It’s why you must not lose heart. Your adversaries will call you unpatriotic for speaking the truth when conformity reigns. Ideologues will smear you for challenging their spin. Mainstream media will ignore you, and those gasbags on cable TV and the radio talk shows will ridicule and vilify you. But I urge you to hold to these words: “In the course of fighting the present fire, we must not abandon our efforts to create fire-resistant structures of the future.” Those words were written by the activist Randy Kehler more than ten years ago, as America geared up to fight the Gulf War. They ring as true today. Those fire-resistant structures must include an electoral system that is no longer dominated by big money, where the voices and problems of average people are attended on a fair and equal basis. They must include an energy system that is more sustainable, and less dangerous. And they must include a press that takes its responsibility to inform us as seriously as its interest in entertaining us.

My own personal response to Osama bin Laden is not grand, or rousing, or dramatic. All I know to do is to keep practicing as best I can the craft that has been my calling now for most of my adult life. My colleagues and I have rededicated ourselves to the production of several environmental reports that were in progress before September 11. As a result of our two specials this year – Trade Secrets and Earth on Edge – PBS is asking all of public television’s production teams to focus on the environment for two weeks around Earth Day next April. Our documentaries will anchor that endeavor. One will report on how an obscure provision in the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) can turn the rule of law upside down and undermine a community’s health and environment. Our four-part series on America’s First River looks at how the Hudson River shaped America’s conservation movement a century ago and, more recently, the modern environmental movement. We’re producing another documentary on the search for alternative energy sources, another on children and the environment – the questions scientists, researchers and pediatricians are asking about children’s vulnerability to hazards in the environment.

What does Osama bin Laden have to do with these? He has given me not one but three thousand and more reasons for journalism to signify on issues that matter. I began this talk with the names of some of them – the victims who died on the 11th of September. I did so because I never want to forget the humanity lost in the horror. I never want to forget the e-mail sent by a doomed employee in the World Trade Center who, just before his life was over, wrote his comrade: “Thank you for being such a great friend.” I never want to forget the man and woman holding hands as they leap together to their death. I never want to forget those firemen who just kept going up; they just kept going up. And I never want to forget that the very worst of which human beings are capable can bring out the very best.

I’ve learned a few things over a long life. I’ve learned that the kingdom of the human heart is large. In addition to the hatred at an Osama bin Laden, it contains courage. In response to the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, my parents’ generation waged and won a long war, then came home to establish a more prosperous and just America.

We will follow in their footsteps if we rise to the spiritual and moral challenge of 9/11. Michael Berenbaum has defined that challenge for me. As President of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, he worked with people who escaped the Holocaust. Here’s what he says:

"The question is what to do with the very fact of survival. Over time survivors will be able to answer that question not by a statement about the past but by what they do with the future. Because they have faced death, many will have learned what is more important: life itself, love, family, community. The simple things we have all taken for granted will bear witness to that reality. The survivors will not be defined by the lives they have led until now but by the lives that they will lead from now on. For the experience of near death to have ultimate meaning, it must take shape in how one rebuilds from the ashes. Such for the individual; so, too, for the nation."

We are survivors, you and I. We will be defined not by the lives we led until the 11th of September, but by the lives we will lead from now on.

So go home and make the best grants you’ve ever made. And the biggest – time is too precious to pinch pennies. Back the most committed and courageous people and back them with media to spread their message. Stick your own neck out. Let your work be charged with passion and your life with a mission. For when all is said and done, the most important grant you’ll ever make is the gift of yourself, to the work at hand.


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I respect Mr. Moyer's work, but I can't take any mainstream journalist serious nowadays. Some of them are scared to lose their jobs, and others are just disinformation agents. It is really unfortunate. I submit this video to Mr. Moyers, and the world, Improbable Collapse, please watch it and spread the word

I guess all those profiters ran out of money and are asking for more from the American taxpayers. Shame we couldn't give them more than 700B, if only the wealthy had paid their fair of taxes - the sky's the limit. Corporate greed live on! McCain's a comin'

Fran G.- Apparently Walmart does conduct compulsory political education. Several store managers (former, I guess) have revealed they instructed assembled employees on why voting for John McCain would be in the interest of their continued employment. The directive came from "Mitch and Murray" (pseudonyms borrowed from Glengary Glenn Ross, a film) at headquarters in Arkansas. Under whose auspices would your compulsory education sessions be conducted? Well, La-de-dah, la-de-dah, lordy, lordy, Fran. (paraphrase of Annie Hall, in a film of the same name).

Dear Bill,

I am a first time poster. I believe that you are perhaps the only journalist who gives time to issues that need airing. You are the Joseph Campbell of the airwaves. And the issues you cover are the ones that get the least attention. Name the issue and you are there. I really stop and think and then act after watching your shows. Thank you for them and for the strength to tell the rest of us the truth of what is going on.

Bill you are right there is something wrong with our democracy. We don't have one. It's a sham. Obama and McCain are exactly the same. In any case, the real powers in our society are unchanged. It does not matter if the Republicans or Democrats are in power.

Of course the elites cashed in on 9/11. Why can you not go one step further and realize that it was the elites who engineered 9/11.



Are you really so blind Bill? Can you not see the obvious truth?

And after all that's happened. You want a LARGER government? Are you serious?

When is David Ray Griffin going to be on your program? Peter Dale Scott? Richard Gage? Stephen Jones? How about William Rodriguez? How about the family members who believe that 9/11 was an inside job? No? Do you support a new investigation of 9/11 Bill?

Investigate 9/11. Expose the true terrorists.

Thank you for this excellent expose of right-wing radio, which undeniably engages in the most abusive, violent forms of hate speech. Right-wing radio has been a cancer destroying this country, which makes me sad and fearful. Having grown up near Knoxville, I cannot truly say I am shocked by the murders at UUC. Growing up, I felt very ostracized as a liberal.

I have read through some of the comments posted to your most recent show about shock jocks. It seems that there are a few that don't really think to highly of PBS or you.

I happen to believe that you are one of the few TRUE JOURNALISTS out there. Keep it up. Give us the voice we need.

To those of you who are not informed enough about the issues, you should continue to watch The Bill Moyers show or perhaps Democracy Now with Amy Goodman. You may actually learn something.

Bill your piece on "Capitol Crimes" was excellent. Too bad that great work is not carried over by the mainstream media, but we all know they have thier interests to look out for.

To those of you out there that think people like Shawn Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, or that tard they call Quinn are actually reporting news, your ignorant to the fact that they are only reporting spin which further divides people like you and I. Face it, our media has been highjacked. No longer do we have a vigilant or respectable media. Hell, in order to actually be informed anymore you have to seek it out and really question everything you read. When will the media be on our side again?

I think that we are entering a corportocracy with all these mulinational corporations controlling legislation and even writing the bills that gets passed in the White House.

To those who question the integrity of PBS or NPR I urge you to become more open minded and compare the journalism you hear here with the spin you hear on FOX or CNN. The facts are out there. Our country has been hijacked by corporations and the religious right.

When you (the misinformed) cast your vote in the next two months, please think about the future. If McCain is elected Roe vs. Wade will be overturn. We will continue down this same pitiful and shamful path our country has been on for the last 8 years. This election is not primarialy about now. It is about the next 5-15 years. Your decision should take into account the future we leave for our children. Do you want to look into the future or continue looking into the past? Ask yourself that?

Well here comes Dave Martin again. Do you have to spill your hate fest on everyone of these blogs?
If you don't want change; just vote for McFuddy-Duddy; sit at home and on your hands and get your fill of right wing BS and be done with it.
After eight years we are sick of listening to the same-ole, same ole tired insinuations, dialog and blame game.
Some of us still have the energy and spirtuality to have hope, to look for answers and believe in our young people. And PBS has been nourishing hope and intelligence for years now, so if you don't like it please just go away. Stay with your Fox friends and leave us a place where healthy, dare I say, liberal, dialog can continue with having to wade through your diatribes on every page.

First time viewer to PBS. And I thought this was a station for kids. OH MY GOD. This is another NBC or CNN. Journalism?

You're kidding right? Jounalist give us info NOT NOT NOT their own own bias. OH MY GOD you are a joke. Can this PBS be any more bias.

You want my money? You need to get some money and go to journalsim scholl. Attacks on Palin, Attacks on McCain. ONE negative remark on Obama. ZERO on Biden. Fox is fair and balanced and we are all the better for it.

Watching you is like watching "journalists " for CNN or NBC. I thought they were the only ones who BLATENLY endorsed Obama.

GIVE ME A BREAK. Shock Jocks??? Not one - not ONE mention of a liberal insult spewing radio personalities. This is journalism? This is a television station with an agenda. Admit it.

I was disgusted by the Moyers report. It was like watching Matt Lauer interviewing a republican - any republican. Then watch him fall all over himself interviewing a democrat.

Sean Hannity makes great points over Alan Colmes - BUT Colmes then makes points against Hannity. Your "jounalists" are a joke. Moyers is a talk show PERIOD. Call it what it is. There is not one ounce of journalism. It is strickly an agenda driven talk show disguised as a "journalistic" theater.

Journalsim my butt. I would NEVER give you a dime. I don't want liberism RAMMED down my throat. DO what you can to get Obama elected. THAT??? is journalism? You should be ashamed of yourselves. I am ashamed of my public television. Disgraceful. unbalanced and you don't even try to hide it. Disgraceful.

You continuoisly hammer at shock radio and then turn around and talk about the media needs to attack Palin. You really think you guys go after Obama. He gets a pass all the time. The media is a joke.

Some very lofty dialog about some very base criminals called the New World Order. But not one single mass media outlet will even mention the name, as though it didn't exist. Are they complicit in it or just ignorant?

I vote for complicit.

Michael Couch

Over 3,000 people died, on 9-11, instead of going after Bin-Laden and Al-Queda, we are still sitting on our hands.
But Hey, check out all those cool magnets on cars and S.U.V's, constant partisan hatemongering and blaming one another. WHat country is this again?

Well koolmuse I can only say that I was seeing Kennedy through the eyes of a very young person. I knew that he had energized my father's generation.Dad was young during World War II coming out of high school in his senior year and only serving two years in which he never left the country (unlike my uncle who was eight years older and was in the Pacific and at Pearl Harbor at the time of the bombing).
The times were so very different at the beginning of the 1960s, but the point I was trying to make was that I think Bill Moyers had it right in that there are certain things that define our generations. For me it was the Vietnam War, watching friends and brothers (two) go to a war they did not support and lose their hearts and souls to drugs and shame. It is why to this day, that for me this election is all about the Vets and how the Republican party has totally deserted them and their families.
Because I know those boys signed up to go to Afganistan, not Iraq. Because they had passion and it was squandered. Their sacrifices are not honored and that smacks of Vietnam for me.
And thanks Phil41. I agree. I believe community is great substitute for country and gets at the heart of what my father believed in; Dad worked in the Kennedy campaign; registered voters, used our one car to drive seniors to the polls and was so very interested in the race to the moon, the emphasis on fitness in the schools and civil rights.

Bill Moyers,
I appreciate your eloquent presentation on the emergency 911 call to wake up and understand the truth about the terrorist attack.
We need to overcome the emotional response to 911 and do what is necessary to protect ourselves from the threat of terrorism.
The policies of the present administration is doing more to create places that foster terrorism than to eliminate the threat. They are using the disaster to undermine our constitution, subjugate our people and promote their greedy war profiteering as you mentioned.
The Iraq fiasco is a classic deviant coping response to a phantom enemy that cannot be defined. Iraq became a convenient escape goat. Now, we are in the middle of a muddle.
We need to take a pragmatic approach to 911. We need to analyze what happened prior to 911, what happened during 911 and what happened after 911.
Before 911 we ignored the threat. During 911 there were wrong responses by authorities and after 911 we failed to do what was necessary to eliminate the threat. Bin Laden, the leader of El Caida is still at large.
What is really disastrous is that the people who caused our failure to respond to 911 appropriately are still in power.
If we continue on this course of incompetence we will self-destruct.

Bill: When you reached for Judith's arm on the stairs during evacuation. you nutshelled our human condition. When I criticize you and demand controversial action I do so as a mortal man with a 38 year marriage and his own circle of loved ones. There are more things than a hijacked plane that can terminate the life of any fragile human at any moment. Adulterated food, a clot near the brain, an unnoticed stop sign or a stray bullet are dangers we all endure. Terrorism adds to the risk to life only in a tiny fractional way.

Maybe it is the hateful intention that excites reaction. If so, why do we lack proper reaction to the profiteers who diminish our collective life? As a lad of 23, Alexander Hamilton, Federalist father of our commerce, remarked that (paraphrase) Americans socialized under colonial material relations were destined mostly for chains (of debt). The only consolation was that those more favored might wear gold-plated chains. His Republican counterpart had the same sentience. Jemmy Madison predicted the bulk of our population to soon be composed of propertyless mechanics and laborers. These two men were the prime movers behind the ratification of our flawed Constitution. (Though Hamilton was an ardent abolitionist.) They agreed that the great majority opposed ratification but hurried it through anyway. I don't think we can assign a character of pure evil to them, or even to K-street lobbyists today. We live within conditioning, about a benign free market under God, and about the supposed superiority of our governmental efficacy, and we accept these fictions as ultimate truths. We all are chained, from the waiter to the bond trader. Those at the top parade in gold-plated chains to drive hopeless plebian ambitions.

You and I are the sort of odd creatures who examine business ethics within a milieux of 9/11. Most people fear making the connections that undermine their faith in a machine to which they are chained.

If, as I and others labeled radical suspect, elite interests played a part in making the attacks of 9/11 possible, then another chasm of bad faith looms. Any powerful American who helped hatch or allowed this conspiracy for gains of his coterie, has broken the hermaneutic of market, faith and social contract in which most of our minds are trapped. The common man is heartily punished for stepping outside such a compact because he lacks the insulation of great power and big interests. Within this dynamic I understand that you are only a newsman, without appreciably more latitude than a writer like myself.

Let me congratulate you on the fortitude demonstrated in your commentary above.
Thank you for linking 9/11 with the possibly engineered events of Pearl Harbor and with the incompletely revealed realities of 20th century political assassinations. Thank you for examining the act of profiteering in times of disaster. (It is not only Naomi Klein who has described disaster capitalism, but we of 9/11 truth demands, who describe the megalomaniacal nihilism of engineered-disaster politics who must count you a strategic ally.) Thank you for describing the skewed fears of terrorist death amplifying our separation anxieties.

I, and certainly you and Judith, knew all along that to examine 9/11 doubts in the media amounts to a suicide of the presenters' public life. This is because one steps outside the social compact of shared fictions to do so. Maybe as a pauper my social suicide has been inconsequential, but there are others with more to lose who have taken the same risks. I must admit that it has been mentally freeing and has opened up the examination of possibilities for reform and a better human life on Earth for us outsiders.

Bill, we know you'd be a fool to slap the masters right in the face, for then your public whipping would follow. Some Sunday you will hear us singing cryptically in our covert church of outsiders. (Feel free to peek through the window and liger awhile.) The master has much greater power than we slaves but is undermined by his hubris. There is an underground railroad staffed by conductors, and you and Judith could get on board. But don't do that Mister Bill because you're America's current High John the Conquerer. We can hear you humming our hymns under your breath.

Linda Anderson,
Excellent post.
I agree that the American people are suffering from Stockholm syndrome as you mentioned.
Americans connect with words like conservatism, christian, and of course lower taxes.
This is what those 59 million who voted for Bush are tuned in to and nothing more.
There is a blizzard of lies being promulgated by main stream media and no one answering back.
The internet reported that the group ''Women Count'' is strongly for Palin but failed to mention that ''Women Count'' is a 527 political action group paid for by your Republican Party which John McCain just donated his campaign finances to.
Most people will read about how a feminist group likes Palin, but will they investigate the claim ? Not likely at all.
Americans are spoon fed by MSM and don't bother to look further.
The muck being hurled by the McCain campaign is preventing a debate on real issues — on whether the country really wants, for example, to continue the economic policies of the last eight years.
Quite frankly most Americans can't even give an honest answer to the question ''are you better off today than you were 8 years ago'' or ''are you safer today than you were before 9-11''.
To suggest that a McCain-Palin administration would just be a continuation of Bush-Cheney is wrong. If the way John McCain and Sarah Palin are campaigning is any indication, it would be a much, much worse administration.

Dear Linda Anderson,
After reading the letters to the editor in our little city's newspaper this morning, I'm feeling your fears are justified. I wish we could have a compulsory education day, when we could sit all potential voters in Mile High Stadiums and force them to view Bill's interviews with Col. Bacevich and Herbert and Baker. I think our best bet is to try to get more progressives--young voters who might still be open to the voice of reason. And if Obama gets in, with a Dem majority, maybe we can get some fairness restored. Thanks for writing.

I am very concerned about the election. The Democrats don't quite seem to realize fully that even if they had the perfect candidate who never made a single mis-step, it wouldn't matter. The Republicans, on the other hand, don't need to concern themselves at all with the imperfections or ineptitudes of any candidate they put up, and anyone they put up is essentially imune from attack or even scrutiny, because the handlers are pulling all the strings. How can this situation exist? It is because the media have been under corporate right wing domination for so long now that the democrat and the reporters have all become as frogs in slowly heating water. Or more accurately, they seem to suffer from the syndrone where the captives begin to identify with and defend their captors and oppressors. Bill Moyers is one of a very few who seem to grasp the depth of the problem and to be putting a priority on fixing it. I fear the rational thinking voter who pays attention to what's actually going on will not be represented, and that it is actually no longer possible for Democrats to take back the White House.
The Democrats have not made it a priority, if it is even on their radar at all, to try to get some balance and truth and even plain coverage of crucial events back into media. The Democrats let Reagan take away the fairness doctrine when they had a majority in the Congress; now they are paying for it. The problem is that it was never really theirs to give away, and we all are paying for it, the whole country is. Why don't the Democrats seem to get it? They beat their heads against the wall and protest the unfairness of Carl Rove's tactics, and try to be so completely perfect as to escape Rove's attacks. It won't work; even if there is nothing to attck the Dems on, Rove's machine will simply invent a fiction. I don't think the Democrats can win. Will they ever "get it?" Please, someone, give me a scintilla of hope.

Dear Bill: I see that you will be mentioning the Knoxville shooting on your program tonight "hate" speech in America. It is a great injustice to all when you use the actions and words of a mentally ill person as evidence of "hate" speech. This individual had a history of violent behavior, not always politically motivated. Perhaphs if his ex-wifes concerns, as addressed by her restraining order against him, had been taken more seriously, we could have avoided this entire unfortunate episode. It is an injustice to the situation and the UU community to exploit the situation as having been politically motivated. I am sad that this is how you are choosing to connect with the situation instead of educating folks about mental illness and the continual lack of protection for women against male abuse.

Koolmuse, you asked what ella thought Kennedy meant, but please allow me to react to your comment.

Stop and think a second, koolmuse. In your response to ella, you interpreted Kennedy's "Ask not ..." to be an American version of the communist manifesto. You imply you know what Kennedy meant by it. I only know what his challenge meant to me when I heard him give it. But then I had listened to his entire speech and had the advantage of contextual clues.

I also had contextual clues when I read your comment because I had already read most of Moyers' speech, and ella's comment.

Please allow me to share my interpretation: In his 2001 speech above, he was beginning to recognize a threat - PNAC, I say - that was attempting to turn our America into a nation/state whose government is of, by and for - not its people, but - its institutions of corporate greed. To build upon your words: Moyers saw the state becoming the master of its people, and a tool to the rich and powerful. Not communism - fascism.

Kennedy's America (of 40 years earlier - pre-PNAC; or early-PNAC, at most) was different. To me it seems closer to Lincoln's America, and his quote very close in meaning to Lincoln's quote you offered. Replace "country" with "people", or "community of people": "... ask not what your community can do for you - ask what you can do for your community." (Was the idea of "community" the basis of your thinking "communism"?) Or "Be a helper, not a taker." Simple idea - Kennedy said it well. It was truly inspiring at the time. He was a leader. He gave our country a vision and a common, uniting purpose.

Parallels then were often drawn between Kennedy's and Lincoln's administrations.

Do we not need a leader now? One with a vision we the people can share, and a uniting purpose moving us forward out of the morass, into the 21st century?

Thank you, ella, I was 22 when he died.

I believe destruction of stability and security is a result of the terrorists' actions, but maybe they are just bullies, flexing their power, wreaking fear; (or are they fighting fascism?.)

And look, are they winning? Does it seem our country is becoming a government of bullies - international and domestic - keeping its own people in fear - of it and of each other - while the powerful few keep on grabbing all they can get? To borrow from Pogo: We have met the terrorists, and they are us.

How do we the people get our America back? our vision? our sense of purpose? ella, maybe not everyone, but just enough of us need to take Moyers' last paragraph to heart.

"Let it begin now. Let it begin with me."


Unfortunately Kennedy uttered perhaps one of the worst and immortal sentiments in the history of American politics. To wit:

"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."

Excuse me?!
Think about that for a moment.
Ironic and witty huh?
But what he said was the state comes first and the people come second. The citizens should be servants of the state and not the state servants of the people.

I always kinda thought that was what they taught us the Communist/Russians were about. The state is the master.

I personally like Lincoln's take on government. "Government exists so the people may do together what no one of them can do alone."

What do you think Kennedy meant Ella?

Unfortunately the American people lost their perspective 50 years ago with the war on the greatest phantom terrorist enemy of all "Communism", a completely fictitious sham enemy; like the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Because the warrior American people have had no experience with....ahhhh...war… ..the country of America, has never been bombed or overrun by foreign troops, the people never tortured or gassed or raped or put into concentration have no idea of the horror of war.
America waaaay over-reacted to 9/11 and embarked on two truly death and misery dealing wars of extermination against they-don't-even-know-who....they still don't. Well, you killed hundreds of thousands of you-don't-even-know-whos, men women and children, displaced millions, maimed and traumatized millions more….destroyed millions of families. Feel any better? No?
Well you didn't achieve justice or even revenge for 9/11 because your victims were not remotely guilty. "Yall just lost yer tempers...s'all"
As awful as it was, the attack on 9/11 pales in comparison to countless injuries laid upon others by the USA. It was one of the greatest overreactions ever by any country against another when there was no evidence that the Taliban knew anything about what Bin laden was doing and surely no evidence that Iraq posed any threat or had any terrorist intentions against the USA.
Yeah you lost your perspective. All your wars have been long-distance or proxy wars. Millions upon millions have died. "Made in USA" is stamped on the ammunition and weapons of countless murderous right-wing dictator regimes around the world thru the decades since WWII.

In Vietnam, who also posed no threat to the USA whatsoever, America killed between 3,300,000 (USA’s Figure), and 5,000,000 (Vietnam’s figure), that's million... Vietnamese people. That's a "fudge factor" of 1,700,000 lives.
They didn't put that on TV. But what they did put on TV was a few hundred of the 58,226 of your own who were killed. And that was quite enough for you.
Bomber pilot John McCain and his band of flyboy heroes killed 3,000 Vietnamese civilians every day, day in and day out....for no reason at all....The "enemy" was communism, a political theory, not people. The Vietnamese people who captured him spared his life, but he wasn’t sparing theirs when he was shot down. I’m disappointed that he didn’t figure that out during those six years in the bamboo cage. But you see McCain has no perspective…he’s American.
These two evil and wicked wars of Bush's and the support you Americans gave him for these two wars, and you re-elected him to fight, were against people who did you no harm to you and were basically defenseless against you. I think both countries were invaded and occupied in two weeks or so.
The world cried with you and for you America, on 9/11. You finally felt the pain most countries have felt and they felt your pain, because they know.
But with the suffering misery and death you have delivered through your selfish myopic lack of rational reason and justice you squandered whatever sympathy any member of the human race could have held for you.
And now, after 8 years, the likes of John McCain is in heavy competition for the Presidency?.... wow!... your perspective remains lost.
9/11. Get over it.

This is a fitting tribute to our country today. I too remember Kennedy's death. I was only 10 years old I remember walking in the door from school (we had been released early). And my father was sitting in chair in the dining room, near a window. A chair I had never seen him sit in before. There were tears streaming down his face.
He had talked to me about Pearl Harbor, how it had affected his generation. And we weathered Martin Luther King's death together also.
But with each tragedy, a piece of the country innocence is lost; a piece of this country's heart is stolen. And you are so right that this is what terrorists seek in reality.
They seek to destroy the stability, the security of life and they steal it from everyone across the globe.
i hope everyone takes to heart your last paragraph. It is the way forward.

Thank you for publishing this. You weren't prescient - you were simply truth-telling. How heart-breakingly truthful and how awful that those in power didn't listen and didn't act on the truth.

And so here we are, at this ever falling and fallen state.

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