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June 25, 2010

What's Next in the Marriage Wars: Olson and Boies on Prop 8

In February 2010 Bill Moyers talked with lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies. Once adversaries in 2000's Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case, now two of the nation's premier lawyers -- one conservative and one liberal -- teamed up to make the constitutional case for same-sex marriage. The duo has just finished presenting their arguments to the court against California's Proposition 8 -- the 2008 ballot initiative that put an end to same-sex marriage in that state. Find out what brought these two together over the issue and more about the case below. Also, in a Web exclusive, Olson and Boies talk about Bush v. Gore. and Citizens United v. FEC.
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After the Supreme Court prevented video of the trial from being distributed on the internet, two filmmakers hired actors to reenact the entire trial transcript, and posted the videos and the original transcripts.

Perry et al v. Schwarzenegger et al
The American Foundation for Equal Rights hosts all related documents and transcripts of the case on their Web site.

American Foundation for Equal Rights
The group that has brought the lawsuit challenging Proposition 8.

ProtectMarriage.com Action Fund
A group formed to promote and defend Proposition 8.

Coverage of the Case
"CA gay marriage trial to resume after long break," Lisa Leff, AP, June 12, 2010.

California gay marriage trial ends dramatically, Reuters, Peter Henderson, June 16, 2020.

"A Risky Proposal: Is it too soon to petition the Supreme Court on gay marriage?"
By Margaret Talbot, THE NEW YORKER, January 18, 2010.

"Boies At Play"
By Margaret Talbot, THE NEW YORKER, January 26, 2010.

Special Report: Same-Sex Marriage
The SAN JOSE MERCURY-NEWS provides full coverage of Proposition 8 and the trial. Free subscription required to view some articles.

Additional Background on Same-Sex Marriage
"Amid Small Wins, Advocates Lose Marquee Battles"
By Kate Zernike, THE NEW YORK TIMES, December 2, 2009.

"The High Price of Being a Gay Couple"
By Tara Siegel Bernard and Ron Lieber, NEW YORK TIMES, October 2, 2009.

June 18, 2010

Michael Winship: Miley, We Hardly Knew Ye

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Below is an article by Public Affairs Television senior writer Michael Winship.

"Miley, We Hardly Knew Ye"
By Michael Winship

Amidst all the news of petrochemical malfeasance in the Gulf - and thank you Rep. Joe Barton, pride of Texas, for your apology to BP, demonstrating everything that's wrong with a Congress jammed too snugly in the pocket of big business - I watched teen sensation Miley Cyrus on David Letterman Thursday night.

Oh my. Listening to her, I thought, there is no there there. And that made me sad.
When Gertrude Stein wrote, "There is no there there," she was referring to the loss of her childhood home in Oakland, California. At 17, Ms. Cyrus already seems to have lost her entire childhood, careening into her majority like a runaway bus with a bomb on board.

Not that she isn't a smart, savvy young woman with talent. But of course, she's more than that - she's a Disney-manufactured phenomenon, with hit records, movies, the HANNAH MONTANA TV series and sold out concert tours, a role model to millions of adoring girls who buy up all the Miley-related merchandise they can get their hands on. "You represent popular culture," Letterman told her and he was right, with all the good and bad that implies. Then he asked, jokingly, "Are you looking for the warmth the spotlight can't provide?" Ms. Cyrus said, firmly, "No."

Maybe she should send out a search party. Scrape off the increasingly heavy makeup and toss aside her pounds of bling and all that seems to be left is a chilly hollowness, a jaded, world weary, adult-sounding nonchalance signifying nothing; an attitude far too mature in one so young. Unfortunately, it's one that's assumed and emulated by a lot of other teenage kids: too cool for school and pretty much everything else.

Call it the curse of the child star, one that goes back at least as far as Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, if not farther. A few years ago, I was on a set in Hollywood, where a TV special I had written was being shot. A number of child actors had been cast in it. One of them, who had been involved in both a successful TV series and a hit movie, was having her childhood slowly drummed out of her by a stage mother who spent most of the day working the phones to find more and more work for the kid. Each morning, when the child arrived on the soundstage, the mother made her walk around and make a show of kissing me, the producer, and the director. It was creepy. She was still a smart, sweet kid, but you could see that everything natural was being taken away from her as adults sought to make the most of her ability while she was still young.

Recently, a friend was telling me about the misbehavior of a popular movie actor on a film my friend had written. The actor had hit it too big, too young; like Cyrus, he was a star at 17 and it had ruined him as a human being.

When I was 17, David Letterman said, I had a paper route. I know what he means. When I was 17, I was working in my father's drugstore in upstate New York, marking merchandise with a grease pencil and running out for coffee.

But that summer, I was given the extraordinary opportunity to go to school in England, studying literature and drama. It was a grown-up setting, for sure, and it changed my life but nevertheless, no one tried to stop me being a kid. Adults kept their eye on us in a caring, non-mercenary way. Even when I developed a serious crush on a red-haired girl in my classes over there, the feeling was reciprocated but we were chaperoned most of the time. Besides, unlike kids today, we were clueless when it came to matters of the heart and libido.

Not that all is lost. This week, I attended the 8th grade graduation of my girlfriend's niece Lexi in Philadelphia. The ceremony was in a church, the girls were in white dresses, the boys in school blazers, ties and khakis. Each endeavored to be as grown up as possible but they were still caught up in jokes and wisecracks, still relishing sweet memories of science fairs, May Day dances and the school production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Seventeen is a few years away, thank goodness.

But Miley Cyrus, well, as columnist Maggie Lamond Stone wrote, "I almost wish I were your mother for a day or two, so I could tell you the one thing that you don't seem to understand: growing up is a process. It is not an event. I'm glad you're seventeen and finding yourself and trying to make it as an adult in the music business, but why do you need to do it overnight? The headline yesterday was 'Miley Cyrus: I'm Not Trying To Be Slutty!' That was not an easy conversation with my daughter, I don't mind saying."

Youth is wasted on the young, they say. Ms. Cyrus certainly seems to be wasting hers, but she's in no way entirely to blame. Shame on the grown-ups who have exploited her. Shame on the media's manipulation of a role model's obvious problems. And shame on those of us who have enjoyed her music, then reveled in the gossip of her growing pains.

Michael Winship is senior writer at Public Affairs Television.

June 16, 2010

Remembering Community Leader David Lewis

David Lewis, renowned community leader was shot and killed in San Mateo, California on June 9, 2010. In 1992 Lewis, an ex-convict and drug addict, drew on his own experiences to help found Free at Last in East Palo Alto, California. The center helps more than 4,200 people annually and has become a model of community-based treatment. Bill Moyers and producers Kathleen Hughes and Tom Casciato met David Lewis in 1991 during the filming of the documentary Circle of Recovery. Then Lewis was 35 years old and he was just getting on his feet, having spent most of his adult life behind bars in some of California's toughest prisons: Folsom, Soledad and San Quentin. Kathleen Hughes continued to document Lewis' remarkable community efforts in Palo Alto for NOW with Bill Moyers in 2003. You can view that story online for the first time below.
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There will be a memorial service for David Lewis on Sunday (June 20) at 2 p.m. at Costano Elementary School, 2695 Fordham St. in East Palo Alto. Find out more about David Lewis' life and legacy below: "David Lewis dies at 54; ex-convict co-founded drug treatment, prisoner rehabilitation program," Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2010. "David Lewis: A Hero Gunned Down," Tim McGurk, The Daily Beast. "Police have suspect in killing of David Lewis," Mountain View News, June 10, 2010.

June 11, 2010

Michael Winship: The Supreme Court Says NO to the People - Again

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Below is an article by Public Affairs Television senior writer Michael Winship.

"The Supreme Court Says NO to the People - Again"
By Michael Winship

At a dinner party, an ever-so-proper aristocrat who had been at the British evacuation of Dunkirk 60 years ago, remained tightlipped despite intense questioning from the other guests about what he had seen there.

Finally, he shuddered at the memory and exclaimed, "The noise, my dear, and the people!"

An apocryphal story, perhaps, but the high-falutin' Supreme Court of the United States has the same attitude toward America - this would be such a great country if it wasn't for all the noise and people.

Bad enough that last week the court narrowly redefined Miranda rights in such a way that seems to say that if one of those aforementioned people is arrested and remains silent about their right to remain silent, anything you do say, if you say something, can and will be held against you. An interpretation as worthy of Lewis Carroll as it is George Orwell.

But of course such reasoning is not surprising from a court that ruled earlier this year that corporations are people, too - really BIG people - whether you're a major banking entity bilking the little guy for billions or a petrochemical giant obscenely filling the Gulf of Mexico with crude, like Rabelais' Gargantua, relieving himself from the towers of Notre Dame and drowning the city of Paris.

The Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United ruling cited free speech as its reason, giving corporate America the right to pour unlimited money into political and issues campaigns, lavishing cash on whichever candidates run fastest to do their bidding. This week, the Supremes went even further, proving once again that when it comes to American politics and government, money talks, and it does so with the biggest, loudest megaphone dollars can buy.

On Tuesday, the court issued an unsigned, emergency order halting an essential part of Arizona's model campaign finance system. It grants matching funds to candidates who accept public financing limits but find themselves running against wealthy candidates whose pockets are so deep, money is no object.

As The New York Times reported, the stay "will probably remain in effect through both the primary in August and the general election in November. The court instructed the candidates challenging the matching fund law to file a prompt appeal. If the court agrees to hear the case, as is likely, it is unlikely to be argued and decided before the November election." By then, of course, the damage will be done.

In the long run, the ruling could have an impact on similar finance campaign laws in other states, including Connecticut and Maine, but it immediately impacts 133 candidates running for state office in Arizona, including incumbent Governor Jan Brewer, whose recent signing of the state's notorious illegal immigration bill has made her the favorite for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

But she is a publicly funded candidate who was due to receive more than $2.1 million under the current Arizona system. Without the matching funds, according to the state's Clean Elections Institute, "That amount will drop by 66 percent to $707,447." One of her opponents, businessman Buz Mills, already has spent $2.3 million, much of it his own money. Not surprisingly, he hailed the Supreme Court's order as "a tremendous victory for Arizona taxpayers and the First Amendment."

The New York Times quoted Richard Hasen, a professor at Los Angeles' Loyola Law School: "The developments in Arizona show just what a tough litigation environment it is right now for those in the lower courts seeking to defend reasonable campaign finance regulations. Without matching funds provisions, public financing programs are unlikely to attract substantial participation from serious candidates, who fear being vastly outmatched by self-financed opponents or major independent spending campaigns."

The ruling came down the same day that California voters rejected Proposition 15, which would have experimented with a publicly financed campaign system similar to Arizona's - starting with the next two elections for California's secretary of state.

Ironically, that defeat and the Supreme Court's action in Arizona occurred on a primary election day that saw Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina emerge victorious as California's Republican Party candidates for governor and senator respectively. Each of them spent millions and millions of their own money to win.

Whitman says she's ready to spend $150 million of her eBay fortune to defeat Democratic candidate Jerry Brown. No matter who comes out on top, that kind of cash will generate a lot of smoke. Ordinary people may once again be outshouted by monied interests that wield their financial power like an authoritarian, plutocratic cudgel.

We need a constitutional amendment rejecting the anti-democratic course this Supreme Court has chosen. An amendment that establishes an equitable, public campaign financing system that levels the playing field for anyone who wants to run for office, no matter what their income or bankrolling connections. And we need it now.

Michael Winship is senior writer at Public Affairs Television.

June 10, 2010

Michael Winship: A Guide through Israel's No-One Land

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Below is an article by Public Affairs Television senior writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

"A Guide through Israel's No-One Land"
By Michael Winship

"Where is the balance between wisdom and force?"

I've thought of that question several times over the last few days, as accusations and counteraccusations fly over Israel's May 31 fatal commando operation against the flotilla of humanitarian aid ships attempting to break the blockade of Gaza. Nine civilians were killed, including a 19-year-old American citizen of Turkish descent.

On Monday, four others died, Palestinian divers shot by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) off the Gaza coast. Israel says the divers were preparing a terrorist attack; the commander of Palestine's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade says it was just a training exercise.

That oh-so-relevant question of wisdom and force is posed in one of a series of essays written by Henry Ralph Carse, a theologian and scholar living in Jerusalem during the Palestinian uprising known as the Second Intifada. They've just been published by Ziggurat Books in a collection titled NO-ONE LAND: ISRAEL/PALESTINE 2000-2002 (e-mail: zigguratbooks@orange.fr). A copy was waiting on my doorstep when I got home from the Memorial Day weekend, just as news broke of the Israeli raid on the aid ships.

"Nothing adds up," he writes in the preface. "There is a deep flaw here, a wound in human nature through which the fear and killing flow unstaunched. This should not happen, not for the sake of liberty or security or revenge or guilt or sovereignty. The whole thing is wrong."

The words are as true today. "A decade has passed since the opening throes of the Second Intifada brought 'the situation' to fever pitch," Carse continues. "But it has been a decade of awakening for no one. We have been sobered by what we learned, but this is 'newsworthy' to no one... No one is wiser, no one is free."

Henry Carse is from Vermont and we have known each other for many years. A graduate of Jerusalem's Hebrew University, the University of Kent at Canterbury in the UK and The General Theological Seminary here in Manhattan, he has lived in the Middle East for four decades, drawn there at the age of 18. "With my guitar and long hair and idealism, I was running away from many shadows, the least subtle of which was called Vietnam," he recalls. "Israel was the place I chose. I found it more interesting than Canada, so here is where I ended up."

Henry married and divorced in Israel, had four children, became an Israeli citizen and was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, as were his kids. When I visited him and my friend Anne almost exactly six years ago, he was teaching at St. George's College, an Anglican-Episcopalian school for continuing education in East Jerusalem in the West Bank.

An experienced and knowledgeable guide, he took me around the still magnificent Old City and to the Palestinian town of Abu Dis to see the 28-foot-high Israeli security wall, covered in Hebrew, Arabic and English graffiti: "Wall = War," "Yes to love, no to wall."

We gave a Palestinian hitchhiker a ride to an Israeli checkpoint; he was trying to get to his mother in the hospital. We traveled to the ancient desert fortress Masada and floated in the viscous waters of the Dead Sea. And through it all, Henry expressed a deep love for this place often tinged with despair and a sense of futility, just as it flows through NO-ONE LAND.

"I believe, even now, that the nonviolent option is the only way for Israel and Palestine," he writes. "Whatever the caliber of my weapon, if I am shooting the 'other,' I am forced to deny that the 'other' is like myself. I can only kill from a desperate position, a position, a position behind a veil, from which I cannot afford to see the human beauty and uniqueness I am destroying. This is true whether I am detonating a powerful explosive from 100 meters away to rip through a busload of children, or launching the missile that shatters the body of the doctor on his way to care for a neighbor. The rock in the hand and the high-velocity projectile in the gunbarrel are unalike in strategic weight, but they are identical in the fear and desperation, the bluster and the numbness they represent. It's all bad magic, bad medicine, and it is turning us to stone."

And yet despite the violent, mad intransigence of both sides present and past, Henry remains hopeful that "the political aspects of this ugly struggle will be resolved, and that two nations will dwell side by side." Hopeful enough that a few years ago he founded Kids4Peace, a program that brings Israeli, Palestinian and American children of the three Abrahamic faiths to summer camps in the United States and Canada, places where they can talk and play and learn to be friends.

That may be the only hope, to catch potential antagonists when they're young and pray they learn to outgrow the bitterness and revenge.

"What is the balance between wisdom and force?" Henry Carse asks. "... As our power to be compassionate falters, the Occupation and its consequences continue killing us all. Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, have swallowed enough evil tidings to destroy the souls of both nations, and still neither has the courage to loosen the deadly grip. Silenced by dishonesty, we send more kids with guns to spread the rule of state terror and the rule of partisan terror - all for nothing but to defend the Occupation - or to destroy it. Then, silenced by grief, we bury the dead. If another more honest witness does not step in, the lines of battle will soon pass through every classroom and bedroom in this land. Someone must redraw the border between sanity and cruelty; already we have forgotten where that boundary once stood."

Real peace, Henry writes, "can only be realized between two very real enemies who are ready to compromise. We need Israeli peacemakers, and we need Palestinian peacemakers, too. Where are they?"

Another good question.

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.

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