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October 15, 2012

Where to Find Me Now

By Bill Moyers

I’m delighted you chose to look through the revealing moments and eye-opening insights from Bill Moyers Journal, the weekly broadcasts we produced over three historic years from 2007 to 2010. We captured much of the excitement of democracy on trial during that time, including the momentous transition of power from George Bush to Barack Obama as the financial world came crashing down and our economy plunged to a depth not seen since the Great Depression. But even during calamitous events we also kept an eye on reverberations in society, faith, science, and art.

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May 25, 2011

Michael Winship: Democracy Talks -- Listen Up

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Below is an article by Michael Winship.

"Democracy Talks -- Listen Up
By Michael Winship

Bill Moyers has a new book out. In the interest of full disclosure, I edited the book with him and co-wrote its introduction. And in the interest of what may seem to be shameless self-promotion, I urge you to read it.

If you don't buy Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues, borrow it from the nearest local library (Although please keep in mind, we are the sole support of a community of endangered pundits hiding in the swamplands of lower Manhattan. The choice is yours.).

Published by The New Press, the book is a collection of interviews augmented with new introductions and updates, a compilation of some of the best and most interesting conversations conducted during his PBS series from 2007-10, as put together by Bill and the production team. But more than that, Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues functions as an informative and essential primer in contemporary American politics, society and literature, presented with a progressive point of view yet covering the waterfront of ideas and opinions.

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May 19, 2011

Michael Winship: The Importance of Being Tony Kushner

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Below is an article by Michael Winship.

The Importance of Being Tony Kushner
By Michael Winship

Coincidence combined with foresight on the part of my girlfriend Pat -- she bought the tickets months ago -- landed us at a performance of Tony Kushner's new play just days after the executive committee of the City University of New York's (CUNY) board of trustees held an emergency meeting and scrambled to reverse an earlier board decision to table an honorary degree for Kushner.

The resulting serendipity was an affirmation of free speech and of the rightful place of outspoken, often radical thought in an open society, whether you agree with it or not. Tell me that's not worth the price of admission.

Kushner, author of the epic Angels in America and other extraordinary work, initially was denied the degree after objections from CUNY trustee Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, who attacked Kushner as unfairly critical of Israel. He pointed in particular to a statement the playwright reportedly made to an Israeli journalist, one which Wiesenfeld pulled secondhand off the website of controversial political scientist Norman Finkelstein: "Israel was founded in a program that if you really want to be blunt about it was ethnic cleansing and that today is behaving abominably towards the Palestinian people. I have never been a Zionist," Kushner was said to have continued. "I have a problem with the idea of a Jewish state, it would be better if it never had happened."

This is not the first time Mr. Wiesenfeld has made waves at CUNY. As the May 11 New York Times reported, "In 2001, he called participation in an October 'teach-in' sponsored by the union [CUNY's Professional Staff Congress] about the 9/11 attacks 'seditious.' In 2006, he blasted a book that Baruch College had chosen for its freshman reading, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges, calling it 'deeply offensive' and 'anti-Semitic.'" In an interview with the Times' Jim Dwyer following CUNY's initial rejection of Kushner's degree, Wiesenfeld characterized Palestinians as "people who worship death for their children... not human."

Continue reading "Michael Winship: The Importance of Being Tony Kushner" »


May 10, 2011

Michael Winship: Forget the Rich: Tax the Poor and Middle Class!

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Below is an article by Michael Winship.

Forget the Rich: Tax the Poor and Middle Class!
By Michael Winship


Nothing is certain but death and taxes, it used to be said, but in the madcap times we live in, even they're up for grabs.

No matter what proof the White House provides that Osama bin Laden indeed has had his bucket kicked -- and at this point even al Qaeda admits he's dead -- there still will be uncertainty. Whether they ever release those damned photos or not, a lunatic few will continue to insist that Osama's alive and well and running a Papa John's Pizza in Marrakesh.

As for taxes, having to pay them is no longer a sure thing either, especially if you're a corporate giant like General Electric, with a thousand employees in its tax department, skilled in creative accounting. You'll recall recent reports that although GE made profits last year of $5.1 billion in the United States and $14.2 billion worldwide they would pay not a penny of federal income tax. Chalk it up to billions of dollar of losses at GE Capital during the financial meltdown and a government tax break that allows companies to avoid paying US taxes on profits made overseas while "actively financing" different kinds of deals.

It gets worse. In 2009, Exxon-Mobil didn't pay any taxes either, and last year, they had worldwide profits of $30.46 billion. Neither did Bank of America or Chevron or Boeing. According to a report last week from the office of the New York City Public Advocate, in 2009, the five companies, including GE, received a total of $3.7 billion in federal tax benefits.

Continue reading "Michael Winship: Forget the Rich: Tax the Poor and Middle Class!" »


May 4, 2011

Michael Winship: Obama/Osama Trump William, Kate -- and Trump

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Below is an article by Michael Winship.

Obama/Osama Trump William, Kate -- and Trump
By Michael Winship


This has been the kind of week that makes news junkies wig out in a frenzy of adrenalin and information overload while driving to distraction people who try to write weekly pieces like this one.

Just when you think you've got a topic nailed down and sit down at the keyboard to sweat it out -- bam! -- along comes another headline that diverts your attention and dropkicks all your plans out the window.

One thought had been to go the semi-frivolous route and write something about the Royal Wedding -- all that costly pomp and circumstance signifying nothing, the anachronistic irrelevance of monarchy in a 21st century democracy -- or maybe my search for the hollow tree where elves make those Whoville hats worn by some of the guests.

I might even have confessed that my former wife and I, married the same summer as Prince Charles and Princess Diana, spent part of our London honeymoon standing in line to see their wedding gifts on display at St. James Palace, an array of conspicuous consumption that ranged from priceless china, crystal and silver to a Megamix food processor, two hand-knit ski caps and an assortment of tea cozies.

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April 24, 2011

Michael Winship: Congress: Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Below is an article by Michael Winship.

Congress: Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks
By Michael Winship

Remember that scene in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" when Jimmy Stewart arrives in the capital for the first time? The freshman senator shakes off his handlers in Union Station and jumps onto a sightseeing bus, eager to see all the statues and monuments honoring the greats of American history.

"I don't think I've ever been so thrilled in my life," he says afterwards. "And that Lincoln Memorial -- gee whiz! Mr. Lincoln, there he is. Just looking straight at you as you come up those steps. Just sitting there like he was waiting for somebody to come along."

For all their talk of the Founding Fathers, the Constitution and core principles, you'd have thought that the current freshman class of Congress, the sprouted seed of Tea Partiers and the 2010 midterms, would have made a similar tour their first priority on arrival. And for all I know, many of them did just that. But for some, the siren song of cash and influence has proven stronger, already luring them onto the rocks of privilege and corruption that lurk just inside the Beltway. They've made a beeline not for the hallowed shrines of patriots' pride but the elegant suites of K Street lobbyists, where the closest its residents have been to Lincoln is the bearded face peering from the five-dollar bill -- chump change.

Continue reading "Michael Winship: Congress: Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks" »


April 17, 2011

Michael Winship: Harry Potter and the Network of Neutrality

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Below is an article by Michael Winship.

Harry Potter and the Network of Neutrality
By Michael Winship

Who knew Harry Potter's magic powers were for real? Okay, excuse my Muggle-like ignorance, but I didn't believe it until I attended a session at the recent National Conference on Media Reform in Boston, organized by the non-profit organization Free Press. This particular panel was headlined "Pop Culture Warriors: How Online Fan Communities Are Organizing to Save the World."

The Harry Potter Alliance is a group of devotees worldwide who have hocus-pocused their shared love of the Potter books and movies into genuine social activism. As their website declares, they use the power of the Internet to "work with partner NGOs [non-profit, non-governmental organizations] in alerting the world to the dangers of global warming, poverty, and genocide. Work with our partners for equal rights regardless of race, gender, and sexuality. Encourage our members to hone the magic of their creativity in endeavoring to make the world a better place."

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March 18, 2011

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship: Just a Couple of More Things about NPR

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Like Jake LaMotta and his brother Joey in the bloody boxing classic Raging Bull, we are gluttons for punishment. So here we are again, third week in a row, defending NPR against the bare-knuckled assault of its critics.

Our earlier pieces on the funding threat to NPR have generated plenty of punches, both pro and con. And although most of the comments were welcome, and encouraged further thinking about the value of public media in a democratic society, a few reminded us of the words of the poet and scholar James Merrick: "So high at last the contest rose/From words they almost came to blows!"

Nonetheless, reading those comments and criticisms made us realize there are a couple of points that these two wizened veterans of public broadcasting -- with the multiple tote bags and coffee mugs to prove it -- would like to clarify.

Continue reading "Bill Moyers and Michael Winship: Just a Couple of More Things about NPR" »


Bill Moyers and Michael Winship: NPR: The Saga Continues

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

There's no more scrupulous or versatile broadcast journalist than NPR's Daniel Zwerdling. He is one of those reporters who keeps his eye on the sparrow - that is, on small details from individual lives that add up to significant issues of public policy. As he described in a special report this week how the United States Army is clarifying guidelines "that should make it easier for soldiers with traumatic brain injuries from explosions to receive the Purple Heart," it was mind-boggling to think that right wingers in Congress were at that very moment voting to eliminate the modest federal funds that make such essential and authoritative reporting available to anyone in America who cares to tune in.

Zwerdling's collaborator on this report was ProPublica (the non-profit and equally independent newsroom that won the Pulitzer Prize last year for a harrowing account of deadly choices made by a New Orleans hospital during Hurricane Katrina). As a result of their reporting, the Army now intends to give special priority to reexamining the cases of soldiers who suffered battlefield concussions but who mistakenly may have been turned down for the Purple Heart, which historically has been awarded to soldiers injured by enemy action.

You may not think this such a big deal, but the symbolism of the announcement is potent. And it's part of a larger, ongoing investigation conducted by Zwerdling and ProPublica's T. Christian Miller into the military's widespread failure to diagnose and treat traumatic brain injuries, the "signature injury" among troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan as they fall to roadside bombs and other explosives.

Continue reading "Bill Moyers and Michael Winship: NPR: The Saga Continues" »


March 11, 2011

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship: In Defense of NPR

Come on now: Let's take a breath and put this NPR fracas into perspective.

Just as public radio struggles against yet another assault from the its long-time nemesis -- the right-wing machine that would thrill if our sole sources of information were Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and ads paid for by the Koch Brothers -- it walks into a trap perpetrated by one of the sleaziest operatives ever to climb out of a sewer.

First, in the interest of full disclosure: While not presently committing journalism on public television, the two of us have been colleagues on PBS for almost 40 years (although never for NPR). We've lived through every one of the fierce and often unscrupulous efforts by the right to shut down both public television and radio. Our work has sometimes been the explicit bull's eye on the dartboard, as conservative ideologues sought to extinguish the independent reporting and analysis they find so threatening to their phobic worldview.

We have come to believe, as so many others have, that only the creation of a substantial trust fund for public media will free it from the whims and biases of the politicians, including Democratic politicians (yes, after one of our documentaries tracking President Clinton's scandalous fund-raising in the mid-90s, the knives were sharpened on the other side of the aisle.)

Continue reading "Bill Moyers and Michael Winship: In Defense of NPR" »


March 4, 2011

Michael Winship: Wackos of the World, Unite!

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

Wackos of the World, Unite!
By Michael Winship

"Sell crazy someplace else, we're all stocked up here."

Given the level of wackiness that seems to have afflicted this third planet from the sun, Jack Nicholson's immortal line in the movie "As Good as It Gets"" (written by Mark Andrus and James L. Brooks), should become our worldwide slogan. Sure, it's always a cuckoo fest here on Earth, but this week it seems the out-of-control dial has been cranked up way beyond 11.

There's Muammar "Gunshots? What Gunshots?" Qadaffi, who blames rebellion in Libya on a bunch of crazy, mixed up, drug-addled kids, al Qaeda and for all we know, fluoridated water. Then there's Charlie Sheen who, in the vocabulary of recovery, epitomizes the so-called "arrogant doormat," bragging of his Adonis DNA (oh, brother) while whining about the ill treatment that has given him an estimated net worth of $85 million -- a hubris reminiscent of the Emperor Caligula, if Caligula had a Golden Globe and unlimited access to cocaine.

Presidential candidate and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee earned a place on the round the bend roster this week with his claim that President Obama had grown up in Kenya and his subsequent "what I meant to say" contortions, although he may have been outdone by cockamamie radio host Bryan Fischer, who told Huckabee, "What got lost in all the shuffle was the legitimate point that you were making is that we may have a president who has some fundamentally anti-American ideas, that may be rooted in a childhood where he had a father who was virulently anti-colonial, hated the British."

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