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August 13, 2010

Michael Winship: The Wall and the Mosque: Divide and Unite

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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


The Wall and the Mosque: Divide and Unite

By Michael Winship

The current fight over the building of an Islamic study center near Ground Zero here in Manhattan is reminiscent of another battle nearly thirty years ago. Then, too, ignorance, rage and prejudice threatened to destroy the creation of something intended to help mend a grievous wound and foster understanding and reconciliation.

In May 1981, a jury of architects and sculptors announced the results of a nationwide competition to design a Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. Congress had authorized the setting aside of three acres of National Park Service land near the Lincoln Memorial. More than 1400 design submissions came in, so many they took up more than 35,000 square feet in a hangar at Andrews Air Force Base outside the capital. Each entry was numbered so that the identities of those submitting remained anonymous.

Continue reading "Michael Winship: The Wall and the Mosque: Divide and Unite" »


July 30, 2010

Michael Winship: The Right Manipulates Muslims - and Boy Scouts

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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


The Right Manipulates Muslims - and Boy Scouts

By Michael Winship

I was never a Boy Scout but I was a helluva Cub Scout.
Pack 30, First Congregational Church. I rose through the ranks: Bobcat, Wolf, Bear, Lion. I accumulated Gold and Silver Arrow Points, the Cubs' junior varsity version of merit badges. My mom was a Cub Scout den mother and spent a lot of time teaching fake Indian campfire songs and decorating various arts and crafts with poster paint.

But when the time came to transfer to the big guys, the Boy Scouts, I saw years of knot tying and helping little old ladies across the street ahead of me and opted not to re-up. Nonetheless, I feel my time served qualifies me to have an opinion about President Obama not appearing in person at this week's National Scout Jamboree in Caroline County, Virginia.

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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.

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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.

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May 21, 2010

Congress Gets a Kick in the... Pants

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"Congress Gets a Kick in the... Pants"
By Michael Winship

There's a story about a member of the British House of Commons who was stopped in the halls of Parliament by a constituent, an elderly pensioner. The little old man had a specific concern about his fellow senior citizens that he hoped the politician could solve.

He made his case clearly and intelligently and when he was finished, the Member of Parliament promised to see what might be done. As the MP turned to leave, the old man hauled off and kicked him in the backside as hard as he could.

The astonished politician turned; the old man waggled a finger and cheerily said, "Now don't forget!"

Few American politicians will forget that a lot of incumbent backsides were kicked by frustrated voters in Tuesday's primaries: longtime Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, a converted Democrat more from expedience than allegiance, lost renomination to Rep. Joe Sestak; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saw his handpicked Senate candidate go down in Kentucky, defeated by Tea Partier Rand Paul; and Arkansas Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln was forced into a runoff by progressive Democrat Bill Halter.

Yet for all the talk of an anti-incumbent fever sweeping the land, the image of angry voters manning the tumbrels and throwing the rascals out, consider the special congressional election for the late Democratic Congressman John Murtha's seat in southwestern Pennsylvania. Democrat Mark Critz handily defeated Republican Tea Partier Tim Burns and pundits declared it a big loss for the GOP, which had tried to play on anti-Obama and anti-Nancy Pelosi sentiment to defeat Critz.

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May 14, 2010

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: Chevron's "Crude" Attempt to Suppress Free Speech

Even as headlines and broadcast news are dominated by BP's fire-ravaged, sunken offshore rig and the ruptured well gushing a reported 210,000 gallons of oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico, there's another important story involving Big Oil and pollution - one that shatters not only the environment but the essential First Amendment right of journalists to tell truth and shame the devil.

(Have you read, by the way, that after the surviving, dazed and frightened workers were evacuated from that burning platform, they were met by lawyers from the drilling giant Transocean with forms to sign stating they had not been injured and had no first-hand knowledge of what had happened?! So much for the corporate soul.)

But our story is about another petrochemical giant - Chevron - and a major threat to independent journalism. In New York last Thursday, Federal Judge Lewis A. Kaplan ordered documentary producer and director Joe Berlinger to turn over to Chevron more than 600 hours of raw footage used to create a film titled CRUDE: THE REAL PRICE OF OIL.

Released last year, it's the story of how 30,000 Ecuadorians rose up to challenge the pollution of their bodies, livestock, rivers and wells from Texaco's drilling for oil there, a rainforest disaster that has been described as the Amazon's Chernobyl. When Chevron acquired Texaco in 2001 and attempted to dismiss claims that it was now responsible, the indigenous people and their lawyers fought back in court.

Some of the issues and nuances of Berlinger's case are admittedly complex, but they all boil down to this: Chevron is trying to avoid responsibility and hopes to find in the unused footage - material the filmmaker did not utilize in the final version of his documentary - evidence helpful to the company in fending off potential damages of $27.3 billion.

This is a serious matter for reporters, filmmakers and frankly, everyone else. Tough, investigative reporting without fear or favor - already under siege by severe cutbacks and the shutdown of newspapers and other media outlets - is vital to the public awareness and understanding essential to a democracy. As Michael Moore put it, "The chilling effect of this is, [to] someone like me, if something like this is upheld, the next whistleblower at the next corporation is going to think twice about showing me some documents if that information has to be turned over to the corporation that they're working for."

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April 30, 2010

Michael Winship: The Lowdown from Hightower

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"The Lowdown from Hightower"
By Michael Winship

I first became aware of Jim Hightower more than 20 years ago, during the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta. The Democrats were nominating Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis to run for president against Reagan's vice president, George H.W. Bush, and at the time Dukakis looked like he had a pretty good chance at the White House.

This was before a series of events did him in, including the notorious Willie Horton ad that attacked Dukakis for a Massachusetts weekend furlough prison program that allowed a convicted murderer back on the street, where he robbed and raped.

And it was before Dukakis bobbled a harsh debate question about what he would do if his own wife Kitty was raped and murdered. And it was before he was photographed atop an Abrams tank wearing a helmet that made him look like he was starring in "Snoopy III: This Time It's Personal."

All of that misery lay ahead. The Democrats were still in giddy spirits during the convention and had a high old time poking fun at Bush, Sr. That was when the late Ann Richards, then the Texas state treasurer, famously lamented, "Poor George! He can't help it - he was born with a silver foot in his mouth!"

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April 23, 2010

Michael Winship - Goldman Sachs: What Hath Fraud Wrought?

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"Goldman Sachs: What Hath Fraud Wrought?"
By Michael Winship

Goldman Sachs is the Blackwater of finance, the latest in a long line of companies you love to hate, like AIG and the Dallas Cowboys.

Or, as ROLLING STONE's Matt Taibbi infamously characterized it last year, the financial behemoth is "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money." Honestly, Matt has to cut down on his couch time watching The Discovery Channel.

Nevertheless, hit "refresh" on any financial news Web site and you're likely to get yet another revelation of the firm's colossal and impressively varied shenanigans. On Friday, Susan Pulliam reported on the front page of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL that, "A Goldman Sachs Group Inc. director tipped off a hedge-fund billionaire about a $5 billion investment in Goldman by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. before a public announcement of the deal at the height of the 2008 financial crisis, a person close to the situation says."

As the JOURNAL notes, the Buffet deal came at a key point in the Wall Street collapse, restoring confidence in the markets and lifting Goldman's stock from a 40 percent slide to a 45 percent surge. The hedge-fund billionaire in question is Raj Rajaratnam, whose Galleon Group currently is embroiled in one of the biggest insider trading scandals in history: 21, including Rajaratnam, have been charged; 11 already have pled guilty.

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April 16, 2010

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: Crocodile Tears on Wall Street

With all due respect, we can only wish those Tea Party activists who gathered in Washington and other cities this week weren't so single-minded about just who's responsible for all their troubles, real and imagined. They're up in arms, so to speak, against Big Government, especially the Obama administration.

If they thought this through, they'd be joining forces with other grassroots Americans who in the coming weeks will be demonstrating in Washington and other cities against High Finance, taking on Wall Street and the country's biggest banks.

The original Tea Party, remember, wasn't directed just against the British redcoats. Colonial patriots also took aim at the East India Company. That was the joint-stock enterprise originally chartered by the first Queen Elizabeth. Over the years, the government granted them special rights and privileges, which the owners turned into a monopoly over trade, including tea.

It may seem a bit of a stretch from tea to credit default swaps, but the principle is the same: when enormous private wealth goes unchecked, regular folks get hurt - badly. That's what happened in 2008 when the monied interests led us up the garden path to the great collapse.

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April 9, 2010

In West Virginia, Coal Miners' Slaughter

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"In West Virginia, Coal Miners' Slaughter"
By Michael Winship

The high cost of energy in America was paid in human lives this week, with the deaths of more than two dozen miners in a massive explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia. It's the worst mine disaster in a quarter of a century.

Upper Big Branch is owned by Massey Energy Company, which operates 47 mines in central Appalachia. According to the Los Angeles Times, it employs nearly 6,000 and in 2009 reported revenues of $2.3 billion, with a net income of $104.4 million.

At the center of this week's catastrophe is Massey's president and CEO Don Blankenship, a man so reviled nowadays he had to be escorted away by police when he and other company officials tried to address a group of distraught family and friends outside the Upper Big Branch mine in the early morning hours after the explosion. The crowd hurled invective - and a chair.

Blankenship hates unions (Upper Big Branch is a non-union mine), thinks global warming is a figment of our imaginations and that those who do believe in climate change are crazy; supports destructive, mountain-top-removal mining; serves on the board of the conservative, free market U.S. Chamber of Commerce and now, lucky us, shares his pearls of right-wing wisdom via Twitter. "America doesn't need Green jobs," he tweeted pithily last month, "but Red, White, & Blue ones."

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April 2, 2010

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: Dr. King's Economic Dream Deferred

Forty-two years ago, on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated, gunned down in Memphis, Tennessee. To those of us who were alive then, the images are etched in painful memory: One day, Dr. King is standing with colleagues, including Ralph Abernathy and Jesse Jackson, on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel; the next, he's lying there mortally wounded, his aides pointing in the direction of the rifle shot.
Then we remember the crowds of mourners slowly moving through the streets of Atlanta on a hot sunny day, surrounding King's casket as it was carried on a mule-drawn farm wagon; and the riots that burned across the nation in the wake of his death; a stinging, misbegotten rebuke to his gospel of non-violence.

We sanctify his memory now, name streets and schools after him, made his birthday a national holiday. But in April 1968, as Dr. King walked out on that motel balcony, his reputation was under assault. The glory days of the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott and the 1963 March on Washington were behind him, his Nobel Peace Prize already in the past.

A year before, at Riverside Church in New York, he had spoken out - eloquently - against the war in Vietnam. King said, "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death," a position that angered President Lyndon Johnson, many of King's fellow civil rights leaders and influential newspapers. The WASHINGTON POST charged that King had, "diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his country, and to his people."

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March 26, 2010

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: The Unbearable Lightness of Reform

That wickedly satirical Ambrose Bierce described politics as "the conduct of public affairs for private advantage."

Bierce vanished to Mexico nearly a hundred years ago - to the relief of the American political class of his day, one assumes - but in an eerie way he was forecasting America's political culture today. It seems like most efforts to reform a system that's gone awry - to clean house and make a fresh start - end up benefiting the very people who wrecked it in the first place.

Which is why Bierce, in his classic little book, The DEVIL'S DICTIONARY, defined reform as "a thing that mostly satisfies reformers opposed to reformation."

So we got health care reform this week - but it's a far cry from reformation. You can't blame President Obama for celebrating what he did get - he and the Democrats needed some political points on the scoreboard. And imagine the mood in the White House if the vote had gone the other way; they would have been cutting wrists instead of cake.

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March 11, 2010

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship - Ask the Chamber of Commerce: Why Is Too Much Not Enough?

Living in these United States, there comes a point at which you throw your hands up in exasperation and despair and ask a fundamental question or two: how much excess profit does corporate America really need? How much bigger do executive salaries and bonuses have to be, how many houses or jets or artworks can be crammed into a life?

After all, as billionaire movie director Steven Spielberg is reported to have said, when all is said and done, "How much better can lunch get?"

But since greed is not self-governing, hardly anyone raking in the dough ever stops to say, "That's it. Enough's enough! How do we prevent it from sweeping up everything in its path, including us?"

Look at the health care industry saying to hell with consumers and then hiking premiums - by as much as 39% in the case of Anthem Blue Cross in California. According to congressional investigators, over a two-year period Anthem's parent company WellPoint spent more than $27 million dollars for executive retreats at luxury resorts. And in 2008, WellPoint paid 39 of its executives more than a million dollars each. Profit before patients.

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March 5, 2010

Michael Winship - Campaign 2010: Déjà Vu All Over Again

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"Campaign 2010: Déjà Vu All Over Again"
By Michael Winship

Comparisons are odious, the old saying goes, and certainly Democrats are dealing with some smelly, stinky realities as they stare down the next eight months until Election Day 2010 and pundits galore compare the party's prospects to debacles of the past.

For a long time parallels were being made with 1994 and the midterm elections during Bill Clinton's first term. Those gave us a Republican House and Senate, the glory that was Newt Gingrich and a Contract with America that after a dozen years turned out to have a hell of a balloon payment attached.

But this week, the mainstream media meme has shifted, advancing to the elections of 2006, when Democrats took back control of Congress, campaigning against a GOP "culture of corruption." Now the village drums are signaling that it's the Democrats who have been poisoned by too much power and made vulnerable. Exhibit A is Charlie Rangel, dean of the New York congressional delegation, forced to step down this week as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.

As Reid Wilson wrote Wednesday on the NATIONAL JOURNAL's Hotline on Call blog, "Dems have seen this movie before - only last time, it happened to the other guys. Now, a beleaguered Dem majority has to hope their party can withstand a building wave that favors the GOP, and that effort isn't made any easier by countless, and mounting, self-inflicted errors.

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February 26, 2010

Michael Winship: Two Legal Foes Unite to Fight -- for Same-Sex Marriage

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"Two Legal Foes Unite to Fight -- for Same-Sex Marriage"
By Michael Winship

Watching this week's "health summit" in Washington, with both sides barely repressing the urge to turn the Blair House event into the Potomac version of mixed martial arts cage fighting, was discouraging. To get a little peace and quiet I was tempted to switch to ESPN and search for an hour of the world's greatest soccer riots. At least they make better theater. And there are better-defined goals.

But just when you think that liberals and conservatives will never see eye to eye on anything in this country, there comes an alliance that transcends partisan and ideological lines and takes your breath away. The two powerhouse lawyers who fought each other all the way to the Supreme Court to decide whether Al Gore or George W. Bush would become President are at it again, but this time they're fighting on the same side to defend marriage equality - same-sex marriage - as a constitutional right.

Former Bush Solicitor General Ted Olson and liberal attorney David Boies are in the middle of a case that, win or lose, they expect will wind up at the Supreme Court, just like Bush v. Gore. The former adversaries are united in support of core American values - diversity, equality and tolerance. They've become key players in one of the most important civil rights trials of the last decade, a pivotal legal action that could change contemporary society, but which has escaped the attention of much of the country.

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February 19, 2010

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: What Are We Bid For American Justice?

That famous definition of a cynic as someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing has come to define this present moment of American politics.

No wonder people have lost faith in politicians, parties and in our leadership. The power of money drives cynicism deep into the heart of every level of government. Everything – and everyone – comes with a price tag attached: from a seat at the table in the White House to a seat in Congress to the fate of health care reform, our environment and efforts to restrain Wall Street’s greed and prevent another financial catastrophe.

Our government is not broken; it’s been bought out from under us, and on the right and the left and smack across the vast middle more and more Americans doubt representative democracy can survive the corruption of money.

Last month, the Supreme Court carried cynicism to new heights with its decision in the Citizens United case. Spun from a legal dispute over the airing on a pay-per-view channel of a right-wing documentary attacking Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential primaries, the decision could have been made very narrowly. Instead, the conservative majority of five judges issued a sweeping opinion that greatly expands corporate power over our politics.

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February 12, 2010

Michael Winship: From the Annals of Sno-Cone Science

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"From the Annals of Sno-Cone Science"
By Michael Winship

There's a vintage Bob and Ray radio sketch in which Bob plays "Mr. Science," a parody of TV's "Mr. Wizard." He's trying to explain to his young protégé Sandy "the miracle of gas refrigeration."

"Doesn't it seem paradoxical to you that a refrigerator is made cold by a flame?" Mr. Science asks.

Sandy exclaims, "Holy cats! Wait 'til I tell the gang at school that! I thought it was made cold by the ice cubes, Mr. Science!"

Sandy's slippery grasp of physics and Mr. Science's increasingly convoluted explanations characterize the debate over climate change that was taking place in Washington and the media this week. As the capital and much of the Eastern seaboard were digging themselves out from two big snow events, climate change deniers were pointing to the frozen tundra on the Potomac as evidence that global warming is a fraud.

Virginia's Republican Party used the blizzards to put out a snarky ad attacking two of the state's Democratic congressmen who voted for the cap-and-trade bill last year: "Tell them how much global warming you get this weekend," the spot chortled. "Maybe they'll come help you shovel."

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February 5, 2010

Michael Winship: Lobbyists Retreat But Never Surrender

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"Lobbyists Retreat But Never Surrender"
By Michael Winship

George Washington's birthday is approaching and with it will come the attendant mythology: hatchet and cherry tree, wooden teeth, throwing a silver dollar across the Potomac River - or the Rappahannock.

Of course, as the old joke goes, a dollar went a lot further then. Today, if you tried to hurl a silver dollar across the Potomac, chances are some member of Congress would snatch it in flight like one of those nature film grizzly bears grabbing a salmon in mid-leap.

And the more likely person doing the throwing would be a lobbyist, tossing coins in the air to keep the playful legislator's attention. The other day, the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics reported that more than 15,600 companies spent at least $3.2 billion on federal lobbying last year. Five hundred thirty-five members of the House and Senate, more than 13,000 registered lobbyists in DC - you do the math.

This week, White House Special Counsel Norm Eisen blogged about President Obama's plans to further crack down on lobbyists by updating the Lobbying Disclosure Act and getting Congress to mandate "low-dollar limits on the contributions lobbyists may bundle or make to candidates for federal office," bundling being that insidious practice by which you raise a lot of money by hitting up a number of people for contributions and "bundling" their donations together.

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January 22, 2010

Michael Winship - Progressives: Don't Mourn, Organize

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"Progressives: Don't Mourn, Organize"
By Michael Winship

Tragic events continuing out of Haiti make all the bad news for progressives this week wither in comparison. Nonetheless, over these last few days, for liberals in particular, there has been no joy in Mudville - aka American politics.

Just for starters: Thursday's Supreme Court decision opening the floodgates for corporate dollars dominating campaign advertising; the election of Republican Scott Brown to the Senate, ending the Democrats so-called supermajority of 60 votes; and the subsequent collapse of health care reform as Democratic members of Congress scurried for the fire exits.

For a moment at least President Obama must have felt like he was in one of those animated cartoons where the hero tries to rally his troops shouting, "What are we, men or mice?" and the response is a chorus of rodent-like squeaks.

Add to this John Edwards confessing - finally - to paternity, and the withdrawal of Erroll Southers' name as Obama's choice to run the Transportation Security Administration after weeks of harassment by conservative Senator Jim DeMint (and the revelation that Southers had dissembled about incidents 20 years ago when he accessed a Federal database to investigate his estranged wife's new boyfriend). Yikes.

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January 15, 2010

Michael Winship: Global Cooling? Tell It to the Jellyfish

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"Global Cooling? Tell It to the Jellyfish"
By Michael Winship

There are certain newspaper headlines that catch your eye and stop you in your tracks. Like the NEW YORK POST's famous "Headless Body in Topless Bar." Or such tabloid greats as "Evil Cows Ate My Garden," "Double Decker Bus Found on Moon," and my personal favorite, "Proof of Reincarnation: Baby Born with Wooden Leg."

Along similar lines, I was startled this week when London's DAILY MAIL published an article headlined, "Could we be in for 30 years of global COOLING?" Triggered by the unusual cold and snow in the United Kingdom over the last few weeks, the article began, "Britain's big freeze is the start of a worldwide trend towards colder weather that seriously challenges global warming theories, eminent scientists claimed yesterday."

The story went on to reference various researchers and their institutions, including the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder, which reported, according to the Mail, that, "the warming of the Earth since 1900 is due to natural oceanic cycles, and not man-made greenhouse gases."

This was followed by an article on the Fox News Web site with the headline, "30 Years of Global Cooling Are Coming, Leading Scientist Says."

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January 8, 2010

Michael Winship: California, Here We Come

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"California, Here We Come"
By Michael Winship

A number of years ago, when I would travel to California on business with my friend the late journalist and comedy writer Eliot Wald, we always carved out time to visit a couple of those massive Los Angeles grocery chains, like Ralph’s or Vons.

It wasn’t because we had a lust for retail or a massive munchie attack. Rather, we geekily would explore the aisles looking for the odd new products that had started in California, stuff we figured might soon migrate East. Like those big cardboard shades people prop up against the front windows of their parked cars to keep the interior from getting overheated. One of many brilliant California inventions descended from a long line of greats: the Hula Hoop and Frisbee, the Popsicle and Zamboni ice cleaning machine.

Eventually, Eliot moved to LA, where he could continue the pursuit full time. I still feel it’s a nice place to visit, but why risk earthquakes or earning millions in the movie business?

Nonetheless, I continue to watch out for California innovations and keep an eye on the store shelves when I’m there. The state remains a harbinger of things to come. These days, though, what California’s exporting – besides Chihuahuas to needy families east of the Rockies – is more disturbing.

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December 22, 2009

Michael Winship: Where Are the Snows – and Shovels – of Christmas Past?

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"Where Are the Snows – and Shovels – of Christmas Past?"
By Michael Winship

We had our first snowstorm of the winter in Manhattan this past weekend and it served to remind me that I have not actually shoveled snow in decades – the result of living in a city where other people are hired to do it for you. It once was said that the definition of a city was a place where one could keep a mistress and buy a violin; to me it’s a place where someone else does the sidewalks.

This is after all, a cosmopolitan island off the coast of the eastern United States, where patrols of garbage trucks with plows attached to the front – sometimes half a dozen of them at once – scraped our streets several times during the night and following day. We even have those trucks that melt 60 tons of snow an hour and flush it into the sewers, where presumably the alligators who live down there are going, “What the…?”

It wasn’t always like this – four decades ago, in February 1969, 15 inches of snow fell on New York one Sunday and the city was totally paralyzed. Nearly 40 percent of our snow removal gear wasn’t working properly because of poor maintenance. The borough of Queens was especially hard hit, with neighborhoods unplowed for days and no bus service or garbage pick-up. Mayor John Lindsay was booed as he tried to tour the streets.

That winter, I was just finishing high school and shoveling snow was still an important, if not just about the only part of my physical regimen.

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December 18, 2009

Michael Winship: Happy Holidays from America's Banks

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"Happy Holidays from America’s Banks"
By Michael Winship

Never mind Barack Obama’s Audacity of Hope. It’s the audacity of the banks that takes your breath away. Mean old Mr. Potter in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE seems like Father Christmas by comparison.

A recent report that Citigroup and Goldman Sachs may have received preferential treatment getting doses of the swine flu vaccine was enough to give Ebenezer Scrooge the yips. Then came news that in order for us to get back the taxpayer bailout money we loaned them, Citigroup is receiving billions of dollars in tax breaks from the IRS.

And there’s a new study this week, “Rewarding Failure,” from the public interest group Public Citizen, revealing that in the years leading up to the financial meltdown, the CEO’s of the 10 Wall Street giants that either collapsed or got huge amounts of TARP money were paid an average of $28.9 million dollars a year.

In 2007, that amounted to 575 times the median income of an American family. Now, thanks in part to the banks’ monumental malfeasance that led to our economic swan dive, food stamps are now being used to feed one in eight Americans, and a quarter of all the kids in this country. A new poll from THE NEW YORK TIMES and CBS News reports that more than half of our unemployed have borrowed money from friends and relatives and have cut back on medical treatment. THE TIMES wrote that, “Joblessness has wreaked financial and emotional havoc on the lives of many of those out of work… causing major life changes, mental health issues and trouble maintaining even basic necessities.”

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December 11, 2009

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: The Land Mines Obama Won’t Touch

Many people are troubled that Barack Obama flew to Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize so soon after escalating the war in Afghanistan. He is now more than doubling the number of troops there when George W. Bush left office.

The irony was not lost on the President, and he tried to address it in his Nobel acceptance speech. “I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land,” he said. “Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict – filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.”

Granted, there’s a gap here between the rhetoric and the reality. But there’s always been something askew about Nobel Peace Prize, in no small part because it’s given in the name of the man who invented dynamite, one of the most powerful and destructive weapons in the human arsenal.

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December 4, 2009

Michael Winship: The Afghan Ambush

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"The Afghan Ambush"
By Michael Winship

The decision has been made. The months of meetings and briefings are over. Tuesday night, the President made it official: 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan. Along with Friday’s announcement of an additional 7,000 from our NATO allies, after all those weeks of debate and consultation, the result’s pretty much exactly what our commander over there, General Stanley McChrystal, asked for in the first place.

As they used to say in the old war movies, we’re in it now, up to our necks. More than ever, this is Obama’s War. The mess he inherited from the previous administration is now his mess. And while many Republicans may don their helmets, rattle their empty rusty scabbards and shout that escalation is the only way to go, their temporary declarations of support are just that – temporary. Pats on the back are simply their way of finding the proper place to stick the knife.

Last week's Gallup Poll showed that while 65 percent of Republicans support sending all the troops McChrystal wants, only 17 percent of Obama's own Democrats do; 57 percent want a troop reduction. In other words, ignoring the entreaties of a majority in his own party Obama is going to war cheered on by the opposition that will do everything in its power next fall to bring him and his fellow Democrats down.

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November 25, 2009

Michael Winship: A Jane Goodall Thanksgiving

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"A Jane Goodall Thanksgiving"
By Michael Winship

Give thanks. Because this isn’t one of those Thanksgiving lists of things for which we should be grateful -- although health, family, friends, laughter, etc., would certainly all be on mine.

And Jane Goodall.

Yes, that Jane Goodall, the woman we all grew up with watching those National Geographic specials on TV as she communed with the chimpanzees of Tanzania’s Gombe National Park in East Africa. Everyone I know seems especially to remember those scenes of chimps ingeniously utilizing straw and blades of grass to poke around in mounds hunting for termites, proof that they know how to make and use tools. I still have trouble opening a can of tuna.

Goodall was interviewed by my colleague Bill Moyers for this week’s edition of BILL MOYERS JOURNAL on PBS. She began her work in Africa in 1960 at the age of 26, spurred by the encouragement of her English mother and the great anthropologist Louis Leakey, as well as the African adventure books she read as a child. “I was in love with Tarzan,” she told Moyers. “I was so jealous of that wimpy Jane. I knew I would have been a better mate for Tarzan.”

I’m especially thankful to Jane Goodall after reading the passage in Sarah Palin’s GOING ROGUE in which the erstwhile vice presidential candidate and Governor of Alaska writes that she doesn’t “believe in the theory that human beings -- thinking, loving beings -- originated from fish that sprouted legs and crawled out of the sea. Or that human beings began as single-celled organisms that developed into monkeys who eventually swung down from trees.”

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November 20, 2009

Michael Winship: New York's Tough Enough for Terrorist Trials

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"New York’s Tough Enough for Terrorist Trials"
By Michael Winship

If you want to royally tick off New Yorkers, try telling us what to do.

That’s probably why the police stopped trying to enforce the jaywalking laws here years ago (as opposed to Washington, DC, where I once got one too many tickets and was sent to pedestrian school).

And that’s why in the weeks after 9/11, my favorite sign was the one that appeared in the windows of Italian-American neighborhoods near where I live downtown. In bright red, white and blue, it read: “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. You got a problem with that?”

So imagine how pleased many of us were when told by conservatives – most of them from out-of-town -- that we should be very afraid that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and some of his Al Qaeda henchmen will be put on trial here in New York City, just blocks from the scene of their horrific crime, the World Trade Center.

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November 17, 2009

Michael Winship: In a Chilly London November, War and Remembrance

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"In a Chilly London November, War and Remembrance"
By Michael Winship

In Great Britain, Remembrance Sunday falls on the second Sunday of November, the one closest to November 11th, the anniversary of the end of the First World War in 1918. Once, the world called November 11th Armistice Day. Now, here in the States at least, it is Veterans Day.

As coincidence and travel itineraries would have it, twice over the last four years I’ve been in London on Remembrance Sunday. This time, my girlfriend Pat and I were on our way home from Greece, stopping off for a couple of days to see old friends.

As we unpacked at the hotel, a recap of the Remembrance Sunday ceremonies was playing on TV – Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife laying a wreath at the Cenotaph (the UK equivalent of our Tomb of the Unknown Soldier), a stirring parade of veterans along Whitehall, the military bands playing “Rule, Britannia,” “God Save the Queen” and “O Valiant Hearts.”

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November 10, 2009

Michael Winship: Don’t Believe Everything the Oracle Tells You

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"Don’t Believe Everything the Oracle Tells You"
By Michael Winship

ATHENS, GREECE – Last Sunday, we visited the ruins of ancient Delphi, two hours or so from here in the Greek capital, an extraordinary site at the base of Mount Parnassus overlooking the Pleistos Valley, almost half a mile below. You could see the acres of olive trees there. The Ionian Sea shimmered on the horizon.

Legend has it that Zeus released two eagles from the opposite ends of the earth. They met at Delphi, determining that it was the center, the so-called navel of the world.

Delphi and its temples were where the famous Oracle lived, uttering its often ambiguous and mysterious predictions through a priestess who spoke on its behalf – but, our guide claimed, only after inhaling sulfuric vapors from a hole in the earth and chewing laurel leaves to get into the proper psychotropic mood.

During the Persian Wars, the guide said, Athenians asked the Oracle how to protect themselves from being attacked by the enemy. The Oracle replied, “A wall of wood alone shall be uncaptured.” Many of the Athenians figured that meant they should seek protection behind a formidable wooden barricade. Makes sense, but the Persians seized the city anyway. Such is the price of being logical – in my experience, it’s always a mistake to take a priestess imbibing laurel leaves and sulfur too literally.

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October 23, 2009

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: Texas, the Eyes of Justice Are Upon You

On October 13, we lost a resolute champion of the law, a man who left his impact on the lives of untold numbers of Americans.

His very name made his life’s work almost inevitable, a matter of destiny. William Wayne Justice was a Federal judge for the Eastern District of Texas. That’s right, he was “Justice Justice.” And he spent a distinguished legal career making sure that everyone – no matter their color or income or class – got a fair shake. As a former Texas lieutenant governor put it last week, “Judge Justice dragged Texas into the 20th century, God bless him.”

Dragged it kicking and screaming, for it was Justice who ordered Texas to integrate its public schools in 1971 – 17 years after the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision made separate schools for blacks and whites unconstitutional. Texas resisted doing the right thing for as long as it could. Many of its segregated schools for African-American children were so poor they still had outhouses instead of indoor plumbing.

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October 16, 2009

Michael Winship: The Nobel Prize with an Asterisk

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"The Nobel Prize with an Asterisk"
By Michael Winship

Despite the graciousness of his speech at the White House last Friday, President Obama’s acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize did have an air slightly reminiscent of Lincoln’s story about the man who was tarred, feathered and ridden out of town on a rail – if it wasn’t for the honor of the thing he’d just as soon walk.

Inger-Marie Ytterhorn, a member of the Nobel committee that chose him, told the Associated Press this week, “I looked at his face when he was on TV and confirmed that he would receive the prize and would come to Norway and he didn’t look particularly happy.”

After all, Obama has been President for barely nine months and yes, he has made some fine speeches in support of peace and bettering international relations. But was that enough to merit the award? Was he winning it more for who he’s not – George W. Bush – than for who he is?

Sadly, much of the initial reaction in the United States was churlish and scornful, ill-informed, and frankly, as un-American as those of the knee-jerk right who cheered when Obama’s quick trip to Copenhagen failed to win the Olympics for his Chicago hometown. We are less serious as a nation than we should be. The empty-headedness and inanity of much of the media and political response to the announcement bears testament to that unhappy truth. We would do better to see ourselves as others see us than to scream in protest and sarcasm when another part of the world wishes to honor our President and us.

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October 9, 2009

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: In Washington, Revolving Doors are Bad for Your Health

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

"In Washington, Revolving Doors are Bad for Your Health"
By Bill Moyers & Michael Winship

On Tuesday, October 13, the Senate Finance Committee finally is scheduled to vote on its version of health care insurance reform. And therein lies yet another story in the endless saga of money and politics.

In most polls, the majority of Americans favor a non-profit alternative -- like Medicare -- that would give the private health industry some competition. So if so many of us, including President Obama himself, want that public option, how come we're not getting one?

Because the medicine that could cure our healthcare nightmare has been poisoned from Day One – fatally adulterated, thanks to the infamous, Washington revolving door. Movers and shakers rotate between government and the private sector at a speed so dizzying they forget for whom they’re supposed to be working.

If you’ve been watching the Senate Finance Committee’s markup sessions, maybe you’ve noticed a woman sitting behind Committee Chairman Max Baucus. Her name is Liz Fowler.

Fowler used to work for WellPoint, the largest health insurer in the country. She was its vice president of public policy. Baucus’ office failed to mention this in the press release announcing her appointment as senior counsel in February 2008, even though it went on at length about her expertise in “health care policy.”

Now she’s working for the very committee with the most power to give her old company and the entire industry exactly what they want – higher profits – and no competition from alternative non-profit coverage that could lower costs and premiums.

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October 2, 2009

Michael Winship - Gelbart and Schulberg: Two Writers Depart an Ever Stranger Land

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"Gelbart and Schulberg: Two Writers Depart an Ever Stranger Land"
By Michael Winship

You certainly can argue that the depths to which our so-called democratic dialogue has sunk are nothing new. Politicians and advocates have been slinging mud since the earth was cool enough to hurl.

The undeniable difference today is the speed and variety of the compost being thrown. With the 24-hour instantaneous delivery systems offered by radio, TV and the Internet, people are feeling more and more compelled to say ludicrous, shameful things in public that just a short time ago they would have hesitated to say in private.

Rational pleas for ceasefires go unheeded. But this week, conservative Rick Moran, the freelance writer (and brother of ABC News’ Nightline co-host Terry Moran) who runs the archly named Web site Right Wing Nuthouse, went out on a limb and urged sanity.

He wrote, “Employing reason and rationality to fight Obama and the liberals is far superior to the utter stupidity found in the baseless, exaggerated, hyperbolic and ignorant critiques of the left and Obama that is [sic] passed off as ‘conservative’ thought by those who haven’t a clue what conservatism means…

“Exaggeration is not argument. It is emotionalism run rampant. And at its base is simple, unreasoning fear. Fear of change, fear that the powerlessness conservatives feel right now is a permanent feature of American politics, and, I am sorry to say, fear of Obama because he is a black man.”

Stir into this perverse brew some of the illogical bloviation being bruited about in the chambers of the United States Congress and you have the perfect recipe for the death of rational political discourse in America.

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September 18, 2009

Michael Winship - Let's Make a Deal: Beltway Edition

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"Let's Make a Deal: Beltway Edition"
By Michael Winship

If you ever needed proof that Washington is governed by the Golden Rule – the one that says, he who has the gold, rules – you only have to look at the wagonloads of cash being dumped by big business into crushing President Obama’s domestic agenda.

Good gosh, how the money rolls in. And I’m not only talking about the millions bankrolling the gang war over health care reform. A couple of weeks ago, THE WASHINGTON POST reported that the energy lobby is barnstorming around the country holding rallies and concerts, giving away free lunches and tee-shirts, spreading the wealth like a drunken oil tycoon – all to defeat the cap-and-trade climate bill that squeaked through the House and now awaits a vote by the Senate.

The paper noted that in the first half of the year oil and natural gas groups spent $82.1 million lobbying Capitol Hill – but that environmental, health and clean-energy interests scraped together less than a quarter of that amount, $18.7 million. Money talks, and it’s murmuring in your ear, “Global warming, what global warming?”

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September 11, 2009

Michael Winship: Marine's Photo Reminds Us of War that Will Not End

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"Marine's Photo Reminds Us of War that Will Not End"
By Michael Winship

There was a certain ironic and painful symmetry at work last month. As one iconic image of war was called into doubt, another was being created, a new photograph of combat’s grim reality that already has generated controversy and anger.

When it was first published in 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, Robert Capa’s photo was captioned “Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death.” Better known today as “The Falling Soldier,” the picture purportedly captures the gunning down of a Republican anarchist named Federico Borrell Garcia who was fighting against the forces of General Francisco Franco. Dressed in what look like civilian clothes, wearing a cartridge belt, he is thrown backwards in an almost balletic swoon, his rifle falling from his right hand.

The picture quickly came to symbolize the merciless and random snuffing out of life in wartime – that murder committed in the name of God or country can strike unexpectedly, from a distance, like lightning from a cloudless sky.

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September 4, 2009

Michael Winship: Coming Soon to a Democracy Near You...

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"Coming Soon to a Democracy Near You..."
By Michael Winship

The envelope, please. And the winner for “most influential motion picture in American politics” is… HILLARY: THE MOVIE.

Never heard of it? Not surprising – very few people saw it in the first place. But HILLARY: THE MOVIE – a no-holds-barred attack on the life and career of Hillary Clinton intended for viewing during her presidential campaign – could prove to have an impact on the political scene greater than even its producers could have dreamed.

In the world of money and politics, HILLARY: THE MOVIE may turn out to be the sleeper hit of the year, a boffo blockbuster. Depending on the outcome of a special Supreme Court hearing on September 9th, this little piece of propaganda could unleash a new torrent of cash flooding into campaigns from big business, unions and other special interests. HILLARY: THE MOVIE may turn out to be FRANKENSTEIN: THE MONSTER.

The film was created by a conservative group called Citizens United. They wanted to distribute the film via on-demand TV and buy commercials to promote those telecasts, but because the film was partially financed by corporate sponsors, the Federal Election Commission said no, that it was a violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act – McCain-Feingold – which restricts the use of corporate money directly for or against candidates.

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August 28, 2009

Michael Winship: Even Camelot Needed Health Care

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"Even Camelot Needed Health Care"
By Michael Winship

Toward the end of George McGovern’s failed presidential bid in 1972, I was helping advance a bus trip for vice presidential candidate Sargent Shriver. The final weekend of the campaign, his caravan would start in New Hampshire and work its way down the Eastern seaboard, holding rallies along the way and winding up in Washington, DC, just before Election Day.

As we spoke with mayors whose cities would be visited, the draw wasn’t Shriver but the news that his brother-in-law, Senator Ted Kennedy, would be accompanying him. Even though Chappaquiddick had taken place just a little more than three years before, it was the Kennedy charisma, the power of that family that still got even the most seasoned local politico excited.

Imagine how popular we were a few days later when we had to go back to tell them Teddy wasn’t coming. His bad back from that near fatal plane crash in 1964 made a long bus journey impossible to endure. Shriver still drew crowds but it just wasn’t the same.

Nearly 20 years later, I ran into Kennedy on an escalator at the AFL-CIO convention in Detroit as he arrived to make a speech. No bodyguards (visible, anyway), no entourage. I thought that I had never seen him look so healthy and vigorous. The gregariousness that made him such a consummate politician was on full display as we chatted and he loudly greeted union officials as we ascended, each a hail fellow, well met.

To those belonging to the post-baby boomer generations, it may be difficult to comprehend the change that took place in America when Ted Kennedy’s older brother Jack became President in 1961 – although the successful embracing of the Obama candidacy by young people comes close.

As we ended the years of the Eisenhower administration, even though the nation was more prosperous than ever, there was a grayness to everyday life that seemed to shift to Technicolor with the advent of those brief Kennedy years, like Dorothy shaking off the dust of Kansas for Oz.

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August 14, 2009

Michael Winship: The Gorilla Dust of Health Care

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

''The Gorilla Dust of Health Care''
By Michael Winship

When I was 15, my father was in a near-fatal car collision with a semi-trailer truck. At Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY, he lay in a coma for two months.

As the medical bills mounted and the insurance was running out, my mother had to make an agonizing decision. My father would have to be airlifted to the VA Medical Center in Kansas City, where his veteran’s benefits would defray the costs. She would go there with him; arrangements would have to be made for someone to take care of her home and kids while she was away. For how long, no one was certain.

Miraculously – almost as if he realized what was going on – Dad suddenly emerged from his coma and was released from Strong a short time later. He never fully recovered from the accident, but for that moment, at least, further domestic upheaval and financial chaos were averted.

Flash forward nearly 30 years and it was my mother who was now in the hospital, diminished physically and spiritually by dementia. Her children made the choice together but it was my sister, who had become her chief caregiver, who bore much of the brunt of the decision not to resuscitate.

In the months and years prior to my mother’s death, the kind of end-of-life counseling that health care reformers are talking about – not the bizarre, phony “death panels” falsely conjured by Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Betsy McCaughey and others, now including Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley – would have been welcome.

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August 6, 2009

Michael Winship: Neighborhood Watch on Planet Earth

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

''Neighborhood Watch on Planet Earth''
By Michael Winship

For a bit of change, let’s talk about a different kind of health care reform – the kind that affects the health of the planet.

The other evening, I was listening to All Things Considered on NPR. Robert Siegel was interviewing Dr. Hal Levison, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, about the king-sized comet that slammed into Jupiter a few weeks ago.

The comet’s impact – it punched a hole the size of the Pacific Ocean, and would have annihilated a lesser planet, like Earth – was discovered by an amateur astronomer in Australia. Siegel asked how such an event escaped the notice of the world’s great observatories.

“There are only a few really large telescopes,” Levison explained. “They're hard to get time on, and so they're dedicated to particular projects. And the amateurs really are the only ones that have time just to monitor things to see what's happening.”

“Part of the Neighborhood Watch looking out the front door,” Siegel suggested.

Neighborhood Watch. Dr. Levison liked that analogy and so do I. Combined with the recent passing of space enthusiast Walter Cronkite and the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, it got me thinking about the value of exploring the cosmos at a time of economic destitution on the ground and a national deficit that makes the word “astronomical” seem inadequate.

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July 31, 2009

Michael Winship: Pay-to-Play Is Washington’s Sport of Kings

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

''Pay-to-Play Is Washington’s Sport of Kings''
By Michael Winship

As we marvel over the depths of hypocrisy and greed currently plumbed in the health care reform debate, it may help to remember that even Honest Abe Lincoln had his share of tainted colleagues, one of the most notorious of whom was his first Secretary of War, Simon Cameron.

According to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s TEAM OF RIVALS, when Lincoln asked radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens how corrupt Cameron was, Stevens paused and replied, “I don’t think he would steal a red hot stove.” When Cameron objected, Stevens allowed that maybe he was wrong -- implying that the cabinet secretary would steal a hot stove.

Cameron resigned after less than a year in office, plagued by allegations of war profiteering and overall ineptitude. He’s largely forgotten now, but something he supposedly said is immortalized in the lexicon of famous sayings about money and government.

“An honest politician,” he declared, “is one who when he is bought, stays bought.”

The giants of the health care industry fighting legitimate reform will soon discover whether all the money they’re spent on lobbying has worked yet again and which of the politicians they have showered with campaign contributions will toe the line and stay bought, thwarting the desires of the majority of the American people.

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July 24, 2009

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: Obama's Health Care Struggle – Waterloo or Water Down?

Push finally came to shove in Washington this week as the battle for health care escalated from scattered sniper fire into all-out combat. If it all seems to be getting more and more confusing, join the club. It’s hard to see what’s happening through all the gun smoke.

The Republicans have more than health care reform in their bombsights – they want a loss for Obama so crushing it will bring the administration to its knees and restore GOP control of Congress after next year’s elections. In the words of Republican Senator Jim DeMint, “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”

The “Waterloo” of DeMint’s metaphor, of course, is not the 1974 ABBA hit but the battle in 1815 that ended Napoleon Bonaparte’s rule as Emperor of France – a humiliating defeat and a turning point in European history. Right wingers like Glenn Beck see Obama as Napoleon incarnate, a popular emperor who must be stopped.

Here’s what Beck said on his television show Monday, July 20: “I’m telling you, this guy is dangerous. He’s never lost before. He won’t understand… like, ‘Who are you to question me?’ I mean, this guy is practically an imperial President now. When he starts to lose and people start to question him and push him back against the wall, he’s not gonna know how to react.”

The Republican strategy is almost identical to the way they turned health care into Waterloo for Bill and Hillary Clinton in 1993. Back then, one of their chief propagandists, William Kristol, urged his party to block any health care plan for fear that Democrats would be seen as “the generous protector of middle class interests.” Now he’s telling the GOP to “go for the kill… throw the kitchen sink… drive a stake through its heart… We need to start over.”

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July 17, 2009

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: Oysters for Health Care

This is a story of health care and two Americans; a tale of two citizens, if you will.

This week, Regina Benjamin was nominated by President Obama as our next surgeon general, charged with educating Americans on medical issues and overseeing the United States Public Health Service. She was the first African American woman to head a state medical society, a member of the board of trustees of the American Medical Association and last year was named the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation genius award.

But more important, she’s a country doctor, a family physician along the Gulf Coast of Alabama, serving the poor and uninsured – white, black and Asian. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed her clinic – the second time a hurricane had done so – she mortgaged her own home to rebuild it. The day it was to reopen, a fire burned the clinic to the ground. Moving to a trailer, Dr. Benjamin and her staff never missed a day of work.

Stan Wright, the tobacco-chewing mayor of Bayou La Batre, the small shrimp-fishing community in which Dr. Benjamin practices, told National Public Radio, “She’ll do whatever she’s gotta do to make sure everyone’s taken care of.”

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July 10, 2009

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: Some Choice Words For "The Select Few"

If you want to know what really matters in Washington, don't go to Capitol Hill for one of those hearings, or pay attention to those staged White House "town meetings.” They’re just for show. What really happens – the serious business of Washington – happens in the shadows, out of sight, off the record. Only occasionally – and usually only because someone high up stumbles -- do we get a glimpse of just how pervasive the corruption has become.

Case in point: Katharine Weymouth, the publisher of THE WASHINGTON POST – one of the most powerful people in DC – invited top officials from the White House, the Cabinet and Congress to her home for an intimate, off-the-record dinner to discuss health care reform with some of her reporters and editors covering the story.

But CEO’s and lobbyists from the health care industry were invited, too, provided they forked over $25,000 a head – or up to a quarter of a million if they want to sponsor a whole series of these cozy get-togethers. And what is the inducement offered? Nothing less, the invitation read, than “an exclusive opportunity to participate in the health-care reform debate among the select few who will get it done.”

The invitation reminds the CEO’s and lobbyists that they will be buying access to “those powerful few in business and policy making who are forwarding, legislating and reporting on the issues…

"Spirited? Yes. Confrontational? No." The invitation promises this private, intimate and off-the-record dinner is an extension “of THE WASHINGTON POST brand of journalistic inquiry into the issues, a unique opportunity for stakeholders to hear and be heard.”

Let that sink in. In this case, the “stakeholders” in health care reform do not include the rabble – the folks across the country who actually need quality health care but can’t afford it. If any of them showed up at the kitchen door on the night of this little soiree, the bouncer would drop kick them beyond the Beltway.

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July 2, 2009

Michael Winship: My State Legislature's Crazier than Yours. Oh Yeah?

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

''My State Legislature's Crazier than Yours. Oh Yeah?''
By Michael Winship

California should just be done with it and rename the entire state “Neverland Ranch.”

This serves several useful purposes. It would be the ultimate tribute to Michael Jackson, pleasing his most ardent and bereft fans. Further validate the state’s Cloud Cuckoo, fairy tale reputation, thus probably promoting additional, revenue-generating tourism. Stand as an accurate metaphor for the state government’s airheaded inability to cope with its current financial disaster.

On Wednesday, Governor Schwarzenegger announced that California’s deficit has grown to $26.3 billion and proposed billions of additional cuts to education. He declared a fiscal emergency, triggering an automatic 45-day deadline for the state legislature to come up with a plan to cover the shortfall and balance the budget. If that fails, they’re banned from considering any other legislation until they come up with a solution.

Arnold also signed an executive order forcing the state’s 220,000 employees to take a third, unpaid furlough day every month. This, after weeks of failed proposals, threatened vetoes, political contortionism, suspended social programs – a fiscal train wreck of such proportions that on Thursday the state planned on starting to pay its bills with IOU’s instead of cash.

It’s “an institutional breakdown,” according to State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, a Democrat. Lockyer has called for professional mediation to unjam talks between legislators and Governor Terminator, and even a two-tiered budget system that would raise taxes and allot resources differently for different parts of the state.

That may sound crazy, but this is California. Besides, we in New York State are in no position to cast stones. Our State Senate has degenerated into a slaphappy free-for-all that resembles a drunken demolition derby more than anything remotely like a deliberative body.

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June 25, 2009

Michael Winship: I Can See Tehran from My House!

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

''I Can See Tehran from My House!'
By Michael Winship

Being a total history geek, I confess that there’s almost nothing as entertaining to me as a good historic house tour. It’s a great way to get a feel for how someone from the past lived his or her life. I realize that this nerdish interest would seem to indicate that conversely, I have no life of my own, but bear with me.

An hour or two spent at Teddy Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill home on Long Island, or Mark Twain’s rambling riverboat of a house in Hartford, Connecticut, or even Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s home in the Kentish countryside of England, is an ideal portal into the mind of an historic personage and the times in which they lived.

A large part of a recent weekend in Chicago was spent visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and office in nearby Oak Park, Illinois, and the mansion of a 19th century industrial tycoon whose daughter made miniature dollhouse recreations of homicide scenes, published in a collection titled, “The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death.” You can’t make this stuff up.

Luckily, my girlfriend Pat and my sister Patricia are as nerd-like as I am, so on a beautiful spring Saturday last month, while visiting my sister upstate, we drove over to the home of William Henry Seward in Auburn, NY.

Seward served as Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of state – and Andrew Johnson’s, too, that hapless Tennessean who succeeded Lincoln after the assassination and came within a whisker of being convicted in the Senate after impeachment by the House of Representatives.

On the evening of Lincoln’s murder, Seward also was attacked, targeted for death by one of John Wilkes Booth’s accomplices. He survived a vicious stabbing and lived for another seven and a half years. On display in the Seward House is a tiny scrap of bloodstained bedsheet from the night of the assault.

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June 12, 2009

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: Why Have We Stopped Talking About Guns?

You know by now that in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, an elderly white supremacist and anti-Semite named James W. von Brunn allegedly walked into the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with a .22-caliber rifle and killed security guard Stephen T. Johns before being brought down himself. He’s 88 years old, with a long record of hatred and paranoid fantasies about the Illuminati and a Global Zionist state. How bitter the bile that has curdled for so many decades.

You will know, too, of the recent killing, while ushering at his local church, of Dr. George Tiller, one of the few doctors in the country still performing late term abortions. Sadly, this case was proof that fatal violence works. His family has announced that his Wichita, Kansas, clinic will not be reopened.

You may be less familiar with the June 1st shootings in an army recruiting office in Little Rock that killed one soldier and wounded another. The suspect in question is an African-American Muslim convert who says he acted in retaliation for US military activity in the Middle East.

Soon, however, these terrible deeds will be forgotten, as are already the three policemen killed by an assault weapon in Pittsburgh; the four policemen killed in Oakland, California; the 13 people gunned down in Binghamton, New York; the 10 in an Alabama shooting spree; five in Santa Clara, California; the eight dead in a North Carolina, nursing home. All during this year alone.

There is much talk about hate talk; hate crimes against blacks, whites, immigrants, Muslims, Jews; about violence committed in the name of bigotry or religion. But why don’t we talk about guns?

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June 5, 2009

Michael Winship: The Privatization of Obama's War

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

''The Privatization of Obama's War''
By Michael Winship

The sudden reappearance of former Vice President Dick Cheney over the last few months – seeming to emerge from his famous undisclosed location more frequently now than he ever did when he was in office – does not mean six more weeks of winter. But it does bring to mind that classic country and western song, “How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away?”

Or, maybe, “If You Won’t Leave Me, I’ll Find Someone Who Will.”

In his self-appointed role as voice of the opposition, Mr. Cheney has been playing Nostradamus, gloomily predicting doom if the Obama White House continues to set aside Bush administration policy, setting the stage for recrimination and finger-pointing should there be another terrorist attack on America.

Cheney’s grouchy legacy is the gift that keeps on giving. Just this week, THE WASHINGTON POST reported for the first time that while vice president, Cheney oversaw “at least” four of those briefings given to senior members of Congress about enhanced interrogation techniques; “part of a secretive and forceful defense he mounted throughout 2005 in an effort to maintain support for the harsh techniques used on detainees…

“An official who witnessed one of Cheney’s briefing sessions with lawmakers said the vice president’s presence appeared to be calculated to give additional heft to the CIA’s case for maintaining the program.”

And remember Halliburton, the international energy services company of which Cheney used to be the CEO? After the fall of Baghdad, Halliburton and its then-subsidiary KBR were the happy recipients of billions of dollars in outside contracts to take care of the military and rebuild Iraq’s petroleum industry. Waste, shoddy workmanship (like faulty wiring that caused fatal electric shocks) and corruption ran wild, Pentagon investigators allege, even as Vice President Cheney was still receiving deferred compensation and stock options.

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May 29, 2009

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: Everyone Should See TORTURING DEMOCRACY

In all the recent debate over torture, many of our Beltway pundits and politicians have twisted themselves into verbal contortions to avoid using the word at all.

During his speech to the conservative American Enterprise Institute last week – immediately on the heels of President Obama’s address at the National Archives – former Vice President Dick Cheney used the euphemism "enhanced interrogation" a full dozen times.

Smothering the reality of torture in euphemism of course has a political value, enabling its defenders to diminish the horror and possible illegality. It also gives partisans the opening they need to divert our attention by turning the future of the prison at Guantanamo Bay into a “wedge issue,” as noted on the front page of Sunday’s NEW YORK TIMES.

According to the TIMES, “Armed with polling data that show a narrow majority of support for keeping the prison open and deep fear about the detainees, Republicans in Congress started laying plans even before the inauguration to make the debate over Guantanamo Bay a question of local community safety instead of one about national character and principles.“

No political party would dare make torture a cornerstone of its rejuvenation if people really understood what it is. And lest we forget, we’re not just talking about waterboarding, itself a trivializing euphemism for drowning.

If we want to know what torture is, and what it does to human beings, we have to look at it squarely, without flinching. That’s just what a powerful and important film, seen by far too few Americans, does. TORTURING DEMOCRACY was written and produced by one of America’s outstanding documentary reporters, Sherry Jones.

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May 21, 2009

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: Rx and the Single Payer

In 2003, a young Illinois state senator named Barack Obama told an AFL-CIO meeting, “I am a proponent of a single-payer universal health care program.”

Single payer. Universal. That’s health coverage, like Medicare, but for everyone who wants it. Single payer eliminates insurance companies as pricey middlemen. The government pays care providers directly. It’s a system that polls consistently have shown the American people favoring by as much as two-to-one.

There was only one thing standing in the way, Obama said six years ago: “All of you know we might not get there immediately because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate and we have to take back the House.”

Fast forward six years. President Obama has everything he said was needed – Democrats in control of the executive branch and both chambers of Congress. So what’s happened to single payer?

A woman at his town hall meeting in New Mexico last week asked him exactly that. “If I were starting a system from scratch, then I think that the idea of moving towards a single-payer system could very well make sense,” the President replied. “That's the kind of system that you have in most industrialized countries around the world.

“The only problem is that we're not starting from scratch. We have historically a tradition of employer-based health care. And although there are a lot of people who are not satisfied with their health care, the truth is, is that the vast majority of people currently get health care from their employers and you've got this system that's already in place. We don't want a huge disruption as we go into health care reform where suddenly we're trying to completely reinvent one-sixth of the economy.”

So the banks were too big to fail and now, apparently, health care is too big to fix, at least the way a majority of people indicate they would like it to be fixed, with a single payer option. President Obama favors a public health plan competing with the medical cartel that he hopes will create a real market that would bring down costs. But single payer has vanished from his radar.

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May 15, 2009

Michael Winship: What's So Funny About Washington?

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

''What's So Funny About Washington?''
By Michael Winship

A joke is a sometime thing, as wide as a church door or as delicate as a rose. The right or wrong word, too many or too few, their placement or emphasis can determine whether it’s a total dud or fall down funny; the difference, as Mark Twain said, between the lightning bug and lightning.

Too much explanation or thought can whip a joke to death, so it was with trepidation that I went down to Washington last week with some fellow members of the Writers Guild of America, East, the union of which I’m president. I moderated a panel discussion of writers from THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART, THE COLBERT REPORT and LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN, among others, to discuss news and late night comedy.

The driving impulse for all of this was the White House Correspondents’ Dinner last weekend, “The Nerd Prom,” as it’s become known, when inside-the-Beltway journalists and their chummy government sources cement their unholy alliance over rillettes and risotto. Over the last few years it has become an Oscar-like event, with Hollywood migrating east to hobnob with the stars of politics and commentary, distracting each other into a trivial frenzy. And you wonder why we can’t get universal health care passed.

Toward the end of our strike last year, the Guild presented a successful event on Capitol Hill, a mock debate in which a team of Daily Show writers representing the Guild went up against a Colbert team posing as the studios and networks. Former White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers moderated. Hilarity and mirth ensued.

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May 12, 2009

Michael Winship - Murtha: If I'm Corrupt, It's Because I Care

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

''Murtha: If I'm Corrupt, It's Because I Care''
By Michael Winship

Headline in the May 2 NEW YORK TIMES: “Murtha’s Nephew Named a Lobbyist for Marines.” Headline just three days later in the May 5 WASHINGTON POST: “Murtha’s Nephew Got Defense Contracts.”

Guess what? Two different nephews. They’re brothers, though, each blessed with the same, beneficent and no doubt beloved uncle – Pennsylvania Congressman John P. Murtha, Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee – friend of the military-industrial complex; a man who’s generous to family and constituents, always ready to lend an ear – or, rather, earmark.

His nephew Colonel Brian Murtha, a Marine helicopter pilot, has been transferred to the Marines’ legislative liaison office – which deals with Congress and Murtha’s subcommittee -- and has even moved into the same Virginia condo building as his Uncle Jack. “It does not appear to violate any rules or ethics guidelines,” the TIMES reported, “though it may well raise some eyebrows among legislative liaisons competing for resources on behalf of the other military services.”

The other nephew – Robert C. Murtha, Jr. – a former Marine, runs a company in Glen Burnie, Maryland, called Murtech Inc. According to The WASHINGTON POST, “Last year, Murtech received $4 million in Pentagon work, all of it without competition, for a variety of warehousing and engineering services.”

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May 1, 2009

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: Mortgaging the White House

Finally, here we are at the end of this week of a hundred days. As everyone in the western world probably knows by now, this benchmark for assessing presidencies goes back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who arrived at the White House in the depths of the Great Depression.

In his first hundred days, FDR came out swinging. He shut down the banks, threw the money lenders from the temple, cranked out so much legislation so fast he would shout to his secretary, Grace Tully, “Grace, take a law!” Will Rogers said Congress didn’t pass bills anymore; it just waved as they went by.

President Obama’s been busy, but contrary to many of the pundits, he’s no FDR. Our new president got his political education in the world of Chicago ward politics, and seems to have adopted a strategy from the machine of that city’s longtime boss, the late Richard J. Daley, father of the current mayor there. “Don’t make no waves,” one of Daley’s henchmen advised, “don’t back no losers.”

Your opinion of Obama’s first 100 days depends of course on your own vantage point. But we'd argue that as part of his bending over backwards to support the banks and avoid the losers, he has blundered mightily in his choice of economic advisers.

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April 24, 2009

Michael Winship: Where Have You Gone, Ferdinand Pecora?

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

''Where Have You Gone, Ferdinand Pecora?''
By Michael Winship

For policy wonks near and far, the celebrity of the hour isn’t Susan Boyle, the Scottish church marm who belted out “I Dreamed a Dream” with the voice of an airy angel, or ex-Somali pirate hostage Richard Phillips, or Carrie Prejean, the Miss USA contestant from California who’s against gay marriage because the Bible tells her so.

No, it’s Ferdinand Pecora.

Who he, you may ask, and guess that maybe he once played infield for the Dodgers or sang Faust at the Metropolitan Opera. But back in the ‘30s, during the depths of the Great Depression, Ferdinand Pecora emerged as an unlikely hero, leading a sensational Senate investigation of what caused the ‘29 market crash.

Over the last few weeks, public pressure fueled by rage and pain has built for a similar probe of the causes of our current economic collapse, an inquiry that will search for real answers going beyond the hearings that have been held so far – more heat and wasted fire than illumination. People want to know what really happened, and how we can keep it from happening again.

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April 17, 2009

Michael Winship: The Shipping News

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

''The Shipping News''
By Michael Winship

If you’re looking for signs of the Apocalypse – and who isn’t? – here’s a good one. There’s an uptick in ark building.

You heard me. According to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, that Bible of the Financially Bilious, Hong Kong’s billionaire Kwok brothers are in the final stages of constructing the world’s first full-size replica of Noah’s Ark – 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. “Just the answer,” the JOURNAL reports, “for the rising waters threatening the global economy.”

Unlike Noah’s aquatic zoo, the Kwok version will remain land bound, and its 67 pairs of animals are made of fiberglass, thus eliminating potential headaches arising from husbandry, hygiene and other housekeeping issues at sea. It also comes equipped with a restaurant and posh, rooftop resort hotel – just the thing to please the discerning plutocrat, for whom a luxury suite is probably the closest they’ll ever get to The Rapture.

The Bible says Noah’s Ark was made of gopher wood, whatever that is (no one knows for certain, it seems); the Hong Kong replica is concrete reinforced with glass fiber, and is being built to actual size, the JOURNAL says, “in part to distinguish itself from one in the Netherlands that actually floats and boasts real farm animals but is just one fifth the size of the biblical original.”

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April 9, 2009

Michael Winship: ''Let the Railsplitter Awake!''

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

''Let the Railsplitter Awake!''
By Michael Winship

A number of years ago, when I was writing a public television series for the Smithsonian Institution, I watched a woman in one of the museum’s conservation labs, restoring what appeared to be an old top hat.

What’s its story, I asked her? Oh, she replied nonchalantly, this is the hat Lincoln wore to Ford’s Theater the night he was assassinated.

Oh.

Actor Sam Waterston, aka District Attorney Jack McCoy on LAW & ORDER, had an even more visceral experience when he was preparing to play Abraham Lincoln and went to the Library of Congress to research the part.

“This guy took me down and down and down into the bowels of the library, down a long hall… all the way to what felt like the back of the building,” Waterston told my colleague Bill Moyers on a special edition of BILL MOYERS JOURNAL. There he met a curator who said, “Hold out your hands. These are the contents of Lincoln’s pockets on the night he was shot.”

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April 3, 2009

Michael Winship: Miss Universe's Excellent Adventure

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

Miss Universe's Excellent Adventure
By Michael Winship

“A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in.” That was Frederick the Great of Prussia’s take on the pain of being royalty.

Just ask Queen Elizabeth II and Michelle Obama. When they briefly touched one another at Buckingham Palace Thursday, a moment of contact that was more gentle pat than hug, you would have thought the First Lady had challenged Her Royal Highness to pistols at 20 paces. What a breach of protocol!

What a world. Luckily, Buckingham Palace jumped into the breach to announce, “It was a mutual and spontaneous display of affection and appreciation,” and besides, the Royal Press Office said, it was at an informal reception – thus convincing the media on both sides of the Atlantic to unclutch their smelling salts.

But if you needed further proof that the Earth is off its axis, spinning toward the sun, there came the news that another crowned head, Miss Universe, had paid a visit to Guantanamo Bay. Yes, courtesy of the USO, Venezuela’s Dayana Mendoza hit the beach for her personal remake of “Baywatch,” visiting the no doubt startled troops there and touring the Gitmo facilities.

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March 27, 2009

Michael Winship: That’s No Angry Mob, It’s a Movement

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

That’s No Angry Mob, It’s a Movement
By Michael Winship

A college friend of mine, after much quaffing from the keg, so to speak, would start singing a faux hymn that began, “We are sliding into sin – whee!”

I’ve thought of his bleary tune from time to time as we all watched our financial institutions slide from thoughtless, wretched excess into calamity, aided and abetted by deregulation and bailouts, dragging the rest of us along on their speed bump-free ride.

You’d think there would be a modicum of contrition but mostly it has been deny, deny, deny combined with shivers of revulsion as an angry citizenry freely expresses its opinion. Former Clinton SEC chairman Arthur Levitt sniffed to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL this week, “It has reached extremes of incivility that are intolerable,” and on Friday the JOURNAL editorially wrung its hands over “political Torquemadas” who would dare to prosecute Wall Street executives.

See here, you people, the seemingly dumfounded elite ask, why all this hollering? Well, it wasn’t only those AIG bonuses that had folks mad as hell. For sure, they triggered the outburst last week. But then came an ABC News report that JPMorgan Chase – recipient of 25 billion in bailout bucks, courtesy of taxpayers – was pressing ahead with plans to spend $138 million dollars on two new corporate jets and a place to park them – a state of the art hangar with a “vegetated roof garden.” Presumably, bank executives will use the vegetation to hide behind when the mob arrives with tar and feathers.

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March 13, 2009

Michael Winship: The Brave, Living and Dead

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

The Brave, Living and Dead
By Michael Winship

In this bicentennial year of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, I recently was re-reading part of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s epic history, TEAM OF RIVALS. Once again it was stunning to see the number of casualties during the Civil War, the dead and wounded in four years of fighting exponentially outnumbering the American men and women killed and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan over six and a half years of combat.

On both sides of the Civil War, 618,000 were killed, although some estimate as many as 700,000. In just the three days of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1863 – more than 51,000 dead and wounded. Chickamauga, Georgia, 2 days, September 1863, nearly 35,000. Chancellorsville, Virginia, four days, May 1863, more than 30,000. And on and on.

“The war took young, healthy men and rapidly, often instantly, destroyed them with disease or injury,” Drew Gilpin Faust notes in her 2008 book THE REPUBLIC OF SUFFERING: DEATH AND THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR. “… Loss became commonplace; death was no longer encountered individually; death’s threat, its proximity and its actuality became the most widely shared of the war’s experiences.”

Up until that time, Faust writes, the U.S. Army had neither regular burial details nor grave-registration units. Such duties “seemed always to be an act of improvisation.” Often the townspeople in or near a battleground wound up with the task. Many of the enlisted went unidentified, their bodies hastily placed in mass graves for fear of disease.

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March 10, 2009

Michael Winship: Oh, What a Lovely Class War!

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

Oh, What a Lovely Class War!
By Michael Winship

My goodness, how they howl when the proverbial shoe is on the proverbial other foot. You’d think the Red Army had just left Moscow and was preparing a frontal assault on the Federal Reserve.

So what are conservatives, Wall Street and financial television commentators shouting? Socialists! That's right. Spread the word: Socialists are swarming over our nation's capitol, and making off with the means of production, otherwise known as campaign contributions and the Federal budget. You got trouble, my friends.

The hysteria started during the campaign, retreated a bit but was back full throttle by the day after the inauguration. President Obama’s left hand was barely off Abraham Lincoln’s Bible as South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint told the January 21st edition of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, “What I'm looking to do as a conservative leader in the Senate is to identify those Republicans, and even some Democrats, and put together a consensus of people who can help stop this slide toward socialism.”

Newt Gingrich, resurrected yet again, proclaims his Contract on America has been cancelled and replaced by Barack Obama's “European socialism.” Josh Bolin, founder of the conservative website Reagan.org, is quoted in THE NEW YORK TIMES, saying, “Socialism is something new for us to hit Obama over the head with,” and a panel at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference was titled, “Bailing Out Big Business: Are We All Socialists Now?”

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February 27, 2009

Michael Winship: So Much Depends...

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

So Much Depends...
By Michael Winship

In 9th grade high school English, we read that famous William Carlos Williams poem:

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

Beyond its bucolic and haiku-like simplicity, the poem always makes me think of chance and circumstance, of moments and things, animate and other, brought together in seeming random fashion, often to unintended, unexpected effect.

The words came to mind two weeks ago when that Continental Airlines commuter plane fell from the sky outside Buffalo, New York, not far from where my father was born and less than 70 miles west of the upstate town where I grew up.

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February 20, 2009

Michael Winship: On Capitol Hill, Money Is the Root of All Hypocrisy

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

On Capitol Hill, Money Is the Root of All Hypocrisy
By Michael Winship

The great movie comic and professional curmudgeon W.C. Fields once said, “You can fool some of the people some of the time – and that’s enough to make a decent living.” Watching the news from Washington unfold this week, the truth of the late comedian’s words never seemed more right.

The antics of the august members of the House and Senate remind us once again that money is the root of all hypocrisy – especially in politics.

Take United States Senator Roland Burris, appointed by former Illinois governor and clown prince Rod Blagojevich to fill the seat vacated by Barack Obama. Testifying before the impeachment committee investigating Blagojevich, Senator Burris claimed he had no conversations with anyone from the governor’s clan of cronies prior to his appointment. Now he says, oops, I just remembered – the governor’s brother asked me to raise $10,000. Or was it $15,000?

Luckily, Senator Burris still has some space in Chicago’s Oak Woods Cemetery on that spiffy mausoleum he had built with a list of all his accomplishments. Like some ancient Egyptian pharaoh ordering up the hieroglyphics for his made-to-order pyramid, the senator has room to have inscribed there one final act of public service. “Resignation” would seem to fit rather neatly.

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February 13, 2009

Michael Winship: The Oligarchy's Bailout Ball

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

The Oligarchy's Bailout Ball
By Michael Winship

You know what they say – half a million dollars just doesn’t go as far as it used to. News from the White House that $500,000 was the cap the government wants to put on executive salaries at the banks receiving bailout cash had some on Wall Street and along the plush corridors of Manhattan’s swank Upper East Side hollering “Unfair!” (But without those unsightly street demonstrations and picket lines, of course.)

“You Try to Live on 500K in This Town” was the tongue-in-cheek headline in last Sunday’s NEW YORK TIMES. Just add up private school tuition, mortgage payments, maintenance fees and wages for the nanny and you’re already up to more than $250,000 a year – and that’s pre-taxes, assuming you’re paying any. Then tote up payments and upkeep on vacation and weekend homes, charity balls, car and driver – pretty soon you’re maxing out your American Express Black Card.

But they work hard for their multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses, perks and solid gold benefits, complained some of the financiers. Besides, executive headhunters say, the money giants just can’t get good help for anything less. Good help? Spare us the kind of moguls who helped us straight into the current deep, dirty hole we’re trying to climb out of.

“Like spoiled, petulant children,” is how WASHINGTON POST columnist Steven Pearlstein described them. “These guys won't be happy until the government agrees to relieve them of every last one of their lousy loans and investments at inflated prices, recapitalize every major bank and brokerage and insurance company on sweetheart terms and restore them to the glory days, so they can once again earn inflated profits and obscene pay packages by screwing over their customers and their shareholders.”

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February 6, 2009

Michael Winship: Get Away from those Spinning Doors

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

Get Away from those Spinning Doors
By Michael Winship

Not even three weeks in office and President Barack Obama is discovering that being in charge is no bed of roses, even when you have a garden of them just outside your Oval Office windows. February’s frost has bitten a bit of the bloom off the new President’s aspirations as the swamp of hypocrisy and partisan inertia that is Beltway Washington took its toll.

Weighed down by tax return problems and charges of DC influence peddling, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle pulled out as President Obama’s candidate for Secretary of Health and Human Services – just as the President was trying to accelerate momentum for Senate passage of his economic stimulus plan, and the Republicans were equally trying to slam on the brakes.

Daschle’s withdrawal, coupled with the same day, tax-inflicted stepping down of Nancy Killefer, who was to be the White House’s chief performance officer, forced President Obama to use a lightning round of network interviews he’d intended as stimulus promotion to defend himself against charges that his oratorical hopes of cleaning up government and solving all its problems had hit a speed bump.

The resulting “I screwed up” mea culpas were refreshing in a town where shifting blame to the other guy is the standard modus operandi. But whether contrition for the cameras, combined with President Obama’s continued high popularity, can translate into forward-moving action remains unknown. By week’s end, President Obama had dropped his conciliatory tone of bipartisanship and gone on the attack to try to rescue the stimulus package.

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January 30, 2009

Michael Winship: Dr. Gregorian's 3 R's: Reading, Writing, and Recession

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

Dr. Gregorian's 3 R's: Reading, Writing, and Recession
By Michael Winship

That was quite a crowd at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, last week. Thousands of students took to the streets in protest. But it wasn’t an antiwar march – the campus has a reputation for a lack of activism. It wasn’t even a pep rally for UNLV’s beloved, championship basketball team, the Runnin’ Rebels.

No, they came out to raise hell as they never have before because Jim Gibbons, the governor of Nevada, just proposed state budget cuts to higher education of a whopping 36 percent. At UNLV, that could mean a budget slash of as much as 52 percent and possible tuition increases of 225 percent.

UNLV student and employee Helen Gerth told the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, “By the time they get through cutting the budget, this will be a ghost town.”

Meanwhile, in Tucson, Arizona, a record thousand people crowded into a meeting of the Arizona Board of Regents to voice their outrage at a proposed cut of more than $600 million from the state’s university system. School presidents there say such draconian budget rollbacks could force the elimination of academic departments, even entire colleges.

Lest you think this is a phenomenon limited to the Great American Southwest, things are bad all over. With state governments looking down the barrel of more than $300 billion worth of deficits this year and next, the long knives are out and money for higher public education is a serial victim. Twenty-six states already have either cut their budgets for higher education, raised tuition fees or enacted a combination of both. When it come to college affordability, a report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, “Measuring Up: 2008,” gives a failing grade of “F” to 49 of the 50. Tuition at public four-year colleges is up an average of more than $6500; at two year schools, almost $2500.

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January 23, 2009

Michael Winship: Walking Down to Washington

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

Walking Down to Washington
By Michael Winship

The image from Barack Obama’s inauguration that will stay with me forever is people walking. Walking from wherever they lived or were staying in Washington, DC. And all headed for the exact same place.

In the hours before dawn on January 20th, they already were moving down Connecticut Avenue outside my brother and sister-in-law’s apartment: groups of two and three and four or more; some wearing backpacks and carrying signs, quietly converging on the National Mall.

For many, shoe leather was a familiar form of protest. For years, they had walked or marched to speak out against bigotry, poverty and hunger; against violations of human rights; against wars in Vietnam and Iraq. They had marched on the Pentagon and from Selma to Montgomery, but this time they were putting one foot before the other in celebration.

I had taken Amtrak down from New York City two days before. Among the passengers, a jumble of different languages but in almost every conversation, the name, “Barack Obama,” clear as a bell.

The train was full, and then packed as we left Baltimore, following the same route Obama’s whistlestop tour had taken the day before, jammed with visitors on their way to DC. A schoolteacher from Missouri took advantage of the short train ride to talk to her students about A. Philip Randolph, the African American labor and civil rights leader who organized African American sleeping car porters in the ‘20s and ‘30s, and the March on Washington with Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963.

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January 16, 2009

Michael Winship: Inauguration Day Is Time to Move On

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

Inauguration Day Is Time to Move On
By Michael Winship

As Barack Obama prepares to be sworn in, I recall an old National Lampoon record album – record albums, remember those? – from the final weeks of the Watergate scandal that comically suggested that President Richard Nixon be given a “swearing OUT” ceremony. There followed a series of blistering curses and calumnies directed at the soon-to-be departed and disgraced chief executive, delivered by someone impersonating the Reverend Billy Graham.

You have to wonder if amidst all the fanfare and hoopla Barack Obama isn’t quietly swearing a bit beneath his breath as he beholds what his about-to-be-predecessor has left for him. Hercules mucking out the Augean stables is as nothing to the heaps of bungle and botch confronting the next commander-in-chief.

Not that there’s anything new about freshly inaugurated presidents inheriting a mess. George Washington, who took the oath of office on the balcony of Federal Hall here in New York, at the corner of Broad and Wall Streets, was taking over a newly independent, penniless collection of squabbling states that couldn’t even pay the soldiers who had won the Revolution. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton had to negotiate a bailout from the Banks of New York and North America just to cover the salaries of the President and Congress.

When Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on March 4, 1861, his hand on the same Bible Barack Obama will be using, the union was dissolving into Civil War. Jefferson Davis already had been inaugurated as president of the Confederacy just two weeks earlier. Lincoln’s predecessor, James Buchanan, whose inert and inept presidency had done nothing to prevent the union’s imminent collapse, told him, “If you are as happy on entering the White House as I am on leaving, you are a very happy man indeed,” then skipped town to his country estate near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. (A little more than four years later, he would drive his carriage to the Lancaster depot and stand in silent tribute as Lincoln’s funeral train passed.)

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December 19, 2008

Michael Winship: Corruption Destroys Afghanistan

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

Corruption Destroys Afghanistan
By Michael Winship

Just when you’ve finally gotten your mind around the enormous $700 billion financial bailout – even if none of us are really sure where all that money’s going – there comes an even greater, breathtaking price tag.

The amount is $904 billion -- that’s how much we’ve spent on American military operations, including Iraq and Afghanistan, since the 9/11 attacks; 50 percent more than what was spent in Vietnam, reports the non-partisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment. Their study does not include the inestimable toll in human life.

Of that money, nearly 200 billion has gone to Afghanistan, where 31,000 American troops are nearly 60 percent of the NATO peacekeeping force. When he becomes President, as promised during his campaign, Barack Obama will oversee the deployment of at least another 20,000 troops there.

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December 12, 2008

Michael Winship: Bush's Farewell Hallelujah Chorus

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

Bush's Farewell Hallelujah Chorus
By Michael Winship

With all the interviews President Bush has been giving out lately, you’d think he has a new movie coming out for Christmas.

ABC, NBC, NATIONAL REVIEW, MIDDLE EAST BROADCASTING, the Real Clear Politics website – even a talk with the WASHINGTON POST’s NASCAR expert. For a fellow who’s sometimes gone for months without a press conference, suddenly, the President’s a regular chatterbox, spreading the word in these final days that his eight years in office really, really weren’t all that bad. Honest.

Regrets, he’s had a few. But only a few. Or so he told ABC’s Charlie Gibson: “I think I was unprepared for war… In other words, I didn’t anticipate war. Presidents – one of the things about the modern presidency is that the unexpected will happen.”

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December 5, 2008

Michael Winship: Obama's Familiar Orbit

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

Obama's Familiar Orbit
By Michael Winship

I keep thinking about that tool bag. You know – the one that the astronaut accidentally let loose while she was repairing the International Space Station last month. Now it’s in orbit, more than 200 miles above the Earth. There’s even a Web site where you can track its exact location, if that’s your idea of a good time. NASA figures the 30-pound bag of equipment will burn up harmlessly as it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere sometime next June.

For now, it’s up there, floating silently and uselessly, which, if you think of government as a sort of national toolkit for protecting and improving the lives of its citizens, could be seen as a pretty good metaphor for the last eight years. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, nothing done – except with the kind of blunt hammers that see everything as a nail and cause more harm than good.

It’s probably not for nothing that both NEWSWEEK and TIME had the word “fix” on their covers this week. We’re in need of major repairs in this country, at every level. That celestial tool bag orbiting above our heads might have come in handy. Its contents include two grease guns, a scraper and a trash bag – all things that could be useful for an incoming president seeking big changes in Washington.

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November 26, 2008

Michael Winship: Michael Pollan's Food For Thought

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

Michael Pollan's Food For Thought
By Michael Winship

The writer and activist Michael Pollan has no interest in becoming Barack Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture, thank you very much, even though there are a lot of people who think he’d be perfect for the job.

Pollan disagrees. Laughing, he told my colleague Bill Moyers on the latest edition of public television’s BILL MOYERS JOURNAL,” I have an understanding of my strengths and limitations…I don’t want this job,” then turned serious as he added, “What Obama needs to do, if he indeed wants to make change in this area-- and that isn't clear yet that he does, at least in his first term -- I think we need a food policy czar in the White House because the challenge is not just what we do with agriculture, it's connecting the dots between agriculture and public health, between agriculture and energy and climate change, agriculture and education.”

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November 18, 2008

Michael Winship: This Just In From Middle Earth

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

This Just In From Middle Earth
By Michael Winship

QUEENSTOWN, New Zealand – You might think it hard to think about politics when you’re in a place as extraordinary as this on New Zealand’s South Island. The landscape fills the eye with glacial and volcanic lakes, valleys and mountains so breathtaking and eerie in their beauty they inspired director Peter Jackson’s vision of mythic Middle Earth when he adapted J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings into three epic motion pictures.

In the cab on the way from the airport the driver immediately announced he had worked four days as an extra on the second film of the trilogy – “The Two Towers.” He was proud to say he played a refugee from Rohan escaping the evil Orcs.

At least I think that’s what he said. The New Zealand accent plays tricks with vowels. On Saturday, it took me a while to figure out what a tour bus driver meant when she said the only mammal indigenous to the country was the “bit.” I finally realized she was talking about bats.

Then she kept insisting we’d soon be riding on a cruise missile. Visions of hurling to earth astride a bomb a la Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove danced through my head until I understood she was saying “cruise vessel” – the three-masted ship we were taking on a voyage around Milford Sound.

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November 7, 2008

Michael Winship: Obama Shows Us Where We’re Headed, Where We’ve Been

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

Obama Shows Us Where We’re Headed, Where We’ve Been
By Michael Winship

Whether you’re Democrat, Republican or Mugwump, you look at Tuesday night’s remarkable election results and the nationwide reaction and can’t help but wonder at how far our young country has come – and, at the same time, how long it’s taken.

You probably saw those photos of the big Obama rally in St. Louis, Missouri, a couple of weeks ago – 100,000 people attended. If you looked closer, in the background, you could see an old building with a copper dome turned green with age.

That used to be the courthouse. Slaves were auctioned from its steps, and in 1846, 162 years ago, Dred Scott and his wife, two slaves, went there to appeal to the court for their freedom, arguing that they had lived in states and territories in which slavery had been outlawed and so should be let go.

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October 31, 2008

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: The Sounds of Voting -- And Writing Checks

Our Manhattan offices are in a building that also houses the New York City Board of Elections. So this is the season when we hear above our heads the sounds of heavy objects rolling across the floor into freight elevators. The moving men have arrived – and what they're transporting are voting machines being carted off to polling places.

It's reassuring, the sound of those big metal boxes being rolled out so we can cast our votes, but all too often in our fair city (as no doubt where you live, too) we are confronted by an end run on the part of a political elite, many of whom don’t really trust what comes out of the ballot box on Election Day unless they’ve fixed what goes in.

For some weeks now we’ve watched our mayor, Mike Bloomberg, maneuver to undermine the will of the people. Once upon a time the mayor supported the rule that city officials can only serve two terms. But then someone pointed out term limits applied to him, too, and that he couldn’t run for a third term. So he set out to change the rules. But instead of asking the people to vote on it in a public referendum, the mayor decided he couldn’t risk his ambition on a fickle public.

So he turned first to his fellow moguls who own the city’s major newspapers – Murdoch, of the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal; Zuckerman of the Daily News, and Sulzberger of The New York Times. Then, according to the Times, with his considerable philanthropic clout – before the financial meltdown, his worth was some $20 billion dollars – the mayor leaned for support on the community and arts groups that depend on his charitable largesse.

Then he dodged the public referendum process by jawboning and cajoling the city council whose members, lo and behold, would also enjoy a chance at a third term just by giving the mayor what he wants.

By just about all accounts Mayor Bloomberg has been a fine mayor, and there are good people arguing that Gotham City needs his unique experience during a financial crisis that not even Batman or Spiderman can untangle. But New York said no to Rudy Giuliani when he tried to pull the third term hat trick in the aftermath of 9/11, and under other circumstances it’s likely Bloomberg, too, would have been told, “No, thank you. We prefer due process.”

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October 24, 2008

Michael Winship: For Whom The Bailout Tolls

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

For Whom The Bailout Tolls
By Michael Winship

During the Stock Market Crash in 1929, that curtain raising overture to the Great Depression, stories abounded of Wall Street brokers rushing to their office windows and leaping to their deaths. But according to the late John Kenneth Galbraith and other economic historians, those accounts of suicide were, by and large, fairy tales. Perhaps they were more dark-hearted, wishful thinking than reality -- revenge fantasies on the part of those whose real life savings had been wiped out by ravenous speculators.

Nonetheless, the myth of those fatal plunges, like so many urban legends, is hard to shake. With more than a drop of cold blood, some have asked why, during this current fiscal crisis, we haven’t seen similar tragedies in the ranks of high finance.

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October 17, 2008

Michael Winship: A Mighty Hoax from ACORN Grows

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

A Mighty Hoax from ACORN Grows
By Michael Winship

ACORN and election fraud. Hang on. As soon as I can get the alligator that crawled out of my toilet back into the New York City sewers where it belongs, I can turn my attention to this very important topic.

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October 10, 2008

Michael Winship: Say Anything

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

Say Anything
By Michael Winship

And so it has begun. The final month of the presidential race, the campaign that feels as if it commenced some time during the Coolidge administration. And as we slide into these last weeks, what we all feared is coming true. Just when you thought the bottom of the swamp had been scraped, sludge gurgles up from the primordial ooze.

This is the endgame, the ugly stuff, meant to assassinate character and distract the electorate with foolishness as our financial house of cards flutters away into the uncertain winds of whatever’s left of the global economy. “It’s a dangerous road, but we have no choice,” a “top McCain strategist” told the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS. “If we keep talking about the economic crisis, we’re going to lose.” Another GOP operative was quoted by the WASHINGTON POST: “There’s no question we have to change the subject here.”

Change the subject, turn the page, sling the mud. For several days now, Governor Palin has impugned Senator Obama’s patriotism and accused him of “palling around with terrorists” – specifically, William Ayers, a founding member nearly 40 years ago of the radical and violent Weathermen, now a prominent educator and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Obama was chair of a school reform project, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, and Ayers briefed board members on education issues. They both served on the board of a Chicago charity and Ayers and his wife hosted a coffee when Obama first ran for office.

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September 26, 2008

Michael Winship: Franklin Roosevelt, A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to You

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

Franklin Roosevelt, A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to You
By Michael Winship

We thirst for leadership, vision, someone who can speak to us in a way that refuses to avert its eyes from the crisis but shines a light of truth upon the problem, then offers hope and possible solutions.

If this is indeed an economic 9/11, as some have suggested, we need that voice now. Right now. And so far it has yet to be heard. Not from McCain, or Obama, or President Bush.
After September 11, 2001, the President stood on a pile of debris with a megaphone and said that the whole world could hear the rescue workers and shared their grief. Soon, words of sorrow degenerated into bumper sticker rhetoric: Axis of Evil, Wanted Dead or Alive, Mission Accomplished. Nor, at a time when people were ready to do whatever needed to be done, was there a call for national sacrifice. Instead, the President invoked not poets or statesman past but variations on a tee-shirt slogan: when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.

Over the last two weeks, he has been seen infrequently and when he has spoken his words have rung false. This Harvard MBA speaks Economics as though he were phonetically reading a foreign language.

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Michael Winship: Andrew Bacevich, America and the World

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

Andrew Bacevich, America and the World
By Michael Winship

In a letter written in 1648, the Swedish statesman, Axel Oxenstierna, chancellor to both King Gustavus Adolphus and Queen Christina, counseled, “Know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed.”

The fighting between Russia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia is an unnerving reminder of that, and of how quickly the balance of global power can be tilted from unexpected directions with barely a warning.

Some hawks and neo-cons called for NATO intervention or even suggested we send in Stinger missiles or the 82nd Airborne as a peacekeeping force. President Bush warned, “Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century.”

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September 19, 2008

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: Moguls Steal Home While Companies Strike Out

From our offices in Manhattan, we look out on the tall, gleaming skyscrapers that are cathedrals of wealth and power – the Olympus ruled by the gods of finance, the temples of the mighty, the holy of holies, whose priests guard the sacred texts of salvation – the ones containing the secrets of subprime lending and derivatives as mysterious and elusive as the Grail itself.

This last couple of weeks, ordinary mortals below could almost hear the ripcords of golden parachutes being pulled as the divinities on high prepared for soft, safe landings -- all this while tossing their workers like sacrificial lambs into the purgatory of unemployment.

During the last five years of his tenure as CEO of now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers, Richard Fuld’s total take was $354 million. John Thain, the current chairman of Merrill Lynch, taken over this week by Bank of America, has been on the job for just nine months. He pocketed a $15 million signing bonus. His predecessor, Stan O’Neal, retired with a package valued at $161 million, after the company reported an eight billion dollar loss in a single quarter. And remember Bear Stearns Chairman James Cayne? After the company collapsed earlier this year and was up for sale at bargain basement prices, he sold his stake for more than $60 million.

Daniel Mudd and Richard Syron, the former heads of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – aka the gods who failed – are fighting to keep severance packages of close to $24 million combined – on top of the millions in salary each earned last year while slaughtering the golden calf. As it is written in the Gospel According to Me, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

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September 16, 2008

Michael Winship: Lipstick On Polar Bears

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

Lipstick On Polar Bears
By Michael Winship

Where would politicians be without the Titanic? As metaphors go, it’s far more majestic than putting lipstick on pigs or pit bulls.

Farmyard bacon and junkyard dogs may come and go but in the world of political rhetoric the Titanic sails on. The most famous shipwreck in modern history is the mother of all metaphors. Just last week, at a rally in Tampa, Florida, Hillary Clinton declared, “Anybody who believes that the Republicans, whoever they are, can fix the mess they created probably believes that the iceberg could have saved the Titanic.”

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September 5, 2008

Michael Winship: St. Paul’s Police Protest the Press

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

St. Paul’s Police Protest the Press
By Michael Winship

Chronicling his life as a journalist in the colonial British Raj, a young Winston Churchill wrote that “nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.”
Nor, I’d add, is there anything in life quite so discombobulating as to turn a corner and unexpectedly walk into a wall of tear gas.

It happened to me on a couple of occasions during the years of anti-Vietnam war protests, when I was a college student and young reporter in Washington, DC. One time I was gassed while filming a counterdemonstration on Honor America Day, a nationally televised celebration hosted by Bob Hope. As God is my witness, the gas hit just as Kate Smith was singing, “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.”

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August 22, 2008

Michael Winship: Cash Register Conventions

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

Cash Register Conventions
By Michael Winship


Another humid August, a long time ago, and I was working in my father’s small town drugstore, the last summer before my first year of high school.

Today, cash registers are as computerized as ATM’s and tell you everything instantly, from the change owed and the status of inventory to the date, time and wind chill factor in Upper Volta.
Back then, they were electrically powered at least, but you still had to do a lot of the calculating in your head, which is why my dad tended to keep his not-so-mathematically-inclined son in the back of the store, away from the receipts. With my nimble fingers on the register keys, I was capable of trying to charge you $1,398.06 for a pack of Camels.

(I wasn’t allowed to sell condoms or razor blades either, but that wasn’t so much because of my inept and callow youth. They carried a sales commission and it was thought unseemly for the boss’ son to traffic in something from which the other employees could receive a cash bonus.)

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August 8, 2008

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: A Novel Approach to Politics

ABC News’ political blog, “The Note,” points out this week that Paris Hilton is issuing policy statements while John McCain nominates his wife for a topless beauty contest. The world’s turned upside down. Who could blame a person for thinking that chronicling such oddness is beyond the skills of simple journalists? This is a job for the novelists.

Here, for example, is something straight out of Tom Wolfe’s BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES. Are you ready for this? THE WALL STREET JOURNAL reports that, “At a time when scores of companies are freezing pensions for their workers, some are quietly converting those pension plans into resources to finance their executives' retirement benefit and pay. In recent years, companies from Intel Corp to CenturyTel Inc. collectively have moved hundreds of millions of dollars of obligations for executive benefits into rank-and-file pension plans. This lets companies capture tax breaks intended for pensions of regular workers and use them to pay for executives' supplemental benefits and compensation.”

Everyone knows we've been living through one of the great redistributions of wealth in American history – from the bottom up. But this takes the cake, because our tax dollars are subsidizing this spectacular round of robbing the poor to pay off the rich. Sad to say, it’s not fiction.

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August 1, 2008

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: The Wave of "Capitol Crimes" Continues

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

The Wave of "Capitol Crimes" Continues
by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Like the largesse he spread so bountifully to members of Congress and the White House staff -- countless fancy meals, skybox tickets to basketball games and U2 concerts, golfing sprees in Scotland -- Jack Abramoff is the gift that keeps on giving.

The notorious lobbyist and his cohorts (including conservatives Tom Delay, Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed) shook down Native American tribal councils and other clients for tens of millions of dollars, buying influence via a coalition of equally corrupt government officials and cronies dedicated to dismantling government by selling it off, making massive profits as they tore the principles of a representative democracy to shreds.

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July 28, 2008

Michael Winship: The Company We Keep

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

The Company We Keep
By Michael Winship

At one point during the five and a half years John McCain spent as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, he was tortured and beaten so badly he tried to kill himself. After four days of this brutality, he gave in and agreed to make a false confession, telling lies to end the unbearable pain. Later, he would write, “I had learned what we all learned over there: Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine.”

Similar techniques were utilized in the Asian war preceding Vietnam – Korea. The Communist Chinese used them to interrogate US POW’s and force them to confess to things they didn’t do, such as germ warfare. A chart of the Chinese methods, compiled in 1957 by an American sociologist, includes “Sleep Deprivation,” “Semi-Starvation,” “Filthy, Infested Surroundings,” “Prolonged Constraint,” and “Exposure.” The effects are listed, too: “Makes Victim Dependent on Interrogator,” “Weakens Mental and Physical Ability to Resist,” “Reduces Prisoner to ‘Animal Level’ Concerns,” and others.

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July 18, 2008

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: Mother’s Milk of Politics Turns Sour

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Once again we're closing the barn door after the horse is out and gone. In Washington the Federal Reserve has finally acted to stop some of the predatory lending that exploited people’s need for money. And like Rip Van Winkle, Congress is finally waking up from a long doze under the warm sun of laissez faire economics. That's French for turning off the alarm until the burglars have made their getaway.

Philosophy is one reason we do this to ourselves; when you worship market forces as if they were the gods of Olympus, then the gods can do no wrong -- until, of course, they prove to be human. Then we realize we should have listened to our inner agnostic and not been so reverent in the first place.

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July 2, 2008

Michael Winship: What Patriotism Is, and Is Not

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

What Patriotism Is, and Is Not
By Michael Winship

At the beginning of the week, a friend sent me a scurrilous, anonymous e-mail attacking Barack Obama that has been circulating around her elderly cousin’s Jewish senior living community in New Jersey. Headlined “Something to Think About,” it lists 13 acts of assassination, kidnapping, war and terrorism, all of which, it notes, were committed “by Muslim male extremists between the ages of 17 and 40.”

After several other claims, including a bogus citation from the Book of Revelation, the e-mail concludes, semi-literately, “For the award winning Act of Stupidity Now... the People of America want to elect, to the most Powerful position on the face of the Planet -- The Presidency of the United States of America to A Muslim Male Between the ages of 17 and 40? Have the American People completely lost their Minds, or just their power of reason? I'm sorry but I refuse to take a chance on the 'unknown' candidate Obama.”

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June 27, 2008

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

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

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

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

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June 20, 2008

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

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

Let Me Call You Sweetheart… Loans
By Michael Winship

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

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

Continue reading "Michael Winship: Let Me Call You Sweetheart... Loans" »


June 13, 2008

Michael Winship: Media Reformers, It's The Economy

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

Media Reformers, It's The Economy
By Michael Winship

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

Continue reading "Michael Winship: Media Reformers, It's The Economy" »


May 29, 2008

Michael Winship: George Bush, At Sea in the Desert

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

George Bush, At Sea in the Desert
by Michael Winship

President Bush’s recent speech before the Knesset, ostensibly to celebrate Israel’s 60th birthday, was not only a display of political cynicism at its worst – using a diplomatic occasion to perpetrate an unseemly attack on Barack Obama – but a microcosm for the disregard with which the President holds the rest of the world. And vice versa.

Continue reading "Michael Winship: George Bush, At Sea in the Desert" »


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