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June 29, 2007

Where's the Party?

In his interview with Bill Moyers, Victor Gold explains his frustration about the direction of the Republican party and its base. Now hear from other Republicans on this issue.

In 2004 Bill Moyers talked with a number of GOP members about their views on the future and core ideology of their party. Click the pictures below to watch these interviews in entirety and give us your take below.

We certainly need to fight against any effort by any corporation or any industry to ask for special deals from the government. And that's why the conservative movement has always been so separate from the business community. I know the left keep thinking they're the same thing. I assure you, the business community is very aware that they're not the same thing.
--Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform

Most conservatives believe today as they did in the past that the primary reason for their involvement in politics is to make certain that government keeps its hands off them, keeps its hands out of their pockets. The problem that we have is that with the Republican Party in control of the Congress and in the White House, that there's a tendency to do the same thing that the Democrats did when they were in power." --David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union

The flaw in the movement was the perception that the church had become an appendage to the Republican Party and one more special interest group to be pampered. If one examines the results of the Moral Majority's agenda, little was accomplished in the political arena and much was lost in the spiritual realm, as many came to believe that to be a Christian meant you also must be "converted" to the Republican Party and adopt the GOP agenda and its tactics.--Cal Thomas, conservative commentator

You have to remember there's two different things: There's the Republican Party, and then there's the conservative movement...at the time we hadn't nominated anybody for President. We did that with Goldwater in '64. Then we hadn't elected a conservative to office. And we did that in 1980. Now, our next challenge is to nominate, elect and govern as conservatives. And we've not had a President who governed as a conservative
--Richard A. Viguerie, conservative grassroots activist

Moyers on Murdoch

Watch the videoIf Rupert Murdoch were the Angel Gabriel, you still wouldn’t want him owning the sun, the moon, and the stars. That’s too much prime real estate for even the pure in heart.

But Rupert Murdoch is no saint; he is to propriety what the Marquis de Sade was to chastity. When it comes to money and power he’s carnivorous: all appetite and no taste. He’ll eat anything in his path. Politicians become little clay pigeons to be picked off with flattering headlines, generous air time, a book contract or the old-fashioned black jack that never misses: campaign cash. He hires lobbyists the way Imelda Marcos bought shoes, and stacks them in his cavernous closet, along with his conscience; this is the man, remember, who famously kowtowed to the Communist overlords of China, oppressors of their own people, to protect his investments there.

The ambitious can’t resist his blandishments, nor his power to get or keep them in office where they can return his favors. Mae West would be green with envy at his little black book of conquests: Tory Margaret Thatcher, Labor’s Tony Blair, George Bush. Even Jimmy Carter couldn’t say no. Now, Bill and Hillary Clinton, who know which side of their bread is buttered, like having it slathered by their new buddy Rupert. Our media and political system has turned into a mutual protection racket.

You will not be surprised to learn that Murdoch’s company paid little or no federal income tax over the past four years. His powerful portfolio positions him to claim a big stake in Yahoo and his takeover of The Wall Street Journal, now owned by the Bancroft family, which, like Adam and Eve, the parents of us all, are tempted to sell their birthright for a wormy apple.

Murdoch and THE JOURNAL’s editorial page are made for each other. They’ve both pursued the right's corporate and political agenda of the past quarter century. Both venerate what THE JOURNAL editorials call the “animal spirits” of business. But THE JOURNAL’s newsroom is another matter – there facts are sacred and independence revered. Rupert Murdoch has told the Bancrofts he’ll not meddle with the reporting. But he’s accustomed to using journalism as a personal spittoon. In the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, he turned the dogs of war loose in the newsrooms of his empire and they howled for blood. Murdoch himself said the greatest thing to come out of the war would be “$20 a barrel for oil.”

Of course he wasn’t the only media mogul to clamor for war. And he’s not the first to use journalism to promote his own interests. His worst offense with FOX News is not even its baldly partisan agenda. Far worse is the travesty he’s made of its journalism. FOX News huffs and puffs, pontificates and proclaims, but does little serious original reporting. His tabloids sell babes and breasts, gossip and celebrities. Now he’s about to bring under the same thumb one of the few national newsrooms remaining in the country.

But the problem isn’t just Rupert Murdoch. His pursuit of The Wall Street Journal is the latest in a cascading series of mergers, buy-outs, and other financial legerdemain that are making a shipwreck of journalism. Public minded newspapers are being dumped by their owners for wads of cash or crippled by cost cutting while their broadcasting cousins race to the bottom. Murdoch is just the predator of the hour. The modern maestro of a financial marketplace ruled by money and moguls. Instead of checking the excesses of private and public power, these 21st century barons of the First Amendment revel in them; the public be damned.

Poll: Financial Downturn Ahead?

Answer our poll question, then debate the topic below.

Trade Policy Not Just a Rust Belt Concern Anymore

by Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division

If you listen to some corporate lobbyists and Beltway pundits, you’d think that only blue-collar workers without college degrees working in a Rust Belt factory should be concerned about NAFTA-style trade agreements. Not so.

Did you know that Alan Blinder, a former Fed vice-chairman, Princeton economics professor, and NAFTA-WTO supporter, says that 40 million American service sector jobs could be offshored in the foreseeable future? Economy.Com estimates (PDF) that nearly one million such jobs already have been “offshored” since early 2001 alone – one in six of those in information technology, engineering, and financial services.

Current U.S. trade policy represses the wage growth of all – not just manufacturing – workers. Trade does not affect the total number of jobs in the economy, but rather the composition and wages of jobs available. The claim that trade liberalization creates net benefits is premised on the notion that the losses caused by offshoring are outweighed by the gains in lower consumer prices from imported goods and services. But, as the grandfather of trade macroeconomic theory, Professor Paul Samuelson, noted in a landmark 2004 article (PDF), the theory and reality disconnect if the jobs being lost are the high-wage professional and service sector jobs now being increasingly offshored.

These facts might explain why now nearly three-quarters of Americans making more than $100,000 a year say that the trade status quo is a net negative.

It is true that the more than 70 percent of Americans who don’t have a college degree have been clobbered by NAFTA. This group turned against Democrats in the 1994 elections after the passage of NAFTA by a Democratic-controlled Congress blurred the partisan lines on economic issues, delivering control of Congress to Republicans who campaigned on a “God, guns and gays” platform. It was also this demographic that helped Democrats retake Congress – after the party opposed CAFTA almost to a one in 2005 and in 2006 campaigned nationwide for a new fair trade agenda.

And, the threat our current trade policy poses for the environment and consumer safety are equally serious. NAFTA-model trade pacts – like those now being proposed for Peru, Panama and beyond – establish outrageous foreign investor privileges that not only create incentives (PDF) for U.S. firms to move offshore, but also expose our most basic (PDF) environmental, health, zoning and other laws to attack in foreign tribunals. These rules in NAFTA have resulted in nearly 50 challenges of federal and state laws, leading to more than $36 million in taxpayer funds from NAFTA nations being paid to corporations.

And while 20 percent of the food we eat is imported, less than one percent of most categories of imported food are inspected. This, combined with inadequate inspections for other imported products, leads to the kinds of scares that we’ve seen with tainted toothpaste and toxic toy trains. Our current trade agreements set limits on how rigorous our product and food safety standards can be, limit how intensively we can inspect imports and actually requiring us to import meat that does not meet U.S. safety standards.

The choice is not between the status quo trade model and no trade. Rather, at issue is under what rules we will trade. Given the lived experience under the NAFTA model, it’s hardly surprising that most Americans – and a great many elected officials – oppose staying the course on the failed status quo. For more information on the trade state of play, visit our website and our blog.

June 27, 2007

Story Updates

More Capitol Crimes...
Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle sentenced J. Steven Griles to 10 months in prison for obstructing an investigation into the Jack Abramoff scandal. As you probably remember, Griles is the former energy lobbyist that became the Deputy Secretary of the Interior in 2001, until he resigned the post in 2004 to set up his own lobbing firm. From a recent WASHINGTON POST story:

Griles asked Abramoff for favors for the women in his life, prosecutors said, and in exchange helped Abramoff's clients with their government business. One of Griles's girlfriends, Italia Federici, got $500,000 for her nonprofit from Abramoff's Indian tribes.

"I concealed the nature and extent of my true relationship with Italia Federici," Griles confessed to the judge yesterday in a statement interrupted by stifled sobs. Choking out the words, a burly, red-faced Griles told Huvelle that "this has been the most difficult time in my life. My guilty plea has brought me great shame and embarrassment."

Capitol Crimes, the recent Moyers report about Jack Abramoff and the dark side of American politics, can be viewed online in its entirety here. Also, for information about Griles and the revolving door, check out this story from NOW with Bill Moyers from May 30, 2003.

UN Report: Afghanistan supplies 90% of world's heroin
According to the recently released UN World Drug Report, in 2006, Afghanistan has increased its yield of opium almost 50 percent. Poppies grown in Afghanistan now account for 90% of the world's heroin. From the report (pdf):

The global drug problem is being contained...the exception is the continued expansion of opium production in Afghanistan...The large scale production of opium is concentrated and expanding in a few southern provinces where the authority of the central government is currently limited and insurgents continue to exploit the profits of the opium trade.

Of course, "insurgents" is a complicated term, as we learned from Bill Moyers' recent interview with Christian Parenti, yet those often in the center bearing the brunt of abuses by warlords, the Taliban, and corrupt government officials are the farmers themselves.

As always, if you come across any updates to stories we've covered, please send them to moyersblog@thirteen.org.

June 26, 2007

It's an Old Story...

From Sunday's THE WASHINGTON POST feature, "Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency," reported by Barton Gellman and Jo Becker:

"Across the board, the vice president's office goes to unusual lengths to avoid transparency. Cheney declines to disclose the names or even the size of his staff, generally releases no public calendar and ordered the Secret Service to destroy his visitor logs. His general counsel has asserted that 'the vice presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch,' and is therefore exempt from rules governing either. Cheney is refusing to observe an executive order on the handling of national security secrets, and he proposed to abolish a federal office that insisted on auditing his compliance."

While the media may be covering this story all week through television and radio reports from many angles, we at THE JOURNAL thought we'd step back and remind you that this is an old story.

Check out this Bill Moyers essay from 2002 on The Freedom of Information Act:

From NOW with Bill Moyers, April 5, 2002:

In the interest of full disclosure you should know that the "Freedom of Information Act" was passed when Lyndon Johnson was President and I was his Press Secretary. He signed it on July 4, 1966; signed it with language that was almost lyrical; signed it, he said, "With a deep sense of pride that the United States is an open society in which the people's right to know is cherished and guarded."

Well, yes, but what few people knew at the time is that LBJ had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the signing ceremony. He hated the very idea of the Freedom of Information Act; hated the thought of journalists rummaging in government closets; hated them challenging the official view of reality. He dug in his heels and even threatened to pocket veto the bill after it reached the White House. Only the courage and political skill of a Congressman named John Moss got the bill passed at all, and that was after a twelve-year battle against his elders in Congress who blinked every time the sun shined in the dark corridors of power. They managed to cripple the bill Moss had drafted. And even then, only some last-minute calls to LBJ from a handful of newspaper editors overcame the President's reluctance; he signed "the damned thing," as he called it (only I'm paraphrasing, out of respect for PBS standards); he signed it, and then went out to claim credit for it.

It's always a fight, to find out what the government doesn't want us to know. It's a fight we're once again losing. Not only has George W. Bush eviscerated the Presidential Records Act and FOIA, he has clamped a lid on public access across the board. It's not just historians and journalists he wants locked out; it's Congress... and it's you, the public and your representatives.

We're told it's all about national security, but that's not so. Keeping us from finding out about the possibility of accidents at chemical plants is not about national security; it's about covering up an industry's indiscretions. Locking up the secrets of those meetings with energy executives is not about national security; it's about hiding the confidential memorandum sent to the White House by Exxon Mobil showing the influence of oil companies on the administration's policy on global warming. We only learned about that memo this week, by the way, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act. May it rest in peace.

--Bill Moyers

What are your opinions on the role of secrecy in government? Click here to read the varied viewer responses to this essay when it was originally posted 5 years ago. Have your opinions changed over the last 5 years?

June 25, 2007

Extended Interviews with Four Muslim Women

As you saw in last week's interview with Imam Zaid Shakir, Journal Producer Candace White spoke with four Muslim women in the San Francisco Bay area about being a Muslim woman in America:

Saliah Shakir is the wife of Imam Zaid Shakir. Like him, she converted to Islam during a tour of duty with the Air Force.

Sadaf Khan studied at Zaytuna for four years and is now the Institute's Office Manager. She is also the Institute's fundraising coordinator and at the start of the 2007 school year, will assist in coordinating school curriculum.

Marwa Elzankaly is a litigation attorney and currently a provisional partner in her firm. She earned her law degree from Santa Clara University in 1999 and passed the bar the same year.

Uzma Husaini works as an editor in Zaytuna's publications department which includes SEASONS Journal and the Zaytuna Curriculum Series. She received her ijazah (license) to teach tajweed from Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi. She teaches a weekend class in Qur'anic recitation at Zaytuna as well as a class in Islamic studies at Las Positas Community College in Livermore, CA.

For extended interviews with all four women, click here. And as always, please join the conversation by commenting below.

June 22, 2007

Polls: Undercover journalism

Answer our poll question, then debate the topic below.

Growing Up Muslim in America

Last month, the Pew Research Center conducted the first ever, nationwide, random sample survey of Muslim Americans, and some of the findings might surprise you. Here are a few key findings from the Pew Web site:

  • Roughly two-thirds (65%) of adult Muslims in the U.S. were born elsewhere. A relatively large proportion of Muslim immigrants are from Arab countries, but many also come from Pakistan and other South Asian countries. Among native-born Muslims, roughly half are African American (20% of U.S. Muslims overall), many of whom are converts to Islam.
  • Muslim Americans reject Islamic extremism by larger margins than do Muslim minorities in Western European countries. 51% of American Muslims are very concerned with the rise of Islamic extremism in the world today.
  • 62% of Muslim women believe that life is better for them in the United States than in Muslim countries.
  • But statistics never speak as loudly or clearly as first hand accounts, so we invited Eman Ahmed to speak further about her personal experience growing up as Muslim woman in America.

    A native New Yorker, Eman Ahmed is an attorney specializing in employment discrimination. She received her B.A. from St. John’s University, Suma Cum Laude, and her J.D. from New York Law School, where she also served as an editor at the New York Law School Law Review.

    Eman is an active member of the Network of Arab-American Professionals and is a member of the NYSBA Committee on Women in the Law. She appeared in the 2003 edition of Who’s Who Among American Law Students and currently appears in the Madison Who’s Who. Eman also blogs regularly on Arabisto.com.


    It’s funny how much has changed over the last 20 years. As one of the only Muslim students in a public elementary school in Staten Island that was strictly populated by Christian and Jewish students, I was seen more as a novelty than anything else. While the other students chowed down on cheese fries and hamburgers during lunch, I sat in my Social Studies teacher’s classroom during Ramadan, isolated from their stares and name-calling. To them, I was different and weird because for a month, I couldn’t eat or drink during the day. They had no idea what Islam was, except for the one day we learned about it in while studying the Crusades (which is a very skewed view of the religion as a whole to say the least!)

    Today, Islam is readily taught in schools and Muslim students are abundant in the public school system. They are even trying to make accommodations for Muslim students for testing purposes during the holy days of Eid. Although Islam and its teachings have slowly become a part of the mainstream educational system, there’s still a lot of confusion as to what exactly it entails.

    To the many uninformed, it is an archaic system of beliefs, rooted in tradition and seemingly backward teachings. But to the billions who claim Islam as their religion, it is a beautifully simple way of life – one that emphasizes charity and caring/understanding of the most vulnerable members of society.

    Although Islam is currently more known than it was 20 years ago, the same ignorance as to its teachings still run amuck today, especially over the last six years. Being raised in a society that is unforgiving of the unknown, it’s been quite a struggle to realize my footing among the populace. Although technically a religion, in practice, Islam is more akin to a culture. Trying to maintain a happy median between the sometimes divergent Islamic and American cultures has been a lifelong effort that stemmed from childhood. Finding pride and strength when you are known as the oddity hasn’t been easy in the past. And it isn’t any different today, when you are vilified by the media due to the actions of a few wayward souls.

    Having questions of faith is relatively common to most; having those questions while being chastised by an overwhelmingly ignorant public makes it even that much more difficult. Even though society today can properly pronounce the words “hajj” and “Ramadan”, the same stares and name-calling that befell Muslims 20 years ago remains today. According to the recent report from the Pew Research Center, the majority of Muslims in America say exactly that – being Muslim in America today can be quite a harrowing experience.

    And so I ask why is that? Why are we, as a society, comfortable with understanding and accepting the concept of observing the Sabbath, but see regimented prayer five times a day as ritualistic and antiquated? Why do we accept that Timothy McVeigh doesn’t represent all of Christianity, but refuse to do the same when it comes to Islam? Most importantly, why – after 20 years – is it still difficult to accept Muslims in America?

    by Eman Ahmed

    June 21, 2007

    Bill Moyers Reads...

    Many viewers have asked about what Bill Moyers is reading. We've compiled some of the books and articles that have recently come up on his radar.

    As always, tell us what' you're reading and thinking about.

    In the news

    "Beyond the News"
    Mitchell Stephens for the COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW: "Journalists worry that the Web threatens the way they distribute their product. They are slower to see how it threatens the product itself."

    "Newt Would Make a Great Show"

    Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay makes his case for Gingrich as a 2008 contender. June 19, 2007

    "Unmarried couples lose legal benefits"
    States that have banned gay marriage are beginning to revoke the benefits of domestic partners of public employees. Marisol Bello, USA TODAY, June 19, 2007

    House Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law
    The Continuing Investigation into the U.S. Attorneys Controversy and Related Matters hears from outgoing top deputy to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Deputy Attorney General, Paul McNulty on June 21, 2007.

    Another Look

    Pardon Him? Scooter Libby
    As his jail date gets closer there's still talk about a pardon for Scooter Libby.

    "Libby Attorneys Request Prison Term Delay"
    ABC News, June 19, 2007

    "Will Libby Remain Free?"
    THE NATIONAL REVIEW's Byron York reconsiders his Sunday Morning talk show pronouncement on Libby's fate. June 19, 2007

    Private Equity
    Last week the labor leader Andy Stern talked about the influence of private equity firms. This week, the debate over the Blackstone Group's massive offering and proposed new Congressional regulation heats up.

    "Blackstone IPO Faces Roadblock In Senate"
    David Cho, THE WASHINGTON POST, June 15, 2007

    "Blackstone to Set a Stock Offering Price Sooner Than Expected"
    Michael J. de la Merced, THE NEW YORK TIMES, June 20, 2007

    "Private Equity Eyes Next Tax Move By Congress,"
    Kevin Drawbaugh, Reuters, July 19, 2007

    "Hands off Private Equity"
    THE NATIONAL REVIEW's Phil Kerpen on "a misguided proposal from senators Baucus and Grassley." June 20, 2007.

    Find out what's happened since Christian Parenti's June 8, 2007 appearance on the JOURNAL.

    "UK 'in Afghanistan for decades'"
    "The UK presence in Afghanistan will need to remain for decades to help rebuild the country, British ambassador Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles has said." BBC, June 20, 2007.

    "Aid groups decry Afghan civilian deaths"
    Alisa Tang, Associated Press, June 19, 2007.

    On the Bookshelf

    Historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor re-evaluates the received image of Robert E. Lee through a trove of never-before studied personal letters.
    Read an excerpt

    A University of California historian examines how the nation's rise to power and globalization have made us unique but vulnerable to potentially destructive hubris.
    Read an excerpt
    Eric Rauchway on why be became a historian

    Walter Nugent, "The American Habit of Empire, and the Cases of Polk and Bush. WESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY, 38, Spring 2007
    The President of the Western History Association takes a look back — and forward:

    "Americans' historic experience with western expansion habituated them to empire-building, underpinned by the axiom of exceptionalism and the goal of extending liberty. This essay compares two examples of empire-building involving war: Polk in Mexico and George W. Bush in Iraq."

    June 15, 2007

    When One Becomes Two...

    Both Andy Stern and Grace Lee Boggs agree that when active, informed citizens band together with common cause, they can make a world of change:

    I always listen to Margaret Mead who says never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. In fact, it's the only thing that ever has...

    ...We have seen incredible acts of courage and heroism by very small groups of people like in the civil rights movement...but we don't want small answers anymore. We don't want small changes.

    I believe that we are at the point now, in the United States, where a movement is beginning to emerge... the present moment, is demanding that instead of just complaining about these things, instead of just protesting about these things, we begin to look for, and hope for, another way of living. I see the signs in the various small groups that are emerging all over the place to try and regain our humanity in very practical ways.

    In your community, do you see signs of a grassroots revolution emerging?

    We invite you to tell your stories about groups that you've joined or witnessed in your local communities that speak to this notion of informed citizens effecting change, one small seed at a time.

    Photos: Robin Holland

    Begging His Pardon

    by Bill Moyers

    We have yet another remarkable revelation of the mindset of Washington's ruling clique of neoconservative elites—the people who took us to war from the safety of their Beltway bunkers. Even as Iraq grows bloodier by the day, their passion of the week is to keep one of their own from going to jail.

    It is well known that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby—once Vice President Cheney’s most trusted adviser—has been sentenced to 30 months in jail for perjury. Lying. Not a white lie, mind you. A killer lie. Scooter Libby deliberately poured poison into the drinking water of democracy by lying to federal investigators, for the purpose of obstructing justice.

    Attempting to trash critics of the war, Libby and his pals in high places—including his boss Dick Cheney—outed a covert CIA agent. Libby then lied toLibby cover their tracks. To throw investigators off the trail, he kicked sand in the eyes of truth. "Libby lied about nearly everything that mattered,” wrote the chief prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. The jury agreed and found him guilty on four felony counts. Judge Reggie B. Walton—a no-nonsense, lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key type, appointed to the bench by none other than George W. Bush—called the evidence “overwhelming” and threw the book at Libby.

    You would have thought their man had been ordered to Guantanamo, so intense was the reaction from his cheerleaders. They flooded the judge's chambers with letters of support for their comrade and took to the airwaves in a campaign to “free Scooter.”

    Vice President Cheney issued a statement praising Libby as “a man…of personal integrity”—without even a hint of irony about their collusion to browbeat the CIA into mangling intelligence about Iraq in order to justify the invasion.

    “A patriot, a dedicated public servant, a strong family man, and a tireless, honorable, selfless human being,” said Donald Rumsfeld—the very same Rumsfeld who had claimed to know the whereabouts of weapons of mass destruction and who boasted of “bulletproof” evidence linking Saddam to 9/11. “A good person” and “decent man,” said the one-time Pentagon adviser Kenneth Adelman, who had predicted the war in Iraq would be a “cakewalk.” Paul Wolfowitz wrote a four-page letter to praise “the noblest spirit of selfless service” that he knew motivated his friend Scooter. Yes, that Paul Wolfowitz, who had claimed Iraqis would “greet us as liberators” and that Iraq would “finance its own reconstruction.” The same Paul Wolfowitz who had to resign recently as president of the World Bank for using his office to show favoritism to his girlfriend. Paul Wolfowitz turned character witness.

    The praise kept coming: from Douglas Feith, who ran the Pentagon factory of disinformation that Cheney and Libby used to brainwash the press; from Richard Perle, as cocksure about Libby’s “honesty, integrity, fairness and balance” as he had been about the success of the war; and from William Kristol, who had primed the pump of the propaganda machine at THE WEEKLY STANDARD and has led the call for a Presidential pardon. “The case was such a farce, in my view,” he said. “I’m for pardon on the merits.”

    One beltway insider reports that the entire community is grieving—“weighted down by the sheer, glaring unfairness” of Libby's sentence.

    And there’s the rub.

    None seem the least weighted down by the sheer, glaring unfairness of sentencing soldiers to repeated and longer tours of duty in a war induced by deception. It was left to the hawkish academic Fouad Ajami to state the matter baldly. In a piece published on the editorial page of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, Ajami pleaded with Bush to pardon Libby. For believing “in the nobility of this war,” wrote Ajami, Scooter Libby had himself become a “casualty”—a fallen soldier the President dare not leave behind on the Beltway battlefield.

    Not a word in the entire article about the real fallen soldiers. The honest-to-God dead, and dying, and wounded. Not a word about the chaos or the cost. Even as the calamity they created worsens, all they can muster is a cry for leniency for one of their own who lied to cover their tracks.

    There are contrarian voices: “This is an open and shut case of perjury and obstruction of justice,” said Pat Buchanan. “The Republican Party stands for the idea that high officials should not be lying to special investigators.” From the former Governor of Virginia, James Gilmore, a staunch conservative, comes this verdict: “If the public believes there’s one law for a certain group of people in high places and another law for regular people, then you will destroy the law and destroy the system.”

    So it may well be, as THE HARTFORD COURANT said editorially, that Mr Libby is “a nice guy, a loyal and devoted patriot…but none of that excuses perjury or obstruction of justice. If it did, truth wouldn’t matter much.”

    Poll: Are Unions Over?

    Answer our poll question, then debate the topic below.

    June 14, 2007

    Preview: Grace Lee Boggs

    Watch the video

    This Week on Bill Moyers Journal:

    Bill Moyers interviews writer, activist, and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs, who has taken part in some of the seminal civil rights struggles in U.S. history, about her belief that real change for democracy will come from the grassroots.

    “We're not looking sufficiently at what is happening at the grassroots in the country,” she says. “We have not emphasized sufficiently the cultural revolution that we have to make…in order to force the government to do differently.”

    Check Your Local Listings here and we'll see you on the blog after the show.

    June 11, 2007

    Christian Parenti Answers Your Questions...

    We'd like to thank Christian Parenti for taking the time to respond so thoroughly to many of your important comments and inquiries.

    Click here for a glossary of many of the terms mentioned in these answers.

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

    Photo: Robin Holland

    After five years, what is the role of U.S. and NATO forces there? Are they combating terrorists, opium growers, or the Taliban? Is the military mission in Afghanistan as vague as it is in Iraq, only with less public scrutiny?

    Posted by: Bruce from Houston | June 9, 2007 07:24 PM

    The NATO mission is to stabilize Afghanistan. So they fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda and Hezb–e-Islami. After three years in Afghanistan, NATO got more serious about opium, mostly due to US domestic political pressure. The war is classic counterinsurgency: attacking the civilian base of the rebel population, kick in doors, look for weapons, search, arrest, infuriate all the men in the village while you do it. And later on the way back to base something goes bang under your Humvee. The Taliban have willing recruits but they also pay farmers to attack the NATO troops.

    I think it is all rather hopeless.


    I'm Canadian and our military folk have been in-country for a few years now. Word coming back to us seems to be that the mission of "bringing democracy" to Afghanis seems to be sufficient motivation. I'm not convinced that anyone (or any country) can, in fact, do that. I think societal evolution happens on its own time. I wonder if, in your research, you have come across any non-fiction examples of such foreign "imperialist" (if I might use the non-pejorative dictionary definition) interventions have actually had the publicly-stated intended result (after some "reasonable" period of time has elapsed)? (Understanding, of course, that NATO is not the only imperialist influence in-country).

    Perhaps the political geography of the region and what I, in my ignorance, understand to be a more-or-less constant stream of interlopers crisscrossing (and destabilizing) Afghanistan conspire against any sort of stable country, democratic or otherwise. Comments?

    Posted by: Ken Pantton | June 8, 2007 08:34 PM

    Dear Ken,
    You raise very central questions. I suppose settler colonialism after long periods of blood shed and oppression for native population tend to yield democracy and development, but other than that (and I am not endorsing settler colonialism) I think empire building is an unhelpful thing that tends only to serve the elite population (not even the majority) of the imperial power and rarely ever “the native”, as the Anti-imperialist Frantz Fannon would have put it.

    In many ways, Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan were all rather similar at one time but Turkey had Atatürk, and Iran had Reza Shah. Afghanistan had a weak monarchy that was never able to subdue its rural landlords, bandits and tribes; it was never able to build a modern centralized state. After 1949 there was another problem: irredentist conflict with Pakistan. The Durand line, a border drawn up the British in 1893, translated into huge territorial losses for Afghanistan. It’s been a low level war between the two states ever since. You can lay that template on top of this war just as easily as upon the anti-Soviet Jihad, though each conflict also has its unique feature there is always this issue of the Durand line separating Afghanistan and Pakistan.


    Thank you, and Bill Moyers, for your insights on Afghanistan. It seems clear that the annual opium harvest is a pivotal problem. Not only does most of the crop get channeled into illicit trade, but it also funds the Taliban's efforts to take the country back--into the Dark Ages. An obvious solution would be for the NATO governments to buy each year's crop at a price higher than the Taliban would pay and then warehouse it outside the country, destroy it, or otherwise dispose of it through legitimate means. Putting stupid Euro-American anti-drug-in-any-form moralizations aside, do you think that such a program could possibly be implemented in Afghanistan? What would be the internal barriers there?

    Addendum: My reference to "stupid Euro-American anti-drug-in-any-form moralizations" was not to any opinions you might hold, but rather to the prevailing ethos in Europe and the U. S. that is antagonistic to a government's involvement in any activity that is proscribed by its internal laws and senses of proper moral order. I apologize for stating something in such a way that it might be misconstrued.

    Posted by: John Ressler | June 9, 2007 04:22 PM

    I guess your question is for Bill… but as for the record I support some sort of “harm reduction” approach to drug use and production. Addiction is a horrible scourge but jail and war don’t seem to solve the problem.


    It is my understanding that the Attorney General for Afghanistan, a Mr. Sabet, was used by the US to 'ok' Guantanamo to the world and he was once on "Voice of America". Sabet was also an ally of Hekmatyar, a terrorist on the US most wanted list of terrorists and friend of bin Laden. Sabet, after his stint with VOA was denied residency status in the US. BUT Canada gave him not only residency status (in 1999 in Montreal where his wife and family live today) but also granted him citizenship in 2001 - so, in effect, we have the Attorney General of Afghanistan being a Canadian citizen. As our Cdn forces are in Afghanistan with NATO and have been for over 5 years, I have been trying to get answers from my Cdn government as to why we would grant citizenship to such a dubious and corrupt and unstable person as this Sabet has the reputation of being. To date, I have received no answers from anyone in our 'new' government.

    Do you know about this and just why this has been kept so quiet?

    Posted by: Patrick | June 9, 2007 02:54 PM

    I don not know the details of this case but suffice it to say that there are many criminals in the Afghan government. For example Izzatullah Wasifi, the government’s current anti-corruption chief served almost four years in prison for selling heroin in Nevada during the 1980s.


    I am one of those "optimistic State Department types" who will be posted to Kabul this July (for two years). While I find it hard to find disagreement with the general conclusions of Mr. Parenti's analysis, I have to hope that the tacit support for the Taliban can be diminished by a more tangible economic benefit, especially for the Pashtun tribes in particular, coming from increased investment, jobs, development aid, etc. There was relative - an all important caveat -- peace and stability in Afghanistan prior to 1973. Not a western democracy, perhaps, but not the Taliban either. Like it or not, we seem to have committed ourselves to nation building vice destroying militarily the Taliban and the rest of the insurgency. This means, nonetheless, an increase and more aggressive employment of military assets in country. One of the reasons for limiting the conventional troop presence in Afghanistan was to limit any resemblance to December 1979. However, if a surge in Afghanistan were to take place, what is your view, Mr. Parenti, of what the general public reaction would be? Tacit acceptance like that afforded the Taliban? Outright popular armed opposition? Something in between?

    Posted by: DB | June 9, 2007 10:39 AM


    Have we really committed ourselves to nation building? The track record thus far seems rather lackadaisical.

    As I said to John: In Afghanistan the goal was always, get to Iraq as quickly as possible...We can see evidence of this haste in many aspects of the Bush policy in Afghanistan: very few troops, very little aid, the appointment of US leaders who know nothing about the country and culture. There was also an unwillingness (a least until recently) to lean on Pakistan to stop supporting the Taliban. The Bonn process, which drew up the plans for post-war reconstruction and Afghanistan’s new political system, was very rushed and this allowed Northern Alliance warlords to capture the New Afghan State. In 2002, just after the invasion, the GOP control House actually forgot to appropriate any money for Afghan economic aid! This oversight was quickly caught and rectified, with a paltry $300 million for economic development…

    You are very correct that “tacit support for the Taliban can be diminished by a more tangible economic benefit, especially for the Pashtun tribes in particular, coming from increased investment, jobs, development aid, etc.” The problem is that it’s been five years and we haven’t done that! People are now very angry, they want to know where the development is. The Bush administration was too cheap and too sloppy and that lead to the creation of a corrupt Afghan government that now steals whatever aid it can get hold of. Many NGOs did shady things but many more did great work… but the money five years on is drying up.

    By my estimates, about a billion a year has been spent on development in the last five years. By one measure, that is a lot but given that Afghanistan has 28 million people and in 2001 only one paved road - the level of need is staggering. And let’s be honest, the Louis Berger Group, Inc. (Texas-based and a friend of GW Bush) and Black & Veatch (the main US contractors) do not always spend money so efficiently. They are all for-profit ventures and they have spent far too much on overhead.

    As for a surge, or escalation, which could likely come under a Democratic president, I think it would be a larger version of what we see now. One thing to keep in mind is that counterinsurgency can easily generate as many enemies as it mops up. Attacking the civilian base of the rebels breeds new rebels. Kick in doors, search the women’s quarters, humiliate the men – what do you get? More guerillas. Especially if there isn’t enough reform and development, etc.

    Alas I think it is Vietnam all over again, except the Taliban, unlike the North Vietnamese and the NLF, hate The Enlightenment and modernity.

    It is a very, very bleak picture. I think the responsible thing for the US to do is to withdraw in an orderly supportive fashion and convene a region peace conference to deal with all related issues. I thought much of the Iraq Study Group Report made sense and much of its logic could apply to Afghanistan.



    You commentary tonight is consistent with a lot of other analysis such as Senlis Council and U Victoria Global Studies Institute reports. With this obvious setting ourselves up for long term failure, how can we get Karzai and Bush to realize that Afghan farmers are entitled to be treated at least the equals of Turkish and Thai farmers who are allowed to sell poppies for the legitimate pharmaceutical market. What has been done to educate the policy makers of Afghanistan that if we are to be using the name of democracy - we need to begin practicing it - and we need to find a way for a single crop buyer agency such as the Canadian Wheat Board to mentor the Afghans on establishing a rational service like this. What have you encountered that may put some of this kind of policy together?

    Posted by: Alan Blanes | June 9, 2007 04:01 AM

    Dear Alan,
    The Senlis Council has office in Kabul and they steadily promulgate a sensible drug policy. (People should look them up on the Web for details) Other than that I have found very little thinking or organizing around the issue of the Narcotics trade that is sensible and harm reduction oriented.

    What Senlis argues, similar to what you have laid out, sounds crazy to most people because our discourse around drugs is so stunted and moralistic. Either way, these are quite intractable problems that even with the correct approach would take a generation to really get a handle on.


    I started following your work when I was working to stop the private prisons in New Mexico several years ago when my 21 year old grandson died as a result of having been in a Wackenhut prison. It was during this time that I learned about that company as well as KBR, Bechtel and MTC of Abu Ghraib repute. Now here these companies are again, as profiteers in Iraq.

    Do you have any plan to investigate the prison situation there and to relate them to US prisons? I do not believe the US has any intentions of leaving Iraq or Afghanistan and I fear the proliferation of private prisons both here and abroad and perhaps drawing attention to this would help prove the real intentions of the US in establishing its world empire.

    Most people do NOT understand the implications of the proliferation of prisons and permanent US bases!

    Posted by: Suzann Trout | June 9, 2007 02:14 AM

    I am really sorry to hear about your grandson. That is awful. I did do a piece on Abu Ghraib months before the photos. It was about two Al Jazeera journalists who were tortured there. It was in The Nation back in 2004. I have not explored the question of Afghan prisons. But maybe I will. Again, I am sorry about the tragic lose of your grandson I can’t imagine how infuriating that would be.


    If the US had kept 100,000 troops in Afghanistan instead of 17,000 would we have had a different result today? Would it do any good to bring in more troops there now?

    Posted by: Erwin | June 9, 2007 01:54 AM

    It would have made a difference, if lots of aid had been pumped in as well. But now that we’ve five years in I think it is all too late.


    I have a question about your thoughts on why we haven't found Bin Laden. I think your explanation is correct. I have never really thought of it that way. My question is, why were we able to capture Saddam Hussein? Did he not have the support of those around him to protect him as Bin Laden does. Is it because he was seen as a dictator to his people instead of a liberator, or defender against the West?

    Posted by: Tommy Hood | June 9, 2007 01:14 AM

    As you might recall, Saddam was turned in by one of his own. Maybe some tribesmen in Waziristan will get sick of the Arabs and Chechens and Uzbeks sulking around the local mountains and sell out OBL. But even so, the conflict now raging on so many fronts is about much more that one charismatic nut in a cave.


    Ever considered running for office?

    Posted by: John Scherer | June 9, 2007 01:01 AM

    Never have but thanks for the complements.


    I have 4 questions for Christian Parenti. Thanks for this opportunity.

    1.)Why does the U.S. media not discuss ALL the destabilizing forces in Afghanistan & Iraq, including the U.S.'s own interest in destabilizing both countries (including some US companies)?

    2.)Why has there never been any effort to send a capable international police/intel force into Pakistan to capture bin Laden & Zawahiri in the past 6 years? [Pakistan should allow such operations.]

    3.)Why does the U.S. care if Iran is developing nuclear technology when Pakistan already has nuclear weapons and at best can be said to permit al-Qaida's presence & impunity within their country?

    4.)Will you please discuss this conflict of interest: conservative political parties claim to stop terrorism, but they benefit politically from the violence & fear of attacks. What is their interest then in preventing attacks? [the policies & actions of both terrorists & conservatives benefit each other - i.e. promoting adversaries]

    Thanks again.

    Posted by: warisforsuckers | June 9, 2007 12:39 AM

    Dear warisforsuckers,

    I will do my best but I might be brief:

    1 Some of the US media does… for example Mr. Moyers. Print Media always has a wider breadth of opinion in it. But yes most TV is in lala land. I think the bottom line is that editor and journalist do not want to rock the boat and when they do they are dumped on as being ideological.

    2. The hunt for Osama bin Laden is not an area of expertise for me. I think the US tries. But with out the consent of the locals, any manhunt or guerrilla war is going to have limited results. He also keeps a very low profile.

    3. This is not my area of expertise… but it seems clear that the US and Israel want to keep any regional powers contained. Nukes - weather used or not - allow a state to “project power”, have influence, etc.

    4. In this question I think you have provided your own answer… Enemies, in limited doses, can be useful. Being threatened justifies repression of internal dissidents and that allows elites to purse their agendas with less hassle from democracy and free speech. As Randolph Bourne wrote almost 100 years ago: “War is the health of the state.” The state has the monopoly on the legitimate use of violence and surveillance and threats to public safety always justify a hardening of state power. So that in essence is what the “war on terror” is about. Yes, Al Qaeda is real, we were attacked, but the uses of the war of terror have gone far beyond real public safety. The whole discourse of the war on terror is about shutting down democratic dissent.


    I am a reporter for the Orange County Register covering the city of Laguna Niguel. I attended a program with Malalai Joya, a young woman member of the Afghan Parliament, and have her notes, as well as comments from a professor at the University of California, Irvine which contradict her claims of murders and terrorism by the Taliban. The prof (don't have my notes with me) claims things are improving in Afghanistan for women and the drug lords and war lords are not as powerful as Malalai claims. My question: Do you know of Joya and what are your thoughts about her?

    Posted by: Lois Evezich | June 9, 2007 12:02 AM

    I briefly met Malalai Joya once, she is great. She has just been censured by the parliament for calling them useless thugs. In this matter I would have to side you Ms Joya. She is incredibly brave. I wouldn’t be surprised if some old guard thug tries to kill her. Two female journalist have been murdered in the last two weeks, and most likely not by the Taliban.


    Your passing thoughts on Pakistan, during the program, seem to presume Musharraf is somehow misleading (if not duping) us about his country's commitment. As you said, he can publish something here pitched to us, while saying quite different things at home.

    Isn't he, instead, engaged in a fiercely difficult balancing act, one that any Pakistani leader today would HAVE to pursue in order to (a) survive, and (b) preserve order in a positive (and helpful) way?

    Posted by: M. Gordon Jones | June 8, 2007 11:14 PM

    M. Gordon Jones,
    As regards to the Taliban, Musharraf most definitely is misleading the world. Pakistan supports the Taliban, but denies the fact. So, that is a deception. The question of Musharraf’s internal polices is a related but very different mater. As for foreign policy: He does not HAVE to destabilize Afghanistan. But the officers, who have run Pakistan for half of its existence through three military governments, want a weak Afghanistan, they want “strategic depth” or fall back room in case of a major land war with India.

    In the long run security for Pakistan needs to be guaranteed. Settle Kashmir, get India to guarantee some peace with Pakistan and then Pakistan’s officer class might ease up on Afghanistan. Those are the directions US policy should be heading in – large-scale diplomacy aimed at stabilizing very volatile regions.


    Assuming the status quo, what will Afghanistan be like in 5 years? I have inklings of something like the "Great Game" of the 19th century. Is this what we will find ourselves in?

    Posted by: Brian Clark | June 8, 2007 10:58 PM

    Probably much like it is now but with NATO leaving.


    In your interview, the introduction of western style capitalism to Afghanistan was mentioned. Could it be argued capitalism is thriving in Afghanistan? Specifically, drug money being driven into real estate was mentioned. This seems capitalistic, just not in a way we are willing to tolerate. Have we created an economic monster?

    Posted by: Dan | June 8, 2007 10:31 PM

    Dear Dan,
    A hierarchical class society based on drugs, smuggling and stealing aid flows from the west is certainly thriving. But capitalism, in the sense of commodity production by free labor wage for sale on open markets in pursuit of profit, to reinvest for the sake of accumulating more money, is not so thriving.

    The political economy of Afghanistan is really rather feudal. Landlords are linked to tenant farmers through layers of debt, ethnicity, kinship and social obligation. The landlords levy “taxes” upon their farmers; call them up as foot soldiers in their feuds and Jihads (these levies or tribal columns are called Lashkars). The landlords (warlords) have great wealth but their wealth – as in feudal Europe – is not so much an end in itself, so much as it is a means to greater status and political power. Their true occupation is competition against their peer rivals, i.e. other landlords. These local dynamics then get caught up in the “great game politics” of the moment. Foreign powers can use these landlord/warlords and allies but the landlords are still very much doing their thing, and that thing is NOT building a modern state and legal system nor industrializing their country.


    1 What should Congress be doing about Afghanistan (both in the short-term and long-term)? As a policy-maker what legislation, policy prescriptions, and solutions would you suggest?

    2 What one piece of information should the government AND the general public be reading, that would shed light on the current ground situation, culture and future outlook in Afghanistan? Similarly, what specific solutions can help bridge the gap between the government/public and what is REALLY happening in Afghanistan?

    Posted by: Luke Taylor | June 8, 2007 10:31 PM

    Dear Luke,

    You first question is very hard to answer. I feel that both of these wars are lost, so the question becomes what is the most responsible way to leave Afghanistan. I think the type of regional peace plan proposed by the Baker Hamilton report is necessary for both Iraq and Afghanistan.

    My two favorite books on Afghanistan are Louis Dupree’s “Afghanistan” and Raja Anwar’s “The Tragedy of Afghanistan.” They are both old but get at the deep issues moving Afghan politics. Soon, in a year or sooner, I will have a book coming out with Wiley called “Mouth Full of Dust: The End Again In Afghanistan.” I hope that it will serve as a comprehensive primer on this war.


    Afghanistan might thrive as that aforementioned 'capitalistic economy' [democratic] industrial state if those many Poppy Fields were cultivated for use as 'Ethanol' as opposed to Heroin, thus rendering Afghanistan as the regional source for the development of Ethanol as a fuel. Simply take the crop of Poppies away from the drug lords and refine them, market them as Ethanol opening up industry in the Afghan Region. Put the Taliban to work earning suitable incomes so they need not be driven to piracy, and terrorism, as a means to an end. It should not be a crime to be Taliban, put them to work, let them earn a decent living too!

    Posted by: USN Ken | June 9, 2007 04:40 PM

    I am not a fan of bio-fuels, there are other green alt fuels like wind. Afghanistan suffers very serious environmental problems and a long drought that would make bio fuel cropping very hard. More useful would be legalized hashish and some sort of controlled opium trade.


    I wanted to ask you if you got the sense -- as obscene or cynical as it might seem -- that in Afghanistan as in Iraq, the actual objective of the US presence is not to pacify the region, but to promote instability? What better way to ensure the continuation into the foreseeable future of the War on Terror than to create more recruits for the cause?

    If this is combined with typical intelligence shenanigans, such as "false flag" operations, then it would be easy to see why the U.S. military is conducting itself the way it seems to be.

    Posted by: John Kirby | June 8, 2007 10:13 PM


    I do not think instability is the goal. In Iraq the goal was stability on neo-conservative terms, radical free markets, no planning, fire the army and all Baathists, etc. That fantasy fell apart in about two months.

    In Afghanistan the goal was always: get to Iraq as quickly as possible. Iraq is of huge geo-strategic importance. Afghanistan was merely the stepping-stone, the casus belli. We can see evidence of this hast in many aspects of the Bush policy in Afghanistan: very few troops, very little aid, the appointment of US leaders who know nothing about the country and culture (see David Corn’s piece in The Nation 10/30/2006 on Meghan O’Sullivan deputy national security advisor, she is in charge of Afghan policy but cares so little about the place she hasn’t learned the basics.) There was also an unwillingness (a least until recently) to lean on Pakistan to stop supporting the Taliban. The Bonn process, which drew up the plans for post war reconstruction and Afghanistan’s new political system, was very rushed and this allowed Northern Alliance warlords to capture the New Afghan State. In 2002, just after the invasion, the GOP controlled House actually forgot to appropriate any money for Afghan economic aid! This oversight was quickly caught and rectified, with a paltry $300 million for economic development, but you get the point – For Bush, Afghanistan was the road to Iraq.


    Is there an argument to be made that this administration blundered in redirecting focus to Iraq and Saddam Hussein?

    Would we--and Afghanistan--be better off today if we had stayed there, thoroughly dealt with the Taliban, supported a democratic change in government and rebuilt that country as a model for "freedom and democracy" the Middle East? Would such an endeavor have been possible?

    Posted by: Linda Hansen | June 8, 2007 06:13 PM


    Possibly but a more important question is one that is less hypothetical: Is the US a country capable of that and would George W. Bush ever pursue such a huge, expensive and largely altruistic project? There were grounds for going in to Afghanistan—the US was attacked by a movement sheltered there. But our foreign policy in the 1980's helped create Al Qaeda.


    I'm hearing reports on how Afghanistan is at its "50/50" point (or tipping point). How do you feel about this, and is Afghanistan starting to lean towards a certain way?

    Posted by: Kenny from Florida | June 8, 2007 03:58 PM

    Hello Kenny,
    Afghanistan is tipping toward the Taliban in the Pashtun populated south. In the north there are multiple fault lines of instability and increased violence against NATO and foreigners. But the north is still stable.

    June 8, 2007

    Are Science and Religion at Odds?

    Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), Republican presidential hopeful and one of the three candidates who, at a recent debate, raised his hand signifying that he did not believe in evolution, recently clarified this action in an Op-Ed for THE NEW YORK TIMES:

    The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God...

    ...While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

    --Senator Sam Brownback, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 5/31/07

    In her interview with Bill Moyers, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who was an oceanographer before becoming a priest and later the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, explains how she sees the connection between science and faith:

    My faith journey has been, as a scientist, about discovering the wonder of creation...Things that come in different sizes and colors and shapes and body forms are all part of that incredible diversity of creation that's present below the waters where we never even see them. And the Psalms tell us that God delights in that.

    ...I don't believe they [Religion and Science] are, at their depth, incompatible. In the Middle Ages, theology was called the Queen of the Sciences. There are ways of knowing. It is our hunger for radical certainty that leads some people to assume that they're incompatible...

    ...Religion and science are both ways of knowing, but they go at it from somewhat different perspectives. Science asks questions about how things happen and where they've come from. Religion and faith traditions ask questions of meaning, about why we're here and what we should do with what we have here, and how we should relate to the rest of creation.

    --Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

    What do you think?
    -Are religion and science truly at odds with one another?
    -Can and should scientific terms and notions be used to explain religion and vice versa?

    Ask Christian Parenti...

    Watch the videoSubmit your questions to journalist, Christian Parenti, who recently returned from his fourth trip to Afghanistan. Parenti is a regular contributor to THE NATION and has written several books, the latest being , THE FREEDOM: SHADOWS AND HALLUCINATIONS IN OCCUPIED IRAQ.

    Many have called Afghanistan, "The Forgotten Frontline," so here's your chance to learn more about this important and complicated region:

    • Curious what life is like on the ground in Afghanistan?
    • Confused about any of the many terms mentioned in the interview?
    • How does the conflict in Afghanistan compare with the war in Iraq?

    Submit your questions now as comments to this post and Mr. Parenti will answer as many as he can. We'll get you his answers next week.

    Photo: Robin Holland

    June 6, 2007

    Preview: High-Flying Executives

    Watch the video

    This Week on Bill Moyers Journal:

    Beginning to trade on the NYSE last week, Northwest airlines dodged the bankruptcy bullet.

    But while a $1.4 billion a year cut in labor expenses has ensured lower costs for Northwest, why are airline executives still flying high on salaries, stock options and benefits while workers and retirees see cuts in pay and compensation?

    Check Your Local Listings here and we'll see you on the blog after the show.

    June 2, 2007

    From Public Citizen's Joan Claybrook

    I was thrilled to join Bill Moyers this week on his show, and I welcome a dialogue about a problem that impacts every issue today: the corrupting influence of big-money congressional lobbyists.

    When corporate lobbyists raise campaign cash or help lawmakers get lucrative lobbying jobs after leaving office, the democratic system is corrupted. It's also expensive. Lobbyists throw their financial weight around Congress to get tax breaks, contracts, loan guarantees, subsidies and regulatory cutbacks for their corporate clients. Meanwhile, those of us with legitimate concerns about drug safety, global warming and high gas prices have trouble being heard at all.

    The scandals brought on by the criminal relationship between lobbyist Jack Abramoff and members of Congress * like Tom DeLay and Bob Ney * toppled Republicans in 2006. The Democrats came to power on the promise of draining the swamp and ending the culture of corruption.

    So where are we now?

    We are still fighting for some very modest reforms for transparency in the way that lobbyists and members of Congress conduct business. (http://citizen.typepad.com/watchdog_blog/)

    The lobby and ethics reform bills passed by the Senate and House (http://www.cleanupwashington.org/lobbying/page.cfm?pageid=24) will be joined in a conference committee when Congress returns to work next week. At least one critical reform found in the stronger Senate bill may be in jeopardy: slowing the "revolving door." This refers to the practice of former lawmakers taking high-paying lobbying jobs after leaving Congress, hired because they know the system and have special access to ask former colleagues for favors.

    Under the current law, public officials are prohibited only from "direct" lobbying * and only for one year after office. This means that former lawmakers can run lobbying campaigns for clients as soon as they leave Congress * as long as they don't pick up the phone or meet personally with a lawmaker. This is completely inadequate.

    However, the Senate lobbying reform bill (S. 1) restricts all lobbying activity * not just "contacts" * for two years for lawmakers and senior executive branch officials. Former senior Congressional staffers would be prohibited from making lobbying "contacts" with Congress for one year. This would be a big improvement. Unfortunately, the House bill does not have the same reforms. Our goal is to keep the Senate provisions in the final bill. (http://action.citizen.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=11780&t=CleanUpWashington2col.dwt)

    What are your thoughts? Have you or your family been harmed by big-money politics? What do you think the solution is?

    -Joan Claybrook, president, Public Citizen

    June 1, 2007

    Congressional Reform: Watch the Video

    Watch the video

    One of Washington's most influential public advocates, Joan Claybrook of Public Citizen, talks about what is at stake in the ethical reforms under consideration in Congress.

    Take our poll below.

    Bill Moyers asks...

    In his interview with former Senator, Bob Kerrey, Bill Moyers asks:

    I think just about everybody I know, including critics of the President, critics of the war, acknowledge that a unilateral withdrawal would lead to more murder, more mayhem. But how many lives should we expend? How many lives should we sacrifice to reach a state of equilibrium?

    If you were in Kerrey's seat, how would you answer this question?

    Bill Moyers Essay: Listening to History

    Watch the video

    The other day, I received an email from another journalist, Greg Mitchell who runs the magazine EDITOR AND PUBLISHER. He forwarded me the tape of a conversation between my old boss, Lyndon Johnson, and the White House National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy. I'd never heard it before -- although it occurred while I was in the White House 43 years ago.

    The year was 1964. The month was May. The President and Bundy were talking before the Gulf of Tonkin Resoluton, that LBJ later used as a green light to escalate, before the campaign against Barry Goldwater in which the President said, 'We seek no wider war,' and before the fatal escalation of troops a year later. When this conversation took place, there were, if memory serves me, sixteen- to twenty-thousand Americans in Vietnam, only we called them advisors. At the time, the war in Vietnam was only a small dark cloud on the very distant horizon. Here’s an excerpt from that conversation:

    LBJ: I would tell you...the more that I stayed awake last night thinking of this...and the more that I think of it...I don't know what in the hell...we...looks like to me that we're getting into another Korea. It just worries the hell out of me. I don't see what we can ever hope to get out of there with...once we're committed... I believe that the Chinese communists are coming into it...I don't think we can fight them 10,000 miles away from home and ever get anyway on that area...I don't think that it's worth fighting for...and I don't think that we can get out...and it's just the biggest damn mess that i ever saw.

    Bundy: It is an awful mess.

    LBJ: And we just got to think about...I'm looking at this sergeant of mine this morning...got six little old kids over there...and he's getting out my things...and bringing me in my night reading and all that kind of stuff...and I just thought about ordering...ordering those kids in there...and what in the hell am I ordering them out there for? It's damn easy to get into a war, but it's...going to be harder to ever extricate yourself if you get in...

    That was May 1964. Two hundred and sixty Americans had been killed in Vietnam by then. Eleven years and two presidents later, when U.S. forces pulled out, 58,209 Americans had died, and an estimated 3 million Vietnamese.

    A Companion Blog to Bill Moyers Journal

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