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September 28, 2007

Bill Moyers Essay: For the Fallen

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September 27, 2007

A Crisis of Capitalism?

In his interview with John Bogle, Bill Moyers cites this article from THE NEW YORK TIMES. which examines more than 1,200 nursing homes purchased by large private investment groups.

The piece, "At Many Homes, More Profit and Less Nursing" reports that:

"The TIMES analysis shows that managers at many other nursing homes acquired by large private investors have cut expenses and staff, sometimes below minimum legal requirements..."

"...In recent years, large private investment groups have agreed to buy 6 of the nation's 10 largest nursing home chains, containing over 141,000 beds, or 9 percent of the nation's total."

The article further details residents from one home who died from what family members call negligent care, while investors profited millions.

Bogle calls this a "national disgrace," contending that:

"There are some things that must be entrusted to government and some things that must be entrusted to private enterprise. "

Do you agree?

How do we determine what falls into the responsibility of private investment and what is better handled by government?

Photo: Robin Holland

Religion & Ethics Newsweekly on the US Episcopal Church

For those following the recent controversy within the US Episcopal Church regarding stances on homosexuality, same-sex partnerships, and other social issues, this week on PBS' RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY:

“U.S. Episcopal Church: What Now?” — Kim Lawton reports on the outcome of the U.S. Episcopal Bishops’ meeting in New Orleans and the response by the conservative branch of the Communion. Transcript and streaming video of this story will be available after 8:30 p.m. on Friday on the RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY Web site.

For more, check out the Bill Moyers interview with Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Photo: Robin Holland

September 21, 2007

E.O. Wilson on Rachel Carson

Forty-five years ago next week, the modern environmental movement was launched with the release of Rachel Carson's landmark book SILENT SPRING, amidst fiery controversy that still burns today.

Check out our pages on Rachel Carson and the DDT controversy and read an excerpt from one of Carson's kindred spirits, noted biologist E.O. Wilson, from his recent afterword to SILENT SPRING:

If Rachel Carson were alive today, I believe she’d give America a mixed grade. The increased public awareness of the environment would please the educator in her; the ranking of her book as a literary classic would astonish the writer; and the existence of new regulatory laws would gratify the frustrated government bureaucrat. The naturalist in Rachel Carson, positioned at the core of her several parts, would take pleasure in knowing that ecocidal schemes such as the sea-level canal and the fire ant eradication program, if broached today, would be widely ridiculed and perish stillborn.

Even so, she would recognize that the war between environmentalists and exploiters, local and national, is far from over. It has only subsided since 1962 to a more muted equilibrium. Although developers and policymakers come up with fewer spectacularly bad large projects, they continue to chip, saw and drill away at the remains of the American natural environment. They say, over and over, we just need a little more here and there. The environmentalists respond by saying pull back; nature is dying the torture-death of a thousand cuts.

Of the 1,254 species protected under the Endangered Species Act at the end of 1991, four times as many are declining as are gaining in population. The enemies of federal environmental regulation cite this difference as evidence that the act has failed. Their logic, if applied widely, would call for closing hospital emergency rooms because so many people die there. They declare the Endangered Species Act a detriment to economic growth, conveniently ignoring the fact that fewer than one in a thousand projects reviewed under its provision has been halted.

During the past forty years the United States has come to understand that it is a major player in the deterioration of the global environment. Rachel Carson, who was a quick learner, would be ahead of us in understanding the devastating effects everywhere of still-rocketing population growth combined with consumption of national resources, the thinning of the ozone layer, global warning, the collapse of marine fisheries, and, less directly through foreign trade, the decimation of tropical forests and mass extinction of species. She would regret, I’m sure, the sorry example the United States sets with its enormous per capital appropriation of productive land around the worked for it s consumption – ten times that of developing countries.

On the other hand, the lady from Maryland would take some hope from Earth Summit, the successful Montreal Protocol aimed at the reduction of ozone-thinning chlorofluorocarbons, and the less successful Kyoto Protocol designed to slow climatic warming (still thwarted in 2002 by lack of American approval). She would be cheered by news of the rapid growth in funding by the muscle of such global nongovernmental organizations as Conservation International, the Nature Conservatory, and the World Wildlife Fund – U.S.

Silent Spring continues to be worthy of our attention because it marks an important moment in history, just as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and John Muir’s Our National Parks do. The examples and arguments it contains are timeless lessons of the kind we need to reexamine. They are also timely, because the battle Rachel Carson helped to lead on behalf of the environment is far from won.

We are still poisoning the air and water and eroding the biosphere, albeit less so than if Rachel Carson had not written. Today we understand better than ever why we must press the effort to save the environment all the way home, true to the mind and spirit of the valiant author of Silent Spring.

Photo: Robin Holland

September 13, 2007

And now, a few words from our producers...

Below are a few comments from 9/11: FOR THE RECORD producers Sherry Jones and Bill Moyers and reporter Andrew Meier which were originally published 9.10.2004 alongside the premiere of the film. Please share your thoughts below.

By Andrew Meier, Sherry Jones and Bill Moyers

It has taken three years for the details of the terrorist plot of 9/11 to emerge. The fateful turns that led to the attacks have finally entered the public discourse. Their lessons, however, have yet to be learned.

The first lesson is that the highest officials in government did not want us to know the truth.

They already had the story they wanted Americans to believe: Nearly 3,000 people had died, we were assured, because the terrorists turned our liberties against us, had brazenly exploited our open society. According to this official view, the atrocities were inevitable, the plot so diabolical and its execution so precise that only a superhero could have prevented it.

It sounded right. For the American people, the terror seemed to have fallen out of that near-perfect September sky, out of the clear blue.

We now know otherwise. The report of the 9/11 Commission lays the story bare in exhaustive, forensic detail, and on page 265 concludes that the terrorists “exploited deep institutional failings within our government.”

That is not the whole truth. What are institutions if not the lengthened influence of individuals? “The system failed” is the catchphrase now in vogue in Washington. Critics and fans alike of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush still rely on this hollow analysis. But “the system” is no mindless mechanism operating independently of the men and women individuals with names, power, and obligations ­ who are charged with making it work. Before “the system” can fail, they must fail.

The Commissioners avoided blaming any government officials, past or present, for the failure to prevent the attacks. They maintain that their job was not to assign individual blame, but provide the most complete and frank account of the decisive events surrounding the attack. To that end, they succeeded. But to stop there is to stop short. Read the final report of the Commission carefully — connect the dots — and a fuller pattern emerges: Key government officials failed the system, and they failed the American people.

Judges and social workers talk of the “circle of accountability.” The 9/11 Commission was indeed an historic undertaking. Yet in spreading the blame as broadly as it possibly could, the Commissioners, rather than enlarging that circle, have all but closed it. Americans deserve better than to allow accountability to be passed off as a mere abstraction; they should know where the buck stops. The nearly 3,000 men and women who died on 9/11 deserve better, too. It will not bring them back to hold accountable the particular officials in high office who could have acted and did not. But it will assure that they did not die in vain.

September 7, 2007


As former head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice, Jack Goldsmith was responsible for advising President Bush on what he could and could not do legally. In his interview with Bill Moyers, Goldsmith spoke of the extreme pressure on the Administration which, says Goldsmith, pushed the limits of the law to be as aggressive as possible in fighting terrorism.

Goldsmith says of Vice President Cheney's longtime legal counsel and current Chief of Staff:

David Addington once said to me, he was the Vice President's counsel, when I advised that I didn't think something they wanted to do was lawful, he once said to me, "If you rule that way, then you will have the blood of 100,000 people who die in the next attack on your hands."

Towing this line between doing all possible in the fight against terrorism while keeping with the limits of the law is the subject of Goldsmith's new book, THE TERROR PRESIDENCY. Read and excerpt from THE TERROR PRESIDENCY and comment below.

*Special thanks to W. W. Norton & Company.

Photo: Robin Holland

Surveillance of the people, for the the people?

The discussion on the delicate balance between national security and the protection of civil liberties continues with the JOURNAL interview of Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union and former Republican congressman Mickey Edwards. Both Romero and Edwards voiced skepticism towards new legislation President Bush signed amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), citing incidents where the exertion of executive power has taken away civil liberties. Romero recounted the ordeal when UC Santa Cruz student Konstanty Hordynski was targeted through domestic surveillance as a "credible threat to the nation." And, conservative Mickey Edwards considers the rights of citizens whose telephone and email records have become readily avalable to the government, saying:

One of the things that's happened is giving much more leeway to the President - allowing communications companies to be able to cooperate with the President and with the White House in eavesdropping on people and taking away from the American citizens the right to sue, the right to go after these companies for cooperating. So, there have been a lot of new powers that have been given to the executive branch in this revised FISA.

The White House Fact sheet on FISA modernization addresses some specific critiques, including:

What Is Not Acceptable

- Some have proposed that the Government must obtain pre-approval from a court before it conducts critical surveillance of targets located overseas. This is unacceptable. The Government must be able to act immediately, particularly in the case of national security emergencies, to protect the Nation.

- Some have suggested that FISA must be reformed, but only to permit collection against certain overseas threats like al Qaeda terrorists. This is unacceptable. There are many threats that confront our Nation, including military, weapons proliferation, and economic, and we must be able to conduct foreign intelligence effectively on all of them.

- Some have suggested that we must wait to modernize FISA. This is unacceptable. Congress must act now to give our intelligence professionals the tools they need to uncover plots in time to protect our homeland.

- Some have suggested that a court order should be necessary before our intelligence professionals are able to gather any information about a foreign target who happens to contact someone in the United States frequently. This is unacceptable.

After watching the Romero/Edwards interview, check out the White House fact sheet on the Protect America Act of 2007, and tell us what you think below.

Photo: Robin Holland

Mountaintop Ministry

Allen Johnson co-founded and heads the advocacy group, Christians for the Mountains, an organization that summons Christians to help protect the environment, paying particular attention to the southern Appalachian Mountains region.

Since this segment originally aired in October 2006, Christians for the Mountains has joined up with other denominations in making mountaintop removal mining an issue of urgency among the creation care leaders nationwide. In May 2007, Allen and Roman Catholic priest Father John Rausch hosted religious leaders for a two-day tour of mountaintop removal sites, and at the end of the tour, the two dozen religious leaders signed a joint statement against mountaintop removal practices.

For first-hand insight into the mountaintop removal fight here is a brief essay from Allen Johnson:


On August 22, The New York Times published an article that began, “The Bush administration is set to issue a regulation on Friday [August 24] that would enshrine the coal mining practice of mountaintop removal.”

Enshrine. An oddly appropriate word, I thought. A biblical word, even. A place where dwell the gods. Like the gods of money, comfort, and power.

For over 2 years I have been involved with a network organization, Christians For The Mountains, to engage Christians and their churches to take on the moral question of mountaintop removal. The massive scale of beheading coal-bearing mountains, obliterating headwater streams, and building multi-billion gallon toxic slurry impoundments begs biblical and theological activity.

It is now clear the coal industry and their regulatory and political sidekicks care only about the dollar. An honest debate on the ethics and morality of mountaintop removal has not occurred. Like wolves salivating their chops over a field of lambs, the coal industry and their lapdogs in government now look upon coal-to-liquid technology as a new source of meat to feast their jaws. “Coal will bring prosperity to the state,” they trumpet; yet after more than a century of economic and political domination by the coal industry, West Virginia has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, especially in the southern coalfields. So much for prosperity.

Ok, churches, let’s have it. Is “it right by God” to permanently destroy the mountains, valleys, forests, streams, rich diversity of animals and plants, and local culture, to provide a few jobs, a tidy corporate profit, and a cheap light bill? For a couple of generations at most? Through exploiting an economically desperate, vulnerable, defenseless population?

We think not. “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains” is from the 24th Psalm that launched Christians For The Mountains two years ago at a gathering in Charleston, West Virginia. Simply put, this answered for us a decisive question: “Is nature our property to do with as we like? Or do we as humans have responsibility that corresponds to our privilege of living and gaining our sustenance within God’s creation?”

The majority of U.S. citizens identify with Christian faith. Christians have influence. Are you listening? Do you care? We implore your biblical, theological, and ethical thought and consequent faithful action.

And we’d like to hear from non-Christians, too. Do you think we Christians are measuring up to our standard?

September 1, 2007

Attention Thirteen/WNET Viewers

We are sorry to report that there was a transmission error in the broadcast of BILL MOYERS JOURNAL last night in the New York metropolitan area. Please note that this technical error should be cleared up in our Sunday rebroadcast - Sunday night at 7 pm on Thirteen.

As always, the full transcript and video are available on our Watch & Listen page.

We apologize for any inconvenience.


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