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August 28, 2009

Ask Maggie Mahar

Meet Maggie Mahar. You’ll be seeing more of her on the JOURNAL this week, when we present MONEY-DRIVEN MEDICINE, a film produced by Academy Award winning filmmaker Alex Gibney (TAXI TO THE DARKSIDE, ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM). Ms. Mahar was kind enough to take questions from The Moyers Blog readers, so, over the next two weeks, as you watch the debate over health care reform unfold please submit your questions here. We’ll post her answers after next week’s edition of the JOURNAL.

[Note: We are no longer accepting questions for Maggie Mahar, but you can read her answers here and here.]

Why Maggie Mahar? She was kind enough to introduce herself below.

I began to learn about the healthcare industry while I was a writer and senior editor at Barron’s -- from 1986 through 1997. During that time I covered both Wall Street and Washington, and wrote stories on a wide range of subjects.

Many of those stories focused on healthcare companies: drug-makers, device-makers, insurers and for-profit hospitals. I also wrote about managed care, the FDA and its battle against Big Tobacco. I analyzed the Clintons’ plans for healthcare reform. I compared non-profit HMOs to for-profit HMOs.

What I learned, during those years, is that in our health care system, profits often trump patients. A great many people are selling and selling hard. By law, for-profit corporations are supposed to put their shareholders’ interests first: this means that they must strive to maximize profits. And this goes a long way toward explaining why U.S. healthcare is so expensive.

Continue reading "Ask Maggie Mahar" »

August 20, 2009

Michael Winship: Tom DeLay and the Woodstock Nation

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

"Tom DeLay and the Woodstock Nation"
By Michael Winship

A sorry state of affairs. If it wasn’t for all the 40th anniversary celebrations of Woodstock, the primary cultural contribution of the month would be the announcement that Tom DeLay of Texas – birther, born again and former Republican House Majority Leader -- will be a contestant in the next round of DANCING WITH THE STARS.

Still, better to see DeLay trotting the boards of ABC’s hit “reality” show than back marauding the halls of Congress – or roaming faraway Saipan with now imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff, praising the US possession’s sweatshops as “a perfect Petri dish of capitalism.” (“It’s like my Galapagos Island,” DeLay enthused.)

When he makes his debut on DANCING WITH THE STARS, you have to wonder if Tom will specialize in that favorite Lone Star dance, The Cotton Eye Joe, or more appropriately, some variation of The Sidestep, immortalized in Broadway’s THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS.

The corrupt governor in the show sings, “Ooh, I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don't. I've come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step, cut a little swathe and lead the people on.”

Continue reading "Michael Winship: Tom DeLay and the Woodstock Nation" »

February 19, 2009

Guest Blogger: GlobalPost's Tom Mucha on the Global Economic Crisis

We'd like to thank Thomas Mucha, managing editor and commerce columnist at GlobalPost, for sharing his thoughts on the global nature of the economic crisis.

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

Lost fingers and a world of trouble
by Thomas Mucha, GlobalPost

You are, no doubt, paying close attention to the nightmarish U.S. economy, Wall Street's woes and the bitter back-and-forth over President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus package, now signed into life.

The interest in what's happening here is no surprise. After all, the great 18th century thinker Adam Smith made this shocking observation about the odd relationship between human trouble and proximity:

Continue reading "Guest Blogger: GlobalPost's Tom Mucha on the Global Economic Crisis" »

January 9, 2009

Michael Winship: What Am I Bid for the American Wild?

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

What Am I Bid for the American Wild?
By Michael Winship

We've all seen those sitcoms or movies in which someone stumbles into an art auction and, not knowing how it works, idly scratches his nose or pulls his ear and finds himself the owner of a Rembrandt.

Better yet, there's one of my all-time favorite films, NORTH BY NORTHWEST. Surrounded at an auction by the bad guys, Cary Grant makes outrageous bids and yells insults until the police arrive and unknowingly haul him off to safety. (“How do we know it’s not a fake?” he shouts about one painting. “It looks like a fake!” A woman sitting in front of him turns and replies, “You’re no fake. You’re a genuine idiot.”)

The Friday before Christmas, a college student in Utah who‘s neither fake nor fool pulled a Cary Grant at a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) auction of oil and gas leases for land between two of the most austerely beautiful national parks in the United States – Canyonlands and Arches.

Tim DeChristopher, a 27-year-old environmental activist and economics major at the University of Utah, was protesting the auction outside a government office building in Salt Lake City and decided to see what would happen if he went inside. Instead of being immediately hustled out, he was asked by a clerk, “Are you here to bid?”

Continue reading "Michael Winship: What Am I Bid for the American Wild?" »

December 19, 2008

Guest Blogger: Sarah Chayes on Negotiating with the Taliban

(Photo by Robin Holland)

There was one issue Bill and I did not have time to address in our interview today: the notion of negotiating with the Taliban.

It has been startling to witness the parade of international policy-makers, not to mention members of the Afghan government, now opining that way out of that country's gut-wrenching situation is to cut a deal with those who are victimizing its population. For, make no mistake, no matter how this prospect may be packaged, "reconciliation" with Taliban, at the level at which exploration is now underway, will involve some kind of power-sharing.

The proponents of this approach rest their case on a couple of fallacies. One is that "no insurgency has ever been defeated without negotiation" -- one of those assertions that takes on the force of truth by dint of repetition. It ignores all the diversity in texture and outcomes of insurrections down the years. Not to mention the question of whether what is happening in Afghanistan can really be called an insurgency.

This is not just a matter of semantics. The second fallacy, which I have heard perpetuated even by some Kabul-based Afghans, is that the Pashtuns in the Afghan south generally favor the Taliban. I live in Kandahar, the former heartland of Taliban leader Mullah Omar. I have lived there since the week he was chased out. I can attest that the support for the Karzai regime and its international backers at that time, and for the next several years, was unanimous. Kandaharis suffered the worst punishment at the hands of the draconian Taliban regime, and were delighted by its demise, and filled with hope for the new chapter in their nation's history that opened in December 2001.

Two things have happened since then. One is that the Pakistani military intelligence agency has been diligently reconstituting the Taliban which it first created in 1994. The injection of this newly reconstituted Taliban back into Afghanistan represents something closer to an invasion by proxy than it does an insurgency. And secondly, Afghans, including Pashtuns in the south, have been bitterly disappointed by the behavior of the Karzai government. The word "corruption" does not do justice to the scale of the phenomenon.

Continue reading "Guest Blogger: Sarah Chayes on Negotiating with the Taliban" »

December 12, 2008

Guest Blogger: Allen Johnson on Bush's Environmental Policies

Allen Johnson is coordinator for Christians for the Mountains, an advocacy group that organizes Christians to protect the environment. The organization, which was featured in the 2006 MOYERS ON AMERICA documentary IS GOD GREEN?, has a special focus on the region of southern Appalachia. We'd like to thank Allen Johnson, who previously wrote an update about mountaintop mining, for sharing his thoughts on the Bush administration's recent changes to the nation's environmental regulations.

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

A failed Bush administration is firing final salvos from its sinking ship in the form of administrative rules changes, “a thank you” to 8 years of special interest support. One particularly odious ruling revises a Clean Water Act prohibition of mine waste fill within 100 feet of a stream. Not that the prohibition had been enforced. Flagrant violations have buried many hundreds of miles of Appalachian streams in a coal mine extraction process called “Valley Fill.” Simply put, valleys make convenient places to dump waste rock separated from mined coal. But at least the prohibition on stream burial had given environmental groups legitimate ground for lawsuit. Bush’s farewell fiat knocks the legs out of these legal recourses.

Continue reading "Guest Blogger: Allen Johnson on Bush's Environmental Policies" »

December 5, 2008

Guest Blogger: Mark Johnson on PLAYING FOR CHANGE

(Photo by Robin Holland)

We'd like to thank Mark Johnson, creator/director of PLAYING FOR CHANGE: PEACE THROUGH MUSIC, for sharing some additional thoughts with THE MOYERS BLOG. We invite you to respond below.

(Please note: -- which requires the Flash player -- does offer free audio of the many of the songs from the film, and projects that DVDs and CDs will be available in early 2009.)

Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Mark Johnson are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.
PLAYING FOR CHANGE is a movement uniting people all over the world through music and inspiration. It all began about seven years ago as my producing partner, Whitney Kroenke Burditt, and I assembled a group of like-minded people with cameras and a mobile recording studio. We embarked on a journey across the globe in search of music and human connections.

We started the journey with the idea that with an open mind and positive intentions we can find ways of uniting people as the human race. Music has always been the universal language and we followed its path from city streets to Native Indian reservations, African villages and the Himalayan Mountains. I could never have imagined that we would discover a world with so much love, hope and inspiration. In a world with so much focus on our differences I am proud to have discovered that people everywhere believe in creating a better world together.

Continue reading "Guest Blogger: Mark Johnson on PLAYING FOR CHANGE" »

November 26, 2008

Guest Blogger: Lisa M. Hamilton on "The Transformation"

(Photo by Jason Houston)

We'd like to thank Lisa M. Hamilton for sharing her photo essay, "The Transformation", with THE MOYERS BLOG. We invite you to respond below.

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


A Community Comes Together to Conserve Two Endangered Species: Rare-Breed Turkeys, and Turkey Farmers

In 2004, Slow Food USA launched a campaign called Renewing America’s Food Traditions (or “RAFT”), whose purpose was to save endangered food species by getting farmers to grow them—and consumers to eat them. Members in Sonoma County, California, set out to revive heritage breed turkeys, but immediately were faced with a new issue: there were no farmers to raise them. In the early 20th century the region was known as the “Egg Basket to the World” and had as many as 6,000 small poultry farms. But beginning in the 1950s, factors ranging from urbanization to industry consolidation to the advent of breakfast cereal wiped out nearly the entire industry. Today only a handful of small-scale poultry farmers remain, and none was about to jump into the unpredictable business of raising commercially unfamiliar breeds of turkeys.

Continue reading "Guest Blogger: Lisa M. Hamilton on "The Transformation"" »

October 31, 2008

Joan Claybrook: Special Interest Stranglehold Must be Broken

(Photo by Robin Holland)

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

These are exceedingly difficult days for many of us, and the public will be looking to the next administration for some serious relief. No matter who becomes the next American president, the 2008 election will have to herald a season of vigorous accountability for government. We know what happens when elected officials allow special interests groups to undermine the economy; now we need the stranglehold these interests have over government to be broken.

Continue reading "Joan Claybrook: Special Interest Stranglehold Must be Broken" »

October 17, 2008

Guest Blogger: Michael Zweig's Proposal for Economic Stimulus

(Photo by Robin Holland)

We'd like to thank Michael Zweig, director of the Center for Study of Working Class Life, for sharing some additional thoughts with THE MOYERS BLOG. We invite you to respond to his questions below.

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

Congress and the media have been almost totally focused on Wall Street and the melt down in the world’s financial markets. It’s another example of how the needs of the corporate elite consume our national conversation.

We at the Center for Study of Working Class Life are trying to draw attention back to the needs of Main Street working people who are in great distress but left out of the loop when it comes to public policy. Our recent report, Economic Stimulus and Economically Distressed Workers, presents proposals to bring the economy toward full employment in ways that direct immediate relief to those who need it most.

Continue reading "Guest Blogger: Michael Zweig's Proposal for Economic Stimulus" »

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.

Continue reading "Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: Moguls Steal Home While Companies Strike Out" »

June 6, 2008

Ask Greg Mitchell...

We'd like to thank Greg Mitchell, author of SO WRONG FOR SO LONG, for his comments below and for agreeing to answer your questions. His responses are in bold below.

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

From Greg Mitchell, author of SO WRONG FOR SO LONG:

So what do you feel about the latest revelations in Scott McClellan’s book and a new Senate report that the U.S. was led into war against Iraq based on false pretenses? McClellan flatly calls the administration’s case “propaganda” and accuses the media of being “complicit enablers.”

This week’s segment with Bill, which probes all of this, felt like a kind of “reunion” for me, even though I had never before met fellow guests Jonathan Landay and John Walcott. But I have been hailing their work for more than five years, going back to the “run-up” to the attack on Iraq in 2003. They were among the few to repeatedly, and accurately, probe the administration’s case for war in the most crucial period.

At the same time, I returned to the scene of my last sit-down with Bill, in April 2003, just days before the U.S. entered Baghdad. Even then, we were warning that this was only the beginning, not the end, of our stay in Iraq (less than a month later, President Bush delivered his “Mission Accomplished” speech). A transcript of that session with Bill and a lengthy tribute to his 2007 BUYING THE WAR program appear in my new book, SO WRONG FOR SO LONG: HOW THE PRESS, THE PUNDITS – AND THE PRESIDENT – FAILED ON IRAQ.

In this week's program, Landay and Walcott explore the evidence for war (or lack of) while I focus on the media sins of omission and commission. I have found appalling, if not surprising, the media’s general refusal to truly come to grips with their failures on Iraq, even after five years of war. Most in the media, in response to the McClellan charges, defended their pre-war work, which is stunning.

Actually, one of the best lines of this past week came from Stephen Colbert. He said that he couldn’t understand why McClellan was saying reporters were not doing their job in the run-up to the war. “What is McClellan complaining about?” Colbert asked. “They were doing HIS job!”

I am wondering what viewers think of all this – where the fault really lies for the U.S. getting “misled” into war, and if they think the policymakers, and the journalists, have learned any lessons.

Got a question for Greg Mitchell? Please post below.

April 11, 2008

Guest Blogger: "A Chance to Help Those Who Need It Most" by David Beckmann

(Photo by Robin Holland)

We'd like to thank Rev. Beckmann of Bread for the World for his additional thoughts on aiding America's hungry and his hopes for new farm bill legislation.

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

A Chance to Help Those Who Need It Most

Rev. David Beckmann
President, Bread for the World

I have been reflecting on the increasing challenges our nation’s low-income families face in their struggle to have enough to eat each day, especially in light of the negotiations going on in Congress for a new farm bill.

Continue reading "Guest Blogger: "A Chance to Help Those Who Need It Most" by David Beckmann" »

February 7, 2008

Kathleen Hall Jamieson Answers Your Questions

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Last week, media expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson, accepted viewer questions regarding the road to November.

Her response is as follows, and we invite you comment below:

Continue reading "Kathleen Hall Jamieson Answers Your Questions" »

January 31, 2008

Ask Kathleen Hall Jamieson

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Media and politics expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson last appeared on the blog to provider viewers with debate-watching tips:

I recommend not watching before the debate and after the debate. I recommend that after the debate you turn the debate off and you talk with your family about what you saw and what was important to you. And you think about what you saw.

Now we invite you to ask the author of EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT POLITICS...AND WHY YOU'RE WRONG about what's been puzzling you about politics, media, and the long road to November 2008.

January 11, 2008

Guest Blogger: Debate Watching 101 with Kathleen Hall Jamieson

(Photo by Robin Holland)

By Kathleen Hall Jamieson

1) I recommend not watching the coverage immediately before the debate and, when the debate is finished, turn the television off and talk with your family about what you saw and what was important to you. And think about what you saw.

2) Candidates make different assumptions about government's role, about economic policy, about the value of government regulation, about the role of the US in the world, about appropriate use of military power, about US relationships with other countries... and the like. What are the governing philosophies of the candidates?

3) Come to a debate with a list of the issues that matter to you and ask what you learned about each candidate's record and promises on those issues. Where are they similar and how do they differ?

4) When a candidate promises a new program or any move that will reduce government revenue -- how will the candidate pay for it? Increase the deficit? Cut spending elesewhere and if so where? Raise taxes? On whom?

5) How accurate are candidates' descriptions of opponents' programs? And how accurate are a candidate's descriptions of his or her own record?

6) Is the candidate willing to tell voters things they don't want to hear about the challenges facing the country and what is required to address them?

7) If the country were faced with a crisis, what can you know from the candidates' past performance, character, and dispositions about whether the country would be in good hands?

Continue reading "Guest Blogger: Debate Watching 101 with Kathleen Hall Jamieson" »

November 5, 2007

The Net @ Risk update

by Rick Karr

Since we're talking about media this week, it seems to be a good time for an update on the fight over “net neutrality."

(If you're not familiar with the term, all you need to know is that this battle is a lot like the one over media ownership that we cover on this week's show: It involves the FCC, and it pits media conglomerates – in this case the cable and telephone giants that Rick Karr by Robin Hollandprovide most Americans with Internet service – against the public interest. For a more detailed explanation, check out the web page for the documentary that we broadcast on the subject last year.)

Public-interest advocates say net neutrality is essential to preserving openness, innovation, and free expression online. Cable and telephone conglomerates and their allies argue that net neutrality is a “solution in search of a problem” -- in other words, that they'd never censor or otherwise interfere with online content.

But a few recent incidents have cast doubt on the conglomerates' claims, according to net neutrality advocates.

(Photo: Robin Holland)

Continue reading "The Net @ Risk update" »

May 3, 2007

Learning the Lessons of Wrongful Convictions

By Barry Scheck, Innocence Project Co-Director

When we called Jerry Miller to ask him to come to New York to talk with Bill Moyers, he said yes immediately. He had seen some of Bill's programs while spending 25 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and he was eager to have a thoughtful discussion about his case and the issues it raises.

Jerry was 22 years old when he was arrested and charged with a brutal rape, robbery and kidnapping. Less than two weeks ago, he was exonerated in a Chicago courtroom – at the age of 48. A wrongful conviction robbed him of practically his entire adult life.

Jerry is the 200th person exonerated through DNA evidence nationwide. He is a truly unique individual – but his case is eerily similar to many of the 199 before it, and his story echoes the thousands of letters the Innocence Project receives from prisoners every year.

Like 120 of the first 200 people exonerated through DNA evidence, Jerry is African American. Like 77% of the first 200, he was convicted based on eyewitness misidentification. Like nearly all of our clients, he spent years appealing his conviction and came to us as a last resort. And like every single innocent person we have walked out of prison, he now wonders whether his experience will mean anything – whether his case will be a learning moment about the criminal justice system’s shortcomings, or everyone will hear his story, feel bad for him and then go back to business as usual.

The staff at Bill Moyers Journal told us that readers on this blog are used to seeing questions that spark thoughtful dialogue from a variety of perspectives. Our question is the same one that Jerry and our other clients ask us so often:

What will it take for our criminal justice system to learn the lessons these exonerations provide?

What are some of the lessons of these cases? How can we all learn more from these cases – so that other innocent men and women are not wrongfully convicted and left to watch Bill Moyers from prison cells, hoping that in a few years, they too can share their story?


Barry Scheck is the Co-Founder and Co-Director (with Peter Neufeld) of the Innocence Project. Started at Cardozo School of Law in 1992, the Innocence Project is a national organization that uses DNA testing to exonerate wrongfully convicted people and implements policy reforms to prevent future injustice. Scheck and Neufeld became involved in forensic DNA issues in the 1980s, and their work has shaped the course of law and policy nationwide. Scheck, Neufeld and Pulitzer Prize-winning NEW YORK TIMES reporter Jim Dwyer are the authors of Actual Innocence: Five Days to Execution, and Other Dispatches From the Wrongly Convicted, published by Doubleday.

Bill Moyers talks with Jerry Miller this week on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.

Photo: Robin Holland

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