Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Only Answer To Organized Money Is Organized People

Painting of Bill Moyers by Robert Shetterly

Thomas Jefferson said the only justification for mandatory public education is to teach children their rights, and how to defend those rights. We need lots and lots of us addressing students of all ages, to let them know their rights, and that we’re sorry we’re handing over the mess the country and the world is in.

---christie svane

You can’t lay bricks on top of a crumbling system. It must be torn down first. If the system had been healthy to begin with, we would never have come to where we find ourselves now. I strongly disagree with most American’s premise of what they think America stands for. It never was all it was cracked up to be. It must be made better if it is to rise from the ashes of tyranny. I doubt Americans have the grit for the work that must be done to re-invent America in the image of truth.


like so many others i have wanted more than anything to make a real and true picture of our beautiful world
and for its own sake but not its own sake alone

i confess right here that ive wanted to correct or possibly infect the mind of whoever crossed paths with my poem
i mean i look around these days - all days really

its easy to see the cars on the freeway and the shopping malls spread under the rise of the moon and feel doomed.
anything else is a sucker punch.

anything else is a refusal to see, ive said, and more than once, and meant it, and do - even right now - do you see?


The sayings that introduce this post are comments at in reply to a talk given at Occidental College last month by Bill Moyers. At the moment there are 35 such comments since Thursday when CommonDreams put up the speech. Rarely have I seen Internet folk so thoughtful and inspired. Mr. Moyers has given a lot of addresses around the country since he retired from his weekly program on Public Broadcasting, and they all are worth seeking out urgently. Many people are so moved they call upon him to run for President...but he won't. He believes in his work as fearless spokesperson for a Free Press, and it is as journalist that he delivers A Time For Anger, A Call To Action. As in the time of Tom Paine, here are words to be published and posted at every site, to be handed from person to person. It is time again for Americans to shake off our lethargy, our complacency, our hopelessness. Here Bill Moyers helps us with that work.

Published on Thursday, March 22, 2007 by
A Time For Anger, A Call To Action by Bill Moyers
The following is a transcript of a speech given on February 7, 2007 at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

I am grateful to you for this opportunity and to President Prager for the hospitality of this evening, to Diana Akiyama, Director of the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life, whose idea it was to invite me and with whom you can have an accounting after I've left. And to the Lilly Endowment for funding the Values and Vocations project to encourage students at Occidental to explore how their beliefs and values shape their choices in life, how to make choices for meaningful work and how to make a contribution to the common good. It's a recognition of a unique venture: to demonstrate that the life of the mind and the longing of the spirit are mirror images of the human organism. I'm grateful to be here under their auspices.

I have come across the continent to talk to you about two subjects close to my heart. I care about them as a journalist, a citizen and a grandfather who looks at the pictures next to my computer of my five young grandchildren who do not have a vote, a lobbyist in Washington, or the means to contribute to a presidential candidate. If I don't act in their behalf, who will?

One of my obsessions is democracy, and there is no campus in the country more attuned than Occidental to what it will take to save democracy. Because of your record of activism for social justice, I know we agree that democracy is more than what we were taught in high school civics - more than the two-party system, the checks-and-balances, the debate over whether the Electoral College is a good idea. Those are important matters that warrant our attention, but democracy involves something more fundamental. I want to talk about what democracy bestows on us?the revolutionary idea that democracy is not just about the means of governance but the means of dignifying people so they become fully free to claim their moral and political agency. "I believe in democracy because it releases the energies of every human being" - those are the words of our 28th president, Woodrow Wilson.

I've been spending time with Woodrow Wilson and others of his era because my colleagues and I are producing a documentary series on the momentous struggles that gripped America a century or so years ago at the birth of modern politics. Woodrow Wilson clearly understood the nature of power. In his now-forgotten political testament called The New Freedom, Wilson described his reformism in plain English no one could fail to understand: "The laws of this country do not prevent the strong from crushing the week." He wrote: "Don't deceive yourselves for a moment as to the power of great interests which now dominate our development... There are men in this country big enough to own the government of the United States. They are going to own it if they can." And he warned: "There is no salvation in the pitiful condescensions of industrial masters... prosperity guaranteed by trustees has no prospect of endurance."

Now Wilson took his stand at the center of power - the presidency itself - and from his stand came progressive income taxation, the federal estate tax, tariff reform, the challenge to great monopolies and trusts, and, most important, a resolute spirit "to deal with the new and subtle tyrannies according to their deserts."

How we need that spirit today! When Woodrow Wilson spoke of democracy releasing the energies of every human being, he was declaring that we cannot leave our destiny to politicians, elites, and experts; either we take democracy into our own hands, or others will take democracy from us.

We do not have much time. Our political system is melting down, right here where you live.
A recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found that only 20% of voters last November believe your state will be a better place to live in the year 2025; 51% say it will be worse. Another poll by the New American Foundation - summed up in an article by Steven Hill in the January 28th San Francisco Chronicle - found that for the first time in modern California history, a majority of adults are not registered with either of the two major parties.

Furthermore, writes Hill, "There is a widening breach between most of the 39 million people residing in California and the fewer than 9 million who actually vote." Here we are getting to the heart of the crisis today - the great divide that has opened in American life.

According to that New American Foundation study, frequent voters [in California] tend to be 45 and older, have household incomes of $60,000 or more, are homeowners, and have college degrees. In contrast, the 12 million nonvoters (7 million of whom are eligible to vote but are not registered) tend to be younger than 45, rent instead of own, have not been to College, and have incomes less than $60,000.

In other words, "Considering that California often has one of the lowest voter participation rates in the nation - in some elections only a little more that 1/3 of eligible voters participate - a small group of frequent voters, who are richer, whiter, and older than their nonvoting neighbors, form the majority that decides which candidates win and which ballot measures pass." The author of that report (Mark Baldassare) concludes: "Only about 15% of adult people make the decisions and that 15% doesn't look much life California overall."

We should not be surprised by the consequences: "Two Californias have emerged. One that votes and one that does not. Both sides inhabit the same state and must share the same resources, but only one side is electing the political leaders who divide up the pie."

You've got a big problem here. But don't feel alone. Across the country our 18th political system is failing to deal with basic realities. Despite Thomas Jefferson's counsel that we would need a revolution every 25 years to enable our governance to serve new generations, our structure - practically deified for 225 years - has essentially stayed the same while science and technology have raced ahead. A young writer I know, named Jan Frel, one of the most thoughtful practitioners of the emerging world of Web journalism, wrote me the other day to say: "We've gone way past ourselves. I see the unfathomable numbers in the national debt and deficit, and the way that the Federal government was physically unable to respond to Hurricane Katrina. I look at Iraq; where 50% of the question is how to get out, and the other 50% is how did so few people have the power to start the invasion in the first place. If the Republic were functioning, they would have never had that power."

Yet the inertia of the political process seems virtually unstoppable. Frel reminds me that the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee can shepherd a $2.8 trillion dollar budget through the Senate and then admit: "It's hard to understand what a trillion is. I don't know what it is." Is it fair to expect anyone to understand what a trillion is, my young friend asks, or how to behave with it in any democratic fashion?" He goes on: "But the political system and culture are forcing 535 members of Congress and a President who are often thousands of miles away from their 300 million constituents to do so. It is frightening to watch the American media culture from progressive to hard right being totally sold on the idea of one President for 300 million people, as though the Presidency is still fit to human scale. I'm at a point where the idea of a political savior in the guise of a Presidential candidate or congressional majority sounds downright scary, and at the same time, with very few exceptions, the writers and journalists across the slate are completely sold on it."

Our political system is promiscuous as well as primitive. The first modern fundraiser in American politics - Mark Hanna, who shook down the corporations to make William McKinley President of the United States in 1896 - once said there are two important things in politics. "One is money, and I can't remember the other one." Because our system feeds on campaign contributions, the powerful and the privileged shape it to their will. Only 12% of American households had incomes over $100,000 in 2000, but they made up 95% of the substantial donors to campaigns and have been the big winners in Washington ever since.

I saw early on the consequences of political and social inequality. I got my first job in journalism at the age of 16. I quickly had one of those strokes of luck that can determine a career. Some of the old timers were on vacation or out sick and I was assigned to cover what came to be known as the 'Housewives Rebellion.' Fifteen women in my home town decided not to pay the social security withholding tax for their domestic workers. They argued that social security was unconstitutional, that imposing it was taxation without representation, and that - here's my favorite part - "requiring us to collect (the tax) is no different from requiring us to collect the garbage."

They hired themselves a lawyer - none other than Martin Dies, the former Congressman best known, or worst known, for his work as head of the House Committee on Un-American Activities in the 30s and 40s. He was no more effective at defending rebellious women than he had been protecting against Communist subversives, and eventually the women wound up holding their noses and paying the tax. The stories I wrote for my local paper were picked up and moved on by the Associated Press wire to Newspapers all over the country. One day, the managing editor called me over and pointed to the AP ticker beside his desk. Moving across the wire was a notice citing one "Bill Moyers" and the News Messenger for the reporting we had done on the rebellion.
That hooked me. In one way or another - after a detour through seminary and then into politics and government for a spell - I've been covering politics ever since.

By "politics" I mean when people get together to influence government, change their own lives, and change society. Sometimes those people are powerful corporate lobby groups like the drug companies and the oil industry, and sometimes they are ordinary people fighting to protect their communities from toxic chemicals, workers fighting for a living wage, or college students organizing to put an end to sweatshops.

Those women in Marshall, Texas - who didn't want to pay Social Security taxes for their maids - were not bad people. They were regulars at church, their children were my friends, many of them were active in community affairs, and their husbands were pillars of the business and professional class in town. They were respectable and upstanding citizens all.

So it took me awhile to figure out what had brought on that spasm of reactionary rebellion. It came to me one day, much later. They simply couldn't see beyond their own prerogatives. Fiercely loyal to their families, to their clubs, charities, and congregations - fiercely loyal, in other words, to their own kind - they narrowly defined membership in democracy to include only people like them. The women who washed and ironed their laundry, wiped their children's bottoms, made their husbands' beds, and cooked their families meals - these women, too, would grow old and frail, sick and decrepit, lose their husbands and face the ravages of time alone, with nothing to show from their years of labor but the creases in their brow and the knots on their knuckles.

In one way or another, this is the oldest story in America: the struggle to determine whether "We, the People" is a spiritual idea embedded in a political reality - one nation, indivisible - or merely a charade masquerading as piety and manipulated by the powerful and privileged to sustain their own way of life at the expense of others.

We seem to be holding our breath today, trying to decide what kind of country we want to be. But in this state of suspension, powerful interests are making off with the booty. They remind me of the card shark in Texas who said to his competitor in the poker game: "Now play the cards fairly Reuben. I know what I dealt you."

For years now a small fraction of American households have been garnering a larger and larger concentration of wealth and income, while large corporations and financial institutions have obtained unprecedented power over who wins and who loses. Inequality in America is greater than it's been in 50 years. In 1960 the gap in terms of wealth between the top 20% and the bottom 20% was 30 fold. Today it's more than 75 fold.

Such concentrations of wealth would be far less of an issue if the rest of society were benefiting proportionally. But that is not the case. Throughout our industrial history incomes grew at 30% to 50% or more every quarter, and in the quarter century after WWII, gains reached more than 100% for all income categories. Since the late 1970s, only the top 1% of households increased their income by 100%.

Once upon a time, according to Isabel Sawhill and Sara McLanahan in The Future of Children, the American ideal of classless society was 'one in which all children have roughly equal chance of success regardless of the economic status of the family into which they were born. That's changing fast. The Economist Jeffrey Madrick writes that just a couple of decades ago, only 20% of one's future income was determined by the income of one's father. New research suggests that today 60% of a son's income is determined by the level of his father's income. In other words, children no longer have a roughly equal chance of success regardless of the economic status of the family into which they are born. Their chances of success are greatly improved if they are born on third base and their father has been tipping the umpire.

As all of you know, a college education today is practically a necessity if you are to hold your own, much less climb the next rung. More than 40% of all new jobs now require a college degree. There are real world consequences to this, and Madrick drives them home. Since the 1970s, median wages of men with college degrees have risen about 14%. But median wages for high school graduates have fallen about 15%. Not surprisingly, nearly 24% of American workers with only a high school diploma have no health insurance, compared with less than 10% of those with college degrees.

Such statistics can bring glaze to the eyes, but Oscar Wilde once said that it is the mark of truly educated people to be deeply moved by statistics. All of you are educated, and I know you can envision the stress these economic realities are putting on working people and on family life. As incomes have stagnated, higher education, health care, public transportation, drugs, housing and cars have risen faster in price than typical family incomes, so that life, says Jeffrey Madrick, "has grown neither calm nor secure for most Americans, by any means."

Let me tell you about the Stanleys and the Neumanns, two families who live in Milwaukee. One is black, the other white. The breadwinners in both were laid off in the first wave of downsizing in 1991 as corporations began moving jobs out of the city and then out of the country. In a documentary series my colleagues and I chronicled their efforts over the next decade to cope with the wrenching changes in their lives and to find a place for themselves in the new global economy. They're the kind of Americans my mother would have called "the salt of the earth". They love their kids, care about their communities, go to church every Sunday, and work hard all week.

To make ends meet after the layoffs, both mothers took full-time jobs. Both fathers became seriously ill. When one father had to stay in the hospital two months the family went $30,000 in debt because they didn't have adequate health care. We were there with our cameras when the bank started to foreclose on the modest home of one family that couldn't make mortgage payments. Like millions of Americans, the Stanleys and the Neumanns were playing by the rules and still getting stiffed. By the end of the decade they were running harder but slipping further behind, and the gap between them and prosperous America was widening.

What turns their personal tragedy into a political travesty is that while they are indeed patriotic, they no longer believe they matter to the people who run the country. They simply do not think their concerns will ever be addressed by the political, corporate, and media elites who make up our dominant class. They are not cynical, because they are deeply religious people with no capacity for cynicism, but they know the system is rigged against them.

"Things have reached such a state of affairs," the journalist George Orwell once wrote, "that the first duty of every intelligent person is to pay attention to the obvious." The editors of The Economist have done just that. The pro-business magazine considered by many to be the most influential defender of capitalism on the newsstand, produced a sobering analysis of what is happening to the old notion that any American child can get to the top. A growing body of evidence - some of it I have already cited - led the editors to conclude that with "income inequality growing to levels not seen since the Gilded Age and social mobility falling behind, the United States risks calcifying into a European-style class-based society." The editors point to an "education system increasingly stratified by social class" in which poor children "attend schools with fewer resources than those of their richer contemporaries" and great universities that are "increasingly reinforcing rather than reducing these educational inequalities." They conclude that America's great companies have made it harder than ever "for people to start at the bottom and rise up the company hierarchies by dint of hard work and self-improvement."

It is eerie to read assessments like that and then read the anthropologist Jared Diamond's book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail He describes an America society in which elites cocoon themselves "in gated communities, guarded by private security guards, and filled with people who drink bottled water, depend on private pensions, and send their children to private schools." Gradually, they lose the motivation "to support the police force, the municipal water supply, Social Security, and public schools." Any society contains a built-in blueprint for failure, warns Jared Diamond, if elites insulate themselves from the consequences of their own actions.
So it is that in a study of its own, The American Political Science Association found that "increasing inequalities threaten the American ideal of equal citizenship and that progress toward real democracy may have stalled in this country and even reversed."

This is a marked turn of events for a country whose mythology embraces "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" as part of our creed. America was not supposed to be a country of "winner take all." Through our system of checks and balances we were going to maintain a healthy equilibrium in how power works - and for whom. Because equitable access to public resources is the lifeblood of any democracy, we made primary schooling free to all. Because everyone deserves a second chance, debtors, especially the relatively poor, were protected by state laws against their rich creditors. Government encouraged Americans to own their own piece of land, and even supported squatters' rights. In my time, the hope of equal opportunity became reality for millions of us. Although my parents were knocked down and almost out by the Great Depression, and were poor all their lives, my brother and I went to good public schools. The GI Bill made it possible for him to go to college. When I bought my first car with a loan of $450 I drove to a public school on a public highway and stopped to rest in a public park. America as a shared project was becoming the engine of our national experience.

Not now. Beginning a quarter of a century ago a movement of corporate, political, and religious fundamentalists gained ascendancy over politics and made inequality their goal. They launched a crusade to dismantle the political institutions, the legal and statutory canons, and the intellectual and cultural frameworks that have held private power. And they had the money to back up their ambition.

Let me read you something:

When powerful interests shower Washington with millions in campaign contributions, they often get what they want. But it is ordinary citizens and firms that pay the price and most of them never see it coming. This is what happens if you don't contribute to their campaigns or spend generously on lobbying. You pick up a disproportionate share of America's tax bill. You pay higher prices for a broad range of products from peanuts to prescriptions. You pay taxes that others in a similar situation have been excused from paying. You're compelled to abide by laws while others are granted immunity from them. You must pay debts that you incur while others do not. You're barred from writing off on your tax returns some of the money spent on necessities while others deduct the cost of their entertainment. You must run your business by one set of rules, while the government creates another set for your competitors. In contrast, the fortunate few who contribute to the right politicians and hire the right lobbyists enjoy all the benefits of their special status. Make a bad business deal; the government bails them out. If they want to hire workers at below market wages, the government provides the means to do so. If they want more time to pay their debts, the government gives them an extension. If they want immunity from certain laws, the government gives it. If they want to ignore rules their competition must comply with, the government gives its approval. If they want to kill legislation that is intended for the public, it gets killed.

I'm not quoting from Karl Marx's Das Kapital or Mao's Little Red Book. I'm quoting Time Magazine. From the heart of America's media establishment comes the judgment that America now has "government for the few at the expense of the many."

We are talking about nothing less that a class war declared a generation ago, in a powerful polemic by the wealthy right-winger, William Simon, who had been Richard Nixon's Secretary of the Treasury. In it he declared that "funds generated by business... must rush by the multimillions" to conservative causes. The trumpet was sounded for the financial and business class to take back the power and privileges they had lost as a result of the Great Depression and the New Deal. They got the message and were soon waging a well-orchestrated, lavishly-financed movement. Business Week put it bluntly: "Some people will obviously have to do with less... .It will be a bitter pill for many Americans to swallow the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more." The long-range strategy was to cut workforces and their wages, scour the globe in search of cheap labor, trash the social contract and the safety net that was supposed to protect people from hardships beyond their control, deny ordinary citizens the power to sue rich corporations for malfeasance and malpractice, and eliminate the ability of government to restrain what editorialists for the Wall Street Journal admiringly call "the animal spirits of business."

Looking backwards, it all seems so clear that we wonder how we could have ignored the warning signs at the time. What has been happening to working people is not the result of Adam Smith's invisible hand but the direct consequence of corporate activism, intellectual propaganda, the rise of a religious literalism opposed to any civil and human right that threaten its paternalism, and a string of political decisions favoring the interests of wealthy elites who bought the political system right out from under us.

To create the intellectual framework for this revolution in public policy, they funded conservative think tanks that churned out study after study advocating their agenda.
To put muscle behind these ideas, they created a formidable political machine. One of the few journalists to cover the issues of class, Thomas Edsall of the Washington Post, reported that "During the 1970s, business refined its ability to act as a class, submerging competitive instincts in favor of joint, cooperate action in the legislative area." Big business political action committees flooded the political arena with a deluge of dollars. And they built alliances with the religious right - Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition - who gleefully contrived a cultural holy war that became a smokescreen behind which the economic assault on the middle and working classes would occur.

From land, water, and other resources, to media and the broadcast and digital spectrums, to scientific discovery and medial breakthroughs, a broad range of America's public resources have been undergoing a powerful shift toward elite control, contributing substantially to those economic pressures on ordinary Americans that "deeply affect household stability, family dynamics, social mobility, political participation and civic life."What's to be done?

The only answer to organized money is organized people.


The only answer to organized money is organized people.

And again:

The only answer to organized money is organized people.

I came to Occidental because your campus has a reputation for believing in a political system where ordinary people have a voice in making the decisions that shape their lives, not just at the ballot box every two or four years in November, but in their workplaces, their neighborhoods and communities, and on their college campuses. In a real democracy, ordinary people at every level hold their elected officials accountable for the big decisions, about whether or not to go to war and put young men and women in harm's way, about the pollution of the environment, global warming, and the health and safety of our workplaces, our communities, our food and our air and our water, the quality of our public schools, and the distribution of economic resources. It's the spirit of fighting back throughout American history that brought an end to sweatshops, won the eight-hour working day and a minimum wage, delivered suffrage to women and blacks from slavery, inspired the Gay Rights movement, the consumer and environmental movements, and more recently stopped Congress from enacting repressive legislation against immigrants.
I believe a new wave of social reform is about to break across America. We see it in the struggle for a 'living wage' for America's working people. Last November, voters in six states approved ballot measures to raise their states' minimum wage above the federal level; 28 states now have such laws. Since 1994, more than 100 cities have passed local living wage laws that require employers who do business with the government - who get taxpayer subsidies, in other words - to pay workers enough to lift their families out of poverty.

Los Angeles has led the way, passing one of the nation's strongest 'living wage' laws in 1997. And just the other day the LA City Council voted to extend that "living wage" law to the thirty-five hundred hotel workers around the Los Angeles Airport - the first living wage law in the country to target a specific industry and a specific geographic area. But it took last fall's march down Century Boulevard - organized people! - to finally bring it about and it took the arrest of hundreds of college students, including several dozen from Occidental.

The great abolitionist Frederick Douglass said that "if there is no struggle, there is no progress." Those who profess freedom, yet fail to act - they are "men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning, they want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters... power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them."

What America needs is a broad bi-partisan movement for democracy. It's happened before: In 1800, with the Jeffersonian Democrats; in 1860, with Radical Republicans; in 1892, with the Populists; in 1912, with Bull Moose Progressives; in 1932, with the New Deal; in l964, with Civil Rights activists - each moment a breaking point after long, hard struggles, each with small beginnings in transcendent faith.

Faith! That's the other subject close to my heart that I have come talk about. Almost every great social movement in America has contained a flame of faith at its core - the belief that all human beings bear traces of the divine spark, however defined. I myself believe that within the religious quest - in the deeper realm of spirituality that may well be the primal origin of all religion - lies what Gregg Easterbrook calls "an essential aspect of the human prospect." It is here we wrestle with questions of life and purpose, with the meaning of loss, yearning and hope, above all of love.
I am grateful to have first been exposed to those qualities in my own Christian tradition. T.S. Eliot believed that "no man [or woman] has ever climbed to the higher stages of the spiritual life who has not been a believer in a particular religion, or at least a particular philosophy." As we dig deeper into our own religion, we are likely to break through to someone else digging deeper toward us from their own tradition, and on some metaphysical level, we converge, like the images inside a kaleidoscope, into new patterns of meaning that illuminate our own journey.
For most of our history this country's religious discourse was dominated by white male Protestants of a culturally conservative European heritage - people like me. Dissenting voices of America, alternative visions of faith, or race, of women, rarely reached the mainstream. The cartoonist Jeff McNally summed it up with two weirdoes talking in a California diner. One weirdo says to the other. "Have you ever delved into the mysteries of Eastern Religion?" And the second weirdo answers: "Yes, I was once a Methodist in Philadelphia." Once upon a time that was about the extent of our exposure to the varieties of Religious experience. No longer. Our nation is being re-created right before our eyes, with mosques and Hindu Temples, Sikh communities and Buddhist retreat centers. And we all have so much to teach each other. Buddhists can teach us about the delight of contemplation and 'the infinite within.' From Muslims we can learn about the nature of surrender; from Jews, the power of the prophetic conscience; from Hindus, the "realms of gold" hidden in the depths of our hearts," from Confucians the empathy necessary to sustain the fragile web of civilization. Nothing I take from these traditions has come at the expense of the Christian story. I respect that story - my story ?even more for having come to see that all the great religious grapple with things that matter, although each may come out at a different place; that each arises from within and experiences a lived human experience; and each and every one of them offers a unique insight into human nature. I reject the notion that faith is acquired in the same way one chooses a meal in a cafeteria, but I confess there is something liberating about no longer being quite so deaf to what others have to report from their experience.

So let me share with you what I treasure most about the faith that has informed my journey. You will find it in the New Testament, in the gospel of Matthew, where the story of Jesus of Nazareth unfolds chapter by chapter: The birth at Bethlehem. The baptism in the River Jordan. The temptation in the wilderness. The Sermon on the Mount. The healing of the sick and the feeding of the hungry. The Parables. The calling of the Disciples. The journey to Jerusalem. And always, embedded like pearls throughout the story, the teachings of compassion, forgiveness, and reconciliation:

Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.
Whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also... and whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.
If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer our gift.
Judge not, lest ye be judged.

In these pages we are in the presence of one who clearly understands the power of love, mercy, and kindness - the 'gentle Jesus' so familiar in art, song, and Sunday School.

But then the tale turns. Jesus' demeanor changes; the tone and temper of the narrative shift, and the Prince of Peace becomes a disturber of the peace:Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers... and he said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves.'"

His message grew more threatening, amid growing crowds right on the Temple grounds. In his parable of the wicked tenants, he predicted the imminent destruction of the Jerusalem elites, setting in motion the events that led to his crucifixion a short time later.

No cheek turned there. No second mile traveled. On the contrary, Jesus grows angry. He passes judgment. His message becomes more threatening. And he takes action.

Over the past few years as we witnessed the growing concentration of wealth and privilege in our country, prophetic religion lost its voice, drowned out by the corporate, political, and religious right who hijacked Jesus.

That's right: They hijacked Jesus. The very Jesus who stood in Nazareth and proclaimed, "The Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor" - this Jesus, hijacked by a philosophy of greed. The very Jesus who fed 5000 hungry people - and not just those in the skyboxes; the very Jesus who offered kindness to the prostitute and hospitality to the outcast; who raised the status of women and treated even the hated tax collector as a citizen of the Kingdom. The indignant Jesus who drove the money changers from the temple - this Jesus was hijacked and turned from a friend of the dispossessed into a guardian of privilege, the ally of oil barons, banking tycoons, media moguls and weapons builders.

Yet it was this same Jesus who inspired a Methodist ship-caulker named Edward Rogers to crusade across New England for an eight hour work day; called Frances William to rise up against the sweatshop; sent Dorothy Day to march alongside striking auto workers in Michigan, fishermen and textile workers in Massachusetts, brewery workers in New York, and marble cutters in Vermont; who roused E.B. McKinney and Owen Whitfield to stand against a Mississippi oligarchy that held sharecroppers in servitude, challenged a young priest named John Ryan to champion child labor laws a decade before the New Deal, and summoned Martin Luther King to Memphis to join sanitation workers in their struggle for a decent wage.
This Jesus was there on Century Boulevard last September, speaking Spanish. And it is this resurrected Jesus, in the company of the morally indignant of every faith, who will be there wherever Americans are angry enough to rise up and drive the money changers from the temples of democracy.

To you students at Occidental, let me say: I have been a journalist too long to look at the world through rose-colored glasses. I believe the only way to be in the world is to see it as it really is and then to take it on despite the frightening things you see. The Italian philosopher Gramschi spoke of the "the pessimism of the intellect and the optimism of the will." With this philosophy your generation can bring about the Third American Revolution. The first won independence from the Crown. The second won equal rights for women and for the sons and daughters of slavery. This third - the revolution of the 21st Century - will bring about a democracy that leaves no one out. The simple truth is we cannot build a political society or a nation across the vast divides that mark our country today. We must bridge that divide and make society whole, sharing the fruits of freedom and prosperity with the least among us. I have crossed the continent to tell you the Dream is not done, the work is not over, and your time has come to take it on.

Comments from readers are here~~~
Add one.

Born in Oklahoma, Bill Moyers grew up in Texas, where he received a journalism B.A. in 1956 from the University of Texas in Austin and then a divinity degree in 1959 from the Southwestern Theological Seminary. For most of the 1960s he alternated between working for the Peace Corps (as a director of public affairs and deputy director) and for fellow Texan Lyndon Johnson (as a personal assistant to the vice-president, then as a special assistant and press secretary to the president.)

Since then, TV has been Moyers’s main focus. In 1971, following a few years as the publisher of Newsday, he began almost 35 years of producing hundreds of hours of television interviews for various series broadcast primarily on PBS. Over the years Moyers earned more than 30 Emmy awards and 10 Peabody awards for his work creating shows like A Walk Through the 20th Century, The Power of Myth (with Joseph Campbell), A World of Ideas, and Healing and the Mind. Some of these series, converted into print, also became best-selling books. He had become, a biographer wrote, “one of the few broadcast journalists who might be said to approach the stature of Edward R. Murrow.” Another called him “a gifted storyteller through words and images,” someone who “reveals to us the spiritual, emotional, and historical sides of our culture.”
In December 2004, Moyers announced his retirement from his final show, the national newsmagazine Now. Before retiring he said, “I believe democracy requires a ‘sacred contract’ between journalists and those who put their trust in us to tell them what we can about how the world really works.” And, “Free and responsible government by popular consent just can’t exist without an informed public.”

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Phil Mattson Message Board

The legendary Phil Mattson
When we dance, the journey itself is the point, as when we play music the playing itself is the point. Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment.

---Alan Watts

Once Fa-yen was asked, "What is the first principle?"
He answered: "If I should tell you, it would become the second principle."

---Zen mondo

When the bird and the book disagree, always believe the bird.

---John James Audubon

If you've Googled in looking for a message board, this ain't it...but please read on. A few months ago I innocently chronicled a tribute to a vocal teacher whose existence gradually had become known to me over a period of about 20 years. I had found an LP in a bin of remaindered items and I was attracted to the songs the group was doing, so I risked a few bucks to hear what was going on. The disc by The PM Singers became a favorite immediately. At the time I thought "PM" referred to evening or nighttime or something like that, but recently I learned they stood for Phil Mattson who played keyboard on the date and did the arrangements. I started researching and found this man's influence all over the place among vocal groups and choirs, so I wrote the piece and posted it a few places. especially at a Hi-Lo's forum where I thought it might attract some interest...but it didn't.

But some former students found it at NewCiv, maybe because of good relations between the webmaster and Google. Because of the traffic at the article and the interest they have in finding each other and connecting, I'm suggesting somebody please set up a message board for Phil and all his students on the Internet. The last week or 2 I set about to answer requests to find a couple of these folks, and sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's not...but always interesting, as perhaps you'll see.

It started last month when a couple former students read the article and showed up with stories about some of the groups Phil started in his travels here and there. But things intensified when Arnie Mondloch wondered whatever happened to Sara Jennison, who sang soprano on the LP I had found originally. I asked Google about her and got as far as the early '90s when she joined Bobby McFerrin's jazz choir known as Voicestra. Then nothing. Well, artists of all kinds drop from sight occasionally...and before the Internet we probably didn't think much of it. But now tracking people down has become a favorite pastime. Where was she?

Another of Phil's students, now a distinguished and very busy teacher and performer, is Michele Weir and since she sang with Sara in PM Singers, she might know. I wrote her. She replied she wasn't sure exactly how to contact her, but maybe a couple other guys from the group might know. Joe Finetti also sang on the record, and Phil Schroeder played bass. I wrote them. They each replied right away saying Sara now was in some kind of "domestic" situation, and they weren't sure she wanted anyone finding her particularly. I certainly respect that perspective, but Phil Schroeder said he'd check it out. Before I knew it, Sara wrote to me.

Yep, married, comfortable, and happy. Of course, now there was a different last name...hence the end of the Google trail back there. Sara had continued to sing, joining a group around San Francisco called Clockwork, but the birth of the first child created additional responsibilities...and then the arrival of twins finished things off. Maybe some day she'd get back with it...but now she has become more interested in swimming and is a member of a team. Her singing is limited to a church choir. (Are those services broadcast? Jazzolog never gives up.)

One good thing, for those of us who'd like to hear her again, is the reconnecting of Sara and Phil Schroeder. Phil still is in the music business and now does a bit more production as well as whatever amazing bass work anyone might need. He's suggested there might be some recording dates that would interest Sara...and it sounds as if something might come of that.

Phil's an amazing guy, lots of energy and lots of fun. He has a million stories and he's bustin' to tell 'em. If he had time, I suppose a great blog would show up. Here's Phil Schroeder about that first album~~~

"The singers and I produced the first album 'Night in the City' together, although the album's production credits were vague at best. (I think I was given credit for 'production assistance' or something. If you can call three weeks trapped in a studio together with six perfection-minded and neurotic singers being an assistant, then I need to be paid more! But I digress.) It was one of the most enthralling times of my life, and set the tone for what I wanted to do with my career. Many of them, too. Phil was out of town after we laid down the trio parts, he had a place in upper Wisconsin and hit the road to let us figure it out by ourselves. Probably the basic reason for this was that he was tired (we'd just been thru the first year of his school in Spokane) and the secondary reason was that the album was simply made to document two years of intense work by six people who were about to part ways. Joe and Sara had announced their intentions to leave the group, so we all decided we should record before they left. The end result was so good that everyone gave it a second thought, and in the end, the only person who left the fold was - quite unexpectedly - me."

The next day Phil got into the details of his half of some traded 4's on one of the tunes in the album (remember, this was over 20 years ago!)~~~

"I'll tell you the story of the ridiculously bad bass solo on 'Jeannine.' It is not one of my fondest memories, and worse yet, I've heard bass players 'emulate' the solo at jazz festivals. This is the danger that recordings can have on us as a culture, I guess. They imply credibility when in fact, there may be none..."We'd been playing that tune for most of the year at Phil's school in Spokane (this was '83-'84) and we toured with it quite a bit, so when we went into the studio to cut band tracks, we all had a pretty good idea of what we were going to play. I guess that goes for all of the tracks. Phil, Jeff Redlawsk (history's best vocal jazz drummer, in my opinion) and I started in on tracks with John Paddock at the console. We ran them all down, some two or three times, and we got to Jeannine. By this time in my young recording career (I was 19) I was getting used to the idea that we could go back and fix bass parts pretty easily, because we were multi-tracking, and recording the bass directly. So when the Jeannine solo came along, I had these 4-bar holes to fill between Jeff's playing, and geez, I didn't care what I played! I was going to fix it later! Like the Pros! So I slopped on some silly remnants of five different things I had played in various concerts, including a gob of mistakes, and we all laughed and went on. And that was that. Except that we forgot about it. Really, we just never went back to it, and started focusing on the vocals, which were an immense project unto themselves, and took most of the rest of the two or so weeks before we had to be in Minneapolis for a vocal jazz camp. I started bugging John about this, 'Hey man, we gotta fix that solo...' and we agreed that when we all got back in September, we'd take care of it. Remember, at this point, we didn't really know we were making an album, the point was to record the songs we had down.At the end of the summer, my plans changed, and I left for a university in Central California. It was very abrupt, and I had about a day to pack up my car and drive from Spokane to Stockton. By then, the 'album' concept had taken hold, the PM Singers had signed up Kelly Kunz to play bass and they cut two new tracks, including Night in the City, the title track. I recall writing a letter to John, asking him to help me figure out how we could fix that damn solo, but what could he do? There was no Southwest Airlines! No MP3s and home studios. No digital editing! We were all poor students, and I'm sure John did the best thing he could do, and just left it alone."But it's bad, and I learned a great lesson about getting it right at the time, and I've never 'left it for later' again. Listening to it reminds me of something that Chick Corea is rumored to have once said, paraphrased: 'In a jazz solo, you're never more than a half-step from the right note!'"

Wisdom shared. But look folks, that chorus he's talking about sounds great, nothing wrong at all. Of course the artist himself will never believe it.

The point of sharing some of this with you is to celebrate the wonderful energy these people have. And wouldn't it be great if there actually were a site where they all could find each other again to have fun together and praise their great teacher?

Let's provide a few links here before we go. Here's Phil Schroeder~~~ Paddock Phil talks about up there is one of the founders of Clockwork and their site is here~~~'s Michele Weir
and finally the master, Mister Mattson himself.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Blogs: Journalism At Its Finest

I believe in the forest, and in the meadow, and in the night in which the corn grows.
---Henry David Thoreau
Every morning I awaken torn between the desire to save the world and the inclination to savor it.
---E.B. White
A zendo is not a place for bliss and relaxation. It is a furnace room for the combustion of our delusion. What tools do we need to use? Only one. We've all heard it, yet we use it very seldom. It is called "attention."
---Charlotte Joko Beck
I wouldn't be surprised if more Internet browsers than I found ourselves clicking around the same sites for the first time Saturday. One is and the other, associated with it, is . My wife gave me the heads-up by sending me their "Canned US Attorney Timeline," which I promptly linked in a comment at another entry [link] . Impressed and curious, I started looking around the site, and before long found myself at the adjoining muckraker blog.
Also Saturday the Los Angeles Times ran a column about these guys, and I think the writing is worthy to share. The article's author is Terry McDermott, who lives in Iowa I think, but is a regular correspondent for the LA Times. A couple years ago he wrote a book, and when Terry Gross interviewed him for NPR's Fresh Air, here's how she led off~~~
"Fresh Air from WHYY, May 4, 2005 · McDermott, a reporter for The Los Angeles Times was skeptical of the way the Sept. 11 hijackers were portrayed. So he traveled to 22 countries to research their identities, motives and life circumstances.
"He found that they weren't deeply disturbed. They came from intact families, most were middle-class, few were deeply religious, and none were (sic) abused or estranged. His new book is Perfect Soldiers: The Hijackers: Who They Were, Why They Did It." [link]
The book still is at Amazon [link] but the essay I'm talking about is a tribute to serious bloggers everywhere. I'll preserve it right now~~~
Blogs can top the presses
Talking Points Memo drove the U.S. attorneys story, proof that Web writers with input from devoted readers can reshape journalism.
By Terry McDermott
Times Staff Writer
March 17, 2007 New York — In a third-floor Flower District walkup with bare wooden floors, plain white walls and an excitable toy poodle named Simon, six guys dressed mainly in T-shirts and jeans sit all day in front of computer screens at desks arranged around the oblong room's perimeter, pecking away at their keyboards and, bit by bit, at the media establishment.
The world headquarters of TPM Media is pretty much like any small newsroom, anywhere, except for the shirts. And the dog. And the quiet. Most newsrooms are notably noisy places, full of shrill phones and quacking reporters. Here there is mainly quiet, except for the clacking keyboards.
It's 20 or so blocks up town to the heart of the media establishment, the Midtown towers that house the big newspaper, magazine and book publishers. And yet it was here in a neighborhood of bodegas and floral wholesalers that, over the last two months, one of the biggest news stories in the country — the Bush administration's firing of a group of U.S. attorneys — was pieced together by the reporters of the blog Talking Points Memo.
The bloggers used the usual tools of good journalists everywhere — determination, insight, ingenuity — plus a powerful new force that was not available to reporters until blogging came along: the ability to communicate almost instantaneously with readers via the Internet and to deputize those readers as editorial researchers, in effect multiplying the reporting power by an order of magnitude.
In December, Josh Marshall, who owns and runs TPM , posted a short item linking to a news report in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about the firing of the U.S. attorney for that state. Marshall later followed up, adding that several U.S. attorneys were apparently being replaced and asked his 100,000 or so daily readers to write in if they knew anything about U.S. attorneys being fired in their areas.
For the two months that followed, Talking Points Memo and one of its sister sites, TPM Muckraker, accumulated evidence from around the country on who the axed prosecutors were, and why politics might be behind the firings. The cause was taken up among Democrats in Congress. One senior Justice Department official has resigned, and Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales is now in the media crosshairs.
This isn't the first time Marshall and Talking Points have led coverage on national issues. In 2002, the site was the first to devote more than just passing mention to then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's claim that the country would have been better off had the segregationist 1948 presidential campaign of Sen. Strom Thurmond succeeded. The subsequent furor cost Lott his leadership position.
Similarly, the TPM sites were leaders in chronicling the various scandals associated with Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
All of this from an enterprise whose annual budget probably wouldn't cover the janitorial costs incurred by a metropolitan daily newspaper.
"Hundreds of people out there send clips and other tips," Marshall said. "There is some real information out there, some real expertise. If you're not in politics and you know something, you're not going to call David Broder. With the blog, you develop an intimacy with people. Some of it is perceived, but some of it is real."
Marshall's use of his readers to gather information takes advantage of the interactivity that is at the heart of the Internet revolution. The amount of discourse between writers and readers on the Web makes traditional journalists look like hermetic monks.
Duncan Black, an economist who writes as Atrios on his website, Eschaton, receives hundreds of comments for almost anything he posts. Thursday morning, he posted a short note saying he would not be writing much that day as he was going to be traveling. Within the hour, 492 people posted comments on that. A political reporter at a metropolitan daily might not get that much reader response in a year.
"With Abramoff, I was getting a lot more tips than I could handle," Marshall said. "I thought if I hire two people, pay them, marry them with these tips, what could we do then?"
That led to the creation of TPM Muckraker, which has two full-time, salaried reporter-bloggers and is where many of the stories on the U.S. attorneys were originally published.
In much of its work, TPM exhibits a clearly identified political agenda. In this, it is no different from dozens of other blogs across the political spectrum. It distinguishes itself by mixing liberal opinion with original reporting by its own staff and actively seeking information from its readers.
This was most apparent in 2004-05 when Marshall turned the site's focus to President Bush's proposed privatization of Social Security. Marshall asked readers to survey their own members of Congress on the issue. This distributed reporting helped TPM compile rosters of where every member of Congress stood on the proposal, something no newspaper attempted. By making apparent the lack of enthusiasm for the plan, TPM helped kill it.
The Social Security campaign was straightforward political activism, with strict advocacy for a well-defined position.
"For me, that was sort of a little beyond my comfort zone," Marshall said. "But the underlying issue seemed important enough to do it. There are still a lot of lines I don't cross because of, for lack of a better word, the kind of institution we are. We do opinion journalism, we're not campaign adjuncts."
Blogging has famously unleashed the opinions of multitudes. There are, by very rough count, 60 million bloggers around the world today. Some projections have that number nearly doubling again this year. Depending on which side of a vitriolic divide you fall — that is, whether you think this is good or bad — this represents either the end of civilization or the rise of true democracy.
There are blogs for baseball teams, for fast food, for God and for Satan; there are lots of blogs on politics and Hollywood and at least one that deals exclusively with pharmaceutical industry research. There are hundreds of blogs on Iraq and more than you would imagine in Mongolia.
Though the numbers and breadth of blogging are indeed astonishing, it's not at all clear what the numbers mean, if they mean anything at all. Much of what constitutes the phenomenon of blogging is apt to be inconsequential for the simple but powerful fact that nobody reads most of them. That is, aside from their authors, literally nobody.
Most of these blogs are the creations of individuals who have a passion to write, usually about a single subject, that subject often being themselves. Some of them are truly horrible and, thankfully, short-lived. The passion burns out.
Others, though, are remarkably good. There are sports blogs devoted to single teams that are far more acute in their analysis than mainstream media (MSM) covering the same sport. This is particularly true in baseball, where statistically driven analysis has been adopted wholesale in the blogosphere while the MSM has been slow to recognize its value.
The blogs that have captured the most attention are those that devote themselves mainly to politics and public affairs. These are almost always run by partisans of one side or the other. In that, they are nearly the opposite of the sort of coverage presented in traditional media, whose coverage at least attempts to be neutral on questions of policy.
This neutrality is a favorite target of bloggers who say that mainstream journalism objectivity disguises hidden biases of the form, if not the writer. The bloggers contend that these biases can render neutrality into bland, even neutered reporting that rewards those intent on manipulating it.
Many critiques from both sides of the blogging-MSM divide are accurate, if sometimes misplaced. The chief criticisms of blogging from defenders of the MSM are, one, the pajama charge — that is, bloggers are not professional journalists and don't do much reporting (thus the image of them sitting at home in their pajamas) — and, two, the incivility charge, that many bloggers use impolite language.
Most bloggers, in fact, are not journalists and do little if any reporting. But most bloggers don't claim to be journalists. They're bloggers. The incivility charge is true too. Many bloggers use bad language, but so occasionally does the New Yorker, and no one accuses it of lacking manners.
"I'm familiar with the critique," Marshall said. "I don't feel it has a great deal to do with us, what we are doing. There's a ton of stuff out there, and a lot of it is screechy and angry and undisciplined. I don't have a problem with it, but it's not stuff I'm particularly interested in reading.
"It's totally in the tradition of political pamphleteering. … Individually, I think some of it isn't necessarily that pretty, but I think the whole thing altogether is a great thing."
Neither side in the blog-MSM debate seems to have great appreciation for what the other brings to the party. Simply put, while mainstream media does the heavy lifting of careful, day-to-day and occasional in-depth reporting, bloggers have revivified political commentary, mainly through their exuberance.
If the traditional media see their roles as delivering lectures on the news of the day, blogs are more of a backyard conversation, friendlier, more convivial. Bloggers publish in variable lengths at uncertain and unscheduled times. Blogs tend to be informal, cheap to produce, free to consume, fast, heavily referential, self-referential and vain because of it; profane, accident-prone yet self-correcting.
To say that traditional media were slow to appreciate the power of this form is to belabor the obvious. Even bloggers were slow to appreciate the import of what they were doing. The phenomenon appeared in its embryonic form in the mid-1990s. The term "blog," a mash-up of "Web log," was coined in 1997. By 1999, blogging software was widely available, and free, and the first political blogs appeared.
By that time, Marshall, a 38-year-old who has a PhD from Brown University in American colonial history, had become a freelance journalist, selling pieces mainly to small opinion journals. He wrote his first blog post in November 2000, commenting on the role of GOP lawyer Theodore Olson in Florida's Bush-Gore recount.
"It just seemed natural. I liked the informality of the writing. The freedom of it appealed to me," Marshall said. "It just looked like fun. I saw it as a loss leader for my journalism."
Once he started, however, he never stopped. He continued to freelance, but gradually moved more and more of his attention to the blog, living in near poverty as a result. When he needed money to do something for the blog, he asked his readers for it. Remarkably, they gave it to him.
His economic turning point came in 2003 when he received a phone call from a man named Henry Copeland, who had an idea for selling advertising on blogs. Copeland saw a way to aggregate blogs and broker advertising to them. Essentially, he created a remote back office and a revenue stream for the mainly sole proprietors who blogged.
"He had the concept of Blogads, which turned out to be the funding mechanism for what I was doing. Within six months it was supporting me," Marshall said.
It wasn't until Copeland came along that anyone seriously contemplated making a career as a blogger. Since then, advertising has grown to such an extent that dozens of blogs are now profitable enterprises. They are also major sources of information for thousands of readers.
Copeland said the relatively small world of left-of-center political blogs now receives an estimated 160 million page views a month, in the same ballpark as some major newspapers and far more than any opinion magazine.
This professionalization of the blogosphere has been abetted by mainstream media's increasing practice of hiring independent bloggers or deploying staffers to blog duty. No one in the blogosphere seems particularly worried about the competition.
Copeland, for one, doubts that the MSM will be able to stem the blogging tide, or even swim very far in it.
"We're big believers that the Internet's rule is 'the outside is the new inside.' That means that bloggers, with low overheads and nimble structures, can outmaneuver everyone else….
"A newspaper is a boat, a highly evolved mechanism designed and built to float in water. Blogs are bikes, built to cruise in another environment. Now, you can pull a bunch of planking off a boat and add wheels and pedals, but that won't make it as light and maneuverable as a bike."
Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Pardoning Libby

Cheney might be saying, "But I was aiming at something else!" [link]

It's not what you think it is. And neither is it otherwise.

---Zen saying

The moment between before and after is called Truth.

---Katagiri Roshi

The love of the heart is the candle flame that carries us through the road of darkness.

---St. John of the Cross

The New York Times Sunday edition hits the streets in the City by mid evening. It used to get up to The Bronx by about 11:00, and it was fun to have it in the apartment, ready to go, with coffee first thing next morning. When I heard from that Frank Rich's column today predicts Bush will pardon Libby without blinking an eye, I wanted to read it immediately. The Times doesn't get to Athens until about noon later today, and I knew my online subscription wouldn't show me the column unless I pay for the premium service...or sign up for the free trial. What to do?

Well, there's always the wild west of the blogging world, which may be an even match for the boys playing cowboy in the White House. And sure enough, our friend in Texas who gets it all up and posted every time had the whole Rich column online by 8:00. Rozius excuses his outlaw ways with this quotation from Thomas Carlyle: "I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance." OK buddy, desperate measures for desperate times.

Before we read the column, let's consider some options not mentioned there. If the pardon happens, is it the end of truth's road? Two things still would be going. First is Representative Henry Waxman's hearings in the House Oversight Committee beginning this coming week. Waxman said in interview with Ed Schultz on Friday that he is committed to carrying these hearings through no matter what happens. (You can hear the interview here [link] .) Valerie Plame, the CIA agent Libby lied about outing, definitely will be testifying---and take a look at the mood she's in in this AP photo [link] ---and special prosecutor Fitzgerald has been "invited." Waxman does have subpoena power. Hopefully at least it will be made clear that Valerie Plame did not "send" her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, to Niger and did not have the authority to do so, but mentioned him as knowledgeable about the area to the guy who did.

The second option is the lawsuit the Wilsons have filed against Cheney, Armitage, Rove, and Libby, claiming violation of civil rights. Apparently that suit will come before a judge in May, and the conspirators' attorneys will be claiming immunity. [link] I must say the courage of Joe and Valerie is some of the greatest inspiration for true liberty I've ever seen. Now thanks to Rozius Unbound here's Frank Rich on the theatre of the Libby pardon~~~

Frank Rich: Why Libby’s Pardon Is a Slam Dunk
--The New York Times, March 11, 2007

Even by Washington’s standards, few debates have been more fatuous or wasted more energy than the frenzied speculation over whether President Bush will or will not pardon Scooter Libby. Of course he will.

A president who tries to void laws he doesn’t like by encumbering them with “signing statements” and who regards the Geneva Conventions as a nonbinding technicality isn’t going to start playing by the rules now. His assertion last week that he is “pretty much going to stay out of” the Libby case is as credible as his pre-election vote of confidence in Donald Rumsfeld. The only real question about the pardon is whether Mr. Bush cares enough about his fellow Republicans’ political fortunes to delay it until after Election Day 2008.

Either way, the pardon is a must for Mr. Bush. He needs Mr. Libby to keep his mouth shut. Cheney’s Cheney knows too much about covert administration schemes far darker than the smearing of Joseph Wilson. Though Mr. Libby wrote a novel that sank without a trace a decade ago, he now has the makings of an explosive Washington tell-all that could be stranger than most fiction and far more salable.

Mr. Libby’s novel was called “The Apprentice.” His memoir could be titled “The Accomplice.” Its first chapter would open in August 2002, when he and a small cadre of administration officials including Karl Rove formed the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), a secret task force to sell the Iraq war to the American people. The climactic chapter of the Libby saga unfolded last week when the guilty verdict in his trial coincided, all too fittingly, with the Congressional appearance of two Iraq veterans, one without an ear and one without an eye, to recount their subhuman treatment at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

It was WHIG’s secret machinations more than four years ago that led directly to those shredded lives. WHIG had been tasked, as The Washington Post would later uncover, to portray Iraq’s supposedly imminent threat to America with “gripping images and stories not available in the hedged and austere language of intelligence.” In other words, WHIG was to cook up the sexiest recipe for promoting the war, facts be damned. So it did, by hyping the scariest possible scenario: nuclear apocalypse. As Michael Isikoff and David Corn report in “Hubris,” it was WHIG (equipped with the slick phrase-making of the White House speechwriter Michael Gerson) that gave the administration its Orwellian bumper sticker, the constantly reiterated warning that Saddam’s “smoking gun” could be “a mushroom cloud.”

Ever since all the W.M.D. claims proved false, the administration has pleaded that it was duped by the same bad intelligence everyone else saw. But the nuclear card, the most persistent and gripping weapon in the prewar propaganda arsenal, was this White House’s own special contrivance. Mr. Libby was present at its creation. He knows what Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney knew about the manufacture of this fiction and when they knew it.

Clearly they knew it early on. The administration’s guilt (or at least embarrassment) about its lies in fomenting the war quickly drove it to hide the human price being paid for those lies. (It also tried to hide the financial cost of the war by keeping it out of the regular defense budget, but that’s another, if related, story.) The steps the White House took to keep casualties out of view were extraordinary, even as it deployed troops to decorate every presidential victory rally and gave the Pentagon free rein to exploit the sacrifices of Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman in mendacious P.R. stunts.

The administration’s enforcement of a prohibition on photographs of coffins returning from Iraq was the first policy manifestation of the hide-the-carnage strategy. It was complemented by the president’s decision to break with precedent, set by Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter among others, and refuse to attend military funerals, lest he lend them a media spotlight. But Mark Benjamin, who has chronicled the mistreatment of Iraq war veterans since 2003, discovered an equally concerted effort to keep injured troops off camera. Mr. Benjamin wrote in Salon in 2005 that “flights carrying the wounded arrive in the United States only at night” and that both Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda barred the press “from seeing or photographing incoming patients.”

A particularly vivid example of the extreme measures taken by the White House to cover up the war’s devastation turned up in The Washington Post’s Walter Reed exposé. Sgt. David Thomas, a Tennessee National Guard gunner with a Purple Heart and an amputated leg, found himself left off the guest list for a summer presidential ceremony honoring a fellow amputee after he said he would be wearing shorts, not pants, when occupying a front-row seat in camera range. Now we can fully appreciate that bizarre incident on C-Span in October 2003, when an anguished Cher, of all unlikely callers, phoned in to ask why administration officials, from the president down, were not being photographed with patients like those she had visited at Walter Reed. “I don’t understand why these guys are so hidden,” she said.

The answer is simple: Out of sight, out of mind was the game plan, and it has been enforced down to the tiniest instances. When HBO produced an acclaimed (and apolitical) documentary last year about military medics’ remarkable efforts to save lives in Iraq, “Baghdad ER,” Army brass at the last minute boycotted planned promotional screenings in Washington and at Fort Campbell, Ky. In a memo, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley warned that the film, though made with Army cooperation, could endanger veterans’ health by provoking symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The General Kiley who was so busy policing an HBO movie for its potential health hazards is the same one who did not correct the horrific real-life conditions on his watch at Walter Reed. After the Post exposé was published, he tried to spin it by boasting that most of the medical center’s rooms “were actually perfectly O.K.” and scapegoating “soldiers leaving food in their rooms” for the mice and cockroach infestations. That this guy is still surgeon general of the Army — or was as of Friday — makes you wonder what he, like Mr. Libby, has on his superiors.

Now that the country has seen the Congressional testimony of Specialist Jeremy Duncan, who has melted flesh where his ear once was, or watched the ABC newsman Bob Woodruff’s report on other neglected patients in military medical facilities far beyond Walter Reed, the White House cover-up of veterans’ care has collapsed, like so many other cover-ups necessitated by its conduct of this war. But the administration and its surrogates still won’t face up to their moral culpability.

Mary Matalin, the former Cheney flack who served with Mr. Libby on WHIG and is now on the board of his legal defense fund (its full list of donors is unknown), has been especially vocal. “Scooter didn’t do anything,” she said. “And his personal record and service are impeccable.” What Mr. Libby did — fabricating nuclear threats at WHIG and then lying under oath when he feared that sordid Pandora’s box might be pried open by the Wilson case — was despicable. Had there been no WHIG or other White House operation for drumming up fictional rationales for war, there would have been no bogus uranium from Africa in a presidential speech, no leak to commit perjury about, no amputees to shut away in filthy rooms at Walter Reed.

Listening to Ms. Matalin and her fellow apparatchiks emote publicly about the punishment being inflicted on poor Mr. Libby and his family, you wonder what world they live in. They seem clueless about how ugly their sympathy for a conniving courtier sounds against the testimony of those wounded troops and their families who bear the most searing burdens of the unnecessary war WHIG sped to market.

As is often noted, any parallels between Iraq and Vietnam do not extend to America’s treatment of its troops. No one spits at those serving in Iraq. But our “support” for the troops has often been as hypocritical as that of an administration that still fails to provide them with sufficient armor. Health care indignities, among other betrayals of returning veterans, have been reported by countless news organizations since the war began, not just this year. Many in Congress did nothing, and we as a people have often looked the other way, supporting the troops with car decals and donated phone cards while the same history repeats itself again and again.

Now the “surge” that was supposed to show results by summer is creeping inexorably into an open-ended escalation, even as Moktada al-Sadr’s militia ominously melts away, just as Iraq’s army did after the invasion in 2003, lying in wait to spring a Tet-like surprise. And still, despite Thursday’s breakthrough announcement of a credible Iraq exit blueprint by the House leadership, Congress threatens to dither. While Mr. Bush will no doubt pardon Scooter Libby without so much as a second thought, anyone else in Washington who continues to further this debacle may find it less easy to escape scot-free. [link]

Saturday, March 10, 2007

I Am The Middle Class

No more games. No more bombs. No more walking. No more fun. No more swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No fun---for anybody. 67. You are getting greedy. Act your old age. Relax---This won't hurt.
---Hunter Thompson's suicide note (1937-2005)
It often happens that I awake at night and begin to think about a serious problem and decide I must tell the pope about it. Then I wake up completely and remember that I am the pope.
---Pope John XXIII
Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself and yourself alone one question. This question is one that only a very old man asks. My benefactor told me about it once when I was young and my blood was too vigorous for me to understand it. Now I do understand it. I will tell you what it is: "Does this path have a heart?" If it does, the path is good. If it doesn't, it is of no use.
---Don Juan
The photo is the unfinished and unsold "House of the Day" at a website where a caption reads: "I was thinking maybe I wanted a bigger backyard, more privacy and more closet space." [link]
I, on the other hand, was thinking of writing a deep, philosophical essay today on what it feels like to turn 67, especially given what Hunter Thompson had to say and do at that age. But the Pisces swims up and down the stream, and wriggles out of hand just when you think you've got him. And so, as on many Saturdays, I've run across some stuff to read that could not be denied...and just didn't get to it. So? I can do whatever I want to on my birthday!
I did spend a long time this morning writing some friends about the Ed Schultz Show, which is a progressive radio call-in format on the AM dial out of Fargo, North Dakota. A rightwing radio station in Athens is trying it out suddenly, and I'm attempting to drum up support. If you live somewhere in the States or elsewhere around the world where you don't receive or haven't heard of Big Eddie, let me introduce you. This guy is on the vanguard of turning AM radio around and back to the way things used to be in this country: balanced broadcasting with an interest in neither left nor right but JUSTICE instead. Here was his guest list this week: Barack Obama, Howard Dean, John Edwards, John Conyers, Joe Wilson, and yesterday Henry Waxman. Hillary was on last week. You want to talk to those people, or have Eddie ask them a question? He'll do it for you. Just call or email him. You can download his shows or parts of them that interest you at [link] . In Athens he's on live from 3 until 6 in the afternoon on WAIS, 770 AM.
But then, just as I was about to tackle my deep, philosophical essay, I ran across the excerpt AlterNet put up of a speech Paul Krugman gave recently about the theft of the middle class by the rich, and I had to get into it.
"If you look back across the past 80 years or so of the United States, what you see is that in the 1920s, we were for practical purposes still in the gilded age. That may not be the way the historians cut it, but in terms of the actual distribution of income, so far as we can measure it in terms of the role of status and general feel of the society, we were still an extremely unequal royalist society.
"By the time World War II was over, we had become the middle-class society that the baby boomers in this audience grew up in. We had become a much more equal society. That high degree of equality began to go away -- depending on exactly which numbers you look at -- during the late 70's, maybe a little earlier than that. And at this point we're basically back to pre-tax and transfer to the levels of inequality that we had in 1929.
"So there is this great arc to the middle class, away from gilded age to middle-class society and then back to the new gilded age, which is now what we're living in."
The real take-off for the middle class, I suppose, was the US entry into World War II, which came on top of the urgent reconstruction of many economies following the Depression. My generation was born in the late '30s and early '40s, and so we have lived completely through that flight of paradise that finally began its nosedive with Reagan. Many of us in the '60s, of course, deplored "middle class values" and did all we could to attack them. Sometimes I think we felt responsible and ashamed for much of the disruption that ensued, and so spent the '70s in the meditation halls repenting. Oops, now I'm wandering into allow me to refer you to the speech itself AND the 150 comments already~~~ [link]
We're also shopping around right now for a college or university for our daughter to attend in a couple years. For some unknown reason she's doing really well with her studies and wants to go on. The process ain't what it was in the late '50s (when I applied to exactly ONE college, and got in with scholarship) and it's not too early to start worrying. Yeah. Professor Krugman isn't the only one wondering if all that's left is a rich-poor society. The March 29th issue of The New York Review of Books is carrying a review entitled Scandals of Higher Education written by Andrew Delbanco, Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities and Director of American Studies at Columbia.
"It is hardly surprising that lots of rich kids go to America's richest colleges. It has always been so. But today's students are richer on average than their predecessors. Between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s, in a sample of eleven prestigious colleges, the percentage of students from families in the bottom quartile of national family income remained roughly steady— around 10 percent. During the same period the percentage of students from the top quartile rose sharply, from a little more than one third to fully half. If the upscale shops and restaurants near campus are any indication, the trend has continued if not accelerated. And if the sample is broadened to include the top 150 colleges, the percentage of students from the bottom quartile drops to 3 percent. In short, there are very few poor students at America's top colleges, and a large and growing number of rich ones."
Well, we got a rich kid with a C average as President right now. Anybody still think this is a healthy trend?
"Our richest colleges could and should do a better job of recruiting needy students, which would require spending more money on the effort to find and support them. They could cut back on lounges in the library and luxuries in the dorms—features of college life designed to please coddled students and attract more of the same. They could demand more from faculty and reward coaches and administrators less lavishly. And just as they scout for athletes across the nation and the world, they could hire more admissions professionals and assign them to inner-city and rural schools."
Anyone doubting Delbanco's lounge theory of education should come here to Athens and take a look at the new Baker Student Center Ohio University just built. I call it Taj Mahal on the Hocking (which is the name of the river that runs through here). Four or five floors (with escalators AND elevators) of luxury beyond the imagination of anyone who went to college in the 20th century! Write OU's president and ask him what the electricity bill is for the thing per year. Professor Delbanco's article is online and I recommend it without reservation. [link] Now, is there some cake around here somewhere?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Global Warming Gets Hot

Hurrican Andrew hitting the US in 1992. The United Nations predicts the intensity of hurricanes and other storms will increase as a result of global warming.

If you never want to see the face of hell, when you come home from work every night, dance with your kitchen towel, and if you're worried about waking up your family, take off your shoes.

---Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav

After a public reading Bernie Glassman gave, a woman in the audience stood up and asked: "What does it take to live in the Now?"
The master answered: "Would anyone who is NOT living in the Now please stand up?"

---Zen mondo

Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the Sun!

---May Sarton

Not so long ago every schoolchild in America got taught a major failing in a democratic republic is how long it takes to get anything done. (I'm not sure what they get taught today.) This was part of a section in your Social Studies called How A Bill Becomes A Law. Committees, both houses of Congress, President's desk, maybe the Supreme Court, on and on. To get a stop sign put quickly onto your street corner, 3 kids have to get run over first.

Many bills depend upon scientific research to prove damage is being done in the status quo. Competing sides pay different scientists to do this experiment but not that one. And all that takes time. For scientists to complete all their experiments to prove grasshoppers have ears in their hind legs may take generations. Then the results must be published, read and applied to our lives by you and me.

Lately friends and relatives have been sharing concerns with me about whether global warming might be farther along the road to disaster than even science is telling us yet. Science takes so long to be sure of stuff. Friday Spiegel Online obtained the draft of the second part of the UN Report that, along with Al Gore's documentary, is finally getting everybody's attention over here. The first part came out last month,1518,463888,00.html and now this second part, I guess, is going to scare us even more.

I don't really need to be scared more to become a believer. Common sense is good enough for me. What I do need, in discussing with doubting colleagues and friends, is a concise picture of the damage that is happening and what comes next. Friday's article does that, and its setup (with pictures) is the main reason I'm referring to it. They even have a link to blogs that are discussing the article. (Wonder if jazzoLOG will show up.)

SPIEGEL ONLINE - March 2, 2007, 05:01 PM URL:,1518,469608,00.html

Climate Change Impact More Extensive than Thought
By Volker Mrasek

Global climate change is happening faster than previously believed and its impact is worse than expected, information from an as-yet unpublished draft of the long-awaited second part of a United Nations report obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE reveals. No region of the planet will be spared and some will be hit especially hard.

Is the world's weather already out of control? Is the pollution of the past decades having an impact on the present? That's exactly what the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change fears: Human influences over the last 30 years "have had a recognizable effect on many physical and biological systems," write the authors of the as yet unreleased second part of the 2007 global climate change report.

According to information obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is convinced global warming is already making the world sweat. At least that's the gist of the "Summary for Policymakers" from the group made up of hundreds of scientists.

The second part of the report is to be presented in April in Brussels after final discussions with government representatives from around the globe. The meta-study is certain to have a major political impact on the ongoing debate about climate change.

Mounting evidence: Climate change is happening now

The main conclusion of the report is that climate change is already having a profound effect on all the continents and on many of the Earth's ecosystems. The draft presents a long list of evidence:

Glacial lakes are increasing in both size and number, potentially leading to deadly floodsPermafrost in mountainous regions and at high latitudes is warming increasing the danger of land slides.As the temperature of rivers and lakes rises, their thermal stratification and water quality is changing.River currents, affected by melting glaciers and ice, are speeding up during the spring.Springtime is starting earlier, causing plants to bloom earlier and changing the migrations of birds.Many plants and animals are expanding their habitats into mountainous regions and higher latitudes that are becoming milder.

The authors of the report have sifted through some 30,000 data sets from more than 70 international studies documenting changes to water circulation, to cryospheres (ice zones), as well as to flora and fauna over a period of at least 20 years.

According to the IPCC, "more than 85 percent" of the data show "changes in a direction that would be expected as a reaction to warming." In other words: Researchers found evidence of environmental changes due to the greenhouse effect caused by mankind in nearly 9 out of 10 cases surveyed.

The researchers consider it "very unlikely" that the changes observed could be naturally occurring phenomena. They argue that the patterns of regional climate warming and environmental changes match up well with each other. And a similar consistency exists between the scientists' observations and what climate models have predicted would happen as temperatures rise.

Nature under threat

The UN experts go beyond the current situation. They also explore how populated regions and ecosystems will develop in the future as the world becomes warmer.

Many natural resources are likely to fall victim to climate change according to the IPCC draft report:

Some 20 to 30 percent of all species face a "high risk of extinction" should average global temperatures rise another 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius from their 1990 levels. That could happen by 2050, the report warns.Coral reefs are "likely to undergo strong declines."Salt marshes and mangrove forests could disappear as sea levels rise.Tropical rainforests will be replaced by savanna in those regions where groundwater decreases.Migratory birds and mammals will suffer as vegetation zones in the Artic shift.

The IPCC expects the following world regions to suffer the most due to climate change:

The Arctic due to the greatest relative warmingSmall island states in the Pacific as sea levels riseAfrica south of the Sahel zone due to droughtDensely populated river deltas in Asia amid flooding

This list alone makes abundantly clear that mankind will not escape these changes unscathed.

Heat-related deaths, floods, drought, storms

The UN climate panel expects "increasing deaths, injuries and illness from heat waves, floods, storms, forest fires and droughts." The draft summary for policymakers details "heat-related mortality" especially in Europe and Asia.

Several hundred million people in densely populated coastal regions -- particularly river deltas in Asia -- are threatened by rising sea levels and the increasing risk of flooding. More than one-sixth of the world's population lives in areas affected by water sources from glaciers and snow pack that will "very likely" disappear, according to the report.

The climate experts detail the potential consequences for most of the world including Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, polar regions and small Pacific islands. For the most part, global warming will have negative effects for both humans and the environment across much of the planet. The positive aspects -- such as better agricultural and forestry yields in northern Europe -- will be more than outweighed by the threats presented by rising temperatures and the perils that accompany them.

The draft also makes clear just how strongly the authors stand behind their forecasts. Most of their conclusions belong to category two, which means the researchers back them with "strong certainty." Some are even designated "very strong certainty," including the example that North America will be hit by stronger forest fires and heat waves in large cities, as well as the assumption that climate change poses the biggest risk to small island states.

More food in the north and a possibly greener Earth

The report also lists specific positive developments due to global warming -- but they are expected to be of an ephemeral nature.

The experts apparently do not have concerns about the planet's food production capabilities. Conditions for agriculture are likely to improve in higher latitudes, leading to greater global yields overall. However, numerous developing countries are likely to be hit by greater periods of drought at the same time -- thus threatening their populations with hunger. The climate panel expects yields in the north and deep south only to begin to sink once temperatures rise by more than three degrees Celsius. Overall, they put "average trust" in their predictions about food production.

Rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the Earth's atmosphere will at first help the plant world. Vegetation growth will be stronger and the planet will become greener. The absorption of CO2 by plant life will to a certain extent work against climate change, but not forever. "In the second half of the century terrestrial ecosystems will become a source of carbon which will then accelerate climate change," the IPCC report warns.

The ability of the world's oceans to absorb CO2 is also expected to be depleted by the end of the 21st century. By then they could begin to release greenhouse gases instead of absorbing them.

Rich nations also at risk

Although the inhabitants of poorer, developing nations are likely to suffer the most from climate change, the IPCC report makes clear that richer industrial nations such as the United States are also at risk. North America, the report cautions, is hardly prepared for the "growing risks and economic losses caused by rising seas, storms and floods." The IPCC report also explicitly details the threat posed by tropical storms. Climate change is expected to increase the number of strong hurricanes leading to the concern that insurance companies might refuse to cover damages in regions threatened by such storms like New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf of Mexico.

Just as they did in the first part of the IPCC report released in February, the climate experts warn that air pollution and greenhouse gases are likely to have long-lasting effects since the planet's climate reacts slowly to changes. It's already a "fait accompli" that average temperatures near ground level will rise a further 0.6 degrees Celsius by 2100, according to the report. Humanity will have no choice but to adapt to the global changes.

According to information obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE at the end of February, the climate panel will demand radical changes and massive investment against global warming in the third part of the IPCC report expected to be released in May in Bangkok. Some $16 billion (€12.1 billion) will be required by 2030 and humanity only has until 2020 to turn back the trend.

Whether the summary for policymakers will be released in its current form is unclear. Delegates from several countries wrestled with the wording of the first part of the report up until the last minute before its publication. Because, of course, for both scientists and politicians it can make a big difference whether the consequences of climate change are "likely," "very likely," or "practically certain."

The link to the blogs is here,1518,469608,00.html?partnerid=160