Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Professor Ludlow's New 95 Theses on the Religious Right

Great post on the Leiter Report about Prof. Peter Ludlow's new set of 95 Theses:

Here are a few of the theses:

1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said "love thy neighbor", willed that believers should show *compassion* toward others.

2. This word cannot be understood to mean mere lip service ("I love them, but I hate their sin"), but genuine concern for the welfare of others.

3. Yet the Religious Right has forsaken compassion for a doctrine of institutionalized hatred and violence.

4. Specifically, the Religious Right has taken the Word of God and wrapped it in the flag of Right Wing Politics, replacing God's message of redemption for the entire world with a narrow message endorsing right wing American politics.

5. Item: the Religious Right has neglected the teachings of Jesus in the gospel of Luke, where He instructs that we are to show compassion for the poor.

6. In place of God's words, the Religious Right has substituted a right wing political doctrine in which the poor have only themselves and their alleged laziness and moral weakness to blame.

7. For example, the Religious Right has rejected the needs of poor children of unwed mothers.

8. The Religious Right has rejected the cries for help from the children of impoverished families in the inner cities.

9. The Religious Right, has advocated fewer resources for the elderly poor and for the millions of children now living in poverty.

10. In place of giving to the poor, the Religious Right has advocated political doctrines specifically designed so that individuals may acquire vast sums of money.

11. The Religious Right has thus seized on a contemporary economic ideology as an excuse to ignore the teachings of Jesus.


18. Item: the Religious Right has neglected the teachings of Jesus that "he who is without sin should cast the first stone."

19. In place of God's words, the Religious Right has substituted a doctrine in which perceived sinners are to be persecuted.

20. Gays, for example, are persecuted because of their alleged sins. In some cases, leaders of the Religious Right have encouraged acts of physical violence against gays.

21. While the Religious Right has been eager to persecute others for their alleged sins, they have been blind to their own.

22. While the Bible counsels that a rich man can no more enter the of Heaven than a camel can pass through the eye of a needle, many in the Religious Right have celebrated the acquisition of wealth.

23. While the Bible enjoins us against pride, the Religious Right appears to be flush with pride in it's holier than thou stance.

24. While the Bible asks that we be slow to anger, the Religious Right is quick to anger -- indeed it appears to revel in anger and in fanning the flames of anger in others.

25. While the Bible counsels that we are not to be "revilers," key members of the religious right have consistently and aggressively reviled their political enemies as well as those who are perceived to be sinners.

26. It seems then, that the Religious Right picks its sins selectively, ignoring the clear Biblical message against avarice, pride, and anger, and emphasizing selected “sins” that have little to no Biblical basis.


31. Item: Religious Right has failed to see that God's call to help our neighbors also extends to our international neighbors.

32. International aggression is not a Christian doctrine.

33. Where the Bible calls us to be peacemakers, the Religious Right claims that we have no business trying to bring peace to troubled areas but rather counsels that we should use military might to secure our business interests.

34. Where the Bible, through the story of the good Samaritan, instructs that we are to help our international neighbors -- indeed, even our enemies -- the Religious Right counsels "America First".

35. But "America First" cannot be a true Christian Doctrine.

36. The Bible gives no special status to political entities like the United States of America, and any suggestion to the contrary is to simply lie about the content of the Bible.

37. God does not bless nation states, and if He did, He surely would not bless them for practicing international internal intolerance, and propping up corrupt kingdoms and military juntas that traffic in institutionalized poverty and violence.


65. Item: The Religious Right has paid lipservice to the moral development of children, yet their doctrines are antithetical to the interests of children.

66. They appear to believe that moral development can be accomplished solely through discipline and censorship -- censorship of thought-provoking materials and censorship of the findings of science.

67. Yet, as a group, the members of the Religious Right have failed miserably as parents.

68. Jesus said, "suffer the children come unto me," yet members of the Religious Right have physically and psychologically abused their children.

69. They have advocated corporeal punishment, and have carried out acts of indoctrination on their children which, truth be known, are as severe as those of any fringe religious cult.

70. They have made children to be ashamed of and hate their bodies, when they should be proud that those bodies are the temples of God.

71. They have lied to children about the nature of God's creation, teaching them to ignore the great beauty God has revealed through the biological sciences.

72. In place of that beauty, they have taught their children a theory in which God's revelation through nature is ignored, and an ugly doctrine of fiat creation is espoused.

73. They have taught their children to be intolerant of others, to be hateful of gays and persons of color.

74. They have failed to instruct their children in God's message of love and redemption and have substituted for it a message of exclusion, suspicion, and contempt.

75. They have failed to raise their children according to the teachings of the Bible.

76. They have utterly failed as parents, yet they presume to dictate how we should raise our own children.


83. Item: the Religious Right pays lip service to the authority of the Word of God, yet that Word plays little role in the treating of the Religious Right.

84. In place of the message of God's Grace and our redemption, they have substituted a purely political doctrine with no grounding in the Scriptures.

85. Rare are the references to passages of the Bible in the sermons of the Religious Right.

86. Those references that survive, are taken out of context and are merely used to justify preestablished political doctrines.

87. For example, there is no Biblical support for their views on abortion.

88. There is no Biblical support for their right wing economic theories.

89. There is no Biblical support for their campaign of abuse against their own children.

90. There is no Biblical support for their "America First" doctrines.

91. There is no Biblical support for their treatment of persons of color.

92. There is no Biblical support for their treatment of homosexuals.

93. In conclusion: the Religious Right has desecrated the house of God, taking a place of worship and treating it as a soap box in the service or the Right Wing of the Republican Party.

94. The Religious Right has likewise desecrated the Word of God, attributing to the Bible doctrines that are hateful, cruel, and entirely antithetical to the actual contents of the Bible.

95. Christians are to be exhorted to speak out against the Religious Right, as it is a vile heretical movement, wholly outside the teachings of the Word of God.

Do go read them all.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Things we still don't know

It occurred to me late last night that one of the brilliant strategies this administration employs is simply to not respond to certain questions or needs in hopes that they will go away because something else will come up. For instance, the current brouhaha about Karl Rove is robbing momentum from the Downing Street Minutes which robbed momentum from Gannon-gate which...well, you get the idea. There are so many huge issues unresolved that one hardly knows where to begin.

I think it would be good to try to list in one place all the hanging threads out there, the ones that someday we hope will all be tied up into the hideous tapestry that is the Bush 43 Administration, a tapestry we can wrap fish in or something. And I hope someday is sooner rather than later. Please add your own.

Things we still don't know:
  • Why was Jeff Gannon/Guckert given access by daily passes to the White House briefing room--and apparently beyond--for so many days, even though he was promoting himself online as a gay male prostitute? Who is Gannon's "inside guy"?
  • Where are Bush's real National Guard records, and were the purported "fakes" truly proven to be fake?
  • What really happened with the electronic voting systems that offer no paper proof of one's vote? Who really won the presidency last November?
  • What is the full story of prisoner treatment at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo? Who knew what when?
  • What are the administration's secret plans for Iran, especially now they've elected an Islamic hardliner as president? They obviously had plans for Iraq we're only now finding out about.
  • And what about North Korea?
  • Who really was behind the 9/11 attacks? We know Saddam had nothing to do with them. What about the Saudis? And how much did Bush know?
  • Where is Osama bin Laden?
  • How much money is Halliburton et al making off the Iraq war?
  • How much money is Dick Cheney making off Halliburton?
  • Where is the $8.8 billion in lost rebuilding funds for Iraq?
  • We're well over 1700 reported American forces dead in Iraq. But what is the true number of casualties? Some reports indicate that the official number doesn't count those injured who die elsewhere, or is otherwise deftly spun, and that the truth is that upwards of 9000 have died in some way related to the war. How many? How many life-changing injuries of American forces? How many Iraqi children have died, and total Iraqi citizens? And how many more will die before this mess is all over?
  • And let's not forget Afghanistan! Why does the administration seem to ignore this front?
  • How far does the Ohio Coin-gate scandal reach?
  • Why are gas prices continuing to rise so dramatically and so unconventionally?
  • Just how evil IS Karl Rove?
UPDATE: There's a thread on this post over at Daily Kos. Come on over and chime in.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Krugman on the War President

Another brilliant column by Paul Krugman in the NY Times today. An excerpt:

On one side, the people who sold this war, unable to face up to the fact that their fantasies of a splendid little war have led to disaster, are still peddling illusions: the insurgency is in its "last throes," says Dick Cheney. On the other, they still have moderates and even liberals intimidated: anyone who suggests that the United States will have to settle for something that falls far short of victory is accused of being unpatriotic.

We need to deprive these people of their ability to mislead and intimidate. And the best way to do that is to make it clear that the people who led us to war on false pretenses have no credibility, and no right to lecture the rest of us about patriotism.

The good news is that the public seems ready to hear that message - readier than the media are to deliver it. Major media organizations still act as if only a small, left-wing fringe believes that we were misled into war, but that "fringe" now comprises much if not most of the population.

In a Gallup poll taken in early April - that is, before the release of the Downing Street Memo - 50 percent of those polled agreed with the proposition that the administration "deliberately misled the American public" about Iraq's W.M.D. In a new Rasmussen poll, 49 percent said that Mr. Bush was more responsible for the war than Saddam Hussein, versus 44 percent who blamed Saddam.

Once the media catch up with the public, we'll be able to start talking seriously about how to get out of Iraq.

Charleston Gazette: Religion Should Heal

Excellent editorial from the Charleston (WV) Gazette. An excerpt:

Everyone knows that the GOP embraces Religious Right goals: revoking women’s right to choose abortion, censoring “indecency” on television, requiring sex education courses to teach only abstinence, refusing to expand hate-crimes laws to cover attacks on gays, backing government-led prayer and religious displays, halting embryonic stem cell research, etc.

The GOP has incorporated this agenda into its platform — and white evangelical voters helped tip the 2000 and 2004 elections to President Bush. These are simple facts.

The baffling question, we think, is why white evangelicals are devoted to the current administration, which contradicts most teachings of Christianity’s founder.

Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers” — yet the White House exaggerated flimsy pretexts to start the needless Iraq war.

Jesus dwelt among the poor — yet the White House awards trillion-dollar giveaways to the rich.

Jesus said to pray alone in a closet — yet the White House advocates showy public displays of faith.

Jesus opposed the death penalty, saying “he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” — yet Bush set an execution record as Texas governor, and mocked a woman who was put to death.

Jesus advocated healing the sick — yet the White House cuts medical care funding.

Frankly, we think Christ’s values of compassion for average people and underdogs is best reflected by the other national political party.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

GOP Political Hack to be CPB President

It just galls me that the administration pulls stuff like this, while blaming the Democrats for being partisan. They're not even trying to hide their raw partisanship. Oh, I hope this blows up in their faces.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, already embroiled in controversy over allegations of a liberal-leaning bias in PBS programming, chose a former Republican Party co-chairman Thursday as its president and chief executive.

Patricia S. Harrison, the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, was selected following three days of closed-door meetings by the corporation's board of directors.

Democratic lawmakers last week urged the CPB to put off choosing a new president, citing concerns about political interference by the corporation's chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson. A Republican, Tomlinson, has been critical of public affairs programming at PBS, alleging that it's too liberal.

In a letter to Tomlinson, Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and others expressed dismay at the expected appointment of Harrison.

''We find it astonishing that Ms. Harrison, given her former prominence as a partisan political figure, would even be considered as a candidate for a job that demands that the occupant be non-political,'' the senators said in their letter.

Michael Smith on his big story: Downing Street documents

The LA Times features an article by the Times (of U.K.) reporter who broke the Downing Street story. Interesting read.

Rove ignites a firestorm

This is all over the blogosphere, but Kos has a good summary, with Senator Reid's response. Rove should resign.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

New Progressive Christian Advocacy Organizaion Launches


Major Launch Events Held in Washington, DC and Jacksonville, FL

JACKSONVILLE, FL - After 30 years of sustained effort by leaders like Rev. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Dr. James Dobson to merge evangelical Christianity with a conservative political agenda, a new grassroots progressive organization on the political left announced its creation today. The Christian Alliance for Progress is a national movement of Christians seeking to reclaim Christianity and transform American politics.

Also today, the Christian Alliance for Progress unveiled its "Jacksonville Declaration," an open letter to the political and church leaders of the Religious Right, which challenges and invites them to return to a Christian foundation of compassion and justice, values that Jesus passionately taught and lived. The full text of the Jacksonville Declaration is below.

The Christian Alliance for Progress will speak out when conservative Christians misrepresent the gospel to support their misguided political positions. The Christian Alliance for Progress, founded firmly on the teachings of the gospel, will stand for pursuing economic justice; responsible environmental stewardship; equality for gays and lesbians; honoring the sanctity of childbearing decisions through effective prevention, not criminalization of abortion; seeking peace, not war; and achieving health care for all Americans.

The success of the religious right in appropriating the language of Christianity has led many progressives to become wary of religion in the public sphere. Fundamental Christian values like compassion, justice and peace are largely absent from our political discussion, and progressive people of faith do not see their concerns addressed or their values espoused through the prism of faith.

"The Religious Right has been extremely successful at taking control of the language of our faith and using it to promote an extreme and divisive political agenda. This is fueling incredible polarization in our politics. We think that most Americans, especially people of faith, are ready to hear from Christians who are tolerant, and who understand the many ways that our faiths impact our views of public life," said The Reverent Timothy F. Simpson, Director of Religious Affairs for the Christian Alliance for Progress, a Presbyterian Church USA pastor and Editor of the journal Political Theology.

There are millions of Christian Americans who share progressive views, or, at a minimum, are turned off by the extreme rhetoric and political agenda of the Religious Right. The voices of these Americans are simply drowned out by their well-funded, well-organized and well-executed strategies.

The highly-contested and emotional election of 2004 has emboldened the Religious Right in their quest to dominate issues as broad as Senate procedure, in their campaign to end the filibuster as a tool used "against people of faith"; as personal as the right-to-die, with their heavy-handed and high profile intrusion in the Terri Schiavo tragedy; and as outrageous as a preacher in North Carolina, who told his congregants that if they voted for John Kerry, they must repent or resign from the church. Nine members were kicked out.

"These litmus tests for faith are outrageous, but unfortunately, not surprising given the inflammatory rhetoric we've seen for years by leaders like Reverend Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. As progressive Christians, we say enough. We are tired of a one-sided Christian perspective in our public policy debates. Just as important, we intend to hold politicians accountable," said Simpson.

The Christian Alliance for Progress hopes to advance a renewed, progressive vision of gospel values and help Americans express this moral vision in how we think, work, and vote. "As a pastor, I have been horrified and saddened to watch opportunistic religious leaders meld Christianity with extreme conservatism," Simpson said. "The agenda they promote does not reflect the values I learned from the Bible and the teachings of Jesus. I believe that we have an obligation to reclaim the vocabulary of Christianity from extremists and to restore the values of Christianity, while honoring the diverse views about religion and Christian life."

For information please visit



To The Political and Church Leaders of the Religious Right:

As responsible and patriotic Americans, we can be silent no longer. In light of the deepening polarization in our country's social and political life, we feel compelled to speak out to you in a spirit of sincerity.

For many people, your words and actions have identified Christianity with radical, far right politics. We believe that your use of Christianity has sown the seeds of deep discord in our nation and throughout the world. Hear some of your own words:

"You owe liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ."
-- Church Leader Bob Jones, to George W. Bush after 2004 election

"I hope the Supreme Court will finally read the Constitution and see there's no such thing, or no mention, of separation of church and state in the Constitution."
-- House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas)

"Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and short, over every aspect and institution of human society."
-- Dr. D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge Ministries

"...the liberal, anti-Christian dogma of the left has been repudiated..."
-- Tony Perkins, Family Research Council

"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians ... the ACLU, People For the American Way ... I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen'."
-- Rev. Jerry Falwell, on Pat Robertson's 700 Club discussing the WTC attacks

We must tell you now that you do not speak for us, or for our politics. We say "No" to the ways you are using the name and language of Christianity to advance what we see as extremist political goals. We do not support your agenda to erode the separation of church and state, to blur the vital distinction between your interpretation of Christianity and our shared democratic institutions. Moreover, we do not accept what seems to be your understanding of Christian values. We reject a Christianity co-opted by any government and used as a tool to ostracize, to subjugate, or to condone bigotry, greed and injustice.

If your politics flow from your faith, then we do not know the Jesus you claim to follow. We cannot imagine a Jesus who would say:

"You are strong and powerful; your ideals are noble. Make war to spread those ideals."

"The end is near - So it doesn't matter what you do to my Father's creation."

"Heal the sick - Provided they can pay."

"All are welcome at the table - As long as they are the same as we are."

"Follow me - And help me form a government to force others to follow."

Do you believe such statements truly reflect Christian or American values? Do these views follow what Jesus taught? Do you think it is genuinely American to steer our country toward a Christian theocracy? Is it Christian to foster intolerance? Is this the path to which Jesus leads us?

We say "No". Instead, we say "Yes" to values Jesus plainly and passionately practiced. Listen to his words:

"I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
-- John 13:34-35

We hold up to all fellow Americans the heart of Jesus' teaching: his unwavering commitment to justice, compassion, responsibility, equality, and care "for the least of these". These are values Jesus taught, and they also serve among America's finest traditional values. Our political views flow from these values.

We also reaffirm a well-established American commitment to a clear separation of church and state. In your statements you often characterize America as a "Christian nation". We strongly disagree. As a nation of immigrants, America has been a land of freedom and diversity. Separation of church and state helps ensure liberty and justice for all Americans - not just those who are like-minded. Hear these words:

"The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Know that you do not speak for us. We oppose so many of your words and deeds. But though we may disagree with you, we offer this declaration in a spirit of openness. We hope you will respond in kind. We call on you to stop dividing our country with your words and actions, and we invite you to turn to compassion and justice, values that Jesus lived.

In Truth and Faith,

Christian Alliance for Progress


You can sign the Jacksonville Declaration at

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Luckovich's cartoon today says it all

Love that Mike!

The empty suit: Brooks on Frist

Fascinating look at Majority Leader Bill Frist by NY Times conservative columnist David Brooks. I think it says a lot about Frist, and power, and what power does to people. I don't think I agree with Brooks's conclusion, that the "real" Frist is the kind of guy this country needs, but the column is worth reading.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Another reason why I love Anne Lamott

Her latest post at the TPM Cafe... highlights:

Even though people will look back at the Bush years agape, it is hard to stay hopeful when we don't know when that will be. It's hard not to know how long of a haul we are in for: it's like when you are trapped in a really toxic relationship, and have not figured a way out yet. I heard Bush's radio address out of the corner of my ear today, and he said once again that we are in Iraq because we were attacked: this always has the effect of causing me to grip my stomach, rock back and forth, and moan, like the Rainman. But both Jesus and my Buddhist friend Jack Kornfield would say that these are such dreadful times, how can we not respond with ever greater acts of compassion?
There are cracks in America now that have actually split us into two. It's the most toxic environment of my lifetime. Yet I would say that things were less much hopeful a month after the election. My friends and I were like caribou contaminated with swerving sickness, when the level of infection gets so high that the caribou start walking around in circles until they drop. But in the last two weeks, things have started to turn to shit much more quickly for the Bush administration.

And as a devout follower of Jesus, here are my thoughts on that: HAH HAH HAH.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Kroger is pimping right-wing propaganda

I was shocked to see in Sunday morning's Atlanta Journal Constitution a full-color ad for Kroger's new "BOOK OF THE MONTH" offered at 40% off: THE TRUTH ABOUT HILLARY by Edward Klein... a book that has already been discredited as erroneous and full of innuendo and unproven allegation.

For more on the book, see Media Matters for America coverage at

Kroger is a major supermarket chain, headquartered in Cincinnati but doing business nationally. If you're inclined, visit the Kroger website and express your outrage:

Here's what I sent to Kroger via their website:

I am absolutely appalled that you would feature "The Truth About Hillary" as a 40% off special book in your stores. The Atlanta Journal Constitution featured your ad for this shoddy, mean, one-sided book in the paper on Sunday, June 19.

This book has already been discredited as factually inaccurate and built on innuendo. Please see various articles about this book here:

Until this matter is addressed I have no intention of shopping at Kroger, which was my primary place to shop for groceries. I also intend to publicize this matter on various blogs. This is totally out of character for Kroger.

Secret Memo Says Pre-War US/UK Bombings Illegal

The Times of London has done it again, with yet another document revealing the illegal operations of the Bush Administration regarding Iraq.

A SHARP increase in British and American bombing raids on Iraq in the run-up to war “to put pressure on the regime” was illegal under international law, according to leaked Foreign Office legal advice.

The advice was first provided to senior ministers in March 2002. Two months later RAF and USAF jets began “spikes of activity” designed to goad Saddam Hussein into retaliating and giving the allies a pretext for war.

The Foreign Office advice shows military action to pressurise the regime was “not consistent with” UN law, despite American claims that it was.


Ministry of Defence figures for bombs dropped by the RAF on southern Iraq, obtained by the Liberal Democrats through Commons written answers, show the RAF was as active in the bombing as the Americans and that the “spikes” began in May 2002.

However, the leaked Foreign Office legal advice, which was also appended to the Cabinet Office briefing paper for the July meeting, made it clear allied aircraft were legally entitled to patrol the no-fly zones over the north and south of Iraq only to deter attacks by Saddam’s forces on the Kurdish and Shia populations.

The allies had no power to use military force to put pressure of any kind on the regime.

The increased attacks on Iraqi installations, which senior US officers admitted were designed to “degrade” Iraqi air defences, began six months before the UN passed resolution 1441, which the allies claim authorised military action. The war finally started in March 2003.


General Tommy Franks, the allied commander, recalled in his autobiography, American Soldier, that during this meeting he rejected a call from Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, to cut the bombing patrols because he wanted to use them to make Iraq’s defences “as weak as possible”.

The allied commander specifically used the term “spikes of activity” in his book. The upgrade to a full air war was also illegal, said Goodhart. “If, as Franks seems to suggest, the purpose was to soften up Iraq for a future invasion or even to intimidate Iraq, the coalition forces were acting without lawful authority,” he said.

Although the legality of the war has been more of an issue in Britain than in America, the revelations indicate Bush may also have acted illegally, since Congress did not authorise military action until October 11 2002.

The air war had already begun six weeks earlier and the spikes of activity had been underway for five months.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Bush's new reason for being in Iraq

From his radio address:
Bush acknowledged discontent over his decisions but signaled no shift in policy or timing for the American presence in Iraq. "Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world's terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror," he said.
But why, sir, have the world's terrorists made Iraq a central front? Because you lied to convince us to send troops there and take over! It's his fault they're there, and stronger than ever because, man, has he pissed them off.

Some GOP leaders are starting to grumble

From US News:
Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is angry. He's upset about the more than 1,700 U.S. soldiers killed and nearly 13,000 wounded in Iraq. He's also aggravated by the continued string of sunny assessments from the Bush administration, such as Vice President Dick Cheney's recent remark that the insurgency is in its "last throes." "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality," Hagel tells U.S. News. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

AP on the Downing Street Documents

Some interesting reportage on the ongoing saga of the minutes, memos and other documents from Downing Street from the AP's Thomas Wagner today. Some bits:

When Prime Minister Tony Blair's chief foreign policy adviser dined with Condoleezza Rice six months after Sept. 11, the then-U.S. national security adviser didn't want to discuss Osama bin Laden or al-Qaida. She wanted to talk about "regime change" in Iraq, setting the stage for the U.S.-led invasion more than a year later.

President Bush wanted Blair's support, but British officials worried the White House was rushing to war, according to a series of leaked secret Downing Street memos that have renewed questions and debate about Washington's motives for ousting Saddam Hussein.

In one of the memos, British Foreign Office political director Peter Ricketts openly asks whether the Bush administration had a clear and compelling military reason for war.

"U.S. scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and al-Qaida is so far frankly unconvincing," Ricketts says in the memo. "For Iraq, `regime change' does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam."

The documents confirm Blair was genuinely concerned about Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction, but also indicate he was determined to go to war as America's top ally, even though his government thought a pre-emptive attack may be illegal under international law.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Conyers and the silly Washington Post column

Check out Rep. John Conyers' blog entry at Daily Kos, in which he shares a rightfully indignant letter he wrote to the Washington Post:

First, I wanted to thank the DailyKos community for all of your work on the Downing Street Minutes issue. Yesterday was the direct result of your efforts and I hope you were proud. For more on my reaction to yesterday, visit my blog. I expect to announce some next steps in the coming days and you will be the first to know about them.

Second, unless I missed it, I hadn't seen much discussion here about today's Washington Post article about the hearing. I am very disappointed that this ridiculous article was the Post's only coverage of yesterday's events. Today, I wrote a letter to the Post outlining my objections to the piece, which I have attached below. If you share my views, I would suggest letting the Post know about it.

John Danforth on Moderate Christians

A nice piece in the New York Times today. An excerpt:

It is important for those of us who are sometimes called moderates to make the case that we, too, have strongly held Christian convictions, that we speak from the depths of our beliefs, and that our approach to politics is at least as faithful as that of those who are more conservative. Our difference concerns the extent to which government should, or even can, translate religious beliefs into the laws of the state.

People of faith have the right, and perhaps the obligation, to bring their values to bear in politics. Many conservative Christians approach politics with a certainty that they know God's truth, and that they can advance the kingdom of God through governmental action. So they have developed a political agenda that they believe advances God's kingdom, one that includes efforts to "put God back" into the public square and to pass a constitutional amendment intended to protect marriage from the perceived threat of homosexuality.

Moderate Christians are less certain about when and how our beliefs can be translated into statutory form, not because of a lack of faith in God but because of a healthy acknowledgement of the limitations of human beings. Like conservative Christians, we attend church, read the Bible and say our prayers.

But for us, the only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. We struggle to follow that commandment as we face the realities of everyday living, and we do not agree that our responsibility to live as Christians can be codified by legislators.

Please go read the whole thing.

Belatedly, Bill Moyers' Speech

I'm going to do something different here. Bill Moyers gave a rip-roarin' speech to the National Conference for Media Reform a month ago, May 15, and it's still hot. And in light of the news that several Republican Congresspersons are working to cut off all funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, all the more relevant. I encourage you to read the whole thing. It's eye-opening and distressing, and yet one more indication of what's going wrong here... and now, Bill Moyers.

Published on Monday, May 16, 2005 by
Take Public Broadcasting Back
by Bill Moyers

Closing address
National Conference on Media Reform
St. Louis, Missouri
May 15, 2005

I can’t imagine better company on this beautiful Sunday morning in St. Louis. You’re church for me today, and there’s no congregation in the country where I would be more likely to find more kindred souls than are gathered here.

There are so many different vocations and callings in this room -- so many different interests and aspirations of people who want to reform the media or produce for the media -- that only a presiding bishop like Bob McChesney with his great ecumenical heart could bring us together for a weekend like this.

What joins us all under Bob’s embracing welcome is our commitment to public media. Pat Aufderheide got it right, I think, in the recent issue of In These Times when she wrote: “This is a moment when public media outlets can make a powerful case for themselves. Public radio, public TV, cable access, public DBS channels, media arts centers, youth media projects, nonprofit Internet news services . . . low-power radio and webcasting are all part of a nearly-invisible feature of today’s media map: the public media sector. They exist not to make a profit, not to push an ideology, not to serve customers, but to create a public—a group of people who can talk productively with those who don’t share their views, and defend the interests of the people who have to live with the consequences of corporate and governmental power.”

She gives examples of the possibilities. “Look at what happened,” she said, “when thousands of people who watched Stanley Nelson’s ‘The Murder of Emmett Till’ on their public television channels joined a postcard campaign that re-opened the murder case after more than half a century. Look at NPR’s courageous coverage of the Iraq war, an expensive endeavor that wins no points from this Administration. Look at Chicago Access Network’s Community Forum, where nonprofits throughout the region can showcase their issues and find volunteers.”

For all our flaws, Pat argues that the public media are a very important resource in a noisy and polluted information environment.

You can also take wings reading Jason Miller’s May 4th article on Z Net about the mainstream media. While it is true that much of it is corrupted by the influence of government and corporate interests, Miller writes, there are still men and women in the mainstream who practice a high degree of journalistic integrity and who do challenge us with their stories and analysis. But the real hope ‘lies within the internet with its two billion or more web sites providing a wealth of information drawn from almost unlimited resources that span the globe. . . If knowledge is power, one's capacity to increase that power increases exponentially through navigation of the Internet for news and information.”

Surely this is one issue that unites us as we leave here today. The fight to preserve the web from corporate gatekeepers joins media reformers, producers and educators -- and it’s a fight that has only just begun.

I want to tell you about another fight we’re in today. The story I’ve come to share with you goes to the core of our belief that the quality of democracy and the quality of journalism are deeply entwined. I can tell this story because I’ve been living it. It’s been in the news this week, including reports of more attacks on a single journalist -- yours truly -- by the right-wing media and their allies at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

As some of you know, CPB was established almost forty years ago to set broad policy for public broadcasting and to be a firewall between political influence and program content. What some on this board are now doing today, led by its chairman, Kenneth Tomlinson, is too important, too disturbing and yes, even too dangerous for a gathering like this not to address.

We’re seeing unfold a contemporary example of the age old ambition of power and ideology to squelch and punish journalists who tell the stories that make princes and priests uncomfortable.

Let me assure you that I take in stride attacks by the radical right-wingers who have not given up demonizing me although I retired over six months ago. They’ve been after me for years now and I suspect they will be stomping on my grave to make sure I don’t come back from the dead. I should remind them, however, that one of our boys pulled it off some two thousand years ago -- after the Pharisees, Sadducees and Caesar’s surrogates thought they had shut him up for good. Of course I won’t be expecting that kind of miracle, but I should put my detractors on notice: They might just compel me out of the rocking chair and back into the anchor chair.

Who are they? I mean the people obsessed with control, using the government to threaten and intimidate. I mean the people who are hollowing out middle class security even as they enlist the sons and daughters of the working class in a war to make sure Ahmed Chalabi winds up controlling Iraq’s oil. I mean the people who turn faith based initiatives into a slush fund and who encourage the pious to look heavenward and pray so as not to see the long arm of privilege and power picking their pockets. I mean the people who squelch free speech in an effort to obliterate dissent and consolidate their orthodoxy into the official view of reality from which any deviation becomes unpatriotic heresy.

That’s who I mean. And if that’s editorializing, so be it. A free press is one where it’s okay to state the conclusion you’re led to by the evidence.

One reason I’m in hot water is because my colleagues and I at NOW didn’t play by the conventional rules of beltway journalism. Those rules divide the world into Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and allow journalists to pretend they have done their job if, instead of reporting the truth behind the news, they merely give each side an opportunity to spin the news.

Jonathan Mermin writes about this in a recent essay in “World Policy Journal.” (You’ll also want to read his book, “Debating War and Peace, Media Coverage of US Intervention in the Post Vietnam Era.”)

Mermin quotes David Ignatius of the Washington Post on why the deep interests of the American public are so poorly served by beltway journalism. The “rules of our game,” says Ignatius, “make it hard for us to tee up an issue...without a news peg.” He offers a case in point: the debacle of America’s occupation of Iraq. “If Senator so and so hasn’t criticized post-war planning for Iraq,” says Ignatius, “then it’s hard for a reporter to write a story about that.”

Mermin also quotes public television’s Jim Lehrer acknowledging that unless an official says something is so, it isn’t news. Why were journalists not discussing the occupation of Iraq? Because, says Lehrer, “the word occupation...was never mentioned in the run-up to the war.” Washington talked about the invasion as “a war of liberation, not a war of occupation, so as a consequence, “those of us in journalism never even looked at the issue of occupation.”

“In other words,” says Jonathan Mermin, “if the government isn’t talking about it, we don’t report it.” He concludes, “[Lehrer’s] somewhat jarring declaration, one of many recent admissions by journalists that their reporting failed to prepare the public for the calamitous occupation that has followed the ‘liberation’ of Iraq, reveals just how far the actual practice of American journalism has deviated from the First Amendment ideal of a press that is independent of the government.”

Take the example (also cited by Mermin) of Charles J. Hanley. Hanley is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the Associated Press, whose fall 2003 story on the torture of Iraqis in American prisons -- before a U.S. Army report and photographs documenting the abuse surfaced -- was ignored by major American newspapers. Hanley attributes this lack of interest to the fact that “It was not an officially sanctioned story that begins with a handout from an official source.” Furthermore, Iraqis recounting their own personal experience of Abu Ghraib simply did not have the credibility with beltway journalists of American officials denying that such things happened. Judith Miller of The New York Times, among others, relied on the credibility of official but unnamed sources when she served essentially as the government stenographer for claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

These “rules of the game” permit Washington officials to set the agenda for journalism, leaving the press all too often simply to recount what officials say instead of subjecting their words and deeds to critical scrutiny. Instead of acting as filters for readers and viewers, sifting the truth from the propaganda, reporters and anchors attentively transcribe both sides of the spin invariably failing to provide context, background or any sense of which claims hold up and which are misleading.

I decided long ago that this wasn’t healthy for democracy. I came to see that “news is what people want to keep hidden and everything else is publicity.” In my documentaries – whether on the Watergate scandals thirty years ago or the Iran Contra conspiracy twenty years ago or Bill Clinton’s fund raising scandals ten years ago or, five years ago, the chemical industry’s long and despicable cover up of its cynical and unspeakable withholding of critical data about its toxic products from its workers, I realized that investigative journalism could not be a collaboration between the journalist and the subject. Objectivity is not satisfied by two opposing people offering competing opinions, leaving the viewer to split the difference.

I came to believe that objective journalism means describing the object being reported on, including the little fibs and fantasies as well as the Big Lie of the people in power. In no way does this permit journalists to make accusations and allegations. It means, instead, making sure that your reporting and your conclusions can be nailed to the post with confirming evidence.

This is always hard to do, but it has never been harder than today. Without a trace of irony, the powers-that-be have appropriated the newspeak vernacular of George Orwell’s “1984.” They give us a program vowing “No Child Left Behind” while cutting funds for educating disadvantaged kids. They give us legislation cheerily calling for “Clear Skies” and “Healthy Forests” that give us neither. And that’s just for starters.

In Orwell’s “1984”, the character Syme, one of the writers of that totalitarian society’s dictionary, explains to the protagonist Winston, “Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?” "Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now? The whole climate of thought,” he said, “will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking -- not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”

An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only on partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, to ask questions and be skeptical. That kind of orthodoxy can kill a democracy – or worse.

I learned about this the hard way. I grew up in the South where the truth about slavery, race, and segregation had been driven from the pulpits, driven from the classrooms and driven from the newsrooms. It took a bloody Civil War to bring the truth home and then it took another hundred years for the truth to make us free.

Then I served in the Johnson administration. Imbued with cold war orthodoxy and confident that “might makes right,” we circled the wagons, listened only to each other, and pursued policies the evidence couldn’t carry. The results were devastating for Vietnamese and Americans.

I brought all of this to the task when PBS asked me after 9/11 to start a new weekly broadcast. They wanted us to make it different from anything else on the air --commercial or public broadcasting. They asked us to tell stories no one else was reporting and to offer a venue to people who might not otherwise be heard. That wasn’t a hard sell. I had been deeply impressed by studies published in leading peer-reviewed scholarly journals by a team of researchers led by Vassar College sociologist William Hoynes. Extensive research on the content of public television over a decade found that political discussions on our public affairs programs generally included a limited set of voices that offer a narrow range of perspectives on current issues and events. Instead of far-ranging discussions and debates, the kind that might engage viewers as citizens, not simply as audiences, this research found that public affairs programs on PBS stations were populated by the standard set of elite news sources. Whether government officials and Washington journalists (talking about political strategy) or corporate sources (talking about stock prices or the economy from the investor’s viewpoint), Public television, unfortunately, all too often was offering the same kind of discussions, and a similar brand of insider discourse, that is featured regularly on commercial television.

Who didn’t appear was also revealing. Hoynes and his team found that in contrast to the conservative mantra that public television routinely featured the voices of anti-establishment critics, “alternative perspectives were rare on public television and were effectively drowned out by the stream of government and corporate views that represented the vast majority of sources on our broadcasts.” The so-called ‘experts’ who got most of the face time came primarily from mainstream news organizations and Washington think tanks rather than diverse interests. Economic news, for example, was almost entirely refracted through the views of business people, investors and business journalists. Voices outside the corporate/Wall Street universe -- nonprofessional workers, labor representatives, consumer advocates and the general public were rarely heard. In sum, these two studies concluded, the economic coverage was so narrow that the views and the activities of most citizens became irrelevant.

All this went against the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 that created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I know. I was there. As a young policy assistant to President Johnson, I attended my first meeting to discuss the future of public broadcasting in 1964 in the office of the Commissioner of Education. I know firsthand that the Public Broadcasting Act was meant to provide an alternative to commercial television and to reflect the diversity of the American people.

This, too, was on my mind when we assembled the team for NOW. It was just after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. We agreed on two priorities. First, we wanted to do our part to keep the conversation of democracy going. That meant talking to a wide range of people across the spectrum -- left, right and center. It meant poets, philosophers, politicians, scientists, sages and scribblers. It meant Isabel AlIende, the novelist, and Amity Shlaes, the columnist for the Financial Times. It meant the former nun and best-selling author Karen Armstrong, and it meant the right-wing evangelical columnist, Cal Thomas. It meant Arundhati Roy from India, Doris Lessing from London, David Suzuki from Canada, and Bernard Henry-Levi from Paris. It also meant two successive editors of the Wall Street Journal, Robert Bartley and Paul Gigot, the editor of The Economist, Bill Emmott, the Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel and the Los Angeles Weekly’s John Powers. It means liberals like Frank Wu, Ossie Davis and Gregory Nava, and conservatives like Frank Gaffney, Grover Norquist, and Richard Viguerie. It meant Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Bishop Wilton Gregory of the Catholic Bishops conference in this country. It meant the conservative Christian activist and lobbyist, Ralph Reed, and the dissident Catholic Sister Joan Chittister. We threw the conversation of democracy open to all comers. Most of those who came responded the same way that Ron Paul, Republican and Libertarian congressman from Texas did when he wrote me after his appearance, “I have received hundreds of positive e-mails from your viewers. I appreciate the format of your program which allows time for a full discussion of ideas… I’m tired of political shows featuring two guests shouting over each other and offering the same arguments… NOW was truly refreshing.”

Hold your applause because that’s not the point of the story.

We had a second priority. We intended to do strong, honest and accurate reporting, telling stories we knew people in high places wouldn’t like.

I told our producers and correspondents that in our field reporting our job was to get as close as possible to the verifiable truth. This was all the more imperative in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. America could be entering a long war against an elusive and stateless enemy with no definable measure of victory and no limit to its duration, cost or foreboding fear. The rise of a homeland security state meant government could justify extraordinary measures in exchange for protecting citizens against unnamed, even unproven, threats.

Furthermore, increased spending during a national emergency can produce a spectacle of corruption behind a smokescreen of secrecy. I reminded our team of the words of the news photographer in Tom Stoppard’s play who said, “People do terrible things to each other, but it’s worse when everyone is kept in the dark.”

I also reminded them of how the correspondent and historian, Richard Reeves, answered a student who asked him to define real news. “Real news,” Reeves responded, “is the news you and I need to keep our freedoms.”

For these reasons and in that spirit we went about reporting on Washington as no one else in broadcasting -- except occasionally “60 Minutes” -- was doing. We reported on the expansion of the Justice Department’s power of surveillance. We reported on the escalating Pentagon budget and expensive weapons that didn’t work. We reported on how campaign contributions influenced legislation and policy to skew resources to the comfortable and well-connected while our troops were fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq with inadequate training and armor. We reported on how the Bush administration was shredding the Freedom of Information Act. We went around the country to report on how closed door, back room deals in Washington were costing ordinary workers and tax payers their livelihood and security. We reported on offshore tax havens that enable wealthy and powerful Americans to avoid their fair share of national security and the social contract.

And always -- because what people know depends on who owns the press -- we kept coming back to the media business itself -- to how mega media corporations were pushing journalism further and further down the hierarchy of values, how giant radio cartels were silencing critics while shutting communities off from essential information, and how the mega media companies were lobbying the FCC for the right to grow ever more powerful.

The broadcast caught on. Our ratings grew every year. There was even a spell when we were the only public affairs broadcast on PBS whose audience was going up instead of down.

Our journalistic peers took notice. The Los Angeles Times said, "NOW’s team of reporters has regularly put the rest of the media to shame, pursuing stories few others bother to touch.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer said our segments on the sciences, the arts, politics and the economy were “provocative public television at its best.

The Austin American Statesman called NOW “the perfect antidote to today’s high pitched decibel level - a smart, calm, timely news program.”

Frazier Moore of the Associated Press said we were “hard-edged when appropriate but never Hardball. Don’t expect combat. Civility reigns.”

And the Baton Rouge Advocate said “NOW invites viewers to consider the deeper implication of the daily headlines,” drawing on “a wide range of viewpoints which transcend the typical labels of the political left or right.”

Let me repeat that: NOW draws on “a wide range of viewpoints which transcend the typical labels of the political left or right.”

The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 had been prophetic. Open public television to the American people -- offer diverse interests, ideas and voices … be fearless in your belief in democracy -- and they will come.

Hold your applause – that’s not the point of the story.

The point of the story is something only a handful of our team, including my wife and partner Judith Davidson Moyers, and I knew at the time -- that the success of NOW’s journalism was creating a backlash in Washington.

The more compelling our journalism, the angrier the radical right of the Republican party became. That’s because the one thing they loathe more than liberals is the truth. And the quickest way to be damned by them as liberal is to tell the truth.

This is the point of my story: Ideologues don’t want you to go beyond the typical labels of left and right. They embrace a world view that can’t be proven wrong because they will admit no evidence to the contrary. They want your reporting to validate their belief system and when it doesn’t, God forbid. Never mind that their own stars were getting a fair shake on NOW: Gigot, Viguerie, David Keene of the American Conservative Union, Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth, and others. No, our reporting was giving the radical right fits because it wasn’t the party line. It wasn’t that we were getting it wrong. Only three times in three years did we err factually, and in each case we corrected those errors as soon as we confirmed their inaccuracy. The problem was that we were getting it right, not right-wing -- telling stories that partisans in power didn’t want told.

I’ve always thought the American eagle needed a left wing and a right wing. The right wing would see to it that economic interests had their legitimate concerns addressed. The left wing would see to it that ordinary people were included in the bargain. Both would keep the great bird on course. But with two right wings or two left wings, it’s no longer an eagle and it’s going to crash.

My occasional commentaries got to them as well. Although apparently he never watched the broadcast (I guess he couldn’t take the diversity) Senator Trent Lott came out squealing like a stuck pig when after the mid-term elections in 2002 I described what was likely to happen now that all three branches of government were about to be controlled by one party dominated by the religious, corporate and political right. Instead of congratulating the winners for their election victory as some network broadcasters had done -- or celebrating their victory as Fox, The Washington Times, The Weekly Standard, Talk Radio and other partisan Republican journalists had done -- I provided a little independent analysis of what the victory meant. And I did it the old fashioned way: I looked at the record, took the winners at their word, and drew the logical conclusion that they would use power as they always said they would. And I set forth this conclusion in my usual modest Texas way.

Events since then have confirmed the accuracy of what I said, but, to repeat, being right is exactly what the right doesn’t want journalists to be.

Strange things began to happen. Friends in Washington called to say that they had heard of muttered threats that the PBS reauthorization would be held off “unless Moyers is dealt with.” The Chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Kenneth Tomlinson, was said to be quite agitated. Apparently there was apoplexy in the right wing aerie when I closed the broadcast one Friday night by putting an American flag in my lapel and said – well, here’s exactly what I said.

“I wore my flag tonight. First time. Until now I haven't thought it necessary to display a little metallic icon of patriotism for everyone to see. It was enough to vote, pay my taxes, perform my civic duties, speak my mind, and do my best to raise our kids to be good Americans.

Sometimes I would offer a small prayer of gratitude that I had been born in a country whose institutions sustained me, whose armed forces protected me, and whose ideals inspired me; I offered my heart's affections in return. It no more occurred to me to flaunt the flag on my chest than it did to pin my mother's picture on my lapel to prove her son's love. Mother knew where I stood; so does my country. I even tuck a valentine in my tax returns on April 15.

So what's this doing here? Well, I put it on to take it back. The flag's been hijacked and turned into a logo — the trademark of a monopoly on patriotism. On those Sunday morning talk shows, official chests appear adorned with the flag as if it is the good housekeeping seal of approval. During the State of the Union, did you notice Bush and Cheney wearing the flag? How come? No administration's patriotism is ever in doubt, only its policies. And the flag bestows no immunity from error. When I see flags sprouting on official lapels, I think of the time in China when I saw Mao's little red book on every official's desk, omnipresent and unread.

But more galling than anything are all those moralistic ideologues in Washington sporting the flag in their lapels while writing books and running Web sites and publishing magazines attacking dissenters as un-American. They are people whose ardor for war grows disproportionately to their distance from the fighting. They're in the same league as those swarms of corporate lobbyists wearing flags and prowling Capitol Hill for tax breaks even as they call for more spending on war.

So I put this on as a modest riposte to men with flags in their lapels who shoot missiles from the safety of Washington think tanks, or argue that sacrifice is good as long as they don't have to make it, or approve of bribing governments to join the coalition of the willing (after they first stash the cash.) I put it on to remind myself that not every patriot thinks we should do to the people of Baghdad what Bin Laden did to us. The flag belongs to the country, not to the government. And it reminds me that it's not un-American to think that war — except in self-defense — is a failure of moral imagination, political nerve, and diplomacy. Come to think of it, standing up to your government can mean standing up for your country.”

That did it. That – and our continuing reporting on overpricing at Halliburton, chicanery on K-Street, and the heavy, if divinely guided, hand of Tom DeLay.

When Senator Lott protested that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting “has not seemed willing to deal with Bill Moyers,” a new member of the board, a Republican fundraiser named Cheryl Halperin, who had been appointed by President Bush, agreed that CPB needed more power to do just that sort of thing. She left no doubt about the kind of penalty she would like to see imposed on malefactors like Moyers.

As rumors circulated about all this, I asked to meet with the CPB board to hear for myself what was being said. I thought it would be helpful for someone like me, who had been present at the creation and part of the system for almost 40 years, to talk about how CPB had been intended to be a heat shield to protect public broadcasters from exactly this kind of intimidation. After all, I’d been there at the time of Richard Nixon’s attempted coup. In those days, public television had been really feisty and independent, and often targeted for attacks. A Woody Allen special that poked fun at Henry Kissinger in the Nixon administration had actually been cancelled. The White House had been so outraged over a documentary called the “Banks and the Poor” that PBS was driven to adopt new guidelines. That didn’t satisfy Nixon, and when public television hired two NBC reporters -- Robert McNeil and Sander Vanocur -- to co-anchor some new broadcasts, it was, for Nixon, the last straw. According to White House memos at the time, he was determined to “get the left wing commentators who are cutting us up off public television at once -- indeed, yesterday if possible.”

Sound familiar?

Nixon vetoed the authorization for CPB with a message written in part by his sidekick Pat Buchanan who in a private memo had castigated Vanocur, MacNeil, Washington Week in Review, Black Journal and Bill Moyers as “unbalanced against the administration.”

It does sound familiar.

I always knew Nixon would be back. I just didn’t know this time he would be the Chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Buchanan and Nixon succeeded in cutting CPB funding for all public affairs programming except for Black Journal. They knocked out multiyear funding for the National Public Affairs Center for Television, otherwise known as NPACT. And they voted to take away from the PBS staff the ultimate responsibility for the production of programming.

But in those days – and this is what I wanted to share with Kenneth Tomlinson and his colleagues on the CPB board - there were still Republicans in America who did not march in ideological lockstep and who stood on principle against politicizing public television. The chairman of the public station in Dallas was an industrialist named Ralph Rogers, a Republican but no party hack, who saw the White House intimidation as an assault on freedom of the press and led a nationwide effort to stop it. The chairman of CPB was former Republican congressman Thomas Curtis, who was also a principled man. He resigned, claiming White House interference. Within a few months, the crisis was over. CPB maintained its independence, PBS grew in strength, and Richard Nixon would soon face impeachment and resign for violating the public trust, not just public broadcasting. Paradoxically, the very Public Affairs Center for Television that Nixon had tried to kill – NPACT - put PBS on the map by rebroadcasting in prime time each day’s Watergate hearings, drawing huge ratings night after night and establishing PBS as an ally of democracy. We should still be doing that sort of thing.

That was 33 years ago. I thought the current CPB board would like to hear and talk about the importance of standing up to political interference. I was wrong. They wouldn’t meet with me. I tried three times. And it was all downhill after that.

I was naïve, I guess. I simply never imagined that any CPB chairman, Democrat or Republican, would cross the line from resisting White House pressure to carrying it out for the White House. But that’s what Kenneth Tomlinson has done. On Fox News this week he denied that he’s carrying out a White House mandate or that he’s ever had any conversations with any Bush administration official about PBS. But The New York Times reported that he enlisted Karl Rove to help kill a proposal that would have put on the CPB board people with experience in local radio and television. The Times also reported that “on the recommendation of administration officials” Tomlinson hired a White House flack (I know the genre) named Mary Catherine Andrews as a senior CPB staff member. While she was still reporting to Karl Rove at the White House, Andrews set up CPB’s new ombudsman’s office and had a hand in hiring the two people who will fill it, one of whom once worked for… you guessed it … Kenneth Tomlinson.

I would like to give Mr. Tomlinson the benefit of the doubt, but I can’t. According to a book written about the Reader’s Digest when he was its Editor-in-Chief, he surrounded himself with other right-wingers -- a pattern he’s now following at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. There is Ms. Andrews from the White House. For Acting President he hired Ken Ferree from the FCC, who was Michael Powell’s enforcer when Powell was deciding how to go about allowing the big media companies to get even bigger. According to a forthcoming book, one of Ferree’s jobs was to engage in tactics designed to dismiss any serious objection to media monopolies. And, according to Eric Alterman, Ferree was even more contemptuous than Michael Powell of public participation in the process of determining media ownership. Alterman identifies Ferree as the FCC staffer who decided to issue a ‘protective order’ designed to keep secret the market research on which the Republican majority on the commission based their vote to permit greater media consolidation.

It’s not likely that with guys like this running the CPB some public television producer is going to say, “Hey, let’s do something on how big media is affecting democracy.”

Call it preventive capitulation.

As everyone knows, Mr. Tomlinson also put up a considerable sum of money, reportedly over five million dollars, for a new weekly broadcast featuring Paul Gigot and the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal. Gigot is a smart journalist, a sharp editor, and a fine fellow. I had him on NOW several times and even proposed that he become a regular contributor. The conversation of democracy -- remember? All stripes.

But I confess to some puzzlement that the Wall Street Journal, which in the past editorialized to cut PBS off the public tap, is now being subsidized by American taxpayers although its parent company, Dow Jones, had revenues in just the first quarter of this year of 400 million dollars.

I thought public television was supposed to be an alternative to commercial media, not a funder of it.

But in this weird deal, you get a glimpse of the kind of programming Mr. Tomlinson apparently seems to prefer. Alone of the big major newspapers, the Wall Street Journal, has no op-ed page where different opinions can compete with its right- wing editorials. The Journal’s PBS broadcast is just as homogenous –right- wingers talking to each other. Why not $5 million to put the editors of The Nation on PBS? Or Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now!” You balance right-wing talk with left-wing talk.

There’s more. Only two weeks ago did we learn that Mr. Tomlinson had spent $10,000 last year to hire a contractor who would watch my show and report on political bias. That’s right. Kenneth Y. Tomlinson spent $10,000 of your money to hire a guy to watch NOW to find out who my guests were and what my stories were.

Ten thousand dollars.

Gee, Ken, for $2.50 a week, you could pick up a copy of “TV Guide” on the newsstand. A subscription is even cheaper, and I would have sent you a coupon that can save you up to 62 %.

For that matter, Ken, all you had to do was watch the show yourself. You could have made it easier with a double Jim Bean, your favorite. Or you could have gone on line where the listings are posted. Hell, you could have called me -- collect -- and I would have told you what was on the broadcast that night.

Ten thousand dollars. That would have bought five tables at Thursday night’s Conservative Salute for Tom DeLay. Better yet, that ten grand would pay for the books in an elementary school classroom or an upgrade of its computer lab.

But having sent that cash, what did he find? Only Mr. Tomlinson knows. He apparently decided not to share the results with his staff or his board or leak it to Robert Novak. The public paid for it – but Ken Tomlinson acts as if he owns it.

In a May 10th op-ed piece, in Reverend Moon’s conservative “Washington Times”, Mr. Tomlinson maintained he had not released the findings because public broadcasting is such a delicate institution he did not want to “damage public broadcasting’s image with controversy.” Where I come from in Texas, we shovel that kind of stuff every day.

As we learned only this week, that’s not the only news Mr. Tomlinson tried to keep to himself. As reported by Jeff Chester’s Center for Digital Democracy of which I am a supporter, there were two public opinion surveys commissioned by CPB but not released to the media – not even to PBS and NPR! According to a source who talked to, “the first results were too good and [Tomlinson] didn’t believe them. After the Iraq war, the board commissioned another round of polling and they thought they’d get worse results.”

But they didn’t.

The data revealed that, in reality, public broadcasting has an 80% favorable rating and that “the majority of the U.S. adult population does not believe that the news and information programming on public broadcasting is biased.”

In fact, more than half believed PBS provided more in-depth and trustworthy news and information than the networks and 55% said PBS was “fair and balanced.”

I repeat: I would like to have given Mr. Tomlinson the benefit of the doubt. But this is the man who was running The Voice of America back in 1984 when a partisan named Charlie Wick was politicizing the United States Information Agency of which Voice of America was a part. It turned out there was a blacklist of people who had been removed from the list of prominent Americans sent abroad to lecture on behalf of America and the USIA. What’s more, it was discovered that evidence as to how those people were chosen to be on the blacklist -- more than 700 documents -- had been shredded. Among those on the lists of journalists, writers, scholars and politicians were dangerous left wing subversives like Walter Cronkite, James Baldwin, Gary Hart, Ralph Nader, Ben Bradley, Coretta Scott King and David Brinkley.

The person who took the fall for the black list was another right-winger. He resigned. Shortly thereafter, so did Kenneth Tomlinson, who had been one of the people in the agency with the authority to see the lists of potential speakers and allowed to strike people’s names.

Let me be clear about this: there is no record, apparently, of what Ken Tomlinson did. We don’t know whether he supported or protested the blacklisting of so many American liberals. Or what he thinks of it now.

But I had hoped Bill O’Reilly would have asked him about it when he appeared on The “O’Reilly Factor” this week. He didn’t. Instead, Tomlinson went on attacking me with O’Reilly egging him on, and he went on denying he was carrying out a partisan mandate despite published reports to the contrary. The only time you could be sure he was telling the truth was at the end of the broadcast when he said to O’Reilly, “We love your show.”

We love your show.

I wrote Kenneth Tomlinson on Friday and asked him to sit down with me for one hour on PBS and talk about all this. I suggested that he choose the moderator and the guidelines.

There is one other thing in particular I would like to ask him about. In his op-ed essay this week in The Washington Times, Ken Tomlinson tells of a phone call from an old friend complaining about my bias. Wrote Mr. Tomlinson: “The friend explained that the foundation he heads made a six-figure contribution to his local television station for digital conversion. But he declared there would be no more contributions until something was done about the network’s bias.”

Apparently that’s Kenneth Tomlinson’s method of governance. Money talks and buys the influence it wants.

I would like to ask him to listen to a different voice.

This letter came to me last year from a woman in New York, five pages of handwriting. She said, among other things, that “After the worst sneak attack in our history, there’s not been a moment to reflect, a moment to let the horror resonate, a moment to feel the pain and regroup as humans. No, since I lost my husband on 9/11, not only our family’s world, but the whole world seems to have gotten even worse than that tragic day.” She wanted me to know that on 9/11 her husband was not on duty. “He was home with me having coffee. My daughter and grandson, living only five blocks from the Towers, had to be evacuated with masks -- terror all around … my other daughter, near the Brooklyn Bridge … my son in high school. But my Charlie took off like a lightening bolt to be with his men from the Special Operations Command. ‘Bring my gear to the plaza,’ he told his aide immediately after the first plane struck the North Tower…He took action based on the responsibility he felt for his job and his men and for those Towers that he loved.”

In the FDNY, she continued, chain-of- command rules extend to every captain of every fire house in the city. “If anything happens in the firehouse -- at any time -- even if the Captain isn’t on duty or on vacation -- that Captain is responsible for everything that goes on there 24/7.” So she asked: “Why is this Administration responsible for nothing? All that they do is pass the blame. This is not leadership… Watch everyone pass the blame again in this recent torture case [Abu Ghraib] of Iraqi prisons…..”

She told me that she and her husband had watched my series on “Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth” together and that now she was a faithful fan of NOW. She wrote: “We need more programs like yours to wake America up…. Such programs must continue amidst the sea of false images and name calling that divide America now….Such programs give us hope that search will continue to get this imperfect human condition on to a higher plane. So thank you and all of those who work with you. Without public broadcasting, all we would call news would be merely carefully controlled propaganda”

Enclosed with the letter was a check made out to “Channel 13 –NOW” for $500.

I keep a copy of that check above my desk to remind me of what journalism is about.

Kenneth Tomlinson has his demanding donors.

I’ll take the widow’s mite any day.

Someone has said recently that the great raucous mob that is democracy is rarely heard and that it’s not just the fault of the current residents of the White House and the capital. There’s too great a chasm between those of us in this business and those who depend on TV and radio as their window to the world. We treat them too much as an audience and not enough as citizens. They’re invited to look through the window but too infrequently to come through the door and to participate, to make public broadcasting truly public.

To that end, five public interests groups including Common Cause and Consumers Union will be holding informational sessions around the country to “take public broadcasting back” -- to take it back from threats, from interference, from those who would tell us we can only think what they command us to think.

It’s a worthy goal.

We’re big kids; we can handle controversy and diversity, whether it’s political or religious points of view or two loving lesbian moms and their kids, visited by a cartoon rabbit. We are not too fragile or insecure to see America and the world entire for all their magnificent and sometimes violent confusion. There used to be a thing or a commodity we put great store by,” John Steinbeck wrote. “It was called the people.”

Journalist Bill Moyers, the author of Moyers on America: A Journalist and His Times and many other books, is the host most recently of PBS's NOW With Bill Moyers.

White House refuses to receive Conyers letter, petition on DSM

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on the Conyers "forums" and the Representative's attempt to deliver a letter from 122 House members and a petition with well over a half million signatures requesting formal hearings into the Downing Street documents that indicate intelligence was "fixed" to buttress the administration's goal to invade Iraq.

After an impassioned three-hour inquiry in a cramped room in the Capitol basement, Conyers led several hundred demonstrators in a rally across the street from the White House. Conyers hand-delivered to the White House a letter signed by 122 Democratic House members --- and an accompanying petition signed by 560,000 citizens --- demanding answers to questions raised by the memo.

"Many of us find it unacceptable for any administration --- be it Democratic or Republican --- to put our brave men and women in harm's way based on false information," he said.

The White House dismissed Conyers' letter as a political shot by Democrats who have long opposed the war.

Some Democrats have been angered that the White House hasn't responded to Conyer's request for additional information concerning questions raised by the memo.

"A crack in the door has now been opened by the British," said Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.). By refusing to respond to Democrats' questions about the memo, Inslee said, the administration is "sticking their finger in the eye of the American people, and we don't intend to let that rest."

Some things to think about today

The Washington Post reports on the administration's latest attempts to protect their oil and other business partners:
Bush administration officials working behind the scenes have succeeded in weakening key sections of a proposal for joint action by the eight major industrialized nations to curb climate change.

The administration's push to alter the G-8's plan on global warming marks its latest effort to edit scientific or policy documents to accord with its position that mandatory carbon dioxide cuts are unnecessary. Under mounting international pressure to adopt stricter controls on heat-trapping gas emissions, Bush officials have consistently sought to modify U.S. government and international reports that would endorse a more aggressive approach to mitigating global warming.

Last week, the New York Times reported that a senior White House official had altered government documents to emphasize the uncertainties surrounding the science on global warming. That official, White House Council on Environmental Quality chief of staff Phillip Cooney, left the administration last Friday to take a public relations job with oil giant Exxon Mobil, a leading opponent of mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

But there's some good news about the administration: The New York Times is reporting on their new NYT/CBS Poll showing major drops in the president's approval ratings--and even bigger drops in Congress' approval ratings.
Forty-two percent of the people responding to the poll said they approved of the way Mr. Bush was handling his job, a marked decline from his 51 percent rating after of the November election, when he embarked on an ambitious second term agenda led by the overhaul of Social Security. Sixteen months before the midterm elections, Congress fared even worse in the survey, with the approval of just 33 percent of the respondents, and 19 percent saying Congress shared their priorities.
Another big story is hitting the MSM (after weeks in the blogosphere): Ohio's Coingate. Paul Krugman offers his take on this today.

Since their 1994 takeover of Congress, and even more so since the 2000 election, Republican leaders have sought to make their political dominance permanent. They redistricted Texas to lock in their control of the House. Through the "K Street Project" they have put lobbying firms under partisan control, starving the Democrats of campaign funds. And they are, of course, trying to pack the courts with partisan loyalists.

In effect, they're trying to turn America into a giant version of the elder Richard Daley's Chicago.

These efforts have already created an environment in which politicians from the right party and businessmen with the right connections believe, with good reason, that they have immunity.

And politicians who feel that they can exploit their position tend to do just that. It's a likely bet that the scandals we already know about, from Coingate to Tom DeLay's dealings with the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, are just the tip of the iceberg.

The message from Ohio is that long-term dominance by a political machine leads to corruption, regardless of the policies that machine follows or the ideology it claims to represent.

And here's an interesting new wrinkle in the Bolton nomination situation: Dem Senate Leader Harry Reid is continuing to stall on a vote, despite Majority Leader Frist's wishes, until the administration provides the information they've been requesting for weeks--and has tied the Downing Street Minutes into the reason why:

"Concerns about this administration hyping intelligence and Great Britain hyping intelligence cannot be dismissed lightly," Reid said, adding that it "is no small matter for us to learn whether Mr. Bolton was a party to other efforts to hype intelligence."

Bush and his aides, including Bolton, justified the invasion by saying Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were a threat to the United States, but no such weapons have been found.