Thursday, June 16, 2005


Odds and Ends

The Mouth returns after four days on the road. The Mouth regrets any withdrawal you've experienced.

Something rotten at CPB

The plot thickens at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the parent overseer of PBS and NPR. As I'm sure you've heard, a bill before Congress would strip CPB of $250 million in funding, a move by conservatives to eventually dismantle the organizations which they believe dish out left-wing propaganda.

Now The New York Times is reporting that CPB's right-wing chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, shelled out $15,000 to two Republican lobbyists, yet failed to report that expenditure to the corporation's board. One of the lobbyists was retained to evaluate and report on any alleged political leanings of Bill Moyers, former host of the "Now" news program on PBS. The two lobbyists then made suggestions to Tomlinson on possible legislation for House Republicans to cut off funding to CPB. That's a real violation of public trust and of the corporation's charter which states that its purpose is to buffer and protect public broadcasting entities from
politicians who would seek to unduly influence what all of us regular folks see and hear.

These developments are just the latest in a series of attacks on PBS and NPR by whiny conservatives who see a liberal behind every microphone not given the White House stamp of approval. And so again we have another example of a Bush appointee who has set out to intentionally undermine and destroy the agency he oversees, an agency designed to serve the public.

For the record, I have openly acknowledged that PBS tends to lean leftward, although not to the preposterous extreme of anything put out by the right. I also understand the criticism that tax dollars shouldn't be used to support unbalanced journalism, not that the Bush Administration had any trouble with using our tax dollars to produce fake news releases and bribe Armstrong Williams for positive coverage. I would also point out that only 15 percent of PBS' budget comes from federal funding. With that in mind, I support spinning off PBS and NPR as wholly private non-profit enterprises. It would really hurt in the short run, but only then would we have public broadcasting that we could trust to serve the American public. We certainly can no longer expect our federal government to do so.

Speaking of Bill Moyers, Bill Moyers speaks

Here's what he had to say in his commencement address at City University of New York:

The web of cooperation is under siege. A profound transformation is occurring in America as the balance between wealth and the commonwealth is threatened by the winner-take-all ideology. From public schools and universities to public lands and other natural resources, from the media with their broadcast and digital spectrums to scientific discovery and medical breakthroughs - and to politics itself - a broad range of the American commons is undergoing a public shift away from public responsibility and obligation to private control and exploitation.

This is no ordinary time. You are leaving here as the basic constitutional principles of America are under assault - an independent press and judiciary, the separation of church and state, progressive taxation and the social contract. You are going to be needed if we are to recover America as a shared project.

Thank you, Bill. Keep giving the bad guys hell.

In defense of Howard Dean

If you'll recall, last week I had some strong words to say about Howard Dean. I believed that his rhetoric had crossed the line into the sensational and even ridiculous. It was the kind of talk that I thought beneath Howard and more worthy of right-wingers like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Let those two and their fellow travelers corner the market on rhetorical demagoguery, I said. We can be tough, yet factually, academically and intellectually fair and honest.

Still, I'm troubled. I feel that much of the anti-Dean sentiment was orchestrated and calculated. We have a right-wing that wants to tie us down with our own fair-mindedness and decency while they beat us over the head with the meanest of rhetoric possible and the broadest strokes of the paintbrush imaginable. Their objections to Dean's comments - while fair and correct on the surface - also smacked of political opportunism. How dare you don't turn the other cheek and let us kick the other side of your face, the right-wingers tell us. How dare you refuse to fight with one hand tied behind your back. Indeed I fear that decent folks like myself played right into their hands.

With that in mind, I want to tell my liberal and progressive friends about Democratic Solidarity Day today. A liberal blogging ally of mine, Wendy Foster Dickson, passed me a list of several things we can do:
1. Tell all your friends.
2. Give money - even $5 sends a message - to the DNC.
3. Call elected Democratic officials in the House and Senate.
4. Sign the Dean Speaks for Me petition.
5. Write letters to the editor.

Frankly, sometimes Dean can be a bit much. But I also know that Dean has done more to energize the Democratic party than anyone else. Had it not been for his early fire last year, I know we would not have done nearly as well as we did. And I don't care what people say, our showing in November was pretty damned impressive.

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