Category Archives: Bill Moyers

L is for Lincoln


Most Americans probably know Abraham Lincoln better than any other President. He’s the only one, other than John Kennedy, whose birth day (February 12, 1809) and date of death (April 15, 1865) I know by heart.

So why are historians endlessly fascinated by the 16th President to a degree that there are over 2500 biographies of the man? Maybe it’s because the simple narrative of Honest Abe, born in a log cabin, who saw slavery as an issue worth fighting a Civil War over is instinctively such an incomplete narrative.

2009 was the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth, and there were a number of pieces on PBS (public broadcasting in the US) about the man shed new light on him for me, and possibly for you as well.

Bill Moyers discussed THE LINCOLN ANTHOLOGY: GREAT WRITERS ON HIS LIFE AND LEGACY FROM 1860 TO NOW is a collection of more than 90 authors from across the years who create a constantly evolving portrait of the man whose shadow keeps lengthening across our history.

Moyers also highlighted Lincoln through the eyes of critically acclaimed, veteran dance artist Bill T. Jones. “In a groundbreaking work of choreography called FONDLY DO WE HOPE…FERVENTLY DO WE PRAY, Jones reimagines a young Lincoln in his formative years through dance.”

Jones said: “Lincoln was, in some people’s mind, always Honest Abe on a pedestal, but Lincoln had a sexuality. Lincoln was a politician. In the debates, Lincoln is the one that said to Douglas that, no, I would never marry a black woman. But I don’t — just because I don’t want a black woman for a wife doesn’t mean I must have her for a slave. And he even said, I’m not sure if all — if blacks and whites are equal, you know. But he said, people have the right to certain liberties. They have certain rights because they are in America. He was a man of his era.”

Also, from a conversation with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.:

What made Lincoln such a unique president?

Lincoln had a tremendous capacity for personal growth – more than any other American President. He was essentially a man of his times, resolute in his belief in the inequality of the races. But within the cauldron of the Civil War, he began to see that there could not be a United States without freedom for the black man. He came to embrace blacks, particularly those that fought so valiantly for the Union, as fully deserving the basic human right of freedom. He was slow to the cause to be sure, but once he got there, he was unshakable. Now, we will never know how far he might have gone had he lived. That’s part of the mystique that still surrounds him: the question “what if?”

Why is Lincoln’s legacy so contested?

Because Lincoln is so closely identified with what it is to be American, everyone wants to claim him, to rewrite his story to satisfy their own particular needs. For my own people, it was important to imagine him as the Great Emancipator, the Moses who led us out of slavery. For others, it was Lincoln the humble man who rose to greatness, or Lincoln the great Commander, or Lincoln the martyr. Every generation since his death has conjured up their own Lincoln. There were many Lincolns — enough for people to love and hate.

That explanation of the third US President (of eight) to die in office, but but the first (of four) to be assassinated, resonates with me. We project onto Lincoln, who was only 56 when he died, who he was and who he might have become. This might explain the release just last month of the generally positively-reviewed novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. No, really.

Finally, this story retold in Living Water.

The Debt
When he was an attorney, Abraham Lincoln was once approached by a man who passionately insisted on bringing a suit for $2.50 against an impoverished debtor. Lincoln tried to discourage him, but the man was bent on revenge. When he saw that the man would not be put off, Lincoln agreed to take the case and asked for a legal fee of $10, which the plaintiff paid. Lincoln then gave half of the money to the defendant, who willingly confessed to the debt and paid the $2.50! But even more amazing than Lincoln’s ingenuous settlement was the fact that the irate plaintiff was satisfied with it.*

More Lincoln photos here.

ABC Wednesday
The largest of over 100 places in the US named Lincoln is in Nebraska.

May Ramblin'

I was listening to one of the few podcasts I follow regularly, Coverville; highly recommended, BTW. Anyway, there is sometimes a segment at the end called Musically Challenged, in which a listener provides a quiz for Coverville host Brian Ibbott, and usually for Brian’s wife Tina. Lo and behold, the quiz for episode 574 was provided by Tosy and Cosh. Tosy was the one who turned me onto Coverville.

I had requested of Brian that he play a Pete Seeger cover in honor of Pete’s 90th birthday a couple weeks ago. Well, Brian didn’t play any Pete covers on May 3, but instead dedicated the whole next show to Seeger. My request for one song became the inspiration for the entire episode. I am pleased.
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A (weird) random conversation starter from Jaquandor.
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On June 6, 2009, in honor of the quadricentennial of Henry Hudson’s trip up the river that now bears his name, a musician will be playing the Mid-Hudson Bridge, the bridge that connects Poughkeepsie and Highland, near my college town of New Paltz. Not just playing ON the bridge, but actually playing the bridge as an instrument.
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1981 Video Predicts The Death Of Print Newspapers.
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Mr. Frog reviews the warts-and-all complete history of Sesame Street. It includes discussion of this scene which always chokes me up:

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How to test your copyright knowledge.
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A couple television programs you should watch. They’ve already aired, but thanks to the Internet, they are easily retrievable.

One is Bill Moyers Journal of April 17. Bill interviews the executive producer of HBO’s critically-acclaimed show THE WIRE, David Simon who “talks…about inner-city crime and politics, storytelling and the future of journalism today.” I’ve never seen The Wire, but now I must watch it on DVD. But you don’t have to have watched that vaunted program to appreciate his insights.

The other is a two-part 60 Minutes report narrated by Lesley Stahl. In Part 1 she “reports on flaws in eyewitness testimony that are at the heart of the DNA exonerations of falsely convicted people like Ronald Cotton, who has now forgiven his accuser, Jennifer Thompson.” In Part 2, she “explores the task of an eyewitness to choose a criminal out of line up through memory. Jennifer Thompson falsely selected Ronald Cotton as her rapist.” Thompson and Cotton are now friends, and have co-written a book, Picking Cotton.
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Dom Deluise as role model for Mark Evanier, of a sort.

ROG

O is for Opportunities

OK, I am a sucker for good causes:
BlogCatalog and Heifer International are partnering to call for the end of world hunger and start of hope on April 29. All we ask is that you join thousands of other bloggers and write a post about world hunger on April 29.
You Can Make a Difference.

I am posting this a day early in case others want to join in.

* Right now, more than 500 million people are living in “absolute poverty” and more than 15 million children die of hunger every year.
* World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the population is underfed and another third is starving.
* Even in the United States, 46 percent of African-American children and 49 percent of Latino children are considered chronically hungry.

Organizations like Heifer International are the solution. Every day in April, Heifer International is lifting people out of poverty by providing communities with livestock and agricultural training to improve lives and inspire hope.
What can you do for Bloggers Unite For Hunger And Hope?

* Join this event by visiting Bloggers Unite and adding a badge to your blog before April 29.
* Visit Heifer International to learn more about Pass On The Gift.
*Make a small donation or take some other action to end world hunger.
*Blog about world hunger on April 29 with links to solutions all over the world.

I was stuck for an idea about what different perspective I could bring to the topic, until yesterday, when my American Institute of Philanthropy Charity Rating Guide and Watchdog Report showed up in the mail. Among other information, the website designates the top-rated charities in a variety of categories. For hunger, they include, with links:
Action Against Hunger – USA A+
Bread for the World B+
Bread for the World Institute A
Feeding America (formerly America’s Second Harvest) A
Food Bank for New York City (formerly Food for Survival) A–
Food for the Hungry B+
Freedom from Hunger A–
Global Hunger Project A
The grades are based on “rigorous analysis. Groups included on the Top-Rated list generally spend 75% or more of their budgets on programs, spend $25 or less to raise $100 in public support, do not hold excessive assets in reserve, and receive ‘open-book’ status for disclosure of basic financial information and documents to AIP.” Knowing this information is extremely helpful, for, in the words of the newsletter, “As the unemployment rate continues to rise and home foreclosures increase, it is more important than ever that those who are able lend a hand to their neighbors who need it.”

I am interested to hear from any of you , especially outside the Unites States, to find out if watchdog groups such as AIP exist elsewhere.
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Also, here’s something I learned about watching Bill Moyers’ Journal on PBS, American public television:

Playing For Change — Songs Around The World CD/DVD in stores now

After 4 years of filming and recording musicians around the globe, we are finally releasing our album “Playing For Change: Songs around the World,” featuring a 10 song CD and 7 track DVD. This is a collection of songs and videos featuring over 100 musicians from around the world that have never met in person, but have been brought together through the power of music.

Today is our chance to show the world that independent projects designed to connect and inspire people can be successful.

The album demonstrates that regardless of our religion, race, gender, or political views we can unite through music. The time is now to unite as a human race and this global collaboration driven by your love and encouragement is designed to lead us in that direction.

The CD/DVD is available online or at that increasingly popular purveyor of music, Starbucks.

ROG

And the other thing

Last weekend was extremely busy. I went to a library discussion on Saturday afternoon, more about which I’m pretty sure I’ll share eventually. That night, Carol and i got a babsitter (yay!), ate dinner at some place called the Pump Station, then went to the Palace Theatre to hear the Albany Symphony Orchestra participate in A Night of Italian Opera, celebrating Puccini’s 150th birthday. There were selections by Verdi, Donizetti, Rossini, Puccini, of course, and others (Honoring the Capital Region’s Italian-American Community.) The baritone was a last minute replacement for another singer, and he was good, but the other three especially the mezzo-soprano, were quite expressive. It was more fun that it may sound. Thanks to the couple who gave us the tickets.

Sunday after church and our church’s stewardship luncheon, I went to a comic book show in Albany (actually Colonie) described by ADD here and here.

Monday, I took off from work so I could catch up on things. I did get to watch Bill Moyers. Instead of his usual recent fare of voter fraud, misleading political ads and of course the economic meltdown, he sat with Mark Johnson, “the producer of a remarkable documentary about the simple but transformative power of music: PLAYING FOR CHANGE: PEACE THROUGH MUSIC. The film brings together musicians from around the world — blues singers in a waterlogged New Orleans, chamber groups in Moscow, a South African choir — to collaborate on songs familiar and new, in the effort to foster a new, greater understanding of our commonality.” You may have seen the Stand By Me video on Evanier’s page, but there’s lots more.
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Uncharacteristically, I actually replied to Five For Friday this week.

ROG

A Cornucopia of Stuff

The good news here is that after six weeks of having her teeth wired shut, my wife Carol can now open her mouth. This doesn’t mean she can have steak, but she can have soft foods such as scrambled eggs. After a month and a half of not using one’s jaw, one must relearn to use it.
One problem is that she cannot yet open her mouth sufficiently to use her toothbrush, something she was REALLY looking forward to. Fortunately, her clever husband, quite possibly inspired by this workshop, suggested that Carol use a smaller toothbrush, and as it turned out, we had a couple replacement brushes for Lydia that Carol could use.
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One of my sisters works for Wachovia bank – well, she did until there WAS no Wachovia. Like just about everyone dealing with a bank, she didn’t originally work for the former giant, but rather First Union out of Charlotte, NC, where my mother also used to work. But First Union got taken over up by Wachovia and now Wachovia is owned by Citicorp. It reminds me of fish in the food chain being swallowing up ever larger creatures. In any case, she still has a job, for now.
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While my retiring Democratic Congressman, Mike McNulty , voted for the bailout, the frosh Congresswoman from the area, Kirsten Gillibrand , voted no. So did Maurice Hinchey, a liberal Dem from my old district, whose state Assembly campaign I supported in 1974. And of course, Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who’s been marginalized a lot this year, but is often correct. Someone sent me this alternative proposal; we’ll see if THAT passes.
Seriously, they’ll be some sort of deal soon, if only because there is no credit available for businesses large or small.
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The Veep debate is tonight, and it ought to generate real interest, mostly to see if Sarah Palin will self-destruct. Based on her performances in the Alaska gubernatorial debates, excerpts of which can be found here, she may fare better than most people think. On the other hand, check out this link. After the 50 seconds of the Today show description of Tina Fey channeling Palin, you will watch a side-by-side comparison of Palin and Fey. As SamuraiFrog asked: “You know what the difference is between Tina Fey and a pit bull with lipstick? Tina Fey didn’t have to keep looking down at her notes.”
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Bill Moyers’ interview with Andrew J. Bacevich on his book “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism”, which is “one in a series called the ‘American Empire Project.’ Several noted scholars and writers are examine American aspirations at home and abroad, looking for ways to foster democracy without succumbing to imperial ambitions.”
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Because you need to know: an Internet Memes timeline.
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That’s all I’ve got, but I’d be curious to get your reaction to my piece Is getting people interested in politics REALLY a good idea?

ROG

Getting Wright the Second Time

I had thought that I had set up a recording of Bill Moyers’ Journal Friday night. The Reverend Jeremiah Wright was Bill’s guest. Then at 9:30 pm, I noticed that the recording light on the DVR wasn’t on, and soon I figured out why; the local PBS station, WMHT, was having its @#$%^&* fundraising auction! Fortunately, I could find the remaining part of the program on a secondary WMHT channel on cable.

I found Jeremiah Wright to be far more thoughtful and less vitriolic than the snippets would suggest. In fact, of those snippets, Reverend Wright said, “When something is taken like a sound bite for a political purpose and put constantly over and over again, looped in the face of the public, that’s not a failure to communicate. Those who are doing that are communicating exactly what they wanna do, which is to paint me as some sort of fanatic…”

I was intrigued to find that Reverend Wright’s “infamous” sermon of September 16, 2001 was based on Psalm 137. You may know the first six verses of that psalm from the reggae song “By the Rivers of Babylon”. But I recall a former pastor of mine, last time this scripture came up in the lectionary, talk about what a difficult scripture it was to preach on:

1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.

2 There on the poplars
we hung our harps,

3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

4 How can we sing the songs of the LORD
while in a foreign land?

5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill .

6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.

7 Remember, O LORD, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
“tear it down to its foundations!”

8 O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is he who repays you
for what you have done to us-

9 he who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.

I hope you take the time to watch the video and/or read the transcript of Bill Moyers’ interview of Jeremiah Wright, rather than have the soundbites dictate your opinion of him.

ROG

April Ramblin'

Added to my blogroll:

Bob and Ray’s Old Time Radio.

Sports Illustrated Vault.

Stuff I’ve been thinking about:

The 2008 TIME 100 Finalists. Tyler Perry went from the middle of the pack to #4 after he sent out e-mails to his fans. Meanwhile, at #73, Britney Spears is ahead of Condi Rice, David Petraeus and George W. Bush,, among many others.

The BBB Offers Free Document Shredding During National “Secure Your ID” Day – May 3, 2008; not one community in New York State is participating!

Who is the patriot? One who served or one who deferred and continued to defer and never served?

Bill Moyers: Journalists As Truth-Tellers. Were it more so.

Why it’s so tough to unseat incumbent politicians

Power to the people vs give peace a chance. Ah, Mike Gravel, you rock.

What your money looks like, if you’re using US currency.

Having To Say You Work For A Bimbo.

The Global Tribute Fund is “an initiative to pay tribute to the inspiring women in our lives.”

Please DO NOT buy this book.

Garrison Keillor gets nostalgic over Northwest Airlines. Obviously, the OLD Northwest Orient, because the conglomerate that’s threatening to merge with Delta is the one airline I absolutely have refused to fly for years.

There’s a comic book show in Albany this Sunday; might go. I thought to go to the NYCC last weekend, but it didn’t work out; Fred Hembeck tells all about it. Ron Marz and my friend Bill Anderson will have been at both shows.

How to Slap a Hamburger Together — in 156 Steps.

Sexy Trips to the Library Stacks. But would you expect otherwise?

ROG

Roger Answers Your Questions, Gordon and Rick

Gordon, whose birthday is the day before mine, albeit a couple several many years later, asks:

1)Who IS your hero?
Actually, it’s anyone who speaks truth to power. But the person who’s moved me the most this year is Bill Moyers on PBS, who used to work in LBJ’s administration. He’s talked about the fallacies of the war in Iraq, taken on Big Media in a BIG way, and speaks about religion and faith and race in a wonderful, open-minded manner. Did you see Keith Olbermann on his show recently? Maybe I’m reading into it, but I think Keith, who I like, BTW, is a bit in awe of Bill, because they are in the same “town crier” business, but Moyers has been doing it a lot longer.

2) In this age of mega media-conglomeration, when the major studios are crying poverty during the Writer’s Strike…what do you suggest we (as citizens) do?
Use less. Interesting sentence, that, because take away the space and it’s useless, which is how I think lots of people are feeling about struggling against the mass everything. And it is a struggle. But to the degree possible, go to the locally-owned movie theater. See the local productions. Watch Moyers. As to the specifics of the writer’s strike, don’t watch the network shows online, don’t buy DVDs (if you really must see the complete Stargate again, rent it.)
Did you see the Story of Stuff? If you do, I think you’ll be less likely to want to buy the crap that we’re being told that we MUST have. It’s all part of the same struggle. On the same news cycle that we read that retailers are hoping for a late pre-Christmas shopping surge, we see that credit card debt is getting higher than ever.
They put out individual seasons of our favorite TV show and we buy that. Then they put out the box set with “extras”, expecting us to buy that too. Don’t. The music industry works the same way; no wonder that many people are “ripping off” the record companies. The system seems to be designed, per planned obsolesce and/or bait and switch, to make you buy the same thing again and again. Don’t let ’em.

Before I get to Gordon’s last question, I want to address this query by George (Rick) Lewis: Why are the daytime talk shows unaffected by the writer’s strike??? Well, I did not know that they weren’t affected. Poking around the Internet, I’ve read that the producers have enough scripts to get through January. And at least during the last strike 20 years ago, scabs non-union “scribes” were hired to pick up the slack. But the particulars of who is or is not covered is not my area of expertise; go ask Mark Evanier.

3) Why do people insist on playing/listening to “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”? That is one of the most annoying songs ever written.

(Plus, traumatic incidents should never be comedy fodder).

Let me take on the parenthetical aside first. Trauma is often comedy fodder. I understand the feeding the Christians to the lions was considered great fun; well, not to the Christians, I suppose.
Seriously, there are people who think that horror movies where the cliched young adults meet their demise is high camp; I tend not to watch them myself, but that’s what I’ve heard.
One traumatic event I thought was TERRIBLY funny was the end of the movie, The Life of Brian – a crucifixion! And the victims are singing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”! A song so strong that it made its way into the musical Spamalot. So I think the eye-gouging of the Three Stooges or Wile E. Coyote’s Acme bomb blowing up before he gets the Road Runner (meep meep) definitely have its fans.

As to the Elmo and Patsy song itself, I’ll admit that I actually purchased the single. (For you youngsters, a single, for about a half century starting in the 1950s, was a seven-inch piece of musical vinyl with a large hole in the middle, to be played at 45 revolutions per minute on something called a “record player”.) And I liked it because it was, to my mind, a lovely little deconstruction of all the cloying sentimentality of the season. I never thought it would turn out to be a perennial favorite, and I don’t listen to it much any more, mostly because I’ve become bored with it. (And the remake that you hear on the radio is not, to my mind, as good as the less-polished version that I purchased.) In any event, Gordon, it may please you to know that others share your sentiment.
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Confidential to GP: I’m not sure that I’ve had a breakup as devastating as yours with Liar Ex (who told many lies). But the cumulative effect on me of “love gone bad” (title of a Chris Clark song, not bad grammar) has had its impact. Were you ever dumped by an e-mail so circuitous that it took you three reads to get the message? I have. I’m just sayin’. But if I went through the litany, we’d both be way too depressed.

ROG

Big Media Consolidation and Why You Should Hate It

BILL MOYERS JOURNAL|FCC Update|PBS November 16, 2007
On November 2, 2007, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced that the Commission would hold the sixth and final public hearing on media consolidation November 9, 2007 in Seattle, Washington. Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein blasted the Chairman’s decision to give the public only five business days notice before the hearing: “With such short notice, many people will be shut out … This is outrageous and not how important media policy should be made.”
The video’s eight and a half minutes, but if you care about American media, it’ll be worth your time.
Then you can watch this 23 minute piece from earlier in the month.
Read FCC (Democratic) commissioner Michael Copps vs. “Big Media”.
While the issue on the FCC is a Republican (3) vs. Democrat (2) issue, the fear of media consolidation runs from the Christian Coalition to MoveOn.

Contact the FCC before December 11. Then, because reaching out to the FCC probably won’t matter, contact your federal legislators.
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Top 10 Christmas Gifts for Conservatives in 2007 from the Human Events Book Service

The usual suspects (Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck), a Reagan bio, Clarence Thomas’ autobiography. AND The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris:
“Are these the most ‘politically incorrect’ children’s stories ever written?
Perhaps. But they’re also among the most delightful and moral. Now they’re back – with the original artwork
Isn’t it just like liberals to diminish genuine racial and cultural diversity in the name of respecting it?”
That last line was almost enough for a spit take.

ROG