Archive for the ‘My heroes’ Category

My heroes: Bill Moyers

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

I always knew the incomparable beacon of light that is Bill Moyers would be featured in this column at some point, so when I learned last weekend that he announced he will resign from PBS in April 2010, I figured now was the time to write a post about him. I have been watching Bill Moyer’s Journal program regularly since it was resurrected for a second life on PBS in 2007 – I believe at the suggestion of my Grandma. I don’t own a television so I watch it online and while I don’t follow the schedule, I check in weekly to see who he’s been talking with.

Qualities he possesses that I respect most include:

1. his commitment to being one of the lone voices speaking truth to power in the tattered shreds of what we call “news media”;

2. the level of sincerity that fuels his investigations and an honest desire to get to the truth of the matter;

3. the courage he demonstrates by presenting important issues from many different sides without apology.

His understanding and mastery of the process behind investigative journalism, knowledge of history and ability to place events in meaningful context is now a dying art in our media. He has been unrelenting in his coverage of the health care reform debate/debacle and very recently challenged the President and members of Congress to reinstate the draft if they feel we should send more troops to Afghanistan.

Earlier this month he featured an interview with Anna Deavere Smith, one of the most awe-inspiring and unflinching voices in American theater, about her current show Let Me Down Easy. Some of my favorite episodes include several conversations with the noteworthy economist Simon Johnson, a fascinating discussion about Thomas Paine with two noted scholars and a mind-bending dissection of potential outcomes in relation to an important case currently under review by the Supreme Court that “could decide to erase the legal distinction between corporations and individuals”.

Last week’s episode was a lesson in history and featured rare recordings of LBJ in conversation with various advisors talking about how to deal with the war in Vietnam. It was particularly compelling given the current political debate about how to deal with Afghanistan (a war I believe we cannot win and should not be fighting) and I am sure Mr. Moyers intended to provoke reflection on our past experiences waging wars in foreign lands against guerrilla fighters. As the (paraphrased) saying goes: Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

Bill Moyers is one of the last independent journalists in the U.S. who knows his history and is using his position and program to advocate for our society’s progress and evolution, instead of serving the same old interests with the same poor results.  Watch him (and check out the show’s archives online) while you can.

Mr. Moyers – you will be sorely missed. Thank you for always shining your light into the dark places of our society.

My heroes: Elizabeth Warren

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

I’ve decided to start writing about people whom I feel are so important that everyone should know who they are. I begin with a woman who has become an amazing role model for me over the last year given her ability to speak truth to power eloquently and decisively.

Elizabeth Warren is a professor at Harvard Law School and Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, the committee responsible for figuring out where the TARP (aka bailout) money went.

She has been warning about the “coming collapse of the middle class” for years. The first time I saw her speak was in this amazing video of the same name hosted and presented by UC Berkeley’s Graduate Council Lecture series in March 2007.

Below is a great interview with her about her life, what motivated her to study bankruptcy and the middle class and how she got involved in consumer issues. She has co-authored two important books on the subject with her daughter, The Two-Income Trap and All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan.

Most recently, she spoke in a great interview with Yahoo! Finance at The Economist’s Buttonwood Gathering and had this to say:

Warren pulls no punches when it comes to her criticism of former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson for his failure to put any restrictions on or monitoring of the initial TARP funds, and for using the money for something other than “toxic asset relief,” as originally intended.”I have a real problem when we describe to taxpayers their money will be taken and used one way and in fact it’s used another way,” she declares.

And you can always check out how the COP is progressing by watching the quickie video updates summarizing each new report or if you are a true die-hard like me, checking out the full hearings (I listen to them while I cook).

I would call her the greatest living advocate for the middle class in the USA today. Having been born into the middle  class to parents who have struggled my whole life and destined to die in the middle class (assuming I don’t outlive it as a socio-economic strata in our society), I cannot put into words the anger and frustration I feel towards the leaders in big business and government who have chosen to capitulate and ultimately, serve institutions with giant lobbying budgets over  individual citizens. Smarter people than me have argued their complicity and collusion have systematically reduced this country to an oligarchy during my lifetime and I wonder every day where this nation will be in 5, 10 and 20 years unless we drastically change things for the better.

On behalf of our nation’s disenfranchised individuals, I want to thank you Elizabeth Warren for doing everything in your power to help us.