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in Brother Karl’s head? “Gee, why don’t we pass a big supplemental spending bill so we can start handing out money to all our supporters who bungled the reconstruction of Iraq, and while we’re at it, let’s get the President to nullify the law providing federal protection for wages so that we can send the profits of our no-bid contractors soaring by depressing the pay of ordinary people who will work for them?” I’m not in the business of advising Democrats but they could certainly have helped their cause in next year’s Congressional elections if every one of them in the House and Senate had staged a sit-in on the Capitol steps chanting: “Mr. President, pay Americans a living wage! Working men and women deserve a living wage!” But they didn’t. In the same spirit right-wing senators couldn’t wait until the winds and water died down before leaping to their feet to announce that it couldn’t be a better time to put the repeal of estate taxes back on the legislative agenda. And corporate lobbyists were swarming over Capitol Hill beating the drums for more tax reductions and more loopholes and exemptions and for the lifting of environmental safeguards along the Gulf Coast. This is what they’ve done. They have taken the notion of the Commonwealth, the public good the ‘We the People’ in that magnificent preamble to the Constitution and they have soaked it in the sanctimony of homegrown Ayatollahs, squeezed it through a rigged market, and auctioned it to the highest bidder for private advantage, at the expense of working people, their families, and their communities. If only we could clone The Texas Observer, and plant it smack dab in the center of Washington, D.C. We need some Tom Paine kind of journalism. Thomas Paine was the journalist of the American Revolution, the champion of liberty, equality, and democracy. His pen shook the powerful and the propertied, the prestigious and the pious, the sunshine patriots who turned their backs on the ideals of the Revolution itself. Such bold journalism in Washington today would probe deep into the causes of our shocking inequality; would expose the corruption of our public life; would tell the truth about how the political, corporate, and religious cartel are hollowing out our middle class, punishing working people, and looting the future. Bold journalism might yet stir the American imagination to believe again in the promise of America the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all of us: men and women, old and young, black, brown, yellow and white, devout and agnostic, straight or gay. The Texas Observer has been doing Tom Paine kind of journalism for half a century now and doing it still. Thanks to Nate Blakeslee and The Texas Observer, there are 36 wrongly accused people in Tulia finally out of jail. Thanks to Jake Bernstein and Dave Mann and the Observer, “The Rise of the Machine’ the story of modern political corruption in Texas which became a foundation stone of the corruption that saturates Washington finally caught the attention of the national press and the dominoes are beginning to fall. As I read the Observer I think of the Irishman who comes upon a brawl in the street and asks, “Is this a private fight, or can anyone get in it?” You keep reminding us that democracy is a public fight. You tell the stories of Texans who have waded into the middle of it: Warren Burnett, Otto Mullinax, John Duncan, William Wayne Justice, Francis Farenthold, Ralph Yarborough, Sarah Weddington, Linda Coffee. Peter Tuerina and Maldef. Ernie Cortes and COPS, James Harrington and the Texas Civil Liberties Union. David Hall and Rural Legal Aid. From Bastrop County, and Deaf Smith County, from Hidalgo County, Smith County and occasionally even from Harrison County you’ve been reporting on men and women struggling against much larger forces, sometimes alone, sometimes in the company of others, knowing that whether they succeed or not, they had to make a fight of it, had to take a stand, for Texas to yield to justice. For half a century now you have covered that story like no other journalists in the state. You richly deserve this encore celebration. Judith and I are honored to be here with you. But the evening will be over soon enough, and the fight has just begun. Good luck and may the dollars rain down on you from good folks far and wide to make possible another fifty years. Beginning as a cub reporter for the Marshall News Messenger at the age of 16, Bill Moyers went on to serve as a founding organizer of the Peace Corps, a special assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson, the publisher of Newsday, a reporter and anchor for public television, senior correspondent for the distinguished documentary series CBS Reports, senior news analyst for the CBS Evening News, and, with his wife and creative partner Judith Davidson Moyers, the producer of dozens of pioneering television programs, including Now with Bill Moyers. His several books include the following bestsellers: Listening to America, The Power of Myth, Healing and the Mind, The Language of Life, and, most recently, Moyers on America: A Journalist and His Times. Today, he is president of The Schumann Center for Media and Democracy. 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 4, 2005