Monday, September 29, 2008

Wall Street is a Casino

Just in case we needed any more proof that our financial markets have devolved into a casino atmosphere, today the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered its worst-ever one-day point drop, 777.68 points, eclipsing the record set on the first trading day after 9/11. Seems kind of like a message from the cosmos....

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bill Clinton on The Daily Show: transcript

President Bill Clinton was the guest on Tuesday's (2008-09-23) The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central. I've been hearing a lot of chatter lately about whether or not the Clintons are doing "enough" to support Barack Obama's candidacy, in spite of what I think was a strong and heartfelt double-barreled endorsement at the convention. I don't doubt that there are still some unhealed emotional wounds left from the campaign, but I don't think Bill or Hillary got to where they are today by mixing their politics with their personal feelings. That's the kind of myopia we've come to expect from the Republicans (especially the Schoolyard Bully-in-Chief, George Dubya Bush) and their PUMA allies. I believe that Hillary really wanted to be President, and Bill wanted her to be, but the idea that they would hold back and let McCain–Palin win, just to boost her chances in 2012, is absurd, most especially because it would backfire. If we make the campaign about insults and slights instead of issues and insight, we play right into John McCain's hands. Bill Clinton made that case again on Tuesday.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Tuesday, September 23, 2008, ©2008 Comedy Central


Jon Stewart: Welcome back. My guest tonight: a two-term President of the United States, his Clinton Global Initiative kicks off its annual meeting tomorrow, September 24th — please welcome back to the show President Bill Clinton. [applause] Thank you for joining us. Nice to see you again. [applause and cheers] [gestures towards the audience] Very excited. Let me ask you — I know that Presidential legacy is an important thing — are you grateful to this President?

President Bill Clinton: Actually, I was thinkin' about how, now that you've shown me the light, if I were there I'd spend the $700 billion for 2,000 [McDonald's apple] pies — I never realized that option was out there. Thank you.

Stewart: The first one, you burn the roof of your mouth, but you learn. By pie #350, you'll learn.

Clinton: After you eat 350, you won't care that you don't own a home any more.

Stewart: — you'll be so full, or you could just build an apartment building out of pies and live in there, and they heat themselves. Here's what's difficult for me to understand: the President says, "Boy, this problem's so big that I need $700 billion of taxpayer money to save us. I'd never normally do this — I'm a free-market guy," but he rails on — if you wanna give health insurance to kids without it, that's "socialism." Does he have a functioning [gestures at brain]? The cognitive dissonance

Clinton: We ought to say, "Okay, you want us to put up the $700 billion? Here are the conditions: Number 1, there has to be an effort to — there ought to be a moratorium on home mortgage foreclosures, and every single one of these mortgages ought to be reviewed, and if you can write 'em down a little bit and somebody can make the payment, that will cost the taxpayers less and the economy less than a foreclosure. So, first, rewrite it — that's what we did in the Depression, it actually made money for the taxpayers. By the way, when I loaned Mexico the money — remember that? — they paid it back early with a $600 million profit. So, that's the second criteria [sic]. The one thing that the government did that I like in the last few days, when they helped AIG, they loaned 'em money, they took an 80% ownership share. They loaned the money at interest — it was a very high interest rate, they're gonna make a profit. The second thing we ought to say is, "Look: you wanna take all of our money as taxpayers and help these people get through a rough spot? Fine. You either gotta loan them money at interest, so we can make money, or if you loan them the money, in effect, with no interest, then you have to get a piece of the upside. You get a percentage of the profit that goes back to the taxpayers.

Stewart: Is that "nationalization"? Are we now France?

Clinton: No, but it's a heavier involvement of the government, but it's what happened because we had too much speculation, too long.

Stewart: Did anyone see this comin'? You're in Cabinet meetings, you hold Cabinet meetings — does the Treasury Secretary in a meeting go, "Oh, before we go, I just wanna mention — you know those banks? They don't have any more money!"

Clinton: Well, they should have, because all markets play out. This all started because you had too much money, and the only place it could make money was in housing. If you remember, in my second term, we had lots of jobs in part because all these high-tech industries were booming.

Stewart: Right.

Clinton: Like every boom, it led to a downturn. When the downturn occurred, the Federal Reserve left a lot of money in America, but the only thing then making money was housing. 2001 — the fundamental — this is why this Presidential election is important, folks — not to find evil-doers, but growth. In 2001, all this money was out there, and it all went into housing and construction, so we had to keep findin' funny ways to have more houses, like the sub-prime mortgages or the derivatives. What if we'd put a lot of this money into solar energy, into wind energy, into a hybrid electric vehicle, into all these things that — making all of our cities as energy-efficient as possible — we would've created millions of jobs, raised incomes, had the revenues to provide healthcare to everybody, and there would've been competition for investment. So —

Stewart: You're sounding like a crazy person.

Clinton: I tell you — all I'm saying is —

Stewart: If we held a Presidential race today, what do you think you'd win by? Twenty [percent]?

Clinton: No.

Stewart: For real, don't you think — in your heart of hearts, don't you think, if you threw yourself out there and you went up against them, you would pretty much crush 'em?

Clinton: Well, I think —

Stewart: You still got it!

[laughter and cheers]

Stewart: We're gonna come back with some more.

Clinton: The most important thing is, Barack Obama is gonna win.

Stewart: Ah, you've got a Barack Obama fan there!

Clinton: I think Obama is gonna win. Our party is gonna win this Presidential race because [inaudible]. [audience cheers]

Stewart: We'll be right back, more with Bill Clinton

[commercial break]

Stewart: All right, we're back with President Bill Clinton. We're discussing — I wanna talk about, you mentioned one of the parts of this bailout you think is important is Congressional oversight. Can the Democratic Congress have that oversight and do it effectively? Because the difference between, let's say, the Republican Congress in '94, that you were up against. They seemed focused, had an ability to challenge you, they had an ability to try and rein in what they thought was an opposite ideology; this Democratic Congress seems unable to mount a meaningful challenge.

Clinton: Well, I think, first, let's give them credit: they have passed a lot of progressive legislation — in education, they raised the minimum wage, they did a lot of other things, they're gonna pass a good energy bill here. I think they passed one that was pretty good before, but they're gonna pass a better one, I think, now. Now, here's the problem they have: the President can veto what they pass, and they don't have a veto-proof margin. When the Newt Gingrich Congress was elected [in 1994], they were in a very different frame of mind: they wanted to do things and they knew I could stop them, but they also wanted to just say no to me — and they hadn't had a majority in decades. So, I would say Newt [Gingrich] was a better — better is the wrong word, but, clearer —

Stewart: Even now, you can't bring yourself....

Clinton: Oh, I get along with him fine, but I never had any doubt what would happen to me if I got caught alone in a dark alley. [laughter] But he was smart, articulate, and forceful, but there was a lot of appeal then to this hard-core right-wing rhetoric.

Stewart: But with everything going on, does it surprise you, does it stun you, with the dire consequences of all these things, that this election apparently is taking us all the way back to 1968 and Nixonian and McGovern "culture divide"? It's once again the Left demonizing the Right for closed-mindedness and the Right demonizing the Left for elitism, and it almost seems like a repeat of this same movie that we keep seeing.

Clinton: And I think — as you know, I think it's a mistake. That is, I think, for Senator Obama — I told you before, I think he'll win; I think he'll win because he's run a responsive campaign to the issues, I think he's intelligent, I think he's really tried to come to grips with — like, this financial crisis; he's tried to come up with answers — and I think that the economy's in trouble: 2/3 of the American people are having trouble payin' their bills, demographically the country's moving toward us and greater diversity, enthusiastically there are more Democratic new voters than Republican ones, and [Obama]'s very well organized, as I saw in the primary. [laughter] So, I think — I'll be surprised, really surprised, if he doesn't win, but you should understand that we all vote for a whole welter of different reasons, and you shouldn't be surprised that a lot of young people and immigrants identify with Senator Obama, and you shouldn't be surprised that a lot of Vietnam veterans and older identify with John McCain and the extraordinary sacrifice he made for the country.

Stewart: I'm not surprised that they identify; I'm always surprised that the conversation is dominated in the media and everything else.

Clinton: All right, but if you go back to the speech that Hillary gave and the speech I gave in Denver, we tried to stop that. Because Senator Obama —

Stewart: Even that's a great example: and the media narrative for both of those was, "Did Hillary say enough? Did she give Obama enough love? Did Bill Clinton show Obama enough love?" The whole thing was not about what you said, it was about, "Would you reach the 'bar' of love?" Even this guy in the audience said to me, "Did you see him on Letterman? I don't know if he really endorsed Obama enough." Unless you get a tattoo [on your forehead] — you may have to get a tattoo or some kind of a permanent bumper sticker [on your upper arm].

Clinton: All I can tell you is, I'm glad he's got people who love him that much, but those are not the people that hold this election. The people that hold this election are the people who think that he is on their side and he loves them. In other words, he needs to get the votes of the people that voted for Hillary, or independents [who] didn't even vote, but they know the country's off in the wrong direction, they want a change — and what I tried to do and what Hillary tried to do in Denver was to say, "Listen: this isn't about people's personal feelings, this is about which President is on your side, who is in there for you and your family and your children and your future, who is going to restore the American Dream at home, who is going to restore our country's position for peace and prosperity and harmony throughout the world." If you look at that, we — she and I — have concluded that, even though we have had a long and good relationship with Senator McCain, we admire him — there's no question that if you vote for Senator Obama and Senator Biden, you'll get better economic results, broader shared prosperity, fewer of these headache problems, and a better position in the world; that's what we believe, and I think that's the ground on which you want to fight the election. Look, the purpose of this election is not for people to pass emotional hurdle tests — you know, this is not a Rorschach test, this is about winning an election that can change the future of the country by giving it back to the American people.

Stewart: That's actually very powerful. Let me just try this out: [to aforementioned audience member] does that do it? Are you sold yet? [to Clinton] Now he feels better. He feels better now. If you just —

Clinton: I'll tell you this, just one thing, since you mentioned that: I have been — I'm doin' this [Clinton] Global Initiative, and then I'm goin' out. Hillary has already done more for Senator Obama than all the runners-up in the Democratic nominating process in the last 40 years combined. Combined.

Stewart: [to audience member] Jerk!

Clinton: [grabs Stewart's elbow] No, not "jerk," no, not "jerk," but let's get real here. The purpose of this election is to win. We need to do what gets votes. We've already got all the people that love us on this side; we gotta get some others. We gotta love them, not expect them to love us.

Stewart: Let me just say this: that really hurt my arm. President Bill Clinton!

Yet another excellent bit of television: Wednesday night's Late Night with David Letterman, on which Dave ripped McCain for canceling at the last minute, and most especially for lying about his reasons, plus the fact that — even supposing business in Washington required McCain to drop his campaign schedule, his running mate should have been able to pick up more of the slack.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jackson Browne on Colbert: transcript

Wow! Quite the night for noteworthy television. Countdown's coverage of George F. Will's repudiation of McCain was excellent, Jon Stewart interviewed Bill Clinton on The Daily Show [transcript and embedded video], and Stephen Colbert interviewed singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, whose song "Running on Empty" was used in an attack ad by John McCain against Barack Obama, leading Browne to sue. It is the last of those that gets tonight's transcript slot.

Jackson Browne on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, Tuesday, September 23, 2008, ©2008 Comedy Central.


Stephen Colbert: A huge longtime fan, which makes it even harder to do what I have to do right now, which is tear you a new one, my friend. Now, you're suing John McCain, because he used "Running on Empty"? Tell me about it.

Jackson Browne: Yeah, well, he used my song in an attack ad, attacking Barack Obama, and he didn't —

Colbert: So??

Browne: — ask for it, nor would he have been given permission. He didn't get permission, he didn't pay for it.

Colbert: How do deny John McCain anything? Need I remind you who else denied him their song rights? The Việt Cộng! [laughter] The man gets anything he wants now.

Browne: Evidently.

Colbert: Yeah, evidently he does. So, what's your problem with McCain? You've got a few differences of opinion, I'm guessing. What are your concerns that he doesn't share?

Browne: Well, uh, besides copyright, besides honoring artists' rights to their property —

Colbert: Oh, it's "free" everything, "Free Love!", "Free Speech!" — but not free songs.

Browne: That's right.

Colbert: That's right. That's very selective with your freedom there, Jack!


Browne: Well, you know, I'm also pretty tight with my endorsements. I don't endorse anybody who comes along.

Colbert: You didn't endorse me when I ran for President, and I didn't even use one of your songs. I used Devo's "Whip It!" — and I got some trouble for that. Yeah, they were pretty mad at me, but I think it was a perfectly valid use for the song, because, you know, as the lyric says, "when a problem comes along, you must whip it!"

Browne: Yeah, one of the great rock lyrics of all time.

Colbert: So, you're no fan of nuclear energy, are you?

Browne: No.

Colbert: What are your problems with nuclear energy, other than the fact that there might be an accident or a meltdown or fallout from a terrorist attack? Other than those three, 'cause I've named them —

Browne: Other than that, it can't pay for itself. It needs government subsidies, which basically will result in a sort of socialized corporatism that the American people would pay for and Wall Street would profit from

Colbert: They're getting used to paying for things that Wall Street profits from.

Browne: Exactly.

Colbert: So I think it might be easier in the future, to sell that idea.

Browne: The problem is, they still don't know what to do with all the waste. They act as if, "Oh, we're gonna work that out in the next little while," but it's been 50, 60 years now —

Colbert: Why don't we just spread the waste evenly from state to state? Or do you have something against mutants now?

Browne: Exactly.

Colbert: "Everybody should be accepted, except people with psychic power"?

Browne: That's it, that's it.

Colbert: You have a new album called Time the Conqueror.

Browne: Yes.

Colbert: Is it safe to assume that that is about a time-traveling conquistador?

Browne: Sort of, yeah, no, it's about that time is the one thing that will conquer all of us, and conquer —

Colbert: That's why we should stay in Iraq for 100 years, because that's the best way to conquer it, just throw as much time at it as we possibly can.

Browne: That's the other thing I really differ with McCain on, you know. He should not — we should be out of Iraq as fast as we can. We should be leaving —

Colbert: Whose side are you on in this war??

Browne: That's a very good question. I asked that —

Colbert: It's an excellent question.

Browne: I asked that question in my new album. I asked that question in "Drums of War," that's right: Who is the enemy? Who is the enemy?

Colbert: The "Blame America First" crowd.

Browne: No, who — [laughter] — no, no: who is the enemy who's trying to crush us? Who's the enemy of peace and justice? Who's the enemy of truth and freedom? Where are the courts when we need them? Why is impeachment "off the table"?

Colbert: Oh, just because it rhymes doesn't make it true, Jackson! It's not fair! I don't have a rhyming dictionary back here!

Browne: We'd better stop them, while we are able.

Colbert: Will you come back, and rhyme with a guitar?

Browne: Sure. Sure.

Colbert: Thank you, Jackson. Jackson Browne — he'll be right back.

[commercial break]

Jackson Browne then performed his song "Going Down to Cuba," available on iTunes.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Stealing America: Vote by Vote

At the Netroots Nation conference in Austin this July, we got a sneak preview of the documentary Stealing America: Vote by Vote. Tonight, it opens in San Francisco (Lumiere), Berkeley (Shattuck), San Jose (Camera 12) and Jupiter, Florida (Cobb). The filmmaker's website has details on future engagements, as well as DVD ordering info. The filmmaker will also be attending the 7:00pm showing tonight at the Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California @ Polk, in San Francisco.

We all remember the "hanging chads" fiasco from Florida in the 2000 Presidential election, but that is by no means the full extent of shady dealings that have justifiably eroded confidence in the fairness and accuracy of our elections. The litany is downright depressing, from the last two Alabama gubernatorial elections to the mysterious shortage of voting stations in minority precincts in Ohio in 2004 to the unlawful purge of people who merely had similar names to convicted felons in Florida, and many more that I'll be reminded of tonight at the screening.

Stealing America: Vote by Vote is definitely not a "feel-good" movie, but it's a "must-see" all the same.

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