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A very interesting profile of Al Gore

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James Fallows talked recently with Al Gore (just this past summer), and his account of their discussion is extremely interesting:

“When I left the White House in 2001, I really didn’t know what I was going to do with my life,” Al Gore told me this summer, at his office in the Green Hills district of Nashville. “I’d had a plan”—this with a seemingly genuine chuckle rather than any sign of a grimace—“but … that changed!” After the “change,” via the drawn-out 2000 presidential election in which he won the vote of the populace but not that of the Supreme Court, for the first time in his adult life Gore found himself without an obvious next step. He was 52, two years younger than Barack Obama is now; he hadn’t worked outside the government in decades; and even if he managed to cope personally with a historically bitter disappointment that might have broken many people, he would still face the task of deciding how to spend the upcoming years.

Some of the answers he found are known to everyone. He connected himself with the leading tech firms of the era, Google and Apple. In 2005 he and a partner launched Current TV, which in 2013 was sold to Al Jazeera for several hundred million dollars. Throughout his political life he was poor compared with many senators; now by any standard he is rich. According to his financial-disclosure forms, Gore was worth between $1 million and $2 million when he ran for president. Gore declined to discuss his personal finances with me, but published estimates of his net worth are in the hundreds of millions. He was the most prominent U.S. politician to issue an early warning against the impending invasion of Iraq, which he did in a speech in California in September 2002. His first book about climate change, An Inconvenient Truth, was a No. 1 international best seller. The movie version won two Oscars, the audiobook won a Grammy, and for his climate work Gore was a co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

Gore is still involved on most of these fronts. He has become a partner in the Silicon Valley venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins and is a member of the Apple board. He founded and chairs an advocacy group called the Climate Reality Project, travels constantly for speeches, and has published several books since An Inconvenient Truth, including another No. 1 best seller, The Assault on Reason. I asked him how he divided his time among the projects. “Probably a little more than half on Climate Reality,” and then half on some other commitments. “And then probably another half on Generation.”

The object of this final “half” is Generation Investment Management, a company that is rarely mentioned in press coverage of Gore but that he says is as ambitious as his other efforts.

The most sweeping way to describe this undertaking is as . . .

Continue reading.

Well worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 October 2015 at 10:55 am

An interesting aspect of Joe Biden, and a good reminder of some recent history

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Jeffrey Toobin has an excellent brief review of one aspect of Joe Biden, well worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 October 2015 at 10:50 am

Hillary Clinton and the Wall Street Democrats

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens write in Wall Street on Parade:

To fully get your mind around Hillary Clinton’s new,toothless plan to “Prevent the Next Crash” on Wall Street, you need to know a few things right up front. Hillary hails not from the Democratic Party that genuinely cares about America’s staggering wealth and income inequality and the plight of the little guy, but from a grotesquely disfigured hybrid organization informally known as the “Wall Street Democrats.”

In that hybrid organization, money trumps morals, duty to country and the public interest. It is a shrine to crony capitalism, infused with lawyers who believe “it’s legal if you can get away with it.” Just as Wall Street’s watchdogs suffer from regulatory capture, the Wall Street Democrats are afflicted with “cognitive capture,” a polite way of saying public officials covet the wealth they hang around with on Wall Street and expect equal earning power when they pass through the gold-plated revolving door.

After former President Bill Clinton signed Citigroup’s dream deal in 1999 to repeal the depression era Glass-Steagall Act that separated insured banks from gambling casinos on Wall Street, then U.S. Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin (another Wall Street Democrat) who lobbied for the repeal, quickly beat a path to Citigroup’s door where he received compensation of more than $115 million over the next decade. After Bill Clinton left the White House, Citigroup paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees and committed $5.5 million to the Clinton Global Initiative – a program that has become controversial over fears that corporations and foreign governments were attempting to curry favor with Hillary while she was Secretary of State by making donations to the related Clinton Foundation.

Quite recently it was accepted wisdom that all of those speaking fees for both Clintons, plus book royalties and government compensation has pushed the couple into the $100 million net worth area. But Dan Alexander of Forbes writes the following in the current issue:

“Since Bill and Hillary Clinton left the White House in 2001, they have earned more than $230 million. But in federal filings the Clintons claim they are worth somewhere between $11 million and $53 million. After layering years of disclosures on top of annual tax returns, Forbes estimates their combined net worth at $45 million. Where did all of the money go? No one seems to know, and the Clintons aren’t offering any answers.”

Alexander writes that about $50 million seems to be missing from their net worth figure and notes that “The Clintons did not respond to repeated requests for comment.”

What is not in question is that mega Wall Street banks likes JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley along with the largest Wall Street law firms are in the top 20 of Hillary’s current campaign donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Center notes that the “money came from the organizations’ PACs; their individual members, employees or owners; and those individuals’ immediate families. At the federal level, the organizations themselves did not donate, as they are prohibited by law from doing so.” Just as we would have suspected, Paul Weiss, the law firm that was Citigroup’s go-to guys for serial fraud charges, made the cut.

All of these Wall Street related firms stampeding to throw money at Hillary Clinton raises a bit of déjà vu with Obama’s first campaign for the Oval Office. As we wrote in May 2008:

“So, how should we react when we learn that the top contributors to the Obama campaign are the very Wall Street firms whose shady mortgage lenders buried the elderly and the poor and minority under predatory loans? How should we react when we learn that on the big donor list is Citigroup, whose former employee at CitiFinancial testified to the Federal Trade Commission that it was standard practice to target people based on race and educational level, with the sales force winning bonuses called ‘Rocopoly Money’ (like a sick board game), after ‘blitz’ nights of soliciting loans by phone? How should we react when we learn that these very same firms, arm in arm with their corporate lawyers and registered lobbyists, have weakened our ability to fight back…”

Hillary’s transparently vapid proposals to tinker around the tattered edges of the Wall Street Democrats’ Dodd-Frank illusion of reforming Wall Street (after two of America’s largest banks became admitted felons just five months ago) rather than breaking up the banks and restoring the Glass-Steagall Act, should instantly disqualify her as a serious candidate for the Oval Office among Democrats who are not afflicted with cognitive capture or the cognitive dissonance of a bifurcated Democratic Party. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 October 2015 at 12:18 pm

A thought on a student’s response to the speech Bernie Sanders gave at Liberty University

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I blogged the response—the highly supportive response—from a Liberty University alumnus, but Politico has an article that includes the response of a currently enrolled Liberty University student:

David Nasser, Liberty’s senior vice president for spiritual development, asked an audience-based question about how Sanders reconciles his support for the underprivileged, while those in the womb are arguably in most need of protection.

If you watch Bernie’s speech, in the video below, you will note these words:

Let me be frank, as I said a moment ago. I understand that the issues of abortion and gay marriage are issues that you feel very strongly about. We disagree on those issues. I get that, but let me respectfully suggest that there are other issues out there that are of enormous consequence to our country and in fact to the entire world, that maybe, just maybe, we do not disagree on and maybe, just maybe, we can try to work together to resolve them.

And he went on to list and describe some things—some unjust and immoral things—that are happening in the US, some unjust and immoral conditions. He in effect points out that this is one area of agreement between his values and the Christian values espoused by Liberty University, and that by working together in those areas, progress is possible.

But addressing areas of agreement and working together to address problems in those areas is, apparently, simply beyond the capability of (e.g.) David Nasser, who immediately moves away from the area of agreement to focus on an area of disagreement: abortion.

But Bernie clearly stated that he understands the Liberty University position on abortion, and that is something with which he disagrees. His focus is to be where he and Liberty University (should) agree. The student simply cannot grasp the idea of working together on situations about which they agree.

I wondered why, and it occurred to me that the student is speaking from a deep tribal sense of identity, in which the most important thing is to distinguish members of the tribe (“us”) from non-members of the tribe (“them”). In this way of thinking, disagreement is the paramount value and always the focus, because in this way of thinking the goal is not to accomplish good things in areas of agreement, it is to distinguish “us” from “them,” so the focus will always be on the distinguishing beliefs. Getting something accomplished is irrelevant. The only accomplishment worth seeking is to separate the sheep from the goats.

Here’s Bernie’s talk, and you can see how earnestly he seeks to find a common ground from which constructive programs can be launched.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2015 at 11:20 am

An extremely interesting response from a conservative evangelical to the talk Bernie Sanders gave at Liberty University

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It is not what you would expect—and it is very moving. The response is a 17-minute audio, and you may well want to listen to the whole thing. Following are some excerpts from the transcript of the talk posted on Daily Kos by vinkelhake. (You can also read the full transcript.)

He was convicting the Christian leaders and the religious leaders in that university, and calling us out for being complicit in the abandonment of those who suffer, the least of these, and siding with the powerful and rich, the masters of this world.  And he was convicting us and calling us out, and we scorned him, and we stared him down; and, with sour faces, we thought, “Who is this wacko, and why do all these people seem to follow him, seem to like him – this wild-haired Jew, crying out from the wilderness of the political left, in his hoarse voice?” . . .

When I heard Bernie speaking in that way, when I saw that guy on stage at Liberty University, I saw John the Baptist…crying out to the religious leaders, the Pharisees of his day, calling them corrupt and complicit with those who have all the power and all the money and all the wealth, and abandoning the people that God loves, that God cares about. . .

As I heard Bernie Sanders crying out to the religious leaders at Liberty University, in his hoarse voice, with his wild hair – this Jew – and he proclaimed justice over us, he called us to account, for being complicit with those who are wealthy and those who are powerful, and for abandoning the poor, the least of these, who Jesus said he had come to bring good news to. And in that moment something occurred to me. As I saw Bernie Sanders up there, as I watched him, I realized Bernie Sanders for president is good news for the poor. Bernie Sanders for president is Good News for the poor. Bernie Sanders is gospel for the poor. And Jesus said “I have come to bring gospel” – good news – “to the poor.”And lightning hit my heart at that moment. And I realized that we are evangelical Christians. We believe the Bible. We believe in Jesus. We absolutely shun those who would attempt to find nuance and twisted and tortured interpretations of scripture that they would use to master all other broader interpretations, to find some kind of big message that they want to flout. We absolutely scorn such things, and yet somehow we commit to the mental gymnastics necessary that allows us to abandon the least of these, to abandon the poor, to abandon the immigrants, to abandon those who are in prison.

I listened to Bernie Sanders as he said he wanted to welcome the immigrants and give them dignity, as he said he wanted to care for the sick children and mothers and fathers who do not have health care, as he said he wanted to decrease the amount of human beings who are corralled like cattle in the prisons, as he said he wanted to do justice for those who have nothing and live homeless. And I remembered the words of Jesus who warned his disciples that there will be judgement, and on that day he will look to his friends, and he will say “Blessed are you for you cared for me, for I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you cared for me, I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was in prison and you came to visit me, I was homeless and you gave me shelter.” And his disciples said, “When did we do any of those things for you?” And he said, “If you have done it for the least of these, you have done it for me.”

Those words echoed in my heart as I listened to that crazy, hoarse-voiced, wild-haired Jew standing in front of the religous leaders of the Evangelical Movement, calling us to account, as a Jew once did before, telling us that he intends to care for the least of these, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to care for the sick, to set the prisoners free. . .

I wouldn’t be much of a Christian if I didn’t stand on the side of gospel for the poor, because, the last time I checked, that’s where my master Jesus stood, and I’ll stand with Him. And,  for now, that means I stand with Bernie Sanders. . .

Listen to the full response. It’s impressive.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 September 2015 at 1:04 pm

Bernie Sanders declares war on the prison-industrial complex with major new Bill

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Good for Bernie. He delivered on a promise and has proposed a bill that has excellent provisions, as reported in Daily Kos by Eric Nelson:

Bernie Sanders just made good on an early campaign promise and introduced a bill in the Senate to outlaw what he called the “morally repugnant” practice of incarcerating Americans in private prisons and called for the reduction in the nation’s prison population.

The Bill introduced Thursday is titled (check out the provision in the Bill – excellent to drop the hammer on “justice” for profit):

The Justice Is Not for Sale ActSec. 3. Bar the federal government from contracting with private entities to provide and/or operate prisons and detention facilities within 2 years.

Sec. 4. Bar state and local governments from contracting with private entities to provide and/or operate prisons and detention centers within 2 years.

Sec. 5. Reinstate the federal parole system.

Sec. 6 and 7. Increase oversight to prevent companies from overcharging inmates and their families for services like banking and telephone calls.

Sec. 8. End the requirement that ICE detain 34,000 immigrants.

Sec. 9. Require ICE to improve the monitoring of detention facilities.

Sec. 10.  End immigrant family detention.

This Bill is part of a package put together with members of the congressional Black caucus and Progressive caucus’

..sponsored by Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona, Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Bobby L. Rush of Illinois, aimed at making important criminal justice reforms including increased oversight on the predatory banking and telephone services for inmates.

With questions about the concerns from members of #BLM that not enough was being done about racial injustice(s) Bernie Sanders has responded with concrete measures. One is the banning of private profiteering prisons; something Bernie Sanders has long opposed

  Sanders said “it makes no sense” that “America has more jails and prisons than college and universities.” Calling the growth of prisons in the United States “unacceptable,” Sanders said “it makes more sense to be investing in our children, making sure they stay in school, making sure they get the mentoring they need, rather than simply locking them up.”   “It is a national tragedy that a disproportionate number of those who are in jail are black and Hispanic,” Sanders added. . .

Continue reading.

Here’s Bernie speaking on “Justice is not for sale.” Worth watching.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 September 2015 at 12:51 pm

Bernie Sanders increasingly serious challenge to Hillary Clinton

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Very interesting comment on Daily Kos:

For those of us who are supporting Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic Primaries, it’s been somewhat of a mystery to us as to why he hasn’t been getting more media coverage. A bit over four months ago, when Bernie decided to enter the race, few political analysts seriously thought that he would pose much of a challenge to the prohibitive front runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Move her platform to the left? Possibly. Wrest the nomination from her?  No way in hell.

For months now, Bernie has been drawing huge crowds in states he has scheduled rallies.  The crowds have not only been enthusiastic, but the numbers are far greater than any other presidential candidate on either side.  His poll numbers have improved dramatically in both Iowa and New Hampshire, where he now leads Hillary.  And yet, the national media has been extremely reluctant to acknowledge his meteoric rise and increasing credibility as the possible Democratic nominee.

Until this week.

Anyone who has been paying close attention to political developments over the past few months has come to the realization that limiting the number of Democratic debates was a disastrous decision by the Democratic National Committee and its inflexible chairwoman. Not only that, but the debate schedule has a “huge problem.” (also known as “yuuge” in Brooklynese)  The one presidential campaign that should be banging the doors of the DNC and demanding more debates is the Clinton Campaign so that the focus shifts to Hillary’s policies rather than being stuck on manufactured scandals—before it is too late.  Even Markos has come to the reluctant conclusion just this afternoon, albeit a few months late, that we should be having more, not fewer debates.  Why cede publicity ground to the OranguTrump and his ilk?  Even if the Republican presidential candidates are making a fool of themselves, all the electorate – not to mention most readers of Daily Kos – has been largely hearing so far is one side of the story.

7. I wish we had Democratic debates. They would likely be more fun to talk about than this shit. Markos Moulitsas

After Bernie’s marvelous address to students at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he tried to find common ground with the religious right on issues like poverty, income inequality, and healthcare, something seems to have changed.  Earlier this week on MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” guest host Ari Melber had one of the more honest political dialogues I’ve seen in this cycle with Vox Media’s Editor-in-Chief, Ezra Klein. To be sure, Bernie faces lots of hurdles, but Klein was very impressed with what’s been achieved in a relatively short period of time.

Klein is neither a partisan hack, nor does he have a political axe to grind.  By any measure, he is one of the brightest young journalists, political analysts, and writers around – dispassionate, thoughtful, and rational.  I have been reading him for years ever since he was an associate editor for the The American Prospect.

Here’s part of the exchange between Melber and Klein.  The video was embedded as part of a Tweet from Melber and I have transcribed the relevant portion of the conversation.  I encourage you to watch the entire video.

Click here to watch the MSNBC video. (I could not embed it.) . .

* * *

Ari Melber: The outsiders are surging when you look at the HuffPost polling trend. Trump has over 33 points leading the field.  When you look at the same trend for Democrats, Sanders is near 50% in New Hampshire.  He does trail Clinton nationally and that may sound like a similar dynamic in both the parties.  And you may have had people comparing Trump and Sanders.  But there is a lot of evidence that Sanders’s surge is far more significant than Trump’s because he began the race unknown to most voters, because he doesn’t have billions of dollars of his own money to spend, and because Sanders is surging against a single, establishment quasi-incumbent favorite in his party, not just pulling ahead in a divided, fractured field of fifteen.  And that’s why some political experts are starting to point out that Trump’s loud, unusual campaign has actually distracted from the bigger story.  Our own Chuck Todd said this on Sunday, “Still, as I’ve been saying for a while, if it weren’t for Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders would be the biggest political story of the year.”

Melber refers to and quotes an excerpt from an article that Klein recently wrote.  Then, he introduces the panel, including Klein.

Ari Melber: Ezra, what do you mean by that and what is special about what Bernie Sanders is doing?

Ezra Klein: So, Sanders is mounting an insurgent candidacy and he is now ahead in some polls in Iowa and way ahead in New Hampshire.  And he’s doing it without… he’s really in a way the anti-Trump.  He comes in with virtually no name recognition in the national Democratic Party.  He comes in with no money.  He doesn’t get the wall-to-wall media coverage that Trump gets, not even a shadow of that.  He doesn’t make the kinds of provocations that Trump does, he’s not doing the same kinds of stunts, he’s not getting the attention for the terrible things he says about certain groups of people and he’s not even going into negative campaigning.  He promised early on that he not do negative campaigning and so far, he really hasn’t.  And yet, week by week, month by month, he is gaining in very serious ways on Hillary Clinton. That’s a tremendous kind of victory and it’s worth noting too that he’s doing it without an issue that is splitting the Democratic Party.  This isn’t like when Howard Dean and later, Barack Obama used the Iraq War where there was a tremendous fissure in the Democratic Party to vault ahead of more establishment candidates.  Sanders is doing it on a kind of pure approach to politics.  It’s a small money donor kind of democracy.  That’s a tremendous political accomplishment and I don’t think we are quite able to recognize the magnitude of it yet because we are so distracted by Trump.

The Klein article that Melber referred to was this one – Why Bernie Sanders’s rise is more impressive than Donald Trump’s.  At that link you’ll see two videos – Why Bernie Sanders is Winning the Internet and an extensive interview that Klein did with Bernie in July 2015.

An excerpt: . . .

Continue reading.

It is indeed quite odd that the Democrats decided to downplay debates—informative debates—so much.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 September 2015 at 12:27 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election


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