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Friday: Simon Johnson on Bill Moyers Journal tonight

He will be discussing the Pecora commission that Nancy Pelosi is advocating:

Bill Moyers asked me to join his conversation this week with Michael Perino – a law professor and expert on securities law – who is working on a detailed history of the 1932-33 “Pecora Hearings,” which uncovered wrongdoing on Wall Street and laid the foundation for major legislation that reformed banking and the stock market.

My role was to talk about potential parallels betweeen the situation in the early 1930s and today, and together we argued out whether the Pecora Hearings could or should be considered a model for today.

Bill has a great sense of timing.  On Wednesday night the Senate passed, by a vote of 92-4, a measure that would create an independent commission to investigate the causes of our current economic crisis; we taped our discussion on Thursday morning.

I don’t know much about the Pecora commission but the Federal Reserve has an archive of the hearings and you can read all about it here.  It looks intimidating but no one should feel compelled to stay up all night cramming.  Take your time.  Simon is also soliticing solutions to the banking crisis at his new blog, The Hearing at WaPo.  It sounds like a very good idea.  The only thing I take issue with is the stab he takes at populism in his brief post.  It seems to me that the populace is asked to sit on its hands an awful lot.  We are supposed to take the anger and passion out of every interaction.  As a result, Congress doesn’t feel the bite and thinks it can get away with doing less than it should.  This is wrong.  It’s fine and dandy to ask for civilized discussion on a blog that is requesting real suggesions, not f-bombs and insults.  But it is quite another thing to ask people to stop protesting and contacting their Congressional Rep to vent their anger at the passivity of our elected officials during a time of crisis.  After all, if we don’t stick up for ourselves, no one else is going to do it.

Simon may be inadvertently feeding the “learned helplessness” that we have discussed before.  If an animal feels that it is under stress but that nothing it does makes any difference to relieve that stress, it may stop trying.  Therefore, Mr. Johnson, verily I say unto you, do not stand in the way of populism.  If you want real action on the Pecora commission initiative, you’ll be more likely to get it if there are more people on your side screaming bloody murder for it.  You don’t have to encourage the screaming.  Just don’t condemn it.  People are right to be angry.  Let’s just make sure it gets directed, in an undiluted state, towards the right people.  Our elected officials need to feel their jobs are at stake before they do something and nothing will get their attention better than an angry and persistent constituency.

Channel that populist rage onto Congress, whose job it is and was to keep the greedy, selfish finance crowd on a shorter leash. Otherwise, the public might as well be a flock of sheep.

(Simon recently gave another interview to Andrew Leonard at Salon.  Oddly enough, he’s citing the French Revolution in this one.  You’ve got to wonder why the Sans-culottes were good enough for the French but not for us…)


In other news:

What do health care, Kathleen Sebelius, the GM restructuring (now featuring *more* bankers!) and Al Franken have in common?  There are filibusters threatened by the Republicans in Congress on virtually every issue of importance from health care to abortion to holding bankers accountable and the Democrats need 60 votes to put an end to such threats.  Al Franken was elected Minnesota’s next Senator.  He won the seat by something like 300 votes.  A three judge panel has declared him the winner and all that is left is for Governor Tim Pawlenty to sign the election certificate to make it so.  Norm Coleman has vowed to take his case all the way to the US Supreme Court if he has to and he probably will, meaning that this election could remain unresolved until the fall. Franken would be the 59th senator.

Now, you may not be crazy about Franken.  His position on the war was wrong but he quickly snapped out of that.  He’s also ruffled a few feathers for his previous work as a really funny guy, sometimes at others’ expense.  But Franken is a true liberal and getting him to the Senate toot sweet would pretty much end the excuses that the Democrats have forwarded for their inaction.  Biden is the tie breaker.  Someone with knowledge of Senate procedure can tell us whether Biden can break the tie on a cloture vote.  I’m willing to give Franken a try and the sooner the better.  The Republicans are no doubt throwing every roadblock they can to keep him from getting there.  Their ability to obstruct would be reduced by one and assuming that Harry Reid is willing or interested in holding his coalition together with some discipline, that one vote could make a big difference.  Franken is taking donations for his protracted and expensive election fight.  You can give here.


WOOT!  We are going to hit 6 million hits today since we opened this gin joint last year.  Par-tay!

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85 Responses

  1. So, will a Pecora Commission investigate the Democrats who didn’t do oversight?? Just wondering….After all, if the media can’t go there (see the thing about Howard Dean on CNBC a few days ago that we wrote about), why should a Pecora Commission???

    Off topic, but here’s something else to chew on…There’s an awful lot of action going on re: things involved like Sharia law ( which has also come to our own Treasury re: Sharia investing seminars). The pattern in Pakistan and Somalia are so similar.

    While Pakistan Has Our Attention, Look What’s Brewing in Somalia…


  2. RD, did you mean to link to this article, “Coleman’s appeal lineup: 5 justices.” ?

  3. ….After all, if we don’t stick up for ourselves, no one else is going to do it.

    Dang, ain’t that the truth. Such a Commission is the equivelant of the endless , Bush era “Blue Ribbon Panels.” And the point is the same: Look like something is being done, while doing nothing…oh and how many months of a free ride will be gained because they can say, “well let’s see Pecora Commission says before we blah blah blah” ….We have so been down this road before

  4. Do you think the new swine flu will put a fire under pols’ ass*s to get some health care for everyone? Haha, stoopid question, eh?

  5. Al Franken is a ‘true liberal’ for sure, and as such he was up on the Obama train immediately and as such he trashed Hillary Rodham Clinton more vehemently and with more misogyny than most.

    For any Puma to be unaware of Air America’s blatant, from-the-get-go, non-stop putrid misogyny is sad. tragically, ironically, stupidifyingly sad.

    Al Franken isn’t fit to clean out port-o-lets with this tongue. Or maybe his is, but anything above that is way over his paygrade.

    • Why do you suppose Hillary supported Franken so wholeheartedly then? When I was listening to Al Franken’s show he was always very supportive of both Bill and Hillary Clinton. He went off the air before the Obamamania hit.

    • “……he trashed Hillary Rodham Clinton more vehemently and with more misogyny than most.”


    • Felt compelled to delurk . . . . .

      Bull crap! Hillary went to Minnesota to campaign for Franken. Where was Obama? Again, Franken was long gone from Air America radio.

  6. Andrea Dworkin once said something sort of radical,and it might upset some people, but what the heck. And I am paraphrasing like mad because I haven’t read the actual quote in years, but she said in a society where a man can convince a woman to have sexual intercourse with a dog we cannot put to much into what a woman might say seeing as how she might be under ‘undue’ pressure.

    I used to think that Al Franken was one of the good guys, and then came Obama. Air America and Al Franken proved to be misogyny redefined. Mr. Franken had plenty of opportunity to show his true woman-hating self, and he did.

    • Jenni,

      Please provide some links for those of us who don’t know what you are referring to. You could easily find them by googling, and you could find the Dworkin quote that way too.

  7. I think the SNL thing was more than one things, and I am not even including that in my disgust. Also, I think the SNL thing was, among many, a joke about rape.

  8. I really don’t care what body is in the seat that provides the 60th vote to Democrats in the Senate. If they get the 60 votes, there will be no more excuses. That is what I want.

    Politics is the art of the possible. It is not an area where all or nothing thinking works very well. This blog is “a confluence, not a delta.”

  9. Boston, fair enough. NPR had a story about Mr. Franken and the rape joke was in PLAYBOY (and we all know how funny rape is) so someone could just go get that PLAYBOY (and we know how pro-woman this filth is) and read it themselves, and I listened to Mr. Franken with my ears so I am unsure how to link to what I heard….

    I am not much of a rule followerer, but I will find links and return.

    • I’m not defending Franken or misogyny. But you can’t just put all this out there as a statement of fact without some links. I don’t doubt that Franken has made sexist jokes. I always thought he was a little stuffy and old-fashioned, even back in the early days of SNL. I never liked his comedy much then. But he’s a satirist, and I found his book, “Lies and the Lying Liars” to be pretty funny.

      I just want Obama to get his 60 votes so Republican filibusters will no longer provide easy excuses for his Republican agenda.

    • Coming from MN, a lot of what I’ve picked up has been with my own ears and long lost articles in the papers and such. I used to be a fan of Franken’s, bought two of his books, and listened to him almost daily on my lunch break. That listening started to make me realize what a nasty, mean spirited-jerk he really is.
      He was on the wrong side of the war (Israeli interests) until it became clear it was going to be a debacle, and he didn’t want that to affect his long planned senate run.
      He was on the wrong side of Obama, and as the “flagship” program on Air-I-hate-America, he helped steer them against Sen Clinton.
      Even though he spent his first 18 yrs in MN, he was outa’ here asap and spent the next few decades in his real home, the East Coast Megalopolis. He’s nothing but a carpet bagger as far as MN goes.
      And his “win” has been manipulated by the Dem dominated state insitutions. He got 133 votes out of an urban dem district, even though the actual ballots were never found during the recount. Sounds like a pretty good process, huh? Numerous other things like have been going on.
      And also if a 3rd party candidate hadn’t siphoned off an unusually large number of votes (unusual before and since the Ventura debacle at least) Coleman would have almost certainly kicked his ass.
      MN should have a run-off and see who wins. Even if Franken does succeed, I predict Minnesotans will be very sick of the belligerent and uncouth troll before he comes up for election again. They eventually figured out Ventura; he couldn’t get elected dog catcher now.

      • Maybe the SCOTUS will install Coleman, and then Obama will have his excuse for not passing health care or preserving social security.


  10. From Reuters article on the commission:

    The 10-member, bipartisan Financial Markets Commission would be modeled after the 9-11 Commission, which investigated failures leading up to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and made recommendations on how to avoid another such assault.

    The commission would have subpoena power, 18 months to investigate the financial crisis and the authority to refer to the U.S. attorney general and state attorneys general any evidence that institutions or individuals violated the law.

    So I guess that means that like the 9-11 commission, we’ll hear nothing for 18 months, then they’ll come out with an enourmous report that almost no one will read or do anything about.

    Members of the commission would be appointed by congressional Democratic and Republican leaders. They would include financial experts and exclude members of Congress.

    The members of the panel are crucial, if it includes the same complicit and/or clueless people that got us into this mess, then it’s worse than useless. If it included people like Simon Johnson, William Black, and Elizabeth Warren then we might get somewhere.

  11. and if the Senate is made up of Democrats who mostly sold out regarding their constituents on Hillary Rodham Clinton, what makes you think they won’t continue to sell us out? Especially in light of their ‘failure to read’ the stimulus bill and other wonderful acts in their first 100 days under the pretender……

    As a former democrat, I am continually reminded that if those Democrats had possessed one moral bone in their bodies, Madame President would be living large and be in charge. And, if those same Democrats that took the right to vote and flushed it down the commode had “democratic values” wouldn’t we also be saluting Madame President. And, if they had “democratic values” would we even be here?

    It seems strange to me that after what has been said and done that anyone thinks that a majority of these liars and cheats would do anything else by lie and cheat. In the end, HRC was cheated out of the POTUS not for the sake of POTUS, but for the power and access to the money. They’ve got it now, boy do they ever. And I just don’t understand what you think a group of people who sold us down the river long ago for some money is going to do for us now….at least in the positive sense…

    • jenniforhillary your so right on this one … its seems there preety much all scum in washinton right now..

    • And, if those same Democrats that took the right to vote and flushed it down the commode had “democratic values” wouldn’t we also be saluting Madame President. And, if they had “democratic values” would we even be here?

      Well said .

    • Jenn,

      I am absolutely positive that the Democrats in Congress will continue to sell us out. But if they have a filibuster-proof majority, they will no longer have an easy excuse. It will become more and more evident to the American people that they are full of sh*t. That will make it more likely that they have to shape up or lose their seats in 2010. The soon Franken gets seated, the better chance we have that Dems may lose seats if they don’t shape up.

      • Boston,

        I was just going to respond to you upthread because this could be the only obvious conclusion. And you make a good point and one that I concur with. Give them the rope they need to strangle themselves with, and the sooner the better…

        I like the way you think.

        • Thanks. That is my only point. I’m not all that fond of Franken either. BTW, he donated the max to Obama in the primary and general. I don’t have the link with me at work, but I found it this morning when we were talking about this.

          • Boston,

            Franken is a pig. I heard him say things on the radio that turned my stomach. What makes men so scared of strong women that they become monsters I will never truly understand.

      • your so right these dems sold out & i sure there going to keep it up…

    • Right On ( to use a fun old phrase)! Giving the Dems a free hand right now given their recent track record(Iraq-war votes, Dept Home Sec, FISA, torture, the whole effin’ primary!!!) is not in the best interests of us peasants. If they have ANY good ideas, they can peel off a few moderate Repubs in shaky districts.

  12. After last night I think we all need a laugh…Obama style:


  13. afrocity,

    I thought your commentary the other night was extremely moving. you made some excellent points.

  14. He seems a likable fellow….but Al Franken is a celebrity poll along the lines of Caroline Kennedy or Arnold….what is he even doing there? Is that the best the MN Dems could do ?? I don’t believe that. A real opportunity was thrown away on this guy and I don’t know why….unless these positions aren’t seen as too meaningful anymore. But my feeling is if Al could actually do a” profile in courage” number at all, he would not be there.

    • You probably haven’t seen and heard enough of the guy. He’s been preaching the idea that Dems need to get down and dirty with the Repubs for years, and seems to revel in following his own advice (He’s an old highschool wrestler, he likes to remind us). MN dems are a strange group. MNs in general have had it pretty good for years because of good Dems and Repubs in decades past. They feel like they can vote for any novelty candidiate with no repercussions (see: Jesse Ventura). We had a fairly decent candidate in Mike Cirisis, but he was just too dull.

  15. I recall Al making some misogynistic jokes/comments but not directed at Hillary. However, that they were directed at women in general shouldn’t make them any more acceptable. I at least expect him to pay lip service to women like all the other Dems.

    Didn’t he run as the Democratic Farm and Labor candidate? What is that anyway? Are there subset parties within the Democratic one?

    • MN State party. The MN Repubs renamed themselves the “Independent” Republican Party after watergate. Each state charters their own parties. Or at least CAN charter their own.

  16. Why am I in moderation?

    • I have no idea, Joan — that looked pretty random to me….

      We’ve got the staffing pretty much worked out though so just speak up — there’s usually someone lurking about who can set you free.

  17. JenniforHillary wrote: “It seems strange to me that after what has been said and done that anyone thinks that a majority of these liars and cheats would do anything else by lie and cheat.”

    I don’t think anyone here does believe that. That is why we need to get the liars and cheats out of Congress. If they have no more excuses for supporting the wrong agenda, they will either face heavy pressure from their districts or will lose their seats in 2010. We need some big ones to be primaried.

    • boston i think we need 2 target some of the sell outs
      the dems made it very clear they had no prob silencing the voice of the people many time over.. i think its time we start silencing there voices . & put there fear of the puma in them..

    • That may be true BB, but I shudder to think of the damage the Obacrats could do in the meantime.

  18. Here’s to hitting 6 million hits today! Congratulations! Back to lurking.

  19. Happy 6 million hits RD & Conflucians!

  20. Al Gore’s telling it on c-span. Go, Al, go! Now, there’s a Liberal with a capital L.

  21. The call for Pecora Commission type of hearings is very important. It needs to happen, but it is also very important how it is done. It will take criminal prosecutions for change to take place. It was hearings that led to regulation after the S&L crisis.

    from Bill Moyers Journal.

    “Shifting the blame for the financial crisis to where it belongs also means no more playacting in round after round of congressional hearings devoted more to posturing and false contrition than to truth. We need real hearings, conducted by experienced and fiercely independent counsel asking the tough questions, or an official commission with subpoena power that can generate evidence leading, if warranted, to trials and convictions – and this time Rich Uncle Pennybags shouldn’t have safely tucked away in his vest pocket a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.”


    “There was advance warning of the current collapse. Black says that the FBI blew the whistle; in September 2004, “there was an epidemic of mortgage fraud, that if it was allowed to continue it would produce a crisis at least as large as the Savings and Loan debacle.”

    But after 9/11, “The Justice Department transfers 500 white-collar specialists in the FBI to national terrorism. Well, we can all understand that. But then, the Bush administration refused to replace the missing 500 agents.” So today, despite a crisis a hundred times worse than the Savings and Loan scandal, “there are one-fifth as many FBI agents” assigned to bank fraud.”

    Bill Black, a Federal Regulator in the eighties, has written a book and was also interviewed recently by Bill Moyers. I think that interview was discussed on this blog.

    This is all very important.

  22. Here’s to 6M! I’ll drink to that. OK, I’ll drink to most anything….

  23. that’s one fab lil gin joint, RD & Co.

    hugs and here is to the next bazilion hits you get at the Conf!

  24. Regarding the posts about Franken’s misogyny here is a link to the minneapolis star-tribune. Planned Parenthood was reluctant to endorse him because of his rape jokes.


    And here is a video clip of Franken imitating an Asian woman in a sexual encounter.


  25. Considering that Planned Parenthood nearly split their pants seams running to catch up with the Obama Parade Float, their opinion on an article (of which there were no excerpts so we could judge it for ourselves) seems a very slim reed to hang the “misogyny” tag on. And the clip from Hot Air — meh, it’s more lame than anything else. I never found Franken’s comedy all that funny.

    And no, I never found his views or stances on things particularly compelling. BUT…

    I’m a lot more concerned with a Democratic majority than anything else. I have no illusions about the purity or character of any politician — every single one of them will disappoint you on SOME level and in some way. The only thing I ask is that they support issues important to me personally, and failing that, that they are a Democrat and vote like a Democrat. PERIOD. That’s it.

    I’m not even a Democrat anymore (I consider myself a Green now) but in our two-party system that’s all we got. Most of the time, the Democrats vote and act in ways that align with my personal views. Most of the time, Republicans do not. So, of the two, I prefer Democrats to have a majority. That’s it, end of story.

    • In other words, you believe in one-party rule? I don’t. It breeds corruption and is too close to a dictatorship, imho. I think we need viable alternatives and the more parties and viewpoints the better.

      Also, I don’t think we should overlook crimes or sins or gaffes of a pol because he/she has a D after their name. That kind of pragmatism I can do without. I thought PUMAs put principles before party.

    • Well… Congresswoman Betty McCollum (Dem-MN 4th(St Paul)) (91% progressive rating ) refused to endorse him in the primary because of the Playboy article.

      • And he was also challenged in the primary at the last minute by Priscilla Lord Faris, long time MN Dem Party(DFL) activist (she worked for Hubert Humphrey, as both Senator and Vice President) (In 2006 and 2007, she was named a Minnesota Super Lawyer by Minnesota Law & Politics) precisely over the nature of his character and the various questionable things he’s said(Playboy article #1). The moderate and honorable “old dems” of MN, are not in synch with the new breed, the Obamaphiles and Frankenphiles.

    • Really? I LOVED Franken in the 80’s on SNL. I thought he was hysterical. Do you remember when he named the 80’s decade for himself, Al Franken? He basked in his own self-importance. Hillarious.
      And his books, Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Lying, Liars are classics.
      Plus, no matter how crude he was, he was really a dedicated liberal at heart. He was concerned enough to keep the lights on with Air America Radio when times were really grim. I can overlook a lot when a person is willing to buck the system and risk their reputation in order to do the right thing. Franken won my respect when he did that. He knew what was at stake, he did the hard thing, it sometimes broke his heart and he wasn’t afraid to show it.
      And yes, he’s still an arrogant wise ass, but that’s what makes him interesting. I can’t wait til he gets to the senate. It’s going to be fun to watch.

      • the only thing we will agree on is that he is a big liberal. big nasty old liberal. making jokes about rape in PLAYBOY. color me bored. yesterdays news. blah blah blah. men rule, women suck. blah blah blah. only thing that separates Franken and Limbaugh is side of the room they sit on while they discriminate against women.

  26. Given the actions of the Democratic congress which has so far passed its legislative agenda without Republican filibustering getting in the way, I do not want to totally disarm the Republicans. Like it or not, right now they are the only force that stands between us taxpayers and a million earmarks added in those House/Senate reconciliation meetings. Otherwise, I would wholeheartedly welcome Al Franken.

  27. jenniforhillary, on April 24th, 2009 at 8:21 pm Said:
    only thing that separates Franken and Limbaugh is side of the room they sit on while they discriminate against women.

    Do you actually believe this?

    • Nah, around here we just say things at random for no reason.

    • al and rush. both like playboy. hate strong women. make money off making fun of others. wanted bo over hrc. is there any reason to continue. not really. like peas in a pod.

  28. Stoutly reasoned.

    • It’s more like a lager or a pilsner.

      Do you have something to contribute here?

      • Jennifor Hillary has been around for a long time. Like the rest of us she’s not perfect but she’s earned our affection and loyalty.

        You, on the other hand, are a stranger here.

        There’s a game we play with newcomers sometimes.

        It’s called “This way to the egress”

        Wanna play?

  29. I’ve been sending money to Al Franken’s campaign, just an fyi

    • He was a consistent contributor to her senate campaign.

      • he was at the front of the O bus, both financially and anti-intellectually (inmo no smart person voted O), emotionally and physically (I call it the ”p” factor; think non-vagina), and if joking about rape in Playboy, among other atrocities, is something you support you have invested well

        • just for that, I’m sending him more money, have a nice day!

          • from a economics point of view, I think they call that throwing good money after bad. or something like that. far be it from me to discuss misogyny, politicals, and hypocrisy. i have been told that is above my paygrade. lucky for me I am too dumb to understand those big words.

  30. inmo means nothing….call it dropsy of the typing finger

  31. Just so we’re clear – I don’t agree with a lot of things Jennforhillary says.

    But it will be a cold day in hell before I’ll let a troll get away with insulting her on this blog.

  32. as if. just so we’re clear, I disagree with almost everyone and am not looking for approval. just looking.

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