Dover Bitch

Friday, April 07, 2006

An evening with Bubba

DB was given a ticket to see Bill Clinton speak in Los Angeles on Thursday, so this blogger made the journey to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. On a side note, an opera will be debuting there next month, "Grendel," based on the 1971 John Gardener novel. Don't know much about the opera, but there's a great chance you'll do worse if you purchase just about any other novel the next time you visit a book store.

Clinton covered a number of topics and delivered an excellent, well-conceived, vintage Clinton speech. He did not use the opportunity to criticize President Bush, although he did articulate some policy differences. On the other hand, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pulled no punches in his introduction.

Villaraigosa said (paraphrasing here) he could remember a time when we sent our troops to battle for the reasons we gave them. He could remember a time when we had a president who was known far and wide for his intellectual curiousity and belief in science. He could remember a time when we left surplusses for our children and the future was not clouded with fear. He ended his introduction by saying that those times will come again (and maybe Bill Clinton will return to the White House in a more historic role).

Clinton began by remarking how high Villaraigosa's approval ratings are in Los Angeles and delivered his best line of the night.

"Eighty percent? I could've taken a boat to the middle of the Potomac and walked back to shore and my approval ratings wouldn't have been that high. The Republicans would be all over the radio. I can just hear Rush Limbaugh now... 'Bill Clinton can't swim.' "

Then he began to discuss his views on global interdependence and some of the world's big concerns. DB would just like to touch on a couple things the former president said, mostly because this blogger was disappointed with what could have been a home run, but turned out to be a bloop single.

Clinton said that there were two phenomena which have significantly impacted the world today: Non-governmental organizations (NGO's) and the Internet.

In discussing the Internet, Clinton described two ways in which its impact is significant: It can bring people together as a force for good, and it provides a mechanism for raising money from people of all means.

The only example Clinton gave of a non-financial contribution by users of the Internet, was SARS in China. He said that China was in denial over the disease and would have continued along that path had young Internet users there not flooded government websites with demands for action.

No examples of the internet influencing policy or ideas in America. Just China. The country where search results are filtered so nobody stumbles upon the word "democracy." Where the Rolling Stones are preparing to play a concert this week, but aren't allowed to play "Beast of Burden."

He spent most of his time discussing the Internet in terms of its other benefit: the ability to raise money. He mentioned the huge amounts raised on the Net by both Republicans and Democrats in 2004. He talked about the money raised for both the tsunami relief and Katrina.

All true, but Clinton came up terribly short here, and in the same manner as all the D.C. Democrats. Essentially, his only examples of Americans using the Internet to have a positive impact on the world involved a citizen typing in a credit card number or handing over $50.

No mention of the effect of the netroots. No mention of the unique opportunity for the public to use the Net to hold the government accountable. No mention of the Net as an incubator for thoughts and movements.

As DB types this, Fox News is passing off Pat Roberts' comments about Joe Wilson in the SCSI Report as the "findings" of the Senate and claiming that the NIE demonstrates absolute unity in the claims about WMD in Iraq.

But Clinton made no mention of the collective efforts of Net users to counter the dreadful effects of the consolidation of all American media into the hands of a small group of corporations. In fact, he even mentioned how much donations from the Net help candidates offset the high cost of television time. The last thing this blogger wanted to hear from Clinton was that the Internet is a great way to funnel money from hard-working Americans to the pockets of Rupert Murdoch.

The Democratic establishment just does not get it. They apparently have no ability to look to the future and anticipate where politics and technology are heading together. They are barely aware of where that junction exists today. It's not unlike the record industry, which was convinced just a decade ago that the cost of producing and selling CDs would remain so inexpensive compared to electronic delivery that there was no need to create business models for online purchasing. In two or three more election cycles, these politicians will be analogous to the record industry executives who have wasted billions in fruitless attempts to protect their audio data after technology already left them -- and continues to leave them -- in the dust.

Clinton echoed what we've heard from many of the party leaders... The Internet is a giant ATM. Only a new crop of smart candidates will prevent the Democrats from squandering the opportunity the Internet has provided them and it has been a long time since this party had enough political advantages to throw some away from neglect.

There were some great moments in his speech. He talked about global warming and pointed to England as a prime example that reducing emissions has a positive effect on the economy, contrary to what we are told by the Bush administration. He talked about bravery in Colombia. He talked about Darfur and using the U.N. and Nato to stop the violence.

In the end, most in attendance left looking inspired and gratified. But after hearing Clinton say that the Internet was one of the two great "miracles" of the 21st Century before praising it only for its fundraising capacity, DB left thinking mostly about sushi in Little Tokyo.

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