Nellie McKay and Jimmy Dore, now with transcript and a huge thank you to eyo
This recent interview with Nellie McKay and Jimmy Dore has been floating around in the comments here, I don't think anyone did an essay on it, but now c99% transcription maven eyo has transcribed the whole half-hour, and I think this is amazing of her to do! Thank you eyo!
I believe it's worth preserving here for posterity, so with her permission I'm posting her transcript as an essay. This is for anyone who hasn't seen it yet, or who wants to see it again, or wants to read the transcript or use parts of it to highlight sections that were especially meaningful to you. The comments are open if anyone wishes to expand on your thoughts on it.
Eyo, you are amazing! Thank you so much for your generosity to do this for the community.
Welcome Nellie McKay
Jimmy Dore: Now the first album you did was called Get Away From Me, that's what it was called. What a hilarious name, how did you come up with the name for Get Away From Me, are you bored with that question already?
Nellie McKay: No not a bit. Well there were a lot of albums that came out that year that seemed very friendly. It wasn't just Nora Jones Come Away With Me, there was Jane Monheit Come Dream With Me, Triumph of the Insult Comic Dog had Come Poop With Me, Sinatra had had Come Dance With Me, Ashanti had Come Wit' Me, and Get Away From Me wasn't just a riff on that it was also already... there was a surveillance state you know, there was the feeling of the government encroaching on to our lives and it's only grown since then so, good title.
J: Wow, look at you. Talking to a musician and she mentions the surveillance state in her first answer. God bless you.
N: I think about it all the time.
J: Do you really?
N: Well you can't take your cellphone anywhere. I mean part of the reason of having a cellphone is safety, I don't want the government to know everywhere I go.
J: Well they do.
N: Yeah. If you have it with you. No, yeah a lot of times I'm not in touch, it hurts my work, but I just don't want to be tracked.
J: Yeah? You turn it off?
N: Yeah. Well I don't even take it, because now I have the smarty pants one, and so you can't... it will still track you even if you turn it off so I just leave it at home.
J: You have to take the battery out for it to not track you.
N: Right. So I just pretend I have a gun in my pocket.
[Jimmy reads quotes from reviewers]
J: Here's your latest album it's called Nellie McKay Sister Orchid. So now this is you doing some standards from the 30s and 40s, correct?
N: That's right, yeah.
J: And so how did you come up with the idea, and how did you come up with the name?
N: Well I think partly it extends in to the 50s, I believe Small Day Tomorrow was written by Fran Landesman and the late Bob Dorough, I believe that was in the 50s, and so I think there's a film noir feel to the album, which partly came out of the first cold war and the first wave of McCarthyism, and now we are in a similar space which I think a lot of people don't know it.
I mean my mother grew up, you know, her dad built a fallout shelter and my nanna was happy because that was a day off from him beating her, he was so worn out from building the fallout shelter.
So now though, you know a whole group of kids grew up with that trauma of perpetually being afraid of the bomb, and now people seem fairly oblivious to it, they're actively encouraging this enmity towards Russia, it's more dangerous then the first one. You have the western front, you have the situation in Syria, and then you have Asia, with the pivot to Asia where it's been filled with U.S. military activity. So I think it's about time that we brought back more film noir, and that kind of "Hey if the end is near, let's just stay out all night".
J: So do you see us having, I mean people who think like us, who recognize the danger of this current climate that we're living in, when do we get our "Good night and good luck"? You know, when does our hero come along to turn the establishment, or most of the people in mainstream America, to understanding this is the new McCarthyism? Instead of what they're thinking, which is this is a good thing to get Trump.
N: Right, well only a genuine populist left can defeat the right, and that has been effectively crushed you know. So a friend of mine who's worked in DC a long time, he said even Bernie is a quick fix. I mean it basically comes down to communities you know, and local organizing.
J: So you think, what I have said previously and also I have found out, which is what Bernie said in the early 90s, I have a video of him, is that there needs to be a progressive movement outside the Democratic party.
N: Of course! It's an abusive relationship, the only pragmatic way is out.
J: So when you say it's an abusive relationship, between progressives and the Democratic party? Is that what you mean?
J: And how so?
N: Well they're bought and paid for, you know? And I went to thirteen states for Bernie. When I started, I thought I was going to vote for Clinton at the end, I'm sure you didn't, but I didn't know anything. I was pretty out to lunch, as you said, you know, Obama put the left to sleep and I didn't know so many things. I wasn't properly paying attention, and I had always believed in my life, that in the lesser of two evils perhaps some progress could be made, and that isn't true, when you take a comprehensive view.
J: Yes, in fact we go backwards every time. So every time you vote lesser of two evils, in my lifetime we've gone backwards. So that's very astute of you.
N: Right, right. There's an article on Black Agenda Report called how Obama's the most effective evil, and that's a pretty good article.
J: Oh I haven't seen that I'd like to read that. Well I just found out two days ago that Barack Obama dropped more bombs than George Bush did.
N: Wow, yeah well I know he launched ten times more drone strikes, and one of the primary missiles of the drone program is the hellfire missile, which is a thermobaric weapon, which sucks the air out of its victims lungs, collapsing the internal organs. And when you keep in mind that when they did a study of drone strikes that they found nearly, that 90% of those killed are civilians... when you actually reckon what the government does, you know...
But for years I didn't just vote Democratic, I campaigned for them and I sent them money, you know. I remember in high school - I went to a largely Republican high school - making up rap songs about Bill Clinton, and all the attendant rhymes, I can still remember my list of rhymes. I mean I just thought the Democrats are the better guys, at least.
J: Yes, I was right there with you until I read that book Listen Liberal by Thomas Frank. So that was what made me like I am.
N: Oh I must read that. Yeah, oh good I'll check that out, I mean of course there's Death of the Liberal Class...
J: Right, sure I mean if you read that too, Chris Hedges. The striking failure of the Democratic party, it's not a failure by the way, it's not a flaw it's a design. So they're designed to suppress progress, progressivism, and they're there to keep the status quo. And the idea, do you agree with that, with the theory that the Democratic party would rather lose to a Republican than win with a progressive?
N: Oh, of course! Well I had a friend you know, I called all my celebrity "friends" you know, who I don't... I'm always a little scared of so, this is the one time I called this friend and I had had their number, and I said "Please can you endorse Bernie", and they said ""No, I'm going to wait until the big one", and I thought but this is the big one, you know because I knew by then... but people don't see the vast continuity between administrations.
I mean, and with identity politics, which definitely they affect your life, but it's become completely clouded. I mean I kind of think... what are those things? Are they Fallopian tubes or a uterus, the thing that has two parts? It's almost like a pair of glasses, and you can't see anything past them anymore, and I imagine it's the same for people who are not white, who are not Christian, who are not straight, that it becomes all... it just becomes this perpetual navel gazing, and you don't realize that say, Obama invested, or started a program that would invest one trillion in more usable nukes over thirty years. I mean it's a ... you know, that affects you, you know. You don't have control over your body if it's going to be blown to bits.
J: Right, exactly. Yeah people don't know... he didn't launch a trillion dollar investment in education over thirty years, he didn't launch a trillion dollar investment in prenatal care or... he invested a trillion dollars in nuclear bombs, usable nuclear bombs.
N: Right, right. Prompting one general to say, "Smaller means they're more thinkable.".
J: Yes, yeah. And everyone says Trump's the crazy guy, which he seems to be, but if they really believed that he was, it's weird that they keep voting to give him more surveillance power, and more bombs. That's kind of a contradiction, right?
N: You would think. You would think, but I canvassed so many neighborhoods for Bernie and I met people in Detroit who were voting against NAFTA, and that was... I canvassed a lot of primarily Black neighborhoods because this country is still very segregated, and aside from Detroit where it was mostly... you know, Trump was the "fuck you" vote, can I say that?
N: Yeah, that he was the "fuck you" vote, pretty much the consensus I would get from Harlem to Compton to parts of South Carolina was that "Trump is crazy, and so is this world." You know, he takes the mask off, he's not a lie anymore.
Zora Neale Hurston has a quote, something to the effect of "I would rather know the truth, then continue to climb on the wagon of wishful illusions.", I think that all the time. I mean, that's the Democratic party, it's just... you know, and once you see the lie it's so obscene.
You were at the convention, I was at the convention, it was a funeral pyre. I mean it was just... there are songs I sing and I'm still looking at that stage now, just wishing, you know, if the ukulele was... had the ability to... I never want to hurt anybody I just want to make them go away. But you know, it's just, you see it for what it is, and the lie of it is too much to bear.
J: It is too much to bear, and people... you know it was really disheartening to see the Democratic party, who I supported my whole life, kick a black woman off the stage, Nina Turner, and replace her with a billionaire who instituted Stop & Frisk in New York. That guy's welcome on stage, but Nina Turner... it was just... and... so, do you feel let down by Bernie?
N: Oh, well I know so many people who invested so much, I mean beyond mere money there were millions of people who invested hundreds of millions of dollars in a primary that was decided from the beginning.
But I also know people who gave so much more of themselves beyond that, I mean a friend of mine who was the first woman in the construction workers union in Minnesota, in the house painter's union, she went to five states for Bernie. She went in to debt, she really believed he had a chance, she was here in southern California.
A friend of mine who was in the Vietnam war, he's a veteran, he campaigned for a year. We were everywhere, we drove around Indiana looking for the cheapest smokes, you know he's got one pair overalls, he was out working seventeen hour days along with the college kids, he's got a bad leg. But he believed, and he wanted this so badly, you're going to take a year of his life? And then not only demand that he vote for the Democrats, but shame and blame and smear and attack him for not doing that? He sold his truck to go on the road for Bernie, is the DNC going to buy him his truck back? I don't think so, no.
J: No. No, they don't even want him to vote, they don't even want to let him be voting in the primary.
N: And you said it, they don't just not fear us, they don't just ignore us, they actively mock and malign us.
J: And work against us, right? So what's happening right now in all the Democratic primaries across the country, is they are cheating the progressives, right? We've seen it, Nancy Pelosi cheated, they cheated in Houston, they're cheating everywhere, and this isn't new. The undercover tape from Colorado with Steny Hoyer that the Intercept published right? Showed you that he says "a decision has been made" before the people get to vote! The party has made a decision, and it doesn't involve you.
So, I feel dumbfounded that Bernie, who spent his whole life as an Independent, then sheep dogs people in to that party that is actively working against him, what do you say to that?
N: At this point... I mean Chris Hedges said he would consider voting for Bernie if he was an Independent, but to go through that primary again, I can't do it again. and I know other people, I don't want to put my friends through this. I mean the dearest people, none of whom had money you know, who were out there knocking doors, teachers here in southern California, my friend in Iowa, you know they take you in. My friends in South Carolina they put up not only me, but my rambunctious dog. My friends in South Carolina left a copy of Lies My Teacher Told Me on the bedside table, as if we had any time. You know people are sleep deprived in a primary, they don't have time for this.
And it was the most diverse group of people I'd ever worked with in my life and I grew up in Queens, so you know... I mean it was just... and the way the corporate media is arranged, and the viciousness of it, and the viciousness of the smears, he can't go through that party again.
J: He is, he's gonna, and you know speaking of the media, it was such a... the Bernie campaign revealed the corruption inside the corporate "lefty" media, amazingly, and then Wikileaks revealed the rest of it, with Hillary Clinton had the Pied Piper strategy, which then their minions in the lefty press pushed. Which is just mind blowing that they would do that. Did you feel the same way, like it really... like to watch MSNBC cover Bernie, or not cover him, and in favor of an empty podium for Trump, that's not hyperbole they literally did that. Did it, was it as distasteful for you as it was for me?
Nellie McKay: Oh it was horrific, I remember just bawling, I mean just the emotion of that campaign. We were in Canton Ohio, and later I learned how politically, how much political corruption is in Ohio, it's similar to Nevada I think, in a way. It's one of the most... where if you follow the money in that state, you know. And I was just... what do you call it? Projectile tears, you know? It's just aah! because we had just had Michigan, and that was such...
J: A huge.
N: And flying through the night getting the last people, trying to avoid the people with Leprechauns on their doors, 'cause they were always a little mean to you for some reason. I'm sure it's not all people, but in Detroit for some reason, you wanted to avoid the Leprechauns, especially the tinsel-y Leprechauns.
But we were flying, trying to get the last people out to the polls at 8pm, we were in this beautiful campaign space with artwork, and again it was such a group of people from all walks of life you know, and when he won it was so... I was just flying, you know? And then when... you know, to continue on... and after that the smears got ramped up.
J: Yeah of course, because he was a threat, because he won something. And well, first of all, is it okay you keep talking about this stuff?
N: Oh no, I love it, I love it. I'm not saying... there are things you keep touching on, oh well I mean for instance in the DNC lawsuit, when the lawyers for the Democrats said something to the effect of, "We have the right to pick candidates in smoke filled back rooms if we wish to", I mean...
J: Right. So they don't... and they haven't changed, by the way. They had that Reform Committee and they didn't reform anything, and... have you followed that at all? The Reform Committee?
N: I mean a little bit, but I um...
J: They still have super delegates.
N: I know. I know. I know.
J: That's amazing, can you imagine? That's like something you know, you would think Russia would do, like they would rig their... "Oh, we have super delegates, their vote is worth ten thousand more than you, it's important that they.... they know better, Jimmy."
J: So that's what we do here and everybody's like, "Yep, sounds good!" You know... to lose an election to a political novice, and then blame another country, is what the Democrats are doing. And now they're suing, instead of offering a program to help people, they're going to file a lawsuit. What the? I couldn't be more let down.
N: But... oh against Wikileaks, that's the lawsuit you're talking about. Yeah, no, I know. I know, I know, I was afraid I thought that was something I've missed. No, of course. Of course.
J: Yeah, they're suing the Wikileaks for doing journalism. Did you see The Post, the movie The Post?
N: I didn't. I didn't want to.
J: Why didn't you want to see it?
N: Because... I mean at this point... the idea that Hollywood, I mean... they've turned their back. You know in Good Fellas when Paulie turns his back?
J: Yeah, I gotta give you... "Here's three grand, now I gotta turn my back on you."
N: That's right, he says "This is it for a lifetime of hard work", this is Henry. That's what happened you know? The working class got what? A certificate of appreciation, you know. And the coasts turned their back, the professional class, and you know now they blame them. I mean the... I don't know how I'm going to do my show tonight, because who buys tickets, you know? But it's just.... there's no future there. You know, we weren't just fighting for a future to believe in, we were fighting for a future at all.
J: Right, I know.
N: With this level of corruption... look at one of the existential threats is climate change. The number one driver of climate change is animal agriculture. It's not just because it contributes more greenhouse gas then all global transportation combined, it's because it's the number one driver of deforestation, and the... what do you call it, the poisoning of the oceans. So you're eliminating the biomass that absorbs carbon, so all that's getting pumped in to the atmosphere and there's nothing to absorb it.
If you don't take money out of politics, both parties are bought and paid for, you're not going to stop the subsidizing of the meat and dairy industries. You're not going to stop the wholesale corporate takeover of the levers of power in this country, and you're not going to incentivize a plant based diet or reforestation. So, you know, do you want a planet to live on? 'Cause you have to get out of the system.
J: So that's what I keep telling people, and when people were shaming me to vote for a corporatist war monger who promised to export fracking around the world, and had a public position and a private position, and she let billionaires know that but not the rest of us, I just couldn't... and people shamed me for not being able to participate in that anymore. And I said that, you know, no matter who wins this election, meaning Trump or Hillary, I'm going to have to fight both parties for a living wage, I'm going to have to fight both parties on climate change, I'm going to have to fight both parties on ending these wars, I'm going to have to fight both parties on free college, Medicare for all. The fight doesn't end, the fight starts.
N: Oh no, because of the crime bill of the 90s you have 250,000 to 500,000 people who are now sitting in cages, that are mentally ill. Half of those were put there on non-violent drug crimes. You know, and there was a big push to have Obama pardon, at the very least non-violent drug offenders, didn't happen.
J: He wouldn't even reschedule marijuana.
N: I know! I know, I know. My friend, you know I was saying, "Why couldn't he just do that?" with the pardons at the end, "why couldn't he just do that, last thing before leaving?". He said, "Why should he work at being a hero when everyone gives it to him for free?"
J: Yes. I mean he left office pushing the TPP. And they wonder why nobody would vote for Hillary in Michigan or Milwaukee. That's mind blowing, right?
N: I know, and the TPP would have established a corporate tribunal that would have taken to task any piece of legislation that affected their bottom line.
J: Right, so it takes away sovereignty from United States citizens, and it gives it to an unelected corporate body, and I think people caught on to that, which is why Trump actually repealed it, but he's going to try to pass something similar to it.
N: Oh, it's different roots of the same scam, yeah. I mean it's profoundly undemocratic. It's profoundly undemocratic to say that you have to vote one way, it's crazy. It is a way of suppressing free speech. One way of expressing yourself is through your vote, you have one vote, you're one person, you have the right to run for office if you wish, you have the right to campaign for who you wish, and that is sacred, and don't let anyone take that away from you.
J: No, they will... it's not sacred to everybody else. Everybody else is like "you owe your vote to the Democratic party", and I'm like you know what Nina Turner says, "Any blue just won't do", and I don't owe my vote to anybody. What a politician is supposed to do, if they don't have the votes necessary to win a race, they're supposed to go campaign and get those votes, and if you're not in the business of getting votes, maybe electoral politics isn't for you. And Hillary Clinton did not go to Wisconsin and Michigan, and she lost those states. I mean she lost the goddamned state to Bernie to begin with, what did that tell her? Nothing, apparently. So where do you see this ending up? So how are you going to... how are you navigating politics these days?
N: You know, my same friend from D.C. said "I know what's going to happen with Kucinich", and I put out, we put out a thing for Kucinich but the inevitable happened, you know?
J: That he got smeared, he got smeared. Huffington Post, oh "Dennis Kucinich ties to the butcher Assad", did you see that? It was crazy, the smears they did against him.
N: Right, right, 'cause war isn't butchering.
J: Right, it's like oh... I talk about in my act, ISIS will cut your head off with a knife, they're barbarians. Why don't they blow your head off with a nice Christian bomb?
N: Right, right I know. Chris Hedges said that more people have been decapitated by our drones and missiles and bombs, then ISIS has ever done. And yeah, with Wisconsin, I was in Wisconsin after Clinton, she left before we had finished knocking on doors in Eau Claire. So, not to, you know (huffs and polishes nails on collar) too much, but I mean, come on. You know... people, also they will say Russia! Russia!, is this running our government. They have no problem with multinational corporations running our government.
J: Right, the people who are really influencing our government is you know, Goldman Sachs, Exxon, Eli Lily, Raytheon, those are the people and everyone knows it, right? We know we live in an oligarchy, people... even Hillary Clinton supporters like Paul Krugman admits, yes we live in an oligarchy. And they don't go "so we have to get in the streets and change this tomorrow", they just go "Well, that' s it, we live in an oligarchy and so that's that. Now let's vote for the lesser of two evil and put on a pussy hat and deregulate Wall Street".
N: Right, yeah. It's an oligarchy they can live with, you know they're comfortable enough. Trump brings it way too much to the fore, Glenn Greenwald said Trump makes this country... it's visible what it does, he takes the mask off. Much as Gina Haspel has done with what the CIA does, much as Netanyahu has done with what Israel does. You know, it's not a friendly face, or a comforting face.
J: Yes, he... you know like people say "You really don't think there's consequences to Trump being president, now Jeff Sessions is a racist who is the head of the justice department?", and I'm like guess what? We have a racist justice system in the United States, do you know how blacks are over represented in our prison population, and nobody cares about that?
So it's apt that we have a racist at the head of our criminal justice system, because now we all know what it is. Now we can all get together and fight against this racist criminal justice system, instead of having a pretty boy like Eric Holder have his face on it, a black guys face who seems like he gives a shit, which he doesn't. If he's the head of the justice department you think, okay well they got it, everything's handled, even though what they're doing is racist. He's enabling a racist system. They didn't do anything, did they? Did you see anything that the Barack Obama administration did to lower our prison population?
N: Well, there's a great documentary called Do Not Resist, I don't know if you've seen it but it's all about the militarization of the police, and there's Eric Holder you know, at these meetings when they're talking about sending... what are they called, something cats, emraps?
J: MRAPs, which are like tanks.
N: Yeah, MRAPs to little sleepy towns of like 4,000.
J: Like Ferguson.
N: Yeah, which of course were used in places like Ferguson, yes.
J: So going back to that point it's like, in a sense Trump is the shock that is supposed to wake us up to the horrible stuff that our government's been doing all along, and you see how the Democrats go along with Trump, the worst of him.
They just voted to deregulate Wall Street again, that's the Democrats doing that. They just voted to increase our war budget by 80 billion dollars a year, no discussion, no town hall meetings, no OpEds, nobody wringing their hands, no contentious debates with Ted Cruz and Bernie, on with Anderson, nothing! They just did it like that. That 80 billion dollars, they said Bernie was crazy thinking he could spend that on education, "What are you nuts? We have to spend that on bombs that nobody wants"!
Progressive On Dems - "Only Pragmatic Way Is Out" w/Nellie McKay
Published on Jun 5, 2018