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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Meeting famous authors, bloggers, and Bob Casey

Tuesday night - primary day in PA - I finally left the polling place where I am minority inspector at about 9:30 pm. Whew, long day, I'm thinking; I'm beat. I debate just going home and calling my numbers into County Dem HQ and think nah, I do want to stop by the party at Joe Sestak's campaign HQ. That turned out to be an eventful decision. (A little background: Joe is running to unseat Curt Weldon in U.S. House district PA-7; both were unopposed in the primary, so there wasn't a lot of suspense on this race, watching the numbers roll in.)

After yammering at County HQ for awhile I finally drift over to Sestak's place just up the street, and the party is pretty much breaking up but there's enough fine folk still there to make it worth stopping in, and I do. Almost immediately I see Myles, the campaign manager; he high-fives me and says, hey do you want to go to a book-signing for Kos and wear a Sestak t-shirt and give us some publicity? I was so damn tired I don't even know how I answered but I know I was thinking, "geez, I want to help out Joe, but do I have to do this?" (More background for those who haven't been following: Kos has been rather, um, let's just say, "unfair and unbalanced" in his blog posts about John Kerry in the past, and as I understand it has some b.s. about Iowa, Dean, and Kerry in the book that he wrote with Jerome Armstrong. So as you might imagine, he really isn't a Kerry fan's favorite person in blogworld, whatever the relative ranking of his site.)

Long story short, I did express a bit of my dilemma to Myles but told him I'd see if I could do it.

Next morning I hooked up by phone with Sestak's lead blogger (Colin) and said, what the hell, I'll do it. Then Colin asked if I wanted to come to the "private reception" prior to the main deal. Again, what the hell, in for a foot may as well be in for a mile.

All along I'm thinking I'll just wear my Sestak t-shirt and keep a low profile and make some small talk with these guys. Hey, I'm jaded. Last December I was sitting in a bar with a group of bloggers chit-chatting with Senator John Kerry. So ya know, merely meeting famous bloggers is like, okay whatever. Well, more likely it was that I'd had less than 10 hours of sleep in 2 days and my brain was telling me to just find a corner to crawl into to go to sleep.

But, both events turned out to be really, really cool. Even meeting Markos was worth it...more on that later.

Colin and I arrived at the venue for the "private reception" - a bar in Old City named the Khyber (spelling?) - right on time, but the rest weren't there yet. "The rest" turned out to include Chris Bowers of MyDD, Booman (or as I call him, "The Booman"), and Duncan Black, aka Atrios, and a few others I should probably remember, but sadly can't. Oh, there was another VIP there...Villanova prof Matt Kerbel, who is the author of Get This Party Started : How Progressives Can Fight Back and Win. I spent some time talking with Matt, and I found him quite reasonable and impressive in his political knowledge and views. I think I'll buy his book.

While we were all sitting around waiting for kos and Jerome to show up, another fellow came in with a bunch of equipment and passed out some releases for us to sign. Turns out he's from a British company and trying to sell a film about "Bloggers." He told us we weren't likely to be on anything broadcast, what he was shooting Tuesday I think he called the "tasters" - i.e. bits he would use to sell the concept for the real flick. Still he wanted the releases signed just in case. I saw that everybody else was signing them so once again I said what the hell...although I confess this is something I wasn't expecting at all.

Wait, there's more...and we're still only at the private reception.

So eventually Markos and Jerome show up. Either shortly before or shortly after, an even bigger (in more ways than one) VIP walks in - my U.S. Senate candidate, Bob Casey! Woo-hoo! Now if I'd known I'd get to be in a group of about 10 people meeting and greeting Bob Casey, without even having to pay a $1000 campaign contribution, you know there'd have been no hesitation at all! Of course, I was so zoned by meeting Bob unexpectedly that I can't remember what we talked about. I mostly listened...in our little group most of the talking was between Bob and either Matt or Colin, but I remember agreeing with what Bob was saying and generally finding him quite personable and well-spoken. Even though I don't remember the topics discussed, I came away with a good feeling about supporting Bob for Senate.

Oh yeah, Jerome and Markos. I somehow missed talking to Jerome until the end of the evening, but I did get to talk to Markos a little bit there at the private reception. I do remember that conversation well. Markos surprised me a little with some comments about how he felt that liberal bloggers shouldn't be trashing the Democratic party...and I think I understood him in context to mean leading Dems as well. He stressed his perception that there are short-term and long-term goals, the short-term of course being to take back the House and Senate, and the long-term being to reform the Dem Party itself. Of course I whole-heartedly agree with those sentiments, at least for the short-term goal (I generally agree with the long-term goal but see it a little differently than he expressed it).

I am not sure that I think Markos' blog posts in the past have reflected the goals he described to me...particularly the ones bashing Kerry...but on the other hand, I haven't been paying much attention to what he is writing lately. Later in the evening I was discussing this with someone else, who reflected that they thought his writing had matured, and moved in the direction of being more supportive of the party and party leaders. So. Perhaps I will take a new look.

So, my short takeaway regarding Markos is that I now have a more three-dimensional impression of him, and I'm glad I had that opportunity. However, I am still wary of his perspectives and how he will use or abuse his megaphone. We will see if he really as matured as was suggested, or if it continues to be just more of the same.

After the private event we moved on to another bar (whose name I don't recall), for the actual book-signing event. Chris Bowers, who Tuesday was elected state committee person on a write-in campaign - a pretty cool achievement itself - gave a brief spiel, and then Markos and Jerome spoke for a bit, mainly talking about short and long term goals and getting back to a "people-powered party." The phrase has a nice ring to it...we'll see how it works out. I didn't like the assertion they made that, looking at the long-term goal, everyone who has been in Washington for more than a term or two has been there too long and has lost touch and needs to be replaced...I think that's a shallow view, and not true in the case of good public servants like say for example, John Conyers, Henry Waxman, or John Kerry. Something tells me this "movement" isn't going to be able to take out people like that anyway, and hopefully they'll use their energies more wisely.

For the rest of the evening I chit chatted with folks...even though we were in Old City I did find a few Delaware County folks to talk to and give Sestak literature to. At the end of the night I didn't even have to take a train home...Joe's brother Richard had come down and so he gave me a ride back to Springfield. We had a nice chat on the ride back. I had met and worked with Richard on the campaign before, but it had been awhile, so it was cool to be reminded what a really nice guy he is. That's the thing about the Sestak family that I can't emphasize enough - I've met a whole bunch of them now - it's a big family - and every single one of them is intelligent, accomplished, and above all, nice - "nice" in a comfortable, trust-inspiring, downhome cooking kind of way. It didn't take me long after first meeting Joe Sestak to be 100% on board with him as my candidate...but the more I know about Joe and his family, the better and better I feel about it. I am going to be really proud to have Joe Sestak as my Congressman.

All in all, it was a great evening, and all the best stuff was totally unexpected - meeting and chatting with Bob Casey and Matt Kerbel, having such a pleasant and down to earth conversation with Markos, many of the other interactions that I didn't even mention above, and finally a very pleasant end to the evening driving back to DelCo with Richard Sestak. I hope you all won't mind if I don't come down from the clouds for awhile.

Monday, May 15, 2006

How Much to Tip Big Oil?

If you're anything like me, tipping is a problem. If the service is good, I like to tip 20%. Less than good, 15%. Waiters, even bad waiters (or especially bad ones), don't typically make a whole lot of money, so I don't really mind. If the waiter looks like a college kid who's been up half the night studying (or whatever), it's up to 20% again.

In Europe, it's a whole different story. Tipping customs vary, but generally speaking, customers are expected to tip less than here at home. I've been to Europe several times, I doubt I ever got it right. It's very possible there are countries I should avoid.

Tipping sucks. I'm horrible at math, and usually have to figure it out by calculating 10%, multiplying by two and guessing.

Why don't they just pay these people?

My hairdresser's tip is based on how good I look when she's done with me. Last time she gave me money back. The airport guy gets a dollar a bag.

So, how much more than $3.00 a gallon should I pay Big Oil?

In 2005, the oil industry made $140 billion dollars in profit.

That's 140,000,000,000.00, right? I learned today that there is an oil company SUBSIDY that we're paying these guys of approximately $700 million dollars a year. Now, I'm no expert, but I thought a subsidy was something you paid businesses in hard times who needed help from the government because it's in the public interest, like farmers or something.

Apparently, I don't know much about subsidies. A subsidy, it seems, can also be money you give to a company beyond what they're already gouging you for. Sort of like a tip for rich folks.

So, 140,000,000,000, times 20% is...

Shit. I wonder if I can get the gas station to accept more than $3.00 a gallon?


Last year, Exxon made a record profit of $36 billion.

Retiring Exxon chairman, Lee Raymond, received a retirement package of $400 million.

He doesn't get a tip.

Today, Senator John Kerry's office uncovered information about the Republicans' $700 million a year 'tip' for Big Oil, and how he and Jim McDermott are saying "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH":
Big Oil Walking Away with $700 Million in Taxpayer Money Every Year

Senator John Kerry – Rep. Jim McDermott Release New Data

New revenue data from the independent congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, JCT, requested by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), show a gusher of subsidies- as much as $700 million every year- is flowing to oil and natural gas companies at the expense of U.S. taxpayers, because of an unearned and necessary windfall given away by the Republican majority. The price tag exceeds $5 billion over ten years – at least $1.4 billion more than previous estimates.

Rep. Jim McDermott said: “Big Oil is winning a multi-million dollar lottery every day of the week, every day of the year, because the game has been rigged by a Republican Congress and President. Big Oil does not deserve the multi-billion dollar tax subsidy, but Republicans gave it to them, anyway.”

“It’s clear every time people fill up at the pump that the Bush energy policy is not working. The fact that American taxpayers have to give away more money to oil companies as their profits increase is absurd – it’s like a kick in the stomach on top of a $60 tank of gas,” said John Kerry.

Adding insult to injury, the lawmakers pointed out that the windfall tax subsidy actually increases as oil and gas prices increase.

The fix for Big Oil came within the 2004 corporate tax bill that Republicans sold as the JOBS Act.

“Republicans did a job in that bill alright,” McDermott said, “of diverting the attention of the American people by bold facing the name and boldly rewarding Big Oil, instead.”

“It’s time we stop multi-billion dollar giveaways, financed by the American people, to the richest companies in America” added Kerry.

Rep. McDermott introduced H.R. 5218 in the House and Senator Kerry introduced S. 2672 in the Senate to stop the needless flow of U.S. taxpayer money out of the U.S. Treasury and into the profit statements of Big Oil. Action on these bills is pending in both chambers.

Speaking of Weldon: a Billmon must-read

Hee hee. Billmon nails Curt Weldon on this Harper's find about the Congressman's, um, shall we say, voracious eating habits:

In the light of the moon, a little campaign lay on a leaf. One November morning the voters came out, and POP, out of the campaign came a tiny, very hungry Congressman. He started looking for some food.

On Monday, the Congressman ate through one Boeing PAC contribution, but he was still hungry.

On Tuesday, he ate through two highway appropriations, but he was still hungry.

On Wednesday.....

aw go on, read it at the Whiskey Bar.

Now they're even doing stealth fundraisers

From today's Philadelphia Inquirer:

Cheney photo-op for Weldon

Vice President Cheney turned out for a quiet fund-raising event on Friday in Washington to help U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon (R., Pa.).

Weldon, who will face a November challenge from Democrat Joe Sestak, probably got a nice chunk of change from the luncheon at the C2 Group offices on Constitution Avenue. His campaign wouldn't say how many attended, but the suggested donation was $1,000 for lunch - or $2,100 if you wanted your picture taken with the veep.

It was the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that made the event known. It charged that Weldon would never have held the event at home in the Philadelphia suburbs - not with President Bush's approval ratings sinking.

I guess the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee thought we might not notice how supportive Curt Weldon has been of the bankrupt policies of the incompetent administration of George W. Bush and Dick "eagle eye" Cheney?

Kind of like they think we might ignore Weldon's ties to Jack Abramoff?

Kind of like we might forget the coziness (or was it dual role) of Weldon's campaign staff with lobbyists?

Come to think of it, that is a lot to keep track of...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Kerry in The Hill: Health insurance for every child in America (5/10)

Looks like amongst everything else, John Kerry is going to be pushing for some action on the Kids First Act:

Health insurance for every child in America
By Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)

American families put kids first every day. They work hard to give their children opportunities they never had. It’s called the American dream.

But in Washington, D.C., today, our government is making that dream almost unattainable, as 11 million children in America go without health insurance.


Insuring every child won’t require big tax hikes or new bureaucracy. We can provide health insurance coverage for every kid in America if we simply roll back the president’s tax cut for individuals making over $300,000 a year.

Another way to look at it is that we could insure every child in America for the next 10 years for half of what it has cost us to occupy Iraq over the past three years.


Instead of dumping the problem on cash-strapped states, my proposal offers states a new bargain: the national government will give states immediate financial relief in exchange for a commitment not only to cover all kids but to make sure they get the coverage for which they’re eligible. This will cut the red tape that results in the huge gap between the kids who are eligible and those who actually get covered.

Under my plan, states will save over $6 billion per year.

Parents deserve a new bargain, too. We should help them buy employer-sponsored coverage where available. And we will allow parents who don’t normally qualify for public programs to buy coverage for their children at cost. Parents’ side of the bargain is to take advantage of these opportunities to get their kids covered or forfeit the child tax credit on their federal tax returns.

We spent much of 2005 building our coalition of support. Now is the time to put our citizen soldiers into action. We will push for accountability on Kids First in this election year — a vote on the Senate floor that will separate those who talk about family values and those who really value families.

When it comes to getting kids healthcare coverage, it’s a promise we can afford to keep — and one we cannot afford to break. Every child deserves a healthy start in life.

I wish I could post the whole thing here...it's worth the read.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Hopeful in New Orleans

Today, eight months after Senator John Kerry's first look at the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina, he took to the Senate floor to describe the current scene.
In a heartbreaking account of his recent visit to meet with local small business leaders, the Senator seemed as incredulous as he was angry, and as stunned as he was saddened by what he saw and reported to the Senate.
Senator Kerry (D-MA), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, joined Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) on a tour of the streets in the lower ninth ward, and described trash still piled high and vehicles still bearing the instruction "tow", for the truck that has yet to arrive.
"Somehow," Senator Kerry appealed to his senate colleagues, "we will have to find a way to break through."
Even more stunning were the Senator's stories of the survivors left behind, still valiantly attempting to hold onto hope and rescue their business, with the threat of a new storm season just two weeks away. Stories of anger and despair about the lack of leadership, about disillusioned business owners fighting for SBA loans, even though only $1 billion of the $9 billion earmarked for Katrina small business loans has been distributed eight months later. Stories about harassment and denial to loan applicants. Stories about local contractors turned aside for a debris removal job while so much is yet to be done.
And incredibly, of legislation aimed at rebuilding the Gulf Coast that has yet to be acted on by the Republican controlled United States Senate.

"My hope and prayer is that we can deliver on the promises to New Orleans"

Amen, Senator. Amen.

Adam Nagourney (and assorted idiots)

In a recent NYT article, Adam Nagourney successfully reads and deciphers the left hand column of the most recent NYT poll, giving us the following:

The political situation has not helped some of the more prominent members of the Democratic Party. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who was Mr. Bush's opponent in 2004, had a lower approval rating than Mr. Bush: 26 percent, down from 40 percent in a poll conducted right after the election.

And just 28 percent said they had a favorable view of Al Gore, one of Mr. Bush's more vocal critics.

Move over one column to the right, Mr. Nagourney, and try again. Better yet, how about an analysis of all the data?

Of course, columnists and fake MSNBC TV cowboys regurgitate on cue. As do right wing idiots extraordinaire Brit Hume and Mark Alexander, who went so far as to preface the Kerry/Gore comment with "To be fair..."

Is telling one fifth of the story better than not telling it at all? Apparently, if you're either a right wing hack, a snarky self-important columnist with little use for facts or a lazy reporter with a deadline.

Here are the real numbers.

Bush Approval 29 Disapproval 55 Total Undecided* 17
Cheney Approval 20 Disapproval 49 Total Undecided 31
H Clinton Approval 34 Disapproval 35 Total Undecided 33
McCain Approval 31 Disapproval 15 Total Undecided 54
Kerry Approval 26 Disapproval 38 Total Undecided 35
Gore Approval 28 Disapproval 39 Total Undecided 33

*'Undecided' includes 'undecided', 'haven't heard enough' and 'refused'.

A 30-something percent disapproval is expected for each of the three Dems, given the Republican base and that each is a potential 2008 hopeful with his or her own supporters. What I don't understand is McCain's 'undecideds'. I could tell you a few stories that might get that disapproval rating up into the Bush/Cheney range, but that's for another post.

Perhaps if the media actually reported what John Kerry and Al Gore are saying and doing beyond calling them 'critics' and 'opponents', the undecideds might move some numbers to the first column.

Where Nagourney can read them.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I'll take 'F-You' for 100, Bill

On second thought, Mr. Frist, I think I'll pass.

If you happen to be a Saturday Night Live fan, you probably caught the brilliant skit last weekend where Senate Majority Leader 'Bill Frist (R-TN)', (played by the much better looking and more charasmatic Tom Hanks) attempted to improve on his $100 gas bribe by adding $20, tickets to Busch Gardens and a Wonder Mop (with two replacement heads).

Thankfully, the Frist proposal to sell off the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and what's left of the Senate's credibility for 100 bucks fell flat, as everyone but Senator Frist realized two tanks of gas was not enough to buy off reasonable people. Or even unreasonable ones, apparently. He got more laughs with that proposal than 'The Daily Show'.

Not to be dissuaded, Frist and his pitiful 'gang of 55' have jumped the shark again, this time with the Republican Tax Plan.

Ummm... make that 54.

"The point is the preponderance of these revenues will go to upper-income people, people who make a million dollars or more," Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) said today. "It's a question of priorities."

Senator Snowe, I hope I understand your priorities. If so, I hope it translates to your vote. And if it does, call your friends and explain it to them.

Hey, maybe the Republican Congress is planning a TV series for C-SPAN, where they screw Americans daily M-F (consult your local listings). I suspect it will be cancelled in November.

Here's what the Republican Tax Plan will do for you:

Middle-income households would receive an average tax cut of just $20 from the agreement, according to the joint Brooking Institution-Urban Institute Tax Policy Center, while the 0.2 percent of households with incomes over $1 million would get average tax cuts of $42,000.

After all, that's almost a half tank of gas, and that's not nothing. On second thought...
$20 Senator Frist? I think I'll keep my soul.

Read more about how YOU can get your whopping $20 tax cut courtesy of the Republican congress,and what one Democratic Senator has to say about it. The Democratic Daily, as usual, has a great post with links.

Of course, there are still some in the Senate who haven't sucumbed to this insult to Americans that the Republican 'leadership' is calling a tax plan.

They're called Democrats.

As expected, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is speaking out against this horror of a bill.

From Senator Kerry:

This tax deal is a raw deal for our children, our future and 99 percent of American
The Alternative Minimum Tax will hit 23 million hardworking families next year because
they were too busy giving the retiring executive of Exxon a $42,000-plus tax break and capitol gains cuts for his stock sales.
This deal continues to throw billions at oil companies that even the President told
Congress they don't need. It's the right thing to do to repeal these exorbitant giveaways for the oil industry and save American taxpayers well over $28 billion, but this Congress refuses to do it.
Americans are working harder and harder and keeping less of their money. We should be
giving tax cuts to those families – not millionaires and oil companies.”

Nice work, Senator Kerry.

Stay tuned.

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