Wednesday, August 02, 2006

we paid for the spanish-american war, finally

Starting yesterday, long-distance telephone carriers are not allowed to add a 3% federal excise tax to our bill any longer. This includes wireless, VoIP, prepaid telephone cards, and other bundled services.

The tax was imposed 108 years ago to pay for the Spanish-American War. Once the war was paid off, the tax dollars went into the general fund.

At the time it was imposed (as a one-cent-per-call fee), it was intended that the wealthy shoulder most of the burden for paying for the war since, at the time (1898), only the wealthy could afford telephone service. (Interesting—this was a Republican tax imposed during McKinley’s term. And this was a war, fueled by propaganda, to, ostensibly, end the inhumane treatment of Cubans by the Spanish—yet, after the war, we ended up owning the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico, and tens of thousands of Cubans and Spaniards died, and probably 250,000 Filipinos—and though less than 300 US soliers died in combat, about 5,000 died of disease ... ) Eventually it morphed into the 3% excise tax.

Anyway, the telcos have been fighting to end this (and other federal taxes) for years and finally succeeding in getting Congress to rule that the IRS could no longer collect this money. “Individuals will be allowed to claim three years’ worth of refunds on their 2006 tax returns. Taxpayers will be allowed to calculate their actual taxes paid or claim a standard amount to be set by the Treasury Department and IRS,” according to IT&T News in the Heartland Institute. I wonder if it will be an automatic credit or if you’re just SOL if you don’t itemize. Businesses, however, will have to spend beaucoup bucks to prove they have a refund coming.

What I’m wondering is how we’re going to pay for this lost revenue down the road—consumers rarely come out ahead when it come to big business and taxes and the government, so I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop before I celebrate.

posted by lee on 08/02/06 at 05:18 PM
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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

don’t forget to vote tuesday

Ned Lamont for Senate

Back in Frebruary, Stanley and I dug our way out of a couple of feet of snow to go to Stamford to meet Ned Lamont. I had already decided that I like what he had to say before actually getting a chance to ask him questions and hear what he had to say in person. So I was delighted that he was as impressive in person as in print. Ah, at last, a real Democrat. A progressive.

A problem-solver, an entrepreneur who understands the needs of small business, a volunteer teacher who knows first hand what kids in poor schools need. I was worried that I would sense BS—I’m am entrepreneur facing problems to solve; I taught the poorest of the poor kids in Manhattan and Bushwick for several years. I didn’t sense any false notes.

A candidate I can vote FOR. I’m so tired of voting against candidates—that’s not what the democratic process is about. I’ve been waiting for six months to vote FOR a candidate. At last, it’s time.

Vote for Ned Lamont on August 8.

posted by lee on 08/08/06 at 12:31 AM
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the lieberbot finally called me

Let’s see ... Bill Clinton called me. Twice. Christopher Dodd called once. John whatever (head of the CT AFL-CIO, I think) called. A couple of other calls from LIEberman supporters.

But today, finally, after I’ve already voted for Ned Lamont (and DiStefano), ol’ Joebot himself called.

Have there been any surveys done on the effectiveness of barraging voters with robot calls during a campaign? I have to think they can’t be very effective—we always just hang up the phone, no matter who is being peddled. Hey, I hung up the phone on President Clinton: twice!

Mostly, these calls are annoying. Especially since they come in with no caller id, like they’re hiding something. I don’t mind actual people calling, as long as they’re campaign volunteers or staff and not some telemarketing minimum-wage drones. At least then, I can asked questions.

Dianne Farrell uses celebritybots too. I wasn’t impressed that Paul Newmanbot called to ask me to support her. I hung up on Paul Newman as well.

There aren’t that many voters in one district, or Democrats in the state of Connecticut. Actual people, volunteers and staff, called me from Ned Lamont’s campaign (aside from the campaign work I’ve been contributing). I think it’s called being in touch with the voters. Something that maybe Joe shoulda rediscovered a lot sooner than two months ago.

I hope it’s a huge turnout, and the outcome is solidly, overwhelmingly for Ned Lamont for Senate. Joebot, I think, is way too little, way too late.

posted by lee on 08/08/06 at 04:38 PM
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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

yes! ned lamont wins the primary!

An amazing victory—from an unknown to defeating a three-term senator in just six months. Ned made a great speech, thanking everyone, laying out what he will work to achieve as senator, and especially thanking his family and Tom Swan (his campaign manager). It actually brought tears to my eyes—jaded cynic that I am.

Lieberman announced that he’s now running as an “Independent Democrat,” whatever that means. A graceless and mean-spirited concession speech. Now he’s going to file to run under the “Connecticut for Lieberman” party.

It looks like John DeStefano won the Dem primary for governor (I voted for him)—I’m glad to see that, though I doubt Jodi Rell can be defeated on November 7 (but after tonight, I think it might be possible ... ) What’s REALLY interesting about this is that the woman who was running as Daniel Malloy running mate, Mary Glassman, won the nomination for lt. governor by an overwhelming margin. I voted for Glassman—my main reason is we need more smart, liberal women in politics, but my secondary reason is I preferred DeStafano only slightly more than I went for Malloy (I like DeStafano’s health care ideas more), so this seemed to me one way to get the best ticket possible. Apparently, a LOT of other Nutmeggers were thinking this way too.

The Lamont victory wasn’t as overwhelming as I had hoped it would be, so I know it’s going to be another three months of heavy campaigning. But I am so happy to be campaigning for a candidate I believe in! And I think his defeat of Lieberman (and the Republican) in November will be absolutely overwhelming.

Added to the continuing fight against Joe is Diane Farrell’s fight against Chris Shays (R) for the US House of Representatives race. I’m still really pissed off at her for needlessly supporting Lieberman when she clearly shouldn’t have declared for anyone and for her outrageously expensive fund raisers—most of the people in our district are NOT wealthy, including me, yet she keeps campaigning as if her entire district was at the same socio-economic level as Westport. Shays is very popular, so it will be a very interesting race—in this case, I think the defining issue will once again be the Iraq war. (And Diane should start distancing herself from Hillary Clinton—we DO pay attention in this state, as Ned’s victory demonstrated.)

This just in from the Wall Street Journal (by By Jeanne Cummings, August 8, 2006 11:26 p.m.)

WASHINGTON—Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman conceded defeat in the state’s Democratic primary, a result that may send an ominous signal to other incumbents supportive of President Bush and the Iraq war.

Mr. Lieberman, who is seeking a fourth term, lost to Ned Lamont, a 52-year-old businessman with little political experience. With 89% of Connecticut precincts reporting, Mr. Lamont led with 52% of the vote, compared with 48% for Mr. Lieberman.

In a defiant concession speech, Mr. Lieberman vowed to continue on as an independent and accused the Lamont campaign of the “same old partisan rhetoric” that has polarized Washington.

Many Connecticut Democrats, who turned out in record numbers for the primary vote, vented frustration with an 18-year incumbent who many said had lost touch with the state, particularly on Iraq.

The Lamont victory represents a coming of age for the Democratic Party’s online activists, who had yet to score a victory in backing antiwar candidates. Liberal bloggers helped draw Mr. Lamont into the race while raised money for his campaign and delivered activists who stuffed envelopes and put up yard signs.

“It’s a big deal,” says Robert Borosage, of the advocacy group Campaign for America’s Future. “There is a rising, progressive tide in the Democratic Party of activists and voters who are very upset with the direction of the country and very tired of Democrats who have chosen to duck-and-cover rather than to stand-and-fight.”

But some Republicans say the vote could hurt Democrats, by making them seem too far left, and too antiwar, to appeal to voters in more conservative parts of the country. Connecticut is one of the nation’s most liberal states, though the antiwar, anti-Bush sentiment there also registers in national polls.

Even so, the Lieberman defeat was a dramatic event, and a political fall for the man who was the party’s vice presidential nominee in 2000. Incumbents rarely lose among their party’s voters: This was the fourth time that has happened in a quarter-century.

For weeks, Mr. Lieberman’s campaign has been collecting the 7,500 signatures required to put his name on the ballot this fall as an independent. Preprimary polls have suggested Mr. Lieberman could win as an independent by drawing support from Connecticut’s Republicans and voters unaffiliated with either party.

Still, the primary defeat offers at least one lesson for other incumbents: Those who hail from antiwar states must deal head-on with the issue. Despite signs of trouble, Mr. Lieberman didn’t fully respond to his critics until the final week.

And an independent run won’t be easy. Mr. Lieberman would have to dodge a sore-loser label while mounting a campaign without the traditional party machinery that can marshal activists, donors, advisers and other support. In addition, the majority of his Senate colleagues—and former President Clinton, whose campaign appearance for Mr. Lieberman drew the incumbent’s largest crowd—are expected now to line up behind Mr. Lamont as the party nominee.

The Iraq war dominated the contest, but it wasn’t the only factor in the race. Mr. Lieberman’s stature with his Democratic constituents was weakened by his criticism of President Clinton during the 1998 impeachment trial, his promotion of public school vouchers and two successive runs for national office that kept him away from home.

Mr. Lamont launched his campaign as an anti-war rebuttal to Mr. Lieberman’s staunch support for the Iraq invasion. But the cable company executive worked to expand his portfolio by calling for expanded health care coverage and other issues.

A turning point appeared to come when Mr. Lieberman announced that he might run as an independent in the November general election. That decision seemed to harden some voters belief that Mr. Lieberman was more concerned with his position in Washington than representing his constituents. Within a week, Mr. Lamont moved ahead in the polls and widened the gap in the run up to Election Day.

Stanley and I are looking forward to reading what the pundits have to say tomorrow—and I hope Ned’s victory really does prove to be a bellwether for the rest of the country in November.

Now that the primary is finally over, I need to focus on work again—it was really hard today to get anything done!

posted by lee on 08/09/06 at 03:40 AM
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Friday, August 11, 2006

on what planet would joe be considered sensible?

It’s just too good a column not to share it:

Nonsense and Sensibility
By Paul Krugman, August 11, 2006, New York Times

After Ned Lamont’s victory in Connecticut, I saw a number of commentaries describing Joe Lieberman not just as a “centrist”—a word that has come to mean “someone who makes excuses for the Bush administration”—but as “sensible.” But on what planet would Mr. Lieberman be considered sensible?

Take a look at Thomas Ricks’s “Fiasco,” the best account yet of how the U.S. occupation of Iraq was mismanaged. The prime villain in that book is Donald Rumsfeld, whose delusional thinking and penchant for power games undermined whatever chances for success the United States might have had. Then read Mr. Lieberman’s May 2004 op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal, “Let Us Have Faith,” in which he urged Mr. Rumsfeld not to resign over the Abu Ghraib scandal, because his removal “would delight foreign and domestic opponents of America’s presence in Iraq.”

And that’s just one example of Mr. Lieberman’s bad judgment. He has been wrong at every step of the march into the Iraq quagmire—all the while accusing anyone who disagreed with him of endangering national security. Again, on what planet would Mr. Lieberman be considered “sensible”? But I know the answer: on Planet Beltway.

Many of those lamenting Mr. Lieberman’s defeat claim that they fear a takeover of our political parties by extremists. But if political polarization were really their main concern, they’d be as exercised about the primary challenge from the right facing Lincoln Chafee as they are about Mr. Lieberman’s woes. In fact, however, the sound of national commentary on the Rhode Island race is that of crickets chirping.

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posted by lee on 08/11/06 at 04:35 AM
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Monday, August 14, 2006

getting ready to go on vacation

We’re only going to be gone for three weeks. Everything is nearly set up—our house will be housesat, the papers are suspended, the mail will be on hold, my coffee delivery postponed ... as usual, I’ve been frantically trying to finish up a couple of big projects. Pre-vacation stress, ugh.

But there is no way I’ll get my two big projects finished by Friday, so I’ve just decided to accept that I’ll be doing some work while we’re in Michigan. When I decided that, it was like this weight lifted. If I get them done, fine. If not, that’s fine too. The deadlines are self-imposed, really. My world won’t grind to a halt if I actually let them go for three weeks. Only, it will bug me.

And there is a world of difference between working at my leisure, sitting on my parents’ back porch after having spent a few hours at the beach, and sitting in our office with the unrelenting phone and email and have-tos and musts.

I need a break from the campaigns, too. More than from work, I think—the primary was intense, but the general election will be even more intense because the House race in now in play. Other than updating, I’m going to TRY to take a break. Which is not as easy as one would think given a husband and a father who look forward every year to spending three weeks agreeing with eachother about what an asshole (name a republican or fake democrat here) is. How he or she is bungling the war, homeland security, the budget, emergency management, basic humanity ...

the wisteria is taking over the worldWe have to hack back a jungle before we can close some windows! This window, which is in Stanley’s “studio,” looks like there is a tree next to it. It’s not a tree—it’s a wisteria monster. It went berserk with all the rain and heat and humidity, it mutated or transformed or something. I fear that we’ll awake to find ourselves lashed to our bed when the monster breaks through the screen. Stanley will have to get on the porch roof and hack it back so we can lock the window. Or we’ll come back to find the studio completely engulfed in wisteria. Come to think of it, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing given the state of the room, which is a repository for all Stanley’s guy junk.

I think our creatures will benefit the most from the vacation—once the drive is over. Though they’re really good travelers. Last trip home, Twitch didn’t vomit even once. The both just curl up and sleep most of the way. Twitch will spend every moment he can on the screened in porch, watching the hummingbirds and finches. Ginger will start twinging when she realizes the lake is right there—she’s a happy dog when she’s swimming. And chasing the wild turkeys and running running running.

the persistence of cat, by lee fleming
Here is Twitch in my office window (click image to enlarge). He looks liquid, a Dali cat. I wish I could relax that much.

Now who’s going to win the restaurant on Hell’s Kitchen? Don’t know why I like this show so much.

posted by lee on 08/14/06 at 11:32 PM
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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

ned lamont commentary in wall street journal

Busy evening getting ready to launch our latest site redesign (Revonet), so I didn’t get a chance to see how our portfolio (sounds fancy. Adds up to not very much. Yet. Maybe in 20 years.) did today. Dow & NASDAQ were way up, so I went to the front page to find out why and noticed Ned’s name in the Inside Today box ... hey, lemme take a look ...

The Democrats Mean Business
August 16, 2006; Page A10, Wall Street Journal

In the past week, my victory in the Connecticut Senate primary has been labeled everything from the death knell of the Democratic Party to the signal of our party’s rebirth. Beneath all of this punditry is a question that I want to face directly: how the experience I will bring to the U.S. Senate will help Connecticut and the Democratic Party during this time of testing for our country.

I ran at a time when people said “you can’t beat a three-term incumbent,” because I believed that President Bush, enabled by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, had weakened our country at home and abroad. We’re weaker economically, because we’re more dependent on foreign energy and foreign capital. Our national security has also been weakened, because we stopped fighting a real war on terror when we made the costly and counterproductive decision to go to war in Iraq.

My confidence that Connecticut was ready for a real debate and a real choice this year was founded not only on current events but also past experience. It was my career in business that shaped my outlook, and helped prepare me to run the race I did.

In 1984, with a loan from People’s Bank, I started Campus TeleVideo from scratch. Our offer was unique: Rather than provide a one-size-fits-all menu of channels, we let the customers design their cable system based on the character of the community being served.

From the moment I filled out that loan application, I’ve been in every part of the business—pulling cable, hiring workers, picking a good health-care plan, closing deals, listening to customers and fixing problems. It’s been profitable, and it’s been instructive, a quintessentially American experience. Here, entrepreneurs have the freedom to be successful in ways the rest of the world admires.

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posted by lee on 08/16/06 at 05:00 AM
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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

there was a mouse in the house

cat does his job

We made it to Michigan on Sunday evening. Dad said there was a mouse in the kitchen cupboards, and wondered if Twitch would catch it. Well, Twitch keeps the mice at bay in our house (and moles and moths), so we weren’t surprised when he’d managed to catch it before long. He was quite proud of himself. The sweet little field mouse is no more. Twitch catches them and tortures them, tossing them around until they croak, or until Stanley manages to get the creature away from the cat and put it out of its misery. Twitch gets pissed off when Stanley takes his mousies away and sulks for about 20 minutes. Below, if you click on the picture to enlarge it, take a look at how puffed up the cat looks—I swear it looks like he gains five pounds when he’s hunted successfully (he only weighs 11 pounds—he’s a small, wiry cat).

Twitch all puffed up with pride

The trip was, for the most part, pretty easy. There were some periods of hard rain in Pennsylvania, but at least it was daylight when we drove through it. We didn’t leave until Saturday at 2:30, but were in Warren, Ohio by 10:00 pm. We had planned on leaving much, much earlier, but it just didn’t work out. We left Warren about 11:45 the next morning, and were in Oscoda by 6:00 or so. It is so great to see mom and dad! We finally managed to get a cable connection, so that was good, though it took most of Monday afternoon to set up. Today, Tuesday, we went to Three Mile Beach—half of it is closed off because the county is doing some work there—we’re not sure what yet—but there are a bunch of big machines in that area. Dad said he’ll try to find out what is going on at his Kiwanis meeting on Wednesday. We have gone to bingo, twice. We all won, but not enough to break even yet. It’s fun. Tomorrow, more beach, but I have to get a few work tasks done in the morning. The weather is fantastic so far—upper 70s and dry. Very dry—it’s been a long time since there was some decent rain here and the fields and lawns are crispy and gray-brown. I always forget how dark the skies are here—the night sky here is heartbreaking it’s so beautiful. Lake Huron is the perfect swimming temperature—brisk enough to wake you up but not so cold it give you cramps. Ginger is a happy dog—she was in the lake before we even took her leash off.

posted by lee on 08/23/06 at 02:27 AM
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