Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New Footlik chant: Beltway! Beltway!

as you may know, congresswoman jan schakowsky (il-09) attended a town hall meeting on behalf of americans against the escalation in iraq in northbrook, illinois to report on her august 2007 trip to iraq. what was interesting about this specific town hall meeting was that it was held outside of schakowsky's district in the neighboring congressional district of mark kirk.

the meeting -- reflecting the intense desire of voters in the tenth to talk about the war -- was packed. but it seems that not all the fireworks were inside. while about 300 people were inside, about the same number could not enter the hall because of fire department restrictions. congressional candidate jay footlik was outside, accompanied by his campaign manager.

volunteers and supporters of dan seals surrounded footlik and gave him a rousing reception. footlik is trying to move back to illinois having been gone for almost two decades. dan seals, meanwhile, has generated significant grass and netroots support, so it was no surprise that they would surround and shout down footlik.

one seals supporter asked footlik's manager where footlik voted last year (footlik has maintained his voter registration at his mother's house in the 9th congressional district since he left home to go to college). but the real fireworks exploded when footlik's manager tried to argue about it. BELTWAY! BELTWAY! went the chant. BELTWAY! BELTWAY! in response to footlik's negligible ties to the tenth. BELTWAY! BELTWAY! for another beltway candidate trying to parachute into an illinois district.

congressman kirk was invited to attend this town hall to report on his meeting with george bush and to explain his numerous votes to support the president's iraqi strategy. it doesn't appear that he was there. or, if he was there, that he got in (kirk has a reputation for showing up and waiting outside before deciding wether he will attend district events).

welcome to the tenth congressional district, mr. beltway insider. now you know how much support dan seals and progressive democrats have here. i'm betting that it seemed like a better idea to run against this netroots leader from your beltway office...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Impressions of the DNC Summit

let's win in november 2008! that's the rallying cry from the dnc summit. people from all over the country, including the illinois democratic party co-chair, state rep. constance howard, and state senator iris martinez (both of chicago) attended. howard moderated the session on election protection.

three presidential candidates showed up. bill richardson, who had a heavy contingent among nevada participants (i'd guess that they were evenly divided between bill richardson and hillary clinton), made an appearance on thursday, speaking to the full session and then hosting two events, including one aimed at hispanics. mike gravel spoke to the opening session on friday. and dennis kucinich made an unscheduled stop in on friday, as well. he gave his standard stump speech to the friday morning session and then dropped in on the breakout groups as well.

the other candidates had a heavy presence and several hosted special events. hillary had a table up for the first two days and "nevadans for hillary" hosted a reception friday night. former mayor wellington webb from denver (host to the dnc convention) was the featured speaker on her behalf (as well as state senator and minority leader dina titus). obama and edwards were well-represented. both biden and dodd had tables, with dodd having someone there. i thought it was interesting that you could only buy hillary swag (this was true at yearlykos as well) but obama stickers and posters were free here (unlike yearlykos).

events like this are classicly part-cheerleading (go team!), part training (or indoctrination) and part sales pitch. just like at yearlykos, the dnc is touting their partybuilder and votebuilder tools. as some of us were aware, the party just held an intensive training for their 154 (155?) spp field staff in cleveland, and gave each of them a goal of finding 150 "jeromes" or precinct level activists in their region in the next five months. (each of these "jeromes" will then be asked to find three more volunteers in their precincts.)

these "jeromes" will be given access to votebuilder (or van) in their precincts, and they will be asked to identify their friends and neighbors. the list they see will be weeded of known hard-core republicans, whether from primary participation or other indicators (ie, contributors to rnc, club for growth, etc). so the list they will be choosing from (and given) will be dems, independents and soft partisans. after they've picked their friends and neighbors, if they didn't reach the 50 voter goal -- which it's not expected that people would -- they will be assigned other voters so that they are basically responsible for contacting 50 voters from now on.

"jeromes" will be expected to have 7 personal contacts with each person in their voter universe, whether it's a knock on their door (i'd think this appropriate for the first and last contacts) or a postcard or phone call. so it's a manageable request for a volunteer over the next 450+ days -- 350 instances of some form of personal contact with people in your neighborhood.

that sounds great, but there's more! the dnc is very proud of their partybuilder tools that allow you to individualize your message to your voter universe. you can make your own flyers, etc. using their templates, including the ability to put in your own logo and contact information. your creation will go through a summary approval process, to insure that dnc generated materials are on message, but they will be your own -- if you want.

the final element of this program was that "jeromes" would be responsible for their voter universe on election day, making sure that their democratic voters (the assumption or hope seemed to be that all their voters would be democratic voters) turned out to vote. this aspect was much more vague, and needs to be expanded upon, but the election is more than a year away.

what was made more explicit this time (in contrast to yearlykos) was their desire to reach out to bloggers and get them activated in the streets. now we know that 75+% of democratic bloggers have been active in political activity for democratic candidates, but that was ill-defined. their hope is to get bloggers into this ongoing project of reaching out to voters in their physical community, taking the energy that they show online to the streets. at yearlykos, some aspect of online outreach was discussed as well, but that was not presented in las vegas.

what was much more obvious this time is that they are thinking about accountability. the emphasis on metrics was clear at yearlykos, as well, but i didn't get the sense there that "jeromes" would be guided by -- and accountable to -- their field coordinator. this will be good, because no matter how many experienced "jeromes" there are, there will always be some who have never done this before, or suddenly get busy (or move) -- people who would get lost to the campaign before election day, when the campaign was counting on them the most. now if the dnc meets their own goals, with each of their 150 spp field staff recruiting 150 "jeromes" and those "jeromes" recruiting another three volunteers in their precincts, that's 90,000 dnc volunteers that they (the dnc) can turn over to the nominee to compliment the nominee's volunteer base and field program.

that's impressive. and while you can be impressed by the massive task that the dnc has taken on, a little comparison is appropriate. in 2004, the bush campaign had 164,000 volunteers participating in their neighbor-to-neighbor program in ohio alone. but it's not only a good start, it's an early start. republicans had 98% of those volunteers by the summer of 2004. they started early (actually they started in 2001). this is a big first step for democrats, because it realizes that competitive elections are won and lost on election day, and that gotv doesn't start two weeks out. gotv is the culmination of your field program and even if more money is spent on the air war, it's the ground game that makes a difference.

this basically reverses the 25+ year trend where democrats relied on media to turn out their vote. this works -- as long as democrats put republicans away before october. but it's not decisive in close elections. and the intense partisan climate of both the democratic and republican electorate means that we are locked into close elections for the time being.

in the end, it depends on you. it depends on all of us. the dnc, thanks greatly to howard dean's 50 state strategy, is planning ahead. it may be the first time ever. but they are reaching out to us, and we need to respond...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

BP Pollution Update

Alliance Appeals Indiana Permit Polluting Lake Michigan

the alliance for the great lakes has filed a petition asking the indiana's office of environmental adjudication to suspend the permit and re-start the public review process. the alliance and other concern citizens were not served notice about the final permit or the appeal process.

The department's failure to notify some or all stakeholders who submitted comments on the draft permit, including the Alliance and the LaPorte County Environmental Association, resulted in the public being shut out of the formal appeal process, according to the Alliance petition.

Sometime after the close of the public comment period, the agency posted the BP discharge permit on its website -- but didn't list an effective date or otherwise indicate that it was a final permit. The agency now says the 15-day period in which the public could appeal the permit – a period that starts as soon as interested parties receive notice of the permit – has already expired.

their petition requests a stay of the bp discharge permit and to start the clock over with a new permit appeal time.

despite the broad consensus that increasing pollution in lake michigan is wrong, bp says it's going ahead. bp claims that it was a necessary consequence of meeting our energy needs.

Asserting that "the water is not going to be damaged'' by increased levels of ammonia and other refinery wastes, Elbert told reporters after meeting with government officials and environmentalists that "we're very much moving ahead with the project'' scheduled to be in operation in 2011.

Sun-Times Endorses Boycott of BP

given bp's stubbornness -- and tin ear to public outcry -- the sun-times started the chorus urging a boycott of bp products:

If BP insists on dumping more pollutants into our lake, it's time for us to stop pumping its gas into our tanks. We're calling for an all-out boycott of BP gas. Maybe then, BP will realize that hollow promises aren't good enough for customers.

Critics rip EPA Reporting Guidelines

when it rains, it pours:

Although officials at BP's Whiting refinery admit the facility dumps about 37,000 pounds of ammonia in Lake Michigan each year, members of a government watchdog group say the public is misled because the company is required to report to the EPA only 10 percent of that amount.

Moreover, the watchdogs say, the EPA system meant to inform the public of chemical releases by industry gives an incomplete snapshot of what is actually being dumped into the environment nationwide.

Federal reporting law, maligned by the Washington-based watchdog group OMB Watch, requires BP and other companies only to report to the EPA -- and therefore the public -- about 10 percent of the ammonia it dumps into Lake Michigan.

BP officials argue that its Whiting facility only releases a fraction of what it is allowed to dump under permits approved by the state and federal governments. In 2005 for example, permits allowed the facility to release an average of 1,030 pounds of ammonia per day, but company officials said it only dumped an average of 103 pounds.

"On average -- a day-in, and day-out basis -- we operate well below the current limits that are set for both ammonia and suspended solids," BP spokesman Tom Keilman said. "We always continually strive to be well below the limit."

But Sean Moulton, of OMB Watch, argues the permits are not the issue. The Toxics Release Inventory, or TRI, which the EPA uses to inform the public of chemical discharges by companies, is not telling the public the whole story, Moulton said.

"There are a variety of problems with how they've constructed the system," Moulton said. "I think the way the system is going, we're getting less information."

What the law says

In the case of the BP Whiting refinery, TRI data states that the facility released about 3,700 pounds of ammonia into the lake in 2005. That's only about 10 percent of what the company estimates it dumped that year.

Part of the 1986 federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act requires companies and the EPA to make data on some toxic chemicals available in TRI, a publicly searchable database.

Certain chemicals in the TRI have limits on what is reported, and in 1995, the EPA decided companies would report 10 percent of the total aqueous ammonia, or ammonia solution that goes into water sources such as Lake Michigan.

OMB Watch, a nonprofit watchdog focusing on regulatory policy, has been a vocal critic of the TRI and past EPA changes in lowering TRI reporting limits.

"It's almost ironic that in an age where information is getting more easy to access, EPA seems to be going in the opposite direction in TRI," said Moulton, director of federal policy information for OMB Watch.

BP wastewater Meeting Scheduled

congressmen pete visclosky (D-Ind) and judy biggert (R-Ill) have asked purdue calumet's water institute and argonne national laboratory to explore alternative wastewater treatment technologies for bp. given bp's intransigence, it's hard to see that presenting bp with better options will change their mind -- unless the public (through a boycott) or the government forces bp to change their plans.

and what would be an update on the bp story without some mention of mark kirk? kirk is involved in a very competitive campaign right now, so he's looking to insert himself into every possible story. call me skeptical, since kirk's party has made it possible for bp to pollute the lake more. but here he is, urging a boycott. maybe if we didn't have weasely politicians like mark kirk, we wouldn't be in this mess -- did you ever think about that?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Luis Gutierrez says he will run again

"US Rep. Luis Gutierrez just announced, at the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Business Expo, that he has reversed his prior retirement plans, and will indeed run for re-election to represent Illinois's 4th Congressional District."

people who've been paying attention have known this for awhile. now in the majority, and with little prospect that republicans will take it back any time soon, gutierrez is enjoying real power for the first time in his career. it was unlikely that he would give that up without some thought.

people close to the congressman have said it all depended on his wife. looks like luis has convinced her that living in d.c. won't be so bad.

i asked each of the candidates who i talked to who were running to replace luis what they would do if this occurred. while all of them said they had talked to luis -- and i believe they had -- and thus were convinced that he'd retire, they all agreed that they wouldn't run against luis. each one of them feels tied to him in some way or another.

this is really good news. luis gutierrez has been a trooper in raising money and public attention for hispanic candidates for a long time. i have run into luis in miami, la, new jersey and iowa (perhaps more), stumping for hispanic and progressive candidates. more than any single member of congress, he has raised money for hispanic candidates running at all levels of government. he would have been sorely missed had he followed through on his announcement to retire.

it also means that the fight for real immigration reform is not over. gutierrez was a key player in the work towards immigration reform.

h/t: capitol fax blog

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bush's EPA backs BP dumping

today's developments:

the chicago tribune reports:

Rebuffing bipartisan pressure from members of Congress, the Bush administration's top environmental regulator on Tuesday declined to stop the BP refinery in northwest Indiana from dumping more pollution into Lake Michigan.

Stephen Johnson, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said he saw nothing wrong with the permit Indiana regulators awarded in June to BP, the first company in years allowed to increase the amount of toxic chemicals pumped into the Great Lakes.

thinking better of their tuesday statement, the epa tried to explain it's support to polluting lake michigan as a technicality:

EPA will ask BP to offset pollution

Insisting that they cannot stop BP from dumping more toxic waste into Lake Michigan, federal officials will instead try to persuade the oil company on Wednesday to finance other projects that would help clean up the lake.

the ap reports on the meeting that the epa hosted today:

Elected officials and environmentalists meeting in Chicago on Wednesday roundly blasted a decision by Indiana to permit an oil refinery to dump more pollutants into Lake Michigan.

Many attending the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-hosted forum say the planned discharge by the BP oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana amounts to the most serious environmental threat to Lake Michigan in decades.

U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel says he believes the permit granted to BP is in clear violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

at this meeting, the epa presented seven ways bp could help:

Finance projects that reduce pollution from other companies that discharge into the Grand Calumet River or Lake Michigan.

Divert all or some of the refinery's wastewater to nearly municipal treatment plants. The Hammond Sanitary District, East Chicago Sanitary District and Gary Sanitary District are options.

Pay for sewer upgrades in neighboring towns to keep sewage and storm water out of Lake Michigan.

Set aside money to filter pollution that seeps into the lake. Projects could include wetlands, shoreline restoration or storm-water retention ponds.

Make additional upgrades at the refinery's water treatment plant to reduce the amount of pollution flowing into Lake Michigan.

Spend more money to dredge contaminated muck from the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal.

Join Indiana to pay for other projects that remove contaminated sediment in the Grand Calumet River.

CBS2 has coverage of the meeting online.

a number of good points have been made here:

* why has epa signed off on the permit when the clean water act prohibits any decline in water quality, even when limits on pollution discharges are met?

* why did indiana exempt bp from meeting stringent mercury limits for at least the next five years? the refinery currently releases 2 pounds of the toxic metal into the lake every year, according to federal documents. if the strict standard were met, the refinery's discharge would be reduced to 8/100ths of a pound.

* why is the epa abandoning its stated goal of "virtually eliminating" pollution in the great lakes? for 30 years, the states around lake michigan have been implementing the clean water act to clean up lake michigan. there had been general agreement that when it comes to this valuable resource, we should pollute less, not more.

chicago mayor richard daley has threatened to sue bp if it follows through on its plans to pollute lake michigan. the source of our drinking water shouldn't be treated as if it's a toilet...

UPDATE: you can call epa (region 5) to protest its approval of bp's polluting lake michigan at 1 800 621 8431

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More on BP Polluting Lake Michigan

npr's all things considered covered the mounting outrage at bp's desire to dump more pollutants into lake michigan, the source of much of our drinking water in the chicagoland region.

perhaps the most interesting part of this story (you can read or listen to it at the link above) is that bp is attempting to use human eyesight as proof that it's not polluting -- even though it requested a permit to increase it's dumping of pollution into the lake. clean water is not defined as clear water, as joe morrison of bp tries to suggest. clean water is free of particulates, clear of "the ammonia and suspended solids that are byproducts of making gasoline." does bp really believe that it can pull the wool over our eyes?

the story also mentions our "favorite" endangered illinois incumbent, mark kirk. as usual, kirk is talking about a problem instead of solving problems. that may be why he's endangered (although the real reason is dan seals). but the mayor of waukegan made a valid point: why are we spending so much money trying to clean up lake michigan when we allow bp to dump more pollutants in it? there's got to be a better way...

IL-14 Candidates Get Opportunity to Speak at YearlyKos

two candidates for congress from il-14 sponsored the celebration of netroots candidates held after the friday sessions at this year's yearlykos. but only one of them took advantage of that opportunity. video from this follows:

bill foster actually spent quite a bit of time at yearlykos. he attended the regional blogger's caucus as well as other sessions in order to meet with local and national bloggers and make the case for his candidacy. he was warmly received at both the netroots candidates celebration and the regional blogger's caucus.

both jotham stein and john laesch made appearances at the netroots candidate's celebration. neither made it in time to be introduced to the entire audience, wandering in afterward (lolapalooza was in full form by friday evening).

also participating in this year's yearlykos was tom, bill foster's campaign manager. tom attended the illinois blogger's caucus and made a pitch for bill foster there, as well. it was evident that the foster campaign takes the netroots seriously and made great efforts to connect with the bloggers in the state, in the region and in the country.

given the imminent retirement of dennis hastert and the actual retirement of ray lahood, prairie state blue offers an inside look into two open congressional seats, as well as il-03 and il-10 -- probably the most competitive race of them all. archpundit has more of an expert look into various congressional campaigns.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Deb Shore Talks About BP and Polluting Lake Michigan

the bp refinery in whiting, indiana has been given permission to increase its dumping of mercury, ammonia and industrial sludge into lake michigan by the indiana department of environmental management. this reverses a 20 year old consensus that our great lakes should be cleaner and no longer an industrial dumping ground. the mercury permit exempts bp from a 1995 federal regulation limiting mercury discharges into the great lakes.

metropolitan water reclamation commissioner deb shore spoke before the IL-IN-MO regional caucus at yearlykos about the recent decision by the state of indiana to allow bp to increase dumping into lake michigan. the great lakes, as deb likes to say, constitutes 20% of the world's fresh water and it's a precious resource we need to care for.

so deb laments that it's too bad nobody told the lake about bp's plans, or indiana's consent. her opening remarks can be seen here:

debra's thinking about how to prevent bp from increasing its dumping into the lake is clearly outside the box. her agency, which is in charge of cleaning discharge in cook county, has infrastructure four miles from the whiting plant. deb has been looking for a way that mwrd could take the additional discharge that bp wants to dump into the lake. this is exactly the kind of problem that government should be involved in.

bp claims it doesn't have the capacity at whiting to clean up this discharge, although one suspects that it has chosen the "free" solution to increase the profitability of refining a dirtier oil into gas. debra talks about her interest in finding an innovative solution to this problem in the Q&A session that followed her remarks:

deb joins lt. gov. pat quinn, senator dick durbin, michigan senators stabenow and levin and mayor daley of chicago (and others) who are objecting to bp's request to pollute lake michigan.

you can tell bp what you think about it's decision to pollute lake michigan here.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Northshore Drama

if you haven't heard yet, jay footlik is moving back to illinois to run for congress. there are plenty of rumors about that his ambition was encouraged by hillary clinton's campaign. that may or may not be true -- i certainly could not verify it -- but i have been able to track down rumors that were not true. footlik's supporters have long been saying that former congressman abner mikva was supporting jay, which is not true. they have also said that congressman rahm emanuel was supporting footlik, something else that has been denied.

dissent over footlik's primary challenge to the very strong candidacy of dan seals has boiled over in the new trier democrats, which had united around seals's campaign against iraq war supporter mark kirk. one prominent member of the new trier dems left the organization after trying to convince the group to support footlik. she moved over to the obama for president campaign, which is where the drama began.

our former new trier dem was organizing house parties for barack obama on the north shore. a number of hosts had signed up. one party had gotten dan seals to introduce obama. when other hosts heard of this, they asked to fold their separate house parties into the obama-seals house party. everybody, they figured, would prefer to attend the party where their two favorite candidates showed up!

our dissenter attempted to talk the party's hostess out of using dan as the introducer for obama. several scurrilous things were said, including the false rumors discussed above. we hear the house party was very successful, that dan did a wonderful job introducing barack, and that the obama campaign raised a hefty sum. no word on whether the footlik supporter who arranged this house party for barack was in attendence, though...

Thursday, August 9, 2007

DCCC Attacks Iraq War Supporter Mark Kirk

the democratic congressional campaign committee has bought time to air ads against pro-iraq war congressman mark kirk in the 10th congressional district here in illinois. the ad says:

Announcer: News Talk ……..Traffic, sponsored by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, dccc.org

Traffic Report……

Disclaimer: The DCCC is responsible for the content of this advertising, not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee. Announcer: Republican Congressman Mark Kirk voted four times this year to support George Bush's failed policy in Iraq. Call Mark Kirk. Tell him we need a new direction in Iraq.

i've talked to the d-trip about this race, and asked for their assessment of the forthcoming primary. inclusion on this list seems to suggest that they dccc will be involved in this race regardless. but my conversations with them has focused on the advantages that dan seals has by having run before. without saying that they will be helping dan in the primary, i was told: "dan's our guy." very telling...

"An Inconvenient Truth" Shown Free in Grant Park, 8/22

The Illinois Science Council and Chicago Department of Environment are presenting a free outdoor screening of the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth in Grant Park on Wednesday, August 22, 2007 as part of the ongoing conversation about what scientists can teach us about our planet.

This public showing is sponsored by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the Chicago Climate Exchange with media sponsorship by NBC5, WTMX 101.9FM, and WLIV 100.3FM.

Bring a blanket and bring friends to share the experience! The film will begin at sundown, approximately 8:15 p.m., in Grant Park's Butler Field (Monroe Street & Lake Shore Drive) and runs 95 minutes. Electricity for the film will be through biodiesel fuel and solar power courtesy of Natural Source Energy Systems .

Use the complimentary bike valet service provided by Chicagoland Bicycle Federation (CBF) through its Chase Bank Valet program. Your ride is placed in a secure, enclosed area, so you can leave it money-free and worry- free. NO rain date; cancellation will be due to severe weather only. No pets allowed in the park. The New York Times review of the film can be found here.

h/t: Deb Shore

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Impressions from a Presidential Debate

like many people here in chicago, i had the opportunity to attend the afl-cio presidential debate held at soldiers field with my wife, sister-in-law and mother-in-law. it was pretty interesting. i drove in from the south 'burbs, parked at mccormick center and walked over to the south parking lots before the gates opened for the debate itself. it had a real party atmosphere with several substantial tailgate parties going on.

this is really no surprise. yesterday was the first day you could pass petitions in illinois. obama, biden and richardson all had formal gatherings, edwards' people met out front. richardson had plenty of water (and signs). the biden rally had food, so it was pretty packed. but right next door was the obama tailgate party, and the man himself got up to say a few words. people were invited even if they didn't have tickets, but obama's people had tickets for those who didn't. i don't think this was advertised.

obama gave a rousing speech to about 1500 people (rough guess). what was really fascinating was the biden people all came to the edge to listen (watch, if they could). that struck me as telling. obama is still the most interesting politician in america, even if edwards can give him a run for his money in being the most inspiring.

after the obama rally was over, we all began to move towards soldier field. i ran into an old friend, and mentioned that i still had some tickets left over. (i had gotten 50 from national afl-cio.) my friend didn't have a ticket, but he said, "do you have extras? because there are members of the biden family who don't have tickets, and i'd love to set them up." so i gave him four -- i had two people not show up and another get caught in the 'burbs. i can't remember why the fourth one was available. wish i'd had gotten some food out of the deal, but i was in a hurry.

the irony of the evening was the hillary supporters collecting petitions right next to the anti-war demonstration. hillary's people, mostly women (including michelle smith who had just run for alderman in chicago -- she gave me a great big hug) was the most organized in trying to collect signatures. this was a prime opportunity, but the people weren't aggressive enough. they were very passive about it, so probably didn't get that many signatures. also, they didn't seem to be outside as we exited -- a major gaff. that's when you can collect your biggest bounty.

hillary met beforehand with a couple of union leaders and announces, "i'm back among my people!" i was slightly taken aback -- but i guess we aren't the democratic party she's looking to represent. or something.

the stage seemed to be on the goal posts (hillary mistakenly said ten yard line), with careful attention to not destroying the field. bears fans will appreciate that. but that was by no means the biggest problem. they wouldn't sell beer! the union had called the vendors and prohibited them from selling beer. you have to understand, many of these union guys are season ticket holders. they come to soldier field and they expect to have a beer (or two or three). there were plenty of complaints in the mens room about NO BEER!

the funny thing about that, though, was that the crowd was animated enough without beer! you weren't going to stop them! right before the event began, the guys in section 247 started chanting 'one thirty four!' 'one thirty four!' 'one thirty four!' the stage director started to count down for live coverage and called it off because they were chanting 'one thirty four!'

down on the field, seiu started calling out S E I U! now you have to understand that even though seiu isn't a member of the afl-cio, seiu is a member of the chicago federation of labor. and seiu was well represented. anyway, they established before the first live shot that they were going to be heard. and they were!

one other thing, before the debate began: the crowd got about 30 minutes of pre-debate speeches from dennis gannon (head of the chicago federation of labor) and others. as dennis started speaking, he references mayor daley, which is interesting because the cfl had just run a bunch of candidates against daley backers in the 2007 aldermanics -- and it hadn't endorsed daley for the first time in years. but dennis announced that they had just struck a deal with the daley administration and things were hunky doory. even more interesting was that daley and gannon were engaged in a rather long conversation during the pre-debate warmups. i'd love to have been in that conversation!

anyway, when daley was introduced, he was largely booed. there was ample applause, too. you either love him or hate him. no inbetweens in chicago. which makes sense, given chicago's role in the rise of the labor movement in america.

now here come the candidates! when obama becomes visible, the place goes nuts! it's a hometown crowd. the photographers get their shots and then are marched off the field. the good ones get some crowd shots on the way out. then the stage goes silent. ms. stage director starts counting down to keith oberman -- and section 247 starts up. as they were chanting, bill richardson responds, seems to join in. it's a rough crowd, but you are at the home of the monsters of the midway.

you will have noticed that the candidates were standing up, not sitting down tonight. this made them more aggressive, more fiery than saturday. this was especially true for hillary clinton, who brought angry hillary to the debate. edwards is the first to reference ykos, and challenges everyone to say no to insider lobbyist money; when he says that the system is rigged against working people, the crowd erupts! if obama was the favorite son, edwards was the long lost stepson.

during the first break, hillary is the first to come to the front of the stage. she's looking for people she knows (lots of labor leaders here), smiling and getting into it. dodd, edwards and kucinich quickly join her. someone gives edwards an orange union t-shirt; hillary gets a phone number. he must have been a big wig!

after commercial break, obama references his phased redeployment plan. hadn't heard that for a while. i notice that hillary talks about another one of her 3-point plans, but this one includes a promise she clearly can't keep. who's counting? there's a nice breeze a running and a very entertaining group watching. all i needed was a rum drink...

there's spontaneous applause when barack corrects chris dodd. this is chicago, where politics is a blood sport. what i don't get is how people who pretend to know something about pakistan can try to claim that musharraf isn't in bed with muslim extremists. generals and clerics are the basis of his current government. i'm not sure who the extremists are supposed to be, if not the clerics he's already aligned with.

hillary got booed a lot, which is interesting because three hardcore union guys sitting near us are hardcore hillary supporters. they aren't going to help her with the crowd, but they aren't going to be influenced by it, either! hillary disagrees with transparency in government.

next break: obama greets workers, hillary kind of stands off on her own. someone finally comes up to her to shake her hand, which she does gracefully. while bill clinton would dive into a crowd, hillary is more reserved. a couple of people bring up gifts for obama. during the next break, there's a general make up check. hillary disappears (probably for some similar check) and hurries back right as we are returning to air.

it was at this point that i notice that there are about a dozen people in their box seats, some who don't even have a view of the stage. you got the big screens showing the televised shot (plus one doing the hearing impaired translation). there's a standing ovation for the laid off ltv worker, and lots of applause when hillary mentions resurrection hospital. this is a big deal, because resurrection has been using haymarket to keep the unions from unionizing for awhile. but people here know. hillary hit it spot on.

in the final break, obama laughs it up with richardson while dennis goes over to lecture keith oberman. then, surprise, surprise, hillary comes up to barack and starts chatting it up. they're very jovial, animated. this isn't what the msm has been saying!

after the debate is over, there's a special reception for labor leaders and the candidates. i hung around for awhile, gave my thanks to the national union people for all the tickets, and head out. i'm starving! but a very interesting evening. it was much difference than ykos, different issues, a different vibe, and much more of a home town crowd. obama was clearly the big cheese, but lots of sympathy for edwards here, and dennis kucinich was a crowd favorite, even if no one was going to support him here. as i left the reception, all the buses were starting to leave -- 88 in all (iirc). bet there's beer there!