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Brush with greatness

I was absolutely thrilled to meet the delightful Jill Sobule tonight. She’s a wonderful singer-songwriter whose work I love, and here’s the really funny part: When she found out I wrote for Crooks and Liars, she was excited to meet me! She said she reads it all the time.

Summer in the city

Lovin’ Spoonful:

My peeps

I just met the nicest West Virginia couple, Bill and Annette Haney, who are here to promote their movie about mountaintop mining, “The Last Mountain.” (Coming to a theater near you!) Anyway, so we’re chatting and I’m telling them to send me info. When I told them my name, they both got very excited and Bill jumped up to shake my hand. “I love you! I feel like I’m meeting a Beatle!” (Annette even took our picture together.)

I never felt like a celebrity before.

Of course

It’s really funny, how much crap I took over at C&L for saying we’d be sold out on Social Security. They seemed to think that as long as Obama didn’t talk about it in the SOTU, it wouldn’t happen:

Meanwhile, AARP has quietly dropped their blanket opposition to Social Security cuts. The reason? They figure they’re inevitable. “The ship was sailing,” John Rother, AARP’s policy chief, told the Wall Street Journal. “I wanted to be at the wheel when that happens.” That makes it much likelier that Social Security will see reform later this year. But perhaps more importantly, it shows that the major players in Washington are entering dealmaking mode. And that’s usually a pretty good predictor that some deals are about to be made.

Remember, this is nothing more than our elected representatives saying austerity should come out of our hides, and not their wealthy friends.

Roger Hickey has more.

Today

Should be interesting, since I’ve yet to speak with anyone here who has any respect left for the White House:

The conference kicks off Thursday morning in Minneapolis. Organizers say it will be the largest Netroots Nation on record, with more than 2,200 in attendance. Speakers include Minnesota’s own Sen. Al Franken (D), former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Netroots favorite Howard Dean. The White House will also be represented, with Obama communications director Dan Pfeiffer addressing the crowd Friday morning.

Participants told TPM they expected the crowd to be “respectful” of Pfeiffer, but they also made it clear he’s not addressing a friendly crowd.

“He’s got some hard questions to answer,” Netroots executive director Raven Brooks told TPM. “It’s not going to be a bunch of softballs lobbed at him.”

Brooks said participants will likely press Pfeiffer on Obama campaign promises they feel he hasn’t delivered on and frustrations they have over the administration’s compromises on the Bush tax cuts and other matters that have left progressives frustrated.

Chief among those concerns is the economy. Progressives have lamented Obama’s focus on deficits and debt rather than stimulus to create new jobs. Pfeiffer can expect to hear and earful about that one.

“We will be out there fighting Republicans and we’re planning to fight hard for the people who work for a living in this country and the people who are trying to get their piece of the American dream and who haven’t been able to get that lately. Those people are also called Democratic voters,” said Levana Layendecker, communications director for Democracy for America, a progressive advocacy group founded out of the remains of Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign.

“What we want is for the White House to be with us in this fight.”

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), whose district includes Minneapolis and — this weekend, anyway — the epicenter of liberal politics in America, agreed. Despite his position in the Democratic minority in the House, he said Netroots needs to keep the pressure on his party to lean left whenever possible.

UPDATE: I don’t know who the interviewer was, but she was tough and snarky. (I got there late and was sitting all the way in the back.) “We’re Democrats, we’re going to vote for the president. But we’re not knocking on doors, we’re not making calls and we’re not making donations. Are we of any value to you? What are you going to do for us?”

Downtown Minneapolis

The thing I hate about Howard Dean

Is that he tells me leadership doesn’t come from politicians, it comes from the people — and that the people are the ones who have to lead. (He was one of the speakers tonight.) He says to get out and work in your communities and don’t wait for any politicians, because they’re not going to fix anything.

He refuses to let people piss and moan about Obama, and tells them to go out and make their own hope and change. And he’s right, damn him. It was never going to be as easy as electing someone.

Which is what I hate about him. And it’s why I wish he’d been president.

Warmup

Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of teachers, is giving a stemwinder of a speech to get the Netroots crowd worked up for the main event, Russ Feingold. Anybody demonized by “Waiting for Superman” is a friend of mine.

Feingold

We’re about to hear him do the keynote speech.

Shocker

The White House giving in to corporate interests? Who could believe such a thing?

A year ago, the Obama administration crafted a set of proposed regulations aimed at limiting abuses by the swiftly growing for-profit college industry.

The initial draft threatened severe consequences for institutions that churned out large numbers of graduates with outsized debts and meager job prospects: Schools would quickly lose access to the multi-billion dollar pool of federal student aid dollars that supplies the vast majority of their profits.

But when the Department of Education delivered the final rules earlier this month, they were substantially weakened from the initial draft, adding a three-year grace period before severe sanctions will kick in — a major triumph for the industry’s lobbyists and their relentless pressure campaign on the Obama administration.

Those familiar with the deliberations say the industry successfully convinced the Obama administration to soften the rules by sowing fears that a stricter approach would prompt Congress — also the target of intense lobbying — to step in and revoke the regulations altogether.

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