While I was at the Octoberfest this weekend, I saw some lovely pots at one of the vendor booths. Now, I like handmade things, but mostly if you’ve seen one pot, you’ve seen them all. These were quite unusual:

Some Republicans like Obamacare

CNN has a piece on how many Republicans are torn this election, because Obamacare really helped their families. Most of them seem to be carefully weighing their voting decision. But be sure to read all the way to the bottom!

Jon Campbell may become one of the Republican “defectors” Traugott says could make a difference in battleground states.

Campbell, 49, has voted Republican in nearly every presidential election since he cast his vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980, but this year might be different. For two years his 22-year-old stepdaughter, a self-employed dog trainer, didn’t have health insurance. Then Obamacare kicked in and she was allowed onto her father’s insurance.

“If something had happened to her during those two years it would have been a disaster,” Campbell says.

The Olathe, Kansas, resident is leaning toward Obama, but not just because of his stepdaughter. Campbell’s wife, Barbara, has diabetes and is in the final stages of breast cancer treatment. She’s now on his insurance, but if he ever lost his job, his wife would be faced with trying to buy insurance on her own and would surely be rejected.

“I’m really torn,” he said. “Because of Obama, I now have a wife who can get covered. But really, at heart, I’m a limited-government kind of guy.”

Campbell said if the election were held today, he’d vote for Obama, but not without a lot of reservations.
“It’s really an intriguing conundrum,” he said.

Like Campbell, Sara Nicastro feels conflicted about her vote. A popular diabetes blogger, Nicastro, 31, knew a woman who stopped taking her insulin regularly when she lost her insurance, and Nicastro thinks it might have contributed to her death. Nicastro said she herself would be “in a pickle” if she were ever laid off because insurance companies don’t want to offer policies to diabetics.

Still, Nicastro, a lifelong Republican who lives in south Florida, will vote for Romney in November. She cares about other issues besides health — most notably the economy — and she’s voted Republican in every election. She even remembers the excitement she felt when she shook Bob Dole’s hand at a rally at her high school 16 years ago.

“The Republican party most closely matches the things I value and the beliefs I have,” she said. “I’m pretty passionate about it.”

Katherine Weaver, who also has diabetes, hasn’t considered voting for Obama for even a minute.

“I’m born to be a Republican,” she said.

Weaver, 52, knows it would be difficult if not impossible to buy insurance on her own because of her disease, but she said she’s not worried because she has good insurance through her job as a public school teacher in Dallas, where she’s worked for 20 years.

“It’s very hard to get rid of teachers,” she said. “I’m very protective of my job. I document everything I do.”

Ha, ha! “Born to be a Republican” who counts on her union job to give her perpetual benefits, not even bothering to connect the dots that Republicans have imposed massive and draconian cuts in Texas. She thinks there won’t be any more?

Poor thing! She’s not so bright, for a teacher. Maybe she teaches phys ed and took one too many volleyballs to the head!


So I got two dozen roses for my birthday last week, which is wonderful. But they started to die almost immediately (not so wonderful). In fact, I weeded out half of them by the third day, they looked so bad. A lot of them died before they even bloomed.

And I did all the right things: trimmed the stems, soaked the roses in water, used that solution that’s supposed to extend their lives. What to do? I mean, you don’t want to call someone who sent you roses and complain, right? It’s not as if I didn’t appreciate the gesture, but they really did die fast.

I was looking at the bedraggled remains this morning and decided to contact 1-800-Flowers, which is where they’re from. Within a half-hour, they promised me a replacement delivery and a $20 credit. Now, that’s customer service!

Big Coal puts the screws to employees

It’s bad enough that coal workers were docked for the time they spent at the Romney campaign rally, but as it turns out, their salaried managers were also coerced into donating to the campaign by a corporate culture of payroll PAC donations for Big Coal candidates:

“You’ve got a great boss,” Mitt Romney proclaimed to a crowd of coal miners at a campaign rally in August.

He was referring to Robert Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy, one of the largest coal mining operators in the country.For Romney, that statement was particularly true. According to accounts from multiple coal miners, employees were forced to attend the event without pay. “Just for the record, if we did not go, we knew what would happen,” said one miner in a letter to a local radio station. Weeks later, Romney’s campaign featured images of the coal miners in a pro-coal ad. (The Obama campaign hit back this week with an ad claiming Romney used coal workers as “props”).

But that was just the tip of the iceberg. An expose from New Republic Senior Editor Alec MacGillis shows that Murray Energy is doing far more than requiring employees to spend uncompensated time at campaign events — the company is actually requiring them to donate to GOP candidates like Romney:

The accounts of two sources who have worked in managerial positions at the firm, and a review of letters and memos to Murray employees, suggest that coercion may also explain Murray staffers’ financial support for Romney. Murray, it turns out, has for years pressured salaried employees to give to the Murray Energy political action committee (PAC) and to Republican candidates chosen by the company. Internal documents show that company officials track who is and is not giving. The sources say that those who do not give are at risk of being demoted or missing out on bonuses, claims Murray denies.

The Murray sources, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution, came forward separately. But they painted similar pictures of the fund-raising operation. “There’s a lot of coercion,” says one of them. “I just wanted to work, but you feel this constant pressure that, if you don’t contribute, your job’s at stake. You’re compelled to do this whether you want to or not.” Says the second: “They will give you a call if you’re not giving. . . . It’s expected you give Mr. Murray what he asks for.”This spring, Murray organized a fundraiser for Mitt Romney, eventually bundling more than a million and half dollars for the candidate. According to the New Republic, employees of Murray Energy have donated more than $1.4 million to Republican candidates — with $120,000 raised for Romney this campaign season alone.
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The rich guys in Congress got richer during recession

In other words, most Congress members are well insulated from the economic results of their votes — except for the part where they use their votes to fatten their own bank accounts. While their financial status may appear to be irrelevant, it’s not. They’re so insulated from anyone who isn’t wealthy — or a lobbyist – that many of them have no idea at all what the rest of us are dealing with:

The wealthiest one-third of lawmakers were largely immune from the Great Recession, taking the fewest financial hits and watching their investments quickly recover and rise to new heights. But more than 20 percent of the members of the current Congress — 121 lawmakers — appeared to be worse off in 2010 than they had been six years earlier, and 24 saw their reported wealth slide into negative territory.

Welcome to our world, tiny group of Congress members!

Most members weathered the financial crisis better than the average American, who saw median household net worth drop 39 percent from 2007 to 2010. The median estimated wealth of members of the current Congress rose 5 percent during the same period, according to their reported assets and liabilities. The wealthiest one-third of Congress gained 14 percent.

I’m sure all that perfectly legal insider information comes in handy.

Because lawmakers are allowed to report their holdings and debts in broad ranges, it is impossible for the public to determine their precise net worth. They also are not required to reveal the value of their homes, the salaries of their spouses or money kept in non-interest-bearing bank accounts and their congressional retirement plan.

For its analysis, The Post used the midpoint of the range of each reported holding and tracked the figures over time to determine whether the relative wealth of lawmakers had increased or declined between 2004 and 2010. Previous studies of congressional wealth have looked at Congress as a whole, rather than tracking the financial trend for each individual lawmaker. The Post created an in-depth financial portrait of each member of Congress.

Among the findings:

●The estimated wealth of Republicans was 44 percent higher than Democrats in 2004, but that disparity has virtually disappeared.
●The number of millionaires in Congress dropped after the Great Recession; the 253 who have served during the current session are the smallest group since 2004. The numbers are likely to be underestimated because lawmakers are not required to list their homes among their assets.
●Between 2004 and 2010, 72 lawmakers appeared to have doubled their estimated wealth.
●At least 150 lawmakers reported receiving more income from outside jobs and investments than from their congressional salaries of $174,000 for rank-and-file members.
●Representatives in 2010 had a median estimated wealth of $746,000; senators had $2.6 million.
●Since 2004, lawmakers reported more than 3,500 outside jobs paying their spouses more than $1,000 a year. The lawmakers are not required to report how much the spouses are paid or what they did for the money.
●Lawmakers’ wealth is held in a variety of ways: 127 primarily in real estate, 117 in institutional funds, 75 in their spouses’ names, 51 in essentially cash, 36 in specific stocks and bonds, 32 in high-turnover trading, 30 in business ownership and 20 in agriculture. More than 40 had reported assets of $25,000 or less.

The Post also found that some congressional financial interests intersected with public actions taken by legislators: 73 lawmakers sponsored or co-sponsored legislation that could have benefitted businesses or industries in which either they or their families were involved or invested.

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