Benny's World

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Remembering Molly Ivins

H/t to Tigana at Docudharma for the post.

I miss Molly, and I am convinced she would have supported JRE this round, but I'm not her. Nor could I claim to be her voice.

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I Will Remember You

Happy birthday to an old friend with whom I saw the movie "The Brothers McMullen" and this song at the end was the best part of it, although the movie was pretty funny. I seem to recall this was Edward Burns' entry into the film world, and he made the movie on a string shoe budget. He was only 27 when this movie he directed and produced came out.

The latest movie I saw him in was "27 Dresses", a well-done chick flick and very funny as well.

27...didn't think about the connection until now.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Lessons of Leadership: Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr, Wade Edwards and Casey Sheehan

Today is a sad anniversary for our country. 40 years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr was murdered while in Memphis, right after giving a tremendous speech about being on the mountain top and speaking out against the war. Bobby Kennedy announced his condolences and also against the war and the continued march for civil rights in a peaceful way. We too know what happened to him later.

I was eight approaching nine in age and, and I remember I wasn't allowed to go skating because of imposed curfews on the city. We had a pretty significant diverse population, and the city was afraid of the riots that took place in 100 cities already, except Indianapolis, where Bobby spoke, and Atlanta, where the city's citizens used self-restraint.

But my post is really about equally remembering two sons who were only a few months apart in age, and died on the same day, but different years in very different circumstances.

Wade Edwards was the firstborn of John and Elizabeth Edwards. He was only 16 years old, a carefree, smart teenager whom with a friend, was en route to a rendezvous with his family at the Circle 8 compound in NC for spring break. Wade never made it. Instead, a state patrol trooper arrived at the Edwards home, and he had bad news: Wade died in a freak accident on the road. Although he was wearing a seat belt, a gust of wind turned over his jeep, and he was killed almost instantly. His friend was thrown out, but escaped with minor injuries.

John and Elizabeth were devastated, as well as their daughter Cate. The healing process took a long time as their son's death was not something "they could fix" according to Elizabeth. But eventually, they started the Wade Edwards Learning Lab and Foundation. It is a testament to the Edwardses for starting a non-profit learning center for high school kids who lack the resources of others in having good computers for homework assignments and information seeking. To read more about WELL, go here.

One of the indirect results of Wade's death was for John to get into politics, run for the Senate, and eventually for the presidency. Despite John's suspended campaign in 2008, Elizabeth's and his voices matter. When John said he would not be a VP on the ticket this year and didn't endorse anyone, the media picked it up quickly. Hundreds (and I bet into the thousands) of bloggers read it, and had conflicting opinions. Elizabeth exercised leadership this week in attacking McCain's health care plan. Now the A-List blogs are beginning to talk about how to frame the conversation about McCain's plans--especially on the progressive side. It was not much of a topic until Elizabeth and John came back on the scene.

Elizabeth admired another woman who was leading others, but in a different decade and reason: a voice against the Iraq War because of losing a son. Her name was Cindy Sheehan.

Cindy's son died today in 2003. She was fed up with no answers from GWB about why we were led into the war in the first place. She asked many questions, and except for one meeting she had with him in which he offered no answers, only to say he appreciated all of the sons and daughters who fought for "our freedom" in a venue at the WH. Cindy was dissatisfied.

Cindy decided to seek answers in another venue: she camped outside of Bush's ranch outside of Crawford, TX during the recess in August 2005. She blogged about it, had a few people come and bring water, tents, etc. Soon, it became a movement.

Despite a few Bush surrogates coming out of the gates to the ranch to talk with Cindy, she was denied an opportunity for that one-on-one meeting with our "freedom" president--the man who was rehired to be the leader of our country in 2004, and whose salary we pay each year.

Hundreds of progressives, notably from the DU, came and helped keeping the vigil of peace and asking for another meeting with her. She and the group, known as Camp Casey, named after her son, were moved by the authorities to the sides of the road. She was sued for being near the property as Bush's friends found old state and county laws. Finally, a neighbor of Bush's offered Camp Casey to camp on his ranch, a mile or so away.

Katrina came. Our president was too busy helping John McCain celebrate his 70th birthday and only did fly overs of NOLA. It was becoming clear he wasn't the leader that many thought.

In September, Camp Casey bus went to several places, protesting the war, and then arrived at Washington DC. Thousands went to march peacefully with her in front of the White House and other places.

In my mind, Cindy was the change agent in 2005. Disapproval ratings by the public commenced in the polls, the media, etc, and Cindy still fought for answers.

Elizabeth felt strongly that Cindy should speak and be heard via a petition going that thousands signed. Elizabeth wrote a beautiful tribute to Cindy and Casey, and I got it via an e-mail. Luckily, I posted it here on my blog as I was caught up by Cindy's courage as much as Elizabeth was.

Casey Sheehan was born May 29, 1979, the first born child of Cindy and Pat Sheehan. It was a long labor. Fifty-one days after Casey was born, our first child, Wade was born, also after a long labor. They started school the same year, played the same games, watched the same television shows, loved the same country. On April 4, 1996, three weeks after going to Washington as a winner in a national contest about what America meant to him, Wade died in an automobile accident. On April 4, 2004, eight years later to the day, Casey, who loved his country enough to wear its uniform, died in Iraq. Cindy and Pat's hearts broke, as had ours.

We teach our children right from wrong. We teach them compassion and honor. We teach them the dignity of each life. And then, sometimes, the lessons we taught are turned on their heads. Cindy Sheehan is asking a very simple thing of her government, and she and her family, and most particularly Casey, have paid a very dear price for the right to ask this.

Cindy wants Casey's death to have meant as much as his life - lived fully - might have meant. I know this, as does every mother who has ever stood where we stand. And the President says he knows enough, doesn't need to hear from Casey's mother, doesn't need to assure her that Casey's is not one small death in a long and seemingly never-ending drip of deaths, that there is a plan here that will bring our sons and daughters home. He doesn't need to hear from her, he says. He claims he understands how some people feel about the deaths in Iraq.

The President is wrong.

Whether you agree or disagree with every part, or any part, of what Cindy wants to say, you know it is better that the President hear different opinions, particularly from those with such a deep and personal interest in the decisions of our government. Today, another voice would be helpful.

Cindy Sheehan can be that voice. She has earned the right to be that voice.

Please join me in supporting Cindy's right to be heard.

I grew up in a military family. My father and my grandfather were career Navy pilots. I saw what it meant to live a life every single day when the possibility of an honorable death is always there, at the dinner table, on the playground, at the base school. Will someone's father not come home tonight? And I didn't just feel the possibility, I saw the real thing, and, believe me, it stays with you, it changes you.

I also saw, then and more recently as I campaigned across this country and spent time with courageous military mothers and wives, how little attention is paid to the needs and the voices of military families. It has to change. The sacrifices that our military men and women make assure us that we have the strongest military in the world, but the sacrifices that their families make are too often ignored. The President's cavalier dismissal of Cindy Sheehan is emblematic of a greater problem. This is a mother who raised her son to love his country enough to serve. This is a mother who lived the impossible life of a mother of a soldier serving in Iraq, unable to sleep when he sleeps, unable to sleep when he is on duty, unable to watch the television, unable to stop watching the television.

And when the worst does happen, when the world comes crashing down and she puts the boy she bore, the boy she taught, the boy she loved in the ground, what does that government say to her? It says we'll do the talking; we don't need to hear from you. If we are decent and compassionate, if we know the lessons we taught our children, or if, selfishly, all we want is the long line of the brave to protect us in the future, we should listen to the mothers now.

Listen to Cindy.

Join me so Cindy knows we believe she has earned the right to be heard.

Elizabeth Edwards

It's clear to me that Cindy, Elizabeth, John, and maybe to certain extent, Pat (Cindy's ex-husband) were changed forever towards activism, peace, and for more transparency to help others somewhat because the deaths of their sons. Cindy moved away from the Democratic Party, but I will always be grateful for what she did to finally start swaying the public opinion against an Administration which has yet been able to define the national threats against our country and how going to Iraq was the answer. Billions, going into trillions, have been spent on this war. And it doesn't bring back our sons or daughters neither.

But what we can do reminds me an essay was written by Wade (son of John and Elizabeth) in the fall of his junior year. It was entered into the National Conversation Essay Contest, conducted by the Voice of America and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Wade was one of ten national winners. In March 1996, three weeks before his death, he attended the award ceremonies in Washington, D.C., which included a visit with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in the private residence at the White House.

Fancy Clothes and Overalls


A little boy and his father walk into a firehouse. He smiles at people standing outside. Some hand pamphlets to his father. They stand in line. Finally, they go together into a small booth, pull the curtain closed, and vote. His father holds the boy up and shows him which levers to move.

"We're ready, Wade. Pull the big lever now."

With both hands, the boy pulls the lever. There it is: the sound of voting. The curtain opens. The boy smiles at an old woman leaving another booth and at a mother and daughter getting into line. He is not certain exactly what they have done. He only knows that he and his father have done something important. They have voted.

This scene takes place all over the country.

"Pull the lever, Yolanda."

"Drop the ballot in the box for me, Pedro."

Wades, Yolandas, Pedros, Nikitas, and Chuis all over the United States are learning the same lesson: the satisfaction, pride, importance, and habit of voting. I have always gone with my parents to vote. Sometimes lines are long. There are faces of old people and young people, voices of native North Carolinians in southern drawls and voices of naturalized citizens with their foreign accents. There are people in fancy clothes and others dressed in overalls. Each has exactly the same one vote. Each has exactly the same say in the election. There is no place in America where equality means as much as in the voting booth.

My father took me that day to the firehouse. Soon I will be voting. It is a responsibility and a right. It is also an exciting national experience. Voters have different backgrounds, dreams, and experiences, but that is the whole point of voting. Different voices are heard.

As I get close to the time I can register and vote, it is exciting. I become one of the voices. I know I will vote in every election. I know that someday I will bring my son with me and introduce him to one of the great American experiences: voting.

To me, there was leadership learned by Wade's and Casey's parents from their children. And we need it so much today, tomorrow, and into the next decade.

And also lessons from MLK, Jr, who passed on his legacy to his children, his friends, and followers. We all need people like them to keep the conversation for progressivism going.


Addendum: Rocky at EENR (where I cross posted this diary) reminded me that Emma Claire read Wade's poem and it was posted online. Here's the YT of it. She does a great job.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

John Edwards at CTIA Wireless Conference

This morning, John was invited to be one of the keynote speakers at the CTIA Wireless Conference. One wonders why both he and his co-speaker, Fred Thompson were invited, but I see now that they were asked to speak about the impact of wireless technology on their campaigns.

Doug Aamoth of TechCrunch, which is Robert Scoble's company, did a live blog of the event. Doug isn't a big fan of Edwards, but he seems to have captured quite a bit of what was said.

9:41 - John Edwards takes the stage. Makes some funny remarks about traveling after running for president. “If everyone I met that told me they were for me had actually been for me, I wouldn’t be here right now.” Everyone laughs. His hair looks great [a comment I could have done w/o-teh editor].

9:43 - Asks the audience to raise our hands if we can a) tell the difference between Obama and Clinton’s health care plan, b) the difference between Clinton and Obama and McCain’s health care plan, and some other examples. His point is that the media doesn’t cover this stuff — the media covers the “horse race”.

Then Edwards points out the power of the Internet and wireless in these comments:

9:46 - Says YouTube is a good thing. People use it to watch campaign speeches. Wireless is good too because it offers non-stop access to candidates. It also changes how campaigns are funded. He cites that when he ran, people could text the word “hope” to a certain number to join his supporters. It democratizes the process instead of having campaigns funded by a few people with a ton of money.

9:50 - We have a lot of work to do as far as educating the public on political issues. Wireless is good because it can inform people and get them motivated to vote.

9:52 - Everything is connected. The notion that healthcare and foreign policy and the economy are separate issues is wrong. They’re all connected. Population growth and interconnectedness is important too. Things that happen in China affect us, etc. America has got to lead the way on environmentalism. Whatever we do won’t matter, though, unless the rest of the world joins us because everything is connected.

Then last, the global potential of wireless:

9:54 - Impoverished nations need the technological tools to support themselves economically. Talks about Africa but says that it affects other places as well. We have to be the leaders — need to step up to the plate and lead.

The video is also by Doug Aamoth of TechCrunch, and it is from the Q & A segment of the session, which was too short for my taste. I could swear JRE was wearing the same shoes he had on at the Iowa kickoff of the campaign. :-D

From the video, paraphrased:

Who was your professional influence or hero?

JRE: Bobby Kennedy and Terry Sanford

Fred: Howard Baker

How do we get back to reaching across the aisle and have bi-partisianship? JRE-- be yourself, be authentic, agree to disagree, but one doesn't have to give up one's principles to get something done.

I'll add updates as I see them.

UDPATE: Apparently either during this Q & A (or after the session), JRE was asked if he would accept being a VP candidate. According to Reuters, this was his answer:

After his keynote speech at CTIA, the annual U.S. wireless industry showcase, Edwards was asked in a question-and-answer session if he would accept the nomination for vice president.

"No," said Edwards, who also declined to say whether he would endorse Clinton or Obama.
(h/t to a blogger from Mass Ears and Eyes)

To clarify further, a CTIA blogger at the session said that both Thompson and Edwards were asked if they would accept VP. Both said no.

Read Eric Lunquist's account of the event here.

Good ol' JRE. True to himself. Always was. I sure miss him on the trail.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Elizabeth Edwards: "We’re Interested in Health Care"

Elizabeth Edwards articulated the differences of the health care plans of all three candidates on the Today Show:

Vieira is a horrible interviewer (re Katie Couric), but Elizabeth handled the questions well and pushed back any off-topic questions back to the issue of health care. She also refused to go negative on either candidate and didn't agree with pundits who think Obama and Clinton were trying to take the party down with their disagreements.

While the questioning was a little similar on Morning Joe's show, it seemed a bit more easy going, and I was glad to hear that Elizabeth and John made it crystal that they will vote in their primary, and would let them know if they had any announcements to make about endorsements, but not likely.

Here's a part of the transcript from Think Progress:

BRZEZINSKI: So you’re saying Senator McCain wouldn’t get coverage under his own plan?

EDWARDS: Well, he’s the beneficiary of some great government programs, but in terms of private insurance, he would not be guaranteed coverage under his own plan.


EDWARDS: Neither would I or anybody with a pre-existing condition. Imagine how many families that involves across this country.

BRZEZINSKI: We’ll have to ask him about that, because his campaign actually tells us that he’s the only candidate with serious plans to control health care costs. So we’ll (inaudible) at him tomorrow.

SCARBOROUGH: Yes, he suggests, Elizabeth, that it’s costs that matter the most and he’s the only one that’s addressing those costs. What would you say to that?

EDWARDS: Well, first of all, he’s not the only one addressing it. In fact, every candidate is addressing it. But his particular plan to address it keeps the costs low by avoiding coverage of — by cutting benefits to people.

We’ll end up having these bare bones policies with high deductibles and lots of exclusions, including a really important exclusion in real people’s lives for pre-existing conditions.

And it’s really truly important that we make certain that our health care coverage provides the health care we need. We don’t care about having a piece of paper. We care about having our costs be something that we can afford.

A high deductible cost policy or — which is one of the ways in which he keeps health care costs down — or one that limits our benefits is not the way Americans want to see us go. We need actual coverage.

We’re not interested in health care insurance. We’re interested in health care. And there’s a real difference between the two. Maybe he keeps the price of the insurance down but not the cost of the health care itself.

Elizabeth continues to do the heavy lifting the other candidates won't do.

Oh, one tidbit of news about Elizabeth Edwards: she has accepted a fellowship at the Harvard Institute of Politics. Read about it at the Harvard Crimson. She's addressing the public at the KSG a week from today.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Elizabeth Edwards Offers Straight Talk for John McCain's Health Care Plan

Elizabeth was the guest blogger at Think Progress today. Here's what she had to say about John McCain's health care plan, and it's a continuation from last weekend's speech to the Association of Health Care Journalists. McSame's policy advisor thought she was "confused" about his health care plan.

I freely admit that I am confused about the role of overnight funding in repurchase markets in the collapse of Bear Stearns. What I am not confused about is John McCain’s health care proposal. Apparently Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a senior policy advisor to McCain, thinks I do “not understand the comprehensive nature of the senator’s proposal.” The problem, Douglas, is that, despite fuzzy language and feel-good lines in the Senator’s proposal, I do understand exactly how devastating it will be to people who have the health conditions with which the Senator and I are confronted (melanoma for him, breast cancer for me) but do not have the financial resources we have. In very unconfusing language: they are left outside the clinic doors.

Elizabeth offers some blistering questions for McCain to answer:

1. Under your plan, Senator McCain, would any health insurer be required to sell you or me (or those like us with pre-existing conditions) a health insurance policy?

2. You say your plan is going to increase competition to the point that it actually lowers costs. Isn’t there competition today among insurance companies? Haven’t costs continued to go up despite that competition?

Amen Elizabeth. But she keeps peppering her post with other questions:

3. You say that under your plan everyone is going to pay less for health insurance. Nice words, I admit, but they are words we have heard before. You must know when American families calculate the actual cost of health care, they have to include those deductibles and co-pays and not just the cost of the insurance. Are you talking about cheaper overall or just a cheap policy that doesn’t kick in until after thousands of dollars of deductibles have been paid?

4. Isn’t the type of competition you are talking about really a rush to the bottom? As long as you allow insurers to underwrite and deny access, you encourage insurers to offer plans that may be cheap, but that get that way by avoiding people with cancer or other high-cost diseases or by limiting benefits and treatments, particularly if the treatment is expensive or might be needed for a long time. We all live in the real world; those of us lucky enough to have health insurance have seen how insurers cut coverage and up co-pays or deny particular treatments. The insurance company makes money when it doesn’t have to pay for our health care. (I suspect that if they could, they would write obstetrical-only policies for nuns.) Doesn’t your plan really encourage insurers plans to compete to avoid people with cancer or other high-cost diseases? Don’t you think that the kind of competition that starts with a decent level of required coverage, that doesn’t exclude the care we actually need, would be better?

After reading this, do you think she was confused?

Doesn't Elizabeth have an insight that the country could understand and get behind?

Why aren't the other candidates doing this?

This should have been our First Lady. Thank you EE for speaking up for all of us, as usual.

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Breaking: Obama and Clinton Drop Out of Race

Reported by CJ Sarah Lane (and cross-posted from EENR by permission)

In a stunning development, both Obama and Clinton have decided to drop out of the race for President. Word from both camps is that Hillary and Obama had a private meeting last night over cocktails. According to an anonymous source, both Clinton and Obama had been nervous about their poll numbers against John McCain. They were sick of fighting with each other, and they wanted the election to be about the issues again. The anonymous source said that both candidates agreed that conceding the election to John Edwards was the right thing to do. We should be expecting a press conference announcing their withdrawals from the race later this afternoon.

I was thrilled to hear about the developments. No more bickering between campaigns. No more negative attacks. No more attacks by way of their surrogates. Both Obama and Hillary have decided to take the high road and hand over the nomination to Edwards. The press has been trying to reach the Edwards Campaign all morning, but their spokesman said they were not available for comment.

If things couldn't get any stranger, when Karl Rove heard the news today that Edwards was going to be the nominee, he fled the country. Rove's spokesman said that there was no place for him in America if Edwards was President. There have also been reports of Cheney bashing his head into the bathroom wall in the Capitol Building. No one is sure if it's because Edwards is the nominee, or if another puppy peed on his leg. Apparently, it happens to him regularly.

Thanks Sarah Lane, for this wonderful snark. Now if only it were true....

(image courtesy of Pioneer, EENR Blog)

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Monday, March 31, 2008

Nationals Fans Demonstrate their Opinion of Shrub

My understanding is that he kinda knew he was a bullseye for this type of reaction.

I'm reminded of a great snark tune entitled "Texan Love Song" by Elton John from the Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player CD.

Someone did a great video to the song, and this is the best way to hear it:

Shrub, get in line with your ilk. You don't deserve respect. Even Rodney Dangerfield wouldn't respect you either.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

John Edwards Continues to Keep His Own Counsel

(photo credit, Sara Davis/AP)

Yesterday, JRE spoke at the NC Young Dems conference and focused on issues such as getting out of Iraq and the right to organize in NC. Although the conference was about state races, both of the remaining candidates sent surrogates to speak at the conference. I know James Carville was a lunch time speaker and I believe Chelsea Clinton was a speaker too. Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ spoke as a supporter for Obama. And I wouldn't doubt if they continued to lobby JRE for an endorsement.

Edwards, ever gracious when reporters came to the event to get his thoughts about the two candidates, " pointed out the historical nature of both of their campaigns and said both were better suited in carrying forward his campaign platform than Republican nominee-in-waiting John McCain." He went on to say:

"We are blessed, first, to have an extraordinarily talented African-American who could be the next president of the United States," Mr. Edwards said. "There's no way to contest the fact that he has inspired this country."

"And Senator Clinton, who has served America for so long and so well, and has shown so much strength and leadership, has really forged an extraordinarily historic campaign as a woman for the nomination and for the presidency."

Of course he was asked if he would endorse either one before May 6th, and I liked his answer, according to this AP report (and found in the Toledo Blade):

"When I have something to say, I'll let you know," he said.
Video here, courtesy of CNN.

Apparently, Al Gore is also keeping mum about his thoughts.

I would take this comment in the New York Magazine about Elizabeth's feelings towards Mrs. Clinton during the campaign with a grain of salt, but otherwise, the article has some merits. Bear in mind it is an opinion piece, not a report.

Speaking of Elizabeth, the LA Times reported that she blasted John McCain's health care plan at the annual meeting of Association of Health Care Journalists. She remarked, "Neither of us would be covered in his plan." McCain has had melanoma and Elizabeth has breast cancer. She said that his plan does not cover pre-existing conditions. Another criticism lobbed at McCain's plan had to do with insurance plans being sold across state lines. While in theory this sounds good in giving more consumer choices, Elizabeth pointed out the flaws this way:

"..the plan would allow insurers to move their headquarters to states in which consumer protection laws are weak. Giving an example to back up her claim, Edwards noted that many credit card companies are based in Delaware, where the state's laws are more accommodating to corporate interests, she said.

"Hard-fought state-by-state protections would be lost," Edwards said. "They mask this proposal as a cost-saving technique. This is giving insurance companies a pass.

As usual, Elizabeth is good at digging out the details. Here's a YT clip from her speech:

(h/t Iddybud)

Elizabeth thought Clinton's health care plan was more universal than Obama's as Clinton's plan was similar to her husband's, but that was not an endorsement by any means. As mentioned earlier, she is staying quiet about them, but like her spouse, focuses on issues.

I feel sorry for Edwards Democrats in NC and other primaries. I got to vote for him and they don't. They are stuck with the other candidates.

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Travel Travel Travel

Hi BW readers,

I was away at Babson College for a conference. It is a conference of 43 people who are mainly my direct peers at top b-school libraries, and it was nice to see them again. We discussed all kinds of stuff that might bore the average reader here, so I'll spare you the details.

At 3:15 am yesterday, my roommate at the conference got a phone call from American Airlines. American had canceled the flight we were supposed to be on. They had booked our flight for the next day. We asked if they would pay for a hotel room, and of course, they wanted us to haggle with the sales people over their rules, so we requested other airlines. Once that happened, I was given the last seat on a flight at 4:25p and getting a seat on the connecting flight was not a problem. All went smoothly for me.

My roommate had to leave early for the airport to stand in line, get a flight on another airline, only to be bumped to another flight. The only reason I found out how he was on the airline and what time he was leaving was through a woman I met in a restaurant/bar at the airport. She had been in line with him, trying to get on another flight with AA and they chatted for quite awhile.

Small world.

American though needs to get their act together in doing routine maintenance and to quit inconveniencing customers.

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