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Early DNC speakers stress growing the economy 'from the middle out'

Sandra Fluke, attorney and women's rights activist addresses

Sandra Fluke, attorney and women's rights activist addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. (Sept. 5, 2012) Credit: AP

Lane Filler's live blog of Elizabeth Warren and Bill Clinton's speeches continues here.

10:12 p.m. - Sinegal has an impressive story. You rarely hear a bad word about Costco. They have great benefits and pay, great products, and great value.

And people do appreciate their corporate values. I can't count the number of people I know who switched from Sam's Club to Costco as soon as a Costco popped up close enough to shop at.

Sinegal, perhaps a little technophobically, is reading from notes rather than the teleprompter. It looks very odd to see a speaker looking down rather than at the camera.

But public speaking isn't really his gig, and who can blame him.

10:08 p.m. - Fluke is recalling panel on contraception before Congress that did not include a single woman.

Two possible futures, she says, one of which hearkens back to a darker past.

Fluke is getting good response from the floor, a bit less from the upper rows. This is her first time speaking in such a huge setting, and she's doing well, but she's not a natural. And the crowd is feeling more and more anticipation about the speakers soon to come, particularly Bill Clinton.

It is now the 10 o'clock hour, and primtetime conventioning will soon begin.

But first, Jim Sinegal must speak. he's now at the podium.

Sinegal, 76, is the co-founder and former CEO of Costco. That company is considered, in the retail world, to treat its employees unusually well, and generally be a great corporate citizen. I personally shop there all the time, for what that’s worth.

10:01 p.m. - And now, the recently and continuingly famous Sandra Fluke.

Fluke, 31, is an attorney and women’s rights activist who first found fame testifying before Congress on birth control and health insurance.

Really, she first found fame when conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” in response to her testimony, and demanded that society, if Fluke is provided birth control via health insurance in response to Obamacare, should be able to watch videos of her having sex.

10:00 p.m. - This is an important speech, but a wonky one, and the crowd is so so on it.

Van Hollen says Romney/Ryan have an "obsession" with tax breaks for the wealthy.

And he hearkens back to George W. Bush as the reason things have gone so badly with the economy.

Growing the economy "from the middle out" is a theme that they're trying to get some traction with.

9:56 p.m. - Van Hollen is focusing on the Republicans and their statements at the RNC.

Says they should have pointed to the debt clock showing $16 trillion and proclaimed "We built that."

He's going down the line of where the bulk of thedebt came from, Medicare Part D, tax cuts and the wars.

It's actually fairly hard to argue with this line of Democratic reasoning. It's very hard to see how Obama could have reduced the annual deficit significantly in the current climate.

9:53 p.m. - Next up, Chris Van Hollen.

Van Hollen, 53, has represented Maryland in the House of Representative since 2003. He was the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (a position now held by Long Island’s own Steve Israel) when the party lost its majority in the House in 2010.

He also served on the 12-member bipartisan Committee on Deficit Reduction, which famously did not a darned thing to reduce the deficit.

9:52 p.m. - Three former employees of companies controlled by Bain Capital. "I like being able to fire people," continues to haunt Romney.

This fired guy is fired up. Says Romney "made money without a moral compass."

Now a middle-aged lady who worked at a Bain-owned company that fired 850 people, while Bain made $240 million on the deal.

Now David Foster, a steelworker for 31 years.

These three people are deeply emotional. No, they're pissed, even 20 years after their paths intersected with Bain.

His story is that Bain fired hundreds while pocketing $12 million, then the company went bankrupt. There is palpable anger in the arena at what happened to these people.

9:44 p.m. - Unions are an interesting question. Will we actually get to a point where wages have stagnated so much against corporate profits that they will rise again? Public service unions have advantaged themselves at taxpayer cost to the point where few non members have their backs, but what of private-sector unions?

I think if you see companies keep trying so hard to hold wages down, you could see a comeback someday. The companies would be better off treating their customers, stockholders and employees as equally valued constituencies. Treating employees well is a much better plan than casuing them to organize.

9:40 p.m. - "Let Detroit go bankrupt," Romney is accused of saying by King. I don't think that's exactly what he said, as I remember, but I could be wrong. I guess the sentiment if fairly close.

Obama has certain victories no one can reasonably argue with. Bin Laden and the auto industry are probably tops among them, and the Democrats are wise to punch them as much as possible.

9:37 p.m. - Either because of Obama or because of overcrowding, hundreds of delegates and journalists are locked out of the arena.

Now at the podium is Bob King, a bespectacled firebrand for organized labor.

King, 66, is president of the United Auto Workers union. He is a lifetime labor activist, as well as an attorney, whose work was critical to the auto industry bailout, beginning in 2008.

9:34 p.m. - The video is fine, and the nation is clearly better off with an auto industry than without one. I wonder just how much Obama is going to hit Romney's opposition to the bailout in the next eight weeks.

It's a very difficult charge for the Republican nominee to answer.

9:30 p.m. - Having business leaders here this week is clearly a way to combat the idea that said business leaders are terrified of Obama and won't hire because of "uncertainty."

Businesses aren't hiring because they don't need employees, because there is no demand for their products and services.

All the other reasons are just excuses, and don't really have anything to do with why there's no hiring.

And now, a video on the auto industry.

9:27 p.m. - Austin Ligon is now on the stage.

Austin Ligon, 61, is the co-founder and former CEO of Carmax. He now invests extensively in entrepreneurial start-ups.

I love Carmax and have bought and sold several cars there. It is one of the great regrets that when the company was first rolling out, I told my wife (then-girlfriend) we should invest in a few hundred shares, but didn’t. And those shares would now be worth fat cash. So I have no idea what he’s going to talk about, but I do love his work.

9:26 p.m. - Saralegui is one of those American anomalies, a woman who is wildly famous among Hispanics, and practically unkown to non-Hispanics.

She is also a great poster for the American Dream, writ large, and the story she's telling, of achieving massive success in media through nothing but hard work and guts, is inspiring.

Says "For the first time in her life, the American Dream is in danger."

Attacking Romney on health care, says he is backwards.

Just hearing that Gabby Giffords will appear tomorrow night. Take that, Clint Eastwood.

Saralegui is assailing Romney on his "self-deport" theory from the primaries, and well she should. It was so harsh, based on the idea you could make life so hard for 11 million people they would flee their homes and families, that it embarassed Newt Gingrich, and that's not easy.

She pleads with Hispanics to vote, to remember many of them come from countries where they cannot vote, and use this precious right.

9:18 p.m. - Veliz ends by introducing Cristina Saralegui, a Cuban-American journalist and entertainer.

9:17 p.m. - Benita Veliz, a DREAM Act activist, is now speaking. She is an undocumented student who has been successful in college and has been here nearly all her life.

The crowd is responsive to immigration talk, and they should be. The idea that there's some sort of an advantage to sending people like Veliz out of the nation is out of touch with everything this nation stands for.

9:14 p.m. - Harris is smooth, but she's delivering mostly platitudes.

When she's done she gets polite applause, and the segue is to another video.

9:10 p.m. - She is talking about the idea that Republicans will roll back advances that have been made.

The arena has been blocked off to entrants for about 30 minutes. At first the rumor was that the place was over capacity for fire code, now people are saying Obama has arrived to hear Clinton speak, thus the hullabaloo.

9:07 p.m. - Kamala Harris is now at the podium.

Harris, 47, is the attorney general of California, and perhaps the greatest single hyphenated American in history. She is African-America, Asian-American and Indian-American.

She has been outspoken advocate of hate-crime legislations, where she’s wrong (the crime is the crime, the emotions are secondary, and these laws create a privileged class) and charging the parents of kids who consistently miss school with a crime. On that one, I think she’s probably right.

8:38 p.m. - This is not a huge military crowd, so theyre a bit lukewarm no most of what he says, except when he talks about dealing with social issues as they affect soldiers.

8:33 p.m. - Now retired Gen, Eric Shinseki is addressing the crowd on all things military.

Shinseki, 69, is the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He was a four-star general who served as Chief of Staff of the Army. Part of one of his feet was blown off in combat in Vietnam.

He is considered to be one of the main architects of our modern armed forces, having foreseen that combat would require smaller and nimbler forces as battles became less about huge forces massed against each other and more about counterinsurgency and fighting terrorism.

Shinseki was, at one time, the highest-ranking Asian-American to have served in the U.S. armed forces, and his appearance is meant to bolster the defense credentials of the Democrats.

8:22 p.m. - And now it's Steny Hoyer, which does make you want to ask, what's a Steny Hoyer.
It's a white haired guy in a suit, it turns out.

Hoyer, 73, has represented Maryland in the House of Representatives since 1981. He was the House Majority Leader from 2007-2011.He has traditionally been a tremendously successful fundraiser, both for himself and for other Democratic candidates, so the Democrats can use him here in Charlotte.

8:05 p.m. - Celia Richards is on now, talking reproductive freedom, to great effect.

Richards, 54, has been the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America since 2006.  She is the daughter of former Texas Governor Ann Richards, and at one time worked on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s staff.

7:55 p.m. - Jim Hunt has taken the stage.

Hunt, 75, twice served two terms as governor of North Carolina. He attended North Carolina State and the University of North Carolina Law School, and now practices law in Raleigh.

Hunt is speaking because of his dedication to education reform, one of the key aspects of Wednesday evening’s program, having teaching standards in education and created the “Smart Start” program to get children ready for school before they arrive. He is the longest serving governor of North Carolina.

Hunt is a passionate advocate for education, and he has a lot of credibility. He's been fighting this fight for at least 30 years.

And North Carolina's education did improve massively under his tutelage.

After Duncan, he is far more to this crowd's liking, as he lauds teachers and says we should pay them well.

7:50 p.m. - Duncan exits, to a little applause, and, I think, a few boos, then it's time for a video about education.

7:46 p.m. - Arne Duncan is next up, and he starts off by saying he's here as a parent. It will be an education talk, to a crowd that often disagrees with Duncan.

He is not being particularly well recovered. The lack of attention is almost disrespectful.

Duncan, 47, is the U.S. Secretary of Education, and previously ran the Chicago public school system. He is an iffy figure in liberal circles, beloved by education reform advocates but not by the teachers’ unions. His support for charter schools and “Race to the Top,” the $4 billion federal competitive grant program meant to enhance competition and standards in schools and state education programs, has made him a lightning rod for controversy.

Little-known fact: Duncan played basketball at Harvard, and then professionally for four years, mostly in Australia.

7:35 p.m. - And now Diane Feinstein, a speaker that had not been on the list. And all the Democratic women of the Senate are coming out.

Gillibrand gets big applause.

And speaking for the crowd is a woman who was scheduled, Barbara Mikulski.

Mikulski, 76, is a U.S. senator serving Maryland and is the longest-tenured woman in the Congress, having served in both houses since 1977.

Before entering politics, she was a social worker. She voted against the use of force in Iraq in both 1991 and 2002. She is the longest-serving senator to never have chaired a full committee.

7:33 p.m. - Pelosi is making a spirited defense of Obama's handling of the economy focusing particularly ohio's stemming job losses he inherited and moving the needle over to job creation, albeit a slight one.

This is straight policy, fair pay,Obamacare, the military etc.

Thus far the crowd is both looser and more subdued than last night. Attendees may have realized they don't want to sit here for 4 or 5 hours, and will come in later to hear the big guns.

Medicare now and Social Security, and the argument that only the Democrats will protect them. How will they protect them, though? Where is the plan on, for instance, Social Security, four years  into this presidency?

Surprisingly loud cheers for overturning Citizens United. Kind of a wonky topic.

She's trying to get a call and response going with "It's just plain wrong." Kind of a flat rallying cry.

And with a down ticket and upticket plea for the White House and both chambers, she is off.

7:30 p.m. - Richard Trumbak spoke for a few moments, and his fiery pro-labor message electrified that component of the crowd that has already arrived. The arena is about half-full.

But now on stage is Nancy Pelosi, the first big speaker of the night.

Pelosi, 72, is the minority leader of the House of Representatives, representing California. She served as Speaker of the House from 2007-2011. She is the first woman to have served as speaker. She has served in the House since 1987.

Pelosi is one of the most controversial figures in politics today, despised by Republicans but revered by many Democrats. She is in nearly full lockstep with the Democratic Part’s views on social and fiscal issues, and has been a vocal advocate for women’s rights, reproductive and otherwise. Most sensationally, she was an outspoken advocate of Obamacare, which put her directly in the tea party’s sights over the past few years.

7:20 p.m. - Now it's Tom Vilsack.

Vilsack, 61, is the United States Secretary of Agriculture. He previously served as the governor of Iowa, and ran a three-month long, mostly ignored candidacy for president during the 2008 election cycle.

Vilsack is earnest but dull. Little energy, and he's off.

7:15 p.m. - There's a lot of killing about on the floor, a lot of chatter in the stands, a lot of fumbling with iPhones.
Malloy is making an argument that Bush was a failure and Romney wants to return to it.

Tonight is all about Bill Clinton, of course, but there will be 3 1/2 hours of speakers before he hits the stage. Last night Michelle Obama did everything she needed to do and more. Tonight, we'll also see Elizabeth Warren and about 25 other luminaries, as the Democrats try to make their case for keeping the White House.

Now on stage, Daniel Malloy.