Saturday, August 30, 2008
Here's the list. As you see, it's rather pathetic.
1. An eco-notebook from Staples made with sugatcane-based paper
2. A box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese ("limited convention edition")
3. A UPS envelope and shipping documents
4. A $10 coupon for FedEx
5. A junky keychain from the US conference of Mayors
6. An AT&T trivia challenge pin
7. $2 off for the American Presidential Experience traveling exhibition
8. An 8 oz can of Joint Juice Glucosamine "Tropical Flavor"
9. A Step-Counter Pedometer
10. Another key chain hanging from a tiny bottle of Hogan & Hartsons hand sanitizing gel
11. A stress ball in the shape of a black piece of coal from Peabody touting their web site: "coalcandothat.com"
12. A small notepad from Post-It
13. Tic-Tac like mints in a box shaped like an UPS truck
14. A 16.9 oz bottle of JointJuice Fitness Glucosamine
15. A cardboard "I'm a Clean Coal" fan from americanpower.org
16. Chapstick from the FedEx Corp.
17. Another lousy key chain from "Escape Hybrid"
18. An electrical socket plug from IBEW "Safety First"
19. A SEIU refrigerator magnet with 97 social justice words that can be cut out to form political quotes.
20. Oh and of course, the convention tote bag emblazoned with At&T and Coca Cola logos and assembled by Goodwill Industries of Denver.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Yesterday was a good example. Just hung out in the room in the morning. Needed downtime after the intensity of the first 3 days.
Left on the first shuttle bus from the hotel for Invesco Field. It was total chaos. No volunteers met the buses as in the Pepsi Center. There was a very long line --apparently for security. No one was there to direct us. Some people scrambled up an embankment and walked to an upper level of the stadium. One semi-official person told us that we needed to stay in the line for delegates. That person disappeared and we saw no one else for an hour and a half. It was hot.
When we finally reached security, busloads of so-called VIPs were ushered in 'in waves' further dellaying us. Once inside the perimeter, gads of orange-shirted volunteers fell all over themselves to help us.
Once on the field, we found the NC delegation in a slightly better position than at the Pepsi Center. But on the level field the sight lines for a short person like me were terrible. The metal seats were lashed together with ty-wraps and were crushed together even closer than at the PC. The sun was beating down. I am very heat intolerant
I found a seat with difficulty and went to the restroom. There were only 2 stalls in the women's room. The wait was 25 minutes. I went looking for concessions and was directed up a long, long incline to an upper level. 30 minute wait at each concession stand. I stood in the shortest line I could find. It was for nachos. Gloppy is not my favorite kind of food. I was reluctant to drink much since I dreaded the restroom wait or the long walk up to the upper level. I was exhausted from the heat and from standing in all those lines.
When I returned to my seat, someone thinking I wasn't coming back had appropriated it and there were 2 enormous wheelchairs from people not in our delegation blocking the aisle. Our incredibly helpful delegation Whip Brad Thompson managed to get my seat back for me and convinced the two women in wheelchairs to move -- with great difficulty.
I learned our delegation of 134 people was shortchanged 15 seats. Brad warned me that once I sat down, it would be a challenge to get out again. The fire marshals weren't letting people back on the field. I sat in that very tight seat for 3 hours. It was so close that it was difficult to stand up to wave a sign. The people sitting right around me seemed kind of glum and lacking in spirit. I watched other sections of the delegation 'kickin' up their heels' and having fun, but I was stuck, I was thirsty but dared not drink much. Spike Lee sauntered by and mixed it up with the NC delegation. I couldn't get near him.
Those early speeches were deadly --just like Tuesday night. Gore was good and kept me awake but didn't inspire. The sound system had a terrible echo. I had to strain my ears to make the doubled words cohere into meaning. John Oliver of The Daily Show pranced down the aisle mimicking O-BAM-A. O-BAM-A. I couldn't get near him either.
Then the big moment. Obama was a tall shadowy figure in the distance that flitted in and out of view. He started slowly but soon began to show the toughness we had been waiting for. Throwing it up to McCain. Here was substance. The meat. Raising the unspoken issue of temperament. Challenging McCain on patriotism. And the crescendo: the tying all the themes together with the commitment to fulfill the promise of the MLK "I have a dream" speech.
I was crying now. On my feet till the end. By that time Betsy Muse, the BlueNC bogger was next to me and she was crying, too, and we held arms. And there were sobs all around and shouts of "Yes" from behind me -- shouts that came from someplace very deep -- in the gut. It was Brad Thompson. I turned around and we hugged.
And then the fireworks started and the confetti drifted down. Someone behind me was handed one of those huge American flags. He stood on his seat and we all swung up to touch the flag and after a few tries he got the rhythm of the wave. And I was standing underneath the waving flag. Clear sky. Red, white, and blue bursts of sparkle, lights from the stadium LEDs flashing 'America' and tiny colored papers drifting, drifting down. Red White and Blue.
I didn't miss the balloons.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
This night redeemed the lackluster, scripted (and feeling like it) evening before.
The roll call vote was spellbinding. And the neat little New Mexico to Illinois to New York play worked like a charmed. Only slight disappointment that delegation chair Jerry Meek didn't get to do the "The Great State of North Carolina, Home of.... " thingee.
Bill reminded us of how much we used to (and still) admire him. The huge applause he received even before he spoke was genuine and spontaneous -- full of memories of his potential and hopes that he would do the right thing -- tinged with nervousness that he might fail us again. I sensed that the Obama delegates were surprised by how intense and how positive our emotions were about the former President. We were all much more enthusiastic than we expected of ourselves with our bitter taste of his missteps during the campaign.
He was magnificent.
As one commentator said "It wasn't self-indulgent. It wasn't self-pitying. It was a speech only he could give"
One of our African-American delegates enthused " The Prodigal Son has come home. And we gave him back his card."
And Kerry did himself proud as well --reminding us again of what a decent man he is, how close he came, how wronged by the Swift Boaters, and what a good President he would have been.
And all the veterans stories were moving --not stilted as in the previous nights. And the surprise appearance of Barack. And we came together as a delegation --as much as is possible after such a bitter battle.
A grand night!
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
A group of us in the delegation were literally shouting at the speakers. 'Fire Us Up" "Give us some Meat!". The same "American story" --an urban version of "I was born in a log cabin and achieved the American dream" -- over and over and over. It's really wearing thin. Maybe because we have to sit there and listen most of the time.
You want to jump to your feel --not drag yourself up to wave the signs they hand out at an obvious "applause line". Schweitzer towards the end of his speech really got us going. It's so clear being in that hall when the juice is flowing and when it ain't.
Hillary's speech? A lot of us Obama supporters were a bit nervous though we had been assured by the Clinton whip in our delegation that it would be fine. It was.
I spent some time wandering down to the podium area where the crush of bodies exhorted to "keep moving" feels like a madhouse. I saw a few media personalities: Wolf Blitzer, James Carville, David Gregory, and Andrea Mitchell among others.
Lots of people took pictures of my silly yellow hat. My New York City friends Luis and Lupe saw me on PBS. I think the hat helped.
Earlier in the day, we went on a tour of Denver's innovative light rail system and spoke with some transit officials. Were joined by Cong. David Price and a handful of county commissoners. Denver's system is impressive and exceeds ridership estimates.
I later went to a panel on the use of online campaigning with Joe Trippi, the deputy online directory of the Obama campaign, and a Google guy. Some interesting stats I may add later. But the bottom line is that there is a lot of visibility because it is so new, but the actual impact in still quite limited. Chief asset is the mobilization of online activists and providing them with effective tools for traditional grassroots organizing.
Lots more but too tired. A laundry list of weird stuff soon.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
-- Morning breakfast with the delegation was uneventful. 40 minute wait in line to pick up credentials for the day. Speech to the delegation by the Lieutenant Gov of Arkansas. Blah.
-- Went to an early panel at the GreenStarz theater which is within the security perimeter of the Pepsi Center so it's not available to the public. My husband tried to drive me there but could only go part of the way. Long walk. Everything was delayed because the panelists had a hard time getting through security. The panel included Arianna Huffington, Jonathan Alter (of Newsweek) and others on "The Blogosphere vs. the Mainstream Media." Mainstream folks are still defensive about their reporting style and there was a strong whiff of superiority from them in relation to the bloggers. The more interesting comments came from the audience who questioned the media pile on of negative narratives like "Obama cannot connect with blue collar whites." Isn't it equally true that those descriptions of Obama as "the other" are codes for racism and feed the alienation?
-- chatted with a Tennessee delegate and shared notes on what it is like to be progressive in a red state. He's a political numbers guy -- follows the polls. His recommendation: The Survey USA and Rasmussen polls should be taken seriously. Electoral-vote is a solid state-by-state information source.
-- Had other events I wanted to attend but they were downtown and getting there was difficult. Seems there is transport between the hotels and the convention during the period when it's in session, but if you want to attend other events inbetween, they don't make it easy.
Saw snippets of a documentary about a doctor paralyzed in a bike accident who becomes an advocate for stem cell research> Attended part of a panel on the Emerging Powers: implications for American Foreign Policy and a Conservative/ Progressive debate between Thom Hartmann and talk radio host Dennis Prager. Prager is a right-winger who is stuck in the 60s culture wars, defines the left in a completely warped way and revels in vicious distortions. Couldn't stomach it.
The one take-away from the Foreign Affairs discussion: how Obama, with his focus on diplomacy and mutuality, can avoid appearing a wimp . Goal of foreign policy is building friends and isolating your enemies.
Then to the Pepsi Center. The NC delegation has terrible seats-- up in the rafters and on the side. I wondered what NC did to Obama to be relegated to Siberia. But one of the delegates said that last year the delegation had great location because of Edwards and the party likes to rotate those good positions.
The first few hours were a bit boring - desultory, stilted speeches, but my fellow delegates were lively and we were kind of the "dancing delegation" We were all crammed together a bit tightly. People came and went, but for a time I had Secretary of State Elaine Marshall on one side, a Congressman (not mine) on the other and the Governor and his wife sitting behind me. Later the surprise appearance by Edward Kennedy was stirring. Michelle, of course, was amazing. When the energy was flowing, the lights and color and music and the sense of unity was intense. Indescribable.
I had snagged some free tickets for a Willy Nelson concert at Invesco Field for me and my husband. After the convention, I exited the Pepsi Center and walked toward the stadium but apparently there was no easy and safe way to get there. I aborted the mission and was bussed with the rest of the delegation to an evening reception hosted by a Raleigh law firm. Had a good talk with a Durham County Commissioner who has organized a tour of the Denver Transit system for delegates tomorrow. My husband went to the Willie Nelson concert and had a great time,
Monday, August 25, 2008
Sunday, August 24, 2008
This was a relatively quiet day. Checked into the NC delegation's homebase, the Doubletree Tech Center, about 15 miles from downtown. My husband went to see some of the demonstrations. Look for pics later.
I went to an event by the Network of Spiritual Progressives an offshoot of Tikkun, a group I've been involved with off and on for over 20 years. Rabbi Michael Lerner and Matthew Fox and others presented " A Spiritual Progressive Vision for America" -- a good perspective for me as I what I think seriously about what I want to take away from the convention. This group has long argued that the Democrats need not cede the values vote to the Republicans -- that people want more than a laundry list of policies, but seek meaning in spiritual terms.
Some excerpts from the Speakers:
-- The right provides substitutes for the need for authentic community by projecting largely false images of perfect families and a perfect nation.
-- our media culture treats everything politicians (especially on the left) say as 'fake" -- characterizing even the most heartfelt and sincere statements as political calculations. No wonder the public is cynical.
-- our constitution which rightly focused on individual rights when it was written, needs to be expanded to promote values of interdependence and justice.
-- we are too worried about appearing to be kooks if we talk about political goals in these terms. "Bill Reilly will attack you. You can't escape it. But, so what?"
After the event we walked around the downtown area. I was in full campaign regalia with my Obama T-shirt and cap. Turned out to be a camera magnet --with media types from Japan to Australia including me in their B-roll background shots.
Back to the hotel for an ice cream social with the NC delegation. Especially enjoyed my chats with State Representative Dan Blue, N&O political reporter Rob Christensen, and a Hillary supporter who served on the platform committee. Good talk. Good spirit.
Tomorrow we get our credentials and marching orders at breakfast -- sponsored by AT&T,
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Smooth flying: Raleigh-Dallas-Denver.My husband and I wore our Obama buttons which generated beaucoups smiles and thumbs up. Met a Democratic Party volunteer and fellow delegate on my flight out. Very good vibes.
One flight attendant on the second leg was a huge Obama supporter. He just gushed and asked for pointers on becoming a delegate in 2012 to re-elect Obama. Another whispered as I left the plane, "Kiss Bill for me, but don't let Hillary see you." Had a spirited talk with a Maine delegate on the plane which made me appreciate all the wonderful support we receive from the NC State Democratic Party (thanks, Julia Lee) -- apparently not the case in other states. A Manhattan activist asked about the Kay Hagen (running for Senator against Elizabeth Dole) campaign. Seems New Yorkers are excited about her chances.
The only negative note: I overheard 2 pilots talking on the jetway: "Biden hates pilots. Since 9-11. And he really hates airlines." Not sure what that is all about.
Arrival at Denver International Airport was stirring. We were met at baggage claim by 30 or more smiling Obama volunteers -- cheering, waving signs and so anxious to help. I felt enveloped by their spirit and by the sense that I was among people who share my values and my vision. It was such a powerful feeling that it made me cry. I think I cried because I realized how alone it feels to be a progressive in the South -- to be alienated from the larger social reality: conservative, Bible Belt, and on such a totally different wave length I never know where to start, how to connect.
Anyway, a warning: I am very emotional. When I'm emotional, I cry. I will cry a lot over the next few days. If a few like-minded folks have this effect, what will it be like at the Pepsi Center surrounded by thousands. I fully expect C-SPAN to catch me bawling.
The rest of the day:
We rented a car and are staying at a modest hotel 30 miles or so south of downtown. Made a detour to a highly recommended Mexican hole-in-the-wall restaurant in a very Latino neighborhood: Tacos Y Salsas. Rates among the best Mexican food I ever had. Six different kinds of salsas available -- 3 red; 3 green. All incendiary. All delicious. A guy is outside cutting a huge slab of meat. So fresh.
My Obama button prompted another delightful conversation with a couple of Obama canvassers taking a break from voter registration work in the neighborhood. Warm and very welcoming.
It feels wonderful to be here. For a few days a little oasis of Democrats -- in the America of my dreams.
The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation"Gospel Extravaganza"
I Fish, I Hunt, I Vote
National Wildlife Federation and NWF Action Fund
The HuffPost Oasis
Arianna Huffington has decided to demonstrate that a balanced life is possible even during the most compulsively hectic days in the political calendar. So during the Democratic National Convention in
SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association) Sunfest
with a a keynote address by environmental advocate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Pro-Choice/Pro Life Town Hall Meeting sponsored byDemocrats for Life of
Unconventional Women Roundtable
The 2008 Ronald H. Brown Memorial Golf Tournament
Comedy Kabob from the Arab-American Institute
Poker Players Alliance benefitting Paralyzed Veterans
EqualiTEA: a Feminist Gathering and Celebration of Women's Equality Day
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Freewheelin': A Citywide Bike Sharing Program
Close to 1,000 bikes are available free of charge for anyone looking for an alternative to automobiles while the convention is in town. The Freewheelin' bike racks are set up at various points around the city.
We believe there is --or should be -- a place for quiet contemplation at the Democratic National Convention, so we’re conducting a silent meditation retreat. We’ve invited forty nationally recognized meditation and yoga teachers from the Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Native American traditions to guide us in our practice.
Bovine's Improv Hootenanny
The Festival of Democracy
The Festival will include free music and performing arts, free food, and free institution building and political training -- addressing our community problems ourselves, without relying on the two party capitalist system. Also offering a 24 hour free medical clinic. ( Again anyone remember the Diggers from the 60s?)
Food Not Bombs Community Feeds
PLEASE BRING YOUR OWN PLATE, SPOON, CUP!!!
The Democratic administration that runs the City of Denver will be opening their emergency shelters to round-up and hide the homeless from the delegates. It would create too much guilt for the DNC to see the effects of an inhumane and destructive capitalist system as they spend $1,000 per plate for their fundraising dinners. We believe that we need to take care of the most vulnerable members of our community and not hide them from view. Therefore all food cooked for at the DNC protests will be free to all!
Resurrection City Free University
Created as a way to pay homage to Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s original Resurrection City and Poor People’s Campaign. Forty years later, our intention at Resurrection City Free University is to provide activists and individuals from all over the USA who are attending the 2008 DNC with courses and trainings that will provide them with new tools and information that they can take back to their communities.
Green Frontier Fest
This is an open-to-the-public event promoting green practices and highlighting the sustainable aspects of the Democratic National Convention.
FUNK THE WAR - Funky Snake Marches
We're done with dying. Kick off the weeks activities by bringing the war to delegates--and getting funky while doing it. Bring drums, intruments, your bodies, and your desire to end the war! Show your solidarity by dancing in the streets, making music rather than war. We encourage a multiplicity of creative expressions of resistance (particularly those of a funky variety).
Shake Your Money Maker — Denver Mint
Time to redistribute the wealth. Between security and corporate pay-offs, the DNC will cost over 100 million dollars for a party. We think the people deserve that money. Join us as we encircle the Denver MInt (where U.S. currency is produced) and use our collective power to raise the mint building in the air and shake the money out of it for the people. Don’t forget a sack to put all of your loot in. Bring noise makers, energy, spells, magic, costumes, anything that gives you power. We’ll need it!
Join supporters of Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu Jamal, The Cuban Five, and other political prisoners for the Freedom March and Rally! Leonard Peltier’s parole hearing will take place in 2008. Let us not forget that the
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
There seem to be 6 main categories of events:
1) Caucuses -- interest groups for women, people with disabilities, GLBTs, Asians/ Pacific Islanders, seniors and the like meeting to "form party policy and submissions to the party platform". I'd go to some of these if there weren't so much other stuff going on.
2) Wonky panels (loads of them) by groups such as the American Prospect, Common Cause, the AFLCIO and Families USA on topics like the economy, health care, and Israel/ Palestine. Wonky stuff is my element so I RSVPed for tons of these until I realized that my 'dance card' now has 4-5 events for the same time slot. Tuesday afternoon is especially crowded.
3) Parties galore -- 400 of them according to recent NPR story -- some of them hot, some hip-hop, some celebrity-laden, some all 3, but most all of these are invitation only. And my name isn't on any of those invites. The only parties I'm likely to attend are those of the NC delegation. But then I'm not a party girl anyway.
4) Entertainment -- concerts, documentary film festivals, comedy shows, etc. -- all with a political twist. I'm on a waiting list for 1) a freebie Willy Nelson concert; 2) live performances from a new film , based on Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States ” -- with actors Ben Affleck, Josh Brolin, and Rosario Dawson; and 3) an award celebration for a new film called 14 women (the women in the US Senate) with Annette Bening, Susan Sarandon, Spike Lee, Alan Cumming, Rachel Leigh Cook, & Quentin Tarantino.
5) Protestor parades /demonstrations -- at locations designed to remain far out of sight of the delegates at the Pepsi Center. Plus there are elaborate plans to process those expected to be arrested at an industrial warehouse with chain-link cells topped by razor wire -- a facility some have compared to Gitmo. A sign there reads "Electric stun devices used here." I'm planning to go out of my way to see what the protestors have to say. I'm hoping peaceful protests and that the Police behave themselves this time around,
6) Miscellaneous activities from arts projects and poker / golf tournaments to a tour of wind farms. All good stuff (well, not the poker and golf), but who will have the time?
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
-- Republicans can't govern, but they are very effective at campaigning
-- McCain is not only adopting GWB's policies, but he is also adopting his politics. And it works. It feeds into real cynicism about government. People say, "a plague on both your houses."
-- He can talk all he wants about Brittany and Paris, but I don't have time for that. My goal is to reestablish the bond between government and the people.
-- In answer to question by Mom of 3-year-old with Down's Sydrome: all children are the children of G-d and all are special... We need to recognize the gifts and talents that people with disabilities have. The federal government had a commitment to provide 40% of the costs for ADA services; under Bush they only provided 18%.
--In answer to an ex-offender who can't find a job: People make mistakes early in life and we need to give them the tools so they can have a second chance. But the most important thing is to keep them out of jail in the first place. Jr. high and high school is where kids take the wrong path. Parents have to parent. Fathers have to be fathers. Government can't do it all...
I support faith-based service organizations if they do their jobs well and don't discriminate based on religion.
-- In answer to a question about the politicization of science: GWB is anti science. He used his first veto (in 2006) to oppose stem cell research. During his administration the budget for basic research was flatlined. It has cut our edge. In the past, discovery and innovation have driven our economy. We need to double our funding for scientific research.
-- On energy: Intelligent drilling is OK, but we can't drill our way out of our energy problem. 2-3 months ago, John McCain wasn't for drilling. Then he met with a group of Texas oil millionaires.
We're not proposing to tax them more --only that we take away some of their tax breaks --breaks they didn't deserve in the first place.
-- In answer to a question about party unity: Divisions in the party have been hyped by the media. We are passionate about our candidates. That's what politics should be.
-- In answer to a questions about drug ads on TV: we see happy people with big smiles running through fields, but you don't know what most of the drugs are for --- except for one drug and you know what that one is for (joke). 16-17 members of the Bush adminstration who pushed against government's negotiation with drug companies have left -- to work for the pharmaceutical lobby.
-- In answer to a question about the problem of obesity: If we went back to the level of obesity we had in 1980, we would save our health care system $1 trillion. .. Throw your kids out of the house. And you go with them.
There was lots more --- compelling statistics, stories about his own childhood (the lack of a father in his home, his mother throwing him outside to play), listening -- really listening, answers that were personal and responsive, a coherent vision.
You really had to be there. Live makes a difference. The grace of his body movements. The confidence. The coolness. The intelligence flickering behind his eyes.
I'm re-energized and ready for Denver. Even if the North Carolina delegation is relegated to the "boonies" of Invesco Field on August 28th. I saw Obama up close and personal. I shook his hand.
The handshake was electric and propelled me back into a seat and took my breath away.
But it had nothing to do with the outrageous McCain commercials about Paris and Brittany and celebrity and rock stardom. I swooned because I spent an hour and half listening to a man of substance -- who spoke in a way that continually engaged my mind, who had an intelligent answer to every question,, who was genuine and 'present' with every questioner, and who personified my deepest hopes and dreams for change in this country.
Exactly 40 years ago, I had a similar passion about another American politician and had the honor of shaking his hand as well. He, too, engaged my heart and my mind, my hopes and dreams. In fact, I remember I even trampled the shrubbery outside the library at Columbia University to snag that handshake. That politician was Robert F. Kennedy.
Ah, what might have been in 1968. Ah, what might yet be in 2008.
Friday, August 15, 2008
It was especially painful to interact with relatives and friends who don't share my Obamania. I encountered opposition, ambivalence, suspicion --and a general lack of enthusiasm. It made me profoundly sad.
The lone exception is my brother-in-law, an Egyptian Muslim and thank goodness a long time American citizen who can vote. He is exceptionally well informed on the campaign and was positively giddy to find another Obama supporter in the family. Until recently, he worked in pizza shops using an Italian sounding alias to avoid any anti-Arab stigma. He spoke of customers assuming he shared their racism who casually spewed rants about their disgust at the thought of a black man as President. More sadness, but there is something mildly amusing here. Ironically, these "super Americans" vowed to "leave for Canada" if Obama is elected.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
He had suffered -- as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and as the target of "dirty tricks".
He committed himself to a "civil" campaign. A debate on the issues.
He was a Republican with a modicum of empathy-- with a moral code. But now...
Worth reading on this subject:
Wanting the White House in the Worst Way by Joe Conason in Salon
The Low Road Express New York Times editorial
Running while Black by Bob Herbert in the New York Times
Meanwhile. I am saddened.
Not only because I held to an ideal that McCain was a different kind of Republican. But also because the 'low road' tactics seem to be working just fine.
Few in the media seem to take their honest broker role seriously. Instead of calling "foul" on McCain they relish the fight and label it "mud slinging on both sides". I thought American was ready to move beyond the "old politics of destruction." Apparently not.