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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Reporting for Duty

John Kerry said on Thursday night that he was reporting for duty. Bill Maher reported last night that President Bush has now sent Kerry off to Fallujah since we need to troops over there.

But really, I thought that was a dumb way to open the speech. The other highlight of the Maher show last night was Maher and Michael Moore getting down on their knees to beseech Ralph Nader not to run.

I Coulda Been a Contender

It's sad how Mike Tyson, once such a great athlete, has been reduced to fighting way past his prime due to debts. And last night, he was knocked out. (Thanks to the Frog.)

Friday, July 30, 2004

Dumbest Protester Award

This is hard to give out, but the kid described in this article deserves high consideration:

On Tuesday, police found another teen near the ``protest pen'' carrying a balloon filed with urine. The balloon burst on the teen when he was approached by police and the teen was not arrested.

That must have been very disappointing, going to the trouble of filling up the balloon with piss only to end up wearing it.

Last night after 1:00 you may have missed Triumph the Insult Comic Dog's interview on MSNBC. He told Ron Reagan that he was gutsy to give a speech because a Reagan at the Democratic convention was like him going into a Korean restaurant. Triumph also said he agreed with Reagan on stem-cell research because he has a dream of one day getting his testicles back.

You also may have missed some of the ridiculousness that has been the midnight Larry King Live shows this week. Last night, Mo Rocca joked that Kerry's "Help is on the way" slogan sounded more like that of a temp agency than a presidential campaign. Earlier in the week, a phone caller asked Ben Affleck if he would consider running for president. Elias apparently thinks Ben could run for governor against Romney in 2006, and he also gives some eyewitness stuff from the streets.

That call wasn't as dumb as some of the earlier evening stuff on MSNBC this week, though. At one point, Chris Matthews said last night when panelists were discussing Kerry's speech, "We're getting more into the substance than I usually like." While I understand he was saying the delivery was important too, I thought that statement underscored a lot of what's wrong with Matthews' show. That said, I do agree that the delivery was badly rushed. When Kerry fan Tom Oliphant laments this, you know it was a real problem.

The previous night, during one of Frank Luntz's focus groups, one participant made the inane point that Kerry's risking his life in Vietnam wasn't a major differentiating point because Bush had risked his life for his country, too, by simply being president. Someone needs to point out the relative chances of being killed or injured in a Swift Boat in Vietnam versus the odds of being assassinated as president. Bush fans would do better just to change the subject rather than contest the point.

There's far too much inanity to cover, I realize, and imagine, I even watched CSPAN during the actual speeches. One thing that gets to me about convention coverage is that there are so many small tidbits of information and anecdotes without an overall structured narrative about what really happened. So I'll try to stop writing such tidbits and write something meaningful--eventually at least.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Convention Funnies

Tom Burka thinks Hope was on the way, at least.

Dave Barry asks that the terrorists attack him back at his hotel room.

Some new Bush ads from the ranch.

And Howie Carr, following up on yesterday's column, "I Really Hate Kerry and Kennedy," checks in today with another column, "I Really Hate Liberal Activists."

Hands Off Iraq. Hands Off Venezuela. Hands Off Our Bodies.

Don't worry, gals, no one will be touching you with their hands unless they're wearing rubber gloves. They want to ``Repeal NAFTA'' and ``Outlaw Corporate Greed.'' You wonder, do they know anything about John Kerry [related, bio] and his voting record?

Howie doesn't seem to get that these people don't like John Kerry and are there to protest his nomination. Of course, yesterday he claimed Ted Kennedy didn't like the estate tax.

Day 4 at the Convention

I could call the post "volunteering" day 4, but I didn't actually do much of anything in terms of work today. I stayed in the on-call lounge up until 11:00, reading the papers and some blogs on the computer terminal, then I took off. The assignments were all small stuff I'd basically done already. Word was they needed a lot of volunteers for the UMass-Boston concert tonight. I didn't stick around to do that, though, since I'd rather watch political speeches than a James Taylor concert.

I had read in the Globe that the Black Tea Society was starting a rally in Copley Square at 11:00, so I walked over to find not so much going on. There were some kids dressed up in pirate hats. One was dancing and had a fake hook on his hand while several others drummed on cans homeless-person style. I got bored after a few minutes and went back toward the Hynes Convention Center in order to see if the Sheraton had any caucus meetings like yesterday.

I went in and encountered the women's caucus meeting in the big mezzanine room where I had seen the African-American caucus the previous day. On each chair there was a subscription card for Ms. Magazine featuring Camryn Manheim with Margaret Cho hanging around her neck. Many buttons and stickers from the likes of NARAL were being handed out at the door. "Auntie" Carol Moseley-Braun, who was endorsed in the primaries by NOW, was at the podium, delivering a very strong pep talk. It was more effective oratory than I could recall seeing from her before, and it included some red meat, such as a complaint that certain leaders on the far right "want us in burkas." She said things were so bad that women who cared about abortion rights were stuck lighting a candle for Chief Justice Rehnquist's good health. She was quotable, funny and got the crowd going. I wondered what job she might get in a Kerry administration.

Moseley-Braun was followed to the podium by John Kerry's sisters, and I left the room to see what else was happening in the hotel. Out in the hall, I saw a table that I neglected to mention yesterday, where volunteers were collecting books from delegates for a literacy drive initiated by Christie Vilsack, the first lady of Iowa. Yesterday at the table, I spotted a copy of Michael Moore's "Dude, Where's My Country"--God help the person who tries to learn to read from that. Across the hall from the women's caucus, people were setting up for a seniors caucus slated to start at noon. On each seat in there was a pill container with each day of the week marked (in letters and braille) and a Kerry-Edwards logo on the back.

Back in the hall, I finally was interviewed. After days of seeing people all around me being interviewed, I was feeling a little bit left out, and it felt good to be recognized. The woman claimed to be from the New York Post, even though she couldn't have been much older than I am. I never got here name, nor she mine, so I don't think I'll be quoted; while she could've read my badge, I suppose, she seemed more to be mining for a general feel of the opinion in the area. We chatted about Teresa Heinz-Kerry for a good five minutes, as it turned out, I made a bunch of points, and I'll check the Post tomorrow to see if any of them get into print. I saw Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey moments after leaving the interview, and then I ducked back into the women's caucus because I heard a loud cheer go up.

I reentered to see Elizabeth Edwards taking the podium. She was just there to introduce Teresa Heinz-Kerry, who of course I had seen on three occasions yesterday and had just discussed with a reporter. It was all Teresa all the time. In this speech, as in her discussion of Head Start to the African-American caucus yesterday, Teresa got very academic, citing recent research from professors of biology and psychology about differences between men and women in responses to stress. This was all a roundabout way of making a point about the way government needed to treat women. This academic approach to issues strikes me because material that is so overtly intellectual is highly unusual in the world of political stump speeches. I also think it is easy to lose people this way; maybe she just thinks she can do it in front of specialized audiences with a particular interest in one topic. Teresa did do some pumping up of the crowd too, at one point praising Barack Obama (and stating how hard he was to follow Tuesday), adding emphatically, "He will be president." When a few in the front rows yelled back that she should run for president, Teresa joked, "Arnold comes before me," a reference to her foreign birth and the need for a constitutional amendment to make her eligible. "I'd be too old anyway." I was surprised she would dismiss the idea on grounds that it's impractical rather than poo-pooing it altogether.

After taking lunch, I walked toward downtown. The pirates were still drumming and dancing in Copley Square, and there was little protest activity on the Common, other than the same Falun Gong people I saw yesterday. Down at Quincy Market, I watched an MSNBC segment with Chris Jansing and some analyst I didn't recognize. You can stand directly behind the set and watch the anchor read the intros to taped bits right off the TelePrompTer. They were all just single sentences, and I figured it wouldn't be too hard to ad-lib these things, so the producers must really think the anchors are dumb if they keep them so scripted. I guess it's not always like that, though, and the questioning of the analyst was done from paper notes, not the screen. Only about ten feet from me watching the MSNBC set was David Aldridge, the ESPN NBA reporter. I have no idea why he was there, maybe to try to get into political reporting, and I wanted to say hi, but I got vibes from him that he didn't want to be bugged. He's got a little more padding around the middle than you notice on TV.

At this point, I headed for the Fleet Center area a little after 2. Along the street, I saw two guys in small bathing suits with brown liquid smeared all over their bodies. To people looking out from a restaurant (not an appetizing sight), one said, "I'm sorry, but when I heard John Kerry voted for the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind Act and NAFTA, we just lost control of our bowels." The other held a sign that read, "Bush and Kerry, two turds in a bowl." I have a feeling that one won't make it onto the news.

In the free-speech zone I saw some PETA people, with one dressed up as a carrot being interviewed and filmed. I realized this was part of the Chris P. Carrot for President campaign that has advertised on this page before. I returned to my location from earlier in the week and learned that a fellow volunteer had made a Charlie Rose sighting last night. It was looking rather dull until 3, when another volunteer came by and said there was a big protest going down on Canal Street.

I hurried over to find those pirate people and a bunch of other crunchy protester types. There was some smoke wafting up, so I knew they were burning something in the street, a move that I figured was not legal. As the news later reported, they were burning a two-faced effigy of Bush and Kerry. Someone threw a flag on top of the fire as well, I saw on TV. By the time I arrived, onlookers were gathering and the police stood menacing, watching along the security fence attentively. The media building was on the other side of the fence, about 100 feet back, and reporters were standing on the steps outside watching. Soldiers on the elevated platform above also were looking down, as were working people from their windows in the building at the end of Canal Street.

They had their drums going and a person yelling stuff on the loudspeaker. Black Tea is a group of anarchists, and they were angry about the "police state" and "fascism" on display with the heavy security presence. After a few minutes, police in full riot gear came out from behind the fence, setting up a line across Canal Street, blocking access to Causeway Street. This closed off one of the gates entering the security zone around the Fleet Center, which was located at the Canal-Causeway corner. A woman on the megaphone tried to convince the police and soldiers to go away--as if that might possibly happen--saying, "They don't care about you! You'll lose your jobs too!" It was interesting to me that she even considered that getting the security forces to switch sides in the battle against state power was feasible.

So there we were, in a crowded street, with lines of cops in riot gear on both sides, protesters getting in their faces, and a ton of onlookers warily taking in the scene. Many media were present. There was a feeling that something was going to happen as the minutes passed, and finally I saw people starting to push and shove further up the street. At this point, the people who wanted no trouble quickly moved away, while the reporters rushed forward. The shoving quickly flowed around, making it hard to get out of the way. I was bumped, ironically, by a pair of cameramen rushing in to get the shot.

The jostling quieted down a bit with some of the cops and kids still somewhat entangled. "Let them go!" came up a chant, and that was a clue that the cops were detaining someone. (One local guy said "Beat his ass!") I really have no idea who initiated the violence since there were so many people around and things happened so fast. I angled myself closer to the stalemate, trying to get a look at the proximity of the cops and protesters. I got rather close when suddenly a policeman's hat flew through the air and landed on the ground pretty close to me. As the crowd shifted, I caught a glimpse of a hatless old cop with white hair wrestling with one of the protester kids, who had to be about 18. I backed up fast.

As I moved away, I noticed how so many cameras were surrounding what was then a small, momentary brawl but that could easily have gotten worse fast. There were several pairs of arms holding cameras aloft right next to the police-protester line. That's some rather risky work the reporters do in covering urban unrest.

At that point, the show was basically over. The word went through the crowd that three people were arrested. The early one, based on my reading of the news, was when the police removed a guy with a fake molotov cocktail. The latter arrest was for attacking an officer, according to the police. Upon watching the evening news, I saw both the policeman and the protester woman who had a heated exchange during a march on Monday, described in my post on that day.

I loitered around in Canal Street for a long while after that, in case something more occurred. The line of cops in riot gear blocking the way to Causeway Street remained in place, and there were plenty of onlookers gawking at them. Some of the other protesters took advantage of the additional attention now generated. One particular guy was dressed in a costume like what fans wear to Oakland Raiders games. He had shoulder pads on, with red pom poms sticking out from under the shoulders, along with a clown nose and a devil mask on the back of his head. He had a loud speaker that he used to read laws and treaties concerning riots, implying they were being violated. He had a fake night stick that he used to beat himself over the head for the cameras while standing in from of cops who had their night sticks in hand. A great line he had was, "Ladies and gentlemen, if you feel intimidated by these police standing in line with their riot gear, do what I do: picture them naked."

Another highlight was the guy standing in the middle of the street reading Biblical verses. He happened to be wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey. One of the protester kids yelled at him, "God doesn't exist, it's all fairy tales." Another random person yelled back, "How do you know?" These are not typical conversations you see in the street.

As time went on, reporters were filing their reports. I stood next to one guy who did a live report to a news radio station, noting that several people were on the patio in front of Boston Beer Works "enjoying an adult beverage" and watching. I did see Jack Harper of channel 5 and Dan Hausle of channel 7 there, among others. Thanks to the grungy protest kids, the warm weather, and the tight space, there was pretty bad BO wafting in the air.

Finally, it looked like there wouldn't be another flare-up, given that most of the protesters had left for a march back to the Boston Common. I saw Jeanne Shaheen on the street on my way out, and back at Quincy Market, by the Hardball set, even the establishment kids supporting Bush and Kerry were yelling at each other, with people encircled around a few who were getting into each others' faces. I guess since this was the last day, everyone decided they needed to get their licks in.

There are many more anecdotes and details I could pass along, but that's more than enough. It was a memorable week on the streets of Boston, the likes of which I doubt we'll see for a long time here. Regular blogging (i.e. short posts on a variety of topics) will now be resuming.

MORE: The cop and protest lady pair I mentioned are pictured together in the CNN story.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Convention Volunteering, Day 3

As with the last two nights, this will be a long chronological story of my day in Boston. I'll update as I write portions through the night.

When I left the convention area last evening, I was somewhat dismayed by the lack of volunteer work I was encountering. Today I had better luck, as I walked in to the Hynes Convention Center volunteer headquarters a little after 9 and almost immediately was sent on my way to Copley Place. There I spent over an hour putting Boston guides into more goodie bags for members of the press who didn't get them at the media party on Saturday. After I and others opened boxes and filled hundreds of these bags, I got to take some over to the Sheraton hotel, adjacent to the Hynes Convention Center, arriving shortly past 11. I stuck around the Sheraton after dropping off the bags at the hospitality desk, and I found myself right in the middle of a bunch of caucus meetings. I made many celebrity sightings during the midday there.

Before I get to that, though, more on the media bags for a minute. The Kerry campaign has an office space that they're using for storage up at 4 Copley Place, in the posh office space above the Copley Mall (Bain & Company and Morgan Stanley are up there, among others). For no reason at all, I and other volunteers had to have our photo IDs checked before entering the upper level, since no terrorist could ever get a photo ID, as everyone knows. Then we got to the office, and I was surprised at how trashy it was inside. Garbage lined the halls, and they had filled a bunch of rooms with big cardboard boxes containing tons of New Balance bags with the Boston 2004 logo. The bags already were filled with the lame goodies dissed in the Globe Friday. One room had the floor covered with contents of the bags that had been poured out; you literally could have body surfed on packs of Craisins, containers of Dunkin' Donuts coffee, Gillette Mach-3 Turbos, pocket city maps, and Kraft macaroni and cheese with pasta in donkey shapes. (That trashed room would've been revealed to people on an escalator below in the mall if the shades by the window had been opened--I'm sure the Copley office manager would be pleased.)

One of the guys helping to fill the bags was complaining about the convention being a "coronation" and I wondered why he was volunteering if he was so angry. While our only mildly incompetent blue shirts (who are higher-up volunteers, as opposed to me, a lowly white shirt, with reds being team captains) wasted lots of time figuring out how many bags we needed to take where, I got in a good bit of freeloading... I ate some craisins (dried out cranberries with flavoring) and a molasses cookie from a local bakery that was supplying goodies too. I even found a diet coke in the office to wash it down. I grabbed a box of the limited edition mac and cheese to take home, and I thought that if I had had a bag, I could have taken several boxes and sold them on eBay. One of my fellow volunteers--obviously a liberal commie who doesn't grasp the importance of the free enterprise system--suggested instead that the leftovers be donated to the homeless.

While waiting on the blue shirts, I met a security guard in the hall outside the office door who said she had to stand there for 14 hours today after 16 hours yesterday. She said her legs hurt. Don Rumsfeld then issued a press release saying he felt no sympathy for people who are required to stand for many hours on end.

Finally we went to the Sheraton, where the entrance through the Prudential Center Mall was blocked off by security. This was annoying because I was loaded down with bags at the time and we still had to walk around to the street entrance. We went inside and up an escalator to a mezzanine level that was filled with delegates and reporters. After dropping the bags off, I ducked into a big conference room that I found out was hosting the Latino Caucus meeting.

Terry McAuliffe was speaking very enthusiastically, pointing out Latinos who had done good things for the party, singling out Bill Richardson, for one, for the efficiency of the proceedings the first two days of the week. McAuliffe added that those assembled should "tackle" people on the street, get them registered to vote and get them to the polls for John Kerry. A big ovation went up near the end of McAuliffe's energetic appeal, as Hillary Clinton came into the room. The room seated several hundred people and I was in the back, but I still had a decent view of things. Hillary was next up at the podium, offering remarks of less note than her mere presence. She was followed by Teresa Heinz Kerry, who made some interesting points. She had a puzzling digression into national income accounting, complaining that other countries count women's work around the home toward the GDP, whereas that is not the case in the US. She claimed that counting housework in the economic stats gives women more dignity and pride in their role, but I highly doubt many people at all are aware of how these statistics are gathered or care. She recovered, though, in my estimation, by making a particular pitch for the Cuban vote based upon her understanding of what it's like to live under dictatorship. She got a good reception when she discussed her personal experience as an immigrant too.

When the Latino Caucus broke up, I went back out into the open mezzanine area. I can now partly rescind my call yesterday for a central political buttons emporium because vendors had set up many tables that contained every (Democratic) button imaginable. I'm not kidding: Garage Sale Moms for Kerry (?), Mine Workers for Kerry, many unions whose letters I didn't recognize for Kerry, etc. There were myriad variations on "John Kerry and [insert name of state's candidate], the Right Team," with pictures of Kerry and the state's senate or governor contender side by side. One area had the anti-Bush selection, my favorite of which featured the Enron logo. I didn't get anything since they were selling the buttons, not giving them away, and I still think something like this would do well at Quincy Market or near the FleetCenter for those many people who aren't loitering around the few main delegate hotels this week.

I crossed the hall to an even bigger conference room that was hosting the African-American Caucus. Teresa was now addressing this audience, and she had different remarks specific to the caucus concerns. The bit I caught was about how investment in early childhood education is something that economists of all stripes endorse, and she linked this to Head Start. Having seen Teresa already, though, I headed back to the other room where the Latinos were leaving and the GLBT Caucus was coming in. When I reentered, a Kerry-Edwards rainbow logo had appeared splashed across the big screen up front, and the loud speakers were playing '80s synthesizer pop dance hits with female vocals, such as "Tell It to My Heart"--gay enough for you? It was really a conscious effort to get the room looking and feeling as gay as possible before the program started up. I had a cup of excellent coffee from the dispenser in the back of the room, and I was handed a DVD that appeared to be about same-sex PDA in the Middle East--the cover was of two men kissing on the street in Tel Aviv.

The caucus program started with a listing of GLBT elected officials attending. The biggest ovation went to Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, a convention vice-chair, and Ben Affleck suddenly appeared and waved hello but didn't say anything. The first speaker was Rob Reiner, who flogged Bush for reading "My Pet Goat" on 9/11. The gays weren't really into the terrorism stuff, cheering Reiner loudest when he mentioned holding a party for San Fran Mayor Gavin Newsom. Bill Richardson stopped by to give a brief speech too--did you know New Mexico is the only state with a hate-crimes law that extends to transgendered people?--and by the time Teresa Heinz Kerry was on her way in to talk to the GLBTs, it was nearly 1:00. It's amazing how after one viewing, the excitement of seeing someone famous diminishes a lot, so I went to get lunch at the Prudential Center food court, after which I returned to the on-call lounge in the Hynes.

After reading the Herald, I lucked into a job carrying a bag of additional supplies to the hospitality desk at the Boston Park Plaza. Volunteers were going to all of the hotels through the city with more maps and guides for the hospitality desks, many of which were running out, and I knew I wanted the Park Plaza so that I could have an excuse to check out where John Edwards was staying. I had seen the Park Plaza on Sunday, and there was clearly more security there today. The one prominent thing on the outside was a tent that was built out from the hotel front into the street, blocking two lanes of traffic. There were guards around the tent, and when I approached I could see a massive SUV beneath, presumably the vehicle that would be carrying the VP hopeful to the Fleet Center tonight. Why the Secret Service thought the SUV needed to stay there, rather than in a garage somewhere I'm not sure. Inside the hotel, where the NY delegation is also staying, there are a bunch of flat screen TVs around the lobby tuned to every cable news channel. I went into the basement to use the bathroom, and I noticed that a restaurant down there had been turned into a space where the national press could file their stories. I lacked the credential to enter, but I did see the rows of tables with computers.

My required shift now an hour past over, I went for a walk across the Boston Common, looking for the protesters who have been congregating there. I encountered a Falun Gong demonstration that graphically depicted the torture that some members allegedly are suffering in China. They had life-size plastic figures attached to torture devices and locked in cages, with real people dressed as prison guards standing over the dummies. It was quite life-like, with blood on the dummies and everything, and a good number of people were looking at the torture exhibits, museum-style, while reading the written descriptions. "This Is Happening in China Right Now" was on signs as well. A girl convinced me to sign one petition to free a dissident, though I declined to ask President Bush to bring Jiang Zemin to justice since that doesn't seem like the wisest policy course at this point in time. A bunch of Falun Gong folks were meditating there too. Smaller collections of Falun Gong have been other places around the city this week.

Up by the State House, there were tons of state police standing around, looking foreboding. The State House is totally shut down this week, and I don't know why it had to be protected so heavily. Perhaps they had some indication it could be a target? Over at Quincy Market, David Broder was sitting at the Hardball set, looking like he was waiting to go on MSNBC. I then walked toward the Fleet Center, stopping first at the free-speech zone, which was filled with far more press than I had seen there all week.

I figured out that the fuss was over some protesters who were lying on the ground, their hands bound and hoods over their heads, a la Abu Ghraib. They were right in the main entrance to the FSZ along Canal Street, so it was hard to get by, especially with all of the photographers hovering. As I walked through, one of the hooded guys said to me, "Look at the soldiers above us!" referring to the military police on the elevated platform overhead.

Outside the FSZ there was a guy dressed as Uncle Sam with a picture of Bill Clinton as Pinnochio--a little outdated, but still getting some media notice. Along Causeway Street I also saw that the girls dressed as cheerleaders for "Electoral College" were getting some much deserved attention from reporters after being around the last few days. Eventually I got back to the place where I had spent a lot of time directing people along the security fence the last two days. At this point, the celebrity sightings got a little out of hand. Gideon Yago of MTV walked by talking on a cell phone. Dennis Kucinich came through the security fence--ho hum, saw him yesterday, I thought. Then Ed Gillespie came out the same way, again ho hum, saw him yesterday. The volunteers I had been with in previous days told me they had seen Triumph the Insult Comic Dog earlier. Shortly thereafter, I heard Triumph was being filmed over at the FSZ, so I headed that way. ("Your protest is really good--for me to poop on!")

Sure enough, a woman had the dog puppet on her hand and a cameraman was filming it near the fence. I asked her where the guy was who did the voice and made the insults, and why they were filming without him. She responded that they were making a movie and thus needed tons of video footage to use. I heard from others that the comedian would be returning tonight some time. Another story I heard was that Monday night, Triumph was thrown out of the Fleet Center and had his press credentials revoked for the duration of the convention, so I guess they're reduced to doing stuff outside the security fence. Nothing comes up about this on Google News, though there is a very brief note of this in today's Globe along the margin of a page in the convention section. I came back through the FSZ once more a short time afterward, and Triumph was up on stage with the microphone.

The one other thing I wondered about in advance of tonight was the umbrella issue. It was cloudy and overcast here all day, threatening rain, and many people were carrying umbrellas, but as was reported earlier in the week, umbrellas get confiscated if you try to take them through the security around the Fleet Center. I bet many delegates weren't aware of this and tried to bring umbrellas tonight, only to have them taken. How pissed will they be if it's pouring when they get out of the arena at 11:00?

The lead story in today's special convention section in the Globe discusses how ugly the streets are around the Fleet. This isn't exactly the way we want to show off the city.

But what did Jesse Jackson say?

"Jesse Rips Hub on Race" read the big front-page headline in the Herald today. The article, though, kicks off with people denouncing Jackson before they even get to what Jackson said. Bush supporter Eugene Rivers, one of the idiots behind the faith-based initiative, is one of Jackson's critics cited, along with a peeved Mayor Menino who doesn't want anyone saying anything remotely unflattering during his party. Jesse's words only appear in paragraphs 4-6:

"There is such a class gap between the haves and the have-nots," Jackson said. "If you look at inner-city Boston and the suburbs, it's like there is a doughnut and then there's the doughnut hole."

Jackson added that Boston falls short of being a model for urban democracy around the country.

"Boston must work even more diligently at being the academic center it is, at being the shining light on the hill," Jackson said. "This can be the city with an urban agenda that becomes the ideal for all of America. Boston ought to aspire to no less."

He's not "ripping" Boston but pointing out the obvious disparities that still exist between, say, Dorchester and Weston. While some progress has certainly been made, we shouldn't be smugly satisfied with ourselves either, attacking someone who dares point out that a good amount of inequality persists. What gall Jackson must have to suggest that we work to become an even better city in terms of racial equity!

This is a total non-story, yet the Herald's non-thinking approach has affected the TV coverage, as I saw a piece on channel 7 tonight echoing the same narrative. Sigh.

Linked by Local CBS Affiliate

CBS4, the former WBZ and local CBS affiliate, has linked me. Cool.

FSZ in the WaPo

Good article on the free-speech zone by paul Farhi in the Post Wednesday. He talks with the guy who had the huge Gandhi statue, and it also looks like I need a city permit to speak from the stage. Oh well. (I'm referencing my day 2 diary.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

"Yes, We Door!"

First off, my day 2 volunteering diary is finished now, two posts below this one. The work isn't steady, or even in existence much at all frankly, but I'm still out and about, noticing strange things, cracking jokes, etc. Many thanks to Scott and eRobin for their kind words and links. It's fun to use this medium to share my observations from the scene with others in the rest of the country.

I'm way behind in reading all the convention coverage, but I have noticed a few goodies worth passing on. First, don't take Spanish lessons from Al Sharpton:

During a speech to the Hispanic caucus on Monday, the Rev. Al Sharpton delivered a bilingual appeal to delegates to build a coalition with blacks. Politicians, he declared, think all they need to do is learn Spanish to get the Hispanic vote, he said.

"Well I know one thing, 'no' means 'no' in English and in Spanish," Sharpton said. "The only Spanish Republicans speak is 'no,' and that's why we are going to say 'no' in November."

Sharpton then told delegates he'd learned some Spanish, too. In a call and response about the issues they can achieve, Sharpton repeatedly barked: "Si se puerta. Yes we can."

But Sharpton apparently needs more lessons. What he said means "Yes, we door." What he should have said was "si se puede."

Howie Carr was also great today, proudly wearing the label of "right-wing nut job":

This was at the Boston Harbor Hotel yesterday morning. They have U.S. Capitol cops with police dogs at the front entrance as well as men in black brandishing machine guns. It was unclear whether the gunners were there to prevent people from getting in, or getting out.

I have to admire the snark there.

UPDATE: Since I'm thanking people, I should mention adamg of Boston Common fame also has been throwing good traffic my way with several links that I appreciate. The Common, as well as the Universal Hub he runs on the subject, have good roundups of area bloggers' coverage.

Good Pictures of Fleet Center Area

Yikes, Kennedy was bad, huh? I found a good photo album through Boston Common. See especially this shot, which shows the fence perimeter with a section of elevated highway above it patrolled by military police; a speaker on stage in the free-speech zone; and a truck similar to another one I saw driving around with a message against Kerry. Other good shots in the album give a sense of the scene.

Convention Volunteering Day 2

I won't be able to get all this down now, so updates will follow.

I got myself up for The Today Show early this AM and I wasn't disappointed. They talked about the dumb picture of Kerry at Cape Canaveral yesterday, and they mentioned that some Dems were pointing to pictures of Bush in a kimono as a retort. Is this what we have come to? I would like to point out that I blogged the Bush kimono back in October, though the link to the APEC summit photos doesn't seem to work any more.

I got to the Hynes on-call HQ by around 8:30 and it was very quiet. I read the papers and got on a computer terminal. I attempted to blog the kimono thing, but the connection was way too slow and I eventually gave up. By checking the Internet history folders on a few computers I used, I noticed that some volunteers had been reading Talking Points Memo, Political Wire, and some live journals, among other things. Blogs are getting big.

The waiting for an on-call assignment dragged on. The occasional announced needs were crap, so I stuck around. A big influx of volunteers filled the room by 10 and there wasn't enough for them to do. Everyone clamored when there was a call for 10 people to go to the Emily's List lunch since it was expected that Hillary would attend. Some yelled that Emily's List members should get preference. This annoyed me because I didn't feel like jumping up and down waving my arms sceaming "Pick me!" to get a plum assignment. People were so eager to go that it got to the point that hands shot up before the coordinators approaching the microphone even said where they needed people to go. I'll spare you any more venting. I finally walked out at 11:30.

I left then because I wanted to go see Robert Byrd do a reading from his book over in Harvard Square. Of course, when I got there, the place was long since filled, so I got on the subway back into Boston. I grabbed lunch at Faneuil Hall after giving some people directions on the way (one insisted he wanted to find "Parker Street" rather than "Park"--moron). The LaRouche people were rallying outside Faneuil Hall--I really don't get them--and I kept going to the Aquarium, where the League of Conservation Voters rally was breaking up (it was actually on the other side of the Marriott Long Wharf, not the Aquarium side). I picked up a pin there amid lots of people in bright green outfits. The Long Wharf had lock-down security, with room keys required to get past the big dude blocking the escalator up to the function rooms.

I met a table of fellow volunteers outside the Aquarium, and they were hoping I was coming to relieve them since they were bored. I asked what they had been up to, and they said directing people to the Aquarium, which was directly behind them with a big "New England Aquarium" sign and logo. In other words, nothing. I did see workers setting up tonight's tribute to John Breaux, which is a party with a Caribbean theme for no apparent reason (Louisiana is close to there maybe?). Ziggy Marley is even performing. I wish we could also have a Howard Dean tribute concert by Wyclef Jean, or even a full series of reggae/hip-hop artists doing tributes to stiff old white guy politicians. Imagine: Sean Paul in a tribute to Senator Orrin Hatch! We have to make this happen. Anyway, they were moving in fake palm trees and sand under a tent, and it all looked rather tacky.

At this point I broke down and went over to the Fleet Center vecinity and my post from Monday. Continued later...

MORE: The dumb Kerry outfit. The article here says the Dems responded with pictures not just of Bush in a Kimono but also picking his nose at a Texas Rangers baseball game. I can't find the damn kimono pic right now. Time for Teddy K...

... I visited the media entrance at gate B first. Some protests had discovered it by today. One woman was giving out papers and talking to press as they waited in line to go through security, another guy across the street held a sign declaring Republicans and Democrats the true terrorists (where do all of these wackos come from?), and a third guy I saw heckled media staffers with questions while walking alongside them holding a video camera.

I returned to my station from yesterday along Causeway Street. Not as much action there giving directions today since people figured out where to go yesterday to a large degree. Some volunteers were also putting up signs at long last--only a few days late! There still were some occasional queries though, some from people visiting who wanted to know what they could see (one pair drove up from New York to look for the day). A few foreign journalists asked where the free-speech zone was. Some annoyed the cops by snapping pictures without asking. I did get to pose for a picture with a cop and a fellow volunteer, which was nice. The scary secret service guy in a thick (bulletproof?--I can't say) vest declined to be photographed. Military police were overhead on a section of elevated highway that is now abandoned and cut off from the rest of the elevated piece that is now torn down. It actually makes getting to the Fleet Center much easier because you can see it more easily from a distance.

I randomly noticed Russell Simmons passing by on the street. He was with a beefy bodyguard and a well-dressed woman on the phone, his personal assistant in all likelihood. A little bit later, a protester-type came up to the volunteer who was there with me and told her, "I want you to be a witness." Taking this as a hint there might be trouble, we moved away and left him to talk with the security personnel. Fortunately, nothing happened and he left.

As I walked around, the fervor of the protest seemed less than yesterday, when I saw a rather contentious march; maybe it's just the random chance of the places I saw at given times. In any case, the free-speech zone didn't have many people the few times I visited. Early when I went through there was a guy in fatigues ranting on as he held a sign that said "Kerry Lie's to Vets." At one point later in the afternoon, a guy who was yelling about religion was interrupted by another guy who came onto the stage. The interrupter took the mic and told the zealot that he was really boring and had been going for a long time (over an hour, he said, about how we're doomed if everyone turns gay--he apparently hadn't heard of test-tube babies). Was there anyone else more entertaining in the house, the interrupter wanted to know? This was an odd scene, and it made me realize how little organization there is in the FSZ. If it's really a completely open mic, then maybe I'll go up and say a few words in one of the next few days. I would protest the primary system and how I think it's a flawed way to pick a nominee, I think. Perhaps if I'm dressed in the volunteer t-shirt that disqualifies me?

The protesting highlight of the day had to be on Canal Street just outside the FSZ. A few people were wheeling around a huge, larger-than-life figurine of Mohandas Ghandi with a quote inscribed (the one about being the change you wish to see, or something to that effect). The reporters loved it and took tons of photos.

On my travels, I encountered a cop sitting in a golf cart who said, "I have a question" when I neared. He said he was annoyed that none of the volunteers (in our stylish shirts) were around late last night after the delegates got out. The cops were trying to direct traffic and delegates were asking them directions back to downtown and where to get cabs. Lots of them left the security zone in the wrong area, not the one where they could pick up their buses back to the hotels, and they couldn't get back in to where the buses were loading. I told him that some volunteers were supposed to be working the 10pm-2am shift, and that I wasn't in charge of assigning people where to go. He accepted that even though he was annoyed at having to work long hours eight days straight, and he appreciated my letting him vent. I got the impression it's good we settled the police strike before pissing the cops off again this week. A guy from Voice of America joined our chat and told us about what some of his colleagues would have to deal with for the Olympics in Athens, which does sound a lot worse.

My other adventure of the afternoon came when I went with two of my fellow volunteers on a failed hunt for credentials to get into the Fleet Center. One guy had heard that a church was giving some volunteers credentials. Of course, we looked around and ended up in the wrong church, but that church just happened to be hosting the trade summit, and as we walked in we were right next to Dennis Kucinich and Jesse Jackson, Jr., who were shaking hands as several photographers captured the moment. I am bigger than Kucinich, as I suspected (I never got to see him in New Hampshire since he was way far north the day I was there seeing the major candidates hit the populous areas in the south). We eventually found the correct church, which appeared to have its basement room serving as the Kerry campaign's volunteer HQ. Unfortunately, the College Democrats campus presidents (or whoever they were) running the place informed us we were out of luck, and I wasn't shocked since the credentials rumor one of my fellow volunteers had been peddling seemed unreliable. He was really intense and lacking in social skills, and he said he'd do anything to get into the hall. "Anything?" I asked. I told him he should make a sign that read: "Will be sex slave for credentials." That would probably even get him on Wonkette, I bet.

As I was walking back to Faneuil Hall on my way to the T and the trip home, I found myself walking along Congress Street behind Ed Gillespie, the RNC chairman. He was with an assistant woman in a pink blouse, and he was sucking down some bottled water. One man at the Haymarket Station said hi to him, and Gillespie energetically grasped his hand and greeted him back. Gillespie predictably was on his way to the Hardball set by Quincy Market, where he looked set to go on with Craig Crawford, who for my money has the worst toupee in political journalism this side of Sam Donaldson.

A final note is that a few tourists asked me today where they could get buttons. I managed to pick up a few on my travels (CNN inexplicably has teenagers handing buttons out on the streets), but there is no central location to get lots of that sort of stuff. If someone did the organizational work to set up some sort of buttons/bumper stickers/t-shirts emporium, that person would make a lot of money. Instead, we have a mish-mash of people spread out and wandering the streets, offering one particular variety, or associated with one cause each. The lazy people who still want to collect but don't want to walk all over the place were clamoring for a store!

Do check out the post above this one for pictures giving you a sense of what the area around the Fleet looks like.

Not clear what I'm up to tomorrow. I guess I'll return to the Hynes in the AM, incompetent as they may be, hopeful I may stumble into something else, even though I'm realizing this volunteer stuff is no great shakes. At minimum, I'll walk around and take in the scene again. And just maybe I'll grab the mic in the FSZ!

Last Update: Some editing done above for clarity and readability. I also joked with fellow volunteers today that if I wanted to get on the news tomorrow, all I would have to do is come down to Causeway Street wearing a bathrobe and a dunce cap. It seems anyone who dresses strangely gets press coming up to them. One lady was dressed like a pilgrim today, though she turned out to be surprisingly sane, pushing the "Dean for Kerry" angle.

Teresa Under Attack

The latest is this old interview set for a splash in Tuesday's Herald in which Teresa said a long time ago that she disliked Dems and Ted Kennedy specifically. Drudge is wetting himself, naturally. Perfect timing by RNC oppo research for Teresa's Tuesday night speech--nice to see the Herald is doing their bidding so openly, at least.

Jon Stewart did a great interview on CNN last hour. He said it's important to look at insults made by potential first ladies because, as we all recall, we nearly lost World War II when Eleanor Roosevelt told a reporter to "sit on it." (paraphrasing)

Monday, July 26, 2004

Watch C-SPAN!

First, go back down to my Volunteering: Day 1 story, where I've updated with excessive detail.

For watching, I'm in agreement with eRobin: C-SPAN is vastly superior to watching convention coverage on the networks. You don't have annoying hosts talking over everything, and you get a much better sense for the broader proceeding (plus, how many dull interviews from the floor can you take?). To fill the in-between speeches time, the networks blather on in their booths. Usually the convention fills with music, though, and on C-SPAN you can see some horrible dancing. Even C-SPAN 2 has had some great stuff on tonight with really old convention speeches--I had never seen video of Harry Truman before.

"Manny Ortez"

Mickey Kaus points to a Peter Gammons column:

So who puts the bug in candidates' ears about seeming what they are not? John Kerry last week professed to be a big fan of "Manny Ortez," then re-emphasized the phoofery by correcting it to "David Ortez." No, that was Dave (Baby) Cortez and "The Happy Organ." A few years back Kerry went on a Boston station with Eddie Andelman and said "my favorite Red Sox player of all time is The Walking Man, Eddie Yost," who never played for the Red Sox.

I dealt with the Yost part here, but the "Manny Ortez" thing is embarrassing. The sound bite is now being played frequently on Boston sports radio. I guess Gammons and Kerry didn't exchange pleasantries at last night's Sox game.

Atrios Revealed

I won't print his name, but Tom Schaller did.

UPDATE: A bio--looks like he's working for Media Matters.

Volunteering Day 1

I spent the day directing people who were lost in the streets around the Fleet Center. I ended up with a sunburn and a good view of some protests.

Will update this post later on with details. Enjoy the speeches.

MORE: OK, I'll type some more in the lull of speeches before Hillary now. God, I wish Al Gore were president.

I began the day with a non-eventful commute on the T to the Hynes Convention Center. The public transit system is running fine from what I saw riding three trips today. Arriving at the Hynes at 9:30, I checked in with a registration desk and headed to an on-call volunteer lounge that had couches, TVs, newspapers, coffee and donuts. There were some computer terminals with pretty slow Internet connections, so I didn't try blogging (I also had nothing much to say at the time). After sitting around a bit with many other people dressed, as I was, in the volunteer t-shirt and khaki pants (why we're required to be in khaki pants, I'm not certain), some staff woman went to the microphone in the room and announced the need for numbers of volunteers to go to various hotels. Eventually, I left with a large volunteer group for the Fleet Center area. We were told we would be helping to explain security measures to people around there, and that sounded rather interesting, so I went down to Haymarket with the rest.

Instead, it turned out we were just needed to stand around on the various streets ouside the security perimeter to tell people where to go. We got maps with markings on them of the different entrance gates. Most people were delegates or media, and I got to speak with passers-by and direct them on their respective ways. Others wanted to know where Kerry HQ was, while some needed to get to the credentials office. Beyond that, I got a few bizarre Q's that I couldn't answer. I met a few very naive tourists who didn't realize they weren't allowed to enter the Fleet today. Some of them were lefty protest-oriented types who thought the security was appalling, and I noted that I couldn't get beyond the fences either. I was only cursed out once, by some media bitch with a NY accent, who was raging about how there was a lack of signage and she had to walk around a long way. Fortunately there were several other volunteers right where I was (more than we really needed, so the work wasn't too hard or constant), and they dealt with her.

By 2:00, I had completed my required shift. I took a walk with another volunteer I met through the "free-speech zone", which really is a farce. The complaining in the media about the place looking like a prison camp is entirely justified. The razor wire and enclosed feeling has really pissed off the protesters--probably not the smartest move by the organizers, really. When I went through there, a guy was on the mic with a sarcastic schtick about the place's appearance. The numerous causes also seem to have been united to some degree by their shared sense of being oppressed.

Heading back toward Haymarket, we saw the day's biggest protest march heading toward the Fleet. It actually wasn't that big, if you only count the protesters themselves, but there were tons of cops, media and onlookers there. Video you see on TV is probably misleading as to the march's size. Atrios has pictures and comments to this effect.

Cops were massed and waiting, presumably trying to intimidate the protesters a little. It didn't work, and the crunchy kids stopped in the road at one point that was blocking a small amount of traffic, and some of them sat down at the prompting of the chick at the megaphone, their leader. The cop in charge, an old guy with white hair, had a confrontation with the leader chick soon after this. I was standing at the side of the road, and initially I could hear some of their conversation. He wanted her to take her people to another street over that didn't have any traffic to begin with. She didn't want them to go to the "free-speech zone" since some of the people were carrying banners with sticks, which aren't allowed in the zone (nor are super soakers, among many other things, according to the signs).

I guess they eventually worked something out, though I lost track of the discussion because pretty soon the protest lady and the top cop were literally surrounded by cameras. The march moved on, with cameramen and onlookers like me mixing in with protesters--streets were narrow and partly blocked by trucks at points to prevent vehicles from getting anywhere near the hall. This renewed movement only came after an attempt by marchers to vote on a bunch of different options about where they could go--not great organization, I thought. During the delay, I did manage to have a nice, respectful chat with a stoner about the merits of anarchy, at least.

We made our way over to Canal Street, home to Boston Beer Works, Hurricane O'Reilly's and more. That's where another truck was in the way, forcing people to go close to single-file, and some protesters weren't let through on their bikes. So they chanted about the injustice of this and sat down again. By now the thing was splintering, some people in ratty clothes were talking to reporters off to the side, and I was getting bored. I returned to do more directing of people at my old location.

A few other non-anarchical highlights included the people walking around dressed as a giant pair of flip-flops. ... (to be continued...)

... Back (did a bit of editing above). Yes, the flip-flops. There were actually a few pairs of people dressed like this I saw at different points, one pair yellow, another red. Photographers, predictably, lapped the gag up, asking them to pose for numerous photos; you'll see that in every newspaper Tuesday. I said to another volunteer that flip-flops are better than Bush, who as president has simply been a flop. Am I the first one to come up with that? (Probably not, even though I came up with it on my own--feel free to spread it around.)

Some small collections of protesters did eventually make it all the way down to Causeway Street, as far as you could go until you hit the fence, where I was stationed. A few of the smaller groups were the far-right protesters, people who we generally associate less with chanting in the streets but were present nonetheless. One guy had a big poster with pictures of tanks and guns, arguing we need to kick ass abroad to be safe. I heard him being interviewed and he was convinced we would be under the control of Chinese gangs if Kerry were elected. The anti-abortion people are around too, and they've written "Abortion is murder!" and many similar things in chalk along Canal Street (I saw some chalk scrawlings on various topics there and near the State House yesterday too). Also, when I went back to the free-speech zone around 4:30, an anti-gay rally was going on. The group was literally called "God Hates Fags" and their web site, which I won't link, has the obvious URL. An old man in a cowboy hat was up on the stage screaming that homosexuals should have to identify themselves as "unclean" when meeting other people, like lepers. His group had signs saying awful things, such as 9/11 being God's vengeance on America's gays, and one even depicted Kerry and Edwards engaging in cartoonish sodomy. A few people near me asked if they were serious, and I said that frighteningly yes, they appeared to be. In short, we have the crazies on the far left and far right walking the streets.

One other thing to note is that the administration of the work is rather incompetent. It took forever to show the volunteers around the neighborhood, instruct them and give them maps. Then some were stationed in places without much traffic while other areas were overloaded--eventually those in the dead spots moved. And the plan initially was for everyone to do this same work every day of the week, but I pointed out that after today, everyone will have found their way and they'll just do the same tomorrow, not needing our help. That bit of reasoning got me out of having to do the same thing all week, so its back to the Hynes tomorrow morning for me where I'll seek a new assignment (Hynes is also a little chaotic). I will try to get to one of the hotels where I can snoop on caucus meetings perhaps. More tomorrow evening.

UPDATE: A map of the area I was describing. The security perimeter runs along Causeway Street. There are lots of barriers in the triangle, making moving about more difficult than it would appear.

Howie Carr's Tantrum Week

I'm figuring out that following all of the convention coverage is going to be a losing battle here. I did, however, just notice a Howie Carr column in Sunday's Herald (full text available, for some reason) that describes how some delegates are being followed by a private investigator to make sure they don't cheat on their spouses. Carr was interviewed in a segment on Fox News Sunday, telling Chris Wallace that he never thought insults of political figures could be too personal, he saw gay "marriage" as an "embarrassment" to Massachusetts (takes one to know one), and he considered himself a proud tabloid journalist. I also just noticed that someone runs a blog at HowieCarrSucks.com.

No blogging during the day time Monday. Hopefully I'll have something interesting to report and some time to report it later on.

Teresa Unscripted

Things didn't go so well for Mrs. Kerry at the Pennsylvania welcoming party:

Teresa Heinz Kerry urged her home-state delegates to the Democratic National Convention to restore a more civil tone to American politics, then minutes later told a newspaperman to "shove it."

There's a video clip of her saying this to the reporter if you click through the link.

This came on the same night her husband was booed throwing out a ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park. George Stephanopoulos was right on target in his interview with the ESPN crew later in the game: the Kerry campaign shouldn't have done that since politicians appearing at baseball games are always booed, and that sets a bad tone for the start of the convention (how much play do you think the booing is getting on Fox News?).

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Barack Obama: Robotically on Message

I had my first extended exposure to Barack Obama on Meet the Press, and I found him articulate and engaging, so good. I also found it a touch disturbing how he managed to work in a positive reference to John Kerry no matter what question he was answering from Russert. To wit:

RUSSERT: What was it like being someone who was part African-American being raised by white parents? ...

[OBAMA]: ... And that's what I think John Kerry and John Edwards are going to be talking about during this convention. ...

RUSSERT: That's what Cosby said. It's the parents. He said they're buying their kids $500 sneakers but won't spend $200 for Hooked On Phonics. ...

[OBAMA]: ... John Kerry cares about the values of America. He has faith in communities and their ability to work to better themselves, but he also knows that government has a role to play in making America strong. ...

[RUSSERT]: You seem to say that George Bush took a country to war, lost nearly 900 Americans, 5,000 wounded and injured on politics? ...

[OBAMA]: ... And I think that John Kerry is going to be establishing those relationships that allow us now, looking forward, to execute in Iraq and make sure that we are respected abroad and succeed in the difficult but now bipartisan process of making sure that we have a stable Iraqi government. ...

[RUSSERT]: A hundred and fifty donors gave $40 million to this convention. It's worse than Chicago, using your standards. Are you offended by that, and what message does that send the average voter? ...

[OBAMA]: ... One of the things I'm proud about, though, is that when you look at John Kerry's record, what you know is here's a person who is consistently voting on behalf of what he thinks is best for America and the country. ...

RUSSERT: Are you going to be a liberal Democratic senator? ...

[OBAMA]: ... I think one of the most encouraging things about John Kerry's campaign is the degree of hopefulness, reflected in his choice of vice president. ...

By the time the interview was ending, I expected Obama to work in an endorsement of Kerry if he were asked about his favorite color or what he thought of the weather ("John Kerry will remove the storm clouds and bring clear blue skies to America..."). Good speaker, but maybe let's try to seem a little less determined to get the talking points out in future TV appearances.

Indo-Pak Gay Insults

A letter to the Globe today disputes a recent Ideas section article about homosexual sex in Pakistan. The embassy spokesman assures us that Pakistan is very intolerant of gays (phew, I was worried there), and then he adds a swipe at Pakistan's least-favorite neighboring nation:

It is possible that Kennedy's gratuitous and unjustified sweeping conclusions about Pakistan may have been influenced by a culture of permissiveness and promiscuousness in India, the origin of Kama Sutra.

Just guessing, but I think the nerdy intellectual types who write for Ideas can tell India and Pakistan apart. I did enjoy, still, the not-too-concealed contempt for India here. Now, I just hope India doesn't nuke Pakistan to show how butch they are.

Out and About

Not much time right now, but I did just return from walking around some of the delegation hotels, Kerry's neighborhood, Faneuil Hall and the Fleet perimeter. You really can't see much of anything down by the Fleet Center, and they've got two fences up, in case you were considering scaling the first. I do think the guy with the Bush banner in front of his pizza place should've stayed open this week since there's a lot of foot traffic right by the place and he would've made some good money. Lots of scary-looking security personnel are around there, Faneuil Hall, and Government Center.

Many protesters were on the Western end of the Common, with tables set up distributing literature--looks like they have some big stuff planned for the Republican convention. I also caught the tail of a protest march down Congress Street; the megaphone chatter was unintelligible, except for maybe the word "Haiti." At the Hardball broadcast venue by Quincy Market, former San Fran Mayor Willie Brown was being made up, presumably to go on-air after I passed by. The hotels had plenty of self-important seeming people who were overdressed, covered in badges, talking in (non-Boston) accents on cell phones, looking lost, etc. Pretty much what I expected, basically. It's worth doing the walk once if you're around, but you're not going to see anything overly thrilling.

Jesse Taylor is pretty much on target with his observations. People are taking pictures on some other technologically-adept blogs. Click the Dem Convention links for continuous coverage by others.

As I said, I report to the Hynes in the AM. I'm an "on-call" volunteer, and the way that works is teams will be sent out to places around the city that call for assistance. The surprise of where I'll be going is kind of exciting now. Of course, it may not be anything that noteworthy--maybe I'll get lucky.

Inside the Media Party

You are there, thanks to Steve Safran's post.

The Times has a shocker regarding yesterday's Bush twins chat: "some responses had been prepared in advance."

There's also now an article on prostitutes converging on Boston to go with the recent one on the same topic for the RNC sex addicts. This goes nicely with today's much-linked toilets story.

Tim McCarver, Moron

Watching today's Sox-Yankees epic reminded me of why I watched last year's ALCS with the TV sound down and the radio broadcast turned up.

Tim McCarver and Joe Buck, naturally, were pro-Yankee in their analysis of the third-inning brawl, speculating about punches thrown by Varitek and Ortiz while lauding instigator Alex Rodriguez for showing some fire and earning respect from his Yankees teammates. McCarver inexplicably went into a discussion of "head hunting" even though the Arroyo pitch was well below Rodriguez's head, hitting him in the back, and not too hard either (if he was throwing at the guy, it wasn't done well at all). They never got around to explaining that Rodriguez's glaring toward the mound and cursing out Varitek in Tek's face undeniably led to the benches clearing--a rather central point, I think.

McCarver got even dumber, though, when he said not once but twice that "no one" in the 35,000+ crowd could have predicted that a brawl would occur in the game today. No one? Didn't these two teams have a brawl just last October? Don't they hate one another and play hard fought games? It was one of the least surprising brawls I've ever witnessed.

The rest of the broadcast was pretty dreadful too--what was with all of the BS conspiracy theories about the near-cancellation due to rain? (And the delay was nominated for play of the game?!?) At one point they were droning on about how bad the game was being played, and I thought of how the announcers weren't exactly covering themselves in glory either. I'll have to gird myself for the less offensive but equally stupid Jon Miller and Joe Morgan on the ESPN national telecast Sunday evening. It really shows in baseball, more than in any other sport, how much you lose in a national announcer when he doesn't watch every single game, like the local TV crew does (because there are so many games and details to know).

"Coors Light on Facts"

A Sunday WaPo article notes Pete Coors is having trouble in the Colorado Senate race. Not only is Coors the company emphasizing that they differ with Coors the candidate on issues of gay rights, but also Pete Coors has come under more general criticism for being plain dumb.

The beer baron has come across as ill-informed and unprepared on national issues. "Coors light on facts," declared a Denver Post headline after one campaign appearance.

In his TV ads, Coors calls for more federal tax cuts and a balanced federal budget. Asked how he would reconcile those two goals, he replied: "That's probably a fair question, but I just don't have an answer for you."

In a debate, the wily Schaffer demanded to know whether Coors agreed with Paul Martin on U.S.-Canadian trade. Coors fell right into the trap. "I'm not sure I know who Paul Martin is," he said warily. Schaffer pounced: "A U.S. senator needs to know who the prime minister of Canada is."

Great candidate pick, Colorado GOP. Amazingly, the seat is now a likely Democratic pick-up.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Buying vs. Downloading

Glenn Reynolds, minutes after appearing on CNN, is back blogging and writes:

DO FREE DOWNLOADS HURT SALES? Well, the 9/11 Commission Report is number one on Amazon even though it's available for free online.

Not dispositive, I suppose, but interesting.

I think the important consideration here is the length of the written document being downloaded. Clearly, people will read newspaper and magazine articles online rather than buying a paper copy. But when you get into longer materials, like journal articles or court cases, it becomes more difficult to sit at the computer screen reading something for an hour or more. That's when it becomes desirable to print a copy and read from paper while seated in a comfortable chair. When you get to something that is book-length, hundreds of pages, there's no way someone is going to read from the computer screen (improving technology may change this in coming years I guess). And printing something that length is a pain too, lest you run out of ink/toner or paper (you could do this clandestinely from your workplace, not that I've ever done such a thing...). If you're going to invest the time to read that much, you may as well drop a few bucks for a nice bound copy.

Read National Journal for Free

Robert Cox points out that anyone can get free National Journal access during the conventions. Just fill out their form and you're in. Usually full access to the site costs a small fortune.

The New Kerry Blog

It looks a lot like the old Dean campaign blog with all these photos and reports from the road. Now all it needs is Kate O'Connor and her excessive usage of exclamation points.

Why I Dislike Marion Jones

After bonking at the Olympic trials amid a press frenzy about possible ties to BALCO, Marion Jones this week faced new allegations from her ex-hubby that he saw her injecting drugs in Australia a few years ago. There's been a pretty negative atmosphere around Jones, and I've been anti-Jones in my own feelings too, though I found myself wondering why. After a few minutes' reflection, I remembered her ultra-annoying 2000 Nike ad campaign, in which only her mouth appeared as that of a faux-radio DJ, "Mrs. Jones" (and wouldn't she really be Mrs. "Husband's-Last-Name" or Ms. Jones?) This page came up on Google and helped jog my memory:

Listen up, suckas. Ears up, minds open. Message from Mrs. Jones.

Yup, that's what never failed to put me in a foul mood. That, and the fact that the ads debuted during the Lakers' first NBA championship run of the recently-ended Shaq/Kobe era. There's a devastating critique of one ad's content if you read the link. Anyway, I wouldn't be surprised if this is what's at the root of many people's schadenfraude with regard to the Marion Jones drugs scandal.

Reagan's EPA Director

She died this week and the WaPo obit has some good stuff in it. For one, "her government-issued car got about 15 miles per gallon of gasoline," and she once said of DC that it was "too small to be a state but too large to be an asylum for the mentally deranged." Click in for details about how she alienated the senate, burned bridges with the White House, and had to resign for refusing to give up Superfund documents, all with a flourish of bombast.

How to Deal with Subway Psychos

I recommend this Craigslist post about a lovely incident on the DC Metro (from Anil Dash).

The Ghost of Conventions Past

Liberal Oasis has an excellent post on nomination acceptance speeches from previous national political conventions. I especially liked this excerpt from Bill Clinton in 1996:

We are fighting terrorism on all fronts with a three-pronged strategy.

First, we are working to rally a world coalition with zero tolerance for terrorism.

Just this month I signed a law imposing harsh sanctions on foreign companies that invest in key sectors of the Iranian and Libyan economies.

As long as Iran trains, supports and protects terrorists, as long as Libya refuses to give up the people who blew up Pan Am 103, they will pay a price from the United States.

Second, we must give law enforcement the tools they need to take the fight to terrorists.

We need new laws to crack down on money laundering and to prosecute and punish those who commit violent acts against American citizens abroad; to add chemical markers or taggents to gunpowder used in bombs so we can crack the bomb makers; to extend the same power police now have against organized crime to save lives by tapping all the phones that terrorists use.

Terrorists are as big a threat to our future, perhaps bigger, than organized crime. Why should we have two different standards for a common threat to the safety of America and our children?

We need, in short, the laws that Congress refused to pass.

And I ask them again, please, as an American, not a partisan matter, pass these laws now.

Third, we will improve airport and air travel security. I have asked the Vice President to establish a commission and report back to me on ways to do this.

But now we will install the most sophisticated bomb-detection equipment in all our major airports. We will search every airplane flying to or from America from another nation -- every flight, every cargo hold, every cabin, every time.

Keep this in mind when you hear GOP hacks claim Clinton ignored terrorism.

Friday, July 23, 2004

It's Here

The invasion of the city has commenced, with the Democratic Convention a scant few days away. Personally, I begin my volunteer stint Monday morning. I'm supposed to show up at the Hynes Convention Center at 9:40 am and I have no idea what I'll be asked to do. I'm not planning to go to any exclusive parties at this point either exactly--I'm considering attending the Pops concert on City Hall Plaza Sunday night with about 20,000 of my closest friends (along with the Yankees game that night, the subway should be packed, great). Other than that, I'll be poking around the convention site some, riding the overloaded T, and seeing a lot of the same television and Internet coverage that's available to everyone. Go check out the "Dem Convention" links on the right panel for more.

Bush Twins Chat!

A few minutes from now, there's a chat with the twins on the Bush campaign site. "Damien Karras" from "Cambridge, MA" submitted a question about whether they agree with their dad on everything, and if not how they can reconcile campaigning for him. Wonkette has a few other good questions, but I figured I'd have no chance of my question being picked if I submitted one on those topics. Perhaps I'll update with chat highlights after it happens.

...OK, we're mid-chat now and it's softball city. Por ejemplo:

Edith Fuog from Miami FL wrote:
If you could only describe your father in one sentence, what would you say?
Barbara and Jenna Bush answered:
One sentence...Edith, that is a hard one! Okay: Our dad has given us an amazing life full of love and support and he lives his life respecting every individual he meets. Plus, he always keeps us and our Mom laughing. Oops! That's two sentences...sorry!

All of the answers are in the first-person plural "we." Maybe they have some twin thing going where they share the same thoughts.

Connolly/VandeHei Watch 7.23.04: Gang Mentality

Jim VandeHei writes on Kerry's Thursday speech promoting programs to crack down on gangs through additonal funding for inner cities. In doing so, I think it's mildly ironic that VandeHei exhibits some traits of his own gang, the national press corps. Check out paragraphs 3-5:

Kerry proposed spending $400 million over 10 years to prevent gang violence in no more than 20 communities. This new government money would be sent to cities to fund pilot programs focusing on such activities as tutoring and after-school training. ...

Sarah Bianchi, Kerry's domestic policy adviser, said other unrelated domestic programs would be scaled back to fund this new increase. The Bush campaign says this speech continues the trend of Kerry promising to spend money without detailing where it would come from. Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt faulted Kerry for previously voting against several programs to combat gang violence, including funds to help prosecute gang activity.

Kerry dropped his standard message of fiscal responsibility and listed more than one dozen government programs he would create or expand to help inner cities. He talked up tax incentives for attracting companies to big cities, new housing assistance, a new health care plan and billions of dollars in increases for education.

Is it really fair to say Kerry "dropped his standard message of fiscal responsibility" by proposing "$400 million over 10 years"? Let's keep the size of the federal budget in perspective here. The deficit is currently running over $500 billion (that's billion with a b), also known as $500,000,000,000. Kerry wants to spend what amounts to an extra $40 million per year (that's million with an m), also known as $40,000,000. Doing the math, 40,000,000/500,000,000,000 = 0.00008. Kerry wants to spend slightly less than one ten-thousandth the size of the current federal deficit on preventing gang violence--talk about irresponsible! Perspective, please.

(On the issue of this being a problem for the larger press corps, I would point to the "Fleecing of America" segment on the NBC Nightly News. Yes, they point out government waste, but the segment also furthers an anti-government sentiment in the country, I feel, and they leave out the perspective of just how vast that government is. So the Commerce Department mistakenly flushed a million dollars down the toilet--it just seems so disproportionate compared to other stories that get ignored.)

The "billions" in education spending VandeHei references at the end of what I quoted is money Bush's own No Child Left Behind Law requires but the White House refuses to spend, so it's wrong to blame Kerry for that. It amazes me that this administration, after the performance it has put together running up deficits, can challenge anyone else's fiscal responsibility while maintaining a straight face. (How exactly did Bush propose that we fund the war? Oh yes, by adding to the deficit.) It sure helps that the likes of Jim VandeHei are still under the Republican illusion that holding down domestic discretionary spending will make any sort of difference. The budget balance is almost entirely the product of entitlements, defense spending and tax revenues, not bitty urban social programs, sheesh.

Late in the piece, VandeHei does a bit of additional campaign housekeeping.

One week before he will accept the party's nomination, Kerry won the endorsement of the only Democratic rival left standing: Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio). Kucinich, the former mayor of Cleveland, was mostly a non-factor in the primaries but enjoys a loyal following among the party's antiwar wing.

Yes, the "antiwar wing" that now comprises a majority of the Democratic party. Kucinich didn't lose because he opposed the war; he lost because he is a fruitcake.

Then the final graf:

Kerry flew to Colorado, where he will launch his final march to the nomination Friday with a rally in his hometown of Aurora, where he lived until he was 4 months old.

I see an interesting contrast in how the Kerry campaign keeps emphasizing the candidate's birthplace in Colorado, like they're desperate to have people see him as being from somewhere other than New England. Bush, by contrast, isn't very keen on divulging that he was born in New Haven, Connecticut. His White House bio says, "President Bush was born on July 6, 1946, in New Haven, Connecticut, and he grew up in Midland and Houston, Texas." Lest we think any of Connecticut rubbed off on him (or those summers in Kennebunkport), they quickly assure us he grew up in the Lone Star State.

Ceci Connolly, by the way, was relegated to doing a victims' relatives reaction piece on the 9/11 report today. She's getting a variety of assignments these days.

MORE: Patrick Healy has a much better version of the Kerry/anti-gang story in the Globe.

Good Kos, Bad Kos

Kos, in consecutive posts, writes perhaps both the best and worst things I've read today. On media's obsession with bloggers at the convention:

One reporter asked Jerome of MyDD what he would be covering at the convention. Jerome replied, "I'll be writing about you writing about me." It's getting to be that absurd.

Then on Rep. Stephanie Herseth's (D-SD) vote for the "Marriage Protection Act":

Herseth is one more vote for Speaker Pelosi, and that's all that matters. How they vote after that is irrelevent. [sic]

Yeah, who really cares about policy? Power is all that matters! Maybe she does need to engage in a little gay-bashing to get votes in South Dakota, but I'm certainly not going to be happy about that.

Once More Unto the Breach

Another Red Sox-Yankees series starts tonight, and I find myself thinking during the day that I need to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for whatever might happen. I consider taking a peaceful walk this afternoon so that I'm calm and ready. How screwed up is that? I just know that if Curtis Leskanic comes in to pitch in extra innings, I won't be pleased.

Note to Matt Drudge

There's no need to offer only limited excerpts of Frank Rich's column when the whole thing goes up on the International Herald Tribune's site on Fridays and can be linked then, well in advance of its Sunday print appearance in the US. I would expect a webhead like Drudge to be on top of that.

The Jibber-Jabber About JibJab.com

And now for the most unoriginal link ever. I actually met a friend last night who claimed not to have seen the Bush-Kerry animated parody of "This Land Is Your Land" so there it is. He must be the only sentient being in North America who hasn't watched the thing yet. The guys who created the video are going on Leno Monday night, they've been on all major TV networks and in several major newspapers, and people are swapping the clip by email like crazy.

Some say that it is even reopening dialogue between liberals and conservatives. According to the LA Times, "A son wrote, 'This is the first time my dad and I have been able to approach politics without yelling at each other in our entire life.'"

Let Us Now Praise Governor Romney

Both Scot Lehigh and Brian McGrory take the opportunity to praise Mitt Romney in their columns today for forcing an arbitration settlement of the police labor dispute that threatened to disrupt the convention. All you really need to know is the headlines on the two pieces. McGrory goes with "Rising above partisanship" while Lehigh's is "Romney shows up Democrats." Lehigh is right, McGrory wrong.

McGrory writes:

The beauty is in the counterintuition. Not so long ago, Republicans would do anything in their power to engineer sneering protests at Democratic conventions. Even this year, don't doubt for a second that GOP strategists were salivating on the Oval Office floor at the prospect of bedlam in Boston.

No matter. The Republican governor decided his allegiance belonged more to his state than his party, a change in itself.

I don't think that's entirely correct. If there were serious convention problems, no doubt some of the blame would be laid at the governor's door. It would be risky to believe they would be able to blame Menino and the Dems for everything. Also, with recent examples of cowardice by Dems refusing to stand up to the patrolmen's union, notably Kerry's speech cancellation at the mayors conference (Lehigh has more on this), Romney had an opportunity to draw a contrast. Unlike the wimpy John Kerry, Mitt Romney sides with the people.

That's all well and good, but Romney has taken the opportunity to gloat about this a little too much, to make sure the people watching at home on TV understood how he and John Kerry differed. McGrory quotes Romney as saying, "We have an event that could be the target of terrorism. I could not conceive of politics influencing my actions in that setting." But back when Romney spoke to the mayors, his spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said, "Executive leadership requires tough decision-making, and that's true whether you're a mayor, a governor or the president of the United States." Hmm, who running for president do you think he might be referring to?

In short, my point is that if you say you don't think something should be politicized, don't politicize it! As Elias wrote, "John Kerry declines to cross one police picket line and not ten seconds later Mitt Romney all but pole-vaults over the assembled protesters yelping his defiance of unions and unionism into the wind."

As usual, leave it to Barney Frank to actually think through an issue. Rather than believing in blind allegiance to (or in the GOP's case, defiance of) any union group, Frank says in Lehigh's column, "Ultimately, you set a precedent that any party that is in a dispute with anybody else can throw up a picket line against a third party, and that is not a good idea." Thus we have a potential guide for which pickets to cross or not cross, and the BPPA falls into the latter category. (Their threatened pickets for next week are now a joke anyway, given yesterday's settlement, but it's still good for Democrats to have a substantive position on this when they're asked, as the political recriminations will continue.)

Thursday, July 22, 2004

NRO Invades Hub

National Review Online is having a party at Doyle's in "Jamaica Plains" on Tuesday night. This is probably one of many upcoming chances to see media types in town. I noted last night that Wolf Blitzer and Tom Brokaw are already doing their shows from Boston.

UPDATE: Wonkette ha a new and expanded parties list.

Kucinich Endorses Kerry

I'm sure we'll see a huge bump in the polls from this, even though I have a feeling some other big news today might knock it off the front pages. In return, Kucinich gets a "prime-time speaking slot next Wednesday" that will be must-see TV. (Other reports I'm seeing don't say "prime-time," so maybe there's some sanity after all.)

"Don't waste the summer in pants"

There's some funny stuff at Spamusement, a site that has a bunch of cartoons inspired by spam email subject lines. For example: "We have located several horny women in your area!"

Then there's "Never be sick again!"

Convention Inferiority Complex

This morning I find in my inbox the following:

Have some free time this Friday, July 23, 2004? Boston 2004, Inc. needs your help! Ever wonder what winds up in those gift bags that delegates and members of the media receive? Come find out first hand! We will be stuffing media gift bags at Boston's brand new Convention and Exposition Center on the South Boston Waterfront.

In fact, there's no need to wonder what's in those gift bags since there's an article in today's Globe about how dull the gifts are:

If the Democratic National Convention is supposed to give 30,000 delegates, media and assorted dignitaries a new image of Boston, it isn't in the bags.

The red, white, and blue canvas totes, courtesy of Boston sneaker maker New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc., are filled with ho-hum freebies: razors from Gillette Co., subway maps from CVS Corp., Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in the shape of donkeys, Ocean Spray Craisins and juice, among other things.

"What does Craisins or mac and cheese say?" said Evangelia D. Souris, president of Boston image-consulting firm Optimum International Center for Image Management." These are not things that will move people."

This is especially bad when compared with the treatment awaiting media members in New York at the Republican Convention. Howard Kurtz is already looking forward to that:

My plans for the Republican convention have just changed. I may be packing for Boston, but I'm dreaming about Madison Square Garden, at least, now that I know that I can get a free shave and hit the spa.

Apparently I, as part of the 15,000-strong press invasion, will be able to dine in the press center on bagels, lox, whitefish, summer corn, peaches and croque monsieur (though the administration usually has a distaste for anything French, even ham and cheese sandwiches.) ...

I'm sure the Fleet Center will be very nice, especially after the Dems read this article, but the Republicans--or, more precisely, their Big Apple hosts--plan to treat me in the style to which I've never become accustomed (because other than at a convention, I'd have to pay for it myself).

There's going to be a concierge (!) to deal with my last-minute needs, such as new shoes (which Barneys New York will shine for free) or camera parts or maybe even psychotherapy (given the high proportion of practitioners there).

Here's the NYT piece Kurtz is referring to.

So to sum up, in Boston we're giving visitors free mac and cheese, while in New York they're giving visitors free massages. Hopefully we can at least show people a good time at these events written up in today's Calendar.

Ehrenreich Gets Personal on Abortion

Whoa, I just read Barbara Ehrenreich's column on abortion, and toward the end she makes this admission:

Honesty begins at home, so I should acknowledge that I had two abortions during my all-too-fertile years. You can call me a bad woman, but not a bad mother. I was a dollar-a-word freelancer and my husband a warehouse worker, so it was all we could do to support the existing children at a grubby lower-middle-class level. And when it comes to my children - the actual extrauterine ones, that is - I was, and remain, a lioness.

One point in the column seems to be that many women out there who themselves got abortions now oppose legal abortion rights, and Ehrenreich thinks that's wrong (hence the personal info). The obvious response to this is that many of those women may have had traumatic experiences and feelings of regret afterward, so now they don't believe in abortion rights any more. Considering how many women are young and scared when they get the procedure done, isn't it understandable that some may change their views later on?