Archive for July 27th, 2004

Toned-Down Dean Post Scream

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Howard Dean has the floor now. Up on the big stage, he is much less open and authentic than when he spoke with the Bloggers yesterday morning. Big surprize. Still, you can feel the warmth of his reception in the hall. Most of his supporters had never been involved in politics before, and it seems a lot of them made it to the Convention. They love the guy, and there’s no love like a first love. Best quote of the night, so far….

“Politics is too important to be left to politicians”

A Manic Edge Sets In

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Tonight we took the shuttle bus from Coply Plaza to the Fleet Center.
  It was eerie being the only vehicle on the recently completed Big
Dig I-95 extension, shooting us under the center of the city directly
to the parking behind the convention. Our bus, like the majority of the
others, parks as far away as possible from the fenced in protesters. As
we descend and march into the Fleet we pass no closer than a football
field away from them. It doesn’t really matter, since the police have
added a heavy plastic tarp to the cocoon containing the protesters, shrouding
them in shadows and making it impossible for them to see out and possibly
take aim at a delegate….

In fact, all we can see over on that side of the lot are a few curious
individuals and families with kids, one little girl holding an ice cream
cone in her left hand and a blue Kerry ’04 balloon in the right, looking
for all the world like suburbanites in town for a summer’s day at the
zoo. Behind the double chain-link fence dark shadows moved in the only
evidence the protest zone was actually occupied.

Tonight’s speaking schedule includes Teddy Kennedy, who is speaking
now, Howard Dean and a ton of Kerry and Edwards kids.  Teddy is
getting a fantastic ovation, of course he is a Massachusetts favorite
son, he seems in fine form as he welcomes the delegates to "my town…where
every street is history’s home."

Teddy has gained a gravitons as a senior statesman which would have
served him well back when he was a player in presidential politics.  As
it is, this is shaping up as a Last Harrah of sorts, and he obviously
is taking pleasure in being able to once again launch a Massachusetts
Senator on the road to the White House. We are sure he is looking forward
to sleepovers with the Kerrys.

One of the repeated themes, Kennedy echoing Clinton echoing Gore, is
clearly "This is the most important election of our times." Is this true?
The depth of the resolve to unseat the Bush Bunch is impressive, and
one gets the feeling that if Adam Sandler had won the Democratic Primaries
the entire party would be breathlessly massing behind the "Waterboy".

This is not to say that there is no real enthusiasm for Kerry. He is
trying hard to transcend the Anybody But Bush label and establish an
independent identity in the minds of the 99% of the US electorate that
don’t read blogs or follow anything that happens in American politics
between presidential elections.

"More than 900 of our servicemen and women have paid the ultimate price"
Tell ’em Ted.

Kerry’s speech on Thursday night will go a long way toward achieving
that aim.  It will be the template over which all of his subsequent
speeches will be laid. When he give official statements, reacts to the
news, appears in campaign commercial swing state blitzes, the images
will be seen in the context of how he appears and what he says 48 hours
from now.

Teddy has them stomping in the aisles. His unmistakable Kennedy
tone and inflection flood through the festooned hall. The audience is
transfixed
as the stentorian phrases roll off his gilded Irish tongue. "armed only
with faith and hope, like the marchers in Birmingham" "Our struggle is
not with some ruler named George, who inherited the crown, although sometimes
it seems that way"

However, for all the fire and eloquence of his speech, it seems he still
can’t get any respect in his own party, seeing as how he got scheduled
on "kids night" with the Kerry, Edwards and Reagan progeny rather than
with the "grownups" later in the schedule.

Meanwhile, an air of exhaustion has set in on blogger’s row, and around
the convention center in general. Obviously, convention virgins like most
of the Bloggers don’t yet know how to pace themselves for a four day marathon,
or they lack access to drugs of sufficient strength or quality to keep
a decent edge on. We should have known better, being a veteran of numerous
4-day conferences around the globe over the years – they all melt down
after a couple of days and then pick up steam again as participants get
their second wind and come to the desperate realization that the hours
they have left to have a historic good time are limited and dwindling,
so they better get cracking.

At this point, at least in major league events like this, a manic and
artificial euphoria takes hold, fueled by self-fulfilling expectation
and mammoth amounts of booze, and in our experience anything can happen.  With
this many people that close to the edge, fueled by exhaustion and a desperate
desire to get laid, careers can be made or ended by an inadvertent slip,
like the time the Senator from Missouri was discovered stark naked and
tied to a bed in a dude ranch outside of Reno, NV.

So we will try to keep our eyes open and our antennae tuned.  The
Dowbrigade works best when lack of sleep and recycled adrenaline boost
him up to an altered state of sensitivity and controlled paranoia. A
crowd this big can only be mollified for so long without anything real
happening before they MAKE something real happen. So stay tuned…..

The Democratic Pah-Tay

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If knowing how to waste millions of dollars of taxpayer’s money
is a prerequisite for governing this great country in this day and
age, the Democratic Party is demonstrating that they are highly qualified
to take the reins of power.

Obviously, this bash is not, technically, being paid for by the taxpayers.
True, the contributors to the National Party are taxpayers,
or at least their shareholders are, but they have contributed "voluntarily",
in
the interest of, shall we say, greasing the gears of
the Democratic mechanism. Not content with funding the politicians
in power, these masochists give money to out-of-power politicians practicing how
to wallow in the public trough.

This weeks Democratic National Convention is an excellent example of
over-the-top over-planning, over-spending and conspicuous over-consumption.
The price tag for this 4-day love fest? Around $100 million dollars.

Of course the REAL big boys, the team these guys are auditioning to
replace, have just wasted $100 BILLION bucks, throwing it onto a sinkhole
in the desert in hope that in time it will bubble back up to the surface
in the form of a 40-year revenue stream for Haliburton and the oil companies.
As slick a scam, in terms of a large scale redistribution of income from
the poor to the rich, as we have seen in a long time.

The reality is that all the real business of the convention could be
done in a day and a night, a single session with a nationally televised
climax, all of the interesting stuff concentrated in one thrill-packed
day. Cynics will say that all of the interesting stuff could be concentrated
in a 60-second campaign ad, but even in the activity-intense time-pressured
modern world such an important rite of democracy deserves a whole day.

And, solely for the sake of following the parallelism, let us say that
the entire adventure in Iraq should have been over in 3 weeks and everybody
should have been home again inside of a month. And if they somehow managed
to mount a serious threat against the United STates within our lifetimes,
well, we’d go in and do it again.  But this occupation business
is way too sordid and twisted for Americans to absorb without becoming
anti-Americans.

Today are the state caucuses, and these serve a purpose in that they
allow the party organization in each state to take care of business and
schmooze in an exotic, out-of-town locale. Why can’t they take care of
business and schmooze in the privacy of their home states? Well, we suppose
there is a benefit to the party from having all the troops in one place
before the big battle. But even with a second day for the party caucuses,
this should be a two-day event, tops.

After all, the main item on the agendas of most delegates and all members
of the media is to PAH-TEY. When the Fleet Center session broke up last
night, after the climatic speeches by the Clintons, all the talk of the
exiting masses was which party are you going to, how late do the subways
run, how late do the bars stay open, how stupid is that, how far away
is Cambridge, what the fastest way out of here. We have know who the
candidate will be since Super Tuesday, over four months ago, and the
party platform was hammered out way before this shindig began.

Myth and image to the contrary, we doubt much actual deal making takes
place at the convention.  It is a chance to network, to meet the
people you will be working with over the coming years, to put faces to
names, to observe personal habits and try to position oneself for the
coming rush to power.

As for your intrepid correspondent, which Power Party did we attend
last night?  Unfortunately, as we were exiting the Fleet Center,
sometime after 11, being regurgitated by the building in an irresistible
gush of anxious humanity, we realized that we didn’t have our keys. Car,
work, home they had all been attached to an Ecuadorian key ring/bottle
openers reading "Mitad del Mundo". We had left them at the super-efficient
but intimidating x-ray, secret service security checkpoint on the way
into the Convention.

We got off the subway in Kenmore Square and hailed a cab.  $20
later, around 12:30, we arrived home.  This morning when we arrived
at the office at 7:30 there was a ticket on our car at the meter where
we had left it before heading to the Fleet yesterday. $30 for No Overnight
Parking.  At least the car was still there.

This afternoon we get to ask the Secret Service if they’ve seen an Ecuadorian
bottle-opener key ring.  We are certainly looking forward to that.
We bet those Secret Service guys really know how to party.

Reuters
photo
by Marc Serota

 

Fitting In

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It is somewhat overwhelming being a part of the Blogging Contingent
which is expected to save Convention coverage from the morass of insignificance
and self-serving shucksterism into which it has fallen during the past
few decades.

Hell,up until a couple of months ago, our biggest story was about a woman who made a model of a Harley Davidson out of butter.

Last night we had dinner with a group of Power Bloggers, heavy hitters in the Blogsphere and the business world, who were trading
stories mixing the early days of Blogging, when apparently one needed
to blog in a CLI environment and upload via 16 kps modems, with descriptions
of skeet-shooting with Kerry. We felt totally juvenile, outclassed and out-of-place, as if at any
moment we would be sent back to the "kids table"

Following dinner, we walked down Massachusetts Avenue to a typical Boston
Irish bar named "The Field". , which had been designated as the meetup point for a much younger and hipper group of PowerBloggers. The comparatively staid
group with whom we had dined declined to enter the raucous environment
of the Pub, and we probably should have headed home like the rest of
the Grownups. However, we decided to drop into the bar, where a number
of credentialed and uncredentialed bloggers had arranged to meet to discuss strategy
and tactics, for "just one beer".

In the restaurant we felt like a kid,  in the bar we felt like
Methuselah.  We were easily the oldest of the dozen bloggers gathered
around a pair of round bar tables pulled hastily together.  And
these young bloggers were smart and edgy sharks, circling conversationally searching
for the scent of blood in the waters.  They knew everyone and everything
about the party bigwigs, the mover’s and shakers of the political blogosphere,
and were expert at cadging invitations to the choicest parties on the
program. They wore thier ambition like epulets on their shoulders.

The conversation centered around who was going to be where, and which
parties had open access to the top-shelf booze.  They seemed to
know everything, but none of them knew where John Kerry was at that very
moment, except the Dowbrigade.  On the way to the bar we had stopped
at our parked car and heard the Candidate throw out the ceremonial first
pitch at the baseball game between the Red Sox and Yankees, at Fenway
Park, barely a mile from where we were sitting.

Disparaging finding anything else to contribute to this supercharged
conversation, we excused ourselves after just one beer and went to catch the end of the ballgame while driving home.

But in between the restaurant and the bar, we had an interesting interaction
with the Muffin guy at the Harvest organic food store in Central Square,
from where the lovely Norma Yvonne had requested a muffin when we called
home earlier.

"What kind of muffins you got tonight?" we asked.

"Uh, blueberry and mango," he answered after checking.

We needed to check too. "Hold on, I need to phone in for instructions."

The Muffin guy, in his early twenties and decked out in post-punk rings
and ripped threads, looked at us with barely restrained disdain.

"What, you mean you can’t make the Muffin decision on your own?" he
seemed to us to be sneering.

"Well," we mewed defensively, "I’m not the one who is going to eat them,
so I’m not the one who is going to make the decision…"

We made the call.  Norma Yvonne like both blueberry and mango,
and so we settled on one of each. We informed the Muffin Man, who turned
to drop the two pastries into a white waxed bag, now completely convinced
we were incapable of making a decision, even one as stress-free as what
muffins to bring our wife.

As he handed us the bag, he leaned his head close and advised helpfully,
"Try to stay focused, man."

Damn, how did he know…..