Archive for July 28th, 2004

Edwards: We Will Double Special Forces

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John Edwards just hit the stage, introduced by his wife. Predictably, the place went wild, although Al Sharpton created the most frenzy to date. His drawl seems more pronounced than in recent speeches. He starts by echoing Mellencamp.

“I grew up in a small town in rural North Carolina. My father worked in a mill all his life, and I will never forget the men and women who worked with him. They had lint in their hair and grease on their faces. They worked hard and tried to put a little something away every week so their kids and their grandkids could have a better life. They are just like the auto workers, office workers, teachers, and shop keepers on Main Streets all across America.”

The joint is packed tonight. The energy level has been cranked up several notches. Edward’s speech is lifting everyone up and sending waves of excited applause bouncing up and down the aisles, off the walls, into the balconies.

“And the heart of this campaign — your campaign — is to make sure that everyone has those same opportunities that I had growing up-no matter where you live, who your family is, or what the color of your skin is. This is the America we believe in.”

Lots of applause at that line. Now he is going into his “two different Americas” riff. Next he talks about “fighting for the kind of people I grew up with”, his way of spinning his years as a personal injury lawyer.

He seems to be rushing a little through this part of the speech, the specifics of the plan “John and I” have put together, mistiming his pauses and failing to anticipate the applause points. Could he possibly be nervous? Nah…..

“So now you ask how are we going to pay for this? Well, here’s how we’re going to pay for it. Let me be very clear, for 98 percent of Americans, you will keep your tax cut-that’s 98 percent. But we’ll roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, close corporate loopholes, and cut government contractors and wasteful spending.”

Big round of applause at this point. Censensus seems to be in favor of sticking it to the fat cats.

“I have heard some discussions and debates about where, and in front of what audiences we should talk about race, equality, and civil rights. Well, I have an answer to that question. Everywhere. Everywhere. Everywhere.”

Sustained applause and chanting.

“And we will have one clear unmistakable message for al Qaida and the rest of these terrorists. You cannot run. You cannot hide. And we will destroy you.”

He delivered this line as a quiet, deadly threat, the way tough guys talk soft sometimes so people have to listen close. The crowd exploded.

“We will double our Special Forces, and invest in the new equipment and technologies so that our military remains the best equipped and best trained in the world. This will make our military stronger so we’re able to defeat every enemy in this new world.”

More subdued cheering. There may be some unrepentent pacifists in the audience.

“And together, we will ensure that the image of America — the image all of us love — America this great shining light, this beacon of freedom, democracy, and human rights that the world looks up to-that that beacon is always lit.”

Pause for applause, but his voice lacks the ringing conviction we expected. Where are the great orators of our age? Declaiming hip-hop street poetry?

“So when you return home, you might pass a mother on her way to work the late-shift-you tell her … … hope is on the way.

When your brother calls and says that he’s working all the time at the office and still can’t get ahead-you tell him … … hope is on the way.”

New tag line – “Hope is on the way” – being repeated and chanted back and forth from the podium to the floor and back again. Somewhat puzzling. “Help is on the way” is more realistic and, well, helpful, getting folks to hang in their until relief arrives. Help is something solid and real, and to be welcomed. Hope, on the other hand, is an emotion, which may or may not be realized and rewarded.

“Join us in this cause. Let’s make America stronger at home and respected in the world. Let’s ensure that once again, in our one America — our one America — tomorrow will always be better than today.

Thank you and God bless you. “

Again, a little rushed and uncertain, as if the MC were waving and pointing at his watch from off-stage. Or perhaps he is nervous about being TOO good and upstaging his boss, the candidate, even 24 hours in advance; However, when it becomes appearant that this is the end of his speech, the cheers go up and the signs start to march around the hall.

The whole family scene is now playing out on the podium, wife, kids, waving and the band in the background. The crowd seems to love it. Yet we are mildly disappointed. This is the Edwards frenzy, the charismatic pull to ballance Kerry’s ascerbic seriousness?

Compared to any self-respecting Latin American populist the speech we just heard was a tepid ten minute tease.

Time to pack up the gear and head for the Blogger Bash.

Dowbrigade Endorses Kerry – the Kiss of Death?

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The Show goes on. Finally, a little popular culture. John Cougar Mellencamp
just finished singing "Small Town" and now Bill Richardson, America’s
most unlikely Latino, is speaking in Spanish. Being in the midst of all
of this artificial intrigue and theatrical suspense
has
the Dowbrigade
feeling
at times
as though we are
trapped
in a Shakespearean
farce within a farce.

Unfortunately, no one seems to want to admit the farcical aspect of
the event at all – they are all taking it so, so seriously. It is clear
to this observer, at least, that the Democratic Party, as currently constituted,
is suffering from a serious goofiness deficit. Hey you guys, lighten
up a little.  It’s just a TV show.

Or a Shakespearean double-farce, depending on one’s frame of reference.
The minor farce is 35,000 people putting on a super show for the media
and, through them, to the not-insignificant portion of the world’s population
that pays attention to what passes in our times
as "news".

35,000 people play-acting at selecting a candidate, going through forms
and formalities encrusted in tradition two centuries old. The last Convention
that went into extra innings, the public waiting breathless like the
crowd in St. Peter’s Square waiting on the white smoke, was 1948, the
last time
the rules required a 2/3 majority for selection.  The last Convention
when the outcome was in question when the event began was 1960, Kennedy’s
Convention. The last Convention to generate any real news, although not
from the Convention
Floor, was 1968 in Chicago, and we all know how that worked out.

Even more recently, the Conventions we remember from our youth featured
floor fights over platform planks, controversies over the seating of
competing slates of
delegates from the same state, inadequately vetted VP candidates resigning
in disgrace after electroshocking revelations.  Even these minor
sideshows have been purged, leaving a cross between a beauty pageant
and an infomercial, but with less content and suspense than either.

The major farce, in which this Convention forms the stage-setting second
act (Act I being the peripatetic primaries in the populist prairies and
rural redoubts of the "me-firster" states), is a full, four-act comedy
of errors called the "Modern American Electoral Process".

Any review of this piece of work which attempts to label it a farce
must start with the fundamental question: Does it really matter who wins
this election? Although the politically sophisticated may scoff at the
very idea, we are personally convinced that the main reason over half
of the eligible Americans can’t be bothered to vote is because they have
concluded it really doesn’t matter.

Now, we know that our twisted political sensibilities place us well
outside the American mainstream.  But we still believe strongly
in the principles on which this country was founded, and the proposition
that
Democracy,
although imperfect, is the best system do far devised for man to foster
freedom and facilitate the human community, mind and spirit. We consider
ourself a patriotic American.

And to our way of thinking any possible political
candidate or movement that could truly
change the currently disastrous decline of this country will not and
can not come from the two traditional major parties in American politics.

The Democratic and Republican parties, as presently constituted, are
simply incapable of to recapturing or recreating the true spirit of the
founding fathers in a form
which can stand
up to the challenges of power and corruption in the 21st century, and
stand out as a beacon lighting a path into a livable, sustainable future.  They
are too indebted to big money, to the economic cartels and power centers
which
are used
to
setting the rules and shaping the policies of our "democratic" government.
Even campaign finance reform, we fear, is incapable of exorcising the
deep roots and structural symbiosis between the major parties and the
economic interests that support them.

Howard Dean alluded to this himself when he spoke with the bloggers
on Monday. He was talking about the incredibly liberating experience
of being funded by thousands of small donors, and owing nothing to the
traditional
fonts of campaign finance. He was able to do and say what he really wanted,
without worrying about biting the hand that was feeding him.

So he did, and said, and bit down hard, and the hand ended up slapping
him upside the head anyway.  Maybe
they weren’t funding his campaign, but thanks to the unholy alliance
between the economic power centers and the ownership of major media his
infamous scream, without the roaringbackground crowd track that made
it barely audible in the hall at the time was repeated 27,000 times over
a two
week period. A loose canon who owed nothing to the business community
was way too risky for the unseen arbiters of American political taste.

Be that as it may, is the fact that The
One
is not going to come from
the established parties or use the traditional mechanisms of party politics
reason enough to sit out these recurring Presidential elections, or
"waste" your vote on a protest candidate? In the past two elections the
Dowbrigade voted for Dr. John Hagelin, a PhD .Physicist from MIT and
head of the Natural Law Party which
claims that if everyone on the planet would just meditate for an hour
a day, and contribute 10 cents to a World
Peace Fund, it could eliminate poverty, wipe out hunger, and defeat
disease. We selected Dr. Hagelin on
the theory that
if

political
promises
were
by nature hot air, why not vote for the guy with the most imaginative
and idyllic political fantasies.

This time around, however, we feel somewhat differently.  When
comparing the major party candidates this year, we need look no further
than their differing
behavior during America’s longest fighting war, the nightmare of Vietnam.

It is still almost inconceivable to me that a guy like John Kerry, a
Yale graduate from the right side of the tracks, a man so privileged
he was a member of the Skull and Bones at Yale (like Bush), a secret
society open only to selected sons of the Masters of the Universe, would
purposefully pursue not only military service but the kind of combat
leadership
role which demonstrated both his ability to lead men in life’s most perilous
endeavors, and his willingness to make any, up to the ultimate, sacrifice
for this country.

George Bush, meanwhile, basically got the US government to pay for his
flying lessons and wash his clothes for a couple of years. There is accumulating
evidence that he used his breeding and influence to minimize his inconvenience
and perhaps skip out on the last few months, serving his own interests
rather than his country’s.

Hell, that sounds like the sort of thing the Dowbrigade is famous for.  But
then we are not running for president. Seen in this light, for us at
least, the choice between these two is simple and unequivocal. Kerry
is the standup guy, Bush the standby guy.

In addition, although neither of these men is ready to challenge the
cornerstones of corporate control over life in America, one can make
the argument that such a leadership would be more likely to emerge, and
sooner, in a Kerry America than in a Bush one.  We are not of the
school which claims that Draconian repression of liberty serves the cause
of
freedom by inciting people to take political action rather than accept
malignant mediocrity or opt out of the system altogether.

Even though Kerry doesn’t truly "get it", his basic decency and belief
in opening up the system hold promise of creating avenues of expression
and innovation neither he nor we can predict or imagine, and that might
present new-paradigm solutions and a path out of the moral morass in
which we
have been mucking around for some time now.

Finally, and the clincher in our computations, is our increasing conviction
that who wins this election WILL make a difference, in a million little
ways,
in our
private, personal everyday lives, and in the lives of people all over
the world. At work, in the education of our children, in our personal
finances, in our chances of being touched by terrorism, in our ability
to enjoy to what we want on the radio. television and on the internet,
read, write and think without fear, to travel the world in safety and
with pride
in our
passport,
in the
faces of the poor, the foreign, the dispossessed, the deranged, it will
make a difference.

Accordingly, and after much forethought and trepidation, (for it is never easy for a Harvard man to endorse a Yale man for the highest office in
the land), we hearby publicly declare that we endorse and will vote for
John Kerry, and use our limited platform to encourage others to do so.  Especially
those of you who may have dropped the voting habit along the way.  Give
it a try, you might be surprised at the result, and it just might turn
out NOT to be a farce.

We Are Not the Keymaster

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Back on Blogger’s Row there is an air of restrained exuberance due less, we suspect, to tonight’s speaking agenda than to the Big Blogger’s Bash later tonight at an exclusive Greek restaurant in Charlestown where we are invited to meet “the future majority leaders of Congress”. Stay tuned for a report.

Bad news on the key front. Asking at the security checkpoint where we left our Ecuadorian good luck key ring on Monday, we were informed that at the end of the night everything gets turned over to the Boston Police. Theoretically, the Boston Police have a lost key room, somewhere in the bowels of one of their fortresses, and maybe someday we will discover where it is and win our way to reclaim our lucky key ring.

But not today. In the meantime, we have found a copy of the car key, another American birthright, and since we are moving into a new apartment next week it is hardy worthwhile to make a copy of the condo key for the place we are staying. But we’ll have to go back to the souvenir stand at the Mitad del Mundo Monument outside of Quito, Ecuador, where you can stand with one foot in the Northern Hemisphere and one in the Southern in order to replace our lucky keychain and bottle opener. We hope we can do that soon, because we are getting too old to be opening bottles with our teeth.

Der Springer

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(This story was written last night but we couldn’t post it because of fading wi-fi and near terminal exhaustion)

You know you’ve reached the big time in American Journalism when
Jerry Springer comes to call. The talk-show-host turned politician
just stopped into Blogger’s Row.  He
is shaking hands and signing autographs.  We will try to ask him
a few questions., like if he knows what a blog is.

Appearantly he does, although he doesn’t write one or even read them.
  However, he has an acute sense of catching the wave of a rising
new tide, and has become convinced, he told us, that "This is the new
politics, the modern day politics."

Several bloggers crowd around.  We want to ask him some questions.
Some bloggers just wnat to get their picture taken with him. But Jerry
is not in a mood to be interviewed.

Oh no, Jerry is interviewing US.  He doesn’t want to answer questions,
he wants to ask them. In fact, he has come equipped with a camera and
microphone crew, unobtrusively blocking our view of the floor, and proceed
to ask several of the more photogenic bloggers questions like "How do
you think of things to write about?"

Behind us two 18-year olds are talking
on their cellphones about how cool it is
to
be at the convention and
what
kind
of
view they
have of
the screen from their seats.  They are so absorbed in their preening
that they haven’t noticed the media event happening a few feet in front
of them.  Suddenly they notice the man with the microphone.

"Oh my God, Oh my God, its Jerry Springer, he’s UP
HERE
WITH US!"

We decided it was a good time for a bathroom break.