Saturday, July 31, 2004

Newsweek Poll - Slight Bounce

In a new Newsweek Poll, taken on 7/29 & 7/30 (so some polling was done prior to John Kerry's acceptance speech), Kerry/Edwards vs. Bush/Cheney received a 2 point net bounce going from 51-45 to 52-44. In a three-way race (including Nader/Camejo), the bounce is 5 points, with Kerry ahead 49-43-3 race.

It will, of course, be more interesting to check out polling done entirely after the Kerry speech but this poll does have some intriguing internal numbers. Check this out:

"In interviews on Thursday, July 29-before the Kerry nomination acceptance speech-Kerry/Edwards received the support of 47 percent of registered voters, Bush/Cheney 45 percent and Nader/Camejo 2 percent, according to the Newsweek Poll. In Friday interviews after the speech, Kerry/Edwards received 50 percent, Bush/Cheney 40 percent and Nader/Camejo 3 percent. In the two-way race, in interviews on July 29, Kerry/Edwards received 49 percent and Bush/Cheney 47 percent. On July 30, Kerry/Edwards got 54 percent and Bush/Cheney 41 percent, the poll shows."

Friday, July 30, 2004

Wild Democracy Ride Quoted

Thanks to Gary, not only for promoting us, but also for finding this mention in his local Cincinnati Enquirer, which he calls a "right wing rag of a paper":

• Curb your enthusiasm: Yes, that "spontaneous" wild applause on the convention floor is carefully crafted for TV. Blogger D.L. Rock on Wild Democracy Ride ( quotes a delegate: "We are told a lot. We are given signs and told exactly when to raise them and stand." When Edwards gave his speech Wednesday, she added, they were told they might have to applaud less so he could end in prime time, but Edwards finished five minutes early, leaving time for an ovation brimming with rational exuberance.

Overheard Outside The Black Rose Pub at 1:30AM

"Let's go find Ted Kennedy. He has booze."

Thursday, July 29, 2004

From Jerry Springer to Triumph the Insult Comic: My DNC Convention (Part 1)

And so at 1:45am on Thursday evening, long after Kerry's big speech which I watched at the News Media center because the fire marshall disallowed new entries to the Fleet Center at 8pm - we wandered to MSNBC's outdoor set at Fanueil Hall. Joe Scarborough, the only Republican on set (but also the mediator) was getting heckled like mad and he'd had enough. At a commercial break he turned violently around and lashed out at the jeering crowd: "I can't hear who I'm interviewing! Nobody wants to hear what you drunks have to say, they want to hear what (his interview subject) has to say!" It was great to see openly the off-camera nasty side of a nasty former politician.

Todd and I were going to then quit the set and go back to the bars when Robert Smigel and his hand-puppet Triumph the insult comic walked by - he was on his way to the MSNBC set. Life was grand. I didn't hear all of what Triumph said but I know he commented that he enjoyed sniffing Teresa Heinz Kerry's heiney and would like to try all 57 varieties of sexual position with her.

Then Joe Trippi (Howard Dean's erstwhile maverick campaign manager), bumped from his seat for the Triumph segment, slumped to the barricade where I was standing and groused to a spectator "Lost my seat to a hand-puppet." Whoa, Joe, how dare ye! That hand-puppet means more to people than you ever will. That is the funniest, most scatological hand-puppet of all time and you will show some respect! So I called out to Trippi (5 feet away from me): "Joe, you wouldn't have lost your seat to the hand-puppet if you had won the primary!" Trippi stopped, and looked back at me like I had broken his poor maverick campagin manager heart, then he sneered at me severely in anger.

Oh, come on Tripster, Dean had to go. This all worked out for the best. The Democrats got an electable candidate and you've accomplished your dream of becoming a cable television news talking-head hack...

I'll return later to the specifics of the wacky two days of the convention we covered, but something general first.

Yes, this convention was fanatically micro-managed and heavy-handedly produced. The Kerry managers over-played the unity card and stifled anti-war sentiment in the party. Not one anti-war speaker or anti-war statement was uttered during Prime Time television covered by the 4 major networks.

Yet, at the same time, the DNC let me and Todd, two nobodies with a newsletter, cover the events fully, videotape everything, and do just about whatever we wanted in and around the convention hall and at related Dem activities. I got to the floor of the convention hall, into every seminar, every speaker, and everywhere I went I asked everybody anything I wanted. I pushed the envelope, made people uncomfortable, but no one ever questioned what I was doing. I was given plenty of access.

So why is the DNC letting bloggers sniff into the bowels of the party while presenting this homogenized face to the networks? It's not because bloggers and indie media aren't noticed - they/we have an audience of millions. A blogger I met, Dailykos, says he averages 150,000 hits a day. So here's how I explain the contradiction: the swing-state undecided voters are what the whole dog-and-pony, razzle-dazzle, I love God, we-are-not-pussies-on-defense, flags everywhere production is about. These undecided voters are hapless people, they get their news from network TV and need to be catered to in this way or the party wouldn't do it. They haven't figured out by now that W is a disaster. They don't understand that a party doesn't have to be totally "unified" to be competent. They watch every episode of "Fear Factor." These undecided voters also aren't going to get their media from left, or even right leaning, media. The DNC knows that by letting us in, they just give us a chance to build buzz for the event, get people who they might not reach otherwise interested, but most importantly energize those who they feel are already in their pocket. If we air some dissent to our audience, they can deal...

However, as I'll discuss more in upcoming posts, the party hacks are trained to be good and proper robots with what they say at all times. No matter what you ask them (and I tried everything as you'll see in the video) they will stick to their talking points even if it makes no sense. I asked one Dem staffer why the Democrats were so overjoyed that Reagan was dead and he just very seriously gave me the Dem talking points on Reagan's death. They infuse these talking points in the delegates, so that almost all of those I spoke to when I asked how Kerry could have voted for the war used the same wording in their response: "He didn't have the information." They Dem staffers fear saying something off-message or even (GASP) controversial more than anything. No one wants to make news they didn't carefully coordinate.

And yet the fact that we and all the other loose cannons were allowed to be there, looking for the stories the major corporate news media wouldn't air, is a sign the party leadership knows they have an interest in letting those who care, at all levels, explore them. At its core, this convention tack wasn't all about conformity. It was all about winning.

More tomorrow...

Delegate Correspondent Update

Sharon was impressed with Wes Clark's speech today, especially this line:

"In times of peace, John Kerry will heed the call of the Bible and turn our swords into plowshares."

Good to finally talk about what sort of president he'd be in peace time. We rarely hear about that. And of course the implication is that there will be peace time under a John Kerry presidency.

Live Real Time Commentary - John Kerry

Entering from the floor to Springsteen's "Don't Surrender." Great choice. Reminds me, does anyone know if Springsteen's gonna play at the Meadowlands in August as Bush accepts the nomination? There's a movement afoot.

Dave has his thunder sticks ready to go. I'll be reporting on what moments get the biggest thunder stick action.

I'm looking around and geez, these journalists are so jaded and boring. Lighten up, people.

Not a big fan of the "I'm reporting for duty" salute thing. And he actually said flat out the theme of the night. Show it don't tell it, man.

C'mon, dude, wow me.

OK, he seems to be hitting his stride. "We believed we could change the world and you know what? We did."

"I will restore trust and credibility to the White House." Go, John.

"There is nothing more pessimistic than saying that America can't do better" got a couple thunder sticks.

"We're the can-do people"? Hmm. Sort of a weird line.

I must say, this is the most relaxed I've seen him, and moving. His actual acceptance was eloquent and impassioned and I feel even more that I trust this guy. Of course, he did have me at hello, so the question is will others be moved by him as well.

"The United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to." I know it's been said before, but I've never before felt how strongly he believes it.

"I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as president." I think that's the line of the night. In one line it says it all. Why did it take them so long to come up with that one? Dave dropped one of his thunder sticks.

I'm such a sucker for the Wes Clark line he's appropriated about the flag belonging to all of us. Love it.

OK, here come values. "Values spoken without actions taken are just slogans." Good slogan. So is the ole "family values, value families" switcheroo. He's getting into trite territory now.

"Help is on the way." Umm, put the "e" at the end and replace the "l" with an "o" you have John Edwards's speech.

Wow, he's sweating. Hope he doesn't have a Broadcast News moment.

I think this speech is what people mean when they say John Kerry is a good closer. He wants this job so badly, he is really rising to this occasion. I never felt the same of Al Gore. He wanted to hook up with his wife, but be president -- enh, take it or leave it.

John Kerry is talking about what he will do as president and the thundersticks are a tappin.

"When I am president..." Music to my ears, man.

He's addressing George now, asking for optimism. Fat chance. "Let's never misuse for political purposes the constitution of the U.S." Wow, he went there, albeit, without really going there.

Ha, I like the line about the US not being divided into red states and blue states but one America, "red, white and blue."

"What if?" I like it. It's a nice way of pushing the optimism thing without saying the word "optimism."

Ahh, and he gets back to his military service. He must be finishing up. "We're all in the same boat" is an oldie but goodie.

U2's "Beautiful Day" plays. Dave wants to know where the baloons are.

I must say the one thing about his salute is the fact that he looks at ease with the gesture.

Seeing them on stage together gets me pretty psyched. Imagining the contrast between them and the image at Madison Square Garden in September makes me smile.

What up with Teresa's space suit?? Open the pod doors, Hal.

Ahh, what would a convention be without Van Halen? Heard "Right Now" the other day at an event. This one is "Dreams." And the thundersticks are in full effect.

Are the balloons stuck? Dave is getting a little upset. Here they come.

"Celebration" by Kool And The Gang. Man, wish I was in there.

What did you guys think?

Delegates On Iraq

As Dave mentioned earlier, we've spoken to many delegates about Iraq and how they feel about the fact that while most delegates were and are against the Iraq War, the speakers in general have not reflected that. As Amy Goodman pointed out to us, none of those that did speak out against the war Wednesday night was in prime time. Now the delegates, of course, have no sense of what's in prime time and what's not since they're inside, but what's been interesting is the consistency of the responses we've gotten from them. At least 5 delegates, when asked about John Kerry's vote on the war and whether he should come out more forcefully against it, especially since that's the point of view of most of those nominating him, have responded with variations on the following: "while I don't agree with the decision to go to war, I believe that Kerry made the best decision he could with the information provided him." When Dave delved deeper, asking whether Kerry should come out and admit it was a mistake, they stood strong in defense of John Kerry. And when asked if they were given talking points on how to respond to questions such as these, they responded with an adamant "no, I read, I don't need anyone to give us answers." Now, I certainly don't think this opinion is invalid, nor do I think it is weak (although Dave might disagree). It is after all, John Kerry's very argument. But that's the point -- the consistency of the words they used was creepy, seemingly just parroting the party line. What up with the robo-delegates? So I asked Sharon from North Dakota to speak off the record and she still insisted that they were not coached in how to respond to these questions. She did say they're given talking points each day, but the first time she read them was Thursday. And she said they are more informational than thematic, so they'd have information at their disposal. I'll try to get a copy. I believe Sharon, but we both remain suspicious.

No Convention For You!!

At 7:30pm, they stopped the escalators up to the convention hall. We were told that it was temporary but our first hint that perhaps neither of us would make it into the hall for the big speech was when we happened to speak with the Associate Director of Security outside. Even he was prevented from getting in. We told him he's doing his job extremely well.

They finally turned people away at around 8:30pm. So, resigned to our fate, we just continued interviewing people before heading back to the media filing room. We're surprisingly content with the outcome, perhaps because only one of us could have been inside the hall at any given time. And although we had a complicated plan of how to ensure that one would be able to secure a seat and save it for the other, looking back, it was clearly painfully naive, and really, as we said before, it is just a big show.

As I watch the Kerry girls charmingly praise their father, I'm reminded that there are some genuine aspects to this evening, as produced as it may be.

Amy Gooodman, "Democracy Now"

We went to see Amy Goodman of Democracy Now at a book signing at Border's Books today. She was kind enough to grant us an interview, which we'll talk more about later. My brother is a big fan of hers and she is an icon of what my father would call the "blame America first left." We asked her about that label, as well as whether she'll endorse a candidate. We also asked her, with all the rhetoric about the rights of working families at the convention, whether families who just want to "kick it" have rights too.

Learn more about her here:


The Man Behind The Curtain

My brother said to me earlier "What is up with people on the floor getting told when to applaud and when to raise signs. That's fucked up. That's not democracy. This is just propaganda paid for by me!"

So I asked Sharon, our delegate correspondent, about it and got the full story. "We are told a lot," she said. "We are given signs and told exactly when to raise them and stand." In fact, last night, they were told that they may be asked to cheer LESS as John Edwards was speaking so that he would finish his speech in prime time, but because he finished 5 minutes early, they didn't have to. There was a mini rebellion among delegates, apparently, cheering when they weren't supposed to. So they got a little visit from a convention representative at breakfast this morning, thanking them for putting up with their direction and assuring them that it's all to the purpose of portraying a united party. And indeed, an alternate who had watched Monday and Tuesday told Sharon that indeed that is exactly the image that was projected on television. Most delegates, Sharon said, were OK with it and they appreciated the thanks.

She also spoke about the roll call vote last night. The states are supposed to vote in alphabetical order but the first state ceded to Massachusetts so Kerry's state could vote first and then to North Carolina so Edwards's state could vote second. That apparently always happens. As Sharon said, "it's only polite." But then, when it came time for Minnesota to vote, they ceded their vote to Ohio so their vote would put John Kerry over the top in votes needed to win him the nomination. Again, this didn't bother Sharon, if Minnesota was OK with it.

The point is that this is more stage produced than it appears. It's a television production. But considering the cost, if this were a series, I imagine it wouldn't get past the pilot.


My Speech At The Protest Zone

I'm at the media center, just returned from the Protest Zone. I still don't have time for a thorough recounting of the adventures thus far as I'm going shooting again soon. I promise they'll come soon. I've been taking a two-pronged approach to this convention. I'm alternately trying to make some comedy and at the same time observe and participate seriously in this. This post is about the comedy.

At the protest zone a shaggy dude on the platform (there's a microphone set up there) was reading from some socialist book. No one was paying attention. Again it was lame. I asked him if I could speak. He said, "yes, my brother." I asked if he would stand with me. He said of "of course"...

When I was done speaking, shaggy dude wasn't very happy with me. He said I should be ashamed of myself. When I asked him why, he said if I continue harrassing him, he would call the police (of which there is no paucity - the SWAT team is also so very here and so ready). I got a big applause from the other protesters, however, and a lot of laughs.

Here's the speech I gave to the protesters. Some of you will think I'm jerk for it. You will be right. Some of this will be in the video I'm making...


"Friends, protesters, countrymen -- lend me your crust-infested ears. The press, the Democrats, the Jedi Knights -- they have all locked you in a cage and called you protesters terrible, terrible names. They call you decadent extremists, they call you traitors, filth, goobars, dildos, lousebags (and douchebags), pussballs, dingleberries, Hondurans, they say you smell worse than rotted cottage cheese spent 4 days up a mutant midget wrestler's ass. Well I say you are all of these things, but so so so so so so so so so much more. Thank you, God Bless America.

Dave and Todd - Q&A

I'll be posting a thorough report of yesterday's convention craziness soon. Until then...

TODD: What was your reaction to the protest zone?

DAVE: When we were there the place was pathetic. There were a handful of people who were basically just looking for some form of entertainment. Hoping to see some protesters. There were a few nutjobs, religious fantatics. But, in fairness, we may have been there before the main protest started later in the evening so I want to give it one more chance tonight to see if the protesters really are serious. I'm also going to be giving a speech (that we'll be videotaping) in the "free speech zone" - yes, I'm serious - since the microphone is open to anyone.

I saw on the news this morning that 20 delegates toured the free speech zone and they were all unhappy about it that the protesters had to be caged like that.

TODD: I've heard that Ashcroft or someone like that would have to be the one to take zone down, that Kerry has no control?

DAVE: If that's true then Kerry should be speaking out strongly against it. His absence of speech on that if he really has no control is shameful.

The convention is the biggest thing going in town now. It looked like the people there were just bored dudes looking for something to see. If they can't get into the convention, the only thing open to the public there is the protest zone.

I saw this one mentally retarded guy saying awful racist shit and all the immature videographers were flocking to him for the shock value, cheap laugh. That's why we didn't shoot him.

TODD: What was Al Sharpton's speech like from the inside?

DAVE: Al Sharpton brought the house down. Three separate times he drove the entire audience into a frenzy. When he went into the "we never got the 40 acres...ride the donkey" part -- the place went nuts. When he said "My vote is not for sale" and made the case for why blacks go Democrat -- be cause they see the possiblity of a better future that the Dem party can bring them. They don't see that hope in the Rep party. Bush was insulting when he said the Dems take you for granted. Republicans don't just ignore blacks, they bait whites over and over into voting racially, appealing to their prejudices to get their vote. I wish he had gone one more and said that. The whole "southern strategy" thing.

TODD:  What about Edwards?

DAVE:  He basically gave his stump speech, which everyone agrees is a great stump speech. As a convention speech it was pretty good. It played well in the auditorium, though there was a bit of adulation that went too far for me. They gave him a 2 1/2 minute standing O before he even started speaking. The biggest applause was when he talked about race, how it's appropriate to talk about racial issues everywhere and often.  I like his view of what's wrong with America. I agree with it, but the idea in the policy area that these tax credits is the entire answer, I don't know. It seemed very Clintonian. A big vision, small ideas. Buy hey, it's a million times better than Bush. But he didn't have to win my vote last night.

TODD: Any mischief in the auditorium?

DAVE:  I kept telling different delegates on the floor there's a rumor in the auditorium that you're the only person in this hall who's gonna vote for Bush. They all got defensive and were like "You're lying!"

TODD: You fell asleep at one point?

DAVE: During Senator Granholm's speech. It might have been an OK speech, but I'd only gotten a half an hour of shut-eye on the red-eye. We'd been shooting all day and I needed to recuperate a little. I woke up only after falling ove into the guy next to me.

TODD: For the video you had a joke question about Edwards's "Two Americas"?

DAVE:  I asked people "When Edwards complains about the disparity between the 'Two Americas', is he really that eager for South America to catch up? Do we want to be picking their fruit?" This one woman said to me, really sympathetically, " Honey I don't think he's talkin about South America," accompanied by this "poor thing" look. I made this "I'm ashamed face" it's was funny. One guy responded "There's Central America too" so that would be a third America . Fucker.

I also asked people if John Edwards could take the Al Gore out of John Kerry. Not everyone understood what I meant.

I tried to spread the rumor in the convention that John Kerry was going to keep Ashcroft on as Attorney General if elected.  When I told people that they said maybe it's true, it's what he has to do please everybody and they would still vote for Kerry. A couple people seemed shocked. But a forgiving bunch overall.


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Live Commentary In Real Time - John Edwards

John Edwards is walking out to "Liftin' Me Higher," playing up the "John Edwards is the most optimistic man EVER" thing. I heard the second choice was "Shiny Happy People." Not really, but Jesus, have you ever seen a shinier dude?

Ah yes, going after the values theme. "You don't judge someone's values based on how they use that word in apolitical ad." I like it, Johnny.

"More negative attacks. Aren't you sick of it?" Damn, sounds like he's talking right to you.

Optimism, optimism, optimism. Ah yes, and the good ole "Two Americas." Sort of feels recycled but I guess the point is that this is the first time a lot of people are hearing it. Maybe he'll kick it up a notch as it goes on.

Whoah, he's getting pissed. Nice, John. "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." Feels like his Clinton moment right there. And by the way, the officially released text of the speech had only 1 "everywhere."

Edwards to terrorists: "We Will Destroy You." Never heard him talk so tough before. Think it will get my dad to stop calling Democrats "appeasers?" Right.

Wow, he's promoting a real expansion of the military. Talk about trying to neutralize a traditionally Republican issue. Too bad it will further alienate Nader voters. This campaign is clearly not engaging them, instead going after the swing voters in the middle, the Clinton model. While I understand the strategy, a big part of me does wish they would push left. We spoke with a representative of the middle-of-the-road DLC. Dave will expound tomorrow. It was a really interesting conversation.

Wow this guy is great on TV.

Another Clinton moment - "Hope Is On The Way," except he's not hitting it out of the park like the Big Dog.

Maureen Dowd nicknamed Laura Bush "the best decision George Bush ever made." I suspect the same will be said of John Kerry's choice of running mate.

What's In A Song?

A journalist from here in the media filing room asked an interesting question: whether there's a catalog of the songs that have accompanied the politicians upon their entrance to the stage each night so we might figure out the subtle (or not so subtle) messages encoded within those song choices. So let's start one here. We know that Dean came out to "Revolution," for obvious reasons. And Ed Rendell walked out to "Mr. Big Stuff," which seemed to fit the will-he-hug-me-or-kill-me aura he has going on.

Help us flesh the list out.

David Rock, Provocateur

Dave will want to post about the conversations he's been having with Democrats on our adventures today, but I don't think I can get a coherent sentence out of him at this point, poor kid. But don't worry, we're still gonna party it up tonight at the Blogger Bash. More on that tomorrow as well. But in the meantime, I wanted to share one of his stock questions:

"Which do Republicans hate more, stem cells or terrorist cells."

2 out of 3 Democrats said "stem cells."

Live Commentary in Real Time - The Reverend Al Sharpton

OK, he's talking about Bush's speech to the Urban League last week, in which Bush asked if maybe they'd consider supporting him this year. I believe in 2000 Bush had 10% of the black vote. We were told today by people at the Black Caucus Delegates' Meeting that that support would be declining this year. Dave asked one delegate if any blacks would be supporting George Bush this year, he said he didn't know of any.

I have to say it's thrilling to hear Democrats, both at the convention and at the committees, not hide from the Florida debacle in their rhetoric. Gore spoke of counting every vote and said we need to direct our anger toward defeating George W. Bush. It is especially poignant among blacks who were disproportionately disenfranchised by Jeb Bush's outrageous felon purge list as well as other ridiculous events. I look forward to hear the Reverend do his thing on the subject.

"We can't survive in the world by ourselves. How did we squander this opportunity to unite the world?"

I AM AL SHARPATON AND I AM YELLING. MY NAME IS AL AND I AM YELLING. He was actually much better in the smaller setting of the committee meeting.

Ahh, he's talking about giving DC the right to vote. There was an event here about the issue -- the slogan being "no taxation without representation." I'll try to find out more about it for future posts.

Al's making a great case for why blacks support Democrats, laying waste to the Republican party line that the Democratic Party takes the black vote for granted.

OK, his delvery is getting more effective. He's in his inimitible Al zone. "We believed if we kept on working, if we kept on marching, if we kept on fighting, we would make America beautiful again for everybody."

Wow, man. Good shit.

Live Commentary In Real Time - Dennis Kucinich

Someone should tell Dennis Kucinich that he's on television. His over the top gestures might be appropriate when speaking to the Fleet Center, which, of course he is, but on TV, it comes off like he's a baby bird trying to fly for the first time.

Wow, did you catch all those vergal gymnastics? "Kerry will carry..." Clever, Dennis. Just do me one favor...just don't sing. For the love of God, don't sing.

Oh no, he's singing. OK, he stopped, it was only a sort of half-sing. Francis Scott Key was just about to start rolling over.

I wonder what Ohioans think of him. He's done a great thing in this election by bringing progressives into the Democratic Party and acknowledging that it behooves all groups with the same end goals to work together for the greater longterm good, if not the short term. (You listening, Ralph?)

"Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 or al Qaeda's role in 9/11!"

Go Dennis.

Wow, he's ending well. "We must disarm these weapons" referring to the fear the adminstration wields as a weapon.

Wait, maybe he's not ending.

More to come...

Prime Time Convention Schedule

The Reverend Jesse Jackson is on now. Among those following him will be:

Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio
The Reverend Al Sharpton
Senator Bob Graham of Florida
Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania
Performance by John Mellencamp
Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico
Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan
Catherine (Cate) Edwards, daughter of John Edwards
Elizabeth Edwards
Senator John Edwards of North Carolina (he's scheduled to go on at 10:25pm)
Presidential Nomination Roll Caall of the States

Guest Poster - Michael Webber of Los Angeles

[Michael was among the behind the scenes folks handing out signs for the crowds to wave on Monday night. Here's his tale:]

We have staging crews who set up all the signs. Then we have runners who run the signs from the staging areas to the floor. Then we have visibility whips who take the signs up into the delegations. So I was a runner running signs up and down all over the place. When it came time for Bill Clinton's speech, they needed all hands on deck, so I took the signs, I didn't have a floor pass so I barged out past security with the signs covering my badges so they couldn't tell I didn't have one. And then they said "go to the front" so I pushed through the crowds, which was like a sea of people, all the way to the very front, tried to push the signs out to Iowa and Ohio standing next to Governor Vilsack and was 25 feet from Clinton during his speech. That was the best speech I've seen Clinton give. I've seen him speak a couple times and that was phenomenal. From the floor it felt great because people were quiet and listened. And every other speech they were not, that much I could tell. So they got quiet, because he's got such a commanding presence, everyone hushes up. And he used some great stylistic mechanisms for speaking, some repetitiveness, some themes, "send me, send John Kerry", these things that are easy for us to latch onto. And then he talked about service, he talked about how some people avoided service in Vietnam, including himself, and that self-criticism really made John Kerry stand out. And that worked really well. I spoke to my wife afterwards, who's not a John Kerry fan, and she said that was a great speech. She said "I'm actually a John Kerry fan now." It did what it needed to do, which was take the people who were Anybody But Bush and make them John Kerry fans as well. So I thought it was a powerful speech. And she's probably a typical Democrat in that regard. So he accomplished what he needed to which was to get people excited about Kerry and highlight the differences between Republicans and Democrats. And he did that really well. They love their country, it's just a different world view. Here's their world view, here's our world view. And we have good evidence that our world view is better. And I think that was a pretty simple and clear case that he could make that no one else really could have.

Dave Is In The House

Dave took the red-eye in this morning and his lack of sleep co-mingled with his natural instinct to stir some shit up has led to adventures in guerilla journalism such as an exclusive interview with Jerry Springer (yes, we asked if he's running for governor of Ohio), chasing Wesley Clark down a hallway (Dave's observation, "the General is short") and being interviewed for a Fuse network special on bloggers.

We're heading back to the Fleet Center now. Stay tuned for updates.

Open Thread - How's It Playing?

We'd like to know how the convention is going from your perspective, watching on TV.  Comment away...

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Our Very Own Delegate Correspondent

Sharon Swan Tiezsen, Kerry delegate from North Dakota, has been kind enough to let me interview her and check in with her periodically for the delegate's perspective. 

She gave me some insight into the North Dakota delegate selection process.  In North Dakota, if you get over 15% of the vote, you take delegates to the convention.  There are 22 total delegates, 14 of whom are elected, 8 of whom are super delegates (party people).  Most of the delegates are Kerry delegates but since Clark got 18% of the vote there, he has some delegates as well.  He did quite well in North Dakota due to the fact that North Dakota has the highest per capita of National Guard volunteers in the country.

Here's a bit of the interview:

SHARON: I told my kids I feel like a rock star groupie at a festival.

TODD: Except you're actually arguably the stars, you're the ones doing the voting.

SHARON: I think the real stars are the people who put in all the time before this on the platform committee.  I've read most of the platform at this point.  It's beautifully written, well-constructed, easy to read.

TODD: Do you think it's too moderate?  Does it compromise too much?

SHARON: You need to make a platform to reflect everybody's values.  We're such a wide variety, I think they did a nice job of being inclusive without being too divisive.  I would have liked to see more on the environment but I think by and large it's really well representative of the people I've talked to this week.

TODD: So on Thursday you'll cast your vote for John Kerry.  Will the entire North Dakota delegation vote for Kerry?

SHARON: You know we haven't actually discussed it as a group, so I don't know.  And I don't know if Clark has asked his delegates to cast for Kerry.  I believe I heard rumors that there's a movement from the candidates to try to get this to be unanimous.  I read this morning that Kucinich released his delegates [to vote for Kerry] but a lot of them still want to vote for him, so it should be interesting.

Look for more from Sharon over the next two days.

Ron Brownstein's 2 Cents

I asked Ron Brownstein of the LA Times what he hoped would come out of the blogging of the convention.  What can we add to the process?

"The convention is like a beast with 10,000 heads, there are so many realities but the big media pretty much focuses on the big message, the big stage.  There's a lot more going on.  Bloggers will add to the multiplicity of voices covering the event and I hope each will find your own slice of the pie."


Lifetime of Service And Strength

A big theme of the convention and of Kerry's entire campaign, really, is John Kerry's record of service both in the military and the Senate; that he is a leader and a fighter both in and out of combat and he will do whatever it takes to make us safer.   The not so subtle point, of course, is that John Kerry is not only fit to be Commander In Chief but he would also make a BETTER one than George W. Bush.  Since we're dealing with a political campaign, I imagine it would be easy for one to think that ALL this is is a campaign theme and that if it sticks, it would be due more to constant repetition rather than anything else.  Well, I had the pleasure to attend the Veterans Caucus Delegates' Meeting and I have to say that seeing John Kerry's "band of brothers," the actual men he commanded in Vietnam, close up singing America The Beautiful and, with hand over heart, pledging allegiance to the flag, tears in their eyes, I truly believe them when they say that "if John Kerry were to call on us today, he'd have a full boat."  These guys are not just props used by the campaign and what they are saying is more than a catchy slogan.  They said they'd go to hell for him again and I believe it.

James Carville, General Wesley Clark and Former Senator Max Cleland, all Vietnam Veterans, also attended and spoke.  Here's a highlight from the General:

"[The Republicans] would have you believe that they are the party that's best qualified to keep this country safe and secure and I'm here to say, it's not so.  That flag behind the band of brothers on stage, that flag is our flag.  We served under that flag.  We got up and stood reveille formation, we stood taps.  We fought under that flag, we've seen men die for that flag, we've seen brave men and women be buried under that flag.  And no John Ashcroft or Tom DeLay or Dick Cheney can take that away from us!"

Go, Wes.

"Tear Down This Wall"

Our very first poster, Orange Mike, a delegate from Wisconsin, who I was lucky enough to run into today (dressed in Orange, looks like "Hagrid" were perfect clues!) says this about the "free speech zone" (as posted on open blogger forum today):

Tear Down this Wall

I was recently able to examine the so called "Free Speech Zone" located near the Fleet Center in Boston, MA at the site of the Democratic National Convention. I walked around the outside perimeter, and I walked around inside of it.  What I saw was an absolute abomination, not only to the eye, but also to the very spirit of our nation.This wall was put up at the insistence of the FBI and Secret Service.  It is the same oxymoronic Free Speech Zone that is established every time the President appears anywhere nowadays.  Kerry cannot tear it down; only Ashcroft could do that, with Bush's backing.  I need hardly point out that Bush has made it clear that he LIKES this kind of segregation of the pesky First Amendment stuff!

Travel For Kerry/Edwards

Don't live in a swing state?  Want to feel like your volunteer action is REALLY making a difference in the campaign?  The Kerry/Edwards team wants you to travel for them.

From a flyer I was handed by volunteers:

- We will match you with a swing state based on proximity to your home state, friends or family you can stay with in a swing state, and the length and dates of your travel.

- You will be connected with a local organizer in a swing state.  You are responsible for travel to/from the state.

- Once you sign up and travel to the battleground, you will participate in our voter contact programs within that state, and woirk with the local office on local grassroots efforts.

Please e-mail or call (202) 712-3000.

Here's the list of the most targeted swing states: 

Convention Agenda - Day 2

Tuesday, July 27
"A Lifetime of Strength & Service"

Tom Daschle, U.S. Senator from South Dakota, Democratic Leader
Howard Dean, Former Governor of Vermont, 2004 Presidential Candidate
Richard Durbin, U.S. Senator from Illinois
James Forbes, Senior Minister at Riverside Church, New York City
Richard Gephardt, U.S. Representative from Missouri, 2004 Presidential Candidate
Chris Heinz, Stepson of John Kerry
Teresa Heinz Kerry, Wife of John Kerry
Mike Honda, U.S. Representative from California
Ted Kennedy, U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
Jim Langevin, U.S. Representative from Rhode Island
Carol Moseley-Braun, Former U.S. Senator from Illinois, 2004 Presidential Candidate
Janet Napolitano, Governor of Arizona
Barack Obama, State Senator from Illinois, U.S. Senate Candidate
Ron Reagan, Son of former President Ronald Reagan
Christie Vilsack, First Lady of Iowa
Ilana Wexler, 13-Year-Old Founder of Kids for Kerry

For Those In Boston - Eatery Recommendation

Run don't walk to Summer Shack where their motto is "eat oysters...get lucky." I highly recommend their clam chowder and hotdog combo and take advantage of their free soft-serve cone through the convention. It's right across the street from the Sheraton Boston Hotel, but difficult to get to thanks to some ugly metallic barricades. Jump 'em, you won't be sorry.

50 Dalton St.

Monday, July 26, 2004

I Saw The Future And It's...Barack

It may be a bit dramatic to call Barack Obama the future of the Democratic party, but seeing him speak today at The DNC Black Caucus Delegates meeting was pretty incredible. I've been following him since he laid waste to the rest of the Democratic field in the Illinois Senatorial primary and since then he's raised $10 million for his campaign and has landed the Keynote Address at the Convention Tuesday night...and he's only a State Representative; as Tim Russert noted on Meet The Press on Sunday, this is unprecedented. Granted, he will, in all likelihood become the next Senator from Illinois in November, as his latest potential Republican opponent, Mike Ditka, has declined (you may remember the self-destruction of the original Republican candidate, Jack Ryan, when the unsealed papers of his divorce from Jeri (7 of 9) Ryan revealed his exhibitionist sexual proclivities). But any way you look at it, this is a stratospheric rise. Watch for this guy. His story, his looks and his charisma will no doubt make him a media darling, just as he's already become an icon of the progressive blogosphere. His apprearance on Meet The Press on Sunday

was that of a candidate seeking election in November as well as one who will be representing the party at the convention -- he genuflected to the party apparatus and he watered down his more extreme views so as not to appear controversial. The pragmatists among us understand this and forgive it, we just hope that once he's elected, he can be the model for the new Democratic Party, one that does not run from the term "liberal" and one that unapologetically brings progressive values to the mainstream. (More on the progressive movement in future posts.)

You can learn more aboutBarak Obama here:{8683FB66-C0DB-4FAB-85C7-2FBCF770436E}

This Wouldn't Be A Blog Without A Haiku

And thanks to Renzo182, we got our first one:

U.S. needs freedom
Wild D Ride answers the call
Rad trip to Boston

Welcome any other takers. Kick it 5-7-5 style.

P.S. The trip, so far, is indeed rad. In fact, as I'm in Boston, and as I, unlike Renzo, have no syllabic restrictions, I'm even tempted to even say it's wicked good. Spent the evening watching the proceedings from inside the hall -- everything from Gore to Clinton (shout out to election night '92, Hamilton, NY!) The mere act of standing and applauding Gore as he spoke about every vote counting and how he's channeled the anger from 2000 toward getting John Kerry elected was extremely empowering. And seeing Clinton pound the podium as he spoke was jarring -- I don't recall his ever doing that before. Maybe this is normal for a convention, this level of unification and motivation, but it feels bigger. Too bad it took George Bush to bring the party together. Even the media is remarking on it, as kos of, a GREAT left-leaning blog, reports, check out these headlines:

United Democrats Open Convention with Party Stars

Democrats Project Unity As the Show Opens

Clinton Calls On Voters to Choose Kerry

Tear Down The Protest Wall

Todd is reporting that, as advertised, the protestors at the convention are literally caged behind a barbed wire fence facing the Fleet Center.  Permitted protesters can do their march-and-slogan thing outside the box, but at sights even more removed from the convention.  He’s seen Kucinich peaceniks, anti-gay nutjobs, and Communists inside the fence (what a mélange!); and Green Party activists outside of it.

Over the last four years, Bush protesters, most of them democrats, have been rightly complaining about exactly this kind of treatment.  When Bush comes to Anytown, USA – often a field set-up 500 yards away is cordoned off and guarded like a prison for those who’d like to voice their displeasure with the president.  In Florida, when there are executions, Jeb Bush gates off “protest zones” outside Stark penitentiary that keep those in opposition to the death penalty separate from its proponents.

Democrats should not be in this business of putting up barbed-wire fences for those wishing to express themselves.  It sends a horrible message  and the organizers should have found a less heavy-handed solution that doesn’t play into the hands of those protesters who wish to be viewed as martyrs, or stifle those with legitimate gripes.

Protesters have a right to be heard by the conventioneers (this process must be always peaceful, not necessarily at all times pleasant).  Conventioneers have a right to their safety.  I refuse to believe there was no other way to ensure both, and if the wall is not torn down by the time Kerry speaks it will be an unmistakable taint on the process of nominating him.

Pre-empting A Fight On Pre-emption

Hey party people, I'll be joining Todd in Boston at the convention on Wednesday morning.  I'll be chiming in periodically from home base till then.

Just minutes to the convention, much is being made by the idealists of the party (a strand I usually have an affinity for) about the ’04 platform and its unwillingness to criticize the Bush pre-emption doctrine.  However, in this particular case, the realist authors of the platform were actually correct to largely ignore it.  The platform calls pre-emption an "option" -- well everything's an option; Todd getting some at the convention is an "option" but it's also about as likely as the dems pre-emptively invading a country unprovoked.  

For Dubya, the pre-emption doctrine died when Iraq became an obvious disaster.  Even in the (frightful) case of another term, the administration will not have the resources, the popular mandate, nor the support of Congress to launch another pre-emptive invasion of a country (discounting air-strikes) Iraq-style.  “The real men go to Tehran…” dream of the doctrine is dead, and even the hardcore neocons know it (notice how the Bushies are playing down the news of the Iran connection to 9/11).  Besides, to do Iraq the sequel Dubya would have to raise taxes (even on the rich!) – and we all know he’d straddle his own twins Barbara and Jenna onto nukes dropped from 30,000 feet before he did that. 

More seriously, Kerry has been clear that he does NOT ascribe to  pre-emption.  Here he has been consistent in saying that he has "no doctrine” in taking the nation to war, but would rather evaluate each situation on a case-by-case basis.  As he should.  So if pre-emption is already dead in practice for the foreseeable future, with Kerry’s election it would also die in theory. As it should.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Convention Agenda - Day 1

Monday, July 26, 4pm-11pm
"The Kerry-Edwards Plan for America's Future"

David Alston, Vietnam Swift Boat Crewmate of John Kerry
Tammy Baldwin, U.S. Representative from Wisconsin
Jimmy Carter, Former President of the United States
Bill Clinton, Former President of the United States
Hillary Clinton, U.S. Senator from New York
Al Gore, Former Vice-President of the United States
Steny Hoyer, U.S. Representative from Maryland, Democratic Whip
Terry McAuliffe, Chairman of the Democratic Party
Kendrick Meek, U.S. Representative from Florida
Robert Menendez, U.S. Representative from New Jersey
Thomas Menino, Mayor of Boston
Barbara Mikulski, U.S. Senator from Maryland (joined by all Women Senators)
Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, U.S. Representative from Ohio
Jim Turner, U.S. Representative from Texas

Eve Of The Convention

After arriving Saturday morning in to a drizzly Boston Logan Airport, and then sleeping much of the cool rainy day away at my friend's house in Winchester, just outside the city, it was quite a sight to see such a warm and beautiful Sunday greet me this morning. It was the sort of rare New England summer day that is a daily occurence in LA.

My big goal for the day was to venture into Boston to the Westin Copley Hotel to pick up our credentials. Dave won't arrive in Boston until Wednesday morning to be here for the final 2 days, so expect a couple of days of Todd's Convention Adventures, for better or worse. My mission today was to collect 2 passes: 1 "perimeter pass," which is good for the whole week and, as I understand it, grants me and Dave (we can switch possession of the two passes between us as we wish) access to the vicinity of the Fleet Center including an area devoted to the media for filing; and 1 "hall pass," handed out daily, which grants us access to the Fleet Center itself, access that includes an onsite filing room and the opportunity to wait in line for a rotating floor pass (the holy grail of passes, it would seem.)

My host, Paresh, and I decided to recreate as closely as we could my daily route to the Westin (from where I will be shuttled to the Fleet Center each day.) We drove to the Red Line T stop (usually I'll be taking a bus there) and took that to the Green Line and took that to the Copley stop. The Westin was right in front of us as we emerged, and as we approached it, we passed a stand of 2004 DNC paraphernalia. The hats are cool, but the t-shirts are a little lame. (I must say I'm not a big fan of the convention logo itself -- sort of a wavy American flag made up of red and blue swishes, a logo bettered only slightly by the American flag on the Kerry/Edwards logo, not a graphic triumph either.) But getting back to the credentials, as we approached the hotel, I must say it was really starting to sink was getting real and my stomach sank. What if this was all a cruel joke? Were we truly meant to get credentials? Dave and I are very proud of our newsletter, which was what we submitted when applying for credentials, but we thought it was the longest of longest shots that we would be accepted. I was about to find out for sure. We got to the proper floor and then the proper room and I, Jason Bourne, took a deep breath and went to the check-in desk.

"I'm here to pick up my credentials."

"OK, what's your organization?"

Umm, define organization.

"Dave & Todd's Wild Democracy Ride," I said. She chuckled.


Yes really! Why are you laughing!? She flipped the pages and my Jason Bourne super vision somehow found my name upside down before she did right side up and I let out a sigh of relief (Jason Bourne would have been much cooler). She checked off my, um, organization name, and smiled and pointed me to a table across the way.

I approached that table and presented my original letter that arrived in the mail (accompanied by angels singing) that said in no uncertain terms that I was credentialed for the convention. Certainly I was in the clear now.

"Hi, I'm here to pick up my credentials."

I gave her my letter and my photo ID. She looked at me. Smiled.

"Do you have press ID?"


"A press pass?"

Be cool, Jason. Be cool.

"I don't actually, I was told I just needed to present this letter and a photo ID to get the credentials."

She looked at me, turned and went for a big box. The credential box perhaps? She pulled an envelope out and walked over to me, as though in slow motion (there were those damn angels again), and handed me the credentials, 2, just as promised. I was then directed to another floor to pick up my media packet. I was good to go. Mission accomplished. It was really really real.

As we ventured out to explore downtown a bit, we were surprised that, contrary to the sense you get from the news, this city is so not in security lockdown. The T ran smoothly and wasn't even that crowded and there were even a couple of protests that we ran into that seemed to be almost business as usual. What was most noticeable was that there was a buzz in the city -- the buzz of a common purpose among people on the street -- to defeat George Bush.

And just a little shout out to some random folks we came across: to the nice drunk man who tried to get us to go into The Littlest Bar - "none of this $6 beer shit!" - um, maybe next time; to the nice Communist lady who provided me with "Kerry's no better than Bush" propoganda, get a clue, lady, it doesn't work; and to the Kerry volunteers, one of whom let me take a 3'x2' Kerry/Edwards poster, you guys rock and keep up the good work!

As for the rest of the week, each day's main event begins at 4pm at the Fleet Center and I've been pleasantly surprised to find out about so many cool events that will be taking place in Boston during the early afternoons. I expect to be covering an event with James Carville, Wesley Clark and Max Cleland tomorrow, an Arianna Huffington event Wednesday morning and an Instant Run-off Voting forum on Wednesday afternoon.

Stay tuned for more.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

The Boston Blog-athon

So what is this whole blogging thing anyway?

Many of you know by now, but for those that don't, "blog" is short for "web log" and has taken on meaning as both a noun and verb. (We have yet to see it as an adjective, but perhaps we can start it here and now - "dude, you're so blog.")

More blog-speak: one who blogs is a blogger, the collective act is called blogging and the virtual world in which one blogs is the blogosphere.

The beauty of a blog, of course, is that any Joe Schmo can start one, just talk about anything he cares to and, potentially, the whole world could read it. So blogs are basically online diaries, but because they're on the Internet, an interactive medium, readers can react by writing comments. See below where it says POST COMMENT? Go ahead, post away (the one with the daily punctuation and grammatical "suggestions" is probably my mom). That's part of the point. It's not just about us, it's about your reaction to us as well. You react to us, we react to you, it's an ongoing Choose Your Own Adventure novel.

So why all the fuss about bloggers at the Democratic National Convention? Well, for one it's never been done before. This is the first post-blog convention and, therefore, the first to credential bloggers. Conventional wisdom (c'mon, you knew it was coming) has it that conventions don't make news anymore so the media has zeroed in on the blogger phenomenon as a story. (They're resentful at having to call John Kerry "presumptive Democratic nominee" when everyone knows he's going to be nominated and accept.) But in point of fact, it is a story. The blogging of the convention is a continuation of the story of the marriage of the Internet and politics that made the Howard Dean campaign such a phenomenon last year and such a media darling (except for that part when they ripped him down off the pedestal they created, yeah that was neat.) This marriage revolutionized politics, especially that of the left wing. The Internet has helped to energize and unite the left, perhaps the same way radio energized the right, and it has helped bring Democrats the closest they have ever been to fundraising parity with Republicans.

But what's funny about some of the coverage of blogging is the sort of condescension with which the media treats this new medium. They acknowledge its power - oft cited is the impact of the blogosphere on the escalation of the story of Trent Lott's praise for Strom Thurmond leading to his downfall as Senate Majority Leader - but there's sarcasm there as well, as though they resent the fact that bloggers are going to the big show when they haven't paid their dues.

Check out this snarky article: Blogging Against Convention

"What's most telling is that of the 15,000 members of the media expected to cram the Fleet Center -- assuming they will clear security in time -- 35 of them will be bloggers, a statistically insignificant 0.2 percent. There are a higher percentage of gays voting for Bush than that."

In fact, while only 35 were granted "blogger credentials," many more will be blogging from the Fleet Center, ourselves included. Check out the list here:

"Convention Bloggers Named" from

and here:

Convention Bloggers: A Community Site for Bloggers Participating in the DNC

But perhaps the real root of the media's antagonism toward bloggers is that there's no editing, no oversight and no mandate to be objective (Fox News excepted) in the blogosphere. Let's face it - they're jealous. And they're trying to get in on the act:

CNN 'Blogwatch' Press Release from

We don't know what we'll be bringing you on this site, obviously, since it hasn't happened yet and this is our first convention, but we're excited to be a part of it. Not only to be a part of the convention, but to be a part of the sort of coming out party for this new medium. We hope to do justice not only to "the blog" but to our readers as well and look forward to seeing what sorts of behind the scenes, under the radar, off the beaten path snippets of the story we can find to write about, both inside and outside the Fleet Center.

Hope you'll come along for the ride.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Coming Soon

David Rock and Todd Beeton are travelling to Boston for the upcoming Democratic National Convention.

Dispatches to follow.