Street scenes from Denver in preparation for big night

By Evan Anderson – Here are few hastily compiled street scenes from Denver as the Iowa delegation prepares to ship out for Invesco:

The Hard Rock Café has been turned into a rolling boulder gathering no moss, but plenty of onlookers. Although Oscar nominee Angela Bassett has been already spotted at the DNC convention, rumors of her appearance within the Hard Rock are misinformed. In fact, the surging crowds outside the brassy entrance doors are eagerly informed that they are all lying in wait for a brief glimpse of even bigger stars, if the police escorts will allow it. According to Denver security, Oprah and George Clooney are hosts to a gathering inside the Rock, although with all the cops surrounding the building one might think it was Obama and George Bush instead.

Nearby on the 16th Ped-Mall, religious protestors abound in a renewed presence. With signs calling for “War on Mormons,” “Guns for nuns” and “Follow Jesus” these activists are slowly followed by cautious police, hoping that no arrests will have to be made so close to the Invesco rope-drop. Up a few blocks on Curtis St., religious protesters wielding huge yellow banners are quietly rerouted to the sidewalks in front of our hotel, so as not to protest directly in front of the Federal reserve bank branch.

Up further on Curtis, “No Snowmen Left Behind” protestors have left ice sculptures out on the street corners and in front of The Curtis itself. The ice snowmen sculptures are symbolically standing out in the full sun, “gently twisting in the wind” for all environmentally-concerned delegates to see and reflect upon. Perhaps the dignitaries further down the block at Baur’s Restaurant are smiling at the sight. Although it is unclear just who is currently enjoying a wet lunch at Baur’s, the black limo with Time-Warner magazine placards plastered discreetly on the windows makes one wonder if we’ll see these snowmen in Time’s Sept 1st issue.

Back on the Ped-Mall, the Republic Plaza is calm and surprisingly vacant, no protestors here, at the moment. However, just steps away the large Starbucks has a strong police presence outside, as many of the delegates from the Sheraton Hotel across the way come here to chat and watch the protestors walk past.

Outside the Virgin music store, protestors are calling for an end to amnesty for immigrant workers. Up the street outside the, now, legendary Hyatt Regency, protestors with Immigrant Justice are gathering together to make their walk around the Colorado convention centre. Inside the Hyatt, the hotel’s Strata Café, located in the lobby offering full-length window viewings of the nearby protestors, congressional handlers and delegates sip sleek drinks while sitting on even sleeker high-backed chairs or leather benches.

Walking back to the hotel, one might sniff occasionally, trying to figure out if they have a cold or if there is some sort of odorous protest in progress. The later is true on the corners of Champa St. where activists calling for the legalization for marijuana give off a familiar musty honeydew aroma.

Finally shuffling back into the hotel, one immediately notices that the courtyard is now fully energized in anticipation of Obama’s acceptance speak at Invesco. Many of the fourth floor windows are covered in Obama placards and signs reading, “McCain, mores of the same.”

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Anticipation builds for Barack Obama’s big speech

By Evan Anderson – This is the time when some omnipotent voice comes out of the intercoms shouting, “Def con one. Repeat: we are at Def con one.”

The entire lobby of the hotel has been turned into an Ellis Island émigré holding pen as the non-floor-seated delegates mill about anticipating the moment fast approaching when the shuttles to Invesco field arrive.

Meanwhile the entire Rialto-Starbucks hub has more suits dashing around it clutching Blackberries than a herd of CPAs outside the IRS headquarters. At least the Iowa delegation’s breakfast had wonderfully full-fat bacon, croissants and sausage to sustain our energy levels (we’re going to need it).

Also sustaining the energy of the Iowa delegation was the incendiary speech from AFSCME International’s President Jerry McEntee. Following the seventeen-minute intro from Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, McEntee joshed the Iowa delegation, noting that he was asked only to speak for seven minutes. McEntee played a game with the delegates, asking who has attended the most conventions. McEntee won handedly, surprising many as he noted that his first convention was as one of just nine Muskie delegates in 1972.

McEntee praised the DNC and in particular the Iowa delegation for its continued support of labor. According to McEntee, over 25% of the delegates in Denver are union members. McEntee’s sharp words rang across the ballroom more sharply than any speaker yet invited to these breakfast meetings. However, not all of McEntee’s comments were praiseworthy. Iowa Governor Chet Culver was given a verbal reprimand by McEntee for Culver’s recent vetoes against union bargaining rights in Iowa. McEntee made sure the silencer was on his weaponry though, gently reminding Culver that his election was only made possible through the support of unions, including AFSCME.

McEntee also revealed the troubling stories of canvassing AFSCME members and asking those not identifying as Obama supporters what their rationale was. Said McEntee, when union workers told me they felt they could not support Obama because of their concerns over false and misleading claims that Obama might be a Muslim (“not that there’s anything wrong with that” to quote Seinfeld) McEntee said he was incredulous. When McEntee was told by some union workers that they couldn’t feel they could vote for Obama because of his race, McEntee received a minutes-long round of cheering and applause from the entire Iowa delegation with his retort, “That is [expletive deleted].”

Joe Manchin, Governor of West Virginia, stoked McEntee’s sparks and sizzles in his own address to the Iowa delegation. Manchin noted that West Virginia is indeed more conservative than he would prefer it to be, but Senator Obama has come behind from losing to Senator Clinton in their primary from the largest percentage spread in the state’s history, to currently leading McCain by five points in the latest media polling in the state.

This will likely be the last posting from Denver for many hours as the security is so necessarily restricted at Invesco that even toupees are sent through the metal detectors. Watch for many in the Iowa delegation in the upper sections, level 100. We may be leaving soon, but it is expected to take hours, all under the infuriatingly close observation of the sun’s full rays, to trudge through the security ranks.

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Gold medalist Shawn Johnson to lead pledge tonight

By Rod Boshart – Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson of West Des Moines, Iowa has been tabbed to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at today’s 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Officials of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama‘s campaign staff confirmed the Iowa gymnast, who one gold and three silver medals in the 2008 Olympic Games in China, will be on hand to lead delegates in the pledge at Invesco Field in Denver.

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Iraq vet wears boots as tribute to fellow soldiers

By Rod Boshart – Iraqi war veteran Jacob Krapfl, 24, of New Vienna, has paid tribute to fellow U.S. soldiers this week by wearing his combat boots while attending the 2008 Democratic National Convention as an Iowa delegate.

Krapfl said the boots helps remind him of where he’s been and the people he served with during two tours in Iraq that ended in March 2005. “It’s nothing flashy, it’s silent but potent,” he said of his boot tribute.

Krapfl took to the convention floor to announce that Iowa delegates cast their 57 presidential nominating votes – 48 votes for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and nine votes for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The New Vienna delegate noted that Iowa was “where it all started with Barack Obama.” Before casting Iowa’s votes, Krapfl, a first-time delegate, told a television audience “Back on a cold winter’s night in January, Iowa planted the seeds for a new Field of Dreams for America with Barack Obama’s campaign for change.” Balloting was later suspended and Obama was nominated by acclamation.

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Iowa is where it all started for Barack Obama

By Rod Boshart – By no surprise, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama carried a lopsided majority of Iowa’s delegation in the roll call vote to nominate Obama as the party’s presidential candidate today during the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Obama garnered 48 or Iowa’s 57 nominating votes, while nine Iowa delegates voted for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Jacob Krapfl, 24, a veteran of the Iraq War and a native of New Vienna, announced Iowa’s roll call vote on the convention floor, saying Iowa was the state “where it all started for Barack Obama.

“Back on a cold winter’s night in January, Iowa planted the seeds for a new Field of Dreams for America with Barack Obama’s campaign for change,” he told a televised audience.

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Afternoon musings from Denver

By Evan Anderson – “Plant the seeds of change” is what the protestors were yelling at convention-goers. The TV cameras were taking pictures of the protestors. The police were watching the protestors, but the DNC delegates were taking pictures of the swat team police.

“Civil blood” has been shed in Denver, with protestors on the Ped-Mall actively throwing off the burdensome cloak of civility for outrageous senility. Most of the DNC delegates watched the protestors cross up and down 16th while taking candid camera angles behind smiles and nearly gleeful eyes.

Several protestors dressed as pink pigs huddled together outside the Colorado Center blocks away. These activists were campaigning against Global Warming, what the 16th Ped-Mall protestors were calling for, or against, remains, as Joey Tribbiani would say, “A moo point. The point of view of the cow, so it’s moo.”

The riot police, arriving by the truckloads, carefully watched several of the protestors holding signs with the statement, “Big Brother is Watching You.” Of course that’s a bit of a “Thank you captain Obvious for saving the world, again”-moment as the police had no choice but to watch them.

One protestor was even assigned a handful of black riot-geared officers to keep a perimeter on his personal-space, although it should be noted that he was dressed entirely in black with a face mask which covered all but his eyes and over-exerted mouth. This “seeds of change” march continues as we speak; however, there is still more news from Denver of note.

Back at the Grand Hyatt, “so grand in its appointments” that you cannot enter it without a letter of invitation (no, really!) Senate Majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, attended the AFSCME luncheon as their honored guest. Reid received much applause with this, his quotation from Woody Guthrie lyrics, “I’m not scared, I’m sticking with union.”

Also attending was another favorite son of Hawaii, Congressman Neil Abercrombie although “Coconut Hat Al” was still up and about bartering political buttons amongst the tables. Congressman Abercrombie had all the markings of a seasoned politician, this despite his buoyant nature which, with his stature, makes him a near-double for Danny Devitto.

Cedar Rapids political-watchers might remember Abercrombie from the pre-2008 caucus season when he came to the Linn County Democratic Picnic at Usher’s Ferry, Sunday, July 14th 2007. Abercrombie attended the Cedar Rapids event as a supporter for Obama.

Abercrombie held the audience, as T.S. Eliot liked to say, “in rapt contemplation of the thought, of the thought of the name” … of the name of the city to host the 2012 DNC convention. Said Abercrombie, “Mark your calendars for the next convention, Hawaii, baby!”

AFSCME members were served grilled chicken, stuffed manicotti, pizza and Tiramisu served with chocolate flakes.

Other Denver updates: Oscar winner Richard Dreyfuss was the guest of MSNBC just minutes ago at their Union Station media platform. Simultaneously on CNN, political contributor Josh Levs speculated about the short list for Senator John McCain. Levs noted, “We don’t get to see the list, of course.” Well, why “of course?” So far in presidential elections, the media makes the short list, the candidate makes history, not the reverse.

Speculation is increased, however, on the possibilities of McCain choosing either Minnesota’s governor, Pawlenty, or else former rival Mitt Romney.

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The Curtis. Is it just a hotel?

By Evan Anderson – The Curtis. Is it just a hotel? Glitterati Patsy Stone would note, “it’s a concept, a destination a way of life” in other words, a really happenin’ scene.

En route to The Curtis, Iowa delegates encountered the first sightings of McCain marchers. Although the Wall St. Journal is reporting today that the McCain strategy in Denver is to flood the DNC sites with McCain-blue shirts and signs, today marked the first time that there has been more than just a sole McCain campaign sign spotting. Unfortunately, the McCain supporters numbered somewhere around ten to eleven, give or a take a body, and were marching just in front of the “Recreate 68” protestors on the 16th Ped-Mall.

Fortunately though, the DNC delegates did not jeer the McCain supporters. Police walking alongside these Republicans were all smiles and waves, no doubt thinking themselves lucky that so far there have been no more violent demonstrations. (However, if you believe what MSNBC would have you believe, that we are mere hours away from learning McCain’s running mate, the current trembling peace between these two houses will soon make civil hands unclean, again.)

No one can say having been at the Denver Convention until they’ve been to The Curtis hotel. The Ohio delegation is camped out there, everywhere there, with an internet wet-bar in the cramped lobby and the MySpace café many floors up above. NPR has a perch on the second floor; however, it is so quiet there one almost wonders if the police standing guard outside the elevators are really librarians in disguise.

The lobby is right out of the playbook from MTV’s idea of a great convention, with paisley designs beamed around the floors and walls and campaign memorabilia, including some risqué action figures and table books, set up along the walls. The glossy shelves in the Ohio delegation’s lobby café have a large Marge Simpson Pez dispenser and quite a lot of vaguely sixties-themed items and art designs. One almost looks around expecting to see Paul Newman or Abby Hoffmann jump out of the polished woodwork and start rallying against Hubert Humphrey.

Several Iowa delegation members attended a luncheon in the Marco Polo Room, up on the third floor of the Curtis. The event, held just doors down from an Ohio delegation reception in the Duck, Duck Goose Room, was hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. A special address to the assembled delegates was delivered by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Iowans attending the event were pleasantly surprised to discover that when the elevator doors open a recorded voice makes whimsical welcoming remarks, “Floor two. Peek-a-boo, I see you!”

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