A satisfying experience

By Evan Anderson – Dear reader, I get my brownies. Double chocolate-chocolate chip, and now for the story of how I was sated…

Now, about that Hyatt. Helm’s Deep is no longer hidden. “Dr. Gonzo” has slithered in and established his beached. Actually, this Iowa delegation member scored an AFSCME invitation and intents to fully make use of it to fully explore this political season’s version of Cameron Crowe’s “the Riot House.” Just in the pale marble lobby alone, the entire flood of political impresarios, and their many handlers, shocks this meager caucus attendee to the core.

To get to the AFSCME luncheon program, one rides two sets of surprisingly long escalators. One feels like an easily impressed Dorothy Parker character ascending into the towering Hyatt upper floors, watching so many familiar politicos drifting pass on opposing escalators.

The Hyatt ballroom where the meeting is set is indeed cavernous, but seemingly less so as there are rows upon rows of speckled yellow and light blue glass fans suspended from the ceiling, drifting above our heads as if they were Monet’s blithe lilies or the First Class china dishes floating around the water in the sinking Titanic.

Below this agoraphobic spectacle, Iowa delegates happily participated in a political-pin swap with “Coconut Hat Al,” a Hawaii delegation member.

Inside the AFSCME luncheon, California Rep. George Miller was greeted warmly by the labor community as the delegates played a DNC Conventions Trivia game at their tables.

Miller received strong applause and cheering with his statement, “We need a president that gives a damn about working families.” Miller continued, a continuance of the Bush administration’s labor polices in a McCain administration, “would be lethal.”

Echoing Congressman Miller, the senior senator from New York, Charles Schumer, told the assembled crowd that the Democratic Party itself has always lost when working labor membership is low.

Senator Schumer made the point that Republicans are fighting against the very future of labor and, therein, the entire backbone of the DNC.

This event was a sharp contrast from the DLCC 2008 Chairman’s Luncheon, held several blocks away in the Ritz-Carlton. The Ritz is located below the media-protesting fire-lines of the 16th St. Ped-Mall and therefore, not very well covered by the media.

Iowa Delegation member, and Iowa State senate majority leader, Mike Gronstal is the presiding chairman of the DLCC. Gronstal kept his speech exceedingly short, no doubt eager to resume his meal. Delegates in attendance were served novella vegetables and steak; however, Gronstal surrendered his portion of steak to a Teamsters’ leader who vocalized his disappointment with the size of the meat. This gave Gronstal the fortuitous opportunity to mention how he has lost thirty-five pounds on a diet composed of Quaker Oats’ oatmeal and infrequent lunches.

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Evening musings

By Evan Anderson – Monday afternoon, there was a pre-convention reception honoring the Iowa Delegation at the Hard Rock Café. The nibbly-bits served, amongst other items, included fresh fruit on a stick (everything in Iowa can be served on a stick, including Lutheran green jell-o salad). Finger food at parties for convention goers is standard fare, because at gatherings including both lawmakers and non-lawmakers the members of Congress can eat as much as they want without having to declare finger food as a gift.

The local if not national news was all abuzz, as there were some (“surprise, surprise, surprise!”) arrests of protestors at the Civic Center Park. The protestors demonstrating there wore black, tattoos, piercings and bandannas… as well as quite a lot of crass epitaphs and sloppy sarcastic slogans. The bandannas were more than a fashion statement, they were wore as protection over their noses for fear of tear gas while marching arms locked in arms, but the worst that was used was some pepper spray. The mantra of the protestors located there was “food not bombs”. As with any maxim including the word “bombs,” the police had plenty of unsheathed automatic assault rifles with rubber pellets ready to go when the protestors made their move.

Returning from Pepsi was itself a battle for Algiers, with re-routes for all the convention shuttles and further continued traffic congestion.

Back in the hotel, we drifted into a much needed sleep while accompanied with the light jazz program coming from a sonorous grand piano in the ballroom. The music was coming from the Nevada delegation’s continued strident takeover of the hotel. At least they were far better behaved than a smattering of delegates who murmured their disapproval of former Iowa Congressman Jim leach during his initial remarks. It should be noted that Leach appears in the peak of health and surprisingly energized in this, his road to perdition.

The evening convention was just the tip of the non-frosted iceberg that the DNC provides for its own, with rallies for Planned Parenthood spilling out onto the sidewalks around Larimer Square and parties for many of the states being hosted along the gambit of 16th St Mall-to-Union Square (and back again).

One cotillion the Iowa delegation is unlikely to see soon will be the Secret Service’s unpublicized self-congratulatory gala, provided they find time to have one. Certainly there were enough plains clothed officers at Pepsi to take over a small Latin American nation. If the tone and actions of the protestors do not change soon, perhaps it is safe to say they would feel more at home in a disorganized failed state, Columbia, Honduras or John McCain’s campaign.

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Iowa delegation off and running

By Evan Anderson – Although herds of Denver police dressed in riot gear have been zimmering past the convention center whenever the furtive anti-war or pro-lifers press against the fences some blocks away, the Colorado Convention Center is host to the most dignified events thus far associated with the DNC.

Sunday night, many in the Iowa delegation attended the “Preconvention Reception” in the Korbel ballroom. Preconvention Reception is just another phrase to describe a fund-raiser and informational gathering wherein much food and good music just happen to be serendipitously wandering about nearby.

The reception had Mardi Grass-themed Cajun snacks and brass bands swirling around the delegates. This particular Iowa delegation member was fortunate to sit with several Florida delegates, an Oregon huddle and a few Wisconsin delegates.

All of these DNC attendees were at once quick to ask what being an Iowan was like, in reference to the caucus, and whether or not we would consider a calendar change in the primary season. The Florida delegates were from the central part of the state but still had much to tell as far as Tropical Storm Fay’s vendetta against their state goes. Apparently alligators, Burmese pythons and stray cats were rendered homeless by the floodwaters on the outskirts of the Everglades and have sought refuge in any number of surprising locales, including school aquatic centers.

Other notable scenes from Sunday night: The Limelight cafe is being turned into the sort of press clup Algonquin Kid’s Table, the only media moguls and talking heads missing are Donald Kaul or Michael Moore.

The Denver Performing Arts complex, where the Limelight is located- as well as the Buell Theatre and many other diverting diversions- is most similar to the centuries old plaza in Milan, the glass-covered enclosed promenade so familiar to people that read all about Italy but never go there, including me.

This is the perfect place to eavesdrop on some of the CNN reporters that are attempting their “man-on-the-street” interviews in between the cacophonous rounds of police cars squealing down 16th St. Nearby this poignant corner is The Curtis Hotel. Note to any and all Hunter S. Thompson devotees out there, this and the nearby Hyatt Hotel, is where many in the upper racks of the DNC come for seemingly casual cocktails while trying to discuss far more deceptively detailed plans for speakers at the convention.

Today, Monday, the Iowa delegation is off and running, literally. We are off to see the museums, which are open to the public today, in between several parties, and then of course the convening convention which gavels in around 3 p.m.

If you could put this particular time in a bottle, the hectic pace of the DNC convention would simmer and bubble away as if in a crucible. Just wait until 3 p.m. when all the delegations descend on the Pepsi Center trying to see whether or not Sen. Ted Kennedy will speak to the general assembly. (And I thought day-after Thanksgiving Day rope-drop shopping was taking one’s life into one’s hands.)

Last note of interest: The Nevada Delegation has officially begun to check into our hotel, intriguingly their coffee bar is half the size of the one set up for the Iowa delegation.

Iowa delegates get first taste of convention

By Evan Anderson – Although the stark fields surrounding the Denver International Airport might remind people of Mongolia in the 1965 film, “Doctor Zhivago,” the Democratic Convention is the most colorful scene on the political stage today. DNC volunteers wearing orange shirts greeted the Iowa delegation early Sunday morning with banners and chants happily reverberating across the DIA terminal. The Iowa delegation itself is also colorful, from the immediately recognizable green of the AFSCME shirts so proudly worn by many within the delegation.

During the course of the day, the delegation made its way to the Pepsi Center to see what the convention already has to offer, including a two-story tall blue bear serenely gazing into the convention hall. Perhaps the bear is “think, think,”-thinking about whether or not to tear after the spurious protesters rallying a few blocks away. Certainly this blue statue is no Pooh-Bah, even though this particular bear is likely to see quite a few intrigues and red-tape entanglements as the week progresses.

Inside the convention hall, the Credentials Committee loudly endorsed Senator Obama’s “unity” plan to reinstate the Florida and Michigan delegates to the convention with full voting rights. Committee members in attendance extended their hearts and minds to those in Florida, including this particular blogger’s grandfather in Melbourne, so recently repeatedly ravaged by Tropical Storm Fay. Referring to Fay and the sometimes contentious primary political season, former Tallahassee mayor Scott Maddox had this to say, “We’ve come through Fay and plenty of other storms: we’ve suffered under not one but two Bushes. After the storm, the sun always comes out. Thank you, governor Dean, for bringing the process, the sun, back to Florida.” Immediately after the resolution’s adoption, a standing ovation rolled across the hall. Former Denver mayor, Wellington Webb, endorsed another resolution, also passed unanimously, to give the Michigan delegation its full voting strength.

The only other activity that occurred Sunday morning in Denver was the rearrangement on the convention floor of where to seat the Delaware delegation, according to the tradition of giving priority seating to the states of the party’s nominees. The Nevada delegation was bounced in favor of the nearby Idaho delegation seats. Cedar Rapids Democrats may remember Idaho resident and famous songwriter, Carole King, campaigning for John Kerry in Cedar Rapids in 2004 declaring that Idaho is indeed turning blue. The lead story of the Sunday Denver Post would not disagree with King, noting that Democrats are hopeful of blasting away the frosty grip of Republicans in the Western states with fierce fighting. Is it any wonder that the DNC chose Denver as the site for this convention but to remind Wyoming’s own Dick Cheney that the western states historically are more liberal than California? States in the Rocky Mountains gave women the right to vote far before many other states, the first woman, and pacifist, elected to congress came from the Rocky Mountains states. Liberal, the ideals of the party might be, but this convention has opened as strong and efficiently as McCain’s real estate empire.

No horsing around

By Rod Boshart – Iowa Democrats arriving in Denver have been caught off guard by the magnitude of the security precautions surrounding the national convention that is expected to draw from 3,000 up to 10,000 protesters. Throngs of law enforcement officers armed with riot gear patrol the areas outside hotels where state delegations are housed by car, foot, helicopter, horseback and bicycle. Even the horses are equipped with plastic face shields.

Leach in the house

By Rod Boshart – Former Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Leach has been given a speaking role at the Democratic National Convention. Leach, who represented parts of Eastern Iowa for 30 years, surprised and disappointed Iowa Republicans recently by endorsing Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., for president. Obama officials announced Sunday that Leach had been invited to address the convention tonight during what is being billed as “one nation night.”

Distance learning

By Rod Boshart – University of Iowa political scientist David Redlawsk spent the weekend making preparations for a long-distance teaching project. Armed with a Web camera hookup and text and video blogging, the associate professor of political science will teach classes on politics and elections from his hotel room in Denver, where he is participating as a delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Redlawsk expects to greet students returning today for fall classes from his remote location.