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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The hotel, restaurants and other scenes around Denver

By Evan Anderson – Just yards from the Iowa delegation’s hotel is an Italian restaurant whose sidewalk cafe is a discombobulating scene, compared to its next-door neighbor, Sam’s No.3 café.

Judging from the sidewalk patrons alone, you can’t even order Evian at the Italian restaurant without producing a receipt proving that you laid down over a hundred dollars for your designer aviator sunglasses.

Contrast this with the bicycle cops from Denver‘s elite riot patrols lunching just yards away at Sam’s No.3 on the corner of 15th and Curtis. The sidewalk venue makes for an interesting picture-perfect respite from the previous day’s clashes between rioters and police.

Some of the delegates from the Ohio delegation pose for pictures with these law enforcement officials, the smiles and jovial scene is a wondrous contrast to a morning’s brush with heated counter-protesters and police.

Some of the guests to the Iowa delegation stepped up the plate and helped diffuse a passionate three-way skirmish between protestors, police and various delegates and Denver youth who were calling for pro-GLBT rights. Iowa Hall of Pride members witnessing the encounter were livid to point out that some of those advocating better treatment of GLBT Americans were not so much protected by police as watched aloofly, cautiously.

The corners of Stout St. and 15th have turned into a big tent circus, missing only the tigers and elephants (although plenty of pins showed elephants and John McCain in, shall we say, very humbling descriptions). Just up the street from the tents are the fake-couture stalls, ironically just across from the local TJ Maxx.

An unofficial caucus of California delegates could easily be achieved across the street from the Grand Hyatt Hotel surrounding well-patronized the fake Gucci, Coach and Armani couture accessories stall. Nearby, the La Boehme “gentlemen’s cabaret” is experiencing a boom of business, judging from the clumps of police that stand around the building.

Speaking of booming business, the lobby of our hotel has remarkably been transfigured into a mangled media crime scene, with photographers and slithering sloughs of cables holding the hotel’s Starbucks and Rialto Café hostage. The crunch for coffee, as Jane Austen said, “working on a weak mind produces every kind of mischief.”

The raised Formica table just steps away from the Rialto café has been mystically turned into a potpourri power scene, with Iowa delegates rapidly chatting with Nevada delegates, reporters, bloggers and the occasional DNC official so proudly wearing their orange “Podium” identification tags.

The only thing missing at this scene are brownies. You can hardly expect to play DNC backroom braggarts on an empty stomach.

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Republican Jim Leach: ‘This is not a time for politics as usual’

By Rod Boshart – Former GOP congressman Jim Leach last night called for raising American priorities above partisan politics in crossing the aisle to support the opposing party’s presidential nominee at its national convention.

Leach, who served 30 years in the U.S. House as an Iowa representative, said current challenges call for a new generation of leaders with new ideas that transcend partisanship to recapture the American dream and endorsed Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., as such a leader.

“America has seldom faced more critical choices,” Leach said in addressing the Democratic National Convention – including some delegates who appeared unsure about welcoming a Republican to the rostrum for a televised message.

“The portfolios of challenges passed on to the next president will be as daunting as any since the Great Depression and World War II. This is not a time for politics as usual or for run-of-the-mill politicians. Little is riskier to the national interest than more of the same,” Leach said.

During his speech, Leach pointed to past examples of progressive thinkers within both political parties and took Republicans to task for gravitating from individual rights to regulating values, undercutting treaties, abdicating environmental stewardship and fiscal restraint, and “squandering our precious resources in an undisciplined and unprecedented effort to finance a war with tax cuts.”

Leach was introduced to the convention delegates by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who paid tribute to Iowa’s strong two-party system, and after the speech he was greeted by a hug from Iowa delegate Dick Myers from Iowa City, a handshake from former Iowa Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack and posed for a photo with 1st District U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa.

A short time earlier, delegates heard remarks from Candi Schmieder, a mother of three from Marengo who praised Obama’s inspirational ideas for getting her politically involved for the first time and motivating her to go back to college to finish her degree and pursue public service.

“Yes, Sen. Obama inspired me with his words, but then he motivated me with his good, solid plans for action,” said Schmieder, a first-time precinct captain who was chosen by the Obama campaign to speak as a voice of everyday Americans.

“I can’t even say this experience is like a dream coming true because I never allowed myself to dream so big. I am here today because of Sen. Obama,” she told the convention.

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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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Photos

By Rod Boshart – The Gazette’s Rod Boshart took some photos in Denver on the first official day of the Democratic National Convention.

Below: A street painter applies paint to a mural in downtown Denver on Monday close to the site of the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Below: Demonstrators and passers-by engaged in peaceful but sometimes confrontational discussion of religious philosophies Tuesday in the pedestrian mall near where the hotel housing Iowa’s delegation to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. The gathering took place under the watchful eye of Denver police officers in riot gear.

Below: Virtually every corner of the downtown area of Denver where Democrats are staging their national convention are reaching out to delegates in their own way this week, including this business celebrating “Discobama” as the time approaches for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama to accept his party 2008 presidential nomination on Thursday.

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Protestors, traffic and security

By Evan Anderson – Who are the real protestors? Denver police certainly believe the Clinton supporters are, despite the fact that the majority of those Clinton supporters walking boisterously along the ped-mall so close to the Iowa delegation’s hotel were women merely trying to voice their justified concerns over the primary process.

Yelling “No secret ballots! No secret war!” These protestors trudged the length of the shopping district as the smug DNC delegates laughed and took pictures, almost goading them on in their smiles.

The opening of the DNC convention is less than half an hour away and yet the bedlam around the hotels will likely continue until well until the evening. Police in black riot gear cling to the sides of their SUVs and Escalades as they roam alongside the protestors, making no more noise than the occasional grunt or yell to watch the traffic lights.

The pro-life protestors just huddle together like a swarm of twirling butterflies around a Butterfly Bush, chanting and occasionally yelling at the Obama delegates, “You were human before you were Christian!”

The Denver police watch these protestors with an appraiser’s carefully honed stare but make no move to corral them. The traffic situation is horrid beyond the scope of surely what Denver had anticipated.

Due to the protestors, as well as police ringing the hotels with cars and dogs, buses have all but been reduce to charging the gauntlet at a snail’s pace. The gaveling in of the convention at three is the first misstep of the convention, most of the Iowa delegation is still crawling through traffic.

The security is so tight around the Hyatt that bomb-sniffing dogs, mirrors to look under cars, magnet wanding and the like reduce any plans to infiltrate the hotel in the noble quest of autographs and candid photos of the DNC elite to vaporous empty sighs.

As the convention begins, we hope that the calm tenor of Obama’s voice eventually brings a little solace back to the agitated boiling on the streets in Denver.

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