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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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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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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