Friday, July 30, 2004
 
Convention Ends On Note of Unity--For Now
By Frank O'Brien

BOSTON -- July 29

In a cascade of balloons, confetti and pounding rock music, the 2004 Democratic convention ended at 1100 PM eastern time. Several themes were constant throughout the convention: the injustice of the 2000 election result, the failures of the Bush administration, the unity of Democrats around their ticket and standard-bearer John Kerry and, finally, the need to work from the morning after the convention to the evening the polls close on November 2.

US Senators, Governors, representatives, state leaders, party veterans, new democrats, progressive leaders, talking like local ward bosses, urging the delegates and activists to get out there and turn out the vote.

The value of the convention has been questioned as an audience draw on television. At the California State delegation breakfast Thursday morning, former California House Speaker and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown said (not from the podium but in an interview at the back of the room) that the 4-day convention is obsolete and should be replaced with "a reality TV show" format.

Without question the 4 days have created a strong common bond among core party activists and sent the delegates back to their respective states with clear direction to make it happen on behalf of the party.

The unity of purpose puts several important unresolved issues on hold. US Senator Russell Feingold (D-Wisconsin) said during a brief conversation on the convention floor Thursday evening that progressives have been very forgiving of the mainstream party, by tolerating votes in favor of the Iraq war for example, in the name of
victory.

At very well-attended Thursday afternoon lunch of the National Stonewall Democratic organization, Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts said emphatically that any differences that exist between the Kerry/Edwards platform and the gay / lesbian / bisexual / transgendered community should be set aside during the campaign, but "On the day after inauguration we will be right back aggravating them". In this context, GLBT issues are but one of the most visible and potentially divisive of the cultural questions that will be prominent in the campaign and over the next 4 years.

In certain respects, the 2004 presidential election is shaping up as a national referendum on the bill of rights, with the very different official positions of the two parties, obscuring significant differences within the parties about how best to balance free expression and public safety, cultural values and individual freedom.

Urban issues, problems of the inner city and race-related matters were kept in the background. Kerry sought to establish his credentials through the personal endorsements of African American shipmates. Although it was notable that the crew assembled on the podium for Thursday's acceptance speech, the convention has been marked by prominent speaking slots for African Americans.

Local Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald was given convention prime time - Thursday evening when the hall was packed with delegates. The speech itself was cut to fit the overall convention themes (Transcript below), but the highly visible scheduling suggests both Kerry's confidence in Rep. Millender-McDonald and the critical importance of the African-American voting bloc. As Jesse Jackson reminded the California delegation at the Thursday breakfast, "in 2000, Bush won the white vote".

Within the dynamic is a Democratic strategy that appears to include a key principle: position Kerry as a strong leader for moderate, independent and swing voters, especially in the so-called battleground states.

Missing from this formulation is an articulated effort to drive turnout and increase participation among voters. While the convention rallied the troops and reached out to the moderates, it did little to engage the uninterested.

While the conventional wisdom is that the 2004 presidential race will be very close, there may be a decisive Kerry victory in the making, especially if these disaffected voters recognize their stake in a democratic victory.

And one piece of evidence to support the theory: Friday, immediately after the end of the Democratic convention, President Bush took to the campaign trail with a rally in Missouri. As shown on FOX TV, directly behind the President's shoulder, as he was speaking about his accomplishments, a young girl in the audience fidgeted, yawned and conspicuously checked her watch. She seemed to be asking "When will this guy stop bothering us and just leave the stage?"


=====================================================
CONGRESSWOMAN JUANITA MILLENDER-MCDONALD'S SPEECH

BOSTON, July 29 /PRNewswire/ -- The following is a transcript of The Honorable Juanita Millender-McDonald's speech before the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, July 29, 2004:

My fellow Democrats! My fellow Californians! Fellow Americans! The families of my district, like families across America, want leaders who understand their struggles -- who not only speak about their values, but who actually share their values. And nothing reveals the values of a nation more than how it treats its children. I am here tonight to re-affirm John Kerry's commitment to our children.

As Democrats, we believe that a strong America begins with strong families -- with healthy and safe children. And we believe that when it comes to our children, America can and must do better!

Tonight, nearly 8.5 million American children are without health insurance. We can -- and we must -- do better!

Tonight, more than 12 million American children are living in poverty. We can -- and we must -- do better!

Tonight, 29 million American children are living in areas with unhealthy air, increasing their risk for diseases such as asthma. We can -- and we must -- do better!

Tonight, 35 million American children suffer from hunger. We can -- and we must -- do better!

For the past four years, these children have been neither seen nor heard. Tonight, Democrats say to America's children and their parents: "We see you. We hear you. And help is on the way."

We believe that in the richest, most powerful nation on earth, that every child deserves the chance to live the American dream! That every child deserves quality health care! That every child deserves clean water to drink and clean air to breathe! And that no child - no child - should ever go to bed hungry in America!

In the Senate, John Kerry fought to pass the largest investment in children's health care in three decades! His fight led to the creation of the State Children's Health Insurance Program that provides health care for five million children!

As husbands and as fathers, John Kerry and John Edwards know that children are a blessing. And they have the plan to keep all of America's children healthy and safe. John Kerry and John Edwards have the plan to expand health coverage to all America's children! John Kerry and John Edwards have the education plan that protects Head Start, and gives our most vulnerable children the nutrition they need! John Kerry and John Edwards have the plan to strengthen and enforce the environmental laws that protect our children from pollutants and disease! And John Kerry and John Edwards know that children are healthier when their parents have jobs. So they have the plan to help small businesses that create most of the jobs in America by cutting their taxes and reforming health care so small businesses can prosper.

John Kerry and John Edwards have the vision, the values, and the plan to build a stronger America with strong families and healthy children. We must speak up for the children who cannot speak for themselves. We must stand up and vote for the children who cannot.

Are you ready -- with President John Kerry and Vice President John Edwards -- to build an America that once again values our children? Let's go out and vote to bring America an administration who will embody these values that build strong families and healthy children!

God bless you! God bless our children! And God bless America!

Source: Democratic National Convention Committee

 
Kerry's Speech
Complete text is here.

Thursday, July 29, 2004
 
Key Themes, Core Strategy Unite Democrats
But Underlying Contradictions Remain Between Activist Base And Corporate Funders
 
By Frank O'Brien
Boston - July 28

Today the key themes of Democrats campaign to win back the White House came into focus.
     - Jobs
     - Health Care
     - Education

And the Iraq war.

In forums, corridor conversations, flyers, position papers and speeches from the podium, Democrats advanced the case that President Bush has failed. And not simply that Bush has made mistakes or implemented ineffective policies. The Democrat's foundation case is that Bush has fundamentally mislead the American people on core issues of economic policy and terrorism.

That is the first part of their argument. The second part is that Democrats offer hope, an affirmative solution to the concerns of all Americans.

The unanimity on this core strategy is impressive. Far from chafing under the restraint of a common message, Democrats are willingly unified in their focus on victory in November.

Yet the stump speech rhetoric and strategic assessments have a disconnect from a number of issues that concern many activists and progressives here: starting with the question of how to preserve individual liberty in a time of terrorism, and beyond that the level of corporate influence in the political decison-making system.

So great is the desire to remove Bush from power that the Democrats have willingly and with complete unanimity set aside fundamental questions of how a party with an strong progressive agenda can be funded to a great degree by the very interests they seek to reform.

Ralph Nader's name has been greeted with derision at every mention.

A number of Washington, DC think-tanks have run seminars setting out the detailed measures that would implement the agenda based on core concerns of health care, jobs and education.

The Democrats are unified. They have a solid policy foundation for core set of issues. The incumbent is vulnerable. As Sen. Diane Feinstein said at the morning breakfast for California delegates, never have the indicators looked so poor for an incumbent and so encouraging for a challenger.

Now the question for Thursday. Can John Kerry deliver?

STREET THEATER
 
As always, the best action is in the streets. A rally co-sponsored by the ACLU and Amnesty Intentional was held Wednesday in drizzling rain at the Copley Square Park across from the main delegate hotels.

Using art as part of the event, the organizers had set up a schematic prison, with three people lined up, each holding a panel. The first had printed the saying of Pastor Niemller (Berlin, 1939):

     First they came for the Jews
     But I did not speak out because I was not a Jew
     Then they came for the Communists
     And I did not speak out because I was not a communist
     Then they came for the trade-unionists,
     And I did not speak out because I was not a trade-unionist
     Then they came for the Catholics
     And I did not speak out because I was not Catholic
     And then they came for me
     And there was no one left to speak out for me.

The second had a woman in prison jumpsuit behind a cage and the third was a mirror.

MAYOR HAHN SPEAKS TO CONVENTION.
 
On Wednesday night Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn spoke to the convention. The Mayor was very well received, especially by the California delegation. These were his remarks:

The Honorable James Hahn

Democratic National Convention

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

BOSTON, July 28 /PRNewswire/ -- The following is a transcript of a speech by The Honorable James Hahn, before the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, July 28, 2004:

Good evening! I was ten years old when I attended my first Democratic Convention in my hometown of Los Angeles, where a son of Massachusetts was nominated to run for president. That man was John F. Kennedy.

Tonight, I am proud to be a California delegate here to nominate another son of Massachusetts to be our next President -- John Kerry.

I know that John Kerry understands one of the greatest challenges facing America's cities -- making our communities safe from crime. As Mayor of Los Angeles, I have made this my top priority. And here's why: I've talked with too many parents who have lost their children to gun violence. I've met too many mothers who make their children sleep in cast-iron bathtubs to protect them from stray bullets; too many young people who have simply given up hope.

John Kerry worked with President Clinton to put thousands more police officers on our streets. Crime went down, and our economy improved. Our country's current leadership has shifted away from that commitment. And we need it now more than ever.

Not only are cities struggling to fight crime, our local police and firefighters have become America's first responders. We're proud to be part of our homeland security efforts. But cities can't face this challenge alone. We need a president who will work with cities to prevent terrorism in our neighborhoods -- whether by foreign terrorists or local street gangs. We need a president who understands that small investments in after-school programs pay huge dividends.

In Los Angeles, we stretched our budget to put more officers on the street and to give young people opportunities to make positive choices. It paid off: violent crime was down last year. We can't afford to lose that momentum.

I'm proud to partner with the L.A.P.D. and a community that wants its neighborhoods back. I have been proud to partner with Senator Dianne Feinstein to ban assault weapons and with Senator Barbara Boxer to increase access to after-school programs. And, I'm looking forward to working with the Kerry White House.

Earlier this year, I visited the F.D.R. Memorial where the words "Freedom from Fear" are etched in stone. Freedom from fear -- what a gift that would be to our country. I know that John Kerry and John Edwards will work with every city in America to meet that goal.

We must fight like we've never fought before to put them in the White House.

I know we'll do it, and I'm looking forward to a better America!

Thank you! 

 


Wednesday, July 28, 2004
 
"America's First Black President" Missing On Network TV
For the first time in the TV age, a convention keynote speech was not broadcast on network TV--a symptom of all that's wrong with our media system, writes  John Nichols at The Online Beat.  

And what a speech it was! [Full text here][Video available here].  The consensus is that it was the best keynote speech since Mario Cuomo in 1984--20 years ago.  Barak Obama, an Illinois State Senator, is positioned to become the next U.S. Senator from Illinois, as the Illinois GOP flounders to find a candidate willing to run against him after their millionaire primary winner withdrew in a sex scandal.  There is already buzz about his potential to become America's first African-American President--even from conservatives.

Nichol's writes:

      "The failure to broadcast the speech by a man many believe could
      be the country's first African-American president struck even some
      media veterans as troubling. On ABC's 'The View,' co-host Meredith
      Vieira spoke of how, 'After (Obama) got done speaking, I had chills'
      and complained about the decision of the networks to neglect the
      keynote address. 'He is a man that America needed to see,' she said.

      "By any measure, Vieira is right.

      "But don't expect broadcast television to get the message. The
      networks have replaced  the civil and democratic values that once 
      played a role in decisions about what to  cover with commercial
      and entertainment values that dictate a denial of seriousness or 
      perspective when it comes to political stories."

Obama gave a brilliant speech that used his own family story as a gateway into a powerful re-articulation of the liberal vision of America as a land of justice and inclusion, as well as opportunity.  In contrast to the way today's military and veterans are being treated, Obama recalled the social contract that his mothers parents had:

      "The day after Pearl Harbor he signed up for duty, joined Patton's
      army and marched across Europe. Back home, my grandmother
      raised their baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line.
      After the war, they studied on the GI Bill, bought a house through
      FHA, and moved west in search of opportunity."

Then, toward the end, he said:

      "[A]longside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient
      in the American saga.  A belief that we are connected as one people.
      If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that
      matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen
      somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose
      between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if
      it's not my grandmother. If there's an Arab American family being
      rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that
      threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief -- I am my
      brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper -- that makes this country
      work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still
      come together as a single American family. 'E pluribus unum.' Out
      of many, one.

      "Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us,
      the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics
      of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal
      America and a conservative America -- there's the United States of
      America.  There's not a black America and white America and Latino
      America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.
      The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and
      Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats.
      But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the
      Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our
      libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States
      and have gay friends in the Red States.  There are patriots who
      opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one
      people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of
      us defending the United States of America."

The speech--like the speaker--was so impecable, that in response, conservatives can only attempt, vainly, to claim that Obama's liberal vision is actually a conservative one.  Markos at the Daily Kos debunks them.





 
Dean Rallies His Troops To Continue Fighting
By Frank O'Brien
BOSTON - July 27.

Campaign for America's Future, a Washington CD based progressive political action group, organized a rally Tuesday afternoon featuring Gov. Howard Dean.

The rally was held at a hotel in Cambridge, across the Charles River from Boston. The line extended entirely around the building as people waited patiently to pass through several security checkpoints.

Once inside, the crowd was happy, expectant, waiting for the return of their campaign hero Governor Dean. The Dean audience was a mix of graying radicals, committed young students and serious-minded people concerned about the direction of their country—a marked contrast to the credentialed delegates, a "new Democrat" crowd where ambitious lawyers and hopeful bankers outnumber old civil rights veterans, union regulars and populist farmers.

Bang. Governor Dean, like a shot out of big cannon, takes the stage and proceeds to tear the room down. In a remarkable performance of effective rhetoric, speaking directly from a core of conviction, humor and hard-earned experience, Dean at once re-ignated the essential themes that propelled his campaign and urged his followers to unite behind John Kerry and defeat President Bush.

Alternating between forceful assertion and low-key, almost conversational dialogue, Dean weaved a story of national loss and redemption that kept the audience spellbound. His words were punctuated by vigorous karate chops and other kinetic gestures in a kind of personal judo style. The overall impression is of a man with very solid ethical beliefs who is not afraid to give them full voice, a kind of unscripted intelligent communication that connected immediately with his supporters.

The rapport between Dean and the audience was remarkable—affection, respect and familiarity that bespoke months of intense, shared experience on the campaign. There was complete agreement on the imperative of defeating President Bush, and Dean was unstinting in his endorsement of Kerry.

In sharp-edged language Dean echoed what former President Clinton had said Monday night about the Republican's strategic need to divide the electorate: When campaigns stop being about "Guns, God and Gays", Dean said, and start being about "Jobs, Healthcare and education", then the Democratic, progressive vision will be meaningful for many more Americans.

Turning to the 3 months between now and the election, Dean went beyond urging his followers simply to vote for Kerry. He forcefully urged them to organize into effective community groups, to use the internet for creating wide networks of common purpose, to focus on executing the basic, bread-and-butter work of electing a candidate.

Dean had touched a resonant place in the audience. The crowd seemed deeply engaged and committed to that task he had established.

Later Tuesday, Governor Dean's speech to the convention was a far milder, more nuanced version of the tour-de-force delivered during the day. Nonetheless, in Governor Dean and his supporters, the Kerry campaign has a powerful advantage.

Governor Dean's line of attack both strongly mobilizes an important segment of the Democratic voting base and effectively neutralizes the appeal of Ralph Nader among progressive, independent-minded voters.

In his speech, Dean observed that the most underrepresented demographic group in America is working class and low- to middle-class white men in the South and midwest. The long-term fallout of civil rights, Vietnam, the George Wallace campaign, the Nixon southern strategy and the consolidation of these trends under Reagan has been to effectively disenfranchise these voters. Simply configured, the Democratic party has California, Chicago, the Northeast, a majority of women, many college towns and all African Americans. The Republicans have everything else.

As these Democratic constituencies shape the party in their image, and Republicans tailor their programs to benefit a very small economic and social elite, that leaves an entire segment of middle-class, middle-American white men with no effective political representation.

Whether the model of political engagement that Dr. Dean advocates can accomplish in the South and Midwest on a lasting basis what Clinton was able to accomplish by a unique blending of background and political skill remains an open question.

But for now, he and his followers are motivated to send Bush back to Texas and Chaney permanently to "an undisclosed location."


Tuesday, July 27, 2004
 
Day One: Being There
By Frank O'Brien
BOSTON - July 27.

Micro-observations on the staging of a national-level drama, in another waterfront city where "the downtown could finally be reconnected to the waterfront," and a local dedication ceremony defines what politics is all about.

THE NIGHT BEFORE

Sunday night, I was contemplating a cooler full of beer in a local Boston bar: bottles aligned in careful rows, generous quantities of ice packed in around the sides, the bright tinfoil neck wrappers the only part visible above the ice chips. The party is about to start. It wasn't difficult to forsee the future on Friday morning: the littered floor, half-drained bottles and crumpled cups, the thirsts and laughs and bitterness and rancors the beer cooler will supply, but for a moment, all is chilled, neat and ready for the party. The end is contained in the beginning.

THE DAY OF DELEGATION BREAKFAST

Monday morning, the huge California delegation convenes at 9am in the Westin Copley Plaza ballroom. Groups cluster around tables in friendly conversation, sitting strictly with familar faces. It's as if every local restaurant from all over California has relocated its political breakfast table to Boston.

Congressman Bob Matsui is talking to a cluster of reporters in the back - up close his face is smooth, almost tranparent, his eyes dark at once encouraging and sharply appraising. He has a slight but definite reserve - a carefullness that must come from years of dealing with the press and public. It seems spontaneous insight, alarming critical humor and unexpected irony are not among the Congressman's prefered ways of self presentation. This restraint probably accounts for his success as an elected representative.

As he is about to answer a question, Chairman Art Torres asks for the third time that everyone is to be seated - Congressman Matsui's wife takes him by the arm and firmly directs him towards the table. He complies to his wife's direction without resistance. This may be evidence of another reason for his success.

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

930 am is slotted for the daily press briefing. The room is packed. Virtually every seat is taken and reporters are lined up along three walls. At the back a square slightly raised platform is crowded with a cluster of cameras and electronic gear. Thirty minutes late, Stephanie Culter, the Kerry campaign press secretary, takes the podium and begins a recitation of the day's events. Her presentation is an exercise in defining the campaign themes. The reporters appear disinterested, like an early morning class at a party college, the weary students taking notes at the compulsory economics course taught by an uninspired instructor.

The disconnect expands after Cutler introduces a Monday night featured speaker, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones from Ohio. Rep. Jones bounces to the podium and launches into an effervescent stump speech - the presentation certain to earn applause at the district Chamber breakfast or Rotary Club lunch. As Rep. Jones emotes and strives for an eloquent cadence designed to sweep a hometown audience along in a wave of irresistable assent, the assembled press betrays no reaction .. none ... just the quiet scribbling of pens on paper. As a puzzled Rep. Jones asks the crowd if they want to hear more, press aide Cutler gestures for her to step down so the program may proceed.

This group takes pride in its reserve and casual indifference. They do look like a serious, intelligent crew, the nerds who ran the school paper 20-years on. The neglect of fashion is conspicuous. Many in the crowd of print journalists look like they could have slept in their clothes. Later, at the Fleet Center, the TV anchors are a contrast - these well-constructed people look like they stepped directly from an exclusive spa onto the convention floor. TV news people seem to be the real attractions here - their trailing entourage and bulky, high-tech gear dominating the convention floor and corridors. In contrast to the politicians - who give off a vibe that combines accute power-status anxiety with an aggressive stance - the TV news personalities glide along on a gentle air buffer of comfortable self regard.

The convention center is a maze of concrete corridors and a warren of electronic cables, all converging on the sleek, pristine, opulent stage that is the focus of cameras from all directions.

The hall a few hours before the convention: pale blue and deep red - bright TV lights and a sound system with a mega-bass lowrider speaker effect. It's like the inside of an electronic ark, with technicians all around making adjustments to the cameras, mikes, platforms and network anchor booths.

Ian Sherwood is managing floor coverage for BBC News. The Kerry campaign has no incentive to provide foreign journalists time with the candidate - as they are focused on reaching the US audience. Sherwood describes his UK audience as interested in Kerry as an alternative to Bush, a US President who got their Prime Minister in a bit of trouble. Asked what are the concerns of viewers in the pubs, Sherwood thinks that domestic issues may be more important to UK viewers than the Iraq war. Interest rates are rising and that is putting a squeeze on many middle-class homeowners. Even in England, politics in local.

GHOSTS OF THE CELTICS AND BRUINS

Walking down one back corridor in the Fleet Center, I found an obsure steel door with the tag Fleet Center carpentry shop. Bill Hogan of Carpenters Local 33 showed me around the workspace. Along with the saws and benches and tools, the walls were plastered with stickers and photos from Boston sports teams - Bruins and Celtics - going back over 20 years. "So this is the place where you guys fabricated all those dead spots on the Boston Garden's parquet floor" I said. Bill replied "What dead spots?"

GREENWAY DEDICATION

At Park Event, Mayor Calls for End to All Task Forces and Committees: Start Work

Monday morning featured the dedication of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. Sen. Edward Kennedy gave a gentle and loving tribute to his mother, full of humor and inspirational recollection. The Greenway is on the site of a former elevated highway that circled downtown Boston, now running underground thanks to the Big Dig.

Boston Mayor Menino spoke, enthusiastic that "the downtown could finally be reconnected to the waterfront", but, the Mayor warned, "it's time to end all those task forces and working groups and committees and get down to work."

The best speaker was Eunice Kennedy Shrirver, Gov. Schwartzeneger's mother-in-law. Mrs. Shriver, although frail, evoked her mother Rose in clear, direct words - a recollection that combined affection, unembarassed idealism and a challenge to the living to overcome obstacles and make a difference. The difference between Mrs Shriver's speech and the poll-tested equivocations of most modern politicians: its salsa picante vs mayonaise.

The content and rhythm of her remarks - and her distinctive Boston accent - brought alive her brother, the late President John F. Kennedy. It was uncanny - I thought - that this is the sort of speech JFK would have delivered if he had lived thirty more years.

As the speakers had praised the Kennedy brothers, Mrs. Shriver reminded the audience that women could accomplish something too, and she urged young women to strive for their dreams, using the Greenway as an example of what can be accomplished by dedicated action.

City and state officials have agreed to establish the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, an independent non-profit organization, to run the parkland corridor. This approach resolves a series of turf battles over the site between the City, State and Turnpike Authority. A recent study by the Boston Foundation concluded that the $20 billion dollars in improvements at the harbor and waterfront have generated a "huge and growing payoff" for the substantial investment of public funds.

THE PEACEMAKERS

Carrying a huge wooden, hand carved peace symbol aloft on a 5-foot pole, Paul Loveless stands out among the crowds of earnest, well-groomed hurrying Democrats. His hair is white, in strands and whisps that spread thoughtlessly to his shoulders. Paul is blind, I see, as I stop him to talk along a wide sunny stretch of Boylston St. in the Back Bay. In his other hand he holds a white cane, with a small American flag bound to the top with duct tape.

Paul is accompanied by two men and two women, members of the DC Anti-War Movement, who have come to Boston to carry their message to the delegates.

"This flag stands for peace, justice and human rights" Paul says, "Bush has thrown it in the sewer." I see that he is missing three fingers on each hand - he's working with just his thumb and forefinger. "The KKK did that to Paul" one of his friends says.

Paul explains: "I was on a march in Georgia and a group of guys asked me if I was marching against racism. I said I was. They got mad, called me a "white nigger", a "copperhead" and then started throwing bricks at me, saying "here's your ticket back to Africa".

Paul said that injuries in that fight lead first to infection, then to gangrene that wasn't treated. "It was painful" he said, but "If I can do this in my condition, anybody can."

For the others in Paul's group, the sentiments were unanimous. Jim MacDonald, of the Anti-War network, said Democrats were not enthusiastic about Kerry but were unified in their feelings about President Bush. For MacDonald, the major parties are two sides of the same coin - dominated by corporate money and special interests. "I'm prepared to spend my life outside the system" said MacDonald, in his late twenties, "this is a long-term struggle". Paul and the others nodded on agreement.

Ironically, "copperheads" were northern Democrats who opposed the end of slavery and the civil war. Many were recent Irish immigrants who feared free negro labor - "We won't fight to free the nigger" was one of their slogans.



Monday, July 26, 2004
 
Setting The Scene
Report by Frank O'Brien

From the convention city....

At the first of our nation's 2004 ultimate trade shows, Democrats from Alaska to Beacon Hill converge in Boston today to kickoff the final fall rollout of their newest product: the Kerry / Edwards presidential ticket.

But despite the immediate electric atmosphere in well-appointed hotel lobbies - a mix of federal power, media celebrity and country carnival - in the post 9/11 world, anxiety over security and terrorist threat seem the prevailing mode.

The mythology and intrigue of conventions past - the legendary political bosses who could alter history and make a man's fortune with a flick of a cigar in a smoke-filled room - seem as relevant in Boston 2004 as telegraphs, cross-country railroad trains, daguerreotype photographs and straw boater hats.

On a cool, cloudy summer Sunday, final preparations for the 2004 Democratic convention are in place. Most conspicuous, the division of the city into two parts: the "hard zone" (using the term of Boston security planners) immediately surrounding the Fleet Center, and the "soft zone," outside the perimeter established by high fences, checkpoint gates and closed off streets.

Hologram identification cards, patrols of police, buzzing helicopters, all combine to create a sense of institutional obsession with security, a reaction immediately tempered by recognition of what the nation experienced on September 11.

Most significant is the strict limits on access to the convention center in the interest of antiterrorism. National electronic media with massive trailers packed with electronic gear are established within the "hard zone," positioned to beam the Democrats carefully focus-group calibrated message to the country at large.

Meanwhile, the loosely organized clusters of citizens expressing alternative views have been given a designated protest zone of 26,000 sq. ft offering only a fleeting view of delegates as they file from tour buses directly into the convention hall.

Local chapters of the Lawyers Guild and the ACLU have filed an appeal of US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock's decision late last week upholding the constitutionality of the segregated free speech area. Issuing that ruling, Judge Woodlock stated "[o]ne cannot conceive of what other elements you would put in place to make a space more of an affront to the ideal of free expression than the designated demonstration zone."

The free speech zone is immediately alongside a large concrete and steel subway wall and is enclosed by mesh fencing. Groups involved have announced their intention to boycott the designated zone. As of Sunday there has been no ruling on the appeal.

For more information: http://boston.indymedia.org


LNG at DNC

In its Sunday, July 25 recap of convention-related security news, The Boston Globe reported that "The biggest sighting of the day by far" was the arrival of a liquefied natural gas tanker into Boston Harbor on Saturday. The Globe described "a heavily fortified blue tanker" cruising through the channel less than a mile from the Fleet Center, while military helicopters patrolled overhead.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Manino has repeatedly warned that the LNG tankers headed to the Distrigas terminal in nearby Everett, MA a threat to the city when they enter the harbor.

ALTERNATIVE MEANS OF EXPRESSION

Brooklyn New York-based artist Sheryl Oring has created an alternative free speech zone. Setting up a small black manual typewriter under a shade tree on a busy sidewalk, Oring invites passersby to compose a postcard message to President George Bush.

In Central Square in Cambridge, MA, as pedestrians and traffic flow by, she listened carefully Sunday afternoon to a student sitting opposite, first aligning two postcards and carbon paper into the polished old-fashioned typewriter. Dressed in a conservative red business suit like an impassive court stenographer, Oring types along as the man expressed his views.

Oring has a visitor sign the stamped original, to be mailed to the White House, and then the copy, which she retains for her "archive of public opinion." This performance piece, entitled "I Wish to Say" began in San Francisco and has been presented in locations across the country. An August New York show is planned for the Republican National Convention.

In contrast to mass media deploying its significant technological resources in Boston, Oring, with her small black manual typewritter, postcards and carbon paper, provides any individual direct experience of personal and cooperative communication.

This free expression zone is at once physically small and imaginatively large. Oring's patient willingness to serve individual citizens as their correspondent in a hand-crafted message contrasts favorably with the one-way channel of electronic media channels.

A large American flag is displayed behind her as she works. After the student was finished an impetuous youngster pushed up to her table and asked "How much does this cost?" "It's free" Oring said, as his eyes widened in disbelief.

For more information: www.iwishtosay.org

BILLIONAIRES FOR BUSH

Billionaires for Bush is a political action committee of corporate lobbyists, profligate heiresses, Halliburton executives, and other winners under George Bush's economic policies.

For more information, visit: www.BillionairesForBush.com

ON MONDAY:
- The California Delegation gathers
- President Clinton speaks.

 

 


Sunday, July 25, 2004
 
Random Lengths Convention Coverage
Random Lengths will be covering the Democratic National Convention with on-the-spot reporsts from Frank O'Brien, one of the Harbor Area's most dedicated public citizens. Senior editor Paul Rosenberg will be editing and posting Frank's reports.

A full-length report will be published in the next issue of Random Lengths, out on August 5.