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July 31, 2004

Still waiting...

...for Drudge to explain how a photo I took ended up on his site, with oddly clumsy Photoshop alterations, as if someone not very smart were trying to hide the fact that they were ripping off a photo without giving credit. (Details here, if you missed it.)

--------------------

July 30, 2004

Rashomon

Before I ever managed to hustle access to a national political convention, I always imagined that if I were only there, I'd have far greater insight into the entire process. I'd see behind the scenes, I'd see what was really going on. But somehow it took awhile for the gears and levers to align. In '92, I couldn't find anyone interested in credentialing me. In '96, I had just moved across country and didn't have the energy or the time to rush off to the conventions, even if I'd had credentials. So it wasn't until 2000 that I finally made it in the door, thanks to the Village Voice. And to a certain extent, my expectations were fulfilled. It was fascinating to be there, to see it all firsthand.

What I do at these things is wander around, poke and prod, see what doors I can get behind and try to see what's going on behind them. Mostly party chatter and soggy hors d'oerves, as it turns out--does knowing this give me a "better" understanding of anything? Probably not. In 2000, it was new and exciting to me to be credentialed, to be inside, to be a part of the experience. This time, not so much. Here's the thing: the conventions essentially serve as giant press releases--the point is to generate coverage. But by being there, I'm mostly cut off from that coverage, so while I may be in a position to watch the show being produced, I have absolutely no idea how it's being received. In terms of my work, I'm probably better off at home in my studio watching the end product on tv.

And to be honest, it's exhausting and kind of demoralizing to have to constantly scramble for access to things to which I really should be invited as a matter of course, given the audience I have. It's the problem with freelancing, and with the fact that most of my working career has been spent alone in small rooms in front of drawing tables and computer screens--I haven't ever really built up the networks you need at an event like this. If you've been reading the few hastily written entries I've managed to post this week, this may sound a little disingenous--I've clearly had some truly odd experiences. But I've also been locked out of a lot of places entirely--events I didn't know about, or didn't even know where to look to find out about, or events that I did hear about but couldn't get in the door because I got there too late or my name wasn't on the list or the room was full to capacity and the flack with the clipboard wasn't impressed by the words "political cartoonist". There were several daytime conferences I didn't even hear about until they were over--why, for instance, am I not on some sort of mailing list that would have told me about the Creative Coalition conference at which Bill O'Reilly spoke, or the Nation event in Cambridge with Joe Wilson, or the Hillary Clinton lunch on Thursday, or any number of other things? Half a million monthly readers on the blog, cartoons in Salon and the American Prospect and well over a hundred papers--what does it take to get a little respect around here?

Again, of course, it's just a situational problem. I have no organization, no structural support. So I'm left wandering around on my own, hoping to stumble across something interesting. And I do have fairly good luck with that sort of thing--but as I say, I also find myself locked out more often than I'd like.

Last night, for example, I got locked out of the Fleet Center entirely.

Sometimes I'm lucky. Sometimes, less so.

See, unless you have one of the prized red credentials which give you floor access, what you have to do to get on the floor is exchange your hall credential for a floor pass at the press window. They're called "rotating" passes, and you get them for a limited period of time--usually an hour. Floor passes were hard to come by last night, but I finally managed to get one and spent about a half hour on the floor--and it was hellish. Incredibly hot, incredibly crowded. More than I could deal with. More than the fire department could deal with, as it turned out. Long story short: I went down the wrong stairwell, got shunted outside--and discovered I could not get back in the building at all. Not just the floor of the convention--the entire Fleet Center was shut down, every entrance blocked by police and those scary paramilitary guys in the black uniforms (even the flags on their shoulder patches are black and white--what's up with that?) Since the press tents are outside the convention center, it seemed like half the press corps was locked out of the building. Apparently the number of passes distributed far surpassed the number of human bodies the Fleet Center could safely contain. Somebody told me that hasn't happened at a political convention since 1988--and it was a Democratic convention that time too. Gotta love those strong organizational skills. (As it turned out, Robert Smigel was at the same entrance I was at, trying to get in, and entertained the crowd by reading an advance copy of Kerry's speech in character as Triumph the Comic Insult Dog. So I actually ended up hearing the speech twice, though Kerry seemed to edit out the references to pooping on things.)

Eventually I managed to find a small tv to watch Kerry's speech, though I missed most of the buildup. And of course I was able to talk afterwards with a lot of people who were inside the hall, and while I don't know right now how it played at home (though Bob seems optimistic), it felt like a winner from here. Yes, there was the military posturing, but there was also a lot of real bite in there, a lot of references to things that, three years ago, nobody was discussing in public except for bloggers and left wing cartoonists.

* * *

So was it all worth it? I lost a week, and I'm not entirely sure why. I met a lot of interesting people, and got to spend some more time with a lot of interesting people I already knew. I guess you could call that a "schmooze fest," but for a shut-in freelancer who rarely gets the chance to do this sort of thing, a little shmoozing is not necessarily a bad thing. I had crazy levels of access at times, and was completely locked out at others--essentially the two extremes of a thing like this. There are layers within layers, and no one can see them all. The wealthy and well-connected experience one convention. The bloggers experience another, sitting in seats so high in the air, and at such a steep incline, you feel that if you lean over too far forward, you will simply fall straight down. The delegates on the floor are ostensibly the reason for this entire exercise, but they are treated as extras in somebody else's movie--by most accounts, they had little chance of getting in to the many private parties going on all over town. The protesters in their cage experience an entirely different convention altogether, and I assure you the convention Michael Moore sees is his and his alone.

I am not yet sure if I will go to New York, or whether or not I will be credentialed if I go. But somehow I suspect that many of these questions will be moot if I do. The thought of twenty or thirty thousand Republicans invading New York City, exploiting the anniversary of 9/11 for political gain--well, the inevitable mix of outrage and absurdity is the stuff from which satire is made.

* * *

Personal note: I met Stephen Colbert from the Daily Show on the floor Thursday morning, and took part in one of the skits he set up. Nothing big, I'm just standing there pretending to have a conversation with someone for a second, but if it ends up on the show, then the whole week will be justified after all.

Also: big ups to the kids at Majority Report, both for having me on the show, and for helping me get into some events I would otherwise only have experienced from the wrong side of the velvet rope. And I owe Mike Liddell at the DNCC a shout out as well, for helping out with the credential process when it hit a last-minute snag.

--------------------

July 29, 2004

GRAND SLAM.

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Early reaction from swing state friends who watched: GRAND SLAM.

UPDATE: a few hours later... actual quote from a moderate Republican friend I've known since college, via email:

Jesus, "a president who believes in science?" I didn't think that was allowed. Balls. I always wondered what a president I could actually stand would look like.

Remember, this is the first time a bunch of people ever saw the guy. The first real impression seems to be a doozy. I'm half-tempted to ask if I can post a few of these raves from the heartland in full, just to share with the class. But you get the idea. Can't wait to see the polls.

And very little of the "fighter" stuff I was so worried about. Hot damn.

My, what a big surprise...

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Why, lookee here. Turns out, just by sheer damn coincidence I guess, that Pakistan has arrested what they're calling a "top," "senior," "most-wanted" member of Al-Qaeda, just hours before John Kerry's acceptance speech.

"Pakistan reporting the capture of a high-level Al-Qaeda figure..." sayeth Wolf Blitzer breathlessly hyping this "late breaking story" as if it's the most unexpected thing in the world.

I actually do hate to say this, because the world shouldn't be this predictably goddam awful... but (via Josh Marshall and the New Republic), we and many others told you weeks ago that something like this -- Pakistan delivering up a high-value Al-Qaeda target, specifically timed to take light off the Democratic convention -- was in the works.

UPDATE: Several of you have pointed out that more-detailed stories indicate that the arrest actually occurred days ago:

Ghailani was one of 14 people arrested at the weekend when security forces raided a suspected militant hideout in the city of Gujarat, about 175 km (110 miles) southeast of the capital Islamabad.

But of course, announcing the arrest over the weekend, while people aren't watching the news and before the Boston hoedown even started, would hardly have gotten Wolf Blitzer to twitch and throb excitedly with a Bush-serving story on the most-watched night of the convention, now would it?

Worth eleven thousand words

Don't really have time to caption these properly this morning. The caged area under the overpass is the protest zone. And that's Luckovich, with his close personal friend Sam Donaldson.

































One more day

As last night's enigmatic post indicates, I keep getting swept up into these odd little adventures. Billy Baldwin was on Air America right before me, and I asked if he had any more tickets to the Creative Coalition party, where the Red Hot Chili Peppers were going to be playing. He said I could just go over with him. Then Michael Moore and his swirling media frenzy appeared out of nowhere and we ended up doing a joint radio interview--I can't get away from this guy. We got cut off at a hard break and had to clear out so Eric Alterman could take his turn, so off the air I made Sam Seder promise to explain that we had to leave suddenly to go fight crime. Then shared a cab with Baldwin over to the Creative Coalition party where I talked with quite the range of people, from a sitting FCC commissioner to the head of the Teamsters to Harry Shearer to a group of Boston firefighters.

The only bummer is that I never made it to the blogger party, but everything's a tradeoff.

Battleground state feedback

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

(One quick note, before I drown in envy for Dan, who is playing with all the kids in the big treehouse I hope someday to be cool enough to get in again...)

Since I grew up in Ohio, and I have a ton of friends and family back there, I made a couple of calls and sent a few emails after the Edwards Family Christmas Special, to see how it played in precisely the neighborhoods toward whom it was aimed.

The answer (and keep in mind this is anecdotal and meaningless in its sample size, just a handful of brief exchanges with a bipartisan handful of relatively moderate friends): good. Not great.

He came across as sincere and bright and all. The "hope is on the way" thing -- Best In Show. The "Wendy's" line from the intro was a big winner. But the Senator also didn't play to this teeny slice of Ohio as completely comfortable. (Sure, he was sick. But still.) One person mentioned his habit of repeating himself over the crowd until they quieted enough for him to continue, something I was surprised by myself, given all his experience. Another felt he took way too many bows. The helmet hair bugged a couple of people. (Since when did Ohio put such an emphasis on subtle personal grooming?) The "we will destroy you" bit got mixed results. Some bought it, some didn't.

I also spoke to a friend who heard the speech on the radio. Apparently it sounded better than it looked.

Interestingly, rolling out the kids at the end played as a definite plus to two women and a definite minus to two guys.

My apologies to Obama for dividing us into two nations just now.

Speaking of which, I was bugged a bit by the clear conflict between

a) the electrifying Obama speech, where he derided those in politics who divide American rhetorically... and

b) Edwards talking repeatedly of "two Americas" the very next night.

Hello? Um, I know it's his calling card and all, and yes, the two Americas do exist -- I'm on their team here, I swear -- but Edwards' speech was as explicit an example of what Obama was talking about as you could possibly create. If this was a movie, you could play the two speeches as the most cynical satire.

Granted, Edwards wrapped by calling for the "two Americas" to become one at the end. And nobody seems to have noticed anyhow, since 24 hours is a hell of a long time to expect people to remember anything.

But still. Geez. Share notes, guys. Put a CC on the next email or something.

And speaking of shared notes: I think I heard the "fighter" meme at least half a dozen times. Fortunately, it wasn't played up tonight, praise god, hallelu yah, al-hamdu l'allah.

Still worried that that's how Shrum is gonna leverage Vietnam, though. It's his favorite move, and history screams that it'll hurt the campaign if he insists on it. I'll be watching tomorrow with eagerness, hope... and some concern.

Yowsa

Far too late to blog in full, since I've been out all night at the hottest party in town, courtesy of my new best friend Billy Baldwin. Not to mention my second new best friend Peter Farelly, who even forgave me for momentarily drunkenly confusing the Farelly Brothers with those guys who did the Matrix movies. And not to further mention a few Boston firefighters I spent a long time hanging with.

Now I just have to get up in time to pick up my credentials and get over to the convention center in time to do Air America tomorrow morning.

More later, god and hangover willing.

--------------------

July 28, 2004

Quick notes

Be sure not to miss my post below about Drudge's clumsy attempt to hide the fact that he was swiping a photo off this site. It's down below Bob's posts.

* * *

Ran into Josh Marshall yesterday, crouched down in the Air America booth behind Al Franken, listening in as Franken and Sean Hannity went at it. Janeane Garofolo was also standing nearby, and after the interview, Hannity said to Janeane, with mock outrage: "You called me a creep?"

"You are a creep," she replied. Hannity continued to smile broadly, as if he just couldn't believe these crazy liberals.


* * *

Luckovich and I were walking down the street and passed Sam Donaldson. Luckovich is the kind of guy who will go up to almost anyone and start talking, so we chatted with Sam for a moment. As I was taking a photo of the two of them, Sam said something like, "I hope you're not with Ali G!"--and then headed off before I could figure out a reasonably polite way to say, hey, speaking of Ali G--did you know the entire interview was a goof? And if not--well, have you heard of Google?

* * *

I'm doing a couple of Air America bits while I'm here--I'll be on tonight around 7:30, and tomorrow morning at around 11:30.

* * *

I finally made it up to the blogger section last evening. I'm sure this has been discussed by every other blogger here, but man, to call it the nosebleed section doesn't adequately convey it. You're up there so high, if you stand up too quickly you're likely to bump your head on the rafters. If we were any further up in the air, we'd be on top of the convention center.

My opia

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Just one more thing, so you can scroll down to Tom's Mike Moore/Bill O'Reilly photo and Reason #46 why Matt Drudge can GFY™...

Re whether being at home with a TV might provide a less myopic view of the convention: maybe.

Four years ago, while doing morning drive for Working Assets' RadioForChange.com (which Laura Flanders has soldiered on with for years, bless her) -- maybe the best job I ever had, at least for a while -- I got to cover the Democratic, GOP, Reform, Green, and both Shadow conventions.

The machinery is so strange and awful and enormous that pretty soon it's all you see. And the circle-jerk hobnobbery is pure adrenaline fun sometimes -- I mean, hell, watching Sam Donaldson groom his hair-unit in the wild is just unforgettable -- but in retrospect, I didn't realize just how profoundly depressing and cynical-making it is if you get too close, because, yes, politics at its worst (or even at its most normal) is corrupt and horrible and cynical. And too many of the politicians and media people, bless their small and clammy hearts, are indeed cretinous beyond parody, nearly reaching a nirvana-like self-annhilation in their mindless focus on More.

So, at least for me, it became easy to forget that politics and democracy are entirely different things. And while the world of politics is distant and almost unreachable for most of us, democracy isn't; it's as much a part of our lives as we decide to make it. Martin Luther King, while not a politician, was a profoundly democratic figure. The briefest glance lands on a hundred other true democrats in our time, not just in The Nation but across it, from Chuck D to Granny D. And democracy, when it occasionally works, is simply the process of goading the political machine to reflect the will (and often even goodwill) of the people.

And darn it, when it works like that, even slightly, the machine in turn can inspire us, deeply. The cynical part of me will deny this, but listening to Obama tonight, or even Reagan, I twice found actual tears in my eyes, remembering a hope I don't think I've felt since I stood outside the Staples Center four years ago and watched the LAPD indiscriminately trash innocent people while Hillary's 30-foot head self-aggrandized on a nearby Jumbotron.

Four years ago, standing so close to the machinery, I eventually felt nothing but anger and betrayal, as if I was watching American democracy revealed as a cheap magician's trick, my disbelief perhaps never to be suspended again. Four years of Bush has done little to change that feeling.

But sitting at home, consuming the product, it feels viscerally (not just intellectually) obvious that not only are my own emotions shared by a hundred million of my neighbors, but if wisely channelled, they're what make more actual democracy possible. Interesting.

I don't know if I'd have been moved the same way tonight if I was physically in Boston. Maybe I would have been outside in the Free Speech Cage or watching Hannity and Colmes chowing down on the entrails of a Campfire Girl with rib sauce. I might have seen only the gears of the machine, not its best and rarest purpose.

Instead, tonight I was reminded of what it feels like to be inspired, even though I'm aware it's a carefully-controlled show. My disbelief was suspended for a little while. Is that good? Is it bad? I have no idea yet. But it felt fantastic. Really.

Maybe what I have, by not attending, isn't more or less but a different kind of myopia. And maybe we need both kinds to fully understand what the hell our system really does. I dunno.

OK, forgive the solipsism, and hurry down through my big worry about the "fighter" rhetoric which could kill Kerry faster than you think. Get down to the pictures that bust Matt Drudge as a rip-off and bullshit artist extraordinaire. And I want to reiterate my thanks to Tom for sharing his platform here. I appreciate it.

Teresa calls John "a fighter": the first warning sign of how the Kerry campaign might lose

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Only one grim, depressing, absolutely wrong-headed and loser-making note coming out of tonight's Democratic speeches: Teresa Heinz Kerry referring to her husband as "a fighter".

Oh, crap.

I know, Vietnam, medals, all that, yes. But remember, every word of these speeches is carefully vetted, to introduce and amplify themes intended to resonate with the American people. "A fighter for the people" suddenly looks like it might be one of them.

Thing is, Kerry's head speechwriter, Bob Shrum, has jackhammered the "candidate X is a fighter for the people" theme into a startling number of campaigns over the years -- almost all of whom subsequently lost:

A look back at Shrum's clients quickly becomes a pugilistic blur: Jon Corzine ("fighting for us"), Michael Coles ("a fighter for Georgia"), Geraldine Ferraro ("a fighter who's taken on the big insurance companies"), Ron Klink ("strong enough to fight for us"), Bob Casey ("a proven fighter" who "had the courage to take on the most powerful forces"), Kathleen Kennedy Townsend ("fighting for Maryland's families"), Mark Dayton ("fighting for what's right, fighting for you").

In the presidential campaigns where he has worked, Shrum is (drum roll)... 0-for-6.

Bob Shrum's fingerprints have been found at the scene of an uninterrupted string of Democratic presidential catastrophes over the past 30 years. Ed Muskie and George McGovern in 1972. Kennedy in 1980. Richard Gephardt and Michael Dukakis in 1988. Bob Kerrey in 1992. The only successful Democratic candidacies of the era -- Carter in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992 -- were Shrum-free affairs. (Shrum worked for 10 days for Carter, but quit in a huff.)

Why, you ask?

All else being equal, America's best-loved leaders are always optimistic alpha males with will-do attitudes who project comfort with their own power and a touch of self-deprecation -- in other words, embodiments of the projected self-image of the country. Over and over and over.

The "fighter" image differs in the candidate's implied status in every single respect. That's why it always loses.

This isn't remotely difficult to discern. Or shouldn't be.

This is why Teresa Heinz Kerry scared the holy crap out of me tonight.

Please, Bob Shrum. Don't do this to us. We don't deserve it.

If Kerry himself promises on Thursday to be a "fighter for the people"...

Oh, crap. Crappity crap crap crap. Hope I'm wrong hope I'm wrong hope I'm wrong...

Catching up on the blogs...

...for the first time since I got to Boston. There was a blogger breakfast? With Howard Dean and Barack Obama? Jesus Christ, I wish someone would tell me things like this.

Drudge

Here's my original photo of O'Reilly and Michael Moore outside the Fleet Center:




Here's the version that ran on Drudge's site--with photo flopped, red light changed to green, and other changes detailed a couple of posts back:




(It's still up on his site here, at least as of this writing.) (UPDATE: as I expected, the altered version of my photo mysteriously disappeared from Drudge's archive after I posted this link. But here's a cached version thanks to the wonder of Google. And I've got a screen cap in case this one disappears too.) (UPDATE: cache is gone, screen cap is here.)

And just in case there's any doubt in your mind, here's Drudge's altered photo, flopped back to its original, proper orientation:




So basically, rather than just give a leftie cartoonist a small photo credit, he steals the picture and goes to the trouble of changing a red traffic light to green, flopping the image and altering traffic signs, all presumably in a clumsy attempt to give himself some sort of imagined plausible deniability.

What an asshole.

--------------------

July 27, 2004

An odd convention

If you're wanting wonkish analyses of each speech, blogged in realtime, you're definitely in the wrong place. I tend to go for the grace notes, the odd telling details, the small moments of serendipity...and so far, I'm just not really finding them. (Yeah, I had a strange day yesterday, but that wasn't really about the convention so much.)

Protesters--often a treasure trove of odd telling details--are mostly noticeable for their absence. Don't get me wrong, there are various things going on around town, but you have to know about them, search them out. This is not an in-your-face protest year. A friend of mine suggests that most of that energy is being reserved for New York, and he may be right. The main group out on the street as one approaches the convention hall in the evening is the Larouche people. There are desultory protests in the "pen", but that's a shockingly depressing situation. My camera battery died before I could get any pictures (did I mention that the Nikon Coolpix 3200 blows chunks and only a complete moron would ever buy one?), but "pen" is not an adequate description--it's a cramped space under an overpass, thoroughly fenced in and covered over the top with some sort of netting, so the effect is that of animals in a cage.

This is not your father's free speech zone.

More tomorrow, if I see anything interesting. Or maybe Bob wants to chime in. Watching this thing on tv, like most of you, I suspect he has a less myopic view of things than those of us here on the ground.

Ha

Drudge stole my photo of O'Reilly and Michael Moore (below). Without giving credit, of course.

Update--notes from reader Glenn F:

Did you notice that, apart from flipping the photo, there are other changes
too?

The light that was red is now green.

And the street signs aren't backwards.

So at first I thought maybe it was possible it was another camera, from a
different angle, a second later or sooner. Then I looked closer...

Traffic is exactly the same. Everyone's expressions are the same. And the
traffic signs AREN'T flipped... meaning that they are directing traffic into
the barricade. And both lights are green (having driven in Boston only once, I
don't know if that happens much...)...

So it looks like Drudge and his ilk try and change a picture just enough so
you can't claim it to be yours. But they aren't very good at hiding the
facts... sounds very Republican to me!

Anybody save Drudge's version of the picture? I can't find it on his site any more.

Monday

Exhausting day. After I pick up credentials (and buy a battery charger so I can limp through the week with my glitchy Coolpix 3200--if anyone from Nikon is reading this, I want you to know that I am not impressed), I head over to the Fleet Center. Run into a daily editorial cartoonist I know who is headed to his paper's terrorism training--all the mainstream columnists and cartoonists I know seem to have undergone some variation on this; many of them have been supplied with respirators and hoods. From what I can tell, the training essentially boils down to this: if there's a terrorist attack, try to be somewhere else.

Wander into the Fleet Center, just to scope out the lay of the land. There's nothing going on--the convention doesn't start until evening--but Michael Moore is on the floor, surrounded by a mob of reporters. (I learn later that he is pissed--some jackass anchor on CNN has just asked him how he feels that "some people want to see you dead.") He invites me to tag along to his next event, a meeting with a group of antiwar activists--recently returned vets and family members of vets. I end up spending much of the day trailing in Michael's wake, observing the media circus and the crazy hassles of being famous on that level, where everyone recognizes you everywhere you go. When we are around media events--in the Fleet Center and at a Congressional Black Caucus event--the behavior of the pack of camera crews and reporters is just appalling. I keep thinking of scenes in A Hard Day's Night, where the Beatles are running wildly from hordes of fans--it's that level of craziness, with genuine violent aggression thrown in. The camera guys will use their equipment to literally whack you out of their way, the reporters will trample right over you if they get the chance. You've certainly heard celebrities complaining about the media, and probably thought, oh ya whiner, get over it. But it is a strange and somewhat frightening thing when you are in the middle of it.

Even when we are away from the media events, the fact of celebrity remains incessant. We must strategize as to the best way to travel ten or fifteen feet and not get mobbed. We find a quiet place to eat lunch and are still interrupted every thirty seconds or so by someone who just-wants-to-say-how-much-they-enjoyed-the-movie. When we are on the move, people wave from across the street, honk their horns, do double takes. It simply never stops. (And Michael is gracious and patient with everyone who approaches him throughout the day. I never see him snap or lose his temper. I doubt that I would have that much grace under pressure.)

We head back to the Fleet Center and as we are getting out of the Town Car, Bill O'Reilly is across the street getting out of his limo. "Hey Moore, when ya gonna come on my show?" he shouts. Michael responds, "When you see the rest of my movie." (O'Reilly walked out of the premiere halfway through.) He claims to have gone back and seen the whole thing, but when pressed for specifics, hems and haws. Nonetheless, Michael takes him at his word and they stand there out on the street negotiating the terms of the appearance as various Guardsmen and law enforcement types gawk and snap photos. They finally settle on a format: they will take turns asking each other questions. O'Reilly agrees not to edit the segment, and to explain in the intro that Michael has only been boycotting him because he walked out of the premiere. (It should air tonight. We'll see if he keeps the last part of that promise.)

Inside the Fleet Center. A media frenzy erupts when Al Franken, Michael, and Jesse Jackson powwow at the Air America booth. Then we have to do more Hard-Day's-Night stuff--or maybe it's more Spinal Tap. Ducking into a stairwell that goes nowhere, to get out of yet another crush of media and well-wishers. Down to a parking garage, back up in an elevator--right where we were before, but the crowd has dissipated. Strategizing how best to cover twenty yards to the escalator. Mad dash across, constant trail of double-takes. Finally work our way up to the skybox level. We don't have proper credentials to get up there but that doesn't seem to matter. Head to the Fox setup. Triumph the Insult Comedy Dog follows us in, and is quickly ejected by a guy with a frozen smile on his face. Michael and Bill shout at each other for awhile. When we head out, I look down at my credential and it is not there--and here is a warning tale for you newly-credentialed bloggers. They give you a credential and a string to tie it around your neck--and it's really easy to lose. You really, really need to buy one of those plastic holders at one of the souvenir tables at the Sheraton. And the thing is, I've been to these conventions before--I was essentially a proto-blogger in 2000, posting photos and summaries of the day's events--and I know how hard those damned plastic credential holders can be to snag. I have old ones at home. Why I didn't bring one, I have no idea. At any rate, I was a bit worried all day that I was going to lose my hall pass, and kept asking my friends who have real jobs with newspapers and syndicates and such if they had an extra holder, to no avail. And so, the inevitable moment finally comes when I look down and see nothing but a broken string, dangling forlornly. I spin around, head back to O'Reilly's studio, where fortunately his producer has my credential. Crisis averted--they don't replace these things if you can't keep track of them.

It's maybe 7:30 at this point, and we end up, almost at random, in the Carter family skybox--it's the closest sanctuary from another gathering crowd that's about to reach critical mass. The former President is not there at this point, but his sons are, as is Amy Carter, and when we are introduced she tells me--improbably enough--that she just bought one of my books that very day at some comic book shop in Cambridge. Turns out she's a big comics fan, as well as an enormously gracious host. I call Atrios--or Duncan, as I guess I'm allowed to call him now--and borrow skybox-level credentials from Amy and someone else in the room so I can go down and retrieve him and make my way back up.

You can see down into the Fox skybox from where we are, and here's a fun bit of trivia for you: Bill O'Reilly does not stand up during the national anthem.

Later, Jimmy Carter arrives, and isn't it strange when you wake up having no idea that you're going to meet a former President of the United States before you go back to bed that night?

We settle into the skybox, and that's where I watch the rest of the speeches, exhausted just from simply being in Michael's orbit for a day--I simply can't imagine what is like to be him, every day. And, best moment of the day--as Duncan and I walk out of the skybox at the end of the evening, a young woman looks at me and does a double take and says, "hey--you're Dan Perkins!", and asks if she can take her picture with me. After a day following Michael around and seeing probably thousands of heads snap as they do double takes, listening to a constant whispering refrain of "that's Michael Moore, that's Michael Moore," endless people asking if they can just take a photo, just get an autograph--at the end of all this, someone does it to me. It is the perfect finale. I have to laugh.

Okay, must head off now to pick up the day's credentials.

Scenes from my day












(Words later.)

--------------------

July 26, 2004

Fox News Judgment

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Well, that didn't take long...

President Jimmy Carter's "we cannot lead if our leaders mislead" speech was suddenly interrupted halfway through, just as he was getting to how the Bush administration's amorality has shattered American credibility.

Sean Hannity talking to William Bennett -- on the subject of morality, of course -- is obviously much more newsworthy.

UPDATE: Unlike the other nets giving the convention live coverage -- CNN, MSNBC, and PBS that I've been watching here -- Fox also talked through the national anthem.

Worse -- I can't believe my eyes -- unlike all of the above, plus ABC, CBS, and NBC, Fox actually talked over the Democrats' solemn remembrance of 9-11.

Because we all know that only Republicans have any right to remember 9-11.

Beneath contempt. Absolutely beneath contempt.

Nader

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Nader might not be allowed into the Dem convention... but the Dems couldn't have asked for a better spokesperson on O'Reilly just now.

It'll take a few hours for the transcript to go up, but it was pretty damned wonderful. Possibly because Nader is receiving major GOP support in an attempt to siphon Kerry votes, O'Reilly was oddly reluctant to interrupt, and so Nader tore into Bush at length. I've never seen anything like this on Fox before.

Let's see if Nader is ever invited back. He surely will be, if he uses the Democratic convention to attack Kerry in a similar fashion.

UPDATE: From the transcript, in which O'Reilly actually allows someone attacking Bush to speak in complete sentences:

O'REILLY: If those guys are telling me that Saddam has anthrax, I'm not letting him sit there. One last question, 30 seconds. Do you think Osama bin Laden fears you?

NADER: I think he likes Bush, because Bush is playing right into his hands by inflaming the Islamic world with that crazy invasion of Iraq that's picking off our troops, draining our billions of dollars, and in effect, a magnet for more terrorism.

Almost fair and balanced... for about ten seconds there.

Understanding the Kurds

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

A Tiny Revolution gets it with a single image.

At least one major network is covering the convention

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

The L.A. Times notes that Al-Jazeera is giving the convention 90 minutes of airtime per night -- half again as much as any American broadcast network.

While we're on the subject, their English-language site is always worth a visit. It's a near-daily stop for me. Not because they're any more reliable than Western networks -- hell no; right this minute, the front page of the site links to a hearsay story blaming Israel for the Kennedy assassination (no, I'm not making this up) -- but as an all-too-incomplete window into the news actual Arabs are seeing, as opposed to what American opinion leaders pretend that they are.

These are two different things -- unnecessarily, and foolishly (on all sides) so.

CORRECTION: This is the English-language page for the real Al Jazeera. Thanks your feedback, I learn that the link posted above may exist as a smear purely to fool idiots like me. Checking my bookmarks, I have to confess that I've been visiting both, interchangeably, each about twice a week in my daily news blur, depending on how far my lengthy "news" submenu I happened to drag and click that day. I am appalled that I didn't notice; I guess I must have assumed that these were two faces of the same brand, which I now see is like occasionally sampling battery acid in an OJ bottle and assuming it's real juice.

Next time, I'll be sure to get all my information on the middle east from Judith Miller.

Kidding. Didn't mean to scare you.

The difference between Democrats and Republicans

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Just so nobody thinks the earlier post bemoaning the similarlity of probably Democratic and Republican policies toward Iraq means that I'm returning to the 2000-era Naderite position that there's no difference between the parties...

Here's one: Bush's impending jettison of the "roadless rule," which protects huge chunks of wilderness.

Conservationists maintain that the proposed roadless repeal fits into a Bush administration pattern of using its rule-making powers to open public land to more development.

"It's largely about removing any roadblocks that may have been erected in the last couple of decades to oil and gas development, timber harvesting, hard-rock mining and water privateers," said Simeon Herskovits, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, a public interest law group.

-- snip --

The revisions would also weaken a Reagan-era provision that national forests be managed to maintain viable populations of wildlife species.

Well, obviously. Expecting wilderness areas to continue to sustain life... how completely absurd.

"Shove it"

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Why would Teresa Heinz Kerry silver-platter the GOP with a talking-point response to Dick Cheney's GFY™ moment?

If you understand to whom she was speaking, it makes at least a little more sense. Oliver Willis has the best short take I've seen. (Scroll down; his trackback isn't working.)

If only the Democrats behaved more like democrats

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Via Informed Comment, we learn from this Seattle Post Intelligencer story that:

a) Ralph Nader has been barred from the Democratic convention, in spite of the fact that even Republicans are allowed in (make of that what you will), and

b) the Democratic platform on Iraq really won't be all that different from the Republican one, despite the sizeable anti-war contingent among the Democrats.

Not supporting Nader, although much (not all) of what he says is inarguably true and needs to be said. Just wishing the Democratic Party was strong enough to withstand his mere presence. And not saying the Democrats aren't less likely to kill you on a host of issues than the GOP. Just wishing that one of the parties was institutionally more anti-war. Wishing we had more... democracy. That's all.

And wishing I didn't have to explain that, to head off the angry emails I try not even to read anymore...

The more things change...

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Again, I'm not onsite in Boston. But a few things are leaping out of the news.

But you can see that "free speech" means as much this year as it did last time around:

U.S. District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock this past week called the conditions "an affront to free expression" and a "festering boil." He refused to order changes, but is letting protesters march past the site Sunday. A coalition of protesters appealed to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Authorities said they were lowering the maximum number of protesters to 1,000, from a previous 4,000, because of concerns of overcrowding.

Where in the Constitution does it say anything about a maximum number of protesters?

(Edited to insert quote.)

A look back at the DNC 2000

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Unlike Tom, who has my great envy, I can't be in Boston for the Democratic National Convention.

I'm stuck here in Hollywood instead. Which means the only parties I'll see will be filled with stage-managed performers devoted entirely to gathering attention by deploying carefully-chosen images and sound bites against a willing press populated with indistinguishably similar people.

So see, it's completely different. (And yes, the comparison is trite. Also, accurate. As a veteran of both worlds, more so than I ever imagined.)

Although if I was there, before long I'd probably be hanging out in the "free speech" area, and possibly posting something like this.

For now, I'll step back and eagerly await Tom's postings from inside, just like you.

Early report from Boston

Well, gosh, the early report is that we couldn't get in to the MTV party across from Fenway where there were a million and a half would be Rock the Voters in line trying to get in, give or take, so I went and had beers in a nearby bar with my pals Mike Luckovich and Rob Rogers and Dave Barry, and various other cartoonists and writers.

Yes, this is the sort of scintillating on-the-ground report you can expect from your credentialled blogging correspondent. Tip jar's over over to your right!

--------------------

July 25, 2004

Working out the kinks

On the ground in Boston. Almost couldn't log into the blog because the password is stored on the computer at home and it's been so long since we set up Movable Type that I couldn't remember what the hell it was. That'll be great, I thought. I'm credentialed as a blogger this year, I'll explain to people, but I'm not doing any blogging because I forgot my password.

One other glitch, with a new digital camera (old one went on the fritz a couple of days ago): anyone know why a Nikon Coolpix 3200 would have a constant battery drain, even while turned completely off? This is the camera with which I hope to record the convention, so this could be a problem. (Is it possible that an SD card which is not on Nikon's approved list could somehow be the culprit?) Input welcome from those of you who are wise in these matters: tomtomorrow(atsymbol)ix(dot)netcom(dot)com.

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