31 July 2008

McCain the Underdog

John McCain, the veteran lawmaker, 2-time presidential hopeful, and long-time Washington deal maker, pleads underdog status in his race against the junior senator from Illinois.

At a Cherry Hills fundraiser this week, McCain said "We're the underdog in this race . . . But I am pleasantly surprised that we are only behind a few points in most polls. There's even one crazy poll where we're ahead by a few points."

I think that's a smart move. Play the expectations low, and every close poll suggests less about Americans' faith in McCain, which is not essential (as evidenced by GOP success in recent presidential elections) but mistrust and discomfort with Obama. McCain doesn't have to wow the voters to win this thing. He just has to stay steady, and make out that Obama is an underperformer. After all the hype about hope and a new kind of politics, Obama really has to deliver--at least on the perceptions front--in order to tie up the contest.

Lynch Out for "Personal Reasons"

Bad news from Dove Valley for Denver fans: John Lynch is looking for a match.

More McCain in Colorado

"I have to win here." John McCain on the Centennial State.

29 July 2008

McCain's Frequent Colorado Visits

John McCain is making a whole lot of visits to Colorado these days. After a much publicized Denver town hall meeting three weeks ago, when a protester was removed from a walkway outside the event simply for carrying a sign that read "McCain=Bush," McCain returned to Colorado last Friday to address Latino veterans, blast Obama on foreign policy, and make a quick stop in Aspen to meet the Dalai Lama.

The Denver Post also reports that McCain will be back in the pivotal western state today, raising cash and rallying support.

So why is Colorado so popular for McCain? It could have something to do with Barack Obama's efforts to put traditionally red states in play. To be sure, Colorado is more of a purple state in recent years, and boasts a Democratic governor and a majority of Democrats at the state level. It could also be because Obama has one big campaign date here in the near future: August 25-28. The more time McCain can spend in Colorado without upsetting the city's status quo (little old librarian ladies aside), the more public support--especially among undecided voters--the Republican may be able to draw away from the convention.

Obama's popularity in Colorado--and especially in Denver--could actually take a hit depending on how much of a disruption the Democratic National Convention makes in people's daily lives. Furthermore, if business resulting from the convention is not as good as the projections, Denverites and Coloradans may be inclined to see that as a negative in the Obama hype column (though in fairness to the candidate, both the Dem National Committee and the city of Denver will have as much or more to do with that as the candidate and his campaign).

Never mind that it's apples to oranges. John McCain will be out on national TV reminding folks that he's been to Denver a dozen times this year and never tied up city streets or wreaked havoc for local businesses. Bottom line is, if people in Denver get frustrated during the convention, they might actually be inclined to buy into what they hear.

25 July 2008

Durango ER Nurse Exposed to Toxic Chemicals, Oil Company Declines to Share "Trade Secrets" to Aid Treatment

I didn't read this article until late in the day yesterday. Post columnist Susan Greene discusses the issue of trade secrets in the oil sector. More broadly, I suppose, this sets an ugly trend for chemical companies finding precedent not to divulge the components or ingredients of their products even when workers have been harmed by them and treatment may depend on doctors understanding what, exactly, patients have been exposed to.

In this case, the victims included an oil worker and a Durango ER nurse, Cathy Behr. According to Greene, Behr was exposed to toxic chemicals when a man doused in a "sweet-smelling fluid" showed up in her ER this past April after a drilling accident. Behr was responsible for getting him out of his toxically drenched clothing, especially his boots, and cleaning him up.

As Greene writes next,

[Behr] lost her sense of smell. Her vision blurred. Then came heart, liver and respiratory failures that nearly killed her.

Three doctors diagnosed her with chemical exposure. Trying to figure out how to treat her, one called Weatherford, her patient's oil-field employer, to learn which chemicals it uses to make ZetaFlow, the fluid both were exposed to. The company denied him the information, saying it was a trade secret.

While the state looks into the issue, Behr was recently denied a chance to address a committee hearing. By my read, the oil company successfully lobbied to keep her off the agenda

The whole column is short, succinct, appalling, and well worth a read.

24 July 2008

Obama vs. McCain: A New Poll Shows Americans Struggle to Identify With Values, Background

The Wall Street Journal has an article this morning analyzing voter unease with Barack Obama as compared with John McCain. The subtitle reads, "Poll Finds Background, Experience, Are Advantages for McCain."

Fairly enough, I suppose, the article points to results of a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll indicating that half of all voters are trying to figure out what kind of president Barack Obama would be. Only a quarter, says the Journal, are focused on what kind of president John McCain would be.

I leave conjecture to the reader. Of course, I think I already know what kind of president McCain would be, and I don't think so positively in that regard. But that's my bias.

My BS meter didn't go off until paragraph 4 of the Journal article:

The challenge that presents for Sen. Obama is illustrated by a second question. When voters were asked whether they could identify with the background and values of the two candidates, 58% said they could identify with Sen. McCain on that account, while 47% said the same of Sen. Obama. More than four in 10 said the Democratic contender doesn't have values and a background they can identify with.

Emphasis mine. It's true, I'm not exactly sure what Obama's values are, though I believe they revolve around freedom, democracy, and opportunity for all Americans, and also a core belief that America has nothing to fear from simply listening to global neighbors. Oh yeah--and something about hope. Where the WSJ/NBC News poll goes over the top, though, is in linking an understanding and ability to identify with Obama's values with an understanding and ability to identify with his background. The mixed-race child of a Kenyan and an American? A son left behind by his father and raised by his mother and grandparents? A Harvard educated lawyer? An inner city organizer? A professor of constitutional law? A best-selling author? A successful state lawmaker turned U.S. senator turned Democratic nominee for president?

When you do the math, it's amazing to me that only 4 in 10 responded that they could not identify with his background and values. Barack Obama is not an "average" American. The difference between this election and any that has come before is that the candidate is not afraid to admit this fact. Can you think of an "average" American candidate for president? Not in my lifetime. Probably not in yours. Right off the bat, the biggest factor separating presidential candidates from average Americans has to do with money. These people are wealthy. Members of the richest class in America. Millionaires. That alone presents a monumental dividing line between candidates and the average Americans they seek to represent.

What's more, how many Americans can really identify with John McCain's background? This is where the misnomer roots itself in unspoken ways. McCain is the child of a strict Navy upbringing, the imprisoned and tortured soldier, the decorated serviceman. Beyond that, he's a career politician married to an astonishingly wealthy heiress. He has a son serving in Iraq. One more thing: he's an old man who by his own admission doesn't use a computer. To be sure, I can't identify with McCain's background any more than I can with Obama's. But McCain is white, and that signals an instantaneous recognition, or suggestion of recognition, in the United States today. For the most superficial reason I can think of, John McCain fares better in this poll: his skin color affords him the advantage in America of not having to answer questions about his ethnic background.

This is how "background" becomes such a weighty word in this poll.

In Obama's case, rather than position himself as a prototypical, average American, he would challenge the country to see that "average" must no longer be linked with "American" in order to achieve representational democracy. He's saying that the American today is not average; the problems and challenges we face are not average; the catchall "average" leaves too many Americans of voting age on the outside looking in. The myth that a President Obama would shatter is that footage of a president raking brush on a Texas ranch and joshing around with reporters actually qualifies a son of wealth to represent himself as "average."

In this election season, Obama's bid has been characterized as a cultural campaign, a post-racial campaign, and a post-partisan campaign. The candidate has been much touted for leaving behind the old politics of Washington to usher in a new era of inclusion, thoughtfulness, and hope. I buy some of that and can leave some of it behind for the spin it is. But if there's one thing that Obama's successes have shown us thus far, it may be that Americans are ready for the first, post-average candidate in modern history.

16 July 2008

Indictments in AYA Colorado Youth Death

I am stunned and saddened. From the Montrose Daily Press: "Two organizations and three individuals are facing serious charges after a Montrose grand jury indicted them in the death of 15-year-old Caleb Jensen."

I wrote before that nobody comes out the better from charges in this case, and I stand by that now:

I sincerely hope that Caleb's death is seen for the tragic accident it was. Nothing will be gained from criminal action against those involved. I do not believe this is a case where justice can be meted out, where society will be safer when those involved are brought to trial or even incarcerated. AYA is done. Public funded wilderness therapy is, by and large, a dinosaur. With all appropriate empathy for the family of Caleb Jensen, and with full acknowledgment that I can't begin to fathom their loss, I fail to see what can be gained from criminal proceedings. Similarly, while the state of Colorado has a responsibility to monitor and regulate youth programs statewide, there is little to suggest that criminal consequences for those involved will help make future conditions safer for wards of the state.

My heart goes out to the family of Caleb Jensen, and to the other families, some of whom I know, who are deeply affected by this continuing tragedy.

15 July 2008

Bear Enters Colorado Springs Circuit City

Did you hear the one about the bear and the iPhone? You can't buy advertising like this:

Police and Wildlife officers say they were hot on the trail of a bear on the north side of Colorado Springs.

. . .Possibly anxious to get the latest iPhone or other tech gadget, the bear then smashed a window at the Circuit City and entered the store's waiting area.

The footage from the security cam is pretty good. Your breaking (ha ha) news for the day.

Schaffer v. Udall Debate: The Wildlife Experience

The first in what promises to be a series of spirited debates took place Monday between candidates for the U.S. Senate from the state of Colorado. The event was held in Parker, CO, some 15 miles southeast of downtown Denver, in a conference room on-site at The Wildlife Experience, an interactive wildlife and preservation museum.

Supporters of both camps lined the sidewalks coming in from the parking lot, and there was nary a spot to be found even to park a little VW like mine. I joined a long line of others in parking off-site on the brand new exurban streets of The Mirage or The Madison or The Mosaic, whatever that new planned community is next to the museum and unfortunately situated right under the flight path of incoming charters to DIA.

If I was put off from the start by chants such as "North, South, East, West, Mark Udall is the Best!," who can blame me? If I was disillusioned by my encounters with interactive democracy Monday, I might only chalk it up to frustration at the polarizing effects of the very partisan process of modern debate etiquette. And I should point out that I'm both a registered Democrat and a Udall supporter.

It rankles me no end that the spirit of the debate is not to attract information seekers or undecided voters to hear the two candidates outline their plans for making a better community/government/society. From the very outset, the campaigns, I believe, worked to ensure that their allotment of tickets went to supporters of their candidates. I do not know if tickets were made available to undecided voters; the Southeast Business Partnership (SEBP) cosponsored the event, and reserved a nice bank of seats for members up at the front of the house, but I do not know who sat in those seats.

I do know that, since I received my ticket from the Udall campaign, it was clear to me from the outset that I was expected to sit on Udall's side of the room. Like at a wedding where guests are seated according to family connection or friendship with either the bride or the groom, I felt as though my marriage to a candidate had begun when I entered the room. Yes, I had already been seen in City Park the day before sporting a Udall '08 button given to me by an amiable volunteer, and I had in my possession a window sign announcing our household's support for the candidate. It seemed prudent, all the same, to go hear the man in person, and to glimpse his opponent, before I committed myself further to any allegiance.

By taking a seat in the Udall section of supporters I made clear my public support for the candidate before the TV cameras covering the event. This, of course, is what the campaign wants (both of them, by the by). Guests on either side of me asked outright if I was a Udall supporter, as I wore no button, carried no banner, and kept mostly to myself at the start of the event. Several times I was asked if I would like to wave a Udall sign. I politely declined.

The thing was, I just wanted to hear what the candidates had to say. It's one thing to know that I'll vote Democratic in the upcoming election. It's another thing entirely to advocate, in any form, for a candidate. By putting a yard sign in front of my house, a sticker on my car, or my name on the volunteer lists of any campaign, anything that candidate does or says will cast an immediate reflection upon me and my family. That's a whole different ball of fun than when I simply decide to vote for the lesser of two evils, without necessarily speaking out publicly for a candidate. Remember when Joe Lieberman ran for the vice presidency? Sure, I voted for him on that ticket, but man alive am I glad I don't have a sticker on my car to commemorate that.

So what did the candidates say after all the fanfare died down? Udall opened with a strong promise that, as he has throughout his career, he will work not under the terms of Democratic or Republican solutions, but with the idea and the goal of finding Colorado solutions. He'd represent Colorado interests in the Senate, and use his experience in government to find ways to help average Coloradans. Schaffer, for his part, took advantage of his opening comments to take an underhanded swipe at Udall's background by thanking the "Boulder people" for coming down to Parker for the event. He also thanked the Green Party candidate for being in the audience, while acknowledging there was no podium for the man on stage. He went on to say we need to stop letting big government enforce "stupid" policies (in reference to a Boulder incident involving the tax man and a small business owner), and that Americans don't need more Washington politicians telling them how to live, but need tax relief, energy relief, and overall economic security.

The debate pretty much centered around oil development, renewable energy, and who's to blame for the cost of a gallon of gas. Both men toed party lines, more or less. Schaffer blamed Democrats for unnecessarily delaying energy development with calls for research and environmental testing, while Udall hit the familiar refrain that green energy development will be better for Colorado's lands and economy (jobs growth) than any further mortgaging of state lands to big oil companies.

Both men made good points, at times, and both at times misspoke. Udall kept his answers fairly short and direct, while Schaffer milked the clock and the moderator's lenient tendencies for all they were worth. For anyone keeping track at home, I suspect Schaffer showed up as the more savvy of the two, while Udall appeared slightly wooden and reluctant to wing it. That's not necessarily a problem, however. While Udall remained buttoned up, Schaffer misspoke several times on the fly. He mistakenly mentioned Iraqi Shia ties to Iran, then corrected himself to say Shi'ite, and then paused, as if unsure about that, and hastily moved on. The GOP candidate also became flummoxed when citing the amount of water needed to produce a barrel of oil shale fuel compared to that needed to produce ethanol fuel.

If Udall appeared a little wooden at times, he also did well to rebut Schaffer's use of the word "moratorium" when it came to drilling on the Roan Plateau, and also to call Schaffer out for taking repeated jabs at "you Boulder people." "Just be polite, you Boulder people," the candidate launched more than once from the stage. To be fair, I was completely annoyed with the Dems in the crowd who only listened for what they didn't want to hear (but secretly did want to hear) and then yapped among themselves in the audience over what a liar Schaffer is. Whatever. Politics is a blood sport, but I found it distasteful that audience members were more interested in the sounds of their own voices much of the time than those of the candidates.

That doesn't excuse Schaffer's labeling, which he seemed to relish, of all Udall's supporters as "Boulder people." Udall, to his credit, stopped the conversation to say that when he stands atop Long's Peak or the Continental Divide and looks out upon the state of Colorado, he does not see places where liberals live or where Republicans live or where Green Party voters live. Instead, he sees Coloradans at work, at play, and in need of real, representational help in Congress. He declared that stereotyping won't help Coloradans in a time of real need. Udall then specifically named Dick Wadhams, Schaffer's campaign manager, as if to say that these divisive politics may play well for particular campaign tactics, but that Coloradans know all about Wadhams and where the real issues lie. While that might be a stretch, it was pointed out to me yesterday that Coloradans elected a Democratic senator and a Democratic governor in recent years, so maybe state voters do know what the score is.

There were many more issues, ranging from health care (to which both candidates replied inadequately) to the Army's hopes to expand Fort Carson and the politics of eminent domain laws. I left the debate with more questions than answers, but feel confident now putting up the Udall sign in my window. I suspect the Democrat has a nasty fight ahead, but I believe he'll serve Colorado well, if his own supporters can manage to shut up, listen, and represent the man in the same careful manner by which he represents himself.

14 July 2008

McCain Campaign Denies Involvement in Denver Protester Removal

The Denver Post reported Sunday that, despite accounts to the contrary by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, McCain staffers did not ask for the removal of a 61-year-old protester outside a McCain appearance here last Monday.

The vicious cycle rears it's ugly head. A DCPA security guard originally invoked the Secret Service as responsible for requesting Carol Kreck's removal DCPA grounds. The Secret Service eventually chafed at the public attention and issued a statement putting focus on the McCain camp. The McCain camp has finally said that the DCPA acted alone in asking the woman to dispose of her sign (which read "McCain = Bush") or else leave the premises.

Yikes. Next we'll read that Kreck arranged for her own removal, just to stage a publicity stunt. Woops! That's already out there:

You liberal pukes think that you don't have to follow the same rules as everyone else - the venues rule was no signs. That means NO SIGNS! If she wanted to discuss the facts she could have put down the sign and done so but all she (and the rest of you) have are platitudes and staged sound bites like this.

What a surprise that you have a camera handy.

Emphasis mine. Admittedly, this comes from the comments section (a notoriously shady realm) beneath the original post at Progress Action Now, the site that first reported the Kreck incident. And yet I suspect this commenter (who signed as "A real American") is not alone in his/her feelings.

I can see the point about No Signs means No Signs, though the "liberal pukes" might undermine the message. Moreover, I believe the statement reflects a willful failure to consider what is the actual boundary of the venue in question, a point around which there is much consternation in Denver and the blogosphere.

12 July 2008

Senate Debate: Schaffer v. Udall

I believe each of the campaigns still has tickets available (though I could be mistaken) for the first debate between candidates for U.S. Senate from the state of Colorado.

The debate begins at 10 am this Monday morning, July 14, in Parker, CO. The venue is The Wildlife Experience, an interactive wildlife and preservation museum.

When I contacted the Schaffer campaign to see about tickets, I was asked if I was a "supporter of Bob's." I replied that I was not sure that I was, and that I looked forward to opportunities to see the candidate up close. The staffer I spoke with informed me that tickets would go first to Schaffer supporters.

The Udall campaign made no such inquiry, and promptly responded in the affirmative to my request for tickets.

To call for tickets, try the Schaffer camp at (720) 377-1600, and the Udall camp at (303) 820-2008

11 July 2008

Secret Service Comments on Denver McCain Protester Removal

Responding to backlash over the removal of Denver librarian Carol Kreck from a McCain town hall event Monday at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the Secret Service has put responsibility squarely on the McCain camp.

"Contrary to some recent reporting, the Secret Service had no involvement in Ms. Kreck being removed from the area," said Malcolm D. Wiley Sr., spokesman for the Secret Service. "It was not done at our request or suggestion. Any assertion to the contrary is inaccurate and inconsistent with our established policies and procedures."

And who was the man that originally approached Kreck? None other than a security guard for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts itself. According to the DCPA,

A representative of Senator John McCain's staff respectfully asked that the venue for its July 7 Town Hall Meeting, The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, not allow persons to display signage within the Arts Complex . . .

. . . and the DCPA complied, with a little help from Denver's finest.

As for whether free speech was hampered on taxpayer-funded property, the Post article reports that "A previous federal appeals court decision determined that the galleria area where Kreck was standing is not necessarily a public spot and that protests can be curtailed there."

Emphasis mine. Not necessarily? So that suggests it still might be. Interesting. I'd be curious to learn a little more about that previous decision and how the law will be applied in Denver's public spaces over the coming months, especially August 25-28.

Unconventional Denver

Something to keep an eye on, maybe:

"We don't want history to remember the Democratic National Convention in Denver as something that went smoothly," said Tim Simons with the self-described anarchist group, Unconventional Denver.

I say "maybe" because the word anarchist always sounds so scary, but the truth of the matter may be much more, er, conventional. The group is in Denver this weekend to hold a "secret action camp to learn about medical training and legal rights and to practice nonviolent tactics," according to the Denver Post.

Sounds pretty warm and rootsy, actually. Which may not be far off the mark.

"The streets will be a wild and creative place," said Simons, a 25-year-old graphic artist who grew up in Boulder and lives in San Francisco. "We don't want to see a dark, evil atmosphere descending on Denver . . . . We want a festive atmosphere that celebrates grassroots movements."

From his mouth to Sonny Jackson's ears. The Denver police spokesperson says "We respect everyone's First Amendment rights . . . . We hope that the citizens will come in and conduct themselves in a law-abiding and responsible manner."

The newspaper further reported that local and federal law enforcement for the convention will be subsidized in part by a $50 million federal grant. Protest groups, I suspect, will not be so well funded, but could wreak havoc none the less by blocking intersections and staging protests outside of convention venues and popular Denver businesses. Should be an exciting time through and through.

08 July 2008

Voter Registration at the Denver Black Arts Festival

The Denver Black Arts Festival will be at City Park this weekend, July 11-13, and a group of Obama volunteers will be there registering voters. A table or booth--or canvassers wandering the park--will be present all three days of the fest. I'm planning to take a turn answering questions and guiding voters through the registration process on Sunday afternoon.

Come out and take part in the storied, annual event. If you're not registered to vote, or if you are registered to vote and you want to get more involved, stop by and ask for information. Hope to see you there.

Denver Librarian Carol Kreck Removed From McCain Town Hall

I'm so absorbed in my own little world editing high school curriculum--what can I say?: to date it pays better than poetry and blogging--that I wouldn't know anything about the 61-year-old, Denver librarian who was given a ticket yesterday for exercising free speech outside a McCain town hall event on city grounds if it wasn't for my friend Michelle who just sent this link.

The video is pretty galling. I am especially chagrined that the city cops actually escorted the woman off premises, acquiescing to the demands of event organizers and Secret Service, rather than standing up to the absurdity and appropriately refusing to diffuse a situation that wasn't a situation. The city cops should be the ones standing back from the political process where no threat to public safety is concerned, not carrying out the will of the candidate's zealous staff.

07 July 2008

Obama at Invesco, and My $5

Have you heard yet that Obama's on for the big acceptance speech at Invesco? Well how about this?

If you make a donation of $5 or more between now and midnight on July 31st, you could be one of 10 supporters chosen to fly to Denver and spend two days and nights at the convention, meet Barack backstage, and watch his acceptance speech in person. Each of the ten supporters who are selected will be able to bring one guest to join them.

That's from an email the Obama campaign sent to my inbox (and tens of thousands more) today. The email seizes on two key issues: the excitement of this moment in history, and the real potential presented by small-donor contributions. By taking the buy-in price of supporting the candidate way down and putting a $5 pitch out there, and by attaching the possibility of such an alluring prize to the contribution, the campaign comes up with a winning hook.

The gamble is that the number of incoming, $5 contributions will easily cover the costs of flying 20 people to town and putting them up for a couple nights. Heck, maybe I've got a better-than-even chance of winning, since we're in Denver already and the campaign could save a little money by bringing us on but telling us we'll have to stay in our own place (I'm only partly tongue in cheek, here). Even though we're strapped, I bet I can find five bucks if it means I might win a chance to get on site and behind the scenes at the convention.

So how many others are thinking like me? I'm curious to see how much moolah the campaign can reap in the form of what amounts to an online, $5 raffle extravaganza.

04 July 2008

Obama: Only One Anthem

The Rocky Mountain News scored a chat with the nominee in waiting, Barack Obama, and brought up the surprise switch that took place Tuesday at the mayor's State of the City address.

In a phone call, the candidate told the Rocky: "We only have one national anthem. And so, if she was asked to sing the national anthem, she should have sung that. Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing is a beautiful song, but we have one national anthem."

The controversy has stirred Denver and lit up the comments sections of local newspapers and blogs.

Rene Marie, the focus of so much attention since her Tuesday performance, responded on the topic of whether her actions--in an election year featuring the first black candidate to (presumably) enter the general election--might actually hurt the candidate's chances.

"Believing that would be a serious overestimation of my influence as an artist," she said.

Well put. And now that everyone from the mayor to the governor to the presumptive Democratic nominee himself has weighed in on the topic, can we please put this thing to rest and talk about, I don't know, the 2,000 Marines just extended in Afghanistan, or the fact that Karl Rove is, in effect, overseeing the McCain campaign?

Holiday Weekend

Jenna and I haven't been back in Denver very long, just over a month, and I've only been publishing on plavwriter again for a little over a week. So it's particularly encouraging to see the site's readership pick up again after such a long layoff as I recently took.

All this by way of saying thanks. I'm gonna step away for the weekend, trade the keyboard and mouse for a roller and brush and do some painting. There may be a post here or there the next couple days, but plavwriter will pick up again after the weekend.

As always, thanks for reading. And have a happy 4th.

03 July 2008

Stand Up: Mark Udall for Colorado

I'm looking to learn more about Mark Udall and his race for the U.S. Senate. This video runs a little slow, I think, but strikes a pretty effective chord.

Taking Names (or, more importantly, deleting them)

In an effort to do my civic duty and help cut down on waste and inefficiency at the Town Clerk's Office of Brattleboro, VT, where I used to live, I called this morning to inform the office of my recent voter registration in Denver and to make sure that my name was off the voter checklist up there in the great northern wildlands.

I've just hung up the phone, and I'm completely sketched out by how easy it was to remove my name from the list. I was not asked for a social security number or any corroborating form of identification. I wasn't even asked my old mailing address, just to help support my story. I could have been anyone, pretending to be Matthew Plavnick.

Is it really this easy to remove names from lists of registered voters?! Is this what George Bush and Karl Rove have known for years?

A Select Group of Hillary Loyalists

A topic that spun off from the Unite for Change party last Saturday was the issue of Hillary Clinton supporters who won't vote for Obama. Who are they?, I asked, pointing out that these oft-mentioned loyalists strike me as a peculiarly Rovian construct.

One answer, however, made itself known when a guest spoke up. Janice, a woman in late middle age whose dialect sounds a bit more back east than mountain or high plains, mentioned that her aged mother was extremely uncomfortable with commentary made about Obama by some of her Democratic peers who were (are) Hillary supporters.

Before I go on I want to mention this: when Janice told me that afternoon that I looked familiar to her, I quipped that we must be in the same extended family. By which I meant that we are both Jews.

Janice answered my question about the Hillary supporters who might not vote by attesting that, in her mother's assisted living community, the vitriol about Obama was rank. Her mother has lately avoided the central gathering areas in her facility because of the coarse and racist speech fulminating from the mouths of these aged, Democratic voters. There were words being used, Janice said, that she would not repeat in our presence that day.

Yep, I thought. Sure. I could picture it all too clearly. I remember the first time I heard my grandparents use the term schvartze, the derogatory, Yiddish slang for African Americans. I grew up pretty far removed from the holdover mindset of my granparents' generation, and pretty far removed as well from the Jewish community of metro Detroit, so I was a little older already when I first asked my parents what the word meant.

Since hearing Janice's story about her mother's peers, I've learned that my own grandmother, as it happens, may not vote this year. According to my mother, my grandmother was "very gung ho for Hillary, and now she doesn't like either choice." It's unflattering to say so, but I suspect my grandmother and many Jews of her generation of holding yet to a deeply ingrained racism and mistrust of blacks, black culture, and black leaders today.

I don't kid myself that this type of closed-mindedness is limited to my grandparents' generation. Would that it were so. In an election year which has us talking about race as never before, as we dissect a candidate who may be neither "black enough" nor "white enough" to win over crucial voter blocs, when the words "biracial" and "postracial" have become as prevalent in the electoral idiom as "bipartisan" and "postpartisan," I strongly wonder if Barack Obama won't reveal more to us about ourselves and our communities than we might be eager to accept. Optimistically, however, perhaps the candidate will prompt us to review and more carefully question those very topics in our families, in our lives, about which we do not speak. Without dialogue, at the very least, there can be little progress.

When my mom heard that I will be actively involved in this election, that I hope to engage skeptics and win over undecided voters, she asked me to begin my efforts close to home. I believe I'll call my grandmother this 4th of July weekend, and ask if we can talk a little politics.

02 July 2008

La Tinta Grita. The Ink Shouts.

Protest art from Oaxaca. I wish we had a few more images to add to the link. Instead, if you'll be near UCLA this year (exhibit runs mid-July until December!), swing by the Fowler Museum and have a look for yourself. Based on what we saw in the streets, cafes, and galleries of Oaxaca from July '07 until May '08, these artworks will leave a mark.

Gracias a JF por la informacion.

01 July 2008

State of the . . . Anthem

UPDATE II: Gloria Neal offers another take on the issue, quite nicely.

UPDATE: I've been thinking about this whole thing a lot. The conclusion I've drawn, finally, is that I can see why many people are disappointed by the absence of the National Anthem from an annual, marquis event such as the State of the City address. At the same time, to borrow a phrase from a friend, the world is a big enough place--Denver a big enough place--to be able to work it all out.


Courtesy of the Denver Post, here's documentation of our "meeting" with the mayor today (I took time off work to attend, so I thought it worth a blog post, at the least).

Most interesting isn't that you can see Jenna and me in the photo (left side, row 8, outside aisle, Jenna in pink top), but the mild kerfuffle, to put it nicely, in the 9News and Denver Post comments sections about the "Black National Anthem."

Of course, this thing has gone big time on account of the DNC coming in August. Michelle Malkin picked up on it at her site. And there's more snark at Slapstick Politics.

No mention of Denver's success using DNA testing to reduce private property crimes, nor the 4,000 Denver students enrolled in new child care programs this year, nor the 2,400 new preschoolers enrolled this year, nor the $15.7 million received by graduating DPS seniors on their way to college (and that figure before DPS scholarships were awarded this year), nor the fact that Denver boasts 30,000 more jobs today than the city did in January, 2003, nor that Denver features a new methane gas conversion unit at the local landfill.

I'm not looking to pimp for the mayor; I'll simply say I heard a lot of interesting things at the State of the City speech today (and yeah, I took notes). The alternative anthem? Surprising, but not upsetting, to my thinking. And Ms. Marie has a remarkable, beautiful voice.

Alright. That's enough of that. I've got to fact check those things the mayor said.