The Olympics are almost over, and it’s time to get ready for the next Big Thing: The Democratic Convention, August 25-28, in Denver Colorado.If you’re not planning on attending as a delegate, a protestor, or invited guest to the Invesco Mile High Stadium closing party (our fair state only received 300 invites) here’s a rundown of things to look for during the convention. Those of you watching idiot box convention coverage are also likely to miss out on much of the fun, so listen up!
Political Conventions are great fun for law enforcement agencies, as there’s plenty of money ($50 million this year) to be had. The infinite variety of “potential” threats allows everybody get a shot at testing out their latest batch of toys, usually stuff that’s been passed over by the military because it doesn’t work. There are the usual turf wars, such as the flare up between the F.B.I and the Secret Service over whose planes would be patrolling the skies over the convention (designated as a National Special Security Event). The Secret Service has been designated as the lead agency and has grounded the FBI “air force” in Denver.
Unless things really break bad, you won’t see much of a military presence, according to Maj. General Guy C. Swan III, director of operations for the military’s Northern Command. The National Guard will be on call if needed, but the bulk of the security effort will be handled by police, and lots of them. The Denver Police Department is bringing in 1,500 officers from throughout Colorado and beyond, including an eight man mounted unit from Wyoming. Needless to say, all vacation requests by Colorado law enforcement types have been cancelled.
Should protestors opt for confrontational tactics leading to arrests, the City of Denver has secured a warehouse and filled it with 15′ x 15′ cages made of chain link fence and barbed wire. According to a tv news report, a large sign on the wall reads “Warning! Electric stun devices used in this facility”. Local protestors have already named the facility “Gitmo on the Platte”.
One group that might be noticeably absent from the streets of Denver will be the homeless, who are being provided with bus passes along with free admission to museums and the zoo. Another group expected to skip the festivities will be drug dealing Asian gang members. A recent joint effort by the FBI and Denver’s finest arrested twenty seven “Asian Pride” gang members. Ten thousand Ecstacy tablets were seized, virtually guaranteeing that the August “mile high” joy parties in Denver will be induced by thin air or actual happiness.
Ugly rumors about GOP tricksters planning to distribute mind altering drugs have no basis in fact, as far as I can tell, despite the dire warnings on this website .
One big blip on the security screens in place for the convention is that the “intelligence analysts” have been unable to discern any heightened threats from “Islamic extremists, antigovernment groups or environmental militants”, according to FBI officials, who are, as it turns out, still miffed about getting the stiff arm from the Secret Service over control of the airspace. Personally, this makes me very afraid, as these “analysts” are likely the types that have been hired repeatedly by the administration to give credence to the Bushism that government has to be so bad that voters will continue to support more tax cuts, budget reductions and intrusions on civil liberties.
Expect a lot of Big Parties in Denver, before, after and during the convention. One big city gossip column recently compared the Democrats’ star power to the Vanity Fair Oscar party. Expected show business celebrities include: Ben Affleck, the Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West, Wyclef Jean, N.E.R.D, Scarlett Johansson, Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Jennifer Lopez, Willie Nelson, Melissa Etheridge, Jerry Jeff Walker, Spike Lee, Susan Sarandon, Quentin Tarantino, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Neil Patrick Harris, Madonna, Matt Damon, Oprah and Cheryl Hines. An abbreviated listing of parties, meals, and briefings assembled by the lobbying firm of Quinn Gillespie and Associates is a mere sixteen pages long.
The events include a poker tournament hosted by Ben Affleck, a home run derby at Coors Field, and the usual free drinks and cigars. New rules limiting corporate contributions adopted by Congress last year have posed some challenges to event organizers, but as with any so-called reform there are enough loopholes to insure that business as usual goes on. A major party featuring Crosby, Stills and Nash was cancelled when the lobbyists sponsoring the event realized that it had been set up in violation of the new standards. For the most part, however, organizers are getting by with minor tweaks, like making all events standup affairs and limiting the free eats to finger food.
The “greening” of the Democratic Convention has received quite a bit of publicity, much of it from the petroleum snorting global warming skeptics over at Fox News. The fact is that both party’s conventions this year are attempting to limit their impact on the environment. The Dems even have a “Director of Greening”. And, in a move that must have the late Joseph Coors rolling in his grave, the Denver Host Committee announced that “waste beer” from the local Coors Brewery would be used to produce Ethanol for the Convention. One can only imagine just how bad that “beer waste” has to taste to have been rejected by Coors.
Another set of rumors/stories regarding the Convention planning have centered around the standards that are being imposed on the food served to the party faithful. A Wall Street Journal story on the “lean & green” catering rules spawned visions of brown rice eating politicos desperately searching for their transfat fixes while the Obamas dined on arugula salads. “Not true” says party leader Howard Dean. “Democrats at the Pepsi Center and other official Convention venues can have all the fried goods they can stomach.” Dean also dismisses reports that the convention planning has been mismanaged and is over budget.
Both Presidential candidates have professed their fondness for pizza as the road food of choice and, as luck would have it, two of worst places in the US for pizza are Denver and Minneapolis. How bad is it? A blog promising to review 1000 of Denver’s pizza parlors died after just two postings. Do a google search for “worst pizza”. Trust me, it’s bad. Last summer, while visiting Denver, I observed a “Colorado Pizza”, which is some hippyish take on the beloved pie topped with Caesar Salad. Others can argue the merits of New Haven vs. New York vs. Chicago Pizza; Colorado deserves to lose its statehood over this abomination. (We’ll get around to Minneapolis’ pizzas in a later post.)
The rumors about food police running amok at the convention were probably fueled by local inadequacies about the state of cuisine in Denver. Known for decades as a meat and potatoes town (with a slew of mediocre Mexican restaurants), the mile high city has been slower than many to support contemporary culinary trends. And while it’s not as bad as many critics on travel and food blogs seem to think, the consensus on the internet seems to be that hungry travelers should stick to the brewpubs. A list of affordable eateries can also be found here.
Things To Watch For At The Convention
Overlooked in all the MSM coverage will likely be the August 26th reception celebrating the 88th anniversary of women’s sufferage. Sponsored by EMILY’s List, a major funding source for female democratic candidates (including Hillary Clinton), the fete will bring together House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Clinton, and presumptive first lady Michelle Obama. No doubt Fox (women can vote?) News will be prowling other venues in search of terrorist fist jabs.
The key drama that will be covered will be the Clinton-Obama reconciliation. The Obama camp has telegraphed their intentions to give a sincere show of respect for Hillary Clinton, hoping to put the best spin possible on the Clinton family’s appeal to their supporters who are still reluctant about Obama. They have gone out of their way to accommodate the Clintons by allowing her name to be put in for a roll call vote-which may well be closer than the pundits are predicting. The important player here will be former president Bill Clinton, whose residual anger at being portrayed as racist by Obama subordinates remains a potential problem. What the Obama crew fears is that the PUMAS (Party Unity My Ass) will remain unsatisfied at the sincerity of their efforts, resulting in a defacto divided party facing a tenacious McCain onslaught in the fall. Bottom line: this is the first convention since 1976 where a cease fire ceremony must be added to balloon drops. And there is no guarantee that Hillary loyalists will swallow their pride.
A backstory at the Convention that may have a major impact on party unity is an attempt by Clintonistas to change party rules regarding caucuses. Having lost critical delegates by ignoring caucus states during this year’s primary season, they are proposing rule changes-under the guise of protecting voter’s rights-that will keep future upstarts in their place. Having lost a straight up and down vote on this issue at a DNC platform meeting, proponents are now hoping for a “Nomination Voting Rights Commission” that will look into the system’s shortcomings going forward. This could be one of the few unscripted scenarios of the Convention, one that the news media may feel compelled to fan the flames on in the interests of keeping things newsworthy.
The Really Big Show
Closing night for the democrats will be chock full of unity messages, with former Vice President Al Gore slated to address the party faithful. Having Gore take the stage the same evening as Obama pushes a sharp message, reminding voters about an essential underlying element of this election: how different things could have been had George Bush not taken the White House in 2000.
With crowds predicted to top 70,000 at Mile High Stadium that evening, the Obama campaign is counting on their candidate to deliver a rousing speech that will energize the party’s troops. And they’re counting on more than simple rhetoric that night. The frenzied faithful will be asked to fire up their cellphones to reach out to their networks to get out the vote.
The feelgoodliness of the moment will be enhanced by the glow of cell phones, creating a magnificent visual that could rival the Olympic opening ceremonies, when a passing alien spaceship resembling the one in Close Encounters of the Third Kind is attracted by the massive microwave transmissions. I can’t wait to see the McCain commercial making fun of that moment…Obama weak on aliens, wrong for America…..