Monday, July 25, 2016

Flashbacks: Denver 2008 and Fear & Loathing 1972

It's not Flashback Friday or Throwback Thursday, but we are venturing back eight years to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. What was happening eight years ago? Well, the convention hadn't started yet as it was late in August, bumping up against football season, which is feverish in the Mile High City during any year but high expectations should be keen this year for the Super Bowl champs as they decide who will fill Manning's XXXL shoes and ego.

To read about first-day happenings at Denver DNC, go here. Other posts are in the archives for August 2008.

Strange as it seems, Hillary Clinton figured prominently in Denver. She relinquished the stage to Barack Obama in '08 but has no intention of giving up the prime spot in Philly. Tim Kaine as Veep? Not my first choice. Elizabeth Warren would have been a dazzling pick. Even craft brewer and Colorado governor John Hickenlooper held more appeal, although he did oppose marijuana legalization. If he had prevailed on this issue, Denver's hipster invasion may have been avoided. I liked the idea of Newark's Cory Booker on the ticket, or Julian or Joaquin Castro of San Antonio. It may be too soon to have Clinton/Castro on lawn signs in Miami or even in Cheyenne. Wait a few decades, when a dead-and-buried Fidel is as ubiquitous on T-shirts as Che, and Havana is a hotspot for Sandalistas in search of quaint bistros, brewpubs and boutique hotels.

Speaking of flashbacks... I'm reading "Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone: The Essential Writings of Hunter S. Thompson." I was searching the library for "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72," but found this newer volume instead. I skipped through Thompson's report of running for Aspen sheriff on the Freak Power ticket and his run-in with the Hell's Angels. This may be hard to believe, children of the West, but in the early 1970s, the Roaring Fork Valley was much more like present-day Wyoming than the Colorado of today. Longhairs were not welcome in Aspen or Denver ("get out of Denver, baby, go!) or even Boulder. Hitchhikers were more likely to get a finger-o-gram than a ride. The stoned, half-naked hippies of the Rainbow Tribe were not welcomed to Colorado in the summer of '72. And wild-man Hunter Thompson was not elected sheriff of Aspen in 1970 with his promise of free drugs for all.

Here's Thompson's description of Aspen in 1969, when registered GOPers outnumbered Dems 2-1 -- and both were outnumbered by independents:
"They are a jangled mix of Left/Crazies and Birchers: cheap bigots, dope dealers, Nazi ski instructors, and spaced-out "psychedelic farmers" with no politics at all beyond self-preservation."=
DNC 1968 host Mayor Richard Daley unleashed the city's cops on hippies and Yippies on the streets of Chicago. In 1972 in Miami, activists remembered and were having nothing of Hubert Humphrey. Youngsters and disillusioned older Dems selected South Dakota anti-war war hero George McGovern as their standard-bearer against Nixon. It was a "doomed campaign" from the start, says Thompson. He preferred McGovern over "party hacks" Humphrey and Muskie and "Scoop" Jackson. But he knew that McGovern didn't have a chance against Tricky Dick's tactics. That included the now-infamous Southern Strategy which transformed the Dems of the South into fire-breathing Republicans who were deathly afraid (and resentful) of hippies, women's libbers, school integration, the threat of Ho's legions invading Memphis and Atlanta, and modern life in general. Sound familiar? Trump's people are stoking similar sentiments, especially angst about present and future America.

Here's a strange little quote from Thompson about his experiences in Aspen's 1969 mayoral race and his own race for sheriff in '70. See if it has any bearing on Trump's run this year:
"This is what some people call 'the Aspen technique' in politics: neither opting out of the system, nor working within it... but calling its bluff, by using its strength to turn it back on itself... and by always assuming that the people in power are not smart."
I have noticed everyone from former hippies to right-wing doomsdayers coming out for Trump. They all want to say "fuck you" to the establishment, as Michael Moore pointed out so well in his recent "Five Reasons Why Trump Will Win" article. Maybe Trump has resurrected the Aspen technique for the 21st century? Freak Power, Trump style. Unknown Colorado state rep (later Gov) Dick Lamm used a similar tactic when he urged Coloradans to say "fuck you" to the International Olympic Committee. And they did. The IOC told themselves that nobody ever votes against the Olympics. Lamm and his minions assumed that the IOC didn't know what the hell is what doing -- and they were correct. Behold the Brazil and Russia olympiads.

It is also possible that the people in power in the Democratic Party are not as smart as they think they are. Hunter Thompson and the ancient philosophers knew that hubris can be an Achilles' Heel. Cliches, too -- they knew all about those.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Flashback: Blogging the 2008 DNC

Eight years after...

In August 2008, I spent a week as an embedded blogger at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.  We we all so much older then, I'm younger than that now. I am retired, treating life like a kid who's just discovered summer vacation.

I was one of 55 progressive bloggers embedded with state and territorial delegations. We all received press credentials and a seat with our delegation at the Pepsi Center. Expenses were tight, as my wife worked for a non-profit and I worked for the State of Wyoming. Our daughter was still in high school, so we had the usual teen expenses: cellphone, computer, Internet access, food, fashion, car repairs, bail money. etc. I stayed in my Republican uncle's basement and avoided downtown parking by taking the light rail. We bloggers were selected and sponsored by Howard Dean's Democracy for America organization. I was one of Wyoming's few prog-bloggers at the time, so I was chosen to represent The Equality State at the DNC. I could blog from the bloggers' aerie located above the floor. I could circulate anywhere that Bill O'Reilly could, if I really wanted to.

I blogged with a 2006 laptop and a digital camera. I had a flip phone that took so-so photos. I had ethernet access on the floor but the Pepsi Center had no wireless access due to "security concerns." Not sure what that meant. We now live in an era when smartphones are much smarter than their operators and wireless is available at your neighborhood McDonald's (as is "breakfast all day!").

If I didn't blog from the floor of the convention or the pressroom, I had to find a public computer at the local library or a joint that offered free wireless. Starbuck's was not one of those, BTW. It's hard to believe that we survived such trying times.

So I convened and blogged Aug. 24-28. Leading up to the convention, I did my best to profile all of the state's 18 delegates. Some I interviewed and wrote about at the convention. I wandered downtown on Sunday to cover competing demonstrations. Ron Kovic and Cindy Sheehan spoke on the Capitol steps for the antiwar crowd and the pro-war folks stood across the street from Civic Center Park, glowering at the old hippies and young hipsters. Massed squads of police were there to ensure that tensions did not progress past the glowering stage.

I kick myself for missing the big ani-war march later in the week. Rage Against the Machine performed at the Stockyards Arena and then led a march to the Pepsi Center. According to news reports, tensions flared briefly when the police notified Tom Morello and company that they didn't have a parade permit. Police must have sensed something in the air (not pot -- this was pre-legalization). They decided to escort the peaceniks downtown. Peace and love prevailed. No alleged RATM-inspired riot ensued, as happened in Los Angeles eight years earlier. You can see video of the ruckus on YouTube. It may have fed off some of the anarchist-caused violence during the Battle in Seattle the previous winter. Rage on Stage did not lead to tear gas a rubber bullets in Denver. Interesting to note that the new RATM -- Prophets of Rage -- performed in Cleveland at the RNC. And they headline the Rock Against the TPP concert tonight at Denver's Summit Music Hall. While peace reigned in Cleveland, will it be the same in Philly for the DNC? You might find out more by reading your favorite prog-blogger than the MSM.

I will revisit some of my posts from 2008 in the coming week. Look up August 2008 in the Hummingbirdminds archives (scroll down the right sidebar). It's been instructive to see where I was, both in thoughts and deeds, eight years ago. I've always liked this Flannery O'Connor quote: “I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Political convention season in Cleveland and Philadelphia

Once again, we find ourselves in the midst of political convention season.

Republicans gather in Cleveland this week -- they will wrap it up Thursday night. Democrats convene in Philadelphia next week.

Local news has interviewed some familiar faces. My Cheyenne city councilperson, Dicky Shanor, is a delegate in Cleveland. A member of the Micheli clan was interviewed last weekend on NPR. Sen./Dr. John Barrasso has been interviewed about the ultra-conservative, regressive platform that he's shepherded through the long approval process. I'm certain that network cameras have captured other delegates, especially those wearing cowboy hats or other unique garb. I would have details if I was actually watching the convention instead of conducting other important business, such as enjoying Wyoming's summer evenings. I marvel at lightning unleashed in massive storm clouds. I listen to the birds. Chat with Chris. Mess with my garden. Drink a beer. All preferable to watching Repubs spew their hate and paranoia on national TV. I plan to read the lowlights of the party's platform. All you need to know about Republicans is in that document.

How can you possibly write about a convention that you are not watching?

Good question. The answer is simple: I have a blog and I live in the U.S.A.

Besides, I'm harmless, a 65-year-old retiree located deep in the middle of flyover country. My biggest decision of the day is what to have for lunch.

I like Cleveland even though I've never been there. It's home to the trail-blazing Cleveland Clinic and an excellent poetry series at Cleveland State University. It's the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When I was a lad, the Cleveland Indians were one of my favorite teams. As an adult, I delighted in John Elway's rally against the Browns during "The Drive." I was a delegate for former Cleveland Boy-Mayor Dennis Kucinich at the 2004 Wyoming state convention. He wasn't the nominee that year but the Dems got thrashed by Dubya just the same.

I did a little research a found that Cleveland, the former industrial powerhouse whose polluted river once infamously burst into flames, is now undergoing a renaissance. Millennials and Boomer empty-nesters are moving into the city's core. Both populations seek a more urban lifestyle that includes small apartments/condos and closeness to arts, culture, bistros and brewpubs. They are lying low this week, due to swarms of outlander Repubs in funny hats invading their territory. But they will be able to return to their hip urban lifestyles next week.

Cheyenne's Jason Bloomberg, a Hillary Clinton delegate, departs Friday for the cross-country trek to Philly in the Trumpbusters' Tesla. 
On Monday, the Democrats launch their confab in Philly.  Eighteen of my fellow Wyoming Democrats will be on hand for the proceedings. Two of the delegates will drive to Cleveland in Jason Bloomberg's Tesla, stopping at charging stations along the way. Jason, a Hillary delegate, is traveling with a Bernie delegate. They will have many enlightening discussions along the way. The convention will be a bit of deja vu for Dr. Bloomberg, who was a committed Hillary delegate to the 2008 county, state and national conventions. He remembers what happened in 2008 and tells me that he is excited, at last, to be able to cast his vote for Ms. Clinton as our party's candidate for prez. In Denver in 2008, Hillary bowed out gracefully when it was certain that Barack Obama had the votes. I witnessed that convention as an embedded blogger from Wyoming. I will revisit some of my convention posts during the next week, a bit of a flashback to those heady days in Denver. Be forewarned...

For more on Bloomberg's Trumpbusters' campaign, go here. To read about his experiences as a 2016 delegate, go here.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Reunion time Down South

Traveled to Florida for Chris's high school reunion. Not exactly her reunion but her sister Ellen's, who was just one year behind Chris as a member in good standing of the Seabreeze High School Fighting Sandcrabs. Sandcrabs can be particularly feisty when males fight each other during mating season and when attacked by predators. Humans feel the crab's pinch when they step on gnarly crustaceans while strolling through the surf.

We met mostly congenial Crabs at the reunion at the Hilton, the convention hotel directly across from the Daytona Beach Ocean Center. The convention center and hotel are new additions since these 18-year-olds graduated in 1976. Their name badges featured their photo in the bicentennial annual. The guys were longhairs, many of them surfers. Seabreeze sits a half block from the beach. If the surf was up, well, attendance was down. The school district built a fence to pen in surfing youth, especially since a McDonald's was en route to salt water. Fences are made to be climbed or, on occasion, dismantled. Coaches served as border guards. One of Ellen's classmates told us how he and his pals handcuffed an unsuspecting football coach to the fence. They had to run laps the rest of the year, but the surf was worth it.

At reunions, people tell stories. Almost all are true, although they get reimagined over the years. While the classmates shared, I listened. Some of the guys knew my brother Pat, surfer and football player, class of '74. My sister Eileen was in the '76 class. And many of Chris's friends. They partied together in high school and shared a beachside house while attending the local community college. Even though Chris attended school with a bunch of heathens, she sang in Daybreak, a Catholic singing group. Her questionable singing skills led her to a spot in the back row jangling on the tambourine. 

Seems funny, but they were of a different generation. I was class of '69 at Father Lopez Catholic High School six miles from the beach. School named after the priest who accompanied Ponce De Leon to Florida. Our mascot -- the Fighting Green Waves. I wore a uniform to school. Green Wave coat and tie. Attended weekly mass. You skipped school at your peril. Sister Bernandita would be in your face the next day. Not your face, really, as she was four-foot-six and barely reached my chest. She roared like a lion, Punishment could be severe. The nuns hit and punched us. The priests took out the paddles. Just a look from Sister Norbert could freeze a linebacker in his tracks. 

The Crabs had a different experience. Principal a drunk. Teachers lackadaisical -- and some dated students. Every night a party night. Students allegedly engaged in s-e-x, unlike their Catholic brethren and sistren.  

As the current Pope might say: Who am I to judge? Chris's sister and friends are amazing. Remember how confusing it was to be 16? Remember how important friends were? High school can be the best of times and/or the worst of times. The first half of the 1970s meant sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll. In the South, it also meant integration. The school had a riot. Blacks and whites treated each other with suspicion. Until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (and slightly thereafter) Daytona was a sundowner town. African-Americans weren't allowed on the beachside after sundown without a work permit. To be there otherwise, you risked arrest or a beating or worse. Blacks lived on the other side of the bridge in the Second Avenue neighborhood adjacent to Bethune-Cookman College, a traditional African-American college founded by noted educator Mary McLeod Bethune.

Daytona has a lively history. The baseball stadium on City Island is called Jackie Robinson Ballpark or "The Jack." In 1946, Daytona Beach defied segregation laws and was the first Florida city to allow Robinson to play in public with his Brooklyn Dodgers farm team. Noted African-American author Zora Neale Hurston from nearby Eatonville wrote on her houseboat in Daytona. Stephen Crane spent a night in Daytona after he was shipwrecked while on his way to cover the Cuban dust-up in 1897. This was the genesis for Crane's much-anthologized story "The Open Boat." The now unknown Robert Wilder (only one of his books still in print) wrote a Hemingwayesque book about Daytona's early days entitled "God Has a Long Face." Walter M. Miller, Jr., the tormented and reclusive World War II veteran and author of "A Canticle for Leibowitz," committed suicide in Daytona. He announced his death in advance with a call to the police, telling them that there was a dead man in his front yard (thanks to Denny Bowden and his excellent blog Volusia History for this info). Fireball Roberts and Dale Earnhardt both died in wrecks at Daytona International Speedway. NASCAR started with races on the hard-packed sand of the beach. Early stock-car racers refined their skills by outrunning "revenooers" in the Appalachian hills.

It's all about stories and relationships. Can't have one without the other.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Stymie stereotypes! Attend a Democratic Party event today!!

Welcome to July.

Fourth of July fireworks. Camping in the Rockies. Lazing around thinking about what to write.

It's also primary season. Absentee voting begins today for the Aug. 16 primary. Half the population of Laramie County is running for office. Or so it seems. This is a good thing, as it shows civic engagement. It also shows stamina for candidates walking neighborhoods and chatting with the electorate. It's doubly difficult for Democrats, as first you have to tell people what a Democrat is. A foreign term in this Republican-dominated state. Most Fox News viewers think that Democrats are free-spending, gun-hating, LGBT-loving wastrels. MSNBC-watching Democrats, on the other hand, believe that Republicans are stingy, gun-loving, LGBT-hating rednecks.

We're both wrong.

Most of us, except Ted Nugent, defy stereotypes. If you're a Democrat, don't you like to astonish argumentative types by admitting you're a hunter and can quote Bible passages like the most diehard Baptist? If you're a conservative, isn't it fun to flummox flaming liberals by admitting that you are a gay military veteran who is also a union member who supports a living wage? Surprise!

Some interesting conversation can come from these encounters. We all learn something, mainly tolerance for each other's POV. A little, anyway.

Where can I meet some of these people called Democrats? They may be right next door or in your own family. But if you truly want to talk to a Dem in a friendly setting, check out one of the following events. Most are fund-raisers, so you risk giving your hard-earned pay to a liberal. But that means you can donate more to your candidate of choice as you have plenty of money (favorite bumper sticker: "Republicans -- we work so you don't have to"). Info is incomplete as of this writing. Put your questions in the comments and I will try to answer them for you. It may take awhile -- you know how shiftless we Dems are.

Here's the schedule:

Saturday, July 16: Wine & cheese fund-raiser for county delegates going to Dems convention in Philly. Lori Millin's house. Not sure of time or cost. 

Sunday, July 17, 2-5 p.m.: Dems garden party and cake walk, Joe Corrigan's house. Bring a cake and/or win someone else's cake. Admission: $15. Family friendly. 

Sunday, Aug. 7, (time TBA), Laramie Co. Dems barbecue and fund-raiser, AB Camping & BBQ on College Drive -- we've had it there several times. Family friendly. 

Sunday, Aug. 28, 2-5 p.m., garden concert at Joe Corrigan's house. Adults.

Sunday, Sept. 18, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., tailgate brunch before Denver Broncos game with Indianapolis Colts, Joe Corrigan's house, $15, lots of goodies to eat including quiches, casseroles, breakfast burritos, fruit, etc. Mimosas to imbibe. Wear team colors, even if you're a Raiders fan. Family friendly.

There are a couple of candidate fund-raisers I know about. Lee Filer is having one on July 9 at AB Camping & BBQ and Joe Corrigan is hosting fund-raiser for U.S. House candidate Ryan Greene on Aug. 21. There obviously will be others. Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Is Wyoming in the midst of a "death spiral?"

I get depressed thinking about the new state budget cuts. It's not clinical depression. More like a short-term funk brought on by knucklehead legislators.

The Gov announced a new round of cuts Tuesday at the Joint Appropriations Committee meeting in Cheyenne. Appropriate for the hottest day in four years, one swaddled in smoke from a wildland fire burning on the Colorado/Wyoming border. All the tall grass and timber nurtured during a wet spring is drying out and set afire by careless humans. Might be a fitting analogy here. State Government budgets nurtured by rising mineral royalties during the past 10 years are now undergoing slash-and-burn tactics by the careless Republican-centric legislature. I think I will run with that, even though the comparison is a bit of a stretch. Maybe a hidden meaning lurks within, as in something embedded in a Flannery O'Connor short story.

First, a few words from Gov. Mead. He's the guy in charge. He's the guy who has been saying for the past year (go here) that across-the-board budget cuts are dangerous for Wyoming and cause the state to "lose talent and skill." They will lead us into a "death spiral." Fewer state services and fewer state employees cause losses in the private sector and will send us into a spin we may not recover from. You want state parks with campgrounds and boat docks and bathrooms that work and helpful staff? You want loans and grants to help attract tourists to a revived downtown? You want roads that aren't pock-marked with potholes/ You want a professional highway patrol that comes to your aid when your truck skids off an icy road in January? You want to care for our veterans and elderly and disabled? You want someone to come in and put out that wildland fire that threatens your little house in the forest?

It takes money. "Doh!" says Homer Simpson, surprised that he didn't think of that. Homer's not much of a money manager. When he has to have an RV to keep up with the Flanderses, his request for a loan sets off sirens and red blinking lights at the dealership. Thing is, the state has a rainy day fund of a couple billion dollars. If we dip into that, no sirens go off. We do get wailing and gnashing of teeth from the same legislators who hate Obama enough to scuttle Medicaid expansion that would prevent some of the layoffs in the health care industry that we now are experiencing in Casper and elsewhere. Those same legislators despise gubment and the same gubment workers who plow their roads and clean the toilets at Guernsey and Glendo. "DOH!"

The legislature has dipped into the rainy day fund. It is raining -- hard. Legislators are being conservative (surprise!) and are taking only $180 million from the fund, believing that the energy downturn will last 10-15 years instead of the 3-5 projected by most experts. Coal will never come back, due to global warming. But who knows? A good war may erupt, causing Dick Cheney to replace his usual scowl with something akin to a shit-eating grin. His daughter Liz will be elected to Congress and immediately make coal a mandatory snack at schools and senior centers from coast-to-coast.  Laid-off coal workers can go back to work and legislators can do what they do best, socking away mineral royalties for a rainy day that they pray never will come.

In the interest of full disclosure: I was a Wyoming state employee, an arts worker, for 25 years. I now am a Wyoming state retiree. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Happy Cheyenne Bike Week

Me and my Peugeot, back in the day. Bob Page photo.
Happy Cheyenne Bike Week.

That's "bike" as in bicycle. Bike Week as in Harley Vroom Vroom is a totally different animal (see Sturgis or Daytona).

Bicycle Week celebrates two-wheeled people-powered transportation. Sometimes it can involve three wheels, as you see in recumbent bikes for us oldsters with bad and/or replaced knees. Kids sometimes navigate the greenway on their trikes or on training-wheel-assisted bikes. That actually makes four wheels. But you get my point.

I once was a knowledgeable cyclist, riding all the time and aware of all of the makes and models and gadgets.

No more. Arthritic knees did me in. Waited too long to get them replaced and the orthopedic doc had one heck of a time making me new again. My first new knee is not so new now, replaced in April of 2015. The second knee was replaced in February of this year. For that knee, I just finished rehab. I was supposed to be finished a monthly ago but my doc decided I needed more time with the good and caring people at rehab. Their motto: "It's supposed to hurt."

Enjoyed listening to NPR's "Here and Now" report on Monday on knee replacements. One thing brought up several times was the crucial nature of rehab. You are moving that knee before the anesthesia wears off. Actually, a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine is doing the bending for you. Up, down, up, down, up, down. Mesmerizing to watch. Teaming up with the machine are strolls around the hospital and then around your house, usually with the help of a walker or cane. A week after surgery, you are off to rehab. Someone else drives, as you can't use your right leg and your brain is scrambled with Percocet. Once there, the dedicated therapists get you to bend your knee in uncomfortable ways. You occasionally hear blood-curdling screams. Some of them are yours.

Back to bikes. Thee only bike you rise during your recovery is the recumbent bike in rehab. You may want to get back on the ten-speed or mountain bike and ride to Chugwater. But that would hurt too much. And you are still on drugs, which they don't cotton to in Chug.

I may never ride a bike to work again. First of all, I'm retired. Second, my bike needs some serious work, or I need to replace it with a 21st century super-bike that costs more than my monthly mortgage payment. One bike I looked at online today has the following attributes:

  • New frame with updated commuter friendly geometry
  • Carbon fork makes the bike lighter & reduces some of the vibrations for a smoother ride
  • Shimano Alfine i8 internal gear hub
  • Shimano hydraulic disc brakes
  • Gates belt drive

  • It is beginning to sound a bit like a $20,000 Harley, although the list of goodies would be much longer. Suffice to say, this $1,100 "Raleigh i8 Flat Bar Road Bike is the apex of the Cadent line of bikes." The apex of the Cadent? It must be good. And pretty typical of the type of bike I want.

    But there's a third thing that may prevent my return to cycling. Fear. Ever had a bike wreck? I've had several. No broken bones but plenty of lacerations. In my later years, I wore a helmet now and ride mainly on the greenway. My new bike undoubtedly will be street legal and I will obey all laws, which is what retirees pledge to do when presented with their Medicare card. But a spill may wreck my knees and I am not ready to face that pain again. NPR's report said it straight -- the pain is substantial and takes time to heal. Interviewees said they knew people who took their new knees back to the jogging trail and tennis court. The producer they interviewed said it took him a year to get to the almost-pain-free stage. I am not there yet. When I reach that apex, I expect it to be all downhill from there. That used to be my favorite part, flying down hills and mountain passses. But dangers awaited around every bend. Gravel. Slick spots. Animals. Human motorists. 

    My bike adventures from now on will take place on stationary conveyances. I can still manage a great workout and, unless I get the vapors, probably will stay aboard until the timer goes off and I can move on to the weight machines. And then to the showers. And then to the brewpub. Ever tried an Apex IPA? Me neither, but I keep searching.