Thursday, August 28, 2008

Photos from Denver

Posted By on Thu, Aug 28, 2008 at 11:19 AM

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Posted By on Wed, Aug 27, 2008 at 6:36 PM

Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of LA, broke into Spanish  Wednesday morning, in an enthusiastic speech to the Democratic Party's Hispanic Caucus. His speech followed a talk by Michelle Obama which we tried but failed to record (mike in headphone jack).

Michelle Obama mostly repeated the themes of her big speech from Monday night (how cute Barrack is, etc., etc.) but she did spend some time talking about black-Hispanic solidarity and called for a path to legalization for 12 million undocumented immigrants. My notes are sketchy, because I thought I was recording it.

Villaraigosa called for Latinos to vote, keeping in mind the large number of Latino immigrants who are not able to vote. In other words, to vote Latino interest. A year ago, that could have meant supporting John McCain who was outspoken in support of a moderately progressive immigration reform. 

The immigration discussion has simmered down a bit, but should be a major issue in this election.

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Advice to Craig

Posted By on Wed, Aug 27, 2008 at 3:21 PM

Just ran into Craig Newmark, of, outside of the Big Tent, the indy blogger conclave for Convention '08. He was interviewing Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's former campaign manager, on a new-fangled little video "device". At the end of the "interview" Newmark remarked that he's just pretending to be a journalist but that he's keeping his day job.

Newmark, whom we chatted up for a minute, was on his way to Arianna Huffington's suite for a little foot massage. He posted the massage video on his blog before the Trippi video, showing that Newmark has his craigslist priorities in order, at least. We won't scoop him on the interview... perhaps it will show up later, or maybe he decided it was not really news.

We like Newmark and think he is sincerely trying to utilize technology in novel and helpful ways, but we agree he should keep his day job. Here's a few tips for Newmark and all the indy bloggers out there:

1) An interview does not mean recording a guy saying whatever the hell he wants. Ask some damn questions.
2) Everything is not news. You are drowning us with mere documentation. Know when something is really happening, man.
3) Don't assume people know what you are talking about. Either give us some context or at least a wikipedia link or something. What is networked governance, Craig... we need a little more information!
4) Don't diss the old media if you use it. Huffington has a very valid critique of traditional journalism and its elevation of equity over truth. But half the stuff on her site is AP wire copy. If you can do it better, then do it. If not, then don't whine about it.
5) Figure out a way to organize yourselves better. Perhaps this is a good project for Craig, because I am totally overwhelmed trying to separate the blog wheat from the blog chaff. Help a brother out.

The is a real debate going on in terms of credentialing at this DNCC. The Democratic Party has given bloggers nearly free reign, but the gatekeepers, the U.S. Senate Press Galleries, have been overwhelmed with newbie issues, according to one inside source, who spoke to BW over rum and cokes and thus will not be named. "Journalists" credentialed by the DNC have been spotted working the floor with Obama stickers and buttons on, wearing shorts and hats, and acting like amateurs. Some of them have been kicked out.

While we are completely in favor of throwing open the doors and changing the rules of journalism, every avocation needs some rules and some standard operating procedures. Who is going to figure that out?

I nominate Newmark.

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Schumer likes LaRocco

Posted By on Wed, Aug 27, 2008 at 1:54 PM

New York Sen. Chuck Shumer, chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee gave Idaho U.S. Senate candidate Larry LaRocco a pat on the back this morning, after presenting a slate of Democratic Senate challengers in battleground states to the press.

“Larry LaRocco is doing well,” Schumer said, in response to a shouted query from BW that penetrated the media horde surrounding an unfazed Schumer. “Idaho is a very red state.”

Then he walked off with his two harried aides.

LaRocco, who is actually in Denver this week networking and fundraising, is not on the DSCC target list this year, but Schumer said earlier during the press conference that the equation keeps changing. The latest "change" is in Mississippi, which the DSCC considers the most conservative state in the nation (Wyoming is the most Republican state, according to Schumer).

"All of a sudden new seats keep popping up," Schumer said, as Senate candidates from Colorado, New Hampshire, Virginia, New Mexico and Oregon stood behind him.

LaRocco has not received any material support from the DSCC, but campaign spokesman Dean Ferguson tells BW citydesk that he's gotten moral support and may yet reap some of the committee's largesse as the election gets closer. 

LaRocco is in a five-way race for Larry Craig's open seat. His main opponent is Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, but the crowded field has led many to speculate (including the Wall Street Journal) that the race could be competitive.

We'll try to catch up with LaRocco later as he drops in on the bloggers outside the convention hall.

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Today's citydesk column

Posted By on Wed, Aug 27, 2008 at 8:46 AM

Below is this week's citydesk column that runs in the actual Boise Weekly... Last night I saw the woman who wrote, or helped write, Michelle Obama's speech (can't these people write their own speeches anymore?) at a post-Hillary speech party. After writing this I thought it unseemly to ask her about the speech... this morning I regret not asking her why all the cliches....

Pomp and cowboy hats
This week, citydesk is brought to you from a Denver coffee shop, as the pomp and circumstance of the Democratic National Convention swirls about the not-so-gritty downtown streets.
With Barack Obama at the top of the ticket and with the convention in a decent Western city, we didn't expect so much pomp and cliche. But they planned this thing before Obama emerged as the leader, before he'd even developed his change thing, so who knew a year ago that Americans didn't really want more of the same old same old.

There is a major disconnect between the thoughtful way that Obama speaks about American politics and the shallow, partisan spin that has exhibited itself at the beginning of the convention in Denver.

Of course, he's not here yet, but some 24 hours into this Denver racket, we do not get the feeling that this is Obama's convention. At least not yet.

On the campaign trail, Obama has increasingly dipped into cliches and bald political rhetoric of his own. He uses some tired techniques like watching the convention on some average American's sofa and then introducing them to the entire country in a video chat.

But then he talks about himself and his experience and the American experience and it sounds pretty authentic.

The convention's first night, on the other hand, was all about political cliche, from the actors—Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, maybe Joe Biden who showed up but did not speak—to the bad music, transparent attacks on John McCain and identity politics.

Not to mention the extravagance of the venue and the excesses of the security apparatus.

Even Michelle Obama fell into the cliche trap in her kicker speech on opening night, trying too hard to make herself into some pollster's demographic. The Obamas do not have to keep saying they are just a working class girl from the South Side and a skinny Hawaiian kid with a funny name raised by a single mom. They are running for president of the United States now, which puts them in a demographic of their own.

Though her speech bored us with its sentimentality, Michelle did look and sound sincere about how much she loves Barack and all the personal stuff. If she did not have anything new or earth-shattering to say, she could have just waved to the crowd, like Jimmy Carter did, and it would have been enough.

But we ain't gonna lie. When Michelle walked out on stage in that mint dress and smiled at America, we got a little teary eyed. We couldn't see if Wolf Blitzer was having the same private moment we were, but Michelle did not even have to open her mouth to make a huge statement.

Making statements

Earlier that day, two white boys tried to make a statement at the Democratic National Committee’s Black Caucus meeting. About 15 minutes into the discussion, one of them stood up and started shouting something about a black holocaust. It took us a minute to realize he was talking about abortion.

The room full of former civil rights workers, black members of Congress and black Democratic activists from all 50 states, happily shouted him down with an Obama chant as cops escorted the man from the room.
Some 20 minutes later, another white guy stood up and did the same thing, only to be hauled off by the same bored police.

We mention their race because after these two incidents, this citydesk writer was the only white boy left in that part of the room and were getting some interesting looks.

A man in front with whom we’d held hands during the invocation, turned and asked what was going on, and a big woman right behind us actually took off her high heal shoe and waved it, anticipating another white boy rant.
Wellington Webb, a black man and former Denver mayor, remarked that in 2008, when black people have a meeting the cops are there to make sure it does not get interrupted, not to break it up.

A palpable feeling is among the delegations—including the Idaho delegation—that this is the change Obama is talking about. A change in the power structure in America that the Obama family embodies and that many, many Americans relate to.

That’s why we shed a tear when Michelle Obama appeared on stage Monday night.

But the convention funders and many of the political hacks who marched up on stage that first night do not necessarily get this. Hillary Clinton never got it and Nancy Pelosi did not give any indication that she gets it in her opening speech. But the millions of otherwise-uninterested voters Obama has politicized get it. That’s why nearly a quarter of the delegates are black and this is the most diverse political convention ever.

Too much Jesus
Another indication that Obama’s change thing is being co-opted is the amount of Jesus talk in Denver. Perhaps Obama is bringing more religious people into the Democratic tent or making it more kosher for Democrats to talk about religion, but since when do Democrats pray in Jesus’ name on national television?

There are big interfaith services, which are fine, but every meeting we attended Monday started with prayer, half the speeches end with the old God bless America thing and some delegates openly talk about making the Democratic Party more overtly religious.

While Republicans don’t own religious voters, there must be one party in this big country that does not try to push the notion of America as a Christian nation. If not, it puts our entire democratic system at risk. You’d think you were back in the Idaho Legislature.

Former Denver Mayor Wellington put it well, if a bit out of context: in Denver you are a mile closer to heaven than you are ever going to be.

Back on the ranch

Now for a few updates on the home front. Army deserter Robin Long, a Boise native, was sentenced to 15 months in jail, after being kicked out of Canada and returned to his unit at Fort Carson, Colo. He will also get a dishonorable discharge.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter is back to parking on the street like us normal people after the City of Boise agreed to provide two spots on Eighth Street for the black Suburban the Idaho State Police uses to transport him. Otter’s security vehicle had been parked on the sidewalk since his office was moved across the street to the Borah Building last year.

And an accountant’s review of the state tax commission cleared tax commissioners of any wrongdoing, but called for more scrutiny of their work in settling tax disputes with large out-of-state corporations. Whistle-blowing auditors within the tax office are still crying foul and it remains to be seen if the Legislature will take any action.

More news from Denver at, and news from Iraq below:
U.S. CASUALTIES: As of Tuesday, August 26, 2008, 4,149 U.S. service members (including 31 Idahoans) have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 3,371 in combat and 778 from non-combat-related incidents and accidents. Injured service members total 30,561. In the last week, two U.S. soldiers died.
Since President George W. Bush declared “mission accomplished” aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, 3,997 soldiers have died.
Source: U.S. Dept. of Defense
IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 86,664 and 94,561.
COST OF IRAQ WAR: $548,655,347,680

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Reading the convention

Posted By on Tue, Aug 26, 2008 at 7:32 PM

With thousands of journalists and some infinite number of bloggers, activists and pundits covering this convention, finding some fresh views can be a frustrating prospect.

Google (which provided me with a tasty and perfectly chilled smoothy as I reported this blog post) has a few cool ways to organize your reading. In fact, I was on my way to ask Arianna Huffington what she was reading, when a young, proud Google employee intercepted me with a smoothy.

Google had pre-emtped my question... you too can see exactly what Arianna is reading on her Google Reader page. Google also has McCain and Obama on there, though they are obviously driving users to favorable stories. A few other "Powerreaders"are listed as well. And the Google has a pretty amazing elections page that gives you access to news, blogs, videos, etc. in a very tidy format.

I am getting a little annoyed at the Google thinking I just want Boise search results though... it feels dirty, but at least they don't know that I am actually in Denver. Yahoo! has got it's own decent elections aggregation site that actually has an editor.

I still went to hear Huffington, who runs the mega-blog Huffington Post, speak on New Media at the Big Tent, a workspace for bloggers a few blocks from the convention. HuffPost pulls together a nice mix of traditional reporting, commentary and according to Huff, more mundane topics in an effort to win new readers for the site's lefty political stance, which Huffington considers wholly mainstream.

I wanted to ask Arianna how she feels about the alt press and the ethnic media which are both working Denver in interesting ways, but she only had time for three softball questions. So I followed her down to her hospitality suite where I was handed a pomegranate juice and offered a massage. One bald dude was meditating in a corner. Women were practicing yoga. Trays of vegetarian pate were circulating. And a table full of bloggers furiously posted video and monitored comments on the site.

Alas, Arianna seemed a bit harried, so I left her alone and went next door to the Tattered Cover, a great bookstore in downtown Denver. Maybe she'll have a comment for citydesk in the morning...

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Lateblogging the convention

Posted By on Tue, Aug 26, 2008 at 2:00 PM

(This report is coming out incrementally and may not be totally liveblogged although we are here in Denver, we are alive and, I suppose, we are blogging because it’s de rigueur for a newsman to blog here. We’re sorry if you are following BW’s every move in Denver in Twitter time, but we tend to write in spurts and need time to recover. We also need some time to think before spouting off. So here’s a reflection from Day 1 in Denver posted late on Day 3. Let's call it lateblogging.)

Say you are rolling into Denver to cover a big political event, like a convention of Democrats.

And say you’re from a town like Boise, which is basically off the Democratic Party map, though Barack Obama’s is trying to at least stick a few colorful pins in the urban Idaho landscape.

(A man. A plan. Boise.)

What’s the pre-game strategy. First you need shelter and provisions.

Luckily, our trusty fixer, a “local” with a fairly solid command of the English language whom we’ll call Wolf, was on hand with a clean Volvo to rescue us from a lecture by one of the airport baggage handlers.

Perhaps noting our large, white cowboy hat, this toothless, Gulf War Vet looked at us askance and asked, “Whatcha’ think of McCain?”

Getting into game form, we shot back, “Wadda’ YOU think of him?”

“McCain’s fucked up,” the guy responds. “Welcome to Denver.”

Shelter is adequate, a short bike ride from the various convention venues on Denver’s version of the Boise River Greenbelt, which is quite functional and a bit more urban feeling.
Provisions were nominal.

Then it’s off to meet a contact at the big Sheraton downtown where the press credentialing was going on.

Did we mention we went down to Denver with zero credentials and little chance of actually getting in to the convention?

We had two rounds with retired New York Times photog Paul Hosefros, who’s working for us here in Denver, by the way. Hosefros made some inquiries for us. We went down to the basement to find a guy named Rob Z who works for the U.S. Senate and told us to come back at 1 p.m. the next day and he’d see what he could do.

OK, sounds promising.

Then back to the Sheraton bar, which was crawling with operatives. We bought a beer for a former Al Gore press secretary who now runs a company that creates a wi-fi bubble around the press corps following Obama.

He didn’t drink it because he was too busy trying to get inside the Obama bubble in Denver. Poor guy.

Then we met Hosefros down at the Pepsi Center, which was in the process of being completely cordoned off, utilizing the latest in cordoning off technology learned in Baghdad.

How come none of these Democrats mention our greatly increased understanding of the use of condoning blast wall technology as one of the great successes of the War in Iraq? I mean, credit where credit is due…

Once inside Hosefros pointed out that Idaho’s section had been moved up into the bleachers so we set out to figure out why.

The Democratic National Committee press office is located in a white tent out side the Pepsi Center. As one receptionist Googled the Boise Weekly, another went to find a public affairs person.

She came back with a lovely response: “We don’t do drop-ins … call the office later.”
For the record, we called several times and never got an answer.

For the evening we had a few choices of places to go to get the pulse of the pre-convention. The 16th Street Mall is a long pedestrian strip full of Hard Rock Café-type places. It was busy, but not an appealing reporting backdrop.

A small mojito bar where our fixer drinks for free, provided some insights into Denverites expectations for the week. But it was pretty dead.

Perhaps we should have headed to some of the larger hotels, but that’s where all the journalists were hanging out. And what do they know?

So we went down to the Diamond Cabaret to see who might be ookin’ pa nub on the Sunday before the ball drops. Hoping to find a ruddy-faced Bill Clinton handing out dollar bills to dejected Hillary staffers, or at least some fresh faced Utah Dems livin’ it up, we were disappointed (as were the ladies that work there and could, potentially facilitate a juicy scandal this week) to find the place dead.

Again, for the record, citydesk has the utmost respect for the stripper’s trade and looked these girls in the eye while asking if any politicos had been by. It was strictly business. And besides, our corporate expense account didn’t kick in until the next day, so we could not even afford this joint.

So, in summary, of the 14,000 odd first-hand accounts of the blogo-sphere’s first day in Denver, who nominates citydesk for the most detailed, entertaining and productive? We are not just bloggers here, ya know, we are seasoned journalists, representatives of the alternative press, Idahoans and we have a bike. And tomorrow some of these words will actually fill a printed page, there preserved for posterity.

That ought to count for something.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Idaho sent up to nosebleeds

Posted By on Mon, Aug 25, 2008 at 1:44 PM

The Idaho delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Denver may have been excited to see that they would be sitting on the floor of the Pepsi Center, close enough to the big stage to see Obama’s pimples. But that was Saturday.

Sometime on Sunday the seating arrangements got all swapped around to accommodate Joe Biden’s people. Delaware, according to convention tradition, gets a front row seat, so that bumped Idaho into the bleachers. Way into the bleachers. A floor seat became practically an airborne seat.

But it’s not all bad. Idaho delegate Jerry Brady wrote in a column that his compatriots did not really mind.

"Idaho delegates seemed not the least disturbed by this Sunday. Many were dancing the early night away at a splashy party thrown by the Louisiana Delegation at the Colorado Convention Center to highlight the transformation taking place in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina."
Besides, the Idahoans will get a bird’s eye view of the proceedings. And with some decent opera glasses, they might still be able to see what’s going on on stage. Or they could just look at the humongous screen that serves as a backdrop to the speaker.

BW will be up even higher in the stands by the way, having secured a press pass by the skin of our teeth just this afternoon. But we get to take turns running the floor with a bunch of other hacks.

Incidentally, New York filled back into what was once Idaho’s choice floor seats.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Robin Long convicted

Posted By on Fri, Aug 22, 2008 at 10:30 PM

Sarah Lazare, project director of Courage to Resist, an organization that supports military war resisters, has the most detailed report yet on Robin Long, the Boise man who deserted his army unit, fled to Canada and was recently deported back to the U.S. to stand trial. Lazare reports that Long was sentenced to 15 months in jail for desertion and given a dishonorable discharge.

BW interviewed Long  in 2006 and attempted to get an interview with him prior to his recent sentencing.

NYT also has a short report, quoting 
Long's attorney, James Branum: “He may have committed an illegal action, but morally he was right, and it meant a lot for him to say that to the Army.”

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Denver cartoonist obsessed with Henbest

Posted By on Fri, Aug 22, 2008 at 8:59 PM

Though she is not going to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Denver Westword illustrator Kenny Be wishes she was.

Retiring State Rep. Margaret Henbest is the main caricature in the Idaho installment of Be's series on the state and territorial delegations headed to Denver. But Henbest is not a delegate and won't be going to Denver.

Be told BW:

"The Idaho delegates had not been selected when I wrote/drew the Idaho portion of "Delegating Denver" in October of 2007. While doing my Idaho research, I became obsessed with Margaret Henbest. I don't remember why, probably because of her last name, so I made her the delegate in hopes that she would come to the convention."
Should Henbest decide to attend the convention on her own, Be offered her tent space in his yard.
Several other characters in Be's cartoon are not on the delegate list either as he did the drawing well before the June state convention. The cartoon can be viewed on the BW Beat as well.

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