The Noisy Tantrum of the “Silenced”

On Thursday, there was a woman who was doing a live video-stream from the convention floor, and in this video she accuses one of the Wisconsin Bernie whips of being a “sell-out”. One of my constituents alerted me to this video, asking whether my fellow delegate had indeed “sold out.”

In the video, a Bernie whip named Matthew can be seen asking the person filming, and two people sitting with her, “Why are you here now?” I kind of wondered that, too. They were not supposed to have credentials, and they were advised that if they engaged in any kind of demonstration they would be physically removed.

I will react to this video here, but I will not post a link, nor will I post the names of any of the people involved. They are publicity hounds directly defying Bernie’s instructions to his delegates, so I will not indulge their lust for attention.

I was a direct witness to the incident recorded in the video. The video was taken by “tape-over-the-mouth” lady, and much of what she says here (at least what’s audible, her production values are sorely lacking) is complete bullshit. She is the person who’s picture was widely circulated Monday with white tape over her mouth and the word “silenced” written upon it.

A bit of background:

After the delegation breakfast on Thursday morning, the staff of DPW (Democratic Party of Wisconsin) had a meeting with Wisconsin’s Bernie delegation. It was a chance for us to air our grievances and to discuss ways to work together constructively going forward.

It was a very productive meeting, though we were presented a request/demand from the national party: If we leave the meeting room with our credentials, then we are agreeing not to disrupt the convention with dissident demonstrations, and no signs would be allowed other than those distributed by volunteers inside the hall.

It would be OK to wear a NoTPP button, but NoTPP signs were not OK.

Most of us chose to comply with the party’s (and more importantly, Bernie’s) request to follow these rules. In my case, I feel that we are more powerful if/when we are inside the room. And the Hillary camp has made efforts to make the Bernie wing happy. It felt like complying with this request would amount to a reciprocation in good will. After all, that’s politics. “You help me with this, and I won’t fight you on that.”

The three people sitting to my left were not willing to go along with this compromise. One of them surrendered her credentials after the meeting, and the other two didn’t bother to show up. (If they had credentials, they probably picked them up at the delegate table and skipped breakfast. I never saw either of them at any of the breakfasts.) I was told that tape-lady had her credentials revoked for her behavior on the first day (I could be wrong), and the person sitting directly next to me was the same one I personally watched handing in her credentials in the morning.

So Matthew was completely right to ask “why are you here right now?” They weren’t supposed to be there. He advised them that they would be physically removed if they caused any trouble, and for that they whine in the video that Matthew was a “sell-out”.

As it turns out, they did cause trouble just as Hillary’s speech began. That was when tape-lady’s tape reappeared on her mouth and she stood on her chair, and the guy next to her also put the tape on his mouth.

Tape-lady was the exact kind of person Bernie called out Monday night for eroding our credibility. She sat directly behind me on Monday night, and impressed me as a publicity hound using a gimmick to get her picture in the paper. And here she was sitting next to me again, and causing trouble again, and making me and other Bernie delegates look bad. I joined other delegates in the immediate area in holding flags and signs to deny a clear shot to any photographers in the area.

This is when tape-lady stepped over the line: she grabbed an American flag out of my hand and threw it on the floor (oh, yeah, that’s really gonna help our movement… NOT!). I replaced my flags with one of those vertical Hillary signs. For the entire week, I had resisted holding any Hillary signs, but the time had come to disassociate myself from delegates who claimed to be Bernie supporters but were not.

While this was going on, security people were approaching from the end of my row and the row in front of us to get tape-lady off of her chair… they did not want anyone standing on the chairs. Within the next minute we found out why. I don’t know whether tape-lady fell as her chair seat folded up from under her, or if she directly assaulted the woman to her left, but I saw tape-lady apparently attack the woman to her left… a “little-old-lady” Bernie delegate who was simply there to enjoy the party.

The tape-over-the-mouth people were hauled out at this point, and the innocent Bernie delegate was attended to by a doctor who was called over. Apparently she was OK, though somewhat rattled as we all were. At the after-party at the hotel, I met one of the people who sat to my right, and she was pissed off that the commotion caused her to miss the first fifteen minutes of Hillary’s acceptance speech.

I have fought for the causes represented by Bernie’s campaign for virtually my entire adult life, and my affiliations have followed the gradual mainstreaming of this platform. After thirteen years as a Zendik I became a political EarthFirst-er. For many years I was a die-hard Green (David Cobb delegate to the 2004 GNC), and now I am a Green Democrat ready to join the Social Democratic Caucus.

After all these years, we finally have a seat at the table, and the greater party is respecting and listening to us. We did not score the touchdown of getting Bernie as the nominee, but we scored a HYUGE first down, and we’re getting a lot more of our players on the field.

We are now 46% of the team, and we’re teaching the other 54% to be better players. Let’s keep doing that. To walk off the field simply because you don’t like the quarterback is not helpful. We’re winning. Let’s keep moving the ball down the field and score some touchdowns!

(Apologies to those who don’t like/understand football metaphors. If you request a translation into an alternative metaphor in the comments, I’ll give it a try.)

ONE MORE THING: I am still facing a massive credit card bill from this mission that needs to be paid before the end of the month. Any donations toward reduction of this financial debt will be greatly appreciated.

Going to the DNC.. On the INside

Most of you already know that I’ve been elected to be a Bernie delegate to the Democratic National Convention. The time is winding down before RoZ and I return to Philadelphia for the first time since we lived there over 21 years ago. So we are excited to spend a few days reconnecting with our old neighborhood, which will be followed by the intense experience of the convention itself.

Very few people get such an experience, so I plan and hope to share that experience thru a new blog that I’ve started at… http://inside-the-dnc.purplearth.net/

If you go there right now, you can read the story of how I got elected, and what I faced in the aftermath of becoming a national delegate. I still need to catch up on the adventures in fundraising, travel planning and delegation conference calls that fill the months leading up to the convention.

We may try something new: Since writing can be time-consuming, we may sometimes post audio narration of events, especially given the hectic pace of convention week.

One annoying thing I’ve encountered lately is the attitude that “Bernie doesn’t have the delegates, so why does it matter anymore?” People forget that the convention is about a lot more than nominating a candidate for president. It’s mainly about defining what the party is going to stand for during the next four years, and what message the nominee and all of the down-ticket candidates are going to carry into the general election.

As I type, the platform committee is meeting in Orlando. Our side is not getting everything we want, but the platform is a much stronger and more forward-looking document due to the influence of Sanders delegates. We are slowing – and in some cases reversing – the corporatization of the party that’s been happening for too many years, and beginning the process of turning it back into the party of FDR and JFK.

So yes, going to the convention DOES matter. I plan to make my presence count for all it can, and fight for a country where everyone can thrive and enjoy life without killing each other or the Planet. And I plan to find a way for every delegate to go home happy and united, ready to send the party of greedy bigots and assholes to the disgraced dustbin of history.

Finally, I would be remiss to not mention that this is no free ride. We are required to stay in the very expensive “official” hotel, which is $420/night for five nights. We had enough credit card reward points to cover our round-trip train fares, but the hotel bill is going to hurt without some help. So it would really help if you can pop into my gofundme page and throw something into the hat.

In the meantime, go read what I’ve written so far while I try to get caught up.

Why Bernie’s Idealism Beats Hillary’s Pragmatism

Bernie Sanders has made many bold proposals in this campaign, only to have them dismissed as “impossible” or “unrealistic”. His primary opponent will have us believe that Americans are no longer capable of doing Big Things.

If all of our presidents had thought this way, we would have never defeated the fascists, built the Interstate Highway system, or landed on the Moon. These big and visionary projects would have been incompatible with such “pragmatic” leadership.

In an American football game, the winning team is the one that is always trying to score a touchdown. That doesn’t mean they won’t accept first downs along the way, but they will devote every play to moving the ball down the field until it is in the end zone.

A team run by Bernie Sanders’ detractors would celebrate and go home after one first down, telling us that the goal line is too far away to even try to get there. That is not a winning strategy.

If we strive for idealistic goals, that doesn’t mean we won’t accept incremental steps that get us closer to those goals. It just means that those steps must be followed by more steps until our goals are achieved.

We only get what we want if we ask for it. So during the primary season, it is important to vote for what we want, rather than what we’re willing to settle for. That is why I am supporting Bernie Sanders for President, and I urge each of you to do the same.

Trump: The New Profanity

There’s a carnival clown on our TVs. His surname is the word you get when you merge tush and rump. Since those words are synonymous with each other, the merged word must also be a synonym of tush and rump.

I suggest we use this new word to replace another synonym – a word that some consider vulgar even though it appears in so much of our common lexicon. It would give us a way to say these things in “polite company.”

For instance:

Be careful in the winter or you might “slip and fall on your trump.”

When faced with an annoying and difficult task, you could call it, “a pain in the trump.”

One that is willing to vote for the carnival clown could be said to “have his head up his trump.”

A football coach could encourage a player to hustle by yelling, “Get the lead out of your trump.”

Before the big game, that coach could end his pre-game pep talk with, “Now go out there and kick some trump!”

Hopefully by now you’re thinking up more of these on your own, and laughing your trump off as you do so. Have a good weekend!

BONUS ADDENDUM: Some years ago, a sitting US Senator had his surname turned into a disgusting profanity. It would be easy to build a sentence containing both of these new words, but I’ll leave that up to you.

Trump: Defining the Size of the Republican A$$hole Caucus

As America’s quadrennial campaign circus heats up, pundits are tearing their hair out wondering how Donald Trump could be leading in the Republican primary polls while being such an a$$hole. I have a theory that (in my humble opinion, at least) makes a lot of sense.   Read on

Nixon Memory Lane

This past weekend, we “celebrated” the 40th anniversary of the day Richard Nixon resigned as US president. The iconic image of that event was Nixon smiling and waving the “V-for-victory” sign (some of us knew it as the peace sign) over his head with both hands before ducking into the helicopter to be taken away from Washington for good.

It’s at times like these that I like to read the work of my all-time favorite Nixonologist, who – as Rolling Stone magazine’s representative on the White House press corps – was watching from the Rose Garden as the helicopter flew away.

I felt sorry for him. He hit his head. Right after he did this thing [makes the v-for-victory sign] at the helicopter door, he turned and lashed his head on the top of the rounded door, staggered sideways, and he was so  — in some jurisdictions we might have called it “luded out” — he was tranquilized. There’s a civilized word for it: sedated. He was almost led up the stairs. Yeah, I felt sorry for him. Can you imagine that ride west? Jesus Christ, they flew to Andrews Air Force Base, I guess, on the helicopter, and then they had like a six-hour flight to San Clemente. Whew. That must have been a really dark flight.

From interview by Matthew Hahn in The Atlantic

I didn’t watch the resignation speech on TV but I heard it on the radio. I was working that night, making popcorn and pizza and filling sodas at a drive-in theatre near my home town. I brought my radio to work, which was frowned upon but tolerated for this special occasion. I don’t know if I really remember or if I just want to remember that the first song the DJ played after the speech was “Kings”, from Steely Dan’s album Can’t Buy a Thrill. (“We’ve seen the last of good King Richard…”)

So anyway, this weekend I was passed a link to Nixon’s obit, which I found quite entertaining, but I knew there had to be something that was written on the occasion of the resignation. It took some digging to find a full copy of “Fear and Loathing in Limbo: The Scum Also Rises.” That was too much to read, but I did read the introduction, which is mostly a rant of anger and frustration. After having just submitted a 15,000-word piece on Nixon’s resignation, Thompson was informed that “Ford pardoned the bastard.”

Hunter Thompson and Richard Nixon were more than professional adversaries.. the way Thompson tells it, they were mortal enemies. But given a common interest, mortal enemies can become the best of friends, and for Thompson and Nixon that interest was football. Thompson was the only person on the press corps who could talk football, and Nixon knew it; and he would often seek him out when he wanted to talk football instead of politics. Thompson once wrote, “the only thing Nixon was honest about was football.”

The closest I ever came to Nixon was as a hitchhiker in the early 80’s. Running out of energy late one night on a trip from LA to San Diego, I was stuck in San Clemente and rolled out my sleeping bag in the bushes outside the gate to Nixon’s compound, where I slept soundly until the sprinklers woke me up at 5am.

If Data is Collected, It Will Be Mined

Subversives, fugitives and drug dealers have operated under the assumption that all phones are tapped for as long as there have been phones. This is even more the case with today’s digital communication. The safe assumption is that every line is tapped, so when engaging in any form of electronic communication, it’s good to heed the advice given in The Anarchist Cookbook way back in the 1970’s: “If you can’t say it in front of a cop, keep it to yourself.”

So now we learn that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting and analyzing all the data they can grab. This should come as no surprise. If the data is there, they will mine it. They always have, and they always will. I’m not saying that it’s right. It’s actually contrary to every sacred principle this nation was built upon. But it is what it is.

Most of us knew all along that the emperor was walking around naked. Now that the official media has finally noticed, they’re going bat-crap crazy talking about it. Let me throw a few random thoughts into this cacophony. Read on

When is a “Scandal” a Scandal?

When a government acts in a way that some consider scandalous, it’s interesting to compare the reactions of opposing parties.

Ten years ago, the Bush regime engaged in a long litany of violations of civil liberties and international law. Their opponents were alarmed with this blatantly illegal behavior, while their defenders shrugged their shoulders and said, “No big deal.”

So now the IRS has admitted to selectively targeting organizations for scrutiny based on a political agenda, and the Justice Department has admitted to seizing the phone records of AP reporters. As a progressive, I am disturbed by this news.

After all, if these acts had been committed by the Bush/Cheney regime, they would be disturbing (although they would be lost in the long litany of alarming acts). So to have these acts committed by “our side” is no less disturbing.

And that’s the difference between authoritarians and progressives. For the right-whinge conservatives, selective enforcement or spying on reporters was OK when their side did it, but when the other side does it their heads explode. Progressives get upset no matter who does it.

So when you’re arguing with a conservative and he brings up the latest “Obama scandal,” ask him where his outrage was when Bush was conducting selective politically-motivated audits, or spying on every phone call and reading every email in the country.

A Lie By Any Other Name

Last night, Paul Ryan gave a speech to the Republican National Convention. We didn’t watch the speech, but we heard that he did a lot of lying, even though very few writers used the L-word to describe it.

This observation is not about the lies themselves (follow the links below for the rundown), but it’s about how major media outlets go out of their way to avoid using the word “lie.”

From The Guardian: “… speech includes glaring inaccuracies…”
Another headline in the same paper: “A round-up of Ryan’s most audacious untruths.”

Steve Benen on The Maddow Blog used the term “demonstrable lies” before going on with his own round-up of alternate wording.

The Huffington Post headline originally was “Paul Tales: Ryan Misleads Again & Again,” and was later changed to “Paul Ryan Address: Convention Speech Built On Demonstrably Misleading Assertions.”

The Boston Globe said the speech “strained credibility,” AP’s headline talked of “factual shortcuts,” the Washington Post‘s James Downie called it “breathtakingly dishonest,” and Brian Beutler on Talking Points Memo wrote of “misleading claims.”

Among the most euphemistic was Wolf Blitzer on CNN:

…although I marked at least seven or eight points I’m sure the fact checkers will have some opportunities to dispute if they want to go forward, I’m sure they will.

In other words, “… a lot of that sounded like bullslop, but I’ll wait for someone else to point that out.”

John Nichols was not afraid to say “Lies” in The Nation.

The biggest surprise came from Sally Kohn writing for the official media outlet of the Republican Party. Her “3 words” (actually, 3 D-words) to describe Ryan’s speech were “dazzling”, “deceiving”, and “distracting”. It’s remarkable enough for a Faux Neus piece to call one of their heroes “deceiving,” but Kohn’s elaboration includes stuff like “the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech,” and “the mountain of cow dung that flowed from Ryan’s mouth.”

It’s reassuring to see the journalistic community calling “Bullslop!” on all of this bullslop. I just wish they could use the same language the rest of us use. A lie by any other name is still a lie.

Scott Walker Must be Fired for Fraud

One week before he was elected governor, Scott Walker told the editorial board of the Oshkosh Northwestern that he was willing to work with unions and to listen to any ideas they had to save money. In general, Walker presented himself as a reasonable and collegial manager.

After the election, he told a billionaire donor of his plans to bust public employee unions as part of a “divide and conquer” strategy. This governor turned out to be the polar opposite of what he advertised himself to be. We all have friends, neighbors and family members who were directly hurt by Walker’s divisive and mean-spirited agenda.

For those who say that recalls should be reserved for cases of criminal behavior, I answer with one word: Fraud. Just as a worker would be fired for lying on a resume, the people of Wisconsin must fire Scott Walker for the frauds he committed to get elected.

Walker’s rich out-of-state cronies are dumping planeloads of money into our airwaves, mailboxes, and telephones to deliver their next round of lies. Voters must not be fooled by these expensive packages of deception, but I trust we are smart enough to recognize that gold-plated bullslop is still bullslop.

The people of Wisconsin made a major collective mistake in November 2010. Those who regret voting for Walker (or not voting at all) in that election can redeem themselves on June 5 by electing Tom Barrett as governor and Mahlon Mitchell as lieutenant governor.