Sunday, August 31, 2008

Baracky High in Colorado

Going to Denver was like going to the mountain top. There we were on the anniversary of Dr. King’s March on Washington, celebrating a historic moment in American history – the nomination of the first African American as President of the United States. However, in the back of the minds of the Mississippi delegation was the potential destruction of our homes or our friends’ home in Mississippi and Louisiana. You could feel the tangible tension between the high of being in Denver while our eyes were watching the weather way back in Mississippi.

The evening was one of celebration, and the Mississippi Delegation was high on Obama at the Invesco Field party. While the substantive content of the evening can be seen through the traditional media, being on the ground was a very different experience. The Mississippi delegation was seated in the back of the field to the right of the podium and just in front of the CNN stage with MSNBC on our right and ABC on our left. Although we had the side view of the podium at a distance, we had close up and personal contact with the media. We got to watch as the makeup artists touched up the sweating faces of Wolf Blitzer and Campbell Brown. They had their backs to us but when not filming they would watch intently. Joe Scarborough, who is very large in person, was clearly moved by the event although he’s a Republican. Katy Couric stopped by the ABC stage to speak to Diane Sawyer whose hairdresser was desperately trying to fix her hair in the wind. You could really see Sawyer’s dark roots, so we now know she’s not a natural blonde. During the music moments Donna Brazile grabbed a rather stiff Wolf Blitzer and started to dance with him. The Mississippi delegation below the media were also dancing and singing along to the music. For that night we were all celebrities and the media were part of our delegation.

However, it was when Barack Obama actually took the stage that a calm intensity pervaded the crowd and turned the party atmosphere into a moment in which we all felt that history was being made. Obama explained that this has not been a campaign about him; it’s about us. In other words it’s about what we, the American people, hope our country will be. If you read his book The Audacity of Hope, Obama clearly explains why Americans are different; our sights are always on the ideal because we are a country based not on land, not on aristocracy, but on an idea of equality. We are all celebrities, and celebrities are just people like us. The message and the moment merged.

So, the night ended. Contrary to the prayers of some conservative ministers who prayed for rain, it was beautiful weather-- clear, cool, and dry. Considering that hurricanes in the Gulf are taking the spotlight away from the Republican National Convention, we might conclude that someone up there is for the Democrats this year.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sarah Who????

We had to stay up all night Thursday. We were advised to arrive at the airport 4 hours before our flight, because of all the thousands of people who would be leaving Denver that day. Our flight left at 7 am, so we had to be at the airport by 3 am. It takes about an hour to get to the airport, and it was almost 1 am when we got to our room. We needed that hour to bath, change clothes, and pack.

True to form, the advice to arrive 4 hours early left out some crucial information. The airport doesn't even open until 3 am, and you can't check in until 4 am. Consequently, there were bodies stretched out on the floor of the airport sleeping. It looked like a homeless shelter! Have you noticed how airports no longer have couches or any place to lie down and catch a nap or just rest? And guess what? None of the carts to carry the handicapped were operating yet. Plus, only one of the security gates was open. This was probably the busiest day the Denver airport will ever have, and they treated it like any other day. Go figure! It's been a hundred years since the last time Denver hosted the Democratic Convention. I bet it's another hundred before the next one.

While we were in the airport waiting for our plane, we heard rumors of Sarah Palin being picked as Vice President by John McCain. We didn't know for sure until we got to the Houston airport. We didn't have time to learn much about her, because there was little time between our flights. (But Houston did have electric carts - and nice people running them - one of them originally from Natchez.)

Once we got home I started researching Sarah Palin, but I was way too sleepy to learn much. But today, I've been doing plenty of research.

My bottom line analysis is that it was a brilliant move for McCain. The political pundits had been making much of the "enthusiasm" gap between the Democrats and the Republicans. And after the Democrats had such a successful Convention with their exciting candidates and excited delegates, McCain needed something bold to innervate his campaign. Picking Sarah Palin was definitely bold, and it immediately took the media attention away from the Democrats.

Palin will continue to get media attention, because she is a very interesting character. In fact, if McCain isn't careful, she'll eclipse him.

The first thing she did was excite the base of the Republican Party, because she is perfect on all the issues that they care about - guns, gays, God, and abortion. Plus she has a son in Iraq - and a handicapped child. What more could they ask for? Experience? Knowledge of foreign affairs? That's not important, and Senator McCain has that. Of course, he's 72 and might easily die in office and leave her as President - but they don't seem to worry about that.

Liberals and Democrats are horrified at the thought of President Sarah Palin, and they think every thinking person will be also. "Thinking" is the key word here. Most voters don't base their decisions on thought - but on who they like. (Think George Bush.)

And lots of voters are going to like this woman. If you want an interesting SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of Palin, check out this blog article by Andrew Halco, who ran against her as an Independent and lost. He has been a critic on his blog ever since the election, but he gives what appears to be an objective analysis. Here are some comments he made:
"You really have to have a high level of respect for Governor Palin in the sense that she has the real ability to connect with people. . . I've learned you never underestimate her. . . While I and others criticized her glittering generalities during the campaign, the more she spoke them the more people fell in love. That is the significant power she has of making voters forget about the policy and focus on the person."

She is extremely popular in Alaska, with favorability ratings in 80's. According to Halco, her Democratic opponent, Tony Knowles, was totally surprised by what his polling showed:
Palin scored off the charts with well educated moderate and liberal women. This seemed counter intuitive given Palin's inability to articulate public policies and her very conservative postion on issues such as abortion. But this was the power of Palin.

So Democrats had better not underestimate this woman. Is she unqualified to be Vice President? Absolutely. Will people care? That remains to be seen.

She's definitely not used to the unbelievable media scrutiny she will be under. She will undoubtedly make gaffes and have unfavorable press. She's used to saying what she thinks and doing what she wants - and getting away with it. That won't happen anymore. But will it matter?

Palin's selection was a blatant play by McCain for the disillusioned Hillary supporters. Hillary has done everything she possibly could to persuade her supporters to get behind Obama, and the Obama campaign has made several significant moves in the right direction. However, it's obvious his campaign still doesn't get it when it comes to women. (That pathetic roll call vote was a perfect example.) However, most Hillary supporters will vote for Obama because of the issues they care about. But a certain percentage will be drawn to McCain by the presence of Palin. The size of the percentage may determine who wins this election.

Any person who runs for President has to have a healthy ego. Obama's was too big to allow him to take a chance on selecting Hillary (and Bill) for Vice President - a move that would have guaranteed his election. McCain's ego is also huge, but he took the risk of selecting Palin, because he thought it might be the move than wins him the election. We'll see in November who made the right decision.

Denver & DNC Insensitive to Disabled

Denver never should have been chosen for the Democratic Convention. It simply does not have enough hotels, and its public transportation system is inadquate. Denver was chosen for political reasons - the Democrats want to win in Colorado - and its logistic weaknesses were overlooked.

In order to house all the thousands of people who come to a Convention, Denver had to use hotels scattered over several miles from the location of the Pepsi Center, where the Convention was held. There were supposed to be shuttle buses running from the hotels downtown, but this was not really true. Buses were for delegates only, so that all the other people had no access. In addition, the buses didn't start running until the afternoon to take delegates to the main event at the Pepsi Center. If they wanted to attend a meeting, go to an event, or just tour Denver, even delegates were SOL.

State delegations are assigned to hotels by the Democratic National Committee. Since Mississippi is not considered important, its hotel was in the boonies. Fortunately, we were relatively close to the last stop of the light rail. If you were young and healthy and unaffected by the altitude, you could walk, if you don't mind walking on roads with no sidewalks, which was quite dangerous. The staff at our hotel was extremely nice, and they would run people to the station in their van, and you could call them to come get you when you returned. Some delegations had to take shuttles for an hour to get to the light rail.

Denver made changes in the light rail service because of the Convention. There was only one problem, no one knew about it. People who worked at our stop had no idea about the changes, so they gave bad advice. Once we arrived downtown, there was no one to tell us where to get off. It took us a couple of trips to figure it out. When we got off the light rail, we had to take a shuttle bus to get closer to the Pepsi Center - but once again, no one told any of us that. And we had to figure out on our own where to get on and off the bus. Then we still had to walk several blocks to the first security fence. Once inside, we thought for sure there would be carts for the handicapped, but there were none - although we saw lots of "important" people in carts. It was a very long walk in the sun, with reduced oxygen because of the altitude, until we arrived at the second fence. Still no handicapped carts in evidence.

The trip from the hotel to the Convention took about 2 hours one way, so there was no going back to the hotel during the day. We were invited to parties and events, but we didn't go to any, because it was too much trouble to get there.

To make matters worse, Denver police and/or Secret Service would sometimes just stop the light rail or the buses without telling anyone - and with no idea when it would resume. Then you were just stuck wherever you were. Taxies are prohibitively expensive. One time when the buses just stopped running, I had to take a pedicab (a cart powered by a young person on a bicycle) which cost $2 a block - so it cost $20 plus tip to take me 10 blocks.

There were a few times that we were lucky enough to find the carts for the disabled, but there was no way to call for one and no one knew where they were or how to get one. We had one woman in our delegation in a wheelchair, and she seemed to have a slightly easier time of it. At least she had wheels, and sometimes people would offer to help by pushing it. Also, people could at least tell she was handicapped. But there were several of us in the delegation with handicaps that aren't visible, and we got no sympathy at all - especially from all the young people who seem to populate campaigns.

One time, I was about to faint, and people around me caught me and called the paramedics. But they didn't even have oxygen - and had no way to call me a cart. They didn't even have one themselves. Unless I wanted them to call me an ambulance, I had to just keep walking. The place was a nightmare.

There was another state blogger who was handicapped, and she and I shared our total dismay with the way we and others in our delegations were treated. Once we've recovered from the Convention, we plan to communicate our concerns to the DNC. However, I don't really expect much of a response.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Our Media Coverage

When we went to the Blogger party that the DNC gave, I was interviewed by M S Bellows from Huffington Post. I don't think it made it into an article, but I did find a clip of it on YouTube.

I've also been told that CNN ran one of our video clips of a Clinton caucus meeting and gave credit to our blog.

It's interesting that both of these deal with Hillary. I think the media really wanted some kind of Clinton/Obama drama - and were disappointed when it did not really appear.

I just found another story about the roll call vote.

Before we left, the Natchez Democrat ran an article about us.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Vice President Biden

First nominator was Quincy Lucas of Delaware, an activist on violence against women. Then he was nominated by acclimation.

His son Bo introduced him. He is the Attorney General of Delaware who has just been called to active duty in Iraq. You couldn't ask for a better, more heartfelt introduction.

Biden started by acknowledging his son and family. Then he accepted the nomination. His mother was in the audience, and he told wonderful stories about her.

Then he talking about the middle class, their needs and values - and why Obama can be their hero. Good quote: "Work is more than a paycheck - it's dignity. It's looking your kid in the eye and saying we're going to be alright."

He talked about Obama as a person and a Senator. Then he attacked McCain as more of the same. "That's not change - that's more of the same" was the chant. "We need more than a good soldier - we need a wise leader."
"That's the change we need."

He's a powerful speaker - especially on foreign affairs. He gave us multiple examples of why "John McCain was wrong, and Barack Obama was right."

I think millions of Americans will immediately bond with this man. As Bill Clinton said, "Obama hit it out of the park" when he picked Biden.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I've been in love with Joe Biden for 36 years, from the first time I saw him after he got elected to the Senate when he and I were both 29. My admiration for him has continued to grow, and I think he and his family are a perfect match with Obama and his family. The song they played afterward was "We Are Family" - but we are America is also true.

Support the Troops

Democrats show what "Support the Troops" really means - actually supporting the troops - not wearing a bumper sticker. A moving video that brought tears to eyes. This was followed by an inspiring talk by disabled Iraq vet Tammy Duckworth. The crowd loved her.

John Kerry Rocks

He contrasted Maverick McCain with Candidate McCain. "Talking about being for it before being against it! Before McCain debates Obama, he should finish the debate with himself." He was very skilled with his attack on McCain. Then he went on to praise Obama. Great speech!

We Love You Bill!

President Bill Clinton got a rousing welcome by the whole place. (See video of Mississippi's reaction). I can tell from our delegation that all is forgiven, and it's okay to love Bill again.

He made a convincing case for Obama. Great quote: "People abroad have always been more impressed by the power of our example than the example of our power." He went on to attack the Republicans and MCain.

He was the Bill Clinton we all love. Another great line: "I was elected when the Republicans said I was too young and inexperienced. Sound familiar? It didn't work then and it won't work now."

I dare anyone to criticize that speech - he was terrific! Well, maybe he was just a tad less wonderful than his wife.

Wednesday's Speakers

The tribute to the troops was led by a very good speaker. The Democrats need to recruit this guy - he's good!

The women in my delegation liked Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. One of our delegates, Angela Cockerham, went to a luncheon where she spoke and came away very impressed.

Senator Evan Bayh is making liars out of all those who said he was boring. He's really pretty lively and interesting.

Senator Jack Reed was interrupted by the arrival in our midst of Jamie Foxx, and then Secretary Albright. (see video) Senator Daschle came next.

Bill's up next!

The Roll Call Vote

I found out this morning that the roll call vote would be at 3 pm today. We had assumed it would be during prime time. So I just rushed (to the extent possible with our transportation challenges) over here after the morning caucuses. I think the early hour is an attempt by the Obama campaign to downplay the vote, which I personally think is a mistake. People love to watch the roll call of the states.

Delores Huerta of California made the nomination for Hillary. Most delegates are not here, including all the Hillary delegates who were meeting with Hillary herself. The New York delegation is practically empty. Of course, like all these early events, no one is listening. Everyone is roaming around talking. A young boy from Utah is seconding the nomination. Then Denise Harris of New York also seconded. They seemed to all be from regular people. The speeches were brief and only took about 15 minutes.

Michael Wilson, an Iraq veteran, is now nominating Obama. He's getting a much better response. Next up is Colorado Senator Ken Salazar. Congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz of Florida and the Florida Clinton Chair is the next seconder. Next is Representative Artur Davis of Alabama - with a rousing response from the Alabama right next to us.

Alabama casts 48 for Obama and 5 for Clinton. Alaska 15 to 3. American Samoa 9-0. Arizona 40 - 27. Arkansas 47 - 0. California passes. Colorado 55 - 15. Connecticut - 38-21 ? Delaware 23 - o. Democrats Abroad 8.5 - 2.5. DC 33-7. Florida 136-51-1 abstention. Georgia 82-18. Guam 4-3. Hawaii 26 - 1. Idaho 20 -3. Illinois pass. Indiana 75-6. Iowa 48-9. Kansas 34-6. Kentucky 36-24. Louisiana 43-7. Maine 24-8. Maryland - here I lost track in the commotion in the Mississippi delegation getting ready for their moment in the sun.

Right after the roll call started, there was a huge fracas going on in the Mississippi delegation, because they'd been told they would not get to announce their votes. They were furious and started complaining loudly. Other states must have done the same, because the initial plan was changed. The yielding did not start early but instead the roll call went on to New Mexico.

I have posted video of Mississippi casting their vote and their reaction to finale.

Hillary More Than Meets Expectations

There was tremendous pressure on Hillary tonight, and she absolutely delivered. I've been a Hillary watcher for over 15 years, and that's the best speech she's ever given. Her goal was to convince her supporters to get behind Obama, and she gave them reasons that she knew would work best - the issues she knows they care about.

The media criticized her for not saying more about Obama personally, but that would not have worked. Her supporters are not going to be convinced to like Obama, but they can be convinced to vote for, and even work for, him to assure universal health coverage and other key issues she represented.

I've already seen the effect of Hillary's speech on the Mississippi Clinton delegation. Yesterday at their caucus, all the Clinton delegates indicated their intention to vote for Hillary on the first ballot. This morning when they actually had to cast their votes, about half voted for Obama.

On a personal note, I must admit that tears streamed from my eyes from the moment Chelsea appeared to introduce her mother until after Hillary left. I was very proud of Hillary's speech, but it was also very sad for me to let go of my dream of an ideal woman President - and I doubt there will be another in my lifetime.

You Might Be a Blogger If ... Top Ten

On Tuesday, Casey and I attended a luncheon/tailgating party for all the official state bloggers. We met in the tent reserved for the bus drivers. Howard Dean, Chair of the National Democratic Party and the originator of bloggers being seated with each state delegation, spoke to the group. Looking around I came up with this list:

You might be a blogger if… Top Ten

10. You only wear shorts and sandals even to a luncheon.

9. You worship Howard Dean.

8. You don’t own a razor (this goes for men and women).

7. You wear skinny dark- rimmed glasses.

6. You have a permanent bad-hair day.

5. You use acronyms.

4. You love gadgets and don’t mind photographing yourself.

3. You’re smart and techno-savvy, but socially challenged.

2. You are suspicious of main-stream media.

And the top way to know if you might be a blogger….

1. You and your wacky friends might be responsible for electing the next leader of the free world. Awesome!

In Mississippi Home Is Not a Plural Noun

An energetic young woman in the Mississippi delegation is distantly kin to John McCain. However, she is more kin than kind (with apologies to Shakespeare). Maggie Lowery is representing our state as a true Mississippian. How do we know? She knows how many houses she owns, and more importantly, she knows what home means to Mississippians.

When you enter the great state of Mississippi, our welcome sign reads: “Mississippi: It Feels Like Coming Home.” Like Maggie, real Mississippians understand the depth of our sense of place. Our writers celebrate it; our people live it.

However, as we have recently learned, John McCain has a very different view of home. Although he proudly claims Mississippi roots, McCain is no Mississippian! When you own houses across the United States in places like Los Angeles, Aspen, New York, Washington and Coronado and all of those “homes” cost millions of dollars each, you can’t really understand the meaning of home to Mississippians. In Mississippi, average homes cost approximately 200,000 dollars; In Mississippi foreclosures jumped over 91% in 2007 and real estate professionals are expecting it to rise by the end of 2008. How can Mississippians think that John McCain can relate to their struggles?

Explaining how out of touch with real Texans Geroge H. Bush was, the great, late Molly Ivins explained: “In Texas, summer is not a verb.” It’s time for Mississippians to explain to John McCain that “In Mississippi, home is not a plural noun.” We know where home is, and we know how many we have.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Governors Speak

Governor of Ohio Ted Strickland had some great lines and received good response from the crowd. He emphasized jobs.

Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts, got a enthusiastic response from the Mississippi delegation - and the rest of the delegates. His theme was education. He's good!

Now we have Brian Schweitzer, who ran for Governor of Montana with a Republican Lt Governor on a theme of bipartisanship - and it has apparently worked there. He got the crowd involved. I liked this quote: "The most important barrel of oil is the one you don't use." And also "You can't drill your way to energy independence even if you drill in all the back yards of McCain's homes - even the ones he doesn't know he has." He acted like he was just talking to the crowd - and they liked it. He's definitely the best speaker so far. He thrilled our delegation when he mentioned Mississippi - brought them to their feet.

Hillary's up next, so I'm packing up the computer so I can pay attention. I'll write about the speech tomorrow.

I Am Woman!

There is a great series of speeches going on right now. Introduced by Senator Hillary Clinton on video, all of the women Senators are giving brief speeches about the important issues of this campaign. There are an impressive group and make me proud.

Today, of course, is the anniversary of women getting the right to vote.

Then they all came out on the stage to the band playing Sisters. Although this was an early speech, there was enthusiastic response.

Now speaking is Janet Napoletano, Governor of Arizona - another rising female star of the party.

Jennifer Grenholm, Governor of Michigan, is leading a town hall discussion about energy. Pretty boring.

But we just had a bit of excitement here. Charles Barkely just came by on his way to the Alabama delegation. Someone said they didn't know he was a Democrat. He said "I'm a Democrat, but I'm rich like a Republican!." I think I got him on video. (I did - it's posted.)

Kathleen Sebelius, Governor of Kansas, now up - talking about McCain's many homes.

So far no one in the arena is paying much attention to the speakers. I don't know how these speakers do it. However. they've started passing out signs to waive, so I think we're supposed to be getting excited soon.

I was hoping I could wander around and talk to some friends in other states, but I'm really stuck in my seat. I'd have to crawl over the whole delegation to get out. I can't even talk on the phone, because it's so noisy!

The natives are getting restless - they're starting to chant.

Lilly Ledbetter from Alabama (famous because of the Supreme Court decision against her on a sexual discrimination) was the first to mention the anniversary of women getting the vote - and she talked about the importance of this issue of fairness. She got a response, and then the band played "I Get Excited".

Now the crowd is on its feet for Mark Warner, former Governor and next Senator of Virginia. He's inspirational, but not a star. Interestingly, somebody is sending a message to the delegation of when to stand and wave signs. I get the feeling that Warner is speaking to the public - not the delegates - providing words of substance. It's also pretty obvious that Virginia is proud of him.

When he finishes, I think Hillary may be next, when I'll quit live blogging and will be paying attention.

Tuesday at the DNC

The day began, as always, with the caucus breakfast. The speaker and sponsor was a representative from the unions working for the Free Choice Act. Afterward the major topic was again dispensing of the passes.

After the dispensing of credentials, there was a caucus of Clinton delegates. Gloria Williamson, Chair of the Clinton delegates, handed out a memo from Hillary laying out her support for Obama and saying she would release her delegates. She indicated how they voted was their personal choice - she was not asking for a vote either way. Gloria then announced that she personally was voting for Hillary - and then would be on board with Obama. She asked that the delegates also support Obama, after casting their vote. I asked the delegates how they were planning to vote, and they all indicated they were voting for Hillary. Then they had to leave to get their picture taken. In discussions with the delgates, I found no evidence of a split. It seemed they would all support Obama - although there was a lot of heartbreak.

Then Dianne and I had to rush off downtown to pick up our daily credentials. We barely made it in time. By the way, as members of the press, we are getting to see a lot of media stars. We try not to look like star struck country girls.

Then we went to a party put on by the Democratic National Committee for bloggers only. Chairman Howard Dean came and talked to us. He is a hero to bloggers, because the State Blogger Program was his idea - and he had credentialed unprecedented numbers of bloggers as members of the press. It was great to meet all the bloggers from across the country that I only know online.

Dianne and I split up again. It's my turn to go to the Pepsi Center.

To see our unprofessional videos, click here.

Michelle! Michelle! Michelle!

I’ve just returned from the Pepsi Center where I took Casey’s place and heard Michelle Obama give the speech of her life! However, she was led by remarkable speeches from other impressive women, including: Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama’s half sister, Caroline Kennedy, and Claire McCaskill. I won’t repeat what many of you probably have heard on the television, but I will give you my impressions of seeing them live. As you know if you are reading the blog, the Mississippi delegation is sitting where you see the side of each speaker.

Obama’s half sister has a pointed chin that looks very much like the pictures of Obama’s mother. Sweetly, she told of a half-brother who took her to movies and was a nice guy and how as a history teacher she looks forward to what he’ll do for education. What you didn’t see was that the Hawaii delegation, seated next to Mississippi’s delegation, went wild; Hawaii is feeling very proud of their native son and his sister.

Caroline Kennedy looked beautiful and from the side was extremely thin. What intrigued me was that as she spoke, she curled her right foot around her left leg like a small child. As she told about how Barack Obama inspired her the way others say they were inspired by her father, I thought she nevertheless looked like the little girl that we all remember from the Sixties. She explained that Obama has no greater champion than her Uncle Teddy. The Mississippi delegation seemed moved by the appearance of Ted Kennedy, especially since this might be his last; Senator Kennedy promised to be at Obama’s inauguration in January.

Claire McCaskill was phenomenal. It took her a while to warm up to her attacks on McCain, but when she spoke, she leaned forward on the podium with her hands held together and showed that she will be a fighter for Obama in the fall. From the side she was a lot heavier than Caroline Kennedy, but she had on great shoes.

The woman of the evening arrived at about 9:00. We were all given pole signs to hold up and wave that said “Michelle.” When she came to the podium, you could tell how tall she was because the podium seemed small. She talked about her father and how he never gave up fighting and smiling. She talked about Barack and her children. However, when she said that our parents “poured everything they had into us,” I felt like everyone in the audience understood her family values at last. She made it perfectly clear that she understood the American dream, that she epitomized that dream, and that no one was going to take her story and make it less than it is. Many Mississippi delegates had tears in their eyes. Even among the other great speakers of the evening, she was by far the best. Michelle Obama will be an exceptional first lady.

Other interesting tidbits from tonight: John Grisham came by the delegation, shaking hands with several delegates. We saw Walter Mondale, Bill Richardson, John Kerry, Chris Dodd. They all had very nice, thick hair.

Overall, the Mississippi delegation was high spirited and a lot of fun. Curley Clark from Pascagoula proved to be a good dancer and was seen on the big screen more than once. Good music was interspersed between speakers, and when upbeat numbers like “Celebrate Good Times, Come On!” you can believe Mississippians did just that.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Update on the Hillary Factor

Gloria Williams, Chair of the Mississippi Clinton Delegation, met with other Hillary state chairs this afternoon.

The message from Hillary was simple. She is supporting Obama completely and is releasing her delegates. She is not asking her delegates to vote for her - or for Obama. She says it is a matter of personal decision for each delegate.

Gloria will meet with the Mississippi Clinton delegates tomorrow morning after the Mississippi delegation caucus, and we'll see then how many Clinton delegates will vote for Obama on the first ballot.

Gloria said she planned to vote for Clinton on the first ballot, because that's what she was elected to do. After that, she will enthusiastically support Obama.

After picking up that tidbit, I'm now leaving the Pepsi Center so Dianne can come take my place.

Off We Go to the Convention

After breakfast Dianne and I made our trek to downtown Denver, using our knowledge of public transportation learned the day before. Then came the next stage of our education – getting to the Pepsi Center, where the Convention is being held. We knew we had to walk, but no one knew how. We just kept asking for directions. The problem was there are many different ways to get there, but all but one had been blocked off. We kept walking down blocks only to be turned away. Finally, we came to a gate, where we showed our credentials and got in. We thought we were finally there. No!

From that gate, we were directed all the way around (a long way!) to the big security clearance. It was just like airport security, except we got to keep our shoes on, and the personnel seemed better trained. We were early so it moved quickly.

We had two credentials – one for the floor of the Convention and one for the Perimeter. The problem was that no one could tell us where the Perimeter was. We decided to keep going until someone kicked us out. That happened when we entered the media entrance of the building, where we ran into the only rude person in the whole place. So we split up. I went into the Convention, and Dianne went to enjoy downtown Denver.

When I first walked into the arena, it was awesome! I think the significance of what was happening really hit me. I was able to walk all around the floor and see how it was layed out. It’s a hockey arena in real life. The really important delegations are on the floor. What was interesting was that Delaware was moved from the nosebleed section down to the front next to Illinois. (Wonder why?) Mississippi is to the far left, looking at the stage, on the front row. Our delegation is seated right next to the Mississippi sign, because that’s where the electricity and internet is located. Kentucky, Puerto Rico, and Oregon are behind us. Hawaii, Wyoming and Alabama are beside us. Now you should be able to find us on TV.

Since nothing had started yet, I decided to sit in our official seat and post an update to our activites. However, I had no internet. So I went in search of help. I discovered that there seems to be a "need to know" mentality here. People, are very friendly, but only seem to know their particular areas of responsibility. But I ran into someone who seemed to be a "fixer". Her name is Bev, and her real responsibility is to maintain the cable wires in the Convention area. She disappeared and sure enough, came back with the name of the person who could help me. As I was wandering the arena, I found the Bloggers Lounge. That was exciting, as I could put a face on some names I've come to know.

So now I have internet access and electricity, and I'm ready to go!

Mississippi Delegation Caucus

After a great night’s sleep, we went to the delegation breakfast/caucus meeting. In addition to the delegates, there were many others, including guests, family members, and party officials. The meeting was run by the Chair of the delegation, Congressman Bennie Thompson. Our other two Congressmen, Travis Childers and Gene Taylor, chose not to attend, although they are eligible as superdelegates. Senate nominee Ronnie Musgrove is also not attending. Mississippi politicians with tough elections coming up probably don’t want to be too visibly associated with the national Democratic party.

A few realities were dealt with in the meeting. One was the distance to the Convention and difficulties getting there. There will be a shuttle bus from the hotel to the Convention in time for the sessions, which don’t start until 3 pm. Those who had meetings before either had to take public transportation or pay about $50 for a cab.

Another reality was the scarcity of credentials to get in the Convention itself. There were very few extras to pass out, and there appeared to be some unhappy guests. If they want to go anywhere, they have to take public transportation – with which we know Mississippians have little experience. I do think some of the guests will be able to go to the final night at Invesco field, and that will probably make up for the rest of it. Most were here to see history being made.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Natchez Blog Arrives in Denver!

Up at 4 am - and I don't do mornings well. We arrived in Denver without any airplane mishaps. The day went downhill from there.

We got off the airport shuttle at the wrong hotel. But we had a great driver (more on him later). We called him, and he came back to get us.

We then discovered the significance of the Mississippi delegation, as the Democratic National Party assigns hotels to states. The closer you are to the Convention, the more important you are in their minds. Well, our hotel was in the boondocks - we actually think we may be in Wyoming. Our room was not ready, and we had to wait about an hour.

We didn't even unpack but needed to head back downtown to pick up our credentials. The Mississippi delegation gets theirs delivered to them every day at the hotel, but we have to pick ours up daily at the media credential center.

Denver is full of wonderful friendly local volunteers who are there to help you everywhere. However, we decided that the two working in our hotel had probably never ridden public transportation, because they gave us horrible directions. We did get a good view of Denver and now are well versed in the public transportation system. We also met many friendly law enforcement officers and transportation workers who helped these two lost southerners find their away around their city. They were the only ones to ask, since there was not a single local person to be found - they very smartly got the hell out of Dodge. It was a madhouse. Protesters all over, riot police in full gear, and thousands and thousands of lost souls.

We finally arrived at the Credentialing Center five minutes before they closed at 5 pm. Then we found out that one of our credentials was missing. Other people around us were acting pompous and important, and they did not get their credentials. We smiled sweetly, poured on the southern charm, and acted so helpless. We got ours.

We were supposed to go to a meeting with other State Bloggers at 3:30. Needless to say, we totally missed that. We discovered later that only 3 showed up - all the rest had various horror stories of delays.

We finally came back to the hotel bar (medicinal purposes only). We did get to talk to some of the Mississippi Delegation. We also took some little videos along the way today and posted them quickly just now. They still need some editing and some descriptions.

So we spent the whole day here and got a hotel room and a credential. I did not get to put fingers to the keyboard until just now. But we are definitely ready for tomorrow! Oh, one neat thing. Lots of people noticed the Natchez T shirts and said wonderful things. One good story that we'll post tomorrow when we hope to be slightly more coherent.

Right now, I'm going to take a long bath and crash. Night night!

PS I forgot to mention that a tornado went right by our hotel and no one seemed to notice - not even the media, who were all covering the Convention.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Meet Angela Cockerham: Obama Delegate to DNC08

The Democratic Convention starts Monday in Denver. I've put together a list of all the Mississippi Delegates with pictures and basic information. A link to this list is in the column to the right under Convention Links, along with other interesting sites - including where to see all the videos I'll be making.

A few days ago, I introduced you to Clinton Delegate Kelly Jacobs. Today I want you to meet an Obama delegate.

I first met Angela Cockerham when she ran for a seat in the Mississippi House of Representatives. Her district (96) includes portions of Adams, Amite, and Pike counties and all of Wilkinson county, so she was in our area campaigning. I was immediately impressed with this young lady and was thrilled when she won.

Most of you know that I work part time for our public library. We produce a series of posters featuring local celebrities encouraging children to read. I immediately asked her to be on one, because I knew she would make a good role model for children. She has a library card and visits the Library regularly. That says a lot to me. Later I found out that reading is her favorite hobby. She says, "While most people go fishing or to the spa to relax, I go to the library". She even writes poetry - although I haven't been able to get a sample yet. She is definitely my kind of person!

Her values undoubtedly came from her close knit family in Magnolia, Mississippi. Her parents, Oscar and Grace Cockerham, required their family to always eat dinner together. Her interest in politics started with the spirited and lively discussions around their dinner table. The topics were usually current events - national, state, and local. Everybody had different opinions and was encouraged to speak up. She said, "I truly understood that everyone’s not going to agree with you all the time, even family, but you love them regardless." That's a good lesson to learn for a future in politics.

In 2006, the Hotline, the National Journal's Briefing on Politics, picked their future political stars in Mississippi. Angela made that list, and here's what they said about her:

State Rep. Angela Cockerham (D): In her late 20s and "very articulate," she just won a special election. "You can look for a bright future for her." Cockerham is "a bright spot, and intellectually a step up over her predecessor."

In addition to being a legislator, Angela is a partner in the law firm of Dowdy & Cockerham in Magnolia. Wayne Dowdy was the Chair of the State Democratic Party, so she's in good company.

Angela just returned from a very exciting trip to South Africa. Here's what she had to say:

"Every place I visited, from Cape Town to Johannesburg, one of the hottest topics of discussion was our presidential elections. Imagine how proud I was to say that I would be attending the convention as a Mississippi delegate and that I was supporting Senator Obama. Needless to say, most people that I spoke with in South Africa were Senator Obama supporters also!"

She is thrilled to be going to the Convention. She's leaving Sunday, although she admits she hasn't yet packed a thing. She remembers watching Senator Obama speak at the last Convention, and she's been a fan ever since. This will be a very special experience for her.

I think I picked two very exceptional delegates to profile for you before the Convention. I'll be keeping you up to date on their activities - and those of all the other Mississippi Delegates. Stay tuned!

PS If you missed it, the Natchez Democrat did a story on our upcoming trip to Denver.

Our DNC Videos Posted on

We'll be taking short videos regularly and posting them on Zannel, but you can see them here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Meet Kelly Jacobs: Clinton Delegate to DNC08

The Democratic Convention starts Monday in Denver. I've put together a list of all the Mississippi Delegates with pictures and basic information. A link to this list is in the column to the right under Convention Links, along with other interesting sites.

So who are these people? I've already discussed how they got elected. There are some politicians, of course, but most of them are party activists, who've been working for Mississippi Democrats for quite a while. This is a profile of one Clinton Delegate, and next I'll do an Obama Delegate.

Kelly Jacobs is a happily married mother of three college students, two sons at Ole Miss and one stepdaughter in California. Her husband Paul works at FedEx, and they live in Hernando.

A member of the Mississippi Wildlife Rehabilitation, Kelly volunteers her time fostering injured or orphaned wildlife. She's currently the foster mother of four baby raccoons, a yellow finch, three red headed woodpeckers, one mockingbird, one blue jay, and an American Robin named Batman.

In addition, she's also a peace activist and the State Coordinator for Code Pink Women for Peace. When Cheney was in Southaven recently, Kelly was there protesting all alone in the Free Speech Zone, even though a Sheriff wouldn't let her park anywhere nearby. She hadn't been there long when a SWAT team with unholstered machine guns told her she had to leave. As she said, you don't argue with guns - she left. Then she tried to walk across the street a few times with a peace sign and was stopped by a Sheriff again. He told her if she walked with her sign anywhere in Southaven, she'd be arrested. She said she had a deal with her husband, " I can protest all I want. I just can't get arrested." So she left. Poor Dick Chaney needed all this law enforcement to help protect him from one protester.

Kelly is an active member of the Desoto County and State Democratic Parties and was the recipient of the 2004 Fannie Lou Hamer Award. She went to the Democratic Convention in 2004 in Boston and will be going again this year as a Clinton Delegate. She and her husband are driving to Denver in their Prius - in fact she might be on her way as you read this.

Oh, I forgot to mention that in her spare time, she's a farmer of Japanese persimmons. Let me close with the saying that ends all Kelly's emails.

Voting is like driving. To go backwards, select R. To go forward, select D.

UPDATE: Kelly is already making news. See her quote in today's Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Happy Days Are Here Again!

After long negotiations, the Obama campaign has decided that Clinton's name will be formally placed in nomination and she'll get a roll call vote.

Why is this important? Clinton received almost half the votes during the Democratic primary, and her supporters were very passionate. Possibly having the first woman President was just as significant as having the first black one. Many of them have strong feelings about how their candidate was treated by the Obama campaign, the Democratic Party, and the media. Consequently, they weren't warming up to Obama, even though their candidate was urging them to.

Initially, Obama and the Party tended to ignore the Clinton supporters and were focused on having a unified Convention. They just assumed those voters had nowhere else to go. This strategy wasn't working very well. The national polls showed the general election as close, and it was getting closer as time went by.

One reason was that some of these Clinton supporters, mostly women, were really, really angry, and they were organizing. For an example, check out Just Say No Deal. At first, the Obama campaign thought this was just a fringe group or a front for Republicans, but they were dead wrong. Democrats just aren't used to women playing tough, but they sure are now.

Ignoring these voters was definitely the wrong move - that made them even madder. His campaign points out that Obama does well with women in recent polls, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Black women and young women do support Obama overwhelmingly, and a majority of Hispanic women, as well, but these groups historically have low voter turnout. But older white women do not support Obama, and senior women overwhelmingly do not - and they always vote. No Democrat is going to win without the white female vote, especially since they're not going to get the white male vote.

Several of Clinton's female big money supporters weren't ponying up for Obama. When they were approached, they said you'd better do something for Clinton's supporters or you'll lose.

A simple thing would have been for Obama to choose Clinton as his Vice President, but that wasn't going to happen for several reasons, the biggest of which was that they simply don't like each other.

The next best thing is to allow Clinton's nomination. If they do this legitimately, this will appease many of her supporters - enough to probably make a difference in the election results.

There are definitely risks to this strategy. Close to half the delegates at the Convention may vote for Clinton, and Obama will have to share much of his limelight with the Clintons.

But ultimately, it's a very wise move. Why?

For one thing, there was a strong possibility of an ugly Convention - especially outside the hall - and the Democrats definitely didn't want that.

But mainly, because it shows respect for Clinton's historic candidacy, and her supporters were really tired of being treated like dirt under someone's shoe.

For another, there was a lot of anger over the way the primary election was run. Winning the nomination fairly at the Convention gives more legitimacy to the Obama victory in the eyes of Clinton supporters.

It also makes Obama look gracious and magnanimous, when many have the opposite opinion.

Finally, Clinton and her husband are both speaking at the Convention, and with this show of respect, I think they'll be able to win over her delegates.

In my conversations with the Mississippi Clinton delegates, I know this will make most of them much happier. They were elected to vote for Clinton, and they want a chance to do it. Then they'll be on board the Obama wagon.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

What Is It About Mississippi?

UPDATE: Looks Mississippi may gotten on this final list because of politics. Check out the article in the Clarion Ledger.

Mississippi is in a good position to be awarded the $450 million National Bio and Agro Defense Facility (NBAF). The competitors are sites in Georgia, North Carolina, Kansas, Texas, as well as possibly the current site on an island off New York state. So why do we have the edge?

The Department of Homeland Security has been holding public hearings at all these sites. The NBAF will be studying animal diseases. It is admittedly a high risk facility, but it also brings economic benefits. The debate is over the safety precautions - and the news this week of a scientist at a government lab possibly killing people with anthrax didn't help.

Butner NC. On July 28, there was a hearing where at least 600 people showed up - not a single person spoke in favor of the lab. Over two thirds of the residents have actually signed a petition against it. The Congressman from the area, who had previously supported the facility, today withdrew his support.

Manhattan KS. At the August 1 hearing, all the governmental, academic, and business types showed out in force to support the lab - but no regular people. However, there was a significant number speaking in opposition and making some legitimate arguments.

Athens GA. No hearing had been held yet, but the local media and blogs are going hot and heavy on the issue.

San Antonia TX. Hearing is tomorrow.

KS, GA, and TX are located in college towns and academics want that research money, but college towns are also full of environmental types concerned about the health risks.

Flora MS. The hearing was today. What was strange about this hearing was that there was not one peep of opposition from the hundreds who attended. We are the polar opposite of Butner NC. Why is that? Are Mississippians so desperate for jobs that potential environmental and health risks don't matter?

The good news is that because of our unequivocal support, Mississippi might be awarded this lab and its economic benefits.

The bad news is that because of our ignorance, Mississippi could be in for a serious biological disaster.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Imperious Obama Messages

Mississippi Clinton delegates to the Democratic Convention have been receiving interesting messages from the Obama campaign, and they tell you quite a bit about the candidate and his campaign. One of them said:
"We welcome delegates who supported Senator Clinton, and hope to create a unified delegation on the way to Denver."

Supported? Past tense? Sorry, Barack, but this is a little presumptious. I think they still support Senator Clinton - and they think they'll get a chance to vote for her. On the way to Denver? No, no, that's supposed to be on the home from Denver. If you really want a unified delegation, then you don't start by offending nearly half of the delegates in the room.

The Obama campaign may think they've got things under control. They may think there will be no roll call vote for Clinton. But those delegates who are committed to her don't think so. If Obama doesn't allow a vote for Clinton, there will be some mighty upset delegates. They would see it as a lack of respect for Hillary.

The message then goes on to tell them to fill out a Delegate survey at the Obama campaign website. Delegates have already filled out a survey for the Democratic National Committee and the Mississippi Democratic Party, but this is a different one. It's a pretty intrusive survey, asking what you do for a living, what your ethnicity is, how old you are, what union you belong to, whether you're gay, and what your religion is. What business does the Obama campaign have asking all this information about a Clinton delegate?

But it gets worse. Attached to the email was "Guidelines for Delegates Contacted by the Press." It's pretty draconian. If delegates are contacted by any member of the press, even their local press, delegates are not to say anything until they contact the Obama campaign. So if the Natchez Democrat wants to interview Everett Sanders (whom they talk to regularly) about his trip to Denver, he's supposed to ask permission first - and by email. And look at this:
"On a case by case basis, depending on the story and its goal, we may approve these interviews."

Oh, and the delegates should never contact the press directly.

You can tell these dudes are from Chicago, where Democrats are used to taking orders from the machine. But I don't think this went over very well with the Clinton delegates in Mississippi who received this email.

A few days later, another similar email was sent to "Mississippi Senator Clinton Delegates". (Funny, I always thought she was New York Senator Clinton, but maybe I missed something.) But in the body of the email, it says "Dear Alabama Senator Clinton Delegates". Oops! Well, you know how Yankees are - they can't tell one southern state from another.

These imperious emails are just not good strategy. Obama is NOT the Democratic nominee for President. A nominee is not elected until the delegates vote at the Convention. Nearly half the delegates at that Convention are committed to Clinton. They know that barring some major miracle, Obama will win the nomination. However, they expect to get a chance to vote for her. That's what they were elected to do. If that opportunity is not given to them, there will be some very hard feelings - and this will not bode well for November.

Democrats just went through an emotional, hard fought, close primary campaign. As the presumptive winner, Obama should try to win over those supporters of his rival - not only the delegates at the Convention - but those across the country. There are several things he could have done, but he has done none of them. In fact, he is treating them with disdain, as these emails demonstrate. This demeaning attitude will affect, not only the Clinton delegates, but her supporters everywhere - and it will show at the Convention for the whole world to see.

Obama has either decided he doesn't need Clinton voters or he is taking them for granted - assuming they'll have no choice but to vote for him. But they do have choices. They can choose not to vote, to vote for a third party candidate, to write in Hillary Clinton, or even, God forbid, vote for the Republican.

This is a serious miscalculation on the part of the Obama campaign. The November election is probably going to be quite close, and he is giving away a large segment of voters, most of which he could have had. All that was required was a little humility and graciousness. Maybe that's too much to ask.