Saturday morning at the Democratic Convention

The San Diego Convention Center has wi-fi: for $12.95 /day. Apparently no one could talk the convention organizers into paying whatever it would have cost to provide free wi-fi. (Or doesn’t the Convention Center offer that deal? Is there a bandwidth bottleneck? Inquiring minds want to know, but if there’s anyone here who can tell me I haven’t found him.) Wi-fi is moderate-to-bad.

We were told yesterday that we would start promptly at 9am. Since HRC is on the program (which cleverly isn’t arranged in chronological order within sessions,so it’s hard to cherry-pick the speakers you want to hear) I showed up more or less on time, and sure enough we started promptly at 9, California Democratic time, which turned out to be 9:32.

The wall behind the speakers has banners for Kucinich and Dodd (both small) and for Edwards, Obama, and Clinton (all big). Only Obama has contemporary graphic design. Edwards is a busy movie poster from the 50s, Clinton and Dodd are generic campaign bumper stickers from anytime since 1920 (complete with bunting), Kucinich a slightly better-designed bumper sticker. The Obama banner has, on a black field, what I guess is the Obama logo (a circle with a white into a blue sky from behind red-and-white stripes — 3 red, two white — that look like the stripes on the flag), the words Obama (white) ’08 (red) in big letters, above, in smaller type, BarackObama.com.

Pledge to the flag, led by an Iraq veteran. National anthem sung by some ‘80s-style lounge lizard.

The most astonishingly non-denomiuational invocation ever heard, more striking because given by an African-American pastor with the traditional cadences and rhyme-tags. He literally never said “God,” addressing instead the “Divine Creator.” Franklin would have approved. Quite a beautiful prayer, too, including a mention of those “living on empty in a land of plenty,” a phrase John Edwards might want to pick up.

More clap-traps from Art Torres.

A strong talk by Bob Filner, chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Mentioned an Iraq veteran who went to a VA clinic and said he thought he might have PTSD and was having suicidal thoughts. He was told he was now #28 on the waiting list, and should come back in three weeks. He went home and shot himself.

Introducing Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, Torres calls Bill Clinton “the greatest President we’ve ever had,” which I suppose would surprise FDR.

Garamendi shouts into the microphones. Someone ought to tell him the sound system works fine. (Damn! Left my earplugs at home.) More clap-traps. Kowtow toward the California Teachers Association. Not entirely their fault, of course, but CTA members work for one of the worst public education systems in the nation.

The LaRouche forces are here, campaigning against the fascist genocidal Al Gore “global warming” fraud, which implies genocide against the poorest 90% of the world’s population. (Yes, that sounds odd, but LaRoucheies wouldn’t lie, would they?) Any Democratic club recognized by its county Democratic committee has the right to offer resolutions for the consideration by the Resolutions Committee, and the LaRouchies seem to have created or taken over something called the “FDR Legacy Democratic Club.” Naturally, the Resolutions Committee gave the anti-Gore resolution short shrift, but isn’t there some way to lose the “FDR Legacy Democratic Club,” if only out of respect for FDR’s memory? [They even brought a choir, which serenaded delegates as they entered the hall; I couldn’t make out what they were singing.]

Other than the LaRouchies, the intense energy at the convention is from the pro-impeachment forces, most of whom seem to be about my age: that is, people who remember how much fun it was firing a President in 1973-74. Naturally, they want to impeach Cheney as well as Bush. (If I were Pelosi, I think I’d go for Rove instead. But of course the Senate couldn’t muster two-thirds for a conviction, so he’d wind up being cleared. Would that really be a winner?)

The other generators of genuine enthusiasm here are Jerry McNerny, who beat Richard Pombo last year for a seat Democrats have no right to hold, and Charlie Brown, who got close to beating Doolittle in another very Red district and will be taking him on again unless Doolittle has gone to prison in the meantime. The party seems genuinely committed to moving resources into those two races.

The TV monitors show an excruciatingly bad campaign spot for Jack O’Connell, Superintendent of Public Instruction. I was grateful for not having to hear the turkey in person, but no such luck. We also get a rant about how important “education” is, without any mention of how broken the current system is.

The University of California government-affairs folks seem to be asleep at the switch. So far, not a single mention at this convention that California has a great university system, or that it won’t have one forever under current budget policies.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com