The Storms in Philadelphia

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photo by Robert MacCready

The Storms in Philadelphia

by

Okla Elliott

 

The first day of the DNC convention was plagued with storms. The literal storm that hit Philadelphia was serious, with flash floods in some streets and power outages in various neighborhoods around the city. The political storms, however, were mostly tempests in teapots. Mostly.

As everybody knows by now, Debbie Wasserman Schultz was forced to resign her position as DNC chair on Monday and was taken off the speaking schedule at the convention due to leaked emails that proved collusion with the press on the DNC’s part to undermine the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, as well as offering coveted political positions to high-dollar donors. This was probably the only political storm of noteworthy size. But ultimately, since anyone with even the tiniest bit of intellectual honesty and observational abilities knew that the DNC was doing all it could ensure Clinton won the nomination and since we all know politics is corrupted by money every day, this wasn’t as big as some have made it out to be. My only hope is that Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been sufficiently disgraced that Bernie-backed progressive Tim Canova will be able to win his primary race against her and end up in the US Congress, where we desperately need more true progressives (which DWS most certainly is not).

The true tempest in a teapot was the booing and heckling by some Bernie Sanders supporters when he spoke to them early in the day and during his primetime speech on the convention’s main stage, particularly when he strongly endorsed Clinton for president of the United States. These people represent a tiny fraction of the convention goers and their voices were only barely heard—though they do deserve to be heard, but at precisely the volume they were. And that low volume level should be compared to the three-minute ecstatic standing ovation, replete with dozens of delegates crying, Sanders received when he stepped out on stage. He was and remains the beloved leader of millions of progressives in this country, and I imagine he’ll continue to be such a leader for years to come—though he’ll have even more influence than he previously did, due to his various political organizations he has announced he plans to start and due to his (likely) increased power in the US Senate, to say nothing of his massive public stature that will allow him to continue to bend the national political discourse to the left.

By any objective measure, the speeches given on Monday night were rousing and galvanizing. My social media feeds were a blur of statements like “Cory Booker is killing it!” or “I love you, Michelle!” or “Bernie is my hero!” and so forth, and having talked a few dozen friends and colleagues, they report the same.

When I was at the RNC convention, I reported back to The Citizens’ Voice, a newspaper out of Wilkes-Barre, PA, that I predicted a bump in the polls for Trump and a slight improvement in his negatives. I likewise predicted the same for Clinton then, but after seeing the first night’s speeches and feeling the mood here in Philadelphia the day after, I predict an even larger bump for Clinton/Kaine than Trump/Pence enjoyed after last week.

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Who Is Tim Kaine?: A Pro/Con Analysis

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Who Is Tim Kaine?: A Pro/Con Analysis

by

Okla Elliott

As the saying goes: you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Hillary Clinton proved this on Friday when she selected Virginia senator and former governor, Tim Kaine, as her vice-presidential running mate. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party feels slighted, especially those who backed Bernie Sanders in the primaries, seeing in Kaine just another centrist who supports the TPP and fracking and deregulation of the banks — all things seen as too right of center for these dyed-in-the-wool progressives. On the other hand, centrists and even some progressives are singing Kaine’s praises to the heavens, calling him a strong and wise pick for the position.

Per usual in such matters, there is some truth to both sides of the debate. My goal here is to list what are generally considered Kaine’s strengths and weaknesses as a candidate, and what his pros and cons are, especially for the liberal base of the Democratic Party. I will try to be as objective as possible and cite all of my sources, but I should admit two things in the spirit of full disclosure: 1) I am a registered Democrat who considers himself part of the progressive wing of the party and who supported Sanders in the primaries. 2) After several hours of intense research and what I knew about Kaine beforehand, I land on the side of him being a strong pick for the VP slot, though not a perfect one — I had my heart set on Sherrod Brown of Ohio for several reasons I won’t get into here.

So, let’s look at the bad first:

  1. Kaine supports the TPP, having praised it as recently as Thursday, barely a full day before Clinton announced her selection. He also voted for the fast-tracking of the TPP, so he has supported it in action, not just words. Since Sanders came out so strongly against the TPP, this might be an issue with his supporters and an obstacle for party unity. It could also hurt, since Trump has come out so strongly against these sorts of trade deals, which are highly unpopular among the American electorate — left, right, and centrist.
  2. He favors bank deregulation of the sort that led to the 2008 collapse and which Republicans strongly back.
  3. He supports offshore drilling and fracking — both of which are major sticking points for environmentalists.
  4. He has variously supported parental consent for minors who seek abortions, informed consent for all who seek them, and a ban on partial-birth abortions — all of which are serious concerns for reproductive rights activists.

Okay, now that we’ve talked about the bad news, let’s look at the good news.

  1. His position on abortion seems to have improved since his time as governor, garnering him a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood and NARAL for his time in the Senate — though, to be honest, there haven’t been many controversial votes to make in his time there, so that rating is likely a bit inflated by circumstance. As a devout Catholic, he is in a tough position of being personally and religiously against abortion, yet being politically for it in most cases. This has worked out just fine for Joe Biden, so there is precedent for a VP being in such a position. Also, the VP has nearly no say in such matters, so he’s no danger to reproductive rights. I’d call him overall slightly left of center on the issue, which is several dozen times better than Pence, the Republican VP candidate.
  2. Despite his support for offshore drilling and fracking, he has a 91% rating from the League of Conservation Voters, so his overall lifetime record on environmental issues is actually quite good.
  3. He took a year off from law school to volunteer in Honduras as a Jesuit missionary. He learned Spanish while there and seems to be nearly fluent, since he was able to give a thirteen-minute speech in Spanish on the Senate floor once. This is therefore doubly positive, since he spent his time helping others and is culturally aware and sensitive. This will also help practically in the campaign, since the Republicans are so anti-intellectual and anti-immigrant, his ability to speak Spanish and the fact he cared enough to learn it will bring even more voters to the Democratic side of the fight.
  4. During his seventeen years of law practice, he represented people denied housing based on disability or race. He has also been a strong advocate as an elected official for equality along lines of disability, race, and sex. He is therefore excellent on social justice issues.
  5. He has an F rating from the NRA, which should hearten progressives everywhere.
  6. He has excellent foreign policy experience, since he serves on the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees.

So, is Time Kaine a perfect pick? No. Is he a really solid one who happens to have a strong track record of winning statewide elections in a swing state? Yes. We could do much worse, and ultimately progressives — especially those in swing states — should vote Clinton/Kaine, and then fight their hearts out for more progressive candidates running for the US Congress. If we can get a more progressive US Congress, then the bills that land on Clinton’s desk will be more progressive, and she’ll have to sign them, because vetoing her own party’s legislation would be political suicide. Kaine is only on the ticket to help her win, and in my analysis he will do that. He also seems like an overall decent guy I already find myself liking on a personal level, even though we disagree on some issues.

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SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: A DOROTHY PARKER POEM DEDICATED TO HILLARY CLINTON

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THE LADY’S REWARD
By Dorothy Parker

Lady, lady, never start
Conversation toward your heart;
Keep your pretty words serene;
Never murmur what you mean.
Show yourself, by word and look,
Swift and shallow as a brook.
Be as cool and quick to go
As a drop of April snow;
Be as delicate and gay
As a cherry flower in May.
Lady, lady, never speak
Of the tears that burn your cheek-
She will never win him, whose
Words had shown she feared to lose.
Be you wise and never sad,
You will get your lovely lad.
Never serious be, nor true,
And your wish will come to you-
And if that makes you happy, kid,
You’ll be the first it ever did.


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


Editor’s Note: Today’s poem is dedicated to Hillary Clinton. God Save the Queen, as it were, Sex Pistols style. I know what this poem means to me as a metaphor for Hillary Clinton’s rise to power. I’m just going to leave this right here and let you take from it whatever you will.

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) was an American writer and poet, best known for her wit, wisecracks, and sharp eye for 20th century urban foibles. From a conflicted and unhappy childhood, Parker rose to acclaim, both for her literary output in such venues as The New Yorker and as a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, a group she later disdained. Following the breakup of that circle, Parker traveled to Hollywood to pursue screenwriting. Her successes there, including two Academy Award nominations, were curtailed as her involvement in left-wing politics led to a place on the infamous Hollywood blacklist. Parker went through three marriages (two to the same man) and survived several suicide attempts, but grew increasingly dependent on alcohol. Dismissive of her own talents, she deplored her reputation as a “wisecracker”. Nevertheless, her literary output and her sparkling wit have endured. (Annotated biography of Dorothy Parker courtesy of Wikipedia.org)

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Five Scenes from the RNC Convention: Dispatch #2

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Five Scenes from the RNC Convention: Dispatch #2

(text and photos by Okla Elliott)

1.

We were driving around downtown Cleveland, navigating the blocked-off roads and foot traffic, when Robert’s police scanner app informed us that a major disruption was underway and police reinforcements were requested. Robert and I  jumped out of the car and began gathering camera equipment, as Turner ran around the car and got in the driver’s seat. Turner drove off in search of a parking spot. As Robert and I ran, he was assembling his video camera — mounting it and attaching the mic, the lens, and so forth — with some difficulty. (You try running through a crowded downtown while assembling a video camera set-up sometime.) Despite fear of missing important footage, we stopped to allow Robert time to properly assemble his gear. All of this, from the jumping out of the car to assembling the camera, was a bumbled action sequence from a Hollywood movie.

[Side note: One of several things I have learned covering the convention is that nothing ever — and I mean ever — works as smoothly as you imagine it will, and certainly not as smoothly as it does in the Hollywood imagination.]

IMG_5902When we had finally made it across Public Square and down a small side street to where the commotion was, it turned out that members of the Revolutionary Communists had set an American flag on fire and were now surrounded by mounted police. We were therefore presented with a wall of horse-flesh and piles of horse manure scattered about. You’ll have to wait for the video dispatch, but Robert got some good footage of the arrest, as he ended up accidentally shuffled behind the horse-wall (which is now a word to me) by the IMG_5908police. I got a few photos of the horses and police, from where I ended up.

[Side note: One thing that happens to you a lot at these sorts of crowded protest-laden events is that you get moved around a lot, either with a gentle yet firm force by the police or just by the random flow of the crowd. Robert and I got utterly separated within seconds of arriving at the disruption and wouldn’t find each other again for nearly an hour.]

2.

There were protesters of great variety present, though perhaps my favorite was a woman who merely lounged on the steps of the Public Square, proudly flaunting her lushly overweight body. When I asked permission to take her photo, I also asked her what she was protesting or supporting here. Here answer: “I’m not interested in protesting or IMG_5887supporting. I’m just enjoying this sun here in this open space.” It was therefore not so much a direct protest of any policy or party, but rather a positive message of body positivity and enjoyment she was promoting.

And this is another point worth making about the protesters at the convention: only a small number were directly protesting the RNC, around a fourth, I’d say. The rest just wanted attention for their cause or, in the more cynical cases, for themselves and were using this massive public event as a platform.

3.

Perhaps the worst instance of protesters merely using the occasion to further their own IMG_5868agenda was when a group of rightwing Christians — think Westboro Baptist church types — set up a demonstration simply to yell about how gays were going to hell and how AIDS was righteous punishment from God.

Interestingly this demonstration had by far the greatest amount of police protection of any I saw in my three days in Cleveland. It also received the greatest resistance from the crowd.

[Side note: Something you should know about how demonstrations worked at the convention is that each group had to apply for permits to demonstrate at a particular location and for a specific time slot. Given the limited space provided, you got a turn

4.

But if there is one rule of protests, it’s that for every protest group, there is an equal and opposite protest group. On the opposite side of the square was another Christian group, Healing Prayer, making a demonstration, but this time of love not hate. They played acoustic guitar and sang happy songs; they offered to pray for people in need; they hugged passersby freely. IMG_6018When I walked up to get a few photos, a man named Kevin (pictured to the right here) approached me and asked if he could pray for me.

“Anything you need, anything you want me to pray with you for. What would you like me to pray for you for?” he asked.

“Maybe my health,” I said.

“What’s wrong?”

“I recently learned I have diabetes.”

And Kevin put his hand on my chest and gave a thoughtful and heartfelt prayer. And either he is the best actor in the world, or he was sincerely tearing up near the end of it. (I lean toward the latter.)

I’m sure whether one group cancels out the other or if some political/theological balance was restored to the universe by both groups being present, but I do know that rarely can you find such diversity in one location and rarely can see how a religious belief can be so starkly different in its enactment.

As Kevin said before I moved on, “Don’t you feel something different standing here with us? You feel love, right? Jesus loves you. Hell may be real, but I know this love right here is real. I can feel it. Do you?”

Yes, Kevin, I did.

5.

Okay, so every time I mentioned to a friend or family member that I was covering the RNC IMG_6009convention, the first, third, and seventh thing they said to me was, “Be careful there.” The media played up the potential violence, with armed protesters and armed supporters reported to be present. Even I was worried before I arrived. As it turned out, the New Black Panther Party didn’t show up en masse and armed, as promised, and the open-carry people present were really just photo ops for people like me. They spent almost the entire time posing for photos and offering platitudes about freedom and the found fathers.

Violence was nearly nonexistent at the convention and among the protesters, in fact, something that truly heartens me. I am happy to have been wrong, and I hope (though doubt) that the media will admit it was wrong to play up the possibility of violence, or at least acknowledge that the convention was remarkably civilized. The closest thing to incivility I saw was a group of grandstanding protesters on the final night yelling in the faces of cops in an attempt to create a spectacle and garner attention for themselves.

[Side note: It worked in a way. There was practically no immediate audience for their antics, but about a dozen people were filming and photographing the self-aggrandizing charade — Robert and myself included — so I imagine they’ll be able to get the attention they so obviously craved, even if only after the fact.]

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All This Mayhem: Dispatch #1

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All This Mayhem: Dispatch #1

by

Okla Elliott (with photos and video by Robert MacCready)

I arrived at the Cleveland Amtrak station at 3:00am. It was darkened to the point of seeming abandoned; two cops stood by the entrance smoking cigarettes and eyeing everyone who came in or out with weary suspicion — though at that hour, this meant only me and maybe three or four others.

Cleveland was deathly quiet, a calm between two storms, yet the tension and tiredness emanating from the two police officers as I walked by them was unsettling. I felt sorry for them, for the unending task this week has already been and will continue to be in their lives. I also worried what that tension and tiredness might lead to as the week ground on.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Aside from the obvious, why was I in Cleveland to cover and comment on the RNC convention? One of my best friends, Robert MacCready, called me on my birthday and after a few perfunctory seconds of well-wishing, he immediately launched into a scheme he said was perfect for us, something we absolutely had to do.

“You live near Philadelphia, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Let’s cover the DNC convention,” he said, not really a suggestion so much as a revelation of unalloyed necessity.

Long story made short: we decided to do our best Hunter S. Thompson and Norman Mailer impressions and do both the RNC and DNC conventions; a few weeks of frantic calling and emailing protest organizations, political candidates, and public officials ensued; Free Press Houston agreed to be our primary sponsor with several other news venues expressing interest in coverage as well. And it was, as they say, on.

rnc_flyerOkay…now that you’re mostly caught up, back to my arrival in Cleveland…

Bob picked me up at the station in a rental car and we went back to where we’ll be staying. We reviewed footage Bob had shot during the day before I arrived and discussed angles of entry for the stories we wanted to bring out all this mayhem. We did a minimum of reminiscing, slipping neatly into our new roles as journalistic/anthropologist collaborators. We finally got to sleep around 5:00am.

As I write this, Bob is editing footage for our first video dispatch. This is what our friendship was always meant to be: sitting across from each other at a table working together. Bob was right when he said, “Man, we have to do this.”

This first dispatch has been largely personal, but I’ll give you three interesting facts about the convention itself:

  1. The only arrests on day-one were for nonviolent offenses.

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    Vermin Supreme with a new constituent

  2. The Bikers for Trump group had asked for a demonstration permit to accommodate tens of thousands, yet only approximately 1000 showed up, showing either a lack of support or courage on their part.
  3. Vermin Supreme was on the scene, offering Dadaist campaign promises such as a pony for every American, but an identification pony you would have to have with you everywhere to identify yourself as an American citizen.

We’ll be sending video and writerly dispatches as we can, and future dispatches will of course focus more on the convention itself. I will also be on various radio programs and writing for a few newspapers in addition to my in-the-moment dispatches here at As It Ought to Be. Links for all will be forthcoming. For now, enjoy the promo video for our adventures:

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Here, Now

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 Here, Now

by

Paul Crenshaw

Before he was pulled over, Philando Castile worked in the cafeteria of an elementary school. Imagine with me all manner of child: their voices ringing off the tile floors, chewing with their mouths open, small shoes shuffling along in the line where the workers stand behind slanted glass. Imagine small cartons of milk. Plastic trays with square compartments for circular food. Small hands hold the corners of the trays. Some of the kids are scared and nervous this first day of school so a man at the end of the line gives them graham crackers and little goldfish. By all accounts I could find he was a fine man. In a few hours he will be shot in a car and all of us will see what happens next, but for now let us imagine him smiling and hugging the small children, saying “Here now, kids, eat all your food, so you can grow up to be big and strong.

 

***

Paul Crenshaw teaches literature and creative writing at Elon University. His work has appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Nonrequired Reading, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, Pushcart, Quarterly West, and elsewhere.

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SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: BLACK LIVES MATTER POETRY





“It is not necessary that you believe that the officer who choked Eric Garner set out that day to destroy a body. All you need to understand is that the officer carries with him the power of the American state and the weight of an American legacy, and they necessitate that of the bodies destroyed every year, some wild and disproportionate number of them will be black.” ― Ta-Nehisi Coates



Editor’s Note: Every word I have attempted to write here has been wholly inadequate. I can only offer you poetry written by those who have lived an experience that I have only witnessed from the sidelines, in abject horror.


BLACK LIVES MATTER POETRY:

“Standing In Courage” by Jacinta V. White

“The All Black Penguin Speaks” by Roger Bonair-Agard

“Black Woman” by Georgia Douglas Johnson

#BlackPoetsSpeakOut

Black Lives Matter: A Roundup of Worthy Reads – The Poetry Foundaton

10 Artists of the Black Lives Matter Movement – Sojourners

Poets for Ferguson

Black Lives Matter – Renee Mitchell Speaks

‘Black Lives Matter’: A Poem by Nikkita Oliver

Anthony McPherson – “All Lives Matter: 1800s Edition”

Black Lives Matter/Freddie Gray Poem



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