We're still livin' large at the DNC while spending next to nothing. Our gracious host baked us delicious, nutrition-packed apple muffins and she brews us coffee every morning (essential for our long and weary days... thanks, Jennifer!).
Yesterday, Andrea and I tried out Freewheelin -- a free bike sharing service that helped us traverse downtown. No bus fare, no carbon emissions and no aching feet. We just signed up, selected a bike and rode to our hearts' content. Faster transportation = more reporting.
We also scored free DNC t-shirts, a fanny-pack (!), chapstick and wet-naps at the Freewheelin tent.
We all managed to pick up free refreshments at the various events we attended, but Jonathan's free water from "I Hunt, I Fish, I Vote," sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund, takes grand prize (see the liquid salvation water picture to the left).
Finally, Rob returned to the office this morning with a ladies baby tee from "smackdown your vote!" that proclaims "apathy sucks." And Andrea found a lovely massage kit and a sleep mask somewhere between the Convention Center and our office -- both will surely come in handy as she recuperates from the convention madness.
"I wake up at 4 o'clock every morning and read all the blogs," said Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, surrounded by reporters at the Big Tent Denver on Wednesday morning. "It's good to see what bloggers look like. And it ain't a pretty sight."
Though that comment drew a few groans, Schweitzer's visit to new media central was certainly well received. And, coming off a big speech at the Convention, he was in top form in a beaded bolo tie, big shiny belt buckle, jeans, and boots.
A few choice remarks:
1. On the polls and Barack Obama's chances: "People who study journalism don't study math at all... This is going to be the biggest landslide since LBJ."
2. On Western swing states: "McCain may lose Arizona. They do know him down there."
3. When asked, If Obama's going to win the West, what's the single most important issue he must address?: "Energy."
4. How will Obama do in Montana: "Right now it's tied. In Montana, we don't care about social issues. We like guns. Big guns. Little guns. Shotguns. Pistols. ... and we like to buy our guns at gun shows, because there's no paperwork." He went on to explain that usually this gives the Republicans an advantage in his state. But in this election, neither McCain nor Obama have stellar marks from the National Rifle Association (in the Senate, McCain tried to regulate gun shows). Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr, on the other hand, is an A+ student of the NRA. So, says Schweitzer, Barr could take a bunch of McCain's Republican votes in that state, swinging the state to Obama.
5. On his chances of winning in November (he's the favorite by a long shot): "It all depends on the health of my dog."
Two groups of singers bumped into each other on the corner of 16th St. and Wynkoop. A barbershop quartet had just sung for Dick Gephardt and a jolly band of Denver locals was singing "Goodnight Bush" (a parody of Goodnight Moon) up and down the mall. We had the good fortune of hearing each of them perform... here's one.
From anti-abortion activists to 9/11 conspiracy theorists to Hillary supporters, the convention is hopping with protesters.
One of the near-unanimous take home messages from the Energy and Climate Change panels held at the Denver Performing Arts Complex on Tuesday was this: start pricing carbon emissions as soon as possible.
The most important role that government will play as the U.S. moves to new, cleaner energy sources is pricing carbon, whether it's through a cap and trade, tax or other means, according to Carol Browner, formerly with the Environmental Protection Agency. And her sentiment was echoed by at least 20 of the other panelists -- who ranged from industry executives to politicians, business people to scientists to think tankers -- during the morning's proceedings.
As the second of the two morning sessions got underway, a line of five suit-clad men filed into the theater -- CEOs from energy companies and Dow Chemical. The two men from coal exchanged cheap jabs with Robert A. Hefner III, founder and owner of The GHK Company, a natural gas producer, about whose energy was cleanest, most abundant and most likely to remain a crucial part of the world's "diverse portfolio" of energy supplies.
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The West got a fairly prominent place on the Convention agenda Tuesday when Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer spoke just before Hillary Clinton. The Pepsi Center was packed for the event (in anticipation of Clinton). It was so full that many journalists and other credentialed folks actually had to watch both Schweitzer's and Clinton's speeches on television monitors inside the Center (the HCN team was able to elbow its way into a hallway to watch Clinton, from the back).
Schweitzer was decked out in a shiny bolo tie, cowboy boots, and perhaps jeans. Surprisingly, 90 percent of the politicians and delegates so far do not seem to be striving to dress "Western." Very few cowboy hats (I counted three in the audience in the Pepsi Center). Not many cowboy boots. Very few bolo ties -- even New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson sported a neck tie during Clinton's speech. Most people are just wearing suits.
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There’s energy in the air here in Denver, and as HCN’s resident youngun, I like to think it’s because of all the fired-up young people – bloggers, protesters, volunteers – who are here to demand progressive change. But there are plenty of folks here who are trying to keep change from happening – especially change in the laws governing resource extraction on public lands. I snuck into a lunch put on by the National Mining Association and the American Gas Association in an attempt to see the convention from the other side.
The lunch was delicious – a huge score in my efforts to be a well-fed convention freegan – but it had a distinct aftertaste of sleaze. Much of said sleaze came from the National Mining Association, whose lobbyists tried to convince me that they were serious about mine cleanup (just not, I suppose, about forcing mining companies to post bonds to guarantee cleanup after they go broke) and even open to changing the 1872 mining act to require mining companies to pay to extract federal minerals (as long as that royalty rate is “reasonable”). I didn’t get to finish talking to them because they got distracted by greeting and schmoozing with U.S. Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), a member of the House agriculture and natural resources committees who couldn’t resist the free food, either. Costa’s presence at the lunch was in violation of House ethics rules governing interactions with lobbyists – rules that are a long ways from being followed this week in Denver.
Actress and Activist Daryl Hannah with yours truly.
You've got to give the Democrats credit. They tried to make some noise about energy today here in Denver. But no one heard them.
The scene before the press conference was dramatic: The podium stood in front of a sky blue hybrid RTD bus right in front of the stately facade of Union Station. Cops scoured the street for bombs or terrorists or non-approved protestors, and at least two-dozen journalists, along with a handful of citizens (this was one of the few such events directly related to the convention that was open to the general public), stood sweating in the sweltering sun.
Finally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with other key Democratic house leaders, arrived. And then, just as she began to speak about her plan for American energy independence, the chants began: "Drill Here! Drill Now!" they yelled. Mostly young men, some wearing self-conscious scruff, as though they were just dragged from a fraternity house. They held hand-scrawled signs and McCain t-shirts. Their voices were loud.
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Jack Shafer, of Slate.com, while making his argument that the press should boycott the conventions, wrote:
... he may argue that meeting all the important politicos up close at the convention will produce future news dividends. But he'll pout if you ask him whether the intimacy justifies the expense, which can easily exceed $3,000 per reporter for a bare-bones visit. (A single seat in the designated workspace area at a convention can cost more than $1,000, and an Internet connection is $850. Snacks purchased at the convention make ballpark food look affordable.)
HCN is not subscribing to that notion. We drove here in an aging, tiny Chevrolet; we're staying for free in the home of a very gracious host; and we even have free office space to use right downtown. And, prodded by intern Rob Inglis, we're also trying a limited form of "Freeganism" for sustenance. Okay, it's really limited, because we're not diving into any dumpsters or anything. But here's what we got yesterday with very little effort (and not one cent from the expense account):
two veggie smoothies; two cups of shi-shi tea; four superfood bars; one Theo dark chocolate bar; a package of Tek-Gum; a $10 card to purchase snacks in the Pepsi Center (probably not Coke products); two Diet Cokes; four scoops of ice cream with red-white-blue sprinkles; a highlighter pen.
$3,000 expense accounts? Pshaw!