The Coastal Post - September 2000

Fear And Loathing In Lost Angeles
A Press Junket Gone Awry At The Convention

By Stephen Simac

When the Prophet asked if I wanted a ride to the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in his minivan with him, to "seed his vision for America," I told him I couldn't afford to pay gas.

The Coastal Post doesn't pay traveling expenses, otherwise I'd be writing about Hawaii. A trip to LA to the Convention intrigued me, but funds were low. I'm a political junkie, along with a few other vices.

My obsession is odd in America where sports, sex and shopping are the main concerns, with entertainment based on celebrities, car chases, and beautiful people doing dumb things.

Don't tune out because I'm writing about politics, especially the 55% of citizens who don't bother to vote, (80% in the primaries). I'm going to give you what you crave. A short clip of coming attractions- sex, drugs, celebrities, up close and personal, based on facts just like campaign promises. Don't worry, it's an accepted journalistic technique, docudrama.

Most people don't dream of changing the world, even incrementally. The Prophet believes he was chosen by the Goddess to usher in the New Age. He was planning on giving away stapled flyers with his ten point UNION AGENDA for Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All, with a Treaty to give more power to the United Nations. He's a harmless crackpot, and his agenda and treaty were as unlikely to sprout as seeds dropped on hot concrete.

When he held up a bud of the Green Goddess variety as an incentive, I told him I would accept traveling expenses and perks, but in no way would my journalistic integrity be skewed by corporate gifts.

Blood For Oil

I'll start this dramatic reenactment of actual events with a car chase. Driving all night on I5 is one long car chase, just as suspenseful and even faster than OJ's car chase. We took turns napping in the crowded back of the minivan.

We're Not In Kansas Anymore, Toto

The sun was blood red as we drove into the thunder of LA's freeways. We bolted down the freeway towards downtown Los Angeles. The air is cleaner than it was, they say, you can see mountains until mid-morning.

The economy of the city of LA has suffered heavily in the 90's, disregarding Clinton/Gore's Prosperity and Progress themes, and a Republican mayor. Almost half the residents are poor, many of them are refugee immigrants from U.S. funded wars in Latin America and Asia. The richest fifty families have more wealth than the poorest two million.

Los Angeles- leading the way for the rest of California with their third world nation gap in wealth. Our state is leading the country in that direction, with the richest 1% earning more than the bottom 60%. Average income of California families shrank in the 90's while essential living costs exploded.

The larger LA county shows a future of America where the diminishing middle class live behind gated security walls or in distant suburbs making politicians chase their fickle, swing votes. Prison expansion and the service economy depend on the poor.

The downtown high-rise cluster rears up from the concrete flatlands of LA. A clump of tall buildings of shiny glass and marble framed the blockier Staples Center, just off the freeway. It was barricaded on all sides with acres of concrete and curved, chain link fences.

We found a nearby parking lot with all day parking. The Jewelry Center and many stores around the Staples Center were closed and boarded up with plywood. Some could have been from the Lakers championship riot, others from the tanked economy.

Constitutional Choke Hold

The LA police claimed 40,000 protesters would come to disrupt the convention, including "missing anarchists from Eugene" who had slipped surveillance. With the consent of DNC executives, the Republican mayor and local officials, they presented a paramilitary presence of overwhelming force to muffle freedom of speech or assembly, or let real issues taint the show.

There was no getting inside the DNC without a pass, but we were told if we followed the yellow brick road to the press hotel we might obtain these magic keys to the Emerald City.

Survivor's Press Conference

The press hotel was a hot and muggy hike through a canyon of marble and glass, the office and hotel towers providing some shade as we strolled down glittering sidewalks.

The hotel was air conditioned and had a lobby where I left the Prophet to go to seed, while I stood in line for passes. I didn't want him screwing up our disguise as real journalists without agendas, or at least not spelled out ones.

Of course the boss didn't confirm our registration for press passes with a call or confirmation letter. We waited around with other reporters who were on the waiting list. We needed a miracle, for sure, these tickets were harder to get than New Year's shows before Jerry died.

I talked with one young woman who worked for nakednewsatnine.com. She was a progressive journalist, clothed in layers which all came off by 9:27. She was impressed that the coastalpost.com has been providing internet content since 1997 or thereabouts, and that all our writers are nudists. Stuck in limbo, independent media with no confirmation letter, our tribe bonded.

Some hotshot from BigMedia.com who came too late for his registered pass, tried to bull ahead of us teeny weenie medias. We shouted and waved our tiki torches and voted him off the island, escorted away by security. People were tense, it was a scarce resource and we'd do anything for passes, even eat rats. The CP scored.

Going Down The road, Feeling Bad

A clattering of helicopters, sirens, bullhorns and chanting led us towards a protest going on a few blocks away. The media loves a good image, and we joined the press hopping hungrily towards the action like vultures, just out of reach of the cop's clubs.

It was the No Blood for Oil protesters. Five or six people with a cardboard oil derrick were crouched in the middle of an intersection, waiting arrest. Civil disobedience to draw attention to Gore's family owning $1 million in stocks of Occidental Petroleum which is drilling for oil in the Amazon rainforest on U'Wa Indian homelands in Columbia, with billions in military aid going to Columbia to clear out guerrillas who interfere with oil profits, in the name of the War on Drugs.

It took a few hundred cops dressed in midnight blue, helmeted, shields down, with pump shotguns or billy clubs held like rifles to hold off the curious spectators and other marchers, while fifty arrested a few kids. Helicopters hovered over the office towers, and phalanxes of brown clad, motorcycle cops blocked traffic.

Officer Friendly Is MIA

LA police have a well deserved reputation for holding back the jungle with brute force which they have sold the taxpayers as necessary to keep their white children safe. They certainly sold the Democrats on it, a bunker mentality was dominant for the DNC.

They followed the tactics adopted by many police agencies since Seattle which have throttled the constitutional rights of citizens trying to be heard above the drum of BigMedia.com propaganda. The strategy makes no pretense to protect and serve their rights. The LA police department claimed protesters intended violence. The police then brazenly violated constitutional rights, used undercover agents to infiltrate citizens groups, spied on citizens and organizations, gained huge increases in overtime for their officers, harassed organizers and centers of protests, and forced marches into penned in corridors and cut off protest sites. For that they were lauded by 90% of the media and elected officials for keeping the Peace and improving morale of the officers. There was $7.5 million in overtime, the majority just for hanging out.

They boxed the official protesters site into a hot tar parking lot with a stage and sound system but no shade. Hundreds of trees had been cut down or severely trimmed for some unclear reason.

Most media pundits complained that the cacophony of voices and messages was too confusing, no easy clichˇs. The largest signs were corporate ads hung on the building around the center. Apple's Think Different with famous Democratic faces looking down on the crowds was the most prominent and enormous.

There were more police than demonstrators in the city. Marching police columns easily divided them and herded them around, trampling on their rights to speak freely and peaceably assemble. Demonstrations are a Catch 22 with the big media, who could care less about confusing messages and civil rights, but quivered like terriers when they thought there might be some heads getting beaten.

There were several, permitted, non-violent marches every day of the convention with clear themes, but these failed to get the front page headlines a real riot would have.

Out front of the convention center, there were dozens of sign-wavers with messages that Meat is Murder, Save the Chupacabra, Corporate Money Out of Campaigns. There were No-Choice (for women), fat men with bullhorns holding large pictures of aborted babies beside Pro-Life (animal) dreadlocked women with posters of electrocuted weasels (both with a V chip rating).

Delegates and the elite with passes passing through the first security checkpoint gate, were being harangued about their guilt for one issue or another. Even though the designated protest site was hot and unpleasant to linger in, the Prophet managed to wander off into the crowd and disappear there. We'd agreed to meet back at the van.

Idle Mindless, Devil's Playground

Once inside my press pass could only get me a seat a few hundred feet up, with an excellent view of the Lakers championship banners and retired jerseys. I could see the bald spots of all the big media anchors in their private press boxes. Idle thoughts of jazzing politics up with sports metaphors and time clocks, passed my mind as speaker after speaker repeated themes of Progress and Prosperity and Gore and Lieberman.

Everyone gets bored during political speeches, it's like cheerleaders during a time-out, and these were some uninspired cheerleaders. I wandered down several floors, trying to find an entrance where security didn't turn me away. The trick was to wait 'til they turned their back, which is how I found myself in an awfully long corridor, couldn't go back towards security, endlessly turning corners, until I stumbled into the Laker's locker room.

President Clinton was in the coach's office surrounded by a small crowd, including Secret Service. I figured this was the end of the press junket for me, but amazingly he saw me and ran out. "Great to see ya, how's Willie and why dontcha twist up some of da kine he said you'd bring?"

I'd heard the stories about Willie Nelson smoking pot on the roof of the White House with Bill. Willie loves Maui kine bud, and I was wearing my Meowie Wowie Catnip, Treat Your Pussy T-shirt. "He's fine, getting more sleep at home not in his limo, I think you'll like this stuff."

I had snagged a couple fatties out of one of the players lockers, they should be able to afford the best. I told him it was medical marijuana, guaranteed to ease depression and the achy pain of undecided voters. Entirely legal under state law voted in by 70% of the voters in 1996.

Still, he took me back into a private room with a television monitor of the proceedings, but I had to ask one hard question before we lit it up. "The Democratic platform says let medical decisions be made by patients, doctors and nurses not bureaucrats, yet you have not made one move to reschedule marijuana from Schedule 1 with no accepted medical use, in spite of more research proving its safety and effectiveness than exists for aspirin, your administration continues to harass states which have passed medical marijuana laws, more people have been arrested for simple marijuana possession in your term than during 12 years of Reagan Bush, and your Drug Czar General Mcaffrey continually spreads false information and should be indicted for War Crimes, why vote for your legacy?"

"I feel your pain, but I've done more to increase the number of blow jobs in America than any other President since FDR. You know what it's like in this country, I'd like to be soft on drugs, but it's like social security, the death penalty and cheap oil rolled into one third rail to a national politician. Now if cannabis users registered voters, voted in blocs, donated more than defense lawyers and prison guards, allied with AARP and AIPAC, and wrote letters to their editor and elected officials with their names signed, they would win their constitutional rights, that's the Democratic way."

The policy wonk was showing. "Al says he will, if he gets a Democratic congress. He's a real pothead, ever since Tommie Lee and him were roommates. Gore even took me to my first Grateful Dead concert, it was a trip."

I'll say this, in person slick Willie is a total charmer. I found myself believing him, no matter how many times he'd lied. Even when he said, "Don't worry, I'll pull out." He was sweet afterwards, even gave me a cigar and all week passes, plus invitations to a few A list parties, including the Blue Dog Democrats bash. I didn't ask him about the rumor that he was old man Kennedy's bastard son.

Suddenly he panicked, got paranoid. "I'm sposed to be on now, and I've still got that long ass corridor to walk through, I can't run, I'll get all sweaty." That's when I came up with the brilliant Dead Man Walking trek, with captions of his accomplishments hiding the pismo on his pants, while he calmly strolled to the podium. The crowd loved it.

Wild Night In Hot LA

I slipped out before his speech ended, along with a horde of media who heard there was a riot getting started. Several thousand fans were listening to Rage Against the Machine on the First Amendment stage. A few dozen kids began throwing things over the tall fences at the paramilitary police. Police with bullhorns told people to disperse in fifteen minutes, before Clinton's speech was over when thousands of delegates would pour out.

Of course Bill ran late, but the police charged on horseback toward the crowd when the fifteen minutes was up and the crowd didn't move quickly enough. They began firing rubber bullets and pepper gas and beat any citizens that got too close to them.

They pushed the crowd away from the convention center and right into a permitted Homeless parade. The organizer of the Homeless convention was knocked down by a bean bag and laid out dramatically on an American flag. He had become controversial before the convention because he promised to snitch on any violent protesters, and point them out to the police. Evidently they didn't need the help.

Back at the parking lot, the Prophet perked up when I showed him the A list invites. Even though he was dressed like a Hawaiian tourist, he had somehow ended up down on the floor in the Indiana delegation, but they threw him out when he flunked the Pacers quiz. He moved back to Guam, only about 20 feet from Jimmy Carter.

The House of Blues was hosting the MTV get out the vote party, so we swung by there. It was too crowded in the press room and everything free had already been scarfed, secret service wouldn't let us out to boogie on the floor. We hung out with one of the Gore girls, who'd snuck out in the parking lot to smoke a joint. We gained an audience with some California grass.

I knew those Tennessee farm girls were naive, so I told her how Bill was counting on me to replace Dick Morris after the toe sucking incident. She got all giggly and promised to help me meet her daddy to loosen up his speech.

The Blue Dog Democrats were being hosted at the Santa Monica Pier by RJ Reynolds and the NRA. These guys really know how to party, we got wasted with a couple of good old boys from the Democratic Leadership Council, fired off banned semi automatic weapons at Pelosi and Feinstein blow up dolls. The Prophet grabbed a couple of free packs of Winstons and a plastic handgun with some cop killing ammo, he'd need that for LA, he muttered.

I slept on the beach south of the pier while the prophet bunked in the van in the parking lot. Dark lumps of people sleeping were spread out sporadically down the beach so I felt safer. It was well lit anyways, with a full moon, over the ocean, street lights from the parking lot and a computerized light show on the ferris wheel like silent fireworks. Before dawn the roar and headlights from a tractor raking the beach at high speed, got me up quickly. I washed up in the public bathrooms, there was a line.

The Shadow Knows

We wanted to go to the Shadow Convention, where real issues were lurking. The Shadow Conventions in Phillie and LA were funded and organized by a coalition of groups and individuals.

They focused on three issues over three days, huge problems for the future of our country, ignored by both the Republican and Democratic parties. Poverty and the Wealth Gap, The Failed War on Drugs and Campaign Finance Reform each had a day, lined up with an impressive array of speakers and panels. These were online at shadowconventions.com.

The night before the police had shut down their reporting and that of the Independent Media Center putting out a daily paper for the convention with online journalists on the sixth floor. For a few hours of prime time police investigated an alleged bomb scare. The investigators weren't too scared, didn't even bother to wear protective-wear or evacuate the building.

The convention was housed at Patriotic Hall, a nine story, veterans building about a half mile from the DNC, a hot walk through a barricaded and plywood covered storefronts neighborhood, center of the Laker's riot.

There was an auditorium which was packed, and large screen monitors in the hall. Jesse Jackson, New Mexico Republican Governor Gary Johnson, and Tom Campbell, the Republican candidate for California Senator, spoke on the need to end the failed war on illegal drugs.

Campbell wants to end the War on Drugs and pointed out what a disaster our foray into Columbia's civil war will be because of drug war fever. A clear choice between him and Fascist Feinstein, who wants to intensify the War on people who use Illegal Drugs and has authored a bill to imprison anyone exercising freedom of speech about illegal drugs on the internet.

Change Your Perspective

Around 4:20 we found the balcony on the eighth floor where medical marijuana was being shared. Looking across the hazy concrete of LA oozing below us, talking politics on a smoke filled balcony. Ram Dass was there, recovering from a major stroke, getting a helping hand in passing the joint.

Ram Das said the herb eased his pain and gave him perspective on his situation, easing his depression. When he began to speak in the auditorium after going downstairs it took him a few minutes to collect his thoughts. Finally, he cracked up the house saying now that California has legalized medical marijuana he can always say that he just smoked a joint. His speech is halting, but his ideas are still clear. He used to be a psychologist he said, then he ate mushrooms. They allowed him to discover his soul, his immortal essence, and to see that what we think is merely perspectives!

The liberal night was a snoozer and I needed the rest. Luckily the peanut gallery seats were so crowded and small, I could nap without falling over. Until everyone left, sometime after Bill Bradley. I woke suddenly when the fat lady split.

Scream For Wavy Gravy

The Protesters Convergence Center was a few miles away near MacArthur park. Ben and Jerry's Icecream money had helped fund Direct Action Network's protest tour on the road since Seattle. One DAN director is still in jail in Phillie, on $1 million bail for a misdemeanor. They had rented out a four story abandoned office building in LA and were using it as protest central.

The gutted-out floors were still lively with people. Signs were being painted, affinity groups being held, veggie dinner being slopped. I'd heard that protestors were crashing here, but it was mostly concrete in the dark and quiet areas.

Suddenly Prophet spied a buddy of his, who led us out to the Ben and Jerry's bus he was staying on in the back lot. This was a protest bus, with a Save the Children paint job and a large pie chart on the side, showing that half our tax dollars go to the military. Inside it was cluttered with electronic gizmos. Underneath the bus looked softer than concrete, plywood.

Never Fall Asleep With A Gun In Your Lap In LA

I woke on the plywood after dreaming of a two faced, police state with a smiling face turned to whiter people, an enraged face towards darker people. It took a while to work the kinks out as we joined the march against Ramparts and Police Brutality heading out.

The Ramparts Scandal is another lesson from the failed War on Drugs. In their war metaphor induced zealousness, dozens of police officers from a special gang/drug squad planted evidence or lied to convict hundreds of minorities. Now those convictions are being overturned, officers charged, and millions paid out to defendants.

When we reached the Ramparts station after a noisy, sweaty hour of shouting and clanging, there were as many media as protesters. There was sure to be some billy clubbing today.

Suddenly the situation became ominous when walls of police completely surrounded the crowd of citizens and press. It was clear from a few indiscriminate clubbings that we looked the same to the dark blue battalions of officers.

They were still cops, so when the Prophet rolled two dozen donuts at the feet of one platoon, they broke ranks in a mad scramble. We got out of there while the pigs munched out, except for a few anarchists, some press, and undercover cops who'd been arrested.

Purple Haze

The Prophet and I got back to the convention late. I'd asked Willie Brown not to go on until I got there, and he was pretty steamed that he got shut out entirely. I calmed him down, promised him a new stadium.

I snuck backstage to turn on Hadassah Lieberman with some X mixed with Ritalin, an ultra orthodox rabbi was passing out. He said it would increase Compassionate Focus. Wow, wow, wow she kept saying as she wandered out onto the podium.

Joe, I couldn't do much for. I suggested a tie dyed yarmulke, get out the Deadhead vote, he nixed it My advice on the allegiance to Israel stuff, pull a JFK with Rome allusion, get the Catholic vote. Mention that almost every federal politician owes allegiance to Israel and AIPAC.

Al wasn't supposed to go on until tomorrow night, 'til I caught up with him backstage. Bill was right, he's not a bad guy. Little stiff, but I had the remedy, relaxes your smooth muscle tissue I told him. Sure enough, he relaxed so much, he rushed out like a little kid, just to see the crowd.

We hung out all night, just the family and friends at their hotel suite. I grilled Al on his devotion to the bloated military budget and the Big Corporations which allowed for their lapdog's snappishness towards the masters during campaign season. I questioned his understanding of the Future if he was so cool on Global Warming. The Prophet was spreading his seed with one of the daughters. She promised to pass his agenda as President in 2012.

What Would Jesus Do In This Situation

Al loved my idea of the lip lock with Tipper, they practiced it while I played Prince's Purple Rain, really turned her on. I thought it would convince the voters that here's a guy who doesn't need to get it on the side, but he's not just all business. Nothing I could do about the laundry list of entitlements, it's part of the package.

As a nod to Campaign Finance Reform, I tried to sell him on sporting his sponsors corporate logos on his suit and tie. Get those Indy 500 fans. A show of openness with no Buddhist or phone card logos. Despite his negativity, we worked on that speech together, for hours on those persuasive hand gestures and likable yet leadershippy poses.

It was a quandary, but I helped him as the lesser of two evils. The speech wasn't great but it didn't kill the ratings. The Prophet had cast his seeds, hopefully one would blow through those concert canyons into the right hands. I felt used like a political prostitute, a cynical consultant to a sold out party, because they weren't quite as sold out as the Republicans.

We didn't even stick around to accept the gratitude. Getting on the interstate the Prophet and I headed out of LaLa Land for another all night drive. So if parts of this account sound hallucinatory, blame it on sleep deprivation.

Vote Now For Better Sex (Paid Political Ad)

It's time to make a more effective statement than silence or indifference. It's time to accept some responsibility for change. It's time to register to vote, so you can take the first step towards democratic change.

The serious issues the Shadow Convention covered in depth should be front page news, they are currently available on the internet and in bookstores.

It is possible to create change, politics is more meaningful than sports, your vote is not much but it's not difficult either. Believe it or not there are more than two choices. You can vote for Nader of the Green Party or Browne of the Libertarian party, Buchanan of the Reform and even less well known candidates. Their platforms and sources of funding are available on line or at libraries.

If the majority of voters who don't vote, showed up on first Tuesday in November to choose a third party candidate in 2000, they would not need one Gore or Bush voter to win. Then we'd see if assassination and martial law is the ruling class' final answer to radical democratic change.

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