Saturday, October 23

My First Obama Rally (w/Brown & Boxer at USC)!

I don't get out much. Not because I don't want to, but because I don't have a operational vehicle of my own and haven't had one for years. I often work from home, and when I do go out it's either to the office or grocery shopping with the wife. For me this was big deal, a great big F-ing deal - and I'll remember it for a long time.

Video of Rally Via C-Span.

I went with my 60 70 year-old mom, who is a die-hard Obama supporter so obsessive she records as many of his television appearances as she can (and is actually a bit obsessive and hoarder-ish about it) but such is the intensity that Obama has inspired in many, particularly those of her generation - who grew up in the Jim Crow South and never thought they'd live to see a Black President.

We arrived in the area of USC at about 10:15 am. (People had been camping out since 5:00 am that morning) As we drove up Figueroa St. we could see the police presence increasing as we passed Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, near Exposition Park. The crowds started to grow as we crossed Exposition and could see the campus of USC on our left. I hadn't been in this part of town in years, even though I grew up in Los Angeles. Lot of new construction and development, stores and shops appeared on the right.

We made a left on Jefferson and considered parking in the Mall lot - but as I suspected they were restricting access to those lots. About halfway to Vermont we finally saw the News Vans, and the line... oh, the LINE.

If you've ever been in a line at Disneyland, Magic Mountain or Six Flags that wraps around and around, then doubles back again, your heart sinks and your feet hurt as soon as you see it - you know the kind of line I'm talking about.

This one was worse.

The line stretched all the way down Jefferson Blvd, to Vermont and around the corner. It was practically looping it's way around the entire campus.

We went a couple blocks into the surrounding neighborhood and parked in an open spot in front of local home, which since this was essentially South Central LA was lonely little street with a sidewalk that had been lifted a good foot higher than it's original position because of a huge tree which had grown under it over the past 50 years. The homes were all from the 30's, with big porches and chain link fences. The same kind of neighborhood I grew up in after my mom moved here with her brothers and sisters from Louisiana in the 60's. It was a Boyz In the Hood kinda area and I honestly had a brief mental Juan Williams moment as I wondered if the car would still be there when we returned, but unlike Chicken-Little Williams - we toughed it out.

We walk the couple blocks back over to USC and got in the line, and I found as I looked at the faces of the people that the group was amazingly diverse. Certainly plenty of USC students were represented, but there were also UCLA students, even some from UC Berkeley all proud in their sweats. No rivalry - all unity, Today. There were SEIU, AFSCME, older ex-hippies, younger and older black people, Asians, Latinos, Jews, blondes, brunettes, older business types, younger yuppie types, slackers, hipsters and skaters. Everything you would expect and more. This crowd ran the gamut, everyone was represented - and no one outnumbered. In contrast to everything I've heard and seen about the Monochromatic Tea Party Rallies, this crowd was in full bright Technicolor.

There also plenty of hucksters and Street Hustlers about, pimping Obama pins and blinged-out Obama shirts. They were even selling bottles a water to those in line for a dollar each (when you could buy an entire case from Smart & Final across the street for $4). Guerrilla Entrepreneurs, LA is full of them.

At 11:44 I looked up to see a huge military chopper overhead crossing Vermont. I thought - could that be it? No, this was a heavy combat model - but a few seconds later following in it's wake I saw it. Marine One was flying over my head! Quietly I thanked Obama for not messing up LA traffic any more than it already needs to be, but I also realized this might not actually be Marine One since they always fly a decoy. I kept looking and eventually saw the other one - also crossing Vermont but further up, North of Jefferson.

President Barack Obama had just arrived.

And hardly anyone in line had noticed. Typically L.A. myopia I guess.

Slowly the line began to move forward, in fits. 30 feet. Then another 20. Then another 50 feet. We crossed 36th Street. Eventually turned the corner at Jefferson and headed back toward the TV trucks.

As we entered the campus I was surprised, somewhat disappointed and maybe relieved that there were almost no protesters in sight. Just this Motley Crue.

"Barack Obama, Jerry Brown, Barbara Boxer You're FIRED" - the sign says. Victory Dancing during the 8th Inning are ya? Games not over yet.

And this guy with some weird rantings about Israel on his sign. Tried reading it, couldn't tell what his issue really was. Whatever.

As I said, I don't get out much - so to me this wasn't just an opportunity to see the President, it was an opportunity to do more than sit in my bedroom and type - it was a chance to see, meet and talk face to face with fellow Democrats. I was itching to start up a conversation, and finally a couple people who had actually cut into the line I finally had that chance.

One was a slim young-looking but white-haired woman from Orange County. Her daughter had attended SC, and she herself worked in the Health Insurance Industry. She told me that from her perspective, in support of her clients in the industry, the Health Care Bill was in her words "Fantastic". Orange County, which might as well be named "Red County" - the center of California Republican Politics. Home of John Wayne. Where both Nixon and Reagan arose.

I have these long-time OC Republicans calling me up in disbelief as we go through all the things that they get now with healthcare reform. They love it, they tell me - I'm voting for him (Barack) next time.

That's what I came here to hear!

Two years ago all we had was Hope. Now we're starting to have results. I didn't see or hear anyone lamenting the lack of a Public Option. (Although during our discussion I pointed that the final HCR Bill replaced the Public Option with a Non-Profit Option that scored just as well according to CBO at reducing costs) No Lifetime Caps. No Co-Pay or Deductibles for Cancer Screenings and Preventive Care. No more pre-existing conditions for children. These things are making a difference in peoples lives and making a difference in their pocketbooks just as this rec'd diary describes.

All that scary "Death Panel" talk is getting smacked upside the forehead by fact and reality. Good.

I also talked to an older black gentleman who worked in the Entertainment Industry. This being L.A, that not uncommon. Pretty much the only area where America continues to lead in exports, is in Films and Music. LA and California is probably the export capital of the nation in terms of $Billions being brought back to U.S. shores. He worked with Jerry Bruckheimer, and we talked more about the Industry than politics. My wife's mother had worked in the Script Dept. at CBS Television City and knew some of the cast from "Your Show of Shows" like Red Skelton. He'd also known Red Skelton back in the day as well as Cid Ceasar and even a young Woody Allen who was a scriptwriter on the show.

Now inside the campus of USC as the line snaked back and forth we passed one button huckster who sounded like a movie announcer with a rich baratone.

In a world... where just ONE BUTTON can make a difference...

Clearly an out of work actor or voice over artist trying to make a few bucks. They used to wait tables, now they hawk Obama pins. We spoke more about the TV, movies. He had wanted his daughter - another USC alumnus - to come work with him, but she decided to work for the city as an attorney.

Further into the school I saw a sign..

No Enthusiasm Gap Here!

There was also a sign about recognizing the Armenian Genocide - which isn't a bad idea, but not quite as pressing IMO as some of the other issues on our plate.

Finally we reached the metal detectors, and entered the main quad. The crowd was Enormous - (estimated at 37,000). Biggest crowd I've been in that wasn't a Rock Show. I couldn't even see which direction the podium was. Eventually I could see the review stand so we just headed toward it trying to get as close as we could. We finally wound up in the far stage-right corner with the podium partially blocked behind a tree. But it didn't matter, we were there - in the moment. Live and In Person.

Actor/Comedian/Singer/Academy Award Winner Jamie Foxx came out on stage and proceeded to pump up the crowd with a change.

When I say "Vote" you say "Democrat"! VOTE!


Jamie: VOTE!

Crowd: DEMOCRAT!!!

Apparently we had missed L.A. Mayor Villaragosa, but after Jamie we had Transportation Labor Secretary Hilda Solis (who is a USC alumnis), then California Gubernatorial Candidate Jerry Brown who is battling hard with former Ebay CEO Meg Whitman. Brown was soon followed by Senator Barbara Boxer whose been in a tough fight with fired former HP Exec/fired former McCain Surrogate - Carly (Demon Sheep) Fiorina.

This rally was really - FOR THEM - the current candidates, to help them get votes and minimize Republican Control of the State and Senate. California is the first state to establish an Exchange under Health Reform. Whitman would roll that back, and it's incalculable what kind of damage a GOP controlled Senate would do if it included a corporate job exporting shill like Fiorina.

While speaking Barbara admitted that she was essentially the Five minute Warm up act for Obama and that got some hecklers going who were anxious for the President. Apparently they didn't understand that Barbara Boxer is the reason the President was even in California at all, but eventually she won them back.

Boxer: We Will Win!

Not exactly something you'd see at a Tea Bag Party!

Finally Barack Began to speak, sounding exactly like I've heard him so many times before on TV. His speech covered much of the same ground that he's been over in recent weeks. He told the story about Republicans running the country into a ditch, then standing back and kicking dirt down on the Democrats as they tried to dig and push it out. Slipping on a slurpee, heckling.

You're not pushing it right!!

Then once the country is out of the ditch, all banged up and dented - they want the Keys Back.

Obama: No, you can't have the keys back - You Don't Know HOW TO DRIVE.

Just remember when you get in your car, when you want to go forward you put it in "D" - when you want to go backwards, you put it in "R"!

Now, at this point, because I blog and obsessively pay attention, I've heard these lines about 10 times now (I can even hear it coming from the next room as I type this from Today's Obama Rally) So even though he wasn't using a teleprompter - this speech wasn't significantly different from what he said for Patty Murray, or what he said for Harry Reid later that same day - so I can understand from a certain perspective why the Press wouldn't really cover it, there isn't really any News in what he's saying.

The REAL News was all in the crowd, because they hadn't heard any of this before and it went over enormously. THEY LOVED IT!

And then when Obama just mentioned the name "Citizens United" there was a huge roar of "Boooooo!!" even before he got into the details.

He talked about how secret foreign money was funneling in to California to attack Jerry Brown, to attack Barbara Boxer - and that this was not just a threat to Democrats...

This is a threat to our Democracy

Some in the media have called this a "risky" strategy and question it. Even though today Thinkprogress has even more proof that Foreign Oil money is funding the U.S. Chambers ads against Clean Energy. The skeptics have their doubts that this criticism is making a dent.

But I have to tell you - this line is WORKING. People are usually sick and annoyed with negative ads all over the TV. Maybe in the modern DVR age they are less of a problem as most people can fast forward through them, but nobody likes them. And to think they're being funded by out of state Oil Companies trying to overturn California Clean Energy Law? The crowd was LIVID on this issue. Republicans have been using the "Don't Trust Your Lying Eyes" strategy against the Corporate News for Decades. Maybe here we can start the "Don't Trust their LYING ADS", so that no matter how much they spend - how much they clog up the airwaves with this bile, they don't get traction because the message has become tainted by the hidden messenger behind the curtain.

I started getting into a lot of discussions at this point with people who were responding to the Presidents words, taking them in and really digesting them. One of those persons I talked to had one of those Be-dazzled Obama Shirts in the David Ferrie style with "Inauguration 2008" along the bottom, it had been ripped and stitched back along the chest - had holes wearing in it at the collar, and a "United States of America" patch had been added on the left arm. He told me he'd gotten it at the Inaugural in Washington which is long long way from LA. He wore it a lot and it showed. Flying the Colors High.

Suddenly I was a little less disgusted by the profiteering of the little Obama Tchotchke Economy, in it's own way it was probably helping the Recovery and pissing off Tea Partiers at the same time. That's a Win-Win even if I do find the entire phenomenon a bit like Velveeta Idolatry.

We got so into our own discussion I actually missed hearing the end of his speech, but going back now and hearing it on C-SPan. He finished strong.

I understand the last two years haven't been easy. You're thinking back to election night or inauguration day. How much fun that was. Beyonce was singing and Bono. Jamie (Foxx) was there. It felt like a big party.

But I told you this was gong to be hard, I told you power concedes nothing without a fight. Y'know inch by inch, day by day, week by week, we've been grinding it out because that's the nature of change in a big complex democracy. It seem so distant from those memories. "Change is harder than I expect, we haven't gotten everything done that we would have wanted". But don't let anybody tell you that our fight hasn't been worth it. Don't let them tell you that we're not making a difference.

Because of you, there are people right here in California who don't have to choose between having treatment for their cancer or going bankrupt. Because of you, there are parents who can say "Yes, we can send our children to college". Because of you, there as small business who can keep thier doors open even in the midst of recession. Because of you, we have brought home over 100,000 brave soldiers from Iraq. Because of you, we will continue to fight to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell Because of you....

If we listened to the cynics, we wouldn't be here day. If our ancestors had listened to the cynics we wouldn't have gotten through war, we wouldn't have gotten through the battle for civil rights, and women's rights. I need you to keep on believing and keep on hoping. I need you to knock on some doors, and make some phone calls.

Somewhere along Obama's presentation I lost track of my mother while trying to get into position for a better shot, all to little avail. I waited to see if I could find her while the crowd thinned, but she's had knee trouble recently and had already headed back to the car. For some reason she wasn't answering her cell - so I was a little worried about where she was for the next 20 minutes.

All Done, except for the Cleanup.

During that time I got closer to the podium, and actually got up close as Jamie Foxx went by - but just then my mom called distracting me and Jamie slipped away before I could get his attention. Aw, Dammit. - so close.

She was halfway down Jefferson, nearing Vermont. I had to go and catch up.

On the way out I could hear the choppers powering back up. A couple gals with "Moving America Forward" T-shirts said they were headed to Las Vegas which I later learned was for Harry Reid's Rally that night. Like a kid I ran to get another glimpse of Marine One, trying to find a clear spot without trees or bulidings in the way.

The chase took me back to the entrance, and more hucksters whose numbers had grown dramatically. They easily dwarfed the one lone protester with a Pro-Fiorina sign that accused Barbara Boxer of "Killing Babies". He was thin, tall and white haired - arguing loudly with the crowd as they walked by. I considered going over to him and saying... "Exactly where in the Bible is Abortion mentioned?"

If he would have said "Thou shalt not Kill" - I would have then asked would you prefer that the mother die or become unable to bear future children? I would asked him if his preservation of "All Life" come before or after having adulterers and gays stoned to death? Do Moses' Laws in Leviticus trump God's Law via the Ten Commandments of Exodus? Doesn't Christ Trump Moses when he says "Let those without Sin cast the first stone?" If you believe in protecting the unborn, do you also believe in providing Free Prenatal Care? What about ensuring that babies who actually been born are guaranteed Health Care? What about making sure they have decent food in schools so they can develop properly? Do you care about children and people after they leave the womb or just before?

But before I could get into any of that - Mom called again. Had to catch up - No Fundie Fighting For me.

Eventually at Jefferson and Vermont I found her, and we ventured back into "the Hood" to find the car - which was just fine as it turns out. About a block away I saw a young latina girl, like so many I see on the Bus, less than 20 years old - college age - pushing a baby carriage and with another young boy (probably a sibling, but her's or her babies?) trotting along side.

I was struck that I'd just seen and stood along side thousands of young girls and young people who looked exactly like this one only two blocks away - but whose future was so completely different. But I was also heartened, because the thousands that I'd just stood along side - weren't just out for themselves, they were doing what they could to help make this girl's life better, and that maybe - someday - with all of our help and her own effort she'll be standing along side them in college or in good job, or in a house of her own where she can provide a promising future of her children, and their children. Someday she too might have a piece of the American Dream, instead of the Waking Nightmare we've all been enduring with Republicans controlling our Country.

Maybe, with a tons more hard work -- and Hope -- there will still be a Change.


Update: More (and better) Pics courtesy of Tam in CA.

Update II: Got some hate mail - funny stuff. I get to Fundie Fight after all.

Funny-you don't have an "operational vehicle" (does that mean you don't own a car that works?) and you can't write a post without profanity.....You will be able to tell your friends, "I went to the rally and watched the worst President who is incapable of giving a speech read from a teleprompter". What a great experience.

Oh, you "toughed it out" not like Juan Williams? Really? Did Juan Williams tell you that when he sees Muslims in an airport he cancels his flight and goes home ? No, he didn't jackass.

America will be regurgitating hope and change shortly.

My answer:

I technically have a car, and it does work - but needs some repairs to make it "Street Legal". I haven't had the spare funds to repair or replace it since my industry (20 plus years in IT) was essentially outsourced to India. I went 12 years without a drivers license (I have one now), so Public Transpo is just fine for me. Living within tight economic limits is the reality for a lot of America these days, especially in the aftermath of the Bush Crash.

Juan Williams is a Modern Day Steppin Fetchit. A Shuck'n Jive Shill who promulgates cultural intolerance, rationalizing racial fear and bigotry to make it palatable for the Fox Freaks. He makes all their racial grievances seem justified since "Juan's just as scared of THEM as I am" - I've clocked his act multiple times, including yesterday.


His cowardly punkass wouldn't be caught live or dead in the neighborhood I grew up and work in everyday without calling Blackwater/Xe and Joe Miller's "Crack" Security Team for backup and an emergency extraction.

And yes, I can write a post without profanity just fine, although you clearly didn't realize that in his case I was actually paraphrasing the Vice President. Perception Challenged much?

P.S. Fuck-diddly Fucktastic Fuckity Fuckballs!


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