Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Report from Barack Obama's Pittsburgh Rally

I had the opportunity to volunteer for the Barack Obama rally in Pittsburgh on Monday. A local organizer connected me to Sally Matts, so we could commute together to Pittsburgh.

We took the 28X into town and got up to the Mellon Arena a little after 1. A long line had already formed:


Start of the line

Towards the end:

towards the end of the line

In the middle:

towards the middle of the line

The line extended for several blocks (up past St. Benedict the Moor church for the folks familiar with the area).

We waited around while the staff got the volunteers organized. That took a while. They wanted most of us to encourage the attendees to sign up to help Get Out the Vote over the weekend...but ran out of clipboards before Sally and I got them.

I've worked all kinds of events, and one thing that was really clear from this one is that there was inadequate signage. I walked around a little, and suggested to Sally that we invent a job for ourselves. We decided to escort handicapped attendees up to the handicapped entrance, which was on the far side of the Mellon Arena from the main street entrance. We talked to a staffer who agreed that was a good idea.

So we stood about midway up the hill to the Arena, where the entrance road and the parking lot meet. When we saw someone who seemed to be having trouble, we brought them up to the handicapped entrance.

This was tricky (of course). The sidewalk was blocked off in places, so we'd direct people in wheelchairs to the adjacent road. There were surprisingly few cuts through the curb for wheelchairs. The one closest to the handicapped entrance had a car parked in front if it illegally. Luckily, there was still enough space around the car that people in mobies could get back up onto the sidewalk.

And then, someone who was either with the fire department or the TSA (not sure which) parked in front of the illegally parked car in such a way that we could no longer get handicapped attendees up the ramp and back onto the sidewalk. I went to him and said, "Um, excuse me, sir? Could you push ahead a little so we could get people back on the sidewalk?"

He growled at me a little, and went off in search of the person who was parking illegally. Luckily, he found the person pretty fast, the person drove away, and the cops stuck a sawhorse in front of the ramp so no one could park in the way.

Sally got cold and went inside. I begged her to save me a seat and she did.

I managed to stay outside until about 4:30, when I got too cold and had to go in. The speeches were due to start at 5, but I figured Obama would be running late. I found another volunteer and got him to help bring handicapped attendees up to the special entrance.

I hit the bathroom, bought some "dinner" (hot dog and popcorn) and found Sally. She'd saved great seats not too far from the podium and off the floor in the staff area. The Arena seats 17,000 for hockey games. While there was a floor over the ice, there floor wasn't completely filled up by people (the press area was spacious and not filled). Not every fixed seat in the arena was filled either. I'd estimate there were between 14,000 and 15,000 in the arena, a good crowd given it was a weekday, the weather was cold, and we'd only heard about this on Friday.

The TV camera area was towards our right:

TV camera area

The floor and the podium were towards our left, just to the left of all those supporters who were standing:

the crowd across from us

The rally was due to start at 5. The weird thing was that the rally started at about 4:45. Rallies almost never start early. Governor Ed Rendell, Senator Bob Casey and local Congressional Representative Mike Doyle gave short speeches. Then there was nearly a half hour of recorded music (and I don't think the writers/performers have asked Obama not to use it, unlike some other campaigns I could mention).

Just before 5:30, Steeler president Dan Rooney came out to introduce Barack Obama. When Obama came onstage, the cheers were deafening. Rooney handed him a Steelers' jersey:

Barack Obama with Dan Rooney

Sally Matts foreground, Barack Obama background

Sally Matts foreground, Barack Obama background

I've heard Obama speak on TV a number of times. While he's often a little stiff, he speaks very intelligently, unlike your average politician. He sounds like he's thinking about what he's saying and not just repeating sound bites or blurting out something wildly inappropriate. It was definitely worthwhile to hear him speak in person. Yeah, there were bits and pieces of his standard stump speech and his Democratic National Convention speech, but he seems to adapt it slightly for his audience.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Obama's speech, which lasted about a half hour, hit all the right notes. People were still coming in, half-way through his speech. The audience was enthusiastic. There were only one or two hecklers. Everyone was welcome to this rally (no tickets, no vetting by local Democrats). The fact there were so few Republican intrusions was indicative of the fact that McCain/Palin don't have as much support in Pittsburgh as they'd like to pretend (when they were in Western Pennsylvania last week, McCain drew about 4,400 people and Palin about 2,000). The Democratic vote in and near the main cities usually exceeds the Republican vote in the rural parts of the state, and I hope this will be true this year.

It was a great rally!

My favorite sign:

We Want Change!

After his speech, Obama went down on the floor to shake hands. Sally and I decided we'd just as soon find the bus and get home, which we did.

I took a test this morning which I saw in adelheid-p's Live Journal.

You Should Be Allowed to Vote

You got 15/15 questions correct.

Generally speaking, you're very well informed.

If you vote this election, you'll know exactly who (and what) you'll be voting for.

You're likely to have strong opinions, and you have the facts to back them up.

There's only one more thing to say: VOTE!!!!!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Meme: So What Were You Writing About the Federal Election in 2004?

Every once in a while, I get a sense of "deja vu all over again" about the presidential election. So, I went back and read my November, 2004 blog entries (if you want to read them, remember, jump to the bottom of the file and work your way up).

Hmm, I was overconfident (briefly), but not so much that I didn't work on the campaign or vote.

The post-election analysis was interesting. Fewer people voted than Democrats counted on and the youth voting rate was no higher in 2004 than it had been in 2000. I sincerely hope both of those things will turn out differently this time.

So, here's an informal meme for you - if you wrote about the 2004 election online, link to it from your blog or LiveJournal or however you write on the Internet. What were you thinking then? What do you think now? What do you think will be different this time?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A "Pro-Jobs" Tax Ad - with Grover Norquist???

I saw one of those political ads (sponsored by "Americans for Tax Reform") that spoke darkly about "changing the tax structure will lose jobs."

The man narrating the ad was Grover Norquist.

That name was a blast from the past, where Norquist should stay. Norquist was the guy behind all those tax cuts Bush pushed back in 2001. In short, Norquist is the architect of the unprecedented deficit our government currently has.

Norquist is also the person who famously said:

My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.

So if you want to live in a third world country, by all means, support the current tax structure, or candidates who would blindly leap into more tax cuts.

It's amazing that this group can be a 501(c)3. While this group wasn't specifically mentioning any particular party or candidate, it's clear they think we're still overtaxed and are encouraging voters to vote against the tax rate increases a responsible government needs to institute. If we had a strong national infrastructure and no deficit, I might agree that Americans are overtaxed. But we have a crumbling infrastructure, inferior schools, extraordinarily uneven medical care and a massive deficit.

I don't think people making over $100,000 a year are being overtaxed. There's every evidence that they're not, thanks to nearly eight years of irresponsible Republican "leadership."

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Single Issue Folks Are At It Again...

With the economy tanking, the government bailing out Wall St and many other problems, some things never change. The anti-abortion fanatics are at it again, showing large, graphic posters on Route 60 in Robinson today and calling Obama a "baby killer."

Maybe those of us who against war should print up large graphic posters of the war dead, and talk about "killer" McCain?

While I believe strongly in the right of women to chose abortion or birth control, I'm not a single-issue voter so I do not use this a litmus test. I voted for Casey, despite the fact he does not agree with my views on abortion.

This country cannot afford another Republican administration. For people to claim that they are "pro-life," it's unbelievable that they can't be bothered to understand that the Republicans have been anything but.

Monday, October 06, 2008

McCain Graduated 894th...in a class of 899...from Annapolis!

That's such an amazing statistic, I'm surprised no one has raised it before.

W. is reported to have graduated in the bottom 20th percentile from Yale.

Barack Obama graduated from Columbia and got his law degree from Harvard magna cum laude.

Let's have a smart president for a change!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Carl Sagan Predicted the Current State of America - in 1995

I was always a big fan of Carl Sagan's. The science blog The Intersection has reminded us that Carl Sagan predicted the current anti-science attitude of so many in America. If anyone in power had bothered to pay attention, we might not quite be in this state now:

Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan The Demon-Haunted World