Can This Guy Defeat Eric Cantor?

Originally published in Mother Jones

Powell: PowellforVA/Twitter; Cantor: US Congress/Wikimedia

Powell: PowellforVA/Twitter; Cantor: US Congress/Wikimedia

On September 17, the day Mitt Romney was outed for dismissing half the country as a hopeless waste of time at a high-dollar Florida fundraiser, Wayne Powell quietly slipped into Los Angeles for a fundraiser of his own. As it happened, Romney was in town too, trying to convince Latino voters he loved them despite his penchant for referring to undocumented immigrants as “illegal aliens,” his self-deportation proposal, and his cloying quip—from the same “47 percent” video—that his White House dreams would be made easier if he were Latino.

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Underdogs in L.A.

underdog-la

Originally published on takepart.com

Congressional hopefuls will travel a long way for some Tinseltown support

Los Angeles and politics can make strange bedfellows.

What other city can boast of/apologize for sending the Terminator to the governor’s mansion and the Gipper to the White House? Not to mention L.A.’s greatest policy legacy, Proposition 13, the regressive-tax Rosetta Stone of the “I’m OK, you’re a parasite,” Ayn Rand-inflected philosophies of young-gun conservatives such as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, vice-presidential hopeful Paul Ryan, and late-blooming-but-making-up-for-lost-time Mitt Romney. In case you want to know how this story ends, check out California’s public education, once the envy of the world and now scrambling to keep pace with Alabama.

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The Red Scare and Average Joes

Originally published in the LA Weekly

WITH PRECIOUS LITTLE TO DISTINGUISH HIMSELF FROM THE BUSH YEARS, except possibly more intransigence than even W. when it comes to moving off failed domestic and foreign policies, John McCain is losing the battle of reason in this election — which says that the Bush era has been a disaster and more of the same would be an even bigger disaster. And so he has staked his hopes for the presidency on the pull of visceral emotionalism. For weeks, McCain and Sarah Palin have spent considerable energy insinuating that Barack Obama is a dark (literally and figuratively), unseemly character who just might be a one-man sleeper cell. A recent example of these tactics is the Republican National Committee mailer blowing around Virginia last week with a jumbo jet on its cover and ransom-note-style typography exclaiming Terrorists Don’t Care Who They Hurt, followed, of course, by a photo of Obama and the declaration: “Barack Obama. Not Who You Think He Is.” Pressed by a Missouri TV reporter, McCain said he’s “absolutely” proud of the mailer, which for me is further evidence that he’s not who I thought he was when I was kind of rooting for him back in 2000.

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Election ’08: Biden Does Tampa

Originally published in the LA Weekly ~

When I asked the security guard stationed in the upper reaches of the Sun Dome on the campus of Tampa’s University of Southern Florida (home of the Bulls) how many people were on hand, he smiled and said, “I don’t know, but a lot more than they expected. That’s why this section is open.”

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Mudcat Saunders Pipes in From the Sidelines

THOSE WHO BOTHERED TO CHECK OUT THE Rocky Mountain News before the Democratic National Convention were greeted by a picture of the enigmatic Dave “Mudcat” Saunder

Seeking the Rage: Among the Protesters at the Democratic National Convention

Originally published in the LA Weekly~

DENVER’S CIVIC CENTER PARK, surrounded by vistas of rising skyscrapers, a beautiful public library, an art center, the Capitol building and the state courthouse, is a wonderful little spot in the heart of the city. It would seem to be the perfect place to generate buzz for what ever cause you might have. And the activist alliance Recreate ’68 has promised an eventful Democratic National Convention. But as I stand on the fringes of the park on a sweltering Tuesday afternoon, so far there hasn’t been much to remind folks of the social tumult that made that hot summer in Chicago so emblematic.

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Election ’08: Penetrating the Matrix

Originally published in the LA Weekly

The Pepsi Center, where much of the Democratic National Convention is going down, is situated in an area of Denver called Lo-Do (lower downtown). It’s one of those loft-conversion, yuppie makeovers that Los Angeles is hoping like hell will happen in downtown LA, especially around Staples Center. It looks like it’s working here. They have the South Platte River, not much more than a creek, rimming the outskirts of the area, Riverfront Park running alongside the river, the train tracks coming out of Union Station to give it all a little flavor, and lots of happy looking young(ish) folks walking the streets and popping into the plethora of sports-themed bars and restaurants. My initial research has shown that Denver is a hard place to get a bad cheeseburger and an easy place to watch sports on multiple TVs while eating a good cheeseburger.

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The Tortoise and the Tank Face Off at Fort Irwin

Tortoise-and-the-Tank

Originally published in the LA Weekly

SAND IN THE BOX

The worst sandstorm in John Wagstaffe’s memory is at full howl. We’re deep inside Iraq, somewhere between the towns of Medina Jabal and Medina Wasl, on a day when the threat of violence is as thick as the squalls of sand. But there’s something about the way Wagstaffe never goes anywhere without a carton of cigarettes that inspires if not confidence, then something like good cheer. Even as the sandstorm reaches a blinding rage, Wagstaffe, our military handler, maintains the upbeat demeanor of a tour guide. Until, that is, we lose sight of the vehicle in front of us and drive off the shallow and slightly smoothed path in the desert sand that serves as our road.

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Leaving Home

Originally published in the LA Weekly

COUNT ME AMONG THOSE WHO WOKE UP on November 3 and thought: secession!

My turn toward the idea that California should secede from the Union was based on some bedrock logic that my father used to admonish me with as he suspiciously eyed my derelict teenage friends: You can tell a lot about a person by the company he keeps. That Wednesday morning, I looked at the sea of red in between the coasts and in the South, and I listened to the hypocritical crowing by misogynists and homophobes about values and strength and “the real America” and thought: If these were my friends, I’d try to get new ones.

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