On One Hand

December 29, 2006

Oops! – A History of Execution Mistakes and Mishaps

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 1:54 pm
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Just before dawn in a dingy, concrete military facility in Baghdad on December 30, 2006, deposed dictator Saddam Hussein was executed by Iraq’s post-invasion government. Iraqi newspaper articles mocked that Hussein died “with fear in his face,” an expression one should expect from anyone facing imminent hanging. A grainy video from a cellphone camera, later leaked Online, documented masked guards draping the noose around Saddam’s neck, executioners’ taunts, and the defeated leader’s desperate last prayers before he dropped through the floor in the dim-lit room. Saddam’s last words, in Arabic; “There is no God but God and Muhammad is his Prophet…There is no God but God and – ” the Muslim profession of faith, were cut off midsentence when the rope violently snapped taught.

To me and many Americans, this execution was more “real” than any other we had known. It was not a third-page headline about a bizarre serial killer put to death in Mississippi, nor another faceless statistic on a list of victims of corrupt courts in distant, backwards nations. We all knew Saddam Hussein, had heard him speak, had lived for years knowing he ruled over Iraq as a royal thorn-in-the-side to the American government. Unlike other notorious criminals like Timothy McVeigh or John Wayne Gacey, we did not first hear of Saddam Hussein already expecting he would be put to death; in the 1990s it seemed he would always be an annoying, brutal enemy. After the invasion we saw a thin and dirty Saddam captured, cleaned and dressed, then saw him bellow stubbornly for months in the Iraqi courtroom, now politically obsolete, looking strikingly frail and human at the mercy of the nation he once tyrannized. After the court found Saddam guilty and announced his execution date, we were glued to CNN or MSNBC while reporters scrambled to be the first to announce that Saddam was dead. The whole world was watched it happen. Thousands in the Middle East cheered the death. Of all the executions in world history, Saddam’s was one of the most publicized, and one of the most celebrated.

But to many Sunni Muslim communities in Iraq and beyond, Saddam Hussein is now a martyr, transformed in the instant of death from despised tyrant to honored hero. Hussein’s political allies pledged to retaliate violently, against the struggling Iraqi government that carried out the execution and against the American presence that made it possible. And days later, American media commentators and politicians from all parts of the political spectrum were calling the Shi’ite led, sectarian nature of the execution a political debacle – a failure to the U.S. war strategy.

Saddam Hussein was inarguably one of the most barbaric, cruel and murderous people who lived in mondern times. Rarely is the ratio so extreme between the hundreds of thousands murdered and the few responsible as was the case during Saddam Hussein’s rule over Iraq. To say that execution was warranted – imperative even – seemed more clear in Saddam Hussein’s case than any other. Yet the image we saw of Saddam being heckled by Shi’ite executioners, of masked men soberly and deliberately leading a subdued, defiant but nonthreatening person to his death, then lashing forward with scathing, passionate insults before a high-pitched snap, seemed, somehow, undeniably wrong. How could such a clear-cut case turn out to be so murky?

Saddam’s execution was botched, like so many others, by the inescapable reality that human beings are not the flawless agents of perfect justice that they wish they were. This truth was painfully clear here, as it is whenever governments or mobs appropriate the justice of God.

In America we can see it more like this:

Every person’s life is a string of countless moments. In it are moments of intimacy, moments of overwhelming love, moments of anger, moments of terror, moments of accomplishment and numberless others. For a guilty person sitting on Death Row, one or more of those moments, standing out sharply, is a moment where the condemned stood above the helpless body of a terrified victim in his or her last moment. And for a person sitting on Death Row, his or her own last moments will be of being strapped on a gurney, in a chamber or in a chair, while the nation sighs in collective relief that justice is being done. Under the approving gaze of a dozen witnesses, the condemned will be offered the opportunity to speak some last words before the State of Texas, Florida, or Virginia administers a poison to quietly pulverize the condemned’s body on a cellular level, invisible to witnesses, causing death. After that endless string of moments comes that God-Bless-American blur of mortal terror and sometimes excruciating pain, and then there are no more moments.

Capitol Punishment in the United States

Execution in the States is theoretically swift and painless, since the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution forbids punishment courts deem “cruel and unusual.” But there is yet to be a form of execution not mired in doubt, in which occasional explicit scenes have caused the condemned to be burned alive in an electric chair or wiggle for half an hour from a noose. Subjects of the gas chamber are advised to breathe the poisonous gas deeply to hasten unconsciousness, since to struggle in the burning gas would cause prolonged suffering. Usually, though, the condemned (understandably) attempt to hold their breath, then gasp and choke for a few minutes before they finally stop moving.

Painless forms of lethal injection are feasible, since animals are euthenized with a quick overdose of barbiturates that result in a sleepy loss of consciousness almost immediately. But the form of injection used to kill humans in the United States involves a more complex and lengthy procedure with three separate phases. The first chemical used is sodium theopental, which causes the condemned to pass out. Administered in high doses, sodium theopental renders the condemned unaware of all that happens next, but death penalty critics and some prominent medical journals suggest that the sodium theopental wears off quickly as body tissues absorb and dilute it from the brain so that the following, painful dose of potassium chloride to stop breathing causes the conscious experience of suffocation. If this were to happen, the extremely tormentuous period would last several minutes. Another scenario, disturbingly common considering how easy it seems to be to avoid, is when one of the drugs fails to flow through kinked plastic tubes, or the needle is inserted improperly, leaving the condemned to die painfully under the wrong mix of chemicals.

Convicts facing lethal injection occasionally flinch, cry out or squirm when something goes wrong. Usually, though, the condemned cannot speak or show pain, because he or she has been injected with pancuronium bromide, a muscle-relaxant that causes complete paralysis. (Hospital patients who later recall being conscious and in pain through an entire surgery – the one we hear about in those horror stories on TV news magazines or mimicked on hospital TV dramas – are unable to alert their doctors they feel everything, because on the table they have been dosed with pancuronium bromide.) Critics of lethal injection say the paralyzing agent is unnecessary, since it doesn’t alter the experience of dying, doesn’t do anything to speed or ensure death and doesn’t diminish pain; it only prevents the strapped-down person from moving or showing potential discomfort.

Yet the lethal injection is widely considered the kindest form of execution. On the other extreme, perhaps the most bizarre and horrific form of punishment to be administered in the United States is the electric chair. Electric-execution, shortened to the familiar term “electrocution” soon after its conception, was introduced in 1890 as being “more humane” than hanging. A man named William Kremmler, convicted of murdering his wife that year in Buffalo, New York, was the guinea pig for the new idea. After Kremmler was fastened to the chair, witnesses to this curious device gasped as the jolt of electricity made every muscle in Kremmler’s body convulse, and 17 seconds later the power was cut when a doctor declared Kremmler dead. A scientist witnessing the execution remarked, “This is the result of ten years of science – from now on, we’re entering a more civilized world.”

But moments later, Kremmler’s badly-burnt and smoking body began moaning and struggling to breathe, and it was obvious that he was still alive. He continued to moan painfully and incoherently for over six minutes while the executioners re-charged the generator to shock William Kremmler again. George Westinghouse, one of the early developers of electrical technology and proponent of alternating current, later commented “they would have done better using an axe.”

Yet the government considered the novel form of execution to be a success, and state prisons across the country soon set up their own electric chairs. Electrocution is still an optional form of death to convicts in several U.S. states, and is the sole form of execution in Nebraska, despite its gruesome history of fireballs and melting skin.

In Louisiana in 1946, Willie Francis, a 16-year-old African-American boy was strapped into an electric chair after being convicted of the murder of a drugstore owner who employed him. When the electric current was sent through his body, he reportedly shrieked, “Stop it! Let me breathe!” He is the first, and to date the only, person in U.S. history to completely survive an execution and end up again in court. After that event, Francis’ lawyers suggested that the boy could not be Constitutionally “executed” again for the same crime, but prosecutors disagreed. The case went to the United States Supreme Court, which ultimately decided that the convicted should still be put to death even after previous attempts failed. A dissenting judge asked, “How many deliberate and intentional reapplications of electric current does it take to produce a cruel, unusual and unconstitutional punishment?” But a year later, at age 17, Francis was once again strapped into the electric chair, electrocuted again, and this time died.

Though the case seems awful, it is matched in horror by South Carolina’s electrocution of 14-year-old George Stinney just two years earlier. in 1944, the African American boy was the youngest person to be electrocuted in the United States since World War II, just 81 days after his alleged crime of killing a young white girl. The 3-hour trial and 10-minute jury deliberations were not appealed before the execution was carried out under demands for swift justice. Being just 90 pounds and 5-feet, 1-inch tall, Stinney was smaller than what the electric chair was designed for. Witnesses reported with upset stomachs that the oversized face mask fell off of Stinney’s face during the electrocution, allowing his smoking, contorted expression to show until he died.

The electric chair is no longer a celebrated dispatcher of criminals like it was in its heyday; in most states that still have a chair, electrocution is only one optional punishment for the condemned to choose, and the convicted usually pick lethal injection as an alternative. As of December 2006, the last person to be put to death in an electric chair without choosing it was electrocuted in 2004, and cases like this will likely become increasingly rare as courts find electrocution to be inhumane.

Similarly rare today is the gas chamber, though for a brief time in the second part of the 20th century, the chamber was extremely popular, especially in the Western states. Yet it too has a sad history of disastrous mix-ups, evoking questions of its humaneness going beyond its haunting evocation of the holocaust.

In September of 1982, Jimmy Lee Gray was put to death in a gas chamber in Mississippi. When his gasps for breath repulsed witnesses, officials cleared the room, leaving him to die in the chamber without the presence of the witnesses. Gray’s violent gasps continued. An attorney specializing in death penalty cases later said “Jimmy Lee Gray died banging his head against a steel pole in the gas chamber while reporters counted his moans.”

In April of 1992, Donald Eugene Harding was put to death in a gas chamber in Arizona. A television reporter who witnessed the execution said “I watched Harding go into violent spasms for 57 seconds.” After those ended, he went into lesser spasms for 6 minutes, 37 seconds – about as long as William Kremmler had remained alive and burnt in the electric chair. The reporter later stated, “We put animals to death more humanely.”

Technology is available to administer the most painless death a human being can face, and chances are that many of the executed die with little or no physical suffering. But even the most clean and modern forms of execution are not foolproof – testemony to the imperfect nature of the human mechanisms that carry them out. An example is the aformentioned situation of lethal injection, during which the executioners, feeling richeous in their duty and caring little for the person laid before them, fail to notice that the tubes are blocked or that the needle is not inserted correctly. The mistake seems subtle, irrelevant even, but its effect on the person dying is excruciating pain. It is likely that some such incidents have been intentional, and we know that a number of them result, at the very least, from gross negligence. As execution rates steadily increase, so do the lists of those that turn out to be disasters.

Before the last century, which itself contains dozens of questionable or outright awful execution mistakes, far more than can be mentioned here, absurdities of justice spin out of control. We approach a time when we are legally executing yong children, executing men for “sodomy,” executing petty thieves, and executing racial minorities, obviously innocent, who were caught up in mob-like frenzies, unjustifiably short trials and denied appeals.

The youngest person ever put to death in the United States was in 1885, when James Arcene, a 10-year-old Native American boy was hanged for robbery in the state of Indiana. It is a striking case in a time when executing early-teenagers was a commonly accepted practice. Before the Declaration of Independence, the human rights record is just as awful: the youngest girl to be put to death in the colonies was also Native American, 12 years old, who reportedly thanked the executioner for his politeness as she stepped forward to be hanged.

The first juvenile put to death in American colonies was in Massachusetts in 1642, when Thomas Graunger, a 16-year-old boy, was hanged for having sex with farm animals. Prosecution of victimless, non-monetary sex crimes like sodomy (in this case called “buggery”) continued after American independence and would go on with decreasing penalties until a Supreme Court decision in 2003.

A total of 365 juveniles offenders were put to death in America since then 1642, ending when, in 2005, the Supreme Court controversially declared it unconstitutional to execute a person for a crime committed while under the age of 18.

Of course, it isn’t just the way these executions were “messed up” that makes them absurd. The inherent racism and brutality in electrocuting a 14-year-old African-American or 10-year-old Native American in the name of a U.S. state is disturbing to almost anyone living in this century in ways that go beyond the accidental presence of blood and gore. When we can look back a few decades and find the “justice” of past generations, unquestioned then, to be so clearly atrocious today, it’s a wonder to imagine how future generations will view today’s executions in another 50 years.

Capitol Punishment Elsewhere

Despite its recognition as one of the world’s first democracies, the United States has not been a pioneer of civility abroad when it comes to Capital Punishment for heinous crimes, or even for lesser crimes. Yet, U.S. execution rates pale in comparison to those of a select few other nations:

In Singapore, which has the highest execution rate in the world compared to its general population, criminals can be put to death not only for murder but for possession of firearms and drug-related offenses. For every 1 million people living in Singapore, 15 were executed during a 5-year period in the 1990s, and more of those executions were based on drug charges than all other convictions put together. An Australian man was put to death in Singapore in December 2005 after being caught in a Singapore airport with a third of a kilogram of heroin, which caused an uproar in his home country.

Iran, a nation with one of the sorriest human rights records in the world, is not surprisingly one of the leading proponents of capital punishment. Iranians can be put to death for crimes ranging from political dissent to adultery; the condemned are killed by hanging or stoning. In 2004, 16-year-old Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh was put to death for having premarital sex, while her conviction was based on her admission that she was raped by a 51-year-old married Iranian soldier. In July 2005, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, aged 15 and 17 respectively, were hanged publicly because it was believed that they were having a homosexual relationship with each other. (Execution for sodomy has not happened in the United States for over 140 years.) Photographs of the two boys’ tearful goodbyes and simultaneous, hooded hangings were soon seen around the world.

In China, where more state executions take place than in all other countries combined, criminals can be put to death for drug offenses, repeated petty offenses, tax fraud, stealing of cultural objects and poaching, along with more serious crimes typically seen in capital punishment cases. The condemned are usually shot in the head, sometimes immediately after conviction, but are sometimes hanged, while lethal injection was approved in 1997. A policy change recently decided that death penalty cases must be approved by a high court before being carried out, promising to reduce the total number of executions. Also recently, Senior Chinese state officials said that China will ultimately abolish the death penalty, which would no doubt put huge international pressure on the United States and other nations across the world that still put people to death.

The list of nations using capital punishment more frequently than the United States is strikingly short. Capital punishment has been abolished in all of Europe, in Canada, in Mexico, in Australia, in Turkey, in South Africa and in several other South African nations – places we in the U.S. do not recognize as modern by comparison to ourselves. Capital punishment has been effectively abolished in almost all South American nations, including Brazil and Argentina. In Russia and Northwest Africa, capital punishment is legal but is either not used or is under a moratorium. Finally, capital punishment is still legal and active in much of Africa, most of the Islamic world, China, Indonesia, and the United States.

Sources:

http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/12/29/hussein/index.html, CNN.com: Saddam Hussein executed “with fear in his face.”

http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/not_guilty/chair/5.html, Court TV Crime Library: “Condemned” (William Kremler)

http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=CASE&court=US&vol=329&page=459, Supreme Court case FRANCIS v. RESWEBER

http://www.soundportraits.org/on-air/youngest_executed, Sound Portraits.org: George Stinney, youngest executed

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/article.php?scid=8&did=478, Death Penalty Information Center:
Some Examples of Post-Furman Botched Executions (Jimmy Lee Gray and Donald Eugene Harding)

http://www2.indystar.com/library/factfiles/crime/capital_punishment/deathrow.html, Indianapolis Star: Capital Punishment in Indiana, article from Jan. 27, 2006

http://www.mayflowerfamilies.com/colonial_life/morality_and_sex.htm (Thomas Graunger)

http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engasa360012004 Amnesty International: SINGAPORE
The death penalty: A hidden toll of executions

http://www.sodomylaws.org/world/iran/iran.htm (Teenage boys executed in Iran)

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=34939 (Women face stoning in Iran)

http://web.amnesty.org/pages/chn-220304-feature-eng (Capital Punishment in China)

December 28, 2006

Denver Metro Area Pioneers Progressive Local Government

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 1:42 am
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In light of Denver’s favored status in the competition for the 2008 Democratic Convention, a newspaper columnist in Arizona explains what makes Denver such a notable city.

It’s no small feat to be neck and neck with the most populated city in the country, which is where Denver currently is with New York City in its bid for the convention. If Denver wins, the convention will be great for the city, but even if Denver loses, its status as first runner up should give it special attention among American cities. Denver hosted the Democratic convention in 1908, but no mid-sized city that wasn’t part of a larger metropolitan area hosted the Democratic convention since Saint Louis, Missouri in 1916; the convention usually goes to such giants as Chicago (3rd in the U.S.) in 1932, 1940, 1944, 1952, 1956, 1968 and 1996, Los Angeles (2nd in the U.S.) in 1960 and 2000, Phillidelphia (5th in the U.S.) in 1948 or New York City in 1976, 1980 and 1992. Denver itself is 26th in the U.S. by population, and the metro area ranks 22nd – pretty far down the list, between Pittsburgh and Cleveland. The least-populated metro area to host a Democratic convention in the last 50 years is San Fransisco-Oakland, which is the country’s 12th largest metro area and a little less than twice as populated as the Denver area today. But while Denver isn’t notable in population, it’s notable for its urban innovation, using progressive urban governing techniques that put it on the cutting edge of urban progress, and its sytle and ammenities make it much more of a “big city” than its larger companions give it credit for.

According to the columnist, Jon Talton, the city’s achievements are:

Controlled growth (but not suspended growth). Talton explained that the Denver Metro Area grew 8 percent between 2000 and 2005. That’s quite a generous increase, but Talton compares that to Phoenix and Las Vegas, two other booming Western cities, which grew by 16 percent and 21 percent respectively. My own observation would note that these urban areas demonstrate some awful urban planning, with little centralization, extensive sprawl, few high-density neighborhoods, a failure to funnel economic growth into recovering blighted areas, little municpal cooperation, an allocation of affluent neighborhoods to the fringes of town, and a short-term attitude toward planning for what will happen in decades to come. They might be popular retirement destinations right now, but I wouldn’t expect their land values or quality of life to look very good 25 years from now unless they wake up and start thinking ahead.

Civic investment. Businesses want to invest in a city that’s willing to invest in itself. Denver voters have supported an expansive regional light rail system (MAP, a large new convention center in the heart of Downton ((PICTURE), and two new sports centers over the last ten years. Not long earlier, Denver voters paid for a major international airport that is now the tenth busiest in the world.

Attention to Infill. Talton mentions Denver’s Stapleton redevelopment project and robust new high-rise residential neighborhoods under construction on the fringes of Downtown. Rather than rabid expansionism that eats up more and more natural land for endless suburbs, Denver focuses on its own old blighted neighborhoods, re-building them in higher density, revitalizing them and connecting them with smart-growth, which ultimately saves taxpayers money paying for roads, infrastructure and crime control.

Regional cooperation. The Denver Metro area has a Regional Transportation District (RTD) that is now building one of the most connected light-rail systems in the country, a unified stadium district and a unified museum district that organizes around Downtown Denver as a major cultural center. The Denver Area is also the first municipality in the nation to adopt a thorough 25-year Master Plan for regional development called “Metro Vision 2030” that incorporates smart-growth planning, transit-oriented-development, extensive open space protection, density increase and limited sprawl. The council produced a PDF file that explains the plan in detail and should be of interest to every mayor in the country and anyone else who cares about urban planning.

I would add these other assets to the Denver area:

Environmental consciousness. The City of Denver itself and surrounding towns of Boulder, Arvada and Westminster have increased density and set aside land for open space. They’ve filled in the land they have before annexing new tracts to accelerate development outward, which reigional neighbors Broomfield, Aurora and unicorporated Douglas County have sometimes been guilty of. Boulder, in particular, has been a national model for controlled growth, buying up a ring of open space around town to prevent development from meshing with surrounding municipalities, which would destroy a sense of community and encourage lower population density. Denver itself plans to employ this open-space buffering plan and has an extensive chapter on it in the region’s Metro Vision 2030 plan.

Smart Growth Architecture. Denver’s redevelopment of the old Elitch Gardens in the Hyland’s neighborhood, the huge Stapleton redevelopment area, and the Lowry Air Force Base redevelopment on the Eastern edge of Denver all employ smart-growth techniques. The Highland redevelopment won the EPA’s national award for Overal Excellence in Smarth Growth, LINK and neighboring, highly-urban suburb of Lakewood won an award for its redevelopment of a blighted mall during the same year.

Pedestrian-Oriented Corridors. It all comes down to one place: the 16th Street Mall. In the early 80s Denver turned an etntire street in its decaying Downtown into a pedestrian-only thoroughfare, which brought the area back to life by attracting visitors, restaraunts and retail. The coridor has since become the heart of Downtown and encouraged the private development of nearly every single parking lot or developable parcel of land bordering the walkway. This year the walkway was expanded and now stretches almost two miles.

Neighboring Boulder (where I live) has a similar corridor, called the Pearl Street Mall, which constitutes the primary Downtown area of the small city of 100,000, accompanied by a smaller Downtown neighborhoods a few blocks away bordering the University of Colorado campus. College students make up about 20-25 percent of the town’s population during the academic year. The entire city of Boulder is accessible by bus and will soon be connected to Denver by a light rail line that is currently in the planning stages. The very dense town, just a few miles across, is criscrossed with trails, bike paths and greenbelts and most people I know who live there don’t have or use a car in town.

The Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness. Mayor John Hickenlooper made Denver the first city in the nation to develop a Plan to End Homelessness in the city. The mayor explains, “smarter and better government involves strategic investments that deliver maximum results with limited resources,” and the plan involves building low-income housing and developing programs to help people find jobs. It can’t prevent every single bum on the street from panhandling, but the ambitions program can help good people from falling through the cracks and being forced out in the cold.

Diversity. Denver is a little less than 50 percent white, making it comparable to Los Angeles in racial diversity, and a substantial Latino population both in the city of Denver and its suburbs. It has a large and little-known Jewish community and a Jewish Talmudical seminary, while Denver’s National Jewish Medical Research Center, which once specialized in treatment of tuberculosis, was started by Denver’s Jewish community almost 120 years ago. There is a Catholic Jesuit University and a very liberal Christian seminary at the University of Denver. Denver is meanwhile one of the most highly-educated cities in the country with about 40 percent of the population having a college degree. The metro area is slightly more Democratic than Republican, but has active voices in politics on both sides of the political spectrum.

December 19, 2006

Dean Pushes Convention Decision to January

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 3:34 pm
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While Denver’s leaders are scrambling to put their 2008 Democratic Convention bid back together after a local labor leader refused to sign on to it, Democratic Party Chairperson Howard Dean pushed back the final decision until after the new year starts.

This notably gives Denver’s team more time to get the labor dissident, Jim Taylor of the Denver Stagehands Association, to sign the contract with the Democratic Party promising not to strike when the Democrats come to town. When Taylor first refused to sign on Monday, Denver’s hired committee host, Debbie Willhite, called the move “a deal breaker” for Denver but was later hopeful that Taylor would change his mind, especially after the city of Denver promised that the convention at the non-unionized Pepsi Center would be run by unionized employees.

As I explained in my last entry, a stagehands strike probably wouldn’t effect the convention, but Democrats won’t hold a convention in a city without full support from organized Labor.

I also mentioned that Howard Dean may be stalling because he favors Denver and wants to give the city every last chance to tie up loose ends in its bid, competing with New York City for the 2008 convention. This extra delay gives me much more certainty that this is the case. Dean has put off the decision again and again, because New York City, which has guaranteed ammenities, plentiful corporations for sponshorship and existing labor support, just isn’t a great place for Democrats to present their new presidential nominee to the country in 2008.

Local Labor Leader Hijacks Denver’s Convention Bid

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 12:50 am
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A Colorado Labor leader has refused to sign a contract with the Democratic Party promising not to strike during the 2008 Democratic Convention if it comes to Denver, according to a Denver Post article.

Denver Stagehands Association leader Jim Taylor refused to sign because he considers Denver’s Pepsi Center, where the Democratic Convention would be held, to be anti-Labor, said Denver Area Labor Federation President Leslie Moody in the article.

The Stagehands Association would have no role in the Democratic Convention, but the Democratic Party policy is to enlist the full suport of organized labor before holding a Democratic convention in a city.

Sources quoted in the Post article offered some hope that Taylor, who could not be reached for comment, could change his mind about signing the contract. But the executive director of Denver’s host comittee said the move looks like a “deal-breaker” for Denver’s bid, and Moody, who did speak extensively in the article for Taylor, did not seem the least bit sympathetic.

Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean originally said he would announce the winner of the DNC-2008 bid on Monday, and the fact that he was silent on Monday means to me that he may be giving Denver every last opportunity to get its bid in order. That means Dean probably strongly favors Denver, like almost all Democrats do, but he won’t give Denver the convention until every red flag has been taken care of. As far as a month ago one Democratic blogger, a high-up in Colorado’s state Democratic Party, went so far as to wonder if the decision has already been made for Denver but hadn’t been released just yet.

The Democratic Convention would not only be a boon to Denver and its economy, but it would also help elect a Democratic president after 8 years of the Bush administration, which would certainly benefit organized Labor along with everyone else. I don’t know the specifics of Taylor’s claim that Denver’s arenas are anti-labor, but this strikes me as an extremely selfish and callous move on the part of this one man who happened to have been given an incredible opportunity to seize the day. I understand that the Democrats are Labor’s most powerful supporters, and letting Democrats slide on Labor’s interests is not something unions can afford to do – but do they really want to make a move that could, in some small way, cost Democrats the presidency – which would have drastic and endless implications – and hurt Denver in the meantime?

The Denver Area Labor Federation originally opposed Denver’s DNC-2008 bid but then went neutral, and other labor issues have risen and fallen throuought the bid process until, eventually, Denver won Labor’s cooperation – untill now. So Taylor stands as a lone barrier to the entire process in this case.

Denver’s bid has tenuously overcome obstacle after obstacle, but I’m afraid this one might turn out to be the last straw for Howard Dean, who has indicated he wants to make his decision as soon as possible. I don’t know if there’s anything any of us can do about this; write letters perhaps? If not to Jim Taylor (I wouldn’t know where to contact him), you could put your name on a petition sent to Howard Dean HERE. It would be an awful shame if the incredible amount of momentum and grassroots support, in the Denver Area, in the West, and even in the whole country, for Denver to hold the 2008 convention, was stopped because of this one ultimate kink in the line.

December 16, 2006

2008 Democratic Convention

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 12:13 am
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Denver and New York City are neck and neck in their bids for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. The competition has been whittled down to the two geographically distinct cities from an original 11 cities and municipalities that were first considered. The convention, which will take place in late August 2008, is going to require over $80 million in sponsorship – $55 million of which must come from private donors, while the remaining $25 million will come from the Federal Government.

Howard Dean, the Democratic party’s chairman and the person who will ultimately decide if the bid goes to Denver or New York, has indicated that he favors Denver as a location, and party leaders think it could help the Democrats hold on to recent political gains in the region. The problem is that Denver, a city of a little over half a million people, is dwarfed by New York City, which has over 8 million residents: 16 times Denver’s population. The business establishment in New York is huge, providing a host of donors. Denver has fewer resources with which to raise the required $55 million in private and corporate donations, and fewer hotel rooms to house the estimated 35,000 delgates, journalists and other visitors that will come to the city to see the convention.

Because of the Denver’s positive and friendly image, many Democrats consider it a more politically-advantageous place to host the convention, and Denver has been endorsed by a host of Democrats in the House and Senate. New York City, on the other hand, has been endorsed by the two Democratic Senators from the state of New York, including Senator Hillary Clinton.

Denver saw the media giants Qwest and Comcast pledge about $5 million each in services, Xcel Energy pledge a million and a half in services, and several smaller companies, including Coors, pledge smaller amounts of less than 1 million in cash. See Article. But Denver still has a long way to go, and some media outlets are reporting that the difficulty in raising funds may cause Denver to lose the convention.

Denver is seen as a prime location for the 2008 convention because it would put the national focus on Democrats in the West, where the party needs to pick up swing states in order to win the presidency. Also, Colorado, a traditionally Republican state, recently turned blue during the 2006 midterm elections in November: the state just elected a Democratic governor and maintained a Democratic majority in both houses of the state legislature, while 4 of the 7 congressmen the state will send to Washington are Democrats. The state’s senators are 50-50, Democrat Ken Salazar and Republican Wayne Allard, and Salazar is one of the leading proponents of the convention in Denver.

Meanwhile, Democrats gained in surrounding mountain states , including Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming during the 2006 midterms.

Of the 11 cities originally invited to bid on the Democratic convention, Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and New York City put forth bids. Minneapolis was taken out of the running when Republican leaders announced they will hold their convention in there, and Democrats were left with New York and Denver to choose from.

It’s probably no surprise that I support Denver’s bid. First of all, I can’t think of any worse place for Democrats to hold their convention than New York; on an electoral map where Democrats have a hard time gaining favor in the South and West, which they need in order to win, they can only hurt themselves and their image by hosting their convention in New York, a place where they are already basically guaranteed to win and a place that Southerners and Westerners hold their noses at. The Mountain West is viewed positively by swing voters across the country, and people don’t have nearly as much animosity toward the unknown Denver as they do toward New York City.

If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, she’d already have the New Yorker association, since she lives there now, and doesn’t need that double-association with New York by being officially nominated there as well. If Barack Obama – who hails from the big city of Chicago – is nominated, he’ll want some of Denver’s grassroots, progressive energy as well, hoping to temper that Big-City image that swing voters find distasteful in extremes. John Edwards, meanwhile, has personally endorsed Denver as the convention site.

Denver’s amenities include the massive Convention Center, the new Convention Center Hotel, the relatively new Pepsi Center where the main convention would be held, the sea of parking lots outside the Pepsi Center on which to set up media trucks and tents, several new and planned hotels Downtown, a massive, state-of-the-art airport, a light rail system connecting the city to its suburbs, a thriving Downtown full of restaraunts and entertainment opportunities and great natural scenery.

But choosing Denver wouldn’t only be great for the Democrats; the Democratic Convention would be great for Denver itself. The big event would help to put Denver on the map as a major city, and reward a municipality that is on the forefront of progressive urban planning and infrastructure. It would pump money (an estimated $150-200 million) into the regional economy, but also put valued media attention on the thriving Downtown area, with all the new development going on and Downtown Denver’s clean, upward-mobile yet intimate feel. I think it could spark new development in the region, and also garner the attention of powerful progressives who could put further focus on Denver in post-convention years. Perhaps Denver’s innovative amenities – the distinct neighborhoods, the 16th Street Mall, light rail, the placement of stadiums and amusement parks downtown, the thriving Civic area, and Denver’s unique, welcoming atmosphere could offer other mid-sized municipalities, that straddle being a local and a regional center, some ideas on how to do smart and sustainable development.

Plus, a convention in Denver would be something that Denverites would really appreciate (Denver hasn’t held a convention since the Dems in 1908 – exactly 100 years before the proposed 2008 convention – ) while New Yorkers, who see a major convergence of national or world leaders almost daily, wouldn’t even notice who’s in town.

In any case, here’s a poll on the issue, as you may not all agree with me here. Feel free to comment.

I encourage everyone who cares passionately about this (understanding that may be nobody but me) to email your representative and as him or her to tell Howard Dean to pick Denver as the strategic choice for the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Links:

Democratic Convention Watch

Official Denver Convention 2008 Website

December 11, 2006

Outcomes

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 2:26 am

When you feel like you’re cose to God, your life is bliss. It’s funny because all you’re really doing is holding something in your mind, and it doesn’t feel like a thing that matters to think about; Either God is real and I’ll someday find out, or I won’t, so it’s not something I should be trying to figure out now. But when you sort of just go with it, not think but feel it, and keep a little God-awareness in the corner of your mind, you are happy. Oh, things in the world still go to shit – you’ll blow one of your finals, you’ll turn in your assigments late, you’ll piss someone off at work, like you always do. That’s what I’ve been going through lately. But I always have this sense that none of those things are really important, and I don’t feel attached to any outcome at all. If a bad thing can happen to you but it doesn’t make you feel bad, who cares if it happened? And if good things happen and you don’t appreciate them, they might as well not be there. I usually care a lot more about how productive I’m being, and would rather be miserable and successful than happy and still. I think most people are generally too attached to achievements; most people would choose them over happiness. Right now I’m in a good place, feeling calm and healthy, and I hope I can hold on to what I think I just came to realize.

I rarely get this way. Usually I’m either in a relationship, and the thing that makes me happy is a person, who inevitibly fails to make me happy, or I’m recovering from a relationship, and mourning the loss of happiness. Love and intimacy are awesome things but I get too attached to outcomes, which can only lead to heartache. I won’t be ready for true love until I can do it without being attached.

Words that come to mind

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 2:10 am

Mice!

December 7, 2006

Happy people

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 8:21 pm

I’ve been pretty happy lately. And being such, I have come to enjoy happy people; I’ve learned to appreciate how they always keep themselves positive when the world can sometimes get so bad. I’ve been there, depresed, so I know it’s good to feel good. And whenever I see someone who seems happy, I say, you know, there’s a guy who masturbates a lot. Because every time you do it you relax a little – but just a little – so if you want to really feel good all the time you have to keep it up, like, several times a day. Especially when life gets stressful.

I personally don’t have the commitment to go that far, but, good for those who do.

December 6, 2006

CU Tube

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 12:00 am
Tags: ,

LINK

Published in The Campus Press

Students Take Advantage of Digital Innovation

Matt Pizzuti
Staff Writer

In the running for Time Magazine’s Best Invention of 2006, there was a vaccine being used in hopes of preventing cervical cancer, a robot that can rescue soldiers on a battlefield, a machine that sterilizes fresh fruit and vegetables with ozone-infused water and a long list of quirky and innovative gadgets. But Time’s top spot went to YouTube, an online resource where anyone with Internet access can view, store and show off digital videos for free. CU students are taking advantage of this resource to let their work be seen.

Greg Rosenthal, a junior geography major, said he uses YouTube because it’s a more detailed way of conveying information than writing in a blog.

“It’s a pretty novel way of sharing my experiences,” Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal said he doesn’t know if he agrees with YouTube’s selection as Time Magazine’s top invention, but he acknowledged it has made a serious impact.

“I’m not sure if I’d call it the number one invention,” he said. “If given a choice between (YouTube and a cancer vaccine), I think the vaccine has more impact in a global sense than YouTube.”

Rosenthal said videos from YouTube have let him see political ads and cultural phenomena he wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

“A friend of mine showed me campaign ads that are really bizarre,” he said of a YouTube clip from a campaign ad from North Carolina just before the midterm elections.

Another YouTube user, John Gessner, a senior marketing major, said he uses YouTube solely for entertainment.

“I can’t think of any time I’ve used it for information purposes,” Gessner said.

Gessner said he uses YouTube to watch TV shows, and looks at it four to five times a week.

“I’ve been on it a lot more recently, watching funny videos,” Gessner said.

Gessner said he likes using YouTube but he can’t see how it got the recognition as the invention of 2006.

“YouTube’s cool and all but it’s nothing extrodinary,” he said. “I don’t really consider it an invention.”

Gessner has uploaded one video on YouTube, showing a group of friends drinking, which has received over 400 views, he said.

“Over the summer we sort of had a reunion of a bunch of high school buddies, and we got ridiculously drunk,” said Gessner, who recorded the group’s antics and posted them on the website.

Rosenthal said he has uploaded videos from CU football games he took from the stands, and got video of Farrand Field on 4/20 last year, where Rosenthal says he caught on tape the man who was seen kicking down a sign on the field. He said he has seven subscribers to his profile, notifying them whenever he puts a new video online.

But “there are some people who have thousands of subscribers,” Rosenthal added.

Rosenthal said an added advantage of YouTube is that it is a free service, and that he wouldn’t use it at all if it charged a fee.

“If they ever make it a pay site, that would be the end of it for me,” he said.

December 5, 2006

Denver

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 3:32 am
Tags: ,

I’ve been an architecture junkie since I was 14 years old, always turning to the business section of the newspaper for the sole purpose of seeing if any new skyscrapers are being proposed downtown. In light of that, I just stumbled across what is probably the best website in the world when it comes to urban planning. It’s: DenverInfill.com, which advocates the need for redevelopment and expansion of Downtown Denver from a smart-growth, anti-parking lot perspective, and gives a block-by-block breakdown of what’s built now and what’s being proposed. The site is incredibly detailed, and I have probably spent about 8 hours today memorizing all of the projects in Denver. If you know of any development downtown built since 2000, it’s on the site.

Downtown Background:

Downtown Denver is in the midst of a construction frenzy, and in addition to massive new neighborhoods and redevelopment projects in and around the city that will house thousands of residents (think of Riverfront Park, a solid half-mile stretch along the Platte River of nothing but cranes and construction trucks, building 7+ story lofts and ground-level shops), there are several new skyscrapers being proposed for the cities Central Business District. For reference, Denver hasn’t gotten a new skyscraper in over 15 years, and nothing hugely significant in about 20 years.

Because the now-redeveloped Stapleton airport was once so close to downtown, there was a height restriction on skyscrapers in Denver, keeping the skyline low like San Diego’s. Because of the restriction, the three tallest buildings Downtown are almost exactly the same height, butting up against the height limit. Those buildings are Republic Plaza, the cuboid, white buiding off of 17th Street, the Qwest building (whose obnoxious blue neon sign can be seen hundreds of miles away if you’re on a hill), and Wells Fargo Center, or the “Cash Register Building” which has a unique, off-set curved top that is recognizable as a Denver landmark even to those who have never been to Denver. Stapleton has been bulldozed as an airport to create DIA miles away, so office towers in Denver can go higher now. But current city policy still bans any tower that blocks a park’s view of the mountains, adding further height restrictions to the city and encouraging a harmonious, flowing skyline of tall buildings that are mostly the same height, without disproportionate monoliths like you see in Nashville or Las Vegas – one tower lurching far above the rest, with a boiling sea of parking lots down below.

Planned for Denver:

Browsing Denver-infill.com I found proposals for two new skyscrpaers in Denver that would come close to matching the three tall buildings, making the “big three” into a “big five”: a 50-story Four Seasons hotel (read about it in 5280 Magazine or see the plans at denverinfill.com) that could be built near LoDo, and a 50-story Trump Tower Denver that doesn’t have a location yet and keeps getting bumped around. I don’t really care about the Trump Tower, but the planned Four Seasons hotel is beautiful and I hope it works out.

Six Flags in Trouble:

I also noticed – something I already knew of but had forgotten – that Denver’s Six Flags/Elitch Gardens is struggling and Six Flags wants to get rid of the property. I can’t imagine how that place isn’t turning enough profit – every time I’ve been to Elitch’s it’s been swarming with about as many people as it can hold – so if there’s a problem it’s the park’s business model. But as a person who was born and raised in Colorado, I find it pathetic that this outside, Texas-based company had the nerve to buy out one of Denver’s most distinguished landmarks, the old Elitch Gardens, shut that down and move it to a place where it can expand, saying what a boon it would be for Denver to be the only city in the nation with the amusement park right downtown, and then close it down, pack up, and leave less than ten years later.

If they don’t think they’re attracting enough visitors, maybe it’s because they charge more than thirty dollars per person to get in to the park, which is absurd.

If Six Flags sells the park, I propose that the City of Denver buy it, re-name it Elitch Gardens again, consider it a public recreation area, and run the park itself. The city does, after all, own the Winter Park ski area and maitain it under its Parks and Recreation department. I don’t know what precedent there is for cities buying amusement parks, but I look at it this way:

The price is good: If Six flags sells the park as a lost cause, it obviously isn’t going to be like selling a lucrative business. The price would be primarily for the land, which would continue to be valuable even if the city later decides to shut down the park and re-sell it as real estate for redevelopment, so there’s nothing to lose, even in a worst-case scenario.

Denver would profit: The city should charge, say, seven dollars a ticket and give discounts and occasional free tickets to Denver Metro Area residents. Visits would double, maybe triple. The land buyout would pay for itself in less then five years, and after it’s paid off then Elitch’s would fund the maintainence of itself and of every public park in Denver. The project would be slated under the Parks and Recreation department. Then when Denver wants to build a new park or buy open space, City Council doesn’t have to put it on the ballot and wait for people to vote for it, because they already have the money. If the city ever grows broke in the future, it can sell the park as a bail-out.

The city has an economic interest in keeping the park open: Eliches is great for downtown. Denver is the only city in the nation that has an amusement park downtown, drawing in tourists and visitors who spend money in Downtown’s shops and markets, providing not only sales tax revenue but also jobs.

Keeping the park open to the public provides a city service: If the park were actually affordable, it would be a place for residents to recreate, increasing the general aura of the city. Lowering the price for Denver residents makes it affordable to low-income residents of Denver. The park is good for Denver residents already and would be even better if it was affordable.

The city has an interest in preserving Elitch’s history: Granted, Six Flags already got rid of the old Elitch Gardens and moved it, when they renamed it Six Flags and gradually disposed of its old trademarks and character. This is probably the weakest argument for Denver buying the park, but no one would deny having some pride in the fact that Elitch Gardents, with its old namesake back, is up and running in Denver.

The city wouldn’t have to invest anything into the park: The park is basically brand new – about ten years old – and the rides aren’t even rusty. Since it’s been expanded so many times since then, most sections of the park are even newer than the park itself; maybe five years old at most. The park’s infrastructure is modern and sleek, and wouldn’t need a single thing to be built.

The park provides jobs: The park employs hundreds, if not thousands, of people. You don’t need a college degree to sell refreshments or work the rides, so the park provides jobs to the very people who are most likely to be otherwise unemployed, and it’s open in the summer, so for the teenagers and young people who are just looking to work seasonally, it’s a great place to be. What if the city offered scholarships to employees? How many kids could it put through school then? What if it gave discounts to working mothers, so that they could send their kids to Elich’s to be physically active all day, using the park as a babysitter rather than the TV as a babysitter? There are all sorts of creative social opportunities to be explored through the park’s workforce.

We know it’s possible for the government to own a recreation area; Hyland Hills already owns Water World and that is succesfull: Hyland Hills is a special recreation district for the north part of the Denver area suburbs, and in addition to running the water park, Hyland Hills operates runs parks, rec centers and golf courses as a public service. Water World is popular and highly profitable, and money made there helps Hyland Hills fund the other recreational centers that do not charge as much.

If Denver lets Elitch’s fall apart, there’d be a huge vaccuum in the market for an amusement park, and someone else would build one in some suburb – probably some rapid-growth boomtown with poor planning like Broomfield or Highlands Ranch. Then that tiny suburb would gain all the tax dollars, and development would be funnelled into increased urban sprawl, and Denver would lose it’s asset. Maybe Lakeside would do better, but to get the run-down, creaky amusement park back in shape, someone would have to invest a lot of money into it. In Six Flags, on the other hand, the investment is already there.

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