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So Philadelphia, the city of my momentary domicile, is gearing up for
the descent of the

Republicans,
which for some reason I associate with that mesmerizingly horrific “descent of the red monkeys” scene in the Wizard of

Oz.
Five thousand of them, the party of Madison and Jefferson, too, that rogue, who really did write in a letter, “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” But so what? Think of what he did to

Sally
Hemmings.
Which is what the Republicans — those aristos — could do to the middle class if they get control of the presidency again, and I don’t just mean the

flat tax.,
an inequity conveniently revived by the same man, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who devised the lame single-bullet theory in the JFK assassination.

Perhaps the Republican National Convention has taken on a truly phantasmagorical cast for me with the announcement 5,000 Barbies will also be here for this event. Each delegate, alternative, and VIP will get their free Convention Barbie Doll as part of their official delegate gift kit, which also reportedly includes — I am not making this up — Altoids, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese elephant-shaped pasta, an Elephant Beanie Baby, and other even more unimaginable, and perhaps even unmentionable, sundries.

ALTOIDS?

This Barbie is nattily decked out in the appropriate pearl-buttoned power-red suit — could that be a Hillary Clinton cast-off? — campaign credential-necklace, and matching hooker-red-pumps, though no one is quite clear who her constituency actually is. Moreover, no one has commented if and when and how Convention Barbie will subsequently interact with Presidential Candidate Barbie, who has a different outfit and agenda. Those Mattel people are too, toooo clever; although, I still haven’t gotten over their recalling Wheelchair Barbie a while back because her vehicle’s wheels were too wide to be accommodated by Ken’s van.

But mark my words: 5,000 complimentary

Barbies
assembled in one place can be up to no good.

With all those repressed aristos. And their Altoids.

Will Mattel do the right thing and create Protest Barbie, who will finally emerge wearing, instead of the wrong suit, a strong suit? Maybe a lawsuit?

Remains to be seen. The city is also gearing up for anywhere between 30,000 to 100,000

protesters,
a harrowing figure either roughly equal to — or triple — the amount of anticipated attendees when you factor in the media plus assorted hangers-on and lurkers. And in a radical grass-roots e-mail newsletter I get, anyone possessing convention “riot videos” is invited to come forward that week, which seems to suggest — despite the protesters’ extensive preparations with nonviolence workshops — they expect things to get bloody.

For protesters, Monday, July 24, marked the start of Convergence Week. Arriving from wherever, they are registering at a Convergence Center just a few blocks away from my house, several days ahead of the convention itself, to allow for “training” and workshops:

“Join
us!”
urges Philadelphia Direct Action Group’s call to action: “Nonviolent direct action has been an essential part of every successful social change movement in US history and is used by people all over the world to take back our power from corporations and governments. We will not wait for politicians to represent our interests. We are creating a better world! Democrats and Republicans, your party’s over!”

Advance instructions for protesters are like preparations for war: Bring cameras, bottled water, eating utensils, sleeping gear, a bike, a cell phone. Don’t wear sun protector: “Now this is really touchy,” P-DAG advises, “because the petroleum base of most sun-blocks will capture and hold tear-gas/pepper spray. We don’t recommend using it.”

Already, protester “R2K” rhetoric is heating up. Visit the so-called Philadelphia Independent Media

Center
and after you are informed the IMC “is a collective of independent media organizations and hundreds of journalists offering grass-roots, non-corporate coverage. … a democratic media outlet for the creation of radical, objective, and passionate telling of truth,” you will see Philadelphia excoriated as the “Capital of Capital Punishment,” District Attorney Lynn Abraham labeled “America’s Deadliest DA,” and controversial death-row denizen

Mumia
Abu-Jamal
the fulcrum of global pleas for justice.

“Crashing the Party at the Executioners Ball” just might spark a revolution:

 

    “We call on all people of conscience and resistance to join us in Philadelphia to confront the executioners at their gala Executioners Ball — the Republican Convention 2000. The previous decade has witnessed a resurgence in the use of executions, spearheaded by leading Republicans such as presidential candidate Gov. George W. Bush (more than 130 executions), including the unconscionable execution of Shaka Sankofa (Gary Graham). The convention host is Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (over 200 execution warrants signed in five years), and delegates include numerous others who are intent on using body counts as stepping stones to positions of greater power. In solidarity with the many progressive forces who will be expressing their outrage on many issues during this whole convention, we are dedicating August 1, 2000, as a special day to expose these executioners. When the national spotlight is on Philadelphia, let us also expose this city — with a death row larger than 37 states and nearly 90% people of color — as the ‘Capital of Capital Punishment’ presided over by ‘America’s Deadliest DA,’ Lynne Abraham. …”

     

In a rare testosteronic display of radical bravado, the usually responsible Unity 2000 coalition leader Mike Morrill has uncharacteristically boasted to the media, “We will close this city down.”

Which might be an improvement.

“The city that loves you back,” as Philadelphia’s inane tourism slogan goes, recently made shocking national headlines with the despicable police beating of car-jack suspect Thomas Jones, a black man clearly assaulted by both white and black cops in a brutal videotape that rivals Rodney King’s for emotional impact, showing Jones receiving 57 blows in 28 seconds. After either one or two high-speed car chases — accounts are muddled — Jones reportedly resisted arrest and allegedly shot and wounded a police officer, though no gun has yet been found; the only bullets seem strangely enough to come from police guns. This is while police attorneys are covering their clients’ butts by insisting Jones boasted his gun would never be found.

What gun?

Then, several highly placed members of the mayor’s cabinet, momentarily amnesiac of that arcane concept freedom of the press, paid an unscheduled, neighborly visit to the local tabloid newspaper a few blocks down the street from City Hall to convey official displeasure with the July 13 front page, a stomach-turning photo of the beating inconveniently headlined, “WELCOME, AMERICA!”

If that wasn’t enough, on July 18 at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, Amtrak police shot and killed Robert Brown — an obviously disturbed but unarmed homeless man wielding a chair. Why didn’t the cops use a

Taser?

Though Police Commissioner John Timoney quickly busted some creepily enterprising cops involved in — get this — hawking T-shirts decorated with the headlined front-page Thomas Jones beating scene, the chief’s unwarranted honeymoon with the media should be over. Until now, the media have been inclined to portray him pretty much as he paints himself — an anti-corruption reformer here from squeaky-clean Giullaniville to change the culture of the crooked Police Department.

Dream on.

To prevent another Seattle from happening here, the powers-that-be are becoming more fascistic every day. Ordinary freedoms of speech and assembly have been curtailed and abridged. City Council voted to make wearing masks illegal. Protesting can only be done in a specific zone well away from the convention site. Protest groups complained they were being infiltrated by police attending their meetings undercover. Photographers were seen on roofs, etc., observing comings and goings of various protest group members. Initially, these groups’ claims they were being spied on in various ways were met with official denials. Finally, Philadelphia police have admitted spying on activists, infiltrating their meetings and photographing their comings and goings.

Last Friday, the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections raided and shut down a community puppet theatre making signs for anti-convention marches, a move the Mayor reversed three hours later.

Now police are lobbying for news-boxes being removed from street corners near the Gap stores and Starbucks because they were tossed into windows in Seattle. Scuttlebutt has it the cops actually want ALL news-boxes removed all over the city. The major news chain in town, Knight-Ridder’s Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., dispatched their crack lawyer on this, not out of altruism, but because it would drastically affect them, besides the small weekly alternative papers.

It astounds me what the city is getting away with.

Ironically, it looks like those bozos at Philadelphia City Council moved on the “wrong” anti-mask bill, proponents say, an incomplete preliminary version submitted erroneously, proponents say, doubtlessly by political enemies, omitting a necessary ACLU coda. Nevertheless wearing a mask in public on the streets of the City of, uh, Brotherly Love is still illegal, despite this moronic measure being widely disputed. At least now it’s further legally vulnerable and open to judicial challenge. This provision clearly targets protesters, abrogates free speech, and makes it all the more difficult to face reality without the invigorating prospect of occasionally going around publicly in a costume. Like I say, it’s a zoo here.

Preparing for unrest at the RNC, police are preparing overflow prison cells either in the suburbs or at Holmesburg Prison — the shuttered, once condemned site of a 1970 riot — for the scores of demonstrators who may be arrested.

If you happen to get trapped downtown during an anti-convention demonstration, remember, the Philadelphia police have “promised not to use excessive force, and there has already been some dialogue between the protesters and the police,” “Josh” reminds us in his arts e-letter “Gas Heart.” Nevertheless, he offers this protection against tear-gas and pepper spray, from the radical newspaper, The Defenestrator: “Have a bandana soaked with a solution of 19 parts water to one part vinegar. The acid in the vinegar interrupts the tear gas. … These bandanas can be carried in your backpack, and put on as needed. Hopefully,” Josh writes, “this will not be needed, and this info is provided just in case.”

Just in case you decide this election isn’t a hopeless farce, filmmaker

Michael Moore
targets the “One-Party-with-Two-Heads monopoly: The ‘two’ parties both do the bidding of the wealthy and agree with each other on 90% of the issues. They take 90% of their money from people who make over a hundred-grand a year, and then enact over 90% of the laws those contributors want passed. …” His scheme: mobilizing the 100 million American non-voters to get out and vote for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. “You wanna tell me there’s a choice here between two guys who both support NAFTA, WTO, the death penalty, the Cuban embargo, increased Pentagon spending, sleazy HMOs, greedy hospital chains, 250 million guns in our homes, more bombing of Iraq, the rich getting richer and the rest of us declaring bankruptcy?”

Meanwhile,

Billionaires for Bush (Or Gore),
one of the cleverest alternative political organizations — motto: “Because Inequity Is Not Growing Fast Enough” — is sponsoring the Million Billionaire March, Sunday, July 30, near the RNC in Philadelphia, circumstances permitting. They call themselves “a participatory media action that humorously exposes how Big Money has stolen our democracy and distorted national priorities to serve corporate power,” and encourage local chapters to “stage a ‘Rally for the Really Rich’ or a ‘Tax Loophole Protection Day’ or give out ‘Silver Spoon Awards’ to local companies who receive corporate welfare.” Check out their candidate price/performance comparison; it’s an eye-opener.

Although JJ, my estimable ex-husband, is voting for Ralph, I have a better idea. Prince Charles would be a terrific presidential candidate, if we could just get around those sticky residency/citizen requirements. Yes, THAT Prince Charles, the LEAST ADMIRED member of Britain’s Royal Family. If you can forget his, uh, tampon whim, here’s what the London Daily Express had to say about his politics, which I think are IDEAL for running our country:

 

    And his outspoken comments and recent clashes with the Government over issues such as GM foods, fox-hunting, human rights and religion, which were all perceived to be popular, show that people do not necessarily believe it qualifies him to be a good constitutional monarch. He raised eyebrows at Downing Street and Buckingham Palace when he boycotted an official banquet for the Chinese president, making it clear in a sanctioned leak that he disagreed with China’s human rights record in Tibet. On religion, he has caused disquiet in the Church of England by saying he wants to be “Defender of Faith” not “Defender of the Faith” when he takes the Coronation Oath.

     

Hey, if we’re gonna mess with aristos, let’s have the real thing for a change.

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