Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The breathtaking, treasonous, self interest of the US Republican Party is probably unique in world history

You have to admire the Russian operation of 2016 - which perhaps in the long term has fatally damaged faith in both U.S. political parties,
and Wikileaks,
and the concept of truth itself.

But to achieve this it has had the help of what is perhaps a uniquely dedicated political institution, the Republican Party, an organisation which historically has risen above petty concerns like the good of its own country and citizens to embrace naked self interest in a way I don't think I've ever seen in any other historic example anywhere in the world.

I was shocked by the House Intelligence hearing into Russian hacking hearing a few days ago. I shouldn't have been.

Despite broad consensus of Russian interference in the 2016 election, Republican Trey Gowdy only wants to prosecute those 'leakers' trying to expose the extent of the conspiracy. Even the Russians must be embarrassed to watch this.

Treason is harsh dirty word not really used in UK politics since the Elizabethan era - but it seems inadequate now to describe the acts of politicians quite prepared to cover up and even encourage malign foreign influence if it helps them prosper politically. It is almost pantomime villain territory and would  be difficult to believe had not the Republican party been quite capable of similar in two previous historical examples.

In 1968 Republicans working behind the scenes sabotaged the Paris Peace talks to ensure the Democratic government at the time did not get credit for ending the Vietnam War. The war by then had already killed 30,000 Americans and countless Vietnamese.Thanks to Richard Nixon's successful electioneering tactics the Vietnam War would go on until the disastrous collapse in 1975.

In similar fashion - it is alleged (by many) - that Republicans prolonged the Iranian hostage crisis in 1981, again to ensure a Republican victory in the election of 1980.
 "Allegations that the Reagan administration negotiated a delay in the release of the hostages until after the 1980 presidential election have been numerous but unproven. Gary Sick, principal White House aide for Iran and the Persian Gulf on the Carter administration’s National Security Council, claimed in his book October Surprise: America's Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan that CIA Director William Casey and possibly Vice President George H. W. Bush went to Paris to negotiate such a delay. Many others have made the same allegations."

We could perhaps add the Southern Strategy to this. Though it does not include the collusion of a foreign power it does indicate the Republicans willingness to undermine social and racial cohesion within their own nation if it suits their political agenda.

And don't think that sacred constitution is safe either. More recently the Republicans, who routinely wave around the United States constitution as if it were personally handed to them from Mount Sinai,  have also sought to directly undermine that supremely sacred document to their own political ends. The Founding Fathers enshrined within the constitution checks and balances to moderate the influence of the Presidency, such as the Congress (the lower chamber) and the Senate (upper chamber) and the creation of a independent Supreme Court. Membership of the Supreme Court is for life and it is with the power of a president to replace Supreme Court members if one should pass away.
Or it was.
Until 2016, when a President elected with a substantial majority in 2012 was blocked from appointing his own choice of Supreme Court judge by Republican Congress, an act which directly undermines the obvious written intent of the US constitution.

It would seem, for the purposes of the Supreme Court at least, the United States is already a one party state.

Republicans are enabled in this by the other party, the Democrats, who have seemingly fallen off their high horse so many times now they have serious concussion. "We go high, they go low" might be a noble policy when dealing with normal political opponent but when dealing with an opposition quite happy to even collude with a hostile foreign  power and cover it up, ongoing Democratic ineptitude and weakness must hover around treason itself.

I'm not being naive about my own country. The Conservatives have rigged at least one UK election  and members of the Labour Party and the Unions that backed them in the 1970s have long been suspected to be under Russian influence. Perhaps Nazi influence on British society in the 1930s or German influence on the monarchy before that could also be cited as examples of recent political treachery in the UK.

But these are individuals, not an entire organisation with an established record of doing similar. There is nothing, I think historically in any nation which compares with the naked greed for power AT ANY COST which can be seen in the Republican Party right now. I'm sure in future they will defend themselves by hiding behind the breathtaking incompetence of the current occupant of the White House, but this is a much bigger issue than one man. He is a bumbling opportunist who was presented with the opportunity to become the most powerful man on Earth - can we really blame him for taking that opportunity?

The ones who will ultimately carry the can for this are the ones who enabled his rise - and somehow future historians will have to explain how they chose to do this at the expense of the country they swore an oath to protect.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Netflix IRONFIST is not bad (but you should be watching LEGION)

Netflix's new Marvel series, IRONFIST, is getting a critical pounding. Don't believe the hype. It won't win any awards but it's far from the worst superhero show on tv.

Confession - I've read the comics.

As is, Danny Rand is a long way from the most original comics character of all time. A clumsy amalgam of Bruce Wayne and the 'lost in ShangriLa' legend used for The Shadow and more recently Dr Strange, there is little new about him beyond the elevation of a martial arts concept 'chi', into a full blown super power, the IronFist. He's a bit dull, and obviously in the long lead up to THE DEFENDERS, you can see why Netflix chose to get to Danny Rand last after Matt Murdock, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones.

That said, after his rehabilitation in 'Heroes For Hire' team up comics, where Rand and Luke Cage setup a mercenary superhero team, some talented comics writers have had a crack at the character over the years and by concentrating less on the Shadow/Shangri-La/Dr Strange/Martial Arts yawn background and more on the Rand family saga, and interaction with other (better) characters like Colleen Wing and Luke Cage, he now has his own identity.

They've obviously tried to go some way with this in the new Netflix series with, I think (up to Ep 2 anyway) some level of success. It's a fairly pedestrian version of something like BILLIONS with some fairly likable characters that might grown on you. This series probably only exists to setup Danny's friendship with Luke Cage - it not is not meant to be the definitive statement in any way on Marvel martial arts characters. Yes it does have a white western guy teaching martial arts to an American Asian, but it's not like the villain is a fiendish Mandarin supervillian with a stringy mustache and long fingernails*

IRONFIST is definitely a notch below in every department DAREDEVIL, LUKE CAGE  and especially JESSICA JONES but
trust me
it's a hell of a lot better than MARVEL'S AGENTS OF SHIELD. Perhaps that's the main issue with IRONFIST, it's Netflix expectation. Their standard level of product is so good the merely mediocre looks terrible in comparison.

Mainstream tv critics who've embarrassed themselves over admitting liking the other Marvel Netflix shows are particularly laying into this one for a variety of reasons and should really get over themselves. DAREDEVIL  is good but seriously overrated for me - sliding heavily into repetition and wasting great acting talent. LUKE CAGE starts magnificently before running into blaxploitation parody. Only JESSICA JONES really sustains itself until the end of the run.
Those looking to punch IRONFIST for not being on the same supposed level as DAREDEVIL should be looking at FX's breathtaking LEGION, which quite frankly is making them all look like children's tv.

*The premier martial artist in Marvel's universe of superheroes is of course full blown, 100% Chinese Shang-Chi, who has no super powers beyond being THE Marvel Master of Kung Fu - which keeps him surprisingly competitive in a world of genuine gods and monsters.

Shang-Chi, a son of Hu'nan province, will initially have little in the way of racial complication for his screen depiction unless we get as far as his parentage, at which point the racial correctness movement will no doubt go into meltdown. For the most part the character is a close analog of Bruce Lee's character from ENTER THE DRAGON, but Shang-Chi's father is no less than arch-devil of racially insensitive western depictions - the Fiendish Fu Manchu!

Tilda Swinton was the best thing about DR STRANGE.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Beyond The Wall of Sleep 4

Finalising the war on insomnia, from 6 hours sleep a night to 8 hours a night

In previous blogs on this subject I've explained that I used to be a very bad sleeper going back to childhood (as were my parents). When I say bad sleep in childhood I mean I grew up living above a pub  in the 1970s - so smoke, noise, overworked parent. Sleep was always a precious thing to be grabbed at, which made it all the more stressful later when I couldn't get it for whatever reason.

And over the last decade I've managed to overcome this with the aid of audiobooks and personal media players (thank you Steve Jobs) to get a regular 6 hours per night. This is a big personal achievement as I'm really Mr Hyde when tired.

An updare earlier posts is due as I have been refining this method. Lately I've been getting occasional 7 hours a night over the last week I've had two instances where I've gone right into 8 hours, smashing personal records.

Should say I'm about 50 years old, and track my sleep using a fitness tracker (Jawbone UP3).

What has made the difference?

Light exercise
Light exercise rather than heavy exercise - heavy exercise, like walking more than 10 miles in a day, will sure knock you out easily when your head hits the pillow, but that later sleep (where I am now picking up the time) will be affected by painful muscles. You might sleep better following nights but it is not guaranteed.
So light exercise, about an hour before bedtime, like a walk in the fresh air for 20 mins or so.

Later Sleep
my sleep 10pm-3pm remains as before. The difference now is I'm sleeping in much later than before. Part of this is recognising that sleep does come in two parts
with an intermission. And when you reach that horrible 'hour of the wolf ' in the middle the last thing you should do is lie there in bed. Get up, do ablutions in semi illumination and eat something. Toast or banana works for me.

Coffee builds up in the system
Not had caffeine (other than tea) for nearly two weeks

Change of listening material
In earlier posts I described how listening to audiobooks and podcasts were very effective in not only kicking off sleep but sustaining it long after you might otherwise have woken up. The more sensitive fitness tracker I had (Jawbone UP3) recorded how I would often kick into REM sleep at stages of the night when I new I'd woken and started up an audio book. I said some are better then others and this may be a personal thing.. I find Lorelei King's voice incredibly soothing to sleep to. Her voice on the BBC adaptation of Pattern Recognition and several other William Gibson sources make her No1 audio source for me.

This 'friendly voice to fall asleep to' phenomena would of course be hugely magnified if it were a close family member. I have suggested to grand parents that I know that they record their favourite poems or short stories for their family for this reason.

Refresh the listening material
The audio input must remain somewhat interesting and fresh - if you are are bored with listening, the mind (subconscious?) gets disengaged, wanders and insomnia is allowed back in. So you ideally need a regular source of audio input.
Radio! I can hear you say and many use this to fall asleep to - but the nature of live radio is that you cannot rely on the broadcast. A sudden news feature with harsh audio can really wreck your sleep over the night. I can remember being woken by the news of Princess Diana's death - that was rough - and Radio 5Live were nice enough to broadcast the news of Fay Wray's death with audio of her famous scream in King Kong.

Best example of this is the BBC Radio4 Today Show (6am -9am) which you might regularly find yourself dozing to in it's quiet moments until - usually American politics - jerks you into reality with all the gentle subtly of the electric chair at San Quentin.

Ideally you would have a regularly updated audio, perhaps with the gentle well spoken stars of the Today Show  which runs for hours on semi interesting subjects but without live broadcast interruptions or irritating trailers.

Ladies and Gentlemen - let me introduce you to The Economist Audio Edition
this is the entire magazine, every week recorded onto audio by familiar R4 news announcers. Approximately 8 fresh hours of audio every week. You might be thinking "Oh god - The Economist. That would be dull. I couldn't listen to that" - well, remember this isn't to consciously get you listening, its to make you fall asleep, and I personally find the mix here is right on the edge of engaging and ZZZZzzzz which is just enough to engage the troublesome demons in the mind and stop them from causing trouble in the conscious.

As a bonus parts of The Economist, particularly the Science and Technology, really is worth listening to (hi The Economist!) and you may find yourself listening to particular bits again during the day.

After 3am
I've found that regardless of the subject, if I find it vaguely interesting and I've not heard it before 15 mins controlled by timer on my media device (still an Ipod Classic) will knock me right to sleep after 10 in the evenings. 30 mins will knock me right to sleep after the 3am Hour of the Wolf intermission (+ banana) and here is the latest finding.. if I wake 5-6ish again as normal if I then let the media device run without a timer and start to doze the next time I wake it will be daylight outside, which I have to say personally speaking is INCREDIBLE way to greet the day after 40 years of insomnia.

And here is the interesting thing
 - If I use a timer at this 5-8am doze time I will awake immediately after the timer stops the audio.
If I let the audio run without setting the timer I sleep on about 1+ hour later. The audio actually prolongs the snooze.
Some part of the subconscious which ordinarily is getting ready for the start up into conscious mode seems to get pre-occupied, delaying the wakeup. Is it actually distracted with audio topics - or more likely cataloging human conversation? I don't know - I have varied awareness of what is being said and often get great REM sleep (as confirmed by my sleep tracker).

It;s possible this is all very personal to me - I've been told I'm naturally a great listener and it it has become a central part of my business
but I now know of at least two of my friends who control audio in this way to prolong sleep,

Dreamlands explorers kit
fitness tracker (Jawbone UP3)
Media player (Ipod classic or old smartphone with sleep timer app)
Eye shades
earphones (best for comfort sleeping after 3am Hour of the Wolf intermission)
small speakers around bed (best for kicking off sleep initially and later morning snoozing)
Economist subscription

for snacks -

Of course you may have a partner which objects to all this.  Or they may find your new refreshed self an improvement in terms of moods and life quality. If not there is always separate beds, which might liven the sex up as well!

The downside of exposing your subconscious to this regularly is that possibly you find yourself heavily heavily immersed in current events and find yourself for example, on holiday volunteering to help a foreign political campaign.

Other wierd sleep notes
For some reason dieting often has me awake early in very low emotional states, to the extent that I often I cry or scream myself awake.
I cut down on the dieting.
It stopped :-)

Isle of the Dead by Arnold Böcklin (1827–1901)

Sunday, 26 February 2017

IMMORTAL BELOVED (1994) reignites optimism for the future of the past

IMMORTAL BELOVED (1994)  is a great intro to a haunted, superhuman musician, and the disillusionment and hopelessness of Europe under Napoleon. It features career best performances from Gary Oldman & Isabella Rossellini and comes from noted horror film director Bernard Rose (CANDYMAN).

It's not perfect, it has a few ripe moments but is always entertaining and never dull. The presence of Barry Humphries as Austrian Chancellor Klemens von Metternich should be an indicator of how bonkers/fearless the movie is. Imagine Ken Russell's GOTHIC turned down to 11, with an even better soundtrack :-)

But the date it was released, 1994, is of more significance.

Immortal Beloved's musical climax is a German masterpiece for humanity, the 9th Symphony. This piece of music is used as the EU national anthem, and is hinted at in the movie when one scene cuts directly to a field of stars, highlighting whole plot as a story of painful but triumphant reconciliation.

 1994 might be seen as a peak period for the EU and reminder of the optimism of the time. It was the year Schengen Agreement started and the year before Srebrenica. The introduction of the Euro was five years away. It seems an aeon from from our new world of dangerously imbalanced Eurozones and what will doubtless be corporate Anglo-American trade areas.

Despite the events (so far) of 2017 the optimistic worldview of 1994 still inspires. Exposed so much to politics I've lost myself in music recently and it's hard to listen to 9th Symphony without thinking that the vision of international reconciliation and harmony IS inevitable over a long period. I'm also reading Neal Stephenson's Seveneves, which has a similar "we will overcome - together" optimistic worldview.

One of the supposed ongoing threats to the human race is the Emerging Virus. A biological time bomb, like Ebola, which waits for the encroachment of civilization to emerge and attack human society. They are dangerous but unlikely to be fatal to the human race as a whole. We can wait them out.

Perhaps the idea of the Emerging Virus could be applied outside the biological, and applied to ideas, religious and political. What if the political turmoils of 2017 are just virulent viruses exposed by expanding civilisation to the sunlight before they dry up and blow away?

It has been obvious for years that the last decades struggle with Muslim fundamentalism is a predictable clash between what are now excepted values of human rights and the final holdouts of medieval culture. What were impenetrable parts of the world  are now permeated by the internet, much to the frustration of those power structures which would seek to perpetuate them. To consider them a long term threat to our way of life is to give them way too much credit. Their desperate struggles to survive are, like the Populists I will get to in a moment, merely hastening the end of their own dead ideas.

Looked over a long term we can see the beginnings of the final death gasp of organised religion, and that the persistent image of religion going forward will not be the crescent or the cross but two burning towers. The horrors of ISIS and Boko Haram and the others might seem intimidating in the short term but these actions will resonate through the generations. The future vision of the human race, if there is one, won't come from a cave in Afghanistan, and the last spasms of ISIS and their ilk make this obvious even in our short term perspective. Over a long period we can perhaps see the War on Terror as an inevitable reaction to the remorseless sweep of modern civilization over the globe from the most reactionary areas. A doomed reaction as the death gasp only highlights the redundancy of the medieval ideas it seeks to protect.

I think we can just start to the same with what they are calling 'Popularism':  the forces of Trump, Farrage, Le Pen were always likely to crawl out from under a rock in reaction to some crisis but are clinging to a nationalism which cannot survive the end of this century.  Under pressure from environmental and economic factors the sums just do not work for isolationism going forward.

And, real decider of course, the glowing elephant in the room with regard to nationalism, is nuclear proliferation. Nationalism and atomic weapons are a fatal mix - certainly for Nationalism in the long term. In the same way that the Twin Towers will be the image to define and warn against the influence of religion going forward, Trump and his followers will fill history books about the fall of the nation state.

I would seek to preserve my culture and your culture as much as we possibly can, that is what keeps us human after all. But if the alternative is Radioactive Ruins and Cockroach Culture, the flags and the d**kheads who wave them will be gone before long, one way or another.

Arthur C Clarke was a good judge of the future events. In 3001: The Final Odyssey he predicts the end of the nation state at 2050 (see below).

I'm more conservative, I'll say 2060.

"3001: The Final Odyssey," (c) Copyright 1997 by Arthur C. Clarke

She was the first visitor with a fluent command of Poole's own
English, so he was delighted to meet her.
'Mr. Poole,' she began, in a very business-like voice, 'I've been
appointed your official guide and - let's say - mentor. My
qualifications - I've specialized in your period - my thesis was
"The Collapse of the Nation-State, 2000-50"

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

What 2% of the electorate means in US and British Elections

Highly significant 2% majority in the Brexit vote mirrors the winning margin in Hillary Clinton's totally irrelevant popular vote.
The winning margin in the EU referendum was Remain 48.1%, Leave 51.9%. In the Brexit vote that difference translates, in the eyes of the tabloid media, into a change of government and massive mandate for change run by the most extreme faction of the winning side. Should a democratically elected Parliament , or even a judge, seek to question this 2 % majority they are branded "ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE" in rabid newspaper headlines.
In the US Election, as absentee ballots trickle in, so far the numbers show Clinton obtained 48.2 percent of the popular vote, compared with Trump's 46.1 percent. In the US system, actually decided by the Electoral College, that roughly similar majority (approximately 2.9 million voters in the US), means absolutely nothing, as they are in states not considered significant by the US electoral system (which the Democratic Party was fully aware of before, having lost an election for the same reason in 2000).
I hardly need to add the other significant stat here is that both of these votes went the way of ruthless right wing populist parties while the centre left opposition collapsed (yet again) like nice well meaning blancmange.

Everyone knew the voting rules going in and if you don't like them now, tough. Take your problems to the next democratic vote, assuming you can actually be bothered to vote this time.

Monday, 21 November 2016

A Brit inside the Clinton Ground Game Pt 2 : Tuesday, Election Day  

Part 2 of 2

We thought we would win. WE. You would think any sensible bone in my body would be anxious to distance myself from what will go down as one of the most catastrophic political campaigns in modern history. Yet, I'm proud. perhaps the explanation for that is in one of these blog posts.

A Brit inside the Clinton Ground Game Pt 2 : Tuesday, Election Day

On the Tuesday, day of the actual election I thought all that would be left would be voting (as per UK) so instead went to a large department stores Sale just off Union Square. I needed to pick up a visitors voucher and found myself having a short chat with a shop assistant on the election.

It was surprising.
Based on the great high of yesterdays volunteering I rather proudly and naively said I was helping out the Dems, expecting her to be pleased. Instead she was instantly guarded and said only this

"You know, people just want change. There are lots of Chinese families in this city, businesses. That have been here centuries. They just don't want to be killed"

I'll cover the latest extent of the awful homeless problem in San Francisco in specially in another blogpost, but one of the striking things about it is that it buts up literally to Chinatown without appearing in it. Where the main street, Mission (the equivalent of London's Oxford Street) seems to have a resident homeless person at least every 10ft throughout its entire length I didn't spot a single homeless person in Chinatown, though one particularly resentful homeless guy, (and their frequent aggression is an issue as well), seems to like camping out on the actual historic Chinese gate leading in. But you never saw him past the gate.

Why is this relevant to the election? It's perception. If the main shopping street of San Francisco, capital of Silicon Valley, looks like Woodstock for homeless people I shudder to think what places Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore and Pittsburgh are like. Crime statistics in the US are actually really improving - but if this is what visitors actually see it's no wonder Trump is getting such support on law and order issues.

Republicans and right wingers love to present the Progressive Left as a soft touch (as evidenced by the performance of Democratic Party - they are). A total failure to deal with the highly visible  homelessness issue confirms all of those stereotypes and I'm sure further perpetuates the problem - much to the delight of racist, suburban Republicans who keep wining electoral votes on it.

Girl on 27th Mission singing beautiful Beatles songs
Anyway, I couldn't find luggage any better than the battered stuff I had so encouraged by FF's txts again I decided to head up to 1001 and at least see if I could bag myself one of the cool Hillary For Pres t-shirts. I'd written by now what I thought would be the story of the election (see Part 1) so I was really just going up to be supportive.

1001 Van Ness rather incongruously sat next to a very 21stC Tesla showroom

I soon found myself sucked in again by the air of fevered enthusiasm and the strange setting around us. I've never been in a tv studio before and the ambient sound proofing and archaic late 20thC fittings made it a fascinating place to hang out. It was like being a ghost from the previous Clinton era, or phantom extras from the classic movie NETWORK, echoing from that biting 1970s Trump campaign prophecy into 21st century reality.

Getting back into the txt campaign again I found myself on several different tables on floor 3, alongside various guys this time with cameras intending to document what we were all convinced would be Hillary's historic win. Four of the guys there were Norwegian, making the latest of several documentary's on the subject and helping out with the txt campaign at the same time.

San Franciscans around us were delighted at the international help but a little ashamed at how far Trump had got. "You must think we're all mad" and "What do they think of us in your country?" I heard several times. Thank god these poor people didn't have to see me later on. I tried to reassure them that in the UK election success for reality tv stars was only a matter of time (The Apprentice still very popular I'm told).

I was asked about Brexit. "It's not really happened over there yet has it?" someone asked. I said the car had gone off the cliff and we were still sailing through the air. Californians seemed to be able to relate to that.

Also set near me was a little old lady checked heavily in Democratic regalia who seem to be a local personality of some kind. She'd ding a bell every time there was some announcement of progress.

She had terrible eyesight and I helpted her change txt campaiugns when required (see part 1). For most of the time at the table she seemed not all there but when I met her on the way out to say goodbye later (when things were much more serious) she seemed a lot more on the ball.

So yes, during the day as we laughed at the responses to our texts and marvelled at the exotic names in Florida as the results slowly came in and were posted up on large screens and elaborately constructed white boards. And we cheered all the good results coming in.

There didn't seem that many.. but we aware all very upbeat, apart from one guy in his 20s with a laptop ("chris"?) who seemed to realise very very early on something was up. I almost had a dig at him for being such a downer, until his girl showed up, who obviously knew him well enough to be seriously disturbed about what was going on.  He wasn't worried about a Trump landslide. That wasn't happening. He was worried about Democratic turnout. Very worried. Like the Brexit vote, which I was doomed to relive again, the decider on this historic and critical election where the people who could just not drag their arse off the sofa because they thought their vote didn't matter.

Like an idiot I kept asking about Florida which everyone seemed to know intimately. "Don't wait for a result there", if it's good, the argument went, it will take maybe weeks to get a good result out of Florida. (Florida declared for Trump in the early part of the evening).

By the end of the day there was still no obvious result and bolstered by listening to two years of media coverage I still did not believe Trump could win. I was still waiting for the party. Late afternoon I only narrowly avoided paying $30 for a cool Hillary 'BADASS FOR PRESIDENT' poster because I didn't have the cash.

By about 4pm they'd stopped updating the newsboards and not long after that various tables started turning up the sound on their laptops turned to mainly CNN. I think it was the tone of panic in Wolf Blitzers voice at about 5pm that brought me to my senses. This wasn't just the bonfire of the centre left but the credibility of the news media and their polling resources as well. They had 6 months of warning from the Brexit vote and the results Trump pulled out in the Primaries and they were still  catastrophically wrong.

In the hot studio of floor 3 we were still getting free fresh water from smiling Dem volunteers and regularly told to stop and do stretching exercises. About 6pm delicious slices of pizza where handed out from a box by the most dejected person I have ever seen carrying slices of pizza.

The txt campaigns themselves had now become desperate requests to voters queueing in Pennsylvania, Florida and Colorado to stay in line until their poling stations closed. Far away across the rest if the country, where Texas had been discussed as a serious Dem target days before, Michigan - which only had a car industry at all because Obama had jumped in and saved it - went Republican. "Wisconsin" said Chris with the Laptop "she could still win if she gets that". He said it quietly, almost a desperate whisper.

By now it was starting to thin out at 1001 but only because volunteers were off to their own election parties. I had two offers myself but with no wifi, no phone data or even txts (5 failed to send that night for whatever reason) I didn't want to risk missing the drama so historical inevitability got the better of me and I decided to head up Van Ness to the official Dem event at the Holiday Inn.
But not before the txt campaign was slowly shut down and the laid back Dem volunteers where replaced by quite pushy, panicked and emotional people trying to talk us into other last minute campaigns. I gave a definite 3rd solid NO to a girl who expected a foreign national with a northern English accent to cold call people at home to tell them to vote for local candidates in states were the local polls were closing in 10-20 minutes. That's when the  optimistic hold-outs on my table all looked around at each other with a collective "WTF?"

Perhaps as a nudge to get me involved next door in the phone campaign I was moved from my table, which at least gave me  chance to explore the building.

When we were told to stop and move on and I half wondered if it was health and safety reasons.

Graveyard of nametags
After the charming grass roots nature of 1001 Van Ness, the Dem Party at the Holiday Inn looked much more professional. I say it 'looked'. Instant access to home made cakes and refreshments was gone, replaced by a long queue for expensive beer (so my Hunter S Thompson drug and alcohol story was off the agenda) while a flood of late arriving people in smart dress took all the seats. Exhausted, sweaty and emotional as I was, some sort breaking point was not far off. The actual breaking point was realising, after a day of bad comms, that there was no free wifi at the Dems official election party without providing a room number at the Holiday Inn. Democrats couldn't provide even free wifi for the people who'd spent days volunteering for them.

For years I'd been hyperconnected to US politics via great wifi in the UK and Prague, and worked desperately to stay in touch during an ill fated trip to Cuba. Now I was in the Capital of Silicon Valley and I couldn't even see the tv screen for news. I couldn't hear her but from one tv screen Rachel Maddow, who I listen to on my London commute every day, looked utterly crushed and professionally humiliated.

I went out into the lobby with a beer trying to pick up some network somewhere only to hear a huge cheer from back in the room.
I thought and raced back in with a few others to find the be-suited grandees cheering the election of a local senator who had apparently agreed to legalise pot. I looked around - the only people here from the text campaign that I recognised were the Norwegian documentary makers, similarly horrified and embarrassed as I was, to find ourselves in the ringside eat for the most horrifying and chaotic family funeral in US political history.

There was one mercy. This room this could have been heartbreaking, to see this happening on the faces of the wonderful people I worked hard for days to prevent Trump becoming President.. But I looked around...
And none of them were there 
No little old ladies
No cute dogs
No enthused smart kids full of beans and enthusiasm.

I looked around at the Democratic election party and it was just Suits. And media.

Eventually I found myself in Holiday Inn's restaurant, mainly because their tv's had subtitles and I couldn't get any decent news at the main venue. After another great local beer (Blue Moon) and the worst chicken wings ever, served by some very sympathetic and diplomatic staff I staggered, barely believing out onto the night on Van Ness, for a very long walk over a very big hill.

As I left for good I saw the Norwegians were still there, looking back with a disbelieving. "You? are still here?" That was surreal - It was like we were sharing each others nightmare.

Exactly a week before myself and FF had found ourselves by pure chance in Tommy's Joynt watching the pure joy of the Cubs winning the World Series. It was a different world now.

Throughout that day I never saw anyone cry. Away from the Holiday Inn, my fellow Brit Jez out on Day street had to console three women in floods of tears. FF was still crying the next day even after a dose of 3D Benedict Cumberbatch at the Alamo Draft House.

By then there was word of street protests all over the country and SF was already beginning to bounce back in it's own inimitable way.

And I heard the word 'CALEXIT' for the first time.

A Brit inside the Clinton Ground Game Pt 1 : Monday, day before Election Day

British tourist volunteers to help with Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign. First of two posts. Part 1 - day before election day. Note that this remains unchanged since it was written - I delayed a day to post it and now it's a moment in time.
Part 2 is obviously more a part of the real world.

1001 VAN NESS - Condemned TV studio is the HQ of San Francisco's Hillary for President campaign

I woke election day morning with a Fleetwood Mac song in my head that was never recorded. It seemed like a good omen.

As part of my SF holiday I was part of the Democratic Party txting campaign thanks to San Francisco professional writer (and now good friend) Fawn Fitter . As a tourist I obviously couldn't vote or donate but I did txt potential voters in Florida, North Carolina, Colorado. (why? see bottom)

Building is the old KRON TV station, designed by local architect Gardner Daily, which has become another victim of local property prices and is due for demolition to become condos. Only the Hillary campaign keeps it standing currently.

The app, called Megaphone, was developed by ex-Google people apparently. It is illegal to mass spam people over SMS network (thank god) and Megaphone gets around this by enlisting volunteers to do this by hand.

It can be downloaded and used on your own smartphone or you can you can use cheap phones provided.
Users connect to a current campaign location (one of about 4-5 for each location) and then receive a list of names in that area. A sample text is sent written by their local campaign office politely suggesting to the person that they vote.

Every half an hour or so you would stop texting the names and deal with the replies, some of which were predictably graphic. Set responses were offered by the app, mostly providing help. We were told to keep personal replies light "We go high".

General consensus was the worst replies were from Arizona, and the most  exotic names where from Florida
- my personal favourite name was 'Ocean Shackleton'
Ocean, if you ever get to read this and you are ever in London dinner is on me!

Every hour or so when the txt reached a threshold a bell would ring and everyone would cheer. If a campaign was completed we'd be asked to move onto another one and help any new arrivals do this if they didn't know how. On the Sunday, perhaps during what FF claimed was large singalong to the soundtrack of Hamilton the musical, volunteers sent 100,000 reminders to vote in one hour.

Dayshift volunteers were mainly very easygoing Californian women sitting intently but quietly around tables with the occasional sweet little dogs with names like 'Roxy' or 'Toast'. Abundant and delicious cakes were provided.

"You're doing this on your vacation?" they said, "you must get out more!"
I'd got out plenty as later posts will indicate.

At 1001 Van Ness  I've never been in a more calm, good natured and upbeat environment. Deep in that crumbling tv studio, where the sun was nowhere in sight I can't think of a more beautifully positive Californian experience. If I'd not been dragged away (to Smugglers Cove) I'd probably be there now, staying in that corner under the spiral staircase in a state of good natured communal bliss until the entire building was torn down around me.

Why did I volunteer?
  • I'm not naïve when it comes to US foreign policy but Benghazi wasn't a result of the actions of Obama or Clinton. The Libyan intervention was led by the French and the British and the US Government found itself dragged along to ensure it wasn't an under -resourced fiasco.
  • Obama's Red Line in Syria was undermined by the British Parliament vote.
  • I was exorcizing the ghost of the Brexit vote.
  • Trump