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The projection of SWAT power here in Tampa is overwhelming. Local estimates put the security collective at well over 1,000 people, meaning there is one officer for every two delegates in the hall. I’ve spotted members of the Secret Service, the National Guard, the Florida state police, the Tampa police, local sheriffs’ offices, and neighboring-county details. Downtown Tampa was in near-lockdown yesterday morning when Kevin and I tried to claim our credentials. We abandoned our cab ten or fifteen blocks away and walked through a major urban downtown almost entirely emptied out of civilians and populated almost exclusively in their stead by riot police in full battle gear—mace, M9s or Sigs, M16s, thigh packs, radio packs, video cameras. Early reports had said there were to be some 15,000 protesters; perhaps they were detained by the hurricane.
Instead, yesterday was a day of heightened tedium. At one point Kevin and I spotted nine or ten anarchist kids marching down the street shouting obscenities about Romney and Obama. The SWAT teams moved in, many shooting video on their cameras. The anarchists live-streamed the commandos filming them. I took pictures of everyone videotaping everyone else. I’m sorry M. C. Escher wasn’t around to capture all the ouroboric fun.
Prior to the convention, the Tampa police sat down with the ACLU and produced a handy book filled with smart tips for eager anarchists who want “to stay safe”:
After milling around for a while, the kids wandered over to a coffee shop where the SWAT team was kicking back, enjoying their venti decaf Americanos and skinny caramel lattés. They offered the protesters some Gatorade, which the kids gratefully accepted, while the rest of us walked off, vaguely disappointed.
More from Jack Hitt:
Political Asylum — November 6, 2012, 2:01 pm
Obama’s data-driven approach may decide today’s race—and determine the future of the G.O.P.
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”