Certainly all the attempts by the media to conjure the Spirit of ’68 when speculating about the demonstrations outside the Republican and Democratic conventions at the end of the month are in vain. In fact, sadly misplaced. While there is definitely a very active contingent of activists out there that would like to put such a (dubious) exclamation point on this year’s confabs, let’s face it — the spontaneity, the alchemy and likely the numbers, just aren’t there. The last time protests even broached the level of Chicago was during the globalization protests in ’99 — that’s why more times than not we hear faceless police chiefs across the country before planned “actions” sounding off, “we don’t want another Seattle …”

Let’s face it, it would take Abbie Hoffman flying in from the grave on a magic carpet to take the police these days off-guard (after they recover, they’d nab him for violating airspace).

Unfortunately, Seattle was known for its violence, not for any reforms it spurred (except those that made the police more paramilitary). Ironically, the only time the mainstream media gets excited anymore about political protests is if hippies are running around with blood pouring down their faces or a cop car is overturned and set on fire. That, by the way, only seems to happen on college campuses, after winning championships, or at homecoming.

If this Reuters story today about the “Huge Protests” planned for St. Paul and Denver is any indication, there are a few things we can predict about ’08:

The cops will look like Blackwater rolling into Ramadi (armed with pepper guns and tasers), the protesters will be forced to protest the fact they were hustled into “free speech cages” early on, fizzling out a lot of their sizzle for “disrupting” convention events. More than a few hardcore activists may not show up, due to strategically planned “visits” by the FBI. A few of the “actions” may never materialize due to the fact the plans were plastered all over the Net ahead of time. And no matter how many people show up, how many are arrested and how much heavy artillery is brandished to keep the peace, the national media will relegate the story to wacky convention sideshow status, somewhere between party platform maneuvering and the stale victuals in the press room.

These things are clear: the cops are better informed, better prepared, and better armed than ever, while the dreaded “anarchists” are burying themselves with their public meetings and reconnaissance missions and everyone else is forced to negotiate with city fathers over whether they will be cordoned off by chicken wire.

Oh yeah, and urine buckets and feces may or may not play a role in any attack from the “free speech zone.”