Day of Blogging For Justice

Today is a united effort to get the word out about the misuse of tasers by law enforcement officials. “Say it ain’t so”, you may be thinking. Well we know how helpful….and how harmful law enforcement can be. Feel free to Google the numerous stories of how the usual suspects with racial and gender biases who hide behind their shields and the Blue Wall have caused injury to some and death to others while being detained.  Also check out the blog Tasered While Black. Lots of kicks and giggles to be had…not!

NetRoots Nation: Is It the Latest Approximation of Them Vs. Us?

I’ve been sorting through my thoughts and feelings since I got back from Austin. I am new to blogging afterall and must do the work of defining this blog and my goals for participation. I had a very distinct impression of my time spent at NetRoots Nation, but I wanted to sit on it for a spell. I’ve come away with mostly positive thoughts but I am troubled by the lack of representation of PoC who attended and topics covered. I had the opportunity to speak with the outgoing Executive Director and to the Daily Kos founder. I know, I know officially these are separate entities. I am certain a more detailed review of the money trail and relationships would yield a very close involvement between the two and other parties of interest however. I was angry that after 3 years I saw less than 20 Black people in attendance. One was a campaign advisor and sponsor and two were/had been elected officials. Not everyone was a blogger. I had posted a diary about how bored I was and got 237 responses, mostly negative, from people who were not even there and ignored the crux of my complaint. Link.

It wasn’t that I was bored, per se but I didn’t have a sense of recognition and acknowledgement. It’s not that people weren’t nice. I made some valuable contacts even. Donna Edwards nearly had me screaming from the rafters her speech was that good. But something was missing and I just wasn’t feeling it.  There was a distinct lack of participation by PoC who support PoC and who were in fact calling the shots. How could I tell? What was missing was sincerity and commitment

You don’t open a restaurant, accept reservations only to serve vegetables without indicating you’re a veggie-only establishment. Using a term such as “NetRoots” is rather generic and all-encompassing, no? The potential for misleading others is right up there with using the words ‘hope’ and ‘change’ in one’s campaign. There are people who show up expecting to order a dish containing meat. Or perhaps they just want a dessert and coffee. You don’t say, “Well anybody can eat here we don’t stop people from coming”. You don’t tell someone it’s up to them to show up but not offer a proper full-balanced meal! You don’t serve wine to a thirsty alcoholic and tell them it’s their choice to not drink it but not offer any water. You don’t get offended by dissenting voices – you address those concerns.
It’s not just about number of attendees. It’s about content, inclusion and full participation. You can’t go basking through life enjoying your privilege telling yourself you’re a good person while stepping over that homeless person lying in the gutter. Or your neighbor who’s getting evicted. Or the young girl that’s afraid to leave the house for fear of male aggression. Or a potential ally who’s trying to get your attention if only you’d stop looking at your reflection in the mirror.
Some of us may decide we won’t be relegated to standing by the bar when you say your restaurant is overbooked and we want a table. We’ll start our own restaurant. 

Da Mayor – He’s More Than His Hair

or “How I Learned to Not Let A Good-Looking Man Sway Me From ‘hatin‘ “

Let me start by saying I have a few posts to add about my time at NetRoots Nation. They’re coming. I am still recovering from the extra long flight back to San Fran fraught with delays due to fog! Typical. I went from 100 degrees in Austin to 50 degrees here and took 3 vitamin C packets today because I already feel a cold coming on. I haven’t had any coffee yet either. Blah….

So it’s Saturday and I’m chilling in the floor because it has an available outlet and I need to keep my laptop charged. I saw a woman with an Obama ’08 balloon and suddenly morph into a 5 year-old at the carnival, ‘ooh ooh ooh can I have a balloon mommy?’. I introduce myself to a few people when I see Gavin Newsom walking down the hall towards us. I immediately pounce into action. 
I did not support his candidacy when he ran for his first term as Mayor of San Francisco. He was considered the ‘establishment’ candidate [although not part of the Willie Brown machine] as opposed to Matt Gonzalez, who was the Green Party candidate. I felt then and still today wish we could have received enough support to upend the political machine with a 3rd party candidate. Also being the nephew [by marriage] of Speaker Nancy Pelosi certainly doesn’t hurt.
I oppose the Cash Not Care program, but I will give him props for not pulling a Giuliani and black-bagging [yes that’s a V for Vendetta reference] all the people who are homeless as proof of ‘fixing’ the lack of housing and medical services for the poorest amongst us. Out of sight out of mind. Sigh. I voted against Proposition G last month due to my concerns about a stadium for the 49ers being built in an underserved neighborhood and the rising costs of housing.
So when I approached Newsom I was admittedly going to be tough on him, but he smiled at me and asked how I was doing and offered other pleasantries. Then I noticed how tall he is and goodness gracious the man is gorgeous. I was there there to criticize his policies though so I had to focus. He answered all of my questions with rapid-fire precision and offered stats that differed from the supporters of Proposition F. So be it, but he did talk about the millions that have been appropriated for affordable housing not just in the Hunter’s/Baypoint area but the rest of the City. He showed his knowledge of the history of the city by mentioning his plans at bringing back those Black families that had been displaced by the racist housing policies of the 50’s and 60’s. 

I wasn’t giving up quite yet and threw in a quick one about the closing of homeless shelters and decrease in low-income/free clinics. One was closed and is being upgraded/replaced. Some of the largest entities offering social programs like Glide and Agape are still being funded. Ok, I’m almost convinced. I’ve got one final salvo: the long-promised free wifi for the City. He told me his efforts were being thwarted by certain members of the Board of Supervisors. Probably the same one[s] that try to thwart nearly everything he does. My neighborhood will be the first to get it though – whopee! I’m still not convinced his support of gay marriage wasn’t somehow a long-term plan towards shoring up support for his rumored run for Governor in 2010 but I can’t wait to say bye bye to Ah-nold. Thank the stars that there were enough of us to smack some sense into Mr. Terminator when he tried to go all right-wing on us. 
All in all I am glad I got to speak with Hizzoner. He is intelligent, didn’t pawn me off to a subordinate, stood his ground and I can certainly see how he’s gotten into some trouble in the romance department. He exudes power and people will always be drawn to and envious of that. I think I want a job with the City now!  
Update July 29, 2008: Congrats to the Mayor on his recent nuptials!

Smack-Down or Hugging It Out

Ok I just sat through this Keynote with Markos Moulitsas and Harold Ford Jr. and it was one big YAWN! WTF.  I’m at NetRoots Nation and I have to say this was my first time attending and may very likely be my last time. After last year’s Meet the Press show where Kos and Harold Ford squared off and Ford had his head served to him on a platter I was expecting some substantive dialog between them and instead it was two stalwarts joining forces if anything. 

Harold went into the history of the DLC and how Bill Clinton became the power player behind it during his Presidential run and subsequent win. He was trying to paint the DLC as a coalition of sorts instead of the self-serving and destructive entity that it actually is. He mentioned that our perceived or real differences pale in comparison to the threat of a Republican presidential win this year. He alludes to the FISA votes and just couldn’t help but throw a dig at Obama [look out for flying objects] by mentioning that Hillary Clinton voted against the version that recently passed. Well, I say there’s little difference when two political parties dominate US politics and are mostly co-opted by  corporate interests that have little benefit to the average citizen.
For more revisionist history Markos mentions Joe LIEberman when answering the moderator Arshad Hasan’s question about the effect of citizens taking action. I say revisionist because didn’t Marcos support LIEberman and oppose Lamont originally? He tells a story about being at a DLC event where he referred to LIEberman as an a**hole and received applause for it. How cool! How trendy. I know people make mistakes as even Obama supported LIEberman at one time. Some ‘friend’ he turned out to be!
Ford continues the conversation by adding that some voters may be upset about the FISA voting but they have other interests such as gas prices, housing, healthcare that are of higher importance.  Blah blah blah some more self-importance is being exchanged and I have to step away for some coffee by this time. I might want to change that to a cocktail but it’s not even 2pm yet. 
Ok when I come back it’s time for the Q&A. The first person to ask a question [male] mentions how similar in appearance the audience is attending the conference and wants to know what is being done to achieve more diversity. Markos takes this. I may have to go back a read the transcript because I can’t be hearing this correctly: he doesn’t think there needs to be an even representation of all people at this conference. Why? People tend to gravitate towards what they feel comfortable with and NetRoots and blogging isn’t the be all and end all of a ‘progressive’ movement. Hmmmm. Why am I here again? Is this why the people who planned the conference excluded input from people of color. Is this why they planned several caucuses for the same competing time slots? Is this why those caucuses where scheduled for a mere hour and had no structure or format? Is this why the dates scheduled are in conflict with the BlogHer conference happening in San Francisco rightthisminute? This sounds like a would-be Republican agenda of divide an conquer by keeping people separate and focused on limited interests. The last time I checked any significant change for the better that occurred in this country happened through blood, sweat and tears and breaking through direct and internal resistance. It was not fun, it was not pretty and it did not come without great sacrifice. Sometimes the ‘enemy’ was someone who looked just like you in fact. So if a few people can’t be bothered to be made to feel uncomfortable what exactly is being done? 
I am female and I am Black. That does not mean I can’t chew gum and tie my shoes at the same time. That does not mean I don’t care about the environment. My issues are not “Black” issues though there are specific goals I may have in mind that I place in high regard. I don’t have children but I certainly understand the importance of high quality and affordable child care. 
Another audience member [male again] speaks to Harold Ford. He got pawned!! He was called out on his voting record and his previous employment with Faux Noise and how he continually smears fellow Democrats. Funny how Markos and Arshad are so quick to jump in to shield poor old Harold who clearly needs protecting. He’s cool as a cucumber however and mentions he has great respect for his colleagues at Faux and gets booed by the audience. He now works at MSNBC – not much better. He stands by his voting record. Markos and Arshad are conferring and conspiring perhaps to shut this down! They take a third question [yet another male] who talks about FISA and Markos is more than ready to wrap this up. Since when does 3 questions count as a Q&A? They did NOT want active participation from the audience. 
You know this is why people get so frustrated with politics and the entire political process. As an average citizen of limited resources who wants to be politically aware and willing to do something I am feeling quite alienated right now. I know there’s a group of people who have an agenda that is opposite of any beneficial agenda I might support. The kicker is that there is another group of people who would claim to be an ally and may speak a similar language but are self-serving and in fact more dangerous as they seem innocuous.  That’s the vibe I’m getting from the people in positions of authority. It’s all about them. There are people who want to be part of the in-crowd or may think they are the in-crowd and it remains to be seen whether they will retain their idealism/innocence or be used by others and sell-out. Am I being too vague here? 
 

855pm –  HoDe is in the house! He’s on a bus tour that began in Crawford and will continue to Louisiana and Mississippi next. He made a point to mention how nice Crawford is a nice town full of warm people – eager for a change. He made a little joke about how it was nice before Bush and will still be nice afterwards and we’re eagerly awaiting for Bush and Cheney’s retirement. He gives Rick Noriega a shout out as well. The speech is rather muted and feels lacking in urgency however. 

He brings it around to Obama and what an Obama win will mean, but definitely talks about how WE have to put in work. He mentions how vital the NetRoots have been in helping secure more elected Democrats to the House of Representatives. He gets fired up – as well as the audience – when he talks about the 5 seats up for grabs in the Texas House of Representatives that will likely go to the Democrats. 
The Texas general election contest between Clinton and Obama inspired so many people to get involved and register that the number of voters in 2008 outnumbered the 2004 general election in its entirety. [Don’t count out an activist base of Black voters]. He talks about the younger voters coming up and people preparing to run for office in the next 2-3 years for Congress to City Council. The DNC has the most extensive voter list in the party’s history and he promises that list will be available and not hoarded. [Let’s hope everyone gets that memo]. 

He says the country needs healing and to hold a higher standard in dealing with enemies. he wants Guantanamo to be shut down. He mentions support for GLBT issues. It’s the time for new politics and he says Obama will lead the United States back to a time of possessing moral authority.
I am a little distracted by the table commentary flying back and forth referring the impossibly high standards Obama is being held to even as some are still concerned how much Obama will actually do to improve the lives of Black people. Someone throws out a reference to Tony Dungy – ooooo! 
A good offense is the best defense. 
 

Howard Dean Keynote Address at Net Roots

823pm  –  General Wesley Clark is speaking before Howard Dean gives the address. He has touched on some valid points concerning our rights to health care, stemming any US aggression towards Iran, the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo. He calls for various attendees who are military, community volunteers, medical staffers, public servants to stand and be acknowledged. He mentions Rick Noriega’s run for the Senate [v. popular in Texas!] and it’s an all around inspiration.

Side note: Baratunde Thurston aka Jack Turner from Jack and Jill politics blog is performing what someone referred to at my table as ‘hype’ man duties. Hey I want a cool gig like that! He gets to be on stage with all the heavyweights. It’s good to have a little flavor and throw out some comedy to boot!
Gina Cooper, NetRoots Nation coordinator is speaking now. The consensus at my table is we need an energy boost as people have been here since before 9am. Where’s Howard?! 
Baratunde just said Obama went against the grain as a Black man refusing public assistance. Oh no he didn’t! 

Ok I need some caffeine. I’m getting a little bit of an education here. I’m sitting at a table with blogger Christian Progressive Liberal and some local Texas political activists. One of the speakers doing another pre-introduction is a somewhat controversial figure, Glenn Maxey.
Rudolph Malveaux ran a campaign against him. This is his account.
In the Democratic Primary in Texas, Mr. Maxey challenged a 20 year Democratic incumbent, Ms. Nelda Spears, Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector & Voter Registrar, who is heralded as the best in her office in the history of the State of Texas. Throughout the unusually long primary campaign, 10 months, Mr. Maxey resorted to some of the dirtiest and patently unethical campaign tactics ever in Travis County (Austin). Ms. Spears defeated Mr. Maxey 74% to 26% in the most lop-sided defeat in the Texas Primary Election. Maxey’s lack of character and ethics should have left him without any  support from the Progressive community , but it didn’t. In fact, Maxey enjoys the lofty position as an elder statesman with the Progressive community and the Democratic Party. Shameful, sad, and disheartening, I have little respect for people who allow Maxey and people like him the alms that should be left to legitimate statesman and public servants. 

545pm  –  Fundraising. Money Talks! 

An Act Blue rep is in attendance and explaining what they do. This is a way many blogs can pool their resources together for one sizable amount.  They have raised $57M. Yup. $57M. There’s a candidate running for a congressional district in CA who discusses how giving a minimum of $1oK + $1 will definitely get their attention. They’ll be calling you instead of the other way around. It shows how ‘real’ people are in offering their support. So the lesson of the day: money is important, money isn’t ‘evil’ and any candidate that is unable to raise sufficient funds is not a candidate that will have any success. 
*Note it wasn’t James but Andre who monitored with Cheryl.  
The goal is for those who attend next year to discuss the amount of money they’ve raised for the candidates and organizations they support.

5:35p  –  Have Black bloggers been approached by the Obama campaign and what has that outreach produced? Those that have been approached have been given tremendous access but the response time and breadth needs work. We should not rely on the campaign for setting the agenda when we are better able to approach the campaign with solid advice and a perspective. For example with regards to the recent New Yorker cover being correctly labeled racist and egregious.   

One of the weakness of the Obama campaign is not having enough surrogates and specifically Black surrogates with stature and aplomb. The Black blogosphere can be extremely helpful in getting a message of importance [i.e ongoing Katrina fatique, public housing demolition and replacing them with million-dollar condos that are not selling] out. 

5:27pm  –  Topic of conversation is how Obama’s lifestory and history of not being a descendent of slaves and is there a cultural disconnect between his experiences and the average African-American voter. How the Obama campaign has served as an impetus to take ownership in the political process. What he looks like has had an impact on how people see him. It informs our own individual walk in life and how we’re treated.

5:17pm  –  Open discussion: Race issues and how it relates to the Obama campaign. How a lot of white progressive blogs may not know [care or understand] how to frame this discussion. The importance of the concerted voices of POC. How dangerous John McCain’s campaign is to POC and his continued free ride in the corporate media.