Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Great White North

30 hours later, I've made it to Whitehorse, Yukon. Internet access is very expensive here, so posting might be light for the time being. On the plus side, the sun is up past midnight.

Until the next,

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Heading to the Yukon

I'm heading to the Yukon on a thirty-hour bus ride tonight, so I probably won't be able to post for a while. I have tons more Yearly Kos posts in store but they will have to wait for a while until I have more time online. Post-Kos posts (say that five times fast) about my journey will follow as well.


P.S. That was a very phonically satisfying post.

P.P.S. Sorry about not addressing your comments lately. I am so far behind on my posting as it is that I have not had the time to reply, but I do read and appreciate every one of them.

Yearly Kos: Thursday Night Festivities

Thursday night of Yearly Kos offered keynote addresses by Markos and Tom Tomorrow in the large ballroom of the Riviera, which was very well attended. It is estimated that over 1,000 people showed up to Yearly Kos, and I believe it. The room was packed.

Funky patriotic light displays bathed the walls.

I'm sure that the quality of the speakers was an important reason for the success, but the bountiful free buffet might have had undue influence. It was quite a spectacle--everything from lox to chicken fingers--but that's Vegas. While I stood there, belly churning, I watched John Aravosis of AMERICAblog cut in line.

Is nothing Sacred? John Aravosis, in brown, cuts in line.

To be fair, there was a gap in the line and he was in the middle of a conversation, so he might not have noticed. Either way, what was I going to say? Aravosis is my blog hero.

When people took their seats--I went for food first and had to sit on the floor--there were a few intros and Tom Tomorrow took to the podium. If you have not seen any of his cartoons, check out This Modern World, he pens absolutely hysterical political satire. Tomorrow showed off a bunch of his classic cartoons and even unveiled a few hysterical unpublished ones. Here are a few quotes:
That's what we're up against here most of the time: people who just make shit up.

I noticed that some of our right wing media friends are here, so I'd like to point out that this is satire.

For this weekend at least, what happens in Vegas should not stay in Vegas.
Tomorrow held a book signing on Friday morning (that's a weird sentence). Do yourself a favor and buy Hell in a Handbasket. On Saturday night I hungout with a few people by the pool and had a chance to talk with him. It was funny, out of all the "celebrities" that I me, Tomorrow was the only one with whom I had a real conversation--by that I mean more than 60 seconds. He is friendly guy from New Haven. When I asked about his creative process, he said that basically he locks himself in his office on Monday and Tuesday and works relentlessly for two days. His wife agrees not to bug him on those days if he is a normal husband for the rest of the week.

Markos took to the podium with massive applause and ovation. His speech was riveting and inspiring for blognerds like myself.
Markos at the podium (sorry about my crappy zoom lens)

What most shocked me was his statement that the average Daily Kos reader is 45 years old...He might have said 44; I can't remember. Either way, real adults read blogs. I could go into detail about his speech but I think this quote sums it up best:
We can now choose for ourselves what media we want to consume. The old media are no longer the gatekeepers.
After Markos' speech Will Keenan aired a satirical sketch entitled "Mission Accomplished Man," about conservative reporter, Christian Right. Whose alter ego is republican superhero who frightens people with consevative talking points. After watching Mission Accomplished Man, I think we all need to be very concerned about whether or not the gay immigrant terrorists will win.

Yearly Kos: The Science Caucus

I eagerly anticipated the Science Caucus. Would all the big-wig science bloggers be there? What would be the topics of conversation? How do we bloggers save the world, fight creationism, who knows? When I approached the door, DarkSyde, Daily Kos' head science blogger, was greeting those who came through the door. He seemed genuinely pleased to shake everyone's hand and say "hello."

The science caucus was not held in a huge room, so I grabbed a seat in the circle. A few minutes later, the room was packed. Darksyde introduced himself and opened up the floor to discussion, acting as a moderator. For the next hour or so, everyone screamed bloody hell about the infiltration of creationism into the classroom. I have to admit, that it felt good--complaining about one's foes with his compatriots always does. My favorite quote is from an anonymous Atheist fellow:
I don't think I've ever convinced a person that God didn't exist or that Jesus Christ wasn't their personal savior. It's much easier to convince them to vote Democratic.
At this point, when the hubbub had reached its height, DarkSyde interjected that we need to be more constructive in our efforts to fight the right rather than continue to talk about religion.
They [the right] have a lot of channels to get their message out. For us, Democrats and science, this is it--this room. We have all of the top science bloggers here in this room, probably with an audience of a million people. What are we going to do? [slightly paraphrase]
That was a sobering point. The Discovery Institute is a well funded conservative think tank that continually pumps out pseudoscience to further the goals of creationists and opponents of carbon dioxide reduction, etc. The science caucus was an opportunity to collectively fight the right's pseudoscience, and what did we do? We played directly into their hand. The caucus didn't improve much from their, as it was almost over. Other's continued:
This session terrifies me. I didn't expect to talk about religion.
--Jerome a Paris

If this is the state of science in America, it's finished...We need to use the same tactics they use on us, fear and greed. Tell people that if their children are not properly educated, all of the good jobs will go to China.
--London Yank (paraphrase)

Jurors don't know enough to tell when a District Attorney is lying to them,

We need to become constructive, not make fun of the right all the time. They are winning.
--Chris Mooney (author of The Republican War on Science)
After the session ended people were noticeably depressed--myself included. Two lines of a chat between DarkSyde and an anonymous person sum it up best.
Well that was depressing.

--Yeah, that was fucked up.
For more info on the Science Caucus and Friday's science panel, read DarkSyde's post.

Yearly Kos: The Northeast Caucus

Several caucuses were set up for bloggers to network with their local colleagues. I dropped by the Northeast caucus in the hopes of meeting some fellow Pennacchioites to grumble about Casey--I know, I should be more positive, because he is better than Santorum.

Once the room filled up (to standing room only) people were asked to say their names, handles, and offer a bit about their blogging interests. When it came around to my turn, I gave my name and said that I write The Cajun Jew. At which point I went on to say, "Lately, I've been writing a lot about the Pennsylvania Senate primary. Unfortunately, when the progressive candidate lost, we were stuck with Bob Casey, who will be the next Joe Lieberman, to challenge Rick Santorum." Someone hissed--very mature. I love the irony of how so many Kossacks supported Ned Lamont to the extreme yet also support Bob Casey.

After everyone introduced him/herself, we split up by state affiliation. I wanted to hear other PA bloggers' opinions about Casey. Many thought that all the fuss was about Casey's anti-choice position. When I mentioned his other "problem areas," a few people appeared unsettled. I chatted with the blogger, Adam B, who had hissed at me. We bickered back and forth about Casey and Chuck. The fact that I agreed to vote for Casey in the general election helped my case with him. He was a nice guy but didn't seem to mind too much about Casey's negatives. Oh well...

Monday, June 19, 2006

Yearly Kos: The Student Caucus

The student caucus was my first Yearly Kos event. When I walked in, about 20 young folk were sitting in a circle of chairs in a small conference room. The turnout was a little depressing. I wanted to see more young faces full of fire, eagerly seeking to drive out the Bush regime. Oh well.

I was a few minutes late, so everyone had completed introductions when I arrived. The caucus consisted of three or four experienced activists monopolizing the conversation. That's not to say that others couldn't speak, but many of us kept our mouths shut. The caucus was a worthwhile event for someone of my age, but I walked away with little useful information. My notes from the caucus are as follows:
  1. There is a need for a coordinated plan between the College Democrats and the DNC. The Republicans seem to be much better at recruiting, mentoring, and rewarding young talent than the Democrats. We need to find a way to take activists from heavily Democratic areas and ship them off to swing districts for campaign activities. For example, pack a bus full of Berkeley College Dems and send them down to Orange County.
  2. Use Rovian Tactics. Someone asked how to defeat the charismatic young mayor of her college town, who is a rising Republican star. Apparently, he gets along quite well with the locals, youth and otherwise. He even occasionally hangs out at local taverns greeting his constituents. Someone responded that he should be taken down by scandal, that someone should set him up at the bar and snap an incriminating picture. This really pissed me off. I loathe Karl Rove's dirty tactics. We need to defeat Republicans with better policy and stronger leaders, not by stooping to Rovian tactics. Sorry, but I'd rather not sacrifice integrity for personal gain.
  3. College Dems should have a progressive lobbyist speak to their groups about how to lobby a State Senator. State and local officials are much easier to influence than national ones. Ten people in t-shirts can have a real impact on a state and local officials.
  4. Use the anger generated by hate-mongers to motivate and recruit progressives. For example, the next time an anti-choice group demonstrates at your campus, brandishing pictures of aborted feti and equating abortion with the holocaust, use it to your advantage. Channel that energy into good progressive recruitment.
  5. Campus progressives should be on MySpace and Facebook. Seriously, people my age check social networking sites maniacally. Facebook is a great way to keep campus progressives informed.
  6. Stage a well publicized event. When a bunch of people show up to one well-run event, far more buzz is generated than from a weekly meeting of fifteen people. This requires a few dedicated activists, but can dramatically improve the membership of your organization.
The Student Caucus was run by Alex Barrio, a young, energetic activist with delightfully crazy hair. I spoke with him about a couple issues after the caucus and ran into a few times during the conference. On Saturday he was writing a diary about the Student Caucus while being interviewed by Matt Labash, a reporter from The Weekly Standard. He asked me to proofread his diary. While doing so, I chatted with the reporter, who asked me a few questions. He got a kick out of my blogger handle and my blog's name. He was really excited when I mentioned "drunk diarying" my Mark Warner Party Kos diary the night before. Truth be told, I enjoyed chatting with him. His article has just been published. He actually mentioned Shlomo Boudreaux, the Cajun Jew, in the article, which is my first major plug!

Yearly Kos: Beginnings

When Yearly Kos Began on Thursday there was a bustling energy in the air. I don't think that any of us really knew how the world's first blogger convention was going to turn out. What struck me immediately was the preponderance of middle-aged people in the room. The media likes to portray bloggers as a bunch of pajama-wearing geeks fervently typing away from their mothers' basements. Being a 23 year old--no, I don't live in my mother's basement, and I am a nerd, not a geek--surrounded by 40 year old progressives was a pleasant surprise.

The bustling Riviera conference hallway
full of middle-aged bloggers typing away

Coincidences have a way of looking like intentional happenings. Now, by pure coincidence, I'm sure, the National Society of Accountants' convention happened to coincide with Yearly Kos. I know that the NSA is unlawfully wiretapping America citizens, reporters, and dissidents but couldn't they have been a little more creative? It reminds me of the Upright Citizens Brigade episode when their clandestine surveillance van read United Cake Bakers. Now, I'm no conspiracy wacko, and I'm sure that the National Society of Accountants is a legitimate organization that coincidentally convened at the same time in the same place as the foremost gathering of liberal bloggers in the world, but seeing the NSA at Yearly Kos gave me a hearty chuckle.

Big Brother is watching

The afternoon featured several caucuses for bloggers to meet, great, and discuss. I went to the Student, Northeast, and Science Caucuses.

The Floodgates are Open

It's been about a week, and I'm in Edmonton, travel having gotten the best of blogging. Having spent a few more days in Vegas and Calgary, I decided to hop up to Edmonton for game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals, in the hopes of finding a local pub to watch the game. Win or lose, being in the milieu of real Canadian hockey fans during game seven of the cup finals will be an anthropological experience.

I wanted to post more from the road, but finding affordable internet access and time to post has been difficult. That being said, I've been keeping a journal, so I have plenty of posts in waiting. At the moment I have a chance to write some posts, so here goes!