Friday, June 09, 2006

Blogging with the Bloggers

Today I am liveblogging from Yearly Kos, the first convention of bloggers who write and read on Daily Kos. The convention brings together bloggers from around the US to talk and debate how the netroots can organize for progressive change in this country. For me it's an eye-opening experience. About 900 people are attending. Laptops are everywhere in evidence. Bloggers report in real time about the panels they are attending. Others sit in the hallways, plugged into a convenient outlet, doing whatever. I am sitting in the back of a large room where a panel is going on. I have a table and electric outlet--my battery no longer holds a charge--where I've had a chance to check email, read a few blogs and catch up on news.

The conference has been instructive. Yesterday I attended a panel on Pundit Training, where consultants from offered tips for would be pundits. In addition to the discussion, we had opportunity to do a two minute interview on tape. I was interviewed on the Iraq war where I was blindsided with the news of Zarqaqwi's death and the completion of the Iraqi government. I had to think quick but and thought I was pretty inarticulate but the comments were favorable. Seeing myself on video is always disconcerting but it's a good way to learn. Two minutes afer I was done I thought of many things I could/should have said. That's learning.

There were regional conferences. Arizona and Colorado were well represented in the Rocky Mountain caucus. Wyoming, Idaho and New Mexico weren't represented at all. Utah had no blogs but two readers were there. One was a 70 year old grandmother recently retired from California to St. George, Utah who is outraged at the reactionary ofpolitics of her new home. She said she has been reluctant to comment or write diaries but received much encouragement from the group, as did others.

Overall, the conference has made me realize that I need to make more effort to get my words out beyond the average seven readers per day that I now have. At this point what I write just disappears into the ether. I want more. I want to effect change. Meeting all the other bloggers has given me some ideas about how I can do that.

Plus, it's just great being among intelligent, progressive, thinking people.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Good News

Some good news from Iraq. America’s occupation of Iraq has planted a small seed of democracy in the middle east. The three elections in 2005 created an opening for introducing political skills and ideas into Iraq. Various organizations provided training and funding for numerous political parties and elections personnel. Iraqis learned organizing and communications skills needed effective modern campaigning. Regardless of the electoral results (weak government, a polarizing constitution), these skills and ideas are now part of the political and intellectual mix in Iraq. Like adding pepper to brownie ingredients, they will always have some presence. My enduring hope is that Iraqis will use these skills to reconcile their differences and control of their own future to the benefit of all. That would be good news.

Like all seeds, however, this one may not bear fruit. The training and assistance small effort in a vast, complex environment. History, religion, ethnicity and geography are massively influential in Iraq; these forces intersect in ways that Americans do not understand and affect only indirectly. The skills are morally and politically neutral; they can be used to any end or cause. In 2005 Iraqis saw their society fragmented by factional leaders; what organizing took place seemed to have hastened rather than slowed the process. Thus, the good news is iffy.

Still, I like to think that training Iraqis to mobilize and organize on their own is a positive contribution. Iraqis have had few such opportunities in their modern history. Without self-determination, freedom and liberty are just words. I am also sufficiently realistic to know that freedom and liberty, as I understand them, have no assured future in Iraq. Not yet. That’s where hope comes in.