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I was in the process of compiling an e-mail to send to friends, family, coworkers, and others who may not know what DailyKos is to describe my Netroots Nation experience, but thought that kind of goes against the spirit of the blogosphere.  Some of you have been on this site for over 5 years now, but I wanted to write this in a way that give some insight into what this convention is about (in other words, very little "meta" or inside jokes, and maybe some unnecessary explanations for those who follow politics).  So here it goes!

UPDATED  Wow...the rec list.  There must be a bug in ct's code. Thank you all so much. And thank you to the organizers of Netroots Nation including Gina, Nolan, and Adam B - you outdid yourselves yet again this year.  I do not write many diaries, but I have been around these parts for even longer than my UID indicates so I really appreciate it. This community means a lot to me.

Who?
Teachers. Students. Moms.  Dads. Doctors. Small business owners. Lawyers. Union Workers. Scientists. Veterans. Policemen. Politicians. Artists. Service Workers. Firefighters. Organizers. Volunteers.  People like you.

You might think that a conference that has its roots in a blog would contain predominately young people, but this definitely not the case. Unfortunately it is not cheap to travel these days, so there is definitely an income disparity between those who can afford to go and those who cannot.  Members of this community put a ton of work into organizing scholarships so that members who may not otherwise have been able to be here could attend.

What?

This is a difficult question.  A couple at the Hilton stopped us as we were entering the hotel and asked us what was going on, and who were these people with the orange lanyards?  I wanted to answer that this was a "political blogging" convention, but this has grown to be much, much larger than just that. I should have just scribbled this on my hand in pen so I had an eloquent answer:

Netroots Nation amplifies progressive voices by providing an online and in-person campus for exchanging ideas and learning how to be more effective in using technology to influence the public debate. Within the campus, we strengthen community, inspire action and serve as an incubator for progressive ideas that challenge the status quo and ultimately affect change in the public sphere.

Thursday
In the past, Thursday has been the day of the caucus - a bunch of meetings that are organized based on some characteristic or interest you share (Labor, Youth, Native American, Geek, Northeast, etc).  There were still these caucuses this year, but there were also panels ran by the DNC and Obama campaign.  The first of these panels, "The Plan - A Ground Game for 2008", was very reassuring.  The Obama campaign is focused on getting volunteers to talk with their immediate neighbors about voting and has the tools online to help do so.

At noon, Governor Howard Dean and the Register for Change biodiesel bus pulled up.

Howard gave a great speech detailing the efforts they are putting into the 50-state strategy.  

Calitics, a Progressive Political blog for California, had an afternoon caucus in which everyone went around the room and gave a brief introduction of themselves.  It was amazing to hear what everyone was up to - people running for local office, building websites for congressional candidates, volunteering, organizing for local issues.

Lt. Col. Charlie Brown, the next Congressman of CA-4 was there:

Then it was time for the keynote.  General Wesley Clark took the stage:

Followed by the Chairman himself:

The best summary I can give is that Howard Dean gets the people-powered movement.  You can watch the entire thing here.

On Thursday night, there were several options for events including a Drinking Liberally party and the Wesley Clark/Rick Noriega event. At some point in the night, we ended up at Headhunters and caught the tail end of a 2 person band from San Francisco (that is the movie Jaws on in the background).

Friday
Friday morning I hit up the Energizing America panel.

They were able to arrange for a plug-in electric diesel school bus that belongs to the city of Austin.  If I remember correctly, it can run on battery for 35 miles before having to start using diesel.

I then made the mistake to try to hit up 2 panels at once, so I ended up missing great stuff either way.

The Recipe for Change in America's Food System had a great discussions of the Farm Bill and locally grown food:

At the same time, Sam Seeder of Air America Radio fame, was speaking with the former governor of AL Don Siegelman, a political prisoner who spent 9 months in jail thanks to Karl Rove.  

At lunch, we had a treat.  Markos Moulitsas, founder of this website, discussed the party infrastructre with Harold Ford, head of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). Harold tried his best to convince us that we need to act like Republicans to win elections but I'm not too sure people were buying it.

After that I headed to see Paul Krugman and Duncan Blank (aka Atrios) on the "How the Media Learned to Bend Over Backward to Please the Right" panel:

Time to rest up for the candidate event at night.  At the Hilton ballroom, there were 30-some candidates in attendance to speak with us in an intimate setting.


 
Secretary Bowen (CA)

Lt. Col. Charlie Brown (CA-4)

The place went nuts for Darcy Burner

All the candidates together at the end

After that, it was time to head out to the DailyKos party at Maggie Mae's on 6th Street.  It was amazing and the fact that Markos is planning an encore for next year is reason enough to register.  

If you don't understand the Bill O background, watch this video - it will change your life (warning: not safe for work due to Bill O's potty mouth)

Saturday
How cruel was it to have the DailyKos party on Friday night and then have us up at 8:30 for the "Ask the Speaker" event?  I was surprised at the turnout.  A few months back, a website was set up for us to submit questions to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I give Speaker Pelosi a lot of credit for venturing into unfriendly territory.  She appeared slightly nervous and definitely did not answer many of the questions to the extent that the audience wanted them answered.  But again, kudos for showing up.  In response to a question about the environment, she stated that she had an email she wanted to share with us and started to play around with her cell phone.  All of a sudden the booming voice of Al Gore is heard and everyone in the crowd is looking around quite bewildered.  After a few seconds, Al Gore took the stage to much applause.  Apparently this was a poor kept secret, but everyone I knew was surprised.  Vice President Gore spent some time discussing his new initiative and then joined Speaker Pelosi for questions.  As luck would have it, my camera battery died as soon as Pelosi took the stage :(  I mumbled something while shaking Al Gore's hand but there is no evidence known to man of this happening.

I beg you to watch/listen to 2 things from Netroots Nation.  The first is Lawrenece Lessig's keynote address from Saturday's lunch.  He spoke about his reform initiative to fight corruption and the presentation was just incredible.

Donna Edwards was scheduled to do a keynote at 8:00 so we had to grab dinner and be back in time to catch this.  A few comedians from Laughing Liberally warmed up the crowd:

Katie Halper

Lee Camp

Then Donna Edwards, a perfect example of more and better democrats, took the stage:

At this point in time, I am embarrassed to say that I was exhausted from the weekend and decided to call it a night.  I am old.

Sunday

Mayor Gavin Newsom took the stage on Sunday morning to introduce Van Jones.  Gavin discussed some of the initiatives that San Francisco has taken in pushing alternative energy.  We have been getting zero leadership from the Executive branch when it comes to the environment so it has been crucial that the big urban mayors have been doing the legwork over the past 8 years.

Remember how I said that I beg you to watch/listen to 2 things from NN08?  Well the second is Van Jones keynote address from Sunday morning. Van Jones discussed the social justice aspect of the environmental movement.  You can visit Green For All for more information.

Where?
Austin, TX.  I will be honest - when the location was announced last year, I was disappointed.  I was 95% certain I was not going to go. But the city of Austin was great and was ideal for this convention.  Liberal city with good food and drink within walking distance of the convention. Thank you for being such great hosts, I would definitely go back (but maybe not in July)!

When?
July 17 to July 20. Advice for those attending next year - get there by Wednesday afternoon.  This will give you time to get your bags, get to the hotel and check in, and then enjoy the first night without worrying about missing panels, keynotes, etc.  There is great energy this first night and people are eager to mingle.  

Why?
There are many reasons why - you are passionate about a cause, you want to meet other progressives, you want to learn more about a topic, you want to become active in some area, you want to meet the people behind the screenames of DailyKos, or you simply want to have fun!  I met some great people and got to catch up with people I met last year. I learned a ton. It was worth every penny.  

I did not make it to Vegas in 2006, but I was in Chicago in 2007 and the nature of this conference was quite different.  Even though he said it before the conference started, Hunter summed it up best when he said:

This year, the overarching feeling (at least now, before the first sessions have started, and before anyone has contemplated fully the wide spread of things currently before us) is one of optimism, the expectations high for the coming November.

I'm getting tired so instead of expanding I will do a massive photo dump which should help on this point!  

Bill In Portland Maine's watch:

Text Messages on the big screen:

Bay Area represent!

Sec Bowen joins us for lunch

Bob Barr showed up.  We were all confused (dday)

A souvenir

Netroots for the Troops - unfortunately our government is blowing money on Blackwater and Halliburton and cannot provide the troops with basic necessities, so these volunteers loaded up all these boxes with supplies to send overseas.

Mayor Newsom interviewed outside of the expo hall

Hilton's No Party Policy - because they knew.

highacidity and the CSPAN bus

Mona and Navajo before Dean's keynote

Bill in Portland Maine gives a speech before dinner on Wednesday to the Cheers and Jeers crowd.  Cheers to the end of the Bush administration got the place fired up.

Me with BIPM (because any picture of Bill is worth about 100 recommends, and I don't think he was grumpy!)

Two peas in a pod

Open of registration on Wednesday

Inside the Expo hall

Gloryious1 gets her poster signed by Darcy Burner

kath25 and me after one of the panels

Here are all my NN08 pictures on flickr.  

********************************************************************

Even if you aren't a "blogger", please consider attending Netroots Nation in Pittsburgh next year if you are passionate about politics or progressive activism. It is really difficult to not find something there that interests you. I didn't even see anyone wearing a swastika or white sheets, but then again I have a very high "hate" threshold.

If your appetite for photos is still not satisfied, check out Navajo's post from last night.  Thanks for taking the time to read this mess!

And don't forget to watch the Lessig and Van Jones keynotes!

Originally posted to the awful truth on Tue Jul 22, 2008 at 07:26 AM PDT.

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