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YearlyKos 2006

YearlyKos Day 2: "Listen to me. They come home from war, and they kill themselves"

I'm still blogging from YearlyKos here in Las Vegas, and attended a panel yesterday that consumed me with sadness and rage. I cried.

There's a group called IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) which represents just the people it sounds like they represent. They were founded when returning vets realized that the America they left behind had forgotten them, obsessing over Branjelina and not acting at all like a country at war. They complained about the lack of a human face on the troops that we have, regardless of how we feel about the war (p.s. check out my Interview with a Returning US Marine from last summer).

IAVA hosted a panel with veterans from Iraq talking about their experience over there, but most horribly, their experience here in the US, once they returned.

The quote in the title was from a female vet who joined the military at age 17. She was describing the heart-breaking, back-stabbing and outright cruel lack of resources available to veterans once they get back, especially psychological help. She told of how she was sexually assaulted by a major when she was 19 (a subject I've blogged about before), traumatized by her experience in Iraq, and forced into nearly 9-month delays once she returned. She was officially noted by the military health staff as having suicidal tendencies. If it weren't for IAVA, she said, she'd be another statistic.

"I know people who came back from the war and blew their brains out because they couldn't take it. Listen to me. They come home from war, and they kill themselves"

I might b on c-span2 doing comedy!!

am at a lunch featuring senator barbara boxer. I got to introduce fellow Laughing Liberally awesome comedian Katie Halper. check out and let me know if u find it! comment from boxer on the congress's priorities: you wanna help save marriage? bring home the troops. and this: our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter - quoting MLK peace posted from my treo.

YearlyKos day 1: the black caucus

I always love playing this game at conferences: find the black people. At SXSW I was fortunate to find and kick it with the blackosphere, and something similar happened at YearlyKos yesterday The caucus meetings are really unstructured spaces for folks to get together and talk. The black caucus probably had 15-20 people in the room with maybe 75 percent being black. The conversation started a bit slow, but here are some of the more interesting points: The Access Problem We started the way every session at a conference like this starts: where are the black people? Why aren't there more black bloggers in the political blogosphere? What is needed to change this? IS something needed to change this?
  • The digital divide still exists for many, especially along class lines. Broadband is too expensive. We should look into municipal wi-fi projects more on this point
  • Even computer access is more limited in the hood. Doesn't Bill Gates have some program around this
  • Black people aren't inherently technology laggards. Look how we use cell phones, texting, etc.!
  • Why doesn't the public library system broadcast its net access via Wi-Fi
What's the Relevance There were two brothas new to the blogging scene who were curious and a little skeptical about the real value of blogging to the black community. Basically, why should we care? Kevin, in asking this question, mentioned that the kids he knows have MySpace accounts and don't use email at all. My own take is 1) it's not just about blogging, per se, but all forms of participatory communications (social networking, websites in general, etc) The Answer: it's about PARTICIPATION! This conference is the answer to that question. Here we have the "netroots" movement: people using new technology to insert themselves into the political conversation on two levels
  1. To influence the national democratic conversation, challenging those in power on the Right, mobilizing people to put forward alternative ideas, organizing around opposition and protest. This is the external version.
  2. To influence the direction and very definition of the Democratic Party, holding people accountable, (ahem, Joe Lieberman), and making sure that we and our concerns are truly represented.
The real value, as I and many people in the room see it, of something like blogging in the "black community" is the same
  1. To contribute (externally) to the national discussion, raising issues others might not, adding context others would miss. Don't wait for the national politicians to come to us, asking what we want. Go to them! Have a voice.
  2. To hold our "black leaders" accountable. We've had an issue for a while of "black leader"-isis, where some single figure is appointed (often externally) as the voice of the people. Once folks get in this position, they are reluctant to leave it. A woman who works with Issue Dynamics told her frustrating story of a large national black organization with 500,000 members that only had 2,000 people on its email list. The group wasn't interested in a participatory power structure. Someone raised the interesting point that a lot of black young folks don't feel represented by the black church anymore. Well, that has got to change
The point I tried to drive home once #1 and #2 became clear in the room is this: Al Gore has inspired me in his adamant belief that democracy is, fundamentally, a conversation, but when control of that conversation is hoarded by a few with power in our top-down media environment, well then both the conversation and democracy are broken. He's excited about the participatory media that's emerging, because it can help restore the voice of the people to the conversation. What I see is that, as black people in America, we know, more than any other group, all about being locked out of the conversation. That's how we were brought here, and we've used all sorts of means to assert our voice into that conversation. We've burned shit down. We've protested. We created hip hop. Tools such as blogging should be the most effective in our hands. Think of hip hop. "All I need is one mic" is the mantra. How about this: "all I need is one blog." Not only do tools like blogging serve us, in getting our voices heard, but it serves the country. America is better because of the efforts of black people. We keep to the country honest (or at least try). The Civil RIghts movement called "bullshit" on the Constitution and said, "get it together, America." We need to be part of this emerging media system not only for our sakes, but for the sake of the country. What do you think about the state of black engagement in the blogosphere and new media? Any cool examples? Observations? UPDATE: yKos time 10:22am I just wanted to add a few links that came up in the session. 1) Issue Dynamics was mentioned above 2) some cool blackosphere blogs that should be invited/included in the yKos community next year: NegroPhile, NegroPlease, and lynne d johnson UPDATE 10:31am yKos (vegas) time I cross-posted this to my DailyKos diary, and the comments are exploding. if you're a kos member and prefer to comment there, do it. Check out the feedback anyway, come back here, and reply with your thoughts.

YearlyKos day 1: pundit training

Ok, this YearlyKos conference is the hotness!!! I'll be posting as often as I can, but many of you remember I'm still behind on my BookExpo coverage.

Pundit Training

I started the day at crazy 8am by attending "pundit training" run by the Center for American Progress. I figured it was good for me, the vigilante pundit, to see how the official people do it. The session was all really practical covering

  • How to prepare for media interviews on TV and radio
  • What to wear, dealing with people cutting you off, etc
  • Workshop examples involving people in the room being subjected to interviews, video taped and critiqued.

Some highlights

  • One of the workshop moderators was asked, "What do we do if the host keeps talking over us?" The answer: "Well, the American people are smart, and they see through the bullshit." So I then asked a followup: "Um, yeah. I was just wondering what planet you were living on where the American people are smart and see through bullshit?"
  • One of the key pieces of advice was how to dress for TV interviews. The general advice was 1) always where a jacket/blazer because it fills out your figure and gives you a place to clip the mic, and 2) don't dress like Ann Coulter (basically topless and trashy). An observant workshop attendee asked, "Well where does Ann Coulter clip her mic?" Another person answered: "Her Adam's Apple." Oops. Pow. Surprise.