On Pittsburgh

Hey — it’s been great to be at Netroots Nation this year so far. I got in early yesterday on a redeye from San Francisco. Let me tell you something — California to Pittsburgh is not a trip a lot of people are making these days. Wasn’t easy to get here! Hopefully that will change as we revitalize our national economy. Apparently the slow collapse of USAir has hit the city’s air options hard.

It’s cool being here because both the main hotel and the convention center are fully green. Pittsburgh seems to be working hard to modernize. I was invited to a tour of a modernized steel plant (which sadly I can’t attend) with Campaign for America’s Future. Here’s the original invite:

We’re taking a group of bloggers and reporters on a first-time tour of a modern steel plant in Steeltown, showing how the nation’s building a new economy out of the ruins of the old, one that includes a vibrant, competitive and sustainable manufacturing sector.

That’s the future, yo.


Yesterday, I moderated a panel called Tweeting in the Trenches: What’s Next for Politics and Advocacy Online. It turned out really well despite the fact that we had everything from “What is Twitter and will it do my laundry?” (answer: yes, someone has programmed a twitter app to do that) to “I have 26,000 followers and here are my challenges.” Great info on morals and ethics on Twitter, practical tactics and case studies, stuff for the techies and more. Thanks to all who came. For more info, I recently guest-blogged on FastCompany.com and most of the articles talk about Twitter in one way or another and hit many of the topics we covered.

I also went to see my man and JJP blogger James Rucker of Color of Change speak on a panell called Roots of Right Media’s Racism & Hatred of Obama. Or something like that. Know that he represented and talked about your efforts, his and mine on getting advertisers to stop supporting Glenn Beck’s show. You guys are doing a great job. Keeping the media & advertisers honest in my opinion is not only the moral thing to do, it could help prevent more violence in America. I asked a question during the panel about George Sodini and the Pittsburgh gym murders. You’ll remember that the mainstream media and even most bloggers completely sidestepped the fact that Sodini’s violence was in part racially motivated.  Despite the fact that the story featured Obama, sex, violence and racism — for some strange reason?! People in the audience were mostly shocked and appalled at the media gap — look folks, it’s not just right wing media that we need to worry about.

On Bill Clinton (yawn)

Finally in the evening there were lots of other speakers including the Mayor of Pittsburgh and super-cool Secretary of State for CA Debra Bowen, However, most folks were waiting for “big dog” Bill Clinton. I was actually not that excited about his appearence and in mentioning it to other black folks here at the conference and on twitter: most of them agreed on this — the Obamas might have forgiven the Clintons for their 2008 campaign’s race-baiting. Hillary Clinton’s cynical strategy to throw African-Americans under the bus in a desperate attempt to rally enough racist white blue collar voters continues to disgust me. Don’t get me wrong, she’s doing a good job as Secretary of State. Yet, neither of the Clintons has apologized or in any way signaled to the African-American community in a way that I can understand that they recognize that relations with their former #1 fans is at best frayed. So I left his boring ass speech early. I’m going to quote a well-known nonprofit leader who would prefer to remain anonymous: “I fell asleep towards the end of his speech and I saw a lot of nodding heads out there.”

I gave Clinton 20 minutes and then walked out. He bizarrely referenced as one of his opening lines: 47% of Republicans in the South don’t believe that Obama was born in the U.S.: “I’m glad it was that low!” But then: no followup on why that’s crazy or what that means?! Sadly I missed the main excitement when Lane Hudson challenged the president late in his remarks (who wasn’t planning to take questions, of course) on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I hear people appreciated it and that Clinton gave kind of a punk answer. Lane’s awesome and my hero. You can read Lane’s version of what happened last night on HuffPo. Here’s a slice:

Too often, we don’t challenge people to admit mistakes. Too often we hold idols up to a place they don’t deserve. Like I said, I love Bill Clinton, but we all make mistakes and live in a less than perfect world. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for the perfect.

He mentioned in his speech that he admired that we bloggers could speak our mind. That’s what I did. In today’s world, a former President that has now said he supports marriage equality should find it easy to say without equivocation that he supports repealing two discriminatory laws that he felt he had no choice but to sign into law. He didn’t do that, but he needs to.

Look, I give Clinton some props for realizing that there’s a need to mend fences with us at Netroots Nation. As a board member of NN: I thank him for coming. Yet, I’m still waiting for some gestures from the Clintons towards the African-American community. Bill’s first black president card done been revoked — and for more than one reason.

And btw, I ain’t participating as a blogger again at the Clinton Global Initiative this year. Clinton never made an effort to meet the bloggers last year. Until he shows he’s interested in real dialogue with you and me here at JJP, count me out.

The contrast is clear between him and Valerie Jarrett who has already asked for your questions ahead of time on Twitter and Facebook. Make sure to tweet @baratunde with your questions for him to ask her Sat am.

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