Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Netroots Nation '09!!!

Netroots Nation is an annual conference of the nation's top progressive bloggers and leaders of the loose progressive movement partially responsible for the mini-resurgence of the Left since 2004.

You may be wondering: "How the hell did E get invited?"

Well, like an annoying neighbor or relative, it's because I invited myself.

I pitched a New Orleans-centric panel for this year's conference and it got accepted!

So I'm flying my ass up to the wrong side of Pennsylvania in - wow - just over a week and will do my best to rep our fair city.

Of course it's never too late for you to waste your vacation days in Pittsburgh.

Come on up!
It's August 13-16th!

The panel is called New Orleans on the Brink: Why Progressive America Can And Should Contribute To A Sustainable Recovery and the basic idea is to try to communicate where we're at, why we're here, and to discuss where we need to go.

This is how I billed it a few months ago when I submitted the proposal:

While statistical evidence has consistently identified the failed federal response to Katrina as the watershed event contributing to the decline of the Bush administration's approval ratings, progressives and the netroots have largely abandoned the cause of New Orleans as a political and moral issue. The Left has a responsibility to see to it that New Orleans survives and thrives, for the sustainable recovery of this city will be the primary measure used for determining whether the netroots indeed represent a substantive movement concerned with the betterment of American communities or just another vessel for cyclical change in partisan fortunes. As it stands, New Orleans is on the brink. Rates of crime, illiteracy, poverty, imprisonment and life expectancy too closely resemble those of developing nations. Political power remains ensconced in the hands of economic and tribal elites. Basic retention of the population that has been able to return is as pressing a challenge as bringing home the tens of thousands who remain displaced almost four years after the levees failed.

It's always tough trying to find that sweet spot when talking about New Orleans to a national audience. One has to disabuse people of two contradictory notions. Some folks inaccurately believe that New Orleans is a hopeless post-apocalyptic hell scape while others just as inaccurately believe that we've had 'excellence in recovery.'

Similarly there's a tough balancing act when you're talking to a national audience because of the generalizations one sometimes has to impart context to people that can't possibly understand the nuance that locals implicitly know. That's an inarticulate way of saying how tough it is to make honest and critical assessments and acknowledgments of what we need to get straight in our own backyard without undermining the all-important argument about ongoing federal indebtedness to New Orleans for decades of environmental costs associated with shipping, oil, and Mississippi River dams. And then there are the costs associated with the failed federal levees, of course.

So without further adieu, let me introduce you to the panelists.

James Perry: housing advocate, fighter of discrimination, mayoral candidate, and all-star twitterer

Karen Gadbois: news organization founder, 'gadfly,' champion of justice, and all-around superstar

Jacques Morial: renaissance man, world-straddler, and human encyclopedia of New Orleans politics and history

June Cross: professor at Columbia School of Journalism, documentary-slayer, and producer of one of the greatest stories of Post-Katrina resilience, the Old Man and the Storm

Last and certainly least, the conversation moderator:

Eli (Me!) Ackerman: increasingly annoying poser

My job, I think, will be to get coffee and keep time.


So I think this is an incredibly balanced panel. Insiders and outsiders. Boys and girls. Black, white, and creole. A Mayoral candidate and a barely employable pimple-popper.

What about you all? What do you think about the lineup? Given that we have an hour and will almost certainly devote 40% of that time to audience Q&A, what should we talk about?

Are there any messages you'd like me to deliver to scheduled celebrity pol speakers Joe Sestak, Arlen Specter, Howard Dean, or Valerie Jarret?

What about for your favorite (or most detested) snarky voice from the blogosphere?


Also looking for your suggestions on how to behave myself at another panel I've been invited to participate in, about the role of local blogs in investigative journalism or something.


Let 'er rip!


jeffrey said...

I like the group. Although Perry seems a bit unnecessary. But I guess the young hip netrooty candidate was a big selling point.

(I'm wondering if "netrooty" can become a new term akin to "truthiness".. or "astroturf")

E said...

I endorse 'netrooty' but I think you need to write a dictionary definition for it first.

Anonymous said...

Who are the "economic and tribal elites" who have power? The economic elites are clear--BGR, Business Council, Audubon Place. I think that's what you call "rich white people." But "tribal elites?" Do you mean Rex, Momus, and Comus? Paul Pastorek and the Charter crowd? Are Willard-Lewis and Hedge-Morell "tribal elites" or voices for the Black community?

I would say that political and economic power lies with white people in general these days, with the exception of the mayor. Why not tell "progressives" about the failure of white progressives to address home-grown racism in New Orleans--that the nation needs to intervene to protect African Americans from the white majority bent on keeping them out of the city and out of power.

E said...

"tribal elites" refers to all parochial social networks that exert behind-the-scenes clout.

it's safe to say we will discuss the overall failure to address home-grown racism and how to work through the economic and racial injustices of katrina and post k rebuilding policies.

Leigh C. said...

Well, netrooty-toot-toot your own horn, now. Have fun storming Pennsylvania - it needs it.

Jeffrey said...

Awesome; great work, E!

What's Pittsburgh like? I've wanted to get there for some time but haven't gotten around to doing it yet...

E said...

I've only been there once and I have to say that it is quite pretty when there are leaves on the trees.

Anonymous said...

"it's safe to say we will discuss the overall failure to address home-grown racism and how to work through the economic and racial injustices of katrina and post k rebuilding policies."

That's great. We should try that in New Orleans as well.

Superdeformed said...

Increasingly? I thought you leveled out a while ago.

Sounds like a fun panel, stock up on some Rolaids.

Anonymous said...

Jacques Morial? Progressive? Are you kidding? Seriously, I'd love to know, because it would never have struck me that he was useful.

GentillyGirl said...

Go get 'em E! This is a great thing y'all are doing.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said: "Jacques Morial? Progressive? Are you kidding?"

Sounds like the mob is getting suspicious, E.

Lock your door tonight.

E said...

LOL, I guess I'm falling short of my dreams of pleasing absolutely everyone at all times.

E said...

But it does seem most people think this a pretty sweet panel. I've received a really warm reaction and that makes ME very pleased.

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand how J. Morial is progressive. Perhaps I am thinking of another Jacques Morial. The one I am thinking of is the brother of former mayor Marc Morial, an entrenched member of the politician class which has helped this city on the road to ruin. He has been in the headlines for the last ten years for repeated drunk driving, with four traffic court judges recusing themselves on one DWI case due their involvement with him personally, for suspicion of complicity in Marc Morial's business dealings and an ultimate conviction on the failure to pay taxes for three years, for running a political consulting company that helped elect some more of the same type politicians, and who now works for the Louisiana Justice Institute, an organization which famously supports now-convicted Sen. William Jefferson and which boasts Tracie Washington as another prominent employee? Because if it's the same one, I consider him part of the existing establishment which is such a problem. I don't think he's part of any solution.

Anonymous said...

OK, E.

I got your back on this one. You make the first rebuttal.

By the way, if traffic tickets and paying your taxes late makes you a reactionary, I need to go get a hood and robe.

E said...

If Anon thinks Jacques Morial is the bad guy, that's his/her prerogative.

I certainly don't think it's quite right to couch one's objection on the basis that JM is "part of the existing establishment" and that this makes him not "progressive."

I think there's a lot of disagreement out there over what "the establishment" is in this town.

Some people generally think that it refers to those that have derived power from generations of hereditary wealth, industrial influence, and social status.

Others think that "the establishment" refers to people associated (however loosely or tightly) with the difficult and often sloppy political sea change that occurred here between 1970ish through the storm. [Another thing that's interesting is that a lot of what people would call 'the establishment' in this sense don't actually have substantive political power.]

One's perspective on that - and they're not mutually exclusive ideas - informs to a certain extent one's personal vision for a "progressive" New Orleans.

My "progressive" New Orleans values social, racial, and economic justice. Jacques Morial knows a great deal about that.

I think he's a great asset to my Netroots panel.

I figured some readers might not like this choice. And that's okay.

On a pragmatic level, however, I think most detractors would agree that an intellectual discussion about New Orleans' future would benefit from hearing the perspective of someone that has gone through the trials and tribulations of making change in this city - someone that has real familiarity with the essence of the political dynamics here - even if you don't ultimately like everything that person has done.

Anonymous said...

A well reasoned defense. E.

Jacques will say what no other member of that panel will say regarding the monstrous BNOBC plan, the elitist master plan, the way whites took advantage of Katrina to steal an entire government and school system. Yeah, his opinions, shared by most blacks, ought to be heard.

I would add, though, that the two views (the white one and the black one) are mutually exclusive. Either for the most part white people run the city or black people run it.

Quick tabulation here. Whites control all the federal funding (Governors Blanco, Jindal, and the LRA--and yes, Jindal regards himself as white) Whites control most of the schools now, the majority of the city council, the majority of the school board, the majority of the central city legislative delegation, all but one bank,all major media, all the hospitals, all but one college (Xavier's board is majority white) all the major hotels, restaurants, and casinos and 99 percent of the hiring in the service industry.

Oh, and throw in the US attorney, federal judgeships, appeals courts, insurance companies, utility companies.

So, yes, they are mutually exclusive. Only white faux progressives would say that the black political class "runs New Orleans." That relieves them of the moral responsibility to challenge the racism in their midst.

True, Blacks control who picks up the garbage. And who sweeps the streets. And who scoops up the horse shit after the parades. Nagin's powers rival that of Ceasar and Pol Pot.

I'm frightened. Stacey, protect us from the mongrel hordes.

Amy said...

As someone who knows Jaques through his civic work, I am proud to have him represent us. It is very easy to judge someone by their name and what you read in the paper, but those prejudices do not define any man, much less Jacques Morial. Congratulations Eli!

Anonymous said...

I would just like to add to anon's comment about white ownership - to say that NOT ONE bar on Bourbon Street is Black-owned, which is very significant because those bars set rates for musician pay and the bars themselves make tens of thousands of dollars a month.

Anonymous said...

Anon.. .

Are YOU kidding? Apparently you don't know at all what you're talking about... so I'll tell you what I know from my personal experience:

I know Jacques Morial quite well from my church, St. Augustine, where it's safe to say if it were not for his skill, tenacity, humble leadership, national connections and courage, the Archbishop would have succeeded in closing our historic parish - a church that stepped up after Katrina when no one (including the Archdiocese) was doing much of anything to help anyone. Jacques was among a handful of parishioners who worked with our former pastor, Fr. LeDoux, to establish in our parish hall a soup kitchen and food bank to feed the hungry, a medical clinic to treat the sick, a clothing exchange to clothe the naked. When the Archbishop announced he wanted to close the church and stop all we were doing, it was Jacques who most inspired in us the courage to resist. . . and we succeeded because he was one of a few leaders who helped us organize ourselves and stood by us through all of our struggles.

I wasn't back in NOLA til four weeks after Katrina, but I heard first hand accounts from grateful people about how Jacques and handful of his friends from Treme' boarded and secured neighbors homes amd rescued stranded pets.

And in the months and years after Katrina I know for a fact that it was Jacques Morial who used his personal connections to get some of the leading universities (Harvard, Columbia, Colorado) to get involved (and spend money) to help neighborhoods recover when the city wasn't doing a thing.

So far as any connections to Jefferson, it was Jacques' dad who tagged Jefferson with the "Dollar Bill," monicker; The Morial's have had what can best be described as a tense rivalry for more than three decades. . . at times a blood fued. Jefferson ran for mayor against Dutch Morial in 81 or 92, and it was bitter race. Jefferson defeated Marc Morial to first get elected to congress in 1990. . . I don't think you could consider him a schill for Jefferson by any stretch.

"Entrenched member of the politician class?" I think not, but the guy does have some pretty incredible connections with powerful people, not just in this country but also in France. He used his connections to help get the French government interested in helping our church and the Treme neighborhood and that has translated into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Part of the existing establishment which is such a problem?" If you knew him you would know he's pretty critical of the existing establishment from Joe Canizarro to Ray Nagin to Bill Jefferson to the ward healing political bosses.

And so far as "suspicion" is concerned, don't you think that after knocking down Jacques Morial's door with a battering ram at dawn and investigating him for four years and questioning nearly two dozen people I know personally, even his fellow church members, about Jacques' personal and business affairs, they found anything at all, they would have nailed him. All they found were a few late tax returns and they nailed him to the cross on that to safe face after they raided his home with a battering ram and a dozen federal agents in flak jackets and automatic weapons. . .

No, Anon, you don't know the man, and you don't deserve much respect for being so darn judgmental about something you are so totally ill-informed about. And you and your ilk are part of the problem - and part of the reason people in this city don't recognize common interests and can't cooperate to achieve any common objectives.

Progressive? Yeah I would say so, in fact pretty darn resourceful and courageous. The guy is nearly a friggin saint. A lot of us (some of whom didn't care much for his brother) wish there were a lot more Jacques Morial types in this city.

Anonymous said...

I think we have to give E credit for putting Jacques on this panel. Not because Jacques is a merely a "voice" for the Black community, but because he is a leader and his perspective reflects the majority Black opinion on the BNOBC, the Master Plan, and the opposition to the white "shadow government" of the Business Council, BGR, and the new Crime Coalition.

Most of the readers on this blog are, like the Times-Picayune and other whites, fixated and obsessed with attacking the black "entrenched leadership." They choose Nagin as a target, and not white folks like Pastorek or the BGR, because they are afraid to take on the racism and of their friends and neighbors.

To E's credit, by putting Jacques on the panel he has made a point that white progressives in New Orleans have to pay attention to these issues and take a stand against the white leaders, liberal and conservative alike, who want to substitute their judgment for the will of the people.

This fall, when the white majority of the council approves the upcoming master plan against the will of the Black majority, it will be Jacques who can explain why Blacks think that is violation of their democratic rights. The nation needs to hear that analysis because it true, not because it is a 'contending opinion" and the need to hear a frank analysis of the failure of the white progressives in New Orleans to become allies of the Black social justice movement.

The nation needs to know that they have to come to New Orleans aid because, just like Birmingham in 1963, local and state white folks could care less what happens to poor blacks.

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