Greetings from San Jose! I’m here in the Bay Area for the annual Netroots Nation meeting. Something like 3000 political activists, writers, bloggers, operatives, and practitioners are here.
Yesterday, I attended a panel called Science Under the Rug: How Government and Industry Hide Science. Among the panelists was Penn State climatologist Michael Mann, whose research in the 1990s led to the now widely known hockey stick chart of global mean temperature. The emphasis in this panel was on the determined anti-empirical efforts of climate deniers, the gun lobby, opponents of choice, and the like. Too often, the opponents in separate fields are the same groups, or at least groups funded by the same corporate and/or ideological groups. They certainly share techniques to try to undermine science, to drive wedges into our understanding of the world around us.
Lunch today (sponsored, BTW, by the Sierra Club) was accompanied by a Q&A with Nancy Pelosi. If nothing else, she’s a tough, gutsy woman. It isn’t easy to defend the complexities of the NSA mess — especially against some of the more extreme of purity trolls, which abound in this crowd — but she did exactly that. She turned the crowd toward her side by decrying the privatization of security (Snowden worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, not the NSA).
The Netroots Nation 2013 meeting celebrates the turnaround of California in the last few years. Once saddled with a $40 billion deficit, the state is now solvent, even booming. I’m sure it’s merely a coincidence that this reversal occurred as soon as Jerry Brown took the corner office in Sacramento from Ahnold, as soon as the state legislature achieved a super-majority of Democrats in both houses. Yes, there was a bit of help from the glacially-improving US economy, but still…
At the opening plenary session on Thursday, the location of Netroots Nation 2014 (NN14) was announced. There’s great excitement that, between July 17 and 20, we’ll get together in Detroit. It will be an important year in Michigan — an open seat in the US Senate (due to the retirement of the Senate’s finest combover, Democrat Carl Levin), a wildly unpopular Governor (Scott Walker-wannabe Rick Snyder), and other important political races. On top of that, of course, there’s the symbolism of going to the symbol of America’s collapsing middle class, decaying infrastructure, and other deep socioeconomic woes. If NN14 can be, in some small way, part of bringing Detroit back from the brink, then it will be the most meaningful event in the organization’s existence.
[UPDATE: 5:30pm] In the closing session, we’re hearing Ignite talks from many progressives. Among them — Seattle’s own Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO of MomsRising and spouse of former State Senator (45th LD) and recent Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor Bill Finkbeiner. I knew that she was to Bill’s left, but not this far in the correct direction.