Point Austin: Prog Blogs

As Netroots beckons, here's a sampler of online commentary

Point Austin
Next weekend, the Austin Convention Center will be awash in progressive bloggers, as the Netroots Nation convention runs from Thurs­day (lots of "identity, issue, and regional caucuses") to Sunday (plenary session on "eco-equality" and a bloggers brunch). The entire affair is ably historicized and previewed for you starting on p.26, by my younger and Web-savvier colleagues Wells Dunbar and Richard Whittaker – plenty of big online and political names on the schedule and more likely to come (last year both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama paid visits).

Ancient print-jockey that I am, in the spirit of ecumenism I thought I'd check in on some of the best of this week's progressive blogs, to provide a taste of our distinguished visitors. Salon's Glenn Greenwald is not attending the convention, but he has been leading the broad-based online opposition to the pending amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – almost certain to pass Con­gress this week. Here's what the acerbic Greenwald had to say on Tuesday about the pending vote: "Once passed by the Senate, the FISA bill will then immediately be sent by the Democratic Congress to an eagerly awaiting and immensely pleased President Bush, who will sign it into law, thereby putting a permanent and happy end to the scandal that began when – in December, 2005 – he was caught spying on the communications of American citizens in violation of the law. The only real remaining questions are (a) whether Bush will host [U.S. House Majority Leader] Steny Hoyer and [Democratic senator and Intelligence Commit­tee Chair] Jay Rockefeller at a festive, bipartisan White House signing ceremony to celebrate the evisceration of the Fourth Amendment and the rule of law, and (b) whether Bush, when he signs the bill into law, will append a signing statement decreeing that even its minimal restraints on presidential spying are invalid" ("Aug. 8, 1974 vs. July 9, 2008," Salon, July 8).

The fight against FISA has been a righteous blog crusade, and Greenwald was echoed by Digby Parton in her Hullabaloo blog: "The con­gress is about to validate and legalize the president's theory that he has the right to ignore the constitution. And because the telcoms will be given immunity it's very hard to see how we will ever get a court to rule on whether that's constitutional. This is a very bad precedent and one that we will regret. If you give them more power than they need, they will use it. It's what humans do" ("For the Record," July 8; Parton will take part in two Netroots panels).

Health Care Now

Also among the luminaries is The American Prospect's Ezra Klein. Here's some of what Klein posted on Tuesday, on a health-care reform effort ("Health Care for America Now"): "When I was reporting my story on the lessons of 1994, I was told that ... [the] problem wasn't just that the [Democratic National Committee] couldn't get its act together, but that no one on the Left could. Labor was exhausted and angry after the NAFTA fight. The AARP was keeping its powder dry so they could bargain for more gains right before the legislation passed. Organizations like MoveOn, Campaign for America's Future, and Democracy for America didn't exist. ...

"So it's of both enormous practical and symbolic significance that, in 2008, the first major health reform coalition with serious money and a genuine pressure plan is on the left. Health Care for America Now is a joint venture founded by a Who's Who of progressive organizations."

While a vast majority of blogging remains short-take op-eds that piggyback on the day's mainstream news, increasingly bloggers are doing original reporting, occasionally based on the oddities of the Web world itself. Austin-based Burnt Orange Report was recently the site of a posting hoax by longtime Republican campaign operative Dave Beckwith (writing as "Buck Smith"); this week BOR's Matt Glazer (appearing at Netroots) reports and considers the nature of Beckwith's transgression: "With over 80 comments on BOR alone, Beckwith very clearly posted comments during traditional work hours. ... Beckwith has violated the spirit of the Hatch Act because he is no longer working on a campaign during his off-time hours. At best, Beckwith is a ghost worker and taking taxpayer dollars for no work. At worst, he is [being] paid by taxpayers to actively engage in partisan political activities" ("David Beckwith Violates Hatch Act?" Burnt Orange Report, July 7).

Small Justice

Although by some puzzling Netroots oversight, our guys didn't get invited to speak, I would be remiss if I didn't point out the excellent ongoing work taking place on the Chronicle's Newsdesk blog, much of it by the same Dunbar (aka "City Hall Hustler") and Whittaker, as well as the rest of the News staff. Here's Whittaker recently on a bittersweet moment in Texas criminal justice reform: "Twenty-two years after his original conviction, DNA testing by the Lubbock County district attorney has proved that Tim Cole was not responsible for a 1985 rape at Texas Tech, the school he attended after leaving the Army. This is a significant, if belated, victory for the use of post-conviction DNA testing in Texas. ...

"But don't get too elated. Cole died in 1999, four years after another man, Jerry Johnson, admitted to the rape and was ignored by law enforcement and prosecutors. Cole was not executed. He died of an asthma attack, brought about by prison-yard dust. He was 39. Today would have been his 48th birthday. Considering that Texas lawmakers have spent the last week bemoaning the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court won't let them execute convicted rapists, that seems somehow significant" ("Score None for the Judicial Process," July 1).

No doubt you've already bookmarked the Newsdesk blog (austinchronicle.com/newsdesk) for a regular dose of spot reporting and snarky commentary. As Netroots sweeps through Austin next week, keep your eyes open (and your BS detectors on high) for the rising of the new online millennium.

Correction: Last week I reported that the city had contributed $7 million in affordable-housing bond funding to the rebuilding of Skyline Terrace by Foun­da­tion Communities. The Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office informs me that the precise city support was: 1) $1.5 million of general obligation bonds, 2) $956,000 of federal HOME funds, and $1 million in Housing Trust funds, from the city's Housing Financing Corp.

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Netroots Nationblogging, Netroots Nation, Glenn Greenwald, Digby Parton, Ezra Klein, Burnt Orange Report, Dave Beckwith

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