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    My Dinner With Al

    Continuing my review of the 2006 VA Bloggers Summit…

    By a stroke of good fortune, at the Bloggers Summit dinner I found myself sitting next to Al Weed, our Democratic candidate for Congress against the incumbent Republican, Virgil Goode (which means, come November, all the local newspaper headlines will trumpet “Goode Weed“…)

    Al and I had an interesting discussion about Diebold and the possibility of moving toward open source software for voting machines. The open source movement, like Democracy, is all about transparency. Al listened intently as I explained the view among free election advocates that using open source software to power voting machines is a bi-partisan issue because it means anyone can examine the code for irregularities. Al joked a few times that he is not technically savvy, but he asked thoughful questions and displayed a great deal of natural understanding. He is a phenomenally smart and impressive man.

    The keynote address during dinner was by Jerome Anderson of, a political blogging pioneer whom Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos refers to as his “blogfather”. Jerome is now the internet director for Mark Warner’s Forward Together PAC. Armstrong also gave some qualified credit to bloggers for keeping national attention on the Jim Webb campaign. He added that Republican candidates are now learning to tap into the well-organized presence of evangelical bloggers. (In a recent blog entry, Armstrong points out that the Christian Coalition is also getting on the free market internet bandwagon). He sees a continuing trend of bloggers forcing national media attention on local races.

    It was announced earlier that Al Weed would be hosting a post-conference reception at a local outdoor restaurant. Between speakers, Sorensen’s Executive Director Sean O’Brien read from a note handed to him that Tucker Watkins would be hosting a party in his hotel room for “conservative bloggers”. This brought good-natured hoots of derision from many in the room until Tucker sheepishly explained that of course his party was open to all bloggers…!

    I found this little moment to be an unusually humorous example of a recurring lament: somehow, this summit was seen as a gathering of liberal bloggers. It’s true that Jerome Armstrong is a progressive political leader, but we also heard from Virginia’s Republican Attorney General and Lt. Governor. Vivian Paige and I talked about this later (on our way to “crashing” the conservative party) and agreed that this was just another example of how convervatives get a lot of mileage from the meme that they are somehow an oppressed minority, even though they’re actually in charge of everything important.

    After the dinner, I did stop by the Biltmore for Al Weed’s reception. I thought I’d be there for just a little while, but it turned out to be the best part of the day. Blogging politics is one thing, but I really enjoyed actually talking politics with fellow travelers who are just as passionate about the subject as I am.

    To everyone’s delight, Creigh Deeds stopped in and engaged in many interesting conversations. At one point, I was standing in a circle with Creigh, Vivian, Mark Brooks, Brian Patton, and several of Al Weed’s (all young and beautiful) campaign workers, engaged in a hysterical discussion of voting and civil rights. Poor Creigh had been up since 4:30 that morning and still had a 90 minute drive home, and I could see that it was extremely difficult for him to pull away from the conversation. This stuff is clearly his life’s blood. I only wish that the “conservative” bloggers had felt welcome there. Unlike some, I don’t prefer to be surrounded by those who always agree with me.

    (Alton Foley claims that Tucker’s party was actually a shrewd maneuver intended to capture the “enemy” and ply us with alcohol. Nice try…)

    According to a Daily Progress story , Waldo claims that the local ratio of Democratic to Republican bloggers is about two-to-one. (I was nearby during this interview, and I don’t think that Waldo actually said “Democratic” and “Republican”). Under those circumstances, it does make sense that the number of left-leaning bloggers outnumbered right-leaning bloggers at a summit in Charlottesville, but I found nothing particularly partisan about the event itself. I kept hearing rumours of a “conservative bloggers convention” that is scheduled to take place in Martinsville. As it turns out, this is apparently a misapprehension. Claire Guthrie Gastanaga heard the same rumours that I did and expressed disappointment that “the Virginia political blogosphere has allowed egos, partisan bickering and polarization to divide bloggers into those who attended the “liberal” Sorenson conference … and those who will attend a “conservative” bloggers conference.” An exchange between Alton and Claire has cleared up that misunderstanding: Blogs United, the Virginia Blogger’s Conference by bloggers for bloggers is scheduled for August 25-26 in Martinsville. This should prove to be an equally interesting experience and I hope to attend.

    3 responses to “My Dinner With Al”

    1. Brian Patton says:

      I agree that the Weed reception was one of the best parts of the day.

      It was nice meeting and talking with you.

    2. Jennifer says:

      Sean, Thanks for the recaps. I have been trying to write something, but with something akin to writers block it is difficult. Thankfully I am more than happy to just link to your blog for the dirt on the summit.

    3. semi says:

      “The dirt on the summit…” I like that! Makes it sound like a berm. “The Bloggers Berm”. Thank you, Jennifer!