Thursday, July 21, 2005

BFL Summer Conference

I'll edit to add the photos later.

I have been ruined by all those history seminars at the Huntington Library. I wore a suit; so did Flap; so did Bob Hertzberg. Most of the rest wore the BFL uniform of tees and shorts.

I enjoyed meeting the actual people behind the blogs. Even Irish Lass, who roots for the Foe. It turns out that IamDoubt from BodyParts once had to read my essays as one of my professors. I got a chance to assure Dafydd ap Hugh that I'm not trying to dogfight him off the Net. Really.

Scott Schmidt kept the meeting running briskly, once we moved off the blazing patio into the air-conditioned meeting room.

Dan Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee spoke at length of his quest for critical inside information from Sacramento. At first, when he set up his site through the Bee, he enjoyed publication without critical review. The status-conscious staff at the Bee objected to Dan's possession of this unique privilege, and he was subjected to the usual editorial review.

Dan feels that a private citizen can set up a blog, get themselves placed on mailing lists from all Sacramento legislators, executives, and PACs, and through confidential email and conversation with sources, keep more current with the situation in Sacramento than most officials. The fact that this blogger would not have editors above him would not necessitate a poorer quality product.

There was an odd exchange when somebody asked Dan if this blogger could automatically print and archive these press releases. From the reaction of the Sacramento veterans in the room, I take it these communiques are most definitely not quite ready for prime time. Interesting.

Dan suggested that this blogger either seek 500 $100 contributors or 5000 $10 subscribers to fund operations independently. I asked Bob Hertzberg if he'd pay $50,000 for this sort of operation as part of a campaign, and he felt it was cheap for what it could deliver.

Dan's ideal, however, is that this blogger be beholden to none, neither campaign nor party nor corporate contributor.

Bob Hertzberg said that internet and email had brought his mayoral campaign to the brink of victory, and if he had to do it over again, he would have put more money into Internet campaigning. He is promoting BigIdeas4LA.com, where he will float themes and build a consensus of interested, experienced opinion as to a timetable ("How to improve garbage delivery in 2 years"), and then from online, direct efforts to achieve reform through the political process within the timetable.

Joseph C. Phillips received the most boisterous response of the day, when he stated his desire to serve in the Assembly but felt he could not win his district at this time. Howls from the floor, including Allan Hoffenblum and Bob Hertzberg, that he very well could. This continued, in public, the online wave of enthusiasm Joseph said he received when he first mentioned a run on his site. He promised to reconsider his options.

Ted Costa made brief comments regarding Prop. 77. He explained the problems with the various drafts as due to submitting texts to a committee for review, and filing to two separate state offices, the Secretary of State and the Attorney General. Patterico pressed him to offer copies of both drafts on his site, and he agreed that should be done. Today, Thursday, the court ruled against Ted and ordered Prop 77 off the special election ballot. He expected to engage in some legal battles this summer, and said the same situation had been faced with the recall, so I expect an appeal. Further updates should be available at his site, FairDistricts.com.

Allan Hoffenblum is the author of California Targetbook and a 40 year operator in California politics. He said the blogs currently will only sway a committed 14% of the electorate that dominates off-year elections, but will have little influence over the '86%ers' who dominate major elections. At present. But due to the extreme speed and affordability of Internet campaigning, and the increasing number of people who use the Internet regularly, bloggers will not lose their sway over the 14%ers and will only gain influence over the 86%ers. He expects this process will explode once a Party chairman commits to Internet campaigning year-round, and expects to see the cost of campaigning plummet as a result.

Addressing concerns over FEC regulation of blogs, Allan said such limitations on democracy are a regular part of politics, and the only course is to fight them head-on in a coordinated effort.

At which point we dispersed into the tropical smog. I look forward to the next conference.

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