The Magazine

Riding with the Kossacks

Markos Moulitsas Zúniga and me.

Jun 26, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 39 • By MATT LABASH
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Las Vegas

WHOA! DID YOU JUST FEEL THAT? Did you just feel the earth stop spinning on its axis, then reverse its rotation? Did you feel the moon enter into its Seventh House, and Jupiter align with Mars? Did you feel Jesus stomp off in a snit, as He was replaced at the right hand of God by Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, aka Kos? As in the eponymous blog Daily Kos? As in the four-year-old progressive website that is galvanizing the netroots and igniting the People Powered Movement? As in the site that is reshaping the political landscape, uprooting the old order, and, in Kos's words, relegating those who'd stand in the movement's way "to the dustbin of history"? Oh--and which is also a place where people blog about themselves?

Well if you didn't feel that, it's probably because you weren't at the Riviera Hotel here on June 8-11, for the first YearlyKos convention. Not to rub it in, but you missed out. Not to brag, but I was there. Sure, there were times throughout the proceedings when I wished I was elsewhere. Maybe during some of the jibber-jabbery panels and roundtables and caucuses and workshops. Maybe during the "Sustainable Energy--Energize America" panel with Gov. Bill Richardson. I mean no offense, Bill. Maybe America does need other kinds of energy besides People Power. But do I really want to sit around a dingy conference room talking about renewable fuels when I'm in SinCity?

Maybe I'd have liked to be at the blackjack tables, or to see a Danny Gans show, or to hang out at the Palms Hotel pool where all the women have brand-new breasts and all the meatheads keep feeling their triceps every few minutes to make sure they haven't shrunk since the last inspection. Maybe there were panels that made me cry out for my mom, like "MetaKos," moderated by Kos, which caused blogger Skippy The Bush Kangaroo to describe his dispatch from the conference as "blogging about people talking about people blogging about blogs. Did your head explode yet?" Maybe I yearned to be down the street at Gilley's at the Frontier casino, which promises "Cold Beer, Dirty Girls, Mud Wrestling Live, Bikini Bull Riding." I mean, after all, we People-Powered types cannot live on Kos alone.

But I stayed at YearlyKos, and I stayed because I had a little laminated rectangle around my neck that said "YearlyKos Convention," but which might as well have read "Press Pass to History." Because if you'd had ringsiders to watch Hammurabi inscribe his Code in black diorite, or Luther tack his 95 Theses to the door in Wittenberg, you wouldn't have played hookie at the Frontier, watching dirty girls mud wrestle bull riders.

No sir, you'd watch history get made. Because before history becomes history, it has to be a moment in time. And if I could cast the convention into song, I might very well make it Whitney Houston's "One Moment in Time." Or maybe one of Kos's selections, since he's also a piano composer. Maybe his 1996 track entitled "Solipsistic Affirmations." Either Whitney Houston or Kos--maybe I'd have Whitney Houston sing, with Kos accompanying her on piano.

You could read about this history being made, too. But not in some jive, dead-tree history book. I read about it in real-time pixels--what we in the People-Powered community call "live blogging." It means blogging something as it's happening, rather than after it happens--or even before it happens, which one blogger told me is called "predictive blogging." I read about the history that was being made in all-star blogger SusanG's Daily Kos diary. She wrote it in the middle of the convention, in a post she entitled "Yearly Kos: The Magic of People Power Made Manifest."

"We are hungry," she wrote, "hungry for each other in person." Easy, SusanG, the World's Fare Buffet is just down past the Capri rooms. (Sorry, we netroots types like to kid each other.) She went on to call it "pure magic," saying, "We are here. We are at the gates. We will no longer remain passive and meek in order to court favor. We, the people, are coming to power slowly and indefatigably, here in Vegas, and here on the blog. We have arrived."

And they have, too, as evidenced by the massive media turnout. There were tons of them. You couldn't tell where the netroots ended and the media began. Sometimes, if you were a journalist, and you were trying to interview someone in the hall, you'd have to first give them the once over to see if their netroots were showing. Otherwise, you might end up accidentally interviewing Maureen Dowd. It's like SusanG wrote: "It seems like every fourth person you run into is here covering the phenomenon of . . . us. We're worth it, too. We are something else."