Friday, November 25, 2005

DFNYC Socializing Is Circle 3 For Me

Social Concentric Circles

People have their own ways of seeing things. I have drawn this diagram that throws light on my idea of social reality.

Privacy is important. To me. It is very important.

At some level I am a loner. I have to spend a lot of time on my own. I have to read and write and listen to music. On my own. I have to surf the web, on my own. I am more like an artist than a politician that way. Or maybe I am a different kind of political worker than the stereotype allows for. My emphasis is not on shaking many hands. Although meeting people is sheer joy. But I think I am selective. I do it for the joy of it, not to please people. So I skip when I decide to skip.

And if you are someone I meet in circle 3, I am not going to pretend I am meeting you in circle 2. Circle 1 is out of bounds. Like Amitabh Bachchan once said when asked about his marriage, "And why am I discussing that with the world?" Some people can talk about their private life, or at least parts of it, like they were talking about the weather. I can't. That's just me.

This is important to me to explain. Because some people in circle 3 wrongly assume getting "close" means you try and invade the guy's privacy. There is this urge to force open the circle perimeter. You lose your space in my circle 3 that way. You move to the "wedge," or you move to a further, outer circle, or you plain disappear.

As DFNYC expands, and Dean 2008 takes off, most people I will be meeting will be in the outer circles. Circles 5, 6 and 7.

At some level, this is about honesty. It is also about being effective. It is also wisdom, I think. The detachment this model offers is also emotionally healthy.

This is not to say you are cold to the people in the outer circles. It means you don't pretend to be closer than you are. And you actually relate better, because you know the rules of the game are different in the outer circles. You communicate more effectively. You relate more effectively. You suffer from fewer illusions.

A Few Diagrams

Mumzee's Kitchen

I just bumped into this blog: Mumzee's Kitchen. More specifically its latest blog entry that was posted at another site: Howard Dean And The Demo Money Problem.

She has some great stuff to say. And she is not exactly under 30. Here are some samplers.

..... there were many of us "small people" who were willing to dig into our very shallow pockets to donate whatever we could spare ..... The progressives among us became understandably gun-shy. We are holding our fire and keeping our little bits of money in our pockets until we are sure that it will be used on behalf of those policies which we espouse ..... The great majority of us who are at the bottom of the human food chain have had enough of the same old "kiss the rich and screw the poor" choices that we have had for the last 24 years! We are sick and tired of being required to choose "the lesser of two evils" on election day, of holding our noses as we mark our ballots. We want to support someone who can think constructively, who will restore our democracy to "one man, one vote, and actually count the votes", who will stop spending our grandchildren's money on a needless and un-winnable war, and who will concentrate on rebuilding our national economy with real jobs by restoring our neglected super-structure and salvaging whatever is left of our damaged society ...... We need a candidate with guts, who will speak truth to power, a real barn-burning ass-kicker who is not afraid to tell the American people the truth about the liars and manipulators who have held our very existence in their hands for much too long ...... We hear our corporations complaining that the pension plans for long-term employees are crippling them financially. There is an answer to that problem and they should be made to understand what that answer is. The cap should come off the Social Security contributions to allow that program to grow as it once did and that pension expense would no longer be necessary. When they cry about the cost of maintaining employee health insurance, they should be reminded that universal health insurance, with an administrative expense of only the 2% cost of administering Medicare would relieve them of that responsibility. Those who complain about the taxes that would be necessary to pay for these programs should be presented with facts and figures on what they currently pay for private insurance compared to the taxes necessary to fund universal health care and learn that their own financial situation would actually improve ......

Some of the points on retirement and health insurance are great pointers. Got to crunch a few numbers.

Lee Metcalf Is A Naderite

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Soviet Health Care In America

The proof is in the pudding. If the health care sector in this country were driven by market forces it would be at the forefront of adopting information technology. But it is dead last. Even the pizza industry, especially the pizza industry, is ahead of it in that adoption race.

Health care reform in this country has to be about introducing market forces into the sector. Costs have to be brought down for all participants.

Expanding insurance coverage has to start with children. Once you can make sure it is there for all children, and while you work it, there will open up ways to see how it can also be expanded among the adult population.

There are many ideas out there, many good ideas. The sector is such a huge chunk of the economy, any reform effort necessarily has to be a rather large conversation. A large, inclusive conversation that is also near transparent, that is the model I have in mind.

The last good effort was Hillary's but it did not fare well on the transparency part. She also drew a lot of flak as a woman steering policy. So a political fight against sexism has to be part of health care reform. And Bill Clinton was not sufficiently invested. For a president this has to be top priority.

And of course a culture shift from an illness-focus to a wellness-focus.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Politics At The Speed Of Thought

I think it was in 1995, Bill Gates came out with a book called Business At The Speed Of Thought. It was before he discovered the internet, so right now I don't know what that book was about, but I think my recent blog entry DFNYC, 100,000 Strong, Scalable Organization can be called Politics At The Speed Of Thought. The proposal quickens the pace of progress. The productivity goes up.

Race: A Volatile Topic

It is a volatile topic, for sure. But is has to be dealt with. It has to be talked about. Avoiding discussions makes it harder, not easier. We can start with the gentle topics in race. Heck, we could start with our hilarious experiences in race. I have quite a few, some of them are predictably to do with Homeland Security. Do I look Arab? Like I was in this office setting in Lexington, Kentucky, a few month after 9/11. And I overheard this guy in this next cubicle relating to someone on the phone in a toned down voice: "There is an Arab in my office!"

Pyramid Of 10

At first look the DFNYC, 100,000 Strong, Scalable Organization idea might look like an invitation to 100,000 people to stare at the computer screen for several hours each week. Screen time is part of it, but I believe the real story is Face Time.

You end up building a social unit.

Meetings I have gone to so far have tended to focus on mostly political talk. And then there is this undercurrent. Over a period of time you get to know a few people a little better. But that is hardly the focus. It is just supposed to happen on the side.

The ground rule is you can not make people do things. You can only suggest. But within that I think there should be a conscious decision to insert ice-breakers, and team building exercises, and get to know each other social exercises as part of the meetings.

I have not had a chance to think about this a whole lot. I hope I will do it more down the line. But let me go do a few Google searches.

Ice Breakers & Energizers
Educational Icebreakers
Ice Breakers - Exercises To Get Things Started!
Leadership - Icebreakers, Warm-up, Review, and Motivators Activities
Icebreakers to Inspire Communication : Eslflow webguide
Teacher Ice Breakers

If we are political activists, we should think ourselves as a sports team. Those teams do warm up exercises. We do ice breakers, kind of.

Team Building Exercises and Icebreakers
Fun Team Building: Team Building Exercises & Activities | Staff ...
Team Building: A Complete Guide
Team Building Games - Exercises & Activities - Teambonding - A ...

Something along those lines.

There will also have to be developed a mechanism to handle other scenarios. Some are to do with race, some to do with gender, some just plain interpersonal chemistry, some to do with miscommunication. When you bring people into groups, you end up with issues here and there.

There can be guidelines, suggestions, manuals, with the emphasis on creative approaches. Again, I have not thought a whole lot about this.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Social Progress: Show Me The Money

The Spectrum/Dialogue Concept Is Key To Power

America is the richest, most powerful country today because it is the oldest democracy. Nepal is two years older than America, but it is one of the poorest. Democracy creates wealth. Democracy is social progress.

After slavery was abolished in America, the country started out on a major industrial trajectory.
After women were granted voting rights, there was another industrial shift. The country took to the air and to the roads. The automobile industry got launched.

The end of segregation brought forth the second industrial revolution.

Bill Clinton's progressive thrust brought forth the dot com boom and the longest peacetime economic expansion in history.

Social progress has to be made on all fronts: race, gender, class. Every time a major leap is taken, it is like breaking a sound barrier. A whole, new positive reality emerges.

That is why we have to figure out the least disruptive ways of making social progress. For me it is almost like the efficiency concept in the world of business.

And it literally is about money, like the guy says in the movie Jerry McGuire: "Show me the mo-ney!"

Social progress benefits both the oppressor and the oppressed. The trick is to show them that is the case. The trick is to show them the money, the promise of it.

And this goes beyond race and gender. This also applies to education, health and free trade. This applies to feeling good about China and India.

I believe I have offered the basic framework: The Spectrum/Dialogue Concept Is Key To Power.

Lee Metcalf Is A Naderite

I had a rather long conversation with Lee Metcalf at the DFNYC Mixer the other day. This was his first time at a DFNYC event. Some friend of his emailed him the link to the event at the organization's site, and he decided to show up. He is a Ralph Nader guy. Go figure.

I started out not knowing a whole lot about Nader, and that was in 2000. Then I made it a point to learn. A lot of my good friends were really into him. One friend of mine was on Nader's statewide committee for Kentucky in 2000.

What does he stand for? I find few things I disagree on in terms of basic policy. But I lose him on political reality.

Gore is not the greatest guy maybe, but who would you rather have protecting the environment, Gore or Bush? To me that is what it boils down to.

Lee and I honed in on two Nader issues: (1) Public financing of elections, and (2) Universal health insurance. I can not disagree on either. But both are statements of fantassy. What exactly is the policy you are offering?

As in, start by describing the reality as it exists on both today. Then tell me where you want to go, what do we end up with. And then show me the roamap. The Nader crowd does not do any of the three. Because as soon as they looked at the roadmap, they will realize solidly voting Democratic is how you go about it.

It is a choice between, the good, the bad, and the ugly. The Nader prescriptions are good, the Democratic prescriptions are bad, according to the Nader crowd, and the W prescriptions are ugly. They are so mad we can't have the good, they give us ugly.

The conversation is hardly over. And I hope Lee will keep coming to the DFNYC events, and will bring more people along.

He emailed a link to this article earlier: Stand With The People.

And I kind of like it that Nader is an Arab American. That is a freshening difference from the crowd of WASPs. So I got Nader, but on entirely something else.

Howard Dean's Anti War Email From Yesterday

Dear Paramendra,

Shame on them

I want to tell you about John Murtha. He's a Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania. He's also a combat veteran and retired Marine Corps colonel.

Murtha spent 37 years in Marine Corps, earned the Bronze Star, two purple hearts, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. And for the last thirty years he's been one of the most respected voices in Congress on military issues -- universally respected by Democrats, Republicans and military brass alike.

Until now.

Republicans have disgraced themselves by viciously attacking John Murtha with such disrespect that not only veterans, but every decent American should be angry.

What did Murtha, a decorated combat veteran, do to draw fire from a White House led by a president and vice president who evaded service in Vietnam? He questioned their management of the war in Iraq. Here's part of what he had to say:

The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of us. The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region. ...

For two and a half years, I have been concerned about the U.S. policy and the plan in Iraq. I have addressed my concerns with the Administration and the Pentagon and have spoken out in public about my concerns. The main reason for going to war has been discredited. ...

I have been visiting our wounded troops at Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals almost every week since the beginning of the War. And what demoralizes them is going to war with not enough troops and equipment to make the transition to peace; the devastation caused by IEDs; being deployed to Iraq when their homes have been ravaged by hurricanes; being on their second or third deployment and leaving their families behind without a network of support.

Shameless Republicans immediately went on the attack. Dick Cheney, who has said that he had "other priorities" and collected 5 deferments while people like Murtha served in Vietnam, called Murtha's comments "irresponsible" and regretted that "the president and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone." The White House spokesman, who has also never worn the uniform, pronounced himself "baffled" that Murtha, who volunteered for two wars, wanted to "surrender to the terrorists". A Republican Congressman said Murtha and others "basically are giving aid and comfort to the enemy".

Shame on them. Every one of us -- right now -- needs to let Jack Murtha know that we respect his service, respect his leadership, and respect his right to speak the truth. This man has spent his life serving us. The very least each one of us can do is let him know that no matter what dishonorable smear campaign Republicans wage we will be there with him.

Send Congressman Murtha a note telling him that you will not be silent while he is attacked:

I will deliver your message to him personally, along with my own thanks for his service to our country and his continuing courage in the face of threats.

Lies and manipulation characterized the Republican case for war, and lies and manipulation have been the primary weapon against anyone who questions their failed leadership.

First it was Senator Max Cleland, who left limbs in Vietnam, being savagely attacked in 2002. Then John Kerry, who received three purple hearts, being smeared in 2004. The history of this war has shown that Republicans value political posturing more than the service of America's veterans.

Republicans don't want a serious debate about Iraq because they know the American people are simply not with them. They cannot respond to the substance of Murtha's criticism -- or any criticism -- because they are wrong.

Jack Murtha is already fighting back. When told of Cheney's comments he reminded people where Cheney was while he was in Vietnam: "I like guys who got five deferments and have never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."

But Jack can't beat this back alone. Show him that Americans know that Republicans should be ashamed of themselves:

Enough is enough -- we cannot allow another veteran to be smeared by George Bush's cronies.

Thank you for taking a stand.

Governor Howard Dean, M.D.

P.S. -- Here is the full text of Murtha's statement yesterday:

"The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of us. The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region.

"General Casey said in a September 2005 hearing, 'the perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency.' General Abizaid said on the same date, "Reducing the size and visibility of the coalition forces in Iraq is part of our counterinsurgency strategy."

"For two and a half years, I have been concerned about the U.S. policy and the plan in Iraq. I have addressed my concerns with the Administration and the Pentagon and have spoken out in public about my concerns. The main reason for going to war has been discredited. A few days before the start of the war I was in Kuwait - the military drew a red line around Baghdad and said when U.S. forces cross that line they will be attacked by the Iraqis with Weapons of Mass Destruction - but the US forces said they were prepared. They had well trained forces with the appropriate protective gear.

"We spend more money on Intelligence that all the countries in the world together, and more on Intelligence than most countries GDP. But the intelligence concerning Iraq was wrong. It is not a world intelligence failure. It is a U.S. intelligence failure and the way that intelligence was misused.

"I have been visiting our wounded troops at Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals almost every week since the beginning of the War. And what demoralizes them is going to war with not enough troops and equipment to make the transition to peace; the devastation caused by IEDs; being deployed to Iraq when their homes have been ravaged by hurricanes; being on their second or third deployment and leaving their families behind without a network of support.

"The threat posed by terrorism is real, but we have other threats that cannot be ignored. We must be prepared to face all threats. The future of our military is at risk. Our military and their families are stretched thin. Many say that the Army is broken. Some of our troops are on their third deployment. Recruitment is down, even as our military has lowered its standards. Defense budgets are being cut. Personnel costs are skyrocketing, particularly in health care. Choices will have to be made. We cannot allow promises we have made to our military families in terms of service benefits, in terms of their health care, to be negotiated away. Procurement programs that ensure our military dominance cannot be negotiated away. We must be prepared. The war in Iraq has caused huge shortfalls at our bases in the U.S.

"Much of our ground transportation is worn out and in need of either serous overhaul or replacement. George Washington said, "To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace." We must rebuild out Army. Our deficit is growing out of control. The Director of the Congressional Budget Office recently admitted to being "terrified" about the budget deficit in the coming decades. This is the first prolonged war we have fought with three years of tax cuts, without full mobilization of American industry and without a draft. The burden of this war has not been shared equally; the military and their families are shouldering this burden.

"Our military has been fighting a war in Iraq for over two and a half years. Our military has accomplished its mission and done its duty. Our military captured Saddam Hussein, and captured or killed his closest associates. But the war continues to intensify. Deaths and injuries are growing, with over 2,079 confirmed American deaths. Over 15,500 have been seriously injured and it is estimated that over 50,000 will suffer from battle fatigue. There have been reports of at least 30,000 Iraqi civilian deaths.

"I just recently visited Anbar Province Iraq in order to assess the condition on the ground. Last May 2005, as part of the Emergency Supplemental Spending Bill, the House included to Moran Amendment, which was accepted in Conference, and which required the Secretary of Defense to submit quarterly reports to Congress in order to more accurately measure stability and security in Iraq. We have not received two reports. I am disturbed by the findings in key indicator areas. Oil production and energy production are below pre-war levels. Our reconstruction efforts have been crippled by security situation. Only $9 billion of the $18 billion appropriated for reconstruction has been spent. Unemployment remains at about 60 percent. Clean water is scarce. Only $500 million of the $2.2 billion appropriated for water projects have been spent. And most importantly, insurgent incidents have increased from about 150 per week to over 700 in the last year. Instead of attacks going down over time and with the addition of more troops, attacks have grown dramatically. Since the revelations at Abu Ghraib, American causalities have doubled. An annual State Department report in 2004 indicated a sharp increase in global terrorism.

"I said over a year ago, and now the military and the Administration agrees, Iraq can not be won 'militarily.' I said two years ago, the key to progress in Iraq is to Iraqitize, Internationalize and Energize. I believe the same today. But I have concluded that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is impeding this progress.

"Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency. They are untied against U.S. forces and we have become a catalyst for violence. U.S. troops are the common enemy of the Sunnis, Saddamists and foreign jihadists. I believe with a U.S. troop redeployment, the Iraq security forces will be incentivized to take control. A poll recently conducted shows that over 80% of Iraqis are strongly opposed to the presence of coalition troops, about 45% of the Iraqi population believe attacks against American troops are justified. I believe we need to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis. I believe before the Iraqi elections, scheduled for mid December, the Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice that the United States will immediately redeploy. All of Iraq must know that Iraq is free. Free from United Stated occupation. I believe this will send a signal to the Sunnis to join the political process for the good of a "free" Iraq.

"My plan calls:

  • To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces.
  • To create a quick reaction force in the region.
  • To create an over-the-horizon presence of Marines.
  • To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq.

"This war needs to be personalized. As I said before, I have visited with the severely wounded of this war. They are suffering.

"Because we in Congress are charged with sending our sons and daughters into battle, it is our responsibility, our obligation, to speak out for them. That's why I am speaking out.

"Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It is time to bring them home."

Paid for and authorized by the Democratic National Committee, This communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

Contributions or gifts to the Democratic National Committee are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes.

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Thanks David For Bringing Me Back To DFNYC

A Piece On DFNYC

I am glad at least someone associated with DFNYC is willing to discuss race as a topic. If you go to three DFNYC events, that is like a total of nine hours out of a month. That is not the major part of a month. So I guess it can be hip hop plus DFNYC plus the city plus Nepal plus other stuff. I guess I will keep my options open about showing up for DFNYC events.

David Michaelson

There is Abhi's Research Advocacy meeting in 10 days, and a LinkUp in 17 days. I guess I will keep my options open. I might or might not show.

Oh, and I just found out, there is some kind of a A five-hour Dance-a-thon benefiting GMHC, Also benefiting Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP). Last night I went to Webster Hall, and I could only go on for two hours, maybe a little less than two. Then I kind of just sat and took in the music, for hours.

I mean, I went to the Mixer Thursday evening, and it was great fun. As usual.
  1. The concepts I cultivate at this blog, it is very much work in progress. I feel like I am building a mathematical model. That is the first step. As for the application, I have said it is open source. There is no diktat. It is not like I am going to come up with this grand proposal and hold DFNYC hostage to it.
  2. DFNYC is not a major time commitment.
From: "David Michaelson"
Subject: RE: A Piece On DFNYC
Date: Sat, 19 Nov 2005 09:42:34 -0500

Interesting piece. Race is such a major issue in NYC, and not just white vs. minority. Hatian blacks and "Southern" blacks go at it all the time. Various Hispanic groups don't get along. Etc. DFNYC does a lot better than the average NYC progressive group in reaching out to minorities and minority candidates. But race is a big issue for NYC progressives and one that is not often addressed.

My current poliitical group has been focused quite a bit on good candidates of all races: Norm Seigel, Margarita Lopez-Torres, Freddy Ferrer, Chris Owens, Tish James, Norm Titus and Paul Wooten in particular. Only one white in the crowd. I was kind of proud when I realized that our efforts had focused on so many minorities. Often Democratic groups do not focus on this. That is one of my complaints about Independent Neighborhood Democrats. Their slate tends to be pretty white. Hard to fight the local Dem machine when you show a solid white face.

Chris Owens wrote an excellent piece on race in Brooklyn politics. It was part of a private email discussion among political organizers and was in response to something I wrote. It was not intedned for public circulation but he has given us permission to pass it along if we feel it appropriate. I will point out that several DFNYC organizers were part of this dicussion and were very responsive to Chris' statements. You might be interested in it:

"David is correct, of course. We need a 50-state strategy (and/or ongoing revisions to 50 state strategies) and we certainly need a 5-borough strategy for progressive advancement here in New York City. Staten Island does indeed represent an area where the common economic concerns and common concerns about education, health care and affordable housing provide political pontoons for Democrats that could become real bridges.

However, since we are having an open and honest discussion here, I wish to highlight an important issue that is uncomfortable for many people but which can really impede our ability to move together -- race.

As African Americans (particularly those with Southern origins) decrease in NYC's population, the level and intensity of racial sensitivity and concern regarding political empowerment will increase. This process has already started. Unfortunately, tension between Black and Hispanic political leadership simmers below the surface. (Ferrer's ascendancy is a crucial step in dissipating some of the tension. But, should Ferrer lose, will the 2009 Democratic Primary pit Billy Thompson against Adolfo Carrion and Anthony Weiner?)

And the more conservative cultural influences within the African-American, Caribbean-American and African populations are very powerful. On this front, the ideological tension between these communities and liberal white communities is clear and there has been too little effort on either side to overcome this.

As the Latino population -- as divided as it may be -- increases its political clout there will be exponential increases in the intensity of concerns regarding political empowerment. There will also be significant growing pains regarding practices that traditional "progressives" abhor but may have to endure and/or overlook to sustain coalition-building.

The Asian community's political situation is similar to that of Hispanics. The primary growth areas are Brooklyn and Queens. Empowerment issues are emerging here as well, particularly now that John Liu has provided a tangible role model.

Conservative whites, particularly the orthodox Jewish communities, are increasing in number and, in Brooklyn, the percentage of the voting population. Leaders in these communities are admirable -- actually role models -- in their ability to deliver services and influence the political system.

Progressive whites, and progressives in general, are a floating minority in this demographic soup. We are actually good at getting attention, providing policy leadership, and keeping the New York Times and Village Voice, for example, to the left of the spectrum. But the competing racial empowerment dynamics will create serious issues within the next 20 years.

There will certainly be a Latino and Black candidate in every Mayoral election going forward. And there are those who say that the age of the white Jewish liberal candidate (at the citywide level) is over, for example, and that the profile of successful white candidates going forward will be much more moderate.

Finally, to be that much more real, we must acknowledge the power of money. If there is one force that will regulate the race-based clashes of New York's future, it will be the mutual desire on the part of all community leaders to have "access" to power brokers and to "make money" off of politics. New York City will become more and more like Washington, DC -- more similar to the way in which the Congress is treated by lobbyists and interest groups.

This is the real battle that progressives must confront: racially-charged political struggles addressing public policy influenced by those willing to spend money on the politicians. Racial and ethnic "fiefdoms" will emerge and be bought, sold or pitted against each other by those seeking power and exploiting needs. The Atlantic Yards experience is a harbinger of things to come.

In fairness, there are efforts being made -- including work by the New Democratic Majority and several political clubs in Brooklyn. Ironically, some of the more liberal clubs have been LESS successful at creating a good racial mix in their membership. Why is this? Because our system of political representation includes the creation of political jurisdictions that promote racial segregation. This is a by-product of the Voting Rights Act's application to our state's politics and, frankly, I am not sure how to change this. Again, some things are simple -- like clubs meeting in areas more likely to encourage participation by many who don't normally participate. Sustaining interest, however, is much harder. I know because I have been there.

(Remember, New York remains a very segregated city in so many ways. I often wonder if the truest expression of equality would be when the number of white nannies walking the streets of Brownsville with Black children in strollers equals the number of Black and Hispanic nannies walking the streets of Park Slope with white children. There are few more dramatic statements of where we are and where we need to go than this one.)

We also need to advocate for policy changes that will force political leaders to talk to everyone, rather than segment the populace like radio markets. The use of Instant Runoff Voting in our Citywide and/or Statewide primary elections, for example, would both save money and promote greater unity. Yes, the end result may be more conservative than you or I may want, but we will not be carved up as we are today based upon our political "bloc". The other institutional change is to move our primary elections back to June. This would allow voters real time to consider differences between the parties and diminish the focus on differences between Democratic candidates.

Finally, there must be boroughwide and citywide efforts to transcend the boundaries at the local level and pull people together in a different way. The same hard work and respect needed to bridge the blue state-red state gap is needed between racial and ethnic groups here in New York City. It is my hope to build a political organization, New Brooklyn Leadership, that will move in this direction -- boroughwide with local chapters.

To be continued ...


David Michaelson 1

Friday, November 18, 2005

A Piece On DFNYC

I held many leadership positions at both my high school and college, but both robbed me of my sense of belonging, in Nepal for being a Madhesi, in Kentucky for being non-white. My anger is not of some looney lefty. I have seen the system from inside out. And in both places there are people in powerful positions whose fantassy it is to have a cup of tea with me. They can not behave when they had a chance, they will not apologize when their moment has passed, but they want to just hang out, which is their idea of cementing the social structure that was what was offensive in the first place. And my goal is not of revenge. I stake out policy positions. The relationship between racism and me is the relationship between cancer and a doctor. My approach is scientific. I am a progressive. There are people I care about, like the dollar a day crowd. It is more a delight in ideas than any anger at anything that drives me.

I moved to NYC with great hopes. And I am not disappointed. This is the city to be in: the progressive capital of the world, the capital of the world, period. Every time I walk the streets, every time I ride the train, I fall in love with the city all over again.

I came into the city to cultivate my business ideas, and I even met a venture capitalist who claimed to have met Bill Gates in 1983, before he became Bill Gates. Recently I got another feeler out of the blue from another venture capitalist in California. But what has ended up taking almost all my time has been Nepal. When the Maoists declared their unilateral ceasefire, I showed up at the Public Advocate candidate Norman Siegel's campaign headquarters to volunteer: that was my idea of celebrating. It felt like I had my head under water for a long time, and finally I got to come up for air. I bumped into Heather and Leila there!

It is quite a lifestyle. You eat into your savings to do full time political work. But then it is not as reckless as it might look at first sight. Nepal is one of the top three hot spots on the planet. I am part of the peace conversation at the highest levels. If I can get myself more integrated, and if there is peace, I could end up a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. I mean, if this is like 1776 in Nepal and if a document I have written ends up the constitution of the country and turns it into the number one democracy on the planet, then what are you looking at? (Proposed Constitution)

That is not why I have been working on it: I got into it for emotional reasons. But the Nobel thing dawned onto me somewhere along the way. That would be a million dollars to perhaps start a company, or put it away in a solid investment portfolio and draw a modest annual $100,000 and dedicate myself full time to Dean 2008 as the volunteer Campaign Chair.

I am very proud of the work I have been doing for Dean 2008, mostly at the level of ideas. And I am really proud of this spectrum I chalked out:

The Spectrum/Dialogue Concept Is Key To Power

I think this would be the least disruptive way of managing social change.

Getting involved with DFNYC has been central to my NYC move. I was beginning to feel a sense of belonging. But yesterday I broke off. I announced I was switching from DFNYC to hip hop.

Two nights back I went to this hip hop event. DFNYC Leila emailed me this free pass to the event. I have always loved dancing to this music. I just did not have a name for it. I mean I was aware of the term. But I had not put the two together. Too bad we did not bump into each other: the place was big. Like huge. I was so into it, some media types took my pictures.

By now DFNYC has become hard. There is this gap of communication. I have tremendous respect for the political knowledge and skill of the organization's two leaders, Heather and Tracey. But I believe there has come forth this communication meltdown.

For me it is all one continuum: face time, phone, email, blog entry. But even face time ease has evaporated. And I find the dichotomy between face time and the rest disconcerting. My land line number is on my homepage!

Race has to be discussed, gender has to be discussed. In detached ways. I think that throws a lot of my comrades off balance. And then my ideas at the blog can also get disconcerting. The organization appears reluctant to get out of the groove, its set patterns, the comfort zone.

And once in a while there are undertones of race and class. If this is the leading DFA group in the country, the leading progressive group, it better act like it. Every person should feel comfortable, regardless of race, gender and class. And if there are mistakes made, we talk about it, and move on. But for that honor system to work, you need ground rules. Like, no racist comments, real and uintended. When the unintended happens, it gets pointed out, apologies are made, and everyone moves on. The relationship moves to a whole new level. It deepens. Because none of us are sqeaky clean. We all have our weak moments. But as long as we intend to heal, those moments can be turned into strength. You engage in healing dialogue.

I mean, DFNYC could really grow. There would be no off season.

If Eliot Spitzer is destined to become Governor with over 70% of the vote, why did the black Democrat who lost the race for Governor against Pataki lose? Do white Dems abandon minority candidates like that? How do white Deaniacs feel about that? Is it happening? Is it not happening? I am new to town. I don't know many details. But you bet I will be asking these questions. That is the progressive thing to do. At this point dialogue is all I am asking for. I am not complaining, at least not yet. I don't have alternatives to offer, at least not in detailed forms. But race is a topic that has to be talked. People who ignore the topic ring alarm bells in my mind.

Bonding is a good to a great thing. But old racist, sexist social bonds - soup - have to be broken, and new, progressive bonds have to be established. If cutting edge progressives can not handle it, what luck do we have with the population at large?

For now, some time off. Hip hop.

Off to Webster Hall.

If You Want To