Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Is This An Obama Party?"

December 18: Crash The Party

About two hours into the party, an Indian guy who I had never met before and who had just arrived approached me and asked in earnest, "Is this an Obama party?" This might even have been his first political event in the city. He knew it was a party, and he knew it was political. But he was kind of surprised that every direction he looked into, people were flashing Obama stickers on their chests.

That question was the best part of the party for me. Totally made my day. I was dancing for hours after that, sweating it out, dressed all in black. I have taken to dressing all in black. I hate the tie, I don't like the shirt. But the rest feels fine. And I especially like the feel of an overcoat. So I was kind of not okay that there was a compulsory coat check in. But that was probably a good idea. The overcoat might have gotten in the way of the dance.

The first two hours, you could barely move. Twice at the bar I gave up. The waitress just would not even look in my direction. She was so busy. The place was jampacked.

At first I could barely locate a face I knew. Well, not true. Dave Pollak was outside, talking to someone. From my very first conversation Pollak struck me as someone who would happily politic for food money. Such people are rare to find. But for all that hard core aspect to his politicking, he is also so very pleasant as a person. He has high emotional intelligence. When Dave got on Facebook, someone was like, someone buy Dave a beer, Dave is now on Facebook. I left a comment on his Facebook wall. Facebook is 2.o, face time is 5.0, Dave Pollak is a master of 5.0. I was superkinetic 5.0 myself. But then that was before experiencing institutional racism at Berea as SGA President, and then all that time spent on the road (before you take over a country, it is a good idea to take a good look at it, Barack will take over on my behalf, how about that), and two intense years spent online for Nepal, a zombie existence. I admitted to atrophied social muscles. But at some level I feared I might have lost my original 5.0 presence, the hyperkinetic self.

I am happy to have been proven false. My business partner, my man Friday with my startup ("You raise round 1, I will raise round 3, I already got a solid lead, we will skip round 2") and I, when we meet in person, the conversations are multidimensional, better than what I feared I might have lost. It is because we move seamlessly between 2.0 and 5.0. 2.0 to us is not email. Email we just use to ping each other.

On that count these political organizations in Manhattan are dud. They are so f_____g 2.0 deficient. This has been true for me for DFNYC, and all organizations that followed. It is like you can meet and talk and really feel like you are, you know, talking to someone. And then you go home and shoot an email, and it is like you just shot an email into outer space. They just don't recognize the email. And that also applies to the Mistry guy at DFNYC. He is Indian. Desi.

I met Leila. And the last time I had met her was the summer bash of DL21C. That makes me think, I think I should also cut to doing two DL21C events a year. And so we meet. And she introduces me to her friend she is with. And she warms up. And we talk. And it is a good feeling. It feels so very real. And she gives this goodbye hug before leaving. She leaves early. She lives on Long Island. She used to live in Manhattan. White-black flight. She is like Barack, she is both. During my DFNYC phase, I interacted with her the most.

And I am looking at Leila and I am kind of laughing to myself. Tomorrow I am going to shoot her an email, and it is going to be like I shot it into outer space.

I don't think I am ever going to run for public office. This s___t is too slow. I can't think of any office I might want to run for. I am not a blogger. I am a digital democrat. There's a difference. Politics is my baseball. My business partner is into gaming. He lives near Union Square. He was showing off his latest gadgets. Impressive stuff. Obama 2008 is my gaming, I told him. It keeps me sharp in terms of group dynamics.

Elizabeth Caputo once tried to get me to come onto "the DL21C steering committee." I don't think I ever said no, but I think I got scared. The word committee scared me. She has persistently tried to get me to at least become a "member." I have said no. I don't blame her for wanting. If you look at this past year and more, the only person who attended more DL21C events than me is her. I did not realize that until she got persistent.

So if you are the second most regular person, why not just f____g formalize this s___t? Plus, you save money. I think I have already paid more money to DL21C than members do.

Okay, so this is what I am saying. If you want me to get more involved, let me videoblog your events. If I were to enhance my DL21C involvement, that would be it. Can't be committee. When I think event planning logistics, I get headaches. I am going to die a slow death if I were to get into event planning logistics for DL21C. I have a specialty. I think presidential politics. I think of having Third World dictators for breakfast, on my plate. That's my specialty. I necessarily have to keep sharp my killer instincts. I am completely nonviolent, nonviolent as a cockroach, but nonviolent militancy asks for killer instincts. I fear committee. I would not mind sitting on a committee, I already sit on the executive committee of my company that is in formation. I am the top guy. I run the show. So it's not committee I fear. I guess I'd be willing to sit on the DL21C steering committee if that committee were to agree to become seamlessly both 2.0 and 5.0. I will join DL21C if DL21C will go completely digital.

And this is not a technology challenge. All the tech tools are freely available online and as easy as point and click. It is about changing the group dynamics of the operation. You make 2.0 and 5.0 seamless, and you add as much transparency as possible into your operation.

Every time DL21C has a fancy guest speaker I have felt, what a waste. An event like that that is not videoblogged is a wasted event.

I tried that with DFNYC people. They are like, no way, you can't blog these events. I thought that was so dumb. You put so much energy to put it together. You put so much energy to publicize it. You want as many people as possible to know. But you don't want it blogged?

DL21C has an antique website. I see cobwebs on it when I visit it. That website was designed soon after Al Gore invented the internet. If only DL21C were to videoblog all its major events and display them on the site, the organization could grow like Drinking Liberally. DL has grown right in front of my eyes. Like rabbits birthing babies. Now they are all over the place. DL21C, the NYC chapter, would get a national audience that it deserves to.

It is so easy to do.

So that is my counter offer.

In this city I think more than 60% of the people are nonwhite. But at these Manhattan political events almost all people are white. That is not racist. There is no sign outside saying only whites are allowed. But it sure is racial.

But white is not the attraction. I am a progressive. That is my political religion. NYC is a progressive city. It sure is the capital city of the world. Most people who I meet at these events don't realize what this city means to me. Before I moved into this city, I was gasping for air. This city is sacred to me.

And I am not naive. This is no city of angels. But this city is sacred to me precisely for the package deal that it is. I live in Little Bangladesh. I ride the train. Both are cheap. But they feel so very good. I am not home, but I am in Little Bangladesh. Nepal did not have space for me, the mini Nepal of NYC is no different. There are, broadly speaking, two kinds of people in Nepal, the Pahadis and the Madhesis. I am Madhesi. We are about 45% of the population, but of the 30,000 plus Nepalis in NYC, maybe 30 are Madhesi. That is how the filter in Nepal works against the Madhesi. The Pahadi in NYC I got closest to I later learned had not even grown up in Nepal, he had grown up in Hong Kong. You felt the prejudice vibes from eveyone else. And these are people who at one point elected me convenor for a meeting of all the Nepali organizations in the city. Unanimously. But then they went ahead and sabotaged the meeting that was to take place six months later. Can't believe we let this guy talk us into voting for him.

I told my "let's go for world travel" business partner, I will take you on an all India tour February 2009, so you can meet people to whom I am MLK. Recently I suggested a name for a large Madhesi party. That is the name they went for.

That is the beauty of 2.0. You can do Madhesi, you can do Obama 2008, and you can build a company.

Plentiful use of 2.0 for me is about interacting at the post-ISMs individual level. This city is not that innocent. I wrote a paper years ago about how Wall Street and Capitol Hill were the two most racist, sexist places on the planet. They are tools of power. I know power, I have an instinct for it. I can smell the contours.

You can not have an ambitious startup like mine and not appreciate all that knowledge that goes into creating wealth. I have a very sophisticated take on race. Like I told my business partner, I am so mad at the racism in the world that I want all countries to become democracies, that is my number one anti-racism agenda. But then I am also mad at the super sexism in India.

That sharpness comes from wanting to create post-ISMs individual group dynamics. That comes from meshing 2.0 and 5.0 seamlessly.

I feel the serial killer thing with Dave Pollak. They say serial killers know each other. The top politicians in Nepal know me the same way. I was at an event with some visiting Nepali MPs near Jackson Heights. One MP got off stage and came to sit two seats from me in the front row and asked his picture to be taken, but felt embarrassed, and so he explained it away saying he wanted the crowd in the background.

It is not about hierarchy. I actually make a point to stay away from politicians. I am picky. It is about being able to smell. You feel it. It is not about the chair he holds. But good thing there is that superimposition. But I don't follow local and state politics at all. I felt so bad when Hillary floundered the undocumented worker driver's license question. You mean Spitzer has been working on this and having a hard time? If I had known, I would have thrown myself into it like I threw myself into Nepal's democracy movement, and into Obama 2008. It would have been a one issue thing for me, just a small aside.

I got to shake Justin Krebs' hand. That guy is an entrepreneur. A political entrepreneur. I am very impressed with his thing. His is the only Manhattan organization that is so very national. If Spitzer ever wants to go national, he is going to want to become best friends with this guy. DL is throwing its own holiday party on Thursday. I dig the 99 cent pizza place near Rudys'. I have the same affection for it that I used to have for Walmart before I moved into the city. There is something in that business model.

I have taken to wearing all black. Is that a statement? Is that a phase?

There is no hierarchy. When you mesh 2.0 and 5.0, you create this scalable infrastructure that just provides a malleable platform for everyone who wants to get involved. You call it cloud. It is cloud group dynamics.

If DL21C will go for it, I make my counter offer, I am willing to talk.

Next year I am going to have a dozen or two part timers in India working for me, maybe more. That is still group dynamics, but that is 2.0 exclusively. I am going to have to have some 5.0 group dynamics locally. To stay sharp.

Most of that is going to be Obama 2008. But once we Obama people take the city on February 5, a foregone conclusion, we are the new establishment. Make room. The thing about NYC is even white people are progressive. And when they are not, they are so easy to drop off. You never seem them again.

I have been in the city over two years. The hardest part for me has been to explain as to what exactly it is that I do. Cloud is not really cutting edge for people who are into 2.0. Web 2.0 is like electricity. Pre-electricity, and post-electricity are two very different scenarios. Pre-2.0 and post-2.0 are the same way. 2.0 impacts everything. I guess the white, progressive, Manhattan organizations are going to have to meet me half way. They are already great at 5.0. They should mesh all that into 2.0.

Women are different. In case you have not noticed. A long long time back I said to a friend, you know, when a woman looks at a human face, she sees different stuff than what you and I see. They have eyes like flies. They see a much richer texture. Do you agree or disagree?

I don't know for sure, but women might have an edge in terms of 5.0. Look at it this way. TV is not interactive. But the internet is. You can click. You can not only read, but also send email. But isn't face time just so much more interactive? There is immediate, constant feedback, emotionally loaded.

Women are not unequal, but they are different. Asians are not unequal, but that is a different heritage.

When I moved to the city, I was so delighted by the subway. It felt so good to not need a car. Cabs look like cars. Trains are more spacious, more peopled. But people do the cab thing. Are you taking a cab? The other day after a party, this guy is like, let's take a cab. He is a great guy to be with, but I was tempted to tell him, you don't look rich to me, nobody does.

The subway is the most New York City thing there is.

When I moved into NYC, socially I landed at DFNYC. We were Dean 2004 alumni. So it was a good start. I think at some level I did like Tracey. I was new in the city, single. She had a boyfriend a continent away. But I was also upfront about the fact that not only was I not rich, I was not even looking for work. I moved to the city to start my company but got sucked into doing full time zombie work for Nepal, that was not planned. There was this 2.0 and 5.0 tension. It was jarring to me. I am not seeing things. I looked in your direction and saw you liked. I did the 2.0 thing. If that does not work for you, you do the 5.0 thing. America is not that less sexist a country compared to India. Women will hint, punish. But all that milk boiled over. A few days before she was to fly off to Europe for six months, I threw the bomb. She got on the phone and totally humiliated me. It is not "cute," she said. She also mentioned cab. I am like, okay, now live by those words. The guy who wrote papers at the last minute. But the following day, from a few events to the train station, her pendulum was swinging the other way. In 5.0 she was acting different. But my defense mechanism gave me the lag time of a few hours. And this was before I cleaned myself up through an online autobiography. Kentucky memories were still bothering me. I felt like screaming, give me a conversation. There were so many memories and issues to sort through.

She came back from Europe and the April Revolution happened, and it was all over the local media, and she had a relapse on me. It was not like I decided to not go or go for it, my attitude was like, this feels like a conspiracy to deprive me of my conversation. What, if anything, are you saying? You don't have to do the 2.0 thing, but if 5.0 is your thing, what, if anything, are you saying even in 5.0? I can look in your direction and see someone who likes me, but if you can't bring yourself to say it, and by the time you are out of my face, I am nonexistent already.

The non-sexist version of courting is, first, it is hard enough to communicate when people are really trying to communicate. It becomes unnecessarily harder when people don't try to communicate. You can keep your money. A Larry Ellison wife dumped him for a Harvard MBA.

But then Tracey went to Europe, and Heather is like, oh no, now this guy is going to hit on me. I am the only other. She promptly got herself a boyfriend. Sorry, not available.

Very new in the city, I found myself emailing back and forth with Leila. After a few questions, I said, you know, I think you are so very cute, I like you, how would you like to? She said she had a boyfriend, and we had pleasant conversations ever since at the many events thereafter.

This city is merciless. People have worked hard to get wherever they are at. And so I try to be upfront about money. I don't have it. I will have a ton. And you don't have to believe me saying it.

Someone told me once, you meet someone in NYC for three minutes, and you will never see them again. For the most part that is true. But the political organizations are different. You know about 50 people, and you keep seeing them again and again. It feels like a small town.

Towards the end of the party when the floor was almost empty, I found Lewis Cohen. He was drunk drunk. "Lewis, you are a good man."

"You are a liar," he said.

The first time I ever met Elizabeth Caputo. It was a DL21C event. This lady who is now Senator for Missouri. I had no idea she was a DL21C person, let alone the DL21C person, Caputo. I was standing with Krebs who I had come to know. The first Krebs event I went to, he saw me go for hot dogs, he ordered pizza for everybody.

Caputo dug into me.

"Where did you go to school?"

"I went to a school in Kentucky?"

"What school? What's the name?"

"It's a school called Berea College."

"I know Berea."

"You have heard of Berea?" I was surprised.

"I am from Indiana."

She mentioned something about financial aid.

"Berea has the best financial aid program of any school in America, second to none. Listen Harvard," I said and teasingly gave a side swap to Krebs who was standing next to me.

Ends up she is not only from Indiana and knows Berea, she also went to Harvard herself. A friend of hers was holding a statewide elected office in Kentucky.

Then she hit the ball out of the park. "I beat him!" That floored me. I am like, hmm. You beat him for a student election at school?

Right until that point I was used to saying I was a refugee into New York City from KY/IN. And here was somebody who was feeling like she had found a homeboy in me, someone who knows her state. I do know Indiana like the back of my hand. She did manage to dig a part of me that is KY and IN.

My feeling was, okay, pause, wait a minute. She is being so nice, but she is from Indiana. This is a problem.

To be fair, I come from a part of the world where gender is today where race was in the US South half a century ago. If you were to react to where I come from on gender, you should call the cops on me every time you see me. Things are bad back there. And I might have shared that over email. I know I did.

But then politically I am thinking. Okay, granted you get famous people to show up, but how hard can this be? You call up some bar and you are done. I was not impressed.

After an event, I emailed her: great event. We are all your fans, she said. Not only was she from Indiana, and she was being nice, now she, the dynamo of the top political organization in the city, someone who beat some guy who is about to become US Senator from Kentucky, no, you are not going to be a fan of me. I am a nobody. This is too much of a shock value. I have had a hard enough time getting taken seriously. Just ask Lewis Cohen. After Nepal's April Revolution, his attitude is like, now you have to go through me if you want to go anywhere in New York City politics.

We all read your blog, she said.

Well, I was just emailing to say you were looking great yesterday. And the email system froze or something. No response.

And so I googled her up. There was this one small paragraph from some speech she had given at some Harvard gathering. She had played a major role in the campaign of the last black guy who ran for governor of New York. And she had run Wes Clerk's entire northeast operation when he ran for president.

And I am thinking, this is not just calling up some bar and you are done thing. This is big league.

This was hard core. I emailed that paragraph to her and said, you owe me a conversation. I am a nobody, but if you can say "we are all your fans," I think you should at least give me a conversation. I wanted to download her two campaign experiences. No such luck.

Lady, you are out there in the deep waters, I said.

What is your number, she emailed. I emailed my number. What is your number, I emailed. No response.

Months later another banker did that to me, a Harvard Law classmate of Barack. What is your number, he emails. I email my number. What is your number, I ask, to return the courtesy. No response. A few weeks later he friended me on Facebook and his number is displayed on his profile but I have never called him.

I wrote a blog entry called the 12 year itch. I put in a Republican, Asian woman in that profile. But Caputo still got scared. Her friend in Kentucky. I know the wife of his chief of staff. I told her, tell that guy, it is 2008 or never if he wants to be Senator.

Today's holiday party was de ja vu. Caputo did what she did at the summer bash. It gets so confusing for me.

I am a word person. You are going to have to use words if you want to communicate with me. In person, on the phone, or over email. I like email best with the provisio that I am open to all three. The whole idea behind 2.0 is space and time are irrelvant. Humans don't become irrelevant in 2.0. The whole point behind 2.0 is to enrichen 5.0.

I saw arranged marriages in India. I saw social segregation in Kentucky. And NYC is not that innocent. Communication is hard enough when people use words.

And, by the way, we Obama people are taking this city on February 5.

As a young community organizer in Chicago, Barack and his small staff were sitting dejected because noone had showed up for a meeting. And then a few seniors streamed into the church basement. Barack told his sfaff, see, I told you, they will come.

"Is this where the bingo game is at?" one of the seniors asked.

December 18: Crash The Party

In The News

Clinton's lead over Obama shrinks in new state poll San Francisco Chronicle, USA Clinton's robust 25-point lead over Sen. Barack Obama in California has shrunk by nearly half since October ..... 1 in 5 Democrats is undecided - a number that has nearly doubled since early last year.
Obama toughens campaign trail persona; Clinton shows a softer side Boston Globe In their last-minute efforts to reach out to voters, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have reversed their appeals. Clinton, who spent most of the campaign communicating her confidence and readiness to lead, is now emphasizing her life story and her sensitivity to voters' concerns. Obama, who spent most of the campaign communicating his life story and sensitivity to voters' concerns, is now emphasizing his confidence and readiness to lead. ...... Clinton projecting more humility and Obama a greater sense of command. ...... Obama skipped those biographical points. He also smiled less and spoke with a more insistent tone. .... an adult politician, drawing sharp lines on issues. ....... "I have fought my entire career for reducing money in politics," he said, and then told how he once chewed out a fellow senator. The unnamed senator, Obama explained, had privately questioned the Obama-backed ban on lobbyists paying for senators' meals, saying, "Do you want me to eat at McDonalds?" .... "And I said: 'A lot of your constituents eat at McDonalds. But you earn more than $160,000 per year. You can eat at Applebee's. Go upscale.' " ....... he didn't want to "wake up" and find problems like global warming, healthcare, and wars in the Middle East out of control........ Obama's harder edge seemed designed to counter the Clinton campaign's depiction of him as naïve. ...... childhood friends choking up with affection for her; parents of ill children thanking her for efforts on their behalf ........ She said her decision to work on behalf of children was based on her mother having been left on her own at age 13 by her divorced parents. Then, speaking softly, she talked of walking into apartments and seeing children unable to go to school because no one would take them.

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