Friday, November 25, 2005
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
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
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
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
Ice Breakers - Exercises To Get Things Started!
Leadership - Icebreakers, Warm-up, Review, and Motivators Activities
Icebreakers to Inspire Communication : Eslflow webguide
BREAK THE ICE
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
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.
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.
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.
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, www.democrats.org. 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.
DNC, 430 S. Capitol St. SE, Washington DC 20003
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.