PDHblog This is a place for members of Progressive Democrats of Hawai‘i to express their thoughts, hopes and exasperations about political happenings.

April 14, 2017


I posted this as run-on comment on someone else’s Facebook thread dealing with the war in Syria and criticizing Tulsi’s views, as well as criticizing progressives generally for not being out in the streets protesting Assad’s brutal regime.

Since I put so much time into it, I figured I would post it on this blog so more people could see it and comment. Just be (semi-)civil, will you? Trolls not welcome.

A word to help explain the immediate context: A friend had posted a link to an interview with a very thoughtful Syrian progressive, who looks very close to what we would envision a moderate Syrian opposition figure to look like, to sound like. This friend was also chastising American progressives for not launching a large anti-war movement focused upon the brutal nature of the Assad regime.

Please, do not make this too much about Tulsi, either pro or con. Let’s try to focus on principles here, not personalities.
I disagree that it is harder today to know what is “progressive” and what is “imperialist.” It has always been true that there are brutal leaders, generals, kings, emperors, warlords doing horrible things around the world. Seriously. Give me a year when that has not been true.

But it is also true, and a lot of people seem to be wanting to ignore this, that there are other, powerful forces, whose hands are not clean, who seek to dominate other countries, other people’s, in order to extract resources, gain markets, seize land, secure ports, build bases, etc. while I will not excuse what the Japanese did during WWII, or assume the Chinese do not have a history if their own imperialism, I am rooted in the “western” experience, Western history, particularly that of Western Europe and North America. And I am a citizen of the United States of America.
As such, I have more influence (tiny though it may be) and more responsibility to make sure the drive of “my” government to dominate other countries, other people, is restrained, is fettered by my actions. Our primary responsibility is to stay the hand of US imperialism.

I am not an isolationist. I have demonstrated my internationalist bonafides in my youth by traveling through the dangerous conditions in Central America at the time the USG was sponsoring death squads and dictatorships while Reagan was president. I went to see firsthand the struggle of the people of Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua against the US government’s policies. I went to the Philippines in the early years of the Aquino regime to see the benefits of 80 years of US colonialism and learn from the struggle of the Filipino people.

I am not just “an American,” I am a “citizen of the world.” And a human being.

The questions of balancing my responsibilities as both a citizen of the US, operating within the US system, within “American” society and my responsibilities as a human being, sympathetic to the condition of other human beings facing often horrible conditions and often struggling bravely is a question I have wrestled with for a long time.

Other people have wrestled with this, so there are models, principles, even laws, which can help inform this discussion. It is not as if this is the first example of a brave person in a foreign land hoping for help in the struggle against oppression. Is it “heartless” to calm one’s emotions to clarify our thinking? I think it is foolish to not do so.

Fully recognizing a lot of the intellectual frameworks for analyzing our problems have been developed by the elite, I would still hold that the framework of the “Just War” doctrine is valuable, as is the principle of “the right to national self-determination.” These ideas have been codified, imperfectly, of course, in the Charter of the United Nations and other institutions. Yes, the UN suffers from structural defects, the most obvious being the veto power of the Security Council, dominated by the world’s “superpowers” most inclined towards imperialist projects themselves.

The right to national self-determination is also an imperfect conception. What is a “nation”? What about the rights to other, sub-national groups within the territory claimed by a nation? Do they not also have rights? If so, what protects them from the brutality of a national government? What are the rights of a country’s people in a time of war? During a civil war?

I think that framework is helpful if we are trying to sort out our responsibilities. In the age of the internet, we all, especially citizens/consumers/viewers in the wealthy, dominant countries, are bombarded with information about horrible conditions in other countries and our heartstrings are tugged at.

I saw Tulsi criticized for being a “part-time peacenik.” Sorry, I think being a “part-time peacenik” is ALMOST the best we can hope for in a serious person. I say that with a hat tip to Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King and others. Nelson Mandela was a “part-time peacenik” as well.

Please don’t use that as an insult unless you are, yourself, a full-time pacifist. And IF you are a fulltime pacifist, you will likely understand how very difficult it is to maintain that stance and would not insult another person who aspires but who finds they cannot rule out the use of military force. I saw someone who insinuates they are a pacifist criticize the USG for blocking the sale of artillery to the non-ISIL, anti-Assad armed forces. (Things that make you go hmmm.)

The reason a peace movement has not arisen, marching in the streets, besieging Congress on the basis of protesting Assad’s brutal dictatorship is because it is unclear what demands we would be making on whom. Because such energy would very likely be diverted into supporting increased military violence under the banner of “humanitarian interventionism.” We have just witnessed how compassion for the victims of brutal dictators, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi being the most recent, most obvious examples, has been used to unleash mass violence by “our” imperialist government and has unambiguously MADE THINGS WORSE. Which is consistent with the guidance we find in the Just War doctrine: that using military violence is not justified unless there is a strong probability it will lead to a better outcome.

So, like it or not, Tulsi’s criticisms of the doctrine of using military violence for “regime change” is correct. Her call for an investigation by a neutral, legitimate authority of the facts surrounding the alleged chemical attack is also correct. Her insistence that the president cannot be allowed to launch a missile strike based upon a sudden shift in his attitude, without consulting congress and seeking authorization by the United Nations, is also correct.

Attempts to portray her as heartless, as an apologist for Assad (or Putin), for being a political opportunist, are noise, are “static,” distracting us from seeing things clearly. On these key, fundamental points, she is emphasizing the main principles we have previously adopted, in calmer times, as the signposts to guide us towards a just and rational policy.

March 22, 2017

Is the Democratic Party “Progressive”?

Filed under: DNC,Elections,HI Politics,Legislature,strategy — Bart @ 9:23 am

Someone asked on Facebook if the Democratic Party of Hawaii is more aligned with the progressive views of Bernie Sanders or the more corporatist views of Hillary Clinton. This was my response:

It depends upon what you mean by “the Democratic Party.” Yes, 70% of those who voted in the caucuses last march voted for the more progressive candidate who supports those policies. So if we take a snapshot of that moment and define the “party” as those who showed up then, that would say “yes.” But slightly less than half the delegates to the state convention were Bernie supporters. Democracy is not just about showing up and leaving. It is about sticking around and doing the follow up work.

To be fair, some of the Clinton supporters also support “universal healthcare and free college and a robust education initiative and raising of the minimum wage.” So it is not just Bernie supporters within the Party who hold those views.

Delegates to the state convention elected people to the State Central Committee, which is the top policy group, the “board of directors” for the state party. Unfortunately, Bernie supporters, and progressives generally, are a minority of the SCC. For the party to become more progressive, we must elect more progressives, whether Bernie or Clinton supporters, to the SCC and other party positions. It is the SCC which pushes, or not, for the party to be more bold in pushing for progressive policies AND encouraging participation of progressives within the party.
We have plenty of Regressives within the party. Some can legitimately be called “corporatists, but many of them are more “careerist,” looking for jobs, using politics to advance their careers, feel important, reward their friends, sometimes their employers.

Also at the state convention, the party adopted a very progressive platform. The party adopted support for single-payer healthcare a number of years ago, with the prodding of stalwarts of the Americans for Democratic Action-Hawaii. I remember George Simson, in particular, being an early advocate, insisting we had to use that term. So even before the massive “Bernie Enrollment,” in many ways, the party’s official position on many issues has been very progressive.

This year, the Legislative Committee of the SCC has adopted a very ambitious legislative agenda, trying to turn those “official positions” into legislation, lobbying Democratic legislators to pass them. Our lobbying effort is only as strong as the effectiveness of our ability to persuade lawmakers to support such legislation. That requires we mobilize and train an army of party members as citizen-lobbyists. We are moving in that direction, but we are not there yet.

On paper, we have nearly 100,000 party members, meaning people who not only vote Democratic but who took the extra step of signing a party card. We need to engage those members in party activities, especially in lobbying legislators. There are 51 House districts. So, on paper, we have about 2,000 party members in an average district. Can we develop a dozen party members as citizen-lobbyists in each of those districts, responsible for developing effective lines of communication with their representative? That will mean volunteering to help their campaigns, maybe even attend their fundraisers (or bartend at one). It means watching what they do, asking them questions and become a “player,” a potential ally (or a potential critic, if necessary) in their district.

Because we have vestiges of genuine democracy left in our electoral system, one of the most effective means for “persuading” reluctant legislators is to support another Democrat as a challenger in the primary election. A word here, some new party members think there is value in running a challenger against any and all incumbents. That is naive thinking. Progressives have limited resources and must set priorities, Not every incumbent deserves to be fired. Those who have not only voted “right” but who have proven effective in getting progressive legislation passed, or junk legislation blocked, DESERVE to be re-elected.

Some party members, impatient at the gap between the progressive platform of the party and the legislation coming out of the Big Square Building, despite six decades of Democratic control, want to use the Rules of the Party as a cudgel for punishing Democratic lawmakers who vote contrary to the party platform. In general, that is not a good idea. THAT is worthy of another discussion in itself. The problem is a POLITICAL one. And we must create the political conditions, in each House and Senate district, that “allows the better angels” in each legislator’s heart to flourish, to dominate their calculations. Or, we have to have enough support in that district to replace them with someone better.

The upcoming county conventions provide an opportunity for party members to become more active, to learn the rhythms, the personalities, the forces, within each county party, as well as to network with like-minded people so we can strengthen our political and social ties and become an effective team. It would be VERY helpful if we can elect a progressive, or at least a FAIR chair on each county. One who is transparent and who encourages participation from those members who want to get more involved. There is a lot of energy, a lot of progressive energy, available, waiting to be tapped. But it also has to be trained, guided. So long as that “training” is not intended to stifle initiative and slam the door in the face of new members. If a district or county leader consistently says your help is not needed–and we saw a LOT of that last spring as Bernie supporters tried to volunteer to help with the caucuses–that leader should be replaced by someone who is able to find a way for you to get engaged. And to learn.

So the “Democratic Party” has the potential to be progressive, has strong progressive tendencies inherent within it, but we have to do the hard work to actualize that potential. We ARE growing.

NOTE: the original FB post can be found here, along with comments from others and further remarks by me:

July 6, 2016

Why Governor Ige Should Have Vetoed SB2501. Why He Didn’t

HB2501, as indicated by the Conference Committee report is meant to “to allow the Board of Land and Natural Resources to authorize the holder over of a previously authorized water rights lease during the pendency of an application to renew the lease.” The situation which the bill seeks to remedy exists in only one instance, which the O‘ahu First Circuit Court addressed in its ruling earlier this year. In fact, even the Deputy Attorney General arguing the case said, “This is a unique situation.”

The Conference Committee, in an attempt to lend further reasoning in support of the bill, raised, in its report, the specter of losing Important Agricultural Lands (IAL) to reclassification should a minimum of 3,500 gallons per acre per day (GAD) not be readily available and the bill fail to become law. While the However, before any of the 27,000 IAL acres might be reclassified, there would certainly be contested case hearings to determine the validity of such a petition. What’s more, the Waiahole Decision set the minimum GAD for diversified agriculture at a minimum of 2,500 GAD, or an average of 3,500 GAD, set by the Department of Agriculture. So, while the Conference Committee attempts in its report to scare the bejesus out of anyone who cares about the lost of IAL, their claim only helps to make transparent their real intent of giving Alexander and Baldwin (A&B) pretty much whatever they want.

What’s more, way back in 2000, A&B filed an application for a 30-year long-term lease to access 33,000 acres of public land for the purpose of diverting an unspecified amount of water from public lands. A year later, with approval still pending from the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR), taro farmers on Maui filed for a contested case hearing on A&B’s long-term lease application. In June, 2003 BLNR finally approved the long-term lease application, at which point the taro farmers appealed the decision to the courts, as no Environmental Impact Statement was completed, as required by HRS 343.

Had A&B and BLNR followed the law more than a decade ago, we might not be talking about this right now.

Still, despite panic raised by A&B and DLNR that other revocable permit holders could find themselves in a similar predicament, there’s no evidence or reason to believe that would actually happen. The ongoing struggle and litigation against A&B is a unique situation where they are diverting large amounts of water, for arguably unknown reasons, and in the process harming farmers downstream. DLNR admits no other litigation is pending other than the ongoing cause against A&B. It’s also important to point out that there are other remedies that could address this issue, without this legislation:

  • Seeking a stay of enforcement from the court while the decision is on appeal,
  • BLNR could issue a new very limited revokable permit to A&B (such as only for upcountry residents and with specific GAD figures for diversified agriculture with directions to complete an Environmental Impact Statement for those uses (which DLNR had previously directed A&B to do), possibly to include water diversion until Dec. 2016,
  • DLNR contacts all other revokable permit holders to outline the future implementation so that they have certainty about what to expect,
  • DLNR sets regulations to address the concerns of transparency, public trust resources, and the needs of the other revokable permit holders, such as the Ka‘u ranchers, for example,
  • Separately, the Water Commission could immediately set interim in-stream flow standards for East Maui streams that are in place while the larger decision about the future of agriculture in central Maui is decided.

It’s also important to note that, even without a revokable permit, or this bill, A&B can still divert significant amounts of water from watersheds it owns: as much as 55 million gallons a day. It also has access to well water that can pump more than 83 million gallons a day.

Additionally, the public display over A&B’s announcement in April to restore flows was arguably disingenuous. In 2008, BLNR ruled that 12 million gallons per day of water should be restored among 8 streams in East Maui. Despite this order, A&B released minimal amounts of water to these streams, until their announcement in April. The public “stunt,” lent further credibility by the legislators on hand for the press conference, should serve as a reminder that A&B consistently flaunts the law, until it serves their purposes not to.

Ultimately, the situation which A&B and DLNR say this bill will address, is a result of a combination of foot dragging by the DLNR and A&B’s refusal to play by the same rules as everyone else. Had DLNR (or A&B) completed an Environmental Assessment or Impact Statement in conjunction with their initial 30-year lease application in 2003, this situation might not exist at all.

Despite all this, Governor Ige chose to sign the bill. He said, “We have a water permit process that has not been working.” This is fundamentally untrue and incorrect. Permit process WORKS for everyone except A&B, who DLNR has been giving everything they ask for… for decades, in clear and repeated violation of the law. Governor Ige goes on, “While I have major reservations about HB2501, it does provide time to transition to a press that ensures water is distributed fairly in accordance with the public trust doctrine and that decisions are made in a timely matter.”

Unfortunately, flawed reasoning and a willingness to be swept up in fears of who else might be affected, he signed the bill. While disappointing and frustrating, opponents of the bill should draw the conclusion that the Governor is just another corrupt politician, bought off by powerful and moneyed interests. Certainly there are criticisms that can be laid on the Governor, but there isn’t any evidence that he’s corrupt. Rather Ige, earned whatever political chops he may have over decades working with many politicians who ARE corrupt and in a system that is corrupt.

A&B didn’t need to sell the legislature a bill of goods about how others might be negatively affected by a failure to pass HB2501, they would have gone along willingly. The Governor, on the other hand, inevitably listened to those for whom A&B’s fear tactics were effective. Rather than risk hurting farmers, HELCO, and KIUC, Governor chose to sign the bill. He should definitely be made to feel our frustration and disappointment, but he should not be painted with the same brush as those legislators who stood shoulder to shoulder with A&B executives at the April press conference.

February 4, 2015

Tax Justice Bills in the 2015 Legislative Session

Filed under: 5Economics,Equality!,HI Politics,Legislature — Bart @ 5:19 pm


The links in the attached pdf file can be clicked on to take you to the Status Page of each bill.

Injustice at a Glance This chart shows low income Hawaii residents pay the largest portion of their income in state and local taxes. Wealthy people pay the lowest percentage. That is BACKWARDS!

Injustice at a Glance  
This chart shows low income Hawaii residents pay the largest portion of their income in state and local taxes. Wealthy people pay the lowest percentage. That is BACKWARDS!

NOTE: If you are aware of other bills which would cut taxes on lower income earners or raise taxes on wealthier people, please post the information in the comment section. We must admit, the tax justice network has been slow to get organized this year, but there are signs that is improving.

Progressive Democrats of Hawaii has long been interested in helping shift Hawaii’s tax code from its current, regressive structure to one consistent with the professed beliefs of most Democrats, namely a PROGRESSIVE code, where wealthy people pay a higher tax rate than middle income people and low income people pay the lowest rate.

Unfortunately, despite over 50 years of Democratic control over Hawaii’s tax code, the reverse is true. Low income residents pay the HIGHEST tax rate of any income group, while the wealthiest pay the lowest. Surely, this must be a mistake! If only we point it out to them, our political leaders will realize their mistake and flip our tax structure upside down!


The Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice is the leading group in Hawaii advocating for tax justice issues. People interested in finding in-depth information on the principles behind tax justice, as well as learning about their 2014 legislative proposals, should go to their website. They have been slow to update their online materials for the 2015 session, but the 2014 materials are still very informative and relevant.

They have just put up a link so you can sign up for their legislative action alerts. We highly recommend you submit testimony in support of their bills, particularly their tax proposals.

Their website is here: http://www.hiappleseed.org

Their 2014 tax justice proposals are here:

You can sign up for their legislative action alerts here:

And next time they hold a fundraiser, please condor giving them some money. They are probably the best investment you can make in social justice advocacy in Hawaii. You will get more bang for your buck with them. And, frankly, they need some staff support to help them deliver the level of high service they are capable of providing.

February 1, 2015

PDH’s 2015 Legislative Priorities

Progressive Democrats of Hawaii

2015 Legislative Priorities

We have five clusters of priority issues:


Here are some of the issues within each cluster.


1. Update our Low-Income Household Renters Credit
2. Update our Refundable Food/Excise Tax Credit
3. Create a Low-Income Workers Credit
4. Adopt a State Earned Income Tax Credit
5. Halt the Dec 31, 2015 Tax Cut for High-Income Earners


• Support county home rule on use of pesticides
• Establish Statewide buffer zones and disclosure for pesticide use
• Support diversified, sustainable, and small farms
and, if such a bill surfaces,
• Support labeling of GMO products


Support legalization of marijuana
Support de-criminalization (as a less desirable, fall-back position).


We support public financing of elections and overthrowing the Citizens United ruling


We support the development of alternative energy and oppose efforts to reinforce monopolistic control of the electric system. We need to democratize energy.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Note: these priorities are subject to change as the session continues. Bills morph, new issues arise, others fade. When allies start making progress on their bill and adding support might lead to a victory for them, we will shift over, depending upon our availability.

On each of these bills, there are other groups taking the lead, while we are providing support. If we have the relationships and knowledge to lend a hand for a good cause, we will help, so long as we do not get stretched too thin. We claim no “turf” of our own. It is the issues and the relationships which are important. Not the glory, not the press clippings we can take back to our funders.

NOTE: It would be helpful if we had the bill numbers for each of these issues. There are often multiple bills on the same matter. And, of course, there are versions in both chambers. It will take a bit of time to sort this out. If you have bill numbers which correspond to these issues, feel free to post links to the status page of the bills here. Especially if you are already tracking the bills for an organization. Let’s cooperate and work together rather than leave so many things to chance and force our activists to duplicate work which has already been done.

June 4, 2014

The Return of Political Speed Dating

In July 2006, Progressive Democrats of Hawaii (PDH), in partnership with the Americans for Democratic Action, Hawaii Chapter (ADA), sponsored a brand-new format of political forum, Political Speed Dating. The field of candidates for the Democratic nomination for the Second Congressional District was huge, ten people. On the one hand, this created a need for voters to find a way to meet all ten candidates and get a feel for both their personalities and their position on the issues.

So PDH and ADA decided to hold a public forum. But were stuck with a dilemma. So many candidates made it difficult to hold a convention panel discussion. With ten candidates, sitting side by side, answering the same question, in turn, the audience would fall asleep between questions. And, the later candidates had an unfair opportunity to steal the best replies from the many candidates speaking before them. One of our members came up with the idea of “speed dating.” I will admit, I was one of those who rejected it as a silly idea. Come on, try to be serious. So we agonized over different, more “serious” formats until, (snap!) it was obvious Shannon’s idea was not “foolish,” but a brilliant solution to a difficult problem.

This year, with a slightly smaller field of candidates (6) in the First Congressional race, we are planning to once again, hold a candidate Speed Dating event. We are hoping the candidates will be good sports and help the voters get to know them better. So far, there have not been many opportunities for a voter to hear all the candidates at the same time. We hope to provide that opportunity.

Stay tuned.

Here is a KITV News story of the joint PDH/ADA Speed dating forum for the 2010 Lt. Governor’s race:


Here is a print news story of the 2006 Congressional forum from the Star-Bulletin:


May 28, 2014

Brian Schatz v. Colleen Hanabusa: Who Represents “Change”?

Filed under: Elections,HI Politics,National Politics,US Senate Race — Bart @ 1:57 pm

US Rep. Colleen Hanabusa

US Senator Brian Schatz

Note from Bart:

The comments here represent my personal views and may not be shared by all (or even by many) other members and officers of PDH.

I have been criticized for writing lengthy comments for other online websites, but rarely for the PDH Blog. So I am posting here an extended comment I wrote on Civil Beat in reply to a reader claimed Schatz should not be seen as a candidate for change because he is “one of Abercrombie’s guys” and, therefore, the choice of the “establishment.” That reader appears to be a Tea Party rightwinger. I got a sense of that from his comment. But because some Tea Party “logic” is often found among confused voters who do not see themselves as Tea Partiers, I tried to not simply dismiss his remarks but tried to take them seriously, with the recognition his views are not unique to him or to the TP crowd, but are being pushed by some Hanabusa supporters as well.

Here is the article on the Civil Beat website, a report on the latest poll which shows Schatz leading Hanabusa by 5 percentage points. The original article, of course, is more worthy than my lengthy comments, so feel free to leave here to go there.


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Johnny, Let me take a moment to address your comments.


First off, I suggest the assertion Schatz is “one of Abercrombie’s guys” is not useful for analyzing what is going on. It may be useful as a weapon for attacking Schatz by trying to taint him with the faults of Abercrombie. But it does not reflect the facts. Many of us hold politicians in contempt for “spinning” the truth, playing loosely with facts to make themselves look better and cast blame on their opponents. I suggest we are no better than that if we resort to the same tactics in our “anti-establishment” zeal.
Where does this claim about Schatz come from? OK, Schatz was Neil’s LG. Sorry. That does not provide any support for your claim against Schatz. In Hawaii, the primary voters pick the LG, not the Governor. The people of Hawaii cast almost twice as many votes for Schatz as for Bobby Bunda, his nearest rival in a crowded field.

Abercrombie did not support Schatz over his primary opponents and Schatz was very careful to steer a middle path between Neil and his opponent, Mufi Hanneman. In fact, some of Neil’s people saw Schatz as a Mufi supporter at that time. And, when Schatz was elected LG, he appointed A.J. Halagao, Mufi’s campaign coordinator, to run his office.


Perhaps Schatz is “Abercrombie’s guy” because the Governor picked him to become the US Senator? The Democratic Party’s “board of directors,” the SCC, a group of about 80 people from across the state, had the responsibility for presenting 3 names to the Governor from which to make that selection. I was part of that process and we wrestled with the question of whose names to move forward. There was no uniform set of criteria for evaluating the names. But, in broad terms, these are the kind of considerations we weighed:First, the pool was limited by law to Democratic party members. Second, we gave weight to whether the nominees would be able to mount an effective campaign in 2014, when the appointed term comes to an end. Some people suggested a “placeholder” appointment of someone who would NOT run in 2014 and those arguments were also considered.I do not know how conversant you might be with the pool of potential Democratic US Senators from Hawaii. It is not a large group of names. We did not necessarily limit ourselves to current officeholders, but that was a good place to start. Former elected officials were also considered, including ex-governors. Shinseki’s name was floated. At least one prominent businessman. We interviewed everyone who submitted their name or whose name was submitted by others, with their approval. Some were delusional “vanity” candidates, IMO.

In the end, we came up with Schatz, Hanabusa and Esther Kiaaina. I would defend those choices. And each of them received the support of a majority of the SCC members, even though each had their own base of supporters who favored them as the first choice. There was a significant gap in support between the third and fourth place name. I am giving away no secrets in sharing this. It can be gleaned from news accounts from the time.

A strong case could be–and was–made for each of those three nominees. But it was up to the Governor to pick. I honestly could have supported whichever one he chose.


The strongest argument made against Abercrombie’s selection of Schatz–and when I say “strongest,” I mean the most politically effective argument, not the most logical– is the accusation he should have “honored” Senator Inouye’s dying request that Hanabusa be appointed. (I do not hear you making that argument). I think that argument is cheap and disingenuous. And, ironically enough, disrespectful to Senator Inouye, by suggesting he be treated as a dying king wanting to name his own heir. The insinuation Inouye saw himself as the top political boss, even as an “Emperor” of Hawaii politics was a recurring accusation coming from the political right which Democrats had fought against for years. Yet here, just as Senator has died, this is how his closest operatives are insisting we should view Inouye? Forgive my French, but WTF? I had rejected that charge from the Right and was not willing to fall for it from people trying to retain control of the power which was now slipping from their grasp.Senator Inouye DID want Hanabusa appointed. In his view, she was the one most likely to hold together the team of people he had assembled over the years, the so-called “Team Inouye,” a group of staffers, close allies, lobbyists, defense contractors, campaign contributors and political insiders who wanted to continue both his policies and the stream of “pork” he had proudly brought back to the state and had distributed with them largely determining where it went and who got it. But Inouye was only offering HIS advice, not issuing a decree, not assuming his “dying wish” must be obeyed by the Governor. The way top banker Walter Dods and HECO chair Jeff Watanabe played up the letter to Abercrombie, with top Inouye staffers standing barely concealed in the shadows, was disrepectful to both democracy and the Senator, in my view. (I say that knowing it will anger people I would rather NOT have angry at me).

At the time, Senator Hanabusa was clearly the more experienced legislator than Schatz. I said at the time, she would probably be better equipped to “hit the ground running.” But, contrary to your impression, Schatz is no “empty suit.” If you are unaware of his qualifications and achievements, let me suggest that reflects more on your lack of familiarity with Hawaii politics, the legislative process and the world of non-profits. It is not your fault you are unfamiliar with these things. But I think you make a mistake when you rely upon your lack of knowledge to make bold statements.
The argument that Schatz is young enough to acquire significant seniority for the benefit of Hawaii may be distasteful to you. But it arises from the nature of power in the Senate and is not something invented by Brian Schatz or Neil Abercrombie. It is ironic that Hanabusa’s campaign, which brags about her political “Real Politic”–her ability to operate in the “real world” of hard-nosed politics, should now feign indignation that “seniority” should be considered a legitimate criterion in an election. Both Senators Inouye and Akaka remained in office, unable to retire, because they had acquired so much seniority that their loss of seniority would hurt the people of Hawaii. The decision to convince Akaka to retire was made, perhaps too late, with the hope Senator Inouye would remain in office long enough as Akaka’s replacement slowly climber the seniority ladder. All politically astute Democrats knew this, most definitely including Team Inouye’s top operatives. So it is disingenuous for them to now act as if it is “unworthy” for Schatz supporters to point to his youth and potential seniority as one argument in his favor. “Why do you dislike older people?” (I write this as someone only two years younger than congresswoman Hanabusa).


So Johnny, your view of the “political establishment” and mine are quite different. I see Hanabusa’s base of support as rooted in the Inouye operatives and campaign contributors, but not necessarily those who voted for him. To a large degree, these people also supported the rise of Mufi Hanneman, who had been also groomed for Congress with an eye towards becoming senator. They have supported other ambitious politicians as well. But their top priority at this time is to elect Hanabusa to the US Senate in an effort to re-estblish their web of influence. That is the Old Order. It is crumbling. They are trying to shore up the structure, but I suspect most voters are eager for a change. Schatz is not beholden to that network. Nor is he beholden to Abercrombie’s network. He was in Abercrombie’s view, the best choice of the small pool available for appointment. But that does not make him “Neil’s Boy.” He is his own man, with his own network of support emerging, both locally and nationally. As with any political network, he will have allies I do not necessarily like. But, on balance, I prefer for the “Ancien Régime” to crumble away and allow for new possibilities to emerge.

I suspect your political commitments do not allow you to see the “establishment” in these sort of terms. But I have shared my perspective in the hopes that maybe it will cause you to question the idea that an incumbent US senator might not be “the establishment” politician and the fact Abercrombie appointed him does not make him Abercrombie’s puppet. I suspect most Hawaii voters, while not expressing their views in as longwindedly as I have just done, will see past the superficial and agree with the broad outlines of the framework I have spelled out here. And there is no contradiction between voters supporting David Ige because they want to replace Abercrombie and many of those same voters supporting Schatz’s election because they do not want a return to the “staus quo ante” domination of Hawaii politics by the Old Boy Network.

Voters want new possibilities and change. I think Schatz represents those possibilities. I read both this poll and that by PPP as saying most voters agree.

NOTE to PDH Blog readers:

Feel free to post your comments either here or on the Civil Beat site. The CB site gets more eyeballs (by a long shot). But comments posted here are likely to remain on the web for longer than those on Civil Beat. My comments on Mike Gabbard’s ties with the Chris Butler Hare Krishna group continue to get hits from people all over the world trying to understand Tulsi Gabbard’s background.

February 12, 2014

In the Past, the State Legislature Has Allowed Minimum Wage to Fall. Repeatedly.

Filed under: 5Economics,HI Politics,Legislature — Bart @ 10:02 pm

Testimony from Progressive Democrats in Favor of a Minimum Wage Hike


Rep. Mark Nakashima, Chair

Rep Kyle Yamashita, Vice Chair

Feb 11, 2014, 9:00 a.m.

Conference room 309


Aloha Chair Nakashima, Vice-Chair Yamashita and Members,

My name is Bart Dame and I am testifying on behalf of Progressive Democrats of Hawaii in support of

HB2580, but with a suggested amendment. We have read the other bills and have found things to like

in most of them, but believe HB2580 is the best vehicle to move forward, as it covers our concerns.

Except we believe the proposed wage hike is too low, given how the Legislature has neglected raising

the minimum wage for over seven years and the cost of living has severely eroded its value. (more…)

November 5, 2013

A Perfect Response to the Hearing at the Legislature

Filed under: Equality!,HI Politics,Legislature — Bart @ 10:55 am

OK, we have been busy, we have been lazy, we have been negligent of our responsibilities in not posting things here.

But one thing which has been keeping me legitimately busy has been being down at the Legislature, talking to legislators about the marriage equality bill, providing support to the outnumbered gay and lesbian and straight sisters and brothers who have been down there in an oppressive, hate-filled atmosphere.

As I straight male, I have found it oppressive. To my gay sisters and brothers, it is an extremely heavy burden and I want to join them with this song. I think it expresses my feelings in a much more celebratory song of freedom and uplift than my heart can manage, so I will turn it over to her.


October 31, 2013

PDH Testifies in Support of Marriage Equality

Filed under: HI Politics,Legislature — PDHawaii @ 5:03 pm

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Relating to Senate Bill 1 Testifying in Support
On Behalf of Progressive Democrats of Hawai‘i

Aloha Chairs Rhoads and Luke, Vice-Chairs Har, Nishimoto and Johanson, and Members of the House Committees on Judiciary and Finance.

Mahalo for this opportunity to present testimony in strong support of Senate Bill 1 Relating to Equality, which will legally recognize and allow for marriages for same-sex couples. We believe this is a bill that is a long time coming and we want to thank Chairs Rhoads and Luke and the members of the committees for taking the time to hear this historic and incredibly important piece of legislation.

Progressive Democrats of Hawai‘i (PDH) assumes everyone has heard the arguments from both supports and opponents of this bill, so we are restricting our testimony to the issue we think will be the fulcrum on which its fate will be decided; the question of the breadth of the religious exemption.

The majority of opponents, including those expressing objection or concern on religious grounds have, for very pragmatic reasons, decided not to oppose the bill on the question of marriage equality itself, but rather on the very thinly veiled question of religious freedom. PDH, however, believes this argument is a red herring which should not derail the march toward equality.

We believe strongly in the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment. Religious institutions for which same-sex marriage is a violation of their faith shouldn’t be forced to perform those marriages. Lest the guise of “religious discrimination” be seen as a legitimate reason for withholding support for this landmark legislation, we feel the need to point out the protection that has been codified in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 4 of the Hawai‘i State Constitution.

The highest law of the land spells out, in no uncertain terms, that government cannot force a religious institution to do something that violates their beliefs. And though its opponents will attempt to claim otherwise, this bill does not violate their First Amendment rights.

If a religious institution allows its clergy to perform marriages for non-members, if it allows non-members to use its facilities and grounds for marriage ceremonies and celebrations, and does it in exchange for money, it cannot claim protection under the First Amendment, nor Article I, Section 4. That institution is then considered a “public accommodation” and subject to anti-discrimination laws.

Many point to our island state as the place where the same-sex marriage movement began. We believe this is a heritage to be proud of and though, in the nearly two decades since, many states have moved ahead of us on this issue, it is finally time for Hawai‘i to take its place on the right side of this issue and on the right side of history.

Mahalo for your time and consideration.

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