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.

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.


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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.

August 31, 2012

Linda Lingle vs. Mazie Hirono

Filed under: Elections,HI Politics,National Politics — OahuSophist @ 3:00 pm

Representative Hirono was endorsed not too long ago by our friends, Progressive PAC. Mazie is one of the most progressive members of the U.S. House of Representatives, consistently supporting environmental protections, the middle and working classes, and standing as a bulwark against the kleptocratic policies of a House controlled by a Republican Party that is in the grips of ultra-conservative ideologues. Mazie is without a doubt the only choice Hawaii voters have if they are at all interested in holding at by a Senate controlled by those same ideologues.

That’s not to say former Governor Lingle is one of these ideologues herself. But she’s certainly shilled for them in the past. After being passed over for the veep nod from McCain in 2008, she went on the road with nothing but positive things to say about McCain, but more importantly, about Sarah Palin, the Tea Party star child whose 15 minutes of fame is officially over (Fox News didn’t renew her contract as a commentator). Though Lingle was elected as a moderate and in response to a public perception that Democrats had run amok for too long, there is little room for argument that she drifted to the right at an increasing pace as her term as Governor proceeded. A vote for her is a vote for everything the Romney/Ryan Republicans stand for.

The potential consequences of this election are stark indeed. A Romney presidency would, in my opinion, be at least as bad as the second bush presidency, if not worse. And if the Republicans are able to not only hold on to their control of the House, but also gain control of the Senate, our state and our country sink ever further into a future controlled moneyed interests: corporations and individuals whose singular motivation is the collection of more and more wealth, at the expense of our families, our jobs, our economy, and our environment.

Unless this sounds like a future you want to hand to your children and grand-children, don’t vote for Lingle. Even if you believe Lingle is still a moderate, there’s no reason to believe she won’t vote the GOP line if she makes it to the Senate. At the absolute minimum, her very first vote will be against Senator Inouye for the Chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee, something Hawaii can’t afford to let happen.

In the days and weeks between now and the election on November 6th, check back for a breakdown and rebuttal to the recently updated Republican platform and point out just how far out of touch the GOP is on any number of key issues.

June 19, 2012

Mazie Hirono Completes PDH Survey

Filed under: Elections,HI Politics,National Politics,SHAPES platform — frosty @ 10:47 am

What, in your view, are the reasons preventing the U.S. Senate from passing legislation that better serves the American people?

(No Response)

Foreign Policy

1. What are your thoughts regarding a potential military conflict with Iran? Would you support military intervention against the regime there, why or why not?

We must make every effort to prevent the situation in Iran from escalating into a military conflict. We need to use every tool we have to convince the government of Iran to behave responsibly: from diplomacy to sanctions. At the same time, we cannot tolerate the threat of such an unstable regime’s possession of nuclear weapons.

2. Would you support cutting military spending and redirect the funding to other budget items? If so, where would you suggest redirecting those fundings?


Ed Case Completes PDH Survey

What, in your view, are the reasons preventing the U.S. Senate from passing legislation that better serves the American people?

The main reason is that most of the American people are currently disenfranchised inside the Beltway. The inside crowd is dominated by political action committees and other special interests dedicated solely to the maintenance of their own interests at all costs to the exclusion of everyone else, and Congress is dominated additionally by the mindset that every debate and policy issue presents a stark choice between political extremes.

All of this results in hyperpartisan, my-way-or-the-highway, take-no-prisoners gridlock, and classic alamihi crab syndrome reactions to any attempt to find a better way forward. None of this is representative of the mainstream of the American people. No wonder that, in the most recent poll taken on the subject (Rasmussen, June 2012), only 7% of Americans, crossing all party and other lines, believe Congress is doing an excellent or good job. Please see my Issues Agenda: Fixing Washington.


July 25, 2011

How Progressives Can Effect Change with Obama as President

Filed under: General,Going Forward,National Politics — frosty @ 10:54 pm

It has been suggested that the previous post should have been geared more along the lines of this topic. After thinking about it, I decided that instead of rewriting it, I should simply write a follow-up post. For starters, I think it is important to say, again, and with no equivocation, that Obama isn’t progressive, even though there are those who believe he is, “in his heart of hearts.” Using this notion as a starting point for action is, in my opinion a mistake, and progressives will serve their causes much better if they first abandon it.

I’ll be referring to PDH for my examples, but the concepts will obviously apply to other organizations, as well as individuals.

Building Relationships

It is my experience that the progressive movement has long been disorganized and fractured along various lines. If we are to have any hope of forcing, or empowering (whichever you’d prefer to call it) Obama to be more supportive of progressive ideals and policy initiatives, we’re going to have to come together as a more cohesive movement. (more…)

July 17, 2011

Obama is Not Progressive

Thinking or hoping otherwise will not make this statement any less true. Barack Obama is not progressive. For my part, I never believed he was and one only need look at his time in office thus far for evidence.

Let’s start with health care, if only because the issue is at, or near, the top of my priority list. While it’s true there are some good things in the Affordable Health Care Act, like extending to 26 the age under which parents can choose to continue to cover their children, or eliminating the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage because of a preexisting condition, there’s no denying that when it’s all said and done, it is little more than a massive handout to health insurance companies. (more…)

March 30, 2011

We Are One Hawaii Rally

Filed under: 5Economics,General,HI Politics,National Politics — frosty @ 7:49 pm

On this coming Monday, April 4th, at 4:30pm there will be at the Capitol a rally to support working people in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and dozens of other states where those working people are fighting to keep their rights.

Progressive Democrats of Hawaii is supporting this rally and calling on its members, supporters and allies to “Stand in Solidarity” at this rally and has signed a statement of support:

PDH We Are One Endorsement

Please come out!

December 3, 2010

Disappointment in Obama

Filed under: 3Accountability,National Politics,SHAPES platform — rachel @ 1:26 pm

An article I just read on Truthout.org made me think about a spirited conversation we had at our monthly general meeting last night. We were talking about President Obama’s upcoming holiday visit to Hawai‘i, when he is expected to stay in Kailua, O‘ahu again, as an opportunity to express our disappointment in his performance so far. Just as that one woman said so eloquently to the President at a fairly recent town hall meeting, “I am tired of sticking up for you,” we have the opportunity to tell him how we feel about what is going on in our country. While  most of us were realistic enough not to expect things to change dramatically overnight, we certainly hoped that a this President with a Democrat controlled congress might at least stand up for some of what those of us on the left have been fighting for rather than starting negotiations in the middle and then conceding further to the right.

William Rivers Pitt’s article “On the subject of quitting” compares his symptoms of withdrawal from quitting cigarettes to the physical pain he feels from “having to witness a Democratic presidential administration fly apart at the seams.” (more…)

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