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

ON THE WAR IN SYRIA, TULSI’s ACTIONS AND THE RESPONSIBILITY OF PROGRESSIVES

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.

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

CLICK HERE TO SEE WHICH TAX BILLS WE ARE TRACKING: Tax & Homeless BIlls 2015

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:
http://www.hiappleseed.org/sites/default/files/14%200122%20JL%20edits%202013%20Tax%20Report%20(website%20version)%20pdf%20version.pdf

You can sign up for their legislative action alerts here:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/13_pjDNPfUm6g63PcF2sxJSMHwCYm7Df3MwQsGz_jFsA/viewform?c=0&w=1

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:

TAX JUSTICE
MARIJUANA REFORM
AGRICULTURE JUSTICE
BIG MONEY IN ELECTIONS
BIG ELECTRICITY IN ENERGY

Here are some of the issues within each cluster.

TAX JUSTICE PROPOSALS:

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

AG JUSTICE

• 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

MARIJUANA REFORM

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

BIG MONEY IN ELECTIONS

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

BIG ELECTRICITY IN ENERGY

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:

http://www.kitv.com/Hawaii-Politicians-Speed-Date-Local-Residents/5640876

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

http://archives.starbulletin.com/2006/07/27/news/story04.html

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

HOUSE COMMITTEE ON LABOR AND PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT

Rep. Mark Nakashima, Chair

Rep Kyle Yamashita, Vice Chair

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

Conference room 309

HB 2580, RELATING TO LABOR IN SUPPORT, with AMENDMENTS

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…)

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?

(more…)

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.

(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!

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