Friday, July 29, 2005

I couldn't agree more, build communities

I'm not a huge fan of Sen. Hillary Clinton, but I do agree it takes a village and that Democrats would be better off if we talked about building communities more. So here's some more of that from the 43rd State Blues:
In an attempt to bring some sanity to the boards (what the hell was I thinking?) I just asked if a good community couldn't have stopped this and many other tragedies by being more proactive. Damn, you would have thought I stepped between a mother bear and her cub. The women all went on attack mode and attempted to lay bare my hide.

So why should concerned social progressives continue to try?

Now some may wonder how I can blame the community for what happened on that highway. I say that communities should be watching each other, helping each other, there as a first line of defense against abuse, neglect and worse. But in my mind communities isn't a reference to City XYZ, its groups of people that are aware of their neighbors, their friends and their family. Its people that arn't looking for that next wreck on the highway to see the blood, but those that deliver a home cooked meal for the elderly couple down the road.

But I suppose I'm just a lone voice, hoping against trend that our society can still move forward from the state of fear and paranoia we're living in and start accepting our neighbors for who they are, not what they can offer. I don't know how to make such radical social re-programming happen, but I do know that its not going to happen under Republican-corporate leadership. I think its only going to happen when real community leaders step forward, organize and set examples for everyone else.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Let them copyright "Republican" for all I care

Far be it for me to worry about who wants to be called a Republican, but for some reason, the Republican Party is really worried about it:

...State Republicans also adopted rules for a Montana primary,— rules state GOP Chairman Chris Vance says are now in effect,— that assert the party's "right to grant permission to use the Republican name ...Only to candidates who demonstrate significant support within the Republican Party."

In most cases, the rules require a candidate to have received 25 percent of the vote at the county convention. Candidates also could have qualified by submitting to the party by last Friday a large number of voter signatures, but Vance said he knew of no candidates taking that route.

..."What they're really asking for is for the party hierarchy to have the ability to veto candidates," said Jeff Even, assistant attorney general.

I'm glad that the GOP was the only party that went so far as to write special rules this year looking forward to when the Top Two would be thrown out and we would be under Montana rules. It makes them look like exactly what they are, a bunch of public excluding hypocrites.

While they say they want to fulfill the wishes of the people, what they really want is the public to take a long walk away from how exactly they run their political party.

Let them pick Mike McGavick as their candidate more than a year before any actual vote. Let them make Republican copyrighted brand name that only their chosen can use. I don't care, they can make the Republican Party so closed to the public that you need a code word to make it into a meeting.

Let's not wonder though why people hate political parties.

Also, I hope that the Democratic Party takes a lesson from this and runs the other way, fast. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the last thing political parties should be are closed and institutional, making decisions based on their own well-being rather than for the well-being of the democratic process. If political parties really are the work horses of democracy (as I believe) let them act that way and work to get people involved.

Not just in voting, volunteering and contributing (while those are all good things) but simply being involved in our communities and our governmental institutions. The more people are involved in their communities and government, the more trust they have in their neighbors and their public servants. Also, the less likely they are to vote down a tax increase because they don't trust the politicians that voted it in.

If the GOP wants to push people out of their party and politics, let them. But Democrats should stand for something different.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Speaking of McCay's piece

...he brought up an interesting topic that is close to my heart. The extent to which party leaders lobby for and encourage people to run for office.
...what happened in the gubernatorial and Senate races in 2004 was wrong — GOP leaders simply froze out anyone but Rossi and Congressman George Nethercutt, respectively. Would-be candidates, some of whom certainly had the capacity to serve with distinction, were told to bug out and were not even allowed to speak at the Republican convention if they criticized a rival.
It happened in Snohomish County recent when the Snoho GOP blocked Greg Stephens.

It happened last year when Paul Berendt got Dave Ross to run against a perfectly good candidate, Alex Alben, that had already gotten the blessing from practically the entire congressional delegation and the governor.

And, the more I think about Alex, the more I get ticked off that it doesn't look like the KC Dems are fielding anyone for the Sixth council district. Not fielding a Democrat in any King County district is a shame. Alex Alben not coming forward to run against Jane Hague is either an indictment against his dedication or to the KC Dems for not going after him.

I'm not moving to Montana, not that I cared for the cajuns anyway

In a column that seems to argue for the Montana style primary Floyd McCay makes the case that really any primary will do. It is the people that matter, rather.

It is not the system that determines quality — it is the quality of the electorate. You and me.

To the extent that we allow party officials to determine our choices, and disdain politics as dirty work for someone else, we will elect hacks and lackeys beholden to special interests. To the extent that we support friends and neighbors who are willing to sacrifice privacy to serve in public office, we will elect strong people.

Perhaps the most disturbing electoral development in Washington in the past few years is not the endless primary battle but the extent to which party leaders and bankrollers want to control the nomination process.

...what happened in the gubernatorial and Senate races in 2004 was wrong — GOP leaders simply froze out anyone but Rossi and Congressman George Nethercutt, respectively. Would-be candidates, some of whom certainly had the capacity to serve with distinction, were told to bug out and were not even allowed to speak at the Republican convention if they criticized a rival. Let's hope the same pattern isn't emerging with McGavick. Some lively competition would be good for all.

That type of muscle does not serve the voters — it serves the entrenched powers of the party. Would Democrats have done the same? Perhaps, but certainly not in 2004. Then-Attorney General Christine Gregoire had lively competition for the open governor's seat, although Sen. Patty Murray enjoyed the usual incumbent's advantage.

My point is that under any system, party leaders can muscle voters out of the picture by intimidating challengers to the party's favorite and drying up their funding. When that happens, as it clearly did in 2004, voters don't get the chance to pick someone willing to buck the party establishment.

To the extent that the Top Two primary was unconstitutional (bearing in mind I'm not all that up on my constitutional law) I woudn't support it. But, to the point that it was a popular idea, the parties should have gotten behind it because apparently, the people don't want to have to declare what party they belong to, if any, in order to vote.

What is never really talked about is the nature of parties. Something that could really change politics, and what kind of politicians we have, it determined a lot by party. How open our political parties are in Washington may be up for debate, but I'm willing to say that they could be more open. People may not want to be part of an organization that looks like it wants to keep them on the outside, or at least, stiffle competition within the party.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

"How Democrats can support local business"

The Olympia Democratic Party meetup will discuss "How Democrats can support local business" on Tuesday, August 9 from 7-9 p.m. The Democratic meetup is an informal discussion group. People who are not currently active in the Democratic Party, but want to be, are
encouraged to attend.

Tuesday, July 12 from 7 to 9 p.m.
Olympia Center
222 Columbia St NW
Olympia, WA
Room 101 (first floor)

For more information, go to http://thurstondemocrats.org/meetup

Monday, July 18, 2005

Bring McGavick on

Amen, brother:
As a CEO, Mr. McGavick certainly has the right credentials for a Senator. With his compensation ($8,854,747.00 in 2004), he can really understand the needs and challenges of working families and those struggling to decide between buying food or buying medicine. Queue the older actors and the family actors for those compassionate conservative photo shoots! CEO's are also noted for their ability to get along with others - there's no actual reason that whole organization chart all rolls up to just one king! He's a common man of the people who gets along with others. Grassroots all the way!
And, in the other corner, we have the sitting Senator, Maria Cantwell, fighting for the rate payers of Snohomish County against Enron.

PI overstated their case a bit

Another route is the most obvious now for those who cannot accept anything but a wide-open primary in which all voters may vote for any candidate. The Grange and others would better spend their energies promoting an initiative to convert to a completely non-partisan election system for all local, legislative and statewide offices.

While technically justified in pursuing what they viewed to be their overriding constitutional rights through the courts, the state's political parties have roused widespread ire among voters of all political stripes. The virtual elimination of political party relevance may be the final, unintended result.

A nice op-ed by the Seattle PI, except that they overdo it just a bit with the last sentence. Governments don't make political parties relevent by crafting election laws, political parties are relevent on their own by influencing politics.

This logic trap is one that the PI is joined in, seemingly, by our party leadership(s), in that they see the way an election is run as the key to their power. I like to think that a group of people, empowered by their numbers, who are interested in influencing the opinions of citizens in a democracy would be relevent anyway. And, that you could run any sort of election -- open primary, IRV, non-partisan -- and that the political parties would have say in what the results are.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The War of Southern Aggresssion

Basie doesn't like coffee mug smashing mayors:
I, for one -- as a Portlander for more than 19 years -- will not stand for this act of aggression.
Sir, I say sir, the days of Oregon aggression against the peaceful people of Washington State has come to an end.

Your state shall submit to coffee mug smashing and college football thrashing or feel our wrath.

Top Two gone, next stop, non-partisan

Not too many tears being shed round the partisan world this morning for the Top Two. Not that I was any big fan, it just seems that the writing on the wall is that if the parties didn't like this one, I wonder how they're going to feel about a non-partisan election system statewide?
Don Whiting, a Grange spokesman, said the farm-rooted organization isn't giving up in its effort to allow Washington's primary voters to choose any candidate of any party.

Whiting said if Zilly's decision is upheld on appeal, the Grange might consider sponsoring another initiative, to give the state a completely non-partisan primary, in which candidates would run without stating a party affiliation. "In (Zilly's) opinion, at least, it has to be completely a non-partisan primary in order for a voter to vote for whatever candidate he wants," Whiting said.

Secretary of State Sam Reed similarly suggested the possibility of yet another version of a modified blanket primary, commenting, "I'm relieved (Zilly) didn't say that the Top Two per se is unconstitutional, but this particular version is. ... What we may have to do is go back to the drawing board and figure out how to do it in a way that is constitutional."

The least we can expect is that this isn't over, not nearly over. Washington State had the so-called "Jungle Primary" for 70 years, it has shaped the way people think about political parties and voting. Being forced -- and that is the way they feel, forced -- to choose a political party isn't a comfortable thing for most Washington citizens.

That the parties challenged the Top Two, imperfect as it is, or the jungle primary in the first place, shows a general disconnect from party activists and rank and file voters. Instead of pushing back each time the voters decide on a system they like, the parties should do the opposite of forcing people into our ranks and instead make the parties more open.

Horsesass.org: Judge tosses out "“top-two"” primary
Washington State Political Report: Primary
NW Progressive: Zilly: "Top Two" Primary is Unconstitutional
NW Progressive: Zilly's Injunction
Josef's Public Journal: Top-2 (Dumb-@$$) Primary Scrapped
Evergreen Politics: "Top two" primary is history
NW Progressive: Reed to auditors: Back to the open primary
Progressive Majority Washington: Second chance for Dunn, Edmonds, Hobbs

Friday, July 15, 2005

RE: GrowOhio

Jan has seen the future:
Grow Ohio has a group blog format divided into Ohio's five distinctive regions that lets anyone post their entries on regional news -- and later will allow for group blogging in all 88 of Ohio's counties. It also collects the user membership information into a database, and has a front-page concept that fuses local politics with statewide concerns. Not only this, but the site is developed to soon offer all sorts of directory contacts and links to activists and local officials, breaking down to the most local levels, including a calendar for locals to list their events.
The most pressing need that GrowOhio is taking on right now is the lack of websites for about half of Ohio's county parties. This isn't just a concern for tech nerds, it should be a concern for all off us that saw Kerry go down to the slimmest of defeats last year. It may have really been technology that doomed us in Ohio, but not the voting machine kind.

Its sad that the DNC or the state parties aren't taking this kind of lead on things. In Thurston County our website is recently very robust, but I can't say that about every county Dem website. It would be great if the DNC or the Washington Dems would provide an out of the box website tool that could do the local to statewide thing that Grow Ohio is doing.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Top Two Gone, Now What?

The Top Two primary was just struck down by Zilly.

Below is something I had in draft about the arguments the parties were making, I wanted to point out that the parties themselves, how connected they are to the people that are politically close to them, make their own nominations mean something, not a rule by a government.

Anyway, today changes all that, so we'll have to see.

Whether party nominations "matter" was an issue in yesterday's arguments in federal court on the Top Two primary. The parties argued that nominations should be relevant, and I couldn't agree more. Not to the point though that I think government should be complicit in making them relevant though.

Party nominations should be relevant on their own merits, not because government endorses those nominations. If a candidate can lose the party nomination, enter the primary election as a non-endorsed Republican or Democrat, and wins the primary, that particular party has bigger fish to fry. Essentially their nomination is worthless because they nominated someone that isn't winning elections.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Geese Louis John, now you get it

Some people don't get something that is going on right in front of them until it does something for them.

John Carlson, KVI 570 host and no new gas tax fan and contributor, finally gets that grassroots activism is helped, yes indeed, helped by the internet. That revelation came to John after No New Roads in Eastern Washington Gas Tax turned in their wad of signatures on Friday.

I wish I had the direct quote, but John said something like: I really thought grassroots politics was gone for good, that we had really moved on, that our society wasn't like that any more.

In regards to the power of the internet, his minds has been changed. Well, thank God. What took him so long probably has a lot to do with his view on Howard Dean and that Dean and deanforamerica.com probably pissed him off and that he couldn't see beyond that to appreciate the good work done by Dean folks to improve the Democratic process.

That said, I think No New Gas Tax is a really bad idea, a boner if you will. But, I'm not going to let that get in the way of appreciating what they did. If you take out what would turn out to be some necessary promoting by KVI, No New Gas Tax showed how in a short time to get petitions out there, filled out a returned with no paid gatherers.

Recently I've been reading about how individual contributions to initiative campaigns can't be limited, under the logic that limiting contributions to initiative campaigns would also be limiting speech (contributions can be capped to candidates because candidates, not ideas or laws, can be bought). Anyway, the idea was to eventually file an initiative to put a cap on individual contributions, thereby opening up the initiative process to "the people" and take it away from initiative pros like Tim Eyman and their hordes of paid signature gatherers.

But, now I'm on another kick, to open up the initiative process. If we can't limit access to big money guys, or if you follow the logic that big money guys will always find a way into the initiative process no matter what kind of road blocks we put up, the only way to open up the process for you and me is to just open it up.

One of those ways is inspired by the NoNewGasTax.com folks:

Reduce the size of an initiative petition from 8.5x17 to 8.5x11

One of the speed bumps that NoNewGasTax.com has to deal with was how to distribute the petitions and, they suggested to supporters to go to Kinkos or wherever they could print out on legal sized paper, because not everyone has a stack of legal just sitting around.

By having legal petitions be the size that most people have in their home printer, internet centered campaigns wouldn't have to worry about mailing or sending their supporters across town. Download, print, mail.

While you're chewing this over, go to Keep Washington Rolling.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Putting things together

This isn't meant to be expert opinion or anything, just reflections on some reading I've been doing.

I recently finished Noah Feldman's After Jihad. A great book, especially for me, since I hardly ever pick up books like that (the last book I read about "foreign policy" was We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families), since it helps me put a focus on some of the stuff that I feel day to day.

Anyway, a couple of things that Noah has helped me put together:

1. They've been protesting in Egypt since May 25. Has anyone noticed this? I don't get this listening to talk radio all day, but there is a democratic uprising brewing in Egypt and no one seems to be paying attention. This has to do with Egypt's president for life (don't call him a dictator, call him President Mubarak).

2. While the Egyptians are protesting, we're using Mubarak as our man on the scene for torturing terror suspects. We can't do that in the United States, but we don't have any qualms about asking our dictator friends to do it. This is similar to the insanity going on over in Uzbekistan, but at least we're talking a good game with that particular monster. That probably has something to do with Al Qaeda in Iraq killing the Egyptian envoy.

But, here's the thing. We talk a good game about building a good and just democracy in Iraq. But, when democratic protests erupt in Egypt, we conspire with their dictator to torture terror suspects because that kind of thing is illegal here in the most free country in the world.

All at the same time, we see from 1999 to the present day, moving East from Serbia, a non-violent revolutionary movement that has successfully overturned non-democratic regimes, most recently in the Ukraine and in Kyrgyzstan. By subscribing to the violent overthrow model, we invite violent reaction. But, as we're seeing in Egypt and in Lebanon, non-violent protest may very well lead to democratic government in the Muslim world.

Other good books:
From Dictatorship to Democracy
The unconquerable world

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Oly Dem meetup has a new home!

Our new page is here.

Our new email list is here. I also posted the first email to our list this morning, and its here.

Pretty sweet, kudos go to to Christi McGinley with the Thurston County Democrats!

Also, next month's meetup: Framing Healthcare!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Last Best in Washington?

Andrew's post on the puzzling demise of Columbian Watch, in which he references the "True Blue" version of the Pacific Northwest Portal got me thinking about activities by great Democrats in Montana.

Matt Singer and his good friends in the Big Sky state are putting together an online community, which up until recently was called the Last Best Ass, a reference to the phrase "Last Best Place."

Anyway, their effort is now called ProgressMontana, an open, CivicSpace based, online community for Progessives. I wonder if we could do something similar here in Washington? We have gobs of liberal blogs in Washington, but the GOPers are the only ones that are putting their work together, even though its a fairly sad cross-post website.

What I would propose would be a stand alone, while cross posting would be allowed, but with some tools that would include diaries and new content. And, based on CivicSpace.

Great post on the new Democrats.org

Jan Frel has a great post on the new democrats.org, in which she shares my early pessimism:
...I can't find much here that's different from the old Democrats.org, except that there's the Democracy Bond -- (read here monthly political subscriptions), but that isn't great web design, just a marketing concept.

While the world waits for the organizing tools to arrive, how about a simple directory of links to the state parties -- they often list their local events with some efficiency -- with a subdirectory listing for contacts to county chairs? It would give at least some appearance that the Democrats are including the web in their 50-state strategy.

She also includes an email from the DNC's Internet Director, Joe Rospars, which includes:
The ambition is to provide tools so that every person can organize in their precinct and make a meaningful political impact. Most organizations still don't even try to embrace the idea of empowerment; they're still completely closed off to people. Many that do tend to do empowerment for empowerment's sake (asking for feedback that goes nowhere, asking people to take actions that don't accomplish anything real, asking for money without explaining the content or the plan in a real way, never taking actions offline into the street or into the room where decisions are made).