Sunday, September 24, 2006

My quote in the NYTimes

To those who have expressed concerns about my quote,

I was not speaking from the experience of someone who lost someone in the war. I was not speaking from that perspective. I can't. And none of the people that you have met would wish me to be talking from that perspective.

Let me give you the context for the word "fool".

"Life is, among other things, an elimination contest. We get eliminated from this and that and from them and him and her; and finally a germ or faulty pump valve eliminates them altogether. A few find the contest so disagreeable that they eliminate themselves. They are the 24-karat fools who miss the important point about it all; namely, that the major meaning of life is the opportunity to strive and struggle: an opportunity forever denied inanimate things. Striving and struggling implies that the striver is aiming to do something he is not doing now, or get somewhere different than where he is now."

Wayne Valdemar Brandon

Wayne Brandon was my grandfather. From when I was 6 years old to when I was 13, I lived with my grandparents. More than anyone else in my life, my grandfather taught me what values to live with. How to make decisions. What to care about. He came to the US from Sweden in 1923. He and my grandmother survived the crash, survived the Great Depression, survived the 2nd World War.

In 1991, during the first Gulf War, I was in the Navy. In Bremerton, Washington, with my ship in Dry Dock. I did nothing during that war except watch the clock. I didn't know about the damage done by the Reagan years. I knew that George H. W. Bush was my Commander in Chief. I was told by my officers that the Arkansas Governor, William Clinton, was incapable of doing the job. I voted the way I was told. I was a fool. A damned fool. And I learned.

People, individuals, deserve respect. And they have, do, and always will, get my respect, and my ear. But attitudes that deny the larger struggle, ideas that lose the path from where we are to where we should be going. Those I intend to change.

In order to stop the war, this president must be held accountable for his decisions. This will not be done if the Republican party maintains control of the House or the Senate. We must take both in the 2006 election. This is something that the most liberal, most progressive members of our House and Senate agree on.

All of the people that have been mentioned to me in emails and phone calls care about health care. So do you. So do I. All the people that have been mentioned care about the environment. So do you. So do I. The war is a node in a network, a nexus in a web of cause and effect. You know that. So do I. We must work to make sure that everyone is aware of the web.

To call people fools, without context on the front page of the most important national newspaper in the United States, was wrong. To have an interview with a reporter from that newspaper last 45 minutes so he could print 4 sentences is a poor way to show respect for mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, wives and husbands that have lost family and friends in this war. For that, I sincerely apologize.

Politics is about people. And it is about decisions that people make. And those decisions must be made with a full understanding of the consequences, and a full and complete understanding of the context. I did not have that understanding when I talked with the reporter, and I don't have it now. But I'm closer, thanks to all of you. Hopefully, the context that I have provided will also bring you closer.

My wife and I bought a documentary a week or so ago. "9/11", by Jules & Gedeon Naudet, and James Hanlon. It peels to the bone the illusions that those of us who were on the other side of the country had and have about what happened that day, and gave me a very interesting change in perspective to watch it for the first time while I was writing this response. I hope to ever have that kind of change in my perspective, whenever someone writes to me from theirs.

I am no longer defending myself from criticism. My statement was my opinion, based on my understanding. And we are 44 days from the election.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Party Primaries

This is from a mailing list post I made on September 3rd. The question is raising its head again, and I wanted to put this somewhere I could find it quick.

I don't think it should matter whether we're talking about an Incumbent seat, a Challenged seat or an Open seat. Because what we're talking about is not specific details having to do with a specific race or a specific candidate. We need to nail our principles to the party door. And the principles that I would use to decide policy on Primary races come from the Charter of the Washington State Democratic Party.

We, the Democrats of the State of Washington, believe in the concepts expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States that all power to govern resides with the people. In accordance with the National Charter of the Democratic Party of the United States, we organized and pledge ourselves to promote a truly representative Party open to all who support its principles.

We further pledge to make every effort to encourage maximum participation in the political process and to protect individuals' rights, civil liberties, our environment and social and economic justice for all.

All power to govern resides with the people. To translate that into this discussion, all power to pick and choose candidates for office resides with the voters. And all power to decide who will best represent the principles and values of the Democratic Party reside with the grassroots activists and voters in the Primary election. Move the primary up to June, May, April, whenever we need to. My honest choice for a primary, especially when it comes to the 2008 Presidential Primaries, would be President's Day, the third Monday in February. To heck with this jockeying about who goes first, and no more influencing the grassroots with the claim "Well, they won in Iowa so they must be the best." Start the landslide nationwide with all 50 states on the same day, whether that be via Primary or Caucus.

We pledge ourselves to promote a truly representative Party open to all who support its principles. To be truly representative, the Party rules should be encouraging people to campaign, to run, to build support and campaign infrastructure. There should be standards and an instruction manual for candidates and campaign managers revised every year just as there is currently a PCO Handbook. It would explain how to file for office, what positions are partisan, and most importantly what the rules are for gaining access to whatever infrastructure the Party has available. This includes the Voter File, Endorsements, etc. The Candidate Handbook would also explain fundraising best practices, how to host a house party, how to get someone else to host a house party, and where and how to advertise. Every candidate that I've talked to outside Incumbents who have already learned these sorts of things by doing them tells me that everyone is on their own when it comes to building a campaign. This often means that people start really early, or they have to put lots of money into a campaign from their own pocket to make up the difference. Which means that if someone doesn't have a lot of money or enough time to really campaign full time, they might as well not bother.

We further pledge to make every effort to encourage maximum participation in the political process. How can we fulfill this pledge if we are from the onset telling people interested in public office that they are on their own?

Incumbent candidates automatically get extra help. They can call on the party to help them get the word out about an event, and more than likely get what they need quicker than a primary challenger seems to. If an Incumbent has screwed up somehow, by the votes they have cast or by not responding to grassroots pressure from within the party, the chair of that district or the state should be willing and able to address the concerns about that behavior to that elected official. That doesn't mean withdrawing support, it means the chair being accountable to the people that put them into office by raising concerns, and then reporting the response to the people who raised the concern.

Rodney Tom got the support of his district immediately, and the person who had already announced for that Senate seat, and had been building campaign infrastructure for several months, was asked to drop out. This was the person who had actually run against Rodney in 2004 for his House seat, with the support of her district. What's fair about that? I'm sure that he will do a great job in the Senate, but that's not the point. The point is that we drove off someone who had been building support within her district for 3 years, and probably drove off some of that support at the same time. That's in direct violation of our stated principles as a party.

About the Governor's reelection, I agree that the party should start now. And they should start with a simple question sent out to every Democrat on our mailing lists: "What do you want to see from a Washington State Governor, and will you help make sure that the Democratic Party candidate in 2008 will live up to your desires and expectations?" House parties should be happening every month at a Precinct or Area level (the 46th is divided up into 14 Areas of 10-15 precincts each). These parties don't have to be focused on the Gubernatorial race, they should be focused on the grassroots. What do we want from a Governor? What do we want from an Attourney General? What do we want from a Secretary of State? What do we want from a Lands Commissioner, a Treasurer, an Auditor, our Legislature, our county and city governments, our courts? What do the people, who are the source of everything else in this country and this party, want from our government? That is what we need from a political party wanting to be the party of the people.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Ok, I've had quite a week. Quoted on the front page of the New York Times on Tuesday the 19th, and then today I get on the Thom Hartmann show to hold myself accountable. I'll fill in the quote in a bit, so keep an eye out, but it's also on and if you can't wait.

As far as the radio goes, download the mp3.

Load the mp3, and scroll over to 2 hours, 34 minutes or so. It's about 5 minutes long.

Here's the quote:

" `Do you really want a Republican representing Washington?' That's the question she's asking," said Chad Lupkes, a Washington coordinator for Democracy for America.

In July, Ms. Cantwell hired two of her potential Democratic primary challengers, both critics of the war, to work on her campaign. The move drew charges from both sides that she was paying off opponents; one of those hired, Mark Wilson, is paid $8,000 a month. The other person hired was Dal LaMagna.

Mr. Wilson, now a Cantwell campaign outreach director, did not respond to a request for an interview. Mr. Lupkes said Mr. Wilson was far from a sellout. He said it had been "critical" for Mr. Wilson to join the Cantwell campaign.

"The progressives really want to learn how the system works," Mr. Lupkes said. "You've got a bunch of people who say that the war is their top, only issue. Those people are fools. They're going to vote for Aaron Dixon. Maybe 5 percent of the vote goes for him?"