Monday, February 25, 2008

Back from the dead

"Let go over a cliff, die completely, and then come back to life--after that you cannot be deceived." -- Zen Saying.

Just came back from being sicker than I would want any dog to be.

Everybody seems to be sick. The Flu bugs are raging around the country and in my office.

But I am starting to feel better, and I hope that you and the country will feel better soon too.

There is something about illness: it reduces life to just the essentials. And it makes me appreciate the full range of options I experience most days.

We have had sun shine in Seattle and Spring may be coming soon. But let's take it one day at a time.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Asphalt Artery

I hit the highway
Just as the sun was rising
It must be my highway
I drive it every day

Turned on the radio
Drive-By Truckers
Started singing country songs
Damn those truckers
Their words make me sad
But I always sing along

Merged with rush-hour traffic
Stayed out of the passing lane
I leave that to the hot heads
Speeding towards their doom
I snuggle in behind a trucker
I keep a steady speed
I try not to complain

In the grass by the on-ramp
I see a lone coyote
He stalks the edge of the asphalt
This must be his on-ramp
But I don’t see him everyday

Coyote isn’t wanted here
The barbed-wire fences prove that
The concrete and the speeding cars
They say, Coyote, Hey Fuck You
But he ignores them
And finds his wild breakfast
Burrowing beneath a sign for Mountain Dew

Me and coyote
We shared a brief encounter
Just as the sun was rising
Must be our highway
Cause we prowl it every day

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Family That Caucuses Together…

Saturday we held the Democratic Caucuses in Washington. Turn out was double what the party officers expected. The depressing thing there is that last time we had 2% participation, so this record turnout means we got 5% participation. Not very democratic.

In the Larsens’ neck of the woods, they had consolidated all the precincts from Marysville, Arlington, Granit Falls and the surrounding areas (at least 40 precincts) into one place. We arrived an hour early and there was already a line out into the parking lot. They stopped letting people get in line at 45 minutes after start time.

It was crowded. It was noisy. It was confusing. The people at the sign up desks were giving people false information. I heard people being told that they could only caucus for Hillary or Obama, not any of the other candidates. The site coordinator kept telling people that they should feel free to sign in, pick a candidate and leave. He promised them that their votes would count even if they left. Even thought there were many small precincts that didn’t end up with delegates because nobody stayed.

Evelyn and I found ourselves being consulted as experts, because we had attended a single training session and printed out the rules from the party web site.

Evelyn ended up being the Huckleberry Precinct Chairperson, I ended up being the Precinct Secretary, and Siona was the Precinct Tally Clerk. We were also the only three people from our precinct to stay. The other tree participants signed in an left. Precinct official results: 5 votes for Obama, 1 vote for Kucinich, 0 votes for Hillary. Delegates from our precinct: 2 for Obama. Evelyn and I are now Precinct Delegates and must go to the next caucuses on April 5th or we will lose our representation at the next level. Siona is an Alternate Delegate.

So there you have it. Democracy in action. Messy, sloppy and loaded with confusion and peer pressure. But when you watch CNN they make it sound so simple and clean.

State wide in Washington Obama got the most delegates by a 2 to 1 margin.

More later if I have the time.

Friday, February 08, 2008

God Bears Witness

I saw the eyes of god
In the belly of a dancing bear
She seemed unconcerned
That lesbian relationships
Were frowned upon in these parts

I saw the hand of god
Reaching for a cold beer
He seemed very relaxed
For a Maker about to meet his Creation
But He might know something I don’t

I saw the footprints of god
In the mud down by the river
They seemed rather ordinary
And could have been mine or yours
But the pattern left behind
Implied fantastic dancing

Want to dance My Dear?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Caucusing In Washington on Saturday

If you are a Democrat living in Washington State, Click Here To Find Your Caucus Location.
I encourage people to participate (even though I don't think it is a perfect system).
It is the only system we have at the moment.
And I don't think the country can take 4 more years of Republican "free market" blunders, Shock Doctrine progress, lower taxes for the rich and 100 more years of "war" in Iraq.

Even if you are not 18 until just before November 2, 2008 you can participate now. My 17 year old daughter will be participating because she turns 18 before the General Election.

We have a close race between Clinton and Obama and historically very few people participate in the caucuses. So every single participant can make a difference.

Old Elvis or Young Elvis?

Well, Super Tuesday gave us a tie. So I guess we go into overtime. First Democrat to fumble loses. In his cartoon above, Mr. Fish says it is a choice "between the lesser of two Elvises." I don't know about you, but I always liked young Elvis better.

I watched all 5 of the candidate speaches last night and Obama has a presence and energy that is very different from the other politicians. "We are the ones we have been waiting for." Any fan of Ghandi has to love that line. Will Obama deliver on his promises of change if he is elected? That is the 12 Trillion Dollar Question (this years Federal Budget X 4 years). But he was the only candidate I heard who said he was sure not everything would go as planned and that we would make mistakes, but that we would not give up.

I was also encouraged by the record numbers of young people participating this year and by the higher number of Democratic voters, as compared to Republican voters, in most states.

On to the next events: Democratic Caucuses in Washington State on Saturday.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Yes We Can Video

Check it out. Dig it if you can. Ignore it if you can't.

Rachel Sklar at Huffington Post writes this about the video:
There are a few behind-the-scenes things about the video that are important to note. The first is that it really does seem to have been done independently from the campaign. Democrats have a much, much deeper bench of creative talent on all sides (music, film, advertising) and it's always freely offered, but the campaigns are typically very cautious about encouraging such efforts (cautionary tale: Kerry '04). I heard from a source inside the Obama campaign that they've had many offers for explicit celebrity support that have been gently discouraged (see the wisdom of George Clooney here). Who knows what might have happened if the campaign had been asked, but numerous sources from inside the campaign say that, nope, they learned about it when they saw it online (literally, from one staffer: "Supporters of ours independently produced it. Have to say, though, that it was pretty cool when we saw it online."). Another campaign insider not on staff learned of it via email forward. "The whole campaign has encouraged volunteers to take the initiative and make a difference — host a fundraiser, debate party, post policy ideas," he said. "Here's an example of that extended to the celebrity realm."That's the official campaign position, in any case: A link to the video was included in a campaign email this afternoon from John Kerry, who said the video "came from the bottom up, not the top down, created by people who have been touched by this campaign."

Washington State’s Mock Primary

Note: As I write this the Super Tuesday results are not known, because people are still voting.

I got my Washington State 2008 Presidential Primary Voter’s Guide in the mail. So you would think I would be excited about voting in a Democratic Primary where my vote just might mean something. But NOOO! The Democratic Party has decided to ignore the results of our Primary vote this year. Our primary vote is just a beauty contest. If I want to participate in choosing the Democratic Presidential Nominee, I will have to participate in the party’s private caucus system.

So the Obama campaign was holding a Caucus Training Session last Saturday. Evelyn was kind enough to make phone calls to get details and we went to the event. Apparently the most “democratic” process the Democratic Party could come up with is as follows:
1. Ignore the voter-mandated Primary Election results entirely.
2. Hold poorly advertised Precinct Caucuses the week before the election.
3. Make it difficult for people to find their Caucus location and then hold them in completely different locations than normal elections are held (and in our case three-times as far away.)
4. Make sure that everyone who does participate in the Caucus has to declare who they are supporting publicly and then give plenty of time for enthusiasts to try and convince people to switch over and support a different candidate at the last minute.
5. Insist that delegates are selected at the Precinct Caucus who are willing and able to travel to the Legislative District Caucuses to be held in April.
6. At the Legislative District Caucuses the Precinct Delegates elect Legislative Delegates who must be willing and able to travel to the Congressional District Caucuses in May.
7. At the Congressional District Caucuses Delegates will select Delegates who will travel to the State Convention in June.
8. At the State Convention, Delegates from the Congressional District Caucuses will select Delegates to represent Washington State Democrats at the National Convention in August.
9. At the National Convention the National Delegates will select a candidate that the rest of us will be able to vote for in the General Election in November.
10. And Oh, by the way, 20% of the National Delegates for Washington have already been appointed as Super Delegates.
11. And the Delegates from any level can change their minds and candidate affiliation at the next level. So the will of the original participants can be completely ignored if desired by the Party Insiders who are most likely to be selected as delegates for the next level.
12. Rinse, Lather, Repeat until any normal citizen with a real life is too frustrated to want to participate in selecting the next president of the country.

Confused? I am, and I am a bit of a political junky. Party rules dictate delegate selection. Party rules dictate the numbers of delegates in each precinct and at each level. And when asked why such an undemocratic process is being used, the local Party Officers said, “It would take all day to answer all of your questions.” And, “That is just the way it is.”

We were not encouraged to ask questions about the process. Instead we were encouraged to “Watch people sign in and see who they commit to so you can influence people to switch to our candidate.”

The Washington Republican Party rules are different. They are using the Primary Election results to appoint 51% of their delegates, and apparently they allow Caucus participants to drop the name of the candidate they support anonymously into a hat. I have to say that the Washington State Republicans are at least more accommodating to ordinary citizen participation and they don’t have the troubling peer pressure problems in their system. Although they do allow their party faithful to participate twice (Caucus one week and Vote the next.) But the Democratic Party process seems very undemocratic to me. And although I think Obama is the best Tweedle-Dee left in the system, and I will go Caucus as if it mattered on Saturday, I think the Democratic Party should be forced to use a more democratic process or else change their name to the Back Room Delegate Party.

I have also found out that the rules vary widely from state to state. But the bottom line is that the Parties have the ultimate say on how the process is set up and conducted. The Mainstream Media isn’t calling much attention to the actual rules of the process. And you and I are encouraged to just do our little part and quit worrying. Don’t worry your pretty little head about it. The Party Officials will make sure everything works out okay. Just go home and watch the results on cable news where they hope you don’t notice that they don’t really talk about candidates or issues directly—they talk about talking about people who talk about issues that people and candidates might talk about right after the next commercial break.

Hey, speaking of advertisements, did you see the ad with the screaming squirrel!!! My kids loved that one… I'm not sure which political metaphor from the commercial to apply to our party primary situation. I don't know if I am a squirrel or just nuts...