Thursday, May 21, 2015


While Honolulu dithers, a Canadian city says it has eliminated homelessness, and Utah homelessness is down 91% over 10 years

Medicine Hat, a city in southern Alberta, pledged in 2009 to put an end to homelessness. Now they say they've fulfilled their promise. No one in the city spends more than 10 days in an emergency shelter or on the streets. If you've got no place to go, they'll simply provide you with housing.
CBC Radio

Comment: It's amazing what treating human beings like human beings can accomplish.

Chronic homelessness in Utah has dropped 91 percent in the past decade under Utah's "Housing First" initiative, state officials announced Tuesday.

by Larry Geller

City Councilman Manahan wants homeless kids to play in traffic

Today’s paper revealed that City Councilman Joey Manahan wants the city to acquire the former site of Hilo Hattie between the lanes of Nimitz Highway to use as a homeless shelter instead of Sand Island.

The site is between two of the busiest lanes of traffic in Honolulu.

Proposed shelterIf the Sand Island site had disadvantages (as well as diverting funds that could go to Housing First), this suggestion would place children as well as men and women smack in middle of noisy and dangerous traffic.

If “location, location, location” is the secret to a desirable place to live, this spot has to be one of the worst choices possible.

In addition to the danger of crossing Nimitz, the air is poisoned by car exhausts. And if pedestrians are continually pushing the buttons to cross the streets, drivers are sure to become impatient over time at the rush-hour slowdown that could result. Impatient drivers are a threat to pedestrian safety.

Housing First works. The city should get with it.

While the Honolulu City Council busies itself searching for alternatives to doing Housing First (anything, it seems, but what has been proven to work), success continues to be reported elsewhere.

[Ted] Clugston [mayor of Medicine Hat, Alberta] believes that no one on the streets is unreachable.

He says city staff found housing for one man, but he insisted on leaving to sleep under cars. Day after day, they'd search him out and take him back to his new home.

"They did it 75 times, but they had the patience and they didn't give up on him and, eventually, he ended up staying in the house," he says. "Ultimately, people do want a roof over their heads."

[, Medicine Hat is the first Canadian city to eliminate homelessness, 5/14/2015]

Yes, Housing First works.

Medicine Hat, a city in southern Alberta, pledged in 2009 to put an end to homelessness. Now they say they've fulfilled their promise.

No one in the city spends more than 10 days in an emergency shelter or on the streets. If you've got no place to go, they'll simply provide you with housing.

"We're pretty much able to meet that standard today. Even quicker, actually, sometimes," Mayor Ted Clugston tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

Of course, Honolulu is not Medicine Hat. But this is just one example.

Utah homelessness down 91 percent over decade as Honolulu homelessness soars

Desert News

Honolulu ignored its growing housing problem and still has no program in place to fill the huge demand for low-income rentals. It still has no “Housing First” program, and continues to look for distracting alternatives. Anything but Housing First. Logically, and morally, sit-lie bans and other ordinances should follow, not precede, implementation of Housing First.

While Hawaii dithers, Utah recently reported success with its program.

Utah's program places chronically homeless people in housing and supports them with services that help address the root causes of their homelessness such as physical and mental illness, substance abuse and addiction, low educational attainment, criminal records, or poor work histories.

[Deseret News, Chronic homelessness in Utah down 91 percent under decade-long 'Housing First' initiative, 4/28/2015]

Here is a snip from a comprehensive report on Utah’s progress—it is downloadable as a pdf file from the link below.

The intent of this 2014 report is to inform interested parties as to the state of homelessness in Utah. In addition, initiatives are highlighted that are yielding tremendous results in improving lives, cutting community costs for services and creating a more efficient and effective service delivery system. The report also highlights statewide efforts to end both Chronic and Veteran homelessness. This year’s report highlights the system of services in place to address and end homelessness across the State.

Although the causes of homelessness are complex, there are solutions. It takes a high level of collaboration and focus to implement effective interventions. We recognize the many valuable partners, both public and private, who work on behalf of our community members who are experiencing homelessness.

[Comprehensive Report on Homelessness, State of Utah 2014]

Not only has Housing First worked for Utah, they seem to have a refreshing attitude toward their responsibility to all of their citizens—unlike Hawaii.

Homework assignment for Honolulu media: check into why our city government does not have that “ high level of collaboration and focus to implement effective interventions” that is needed. And while you are doing some research, see if there are any RFPs out to provide the support services (e.g., ACT) that are needed to make Housing First work.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


9th Circuit rules Hawaii’s campaign spending disclosure laws not unconstitutional

by Larry Geller

On Wednesday, October 9, 2013, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, meeting at the Moot Courtroom at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii, heard two appeals from the original Hawaii cases. Today (yes, it’s now May, 2015) the Court published an opinion (see below).

There are details and background on the appeal here.

The opinion addresses both plaintiff’s claims on appeal and the allocation of legal fees and costs for the claims.

I want to thank attorney Randy Elf, who argued the question of the constitutionality of four provisions of Hawaii’s campaign finance laws in the aftermath of Citizens United, for his clarification of the summary contained in the opinion. The summary of the opinion appears on pages 3-5

The court basically upheld the constitutionality of Hawaii’s campaign finance laws with regard to the disclosure requirements. Please read at least the summary in full, it’s pretty straightforward. A snip:

The panel held that the requirements were substantially
related to Hawaii’s important interests in informing the
electorate, preventing corruption or its appearance, and
avoiding the circumvention of valid campaign finance laws.
The panel also held that Hawaii’s requirement that political
advertising include a disclaimer as to the affiliation of the
advertiser with a candidate or candidate committee did not
violate the First Amendment as applied to A-1’s political

Mr. Elf emailed one clarification. I think a reader not familiar with the details of these cases would not catch this anomaly in the summary, and so it is probably best that I not attempt to paraphrase or summarize here. You’re not going to see this anywhere else, so for the record:

After digesting the Ninth Circuit’s 2010 decision in Human Life of Washington v. Brumsickle – which you may recall the Ninth Circuit issued after A-1 filed its complaint and after the 2010 preliminary-injunction hearing – A-1 sought to make only multiple contributions of $250, but because it is a government contractor, it may not make any contributions.  Since the Ninth Circuit upheld the government-contractor-contribution ban as applied to A-1, A-1 – being a government contractor – may not make any contributions.  The only speech in which it seeks to engage are its three newspaper ads.

With regard to the second part of the case, the 9th Circuit reversed Judge Seabright on his denial of part of the attorneys fees, and referred the matter to the 9th Circuit Appellate Commissioner to determine the amount of fees that will be awarded.

[Postscript: I don’t know if there will be further appeals, but I do want to credit and thank Randy Elf for his patience in explaining to me what an attorney would understand as a matter of course. In fact, at the time, I did check out Human Life of Washington v. Brumsickle, for example, though by now I’ve forgotten the details. I find it amazing that attorneys can keep these things in their heads… And keep in mind also, as you read this case, that it is an appeal of only those parts of the original case that plaintiffs did not succeed with at the district court level.

The Hawaii district court permanently enjoined the $1,000 contribution limit, HRS § 11-358, as applied to Yamada’s and Stewart’s contributions to a PAC, invalidating that statute with regard to their contribution.]

Download Jimmy Yamada v. William Snipes 12-15913 from Disappeared News


The increase of Hawaii’s minimum wage to $10.10 leaves us behind even if it were to take effect today

by Larry Geller

In yesterday’s article on Hawaii and the minimum wage, The fight for a living wage that Hawaii ought to join (5/19/2015), I was primarily focused on the lack of news coverage of nationwide efforts to increase the minimum wage to $15 (or even to a living wage of $25). The news vacuum must inevitably contribute to Hawaii being left behind (again).

Without information and given our politically disengaged populace, the fight for this and other socially necessary reforms is left to advocates.

Dedicated though they may be, public support is still crucial to success.

Although not covered in the news, there is data out there that could possibly stir up some action—if it could be disseminated widely.

For example, in testimony on SB2609 (2014) which ultimately became the law increasing the minimum wage in increments, Dwight Takamine, Director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, submitted testimony that contained useful comparative data. For example, this:

Historically, the federal minimum wage was higher than $7.25 an hour in 2013 dollars for most of the last 60 years.

US Federal Minimum Wage

In fact, the minimum wage in 1968 was $10.77 in 2013 dollars

From this and other data, it’s clear that setting the minimum wage at $10.10 in 2018 is way behind what’s necessary. Yet reporting was generally supportive of the bill, and of course it is something.

20150520 LA TimesBut it’s not sufficient. Behold Los Angeles:



The testimony on SB2609 is worth reading (see the right side of this page).

Just doing something is not enough

So while celebrating an increase in the minimum wage, the fact that it is insufficient to alleviate poverty in Hawaii should still be noted. Too often, I think, we let government off the hook when it (often belatedly) does take some kind of action but that action is not sufficient in view of the problem. Sure, we can be thankful that $10.10 in 2018 passed. But that’s not good enough.

Google for the news and you’ll see that there has been a large and prolonged push for a $15 minimum wage, unionization of fast-food workers, and for other labor reforms around the country. Given the high cost of living in Hawaii, we could conceivably re-open the issue of a fair minimum wage for the state, or even on a county level.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


The fight for a living wage that Hawaii ought to join

The shift toward raising the minimum wage by local lawmakers comes at a time when the fight for $15 movement has swelled into the largest protest
by low-wage workers in US history. –The Guardian

by Larry Geller

The “fight for $15 movement” is not something the commercial press likes to report. But fortunately, you, as a faithful Internet reader, probably know all about it.

The rest of Hawaii will find out later. As cities across the country get on the bandwagon, sooner or later even our conservative media will notice that Hawaii, through inaction, is increasingly mired in poverty. It may take events here to prod them, though, and over the next few years, the chances of protests reaching our placid shores should increase.

Los Angeles became the largest US city to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour on Tuesday, as a wage increase bill passed the city council by a vote of 14-1.

Under the proposed legislation, the city’s minimum wage would increase to $10.50 in July 2016, and would increase incrementally every year until it reaches $15 in July 2020. For small businesses with 25 or fewer employees, the wage hike would come on a modified schedule with the incremental increases starting in July 2017 and the minimum wage reaching $15 by July 2021.

[The Guardian, LA becomes largest US city to increase minimum wage to $15 an hour, 5/19/2015]

Hawaii’s minimum wage is scheduled to creep up to $10.10/hour in 2018 in yearly increments. California, in contrast, will be at $10.10 in January, 2016. And for us, that’s it. Especially considering the high cost of living here, we will remain mired behind much of the rest of the country. The brain drain will continue as graduates leave their families to earn a living elsewhere. Perhaps this will spur action, who knows, and who knows when that might happen.

Other cities and states must react, and they are:

In the past year, two other US cities have approved similar wage increase measures. In June 2014, Seattle moved to increase its minimum wage to $15 by 2017. Last November, San Francisco voted to increase its minimum wage to $15 by 2018.

Other cities, including New York and Chicago, are considering raising their minimum wage to $15 an hour. In February,New York City mayor Bill de Blasio called for a $15 minimum wage by 2019 in his state of the city address.

Why must they react? If for no other reason, because their people will be clamoring for it. Despite the commercial news silence, people are connected and will coordinate their efforts. That a movement exists isn’t in doubt.

Workers in Atlanta, Boston, New York, Los Angeles and more than 200 cities across the US walked out on their jobs or joined marches and protests on Wednesday during what organisers claimed was the largest protest by low-wage workers in US history.

Some 60,000 workers took part in the Fight for $15 demonstrations, according to the organisers. The protests are calling for a minimum wage of $15 an hour in the US, more than twice the current federal minimum of $7.25.

[The Guardian, Fight for $15 swells into largest protest by low-wage workers in US history, 4/15/2015]

But will this movement come to Hawaii? In general, we have a more politically disengaged populace than many of the protest cities.

Clearly, our dominant hospitality industry would not want to pay $15 an hour to have its floors swept and beds made. Their grip on the job market and on employment prospects for high school graduates may keep the lid on—anyone joining a protest line can be easily replaced as new service-industry job seekers are constantly generated.

The results of maintaining a poverty economy only break into the news when something bursts at the seams. Currently, growing poverty as manifested by mounting homelessness is in the news, but reporters are not digging deep enough. Underneath is the chronic inaction of both city and state that allows an out-of-control deficit in affordable rentals that’s not going to be solved by simplistic solutions such as packing the poor into converted shipping containers.

Paying a living wage could be part of a solution, if politicians and their corporate backers wanted one.

But hey, $15 an hour is a nightmare for them—so the people need to push for their own solutions. A living wage will not be given to us as a “gift.” Which brings me to…

Hawaii’s “cargo cult mentality”

Hawaii aspires to be the “hub of the Pacific” in technology or other areas of endeavor, but simply issuing press releases or speachifying doesn’t make that happen. It has long seemed to me to be a kind of “cargo cult,” that is, government offers us this ongoing ritual, and nothing ever comes of it.

While each place on the planet is unique, here is what novelist Chinua Achebe wrote about Nigeria in his book The Trouble with Nigeria. And no, I am not suggesting Hawaii is the same as Nigeria, but check this out:

One of the commonest manifestations of under-develop-
ment is a tendency among the ruling elite to live in a world of
make-believe and unrealistic expectations. This is the cargo
cult mentality that anthropologists sometimes speak about
— a belief by backward people that someday, without any
exertion whatsoever on their own part, a fairy ship will dock
in their harbour laden with every goody they have always
dreamed of possessing.

Listen to Nigerian leaders and you will frequently hear the
phrase this great country of ours.

Nigeria is not a great country. It is one of the most
disorderly nations in the world. It is one of the most corrupt,
insensitive, inefficient places under the sun. It is one of the
most expensive countries and one of those that give least
value for money.

The shoe almost fits.

One may reasonably ask which way we are headed: Is it towards California, or is it towards Nigeria?

Without public pressure, there will be no Housing First for the homeless and no affordable housing for anyone else. Oh, and there won’t be a $15 minimum wage any time soon, either. Nor much ag land for sustainable farming. Nor safe air to breath around the chemical company’s seed lots. Nor the possibility of commuting to work in a reasonable time each day.

Get used to it, or do something.

Monday, May 18, 2015


Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: Israel, Germany, and Neighbors Three Removed

States will follow the moral authority in today’s world, Pope Francis, being as afraid of recognizing Palestine too late as they were of being too early. Netanyahu’s Zionism is not militarily, but morally defeated

Israel, Germany, and Neighbors Three Removed

18 May 2015

Johan Galtung, 18 May 2015 – TRANSCEND Media Service

In the middle of the Middle East is Israel, harboring dreams of an Israel even greater than King David’s. Israel has 5 neighbors:

Lebanon-Syria-Jordan-Palestine (recognized by 135 states)-Egypt.

This first circle of neighbors borders on a second circle of 6: Cyprus-Turkey-Iraq-Arabia-Sudan-Libya.

The second circle of neighbors borders on a third circle with 8: Greece-Iran-Kuwait-Bahrain-Qatar-United Arab Emirates-Oman-Yemen.

Adding up to 1+5+6+8 = 20 states; covering greater Middle East.

Israel has no ally among the 19, has been at war, with or in, the first circle, Iraq in the second, working for a US+ attack on Iran in the third. Greater Israel, from Nile to Euphrates would absorb the entire first circle and much of Turkey-Iraq-Arabia from the second.

*                           *                           *

In the middle of post-World War I Europe was Germany, harboring dreams of a Germany even greater than Bismarck’s Second Reich: a Third Reich more like the First, the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation destroyed by Napoleon in 1806: a Neuordnung, nuovo ordine with Italy for Europe, with Russia as German colony. Germany had 9 neighbors:


This first circle of neighbors bordered on a second circle of 10: Sweden-UK-Spain-Italy-Croatia-Hungary-Romania-Ukraine-Belarus-Lith’a.

This second circle of neighbors bordered on a third circle of 6:


This third circle of neighbors bordered on a fourth circle of 7:


Adding up 1+9+10+6+7 = 33 states, covering Europe at that time.

7 were on Germany’s side (more or less switching as the war was turning), 6 were neutral, 2 were fighting Germany (UK and Russia); 17 were occupied, more or less brutalized, more or less resisting.

Then there was and is USA, an ocean or two away, joining the war against Germany late (1941); becoming an ally of Israel late (1967).

We know what happened to Germany and its four circles: most, all or more in the EU, Council of Europe and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; EU with 28, CofE with 47, OSCE with 57 members.

However, what will happen to Israel and its three circles is unknown. We only know that there will be no greater-recognized-secure Israel beyond the 1967 borders, let alone any even greater biblical Israel. The question is whether we can learn anything from the German case that can be applied to the Israeli case. Some will hate any comparison but the similarities are too compelling not to try to learn something. It does not make the lesser evil acceptable the fact that one was much worse.

In Europe the task became the peaceful integration of a peaceful Germany in a peaceful Europe; in the Middle East the task is the same. TRANSCEND’s vision–1 Palestine recognized; 2 states, Israel & Palestine side by side; 6 states, Israel and the first circle in confederation; 20 states, Israel and all circles in an Organization for Security and Cooperation of the Middle East–offers no in-between steps. Europe?

They did all that in their own way: recognized DDR, but went beyond, the two Germanies coalesced into one state; a confederation took shape, the EEC-EC-EU, first as 2 states with France, then as 6 (4 from the first circle and Italy from the second), now as 28, most of the 33; and they built an OSCE with everybody, all circles, and more.

Could it work for the “lesser evil”, in a Middle East process?

  1. Go beyond recognition of Palestine to coalescence with Israel into a federation, an Israel-Palestine, Israstine, Palrael, Palisra, whatever;
  2. Start with one cooperation partner: democratic Egypt? Jordan?
  3. Expand from that to a confederation of 6, Israel and the first circle, then let it grow into the second and third circles.
  4. At the same time build OSCME, security and cooperation for all 20. Nevertheless, take note: the region had from 1949 an intergovernmental organization, covering more and more of the region, with Germany: Council of Europe. How about a not binding Council of the Middle East, CofME, for cooperation as equals across a major fault-line, Judaism-Islam? Starting with Israel, the first Circle, Cyprus-Turkey? Doing what OSCE now tries to do across an even older Catholic-Orthodox fault-line in Ukraine and may have to do after a Grexit from Euro-EU?

On the agenda would be the whole geopolitics architecture of the Middle East, not only Israel-Palestine, like the CofE focused on human rights and non-controversial cooperation: culture, city-twinning, etc.

In other words, not too ambitious, one step at a time, but multilaterally. We do not need more proof that direct bilateral talks between today’s Israel and Palestine, aiming at secure and recognized borders for an ever expanding, will never become a “peace process”. But we also know that discussions of visions of a final state must go hand in hand with negotiation of first steps. We cannot postpone the visions and risk steps in the wrong direction. Ends and means must be adjusted to each other in transparent dialogues. Moreover, in that small region so densely packed with states any peace process has to be multi-, not bilateral. Visions alone may be attractive, even compelling and release creativity; but in-between steps acceptable to all are indispensable. The more tracks indicated from the here and now to the there and then, from A to B, the better.

And the USA–neither in Europe, nor in the Middle East, is not a member of CofE, nor should it be of CofME; but a member of OSCME.

States will follow the moral authority in today’s world, Pope Francis, being as afraid of recognizing Palestine too late as they were of being too early. Netanyahu’s Zionism is not militarily, but morally defeated. Think a one state federation; a solid partner; a CofME evolving into a confederation; start an OSCME.

Think peace.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 3.0 United States License.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Courthouse News Service on Gary Hooser’s trip to Switzerland for the Syngenta shareholders’ meeting

by Larry Geller

Gary Hooser’s bold and remarkable trip to Switzerland to speak at the Syngenta shareholder’s meeting was covered here, at least on-line. Hooser ventured into the belly of the beast, right into the enemy’s command headquarters, so to speak, to carry the message of opposition of many Hawaii citizens to their use of toxic restricted-use pesticides near inhabited areas—chemicals that are forbidden in Switzerland, Syngenta’s home country.

A Hawaiian official has returned from Switzerland, where he asked Syngenta shareholders to urge the chemical giant to withdraw from its lawsuit against his county's regulation of genetically engineered crops.

Hooser and a small Kauai delegation went to Switzerland at the invitation of Zurich-based MultiWatch, which calls Hawaii "ground zero of research and testing for genetically modified (GMO) seeds, and the concomitant use of highly toxic, strictly limited pesticides."

MultiWatch owns one share of Syngenta stock, which they assigned to Hooser, giving the elected official the right to speak at the shareholders meeting.

[Courthouse News Service, Hawaii Takes GMO Fight to Switzerland, 5/14/2015]

For documentation on the trip and links to media coverage, check out Gary Hooser’s Twitter feed. You don’t have to be a Twitter user, just click on the link.

It’s unlikely that the commercial press will cover ongoing Neighbor Island opposition to the giant chemical companies' use of toxic chemicals to grow GMO crops in Hawaii, but you can learn whom to follow and what to read from Gary’s twitter feed.



Monday, May 11, 2015


The “clean floor syndrome” applied to headlines (nobody notices unless the floor is dirty)

by Larry Geller

20150511 HI_SA

As we gazed upon this morning’s paper, Nanette reminded me of something that we’ve commented to each other before. To paraphrase, when people visit and the floor is clean, no one says anything. But if the floor is dirty, they’ll be talking about it.

I’ve ranted about the headlines and graphics in our daily paper quite a bit—so I feel a responsibility to balance that by noting that I felt today was a great example of meaningful headlines and graphics.

One problem with giant graphics is the space they take. At least they should be relevant and informative. Today’s front page has two giant telescopes and a headline blaring in bright red,
“Not on our land.” I think that works well. The fist and the typography (all caps, red color) cry out the message effectively. If one didn’t know that this was a telescope issue, there are two largish subheads left and right labeling the telescopes, no reading glasses needed at all to understand. There’s text overlaying a good part of the graphic, so less space is lost. Good job.

The other story is headed “Isle donor’s blood sold to hospitals.” That’s exactly what the story is about, and it’s a complete and clear statement.

That story is by William Cole, who was given the space in the paper to completely cover the issue. That’s why I value story over graphics. Give as much space as possible to the reporter and we, as readers, benefit. Cole’s story both explained why blood needs to be sold, and also raised a question in my mind as to whether blood bank executives need to be compensated quite so well.

The three little headlines at right are all very good IMHO and make me want to check out each story.

Inside, the local section is really good, so I need to provide another snip.


This is just part of the top of the page. The graphic is very appropriate to the story, even illustrating, in a pinch, how one might do CPR even in the absence of training. The headline is compelling: “Amateur CPR in cardiac arrest aids recovery.”

The story is good, giving a fair and unexaggerated account of the benefits of learning to do this, and even giving details of a free training opportunity (this Wednesday, 445 Cooke St., only a few minutes needed between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., call 377-6668 for more info. This is one day only. Walk-ins acceptable).

The second headline on the page is also a winner, “Some in HPD can’t wait for body cams.” The reporter, Bob Shikina, had enough space to do this one properly, covering also the funding situation at the city, state and federal levels.

In the business section, I liked both headlines: “Sugar cane still vital—for rum” and the second story, “Federal home-loan programs extended.”

Do traditionally-done headlines have to be boring? No more so than the story underneath. There’s not much that can be done to make a federal home-loan story sexy, but the sugar cane headline drew me in. Who would know that local rum distilleries were actually growing particular varieties of sugar cane for their products?

The article that grabbed me the most was Kokua Line’s discussion of pedestrian signals. I’ll have to discuss that one in a separate post.

I also don’t mean to imply that there have not been good headlines in the past. And given the space, reporters can bring us the stories that we really buy the paper to get. There are also several very experienced reporters whose bylines I seldom see anymore, and I wonder if the graphics were smaller, might they be given that space to bring us the reporting they do so well.

Side comment on the CPR story—

Nanette and I maintained our CPR certification for many years, but at something like $40 each per year eventually we stopped taking the classes. If CPR is so beneficial, why aren’t the classes free for everyone? Especially these days, the method has been simplified—usually no mouth-to-mouth. So more people should be willing to take a class if the price were right, especially if they don’t need certification.

When someone keels over, there should be a good chance that a bystander who knows CPR can step in to help save a life.

If we can manage successful grass-roots campaigns to ban plastic bags, for example, couldn’t we somehow do something to make knowledge of CPR more widespread in the general population?

I had an experience many, many years ago in Singapore that I will never forget. Walking with a Singaporean friend along a pier, I found I was still talking but he wasn’t next to me any longer. He had seen someone floating in the water and had suddenly dived off the pier to give assistance.

My friend and others brought the floater to shore while we ran back along the pier. On the beach they held him upside down by his feet and were draining the water out of him. I thought that maybe that was not necessarily a good idea, he needed CPR. No one in the crowd knew how to do CPR. I didn’t either, in those days. But I said, put him down over there, and I’ll do the best I can while someone else goes and gets an ambulance (there were no cell phones then). Standing and looking at him is certainly not going to do him any good.

I had no idea what I was doing, though I did breathing and heart compressions. When the ambulance came, they shined a light at him and told me he had been dead for some time.

I didn’t know what I was doing. I had thought of taking a class before that incident, but hadn’t actually done it.

Eventually, I did take CPR classes, and that incident has come back to haunt me each time.

So I’ll be over at Cooke Street on Wednesday, to brush up and practice.

Will you be there? It’s free, try it.


BloombergBusiness questions reality of Tesla backup battery claims

by Larry Geller

I was wondering how claims for Tesla’s Powerwall battery system would pencil out for potential Hawaii users. An article posted by BloombergBusiness seems to counter the bubbly exuberance exhibited by many reporters and publications.

How would either of the Tesla systems work in reality in Hawaii, given both our generally abundant sunshine, the high cost of utility power, the limited payback when HECO buys some of a homeowner’s solar-generated power, and the investment in additional equipment not mentioned by the promotion and hype for this system?

The new Bloomberg article notes that the battery system is priced competitively but that it provides very little power:

But if its sole purpose is to provide backup power to a home, the juice it offers is but a sip. The model puts out just 2 kilowatts of continuous power, which could be pretty much maxed out by a single vacuum cleaner, hair drier, microwave oven or a clothes iron. The battery isn’t powerful enough to operate a pair of space heaters; an entire home facing a winter power outage would need much more. In sunnier climes, meanwhile, it provides just enough energy to run one or two small window A/C units.

[BloombergBusiness, Tesla's New Battery Doesn't Work That Well With Solar, 5/6/2015]

To use the battery, an inverter is necessary. If running those two small windo A/C units for a short time is not satisfactory, more batteries must be added to the system. So putting the Tesla system to work will cost a pretty penny. Even in Hawaii, how will the economics work out?

Probably someone in the solar power industry here would be able to fill out the numbers on a spreadsheet.

That would make interesting reading, especially for those fed up enough with HECO to be willing to pay (almost) anything to get the utility off their backs.

The spreadsheet should take into account the possibility of consecutive days without sunshine, as can and has happened even here. When that hurricane or tropical storm heads our way, will the “backup” system poop out even before the storm arrives?

At the same time we need to think about public safety, which means a growing portion of the community in the dark for several days with no power is not a safe or sustainable situation.

This all feels like we’re at the cusp of the long-awaited moment when some homeowners can begin to thumb their noses at paying triple the national average for electricity. If not this Tesla battery, then something, soon, may pull that trick off.

Friday, May 08, 2015


Cosmetic decoration vs. meaningful news graphics

Cosmetic decoration, which frequently distorts the data, will never salvage an underlying lack of content.
― Edward R. Tufte

by Larry Geller

I was wondering where to begin a post on overuse of graphics as opposed to doing a good job with the news. Then today’s Star-Advertiser was plopped at my door early this morning. Why not begin with today’s paper.

This will be a rant. You are warned. I’ll vent my spleen first, but I also have some examples of good uses of graphics to follow. Even if you skim the criticism, do have a look at those, below.

Looking at the paper, I feel like Jon Stewart must when he arrives at the office to see what gifts Fox “News” has given his writers that day.

But first, as Stewart says at the start of each Daily Show: The best gift I was given in this regard was one day in September, 2012.

Gift from the editorsOn that day there were questionable headlines and graphics with backwards time lines. Click over to that article if you’re interested.
Back to today’s gift. I snapped two pages with the cell phone camera that inspired me.

Graphic excess

The movie page is a bit of a quibble, so let’s start first with local news.

There’s a large picture on the local news page of a march through downtown Honolulu yesterday. A man is shown holding a sign reading “Young girls are being bought and sold on these streets.”

So where is the story? Is it the job of a newspaper to send me to Google to find out what that sign means, what is the organization, and what do they want us to do? Why not run a smaller picture and a story on the subject? Maybe the subject is important—maybe the organization is reaching out to solve a social problem we, as readers and subscribers, should be told about. [Hint to the editors: it’s not too late. Find a reporter, or google it yourself. Make amends. Give us the news.]

This could be an example of the “Cosmetic decoration” that “will never salvage an underlying lack of content” that Edward Tufte was talking about, though he really meant data (as in numerical data perhaps). I’ll get to data illustration in a moment.

Another hint to the editors: Don’t waste the space you have. Civil Beat is rolling over you on local news that matters to readers. You can check on that after you google the story on girls being bought and sold.

As to the movie review attached to a giant picture, I know it’s a thing. And it’s a feature story, not news. But still. What a great example of graphic excess—that is, running as big a graphic as possible, which of course displaces news or feature stories that could have occupied that space.

That giant image is for a movie that was panned in almost every paragraph. In other words, a loser was given champion treatment. The last paragraph inside begins “The best you can say...”

All the review proves is that they could have chosen one or more better movies to review for that space—one that I might actually enjoy seeing. If there is one. But let me know, please.

Let’s get to news and data

I still love this page from April 23:

20150423 business section

What is this story about? The graphic is an awful waste of space. It conveys  only two very simple data points.

What information does the graphic give? None. It’s overwhelming for the data it might convey. You need to read the print underneath to learn that they are talking about Kona Brewing’s plan to expand production from 12,000 barrels to 100,000 barrels a year. Even a simple little bar graph, though unnecessary, would give the eye an idea of the increase. Squishing cans on a page with the word Cheers! in the way says nothing and makes a quantitative comparison of the visual information impossible.

What’s wrong with this picture?

What's wrong with this pictureThere are several things wrong. First, the data for the current year is shown in visual comparison to previous years even though this year is not complete. What the graph says is that there is a big drop. It’s not true.

Second, the graphic makes the classic error of having no scale on the Y axis. Without that, it makes no quantitative sense. The paper does the reader no favor by printing misleading graphics

Examples of good graphic design

Edward Tufte is justifiably the guru on this subject. From his website, here is an example I am fond of:

Megan Jaegerman produced some of the best news graphics ever while working at The New York Times from 1990 to 1998. Her work is smart, finely detailed, elegant, witty, inventive, informative. A fierce researcher and reporter, she writes gracefully and precisely. Megan has the soul of a news reporter, who happens to use graphs, tables, and illustrations--as well as words--to explain the news. Her best work is the best work in news graphics.

[ Megan Jaegerman's brilliant news graphics]

BeachesThat article includes one graphic explaining the state of beaches in a certain area. This relates to our situation in Hawaii, where sand is being washed away, so I read it with interest. I don’t have permission to reproduce the graphic here, but you can see it, along with other fine examples of Megan Jaegerman’s work, by clicking on the link above.

What about simpler graphs, often used to illustrate data points? Here’s a graphic from Tufte’s book Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative:

Tufte 1

This graphic shows that when the handle was removed from a pump, the number of cholera deaths in an epidemic decreased drastically. Good graphic, right? No. Here’s another, taken from the same data:

Tufte 2

It’s the same data, but presented differently. It shows that deaths from cholera were already declining and continued to do so at the same rate even though the pump handle was removed.

So presentation can enlighten—if done properly. The second is an illustration of good graphic design that informs the reader. The first, if printed in a newspaper, would misinform.

When is a large graphic appropriate?

I think large graphics have to earn their keep.

I did like this one, an illustration from the New York Times that again, I don’t have permission to reproduce here, but you can click for it. It charts deaths in Iraq by number, type and region. After clicking, click again to enlarge.

Also, any of the graphics on the Megan Jaegerman page above would justify the real estate they occupy because they convey real information in exchange for the space.

Style vs. function

With newspapers, there are certain styles. The New York Post front page most often 20150411 NY Postlooks something like this, and the merits of taking that much space for so little have nothing to do with their choice to publish this way.

Our local newspaper has no competition, so has not had to resort to this sort of thing I suppose.

Instead, we are presented with large but partial-page graphics that often fail to contribute to a news purpose. In the left illustration below, my first take was that the story would be about building inspection, because that’s what the graphic shows. The graphics on the next two are unnecessary and do not contribute to the stories, which however are important. The demand for affordable rentals and lower-cost housing is real, but cute pictures don’t convey the challenge ahead.




Do these large graphics serve the same purpose as the New York Post’s splashy front pages? I don’t know. While the headline in the last illustration is accurate, the first two don’t convey information about their accompanying stories at all, so the reader is left with a puzzle until they inspect the page a bit more closely. The trick is to find those reading glasses and hunt for the smaller print. Graphics that convey information could help here.

If you’re still here with me, thank you. I always note that I do think newspapers are important to an informed public, and hope that saying these things somehow makes the newspaper better. Also, I think reporters could make good use of the space now occupied by oversize graphics. It’s their stories that I want to read, not pictures of a building being inspected magically from the bottom.


Proposed federal rules for Hawaiian Home Lands being posted right now

by Larry Geller

Thanks to a pointer to this page at the very end of an article by Rob Perez in this morning’s Star-Advertiser, I visited the U.S. Department of the Interior web page hoping to find proposed Federal rules for how the feds will “review land exchanges involving Hawaiian home lands and amendments to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act proposed by the State of Hawai‘i.”. Nothing was there yet. When I went back just a minute later, there was this…

HHL Rules

Clicking it went nowhere (“page not found”) but now the data is there. Heck, it took 95 years, I should have been a bit more patient. The link does not yet work. Keep trying.

The publication is a single page, I’ve copied it below.

From today’s paper:

After nearly a century, the U.S. government for the first time is proposing administrative rules to clarify its oversight of the federally created land trust designed to benefit thousands of Native Hawaiians.

The proposed regulations will address the proc­ess the Department of the Interior uses to evaluate changes sought by the state to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, the federal law that established the roughly 200,000-acre trust in 1921.

[Star-Advertiser p. A1, First-ever regulations will clarify Hawaiian Homes law, 5/8/2015]

The failure of the State of Hawaii to fulfill its obligations under the Hawaiian Homelands Trust is perhaps the longest running unsolved crime in the state. People have literally died waiting for their allotment.

It turns out that the federal government has been the state’s accessory in this crime.

The neglect to fulfill the state’s trust responsibility, which was a condition of statehood, is almost always under the radar—it is likely the most important “disappeared news” there is. And yet, it seems to be off-limits to both news outlets and to our state legislature, which has the power to intervene and at least repair the damage going forward. Rob Perez is on it, but aside from his excellent feature articles, there’s been silence.

The lawsuit Kalima v. State of Hawai‘I, filed in 1999, is still not resolved. It was brought by beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Home Lands trust, and is now in a protracted damage phase. I’ve watched the attorneys’ hair turn grey over the years. Perhaps the state continues to hold out hoping they’ll give up (which they won’t do).

The state’s crimes against beneficiaries are endless. Not only have many died while on the waiting list, but some have only been given land, with a requirement to build a home, when they are well into their retirement years and cannot qualify for a mortgage. It was heartbreaking to attend sessions of the Kalima trial and listen to the stories.

Judge Eden Hifo ruled on November 3, 2009 that the State of Hawaii breached its trust obligations and was liable for the delays in receiving homesteads by the beneficiaries.

And yet the state continues to fight the beneficiaries in court. Having lost the case, the state seems to be prolonging the damage phase for as long as they can get away with it, and the judiciary doesn’t see anything wrong with that.

Under a new judge the arguments in the damage phase continue. And continue. And continue.

Publication of Proposed Hawaiian Home Land Rules Governing Land Exchanges and Amendments to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act


WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Department is seeking comments on proposed Federal rules that seek to clarify how we review land exchanges involving Hawaiian home lands and amendments to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act proposed by the State of Hawai‘i.


The health and strength of the Hawaiian Home Land Trust and the beneficiaries is among the top priorities for the U.S. Department of the Interior. We are optimistic that with input from beneficiaries, the Native Hawaiian Community, the State of Hawai‘i and others, that we can put an effective process in place that will serve the beneficiaries on and off the land. The Department seeks to do this by providing clarity about how we review land exchanges and amendments to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, and also providing the State of Hawai‘i and the Department a clear path for how to work together in protecting the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust.

The proposed rules we’re issuing in the coming days seek to clarify the Federal Government’s responsibilities in helping to ensure the management of the Home Lands Trust occurs in a fair, transparent, and sustainable manner.

“The Department of the Interior takes our responsibilities for the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust and its beneficiaries seriously,” said Kris Sarri, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary - Policy, Management, and Budget at the U.S. Department of the Interior. “is the Trust is vital to the health and strength of the Native Hawaiian Community, and especially to the beneficiaries who live on the lands or are on the waiting list for a homestead lease. That's why the Department today is proposing rules for public comment that seek to clarify the process it undertakes to review land exchanges involving Hawaiian home lands and amendments to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act proposed by the State of Hawaii.”

The proposed rules 43 C.F.R. parts 47 & 48 seeks to deal with two specific Departmental responsibilities. They are the Department’s review of (1) proposed land exchanges involving trust lands and (2) amendments (proposed by the State of Hawai‘i) to the HHCA. The processes outlined in both parts 47 & 48 seek to build upon past experiences and success working with beneficiaries and the State (e.g., Statewide consultation efforts between 2007-2012 by the Department to obtain input on potential land exchanges and amendments to the HHCA) to protect the Trust.

Part 47 seeks to clarify for the State and the beneficiaries the Department of the Interior’s land exchange review process when Hawaiian home lands are involved, the documents the Department will use for the review, and the standards to be used in that review.

  • Seeks to ensure that certain Federal laws are appropriately applied in land exchanges, including: NEPA, National Historic Preservation Act, Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
  • Seeks to ensure appraisals of properties involved in a Hawaiian Home Lands Trust land exchange meet Federal standards and that all parties can be confident in the results of the appraisals.
  • Seeks to ensure all land exchanges involving Hawaiian home lands are reviewed with the primary goal of protecting the interest of the Trust and its beneficiaries.

Part 48 seeks to clarify for the State and the beneficiaries the steps the Department will take to review proposed amendments to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act and the standards to be used in that review.

  • By utilizing this rule, everyone can have confidence that our reviews will be fair, in compliance with all applicable Federal laws and completed with the primary goal of protecting the interests of the Trust and its beneficiaries.

The State of Hawai‘i, beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust, the Native Hawaiian Community, and the general public are invited to comment on the proposed rules which will be available for official comment beginning Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at

The draft proposed rules are available for review now at

The public comment period for these proposed rules will last 60 days from the date of publication.  If the Department ultimately decides to issue a final rule it could be published within six months of the publication of the proposed rules.

Thursday, May 07, 2015


Video: City Council warned that its new sit-lie ban bill is illegal

by Larry Geller

There are two good comments attached to today’s article, Honolulu City Council accelerates its cruel crackdown on the homeless with new ban (5/7/2015). Please click over and read them.

The first suggests something I might do with my $20 instead of sending it to the ACLU. The second includes a video clipped by H. Doug Matsuoka of City Managing Director Roy Amemiya informing the City Council that their bill to extend the sit-lie ban is illegal. Or, you can watch that video below, it’s short and to the point.

Amemiya also stated that since the City considers the proposed law to be illegal, they would have a problem enforcing it.

Now, if it supersedes the current law, would that mean that it could not be enforced anywhere at all? I think that’s the possible result.

The City Council passed the bill anyway on Wednesday.



Related: Honolulu City Council Must Stop the Sit-Lie Expansion (Civil Beat, 5/6/2015)


Honolulu City Council accelerates its cruel crackdown on the homeless with new ban

It’s been eight months since the Honolulu City Council passed the [sit-lie] ban. At the time, council members urged Mayor Kirk Caldwell to find a temporary place for those sure to be displaced by sit-lie, but the city seems no closer to identifying such a place than it is to delivering the promised necessary services to get folks off the street — part of a cruel bait-and-switch that insisted sit-lie’s passage come first.

by Larry Geller

Civil Beat posted a well-reasoned editorial on the subject of the Honolulu city government’s misguided handling of its ever-growing homelessness crisis. From the start, it pulls no punches:

The annual homeless head count released recently by the City and County of Honolulu was a damning indictment of the half-baked efforts of city and state leaders to address what has become one of Oahu’s most pressing problems.

[Civil Beat, Honolulu City Council Must Stop the Sit-Lie Expansion, 5/6/2015]

I suggest you click over and read the full article, but in case you don’t, let me snip one more point that illustrates the failure of our “civic leaders” to lead:

Perhaps most troubling, the number of homeless veterans rose by 21 percent over last year to a total of 467. This despite Honolulu’s participation in a national, federally sponsored campaign to eliminate veteran homelessness in the 25 cities where it is most pronounced.

Honolulu stands alone among those cities in having a problem that has actually grown significantly worse since the program began, while other cities have eliminated veteran homelessness entirely.

Disappeared News has consistently condemned the city’s enactment of ordinances that criminalize homelessness while it does nothing that significantly addresses the need for truly affordable housing not only for the homeless but for the growing poverty sector of our economy. Nor does the city understand or seem to have any intent on pursuing a true Housing First program, which is an evidence-based remedy and cost-saver as well.

It’s no coincidence that when our daily paper talks about “affordable housing” they inevitably put the phrase in quotes. The city is responsible for zoning (except for the part usurped by the state through, for example, the HCDA). Neither entity cares to take those quotes off and see to it that low-rental housing is available in perpetuity for its citizens who desperately need it. Even should they feel remorse over their neglect and start today, it would take perhaps 10-20 years before the tens of thousands of housing units could become available.

The latest expansion of the sit-lie ban may be open to legal challenge if the mayor allows it to become law. But who will step forward to conduct that challenge?

So far the city has gotten away with illegally confiscating and destroying the personal effects of its homeless citizens in innumerable cruel and heartless raids—conducted by city personnel and overseen by the HPD. Far from enforcing the law, the HPD does not interfere when personal belongings such as ID or medicines are tossed into the garbage truck compactors.

If there is to be a challenge to the city’s conduct, it will have to come through the legal system. So far no challenge has been mounted. Although I’m a fan of the Hawaii ACLU, I can’t help but be impatient for action from that organization. It hasn’t happened, and it’s not clear what other organization is willing to step in and stand up for our poorest neighbors.

For what it’s worth, the ACLU isn’t getting my $20 until the civil liberties of so many people are defended by those very capable and caring attorneys.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015


Video of May 3 explosion at Halemaʻumaʻu Crater, Kilauea Volcano (USGS)

Click the little thingy at the lower right for full-screen. The video was originally posted here.


So many chemicals in store-bought bread!?

by Larry Geller

The report that Panera Bread plans to remove 150 artificial ingredients from its products can be justly celebrated as good news. No doubt they are either responding to or trying to capitalize on a trend to get the crap out of our processed food. Either way, getting the chemicals out, if they stay out, is a good thing.

As the linked story notes at the end,

No No List"But just because something is artificial or its name is hard to pronounce doesn't mean it's unsafe. Some of the additives Panera is ditching are perfectly innocuous, such as calcium propionate or sodium lactate—so those moves are more about public relations than public health."

[Today, Panera Bread plans to ditch 150 artificial ingredients, 5/5/2015]

Worse than reading a list of what may be in our bread is that they plan to remove these chemicals only by 2016. Why worse? Because it’s still 2015.

Now that I know that their products may include some combination of that amazing list of chemicals, I am certainly not going to go near a Panera Bread product until 2016, after they say they have taken the chemicals out. BouleUgh. They call it a “No No List”, but Yes, Yes, they are using them still today!

I don’t know if Panera products are even sold here, and anyway, we bake our own bread. We even grind our own flour.

We somehow manage to make a fantastic loaf without Glycerol Ester of Wood Rosin or Butylated Hydroxyanisole.

It’s delicious, healthy, and chemical-free.


New Low?

by Larry Geller

Can journalism be saved

“New High? In all-caps?

What does it mean? What will the story be about?

Can journalism in Hawaii be saved?

I don’t mean “can newspapers in Hawaii be saved,” they’re probably doing just fine economically at the moment. Nor do I mean that reporters cannot report. But those headlines… and the meaningless if not misleading graphics that seem to be used to fill space… why?

Today’s headline may be a new low in the sense that it is neither informative nor accurate, and the graphic isn’t especially attractive (although that’s obviously a subjective judgment). It misleads. The story has nothing to do with getting high, or any other high, for that matter.

The story reports that there is a bill (not yet even a law, nor yet finished with the legislative process) that would establish a small number of medical marijuana dispensaries across the state. The bill is important to users of medical marijuana—who are in pain, or suffering nausea or other symptoms which medical marijuana can alleviate. This is very different from “getting high.”

Hawaii has had a medical marijuana law on the books for some time, but inexplicably, if a patient cannot grow the stuff at home, usually there is no recourse but to buy it on the street, under less-than-legal conditions.

The editors know this, of course.

What is a headline for?

These days, primarily on the Internet, headlines are no longer used strictly to inform. Sometimes they tease, making you want to click on a link to find out what the story is about. Newspapers sometimes use teasers, but not on an important story.

Sometimes a headline is in the form of a question:

Honolulu Magazine

“What Are We Doing to Fix Hawaii’s Homeless Crisis? (Honolulu Magazine)

In this form, we expect a discussion in some depth, although the story could just highlight a failing, for example. In other words, we have expectations that are formed by the headline.

I don’t have to go far for more examples. Here’s a snip from yesterday:

No butts

The headline may raise someone’s curiosity. The graphic is unrelated to the story (it’s meaningless unless you already know the story) and sure takes up a lot of real estate.

Or is that the point of it?

One last example, from three days ago:

UghMaybe better, but no prize. As with many front-page headlines in this paper, you’d have to know what the story was about to understand the headline.

5-year extension? Of what?

The second one is close.

But the third—what is being privatized?

If there’s enough space for gigantic graphics, surely space could be given to run meaningful headlines?

By way of comparison, here’s today’s top story on the Civil Beat website:

Kim Out

The headline tells the reader exactly what the story is about, is dramatic (“shakeup”) enough to encourage reading, and the graphics, photos of the incoming and outgoing Senate presidents, are useful and directly related to the core of the story. Both leaders look determined, if I may give my impression. Say what you will about the photo selected for Kim, but who knows, it may accurately reflect her mood at this point.

Civil Beat has done a fine job with the story, which then deserves a good headline and top billing on the website. So that’s what they did with it.

There are headlines in the Star-Advertiser that are perfectly good, or close. They can do it if they try. Maybe it takes some practice.

Enuf. I wanted to say a bit about the use of graphics in general, but enough for now. The newspaper is really important to its readers, and I include myself. It is also something we pay for. So wishing it could improve is fair, I think.

Monday, May 04, 2015


Major U.S. Retailers Are Closing More Than 6,000 Stores

The article below first appeared on the Economic Collapse Blog.  Michael Snyder is a writer, speaker and activist who writes and edits his own blogs The American Dream and Economic Collapse Blog. Follow him on Twitter here.

Michael’s prediction is essentially that consumerism in America is already in trouble. Now, I hold that corporations already know this, and that they will gradually ramp up sales in other countries, especially China. So while today consumer buying is still the engine of the American economy, the future may see a shift. The corporations will survive. But what about us?

Over now to Michael Snyder.

Major U.S. Retailers Are Closing More Than 6,000 Stores

By Michael Snyder, on May 2st, 2015 on The Activist Post

If the U.S. economy really is improving, then why are big U.S. retailers permanently shutting down thousands of stores?  The “retail apocalypse” that I have written about so frequently appears to be accelerating.  As you will see below, major U.S. retailers have announced that they are closing more than 6,000 locations, but economic conditions in this country are still fairly stable.  So if this is happening already, what are things going to look like once the next recession strikes?  For a long time, I have been pointing to 2015 as a major “turning point” for the U.S. economy, and I still feel that way.  And since I started The Economic Collapse Blog at the end of 2009, I have never seen as many indications that we are headed into another major economic downturn as I do right now.  If retailers are closing this many stores already, what are our malls and shopping centers going to look like a few years from now?

The list below comes from information compiled by, but I have only included major retailers that have announced plans to close at least 10 stores.  Most of these closures will take place this year, but in some instances the closures are scheduled to be phased in over a number of years.  As you can see, the number of stores that are being permanently shut down is absolutely staggering…

180 Abercrombie & Fitch (by 2015)

75 Aeropostale (through January 2015)

150 American Eagle Outfitters (through 2017)

223 Barnes & Noble (through 2023)

265 Body Central / Body Shop

66 Bottom Dollar Food

25 Build-A-Bear (through 2015)

32 C. Wonder

21 Cache

120 Chico’s (through 2017)

200 Children’s Place (through 2017)

17 Christopher & Banks

70 Coach (fiscal 2015)

70 Coco’s /Carrows

300 Deb Shops

92 Delia’s

340 Dollar Tree/Family Dollar

39 Einstein Bros. Bagels

50 Express (through 2015)

31 Frederick’s of Hollywood

50 Fresh & Easy Grocey Stores

14 Friendly’s

65 Future Shop (Best Buy Canada)

54 Golf Galaxy (by 2016)

50 Guess (through 2015)

26 Gymboree

40 JCPenney

127 Jones New York Outlet

10 Just Baked

28 Kate Spade Saturday & Jack Spade

14 Macy’s

400 Office Depot/Office Max (by 2016)

63 Pep Boys (“in the coming years”)

100 Pier One (by 2017)

20 Pick ’n Save (by 2017)

1,784 Radio Shack

13 Ruby Tuesday

77 Sears

10 SpartanNash Grocery Stores

55 Staples (2015)

133 Target, Canada (bankruptcy)

31 Tiger Direct

200 Walgreens (by 2017)

10 West Marine

338 Wet Seal

80 Wolverine World Wide (2015 – Stride Rite & Keds)

So why is this happening?

Without a doubt, Internet retailing is taking a huge toll on brick and mortar stores, and this is a trend that is not going to end any time soon.

But as Thad Beversdorf has pointed out, we have also seen a stunning decline in true discretionary consumer spending over the past six months…

What we find is that over the past 6 months we had a tremendous drop in true discretionary consumer spending. Within the overall downtrend we do see a bit of a rally in February but quite ominously that rally failed and the bottom absolutely fell out. Again the importance is it confirms the fundamental theory that consumer spending is showing the initial signs of a severe pull back. A worrying signal to be certain as we would expect this pull back to begin impacting other areas of consumer spending. The reason is that American consumers typically do not voluntarily pull back like that on spending but do so because they have run out of credit. And if credit is running thin it will surely be felt in all spending.

The truth is that middle class U.S. consumers are tapped out.  Most families are just scraping by financially from month to month.  For most Americans, there simply is not a whole lot of extra money left over to go shopping with these days.

In fact, at this point approximately one out of every four Americans spend at least half of their incomes just on rent

More than one in four Americans are spending at least half of their family income on rent – leaving little money left to purchase groceries, buy clothing or put gas in the car, new figures have revealed.

A staggering 11.25 million households consume 50 percent or more of their income on housing and utilities, according to an analysis of Census data by nonprofit firm, Enterprise Community Partners.

And 1.8 million of these households spend at least 70 percent of their paychecks on rent.

The surging cost of rental housing has affected a rising number of families since the Great Recession hit in 2007. Officials define housing costs in excess of 30 percent of income as burdensome.

For decades, the U.S. economy was powered by a free spending middle class that had plenty of discretionary income to throw around.  But now that the middle class is being systematically destroyed, that paradigm is changing.  Americans families simply do not have the same resources that they once did, and that spells big trouble for retailers.

As you read this article, the United States still has more retail space per person than any other nation on the planet.  But as stores close by the thousands, “space available” signs are going to be popping up everywhere.  This is especially going to be true in poor and lower middle class neighborhoods.  Especially after what we just witnessed in Baltimore, many retailers are not going to hesitate to shut down underperforming locations in impoverished areas.

And remember, the next major economic crisis has not even arrived yet.  Once it does, the business environment in this country is going to change dramatically, and a few years from now America is going to look far different than it does right now.


Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s Speech in US Congress–With Comments

With A9 [a clause in the National Constitution of Japan outlawing war as a means to settle international disputes], not DCG [The Defense Cooperation Guidelines], as a banner, Japan could build, with the two Chinas and the two Koreas, an East Asian Community with the contested islands as joint property, while at the same time keeping friendship and the San Francisco security treaty with the USA.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s Speech in US Congress–With Comments

4 May 2015

Johan Galtung, 4 May 2015 - TRANSCEND Media Service

Below are 15 selected points from the Abe Joint Session US Congress speech 30 Apr 2015, “Toward an Alliance of Hope,” with comments:

Pearl Harbor, Bataan, Coral Sea–

The battles engraved at the Memorial crossed my mind, and I reflected upon the lost dreams and lost futures of those young Americans.

With deep repentance in my heart, I stood there in deep prayer for some time.

My dear friends, on behalf of Japan and the Japanese people, I offer with profound respect my eternal condolences to the souls of all American people that were lost during World War II.

Comment: No apology, repentance, and condolences as when somebody passes away, for a war wanted and provoked by Washington as worried by rising Japan as by rising China today. Stupid Japan fell into the trap; “repent” says it well. Such were the games states play and still play, above all the USA that Japan now is joining in a much tighter alliance.

How about the lost dreams and futures of young Japanese? The war, the problem, had two sides; not only Japan killing Americans.

Enemies that fought each other have become friends bonded in spirit (the Battle of Iwo Jima). No trauma seething underneath after Hiroshima-Nagasaki and the even worse bombing of Tokyo? No need for conciliation, beyond elements of veteran friendship?
-feelings of deep remorse over the war. Our actions brought suffering to the peoples in Asian countries.–I will uphold the views expressed by the previous prime ministers in this regard. This is better: China, Korea and SE Asia did not provoke Japan into attacking and even if Japan was above all fighting white men from faraway very many Asians were killed in all places.
–the post war economic system that the U/s.has fostered by opening up its own market and calling for a liberal world economy. When the biggest power does that, and decides the rules, it is to become even bigger. How about the “voluntary restraint” when Japanese cars became really competitive? How about paying by making Japan de facto occupied?
And prosperity is nothing less than the seabed for peace. The three most belligerent countries (number of wars over number of years of existence) USA, UK and Israel are rich. The “seabed” is equitable trade, unknown to al three.
We can spread our shared values around the world and have them take root: the rule of law, democracy, and freedom. That is exactly what TPP is all about. TPP is exactly the opposite: unknown rules made law without open debate–and no known freedom clause to opt out. Besides, one way “spreading” is imposition.
Japan’s agriculture has declined–corporate governance with global standards–we made it stronger. But agriculture is needed to make Japan less vulnerable in case of war or other calamities
To turn around our depopulation–we empower women so they can get more active in all walks of life But women in “all walks of life” have also postponed marriage and children, even indefinitely.
The peace and security of the post war world was not possible without American leadership. Are 70+ US military interventions and 50+ efforts to overturn leaders “peace and security”?
In the end, together with the U.S. and other like-minded democracies we won the Cold War. Abe lands on this right wing US formula where “nobody won, the Soviet Union imploded” is a more peace building formula.
–we support “rebalancing” by U.S to enhance the peace and security of the Asia-Pacific region–first, last and throughout.

Japan will provide–$2.8 bill to help improve US bases in Guam.

We must make the seas stretching from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean seas of peace and freedom where all follow the rule of law.

we mst fortify the US-Japan alliance–our responsibility.

In Japan we are working hard to enhance the legislative foundations for our security.

-in place Japan will be much more able to provide seamless response to all levels of crisis. The Defense Cooperation Guidelines we agreed on is historic.

An alliance is based on mutual support, and readiness for war with an enemy–the USA makes many enemies and commits Japan.

Note who pays for whom.

A valid point, China overlooks the Law of the Sea recreating old sea lanes. Solution: negotiation and-or an East Asian Community.

This all adds up to “normalizing” Japan by abolishing A9, tying Japan to the most belligerent country in the world–instead of working for “A9 for all states”, normalizing having no army or at least no offensive capability.

We now hold up high a new banner that is “proactive contribution to peace based on the principle of international cooperation”. An alliance based on equality-not this one-may build peace within–and (threat of) war without. Translated as positive peace” in Japanese, the term I introduced in 1958 for cooperation and harmony across fault lines.
–an alliance that connects the biggest and the second biggest democratic powers in the free world working together. India is soon three times as big as the USA and Japan together, and as democratic in the sense of national fair and free elections.
Toward an Alliance of Hope. Hope that USA-Japan will come out on top of the Asia-Pacific?

Think of what Japan could have done if the so-called opposition had done their homework. With A9, not DCG, as a banner, Japan could build, with the two Chinas and the two Koreas, an East Asian Community with the contested islands as joint property, while at the same time keeping friendship and the San Francisco security treaty with the USA.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 3.0 United States License.


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