Friday, April 29, 2016

 

Which presidential candidate will assume the divine right to rule America?



Why should I die for the Water Board, or at the command of an arbitrarily selected group of variously virtuous people, unless I believe that they are owed obedience, as representatives of something more divine?—
from The political animal : biology, ethics, and politics, Stephen R. L. Clark, 1999, p. 147



by Larry Geller

We have not given up on the divine right of kings in this country. The ghost of George III still animates our model of national leadership, especially our strong need to deify our elected presidents.

While our military volunteers literally die in obedience to our own “Great Leader,” for the rest of us, it is safe to say that the political and public reaction to Obama, the first black man elected to the White House, has been strongly dependent on whether or not he is recognized as one to whom we “owe obedience,” that is, on whether or not a black man can assume a divine mantle and rule over white people. The prohibition of dark skin is deeply rooted in our religious mythology—was Jesus as light-skinned (and often light-haired) as He is most often depicted?

And so the part of the country that granted Obama near godliness elected him to his office, and then the part of the country that denies him any devine right refuses to cooperate. They feel that they owe no obedience because he could not possibly be closer to their God than they are.

So now come Trump and Clinton. Are either of them fit candidates to rule, which is to say, to don the mantle of the divine right of American presidents in January 2017?

Trump’s behavior so far is far from godly, but he has time to demonstrate some wisdom before election day. He’s a blank slate which he himself can fill in. While Trump is widely despised, he also has a following resembling a widespread religious cult. For sure, many of his followers expect him to not only build walls but to part the waters of government or to turn the thin gruel that the economy provides them with into wine. In fact, no other candidaate holds out those possibilities, though Sanders comes close in some respects (as a Messiah figure perhaps).

Clinton has a track record, and it is full of warmongering. Now, going to war is something kings have always done, but their popularity among the masses depends to a large extent on the outcomes as well as to a lesser extent on their methods. America’s wars have been disasters for so many in Asia and the near-East and so costly to American taxpayers that Clinton is already cut down a few notches on the godliness scale.

Trump is onto something with his emphasis on “winning.” No matter how cruel the dictator, or for that matter how many civilians an elected president or prime minister may dismiss as “collateral damage,” if they can win, we tend to overlook their inhumanity and cruelty.

What of Ted Cruz as a divinely-inspired ruler? I’m not the only one who has latched onto this thesis. John Boener gives him strong negative marks in this regard:

Former House Speaker John Boehner launched a verbal attack against Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, calling him "Lucifer in the flesh" and a "miserable son of a bitch." Boehner was speaking during a forum at Stanford University. The comments were recorded by journalists from the campus paper, The Stanford Daily. This clip begins with Stanford history professor David Kennedy.

John Boehner: "Lucifer in the flesh. In Washington, I have many Democrat friends, and I have Republican friends. I get along with almost everybody. But I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life."

[Democracy Now, Ex-House Speaker Boehner Calls Cruz "Lucifer in the Flesh", 4/29/2016]

A “Lucifer” can lead—one could cite the ascendence of the current leadership of North Korea, of Hitler, or of any of a number of dictators in the past or the present. But we, as Americans, don’t want a Lucifer as our president, hence John Boeher’s warning.

Before I end this rant, let me point out that nothing prevents our national leadership from concluding a “pact with the Devil” provided their divine rights have already been established. For such kings, almost anything is possible. So Bush Jr. can buddy up (or hold hands, even) with the cruel Saudis, yet Obama is condemned for concluding a pact with Iran. Obama’s godliness quotient was too low for him to do get away with that. 

Forget Democracy. From the evidence available, George III is our true Founding Father. We are weighing, in this election cycle, which candidate is fit to rule in his line.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

 

Support Democracy in Hawaii—contribute to the fight for good government


by Larry Geller

Your help is needed to support a grassroots effort to solve several abuses that diminish democracy in Hawaii.

Stories break into the news and then mysteriously disappear—for example, does former House Speaker Calvin Say live in the district he represents in the House? The question isn’t settled yet even if there are no reporters covering the ongoing struggle.

Another news story that “disappeared:” Hawaii’s Office of Elections' mishandled the 2012 election (see below). Now we find outselves in another election year.

Should we just brace for more missteps, or how about fighting for improvement?

Several legal actions are gathered together in a crowdfunding page for the Hui for Good Government Hawaii. While legal action is typically costly and out of reach of good government advocacy groups, attorney Lance Collins has agreed to argue several cases pro bono (without charge) for these groups. He has argued and won good government cases including cases that have gone to the Hawaii Supreme Court—for example, he won Kanaehele v. Maui County, a Sunshine Law case, in 2013.

But there are court costs that must be paid, and other expenses related to these suits.


Citizen funding can make a difference

Fixing the 2012 election problems comes down to correcting lax rules governing election procedures. Since the Office of Elections hasn’t done this even as we now approach a new election season, it falls to concerned citizens and the court to make ‘em get their act together.

From the crowdfunding page, here is the brief description of the case filed against the Chief Elections Officer:

The Office of Elections' mishandled the 2012 election. They ran out of ballots, delivered ballots to the wrong place, and had people voting on the wrong ballots. Why? We argue they needed more and better rules to protect our right to vote. The case is before the Supreme Court and oral arguments are set for May 18 at 8:45 am.

Supreme CourtYou can attend the hearing—it’s a historic courtroom and attorney Collins argues eloquently.

Wouldn’t it feel even better if you have chipped in to correct the election errors? Sitting proudly in the front row, you’ll know that you are part of the solution that hopefully will come out of this citizen effort.

This isn’t the first time Collins has tangled with the Office of Elections:

Judge Joseph E. Cardoza granted an injunction today against Hawaii’s illegal use of electronic voting machines and the illegal transmission of vote results over the Internet. A written decision will be issued in the coming weeks, he said.

The suit (Babson v. Cronin, Civ No. 2cc08-1-000378 ) was brought by attorney Lance Collins on behalf of five citizens of Maui against Hawaii’s Chief Elections Officer (see background on Disappeared News in these articles).

[Hawaii’s 2010 elections enjoined by Maui judge, 5/20/2009]

Check out the crowdfunding page, and chip in if you can—small donations can pay the costs of keeping these actions alive.

Monday, April 11, 2016

 

ACLU of Hawaii posts Rights of Hawaiiʻs Homeless website guide


Check it out here:

https://acluhi.org/homelessness-in-the-city-county-of-honolulu-know-your-rights/

From their news release:

Many of the rights outlined in the guide resulted from the U.S. District Court’s order in the Martin v. City and County of Honolulu lawsuit, brought by the ACLU and the law firm of Alston Hunt Floyd and Ing, in response to City sweeps.

The guide is the latest in a collection of Hawai‘i-specific “Know Your Rights” materials that the local ACLU has created, including a “First Amendment Toolkit” and a “Youth Rights Guide.”

These resources, and more, are available at www.acluhawaii.org.



 

Yet another part of Hawaii’s stalled homelessness program grinds to a halt


by Larry Geller

shed

It’s hard avoid the conclusion that the leaders of our state—including legislative committee chairs, legislative leadership, the Governor and his task force on homelessness—really have no intention of doing anything that has a chance of working to alleviate the crisis.

Yesterday I wrote a kind of open letter query which I did send to each task force member, with little to no expectations of a reply, of course.

Today’s Star-Advertiser story bearing the cryptic headline Shed project encounters more hurdles is just the latest chapter in the ongoing  work of fiction that is the state’s program to end homelessness.

The “shed” is a proposed homeless shelter in Kakaako. Even if completed, it won’t make much of a dent in the population of street dwellers. But will it ever be completed? it was proposed to be open in February and to be closed two years later (another reason why it really won’t help much). Don’t get me wrong—more shelter is a good thing, but is no substitute for a correctly implemented Housing First program applied on a scale to match the magnitude of the need.

Gov. David Ige’s office proposed spending $900,000 in annual operating costs for the shelter, which is supposed to operate for only two years.

But a House bill provides no money, and a Senate version includes only half of the requested annual amount, or $450,000.

Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator, said he understands the public’s frustration that the shed remains empty and unrenovated after it was intended to open in February.

[Star-Advertiser p.1, Shed project encounters more hurdles, 4/11/2016]

I’m not sure the public is frustrated that the shed remains empty—just maybe, perhaps, the public is frustrated that we are now on our third (count ‘em) state housing czar and even have a governor’s task force, but all of that is not moving people into permanent housing.

Maybe the public is frustrated because so many cannot afford soaring rents.

Now, is this simply a case of armchair quarterbacking? I don’t think so. The observation that little is moving that might help to end homelessness here is becoming self-evident as time passes and as plans and pronouncements fail to be fulfilled. The “shed,” as just the latest example, will not get started without funding, which (so far) is not forthcoming. Neither the state nor city requests are so far being funded.

About the only thing running “smoothly” is the program of daily raids on street dwellers conducted not only during the daytime but starting often from 1 a.m. or 3 a.m. Those raids do nothing to assist those affected to settle into permanent housing. At least the Mayor can no long destroy personal possessions, but it took a federal court order to stop him. I’ve gone out at night to watch the action on the streets. There’s nothing helpful about the city crews moving people along. If I hung around after a raid I would observe that people simply moved elsewhere, often around the corner, or just came back.

So will there be a renovated “shed?” Let’s see.

Will next year’s count of street dwellers increase yet again? Let’s see.

Will anyone press our state leaders to get busy on the multiple parts of the issue? Let’s see.

Can a czar without an army be effective? Let’s see.



 

Could a President Trump or President Cruz round up and incarcerate all Muslims?



The Supreme Court never ruled that the laws the White House and the military used to incarcerate these people [Japanese-Americans during World War II]—that’s still on the books. As Justice Jackson, Robert Jackson, said, it’s a loaded gun on the Constitution
Richard Reeves, in Democracy Now interview, 4/11/2016



The question of whether Republican frontrunners Trup and Cruz could actually fulfill their threats to lock up all Muslims came up briefly in a Democracy Now interview in today’s program, which also touched on whether it is fair to use the term “internment camps” instead of “concentration camps.”

Click the image to go to the Democracy Now web page, which includes both a video and a transcript.

internment

Watch the full show here.



Sunday, April 10, 2016

 

Query to Governor Ige’s homelessness task force on their progress so far



It’s frustrating that eight months after Gov. David Ige formed his high-profile task force to solve chronic homelessness in Hawaii, the only sound we hear is spinning wheels.

The governor’s promised legislative initiative to make a big dent in homelessness has sputtered so far.—
Volcanic Ash, 4/10/2016



David Shapipro devoted his Vocanic Ash column in today’s Star-Advertiser to detailing the failure that is Hawaii’s response to its growing homelessness crisis. No one else in the commercial media has had the guts to call this non-effort for the failure it is so far.

If you’ve been reading Disappeared News over the past year you’ve seen that I’ve said pretty much the same thing—of course, Shapiro is a much better writer.

So there’s two of us.

Where are the reporters and editors? Where are the social workers at NASW, Catholic Charities, etc? Where are the mental health advocates at Mental Health America of Hawaii and NAMI?

But most of all, where are the members of Governor Ige’s emergency task force?

Shapiro notes that (in my words, not his) the Legislature and City Council have both obstructed progress by denying or drastically reducing funding requests for programs that would move people from the streets into permanent housing.

Evidence has shown that it is cheaper to put people into permanent housing than to pay for ER visits and perpetual social services that maintain them on the streets. So stalling is costing us all money by preventing housing programs from advancing. And so the unhoused homeless count advances each year—per capita it remains the highest in the nation.

Shapiro summed up the funding situation thusly:

[Ige’s] request for $75 million in bonds to develop affordable rentals was cut to $25 million by the House, and a $25 million request to develop affordable homes for purchase was cut in half.

Modest requests of $2 million for homeless outreach, $3 million for Housing First and $2 million for rental subsidies were axed altogether by the House; a Senate measure setting a goal of 22,500 new affordable rental units in 10 years has no funding behind it.

Shapiro holds the City Council and the feds accountable for underfunding programs as well. I can’t quote his whole column here—go buy or borrow a paper please, and turn to p. A2.

It’s not just eight months that have been lost since Ige formed his team. The legislative session is drawing to a close. So more than a  year will have been lost. If we need to create 20,000, 21,000, 22,500, 24,000 or 67,000 affordable rentals in the next decade (according to which estimate you read), we’ll need even more relief as time goes on because we’ve also done nothing to alleviate poverty in the state—more people are dropping out of homes into homelessness and the crisis only deepens.

This isn’t just another committee,” Ige said. “This team is making a commitment to work together to find solutions now. There is something important going on. We are the people responsible for the public’s welfare. This team is meeting face to face to address homelessness, and we are going to hold each other accountable.”—Civil Beat, Ige Creates a New Leadership Team to Tackle Homelessness, 7/27/2015

What would Gov. Ige’s team members say about the progress they have made towards reducing homelessness, so far?

I have little to no expectation of a reply, but I’ll send this article to Gov. Ige’s team members and see if there is any comment.

Calling the effort so far a failure is a strong criticism. What can be said to refute that?

You can also ask, if you like.

Governor David Ige gov@gov.state.hi.us
State Sen. Jill Tokuda sentokuda@capitol.hawaii.gov
state Rep. Sylvia Luke repluke@capitol.hawaii.gov
Rachael Wong, director of the Hawaii Department of Human Services rswong@dhs.hawaii.gov
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell mayor@honolulu.gov
Ernie Martin, chair of the City Council emartin@honolulu.gov
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono Fax: (808) 545-4683
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz Fax: (808) 523-2065

Funding is finalized towards the end of the legislative session—which is about where we are now. So it’s fair to ask each team member what they are doing to assure that needed programs can proceed.

When the gov’s team was formed, the two legislator members made a commitment:

“The legislature understands the gravity of the situation and the need to pull all executive and governmental agencies to the table in an effort to execute and implement solutions that can be replicated in communities across the state,” said Sen. Tokuda, chair, Senate Ways and Means Committee.

“We really need to come together on enforcement, but also in providing alternative sites and coordinated services. This is a monumental step to pull together resources of the federal, state and county governments,” said Rep. Luke, chair, House Finance Committee.

[NEWS RELEASE: Governor Ige announces leadership team on homelessness, way forward, 7/27/2015]

These two legislators effectively control the purse strings. So as the session winds down, it’s fair to ask what they have done or will do to fulfill their earlier committments.

Team member Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s funding requests have been stymied by the City Council, but he has something to answer for himself—his frequent 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. raids on sidewalk dwellers.

Just how do these costly raids contribute to ending homelessness? I have described them as cruel because of the timing: trucks move out in the dead of night. While most sidewalk dwellers raided may be single individuals, there are also children and families caught outdoors and faced with disruption that can’t help the kids do well in the classroom. Yes, these are supposedly “sweeps” and not “raids.” but given the City’s history of institutional violence against the houseless I think the term is fair.

raid

Remember, it took a federal court order to stop Caldwell’s people from unconstitutionally seizing and destroying personal property such as ID, money and medical supplies. Apparently he has yet to discipline the staff responsible for the long-term civil rights infractions.

Who on Governor Ige’s team has stepped up to the plate to state that these raids are counterproductive in terms of solving the homelessness crisis?

Yes, the streets need to be clear of obstruction and debris, but this is clearly not happening as witnessed by the daily scheduling of night and daytime raids. Tents and makeshift structures move from one spot to another.

Moving people into permanent housing, as many other states and municipalities have successfully done, is a much better and more cost-effective way to keep the streets passable.



 

Handy bill digest for Senate-side bills in Hawaii state legislature


Below is a handy table of the status of bills that will go to 3rd reading in the Legislature. If you download it from the link, you can do a keyword search to help track the bills you are following. Now to see if I can find a similar table from the House side...

Download Hawaii Legislative Bill Digest 4.12.16 from Disappeared News



Friday, April 08, 2016

 

Should rail officials quit? Probably, but City Council is responsible for choosing near impossible Dillingham Blvd. rail route



In an alternate universe (that is, any other universe but ours) either this would have been accounted for or a different route chosen.—(
quoting myself, 11/16/2015)



by Larry Geller

quitShould Honolulu’s rail officials quit, as the City Council chair is reported to be asking in this Star-Advertiser story today?

The story cites a letter from Martin that refers to utility pole clearance issues that were known to rail officials some time ago:

“I find it very disturbing to learn that HECO’s concerns were first raised three years ago and yet the guideway has been built too close to the utility poles on Farrington and Kamehameha Highway for workers to safely maintain and repair them,” Martin wrote.

Such clearance issues now threaten to drive up costs further and could delay the project’s completion by another year, officials say.

[Star-Advertiser p. A19, Martin urges rail officials to quit, 4/8/2016]

Certainly, this neglect should be dealt with. But the City Council itself is responsible for the choice of elevated rail technology and for settling on the route—and includes congested and narrow Dillingham Boulevard. Will they take responsibility for their choice?

I ran this photo in 2008 and again last year (see: Dillingham power lines are and were a known obstacle that Rail would have to deal with, 11/16/2015):

Dillingham[3]

Should the cost of shoehorning an overhead guideway into this morass have been figured into the budget early on? Certainly. From the very beginning, this section of the route should have been scrutinized as a particularly difficult bottleneck in the rail project.

There are other concerns as well, including disruption during construction causing irreparable harm to businesses along the route, and what exactly Dillingham Boulevard will look like after the ugly elevated structure goes up. It’s not exactly pretty now…

Anybody could see this snafu coming, and certainly responsible rail officials should have pulled out their abacuses early on and figured the cost to resolve clearance issues along the route including Farrington Highway, Kam Highway, and soon Dillingham Boulevard.

We should remember that the City Council itself, with admittedly questionable motivation, chose the route.

It’s fair to fault rail officials for their defective budgeting, but they were given the route. The City Council and current and former mayors share also in the responsibility for their support of a questionable decison-making process. Whatever mess we may find ourselves in now or in the future, it was not caused solely by the current managers of the project.




The decision [on a rail route] capped a wild week of political maneuvering as supporters of other paths scrambled for votes, and angry constituents bombarded council members with phone calls and e-mails.

20151116 SA[4]Here is the Star-Advertiser front page article (11/16/2015) that prompted my post that same day.

The headline is “Power lines could snarl rail work.” Yes, but that should not have been news in late 2015.
So perhaps rail officials should resign. That won’t, however, solve the problem, unless the route is cut short or re-routed. And who knows how much an unplanned re-route would cost. Whoever might replace current rail officials will be stuck in the exact same mess as current leadership.

Read Dillingham power lines are and were a known obstacle that Rail would have to deal with for a recap of earlier City Council discussions on the rail route and keep in mind that then, as now, our elected leaders were bankrolled by those who profit from rail and development (see: Op-Ed: Honolulu City Council Revote on Rail a Mockery, 10/14/2015).



Thursday, April 07, 2016

 

Video: “Why too many beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act spend their lives waiting in vain for a homestead” at Kokua Council


by Larry Geller

History tells me that the Hawaii state government has no intention of fulfilling its federal obligation, which came with statehood, to uphold the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. The act was passed by Congress in 1921. Native Hawaiian beneficiaries are still dying while on the waiting list.

It’s not that the state is falling short—the state is not even making an effort to comply.

To start a conversation, Kokua Council invited Moses Haia, the executive director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, to speak on “A lifetime spent waiting—why too many beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act spend their lives waiting in vain for a homestead.”

Click the image below to watch the video of his presentation on March 28 to the regular meeting of Kokua Council.

Moses Haia video

Moses Kalei Nahonoapi`ilani Haia III is the executive director of Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation. As a staff attorney at NHLC he obtaining landmark victories in native rights cases seeking to protect ancient Hawaiian burials and Native Hawaiian water rights.



 

Honolulu plans to do nothing much to solve its homelessness and housing crises



Plans by Mayor Kirk Caldwell to create a housing development division appear doomed, and the future of the Hale Mauliola homeless center at Sand Island and related programs could be as well, under the latest draft of the $2.3 billion operating budget that moved out of the City Council Budget Committee on Wednesday.—
Star-Advertiser, 4/7/2016


by Larry Geller

The only meaningful thing that Honolulu is doing about its homelessness crisis appears to be to conduct almost nightly raids that antagonize street dwellers but do nothing at all to reduce the annual increase in the number of those living on the streets (see below). Meanwhile the City Council and the Mayor feud and obstruct anything that could even be confused as progress on the issue.


Football season not over in Honolulu

thwart

Football season may be officially over, but in Honolulu, children, families and individuals who are homeless are still being treated like footballs in some kind of competiton between Mayor Kirk Caldwell and the City Council. See: City budget panel thwarts mayor’s proposal to open housing division (Star-Advertiser p.1, 4/7/2016).

Yes, while this game goes on, nothing meaningful results that will make even a small dent in the growing homelessness count that demonstrates Honolulu’s inability to even locate the goal posts.

From as far back as 2003, the lack of truly affordable housing has been an identified issue and remains the main barrier to reducing or ending homelessness in Honolulu and in Hawaii. It’s not the only thing that needs a concerted effort to resolve—for example, the lack of a meaningful minimum wage means that individuals and families would not be able to pay the rent even if it were affordable.

How will any of these issues achieve progress when politicians spar for elected office instead of serving the people they supposedly represent (that’s a joke, get it?).

The crisis we find ourselves in will continue to grow until realistic plans, including dedicated resources, specific personnel assignments, an adequate budget and agreed timelines are in place. How will 20,000, 24,000 or 67,000 low-rent homes—whatever the number du jure is—ever be built if the City Council and city administration won’t spend a dime to get off the dime on this?

Meanwhile, the Star-Advertiser editors have correctly challenged the current system of shelters we do have—a system that has flaws that result in large numbers of vacancies going unfilled night after night. See: Ensure that shelters fill beds, 4/6/2016.

There are also time limits that have been set for length of stay at the Sand Island shelter, which, if enforced, would seem to dump residents back onto the streets again after their stay.

Why individuals and families might prefer to live on the streets has been noted in testimony and at various conferences and meetings but does not seem to merit either government action or media attention until now.  In other words, we know the system is broken but we leave it at that while the newspaper reports primarily on establishing “sweeps” if it reports anything at all.

Who is ths “we?” in truth, it is all of us, but in particular, it our wayward Honolulu city government.

The editorial refers to legislative action focused on the shelter issue. But the devil is in the details. Shelters won’t be a preferred choice if complaints persist about fleas, even bedbugs, noise, lack of privacy, robberies, refusals to admit, etc.

Homelessness is complex. The city appears to want the houseless out of sight of tourists and businesses in Waikiki, and having basically achieved that, is not going anyplace fast enough to beat the numbers. People are dropping out of housing and into homelessness. We are getting deeper into the problem, not solving it. Nothing is in place to deal with each part of a complex problem on a scale necessary to achieve meaningful results. That’s what the annual increase in the homeless count reveals.

Mayor’s Cruelty continues

The City is required by a federal court order to notify the ACLU of Hawaii of its plans for street raids (“sweeps”) the next day. Here are two recent tweets which are typical—that is, these two examples are not cherry-picked:

aclutweets

Note the times—1 a.m. today and 3 a.m. yesterday.

While the majority of those raided will be individual men, they also include families with children.

And we know that the next day they are back, or they simply relocate and set up nearby.

In other words, the raids don’t work. Yes, they may be necessary to keep the streets clean and passable, but why are they scheduled for 1 a.m. or 3 a.m.?

That’s cruelty. Let’s call it for what it is.

To rouse children at 1 a.m. simply disrupts their lives and probably makes it difficult for them to benefit from their education.

US troops were hated in Afghanistan for their night raids. So should the City of Honolulu be condemned, IMHO, for this practice.

At least, the City is no longer able to seize and destroy personal property including schoolbooks, toys, ID, money, medicine, etc. That was the purpose of the ACLU/Alston Hunt lawsuit in the first place—to stop that aspect of cruelty and unconstituional conduct on the part of the City. Interestingly enough, a City official who denied that the City was destroying these items has not yet, to my knowledged, been discplined either by the court or anyone else and remains on his job. See: ACLU files new motion to stop Honolulu’s illegal destruction of property during sweeps of homeless camps (11/4/2015).

If you doubt that the City would act cruelly towards its citizens living on the streets, here’s a snip from that article, from the deposition of a former worker who was forced to destroy personal property at the order of her supervisors:

Q. To this day does this enforcement action make you sad?
A. Yes.
Q. Why?
A. There were quite a bit of children, their toys and stuff, and it just wasn't a good day.
Q. Did you throw kids' toys away?
A. Well, if the supervisor said so, yes.
Q. So do you remember, did you throw kids' toys away?
A. I remember some, yeah.
Q. And what did you think about that?
A. I didn't like it.
Q. Why not?
A. They're children.
Q. You felt like they should be allowed to keep their toys?
A. Yeah.
[***]
Q. What did you want to do instead?
A. Wanted to give it to them.
Q. But your supervisor said no?
A. It's his decision, so…

A. They could have gave it to the kids, they could have allowed them to take it.
Q. Were the kids asking to take their toys?
A. They were crying

So now the Mayor can’t destroy kid’s toys, but he can still disrupt their lives in the dead of the night as many times each week as he likes.

And his cruel actions solve nothing.



 

Courthouse News Service reports on 9th Circuit arguments in Maui hospital privatization case



(CN) - A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit lobbied hard Wednesday for Hawaii to pause its plan to privatize money-pit hospitals on Maui and Lanai that would lead to 500 unionized workers losing their jobs.—Courthouse News Service, 4/6/2016



Those who live on Maui or who have been following the state’s plan to privatize Maui hospitals may want to read the excellent summary of arguments befoe the Ninth Circuit in this Courthouse News Service article: Judges Lobby to Pause Hospital Privatization. Click to go to the article, which contains links for further reading.

The case is United Public Workers, America v. David Ige, Case Number 16-15219. The oral arguments are posted as an mp3 file here (32 minutes of easy listening).



 

Breaking: House Finance chair breaks the rule barrier by giving only 20 minutes notice before a public hearing


by Larry Geller

I find this wanton disregard for House rules on public notice to be particularly disturbing when it is perpetrated repeatedly by chosen House leadership.

Just minutes ago, at about 1:46, House Judiciary Committee chair Karl Rhoads requested and obtained waivers from the Speaker of the required 48-hour notice—to hold hearings at 2 p.m. today! That’s 14 minutes notice, if you were there any paying attention.

If you want to be there, hurry up. You get no waiver. By the time I post this, you will have about 1 minute and 30 seconds before the first hearing.

House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke gave only a wee bit more notice, but not much: 1:38 p.m. for a 2:01 p.m. schedule, or 23 minutes notice.

As usual, I want to spotlight the perpetrators, in case you spot them in your neighborhood:

Luke

JUD

The bill scheduled for a 2:00 p.m. hearing (request time-stamped 1:46 p.m.) is SB2103. Bills scheduled for a 2:01 p.m. hearing (request time-stamped at 1:38 p.m.) are SB2849, SB2645, SB2076, SB2476. SB2071, SB1374, SB2301, SB3102, SB2131, SB2604, SB2535, SB3034, SB837, SB194 and SB3099.

If these chairs were at all concerned with public notice, couldn’t they at least have requested the waivers at the beginning of the floor session??

Sylvia Luke is a repeat offender. Of course, she could not cut the public out without the connivance of the Speaker.

Ok, hurry up. You have about a minute before the first hearing and two minutes to get ready for the second. Speed legislation. Speeding by public accountability as fast as they can manage.

Shame.


Correction: The original version of this post incorrectly identified one waiver from the Judiciary Committee as from Finance. This is now corrected.

Friday, March 25, 2016

 

Monocle video showcases a Japanese department store Isetan


IsetanOne of the many routines pleasures of living in Japan was to shop at any of the many department stores. The video linked below is from the latest podcast posted by Monocle magazine. It only shows the fancy bits of the Isetan department store in Shinjuku in the short time they gave it, but it is a good snapshot of the store and its attitude towards its customers.

Isetan foodThere's much more to that store or others—for example the food floors in the basement. They often connect with nearby subway concourses. And for a small fee department stores will send your puchases to your home the next day, making subway shopping possible.

This is from the Monocle's RSS feed. On most browsers the video will play if you just click the link.


One of Japan's most venerable department stores, Isetan stocks everything you'll ever need. We hit the shop floor to find out the secret of its success.

* Duration: 2:36*

Published: 3/22/16 5:00:00 AM *

Episode Download Link (14 MB): http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/monocle_podcast/~5/7CmaMNCAL-Q/160323_Isetan_iTunes.mp4

* Episode Feed: All Films - http://feeds.feedburner.com/monocle_podcast



 

Safeway continues to misrepresent imported produce as “local”


by Larry Geller

Ian Lind has chronicled pricing issues at Safeway over the years (see these articles) and I’ve noted that imported produce seems to be routinely sold as “local.”

Actually, we don’t usually buy produce at Safeway—everything is so much fresher and often cheaper at the Honolulu Farmers Market or the KCC Farmers Market where we regularly shop. Since vendors at these markets are required to only offer local products, that’s never an issue. So I rarely visit Safeway’s produce section.

Today was one of those rare occasions. We needed a little Italian parsley. So off I went, anxious to complete my errand before the predicted thunderstorms hit. And I was pleased to see parsley in the Local section on a shelf marked Local.

Except it isn’t local, according to the tag attached to the parsley.

Nearby veggies are labeled as Product of Mexico or Product of USA.

The type on the shelf tag is tiny and would be easily missed, while the Local designation is large. So the store is misrepresenting its products to the customer.

Here are two snapshots taken this morning at the Pali Safeway, in the section identified as Local and on shelves marked Local:

Radishes

Mint

This next picture is from an earlier article, demonstrating how blatant the misrepresentation is. The very large sign plainly reads “Locally Grown”:

Product of Mexico[3]

I suppose if everyone read the fine print they’d see that these items came from Mexico, but other shelf tags don’t identify the point of origin. On the parsley I bought I had to inspect the twist-tie tag holding the bunch together in order to see that the item was not local.

Caveat emptor, or should something be done about this?



Wednesday, March 23, 2016

 

Public notice cut short on hearing for controversial tax increase bill


by Larry Geller

Do you remember that bill that would increase motor vehicle registration fees and add even more to the gasoline tax?  The House tried to sneak a hearing in with inadequate public notice. The bill was heard this morning at 10:30 and ended up killed.


SB2938 – Relating to Transportation which Increases the state fuel tax to generate additional revenues for the state highway fund by amending section 243-4, Hawaii Revised Statutes. Allows for an increase in the state motor vehicle registration fee and increases the amount of the fee to be deposited into the state highway fund by amending section 249-31, Hawaii Revised Statutes. Increases the state motor vehicle weight tax by amending section 249-33, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

This controversial bill was granted a waiver at the request of the Chair of the Transportation Committee, Rep. Henry Aquino. Instead of 48 hours notice as required by House rules, the public was short-changed.

Transportation CommitteeAs usual, I try to include the photo and contact information of the perpetrator committee chair who cares so little for public notice. But keep in mind that waivers are routinely approved (if not actually requested, who knows) by the Speaker of the House.

This bill had little public support. Perhaps that is the reason the notice period was cut short. (??) 


I discovered that I didn’t post the article below when I should have – I just forgot to push that “send” button. Sorry about that. So as not to waste an opportunity to rant and call out our errant House members for breaking the rules, here it is anyway…

Hawaii House Finance committee holds another “public input not wanted” hearing

Life teaches us that some people believe the rules don’t apply to them. Whether it’s parking in stalls reserved for handicapped drivers, or taking pets into stores that don’t permit them, plenty of people think they are more important that the rules.

I suspect something like that is going on at our state House.

Hearings are, according to long-standing rules, to be given at least 48-hour notice. At least one reason for this is crystal clear—so that the people may attend a hearing or possibly write and submit testimony, whether they attend or not.

It’s particularly frustrating (frustrating to both ethics and democratic principles as well) when one side, perhaps the industry affected (and which may also have written the bill!) somehow knows about the flash hearing and gives testimony while the general public is blindsided.


The crime often leaves no tracks in the public record

I don’t know if it’s a record, but it appears that the public had about three (count ‘em, three) minutes notice of a hearing called by House Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke. Here’s an email report from Hawaii Thousand Friends:

HTF received notice of a 2:00 Thursday 3/3 FIN hearing TODAY 3/3 at 1:57. The notice lists 24 bills to be added to the 3/3 FIN hearing agenda. Interestingly the only bills on the agenda were the listed 24 bills.

This out-of-public-sight move is possible because FIN chair Rep. Sylvia Luke asked for and received a waiver from the required 48-hour public notice of a public hearing on the floor today 3/3.

Today’s rush rescheduling actually did leave a trace on the status pages of the bills because they were scheduled on the same day. So if one has sharp eyes, there is an entry dated 3/3 that says there will be a hearing on 3/3. Easy to miss. Had the bill not been scheduled on the same day it was heard, the date could give no indication.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

 

Tonight: Interfaith Open Table meeting: Marriage Equality: What is Next?


We are fortunate in Hawaii to have a strong interfaith community that can come together to discuss issues that both unify and divide opinion and belief. Tonight the Interfaith Open Table has scheduled a meeting, open to all, that hopes to look forward on the issues still facing acceptance of LGBT rights.

The venue is the hall at Harris United Methodist Church (see below). There’s plenty of parking and it’s near town and public transit.

From the emailed announcement:


Interfaith Open Table

Tuesday, March 15, 2016
7:00 p.m.
Harris United Methodist Church
Corner of Vineyard and Nu‘uanu

Marriage Equality: What is Next?

Br. Jack Isbell, Discussion Leader

Panel participants:

Gene Corpuz, President/Dignity Honolulu
Rev. Laura Starre Emerson, Pastor, Orthodox Catholic Church of America
Margaret Mann, Counselor/Author
Kathryn Xian, Executive Director, The Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery

The LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered, and Questioning Persons) have come a long way in working for equality and social acceptance. This evening's panel discussion, followed by conversation with the assembly present, will help us understand the continuing social needs, civil rights, and acceptance of LGBTQ persons.

Learning to listen and ponder, helps us understand the needs of the LGBTQ community.



Saturday, March 12, 2016

 

We need Jung to analyze the ascendency of Trump


by Larry Geller

Why is Trump advancing steadily in America’s presidential race despite his racism, misogyny and other rather obvious disqualifiers? You’d think this guy doesn’t stand a chance. His own party, the same Republican party that wields almost absolute power over our political system at present, is so far unable to halt his advance.

How can Trump continue to accumulate delegates in his inexorable march toward the Oval Office despite all indications that he should be rejected as a viable candidate?

I suggest that politics and punditry will not give us a workable theory. We must turn to psychology.

If C. G. Jung were alive today he’d be popular on the network talk show circuit explaining how Trump appeals to universal psychological processes.

Trump triggers the collective unconsciousness into an awareness of what is wrong with our government and how it can be changed. Trump unleashes hope that has been repressed and yearning to be set free. He gives us the possibility of individual agency, the promise that our vote can actually make a difference and end our oppression. Note that this transcends views on abortion, human rights, social security, or whatever has dominated the discourse of discontent up to now.

The possibility of electing Trump brings with it the possibility of ending whatever particular oppression is bugging each of us.

If the goal of individual psychology according to Jung is to integrate opposites and advance human development, we can see that the disfunctional processes of American government must also yield ultimately to a process of transformation. We are confronted, at an individual and societal level, by the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of reforming a system of government that is not working for us. We don’t want this dysfunction to simply go on year to year without relief.

How to remove the influence of big money and special interests? It looks to be hopeless. How to regain not only women’s rights, but voter’s rights and racial equality in the current political enviornment? Once again, it appears to be hopeless.

Opposition to the neoliberal leadership that is inflicting damage on the lives of millions of Americans appears weak in comparison to the forces that prop up the status quo.

The apocalypse and the rebirth of power

A Trump (and to a lesser extent, a Sanders) presidency presents the possibility that there is a time ahead when the powerful will be brought down and the commons can be restored.

Perhaps this is the archtype of the Apocalypse, of collapse and rebirth.

So far nothing short of that holds a promise to reform our system of government.

Trump could indeed be the “nuclear option” that brings about the end of the current system, leaving open the possibility to create a true representative democracy in his wake.

Trump needn’t explain in detail how he intends to “make America great again.” It is sufficient that he appears intent on replacing the current political regime.

Trump needn’t explain his failings or defend himself against Romney’s multiple criticisms because it is sufficient that he is intent on replacing the current political regime.

Trump needn’t understand foreign policy as well as Clinton does because it is sufficient that he is intent on replacing the current political regime.

I would love to hear a Jungian analyst’s view of the current political race.



Monday, March 07, 2016

 

Must read: Glenn Greenwald on Trump’s policies as a reflection of US mainstream



Here we see the elite class agreeing to pretend that Trump is advocating views that are inherently disqualifying when — thanks to those doing the denouncing — those views are actually quite mainstream, even popular, among both the American political class and its population. Torture was the official American policy for years. It went way beyond waterboarding. One Republican president ordered it and his Democratic successor immunized it from all forms of accountability, ensuring that not a single official would be prosecuted for authorizing even the most extreme techniques, ones that killed people — or even allowed to be sued by their victims.

Many of the high officials most responsible for that torture regime and who defended it — from Condoleezza Rice and John Brennan — remain not just acceptable in mainstream circles but hold high office and are virtually revered. And, just by the way, both of Trump’s main rivals — Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz — refuse to rule out classic torture techniques as part of their campaign. In light of all that, who takes seriously the notion that Trump’s advocacy of torture — including techniques beyond waterboarding — places him beyond the American pale? To the contrary, it places him within its establishment mainstream.—Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, 3/4/2016


The article is Donald Trump’s Policies Are Not Anathema to U.S. Mainstream, but an Uncomfortable Reflection of It. Read it here.

In a nutshell, Trump is being criticized from all quarters for his “outrageous” statements, but as Greenwald explains, he’s just saying he’ll do pretty much the same as we are already doing.

One more quote, then you can go read the entire article (which includes links I’ve omitted here, and much more):

Then there’s the feigned horror over Trump’s proposal to kill the family members of terrorists. Though they claim they don’t do it deliberately, the fact is that this is something both the U.S. and Israel, among others, have routinely done for years: They repeatedly bomb people’s homes or work places, killing innocent people including family members, and then justify it on the ground that a terrorist was among them. While they claim they don’t target terrorists’ family members, they certainly target their homes and other places family members are certain to be found.

When a U.S. drone strike in 2011 killed the U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, and then another drone strike two weeks later killed his 16-year-old American son, Abdulrahman (who nobody claimed was involved with terrorism), former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs justified it this way: (omitted here)



Thursday, February 25, 2016

 

Why is it not ok for Hawaii to raid GEMS funds but ok to raid Medicaid funds for school air conditioning "plan"


Today's Star-Advertiser reports that the state Senate is challenging Governor David Ige's proposal to borrow $100 million from the Green Energy Securitization Fund to install air conditioning in some school classrooms by the end of the year.

Indeed, that is not what the fund was created for. GEMS is intended to loan money for nonprofit organizations to assist homeowners and renters to install solar energy systems, the paper correctly notes.

Oddly, the article does not question at all the proposal furthered by Senator Jill Tokuda to use federal money coming to the state for Medicaid instead.

The Medicaid program provides health care and services for those with disabilities and for low-income residents of the state, and would seem to have nothing to do with the Department of Education's need to pay construction costs for cooling classrooms.

Why has the paper simply reported this and not questioned it?



Thursday, February 18, 2016

 

Yet another House attack on ethics—exempting state employees from the Ethics Code—your testimony needed


by Larry Geller

The Hawaii House got all upset when the Ethics Commission suggested a way to hold school excursions in conformance with the Ethics Code so that teachers would not be privately benefitting.

The Board of Education even created a policy for these excursions that would not violate Hawaii's ethics laws.

Result: the kids can have their trips without any hindrance. It’s just a question of doing things right.

Problem solved?

Well, the House still doesn’t get it. HB1713 HD1 would take the matter away from the Board of Education and take it a giant (but questionable) step further, by granting all state employees an exemption from the gift laws. Read the text at the link for details.

The bill would create a loophole in the law the size of a barn door by allowing any state employee to receive “detached remuneration.” In other words, it’s party time!

The bill is to be heard by the Judiciary committee tomorrow at 3 p.m. Please consider going to the status page for this bill and clicking the link to Submit Testimony. It’s easy to do and would help support ethics in government. Don’t delay, the hearing is tomorrow.



 

Group of Hawaii House legislators band together to grab lobbyist donations during session


by Larry Geller

Each session it happens. Certain legislators hold fundraisers outside of their districts but close to town, so that they can rake in lobbyist and special interest campaign contributions—while the legislature is still in session and matters may come before them that the lobbyists are paid to advance.

This year a group of House members have jointly sponsored a fundraiser during the session, and the majority represent out-of-town districts (see list, below).

This one fundraiser presents both issues, which are separate but each troubling on its own. I treat both issues together because they so commonly occur together.

Since special interests are not philanthropies—they expect a return on their investments—we have the ethically dubious situation wherein constituents are sidelined and deprived of their representation while doors and campaign coffers are opened wide for lobbyist access.

Since Neighbor Island constituents are unlikely to attend this fundraiser, the motivation of these legislators is clear.  Lawmakers who hold fundraisers out of shouting range of their constituents are clearly listening to other voices.

Here’s a list of legislators who will be holding a joint fundraiser across the street from the State Capitol on February 23, along with the districts they represent. Is your “representative” among them? Do you plan to attend?

 

Rep. Richard Creagan (H District 5 Na'alehu, Ocean View, Capt. Cook, Kealakekua, Kailua-Kona)

Rep. Kaniela Ing (H District 11 Kihei, Wailea, Makena)

Rep. Bert Kobayashi (H District 19 Waialae, Kahala, Diamond Head, Kaimuki, Kapahulu)

Rep. Nicole Lowen (H District 6 Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa, Honokohau)

Rep. Takashi Ohno (H District 27 Nuuanu, Liliha, Puunui, Alewa Heights)

Rep. Richard Onishi (H District 3 Hilo, Keaau, Kurtistown, Volcano)

Rep. Justin Woodson (H District 9 Kahului, Puunene, Old Sand Hills, Maui Lani)

Rep. Sylvia Luke (H District 25 Makiki, Punchbowl, Nuuanu, Dowsett Highlands, Pacific Heights, Pauoa)

Here’s a group mug shot selfie from their announcement mailer:

Selfie


There oughta be a law—a rant

Legislators, like the rest of us, are not bound by either ethics or morality, in the common usage of those terms. The state has an “ethics code” that is written in statute and interpreted and sometimes enforced by the Ethics Commission. As we have noted from time to time, budget and personnel constraints (ultimately imposed on the Commission by the same legislators they are supposed to watchdog) make it impossible to keep up.

On top of squeezing the Ethics Commission, the House in particular has taken direct aim at their ability to reign in violations. In recent memory the Speaker of the House has directly sought removal of the Executive Director when the Commission has simply acted to fulfill its mandated function with a couple of high-profile opinions.

So it’s no surprise that we find House committee chairs demanding (and getting) approvals to scrap the 48-hour notice rules for hearings or that House legislators don’t mind holding these fundraisers out-of-district, which is not in violation of any statute.

The Force (of ethics) is simply not strong with these folks.

What is needed, under the circumstances, is the passage of a law that would prohibit these fundraisers during session. That would move the question of ethics-with-a-small “e” to Ethics with a large and enforceable “E.”

As to asking for contributions outside of a district, that’s likely not conduct that state law can deal with, given the US Supreme Court’s recognition of money as a form of free speech.


What is ethical in politics?

Do politicians have special license to discard aspects of ethics or even morality that may be valued by ordinary citizens?

Machiavelli says, 'a man who wishes to profess goodness at all times will come to ruin among so many who are not so good. Hence it is necessary for a prince who wishes to maintain his position to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge or not to use it according to necessity'—from The Prince, quoted in The Ethics Challenge in Public Service, 2nd Ed.,  Carol W. Lewis, Stuart C. Gilman, Jossey-Bass, 2005

That was a 16th-century view that accurately describes the situation our modern-day politicians may face in deciding whether to “not be good” and hold fundraisers out of their district and during the legislative session. They feel, with some justification, that if they don’t do this, their opponents now or in the future could dethrone them.

Harsh words? It is a question of our time at all levels of government whether pandering to corporations or special interests can co-exist with the fundamental responsibility of an officeholder to represent the electorate.

A Disappeared News op-ed by Dr. Kioni Dudley focused sharply on exactly this issue. His research revealed that certain Honolulu City Council members are so indebted to construction and Rail interests that up to 91% (in one case) of the lawmaker’s campaign contributions during a certain period came from those interests.

Ethics in politics is a complex issue, especially in a world where “keeping us safe” motivates national leaders to violate even basic human rights in the name of Machiavelli’s “necessity.” At a local level the challenges are simpler, and the public’s ability to influence the conduct of its representatives is perhaps greater.

So it is up to us to one day put an end to conduct we object to. If we tolerate it, we are condoning it.



Wednesday, February 17, 2016

 

Definitive paper on free speech in state campaign spending law cases


by Larry Geller

Jamestown, NY attorney Randy Elf has written what promises to be the definitive paper addressing how federal and state courts have interpreted the First Amendment to regulate free speech in political-committee or similar situations. His article, The Constitutionality of State Law Triggering Political Committee(-Like) Burdens and the Current Circuit Splits, has just been accepted for publication in the Regent University Law Review, Volume 29, 2016-17.

Both the abscract and full text are available for download.

We “lay readers” (that is, those of us who disobeyed our mother’s admonition to become lawyers) have been given a gift: all the citations are in footnotes, and the text of the paper is easily readable by anyone who wants to come up to speed on this complex issue.

It turns out, as the abstract describes, that the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh circuits have addressed state law differently. Attorney Elf has had the rare opportunity to brief judges convincingly in related cases. While most of us might follow a case by attending hearings in federal court, the cases are won (or lost) by what we don’t see or hear in the courtoom—the briefs prepared by both sides that educate the judge on even the most difficult of cases. If expertly prepared, the briefs carry the weight of the argument.

Hawaii’s cases are cited in the paper. The case that was originally heard by Judge J. Michael Seabright in Hawaii District Court was Yamada Et Al. v. Kuramoto Et Al, also referred to as the A-1 A-Electrician case (1:10-cv-00497-JMS-LEK).

I was able to attend hearings at the District Court level and then at the 9th Circuit hearing held at the UH law school.

The value of sound briefing was evident from the beginning. From an earlier Disappeared News article:

The heart of the hearing took place at about 11:00 a.m. in a spirited back-and-forth between Judge Seabright and [plaintiff] attorney [Randy] Elf. It was clear that Seabright had studied related cases from other circuits as well as Citizens United, the Supreme Court case that blew the lid off of corporate campaign contributions. During the discussion Elf demonstrated a command of the core issues that was impressive, and which helped Seabright to clarify his own understanding.


You can be the judge

Essentially, Elf and Judge Seabright worked out the details of the eventual order in a rapid-fire discussion that left the state attorney (and the rest of us) on the sidelines. I wished I had paid more attention to the filed briefings.

Now anyone interested in these cases can be “briefed” as though they were a judge deciding one of these state cases. Elf’s exemplary scholarship should satisfy those attorneys and students who need to come up to speed on these cases, and his structuring of the text makes it accessible to journalists and to the rest of us who skipped law school (sorry, mom).

It is difficult to snip from this paper, but to encourage non-attorneys to have a look, I’d like to quote a short passage (from p. 3) that takes the reader back before there was even a First Amendment. I’ve had to leave off the bulk of that discussion, but I do want to show how accessible the paper is. Footnotes have been skipped.

Political‐speech laws regulate speech at the heart
of republican – i.e., a democratically elected representative
– government. Thus, it is useful to back up and recall the
underlying principles. First principles do not begin with the First Amendment. Even before the First Amendment come the separation of powers, and the limited and enumerated powers of government. Even before these principles comes “the struggle of … people to (a) establish themselves as sovereign and (b) curb the power of government officials to prevent the people from criticizing official actions.” Centuries of history, including Western history, are replete with ill‐begotten efforts to ban, otherwise limit, or regulate political speech. This is not a new problem: Moses confronted it when he said, “Let my people go,” and Pharaoh was none too pleased.

Yet unlike in America’s mother country, where government power flows from the Crown, the framers established government with the consent of the governed, and government has only those powers that the governed surrendered to it in the first place.



Tuesday, February 16, 2016

 

BBC program suggests use of genetically modified mosquitoes could fend off a Zika outbreak on the Big Island


by Larry Geller

IMosquito had been researching the progress of mosquito eradication via release of genetically modified male Aedes aegypti (see earlier article) when this podcast from the BBC World Service dropped into my podcatcher app. Did you ever have the experience of wishing for something and it is suddenly delivered to you?

Here is a snip from the show notes:

Why Don’t We Eradicate Mosquitoes?

Mosquitoes are the most dangerous animals on the planet. They spread diseases - malaria, dengue and zika – that kill huge numbers of people and cause suffering to many more.

So why not eradicate them?

It wouldn’t be easy. Scientists in Mali have found the mosquito is a surprisingly formidable foe, able to hide for months and evade capture. Other scientists are working on genetically-modifying mosquito populations so that they can’t breed.

But could releasing these re-modelled mosquitoes have unintended consequences? And might we accidentally destroy ecosystems by removing mosquitoes altogether? It turns out this tiny creature presents us with huge practical and ethical problems.

Presenter: Michael Blastland

The BBC interviews four experts and includes is a good explanation of how the mosquito may be fought using genetic modification.


The Big Island would be a perfect location for application of this method

A takaway from listening to the program is that while GM methods face challenges when applied in a continent as large as Africa, there is no such issue on an island isolated in middle of the Pacific Ocean. In fact, conducting research on eradication on the Big Island could conceivably have valuable results that could be applied elsewhere. It would be as though researchers have a large but contained laboratory in which to guage the effectiveness of eradication options.

The mosquitoes may never be 100% eradicated, but that’s not necessary. Reduction of (say) 90% would appear to be enough to stop epidemics of both Zika and dengue. Going the GM route would be effective whereas chasing down every puddle of standing water on the island would not only be near impossible but would require perpetual spraying and the harmful effects associated with spreading poison everywhere.

Another conclusion is that eradication of just the A. aegypti mosquito, leaving the others untouched, would appear to present no ecological or ethical issues. That particular mosquito feeds exclusively on humans. While birds, bats and perhaps other animals feed on mosquitoes, they still have quite a smorgasbord to choose from without that one species.

In fact, the ecosystem is disturbed almost not at all, as compared to intensive spraying with harmful chemicals.

Most of my questions were answered in this one, short podcast. It should be required listening for state legislators and Department of Health management.

You may listen to the podcast at the link above, or try the audio player below. If it doesn’t appear in your browser or doesn’t work, click the download link and it should play.

Download this Media File - (Right Click)

It isn’t necessary to know how an internal combustion engine works in order to drive a car, and I don’t need to know exactly how GM male mosquitoes are made beyond the research papers cited in my earlier article and the explanations in the BBC podcast.

What is left now is to get the discussion going in Hawaii.

It would be good if we could eradicate this mosquito before Zika arrives here. What’s at risk is the health of both babies who could contract microcephaly and the potential impact on the tourism economy. We already have an active dengue outbreak that could be stopped in its tracks with GM technology promptly applied.

Let’s check this out, and the sooner the better.



Saturday, February 13, 2016

 

Should Hawaii have a “mosquito czar” to fend off Zika and protect tourism?


by Larry Geller

The Governor has issued an emergency proclamation to free up funding so that the Department of Health can hire personnel to deal with the ongoing Dengue outbreak and the possibility of the Zika virus arriving in Hawaii. The virus has already arrived in American Samoa, Fiji, New Caledonia and Samoa.

We should explore using genetically-modified male mosquitoes

Releasing genetically-modified male mosquitoes is proving to be a safe and effective method of insect control.

The males don’t bite, but they do mate with females, which are then rendered incapable of producing viable larvae. Populations of mosquitoes can be reduced drastically without the use of broadspectrum insecticides that are harmful to the environment and to human health. Additionally, as has been shown in malaria-eradication efforts, insects can and do develop resistance to pesticides.

The US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has established standards for the use of fruit fly and the pink bollworm, for example, and has established some standards in response to public concerns over the use of genetically-modified insects.

Genetically-modified mosquitoes are already being released in Brazil. This Google search will bring up a number of articles on their progress.

Instead of producing glow-in-the-dark mice, the University of Hawaii could be running or supervising a program to mass-produce these little critters, with the objective of safely reducing the Aedes population by 90% or more. The program would have to be ongoing and consistent to keep down the population.

Instead of waiting for Zika to hit, with all of the health and economic consequences it would bring, why not evaluate the potential of such a program to prevent an outbreak in the first place?

If we can’t produce our own in sufficient quantity, is it possible to import GM male mosquitoes from abroad?

The way these mosquitos are produced is quite interesting:

In the wild, the genetic modification kills the offspring of the released males. If enough sterile males were released, the wild-type A. aegypti population would eventually crash.

[Nature Biotechnology volume 26 number 7 July 2008 p. 725]

But how can these mosquitos be bred if the offspring die? It turns out that if they are fed a tetracycline supplement, the larvae live. So in the laboratory they are fed this supplementand so they proliferate, but the bugs can’t get that when they are released. When they are let loose, it’s as though Cupid is shooting poisoned arrows—they mate with female mosquitoes and that cuts off the family tree.

The technique is not new or untested:

In November 2010, theWellcome Trust announced that the Malaysian government had approved the release of genetically modified sterile male A. aegypti mosquitoes to control dengue, a disease for which drugs or vaccines are not available and bed nets are largely ineffective. Oxitec, the British biotechnology company that developed the transgenic mosquitoes, had already conducted a trial in the Cayman Islands in 2009/2010. Oxitec’s “sterile” male mosquitoes pass a lethal genetic element to their
offspring, making them unviable. This self-limited strategy is regarded as relatively safe as it is a new form of the sterile insect technique, commonly used in agriculture, with the exception that in this technique insects are rendered sterile by radiation instead of genetic manipulation.

[JAMA, March 2, 2011—Vol 305, No. 9 p. 930]

So far, media reports have not mentioned whether this technique is being considered to fend off a Zika epidemic in Hawaii. If it is not under consideration, it should be.

Is the state doing enough to protect its citizens and prevent a potential tourist boycott? How do we know?

The Zika virus appears to be associated with a rash of microcephaly cases—which has terrified families in Brazil and elsewhere. Compared to dengue fever, the symptoms of Zika in those infected are more benign, but the risk to newborns promises to visit lifelong tragedy on families. This fear would be enough to apply the brakes to Hawaii’s current tourism boom.

Believe it. Following the Governor’s proclamation, articles like this have been posted on the Web:
Travel

The headline is unwarranted, but there it is. When (not if) Zika arrives on the Big Island, there will be plenty more like it.

Here’s another misleading headline:

RT

Google reveals several more articles mentioning Hawaii in the context of a potential Zika outbreak. For example this, from the Daily Mail, warning that “people in Hawaii … should watch out:”

Hawaii next

The Southern United States is also vulnerable because the Aedes aegypti mosquito is common there, but a Zika epidemic may be far less likely. Why? Because the mosquito bites during the daytime, and while it is hunting for blood outside, most people are indoors in air conditioned offices or homes. Or so the theory goes. But in Hawaii, windows are open and air conditioning is far less common. We are also not yet good enough at mosquito control—as the dengue outbreak demonstrates.


We could use a “mosquito czar” or a “chief technologist”

I’ve promoted the idea of a “chief technologist” for the state because we appear to be backward in so many ways. GE had one when I worked for them. The idea was to make sure that the company didn’t miss anything that they should know about to remain competitive. In Hawaii, a chief technologist could review our state agency programs and point out better ways for the state to conduct its business.

Of course, this isn’t going to happen.

So at least, how about a “mosquito czar?” Our fight against dengue so far has been a losing battle, so the mosquitos are ready and waiting for Zika to arrive. Meanwhile, other areas of the world that have suffered dengue outbreaks or are now battling Zika have put in place far more comprehensive programs. It seems to take a multi-pronged approach to effectively control the mosquito.

We don’t have to reinvent a mosquito-eradication program, it’s been done before. Singapore, for example, while still battling dengue, has had success that is worth emulating. Not that their efforts have been completely effective. The mosquito is a tough foe.

One promising area that could be tapped here is the use of genetically modified male mosquitos to mate with females and cut down the population. More on this is in the box at right.

If a Zika outbreak is to be prevented here, it will only happen if the mosquito population is reduced drastically.


Low confidence in the Department of Health

Sad to say, another argument for a mosquito czar is that over the years the DOH has been unable to fulfill its core functions reliably. Whether it is providing needed mental health services, posting inspection reports, or controlling rats (as examples) it has too often taken outside pressure to get results from this agency.

Rats (the most analgous DOH challenge to mosquito control) are far larger than mosquitos and arguably easier to control, but in the face of DOH’s failure to deal with the rats in a large Chinatown market several years ago, there was nothing to do but post that video, which was then picked up by TV stations, forcing DOH to deal with the situation.

Emergency proclamations do not equal adequate response

We have had emergency proclamations to fight homelessness, but the follow-through has not been adequate in view of the scale of the problem. So now there is a proclamation in reaction to the dengue outbreak on the Big Island, but in addition to being late, is it also too little?

Singapore’s National Environment Agency has led a multi-pronged effort to battle the mosquito in that city-state. Its agents have the authority to enter private property to search for and eliminate standing water and to take other mosquito-eradication measures. For example, inspectors search roof gutters and both interior and exterior spaces for standing water. It seems that the mosquito has become well-adapted to human habitation and can breed even in tiny pools of water in the dark cabinet underneath a leaking kitchen sink.

In addition to an army of inspectors (which Google reveals is or was around 500 workers), the NEA runs a number of public education programs advising people to (for example), change water in vases and bowls on alternate days, remove water from flower pot plates on alternate days and turn over all water storage containers. I understand that there are fines if households are discovered to be lax in eliminating standing water completely.

While Hawaii cannot perhaps be as intrusive in its war against the mosquitoes, there is no doubt much that could be done to engage people through intensive public education, using media and methods that reach the majority of the population. Send info home with school kids. Buy commercial time on TV and radio. Use social media. And so forth.

If inspections cannot be mandatory, at least offer Singapore-style inspections as an option to homeowners. As a reward, they might receive a green placard to post on the property demonstrating success in becoming a “mosquito free zone.” Or something like that.

Aside from private property, construction equipment often leaves ditches in the dirt where water collects. So commercial practices need policing as The Swampwell.

And often public works, when poorly executed, can create vast mosquito-breeding areas. Here’s a photo of stagnant water under School Street on Oahu. Mosquito larvae were plainly visible at the time I visited the spot. (click image for larger)

Don’t settle for proclamations

Issuing proclamations by itself does not achieve anything, of course. Particularly residents of the Big Island might consider watchdogging the state’s efforts (or lack thereof) just for the sake of their own health.



Friday, February 12, 2016

 

Disappeared “Pickles” comic in Friday paper


by Larry Geller

My copy of the Star-Advertiser had a large white space where the Pickles comic should have been.

Who knows why the paper went to press like that.

You can see the missing Pickles comic by clicking here.



Thursday, February 11, 2016

 

Shenanigans continue—House waives 48 hour notice, to heck with the public


by Larry Geller

The purpose of the 48-hour notice rule is so that the public may participate meaningfully in the legislative process. If you wanted to attend a hearing or give testimony, shortening the notice cheats you of your opportunity to be heard.

Yes, the rule may be waived. Rep. Angus McKelvey (Chair, CPC Committee) requested a waiver for bills heard yesterday at 2:10 p.m. for decision making today at 5:00 p.m.

I just found out about it. No, I don’t want to attend the decision making that will take place in just a few minutes from now, but if I did, I couldn’t get there on time.

cpc

McKelvey

The Speaker should ideally “just say no” to these requests. But don’t hold your breath.

There was another.

EDB Chair Derek Kawakami asked for a waiver of the 48 hour notice to hear HB1588 and HB2160 tomorrow at 10:30 a.m.

edb

Kawakami

Why do I post pictures of the committee chairs? It’s too easy, should a reporter cover any of these bills, to write that “decision making on these bills was deferred until…”, for example. The passive voice hides the information that someone did something. In this case, a committee chair decided to disregard the public interest. That should be documented.

Perhaps one day the shenanigans will stop.



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