Wednesday, July 29, 2015

 

New York City is working to eliminate roadway fatalities, Honolulu is not



Re-engineering dangerous roadways is a key pillar of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative to eliminate roadway fatalities, alongside traffic enforcement and education. Queens Boulevard is one of four major corridors being redesigned for safety under the $250 million Great Streets initiative funded in this year’s budget, in addition to 50 priority intersections and streets overhauled for safety each year by the DOT.—NYC Mayor’s office announcement, 7/23/2015



by Larry Geller

Queens Boulevard plan

New York City has its problem streets. Queens Boulevard, for example, has apparently been labeled “Boulevard of Death” due to the large number of pedestrian deaths and injuries year after year.

Unlike Honolulu, though, it seems that the current administration in NYC actually values human life. Mayor De Blasio announced that $100 million will be spent to transform that one street into the “Boulevard of Life,” which will have “safer crossings, pedestrian refuges, more crosswalks, and protected bike lanes.” The project is called Vision Zero.

In its first year of operation, Vision Zero resulted in the safest [year] for pedestrians since record-keeping began in 1910, and 2015 is shaping up to be even safer.

Honolulu has its own “boulevards of death.” I would nominate S. King Street, Pali Highway, and Farrington Highway, to start.

Each year we set a national record for senior pedestrian deaths. We allow dangerous crosswalks to remain unprotected. The newspaper doesn’t even report the number of injuries or crashes, just deaths.

Queens Boulevard is extremely complicated and the large investment is justified. Our problems are simpler. It would not take much to reduce the slaughter, but that little bit isn’t being done.

Looking at the snip from the NYC plan above, it includes (at that one particular spot) a new crosswalk and signal. Also note the “bike box.” When we lived in Tokyo we noticed that intersections were striped with a space ahead of the stop line for cars. Bikes, mopeds and motorcycles could move forward into that box. They could use it to move across lanes, for example, as might be needed to make a turn. When the light turned green, the motorcycles took off and didn’t compete with cars at all. It appeared to be a great safety factor. The motorcycles start quickly and were way ahead of cars and in the clear until the next stoplight. We could use that idea! If NYC is doing it, we could too.

On S. King Street, after a series of crosswalks which have the day-glo signs, there are crosswalks with no signs at all. It would not take $100 million to put up those signs and help protect pedestrians. It would be pocket change for our DOT.

But they haven’t done it.


See also:


Note in the pull-quote that the plan includes “traffic enforcement.” We don’t do that in Honolulu. It’s clear that police do not assign any priority to enforcing the traffic laws, with the result that drivers run red lights blatantly and routinely, seldom stop before turning right on red, and even pull unsafe tricks such as turning from center lanes.

Pedestrians should not have to risk their lives because the city and state won’t make the necessary investments for basic pedestrian safety.

New York is fixing its safety problems. Incidentally, they are working on creating affordable housing as well.

Why are we so complacent here? Unless we squeak up, nothing will change.



 

Rally for affordable housing Tuesday, Aug. 4


Below is an announcement of a rally scheduled for August 4. If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you know that the Honolulu city government seems to be willing to try anything but creating affordable housing for all of us, and of course also for those currently homeless.

Affordable housing—that is, truly affordable housing—will not be given to us as a “gift” from the city. It will take some effort to get them started, and perhaps 10-20 years to implement.

Consider joining the rally if you are able to, and be part of the solution!


Peaceful Community Rally for Housing NOW at Honolulu Hale

Tuesday, August 4th 9am-3pm


HOUSING-NOW-EVENT-FB


WHO:              This event is sponsored by: FACE Hawaii - Faith Action for Community Equity, Hawai'i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women the Hawaiʻi Alliance for Progressive Action - HAPA, Unite Here! Local 5, the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, IMUAlliance, 808 Urban

WHAT:             Peaceful rally to support implementing a truly affordable housing plan and to stop Sit-Lie laws. Live music by Sam Puletasi and friends, art table, signwaving for Housing NOW!, free lunch, speakers and more!
PROGRAM
At 11:30am community and government leaders will speak on creating Housing NOW, including Councilmember Kym Pine, Councilmember Brandon Elefante, Kauai Councilmember Gary Hooser, Eric Gill of Local 5, Rev. Walter Brownridge and more! The Housing NOW Coalition will deliver a list of recommendations to the Governor, Mayor, and City Council for good policies addressing affordable housing, economic justice, and houselessness.

WHEN:            Tuesday, August 4th 2015 from 9am to 3pm

WHERE:           Front Lawn of Honolulu Hale, 530 South King Street at Punchbowl

WHY:               Our community had become increasingly concerned about Hawaii’s affordable housing crisis and lack of truly compassionate solutions for the growing number of houseless families and seniors. Lawmakers must make true affordable housing their top legislative priority.



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

 

Colin Kippen’s last words as homeless czar underline depth of state’s neglect



The reality of this position is that (it gets) no budget, no money — you’re told to just come in and end homelessness. There’s so much more to be done. We’re in the middle of a full-blown crisis, especially on Oahu.Colin Kippen, outgoing state homeless coordinator, quoted in Civil Beat article


by Larry Geller

The pull-quote above speaks for itself.

That’s never prevented me from adding some words of my own.

Colin Kippen did wonders with his zero-budget allowance. He can get a recommendation from me, if he wants it, for his next job application.

It’s clear, though, that his budget is pretty much equal to what the state has invested so far in solving its compound crisis, which consists, at least, of:

I should add:



 

Google is following you everywhere and now spills the beans


by Larry Geller

When news broke that the affair website Ashley Madison was hacked, the blood pressure of its users must have gone off the scale. Imagine if their spouse found out??

heads up - Google is following youNow, thanks to Google, there’s an easy way for spouses to track each other. Or an opportunity for hackers to follow phone users. No password is required, if you can get hold of her/his phone somehow. Try while she/he is asleep, for example.

Just open Google Maps, which comes with Android phones, tap the three lines at the upper left which bring up the menu, and select “Timeline” if it’s there. The feature is supposed to be rolling out now.

If the phone has its location permissions turned on, as perhaps most do, you’ve got a record of spousie’s comings and goings. Piece of cake.

Thanks to @ninatypewriter for the Heads-up. Links below.


Links:

Google's new Timeline feature is a terrifying reminder to turn your location off right now (The Daily Dot, 7/28/2015)

Google’s Location History is Still Recording Your Every Move (How to Geek) At the bottom of this article is info on how to set up a secret account on someone’s phone to use to track them. Scary!

Your Timeline: Revisiting the world that you’ve explored (Google, 7/21/2015)



 

Why Michigan’s bottle law succeeds but Hawaii’s bottle law fails


by Larry Geller

An article in today’s paper indicates that redemption rates are declining for recyclable containers in Hawaii:

The redemption rate — the percentage of HI-5 containers returned versus the number sold — started at 67.6 percent and climbed to 78.7 percent by 2009. In 2013 the rate was 75 percent before dropping over the next two years to 68.4.

The state pockets the deposit for any containers not redeemed, with the money going toward program administration.

[Star-Advertiser p. B1, Container fee to drop amid declining rate of redemption, 7/28/2015]

The article speculates that the decline may be related to a reduction in the  number of recycling centers but ends with another theory:

Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation, said returning HI-5 containers to an inconveniently located redemption center, rather than the grocery store as some states require, may be too high of a hurdle for some folks to bother.

Mikulina, who fought for the bottle bill when he led the Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter, said another factor in the declining recycling rate might be the diminishing value of the nickel. Maybe a larger deposit is needed, he said. In Michigan, where the deposit is 10 cents, the redemption rate is 95 percent.

Unfortunately, the paper didn’t go that extra mile. Perhaps the reason is that the Michigan law is based on retail store redemption, which was rejected when Hawaii passed its own law. Retail stores, of course, advertise heavily in newspapers, so better not to offend them (?).

The Michigan law is different also in how the funds from their bottle program are disbursed. Here’s a link to a history of the law in table form, and note that unredeemed deposits go  “75% to state for envt'l programs, 25% to retailers.” So perhaps retailers are inclined to cooperate.

We could re-do the law. Here is more detail on the Michigan law, in a short pdf file that state legislators should find easy to understand.

Why not imitate success?

Hawaii’s bottle law was criticized not only for failing to require retail stores to redeem returned containers but for the way the recycling centers were created. Not only are they inconvenient, but there were, from the beginning, noise issues and long lines of people waiting to redeem their bags of containers. Also, it was my observation that recycling centers did not even check the bottles for whether they were redeemable under the law, and of course the state took them at their word and just cut checks to them for whatever amount they asked. There were several articles on this here on Disappeared News.

Five audits (see links below) have found the program is badly flawed and could be losing millions of dollars. And of course, consumers would rather just bring the containers back to the supermarket next trip.

One recycling center located across from the condo where we live so infuriated residents with its constant loud crashing sound caused by dumping and handling glass bottles that it was the subject of several community meetings to which our state legislators were invited. As a result of the meetings, the noise abated quite a bit, and shortly thereafter the recycling center disappeared entirely.

Retail store recycling would be so much better… and could be as successful for Hawaii as it is for Michigan.


Links:

Conclusion: “This systemic flaw, coupled with the absence of a detailed audit function, has exposed the program to abuse and risk of fraud since program inception.”

Indeed, from fiscal years 2013 to 2014, the program paid $2.6 million in deposit refunds for 3.5 million pounds of recycled materials that cannot be accounted for.

Auditor Still Not Happy With Deposit Beverage Container Program (Civil Beat, 4/15/2015)

State under fire for mishandling of glass recycling program (KHON, 12/31/2014)

Hawaii audit exposes bottle bill issues (Resource Recycling, 12/12/2012]



Monday, July 27, 2015

 

Gov terminates his homeless czar, appoints politicians to a new team to work on homelessness issues


by Larry Geller

Director of the state Department of Human Services Rachel Wong gave homeless czar Colin Kippen four days notice today—his last day at work will be July 31.

Throughout his tenure Kippen was never given a budget to carry out his responsibilities.

At a press conference called for 2:30 today Governor Ige announced the formation of a Governor’s Leadership Team on Homelessness, composed entirely of politicians rather than housing or social service experts.

From the Governor’s news release, which you can read here,

The leadership team includes Gov. Ige, Sen. Jill Tokuda, Rep. Sylvia Luke, Director of Human Services Rachael Wong, Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Honolulu City Council Chairman Ernie Martin, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz’s designee and U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono’s designee.

The news release does not mention Housing First, the evidence-based program that has worked so successfully elsewhere on the Mainland. It appears that the focus may be on finding “short-term” solutions, which may mean forcible relocation of individuals and families from Kakaako and other encampments to other temporary locations:

The Governor’s Leadership Team on Homelessness will identify and assign parcels of land to be used for the creation of temporary shelters in one or two communities; implement measures to transfer residents of homeless encampments to shelters; work with service providers to establish protocols to assess shelter residents for financial, physical, mental health and other needs; and determine costs and obtain funding to meet these objectives.

The leadership team will consult with law enforcement leaders, non-profit organizations and other interested parties to assist with implementing short-term objectives.

Part of Kippen’s work was to convene meetings to explore the requirements for a permanent solution. At meetings he chaired of the Hawaii Interagency Council on Homelessness, Kippen brought in experts including a national expert who explained the importance of appropriate, often intensive services (called ACT services) needed to ensure that many people are able to remain in permanent housing long-term. Using these methods, municipalities across the country have been able to greatly reduce their homeless populations.

Without support, many people do not remain in their apartments and end up on the street once again.

It’s not clear whether this will be a priority for the Governor’s political group. Nor is it clear how people can be legally relocated, if that’s what they choose to do.

Related:

State looks to communities for homeless solutions (KITV, 7/14/2015)

Is public housing being maximized in Hawaii’s homeless crisis? (KHON, 7/22/2015)

Homeless “safe haven” to open in Kakaako (KITV, 7/24/2015)

Off The Beat: What Laws Did Hawaii Rep. Tom Brower Break? (Civil Beat, 11/22/2013)



 

Civil Beat editors nail Brower



It’s harder still to discern what could be going through the mind of Brower, who as an elected state official could have used his position and status to show empathy and compassion to the young man rather than further contributing to his misery.—Civil Beat editorial, 7/27/2015



by Larry Geller

Civil Beat continues to give journalism in Hawaii a good name.

A well-written editorial posted this morning (see: Brower’s Sad Choice, Resurgent Research at UH, Havana’s Big Thaw, Civil Beat, 7/27/2015) skewers state representative Tom Brower both for milking the unfortunate reaction to his photography expedition to Kakaako and for his failure to demonstrate compassionate leadership and model aloha.

You can read it on-line at the link, please do that. I found it a refreshing change from the stenographic reports in the newspaper and most of the television coverage.

Without any discernable aloha spirit for the family who appealed to him for forgiveness, Brower called a press conference to announce he would be pressing charges. The Star-Advertiser editors loved the entire incident as it played out over time, picking up on crime reports around the encampment and of course, calling for its dispersal. Brower and the newspaper editors seem to have formed a synergistic bond. They feed his publicity appetite, he feeds their ideology.

Civil Beat wrote:

It’s harder still to discern what could be going through the mind of Brower, who as an elected state official could have used his position and status to show empathy and compassion to the young man rather than further contributing to his misery. He might have connected the boy and his family to support services or even offered to mentor him — possibilities that in addition to their basic decency might have modeled for the teen an unforgettable lesson in forgiveness.

I’d like to respond (not for Brower, for myself!). I can’t read his mind, but aside from choice of weapons, how is his approach much different from that of the City Council, for example?

Brower’s weapon of choice was the sledgehammer, theirs is the gavel, as they expand sit-lie ordinances that criminalize the homeless. Both accomplish little except to further contribute to the misery of those living on the streets (thank you, CB editors, for your direct words).

How much compassion has been shown by either the state legislature, the city councils, or Honolulu’s mayors over the years as they have cozied up to developers while the housing crisis has been allowed to fester unchecked?

Why are there people living on the sidewalks for Brower to photograph?

We need action to counter the growing poverty in Hawaii that results in homelessness. People living on sidewalks is a symptom of systemic neglect, not a problem that can be “eradicated” so business owners or condo developers aren’t inconvenienced.

Nor can we blame it entirely on our elected leaders if (1) we keep electing them, and (2) we fail to tell them what we expect them to do.

Neither the state nor the city will provide affordable housing, for example, as a gift. It will have to be demanded of them.



Saturday, July 25, 2015

 

Followup to “Resist getting hacked, don’t buy a hackable car”


by Larry Geller

It’s not just the Jeep Cherokee that can be hacked. The recall has been expanded to include, according to the website linked below, the Dodge Ram pickup, the Grand Cherokee, the Dodge Durango, three of Chrysler’s most popular sedans, and the Dodge Challenger two-door coupe. The total number of vehicles vulnerable is reported to be about 1.4 million.

If you have one of those, pay attention. If you don’t, think of whether you really want to buy an Internet-connected car.

We were waiting for the other shoe to drop, and here it is: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has announced it is voluntarily recalling 1.4 million vehicles across its various brands and model lines, in the wake of the discovery of a zero-day exploit that lets hackers remotely force late-model Jeep Cherokees off the road. All someone needs is the IP address of a car armed with Chrysler’s UConnect infotainment system, and they can infiltrate the car’s network via its Wi-Fi hotspot feature, rewrite the OS firmware, and then control all of the major systems of the car: accelerator, brakes, steering, air conditioning, and more.

[ExtremeTech, Fiat-Chrysler recalls 1.4 million vehicles in wake of hack, 7/24/2015]

The article has a comprehensive list of vehicles recalled. It also describes how the problem is “solved.” Apparently you get a USB drive to stick someplace in the car and it updates your firmware.

Ok for now. Until next time.

Oh, it should be mentioned that not everyone makes repairs in response to a recall notice. So the rest of us are endangered as long as any of the affected cars with defective firmware are still on the road. You could be in front of one when the hacker disables the brakes, for example…

If hackers are looking for vulnerable cars, they’ll find the ones not yet modified. It could be a huge risk. With sufficient pressure, perhaps nearly all owners will get their new firmware installed before hackers find them.



 

Empty the tanks at Navy’s Red Hill storage facility before it’s too late



A former fuel systems analyst who worked at the Navy's Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility for nearly 40 years has come forward with documentation that shows the release of jet fuel from Tank No. 5 may be closer to 40,000 gallons, not the 27,000 gallons originally reported.--KITV


by Larry Geller

Since I suggested that the Red Hill fuel tanks needed to be pumped dry in Why is toxic fuel allowed to sit on top of our aquifer anyway?? The public speaks out (videos) (6/15/2015), new information has come to light.

It is always good practice to evaluate downside risk before undertaking a questionable activity (like re-filling the Navy’s tanks in Red Hill). In this case, the risk is the contamination of 25% of Oahu’s drinking water.

Someone needs to put their foot down and eliminate that risk. It won’t be the Navy. From the KITV story, reporting on a report released by a whistleblower that the leak was much larger than the 27,000 gallons reported earlier, which was scary enough:

… Tank No. 5 was filled from Dec. 9 to Dec. 12 to the 105-foot level without allowing enough time to check for leaks. Red Hill operators continued to fill the tank to the 225-foot level while ignoring 10 separate alarms that signified the unscheduled movement of fuel, or in other words, a possible leak. The first alarm sounded on Dec. 10, one day after filling of the tank began, yet surprisingly it took operators at Red Hill 33 days to finally recognize the alarms were legitimate.

[KITV, Whistleblower says Red Hill leak may be closer to 40,000 gallons, 7/22/2015]

These do not appear to me to be folks who should be trusted to protect our drinking water.

As far as an agreement to install technology to detect leaks, or upgrading the tanks over 22 years… wouldn’t that be unacceptable in view of the danger to the aquifer? An aquifer cannot be cleaned up once it is polluted.

There is one safe option: empty the tanks and clean up what has leaked already. Find someplace else to pollute, far from our drinking water.




 

Interisland ferry research should begin early and needs to be done well


by Larry Geller

Come the 2016 legislative session, there may be renewed proposals in the form of legislative bills to create an interisland ferry system. This past session two resolutions were introduced asking the Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of an interisland ferry system modeled after the Puget Sound ferries.

Arguments initiated during the session can be pretty weak, or just end up creating a “task force” or other frustrating delay. It’s better to have something solid going into the session.

Why not begin research in advance of the session to see if a well-founded recommendation might be made? That research would, of course incur expenses of its own, but would be money well spent. A radical (for this state) suggestion: the community on each island should be involved in the effort from the start.

Why research? For one thing, without a good job of it, we’ll never know if an interisland ferry system for Hawaii is a viable option, or what it would take (and cost) to get the ships moving. The Superferry was effectively started on faith, not on sound research. And it really cost the state, both to get it started, even though it was run by a private company, and to wind it down. The company also stopped paying its obligation to the state at some point.

There are several areas which might be investigated. I don’t claim to have an exhaustive list, but my short list would be:

1. Understand and document ocean conditions along potential routes.

There are channels between the Hawaiian Islands that can have treacherous sea conditions—completely unlike placid Puget Sound.

It is likely that a ferry could not run every day. Just as an example, there weren’t any Wow Farm tomatoes at the Blaisdell Farmers Market Wednesday because even a barge could not get through (you can score some of these great tomatoes at today’s KCC market):

Screenshot_2015-07-22-13-31-23

When the Superferry was running, there were cancellations …

Friday

… and there were days when there should have been cancellations. See this video, for example. That day would not have been pleasant for anyone aboard the ship. From a 12/14/2007 Honolulu Advertiser story no longer accessible on the web:

At least 25 passengers all over the Alakai were openly vomiting, said Superferry cabinet attendant Leeann Toro, who passed out barf bags as if they were candy on Halloween.

One passenger in the Hahalua Lounge was in so much misery that he had to be carried and dragged off to a first-aid area to lie down, Toro said.

So before new resolutions are introduced, why not learn about ocean conditions, possible routes around bad water, and what vessel types are suitable for the run?


2. Sizing of the vessel

Whether a potential ferry service will be privately or publicly offered, the size of the ship matters quite a bit. The Superferry was oversized in that it because of its size and the engines it was equipped with it gulped too much fuel to make a profit without a hefty fuel charge. The Superferry management did not impose the fuel surcharge it could have, and eventually the company went bankrupt. It was predictable, and predicted, by best-guess estimates made by people not connected with the operation who had no inside information.

For any new service we would have to be able to evaluate costs, capacity, safety and comfort in order to decide on a suitable vessel.

There was plenty of information even before the Superferry was out of the shipyard. This info could have provided, to knowledgeable engineers, a fair estimate of running costs:

Installation of the four MTU 8000 Series engines is now complete in the first of two[ferries], Austal Auto Express 107 metre vehicle-passenger ferries for Hawaii Superferry (HSF) currently under construction at Austal’s USA shipyard. Each 45 tonne engine has 20 cylinders, and  produces 8,200 kw (10,995hp) at 1150 rpm.

That information alone is sufficient to begin estimating running costs.

In fact, we left it to the Superferry company, which, it is likely, was really building military transport vessels to test in our waters. Those engines would be very appropriate to a military vessel which did not have to be concerned about the cost of fuel. For an interisland ferry, they proved expensive to feed.


3. We should make a realistic estimate of costs to the state for establishing and running a ferry service, whether private or publicly funded

The $40 million in state revenue bonds probably cost around $2 million annually to finance, I am told. Not to mention that in the end, the bonds became the responsibility of harbor users after the venture failed.

The state had to divert ag inspectors at taxpayer expense to protect against the transport of invasive species or bee diseases.

There were legal costs due to the lawsuits and appeals.

Costs to renovate harbors and relocate tenants were incurred.

Next time, let’s do this without an expensive special legislative session!


4. Arguments for a publicly-run system

The Staten Island Ferry in New York City is free to ride (or was, last time I looked). It used to cost a nickel. Point is, a rational decision was made that the ferry should be subsidized.

For Hawaii, subsidizing an inter-island ferry could be opposed by Hawaiian Airlines, for example, a private company. The media might take a position against a publicly funded system because while the Superferry (a private corporation) advertised heavily, a public ferry system would not. Of course, they wouldn’t put it that way exactly. The objection would not be explicit, of course, but they have their methods. That there was little to no criticism of the Superferry in the newspapers can safely be attributed to the media’s self-interest, I think. It was amusing to see an article on the Superferry posted on the Star-Bulletin website flanked by Superferry ads to the left and to the right on the screen.

To overcome objections, arguments would have to be well-developed and soundly reasoned, with consideration to potential and reasonable arguments of all sorts. It wouldn’t be an easy case to make in the era of billion-dollar cost overruns for s rather skimpy Oahu train system.


Without going on any further, I think I’ve made my case that the interests of the public will only be served if someone does some homework before going into a legislative phase, and if the public is fully involved from the very beginning.



Friday, July 24, 2015

 

Crime in Kakaako exploited by newspaper


by Larry Geller

Rep. Tom Brower announced yesterday that he will press charges against the teenage boys who allegedly assaulted him in Kakaako. He has every right to do so, and assault cannot be condoned.

Brower didn’t make the announcement from his home or office—instead, he headed back to Kakaako for maximum effect. See: Tom Brower to Press Charges Against Homeless Teens in Kakaako (Civil Beat, 7/23/2015). The media, of course, also went to Kakaako to receive the message, that’s where it was delivered. See also a KITV video.

20150724 HI_SAWhat a boon to the Star-Advertiser, though, which front-pages Kakaako whenever it can. The assault story is news, of course, but really, did nothing more important than this story happen in Hawaii, the nation or the world? Count on more front-page coverage perhaps when Brower does finally press charges, and then, of course, as the case progresses towards its front-page finale.

They were on the Kakaako case yesterday with the headline “Assaults in Kakaako soaring.” Well, ok. Push a few hundred more desperate people into that space and ignore their need for housing, and more crime can be expected. This is not unimportant or irrelevant.

But wait! There’s another article in the same paper, on p. B3: “Pine pushes for more police on Ewa Beach-Waianae Coast.”

Crime

From the article:

Last year, the number of calls for service in District 8 exceeded 85,800, with 86,100 in 2013 and nearly 90,000 in 2012.

The number of crimes and violations in District 8 totaled 4,712, including nearly 3,000 larcenies, 870 burglaries and 266 aggravated assaults in 2013. In 2012, the number of offenses was 4,636, with 4,134 in 2011 and 4,189 in 2010, according to HPD’s annual statistics reports.

[Star-Advertiser p. B3, Pine pushes for more police on Ewa Beach-Waianae coast, 7/23/2015]

Given those large numbers, how come this story wasn’t the front-page news?

Obviously, because it’s not Kakaako.

But watch that space, because the next luxury condo to be announced will certainly appear on the front page, probably with a huge portrait and gushing story about its fancy appointments. New condos bring new full-page ads to the newspaper, while the Mayofolks in tents bring nothing. Also, the ultra-rich need to eat. So they’ll need their Zabars, Whole-Foods, cheese shops (they eat lots of cheese), and maybe even a specialty mayonnaise store (gentrifying Brooklyn already has one). Gentrification means advertising.

Also a chance for the editors (and the rest of us) to buy better cheese, but nevermind.

When the place is paved over with condos, there will be crime of another sort, perhaps domestic violence, for example. Will the newspaper count up those instances for a front-page article? Not likely.

Stepping back from these stories, there has been a crisis of growing poverty in Honolulu for some time. It’s not something that media often get into. Sure, infinity pools in luxury condos are more eye-catching images than families huddled together in small apartments or co-existing in tents on the street. Poverty in Honolulu is related to the dearth of truly affordable housing and to the lack of jobs paying a living wage. Media coverage and editorial pressure could help, but I guess there’s no cheese ads in that.

One thing that they could easily do is give up using the phrase “affordable housing” when the prices they are describing are not at all affordable.

The city, for its part, would not be unhappy to see the tents scattered. That’s what it has always done when there is an encampment. Scattering people harms them and neither improves their situation nor eliminates their desperation and hence encouragement for some to break the law.

What about Housing First, Mr. Mayor? What about affordable housing for everyone on Oahu?



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

 

BloombergBusiness ranks Honolulu #4 among cities where local residents are fleeing



New York City, Los Angeles, Honolulu: They're all places you would think would be popular destinations for Americans. So it might come as a surprise that these are among the cities U.S. residents are fleeing in droves.BloombergBusiness, 7/22/2015


by Larry Geller

Honolulu is number four on a list of 20 metropolitan areas compiled from analysis of US Census data “that lost the greatest share of local people to other parts of the country between July 2013 and July 2014.” The survey looked at the top 100 metropolitan areas.

So what's going on here? Michael Stoll, a professor of public policy and urban planning at the University of California Los Angeles, has an idea. Soaring home prices are pushing local residents out and scaring away potential new ones from other parts of the country, he said.

[BloombergBusiness, These Are the Top 20 Cities Americans Are Ditching, 7/22/2015]

That’s the bad news. The good news is that government here could save money by letting go all the people in DBEDT who are working to promote high tech here to boost the economy. Without employees, companies are just not going to relocate here or choose Honolulu or Hawaii as a good place to do business.

Honolulu stands out in the article’s discussion because it is not a manufacturing hub experiencing depopulation. Its climate should encourage people to relocate here. Of course, those who can afford a Kakaako Condo will come even as locals flee.

What’s chasing people away here is the high cost of living including the dearth of affordable housing, not loss of manufacturing jobs which we never had.



Tuesday, July 21, 2015

 

Resist getting hacked, don’t buy a hackable car



Security bug allows remote attack of Uconnect system, letting hackers apply the brakes, kill the engine and take control of steering over the internetThe Guardian, 7/21/2015


by Larry Geller

Imagine driving along and finding that your car is braking and steering “on its own.” Scary, huh? A manufacturer made this scenario possible.

I would never buy a car which connects the Internet to anything that controls the vehicle. I know too much about the basic vulnerability built into systems that we all must rely on, from the Internet, to Windows, to hackingyes, even a Jeep. I also know it does not have to be this way.

A security hole in FCA’s Uconnect internet-enabled software allows hackers to remotely access the car’s systems and take control. Unlike some other cyberattacks on cars where only the entertainment system is vulnerable, the Uconnect hack affects driving systems from the GPS and windscreen wipers to the steering, brakes and engine control.

[The Guardian (UK), Jeep owners urged to update their cars after hackers take remote control, 7/21/2015]

The first mistake here is that Fiat Chrysler designed a system that connected vital vehicle controls to the Internet. The second is that someone bought the car.

Hackers thrive because our networks and interconnected systems provide them with an intellectual playground. There is a large and distributed group of humans playing a game in which they match their intellect against the flawed products that provide myriad targets for their efforts. The hackers will eventually win. Somewhere. If not a Jeep, then another car. Or your desktop computer. Or the Ashley Madison website. Or that huge hack that scored a massive number of US Government records.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

As to the Jeep, knowing that the Internet is not at all secure, and that the cars are likely under constant attack, the manufacturers should never have connected the cars to the Internet in the first place, and I suggest that the best thing to do, if it is possible, is to disconnect them. Physically. Let the brakes be operated by the driver and no one else. Period. End of problem. End of future problems. Cut that wire.

As you contemplate “the Internet of Things,” which seems to be based on getting you to pay quite a bit of money to control home appliances from your smartphone before you leave work, understand that you may, one day, find that you are not the only one operating your air conditioner. You could come home and discover the stove at 500 degrees, the aircon at full blast, the refrigerator off, and the security system disabled. Whose fault would it be? Yours, for making it possible. Just as if you purchased that Jeep, it’s your fault when a hacker takes over the driving.

Or suppose that your smartphone is stolen. There are services that can disable a lost or stolen phone, but it takes a little time to activate them, even if you can remember how to do it. In the meantime, everything your phone controls is compromised, along, of course, with all your passwords, selfies, and pictures you don’t want anyone else to have. Simply pulling the SIM card from a stolen phone disables the ability to remotely wipe it, and thieves know this. If they are interested, they can peruse your private data at their leisure.

In other words, simply buying that Jeep or installing network-connected devices in your home makes you vulnerable. Don’t do it. Or do it, and live dangerously. If it’s that Jeep, very dangerously. Up to you.

It was not always this way

A huge industry sprung up around computer and network security—because unfixable flaws and an army of sociopaths with laptops make it necessary.

This was not always the case.

In a past life I wrote a prototype for an email system that was a model for GE’s first commercial email system years later. Better programmers than I wrote subsequent prototypes and the final product.

GE’s commercial email system was certainly almost completely secure, except, of course, for someone deliberately stealing your password at work from a post-it on the wall. Sure, if you leave your computer on and walk away, you’re exposing your data, there’s little that can be done about that. But technically, if the password was strong enough, the system was secure. [I’ll admit to pulling a prank a couple of times by removing those post-its from someone’s wall to teach them a lesson.]

GE charged for its email system, and so it was doomed when free email came out on the Internet. You got what you paid for, though.

GE did not use the Internet for either its email or for its time sharing service, on which the email ran. It used a private network made up of leased telephone lines that spanned the country like a huge spider web. Nor were users’ computers separately addressable, as they are now.

Time sharing is dead, though its ghost (cloud services) has come back and may haunt us for the time being. Do you want your data on the cloud? Not me, for the moment, anyway.

The time sharing operating system was very secure. Each user ran in hardware-protected memory. It was physically impossible to access the memory space or disk files of any other user. It wasn’t something a hacker could override. The systems designed by Honeywell or later NEC compartmentalized users and there was no way around it. So a system couldn’t be hacked. Maybe, if a password were leaked, one user’s data could be compromised. If Ford could possibly get any of Chrysler’s data, it would spell the end for GE. It didn’t happen.

And now we have Windows, an operating system which permits any program to write to (say) /windows/system32. A program can read or write pretty much anywhere to memory or the hard disks that it likes.

It is impossible to make the Internet or Windows perfectly secure. And the old “dinosaur” design that worked so well has been forgotten.

Let’s not even talk about the Android system which leaks like a sieve, since it allows users to give away their privacy every time they install an Screenshot_2015-07-21-09-53-28app. The apps are so appealing that users readily give permission for someone out there (who?) to have unfettered access to their private information.

Many phones (including mine) came with software designed to report my personal data to who knows where (see this Wikipedia page).

In February 2015, HTC One users began reporting that the Carrier IQ agent software was overriding GPS device settings in order to obtain location information even when the GPS was turned off.

I’m pretty sure that my personal information is spread out all over the place, and if I want to continue using my smartphone, there’s little I can do about it.

But I won’t buy into the risks involved with connecting my home or car to a basically insecure system.

Another way to look at this issue: corporations will put harmful substances in your food, or will find ways to part you from your money for their profit. The commercial media are happy to advertise anything to you, it’s how they make money. Snake oil, gold purchase schemes, anything goes. So don’t expect anything to change. Basically, nobody is looking out for you or me. Look out for yourself.

And the media inevitably blame “hackers.” Sure, a government website was hacked. Sure, Target’s data was stolen. But if you park a car on the streets of Manhattan full of groceries on the back seat and leave the windows open, you’re just as guilty as the thieves who will open your doors and help themselves.

There’s no solution in sight for increased security in the devices or services we use. The necessary rebellion hasn’t yet started, and probably won’t any time soon. We’ve been set up to blame the hackers instead of (say) Target and to value convenience over privacy on our phones.

The only thing to do, for the moment, is just don’t buy that Jeep. Don’t connect your oven to the Internet. Connect sensibly, don’t ask for trouble. Be at least as careful as you can, even though that’s not enough.



Monday, July 20, 2015

 

Honolulu City Council Bill 20 does not create “affordable rentals”


by Larry Geller

Contrary to claims by its proponents, Honolulu City Council Bill 20 does not appear to create “affordable” housing units. Instead, it will likely create a larger pool of market-rate units.

Grab a copy for yourself at the link above and check it out. The bill is scheduled to be heard this Thursday by the Zoning and Permitting Committee.

There is no provision for control or regulation of the rent for the unit. The units will be of market size (400 sq. ft is about a one-bedroom, 800 sq. ft. is larger than the two-bedroom I’m now typing this from). Each has a full kitchen, etc., and comes with a parking space.

One of these so-called Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) could go for a higher rent than many units in town that, for example, require the owner to compete each day for limited street parking.

So while any additional housing units will add to the housing pool, these don’t sound like anything that should be described as “affordable.” At least not without qualifying the use of the word.

As to preventing them from becoming short-term vacation rentals, the city is already unable to regulate units now being illegally used in that manner. Kailua residents, as one example, have been complaining about illegal B&Bs for more than a decade.

Even with the language in the new bill, short term renters can simply be instructed to say that they have 6-month leases if questioned, or advised not to answer any questions at all. Piece of cake. The bill does not require that renters report anything, or in fact that they even speak English. So expect B&Bs, it’s that simple.

Sure, if a neighbor complains and videotapes different cars parked in front, a complaint could be filed, but since it would be a complaint against a neighbor (who could later key your car, for example), that may be unlikely or rare.

And as to the existing “ohana” units, they are easily be rented out—at market rates or slightly below. When we first moved to Hawaii and rented a house, at about the time we moved in construction began on an “ohana” unit behind the garage. It was rented out as soon as it was completed. When an inspection was due, the owner’s representative would take out the kitchen appliances before the inspector showed up and put it back after he left. That appears to have been common practice at the time, and perhaps still is.

There will be no need to take out the stove in these new ADUs. So they should rent for even more than the current “ohana” units.

Again, I see nothing in the bill or elsewhere to limit rentals to “affordable” rates. Bill 20 appears to be a gift to landowners, enabling them to gain some income through market-rate rentals. It won’t hurt (except for traffic impact) to have more homes, but let’s not say that they have anything to do with the need for affordable rentals, which has been at a crisis point for some time.



 

Blaming human error for Honolulu crosswalk fatalities is not good enough



Any pedestrian is at a grave disadvantage in the battle between man and machine that marks Honolulu’s busiest intersections, and they should not be expected to pay for their mistakes with their lives—Star-Advertiser editorial, 7/20/2015


by Larry Geller

I appreciate that this Star-Advertiser editorial and Disappeared News are almost on the same page with regard to pedestrian deaths in crosswalks in Honolulu. The number of elderly pedestrian deaths in Honolulu sets national records year after year, which suggests that nothing effective is being done to erase that shameful record. Wouldn’t a silver or a bronze be just as good for a change?

I say “almost” on the same page because the editors make a common but serious error in their recommendation. In the pull-quote it’s clear that the pedestrian is being blamed. In other words, the death was supposedly caused by “human error.” This is false.

So that you know what I’m talking about, let’s set the stage with this Google Earth snapshot of the intersection where 86-year-old pedestrian Wilkie Lin lost her life in a marked crosswalk. The image is identified as having been taken some time in 2011:

S. King & Poha Ln

After a bit of introduction, the editors wrote:

The solution is not to remove the cycle track, nor to remove all crosswalks except those that already exist at intersections with traffic lights; that will force elderly residents to walk farther than they should have to. A better idea is to install a traffic light, or at least a flashing light, at the crosswalk near Poha Street to slow traffic and remind drivers to be alert.

[Star-Advertiser p. A8, Safety upgrades needed along busy Honolulu streets, 7/20/2015]

Yes!

Or how about just a couple of day-glo signs to start with? The crosswalk is mid-block on the right side, and that should justify signs.

But then the editors lose it, in the very next paragraph:

The best idea, and one that could take effect today, at no cost to taxpayers, is for motorists to replace the inattention, indifference and sometimes outright hostility they display for pedestrians — even elderly ones — with a dose of patience for folks who are simply trying to cross the street.

This is the fallacy of human error, that is, blaming humans for inadequate design. It’s a common, and dangerous, theme, whether it is a media tendency to quickly blame helicopter crashes on “pilot error” when repeated crashes suggest that the aircraft itself is dangerous, or in this case, blaming pedestrian deaths in crosswalks on lack of “patience.”

The editor’s “best idea” falls short of the imperative presented by the fact pattern.

In the paper Counterfactual Thinking About Accidents and the Human Error Fallacy: How Undoing Accidents Leads Decison Makers to Futile Human-Focused Remedies by Paul C. Moore, Michael W. Morris, Damien L.H. Sim the authors wrote:

…it is not a very plausible causal model that accidents arise from something about an individual employee’s performance rather than from the interaction of the performance and functioning of other factors in the system. To illustrate, if pilots make errors so frequently, doesn't’t this suggest that there is something not exactly foolproof about the design of cockpit instruments and the air traffic control system?

The paper is concerned with industrial accidents, but their conclusions hold any time causation is dismissed as due to “human error.”

Let’s be plain about this. The intersection at S. King Street and Poha Lane has no signage at all. Signs are cheap, but they have not been provided. The crosswalks are death traps because their design has been neglected.

Compounding this fatal omission is that earlier intersections (that is, intersections motorists would have travelled through) either had signs, or at one place, blinking lights.

So motorists will pay attention when they see those day-glo signs on both sides of the street. Then suddenly, there is a crosswalk with no sign, although the driver is expecting signs. Another way to put it is that the sign pattern reassures drivers that when their attention is needed, we’ll let you know, there will be a sign. Then suddenly there is none, so clearly, we don’t want you to pay special attention here.

The lack of attention is not the fault of the motorist, or at least not completely. The lack of attention is on the part of Department of Transportation officials who are not doing their job, with fatal result.

This is my own photo of that intersection, taken on March 1, 2015. You can see the entire sequence of crosswalk photos here.

vlcsnap-2015-03-01-21h55m46s154[3]

Still no signs. And now, someone has been killed there. I haven’t looked today, but likely there still are no signs at that crosswalk.

Let’s flashback to 2011. In the photo at the top of this article, look closely and you’ll see a pedestrian waiting to cross at the extreme right side of the image. A photo taken by the Google car a few second later shows that another vehicle (and the Google car itself) have failed to stop to let the pedestrian cross.

pedestrian waits

Perhaps that’s too much to ask in Honolulu. In contrast, I recall taxicabs screeching to a halt on Shenton Way in Singapore when I just put my foot out a couple of inches to cross the street. Perhaps in Singapore the traffic laws are enforced… but this is Honolulu. The pedestrian in the 2011 pic better wait until there are no cars in view, and even that is no guarantee of a safe crossing.

The lack of enforcement of traffic laws is yet another potential (and I suggest, likely) cause of pedestrian fatalities. A KHON video of another incident shows that traffic didn’t even stop when the crew carrying the camera set out to cross the street.

In other words, there is much that could be done—and is not being done—to save lives. Not posting signs is pure negligence and should not be tolerated. Not enforcing traffic laws, rather than a lack of patience, does not motivate drivers to stop.

These are avoidable deaths, so it is not at all unreasonable to demand that changes be made.

Editorial page writers have a lot of power, nor are they constrained to reporting only the facts of when and where an accident took place. Maybe they don’t agree with my point of view. They got close to it today, so I have some hope.

Editors could help save lives with the power of their giant presses. How about it?



One of the hypotheses tested in the paper cited is that “human-focused counterfactual thoughts lead to decisions to correct a problem through narrowly human-focused remedies.” It works like this:

It's bad design

In these pedestrian accidents, the driver, of course, is “always at fault.” This is correct, in the sense that when a car encounters a human body, the human will be injured or die, so the driver bears the majority of the responsibility for making sure that this encounter does not happen.

The reality, however, is that there is a shared responsibility. Crosswalks without paint or with no signs demonstrate neglect and can be held as contributory. Honolulu has plenty enough examples of roadway paint that has not been renewed to blame the city as contributory to accidents of all sorts.

Also, pedestrians vary in their ability to sense danger, see or hear danger, or realize danger. Age is certainly a factor. It is likely that if the 86-year old pedestrian had pushed a button to start overhead lights blinking, that she would still be alive today. Fact.

Hence the need to design a system that will protect pedestrians of all ages.

Overhead lights are one possibility. One intersection on S. King Street has them. Here is another possibility, from a Google hit (see: Wayne Parsons Law Offices, The Hawaii Pedestrian Crosswalk Safety Chronicles: Innovative Solution for Crosswalk Safety):

lightguard



Sunday, July 19, 2015

 

No shift in newspaper’s attitude toward the homeless crisis


by Larry Geller

2015-07-19 SA headline

Today’s front-page story with an inscrutable headline is once again about the problems that homeless people are causing businesses. This time, one of the paper’s intrepid reporters has tracked them down to Harding Avenue.

Yet again, the paper treats the people as it would an infestation of vermin.

The city's crackdown on Waikiki's homeless inadvertently spawned a new and rapidly growing problem just up Kapahulu Avenue where two dozen homeless people have set up camp around the Market City Shopping Center, which has since lost "a few customers" while spending thousands of dollars trying to keep the center's bathrooms sanitary.

[Star-Advertiser p. A1, Shifting problems, 7/19/2015]

There’s nothing “inadvertent” about it. The City Council and the Mayor knew exactly what would happen when they enacted their sit-lie bans. It’s about time the newspaper reported this honestly. They may not have been able to pinpoint the exact spot that campers would choose, but they knew exactly and precisely what the results of their actions would be.

Sadly, it appears that at least one of our City Council representatives is also less than honest. Quoted in the article, Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi admits she is still clueless about how to solve Honolulu’s crisis of houselessness:

"I voted for sit-lie in Waikiki to protect the tourism industry," Kobayashi said. "But I said they're just going to move across the Ala Wai to my district, and that's what happened. We knew this would cause more problems. I don't know what to do now."

Cartoon-Ostrich-With-Head-In-SandThe solution, of course, is Housing First, and both the city and state know this. They just won’t fund it and won’t do it. The newspaper, for its part, won’t even talk about it (the last mention that Google finds was on March 22).

The overarching problem is still a crisis of affordable housing on Oahu.

Homelessness in Hawaii is an example of structural violence against low-income citizens

The state and city neglect documented in the news could be characterized as “structural violence,” in other words, as an assault on the most vulnerable in Honolulu. But that’s the stuff of sociology textbooks and doesn’t get into the news. One assault on a state legislator pales in comparison to the deaths caused by the state and city actions and inactions that perpetuate the current housing and homelessness crisis.

This “structural violence” is far more deadly in its consequences, as are other areas of government neglect.

People do suffer avoidable deaths because they are forced to live on the sidewalks just as pedestrians are killed because of inadequate crosswalk design, for example. Cutting mental health services is another act of violence and results in avoidable deaths (see, for a recent example, State agency blamed for 'gross negligence' in the July 12 paper, describing an avoidable death caused by the Dept. of Health’s failure to provide timely mental health evaluations.)

From the Wikipedia:

Structural violence is a term commonly ascribed to Johan Galtung, which he introduced in the article "Violence, Peace, and Peace Research" (1969).

According to Galtung, rather than conveying a physical image, structural violence is an "avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs". As it is avoidable, structural violence is a high cause of premature death and unnecessary disability. Because structural violence affects people differently in various social structures, it is very closely linked to social injustice.

"I hope they find a solution," [Sandra Au] Fong [president of Market City Ltd.]said. "You can't move the homeless because they just go somewhere else."

Tell it to City Hall.

The reporter, for some reason, also mentioned that homeless people at Kakaako play video games and watch DVDs on television sets. Of course they do. And they read books, help their kids with homework, discuss politics, and maybe even read the newspaper.

The paper has been handed a gift in the unfortunate assault on Rep. Brower at the Kakaako homeless encampment. Of course, they mentioned it in today’s story.

The Brower incident was milked once again at the top of today’s editorial. In fact, the lack of action on his assault was the first subject of the editorial, providing a convenient hook to (correctly) chastise the state for its inaction on the broader issues:

The assault on state Rep. Tom Brower has enlightened some people about the realities of the homelessness problem. But even with that light, it has generated very little heat — namely, no fire has been lit beneath the seats of the state’s leadership.

At least, that’s what the lack of real response suggests. Even if the June 29 assault by two homeless youths in Kakaako Makai needs to take its course through the investigation and possible prosecution, reasonable people would expect government leaders meanwhile to be jolted awake by such an episode — on state property, no less

[Star-Advertiser, p. E2, Urgent state action needed at Kakaako encampment, 7/19/2015]

The editorial is better later on as it laments the state’s neglect, mentioning (for example) the number of vacant units in the state’s public housing system that will remain unavailable because funds for repairs have been denied.

The editorial takes state legislators to task not for being out of touch and in denial about the growing issue of poverty and affordable housing, but rather for not doing something to get rid of the Kakaako encampment:

“We have to start dealing with it now,” Luke added. “Everyone donate a property — state, city, feds — then provide a safe area for the homeless.”

What to say?  Rep. Luke, please do start dealing with this now. Better late than never. And why not support an evidence-based solution that moves people into permanent housing rather than talking about a “safe area” for stashing the homeless out of sight?

The editorial covered a lot of territory while again avoiding mentioning Housing First at all – in other words, they've left out the very solution that works elsewhere quite well. (An op-ed by a Hawaii Kai resident today does mention it).

Incidentally, Colin Kippen, the state’s homeless czar, has only ten more working days before he has to clean out his desk. And all that time he never was given a budget to do his job.

So while Rep. Luke may be thinking about something, it’s not clear what Governor Ige’s plans, if any, might be.

What will it take to light a fire under our state and city governments? Here’s an area where the media could beneficially apply pressure, if they were so inclined.

One thing is for sure: when another homeless encampment someplace bothers some businesses, our daily newspaper will be hot on the story.



Friday, July 17, 2015

 

Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: TPP-TTIP-Tisa: A Tipping Edge from Democracy



In a structural autocracy there may be top autocrats from State and Capital–not from People–but their names are secret. They are accountable to nobody but themselves. Everything is secret including that secret, but that and many other secrets were (wiki)Leaked. And Assange has now been isolated in an embassy for three years. As all of this must have been planned for some years, the extreme US anger at his and Snowden’s whistleblowing, struggle, fight is understandable.


TPP-TTIP-Tisa: A Tipping Edge from Democracy

13 July 2015

Johan Galtung, 13 Jul 2015 - TRANSCEND Media Service

Unbelievable but true: Obama, other presidents and governments are seriously contemplating to hand their countries, people and all, over to business to create the largest “free trade areas” in history with NAFTA for North America, TPP for the Pacific, TTIP to the Atlantic and TiSA, services covering some 50 states all over.

Pharmaceuticals, chemicals, textiles, chicken; communications, e-trade, financial services, insurance, what not, negotiate across the oceans how to market each other’s products across oceans, overriding domestic laws, even constitutions that stand in the way of business.

The State-Capital-People, or Government-Investors-Civil Society restructured against not only Civil Society, but Parliament and Law.

The gains for business are obvious; removing the last inter-state tariff and non-tariff barriers, and more importantly: intra-state laws and regulations impeding the free flow of goods and services to protect people and nature; except laws protecting business.

So, imagine what may happen. The safest investment would be in transportation of goods and communication of services as basically the same products will be flowing in all directions. There will be even more buying and selling. Many prices will fall, products will be cheaper to customers, others not, depending on what these branches decide. Business will make more money than ever, connecting, linking producers and consumers; charging commissions.

The net result? Even more inequality. Laws taxing commissions may be declared illegal, like progressive taxation and inheritance tax. Benefits to the middle and lower classes from lower prices for consumer goods may be more than offset by welfare state benefits cut and the erosion of safety. Jobs will be lost when goods produced elsewhere are also available. On top of that all the harms of unequal societies so well described by many recently.

This editorial sees the three agreements as a tipping edge from democracy; but, to what? Away from democracy as a process of and by the people, and away from democracy as a society for the people, except in the sense of lower prices. Goodbye Lincoln.

In the process secret parties are negotiating secretly secret texts; people are bypassed, no referendum, no informed debate in public space; parliaments are refused the right to vote or bypassed by “fast track” procedures giving “law-makers” minimal say. Processes that have taken centuries to build are neglected. Destruction is easy, a decade or two; reconstruction may take considerably more time.

A process toward what kind of society? A structural autocracy.

Not an autocracy in the Stalin-Hitler-Franco sense known to Europeans. Those autocrats were dictators, they dictated policies and their dictates were known; if not the details in the processes.

In a structural autocracy there may be top autocrats from State and Capital–not from People–but their names are secret. They are accountable to nobody but themselves. Everything is secret including that secret, but that and many other secrets were (wiki)Leaked. And Assange has now been isolated in an embassy for three years. As all of this must have been planned for some years, the extreme US anger at his and Snowden’s whistleblowing, struggle, fight is understandable.

In the structural autocracy inter- and intra-state economic flows will run by themselves, on their own steam, generating enough money.

There is a system for investor-state dispute settlement by arbitration (google “ISDS Clause”) whereby investors can sue foreign governments but governments cannot sue foreign investors. Nor can Civil Society sue them as a treaty will remain unknown for years. Secret judges will use secret procedures and arguments subvert the rule of law in addition to democracy. The court is in Washington DC, linked to the World Bank, linked to the US government.

In a dictatorship-autocracy direct violence is flowing to keep people in line. We know the methods: breaching into homes at night, searching for arms and documents, arresting somebody, torture, detention in dungeons or concentration camps, killing; even genocidal killing of women and children. Rightly opposed by everybody, torture and genocide falling under jus cogens, mandatory law.

In the structural autocracy in the making, with State and People subordinate to business nothing like that may happen, or so they hope. People will literally buy the system at lower prices, being bribed. The Capital-Consumer alliance will reduce people to exactly that, to consumers as some other autocracies have reduced people to soldiers, workers, sycophants, to spectators at Colosseum, TV.

Democracy elevated people to become the masters of State, even of Capital. State-Capital now hit back. Business as usual, one might say.

In a structural autocracy structural, not direct violence flows.

We predict a return to life expectancies for lower classes half of the higher classes, 45 years against 90, often in agonizing misery.

With no financial control there will be unimpeded derivative speculation with savings, pension funds etc. and crashes like 2008. Not instant killing, but steady erosion of many peoples’ livelihoods.

With pharmaceuticals unopposed some cures can only be bought by people at the top. It took centuries to build welfare states, a decade or two to destroy them. Rebirth may take considerably more time.

Obamacare, constitutional or not, will be a victim, standing in the way of the insurance industry. So why is Obama in it?

He never really cared for the US underprivileged, women, blacks, unemployed, and lower classes who voted for him but betrayed them in favor of the middle classes and was punished at mid-term. A megalomaniac, he was “above the parties”, making deals with Republicans; this is one.

STOP IT! Do not sign countries, people and all, into suicide.

____________________________

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.

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

 

Death-trap crosswalk on S. King St. among those with no signage—shouldn’t city be responsible for deaths?


by Larry Geller

A Star-Advertiser story posted yesterday identified the crosswalk at which an 86-year-old pedestrian was killed as S. King Street near Poha Lane.  I flagged that crosswalk in a March 2 article as one not being marked with any signs at all.

The crosswalk, near Poha Lane, is photo #11 in my article, Human sacrifice in Hawaii--death trap crossings demonstrate failure to provide even the simplest protections (3/2/2015).

vlcsnap-2015-03-01-21h55m46s154[3]

The photos were extracted from a video shot by my dash camera as I drove down S. King Street. They show intersections that have day-glo pedestrian crossing signs, one that has a blinking light over the roadway, and intersections with no signage at all to alert drivers.

The article, Pedestrian, 86, killed in moped accident is identified (Star-Advertiser, 7/6/2015) does not specify whether signs are present or missing.

The moped driver in this incident, or any driver for that matter, is more likely to look out for pedestrians if proper signage—or better, blinking lights—are provided, but S. King Street confuses by not having signs when drivers have come to expect them. That is, as one drives along, first there are signs, so the driver pays attention, but suddenly there are no signs. Lost attention can result in lost lives.

A paywalled article on the S-A website reported that the crosswalk is known to be hazardous:

Antoinette Keahiolalo, a security officer at McCully-Moiliili Public Library, described the crosswalk as “hostile” and said in the past six months she’s seen about five near collisions involving pedestrians in the crosswalk.

“I see pedestrians that are trying to cross that wait a long time,” she said. “Cars don’t stop.” When a motorist does stop, cars coming from behind “either speed around them or continue speeding past them.”

Rick Taketa, manager at McCully Bicycle & Sporting Goods, which also faces the crosswalk, said from inside the store he can hear tires squealing when vehicles suddenly stop for pedestrians.

“You just have to watch the cars,” he said. “You pick up speed coming down from that light,” he said, referring to the intersection of King and Punahou streets.

[Star-Advertiser, Crosswalk where fatality occurred is ‘hostile,’ McCully residents say, 7/17/2015]

The ongoing neglect of death-trap crosswalks on S. King Street and elsewhere should raise some questions. For example:

1. Why are the crosswalks on S. King Street not equipped with blinking lights to help end the carnage?

2. Why are signs not posted, or missing signs not replaced, at every single crosswalk?

3. How many deaths will be required at this crosswalk before something is done?

4. How come the DOT administrators still have their jobs?

Of course, there will be more deaths in these crosswalks. Hawaii will continue to hold the national record for senior pedestrian deaths. Strangely, we seem to aim for this distinction year after year. It’s a disgrace.



 

Hearing will explore how Hawaii consumers are protected against unfair health insurance rate increases


by Larry Geller

An informational briefing has been called for Thursday, July 23, 2015 by three legislative committees “to brief the above legislative committees on the health insurance rate review process and on the rate increases being requested for individual health plans being offered for health care services covered in 2016.”

This could be an important educational experience for new legislators in particular. Sadly, it’s not unusual at all for only the chairs and almost no one else to attend these briefings. One hopes that as many as possible will attend this hearing.

Health insurance rate regulation has been a particular concern of mine.

Around 2006 Disappeared News protested the loss of the rate regulation law due to actions taken by then House corporate consumer protection chair Bob Herkes. That action was inextricably entwined with the struggle to evict an “embedded lobbyist” from Herke’s office:

Why would Rep. Herkes kill a bill that has such wide popular support? I don't know. I did find out, however, that Rep. Herkes office has been infested with an intern who might know something about this, so I went over there. I asked for Mark Forman, but he was out. Staff did confirm that he works there as an intern, assigned via the Majority Staff Office. Now, isn't Mark Forman, the intern, also the Executive Administrator of HMSA Foundation? He's on their staff list. He's simultaneously embedded in Rep. Herkes office.

[Embedded lobbyists distort democracy in Hawaii, 3/18/2006]

When the term “embedded lobbyist” was adopted from my blog by then Governor Lingle, it instantly jumped to the commercial TV news, and the rest is history. After two complaints to the Ethics Commission, one by me and one by Rep. Bev Harbin, the practice of disguising corporate representatives as “interns” was ended at the Legislature, and a bill to restore insurance rate regulation passed into law the following session.

But a law is only as good as its enforcement. For rate regulation to be effective at protecting the consumer, the Insurance Commissioner needs to carefully review the often outrageous demands of the monopoly insurance carriers for rate increases. The review can be a complicated matter involving actuarial studies. Of course, the insurance companies will high-ball their request because they want to see how much the Insurance Commissioner will slice away. Actually, I’ve forgotten exactly how it works myself—I think the Commissioner just rejects, and the insurer has to come back and justify a lower proposal. So I better attend the hearing myself for a refresher course.

The slicing does depend on who is the Commissioner at the time of the rate request, and how willing that person is to do an investigation. Actuarial work is complicated, done well.

So a hearing on the subject might reveal just how this commissioner plans to proceed, and how well consumers will be protected.

As to seniors covered under HMSA and other Medicare Advantage plans who endured huge and unexpected premium increases this calendar year, I’m told that those rates don’t fall under the Insurance Commissioner’s control. Perhaps this question will come up as part of the briefing.

Hint to legislators: someone may be checking on Thursday to see who shows up.

DATE: Thursday, July 23, 2015
TIME: 9:00 a.m.
PLACE: Conference Room 329
State Capitol
415 South Beretania Street



 

“Affordable housing crisis” and “Housing First” drop out of the news in Honolulu



The solution will come not with good intentions, new schematics or even blueprints; the solution comes when bulldozers are breaking ground for new affordable housing.—Richard Borr
eca, Star-Advertiser


by Larry Geller

That Honolulu needs to solve its growing shortage of affordable housing is undisputed. That Honolulu is doing nothing about it ought, therefore, to be a concern.

That Honolulu faces a crisis in homelessness that is only growing is undisputed. That Honolulu is doing nothing about it ought, therefore, to be a concern.

According to a Google search, the last time the phrase “Housing First” appeared in the Star-Advertiser was on March 22, 2015, in an article headlined Hiccups shake confidence in Housing First.

Housing First, of course, is the evidence-based approach to reducing homelessness as much as possible by providing housing and accompanying supports to enable people to remain housed and jump start their lives.

The success of Housing First is no mystery. It has been successfully implemented in other states and municipalities with great success, and has proven to be much cheaper than not implementing the program. See, for example: While Honolulu dithers, a Canadian city says it has eliminated homelessness, and Utah homelessness is down 91% over 10 years (5/21/2015).

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

As we have often suggested, the homeless encampments now bugging the city and perhaps Governor Ige are just the visible tip of the iceberg. The city and state are avoiding, not confronting, the need to get busy with a massive program to create truly affordable housing.

Instead, time, energy and money continue to go towards criminalization of homelessness and sideshows such as relocating the unsightly folk to Sand Island. That fulfills the concerns of business interests who are happy to be rid of the evidence of the housing crisis on their doorsteps.

The Governor, for his part, has put the job of housing czar on a month-to-month lease, and the office still doesn’t come with a budget. Commitment? Virtually none.

It seems that the newspaper is also not terribly interested in this crisis, which has been growing for more than a decade. The shortfall, when it has appeared in print, is staggering:

Hawaii needs to construct more than 27,000 affordable housing rental units over the next five years to meet demand. Adding in market-priced housing and homes for first-time buyers, the total need balloons to more than 64,000 units over the next five years, according to a recent housing study conducted for the state.

[Star-Advertiser, Advocates say Legislature could do more to help homeless, 5/15/2015]

Cartoon-Ostrich-With-Head-In-SandSo though the numbers do appear occasionally, what’s missing is a suggestion of a solution. And that mention was also back in May, and we’re in middle of July already.

Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away.

But somehow, and inevitably, it seems, the latest new luxury or ultra-luxury condo gets a guaranteed front-page promotion in the paper. Moreover, the story is placed in what on my college newspaper we called the “1-0” position on the page, the upper-left. We agonized over the relative importance of competing stories to our student and faculty readers, trying to pick the “1-0” and the “1-1” stories with particular care.

For the Star-Advertiser, the choice is simple. I can fantasize a newsroom conversation going something like: “Hey, any new condos today?” Unspoken is “Gotta put something up there the advertisers will like.” There’s no need to actually say it.

A senior housing project planned for Chinatown only made an inside page, deep down in the paper. Heck, though that’s something the people (readers) would be interested in, the housing developers will likely never take out even one of those full-page ads that the publishers covet.

Every paper operates under a policy that determines how news decisions are made, whether explicit or de facto. On the college paper, our struggle to present the news appropriately was on behalf of our readers. The huge spreads on the S-A front page devoted to luxury condos at the expense of whatever might really be important on that day suggests what that paper’s policy might be.

Related (?):

Gabriel Lee, American Savings Bank executive vice president, took over as chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii on Thursday at the 165th annual membership luncheon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village’s Coral Ballroom.

Dennis Francis, president and publisher of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, concluded two years as chairman of the state’s top business organization and welcomed Lee in his new role.

Star-Advertiser p. B1, Lee succeeds Francis as chamber chairman, [7/17/2015]


Today’s column by Richard Borreca is a must-read. Don’t miss it if you are a subscriber, or check it out while waiting on the supermarket checkout line. Here’s a snip that illustrates how long the state has ducked dealing with the growing problem of houselessness.

The meeting that Borreca describes below took place in 1990:

According to the comprehensive final report of Homeless Aloha, Inc., the former umbrella nonprofit organization, Waihee met with then-Mayor Frank Fasi to endorse a 500-person tent city at Aala Park.

The pair came up with “a five-year strategy which called for retaining all current permanent transitional units, construction of 500 additional temporary units and funding shelter/social service program for homeless families with children.”

A law was passed — the Homeless Families Assistance Act — and new powers were given to the director of human services “to establish and maintain homeless shelters.”

The Homeless Aloha wrap-up report written in 1994, however, says that “the fragmented approach results in small piecemeal actions with questionable results.”

[Star-Advertiser p. A13, Isle homelessness grows, but things stay the same, 7/17/2015]

New York City also finds itself with a crisis of housing and homelessness. Contrast Honolulu’s inaction with Mayor de Blasio’s plan to create adequate affordable housing in his city in the sidebar on this article.



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