Sunday, March 26, 2017

 

Honolulu 2140 ?


by Larry Geller

Former Mayor Mufi Hannemann tried a commuter ferry called TheBoat as a way to ease traffic congestion coming into cental Honolulu. It never worked, and cost taxpayers an estimated $120 per roundtrip rider to operate. Commuters preferred their cars or TheBus.

But suppose neither of those were an option one day as sea levels rise, turning streets and highways into canals. If the tall condos and downtown office buildings are not abandoned entirely, the only way to get to them will be by boat.

The cover of a novel by Kim Stanley Robinson (author of the Mars trilogy) released just this month, New York 2140, is a great illustration of what Honolulu also might become. Here’s the cover that you’ll see on Amazon:

ny 2140

Assuming that buildings made of steel and concrete can remain standing with their feet perpetually immersed in salty sea water, they’ll no doubt have to arrange for some kind of access by watercraft. For this cover illustration the artist has chosen to show individual moorings around each building. Here’s a magnified section of the cover:

ny 2140 enlarged

New York 2140 is science fiction. Global Warming is not, and Honolulu will be facing the consequences one day.

At least Honolulu’s rail line is being built with elevated platforms. Here’s a vision, this time a New Yorker cover, of the great beach access that we’ll enjoy some time in the next few decades:

New Yorker climate change cover 20150706[8]



Monday, March 20, 2017

 

Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: World Politics-Economics Right Now



World Politics-Economics Right Now

20 March 2017

galtung_side#473 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

The Cold War ended by an agreement that the USSR leaves Eastern Europe and the USA does not enter the area. What the USA did is treason, like Sykes-Picot. NATO expanded from 16 to 28: Bill Clinton added Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary; George W. Bush the Baltics, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria; Obama attached Croatia and Albania. In 1999, 2004 and 2009, respectively.  However, did those countries want it? They could have made their own pacts with neither USSR nor USA. The Soviet empire, and the Soviet Union itself, had collapsed.

With NATO at the border, Russia took back its 1954 Crimea gift to Ukraine within the Soviet Union.  Kiev with US help fought in Eastern Ukraine to make ethnic Russians escape to Russia.  Maybe 60% did.

Enters world history: The Pope and the Patriarch declare their Christianities one and the same (Havana Airport, VIP Lounge, 14 Feb 2016).  EU will no longer fight US wars (Bratislava, 6 Nov 2016). Protestant-Evangelical Christianity is marginalized. So is the USA.

Denmark and Norway were with Anglo-America fighting US wars in Libya; and with prime ministers as NATO’s secretary general. “Cold War jitters arise in Norway–arrival of US Marines stoke fears of being in cross hairs of Russia–a more likely bomb target” (NYT 18 Jan 2017).  But they are low on the US “Ranking American Allies” (NYT 7 Feb 2017); the top three are Canada, Britain and Australia (top three enemies: North Korea, Iran, Russia). And “US Threatens to Penalize Allies on UN Voting (IPS 7 Feb 2017). Given that and US marginalization, how long will they remain “allies”?

Charles Glass, “How Assad Is Winning” (NYRB 23 Feb 2017): solving national conflict is a sum of local solutions, using local superiority to offer security for local opponents laying down arms; government and opponents both benefiting from fees from road controls.  Israel will not get Syria cut into small pieces; USA will not get Sunni rule; Turkey will not control the Kurds; Russia keeps its air-navy base. Colombia, watch out; this may also be your alternative to US bombing. Politically the world is multi-polar, not run by superpowers. The West wants power-over-others and loses power-over-self; others have more Self-control, not Other-control. How does that work economically?

As debt. The debt/GDP ratio is: USA 98.3%, China 8.2%, India 23.0%, Russia 29.2%, and above 100% for many (Wikipedia “World Debt Clock”). The US 2016 trade balance was -$0.7 trillion, with China -$349 billion, with Mexico -$64 billion (Fortune, 1 Mar 2017).  The 2016 US annual interest was $241 billion; the 2027 projection is $768 billion. Will Trump cancel the debt unilaterally? Or bomb creditors to cancel?

Another key factor is finance economy speculation–as opposed to real economy investment–in derivative chains with super-commissions. If drug chains are illegal and boycotted, why not also derivatives?

China’s 8.2% debt/GDP ratio is the lowest of the 30 states listed. How does Chinese economic policy differ from the West? A first simple formulation: qualitative, focused on “revolutions”, not quantitative focused on “growth”.  The Economist Intelligence Unit, The World in 2017 fails to capture new qualities, too obsessed with quantitative growth.

Less simplistic: this difference follows from basics. The West has a creation myth, setting things right, with quantitative change, China has a never ceasing dialectics, new holons, with new realities. The two ways of thinking become self-fulfilling prophecies.

This author had a theory of China changing from distribution to growth and back every nine years from 1949 till 1989; with a 1976-1980 break after Mao’s death and before Deng launched the capitalist revolution.

That theory no longer holds.  From 1989 the ethos has been distribution oriented: lifting a sector up–now under Xi Jinping the lagging countryside–or a part, the West; or simply more consumption.  6% growth does not even put China among the ten “Top growers”.

China Daily (27 Feb 2017): President Xi Jinping uses his village level experience for policies lifting them up, “stunned that there was still a place with such poor and difficult conditions after so many years of reform and opening up”. Problems: health, education.  The typical reporting on Xi in the West, however, is on power struggle in the Communist Party, failing to catch processes involving millions.

USA: The Economist (p. 99) reports that “Americans–including those at the very bottom–have enjoyed surprisingly robust income gains of late.”  Better distribution, great; but “8 richest men match wealth of half the world” (NYT 18 Jan 2017), 6 of them are Americans (one is Spanish, Ortega; one is Mexican, Slim); 3 of the 6 are the founders of Microsoft-Amazon-Facebook, like Internet changing the world we live in.

But USA has economic power-over-others: Lex americana extracted 40 billion dollars from European companies as fines to US authorities (Le Monde Diplomatique Jan 2017). The 1977 US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was extended to foreign companies in 1998; laws forbidding trade with states under US embargo likewise.  US law is extra-territorial, so are US judges-courts, CIA-FBI-NSA at US embassies are the police. States that deviate from US norms when using boycott and trade for foreign policy risk their interests in the USA and prefer not to challenge it.

The net conclusion?  The enormous US imbalance: no longer winning wars, less political clout, economically bankrupt but still powerful, shaping the world culturally.  Wise US policy would celebrate the last two; unwise policy would Make America Great Again-military-political, as Trump wants.  Drop “Again” Mr. Trump, Make America Great! Will do.

And wise world policy? Celebrate the military-political decline of the last superpower, fight lex americana, treat US$ like any other currency–in baskets with others or not–and the US federal reserve bank like other central banks.  Normalize the USA from the outside.

And create world, UN, equivalents of Internet etc. as parts of the common human heritage, like oceans and space–beyond state ownership. In deep gratitude to the US–all immigrants–creative, innovative talent.

_______________________________________

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. Prof. Galtung has published 1670 articles and book chapters, over 470 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service, and 167 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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Let’s declare April 1 to be the official Fake News Day


by Larry Geller

Suitable for high school: Trump’s tweets vs. real events

1plus1

Today’s Congressional hearings present a great opportunity to apply critical thinking skills.

Our 45th president, whom we should normally be able to trust in view of the integrity that accompanies his office, emitted a series of tweets as the hearings progressed.

James Clapper and others stated that there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2017

As the Washington Post clarified,

But in his opening testimony, FBI Director James Comey announced that a criminal investigation into possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign was indeed active and ongoing.

One more tweet:

The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process. pic.twitter.com/d9HqkxYBt5

— President Trump (@POTUS) March 20, 2017

The Post:

This was a strange claim, especially because if you watch the video, [NSA Director Michael S.] Rogers makes clear that, when asked about whether Russian cyber-actors changed vote tallies in Michigan and other states, he replied: “I would highlight we are a foreign intelligence organization, not a domestic intelligence organization. So it would be fair to say, we are probably not the best organization to provide a more complete answer.”

Indeed, when later asked about the presidential tweet, Comey said it did not reflect what he and Rogers had said: “It certainly wasn’t our intention to say that today.”

This is a teaching moment.

 

For middle school: Trump’s wiretap tweets are a great lesson

For younger students one might discuss the difference between an assertion and a fact.

In these tweets from earlier this month, should we ask whether it is legal to tap Trump’s phone prior to the election or must we first question the assertion that the tapping took place?

Heck, a president said it, so it must be true, right?

Is it legal for a sitting President to be "wire tapping" a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017

I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017

How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017

Young students might be surprised that a president says one thing and is contradicted by others, for example, the FBI director (again, in the Washington Post article):

“I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey said. “The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components. The department has no information that supports those tweets.”

After all, young children are taught to believe authority, especially if their parents say something.

I don’t really know what a teacher might do if a kid says “But my dad said that Obama tapped Trump’s telephone.”

I’m glad I won’t have to face that response.

Good luck, teachers.

Let’s choose April 1 each year as a day to teach critical thinking in our schools at every grade level [actually, darn, it falls on a Saturday this year, so let’s use the day before].

April 1 or April Fools Day is a day to pull pranks but also a day to publish fake news stories in newspapers and on the web.

Some appear very real but most are fun and easy to spot.

These days we may be fed fake news most any day of the year. The trick is to be able to recognize it. It seems that many people can’t do that.

What about the steady diet of #FakeNews that the public has been exposed to at least since the election campaigns began last year? Many people seemed to glom onto it. Perhaps they could not tell the fake from the real. Perhaps they wanted the fake news to be real.

Of course there has always been fake news, but it was never popular enough to have its own hashtag. #FakeNews is now “trending” as they say. We even have fake news about “alternative facts.” Sheesh.

Such is the sad state of reason in an age when it is not ok to challenge someone’s “belief system.”

Our schools can teach students to think critically, a skill that would serve them well throughout life. So let’s do that, at least this one day of the year.

Yes, I know, encouraging critical thinking is blasphemy in a culture so dependent on selling things to each of us. If we teach critical thinking, who will buy all that crap sold on TV, who would vote for deceiving politicians, who would pop those supplements we are told we should eat?

Our 45th president in particular seems to be very invested in the fake news genre. In fact (if the word still has any meaning) he has popularized fake news not only in his campaign but as he attempts to carry out his official duties.

Declaring as fact that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower is only the latest installment. Tomorrow there will be something new. Believe me.

So why not take the opportunity to declare April 1 as the day to teach young people better thinking skills?

It’s too late for the older folks who have made it through our educational system only learning reading and math. Of course, that kind of schooling is what advertisers and politicians want for us.

We’re supposed to be uncritical consumers in order to keep the economy going and elect charlatans to political office.

Dunce_cap

No. Stop. Let’s make America think again.



Thursday, March 16, 2017

 

#BoycottHawaii hashtag backfires wonderfully


by Larry Geller

Hawaii filed a lawsuit against Trump’s first Muslim Ban and was the first state to file against Trump’s latest attempt. A judge in Federal District Court in Honolulu put a TRO on the ban nationwide.

In reaction, the hashtag #BoycottHawaii began trending on Twitter, but it almost immediately backfired.

It seems that both Hawaii residents and visitors wouldn’t mind at all if Trump supporters decided not to come here.

Here are some tweets I spotted just now:

boycott1

boycott2

boycott3

boycott4

boycott5

boycott6

boycott7

boycott8

boycott9



Monday, March 13, 2017

 

Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: A Structural Theory of Aging


 

A Structural Theory of Aging

13 March 2017

galtung_side#472 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

Wikipedia has much to offer under “aging”. Highly recommended are the 10 points by the world’s oldest living man, 114, Walter Breuning.    However, older persons, like me at 86, know their own aging best.  Less trouble with “oxidant stress” as a major cause, having used anti-oxidants based on blueberry skin–no chemicals–for decades. 20,000 blood stem cells renew my blood, but they are dying.  Problematic.

Rule no. 1: Keep mind and body active; maintain a good nutrition.

Obvious to counteract aging.  However, equally important:

Rule no. 2: Be open to the positive sides and advantages of aging.

Bertrand Russell’s “On Being 90” in the Observer dispenses with the disadvantages as obvious, in favor of his advantage: the overview.  At the age of 5 he sat on the knee of a man who had fought Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815-=-. The longer the lives we have lived, the more events have impinged upon us. An “overview” identifies some link, a narrative, a common factor.  That identification is often referred to as “wisdom”.

However: thigh muscles weaken, walking falters, fatigue, seeing and hearing impaired. Exercise helps, but aging is unavoidable.

Rule no. 3: At least do not fall; not breaking fragile bones, no ending up bedridden in a hospital, contracting new diseases.  Equip the room, the home, the context with handles and handrails.

Then the mental aspects of aging: memories failing, not only of recent events, less ability to handle many and simultaneous stimuli. As a result, many and more mistakes reinforcing the sense of aging.

Rule no. 4: Simplify the context, contract the circle of living.  Be realistic, change the structure of daily life, narrow the circle to what can be handled easily: the ward, the village, the context, the home, the room–but then equipped with a maximum of music, books, social media, as enriching as possible.  If driving, then on known roads with little traffic, in small towns, villages.

Rule no. 5: Togetherness.  A society with much loneliness for young or old is a bad society.  Get old together, with a spouse, a cooperating partner.  Much conversation will be about pains suffered.  But cut it short. Focus on positives, beautiful landscapes, gardens, music, literature.  Enjoyment together is more than double enjoyment.

Make shared meals as much of a feast as possible.  The ability to enjoy good food lasts; our senses of smell and taste are more solid. No smoking of course and moderation with alcohol, sugar and cereals. Let good food and drinks stay a while in the mouth where the taste buds are, tied to the smell; do not just swallow and “wash it down”.

Rule no. 6: Live both real and virtual lives. Postmodern life has two realities; not only what we sense but also a virtual, IT, reality with friendship and enriching exchanges activating the mind. IT offers all of that–with no risks of falling!–in the simple context of a computer.  Particularly when adding Skype, and even free!

Rule no. 7: no retirement. Go for a job where the older can share experiences with the younger, even if no longer showing up at work. A work place closed to the older is a bad work place. In post-modernity this is possible in ways unthought-of, for mutual benefit. How much, paid or unpaid, can be negotiated. Being productive is what matters.

Negate this. Retire, cut all links, live only one reality, alone/lonely, in a complex world with physical and mental risks, nothing positive, passively, no exercise, bad nutrition.  Brutish, nasty, and short.

Better contract from the macro-society of country-region-world to a rich micro-society of a circle around oneself and the partner(s), relating to other circles.  But it does not have to be that micro.

We can argue: high time.  To be born into micro-society, then the macro-society of education and work, and then a poor micro-society of retirement is not good enough.  Traditionally, women continue working longer than men, living more human lives. Is this why women live longer?

Due to better health, and family planning favoring 2 children, we now have aging populations and even more return into micro-society in old age homes. Some time ago, huge macro-society growth swallowed such micro-societies as villages; now there is a return to villages and a return to childhood at old age. And macro becomes even more macro, regional, global, marginalizing the old even more. Inhuman; a far cry from retired farmers still living on the farm for care and experience.

Major structural changes, hence this structural theory of aging.

In those micro-societies of the aged, with nurses and others for “assisted living”, all know that the purpose of still living is dying. And before that there may be physical and mental suffering.  Inhuman!

Fight it; practice Rules 1-2-3-4-5-6-7.  Aging is nothing to be afraid of, but foresight and planning are indispensable. Some macro can be created. A married couple here and an unmarried there, each managing in their ways, can relate, exchange experiences, also to old-age homes that may be the longer term answer to the aging. Virtually this micro to micro can even cross borders. Reconquering macro life.

Let me end on a subjective note.  Having lived an eventful rich life, including meeting many people “high up”, I remember thinking “how can I live without this when I get older”? I find myself, older, thinking “how could I live without the wonderful life I now have”?  Deluding myself, in both cases, closing the eye to all the negatives?  Maybe.  But then, maybe some selection is part of a good life.

I find myself floating, navigating through time and life, trying, not always successfully, to do more good and less harm. Not concluding that the present is the best period although it often feels like that.  It is different, and very good. One positive aspect is obvious: with less work in the sense of a job there is more time for work in the sense of being creative.  With hands and the mind. On the computer.

Thanks, Life, the best of all gifts.  For every day.

________________________________________

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. Prof. Galtung has published 1670 articles and book chapters, over 450 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service, and 167 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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In Hawaii's state legislature, ninja assassins are used to kill bills in conference committees



[Ethics] bills to close loopholes and tighten restrictions died mysteriously at the end of the legislative session….[Rep. Matt] LoPresti also didn’t offer any particular insight into why his bill died, or into why the other measures related to ethics and lobbying were deep-sixed. “I don’t know why half the things here die,” he said. “It’s a mystery.”—
Civil Beat: Hawaii Lawmakers Again Balk At Ethics, Lobbying Reform (5/23/2016)



by Larry Geller

Earlier articles in this  series (start reading at the bottom of the list):

I'm sticking with my model of the Hawaii state legislature as a feudal system, with the shogun at the top and each committee chair as a Senate as a feudal systemfeudal lord (daimyo) assigned a particular fief.

This is not the model that is taught in classes or seminars that purport to explain how the legislative process works, but without this understanding, true reform and democratization of the system isn’t possible.

The figure (“Emperor”) at the upper right is the governor, who is powerful but not directly involved in the legislative process.

Conference committees are the Shoguns’ secret weapons

An explanation of the legislative process provided by the Public Access room includes a little box at the upper right with this information:

Tidbit

Often the House Rules, Senate Rules or Joint conference procedures specify that a legislator who has voted against the measure will not be appointed to the conference committee. This is one of the reasons that a legislator in opposition to a measure may choose to vote 'aye with reservations' rather than against the measure. In this way, that person can still be eligible to serve on the conference committee, and can then attempt to have input on the bill's final form, or work to prevent a final compromise from being reached.

Cheating democracy through secret conference committees

Although Rep. LoPresti, in the pull-quote above “didn’t offer any particular insight ” into why ethics bills died last session, the cause is easy to discern. And he knows it, too.

Legislative leadership did not want the ethics bills to pass but didn’t want to appear opposed to them publicly.

So allowing the bills to progress through the session, supported by testimony offered by good government advocates and organizations. So far so good. It makes it appear that the legislature backs ethics reform. Of course, this is a sham. Legislators know that the bills will never become law.

Leadership (House and/or Senate shoguns) knew they could “disappear” each bill in the black hole that is a conference committee.

The purpose of a conference committee is supposed to be to iron out differences in order to pass the bill

When a bill has made it through each house of the legislature it is likely to have some differences, large or small. One house may simply say (as directed by its leadership (shogun) that it accepts the wording of the other, and the bill will be sent off to the governor.

If that doesn’t happen, then a conference committee is appointed, ostensibly to iron out differences and produce a compromise version of the bill.

So a bill that has made it successfully through many arduous committee hearings and floor debates should ultimately be sent to the governor, right? Wrong. Not when the shoguns decide otherwise.

This is an example of the dictatorial power the shoguns wield. Democracy dies behind the closed doors of the secret conference committees.

The Legislative Reference Bureau was completely honest in its explanation of the conference committee process in the box at the upper right, which is snipped from one of their publications. Note the last sentence admits that conferees may not actually be working to reach a compromise at all. Instead they may “work to prevent a final compromise from being reached.”

The box describes a process that is often used to kill a bill, and one that the public doesn’t understand. In fact, all those hours waiting to testify at one committee after another, the time lost from work to be at the State Capitol, all that airfare to come from a Neighbor Island to Oahu to give testimony, it all is wasted on a sham process if the shoguns plan to kill a bill in conference anyway.

The use of conference committees in this way cheats the public of its time, money and energy and ultimately robs us of the representative government ninjapromised by the state constitution.

Since the shoguns appoint committee members, they can appoint “ninja assassins” whose purpose is not to reach a compromise, but instead are assigned to simply make sure the bill doesn’t get out of the conference committee alive.


The conference committee allows special interest campaign contributions to influence legislators

We’ve seen in an earlier article how committee chairs can simply kill (“defer”) a bill or refuse to hear it at all, for no good democratic reason. Imagine, if you will, that a committee chair (daimyo) has accepted thousands of dollars of campaign contributions over the years from special interests (ag chemicals, medical insurance, etc.). How better to serve those interests than to manipulate the process so that a bill that threatens them will never move forward in the session?

Another way, if a bill is very popular for example, is to let it move along knowing that it will never make it out of a rigged conference committee hearing. That was the fate of the ethics bills in the 2016 session.

The box above describes a subterfuge, a deceit, a deception. It also reveals that decisionmaking is carried out by legislative leaders quite independent of the public process. In other words, testimony and the will of constituents can be safely ignored because killing a bill in conference is easy and no individual legislator will be blamed.

The opportunity for special interest influence blossoms here. Lobbyists know that if the shoguns assure them a bill will not pass, it will be killed by the ninjas in the end.


Democracy is not possible in Hawaii’s state legislature without reform of the conference committee process

Other reforms (for example, curtailing a committee chair (daimyo) ‘s power to kill or not hear bills) are ineffective if the shoguns can simply send their ninja assassins to kill or perhaps neuter a bill in conference at the end of the session.

The use of conference committees in this way is shameful and should be a priority for reform. Good government groups, where are you on this?



Sunday, March 12, 2017

 

European tests show smart meters may overbill electricity by up to 582%


by Larry Geller

smart metersBefore critics of smart meters in this country get overexcited, it must be noted that these tests were conducted in Europe. They should raise concerns, but tests would have to be done on this side of the pond to see if equipment used in the USA is subject to the same or similar errors.

Dutch scientists at the University of Twente conducted tests on nine different brands of  smart meters. They found variations of from -32% to +582% of actual power consumption.

Another concern that I would like to throw into this (not mentioned in the articles making their way around the Web) is the calibration (or lack thereof) of equipment used for submetering in condos and other settings (universities, etc.).

Submetering is a method of allocating costs—in a condo, measuring equipment is installed at each apartment and used to subdivide the building’s electric bill so as to allocate it to the individual apartment owners. Some states have laws specifying the calibration standards necessary for this equipment—Hawaii does not. Clearly, equipment that does not meet calibration standards could be under- or over-billing owners.



 

Reform of Hawaii’s legislative system is possible, if we work at it



[Former Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei] Tanaka's discerning eye saw through the fictions of democracy. He focused on the clear and simple fact that basic decisions involving the law are made outside the legislature
quoted in paper by Chalmers Johnson


by Larry Geller

Earlier articles in what is becoming a series:

How can I say we have a more advanced system of government and at the same time describe it as a feudal system? My thinking is this:

Two examples from this past week’s news illustrate the nature of our current system and can serve to illustrate a way out of it.


Example 1: popular environmental protection bill assassinated by committee chair

A bill seeking to ban foam containers was shelved this session, despite sizable public support.

Most of the 615 submitted testimonies supported Senate Bill 1109, which would have prohibited the use of polystyrene foam products by food vendors starting in January 2020. The material is commonly used for coffee cups and takeout containers.

Sen. Mike Gabbard, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Environment, said the foam ban received the second highest number of public testimony submissions out of the 91 bills that came before his committee. The first was a pesticide buffer bill (SB 29) with roughly 700 testimonies.

Both failed to cross over to the House, despite their popularity with the public.

[Star-Advertiser p. B1, Senators shelve foam ban proposal, 3/12/2017]

What happened to this bill?

It was up to Sen. Rosalyn Baker, chair of the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, to schedule a joint committee hearing for the bill, SB 1109, before Friday’s deadline.

Baker did not respond to requests for comments Thursday about why she failed to do so.

[CivilBeat, Committee Chairs Halt Bills To Ban Foam Food Containers, 3/3/2017]

Further from the Civil Beat story:

“Bills are being decided behind closed doors without the opportunity for public discourse,” [Surfrider Foundation’s, Rafael] Bergstrom said.

This is nothing new. It is standard operating procedure for Hawaii’s state legislature to decide bills behind closed doors. I wrote in the first article linked above:

I attended a long hearing of the House Finance committee one day and wondered why it was being run by the co-chair instead of the chair. So I asked a representative during a break. He told me that the chair was in the back room working with then-speaker Calvin Say on decisionmaking.

In fact, they had already decided on many bills even before the bills came up on the agenda to be heard.

So much for that carefully written testimony that took you hours to write. So much for your waiting half a day to present it. So much for the expense of flying to Oahu from a Neighbor Island to give your testimony in person. You did what those classes on how bills become law say you must do. Then the system ignores you.


Example 2: Pesticide bill killed by House leadership

House Bill 790 would have required agricultural companies and others who spray large quantities of pesticides outdoors to provide extensive disclosure about usage and alert facilities that serve children and seniors before spraying chemicals in their vicinity, among other requirements, or face potential fines.

The bill had a Thursday deadline to cross over to the Senate and was one of three bills placed on the day’s agenda for a full House vote. But House members didn’t take a vote on the bill and instead quietly recommitted it to the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee, effectively killing the measure for the year.

[Star-Advertiser p. B3, Fear of flak from public dooms bill on pesticides, 3/10/2017]

The Hawaii House of Representatives on Thursday quashed a bill that would have required large-scale agricultural operations to publicly disclose when and where they spray pesticides and insecticides.

Even though House Bill 790 had passed three House committees — a high hurdle — Majority Leader Scott Saiki called for the bill to be recommitted to one of those committees during a Thursday floor session.

[Civil Beat, House Uses Sleight Of Hand To Kill Pesticide Disclosure Bill, 3/9/2017]

Another example, though there are potentially dozens or more each session, was the untimely death of a bill I personally hoped would pass, SB1137. We have a chronic shortage of physicians in Hawaii. That bill could have begun work to remedy the problem. It was killed by Sen. Baker without a committee vote (and three sponsors of the bill were on her committee).


A possible fix? One idea

Senate as a feudal systemIn Hawaii’s feudal system, the daimyos (feudal lords) are the powerful committee chairs. I would like to suggest that a fix to create a democratic system out of what we have could start with two changes to the rules:

  1. Require that a committee vote be taken on all bills that have significant public testimony. Clearly, this needs to be refined, but that’s the idea.
  2. Require that amendments be drawn up and voted on only when presented in finished form to the committee.
  3. Clearly, “dirty tricks” need to be eliminated. A bill that has passed through its committee hearings should be given the reading on the chamber floor that the state constitution requires and then allowed its vote. The issue of skipping floor readings is also a topic that needs work.

The styrofoam bill, for example, had overwhelming public support. So it should have been voted on by each committee. Period. No “deferral” by committee chairs to kill the bill allowed.

As to the second part, another power that the daimyo committee chairs currently abuse is to recommend passage of a bill “with amendments.” But those amendments haven’t been written yet and could be anything. They could effectively neuter a bill or even replace its entire contents in a move called “gut and replace.” So the solution is to write the amendment, circulate it among all members of the committee in advance so that it can be read by each of them, and then come back for a vote another day.

There should be discussion on these and other measures to move our present system of state government on up to the next level, democracy.


Ending the influence of special interests is likely to be more difficult

As noted in my earlier article, bribery was a feature of Japan’s feudal system. Many TV period drama series featured bribes openly passed to officials in the feudal government.

At the time we lived in Japan, starting in 1972, bribery of public officials was still a feature of regular news coverage (see: Shameless shogun, The Economist, 6/9/2016). I recall that even after ex-prime minister Kakuei Tanaka, the subject of that article and called the “Shadow Shogun” in the Japanese media, was removed from office, news articles reported a steady parade of visitors bearing monetary gifts to his home.

Chalmers Johnson described “what the Japanese call kozo oshoku, or ‘structural corruption.’" in Japanese government which I think probably continues even today. This is hard to reform as it is tolerated by society in Japan. In Hawaii (as elsewhere in the US), this “structural corruption (構造 汚職)” is endemic in our system of political contributions and now exacerbated by permitting “superPACs”.

It appears that the influence of the ag-chemical industry played a role in Hawaii lawmakers’ decisions to kill that popular bill. This type of corruption may also yield to reform via legislative rules.

How to work on it:

UH could play a role in legislative reform if they would come out of their silo

We have a Political Science department in the University of Hawaii.

Let’s put them to work. For us, I mean.



Thursday, March 09, 2017

 

Trump provokes immune reaction


by Larry Geller

Neil Milner’s column on today’s Civil Beat website, Why The Trump Resistance Can’t Just Copy The Tea Party (Civil Beat, 3/9/2017) depends on the assumption that “copying” is what’s happening. I do see it differently.

I have thought that the marches and town hall meeting protests are not movements to bring about particular political or economic goals, which is what the Tea Party advocates are after.

Toxic TrumpInstead, they are an immune reaction against specific pathogens—chief of which is the Pathogen in Chief, Donald Trump.

An immune response is how a body defends itself against organisms or substances that are foreign and harmful to the body.

Trump’s policies, no doubt formulated by the advisors to whom he has turned over our government, are toxic. There are plenty of examples, including the most virulent at the moment, Trump’s Muslim Ban. Besides that, could not the label “toxic” be applied directly to a person espousing racist, misogynist and intolerant views?

In the case if the Muslim Ban, white blood cells are being deployed—state lawsuits challenging the ban. The white blood cells multiply and gobble up executive orders to prevent them from causing damage. At this writing, three other states have joined Hawaii’s court challenge to the travel ban.

Town Hall protests are targeting toxic Republican policies such as their planned attacks on the ACA, Medicare and Medicaid. Without adequate defenses these plans and policies will cause real harm to people of all ages.

People would not die immediately when they lose their insurance policies, of course. Sure, it may be (say) a cancer that actually does someone in, but that death would be accurately described as “death due to complications of Obamacare insurance policy cancellation.”

Yes, the Tea Party was homogeneous and the Resistance movement is diverse. That can be looked upon as a strength—the potential participants are much larger and have each their own extensive constituents. We have to see how this plays out, but it sounds like a tactical advantage. Trump and the Republicans have alienated many sizeable subgroups of the population, and they are reacting. The process of collaboration has been effective so far.

As an example, large protests and legal assistance sprung up at airports immediately upon Trump’s issuance of his Muslim Ban order.

As to the Resistance folks having to show up regularly for sustained activity—hey, they have just begun to protest. Twitter and Facebook are alight with discussion and coordination of demonstrations. Social media is now how people meet and how they coordinate physical presence. So far it’s working well. It’s also how mostly younger people, as opposed to mostly older Tea Party folks, roll.

The multiple, large-scale demonstrations show that people are going out. They’re exercising their feet, their fists, and their lungs. Hey, exercise strengthens the immune system.

Neil, let’s give it a chance and see how it goes.



Tuesday, March 07, 2017

 

Appeals court to hear arguments on whether Sen. Brickwood Galuteria lived in his district prior to his election


by Larry Geller


Update: The audio recording of the oral arguments has been posted and is of good listening quality. To download or listen in your browser click here.

Did Brickwood Galuteria live in his district prior to his election to the Senate? This is the main question at issue in a case to be heard on Wednesday before the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA).

Why is this important? According to the state constitution:

No person shall be eligible to serve as a member of the senate unless the person . . . is, prior to filing nomination papers and thereafter continues to be, a qualified voter of the senatorial district from which the person seeks to be elected; except that in the year of the first general election following reapportionment, but prior to the primary election, an incumbent senator may move to a new district without being disqualified.

Galuteria

The case is Richard W. Baker vs. Brickwood M. Galuteria, Abigail L. Galuteria, and Glen Takahashi, City Clerk, City and County of Honolulu. It is set for oral Hawaii supreme courtarguments  on Wednesday, March 8 at 9:00 a.m. The hearing is in the courtroom at the state Supreme Court, 2nd Floor, 417 South King Street (behind the King Kamehameha statue).

While there are many briefs filed with the court, I have posted the appellant’s opening brief below because it is the best explanation of the arguments and the actions that led to the case landing in court. The introduction and background begin on page 9 of the pdf file.

Caution: Posting this one brief is intended only as a shortcut to understand the case—of course there are counter-arguments and it is important for anyone wishing to study the case or form their own conclusions to read both sides of any court action. Briefs are public records and I urge anyone interested to obtain a complete set. I have read several of the briefs before posting this article.

The opening brief posted below is 70 pages long, which suggests that this case is far from simple. It has its twists and turns—for example, on p. 10, there is mention of a rental agreement filed retroactively.

Anyone attending the oral arguments should understand that the ICA has been briefed and presumably understands the case, so what the public hears will naturally be incomplete. In addition, crank up your hearing aids if you plan to attend, the sound system in the courtroom is often totally inadequate.

If the court posts its recording of the hearing I’ll link to it or possibly post an improved sound file as an update to this article—check back after the hearing.

Download Baker Appeal Opening Brief from Disappeared News




Monday, March 06, 2017

 

Tourism Impacts West Maui: a book that delivers more than the title suggests


by Larry Geller

Amazon: Tourism Impacts West Maui

Tourism Impacts in West MauiTourism Impacts West Maui Paperback – December 30, 2016
by Dr. Lance D. Collins Ph.D (Editor), Dr. Bianca K. Isaki Ph.D (Editor), North Beach-West Maui Benefit Fund, Inc., publisher.

This is a solid collection with narrative, detail, photos and maps, tables, charts, stories and references. It could easily serve as an intermediate to advanced course in Hawaii’s economics and history yet it remains accessible to a broad range of readers.

Hawaii has a unique and complex history. How did we arrive at the tourist destination that is modern Hawaii, and what preceded it socially and economically?

Become a time-traveler as the authors take you through periods of discovery, development of a fully sustainable economy, interaction with the West, the smothering of and replacement of that original economy, and right up to the present moment marked by contention for the use of limited island land.

Editor Lance Collins’ chapter takes us on a historical and geopolitical tour. As background he summarizes the formation of the Hawaiian Islands from their geological origins though the arrival of Austronesian-speaking people and the establishment of a societal system that persisted until it was abolished by imposition of Western concepts of property rights. Everything a reader needs to know about the influence of outsiders and the resulting illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom is here.

But there was a second “regime change:” the overthrow of agriculture and ascendence of tourism as king of the economy. This material goes beyond others that simply chronicle the path to the overthrow or to statehood.

What makes this chapter unique is the attention it pays to the disposition of the Crown Lands. Collins’ inclusion of cases such as Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs (2001) updates readers on the legal struggles to preserve the public land trusts by Native Hawaiians. There is the pressure on land and society brought by colonization and tourism. Collins exposes the efforts of the state to use what should be those protected crown lands for other purposes.

Collins has painted a complete picture that should inform advocates and anyone interested in the struggle for affordable housing or for the preservation of Native Hawaii rights.

A snip from the chapter’s Conclusion:

As tourism continues to externalize much of the costs of labor onto society at large, the crisis of affordable housing continues. The state has taken on a limited role in trying to address the issue. However, with the range of choices available to it, the state has repeatedly sought to use the crown lands as the foundation for the building of affordable housing under plans that also allow the development of market priced homes on those same crown lands. The state has not seriously considered or proposed using the power of eminent domain approved in Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff, 467 U. S. 229 (1984) to take land from speculators and developers to build affordable housing. Given these choices, it is clear that the"crisis"of affordable housing and its solution in the alienation of crown lands is first and foremost as a means to dissolve Hawaiian society and dispossess the Hawaiians of their lands. The struggle to protect crown lands is a means to protect a Hawaiian future in a time-space beyond the world market and the flows of capital.

Editor Bianca Isaki’s chapter preserves and contrasts memories of Maui’s plantation days with the invasion of tourism and its eventual dominance of the economy.

The chapter is divided into three parts: the first presents the memories of retired Pioneer Mills workers. Part two opens with the story of “Makekau,” recalled as the only homeless guy at the time, with background for the changes taking place as young people left to escape the declining plantation economy. The plantation economy morphed into the tourist economy, which is the theme of the third part.

Isaki describes the very narrow scope of existence of plantation life. Tourism offered increased opportunities brought by outsiders. And both preyed on traditional Hawaiian cultural values and practices. It worked for the tourist industry to describe Hawaiians as incompetent, lazy and otherwise inferior. At the same time, Hawaiian women are presented as being sexually available.

Within the following seven chapters by other authors are lessons in how urban planning is practiced (or not) in Hawaii, and how real-world problems such as traffic congestion and the influence of soaring land prices are considered (or not). Stories of workers who migrated to West Maui from the Philippines are here. Day-tripping tourists drove road construction, we learn, not the needs of residents. This very rich material makes the book hard to put down.



 

Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: The “Karma Year” and Current Conflicts


 

The “Karma Year” and Current Conflicts

6 March 2017

galtung_side#471 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

Winter Conference, The Inland University, Rena, Norway, 16 Feb 2017

          An Unstable World: Analysis, Forecasting, Solutions

Take current deep conflicts in our unstable world and go back in time, aided by dialogue with the parties about “when did it go wrong”.  Chances are a year will emerge.  There was a basic event, or process, polarizing something that used to be more cohesive. A faultline had emerged that can last for centuries, more or less polarized, up till today, and beyond, if there is no intervention.

The faultlines function like tectonic plates.  Nothing may happen for long periods. Then they shock against each other, with earthquakes geo-physically; Norway-, Euro-, World-quakes socially.

The tern “karma year” is used. Not destiny-Schicksal-skjebne; too deterministic. Karma is destiny that can be changed through awareness.

The reader will find on the next page a Table with seven “current conflicts” and their Karma year(s) as hypotheses.  And analysis, forecasting, solutions, here called diagnosis, prognosis, therapy.  That table, or matrix, is a two-dimensional discourse for karma years.  The table can be read in several ways.

Horizontally it reads like the   TRANSCEND approach to conflicts: get a hold on the basic incompatibility, make a prognosis of what will happen without intervention; if unacceptable, intervene with therapy.

Vertically the first column is a study of karma years, the second of (alarming) forecasting, the third column a repertory of solutions. Our focus being on the karma years we shall read vertically.

The first impression is that the years are by and large unknown. And yet they set the tone, or throw the shadows, for centuries.  How can we allow ourselves the arrogance of such ignorance?

Take Libya.  How many in Italy were aware of the horrendous 1911 crime of bombing oases, the open spaces for women-young-old-infirm? Given the general rule that perpetrators forget easily, victims never?

  Diagnosis Prognosis Therapy
0 Libya Bombing 1911

State terrorism

Colonizing,

Liberation 1969

Apology 2011

Silviu Berlusconi

1 Afghanistan Durand line 1893 Pashtun split`

Taliban fight

Drop Durand

Central Asian Community

2 Iraq-Syria Baghdad 1258

Sykes-Picot 1916

Four colonies

Osman collapse

UK-French rule

Fight for independence

Fight for Shia

Sunni Kurdish communities

Regenerate some unity

Loose federalism

based on provinces

Double identities

3 Islamic State Sykes-Picot 1916

NATO 1949

European Community 1958

European Union 1992

Islam as new enemy 1992

Remove states

Balance NATO

Islamic State

Caliphate for Mecca

Retribution with moderation

Western warfare

Military defense against threats,

not attack-killing

Negotiate Riyadh space for Israel

Compensation for state terrorism

4 Ukraine “at the border” West-East 395

Schism 1054
1 state 2 nations Ukrainian-Uniate

Russian-Orthodox

Crimea 1954 gift recovered

Not unitary;

Not president from one nation

Internal anti-Russians war;

External inter- ventions.

Ukraine federation with two nations;

Cabinet with 3, 5, 7 members;

President rotating;

Neutrality

5 Israel-Palestine Genesis 15:18 as geopolitics

Chosen People, Promised Land.

Divine mandate

“Peace through security”

Conquest, colonialism,

Terrorism, State terrorism,

Expansionism

US full cooperation

1 Palestine fully recognized by all

2 states together

6 states community

20 states OSCWA

“Security through peace”

6 USA-

all over

Divine mandate New Canaan 1620

Chosen People, promised land: Exceptionalism beyond law with promised world.

Imperial global structure

World currency

US empire decline and fall by 2020 (only UK-Dk-N fight US wars);

USA warfare alone to keep empire;

US$ declining, Currency baskets;

China passing USA; Rise of East, South

Secularization, Enlightenment as normal country;

MEXUSCAN N-America;

Stop wars, military interventionism;

Lifting the bottom 70% into the economy

Working for a basket with US$

The key karma years are bold faced.

For the Islamic State, there are Western escalations to killing 100,000 in Afghanistan from 2001 and one million in Iraq from 2003.

For Israel, there is none as it is unclear exactly when Yahweh approached Abraham; hence a verse in the Tora’h-Old Testament-Qur’an.

Understanding karma years is not sufficient, but necessary; being the key to prognosis and therapy.  Something created faultlines with much direct and structural violence. Undo them, and solutions may be possible. Ignore them, and whatever you do will be unsuccessful.

Take Libya.  Berlusconi apologized, and there has been no Islamic State terrorism in Italy, or from Libya, only massive migration.

Take Afghanistan. There is no claim that all fighting is due to dividing the Pashtun nation, but it is a key factor. Undo it, open the border, and more borders, for a wealthy Central Asian Community.  Or build a border wall (the USA right now) and worsen the conflict.

Take Iraq-Syria, two of the four colonies from the Sykes-Picot treason; a lesson in what a Western promise is worth. The Ottomans brutally conquered the area in 1516, but ruled peacefully for four centuries. Generate something similar, province-based federations.

Take the Islamic State and acknowledge that it was generated by escalating Western–“US-led coalition”–warfare.  Kill them, and get more effect from that same cause over time.  Instead, use Western military defensively to protect exposed sites, try to understand their Mecca-Medina spiritual mission against the Saudi kingdom, negotiate.

Take Ukraine with a karma year 1,600 years back. Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill declared their Christianities one and the same, with regional conflicts to solve–like the 1812 and 1941 karma years when Russia was invaded by Napoleon and Stalin–and go for Swiss solutions.

Take Israel-Palestine, and invite Jews to live all over in that land (as they did, being people of “The Book”), but not as a big state for Jews only.  Go for a modest Israeli state–like in 1-2-6-20.

Take the USA, that now may take care of themselves; soldiers and politicians denounce foreign wars and focus inward, “buying American-hiring American”. Trump is ambiguous, but may not last even 100 days.

Undo the karma years.  Or ignore them, at considerable risk.

__________________________________________

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. Prof. Galtung has published 1670 articles and book chapters, over 470 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service, and 167 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

 

What kind of political system do we have if a committee chair, a single person, can kill a bill?


by Larry Geller

Last week I wrote in Hawaii has a different, more advanced system of government—let’s embrace it that Hawaii is unique in our country in having a state government not definable in Republican/Democrat terms. In fact, the Senate doesn’t have a single Republican at present.

That doesn’t mean that the rest of the bunch would be recognized as Democrats if one insisted on looking at them through conventional R/D, Red/Blue glasses.

That R/D mindset is tough to shed, but de facto, we have already largely escaped it. That doesn’t mean, however, that Hawaii is a perfect example of democratic governance. Far from it. All it means is that we’ve given up an outmoded ideology.

Getting rid of party divisions has exposed factionalism and blatant power politics as the drivers of policy and process in the state legislature.

Nevertheless I suggested at the end of that article that we keep what we have secret from the rest of the country lest they work to undermine it.


So what kind of a system do we have?

There’s good reason not to toot our horn quite yet—our political system is far from perfect. It still needs work before we can call it a democracy. If not quite a democracy, what is it?

I’ve described Hawaii’s state government before as a feudal system. Recent news stories provide evidence to support this. Here are two current articles from Civil Beat:

I’ll throw in a bill I personally worked hard on, SB1137, which was killed last week when committee chair Sen. Roz Baker unilaterally deferred (killed) it. Darn, three sponsors of the bill were on her committee, you’d think if it came to a vote it might have passed. But she didn’t allow a vote.

In Hawaii’s legislature, and we are not unique in this, committee chairs are all-powerful. They not only choose to hear or not hear bills, but they routinely kill bills unilaterally and also direct their committee on how to vote for those that get that far.

The following analysis is not part of any class on legislative process that purports to describe how bills become law in Hawaii.

A rigid and persistent power structure

Now, among committee chairs, some are more powerful than others, and of course there is the President of the Senate, more powerful than the rest.

The basic structure is frozen from session to session and so defines our state’s system of government. So firmly based on power politics is it that it can best be compared to the Shogunate government of Japan in the Edo period (1603-1868).

Here’s an organizational chart I made some time ago for our feudal system of government.

Senate as a feudal system

I have a similar chart for the House.

The chairs of Ways and Means and of the Judiciary committees are more powerful than the others, but each committee chair is a “daimyo” or feudal lord. Each has their own fief and reigns supreme within it. Each has absolute power and can prevent a bill from being heard or kill it despite testimony or public support, at whim.

Somewhere out in the firmament is the Emperor, here drawn as Governor Ige. As in the real Shogunate, the shogun and the emperor compete for power, and it is not a given that the emperor is always the most powerful. Usually, though, we can confine our analysis to the shogun and his vassals, the committee chairs, because they determine whether bills live or die in our legislature.

Forget democracy. Democracy cannot properly flourish in this system, though our process can still produce good law when pressed sufficiently.

To get a bill passed in Hawaii it helps to visit the daimyos to make personal appeals for your particular cause. Former Senator Hee confirmed this several times in public discussions—he advised, basically, don’t count on testimony alone, you need to go over there and speak with the lawmakers.

Now, for ordinary citizens, this may be an unwanted or uncomfortable chore. Can’t we just sit in front of our computer screens and write testimony? It’s chancy at best.

Of course, paid lobbyists do make regular visits. I’ve been chagrined more than once as a legislative staff member hemmed and hawed over when I might get an audience with the particular daimyo while one of the well-known lobbyists came in behind me and was granted instant access.

And they come armed with gifts and can bestow campaign contributions. The process is something like this:

Bribe_thumb[1]

Public official accepting bribe in a snip from a Mito Komon program, a popular Japanese period drama that ran for many seasons. Bribery was a common theme—because there was also a culture of corruption in Japan (and still is!). In the next frame, the public official notes how satisfyingly heavy the box is. All this, observed by a ninja hiding above in the ceiling.


Democracy? Get over it.

This is how it works, how it really works. It’s probably no different in other states.

Are all legislators like this? No. There are many ethical, conscientious and caring lawmakers. Perhaps they are the ones who never get to be committee chairs.

It may come as a surprise to hear that testimony is routinely ignored. One former senator told me that he never reads testimony as he threw a bundle into a box on the floor near his desk.

If you do show up in person to testify, look around: most of the committee is often absent, arriving later only to vote on bills they were not even present to hear. But what the heck, the committee chair is going to instruct (“recommend”) how members should vote anyway.

More: I attended a long hearing of the House Finance committee one day and wondered why it was being run by the co-chair instead of the chair. So I asked a representative during a break. He told me that the chair was in the back room working with then-speaker Calvin Say on decisionmaking.

In fact, they had already decided on many bills even before the bills came up on the agenda to be heard.

So much for that carefully written testimony that took you hours to write. So much for your waiting half a day to present it. So much for the expense of flying to Oahu from a Neighbor Island to give your testimony in person. You did what those classes on how bills become law say you must do. Then the system ignores you.

Last rites administered by terminal committees

The finance committees and judicial committees are “terminal” committees, last in the referral chain. It’s where bills most often go to die. That’s why those committee chairs are the most powerful daimyos. A bill may seem to have made easy progress though prior committees only to meet its death here. One whisper from the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House and the will of the leadership will be carried out.

Democracy? Get over it.

Even should public testimony and pressure be so strong that a bill survives the entire process, it then goes into secret conference committees that are selected by the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House. It’s where their power is revealed in all its awesomeness. Appointing members who voted against a measure to a conference committee is a hint that the bill in question will never emerge to be signed by the Governor.

Any semblance of democracy dies as a conference committee convenes behind closed doors.

This parallels the tension in feudal Japan between the Shogun and the Emperor. In our legislature, it doesn’t matter if the bill was part of the Governor’s package, the shoguns reign supreme in the end.

So better that we keep our system of government secret a while longer. It still needs a lot of tweaking and adjustment.

Even so, getting rid of the R/D split sounds like a step in the right direction.

All we need to do is break this feudal system and maybe we’ll have something to boast about.

Breaking this system is necessary to move toward a democratic and inclusive system of self-governance. If we can do that, it’s predictable that citizen participation will increase because the people will be in charge rather than the elites.

The Shogunate fell in Japan and it must fall in Hawaii as well.

Hint to good government groups: this would be a great mission for you if you choose to accept it.



Tuesday, February 28, 2017

 

Editorial: Hawaii has a different, more advanced system of government—let’s embrace it


by Larry Geller

Imagine a parallel universe with no Republicans or Democrats. Imagine living in a USA that doesn’t have a two-party system written into its constitution.

Oh, our Constitution doesn’t specify two political parties? Who would suspect?

Imagine living in a place where there are no political parties raising zillions of dollars trying to undermine each other, where no party is working hard to suppress the votes of citizens wishing to vote for the other.

Imagine living in a place where lawmakers are (at least in theory) elected on merit, experience or other factors not related to self-interested party machines.

Could such a non-partisan universe exist, govern itself successfully, and look after the interests of citizens instead of self-serving politicians?

That universe does exist to a large extent—in Hawaii.

As a Civil Beat editorial notes:

Hawaii is down to six Republicans in the 51-member state House of Representatives and zero Republicans in the 25-member Senate.

Hawaii has what amounts to a new experiment in governance, and continuing the Republican/Democrat mindset may be increasingly counterproductive. Certainly, during elections, the national parties contribute funds to and support local candidates of the same party, but outside of that, the two-party system has effectively been abandoned here.

I have no argument with the editors here:

Democracies are at their healthiest when there is a strong and capable opposition party. Even if the minority party is a perpetual minority — as the Grand Old Party has been in Hawaii since statehood — there is value in having diversity of thought in the Legislature.

What I don’t think we need is the kind of two-party politics plaguing the rest of the country. Nationally, government accomplished very little during the eight years of the Obama presidency largely due to the polarization of two-party politics. That model has failed, and should be let go. Of course, it won’t be let go.

In Hawaii, however, it is already on the way out. Our single remaining Republican state senator was not re-elected, leaving a single-party body. If one has to look at the Senate in terms of party.

The leap of thought that journalists and political scientists might want to try out is to banish the words “Republican” and “Democrat” from their analysis just temporarily. That’s what voters have done—they’ve voted for candidates. Due to many factors, candidates are more and more from a single party, so look at the candidates themselves instead of their label. That label is increasingly meaningless. Unless one is stuck on the belief that a politician must be identified by either one of those two parties as their defining characteristic.

I do agree that it is best to have opposition. Does it have to be a political party at all? Even if it is a party, do the parties still have to align themselves to the rapidly faltering national divisions of R and D, Red and Blue?

The states on the Continent, many of them, are in significant trouble due to inter-party battles and party-defined ideology.

They should pay attention to Hawaii as it moves away from the two party system. Hawaii could look upon its “situation” as an accomplishment and work further on a new model of governance.

I know, I know, it’s hard to reject the Republican/Democrat divide from our minds, which have been steeped in that model our whole lives.

Free yourself from it. Imagine something different. In part, we already live in that parallel universe in Hawaii, and I see no reason to go back to something which works much less well.

But let’s keep this a secret for a while longer, so that those two national parties won’t see Hawaii as a threat and work to thwart our chances of evicting them from our islands.



 

High bacteria detected in Meadow Gold milk—could it be due to unrefrigerated shipments to Hawaii?



Milk sold on Oahu spends at least four days in transit from the Mainland without refrigerationHonolulu Magazine, 10/2005



by Larry Geller

2017-02-28 Meadow GoldThe Star-Advertiser reported today that high levels of bacteria were discovered in Meadow Gold milk that far exceeded the permissible level. From the article:

The DOH tests of the 2 percent reduced-fat milk on Jan. 19 and Feb. 6 and 22 showed coliform counts of nearly 15 times the maximum permissible. The tests revealed 150 coliforms per milliliter, 130 coliforms per milliliter and more than 150 coliforms per milliliter, respectively. The maximum allowed limit is 10 per milliliter.

[Star-Advertiser p. B-3, Sales of Meadow Gold 2% milk halted due to bacteria levels, 2/28/2017]

How to identify milk processed at Meadow Gold’s Honolulu plant

The website Local Dairies reveals the codes stamped at the top of every milk container that identify the plant where it was processed.

For Meadow Gold’s Honolulu plant, that code is 15-01. Look for it to learn where milk sold as private brands really originates.

The article, on a deep inside page of the newspaper, appeared to accept Meadow Gold’s assertion that the milk is still safe by unquestioningly quoting a spokesman for the company:

“We test our products regularly before, during and after processing to ensure quality, and it’s important to understand that product being sold in stores is not affected,” Schuler said in a statement. “We have not received any consumer complaints.”

Schuler said in a phone interview the milk in the stores is safe to drink, but the high levels of coliform might lead to early spoilage.

Clearly, the company did not detect the high bacteria levels and correct the situation on its own. The Department of Health did, during three inspections.

After the first detection in January, why was the situation not corrected immediately?

Can it be true that instead of its own testing, Meadow Gold instead relies on consumer complaints? Should the newspaper article have left it at that? How would consumers ever be able to detect high bacteria levels?

And why was a cease and desist order issued only on February 27 when high levels of bacteria (“nearly 15 times the maximum permissible”) were detected on January 19? Readers may want to know more. The reporter should have dug deeper.

The article did report that the company can’t identify the source of the contamination. Could it be the milk that is shipped to Hawaii in unrefrigerated containers?

Earlier articles on unrefrigerated milk shipped to Hawaii

scarydairyFarm 2 Table, Honolulu Magazine, 10/2005

Scary Dairy -- Frightening food news for Halloween, Free Range Gourmet, 10/20/2005

Costco carries 1% organic milk - shipped refrigerated, Free Range Gourmet, 3/11/2006

Bacteria levels souring Hawai'i milk?, Honolulu Advertiser, 6/3/2007

The rest of the story on Oahu's spoiled milk, 6/15/2007

Joan Namkoong was probably the first to report in print way back in 2005 that milk shipped to Hawaii is not refrigerated in transit:

"What's interesting--and a bit alarming--is that Hawaii-bound milk is pasteurized in California before shipment, then placed in insulated (but not refrigerated) containers for shipment to the Islands, according to Chin Lee, dairy extension specialist at the University of Hawaii's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. Once the milk arrives at Meadow Gold, a minimum of four to five days after pasteurization, it is pasteurized again before it is bottled.

"Hawaii is the only state that allows repasteurization of milk, says Lee, which can pose a food safety issue."

[Honolulu Magazine, Farm 2 Table, 10/2005]

That was 2005. What is the situation today?

Over to you, Star-Advertiser, for more digging on this issue.

Meanwhile, concerned consumers can look at the stamp at the top of each milk container to learn where it was processed (see box above right).

 

 

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