Saturday, December 20, 2014


Police Commission just one part of Hawaii’s board and commission problem

by Larry Geller

Please read first (or soon, anyway) Ian Lind’s article, Police Commission chair should resign in wake of yesterday’s extraordinary action in federal court (, 12/17/2014).  Since Ian’s article the questions around Police Chief Louis ScowlKealoha conduct in court and the dismissal of the “mailbox theft” case with prejudice, meaning it cannot be brought anew, continue to reverberate in the news. In fact, on December 18, the Star-Advertiser used the occasion to print two large [and less than flattering] pictures of the Chief, one occupying most of the front page, and another inside.

Ian calls for the resignation of the chair of the police commission, and makes a compelling argument.

Related: In The Name Of The Law: What The Police Commission Isn’t Doing About Misconduct (Civil Beat, 2/22/2013) for more background about the Police Commission.

But what about the next chair? Can we be assured that a better choice will be made? Or does the selection process itself have to be overhauled? I suggest that we should do more. The system that makes appointments to boards and commissions also needs an overhaul.

In Hawaii, as in other states, ordinary people run for and are elected to political office. One might be a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker, it doesn’t matter—you’re qualified to be a state legislator, a city council member, or a member of Congress, for that matter.

The same appears to apply to boards and commissions, but perhaps that should be changed.

Some board or commission positions are hard to fill, and so one can be grateful when a candlestick maker applies. But what then? Shouldn’t there be required training?

In other cases, shouldn’t there be qualifications, unique to each board? Should the governor (for example) be allowed free reign to choose, which could result in a political appointment made in exchange for past campaign contributions? On the federal level this happens all the time, as the Daily Show and others have pointed out. Ambassadors are appointed with no expertise in the country of their assignment—perhaps they’ve never even visited. We can’t do anything about that, but at a state level, we can make changes.

Would the University of Hawaii be better governed (for example) without political appointments filling those key positions?

Each board has unique requirements

Let me give an illustration of what I have in mind, based on personal experience.

I’m just your average candlestick maker, but I have worked in the area of disability for many years, and thought I could be useful on the State Rehabilitation Council. And indeed, I was appointed, after submitting my name to the governor’s person in charge of collecting names. And I was confirmed by the legislature, with a couple of recommendations, in fact.

But what then? Was I suddenly in a position of “authority” to “rule” over something? (Think of the Police Commission, the Ethics Commission, or the Campaign Spending Commission, which have real powers). No, not on a state rehab council. It’s all work, no authority.

I knew the work that they did in generality but didn’t actually expect what happened next. The Council provided training, in cooperation with the attached agency, Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). I had to study a fat notebook. There were discussions and the opportunity to ask questions and to hear guidance from the Chair, very experienced in VR matters. Then there was a half-day training in the Sunshine Law (open meetings, open records). And another half-day on ethics. Those trainings were conducted by the Office of Information Practices and by the Ethics Commission staff. The OIP training included a quiz to test our understanding.

The state rehab council has certain duties that it performs on an annual basis. Those were spelled out in another thick notebook, and when the time came, VR provided data such as current performance, budget, and so forth, that we would need to carry out our responsibilities.

So I’ve described to you a board that is designed to be functional. I believe, as a result of their attention to training and information gathering, they were able to do a good job. As new people rotate through the board, they will each be properly equipped for their assignment. I left the board knowing that my replacement would be similarly equipped to do the work required.

This should be institutionalized and individualized for each board or commission.

There appeared to be political interference, though, which is another aspect of boards and commissions in Hawaii that could be changed. Then-governor Linda Lingle declined to appoint replacements when board member terms were up, with the result that there was no longer a quorum. But the board members wouldn’t let her get away with it. Federal rules applied to that board as well, and they permitted board members to be carried over if necessary, in the event there were no appointments by the state. So the board did that, and effectively thumbed its nose at Lingle. Note that a structure that was in place protected the board against political interference.

What I’m suggesting is that we could put in place a regime of selection, training, and independence that would make each board more effective and assure the public that whether boards are made up of ordinary people or experts, those people are provided with the tools they need to carry out the people’s work—for that’s what they are doing.

Take the Police Commission (please!). How can we build a better Police Commission so that the situation Ian describes might be avoided? And ultimately, shouldn’t city councils and even state legislators be required to take appropriate training before assuming their duties?

And yes, I’d like the Sunshine Law quizzes city council members complete at the end of their training to be made public. Maybe they all should be made public.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Cuba tourism gets the Colbert bump

by Larry Geller

It appears that tourist travel to Cuba is still restricted by federal law, so the just-announced rapprochement announced by presidents Obama and Raul Castro is not (yet) going to open the floodgates or the boarding gates. But perhaps it won’t be long before curious American travelers figure out that if they can get to Havana they can enjoy a world-class vacation at relatively low cost.

Last night’s Colbert show (“the last show that’s not the last show”) gave vacationing in Cuba the Colbert bump.

I will go to every pristine beach

Until this job is done I will not rest unless in a hamock

Yes, Cuba has pristine beaches and fine, relatively inexpensive hotels. The cost (of everything) is very reasonable compared to Hawaii, and they even serve up Hawaiian food at some of the hotels. It’s easy to check hotel prices on the web, and it’s clear that Cuba is an incredible bargain.

They grow and export pineapples there that were developed in a GMO laboratory in Hawaii. Agricultural cooperatives also offer mangos, avocados, and papayas. Heck, if costs keep rising here in Honolulu, it might one day happen that Cuban exports arrive at our big box stores. That is, if the Europeans don’t gobble it all up, as looks likely.

Besides beaches, there is the draw of Cuban food, which is already popular, particularly in Florida and the South. There is one Cuban restaurant in Honolulu. The first link is to an old article, which I spotted before writing After Fidel, will Cuba become the new Hawaii? in 2008 and Cuba opens up to tourists—Hawaii, watch out in 2009.

President Obama promises that Americans will be able to bring back $100 worth of cigars each trip. I’m not sure how that will work for a family of (say) four—do kids count?

Could Havana become competition to Honolulu for the American tourist dollar? Perhaps I was a few years too early in warning of a threat—Cuba did not open up with the inauguration of the new president. And tourism to Cuba is still not allowed. But give it a chance—even a Republican-controlled Congress might be moved to lift all travel restrictions if it means profits for American airlines and tour companies.

What will be the impact on Hawaii? Who knows, but at least our state government might want to monitor the situation. The lure of those pristine beaches is strong, and so are the cigars and the rum, I understand.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


The Economist: “Paradise Lost” nails deficiency and cost of Honolulu’s laws criminalizing homelessness

Such laws are counterproductive, says Jerry Jones, the director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group. Otherwise law-abiding people end up with criminal records, making it harder for them to get back on their feet. A night in jail can cost three times more than a night in a shelter. Honolulu’s ban on rough sleeping has made the homeless more transient and harder for social-service agencies to find. Many are sleeping at the airport, ensuring that they are the first thing visitors see.

by Larry Geller

20141220 Economist coverThe deficiency and backwardness of Honolulu’s policy to reduce homelessness was the focus of Paradise lost: Catering to tourists comes at a hefty price for locals in the December 20, 2014 issue of The Economist, a news magazine widely read nationally and internationally. The “hefty price” (well, it’s the Economist, after all) refers to the cost to taxpayers of doing it Caldwell’s way rather than the Housing First way:

Several cities have reduced homelessness by using a different approach, called Housing First. Whereas typical schemes aim to get homeless people “housing ready”—that is, off drugs and in work—before placing them in homes, Housing First provides the home up front and then delivers the support needed to stay there. This saves money, says Matthew Doherty of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness, as the homeless otherwise tend to ricochet between expensive services, such as jails, emergency rooms and detox centers. A study from Los Angeles found that the public saves over $27,000 a year for every person in such a program.

[The Economist, Paradise lost: Catering to tourists comes at a hefty price for locals, 12/20/2014]

The article points out that Caldwell is planning to house only 100 people, and that “the new homes will not be ready for years.”

What’s the phrase? Too little and too late?

But by doing Housing Second instead of Housing First, that is, by criminalizing homelessness in Honolulu before the homes are ready,

Otherwise law-abiding people end up with criminal records, making it harder for them to get back on their feet. A night in jail can cost three times more than a night in a shelter.

What is it that the City Council and Mayor Caldwell don’t understand about Housing First? Apparently, everything.


Thanks to Kathryn Xian for tweeting this article. If you want to stay in touch with issues related to homelessness, you need to follow her tweets.

Economist tweet

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Huge protests in NYC, Washington, Boston, SF, LA, Chicago, lots more—will our newspaper cover ANY of it?

by Larry Geller

Protests at many cities around the country today are being covered extensively in real time on the Web—see, for example, Beyond NYC and D.C., police brutality protesters descend on cities nationwide (Mashable, 12/13/2014).

mlkThe almost daily protests across the country are significant in so many ways. Of course, their greatest import is that people are finally expressing their unwillingness to put up with the rampant police brutality in this country any longer—they’re “mad as hell” and not going to take this anymore! More to the point: it’s time police stopped killing black men and teens with impunity.

Another significance is that 25,000 people marching in New York City cannot be stopped. If they want to close down the Brooklyn Bridge, then they can do so (and they did). See the video below, which is a time lapse of only part of the NYC protest as it formed today. There were even more people than could be caught from one location.

Check in to Twitter or your breaking news app to keep track of it all.

I’ll have to admit to being really stuck on the fact that the Star-Advertiser ignores what may turn out to be one of the most remarkable social upheavals of the present time. Maybe that won’t turn out to be true, but it’s news today, and news that we’re paying for as subscribers but not getting.

Friday, December 12, 2014


Demonstrations continue against state-sanctioned violence against black men and teens

by Larry Geller

I found this via Twitter. It’s a report of a demonstration at Harvard Medical School by students, faculty and staff. Click the pic or the link below for a great picture and the trending Boston Globe story.

Yes, even though you can’t read about them in our daily newspaper, demonstrations are still taking place all over the country.

Harvard die in

The demonstration, organized by the students, was part of protests nationwide by medical students Wednesday against the grand jury decisions not to indict two white police officers who killed two unarmed black men, in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City this summer.

Dean for Students Nancy Oriol said the demonstration began shortly before 12:30 p.m. at the center on Longwood Avenue. Oriol and Harvard Medical School Dean Jeffrey Scott Flier spoke to the gathering of about 100 students, Oriol said, following speeches from several students.

[Boston Globe, Harvard students stage ‘die-in’ to protest Ferguson, NYC cases, 12/10/2014]


Large demonstrations are planned for this weekend. Here’s an announcement of an action in New York tomorrow. From one of several event pages:

The recent killings highlighted in the media belong to a pattern of state ­sanctioned violence against Black people dating back further than Jim Crow. Anyone who believes in justice, equality, and the value of human life has a responsibility to stand up and say “no” to the senseless killing of Black people and the impunity of police who kill.


Are one in five Hawaii residents “collateral damage?”

by Larry Geller

The City and County of Honolulu has chosen to criminalize homelessness through the passage of ordinances aimed squarely at those living without shelter. Those who sit or lie on the sidewalks will be challenged by police and many could, ultimately, end up in prison.

Zygmunt Bauman, in Collateral Damage: Social Inequalities in a Global Age, holds that the political class has:

… an ever more evident tendency to reclassify poverty, that most extreme and troublesome sediment of social inequality, as a problem of law and order, calling therefore for measures habitually deployed in dealing with delinquency and criminal acts.

From a review of the book:

But treating poverty as a criminal problem obscures the social roots of inequality, which lie in the combination of a consumerist life philosophy propagated and instilled by a consumer–oriented economy, on the one hand, and the rapid shrinking of life chances available to the poor, on the other.

Hawaii residents, as consumers, are confronted by an outrageous cost of energy, face among the highest costs of food and housing in the country, at the same time that there are few jobs available to them that pay a living wage. It’s not just the propaganda.

The reality is that there has been little, if any, effort to ameliorate these factors, with the result that we are in the midst of a poverty crisis, even though we are willing to acknowledge only the tip of the iceberg—the visible homeless on the streets.

The Mayor and City Council, driven by lobbyists for developers and political contributions, have put criminalization first, not Housing First first. They have stifled all calls to follow evidence-based practices.

A resource that could actually help

Who better to mediate and advise but sociologists, economists and political scientists at the University of Hawaii? But they remain silent. They’ve stayed out of the fray. Bauman devotes his last chapter to the role (or potential role?) of sociology in working this societal problem. An inadequate snip:

There has been, I would argue, no other moment in history when so many people have needed so much of such vital goods for sociology to deliver.

We’re wasting the one resource that could help us dig out of this. How can we drag these professors out of their ivory tower, in order to benefit from the “vital goods” they possess? It’s hard for those standing in soup lines to press politicians to seek viable solutions, but there are ways out of this, and we’re wasting our intellectual resources.

Football isn’t the only thing that UH is good for, folks. Bauman makes a case for sociologists to engage:

In our short history, yet a history rich in crises and fateful choices, no nobler, more elevated and morally laudable mission was ever imposed on our discipline with such force, while simultaneously being made similarly realistic – not at any other of the times which, as Hegel suggested two centuries ago, it is the prime destination and perennial vocation of humanity to catch.

Speaking of football:

This is a totally new ball game, as Americans used to say. It has its promises – not the least the chance of shifting morality from conformity to ethical commands to an unconditionally individual responsibility for the well-being of others.

I wonder if that will encourage the profs to get busy.


In Hawaii our housing crisis is one part of the larger poverty crisis that must be solved

This year, housing issues including homelessness, affordable housing, and Housing First were the overwhelming concerns of attendees at Kokua Council’s 11th Annual Community Forum last month.

by Larry Geller

Housing crisis is but one aspect of the larger problem of poverty in Hawaii

Across the islands, 1 out of every 5 Hawaii residents depends on food aid from the Hawaii Foodbank and its network of agencies, a new report reveals. That’s well above the national average of 1 in 7 people relying on food banks and feeding programs.

The website from which the pull-quote is snipped notes that 

In Hawaii, 123,000 households, made up of 287,000 residents, receive food assistance annually from the Hawaii Foodbank and its affiliates, according to the report. They include nearly 48,000 children and 46,000 senior citizens. The elderly made up much of the throng at the Kakaako pantry this week.

The article notes that those living in poverty struggle to feed themselves as well as to pay utilities and keep a roof over their heads.

The homelessness crisis is but the tip of this iceberg. Until we, as a society, tackle the problem of poverty in Hawaii, we will not find an easy solution to the housing crisis.

In the event of an unforeseen disaster, it will not be those living in luxury apartments or mansions who will go hungry (and perhaps die) but those who are having difficulty surviving today, right now, while the sun is shining and the tourists are coming.

Our economy is not working for us and it’s time to take a look at what can be done.

Check out the conversation that formed over at Comments from Hawaii Appleseed on microunits–must read (12/5/2014). Be sure to read the comments.

In that discussion, I am cautions about micro-units and even accessory dwelling units (“Ohana housing”) not because I think these are not useful approaches, but because I do not think they are adequate solutions to poverty in Honolulu. And because I think they will create an underclass rather than solving the larger economic crisis for everyone.

Sandbags work against a flood, but not against climate change. The housing climate in Honolulu has indeed changed, and we need to plan for a satisfactory solution on into the future.

I cannot see a long-term solution without rent control. Ohana units at present are likely fully occupied—either legally, with family members as intended, or illegally, as ordinary rentals. When we arrived in Hawaii and decided to rent a house, at about the time we moved in, construction was underway for an Ohana unit on the property. We had no relatives, it was to be occupied by strangers, at the market rate for rentals of that size. Every so often the illegal appliances were moved out so that an inspector could come visit.

That the city utterly fails at inspecting dwellings would seem to doom the plans to expand low-rental Ohana units. Check out the article about people living on scaffold apartments in the Honolulu Advertiser story linked from this article. If a property owner could get away with that, the city inspections are nothing more than a joke. So rents for these units could be anything at all.

How will rentals be kept down should more Ohana units be allowed? The city will be unable to regulate the units if it can’t improve its inspections or institute a workable method of regulation. We’re talking rent control, it seems.

Rent control is not a new concept. In this article I link to some source material.

Rent control can possibly be enforced through the tax system. If renters realized tax benefits, for example so-called nonrefundable tax credits, the process creates a regulatory path to be sure that landlords are not skirting set limits. There are ways to make it work.

We cannot simply hope that the need for affordable rentals can be met by micro-units or by the Ohana flavor of micro-units. Certainly, having those options available will help, but it is said that we need tens of thousands of apartments or homes available at an affordable rate. Part of the solution needs to be a mechanism for people to stay in the homes they now occupy. As a proposed remedy for homelessness, it won’t do to have micro-units occupied by people dropping out of current housing to downsize into those units.

We’re dealing here with a huge problem, and we’re saddled with a city government incapable of urban planning for the benefit of its citizens. Criticism of Kakaako condos aimed at the rich and ultra-rich is well-founded and should be a spur to getting busy with a comprehensive and inclusive urban planning process.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Six years ago Obama received his Nobel Peace Prize, and then…

by Larry Geller

Six years ago today, Barak Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.

We’re back in Iraq, where our conduct of the war has lead to gains for those we opposed. He bombed Libya. He targeted drone strikes that killed civilians, thereby stirring up opposition to the US and the governments it supports. He supported military coups and Israeli slaughter of civilians.

Can the Norwegian Nobel Committee, composed largely of politicians, learn from this?


Outrage in 170 cities remains off Star-Advertiser’s radar

(Reuters) - Students at medical schools around the United States planned "die-ins" to protest the chokehold death by police of an unarmed black man and New York activists demanded the city take action after a grand jury declined to indict the officer involved.

Protests intensified last week after the grand jury decision to not charge a white New York City police officer in the July death of Eric Garner, who was unarmed. The decision came a week after a Missouri grand jury did not indict a white officer in the shooting death of an unarmed black teen.—Reuters, U.S. chokehold protesters 'die-in', issue demands in NY, 12/10/2014)

by Larry Geller

The pull-quote above is just one of any number of wire service or newspaper stories related to the ongoing protests occurring nationwide related to police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York City.

While the Star-Advertiser covered events directly related to the two incidents yesterday, it has yet to let readers know of the breadth of protests—or the length of time that people have been marching, blocking traffic and trains, holding die-ins or choke-ins, and yes, on occasion looting and destroying property. Each article related to one of the killings, as though they were isolated events. The article beginning “Protests in New York and Missouri have died down” appeared elsewhere dated three days ago (12/7) although it ran in the S-A yesterday (12/9), so was old information anyway. As to dying down, vigils and protests are ongoing, including at LAPD headquarters tonight, for example.

I was amused to see two articles in the editorial section today that referred to news the paper hasn’t bothered to cover.

The first article they picked, by a conservative talk show host, also fails to mention the nationwide sympathy and actions that are rocking the country.

Unlike Ferguson, the Garner death invites principled disagreement that can actually yield constructive progress—at least if we can keep agitator Al Sharpton away from cameras and microphones, and if President Barack Obama and his outgoing attorney general can restrain themselves from using these events to paint a false portrait of a racially poisonous America.

[Star-Advertiser p. A12, Defining what justice means, 12/10/2014]

Let’s see… suppressing free speech and objecting to the possibility of an independent federal investigation, as many around the country are calling for? And as to “false portrait,” the commonly cited “a black man is killed by police in this country every 28 hours” would seem to indicate that race relations could well be described as poisonous. [As I write this, reports are saying that a black man was killed by police in Sanford, N.C. while the police were attempting to serve a warrant—no further information yet.]

Perhaps the editor’s choice to present this article coupled with the lack of coverage of nationwide discussion and demonstrations paints the false portrait.

Next to this article is a commentary by Leonard Pitts. He refers to the demonstrations that readers may be puzzled about, if their only source of news is the Star-Advertiser. A snip from Pitts:

The fact that these actions continue nationwide as the weather turns and have even spread across the ocean (there was a protest last month at the U.S. Embassy in London) is a sign this issue has staying power.

But what’s even more noteworthy is that this is not a “black” protest. To the contrary, images from these demonstrations show us that a rainbow coalition is offended by the message the injustice system sends in refusing to punish these killings, i.e., that it is somehow “OK” to kill unarmed African-American men and boys.

Pitts mentions next that churches will be holding “Black Lives Matter” services this weekend. Perhaps churches in Hawaii will participate—now that they have heard about the plan.

Twitter followers will recognize the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter,” and sports fans may have seen players sporting the slogan across their chests.

Pitts closes with a mention of Martin Luther King’s sermon 59 years ago this month, in which King said “There comes a time when people get tired.”

Suddenly, it feels like the 1960s again, with swirling movements for social justice finding inspiration and a powerful common denominator in the struggle for black equality.

Multiracial, multi-ethnic, multi-class, and multi-generational Americans have swarmed the streets in vast numbers to not only protest against racial injustice but to expose systemic oppression that has been an open secret since the heyday of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

While violence engulfed parts of downtown Ferguson, 170 cities staged largely peaceful demonstrations both in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement and in demand of a vision of social justice that far surpasses the imagination of most contemporary politicians and pundits.

Thousands of New Yorkers took to the streets on Wednesday and Thursday nights to express outrage against the political system that allowed a black man to be choked to death while screaming, “I can’t breathe!”

[Reuters, ‘I can’t breathe’: Why Eric Garner protests are gaining momentum, 12/5/2014]

If we’re at a turning point in race relations in this country, you wouldn’t know it if your only news source were the Star-Advertiser.

Related: Citizen Run Database Shows Over 1,000 People Killed by Cops in 2014

Monday, December 08, 2014


“The young white men doing this are not going to end up like Mike Brown”

by Larry Geller

Well, I was surprised to see that demonstrations against police brutality are still being ignored by the Star-Advertiser. Aside from the ongoing, often daily protests, last night (Sunday night) brought a change in tactics in Berkeley—formerly peaceful demonstrations turned destructive if just short of violent.

Twitter and breaking news apps provided real-tome coverage. Oh—there was even a demonstration in Honolulu that the paper omitted. In truth, it was kind of tiny…

Day 5 of protests

food trucksHere’s what happened in Berkeley extracted from tweets—you can learn more from Google. And the demonstrations did continue today—the Verrazano Bridge was closed down today, as an example. The bridge was blocked for seven minutes “in honor of the seven minutes that NYPD were recorded not providing medical care to Eric Garner after Officer Pantaleo applied a chokehold to him.”

Berkeley: Alcatraz & Telegraph taken over. Fires in trash cans and dumpsters, attempt to set a patrol car on fire. Unlike Sunday night, police and fire trucks avoided the area, letting the fires burn. While one faction tried to protect businesses such as Whole Foods, others smashed windows and glass doors. People carried out apple cider and Christmas trees from Whole Foods (Christmas trees??). Wells Fargo’s ATM was smashed. The City Center’s glass door was smashed. Protesters looted Radio Shack. Those trying to maintain a peaceful protest referred to an “anarchist takeover” and a “kindergarten philosophy.”

“Irony is that the young white men doing this are not going to end up like Mike Brown.” A response: “not irony. It’s fact.”

More at Berkeley: earlier, protesters threw objects at the police, others spray-painted City Hall. At the same time, other protesters chanted “peaceful protest” and tried to stop the vandalism. A cleanup was scheduled for 9 am Monday. The student newspaper reporters and editors provided some of the best real-time accounts of the struggle.

Other locations:

Oakland CA: Close highway 24, authorities said that protesters threw explosives at the police. Police deployed gas.

Seattle: Westlake Center and an intersection were blocked

New York: take over Forever21 in Times Square, march on the streets, chant: “no justice no peace”, Macy’s Herald Square, Grand Central Station choke in. A Monday action is planned for Barclays—William and Kate are in town, the royals will be there for a Nets game #RoyalShutDown

Philadelphia: die in after Eagles game

Miami: Interstate 95 closed briefly, spray paint “don’t shoot” on Wynwood Bldg, close N. Miami Ave. briefly

LA: demonstration to “black out Hollywood:


Washington, DC: demonstration marched past the Dept. of Justice, signs carried bearing the names of black Americans killed by police

Long Island: Sunrise Highway shut down at Amityville

Chicago: Ministers lie down on the street during protest, protest reported to last six hours.

So that’s the disappeared news, folks, at least if your only source of information is the Star-Advertiser.

Sunday, December 07, 2014


Weighing the news

by Larry Geller

Protests continue to sweep the country. Here’s what you missed because the newspaper didn’t cover it

I sat down with Twitter and the breaking news app on my phone yesterday evening. Here’s what I discovered. There could be more that I’ve missed with this simplistic methodology.

Los Angele: Chinese Theatre, die in; remarks that the movement there is growing

Hollywood: candle vigil

Berkeley, CA: BART shut down, tear gas reported, violence, smashing of windows, cops shoot bean-bags at a dog prompting chant of “Paws up, don’t shoot!”

Oakland, CA: protesters throwing stuff at police

Riverside, CA

New York: Disney Store flash mob, Grand Central Station choke in, actons at Toys R Us, Forever21, Times Square. At a fashion show at the Brooklyn Museum, models carried #BlackLivesMatter signs, Pink House (site of recent cop shooting) march

Tallahassee, FL

Tampa, FL: die in

West Palm Beach, FL

Jacksonville, FL: disrupt mayor’s holiday event

Portland, OR: demonstration at a mall

Boston, Mass: tweet says the city was “shut down” in a massive disply

Philadelphia, PA: only 12 people, but they “took the street”, die in

Davidson, NC: die in

Asheville, NC: die in

Seattle, WA: two protests

Detroit, MN: march, die in

Milwaukee, WS

Washington, DC: police are accused of provoking escalation through assaults on protesters

Anchorage, Alaska

Chicago, IL

Atlanta GA:

Tokyo, Japan

Athens Greece

Paris, France

Each year at this time I debate whether to renew my newspaper subscription, since our subscription is about to expire. I think: am I getting my money’s worth? And after all, we do live in a digital age… how does the digital “alternative” compare this year?

Today’s paper weighs 2.39 pounds as measured by my cheap imported hanging scale.

Of that, 1.49 pounds are ads that can be separated out.

That leaves 0.9 pounds for the news and on-page ads.

My Samsung tablet weighs 1.16 pounds on the same cheap scale, and it is full of news, ebooks, breaking news that the newspaper may never carry, and tweets that the editors ignore.

Even my little smartphone has better access to national and world news Of course, these devices are not too strong on local news.

Ultimately, 2.39 pounds will be added to the recycle bin except for the non-recyclable color ads.

But if I didn’t renew, I would miss David Shapiro’s column, the comics page, and above all, I would lose the news that is put before me, that I would not likely search out and find on the web even if it were there. Newspaper editors are news aggregators, to use a non-traditional term.

Inevitably, we talk and choose to renew.

So I wish the Star-Advertiser did a better job, as long as I’m going to pay them for another year.

To return to the example du jour, daily protests against US police brutality and targeting of black men and teenagers continue around the country and at some places overseas. Yet our one daily newspaper continues to ignore them. This will not make them go away, which might please their editors’ political views, it will just keep readers uninformed.

The web, also, can present information that the reader doesn’t seek out. On the subject of gun violence, for example, did you know that two three-year-olds shot and killed adults in Oklahoma within the past two weeks? I wonder if the NRA will insist that guns don’t kill people, three-year olds do.

At least, putting web and print news  together, there can be a more complete picture. I’ll also keep reading the Guardian USA edition, a bit of the New York Times, and an assortment of websites that together fill the information gap.

Still, imagine, failing every day.Yet, no doubt they are not alone. Such is the state of print journalism today.

So my check will be in the mail.

Friday, December 05, 2014


Protests sweep the country again tonight (Friday)

by Larry Geller

Update: So what appeared in the Star-Advertiser on Saturday morning? There was an article on a lawsuit filed by the family of Tamir Rice, the black sixth-grader shot by police in Cleveland last month (see this). At the end of that story, if one had read it, were mentions of nationwide protests such as in New York, the Apple store and Columbus Circle, and at Yale. So I give them a C-, at least they carried the Rice story.

The Star-Advertiser did carry an AP story this morning that gave a pretty good account of protests at various places around the country. It even discussed the issues surrounding the grand jury process. It’s good to see the key national story of the present time finally revealed in our local paper.

Let’s see what they carry tomorrow—the streets are still hot with protest this evening, as evidenced by a flood of tweets. Some include photos, others videos or livestream links. One noted that NYC police seem to be singling out livestreamers for arrest.

Man shot in Los Angeles

I suspected it would just be a question of time. It appears that a protester was shot and killed in Los Angeles—and some tweets report that he was handcuffed after he was dead. Clearly, this is something we’ll have to wait until tomorrow’s news to sort out.

Two more grand jury decisions coming soon

Two more grand juries

If these also result in no charges, the country might explode…


Protests across the country and elsewhere

From a quick scan of tweets, here’s what I found:

New York City: traffic stopped on FDR drive, and Apple Store and Macy’s shut down, Columbus Circle was closed, a huge die in was held at Grand Central Station, protests at One Police Plaza, rabbis arrested for praying on street (?)

Ferguson: die in

Oakland: Rt 880 repeatedly shut down, protesters faced down riot police, BART station actions

Boston: Central Square


Austin: Congress Bridge

Washington DC: an intersection blocked


U. Florida

Portland, OR: streets blocked

Los Angeles: protester killed by police

San Diego

San Francisco: Powell & Market St.

New Orleans: protesters lie down on streetcar tracks



Chicago: kids protest

Tokyo: silent march against police brutality

Gaza: Children stand in solidarity

Seoul Korea: vigil planned for tomorrow


Comments from Hawaii Appleseed on microunits–must read

Here are two comments by Jenny Lee of Hawaii Appleseed. They’re too valuable to leave hidden as comments. I edited only to remove the email address so Jenny doesn’t get spammed.

Don’t miss getting a copy of the report at the link below.

Thank you, Jenny, this is awesome.


Hi Larry, this is Jenny from Hawaii Appleseed and I wanted to speak to some of your thoughts and concerns. I ended up writing a lengthy response so I'll break this into two. Hawaii Appleseed has been in support of microunits because we believe that when done well, the would be a desirable and affordable housing option for low-income individuals, should they choose them.

I'll try to break down my comments, although they are in no particular order, and they'll need two posts.

- 220 sq. ft. is the minimum allowed under the current Honolulu building code, hence this number as a starting point. Only one person could live in a unit of this size. There is no formal definition of "microunits," and I have seen them defined as between that size and 450 sq. ft. or so. Many have been discussing microunits in the 275-350 sq. ft. range. These units must have a full bathroom as well as a kitchenette that contains at least a refrigerator, sink, and heating implement.

- Well-designed microunit buildings have common spaces that give what functions as additional living areas, balancing out the small size of the units. These might be indoor common areas, a larger communal kitchen, a centralized storage area, as well as outdoor gardens and other facilities. These actually can build a much sense of community for residents.

- Microunits are often located in convenient and desirable locations, meaning people spend more time outside of their units in the neighborhood. HCDA has allocated a plot of land on Cooke St. that would be an ideal location. Among younger individuals, there is a trend toward living in urban, walkable neighborhoods, and such a building would give many of those the opportunity to do so--and most importantly, create more housing for those who can't afford it anywhere on the market. One-third of renters on Oahu are households of one, and there are many demographics who these would be a good fit for: elders, young workers without the same need for storage, Housing First units, and so on.

- People will still have other options for one-bedroom apartments in other income-restricted developments or public housing, but this is a choice that even higher-income individuals have made in cities such as NY and Boston. Providing low-income people this same choice--a desirable location in a decent building in exchange for a lower rent or the ability to live on your own--is an option we believe they should have. In addition, by increasing density, more low-income people will have this choice, resulting in a greater mix of incomes in areas that are being left to the wealthy under the "free" market. While the small size is at tradeoff, it is one that generally comes with the territory of urban areas. For the designated affordable units, your rent will be the same depending on income, whether you are living in a one-bedroom in Ewa or a microunit in Kakaako--this is just one housing option that people may choose according to their preferences.

[Continued in my next comment]
# posted by Anonymous Hawaii Appleseed : December 5, 2014 at 4:37:00 PM HST

Appleseed has continually fought for safe and adequate housing for low-income people in public housing projects. Based on the microunits that have been developed elsewhere, we do believe they can form quality housing and will give people additional options, such as living in a neighborhood they could not otherwise afford, or the opportunity to live on their own without a roommate. But most of all, they can create more deeply affordable housing, which is simply not being created on the rental market. Greater density in terms of unit size and land does help drive those costs down.

We agree that these must be done right, but the lessons of SROs remains fresh in everyone's minds--these will be decent, quality units. The popularity of these units elsewhere, as well as the satisfaction of their residents elsewhere, suggests this is an housing option that people should have access to, particularly those who are otherwise struggling to find afford larger or market rental units. And we certainly believe that an individual experiencing homelessness would prefer being a tenant in a decent private unit that does actually provide them with amenities, convenience, the ability to make ends meet, and most of all, dignity by creating units that may not be luxurious, but are comparable to those chosen by even the privileged.

And as for me personally, I would certainly consider living in a microunit: I highly value the ability to live alone, pay an affordable rent, spend time out in my neighborhood, and not need to own a car thanks to the location. This is not something that should be forced on everyone, but there is both a need and an actual interest.

If you haven't had a chance to, you might want to take a look at our report ( to see some more examples.

Apologies for the lengthy response, and thanks for keeping the conversation going! We need to grapple with the issues of what it constitutes decent housing, and your thoughts are much appreciated.
# posted by Anonymous Hawaii Appleseed : December 5, 2014 at 4:38:00 PM HST


Councilman Stanley Chang admits to criminalizing homeless in Honolulu by defining Sand Island as a Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau

by Larry Geller

No doubt inadvertently, Honolulu City Councilman Stanley Chang classified those living on the streets of Honolulu as criminals by referring to the proposed Sand Island tented camp as a Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau.

At a panel presentation last night on the subject of Honolulu’s sit-lie ban at the UH law school, Chang stated that the City Council was (from my notes):

…creating a safe zone, a Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau, … based on the Hawaiian concept of a city of refuge…

A Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau, of course, was not a place for people to go who had no other place to live. From a tourist description of the now restored historical site on the Big Island:

Puuhonua o Honaunau, or the Place of Refuge, gained infamy as the so-called safe haven for criminals in ancient Hawaii

Stealing a Hawaiian term for a sacred place seems to be culturally insensitive.

The pu'uhonua offered more than physical protection. It was a sanctuary of supernatural power. At each pu'uhonua the ruling chief built a heiau (temple) in his own name. Ki'i saw to the sacredness of the land. The pu'uhonua's greatest power was that of unquestioned forgiving. Here was no punishment for crimes and sin, here ruled no justice or revenge. No matter what the crime might have been, the pu'uhonua offered refuge. A person ready to leave, started out clean.

Going to Chang’s tent city will, of course, not absolve anyone served with a bench warrant under the sit-lie ordinances he championed. Such bad things go on one’s “permanent record,” as our public school teachers were fond of admonishing us. They would make it more difficult to find jobs or housing in the future for those charged.

Whether the proposed Sand Island location is called an internment camp, an evacuation camp, a detention camp, or just a homeless camp or tent city, is perhaps a matter of personal bias and reaction to the negative aspects of the city’s approach to deal with its long neglect of growing homelessness and poverty on Oahu. But re-naming it as a pu'uhonua seems to me, as a non-Hawaiian, as something I wouldn’t want to support in any way.

And yes, perhaps it is a Freudian slip. If Chang appropriates that term, then he is also branding the inhabitants of the camp as criminals, ‘cause that’s what the term implies. And that is how the City Council is treating the houseless citizens of Honolulu.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014


220 square foot micro-units for Hawaii?

by Larry Geller

Let’s see… that’s 14.8 foot square including bathroom, but not, I think, including a closet.

This is actually in a draft bill which may be introduced into the Hawaii legislature.

And we do need real housing so that people can move off the street…

But is this real housing? And what about preventing people from losing their real housing as rents continue to skyrocket?

Hawaii needs a real housing solution, not a way to crate people up in little boxes.

I do split with those who call for micro-units as a housing solution—because the overall situation needs to be addressed as well. Apartments this small can be nothing more than a stop-gap solution while a better plan is implemented. Now, where is the better plan for low-income renters? How will real apartments with rent-controlled and affordable rentals be built? That’s the disappeared news.

See draft bills from today’s Housing & Homeless Task Force meeting here.

Maybe Honolulu’s future villages of crate-box housing will become something of a tourist attraction as people from around the world come to gawk.


Star-Advertiser fails to report extent of national public outrage over police shootings and failures to indict

Protests against police brutality have erupted in more than 170 cities across the United States. In Los Angeles more than 100 people were arrested. From Oakland, California, to Providence, Rhode Island, protesters walked onto major highways and shut them down. In New York, protesters blocked traffic across the city including at the the Lincoln Tunnel, West Side Highway, the Manhattan Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge and the Queens Midtown Tunnel. More than 1,000 protesters marched on the FDR drive, at one point shutting down traffic in both directions. Protester Henoc Montes was among thousands who rallied in Times Square.—
Democracy Now headline 11/26/2014

In more than 30 U.S. cities, workers and students walked out of school or off the job Monday with their hands raised to protest the police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. In Washington, D.C., protesters staged a die-in at the Justice Department. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, dozens laid down in a major intersection in Harvard Square. President Obama. meanwhile, issued his first major policy response, announcing a community policing initiative.—Democracy Now headline 12/2/2014

by Larry Geller

If I had to depend on the Star-Advertiser for national news, I’d be sorely out of touch with what is happening in the country right now.

While protests sparked first by the police killing of unarmed Michael Brown followed by a grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson have spread widely across the country, our daily newspaper thinks it is more important to report that Girl Scout cookies will be available electronically.

Yes, that was on the national news page in place of arguably more important reports they could have run.

The coverage of the protests has focused on Ferguson, as though that were the extent of the outrage. Today, for example, the national news page reports the standing down of the national guard because things are becoming calmer in Ferguson. Articles on 11/26 and 11/28 are about calm returning to Ferguson. Contrast those with the pull-quotes above.

It takes only a few words to give a flavor of the growing unrest—why is there no space for even that in our daily paper? A spark has been ignited that has inspired protests against police brutality across the country, but for some reason that’s not supposed to be news here.

Garner tweet snipsToday, the Twitterverse is aflame with reaction to the non-indictment of a New York Police Department officer caught on video applying an illegal chokehold which killed Eric Garner, who was allegedly selling illegal cigarettes, which in any case is not a capital crime.

It is very easy to follow these national protests via Twitter. Tweets often include links to articles and video coverage. The Star-Advertiser had its choice of potential sources, if only it were interested in reporting the breadth of national reaction.
Times Square goes quiet

Obama’s remarks today are unlikely to satisfy anyone: Obama reacts to no indictment in Garner case (MSNBC 12/3/2014). The problem is not how to develop trust between police and the people as he repeats—it is to end the impunity with which police in this country can kill a black man or teenager on average every 28 hours. There should be reaction to his speech—will it be covered, or just the speech?

In New York City, outrage is based also on institutionalized racism going back at least decades—for example, the failure of the city administration and the justice system (if it can still be called that) to halt the unconstitutional and racist stop-and-frisk practices of the NYPD for years. Years. It took years and a new mayor to halt that one aspect of NYPD racism. It’s all one fabric, and it is about openly practiced racism, not trust.

Obama’s police body cameras won’t help. Garner’s execution was caught on video, but the grand jury did not choose to indict the officer. Obama promises investigations, but those have not yet yielded any action.

Dear President Obama: please get off that “trust” business. At this point, there is little possibility of trust between minority communities and the increasingly militarized police.

Oh—Obama declined to de-militarize the police. Again, words but no effective action from the White House.

Monday, December 01, 2014


Micro-praise for HCDA’s micro-unit proposal

by Larry Geller

Today’s Star-Advertiser editorial proposes small (actually, tiny) rental units for Kakaako that could benefit 50 singles or couples. Good, maybe.

HCDA envisions a mid-rise building that would include at least 50 studio and one-bedroom units that are no bigger than 300 square feet each and rent for about $1,000 a month.

[Star-Advertiser p.A10, 'Micro units' ideal for Kakaako area, 12/1/2014]

Some people are already living in condo units about that size, converted from hotel rooms, for example. And many of those units are quite expensive.

There are no doubt people who would happily take advantage. The rent, however, $1,000 per month, were it not for the location (location, location, location again) would seem high. Yes, it’s in Kakaako, near to town, and a shorter bus ride to potential jobs in Waikiki. But still, $1,000? I could be wrong.

And too bad the seniors will lose their community garden, though it might have been inevitable anyway.

These units would be very welcome, but to put this in perspective, it lets no one off the hook. It’s only 50 units, while the demand is said to be for 50,000. So while a little praise is due HCDA, this should not earn them very much.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Planning to the people—we can create better housing for Honolulu

by Larry Geller

Too much[3]
What’s wrong with this picture? Plenty. For one thing, do we really want Honolulu to look like a mindless conglomeration of grey buildings?

(Not to say that what we want matters to those who are in charge.)

In fact, the image deceives. Developers are allowed, in Honolulu, to drastically change their plans from the first application for approval until the last blue glass window is glued in place (or however they attach them). Which is to say, should Kakaako be built up as much as the illustration shows, it won’t look like that at all.

Now, the phrase “a Hawaii sense of place” is often used, but I am not sure what that means any longer. A massive installation of luxury buildings certainly isn’t Hawaii. But what is?

In truth, we cannot define what a future Hawaii should look like. Why? Because we have not been given an opportunity to participate in planning our own built environment.

What is an appropriate density for development? Where should development take place? What should be preserved? What is important to us, as residents, as opposed to the profit created for developers represented by these luxury units?

Residents lose as ultra-rich are provided for

We can live in densNotice that the rest of us are supposed to live in “dens” or “micro-units.” This is problematic several ways. First in my mind is that when have we agreed that only the rich will be able to live in quality customary housing (one or two bedrooms, say, or a studio) and we are to be content with dens?

Next, these plans may not work, or may be grossly insufficient to satisfy the need for affordable rental units. They don’t address the imperative to repair a grossly negligent public policy that has created the current homelessness crisis and condemned so many residents to a life of poverty and living in overcrowded conditions.

There are plenty of so-called Ohana units that are already occupied illegally, so will not be added to a new pool of available housing. By way of illustration, when we arrived in Hawaii so many years ago we rented a house in Makiki. At about the same time we moved in construction began behind the garage—it was to be an “ohana” unit we had not been told about. We had no extended family with us, of course—the landlord simply rented it out as as studio, and pulled out the illegal appliances each time when informed there would be an inspection.

Clearly, inspections are not effectively enforcing the restrictions, and so the number of “ohana” units that might appear if the regs are changed is unknown—many are already occupied as rental units.

The inspection process is far more defective than even the ohana situation demonstrates.

Scaffold livingCheck out the Honolulu Advertiser story from 2008 in the illustration at left for pictures of the sad structure made of scaffolding occupied by 50 tenants at  1732 Gulick Ave. who paid $250 to $750 a month rent and made use of two bathrooms and a stove in the main house.

Now get this: the city knew about the scaffolding for at least a year, and concerns were raised, according to the article, for at least five years earlier. Yet they did nothing until it ultimately collapsed:

The Honolulu Fire Department also raised concerns about the residence, and last year sent a letter to the city asking that the situation be addressed quickly because of unsafe conditions, a spokesman said.

The addition to the home that collapsed and fell into a streambed behind the property was built much like scaffolding — with floors made out of thin wood and tarpaulins used to shield tenants from the sun and rain. There are several such additions on the home, some of which were at one point as high as four stories, neighbors said.

Jay Young, who moved in next to the Kalihi home eight months ago, said he has been trying to get city and state agencies to take action against the owners of the house at 1732 Gulick Ave. for months. He said his complaints have spurred little action. Meanwhile, other neighbors say they also have been raising concerns about the house for at least five years.

Click on the pictures in the original story for larger images.

Injections(This related story reports that tenants were made to take strange injections… click on the link to learn more.)

This does not bode well for the safety of ohana units, micro-dwellings or container housing that many advocates offer as a solution to house the homeless. Those are supposed to provide options for those unable to stay in their homes due to a combination of low pay in Hawaii and out-of-control rental demands. We should aim higher than that—people want decent standard housing. Let the rich wait. They have other options.

Back to Kakaako and the lack of urban planning for the rest of us

Ugly but functionalI wonder if this snip from Google Earth is a “Hawaiian sense of place”—right at the entrance to Waikiki?

This is what tourists see as their taxis approach Waikiki on Ala Moana boulevard. Instead of the patch of blue sky that used to be there, a huge ugly megalith confronts them squarely. There’s nothing Hawaii about it.

Ugly enough to remove This building, ugly enough to be removed, was only partly painted for years and sprouted busted-up dish antennas on the roof. Yet it remained, and remains still. Too bad there aren’t ordinances against ugliness. The gridwork façade has been ripped off and it looks even uglier now, if that’s possible.

Something growing on that buildingDriving along S.King Street one sees this building. There must be better views, but you can see that at the top right there is a little bit of concrete protruding. To me, it looks like something the oncologist should remove.

Now, I’m not quibbling about the design decisions made by First Hawaiian Bank or its architects, but only use this as an illustration of what we can expect. Other buildings may have their own quirks. Quirks cost money, which the owners apparently have.

Dallas Texas (as an example) also has a variety of building styles. There’s one that looks like a cigarette lighter. Good for them. Those expensive, unusual buildings created a “Texas sense of place”—lots of money applied lavishly to concrete, steel and glass.

Not too far from the First Hawaiian building is a cliché blue-glass condo that has lanais stuck on it, looking to me as though they were an afterthought and attached with superglue. Again, I realize that I am no one to criticize architectural design, but I’ve seen better (and worse) and wish for better. My point is that anything goes. No cost is spared, no building lacks for strange ornamentation. First Hawaiian could have saved a few bucks, no doubt, by eliminating the concrete thingy, but they have the bucks, so why not.

Anything goes, that is, except affordable housing

Imagine that the developers drooling over Kakaako were required, from the beginning, to commit to also construct or fund affordable rentals either as part of the Kakaako community or elsewhere? Some might choose to forgo development altogether. Others might go for it. There needs, however, to be a plan, and a system of regulation to make sure the housing is desirable (no micro-units!) and that rent is controlled in perpetuity.

That’s easier to say than to do, of course, and I know it. But the current situation is not workable for us, and if we, the people, could participate in the planning of our own urban spaces, we would likely not do it this way. Micro-units may be intended as a temporary solution, but you know that they will turn out to be permanent. I don’t think that’s what we want. That’s what we’ll get, unless there is a substantial change in the thinking of our state and city leaders.

“Planning to the people,” I say. We can do better than this.


Can a Silicon Valley billionaire still learn? First Look Media may depend on the answer to that question

“Eventually First Look Media will just be Pierre’s Second Life avatar wandering around an open-space office plan,” one employee says.

by Larry Geller

The author of Reports from Inside First Look Media Suggest That Maybe Silicon Valley Shouldn’t Manage Journalists, (In These Times 11/25/2014) is not hopeful that Pierre Omidyar’s second venture into journalism, his creation of First Look Media, may not end well, and may not last. It’s a good read from someone who claims access through “sources.”

The subhead is: Feverish speculation surrounds First Look’s recent troubles. But perhaps the most obvious culprit is its reliance on truckloads of tech money. Well, truckloads of money can accomplish much. Who knows.

At the same time, we might keep in mind that the $250 million investment was made by a person who struck it rich with the success of eBay. Not to begrudge Omidyar his money at all, but putting it in perspective might be useful: he only needed to be right once.

What I find interesting, as an organizational professional is the number of leaks and revelations emanating from the venture. It’s unusual for a private organization to expose its dirty laundry to this extent. Is it just an abundance of “transparency,” a word with multiple meanings and implications, or is it desperation? Could it be a way to seek healing by stirring up enough outside concern and pressure to get through to First Look management (and Omidyar) that there needs to be change?

Whatever it all means, it does not bode well for the organization. First Look has gathered people with powerful personalities and solid records of achievement. Maybe they haven’t made billions yet, but they know their trade, they are on a roll, they are at the peak of their professions, and they are not willing to lose the potential influence their work might have.

That’s stronger than any number of billions of dollars.

So Omidyar has to deal with it—there is no choice. Further leaks could drain anything useful out of the venture. There’s likely a limit to how long an organization can continue to work cooperatively if the bottom is leaking like a sieve.

The In These Times article describes what appears to be an old-fashioned, not a modern, management style. There are alternatives: one is to hire competent people and let them learn to manage and use the investment made. Sure, that there will be mistakes, even failures, is a given. But in the corporate world, mistakes can be designed. That is, with the right methods and analysis applied to execution, even a failure is a learning experience for the organization and an opportunity to improve.

In a revealing account of [journalist Matt] Taibbi’s departure, a team of First Look journalists candidly noted that the start-up was hobbled at the outset by a “highly structured Silicon Valley corporate environment” riddled with “management-speak” and “a confounding array of rules, structures and systems imposed by Omidyar and other First Look managers.”

Mistakes and failures are part of how successful organizations grow. Omidyar, to the extent he may be responsible or able to bring about improvement, can still learn. So it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

We will all benefit if he does learn. If not, Glenn Greenwald and the others could easily find another base of operations, and likely have been smart enough to protect the supply of Snowden material against being corralled even by a Silicon Valley billionaire. Or so I hope.


More on restoration of the Hawaiian government

by Larry Geller

This comment, attached to Friday’s Today in Hawaii’s history: recognition of restored Hawaiian nation (11/28/2014), should be promoted to an article since not everyone looks at comments:

Larry, the events you describe are actually from Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea, or Sovereignty Restoration Day, which also became a Hawaiian national holiday celebrated on July 31. This in part led to the formal recognition later that year on Nov. 28, which was celebrated as Lā Kūʻokoʻa or Independence Day. It was at the time of Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea that Kamehameha III uttered the phrase "Ua mau ke ea o ka ʻaina i ka pono" which today is often interpreted as "the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness" but "ea" also means "Sovereignty, rule, independence" and given the political context in which it occurred, it is clear that "the sovereignty of the land is perpetuated in righteousness" is actually the correct translation or interpretation of what ironically has continued to be the motto of the territory/state, even after the sovereignty was usurped through very unrighteous deeds by the U.S. government 50 years later.|

# posted by Blogger scottmaui : November 29, 2014 at 11:58:00 AM HST

I did not know that about the translation. Each time I post something about Hawaiian history I learn more, often by comments either attached to the post or emailed, for which I am grateful.

Saturday, November 29, 2014


“If we don’t do something, we’ll be left with a city that’s only for millionaires & billionaires”

by Larry Geller

Bill Moyers (and the original tweeter) are talking about New York City, but he could be describing Honolulu. In his program, broadcast yesterday, Moyers described a nationwide shortage of affordable housing.

Moyers tweet

Across our country, millions of people of ordinary means can’t afford decent housing. In New Jersey, just on the other side of the Hudson River from where I’m sitting, three out of five renters can’t afford a two-bedroom apartment at market rates. And across the continent, in San Francisco, residents – including many from an anguished middle class -- have taken to the streets to protest the narcissistic capitalism of Silicon Valley that provides an elite few with what they want instead of the many with what they need. We could continue city by city, state by state: because among our largest, richest 20 metro areas, less than 50 percent of the homes are affordable. Less than 50 percent.

Here where I live, in New York City, inequality in housing has reached Dickensian dimensions. The middle class is being squeezed to the edge as the rich drive up real estate values and the working poor are shoved farther into squalor.

[Moyers & Company, The Long, Dark Shadows of Plutocracy, 11/28/2014]

Friday, November 28, 2014


Revisiting the British occupation of Hawaii and restoration of the Kingdom

by Larry Geller

This seems appropriate to a time of thanksgiving.

The short mention of the restoration of Hawaiian sovereignty in today’s paper set me off looking for a newspaper article, but to find one, there would have had to be newspapers. Or at least, newspapers I can read (in English) and findable by Google. Sure, I could go to the library. But besides newspapers, there are books (remember books?) and some of them have been digitized (by Google, sigh).

So I downloaded the History of the Sandwich Islands by Sheldon Dibble. I have that book somewhere on a hard drive, but you know, it’s easier to just get another copy. (I can’t believe I used to spend almost every free day at the library on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn at one stage of my public school life, which required real effort to go there and look things up in an actual card catalog…) (I would park my bicycle outside and leave it, without a lock, for hours… I guess times have really changed.)

The book is contemporaneous to the events described.

An extract from the book is here, covering just the brief British occupation of Hawaii and the restoration of the Kingdom.

If you haven’t much patience for the details, skip ahead to p. 19 of the extract, when an American ship arrives in Honolulu and foils plans of the British commander, the Right Hon. Lord George Paulet, who was running the show in Hawaii:

A few days after, July 7th,. very unexpectedly, the American frigate Constellation arrived from China, commanded by Commodore Kearney. With surprise the commander beholds the English flag flying at the fort and on board of all the native vessels…

Yes, it was America to the rescue. Things were at last looking up.

By page 21, Rear Admiral Thomas arrives on the Dublin from Valparaiso, and then

At anchor and her sails furled, the first note of communication from the Dublin was that of the Admiral, requesting in very kind and respectful terms, an interview with the king.

The request was readily granted, and on the next day, the 27th, the Admiral spent several hours in conference with the king, and also on the following day, the 28th. At these interviews, very kind and friendly feelings were manifested by the Admiral toward the king, and he soon expressed a desire that the Hawaiian flag should be restored, and made arrangements for the formal act to take place on the Monday following, July 31st.

The events of the day set apart for restoring the flag were to the king and friends of the nation, of the most exciting nature. A conspicuous spot on the plain of Honolulu was measured off and two tents were erected; one on the upper side for the accommodation of foreigners and their ladies, the other on the lower side for the king and his suit and the Admiral. Brass field-pieces and a line of marines, about 400 in number, reached across the center of the square. A flagstaff with the national ensign furled, was planted near to the lower tent, by the side of which, the king and Admiral Thomas took their stand. Simultaneously the folds of the national flag and the smoke of the field-pieces are floating in the wind, and the roar of the cannon announces that the king is free and his flag restored. This is followed by the raising of the flag at the forts, and a national salute from the guns of each, and from the armed vessels in port, viz: Dublin, Carysfort and Hazard, English ; and the frigate Constellation, American. After the close of the salutes, marching and various evolutions were performed by the marines, exhibiting the manner of attack and defense, with discharges of the field-pieces and musketry. These evolutions being finished, the king was escorted to his house, where he was met by the officers of "the Queen's Regiment," tendering their submission and suing for pardon ; for by swearing allegiance to another sovereign they had forfeited their heads. Their pardon was graciously granted by the king, who seemed to feel as David did on a similar occasion : " Shall there any man be put to death this day in Israel ? For do not I know that I am this day king over Israel ?"


Today in Hawaii’s history: recognition of restored Hawaiian nation

by Larry Geller

The Star-Advertiser noted that today, November 28, is the anniversary of the recognition of the Hawaiian Kingdom as a sovereign nation by England and France in 1843.

I thought I would flash back to the newspaper archives to see what I could find. I haven’t found a local account yet—but along the way, I did locate this article from the New York Daily Tribune that’s related. No, it’s not dated November 28. Part of the problem in locating articles in old papers outside of Hawaii is that there was no Internet then, no satellite news, no wire service. In this case, an article appeared because someone wrote a letter.

Although the news describes events in July, 1843, it will give a flavor of what was going on that year. For more of what happened prior to November 28, 1843 in detail, see this article: La Ku'oko'a: Events Leading to Independence Day, November 28, 1843.

New-York daily tribune., November 06, 1843

(click for larger image)

New-York daily tribune November 06, 1843

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Did Ferguson deliberately let black businesses burn?

AMY GOODMAN: In 162,000 cases in 2010, grand juries, these federal cases, grand juries decline to return an indictment in 11. Of 162,000 federal cases.

by Larry Geller

The news that a grand jury in St. Louis, Missouri decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, was released late at night when it was sure to inflame crowds of protesters already assembled in town.

The people knew that an indictment was uncertain, even though it should not have been. Police seldom face any consequences for their actions in this country. That’s what the protest is about.

Black men and teenagers are killed by security personnel at a steady pace—about one every 28 hours nationally. In Ferguson, they had enough of it and have protested ever since the August event.

It’s likely that Ferguson will set a record for the longest continuous protest.

Events in Ferguson unfolded rapidly last night, so newspapers were handicapped in reporting everything by their production deadlines. Still, there seems to be information that could have been printed but was not. For sure, the major news outlets had at least skeletons of potential stories according to whether the grand jury came down one way or the other.

Did you see reports that in West Florissant, largely black-run businesses were allowed to burn for hours before firefighters arrived? Why were white-owned businesses on nearby South Florissant protected by police and the National Guard who were nowhere to be found in West Florissant? No? Check out Democracy Now.

Some commentators have already toyed with the argument that maybe Wilson wasn’t guilty after all. But it is not the job of a grand jury to decide guilt. As Amy Goodman noted in the pull-quote above, grand juries rarely fail to return an indictment in these cases. Guilt can then be determined by trying the facts in a court of law.

In our system of justice, much depends on the conduct and the zeal of the prosecutor. Unfortunately, if the prosecutor is reluctant to see a cop convicted, it’s easy enough to hold back and, in effect, prevent an indictment or a conviction rather than pursue one.

This is one question that news outlets should be asking. Let’s see how many do that.

Check out Democracy Now on the web for better coverage—Amy Goodman is in Ferguson right now. Or catch it on `Olelo tonight.


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