Saturday, February 13, 2016

 

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


by Larry Geller

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

We should explore using genetically-modified male mosquitoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The way these mosquitos are produced is quite interesting:

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

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

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

The technique is not new or untested:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s another misleading headline:

RT

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

Hawaii next

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


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

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

Of course, this isn’t going to happen.

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

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

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

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


Low confidence in the Department of Health

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

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

Emergency proclamations do not equal adequate response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t settle for proclamations

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



Friday, February 12, 2016

 

Disappeared “Pickles” comic in Friday paper


by Larry Geller

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

Who knows why the paper went to press like that.

You can see the missing Pickles comic by clicking here.



Thursday, February 11, 2016

 

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


by Larry Geller

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

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

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

cpc

McKelvey

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

There was another.

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

edb

Kawakami

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

Perhaps one day the shenanigans will stop.



Tuesday, February 09, 2016

 

Why is it that we demand excellence in sports but not in public administration?



Simply put, local maintenance officials need to do a better job (or in some cases, any job) extending the life of roads by treating them regularly with rubberlike sealants — materials that other places have used for more than 40 years, the experts say.—Star-Advertiser, Oahu behind the times, road repair experts say, 2/8/2016



by Larry Geller

Over and over again we’ve heard cries to immediately replace this coach or that athletic administrator—as soon as we felt they weren’t doing the job for us.

So how come, when it comes to city or state government, we accept mediocrity or outright incompetence with nary a complaint?

As regular readers may know, Disappeared News has been pounding on the issue of neglected pavements in Honolulu for some time. First it was the fact that stormwater regularly floods and overwhelms our sewage system, due in part to the lack of permeable pavement or other approaches that allow runoff to drain directly into the ground. Yup, it can go right through a type of asphalt and not flow into streets and city stormwater drains. But we don’t use that well-developed technology.

Next it was disappearing road markings, which is a clear safety hazard, but to me is a marker for city indifference to the need for proper maintenance of our streets.

Road repairsThe pothole situation has been going on seemingly forever, with no end in sight. This brings us back to leadership incompetence. And so I was glad to see the fine article by Marcel Honore in yesterday’s paper.

The Star-Advertiser article could break the mold. Perhaps we’ll get some action at last on Honolulu’s indifference to the suffering of motorists. I’m skeptical, though, as long as we don’t replace the “coach” when we’ve been losing the game for so long.

Drivers and passengers have suffered jolts while commuting. They lose free time and suffer the expense of costly suspension repairs as a direct result of the City’s neglect of its duty to maintain our street and road infrastructure.

Nothing will happen soon, though, unless our typically passive population begins to take action. Unfortunately, that mold has  yet to be broken.


Just as with UH football, the problems begin at the top

We don’t blame the players when teams don’t deliver, we blame the coach or the athletic director. Then we demand that the non-performing personnel be fired and a better replacement hired. Sure, there’s a bit of whining about the cost, but at the same time there is a big push for better leadership.

With our city government, however, we allow the same failed management to continue year after year. The pull-quote at the top reveals that Honolulu has not put in place the technologies that other places have been using for 40 years. The story in yesterday’s paper reveals yet more incompetence: a report with 16 pages of recommendations not only did not lead to improvement, but now no one can even find a copy of it.

[I have emailed Larry Galehouse, who was quoted extensively in yesterday’s article, asking for a copy—he’s away from his office at least until tomorrow.]

“A lot of what we recommended fell on deaf ears,” Galehouse said. On subsequent trips he noticed that “by and large they didn’t do it,” he said.

The article also deflated a popular myth that Hawaii’s climate leads to pothole problems:

When it comes to climate, Hawaii is no more disadvantaged in preserving roads than any other state — other regions cope with snow or searing heat, Galehouse said.

As someone who has lived outside of the country and visited many cities, I know that streets and roads can be kept in tip-top condition if there is a will to do so. I previously posted some pictures snipped from Google Earth that should make us very unhappy with our Department of Transportation leadership as well as the City Council that underfunds the department. Here’s one of a street in Singapore.

Singapore[2]

Aside from pristine pavement, note that white paint is used liberally to assure traffic safety—not only are lane dividers clean and bright wherever you “fly” over Singapore using Google Earth, but check out the curb markings at the left. (The heavy white line is part of Streetview, it’s not actually there on the street.)

At first we might be envious, but next we should demand the same of our city government. And if the “coaches” won’t do it, perhaps its time to replace them.

This was a crosswalk once_thumb[2]Let’s be clear that having clear street markings is not just a question of aesthetics or pride, it’s clearly a safety issue as well. When crosswalks are allowed to disappear people will be injured or killed. I’ve posted far worse photos than this one.

 

When highway repairs are done as incompetently as this…

vog pic 20121203 Star-Advertiser p B1[6]

,,, drivers and passengers are endangered when visibility is poor, such as in the rain with the sun shining ahead:

H-1 -b[4]

The extra white lines are a leftover from the surface repairs, and they’re still there today.


If it’s not one thing, it’s another

One doesn’t have to be an expert on pavement technology to know that Honolulu is woefully backward. Yesterday’s article states this explicitly. But it’s not just pavement technology—other news articles have reported (for example) that the DOE still does substitute teacher payroll on 5 x 8 inch cards (!). The state’s IT systems are hopelessly antiquated. Those in charge of street lights don’t understand how to focus light on the roadway instead of the sky and don’t understand the importance of choosing the correct color temperature.

None of this is rocket science.

I’ve suggested that we could use someone in government who would fill the role of “chief technologist,” monitoring what the state and city are doing and advising on the most modern and cost-effective techniques. GE had such a position when I worked there.

Keeping our government’s technology up-to-date should pay off for taxpayers. I’m also tired of defending Hawaii as a third-world country, even though in many respects the critics are correct.

Let’s break the mold. I submit that we the people need to find the right “coach” and fund the team properly. In other words, take a long, hard look at our public administration and fix its deficiencies.



Monday, February 08, 2016

 

Dirty tricks continue in Hawaii state House of Representatives—a bad DOE bill tries to sneak through


by Larry Geller

Several parents have detected that a bill that could negatively affect hundreds of special needs students has been snuck into the Legislature without public notice on Friday. It’s a classic “gut and replace” move by our state legislators. And the bill is to be heard this afternoon.

HB868 looks innocent enough, even admirable:

Requires BOE to annually re-establish statewide performance standards, and the means to assess the standards, based upon multiple forms of assessment.

This is the kind of change that one might happily support.

But the bill to be heard this afternoon at 2 pm is not that bill. The House Committee on Education (Rep. Roy Takumi, Chair) has gutted that bill and replaced it with this one. The purpose of the revision is not stated on the Capitol web page, which remains as above. The new purpose is:

Allows certain individuals to engage in the practice of behavior analysis when this practice is done in a public educational setting; provided that the individual cannot use any title or description stating or implying that the individual is a "licensed behavior analyst" or "behavior analyst" without holding a license.

Essentially, this new bill would allow almost anyonewith no requirement for professional training—to create remedial programs to be included in the IEP of special needs children.

There is a reason why “licensed behavior analysts” are required to develop these programs. Done right, they can be beneficial, done wrong, very damaging to a student’s ability to learn.

This is just the latest example of the Department of Education attempting to shortchange Hawaii’s special needs students. The Legislature makes it possible by permitting “gut and replace” deceptions.

If you have a moment, even though it would be late testimony, please consider sending something to the Committee opposing this bill. Just go to the bill page and click the blue “Submit Testimony” button to begin the process.



Sunday, February 07, 2016

 

Salon.com video: Sad state of our educational system


I can’t resist posting this. Sad. No child left behind? So many left behind, maybe. Click on image to view video.

Texas Tech

Salon.com: College students were asked simple questions about politics and history and their answers are a dramatic wake up call about the state of our education system

 

Research Buzz: UH Hilo to post online database of Ka Leo Hawaii


From today’s Research Buzz:

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo is preparing an online database of Ka Leo Hawaiʻi to launch at the end of the month. Please note this announcement is in both Hawaiian and English, alternating paragraphs. So don’t be surprised when you hit the link and the first words are “Ma ke komo pū ʻana i loko o ka Māhina ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi ʻo Pepeluali … “Ka Leo Hawaiʻi was a Hawaiian-language radio program that first aired on February 22, 1972 on KCCN on O`ahu and spanned 16 years and 417 programs during its initial run. Conducted in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi and hosted by Kauanoe Larry Kimura, the program featured live in-studio interviews with mānaleo, most who were kūpuna and among Hawaiʻi’s last native speakers of Hawaiian….The soft launch will include the first 12 programs and their corresponding transcripts, followed soon by all 417 episodes of Ka Leo Hawaiʻi's initial run.”

Check out Research Buzz and subscribe to the daily email. I think I’ve been a subscriber since before the Internet actually existed. It’s an invaluable resource.

 

Boondoggle to Washington can be avoided by researching the Superferry fiasco on the Internet



Despite computer-controlled stabilizers and other features designed to smooth the 349-foot-long Alakai's ride, rough winter seas have forced the Superferry to cancel trips 11 days in less than two months. That's far more than the 2% cancellation rate officials had planned, and roiling conditions have helped earn the vessel a nickname: "the barf barge."—USA Today, 2/1/2008


by Larry Geller

According to a Star-Advertiser story posted last week (Ige floats proposal to bring back ferry service, 2/4/2016) State Department of Transportation Director Ford Fuchigami and Senate Transportation and Energy Committee Chairwoman Lorraine Inouye plan to travel to Washington, DC to research the availability of the two ferries that originally were part of the failed Hawaii Superferry venture.

First of all, this is 2016, and Sen. Inouye probably knows how to use the telephone, the Internet and email, so Disappeared News wonders why taxpayer money should be spent on an expensive trip. She could use Google to find many reasons why we should not return the “Barf Barge” to Hawaii.

Before stepping onto a plane they might reflect first on why they would want to have these two ships back in Hawaii in the first place. The Superferry failed for several reasons—one was operating cost, and the other was unsuitability of their design for the Hawaii inter-island route.

Although the media generally refused to cover the problem, seasickness was enough of an issue that it would be far better to start looking for a more suitable solution that wouldn’t repeat the Superferry’s costly mistakes.

I wrote about the costs taxpayers would have to bear in this article.

In a nutshell, while the military may not care how much fuel it takes to move those ships with their huge engines, we should certainly look at that first (to repeat: Sen. Inouye doesn’t need to go to Washington DC to do that research).

As to the suitability for Hawaiian waters, cancellations due to high seas were damaging (see the USA Today article) and a deck awash with vomit is something tourists noticed, even if the local media refused to cover the issue. An exception was this story that did appear in the Honolulu Advertiser:

Nauseating

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

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

Even three Superferry protesters who paid their way as passengers got sick on the cruise.

Hale Mawae of Anahola, Kaua'i, couldn't make his way to the bathroom in time and vomited all over the Superferry's wooden floor passageway. His cruisemates, Katy Rose and Andrea Brower, also of Kaua'i, vomited as well.

"I definitely used some of those bags," Rose said. Added Brower, "I don't get seasick and I got sick."

[Honolulu Advertiser, Nauseating but enjoyable trip for passengers, 12/14/2007]

The story noted that the sea conditions were not unusual, but were typical for that time of year.

And this one, from The Garden Island:

“It was torture,” said O‘ahu resident Nola Watasa, who was traveling to Maui with her son, Colby, and husband, Dave, for a varsity wrestling tournament. “I’m glad it’s over.”

She and others riding the $85 million jet-propelled vessel — such as Clayton Fernandez, an O‘ahu resident visiting Maui for the first time — filled up the “barf bags” that Hawaii Superferry staff handed out early on in the three-hour voyage.

Workers scrubbed the carpet and wiped down the faux leather seats for those passengers who were unable to find a paper sack or make it to the bathroom in time.

[The Garden Island, Less than smooth sailing - Superferry arrives in Maui, 12/14/2007]

Here’s a video posted by George Peabody on YouTube:

So again, Sen. Inouye and Director Ford Fuchigami: Don’t waste our money with an expensive and unneeded trip to Washington. Try Googling instead.

Tell you what: I’ll email this article to you.



Saturday, February 06, 2016

 

Hold organizations responsible for their data breaches—help get a hearing for SB2485


by Larry Geller

I need to ask for your help in getting a hearing for SB2485 – a bill that should help reduce data breaches—and the identity theft that can result—in Hawaii. The bill gives anyone affected by the breach a legal course of action, and makes it more likely that an attorney would take up their case. The text of the bill is here.

How you can help this bill get a hearing

Please call and leave a message asking Sen. Baker to schedule a hearing for SB2485.

phone: 808-586-6070
email: senbaker@Capitol.hawaii.gov

cph baker

Your phone call or email to Sen. Baker urging her to hear the bill will help—please take a moment to call or email right away. Details are at right.

It should be clear that our personal data is increasingly at risk. Amazingly, children’s toys are being connected to the Internet—and there have already been serious flaws in security reported. Check it out in today’s Star-Advertiser if you have a copy, or see a version of the same AP story here: Something new to worry about: Connected toy security (AP, 2/2/2016).

When hackers exploit a security weakness we consumers seldom get more than an apology. Yet weak protection of our personal data makes hacking possible. Sure, the hackers are the criminals, but failure to protect the data entrusted to a company or organization is what enables the hackers to succeed.

If a delivery person leaves packages in a parked car in Manhattan leaving the windows open and then someone takes the packages, they are thieves, but what responsibility did the delivery service have for the theft? If your packages were taken SB2485 would let you go after the company to make good your loss. Just substitute “credit card information” for “packages” to get the idea of the bill.

A great example, and one that may have affected you personally (so please, make that phone call to Sen. Baker!) was the theft of customer information from the Star-Advertiser in 2014. Accounts differ about whether the data was inside or left outside of a storage locker when it was taken. KHON reported:

Sadie Groy, 30, and Tori Samiere, 54, are charged on a combined 14 counts related to identity theft and fraud.

According to police sources on April 4, a worker at a self-storage business found boxes left outside a locker rented by the paper.

At least one of the boxes had paper records on customers including credit card information.

[KHON, Two people arrested in Star-Advertiser ID theft case, 6/5/2014]

So the perpetrators of the identity theft were caught, but what about the responsibility of the paper to have protected that data? Even if the storage locker had been broken into, as another account reported, why was sensitive customer data stored on paper in a locker in the first place? Break ins are not unknown. Clearly, the data was not encrypted, it was on plain paper.

Here are some related links to the Star-Advertiser data breach—probably more than you want to know, but for the record anyway:

Star Advertiser credit card breach could impact hundreds, if not thousands, of customers

Story obscures possible Star-Advertiser subscriber data breach

KHON and Hawaii News Now post info on Star-Advertiser data breach

Differences in Star-Advertiser data breach stories raise more question

Blogger questions newspaper’s response to theft of subscriber data

While the national big-box chain Target apologized to its customers when their data was stolen, here in Hawaii, the University of Hawaii did not. Attorney Tom Grande successfully sued UH to get credit protection services for all those affected. Again, SB2485 would let you take individual action if you suffered a loss due to a company’s or organization’s failure to protect your data.

The idea is to make sure your data is protected by letting companies know they’ll be responsible if they have left the windows open and a thief takes advantage.

Please make that phone call today if you can.



Thursday, February 04, 2016

 

Return of Superferry vessels would be an advertising windfall for newspapers, a boon to bloggers, and a disaster for taxpayers



Gov. David Ige’s administration is moving ahead with a proposal to revive interisland ferry service in Hawaii, a potentially controversial effort that could even involve the same catamaran vessels that were deployed in the ill-fated “Superferry” initiative that shut down in 2009.—Star-Advertiser, 2/4/2016


by Larry Geller

Joy at the S-AThe media seldom spoke ill of the late Hawaii Superferry—considering the advertising revenue the ferry service forked over, that’s no surprise.

I remember chuckling when a Google search for an article in the Star-Bulletin displayed the article in the middle with a Superferry ad to the left and another to the right.

It’s amusing that today’s Star-Advertiser front page article leads with a report that the same vessels that proved so unsatisfactory the first time around are under consideration once again. Those vessels both cost too much and did not provide a satisfactory “ride”. The article notes that they are not in use now. Why? There might be a very good reason. Or two. Or more.

Public deceived about Hawaii Superferry finances

AP reporter Mark Niesse wrote Hawaii Superferry shorted state on July 20, 2010. Niesse requested and reviewed Hawaii Department of Transportation records to learn that the Superferry company was in financial difficulties at least 11 months before it finally declared bankruptcy.

The Hawaii Superferry's operating agreement with the state required a minimum of $191,667 in monthly payments during the first three years of service for various fees including dockage, port entry, passengers and vehicles. The company paid the full amount from the time it started service in December 2007 until July 2008, and then payments gradually declined until March 2009, when it stopped paying altogether.

Neither the company nor the state had disclosed that the ferry service couldn't make its required payments until the the DOT released the Superferry's payment records at the AP's request.

Essentially, the state continued to hide the fact that the Superferry was a failing business.

The link to Niesse’s story in the Honolulu Advertiser has been taken down, but there is an equivalent AP story here. That article indicates that the state pulled the wool over taxpayer’s eyes by keeping the Hawaii Superferry’s losses a secret:

Neither the company nor the state had disclosed that the ferry service couldn't make its required payments until the the DOT released the Superferry's payment records at the AP's request.

During the first month the Superferry shorted the state, company President Tom Fargo went so far as to proclaim "business is good," with July showing a 40 percent increase in passenger traffic on the vessel compared to the previous month.

The state demanded payment in at least four letters to the Superferry, and legal action was threatened in two of the letters, according to the documents reviewed by the AP.

The state never followed through with lawsuits to collect money owed until after the ferry's bankruptcy.

"They were having financial difficulties already, and that's why they were heading toward bankruptcy," said state Transportation Director Brennan Morioka.



Ferry-related bills in the Hawaii Legislature

Brad Parsons has noted in an email the following bills that are still alive, related to an interisland ferry system:

HB415 RELATING TO FERRIES.
HB2225 RELATING TO TRANSPORTATION.
HB2762 RELATING TO FERRIES.
SB2618 RELATING TO TRANSPORTATION.
SB3022 RELATING TO FERRIES.
SB3090 RELATING TO FERRY SYSTEMS.

There are probably several more bills—Hawaii News Now mentions nine bills related to the Supeferry.

 

By the best outside estimates, the original Superferry did not turn a profit or even break even, except possibly for Golden Week in May, when Japanese tourism hits a max. Why? The choice of vessel certainly drove operating costs.

Those huge engines needed to be fed, whether or not the ferry carried a sufficient number of passengers to break even.

Our commercial media, coveting the Superferry's generous advertising budget, consistently failed to dig into the details of its operational costs and eventual bankruptcy.

The press reported that the ferry went out of business because of the Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that an EIS should have been prepared. But the bankruptcy actually ended it, and that demonstrated that the service could not cover costs or make required payments. Continuing to cite only the Supreme Court decision for the ferry failure would be to mislead readers and lawmakers who seem to be informed principally by what they read in the paper.

Should our state government find a way to bring back the same two fuel-guzzling vessels, the operating cost will become an unacceptable burden on taxpayers.

As I wrote in an earlier article, it seems that Hawaii is the state that can’t plan. Saying that the state may try to bring back the same ships without knowing the operating cost echoes the City and County of Honolulu’s construction of a hugely expensive rail line without planning for and disclosing the operating costs.

We should also recall the poor planning that resulted in Mufi Hannemann’s commuter service called “TheBoat:”

TheBoat, Honolulu's commuter ferry from Kalaeloa to Aloha Tower, gives West O'ahu residents an oceangoing alternative to increasingly clogged highways, for no more than $4 per round- trip ticket.

What makes the service so cheap is that Honolulu taxpayers pay an additional $120 per roundtrip rider to cover the actual costs of operating TheBoat, according to a city study.

The cost of carrying each passenger on TheBoat is about 62 times more than the cost of an average trip on TheBus. It is also significantly more expensive than comparable Mainland ferry services.

[Honolulu Advertiser, High subsidies may scuttle Hawaii's ferry, 2/15/2009]

That’s $120 per round-trip rider, not per round trip!

There is more to say about the poor performance of the original ships, but this is enough for now.



Sunday, January 31, 2016

 

Must Hawaii be the state that just cannot plan?


by Larry Geller

What is wrong with us as a state, that we seem to be unable to plan? A statement of “goals and objectives” or intent to do something is not a plan. We’re lucky to even have goals sometimes it seems.

Too many issues of public governance and importance are simply ignored until a crisis may develop.

If you never changed the oil in your car, what would happen? So you change the oil. It’s common sense. So what’s wrong with Hawaii?

It’s worth ranting about. Perhaps one day we’ll change. I hope so. So on to some examples, several from this morning’s paper. It’s good to see the editors questioning government decisions as well as reporting them.

Cutting services without a plan hurts us


Important comment on today’s op-ed

Although the op-ed referenced below describes the disease-carriying mosquito as biting during the evening and at night, the Wikipedia confirms that the Zika virus is transmitted by daytime-active Aedes mosquitoes, such as the Aedes aegypti now proliferating on the Big Island. 

Although Aedes aegypti mosquitoes most commonly bite at dusk and dawn, indoors, in shady areas, or when the weather is cloudy, "they can bite and spread infection all year long and at any time of day."

[Wikipedia, Aedes aegypti]

This is important to know. That mosquito curtain draped over the bed at night won’t protect anyone during the daytime.


Today’s Insight section of the Star-Advertiser has an excellent op-ed by Michael Markrich, writing from Kauai. In it he describes how cutting Department of Health Vector Control Branch staff from 56 staffers to 17 and eliminating the branch entirely has eviscerated Hawaii’s ability to control the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Controlling that mosquito is the only way known to halt the spread of the Zika virus, dengue fever and similar diseases.

Defective planning now threatens our health. Should the Zika virus go pandemic here our tourist economy could suffer as well. Imagine the consequences of possible “don’t travel to Hawaii” advisories.

The Zika virus, said to be more destructive that Ebola, is spreading through the Americas and Hawaii is also at risk.

The risk exists because we are just beginning to scratch our heads about what should be done about the mosquito that carries not only Zia but dengue fever as well.

The head scratching should have taken place years ago, before vector control staff was cut, leaving us vulnerable.

Perhaps Zika virus wasn’t on our radar then, but dengue certainly was. We’ve got the dengue and may soon get the Zika. Is our planning, even today, adequate to fend off a state of emergency later on?

There is a possible link between Zika fever and microcephaly in newborn babies by mother-to-child transmission, as well as a stronger one with neurologic conditions in infected adults, including cases of the Guillain–Barré syndrome.

What is needed is a plan (including a timeline, budget, staffing, measurements, etc.) that will assure us that our state government is working to defeat this mosquito and save us from a Zika pandemic.

Out of control UH repair backlog

How did the repair backlog at the University of Hawaii get to be $503 million? This is likely a symptom of the poor governance that we’ve written about before, but it also indicates that planning is not something important in an organization that should know better. No doubt they are teaching students planning over at the business school, but why, how, did a repair backlog ever grow to $503 million unless planning is something they just don’t do?

Maintenance is an operating cost. It should be central to competent planning to include costs for maintenance. Instead, new facilities are proposed but UH seems to have no intention to keep things working after they are built.

Cheap talk about air conditioning classrooms

Governor David Ige revealed, in his State of the State address, that he plans to air condition 1,000 out of 11,000 Department of Education this year.

I use the verb “plans” very loosely. The result of “planning” should be a plan, and there is not anything one could identify as a complete plan.

Richard Borreca devoted an excellent column to the issue in today’s paper. He observed, in part:

The plan, however, appears more like the smoke one would see reflected in mirrors, rather than a set-in-stone reality.

[Star-Advertiser p. E1, Ige’s 1,000 cool classrooms face a credibility problem, 1/31/2016]

It’s good that Borreca is asking the necessary questions.

Central to the article is the state’s questionable ability to pay for the installation, and then the lack of a clear way to pay for operating costs. Sound familiar?

The first thought, as Borreca relates, was to add a charge to consumer electric bills to pay for installation. That does didn’t fly. So next is a proposal to steal $100 million from a special fund not intended for that purpose, and this is apparently implemented in a bill, SB3126. Read the column for a discussion about why this is a bad idea.

Also, there would be 10,000 more classrooms to air condition, and no plan for funding those seems to exist. One might also ask the question, “how much will all that electricity cost?” No plan is complete without that little detail.


Cutting vector control staff now set to bite us--again

A little about the Zita virus and why we should have been controlling the mosquito that carries it is on the sidebar to the right.

Cutting the Vector Control staff also rendered the DOH unable to deal with the proliferation of rats in Chinatown in 2009. In frustration with DOH inaction, I decided to post a video illustrating the problem. It went viral when the TV news picked it up and spread the word.

Even then, the DOH refused to authorize overtime—so while the rats came out at night, the inspectors were not allowed to visit the market to see them. Cutting staff with no plan to continue services had its consequences.


Rail operating costs still unknown—why?

Today’s Insight section has been a gift to this blogger.

The editorial headline is Start talking now about long-term rail funding. Well, yes, at least let’s start talking now. But why did this key issue wait until now?

Just as the University of Hawaii ought to have maintenance costs in its budget before it builds yet another new building, the operating costs for Honolulu’s ruinously expensive rail project should have been known in advance.

Of course people are now balking at paying more excise tax or suffering a potential nine percent increase in property taxes. The argument that tourists pay part of the costs that is frequently raised (as in today’s editorial) to justify GET increases is immaterial—you and I pay it regardless of whether tourists pay it or not. Increasing the GET is a regressive method of taxation. Had we known about this at the beginning, would we have chosen this rail system at all?

Of course, not telling the public about operating costs may have been the actual “plan.” I’m not being cynical, it should not be ruled out that developers and rail interests would not want to strew the path to approval with obstacles. The entire rail project is a product of special interest influence including contributions to city council members that have been estimated as up to 91% if their campaign funding. With that much money at stake, prudent planning in the public interest may well take a back seat to the greed that drives politics here and elsewhere.


Street repairs and repainting—where’s the plan?

I use disappearing paint in crosswalks and line dividers as a marker of poor maintenance of our streets. Another, of course, is the contiued proliferation of potholes.

Why do we allow crosswalks, turn arrows and other street markings to fade away, endangering both pedestrians and car passengers? What about questioning why there isn’t an adequate plan to maintain our roads?

I look to Tokyo since I lived there.The paint is always spick and span and bright. We can do it too. If our Departments of Transportation cared to plan for adequate maintenance.

As to potholes, why do places with worse weather not have them (yes, some other cities certainly share our pothole plague). Are we using the right technology? Must this situation go on from year to year? Where’s the plan to end potholes in our lifetime?


Halting pedestrian deaths and injury—why no plan?

Thank you for reading this far. It must be boring by now. But somebody needs to say this.

Each year Hawaii sets national records for senior deaths on the streets. Year after year. We do nothing about it.

Where is the plan to improve the unmarked crosswalks on S. King Street, Pali Highway, Farrington Highway, and elsewhere, so that they are no longer death traps?

I drove down King St. with my dash camera running one day last year. Some crosswalks had signs, some did not. One had blinking lights, though I did not check to see if they worked. The situation must be pretty much the same today.

How do I know this? Because we have no plan to get off that list of states with record-setting senior deaths on the streets. Improvements still depend too much on human sacrifice (euphemistically called “incidents”) instead of adequate planning:

“A typical traffic signal is not appropriate for the crosswalk because it is close to the heavily traveled Castle Junction intersection at Pali and Kamehameha highways, and because the area in front of HPU did not meet the minimum requirement of five pedestrian "incidents" in a 12-month period”—Department of Transportation spokesman Dan Meisenzahl

Is the plan to wait until a traffic death gets into the newspaper before they improve the intersection? Once again, this is not cynicism, my question is the result of observation.


Homelessness crisis came about because there was (and still is) no plan to end the housing shortage

Both the affordable housing crisis and burgeoning homelessness were described as crises in the media as early as 2003. Yet we just let the problem roll on. We still do not have anything resembling a plan to create truly affordable housing in the quantity needed. So we have a growing number of those in need of apartments they are actually able to pay for. If the newspaper still refers to housing at 140% of area median income as “affordable” we are still far from being able to dig ourselves out of this hole, which is tens of thousands of housing units deep.

This morning’s paper describes a shortage of volunteers to do the federally-required “point in time” survey. Was poor planning a cause of this failure? How much federal money will it cost us?


Failure to spend federal funding is a result of poor planning

This morning’s article on the “point in time” survey mentions a failure to spend federal funds available to Hawaii. That same theme has appeared several times recently, and the amounts are astounding.

The article in the Local section, Layoffs cut state services for failed workers, may itself demonstrate a failure to plan. But it also mentions that federal money to deal with what is now an “emergency” may not be available because Hawaii has not spent the federal money it was previously given.

You’d think that we would have plans in place to utilize the badly needed funds.

But no. We seem unable to plan even to spend free money.


Doing payroll on 5 x 8 cards is a failure to plan

I’m writing this in 2016. A recent story revealed that the Department of Education double-payed some stubstitute teachers—because the DOE is still doing payroll on 5 x 8 index cards (!).

At some point didn’t it occur to someone that they better put that task onto a computer? Doing payroll is one of oldest tasks that computers were assigned, dating back to the room-sized monster mainframes. It’s what they do.

So where was the plan to replace the cards?

 

Gads—I could probably go on forever. Just a word about public policy before I end this.


No planning? No consequences

The media and the public should expect our government at all levels not only to plan, but to publicize what they are doing so that we know they are doing their job.

There should be consequences for falure to plan, which is a responsibility of public administration. If an administrator or department head is negligent, perhaps there is someone else who could do a better job.

Voters and good government advocates might take this up.



Sunday, January 24, 2016

 

Honolulu might start planning now for automated ride sharing


Our Honolulu city government seems to me to be neglectful of the plight of both drivers and pedestrians. We should start planning for a future where there are fewer, not more, cars. That future is coming for many mainland cities, but it's not inevitable.

Let's look at now and at the future we could have.

The roads are congested already, with many commuters forced to spend long hours on their way to or from work each day. Instead of taking measures to mitigate congestion we are allowing it to overwhelm us.

At the same time Honolulu seems either unable or unwilling to get its act together on street maintenance. Potholes plague even short trips. Painted lines, arrows and even crosswalks are allowed to disappear.

We also don't seem to mind killing off pedestrians. Why do we end up at or near the top of the statistics each year? It seems that a certain number of "incidents" are required before an intersection is provided with adequate safety features. Requiring human sacrifice before the city acts is unconscionable. Yet that is how we do it.

The future will include ride sharing and later, driverless cars. Both, if nurtured by a city government with foresight, could make a real difference in our daily lives.

A comprehensive article on this future is in Mother Jones, An End to Parking. Please have a look at it.

On the mainland driverless cars will face weather issues for some time. Right now the east coast is suffering through a major snowstorm. Driverless cars will have problems with even a little bit of snow. Honolulu does not have snow. So let's push for early introduction of those driverless cars.

In the meantime, although regulatory issues still exist, we should smooth the way for ride sharing using smartphone apps. They (technically at least) offer the promise that the number of cars on the roads could actually be reduced in the near term.

Before that will happen, though, things will get worse. All the new housing set to be built west of the city center will increase the number of cars on the roads.

Transit will not help. Unless the number of parking spaces in office buildings in town is drastically reduced, which is not likely to happen, each of those spaces will be occupied by a car.

Driverless or not, ride sharing and ride pooling has the potential to replace individual commuting and so combat congestion. You could be texting or catching up with the news on your way into town. What will make this dream (which of course is nothing new) workable is the availability of smartphone apps coupled with suitably low pricing.

So please check out the Mother Jones article--it has a lot to say about this.

... and we still need to fix all those potholes.



Monday, January 18, 2016

 

Our paper ignores socialist Sanders as it does socialist Martin Luther King



I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic. And yet I am not so opposed to capitalism that I have failed to see its relative merits. It started out with a noble and high motive, viz, to block the trade monopolies of nobles, but like most human systems, it falls victim to the very thing it was revolting against. So today capitalism has outlived its usefulness. It has brought about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes.—Martin Luther King, in a  1952 letter to Coretta Scott (see The Intercept, 1/18/2016)


by Larry Geller

Bernie Sanders has been snubbed by the commercial media—no doubt because a “democratic socialist” does not fit well in pages that are devoted to promoting the thinking of Cal Thomas, Charles Krauthammer, and their right-wing ilk. So it was predictable that our own daily paper, the Star-Advertiser, would all but ignore Sanders in reporting the Democratic debate.

Sanders did well, but today’s news coverage was pre-ordained: It would be all about Clinton, of course.

ClintonAnd so it was. The story reporting the debate on page A3 of the January 18 print edition was about Clinton: Clinton’s strategy, the threat Sanders poses to Clinton, and so on.

At least the story mentions Sanders, though it is not about  him.

Our local paper is not alone in ignoring Sanders. Trump seems to get his share of stories and then some, even when Sanders leads Trump in polls:

media blackout


Speaking of Trump, we don’t often get any real analysis of how these candidates are doing in the eyes of voters, much less where they stand on issues that are important to us. Nate Silver posted this analysis of the Republican candidates’ perception in the eyes of the public that shows that Trump is the least popular, taking into account not just those who like him but also those who dislike him (data: Huffington Post via FiveThirtyEight).

538Trump is such a great gift to newspapers that I don’t blame them for covering him. Also, he represents a break from the other Republican candidates who currently hold elected office and so are beholden to their corporate sponsors. In that, he is like… Bernie Sanders.

538

 

Sanders just doesn’t fit the ideology that drives a newspaper whose constituents (advertisers) are so heavily biased towards development and retail. Yes, we pay subscription fees, but we don’t get to vote on coverage or content.

To these editors, democratic socialism represents a threat, something that will spoil their party.

As long as today is Martin Luther King Day, let’s close with one more quote:

In 1966, King told staff at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that “there must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism. Call it what you may, call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children.”

[The Intercept, Unofficial Sources, Martin Luther King Jr. Celebrations Overlook His Critiques of Capitalism and Militarism, 1/18/2016]

Do you think that our newspaper would go beyond the “dream” to bring you this aspect of King’s advocacy? Of course not.



Friday, January 15, 2016

 

After deadline helicopter crash off Oahu covered by Twitter


by Larry Geller

helicopter 1helicopter 2


Stuff happens overnight. Since the daily paper has already been printed, the news that two Marine helicopters have crashed and burned off Oahu won’t appear until the next day—by which time it is already old news.

Twitter is on it, of course. For those who are still Twitter holdouts, this is but one reason to take the plunge: you can get news, if you care to read it, almost as-it-happens.



Friday, January 08, 2016

 

Our monopoly newspaper doesn’t cover protests, isolating Hawaii from the real news in this country


by Larry Geller

Our daily newspaper, through its selective reporting, is turning Honolulu into an island, isolated from events on the Mainland.

Today, protests against Obama’s immigration policy are spreading nationwide. We who pay for our subscriptions deserve unbiased coverage of the news, which it seems we are not getting. They don’t cover peaceful protests.

Bias in reporting?

Nevermind printing op-eds that somehow fail to mention Bernie Sanders as a possibility for president despite his outstanding position in the polls (check out today’s paper for an example of that). Being fair to Sanders (and to readers, I must add) seems counter to their ideology. I am thinking more of the national news we don’t get.

Reading the paper, who would know that since Ferguson there have been protests rolling across the country that amount to the largest civil rights demonstrations since the 1960s? When an incident of police shooting takes place, they may cover it, but omitting the spreading national reaction against police shooting black men and women and escaping prosecution for their crimes might be said to be a type of crime against journalism.

Currently there is ongoing national reaction to Obama’s raids and deportation of asylum seekers fleeing violence in Central America. See the snip below.

Are these raids taking place in Hawaii? If the news media ignore this news, how can we know if they are taking place right here in Hawaii? How can we participate in the national political debate if we are uninformed?

Check out the number of protests reported in this morning’s headlines on Democracy Now:

National Resistance Grows to ICE Raids Against Central Americans

Across the nation, resistance is growing to the Obama administration’s new wave of raids targeting Central American families who came to the United States seeking asylum after fleeing violence in their home countries. This week, protests have been held in Newark, New Jersey; New Haven, Connecticut; Boston, Massachusetts; Homestead, Florida; Auburn, Oregon; San Francisco, California; and outside the White House in Washington, D.C. Protests are also planned for New York City today. The newly elected mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, has signed an executive order saying Philadelphia will no longer participate in a controversial Immigration and Customs Enforcement program in which local law enforcement share data with immigration agents. Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has called on the Obama administration to end the raids immediately and to extend temporary protected status to all families who have fled violence in Central America. Today, The New York Times editorial board published a strong condemnation of the raids, calling them "shameful" and writing: "A new year has dawned upon an appalling campaign of home raids by the Department of Homeland Security to find and deport hundreds of would-be refugees back to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. ... It’s no wonder that Donald Trump is applauding the policy, and taking credit for it." We’ll go to Texas for more on the deportation raids later in the broadcast.

[Democracy Now, headlines, 1/8/2015]

If you’re on Twitter, you can get news in just a few minutes that will never appear in the paper. At the same time you won’t find many people tweeting about the latest luxury condos going up in Kakaako.

Why does the paper promote these developments on its news pages? It should be obvious: the luxury developments bring full-page and multi-page ads.

Why doesn’t the paper report on protests, or follow up to see what’s related in Hawaii? Protests don’t bring ads, and I think it’s very fair to raise questions of bias in news coverage as well.



Monday, January 04, 2016

 

Tourists cited again for being on Waikiki beach at night? A Tale of Two (other) Cities


by Larry Geller

Ian Lind received an email from a Canadian tourist couple reporting that they had been cited for being on the beach at night (when it is closed) in the middle of December. See: Visitors still being arrested for enjoying moonlight on Waikiki Beach (ilind.net, 1/2/2014). The citing of tourists first hit the news around last May. Reportedly, fully seven percent of citations issued up to the time of the report were issued to tourists.

Visitors are thrust into a bad situation if they are cited and have to return home, because missing a court date has consequences—certainly if they ever return to Hawaii, but maybe worse than that.

Now, should police give tourists a pass on obeying the law? Probably not. It is the law that is the problem, IMHO, and it should be fixed.

A Tale of Two (other) Cities

City 1: on Victoria Island, BC

Back in the 1990’s we visited Victoria Island, British Columbia. It is an incredibly beautiful place. We parked at a meter to visit a well-known shop, but got distracted and didn’t pay attention to the time. When I realized the meter had expired, I actually ran the few blocks to where the car was parked, only to find a policeman still there and the dreaded white slip of paper under the windshield wiper of our rental car.

I began to apologize profusely for being late. He interrupted by taking the paper from the windshield and handing it to me—I can’t remember the wording, but it was basically a note saying that they take these regulations seriously in British Columbia and also respect that tourists may not be familiar with them, so please do not do this again. That wasn’t the wording, but it was very polite, respectful, and more than fair. The police officer explained that next time I wouldn’t necessarily get a similar warning, but he was so polite about it that we were impressed.

City 2: Asheville, NC

My wife, visiting family in Asheville, had parked at a meter without feeding it and hung up her handicapped placard the way it’s done in Honolulu. Unfortunately, as it turned out, Asheville does not provide free street parking at metered locations.

Instead of a ticket, she later found a polite official note explaining the regulations on the windshield.

Where is our “aloha spirit”?

Perhaps it’s time to put our city and state leaders on the psychiatrists couch. What happened to their basic sense of decency and empathy?

Maybe they don’t care because tourists are apparently arriving in record numbers. Who cares about a few who run into trouble.

That would be part of a pattern. Perhaps they don’t care about homeless or low-income people because their campaign war chests have been filled to the brim by developers who prefer building lucrative luxury housing to providing low-income rentals. But last I noticed, our elected leaders still appeared to walk like human beings even if they no longer talk that way.

The trouble is, tourism is volatile. Bad press can likely cause problems down the line. Just as tourists queue up in large numbers for the fried green tomatoes at the KCC Farmers Market each and every Saturday (shameless plug), because, of course, they have read about it in the Japanese tourist magazines back home, a series of negative articles could also spread like dengue fever if repeated in their magazines.

So citing tourists for being on the beaches could contribute to trouble down the line. The problem should be fixed.

Notice that I am not appealing to their better nature, to their sense of empathy for people put in a very difficult situation. That’s because they may not have a better nature, sad to say, than has been recently displayed. So it’s necessary to make an economic argument, even if it is a little weak.



 

Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: Comments to Paris Atrocities Editorial – A Reply


 

Comments to Paris Atrocities Editorial – A Reply

4 January 2016

galtung_sideViolence In and By Paris: Any Way Out? TMS Editorial 23 Nov 2015

Time has passed since the November 13 atrocities against a city we all love. Was I “wrong to attack and criticize President Hollande for defending France and the free world (Ada Aharoni)”? Yes, I criticized the war declaration on IS, saw it in the light of French culture and belligerence; and as far from an adequate response to the atrocities. It was never clear that IS was the perpetrator, and military experts say that ground war, not only bombing, is indispensable. The wrong approach in the wrong direction.

In this, there is no defense of the atrocity, of the actors, of IS.  Some people believe that if one criticizes one party in a conflict then one favors the other.   I am against the violence of both, searching for ways out.

Where I was wrong was to read too much into Tony Blair’s Iraq apology. There were three countries behind Sykes-Picot-Czar in 1916; they have run full circle, all three are bombing–Russia, like the Czar, less clear.

Paris must be understood in its own right, as also the Islamic State.  IS is many different things to many people.  Brutality to some.  Undoing Sykes-Picot in Iraq-Syria to others.  The West picks up on that. To others, IS as a unified Islamic State undoing Western colonial fragmentation. And a caliphate to still others.  However, the EU is unified Christian, now more secular; the Vatican is a Catholic community.  Hence hard to argue against.

I grew up in Norway, forced into Christianity, dedicated to Western colonialism to spread Christianity, and fought both. Against the same from Islam, I favor using the military to defend the many exposed to IS brutality.  But not to kill and escalate by using their approach. And in favor of negotiation based on understanding both.

_________________________________

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


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

Friday, January 01, 2016

 

New Year’s resolution: to read more Kafka, or just go to the beach?


by Larry Geller

Who am I kidding? It’s 2016. I have read no Kafka in a long time and I’m not likely to read any more no matter how firmly I resolve.

Nein

(from Nein. A Manifesto by Eric Jarosinski)

I read some Kafka in high school, resolved to study him in college but didn’t, then figured I’d have time after moving on to industry and settling down.

I found my place in industry, but that left no time for Kafka.

So I thought I’d have some time to catch up on the beach in Hawaii.

That didn’t work.

Another thing I’ve given up on is getting a better understanding of bicomplex holomorphic functions.

Even while studying that stuff in college I knew that I would never use it. Ever. Not even once, in later life. Heck, I haven’t much use for the eleven times table, much less for holomorphic functions, bicomplex or not.

I’ve learned that most likely Hawaii isn’t a place where people read Kafka on the beach. Sure, one could, but it probably doesn’t happen much.

This place sorts people out.

And that has consequences. The sort of people who read much Kafka are likely to stay in Berkeley, or can be found in cold places where one can cozy up to the fireplace with a copy of Die Verwandlung ("The Metamorphosis") in the original German. For studying Kafka, there are places better suited to it than here. Nor does studying Kafka lead to a job capable of paying the high cost of living here.

Our young college graduates will need to leave Hawaii to continue their studies or to find work, because there is no place here for our top engineering graduates (as an example) to fit in. Opportunities are much better elsewhere. And it’s too bad, but it’s true.

But I was warned about that before we moved here. Why Hawaii??

If I wanted to continue my career as an executive with GE, it would be a dead end. One could have career advancement or surf, but not both.

There is life after GE in fact. But it’s very different. I did not find the people around me that I was used to. Competent business leaders, crack programmers, planning specialists, strategic planners.

But who cares. I can say that now. This is not Silicon Valley nor Wall Street nor Redmond, Washington. It is what it is, and it is a great place to live, even if family on the mainland believe we’re wasting away our life on the beach. People do live and work here, it’s not just for tourists.

Unfortunately, this means that we’re a bit short of competent business leaders, crack programmers, planning specialists or strategic planners. They mostly have better sense than to come to Hawaii.

And it shows, in newspaper articles documenting cost overruns, incompetent government planning, and absurd IT failures.

So for 2016, perhaps a good New Year’s resolution for me would go something like this: eat more sashimi, get to the beach, and also try and keep Hawaii Hawaii. Be useful. Write some letters to the editor (see today’s paper: I’m actually carrying out my resolution!) and do what I feel needs doing.

So stay tuned.



Wednesday, December 30, 2015

 

(sigh) $155 Million KOLEA project does not achieve all ACA goals–another great Hawaii tech product


by Larry Geller

A snip from a state auditor’s report posted just today:

We found the department did not properly plan for or implement KOLEA.  As a result, the department has been unable to achieve the ACA [Affordable Care Act]’s goals of creating a simple, real-time eligibility and enrollment process that uses electronic data to ease the paperwork burden on applicants and state agencies while expediting an eligibility determination.

[audit report, KOKEA System Report No. 15-20, December 2015]

It seems our Department of Human Services just doesn’t understand. Another snip from the Auditor’s short summary:

The department, which requested this audit, appreciated most of our recommendations but disagreed with our two primary findings.  Although it claimed our main findings are “incorrect,” we note that the department agreed with all but one of our recommendations.  Pursuant to our professional standards, audit recommendations flow logically from findings and conclusions and are directed at resolving the cause of identified deficiencies and findings.

I find it amazing that Hawaii continues to spend on space programs etc. when we haven’t even learned to code properly.

Instead of an audit finding that so much taxpayer money is being poorly spent or misspent, why not have a “chief technologist” or staff that reviews these things before they get started. Given an appropriate project plan, the bits and bytes fall into place. If the project is wrong or incomplete at the beginning, the chances that it will be correct at the end are poor. It’s called “garbage in, garbage out.”

The time to have fixed this—and other typical IT failures—is before a contract is let, before a line  of code is written,

Poor implementation has consequences. The auditor summarizes them:

… the $155 million IT eligibility and enrollment system neither incorporates all ACA requirements nor meets the Med-QUEST Division’s business needs. For example, KOLEA does not perform electronic data matching to verify applicant’s income. In addition, staff report that KOLEA is difficult to use and is error prone. The end result is that the State could be paying benefits for people who are not eligible for them or improperly denying coverage to those who are eligible.

This project, anyway, is not, like some others, useless, and perhaps it will work out in the end. So of course we’ll have to throw still more money at it to get there, won’t we?



Monday, December 21, 2015

 

We could use some quality reporting in our daily newspaper


by Larry Geller

Compare Ian Lind’s coverage of the bankruptcy of Hoana Medical in Investors’ claim triggered Hoana Medical bankruptcy with the light and single-sourced coverage of the same story in the Star-Advertiser. If you still have the December 12 issue or on-line access, it’s Hoana Medical looks to future even as it files for bankruptcy.

Ian not only gave background on the firm’s product and founding, but he consulted the bankruptcy filing itself to learn what deep doo-doo the company is facing. To read the numbers he posted is to understand what is happening. Kristen Consillio, on the other hand, basically acted as stenographer for Hoana Medical’s president and chief operating officer, quoting him at length but giving no depth at all to the bankruptcy filing itself or the true situation of the company that the numbers reveal.

What did the Star-Advertiser miss? The entire story, really. Here is a tiny snip from Ian Lind’s article:

The bankruptcy filing was done in order to block two investors from collecting an arbitration award, according to court records. Attorneys representing the investors were due in state court to confirm the arbitration award on December 9. Hoana filed for bankruptcy on December 8.

The article that Ian posted is something I would expect from journalists on the single daily paper we have left in Honolulu. Check out both articles and see if you agree.

I feel informed on the subject after reading the blog post, not at all by the newspaper article.

Search for coverage of the country’s largest and most prolonged civil rights movement since the 1960’s in the pages of the Star-Advertiser. You won’t find it. When there was a major protest or violence, there may have been a single story, but nothing about the almost nightly protests since about last August that have stopped traffic on major thoroughfares around the country. You would not understand the changes in this country’s police practices that are being demanded by increasing numbers of people.

As I write this, a Guardian article came chirping into my smartphone to report that there will be no indictment in the case of Sandra Bland’s death in a Texas jail last summer. Can you put that name in context from what you know from reading our daily paper? Do you know how much publicity this case has drawn across the nation? And would you recognize the other names associated with the #BlackLivesMatter campaign?

Puzzle over how come the ACLU could so quickly obtain a TRO against the City and County of Honolulu destroying ID, medicines, money and other personal possessions of homeless people. In fact, the City’s illegal acts, repeated hundreds if not thousands of times in their day and night raids on homeless encampments, had been going on for years. Yet all the newspaper gave you was demands for more sweeps: how necessary they are and how they are affecting business and tourism. Nevermind that tourism is setting new records despite co-existing with homeless people in Waikiki.

Yes, the sidewalks should be clear, but no, violating people’s civil rights is not the way to do it.

Nor has the paper reported on a housing crisis that has been running in the state at least since about 2003. Affordable housing will not produce the ad revenue—the numerous full-page ads—that the luxury condos bring the paper, so I guess it’s development is just not newsworthy. But the chronic and critical lack of affordable housing is one of the principal drivers for homelessness. Did you know, from reading the paper, that homelessness had been increasing in Hawaii even as it decreases as a national average? This is not recent news.

Wonder what exactly “Housing First” is. The paper, despite its belated research on the subject, seems to believe it is mainly putting people in housing while allowing them to do drugs and drink. The paper wouldn’t even print the term “Housing First” until they were basically forced to when belatedly comparing Honolulu’s feeble housing effort to the success stories in other municipalities, And the reporter assigned to its “homelessness beat” seems obsessed with dropping the name of State Representative Tom Brower whenever he can. That is filler, it is not news. And I’m trying to be kind.

Learn in detail what the controversy over the City’s choice of LED streetlights is really about from Civil Beat’s coumnist Curt Sanborn in his article, Missing the Curve on Highway Lighting. Yes, a web page has relatively unlimited space to explain. But the Star-Advertiser has a web page, and it also is willing to fill space in the print version with meaningless and unhelpful graphics instead of text that could be used for more detailed stories.

Wish that Civil Beat publisher Pierre Omidyar would buy the newspaper and bring the same values and value to our subscriptions to the Star-Advertiser that we get from his investment in Civil Beat.

Oh, Ian Lind’s investigative reporting and commentary can also be found on Civil Beat. I have no idea if the newspaper would even want him.



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