Monday, January 09, 2017

 

Hawaii: the state chronically unable to plan



[Sen. Jill] Tokuda said she was “curious” how the administration went about drawing up the budget. She described it as “very odd” that there were a number of what she called requests for “arbitrary” lump sums of $10 million — one for the Department of Education, for example, and another for the University of Hawaii.

“That does not reflect prudence,” said Tokuda. “That reflects padding.”—Civil Beat, Legislature’s Financial Leaders To Ige: Give Us A ‘Real Budget’, 1/5/2017


We currently import 90% of our food.  The governor is pushing his plan to double food production back another ten years, from 2020 till 2030.  He’s failed so far.  He will fail again.  We are headed in the wrong direction.  The Ho’opili farmland right now produces 32% of the crops grown on O’ahu for the local market.  Koa Ridge produces 13%.  Together they produce 45%, almost half of what the island produces for local markets.—
press release, Dr. Kioni Dudley, 1/9/2007


by Larry Geller

What do these two pull-quotes have in common? What am I trying to illustrate here? What they suggest is that Hawaii’s government proceeds unencumbered with the need to plan.

Ag department illustrates its total failure to plan

This is a great example several different ways.

Ag

The front page of yesterday’s Star-Advertiser illustrates a shameful failure to plan in a government department.

It’s up to the departmental directors to defend their funding requests, and Enright also came under fire over Ige’s campaign pledge of doubling local food production by 2020.

The Ige administration said earlier this year that the goal had been changed to 2030, but has recently backtracked on that, saying that it is and always has been 2020.

“Does the governor known that 2020 is three years from now?” Luke asked.

“I believe, yes,” Enright responded.

Luke said it didn’t really matter whether the goal was 2020 or 2030 because it was a “fake goal” anyway.

Goals are not achieved without a plan. This escapes our leaders. No plan, no doubling of food production.

Also from the article:

The state department in charge of managing Hawaii’s agricultural resources has been operating for years with one-third of its staff positions left vacant, prompting House Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke to threaten to eliminate the positions altogether.

“I don’t know what the problem is, but I don’t know how a department can function with one-third of its positions vacant,” Luke told Department of Agriculture Director Scott Enright during a budget briefing Friday at the state Capitol. “So I’m just thinking that you don’t need the positions.”

Really? What kind of plan is that? The department is unable to meet its obligations because about one-third of its positions are vacant, so a legislator suggests making that inability permanent??

What about legislators asking for real plans. Plans to overcome the employment issue or plans to meet the Governor’s goals. Don’t spend money until you see the ink on a plan. Plans identify goals but present budgets, timelines, personnel assignments, discuss barriers and outline how to overcome the barriers. They are typically not simple. They are never bullet points on a PowerPoint presentation.

Sen. Jill Tokuda noticed the multiple requests for $10 million in the governor’s budget proposal. Not $8.67 million or some other “real” number emerging as the result of a planning process, but rather a number seemingly picked from a hat.

This is normal for both our city and state.

I was amazed to sit in the peanut gallery at a state legislature committee hearing on the subject of dangerous intersections that were the cause of pedestrian deaths and hear a defensive Department of Transportation representative ask for $1 million dollars to hire a consultant for a study that would delay action until 2010.

No plan was in place despite long-standing public criticism of DOT inaction in the face of documented unsafe conditions. No plan justified the apportionment of $1 million. (See: Makaha death underlines failure of police, Dept. of Transportation, to protect citizens, 2/28/2007.)

It’s 2017, ten years later, and killer crosswalks still plague Honolulu. No action—because there is no plan.

Sometimes not having a plan might amount to willful neglect. Surely transportation planners knew they would have to deal with undergrounding high-voltage power lines along Honolulu’s rail route, and that it would be expensive.  I posted a picture of those power lines in 2008.

Dillingham[3]_thumb[2]


 

 

Anyone driving along the rail route would see the problem. Yet the “plan” omitted the issue of undergrounding and its costs to resolve. Great planning, folks! (See: Dillingham power lines are and were a known obstacle that Rail would have to deal with, 11/16/2005 and this article.)

Often what government agencies call a “plan” is merely a goal. Bullet points on a PowerPoint presentation do not constitute a “plan.”

Surprisingly, our media buy into this. Is there a plan to be agriculturally self-sufficient, or merely a goal? If there is a plan, how does it account for the point raised by Dr. Dudley, that almost half of Honolulu’s farming capacity will be lost to make way for housing?

I would love to see such a plan if it exists.

Next, where is the plan for 20,000, 27,000, 60,000, 67,000, whatever the number du jour is for the needed affordable housing units to meet Honolulu’s needs and reduce or eliminate homelessness? There is no plan that I have seen.

To enlarge on this: the media talk about “Transit Oriented Development” as a way to provide affordable housing. There is no plan for that either. So I prefer to call it “Developer Oriented Transit.” Developers will propose ways to get out of any requirements for affordable units along the route and their proposals will be accepted.

Some plan. Supporters of TOD are suckers if they accept fairy tales in lieu of solid, credible plans.

One last thought: learning to plan is a skill that would help cut through much of the crap that costs taxpayers money. A plan can be reviewed, costed out, and criticized. The cost can be weighed against the expected benefits. This is not rocket science.

 






 

Should we identify ALEC members in Hawaii on a map?


by Larry Geller

A controversy has erupted over the publication by Republican state representative Gene Ward in his newsletter of a map pinpointing the locations of homeless people residing in his district.

On the map are descriptions of characteristics or alleged characteristics of these, his constituents, that you would not expect from the state legislator who is supposed to represent their interests. For example, from a Star-Advertiser report:

The map describes a man at China Walls as a meth addict “Whose Mother Has Restraining Order Against Him” and, at Hawaii Kai Towne Center, a “Mentally Ill Homeless Man (who) Frequently Screams at People.”

The posting on his website and inclusion of the map in his newsletter has raised controversy over whether his action, as a state legislator, is constitutional, and whether he is stigmatizing those living with mental health or addition issues. See Civil Beat articles here and here. I would like to add that he has not mapped those in his district who might be meth addicts living under a roof and who may possibly drive while impaired, which would seem to be a far greater danger to the public.

Certainly, publication of the map does not contribute to resolving the problem of homelessness nor the related issue of unaffordable rentals in Honolulu. Instead it may expose those he has identified to vigilante actions or other danger.

But there is a greater danger lurking in Hawaii Kai which suggests drawing another map, if making maps is a useful endeavor. I am thinking that it would be useful for the public, and specifically members of the Hawaii Kai community, to know exactly where threats to their democracy lurk. Yes, there are reasons to be concerned.

Fortunately, the information I sought was easily obtained. All that remains is to make the map and reveal the location of this potential threat.

I am referring to members of ALEC (the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council). Or rather, the member, the only member in Hawaii, who happens to also live in Rep. Ward’s district.

Through the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, global corporations and state politicians vote behind closed doors to try to rewrite state laws that govern your rights. These so-called "model bills" reach into almost every area of American life and often directly benefit huge corporations.

[ALEC Exposed wiki]

When state legislators across the nation introduce similar or identical bills designed to boost corporate power and profits, reduce workers rights, limit corporate accountability for pollution, or restrict voting, odds are good that the legislation was not written by a state lawmaker but by corporate lobbyists working through the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a one-stop shop for corporations looking to identify friendly state legislators and work with them to get special-interest legislation introduced. It’s a win-win for corporations, their lobbyists, and right-wing legislators. But the big losers are citizens whose rights and interests are sold off to the highest bidder.

[Right Wing Watch, ALEC: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests in State Legislatures]

ALEC members are strong supporters of the Second Amendment and were held responsible for the spread of  "Stand-your-ground" gun laws in many states after the shooting of Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012. Who knows whether individual ALEC members, in Hawaii or elsewhere, may own or carry firearms.

Would not publishing a map of their location inform the public of potential danger?

I suggest that we need to be vigilant when there is good cause, and so the publication of a map showing where ALEC members are lurking in Hawaii would seem to be far more useful to the public than diagramming where people who have fallen on hard times are spending their time.



Wednesday, January 04, 2017

 

If we wait for Hawaii to fix its housing crisis, Waikiki will freeze over first



Most discussions of housing policy operate on the assumption that, whether or not it has been successful, the state has tried to solve the housing question. That is, many accounts of housing politics are premised on the myth of the benevolent state. In brief, the myth is that government acts out of a primary concern for the welfare of all its citizens and that its policies represent an effort to find solutions to recognized social problems. If government efforts fall short of success, according to this narrative, it is only because of lack of knowledge, countervailing selfish interests, incompetence, or lack of courage.—
In Defense of Housing: The Politic of Crisis by David Madden and Peter Marcuse [Verso, see Amazon link]


by Larry Geller

Hawaii Governor David Ige has stopped renewing his emergency declaration on homelessness. It makes no difference. It made no difference. Hawaii, and the City and County of Honolulu, are no closer to building or developing the needed affordable housing units than they were before Ige’s action.

But what did we expect? As the pull-quote suggests, the interests of those in need of housing in the state are not what motivates government to provide it.

Madden and Marcuse go on in their chapter The Myths of Housing Policy:

The actual motivations for state action in the housing sector have more to do with maintaining the political and economic order than with solving the housing crisis. If the state were truly concerned with the best course of action to meet society’s dwelling needs and end residential oppression, housing history would look very different than it does.

Housing is not just about eliminating homelessness, which would make politicians, the tourist industry and our newspaper editors a bit happier. Housing is needed for everyone. Rents are out of sight and climbing. Young graduates find they have to leave the state to survive and prosper—and this is a society that values close family relationships.

Each year the numbers of homeless and near-homeless increase because there is simply no affordable shelter available.

Bottom line on this self-evident conclusion: the housing shortage has continued for more than a decade and is only getting worse. “If the state were truly concerned with the best course of action to meet society’s dwelling needs” something would have been done long ago. “Housing history would look very different than it does.”

So we cannot leave it to the governor to create yet more task forces or to the Honolulu city government which is beholden to development interests (that is, development for the rich and ultra-rich) for a solution.

One last quote from this book:

Historically, the state has used the housing system to preserve political stability and support the accumulation of private profit.

This is where we’re at, folks. It will be up to the people to push for affordable housing in Hawaii—we’re not going to get it as a gift.



Monday, January 02, 2017

 

2017: Honolulu’s affordable housing effort is nothing to sing about


by Larry Geller

New York City has a huge affordable housing problem, which leads in turn to a huge homelessness problem. Like Hawaii, NYC’s numbers have increased each year.

Unlike Hawaii, where the governor has given up his homelessness task force without any promising plan for affordable housing as a result of its “efforts,” New York City is pushing ahead and may, in time, reverse the trend.

One thing it has going for it that Honolulu and the state of Hawaii could use is the ability to control rent increases. While our newspaper looks only at street clearing and the inconvenience caused by those homeless people living visibly in open view, the rising cost of rental apartments and homes assures that homelessness will continue as more and more people are unable to make their rent payments.

NYC Mayor Bill deBlasio’s office tweeted a cute song touting their accomplishments. Here are two slides snipped from their tweet:

tweet1

nyctweet2



Yes, new and preserved affordable housing is crucial to reversing the growth in homelessness—and also in reversing the trend of our young people fleeing the state because they can’t afford to live here.

We could also use laws enabling counties to enact rent freezes. No, I don’t expect that can happen any time soon. But at some point, should we not reverse our numbers, it may come to appear to be a very reasonable and necessary arrow in our quiver.

Isn’t it about time that both the Governor and Honolulu’s Mayor put together some concrete, measurable plans to preserve and create affordable housing here in the quantity needed?



Sunday, January 01, 2017

 

2017: Honolulu still has no plan for needed affordable housing while rail could increase rents and traffic



“Displacement [caused by transit improvement] is a real concern,” said Thomas K. Wright, the president of the Regional Plan Association, an urban policy group. “When you increase the values in areas like this, you need to do things to protect affordable housing and retail.
—New York Times: Second Avenue Subway’s Arrival Brings Fear That Rents Will Soar


by Larry Geller

It’s always sad when a popular restaurant or a generations-old family shop closes due to untenable rent increases. Landlords are not known for their consideration of community or historical values. To me, it’s doubly sad to watch the premises remain vacant for months or sometimes years because no one is willing to pay the new rent demands.

As to apartment or home rentals, can rents in Honolulu increase any more?? Yes they can. All it would take would be completion of the oft-delayed and massively overbudget rail line. It’s not just common sense but the demonstrated effects of this aspect of gentrification on communities everywhere.

subway comesA story on the front page of today’s New York Times illustrates how this works:

The new Second Avenue subway will provide badly needed relief to one of New York’s most congested transit corridors and is expected to be a boon to the local economy, making restaurants and stores suddenly easier to reach. But even as the city celebrates a line many doubted would ever open, its arrival has prompted fears that rising rents could force out longtime residents and shops — the kind of displacement that has swept through many other parts of an increasingly affluent New York and deepened its inequality.

People living near three new stations at 72nd, 86th and 96th Streets could face rent increases as high as $462 per month, according to a report by StreetEasy, a real estate website. Sleek high-rises are already popping up above the walk-up apartment buildings that have served as first homes for many New Yorkers.

[New York Times, Second Avenue Subway’s Arrival Brings Fear That Rents Will Soar, 1/1/2017]

Honolulu can be no exception to this rule. Already “sleek high-rises” are popping up, particularly in Kakaako, an area that by any logic should have been developed to include mostly workforce housing but instead will leverage the planned rail stops to install luxury and ultra-luxury housing in the city center.

The New York Times article supports fears that rail in Honolulu will drive up home values and hence rents. Why expect that we will be any different than the areas mentioned:

Across the United States, good transit access often leads to higher real estate prices, with home values near rapid transit in Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Phoenix and San Francisco far outpacing other properties during the last recession, according to a report by the American Public Transportation Association.

Keep in mind that as we enter 2017, Governor Ige’s emergency declaration of emergency over homelessness has been allowed to lapse without the creation of any plan for the needed 20,000, 22,000, 60,000 or 64,000 new housing units (depending on the time span and which news article you are reading). Indeed, while Mayor Caldwell’s 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. sidewalk sweeps continue in all their cruelty, and the count of street dwellers increases annually, there is no plan that will provide the needed housing.

Instead there is a hope or belief, shared by organizations such as FACE (Faith Action for Community Equity) that the rail line will bring affordable housing to Honolulu. I mention this organization mainly to illustrate that this claim for rail transit may be based more on “faith” than on “logic.”  Experience tells us that rents will increase. Housing will become more unaffordable, not less. Nor is there protection here similar to New York’s rent control and rent stabilization laws.

Affordable housing in large numbers of units is needed not just to clear Honolulu’s sidewalks, which has been the almost universal cry in the press and the only policy objective of city government. Affordable housing is needed by residents who are sheltered but just barely—either sharing rooms or living at risk of eviction if they become sick and can’t make the rent next month.

As the rail line moves towards completion the risk of rent increases only further endangers those who can barely make the rent today.

In the absence of any plan for affordable housing it is predictable that the crisis will worsen.

Add to this the loss of Honolulu’s best agricultural land to housing development. Nor are we planning for the traffic impacts of this central Oahu building boom. As rail brings further development the number of vehicles—cars and trucks both—on the roads increases, not decreases. Claims that those commuting to town by rail will reduce traffic are likely false. Rail does not decrease the number of cars on the roads simply because other cars will immediately take over the downtown parking spaces vacated by the new straphangers.

So prospects for 2017 are that housing will continue to be increasingly unaffordable, traffic will continue to increase, and agricultural sustainability will continue to be a receding goal.

There’s also a new unknown that could impact housing in Honolulu as well as the rest of Hawaii: moves by the Republican administration in Washington to cut benefits or programs for the elderly, disabled and those needing food assistance would literally pull money out of people’s wallets. There will be even greater pressure for lower-cost housing, which is not now and won’t be available any time soon.

What to do? Deal with it. Let the people plan their own urban environment including housing, agriculture and transit. The politicians, many firmly in the pocket of rail and development interests, have failed us.

There is a methodology that can be used called “charettes” in which citizens meet in workshops with the option of consulting experts—architects and engineers—and come up with their own plans. Yes, the methodology can be “hijacked” by pre-determining the outcome and only superficially involving the public, and that’s usually what happens here when the residents of an area (such as Chinatown) are gathered and “involved” in city planning. All that I’ve been to have been a farce, though I have also missed some others that may have been better.

The University of Hawaii has a very capable urban planning department. Instead of listening to city government we could benefit by looking to UH for guidance. If you are curious about that might work check out these programs on `Olelo that demonstrate both that they can provide the resources we need and that ordinary citizens are interested in learning and using those resources.

“Planning to the people,” I say. And hurry up, please.



Friday, December 30, 2016

 

As 2016 draws to a close Hawaii has done absolutely nothing to end human trafficking in its fishing fleet



Honolulu’s port continues to rank among the highest by value in the country, with $100 million of fish landed — predominantly pelagic fish such as tunas and billfish. … “We are at the beginning of a new era, one that promises to be interesting as our country adjusts to new policies and perspectives,” [Wespac Executive Director Kitty] Simonds wrote in the newsletter. “Change is as inevitable as night and day. Our region’s fisheries and the Council need to be prepared to meet these challenges and opportunities.”—
quoted in Civil Beat: Year Of The Tuna: A Quota Showdown Looms In 2017


by Larry Geller

One challenge the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council probably did not work to resolve during its annual meeting in Fiji is the ongoing problem of abuse and slave-labor conditions in the Hawaii long lines fishing fleet.

So as you enjoy your New Year’s ahi, please do not forget that part of our fish is still being caught by foreign fisherman some of whom are working in abominable conditions. 75% of workers in Hawaii’s long lines industry are said to be foreign fisherman who are not allowed to even set foot in Hawaii because they are in a technical state of deportation as they fish.

As 2016 draws to a close, althougth the Hawaii State Government is responsible for licensing these fishermen, it has done absolutely nothing to end human trafficking and abuse in what is described as the highest value fishery in the country.

Surely the ship owners can afford to treat the fisherman fairly while still making their humongous profit.



Thursday, December 29, 2016

 

Hawaii state government spends $72,600 to monitor social media only to get cut off



Social media monitoring allows police to constantly target, track, and archive information posted on social media from millions of people. It can be used by law enforcement to monitor and log posts on popular sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, regarding everything from protests to potential threats.—
pastemagazine.com



by Larry Geller

The Brennan Center for Justice queried law enforcement agencies across the country to see which were monitoring social media. Their research turned up purchases in the state of Hawaii (see documents below).

Snaptrends software was purchased in May of 2014 and yearly licenses renewed in two subsequent years. Each purchase was for $24,200 and covered seven licenses.

SnaptrendsAfter a firestorm of protest erupted when news that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram supplied data feeds to companies including Snaptrends, the social media companies cut off the APIs to these companies, denying them access to the data. A report, which has been disputed elsewhere, indicates that Snaptrends has now gone out of business.

The purchases were made for use at Hawaii’s Fusion Center, which shares information between the federal, state and county law enforcement organizations in Hawaii (see these Disappeared News articles on fusion centers and Hawaii’s fusion center). Presumably they were able to use the Snaptrends software from May 2014 until it was (reportedly) cut off sometime this October.

Police departments nationally have used this and similar software to monitor hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter, #DontShoot, #ImUnarmed, #PoliceBrutality, and #ItsTimeforChange according to a report on the website pastemagazine.com. With the software police and other security agencies were (and probably still are) able to monitor, record and permanently log any social media traffic of interest.

Bottom line for Hawaii tweeters and Facebook users: the police are watching you. They are able to spend tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money (your money) to do this. And they are likely doing more than just watching—the software allows them to build a dossier on each of us, even though we have committed no crimes. By mapping the data, they will also know where you have been and whom you have met there.

The Brennan Center cautions that purchase of surveilance software does not prove it was used. In Hawaii’s case, they renewed through 2016 for seven licenses. If they did not use the software, then that is also a questionable use of taxpayer money. So it is safe to assume it was used and that data is on file for citizens not accused of any crime for a space of up to three years.

It’s clear that this power of surveilance has been misused nationally and will continue to be misused.

As any 15 year old knows, social media is also highly context-dependent. A journalist on the national security beat may follow a suspected terrorist for her reporting—but how will an automated software program, or an intelligence agency, know that the journalist doesn’t subscribe to the terrorist’s message? The situation is even more fraught for adolescents in areas with gangs, who might need to “like” a picture to keep themselves out of trouble with neighborhood gang members but simultaneously get into trouble with law enforcement; one teen spent nineteen months in Rikers Island for appearing in pictures with “crew” members and liking their Facebook posts.

[Brennan Center for Justice, Cops Are Watching Your Facebook Feed, 11/21/2016]

For those not familiar with Rikers Island, people can and are held there in abominable conditions awaiting charging or trial for long periods of time. So that the teenager spent nineteen months there does not imply he did anything illegal.

Below are the two procurment documents posted by the Brennan Center for the Hawaii purchase they uncovered.

Download State of Hawaii procurement document for surveilance software 1 of 2 from Disappeared News

Download State of Hawaii procurement document for surveillance software 2 of 2 from Disappeared News



 

Fake news: Hawaiian shores “full of rotting trash”


by Larry Geller

These days people believe fake news. In particular, when a mainstream news outlet such as the UK’s Daily Mail promulgates it, Twitter and other social media can transform it into a form of popular reality.

With this in mind I was skeptical immediately when a Google alert plunked this headline from today’s Daily Mail website into my inbox:

When 'paradise' goes to hell: Hawaiian shores full of rotting trash and a waste-swamped Indonesia... the planet's most polluted destinations revealed

Hey – I live here, in “paradise” so to speak, and the shores are not full of rotting trash or any of the other pollution sites that the article highlighted in numerous photographs.

These images serve as a chilling insight into the world's most wretched and disregarded dumping grounds.

They have a picture of Midway Island. That is not one of the “travel destinations that frequently sit at the top of bucket lists.”

I sent an email to the corrections editor. Let’s see if they have a map handy to check on exactly where Midway is, or if they’ll check to see if it’s on the bucket list of any of their staff.

As to the Midway picture itself, it’s a deception. The pile of rubbish shown is a pile that was collected. In other words, the heap resulted from a cleanup. That pile is not the same as the one of the severely polluted Ganges river or the other images they chose to post.

Shame, Daily Mail, for posting “fake news” that does nothing but pollute your own website.



Friday, December 23, 2016

 

Hawaii should require data for its Limited Purpose Driver’s Licenses be destroyed to prevent mass deportations here


by Larry Geller

Hawaii, the District of Columbia and approximately twelve other states issue drivers licenses or IDs  that may be obtained by undocumented immigrants and others who for one reason or another cannot obtain a regular license that conforms to federal requirements of the Real ID Act of 2005. These state’s laws provide an opportunity for those who do not qualify or do not want an official license or state ID to have some official identification.

Now, with the incoming Trump administration promising to effect mass deportations, these licenses have suddenly become a liability to their holders or applicants.

Hawaii can (and should) take steps to protect applicants by destroying the data related to those licenses. It was never the intention of our state legislature that these licenses would lead to deportation of many of the applicants.

New York City issues a limited-purpose ID called the IDNYC card or the Municipal ID. These cards are available to any New Yorker, regardless of immigration status. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has promised to protect the thousands of undocumented immigrants who have signed up for a IDNYC card by destroying the applications for the cards in addition to other information kept in the city’s database. Not surprisingly, NY Republicans have filed suit to prevent the city from doing that.

Hawaii passed a law (HB1007. 2015) that requires “Limited purpose driver’s licenses” to be issued starting January 1, 2016. The law specifies which documents may be used to apply and require that the information is to be kept confidential:

Documents and information collected pursuant to an
application for, denial of, or issuance of a limited purpose
driver's license, limited purpose provisional driver's license,
or limited purpose instruction permit shall be confidential and
shall not be disclosed by the examiner of drivers or the
department except as required by law.

It’s that last part, “shall not be disclosed by the examiner of drivers or the
department except as required by law,” that would permit Trump’s long federal arms to grab Hawaii’s information in order to compile his database of undocumented immigrants to deport.

Hawaii should follow New York’s example and amend the law this coming session, as soon as possible, to require that the information be instantly destroyed.  Alternatively, it may be easier to simply create rules mandating really short record retention.

It should be enough for law enforcement purposes to lump the limited licenses in with the regular license database. The renewal and reinstatement terms as well as the fees are the same as regular licenses and varies by age and issuing county.

The REAL ID Act of 2005, Pub.L. 109–13, does not prohibit the issuance of alternative licenses or identification. Hawaii and the other states passed implementing laws with only good intentions, and we should now take the extra step of protecting those intentions by making sure that there is no information that the federal government can grab that would harm those who have taken advantage of this law.



Wednesday, December 21, 2016

 

Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: Bravo Trump–No to CIA!!


 

Bravo Trump–No to CIA!!

19 December 2016

#459 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

galtung_sideA President-Elect of the USA saying he wants no more intelligence briefings is like–like what?  Hearing a priest about to be ordained saying he needs no more, not Bible readings, words from God?

Whatever this “intelligence” may be is it intelligent?

Information about the “capability, intention and circumstances” of foreign (CIA) and domestic (FBI) actors: nothing wrong about that. With a good balance between friendly and hostile intentions; 80-20? It sounds more like 1-99, though. Outer and inner worlds are scanned for threats of violence, not for opportunities of peace. The focus is on security, not building cooperation. That may be done by conventional diplomacy–where does Trump stand on that? The US “intelligence community”–19 big organizations–looms higher. To disregard threats damage a top politician more than to disregard opportunities.

The net result is institutionalized paranoia.  Trump might have compared the “intelligence” about Russia with his own impressions, and found it gravely wanting. Of course, they may both be wrong. Or right.

The reader will find ahead a table that has appeared in this column before: 15 conflict cases, with peaceful and violent ways of handling them.  In the comment the focus is on loving USA vs hatred.  Trump’s goal is Making America Great; not Big like a Big power, but as a Great Power; not “again” in the old way, but as his foreign policy ideas communicate, in totally new ways.

To be a Great Power is not the same as being a Big Bully.

So these fifteen ideas are offered again, this time more humbly, not critically.  Regrettably Russia is not even on this list.  Syria is, whether Putin and Trump end up with something similar or not.

IS came later; by this column seen IS as spiritual rather than military, focused on Mecca.  The advice has been meeting IS violence protectively with defensive defense and negotiation. A task for Trump?

CONSTRUCTIVE vs DESTRUCTIVE US FOREIGN POLICIES: 15 CASES

CONFLICTS CONSTRUCTIVE, POSITIVE DESTRUCTIVE, NEGATIVE
FINANCIAL F

REAL R

ECONOMY

CRISIS

Encourage local saving banks

Publish M2 Check Fed Reserve

Tax speculation Drop bonuses

Outlaw basic needs speculation

Democratic control of central banks, state or private

Mixed world currency

More F than Real growth

More money than value

Serving loans not people

Countries in debt bondage

Globalization through

privatized central banks

US$ world reserve currency

TERRORISM Identify their just goals

Publish Atta Who did 9/11?

Extra-judicial execution

SOCO-Drones Covert war

US-ISRAEL vs ARAB-MUSLIM

STATES

Palestine recognized; and

A two states solution; and

A Middle East Community MEC Israel and 5 Arab neighbors

1967 borders with revisions;

and Org for Sec Coop West Asia

Tail wagging dog:

Israel wagging USA;

AIPAC wagging Congress

Judeo-Christianity is

anti-islam. Danger:

Extreme US anti-semitism

LIBYA Self-determination for parts, Federalism with democracy Continued anarchy

Unitary state illusion

SYRIA Self-determination for parts,

Federalism with democracy

Attack; SCO response?

split Syria, rule parts

IRAQ Self-determination for parts,

(Con)federalism with democracy

Kurdish autonomous communities

Withdrawal only:

no rebuilding,

no compensation

IRAN Conciliation for 1953,

Middle East nuclear free zone

Cooperation on non-fossil energy

Attack, SCO response?

No Iran nuclear arms

Controlling Iran oil?

PAKISTAN Pashtun autonomy, drop Durand Self-determination in Kashmir

Indian-Pakistan-Kashmiri parts

Building a Durand fence

Extrajudicial execution

SOCO-Drones Covert war

AFGHANISTAN A Central Asian Community

Federation Local autonomies

OIC-UNSC joint peacekeeping

Nonaligned, no bases

Withdrawal only;

no rebuilding,

no compensation

keeping troops, bases

KOREA Peace Treaty with N Korea

Normalization USA-N Korea

Korea as nuclear free zone

Marginalizing N Korea

US-SK military exercises

Breaking agreements

CHINA Open high level dialogue

Mutual learning in economics

Civil and economic rights

Encircling, sub-satel-navy

“Reform”=neo-liberalism

civil rights only

JAPAN Japan in NE Asian Community

Good relations to USA, APEC+

USA pulls out of Okinawa

Impeding conciliation

Keeping Japan as client

Subverting A9

AFRICA Welcome African Unity

Build with China E-W rail road

AFRICOM

Military intervention

LATIN AMERICA Welcome CELAC integration

Equity Latin Carib-Angloamerica

Normalization USA-Cuba

Military intervention

Supporting coups

CIA micro-management

WORLD All human rights conventions,

across state borders

National self-determination

Dialogue of civilizations

Stronger UN, with parliament

Civil-political only,

within state borders

Unitary state models

Western universalism

US exceptionalism

The right column is sadly familiar; new cases are queuing up.

The left column also carries sadness.  Nothing radical, more like common sense translated into political practice, to the relief of the parties concerned, the USA, and US relations to the world.  USA wants to be loved, but reaps hatred with right column politics.  Turn left.

Trump has a good distance to go in his relations to Iran and Cuba as a key to Latin America-Caribbean.  Did he nonetheless listen too much to CIA, on those two major issues?  Direct encounters with Raúl Castro may bring to his quick mind a very different Cuba; so may direct talks with the spiritual and political leaders of Iran. Trump’s Russian contacts could be helpful in both cases: Iran has borders with the former USSR and Cuba significant relations with Russia since 1958.

However, the most important case for Trump may be the first in the table: US economic relations to the world.  To the right are well known US policies, all of them now proven as failed or discredited; to the left some ideas that may or may not coincide with Trump Thought.

Crucial is the US “Federal Reserve” Bank, basically a club of about 70 of the largest banks in the USA. Self-controlled, not by the legislative, nor the executive, nor the judicial power of the USA.

It relates to central private banks abroad and directs US federal policy rather than vice versa.  Thus, at some time in the 1990s US blacklisted seven countries with central state-owned banks: Iraq-Iran, Lebanon-Libya, Syria-Sudan-Somalia; fought in six, pressured Iran.

The private central banks then come together in Basel under Swiss auspices, in the Bank for International Settlements, BIS, a pivot the USA wants to use for global financial control.

Now, where does Trump land on this?  If he had the courage and the wits to attack one sacred US cow, the CIA, he may do so to another that also has grown out of proportion, the Federal Reserve.  What the Federal Reserve does, however, is also business–and may also fail.  Being in charge of Executive power he might like to enhance that power and not be waged by a tail.  That may also apply to Netanyahu’s Israel: buying senators etc. may no longer be in.

Well, this is future talk.  But that future may only be one month away.  History is accelerating and more under Trump than ever.

___________________________________________

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

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

 

How 75,000 votes were disappeared in Michigan



Officially, Donald Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes. But a record 75,335 votes were never counted. Most of these votes that went missing were in Detroit and Flint.

How do you disappear 75,335 votes?—Greg Palast


by Larry Geller

Yes, the election was rigged, although the mainstream, commercial media has not paid attention. Those who get their news from Democracy Now or from Flashpoints (on KPFA or podcast) know the story quite well.

The “rigging” has nothing to do with Russia, though something might still be discovered about that. It is home-grown voter suppression and the use of voting machines that enforce discrimination against those who would likely vote for Democrats.

If you haven’t heard of “Crosscheck,” please watch the video below, or visit Greg Palast’s website.  Crosscheck is (from the Democracy Now transcript):

a list that was created by Donald Trump’s operative, Kris Kobach, to hunt down and imprison voters who illegally voted or registered in two states in one election.

The list contains names, the vast majority those that would likely be African-American or hispanic, that vaguely resemble names registered in other states.

Michael Bernard Brown is supposed to be the same voter as Michael Anthony Brown. Then Michael Timothy Brown is supposed to be the same voter as Michael Johnnie Brown.

These names are eliminated from the voter rolls in states which participate. It is basically a Jim Crow system to suppress the vote.

Palast discusses also voting machines placed in particular districts that couldn’t quite interpret the filled-in bubbles on a ballot sheet.

Do check it out at his website.

Here’s the video, which Democracy Now shares under a Creative Commons license. The transcript is here.



Tuesday, December 13, 2016

 

Four Congressmen query Coast Guard and NOAA about conditions and violations in the Hawaii longlines fishing fleet



The human rights abuses we’ve discovered in the seafood industry, including on ships flying the American flag, are shameful and disturbing,” [Representative Raúl M.] Grijalva said. ”The deeper we dig, the more we find that far from using some harmless loophole, these vessels are flat out breaking the law. Too much seafood on our plates today comes with a side order of violence and human misery.


Conditions on some vessels in the Hawaiian longline fleet have been described in the AP article and by crew members and fishery observers as unsafe and unsanitary. What responsibilities does the Coast Guard have to ensure that these vessels do not present a safety or health hazard to crew members regardless of their citizenship status?


…while these are some of the more valuable species harvested by the Hawaiian longline vessels, it is clear from landings records and marketing materials produced by the Hawaii Seafood Council that these vessels are fishing for, catching, and selling species other than those defined as HMS [highly migratory species] in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, including significant quantities of mahi mahi, wahoo, moonfish, and sickle pomfret.


by Larry Geller

Following the Fishing for Justice forum held December 6 on Capitol Hill, Congressmen from four committees sent a letter yesterday to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Coast Guard questioning conditions and illegalities reported in Hawaii’s longline fishing fleet.

The letter is posted below, and an OCR copy is available for download.

In addition to concerns related to abusive conditions in the fishing fleet, the letter also notes that the longlines fleet is catching fish other than “highly migratory species” and so the vessels do not qualify for the statutory exemptions that allow them to emply labor other than 75 percent US citizens.

From the letter:

The Magnuson-Stevens Act specifically defines highly migratory species (HMS) as "tuna species, marlin, oceanic sharks, sailfishes, and swordfish." No federal agency has the authority to categorize any other species of fish as HMS for the purposes of fisheries management or law enforcement. Yet, while these are some of the more valuable species harvested by the Hawaiian longline vessels, it is clear from landings records and marketing materials produced by the Hawaii Seafood Council3 that these vessels are fishing for, catching, and selling species other than those defined as HMS in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, including significant quantities of mahi mahi, wahoo, moonfish, and sickle pomfret.

Based on this information, these vessels should not be eligible for either of the aforementioned statutory exemptions from the manning requirements in 46 U.S.C. §8103. Instead, they should be required to be manned by at least 75 percent U.S. citizens, and certify that U.S. labor is not available before allowing foreign workers with H2-B visas on board.

In a press release accompanying the letter, two of the signers of the letter stated:

“The human rights abuses we’ve discovered in the seafood industry, including on ships flying the American flag, are shameful and disturbing,” Grijalva said. ”The deeper we dig, the more we find that far from using some harmless loophole, these vessels are flat out breaking the law. Too much seafood on our plates today comes with a side order of violence and human misery. I’m working with my colleagues to press responsible federal agencies to take action under existing law, and if we need to close loopholes, pass new legislation or create additional enforcement authority, we’re going to start taking those options very seriously.”

“I am deeply disturbed—while the United States has been criticizing other nations for serious labor, environmental, and human rights abuses in high seas fisheries, U.S. flagged fishing vessels based out of Hawaii may be guilty of the same violations,” Rep. DeFazio said. “Turning a blind eye to illegal fishing practices and serious labor abuses on fishing vessels here at home undermines our nation’s credibility in prosecuting this behavior abroad. These vessels also exploit cheap labor from places like Indonesia, allowing crews that haven’t been properly vetted for national security concerns to gain access to U.S. ports. NOAA and the Coast Guard must aggressively enforce existing U.S. laws that prevent illegal fishing operations.  Moreover, they must fully investigate allegations of serious labor and workplace abuses reported on U.S. flagged fishing vessels, and if confirmed, take swift action to stop these violations.”

Download an OCR copy of Dec. 12 Letter to NOAA and Coast Guard on Human Trafficking from Disappeared News



 

Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: Meanwhile, Around the World



Be careful because Trump is smart. We will soon see who outsmarts whom.



Meanwhile, Around the World

12 December 2016

galtung_side#458 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

Quite a lot is happening.  NYT (11 Dec 2016): President-Elect Trump made Carrier keep 1,000 factory jobs in Indianapolis, not “trading” to Mexico; and canceled the Boeing contract for a new Air Force One.

Three Trump Upper Class challenges:  Solidarity with the working class; a foreign policy based less on war and more on negotiation; and a new tax code (USA has the longest in the world, feeding highly paid law firms with loopholes). Trump wants jobs, and infrastructure.

There are also non-events: no Trump apologies to the groups he offended grotesquely in the campaign: non-whites, women, immigrants particularly Mexicans.  And the old campaigner Trump is still alive.

Trumps’s focus on USA-Russia cooperation from the American to the Bolshevik revolutions, and now on the coming century, is brilliant and intellectual in an anti-intellectual USA. While US media and their copycats all over are still fighting the election for Clinton.

Ian Buruma “The End of the Anglo-American Order”, The New York Times Magazine (29 Nov 2016), praises the post-world war “vision of democracy and freedom”. There is something to that.  But only as long as they voted correctly; not for Allende in Chile, Muslims in Algeria, for Brexit in UK (“U.S. loses direct link to Continent”, NYT 28 Jun 2015), for Duterte in the Philippines (with anti-drug atrocities) leaning away from the USA toward an Asian neighbor, China, for Erdögan in Turkey (with neo-Ottoman warfare) leaning away from the USA toward a European neighbor, Russia.  And worst of all: not for Trump in the USA.

In this lengthy article not a word on the USA, assisted by the UK, killing more than 20 million in 37 countries after WWII. Or on 54% of the US Spending Budget allocated to the military and 46% shared among 11 sectors–none more than 6%.  Very many words on Trump, with incredible arrogance not even checking what he does[i]. Be careful because Trump is smart. We will soon see who outsmarts whom.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, leading US intellectual and Supreme Court associated jurist, addressing the Harvard 1895 graduating class on “The Purpose of War Is to Die for One’s Country”, The Soldier’s Faith:

“–the faith is true and adorable which leads a soldier to throw away his life in obedience to a blindly accepted duty, in a cause which he little understands, in a plan of campaign of which he has little notion, under tactics of which he does not see the use”.

Holmes thinks he understands cause, plan and tactics, but does not understand that he blindly accepts them, willing to use the soldiers’ blindness for his own. Maybe they should have thrown away his life?

120 years later, Hillary Clinton will not throw away US soldiers’ lives but those of the “enemy”, soldiers or civilians, any numbers. One belligerence exchanged for the other; no democracy, nor freedom.  Even The Nation endorsed her, blind to her massive privatized killing.

Move to The Hague, “The ICTY[ii]‘s Surprise Ruling: Hague Tribunal Exonerates Slobodan Milosevic for Bosnia War Crimes Ten Years Too Late” (18 Jul 2016) seems to have passed unnoticed. Karadzic, not surprisingly, sentenced to 40 years, but the exoneration was too contrary to Western media pre-judgment.

Move to “Panama: The Hidden Trillions” (The New York Review of Books, 17 Oct 2016).  The conclusion of 400+ journalists working on 2.6 terabytes of information is very clear: “We pay tax, but they don’t pay tax. The burden of taxation has moved inexorably away from multinational companies and rich people to ordinary people”.

Fast forward to “Palestinians Demand UK Apology for Balfour Declaration (Al Jazeera 1 Nov 2016)–as parliamentary petition.  With 100,000 signatures the British Parliament must consider debating the subject.  The “Jewish Homeland” Declaration has a prescient clause:

“–understood that nothing shall be done that prejudices the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status of Jews in any other country”.

Both premises are broken. Does the UK have enough wisdom to apologize and yet stand by an Israel compatible with international law; 242, &c?

Move to Palmyra, reconquered by IS?  Could Trump negotiate, rather?

Move to Saudi Arabia, to Mohammed Alyanya “Don’t Link ‘Wahhabism’ to Terrorism” (NYT 19 Oct 2016). Wahhabism, like Salafism, praised Islam as practiced by the Prophet as Medina ruler; the overwhelming majority is not violent. We add: in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia violence is more mundane, to preserve a Kingdom split down the middle.

Move to Ukraine: Arve Meisingset – “Massiv feilinformasjon om Ukraina”–Massively Wrong Information On Ukraine” (NY TID 17 Nov 2016). The coup against the Orthodox-Ukraine President was on 22 Feb 2014; on 1 Aug Paul Picard, head of the OSCE observers in Don-bass, Donetsk said he had seen no Russian troops or weapons. The Uniate (Catholic) policy is ethnic cleansing, and many left for Russia. The fighting in Ukraine is in the Orthodox part, headed by Uniate-Ukraine president Poroshenko, now only supported by 5.9% of the voters.

Fast forward to USA-Russia.  The Russians fear that NATO at its border is a secret Operation Barbarossa (Hitler’s failed invasion 22 June 1941) because (points made by many, among them Leo Semashko):

  • Deployment of NATO nuclear weapons on Russia’s Western border.
  • Obama’s intent to spend US$1 trillion on nuclear arms next decade.
  • A US doctrine which allows the first use of nuclear weapons.

All waiting for Hillary Clinton.  But then came Trump. They hate him.

Afghanistan: Robert Fisk, “The invasion of Afghanistan 15 years ago was an arrogant, wretched adventure that caused a migrant crisis“, The Independent 7 Oct 2016. Geopolitical Futures, Kamran Bokhari: “Afghan Government Staring at the Abyss” 10 Oct 2016–“Kabul is unlikely to defeat the Taliban even after investing 15 years and over a $ 100 billion”. Better not talk about it. (NYT, 21 Sep 2016).

Norway: “We love America-We hate Russia-America hates Russia”, balanced, made elites change their military doctrine to attack Russia. Then “We love America-We hate Russia-America loves Russia”, dissonant. After a period hating Trump-America, Norway will accept Russia, and Störe’s Norwegian Labor Party will win the 2017 elections on that basis.

____________________________________

NOTES:

[i]. For a very knowledgeable overview of Trump’s policies, yet very critical of him as a person, see William Blum, The Anti-Empire Report #147, Nov 30 2016.

[ii]. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

___________________________________________

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

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

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

 

Three months after the AP revealed slave-like conditions aboard boats in the Hawaii fishing fleet, no fix is in sight



Another threat to Hawaii’s tuna and swordfish fisheries are the deplorable conditions for foreign workers on the boats, recently described as “slave-like,” by the Associated Press.  The treatment of these workers is unjust and un-American.  These disgraceful conditions are perpetuated by boat owners who do not want to pay the minimum wage, so they jump through immigration loopholes to employ foreigners, many of them desperate, and are often indebted to the owners.  What will the owners do if they are forced to pay their workers a living wage?  Will they give everyone a raise and start hiring American citizens, or will they move the fleet to an island country where these conditions are allowed?  We assume it will be the latter, and when that happens it will not be the fault of the conservationists, but that of the fishing boat owners, who put personal profits first.—
article in The Hill


by Larry Geller

Despite world-wide publicity resulting from Associated Press articles that exposed slave-like conditions aboard Hawaii’s long line fishing fleet, almost exactly three months after the story broke, nothing has been done to bring relief to the foreign fishermen.

Hawaii’s government leaders came in for withering criticism Tuesday at a Capitol Hill forum on abusive labor conditions for foreign fishermen employed as contract workers.

Witnesses described working conditions on the Hawaii-based tuna fleet as “tragic,” “gruesome,” “unconstitutional” and “brutal,” asserting that the foreign workers have been exempted from U.S. labor laws and protections to boost the profits of the fishing industry.

[Civil Beat, Activist: Officials Care More About Fish Than People Aboard Ships, 20161207]

Fishing "is used as a tool for slavery," said Kathryn Xian, executive director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, a Honolulu-based advocacy group.

Xian and other speakers at the forum urged Congress to close the loophole that allows workers to stay on the boats without coming ashore.

[from the forum held in Washington DC yesterday, widely reported in an AP story]

See Disappeared News article below for a video of the forum.

From the Civil Beat article:

About 60 people attended the event, including Capitol Hill staffers and officials from the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Justice Department.

It was held in a meeting room located just upstairs of a giant statue of King Kamehameha in the rotunda of the Capitol Visitors Center.

Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, which has been issuing licenses to foreign fishermen confined to ships and unable to land in Hawaii, continues the practice even though it is in clear violation of Hawaii state law to do so. The signatures of these fishermen are obtained by the captains or owners without the assistance of translators, another violation of state law and also of federal law.

A petition to correct DLNR’s rules so as to conform to state and federal law was denied at the hearing. [disclosure: I am one of the signers of the petition]

Congress has not yet closed the loophole that permits workers to remain on the boats in deportation status, with the ship captains holding their passports.

In the absence of action either in Hawaii or in Congress, conditions aboard Hawaii’s long line fishing fleet will likely remain unchanged for the short term. The Associated Press can be expected to follow the situation, and Hawaii will continue to be embarrassed by the resulting world-wide coverage until indeed something changes to bring relief to the fishermen.

Subscribers to the Star-Advertiser may find an article on the forum buried in back of the business section on page B7, just before the obituaries. Apparently November home, condo sales jump is a more important story to the editors.



Tuesday, December 06, 2016

 

Watch Fishing for Justice forum from Washington, DC, with Hawaii panelist Kathryn Xian



Congress should act immediately to improve slave-like conditions for hundreds of foreign fishermen working in Hawaii’s commercial fleet, speakers at a congressional forum said Tuesday. “These fishermen are treated like disposable people,” said Mark Lagon, a scholar at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, who told the forum the fishermen live like modern-day slaves.--Seattle Times (AP)


by Larry Geller

Here’s the YouTube video of today’s forum. Click the thingy at the lower right for full screen.

An AP story covering the forum is here via the Seattle Times.

 

The sound in the YouTube video was barely audible on my computer. If you’d like a version you can actually hear, click this link. It takes a while to load, it’s a big file.



Monday, December 05, 2016

 

Kathryn Xian is in Washington—tune in tomorrow at 8 a.m. HST for live stream of Fishing for Justice forum


by Larry Geller

Note change in URL from previous post.

Kathy sends a new link for the live stream—different from my previous post.

Tune in at 8 a.m. Hawaii time Tuesday Dec. 6 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZkeiBFiww4 to watch the presentations.

The House Natural Resource Democratic forum examines recent reports of forced labor and human trafficking in the seafood industry; discuss legal frameworks that have the potential to combat labor and human rights violations at sea; and explore multi-stakeholder initiatives that promote the safety and working conditions of fishermen. The panel is open to Members of Congress, staffers, the media, and the public.

Panelists will be:

Mark Lagon, former Director Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S Department of State

John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute

Kathryn Xian, executive director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

 

Kathryn Xian, Executive Director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery (PASS), called to Washington to testify on fishing abuses


by Larry Geller

Kathy Xian testifyingKathryn Xian, Executive Director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery (PASS), has been called to testify before a Congressional committee to report on human trafficking and other abuses in Hawaii’s long line fishing fleet.
__________
Update
: see the announcement here (Executive Session - Fishing for Justice: Slavery and Human Rights Abuses at Sea.
__________

The session of the House Committee on Natural Resources will be live-streamed from https://www.facebook.com/NRDems/ on December 6, HCNRD2016 from 8:00 – 9:00 a.m. Hawaii time (1-2 p.m. EST).

In addition to Xian, the panelists are scheduled to include:
Mark Lagon, formerly ED of the anti-human trafficking non-profit Polaris Project and Director of the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP)

John Connelly, President of the National Fisheries Institute

Clare Ogden, Administrator, Centennial Fellows Program at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service (SFS)

The panel moderator will be Paul Greenberg, author of books including "Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food”

Kathryn Xian is the founder of  'Girl Fest Hawaii' whose mission is to prevent violence against women and girls through education and art. Girl Fest Hawaii was instrumental in passing the nation's first state law outlawing sex-tourism, a law which became become a model for other states. As ED of PASS she lobbied for the passage of Hawaii’s first labor-trafficking law and reforms to the state's promoting prostitution statutes.

She is currently a leader in the effort to eradicate human trafficking and other labor and human rights abuses discovered in the Hawaii long lines fishing fleet.



Monday, November 28, 2016

 

Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: The State of the World Right Now: A View


 

The State of the World Right Now: A View

28 November 2016

#456 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

“View” meaning not only a glimpse from above, but a position taken on the world on which the US electorate is now dumping Donald Trump.

That world is today basically multi-polar, maybe with 8 poles: Anglo-America, Latin America-Caribbean, African Unity, Islam-OIC from Casablanca to Mindanao, European Union, Russia more region than state, SAARC from Nepal to Sri Lanka, ASEAN, Australia-New Zealand.

And multi-regional Shanghai Cooperation Organization, SCO, with China and Russia, Islamic countries, India and Pakistan.

There is a waning state reality, smaller states being increasingly absorbed in regions.

There is a waxing region reality with the above eight; adding West Asian, Central Asian and Northeast Asian regions, maybe eleven.

There is a global reality based on IGOs, inter-governmental organizations with the United Nations on top; TNCs, the transnational corporations with the US-based on top so far; and INGOs, international non-governmental organizations, with religions on top.

Insert into all of that something concrete from William Blum’s Anti-Empire Report #146 and his Rogue State. From WWII, the USA has:

  1. Attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically elected;
  2. Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries;
  3. Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders;
  4. Attempted to suppress populist or nationalist movements in 20 countries;
  5. More involved in the practice of torture than any other country, performing, teaching, providing manuals and furnishing equipment.

Then, insert President Xi’s proposal November 17-23 2016 for Latin American countries and 21 APEC countries meeting in Lima, Peru:

  1. FTAAP: Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific; inclusive, for all;
  2. RCEP: Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, also inclusive as opposed to TPP, Trans-Pacific Partnership, excluding China.

TPP to FTAAP moves the power center from Washington to Beijing.

Into this reality dump Trump who has pledged to ditch TPP.

That does not mean buying FTAAP-RAW; maybe more a set of Chinese divide and rule bilateral deals than a real multilateral IGO. However, negotiating deals with China should appeal to Trump the businessman.

Now, given the 5 Blum points from US history, will a move of one important power center from Washington to Beijing be permitted by the US military-economic forces, Pentagon-Wall Street, in conjunction? Will they prevail upon Trump to change his mind and ditch the pledge to drop TPP, or simply move ahead along the lines of points 1-5?

Depends on Congress overriding Trump Executive directives and Trump vetoing that, and so on.  That in turn depends on to what extent Congress is now GOP Republican or Trump Republican. Nobody knows.

There is more going on in the world than USA-China relations.

China-India trade is overtaking China-USA trade before China overtakes USA economically. Both are Asian countries, both are SCO. A concrete implication is that a decreasing percentage of world trade deals is made in US dollars as they recognize each other’s currencies.

At the same time the top country in the EU, Germany, is in great difficulty because a leading corporation, Volkswagen has problems with its emission swindle, paying hefty fines, now sacking 30,000 workers.  Now is the time, if ever, for France-Italy-Spain-Sweden-Czech to produce jointly an alternative car.

At the same time the bottom country in the EU, Greece, is doing well, playing the Chinese card. China is buying Piraeus, making Greece the entry point for Chinese business in Europe with products, goods and services at highly acceptable quality over price ratios.

At the same time US economy is running out of options, losing its hold on EU with Brexit. The Bratislava Summit of 27 EU members 16 Sep 2016 refused to fight US wars.  That may tempt USA even more to wage their own with mini-nukes &c. But Trump foreign policies with Russia, China and in East Asia may deprive them of arguments for doing so.

However, what does Trump have to build upon to make America great again economically? With an American economy servicing huge debts, with freshly printed dollars far beyond the value of the economy (but still no inflation), with a risky finance economy in command, and little of quality to export but arms, and some cars? Jobs to build infrastructure have to be financed and he has promised lower taxes. Although reforming tax codes may stop some loopholes.

Possible answer: increased foreign trade, based on better foreign relations, seeing others as business partners, not as threats. Just wait, one day USA may trade with North Korea, competing with China.

If Trump can lay his hands on money flowing in from abroad, and make trading companies invest in the much lagging US infrastructure.

Yet, the counter-forces are strong.  William Blum #146:

  • Obama in the UN 2013, declared USA exceptional and Russia one of the three threats to USA along with IS and the ebola virus. Putin-bashing.
  • A million refugees from Washington warfare currently overrun Europe; from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Pakistan.
  • US fight Assad to use Syria for a pipeline to bring gas from Qatar to Europe to undercut GazProm, Russia’s largest corporation.
  • Washington abandoned the ABM treaty and changed its war doctrine to permit US nuclear first strike.
  • An independent EU would forbid member states from stockpiling US nuclear weapons, having a US ABM site, or a base close to Russia.
  • Since 1980 USA intervened in Iran-Libya-Lebanon-Kuwait-Iraq-Somalia-Bosnia-Arabia-Afghanistan-Sudan-Kosova-Yemen-Pakistan-Syria-14 Muslim.
  • USA surrounds China with aircraft, fleets, military bases in Japan-South Korea-Philippines-the Pacific-Australia, patrolling the waters.
  • Crimea never voluntarily left Russia. A dictator made them do so.

Everything is “rigged” for a Clinton tenure of belligerence.

Instead they got Trump foreign policy. Against very heavy odds.

_____________________________________

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

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

Friday, November 25, 2016

 

Will Hawaii remain a leader in solar installation? Or rather, how do we salvage a wounded solar industry?



To understand the effects of smart solar inverters on utility systems, there’s no better place to study them than Hawaii. The state has the highest electricity rates in the United States, which, along with incentives from the utility, has given residents and businesses powerful motivation to install their own PV systems. The state now has about 20 times as many solar installations connected to its grid as the average mainland state does, and that trend is likely to continue.
IEEE Spectrum


by Larry Geller

IEEE Spectrum is a remarkable magazine in several ways. It’s technical, of course, since it is published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Yet most of the articles are accessible to a more general audience.

Smarter solarAlso, they post many (most?) of the printed articles to the web. Anyone can read these, a great service.

The pull-quote above is from a current article in the magazine: Can Smarter Solar Inverters Save the Grid? and is all about Hawaii.

It turns out that programmable inverters are actually the best way to solve the grid instability issues presented by the interconnection to HECO’s power grid of so much rooftop solar. What kind of inverter are they talking about? Check out the article, it’s not so complicated. In a nutshell, the inverter reacts on its own to correct voltage or frequency imbalances, performing a service to all grid users.

Sending commands from a central point to control thousands of inverters simply won’t work properly. This will.

Now, as to the pull-quote’s rejoicing that the trend in solar installations is likely to continue, unfortunately not. Or not yet, anyway. Check out Henry Curtis’ article Oops, The Small Print, Gotta Read the Small Print (ililani media, 11/25/2016). If I understand the numbers correctly, installations appear already to have ground to a virtual halt.

Could it be that as usual, Hawaii is just more technically challenged than other places? The IEEE article suggests the opposite. Or is it that we are not good at planning? Perhaps. That has consequences. The solar industry brought us job growth and then expired. Did it have to?

If you don’t have solar panels installed on your roof yet, check out this article while you wait.

Update: Henry reviewed the IEEE article in more depth, also pointing out some errors. See: Smart Solar Inverters Stabilize Electric Grids in Hawai`i (ililani media, 11/26/2016).



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

 

Audit faults Hawaii’s Dept. of Taxation in a slick and accessible report format



We have serious concerns about DoTAX’s extended delay in promulgating rules. It has been more than ten years since the current form of the film tax credit was enacted. … We also found that the film office’s analysis of film tax credit data does not measure the incentive’s true costs and reports economic impacts that are based on incomplete and overstated data.—Audit of Hawai‘i’s Motion Picture, Digital Media, and Film Production Income Tax Credit


by Larry Geller

Hawaii taxpayers are likely footing the bill for large tax credits given to film producers while the benefits to the state cannot be defined by the Hawaii Film Office or the state Department of Taxation.

Les Kondo, the new Legislative Auditor, has a way with words—that is, using them clearly and effectively for public benefit. As ED of the state Ethics Commission he explained the ethics statutes in plain language to legislators. They didn’t like what they heard, but that’s a long-running theme in our state government. Now at his new post he has found a way to make the formerly dull business of investigating the state’s business accessible.

Just-released audit 16-08: Audit of Hawai‘i’s Motion Picture, Digital Media, and Film Production Income Tax Credit or the summary here is a well-presented as a modern magazine article. Imagine: an attractive audit report! 

Now, a good audit report is not generally measured by its form, but rather, by its thoroughness and accuracy, perhaps. Sure. And then, who reads it? We have to depend on news Auditors Summaryreporters to decipher it and reveal its essence in the couple of paragraphs allowed in our shrinking daily paper.

Click on the image at right and gaze upon the summary of this report. It has a large photo illustration, sub-heads or breakers that provide useful leads to the material, and even sidebars, pull-quotes and illustrations. The full report is equally attractive.

This report resembles a magazine article more than a government audit, and is much more readable and accessible than previous reports. I say kudos, Kondo.

Les Kondo has done the work for the news media. I’m also wondering if ordinary citizens will now find the reports interesting enough to skim through them and learn about the underlying issues of law and governance the reports raise.

Failure to have required administrative rules or to properly administer a program and be ready to account for it to the legislature are not uncommon themes. Reading audit reports is one way to be informed about the efficiency of our government and how well it administers our hard-earned tax money.


There’s a lot that needs improving in Hawaii’s state government

Having information accessible to the public means that it is easier to highlight where we need to chase after government administration to get its act straight. The pull-quote at the top of this post provides some suggestions.

First, can you imagine allowing a decade to pass without required administrative rules?  Second, who has been watching this for the past decade? Which parts of government should be held accountable?

Any good story needs some conflict

There is conflict and drama in the report as well. The Auditor and the state Attorney General clash on whether the Use Tax is an out-of-state expense. Note that the AG does not have the last word. In these cases it must be kept in mind that he is the client’s (the agency’s) attorney.

The audit notes that paying tax credits for out-of-state business expenditures is not the intent of the statute. How long has that been going on? Ten years? That’s why the rules are needed. A side question: can tax credits improperly paid be reclaimed?



Monday, November 14, 2016

 

Trump hasn’t taken office yet the mythology of equality in America is being dashed already



…We’ve seen and witnessed a group of young black teens being harassed by another group of white teens calling them the N-word and telling them that they need to go back to Africa, and if they want to go back to Africa, not to worry, that Trump sends them there free. So, it was really crazy and
Democracy Now, 11/14/2016



by Larry Geller

Contrary to much contemporary wisdom, the United States has one of the longest uninterrupted political traditions of any nation in the world. What is more, that tradition is unambiguous; its meaning is articulated in simple, rational speech that is immediately comprehensible and powerfully persuasive to all normal human beings. America tells one story: the unbroken, ineluctable progress of freedom and equality. From its first settlers and its political foundings on, there has been no dispute that freedom and equality are the essence of justice for us. No one serious or notable has stood outside this consensus. You had to be a crank or a buffoon (e.g., Henry Adams or H. L. Mencken, respectively) to get attention as a nonbeliever in the democracy.

The above is from p. 54 of The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom. A search took me to this book and this page, I have’t read much else of it and what I have leads me to say I can’t recommend it. But we seem to have one new name to add to Bloom’s list.

Of course, I disagree with the basic thesis. Our history of slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the mass internment of Japanese-Americans, the Native American genocide, and the suppression and near-genocide of Native Hawaiians contradicts Bloom very clearly. Not to mention the current wave of voter suppression and women’s never-ending struggle for equality and basic human rights.

Each country has its own mythology. Bloom is describing ours. Perhaps it should remain as an ideal, even though it doesn’t ring true otherwise. One day, perhaps, it might be achieved… though not apparently any time soon.

Social media and alternative media including Democracy Now report the abuses currently rampant across our land, revealing that the “unbroken, ineluctable progress of freedom and equality” remains actually as broken and dubious as ever.

No sense of this appears in our shrunken daily newspaper. It seems to me to be essential that this be reported, so we may deal with it as concerned citizens. Somehow.

Trump is the enabler, but I am saddened by the eruption of racism and bigotry on the streets, in the tweets, and in schools.

From today’s Democracy Now, a high school sophomore from New Jersey, speaking to the reporter at a protest:

… A friend I know went to high school on Wednesday, and people were saying racial—or religious slurs toward Islamic people who go to her school, and things like that. It’s definitely prevalent.

A parent:

We started to hear that there are violence or abuses against the people of color, children of color, in rural neighborhoods in the United States, and that’s a really dangerous sign. Here in New York, diversity is embraced, but you don’t know what is going to happen, even in a progressive state like New York. And we’re really concerned that a Trump administration is going to incite violence, hate, racism and other dangerous policies, which could affect or threaten safe environment for parents to raise kids.

In time, perhaps over several generations, the mythology might have prevailed. Now, I am not so sure. It hurts deeply to see how easily the racist, misogynistic underbelly of this country has come to the fore. The students are acting out what they learned from their parents. Now they are repeating the abuse, setting back the possibility of democracy, freedom and equality for another generation.



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