Monday, January 08, 2018

 

Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: American Diplomacy with North Korea and Vietnam



American Diplomacy with North Korea and Vietnam

8 Jan 2018

#516 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

Foreword to Michael Haas’ Book

pic-Johan-st-gallean-2016-150x150What is that American Diplomacy, after US bombing killed 3,5 million in Pyongyang in 1952 and the US Army killed 3 million in Vietnam from 1961 (Kennedy) to 30 Apr 1975 (Ford)?  Softer?

This very rich, well researched book by Michael Haas–a senior, major US political scientist–gives detailed “softer” empirical, factual answers in Part II.  Indeed, highly recommended.

In this foreword, however, I will explore US deep culture implications for US foreign policy, close to “American Diplomacy”.

The US self-image as successor to Israel as MFN–most favored nation–by God, with Chosen People-Promised Land, CPPL, status, is from 1620, on Mayflower. Since about Year 70 Israel clearly no longer enjoyed CPPL status; that was under King David and under King Solomon.

The position as CPPL was empty, may those with credentials apply. Puritan Pilgrims from East Anglia via Leiden in Holland, did, and according to themselves successfully so. London, with no chosen people but command of the Promised Land was beaten in a War of Independence 1775-1812 for Promised Land for Chosen People, ushering in 141 years of wars for “unconditional surrender”. The USA looks invincible.

Till 1953. The Korea war 1950-53 with a Uniting for Peace UN mandate ended not with victory but cease-fire, armistice, DMZ; strongly resisted by Northern Korea and China. The war in Vietnam 1961 till 30 April 1975 ended with the US Army withdrawing unconditionally.

Four stages can be recognized in this very recent history:

  1. French then Japanese colonization of Vietnam, Japanization of Korea;
  2. Defeat of Japan, Vietnam back to France, Korea divided USSR-USA;
  3. Nationalisms in both against France and USSR-USA, for independence;
  4. USA belligerence against that; keeping South Korea, losing Vietnam.

The role of “American Diplomacy”?  To justify US warfare, and, if it does not work, to justify “softer approaches”, like negotiation.

The role of “American Democracy”?  A real life story about that.

Dennis Kucinich, House Representative (D) from Ohio before he was gerrymandered away–another aspect of US democracy, FAFE [Free And Fair Elections] in practice–called a meeting in his office suite in the building across the street from the US Congress. I was asked to tell some representatives about a meeting with leading Taliban in Afghanistan.  To them, the problem was the 1893 Durand Line between the British empire–now Pakistan–and Afghanistan, cutting in two the lands of the biggest nation without a state, the Pashtuns.  Making Pashtuns and Taliban almost synonymous.

Solution: eliminate that line; create a Central Asian Community, border-free, with Afghanistan-Pakistan inviting the other “stans”, Iran, Assad-Kashmir; all in Afghanistan and Afghanistan in them.

A Representative said: “Taliban may think like that. But I am an elected representative in US democracy. The people elected me for this–he made the V sign–then we will tell them what the solution is.

A decade later the USA is still fighting, with NATO allies, for a victory and solution in Afghanistan they will never obtain, because:

This unequal fight may tempt some in USA to use nukes against a very invulnerable country, leading to revenge in vulnerable USA.  The outcome will be more isolation, decline and fall of the US Republic.

That process has already started, as witnessed by the many major conferences to which the USA is no longer invited. The ball is in other courts: in Russia, India, China–in BRICS in general.

“American Diplomacy” seams to go through four stages:

  1. Telling other states what to do; if they comply, that is.
  2. If they do not comply, attack them as anti-American enemies.
  3. If winning, see to it that they comply and reward the compliers.
  4. If not winning, try “softer approaches”, negotiation, diplomacy.

What will happen if US thinking about North Korea and Vietnam is at the same level as for Afghanistan?  CIA?  “Central” no doubt, and “Agency”, but how about the “Intelligence”?  USA withdrew badly wounded from Vietnam and is now heading for the same in Afghanistan.

North Korea: there seems to be a stalemate, with 8 million or so in and around Seoul being as hostages to North Korean artillery should there be a US attack.  North Korea will not launch a first strike, but they want to show USA-Japan-the World that they are equal to USA in offensive capability with an invulnerability of force and value–people–unmatched in human history. Mantra:  “1952” NEVER AGAIN!

Peace is around the corner if American Diplomacy were able to think-speak-act peace. Take North Korea on their word. Ask them for the details of converting an armistice to a peace treaty; of normalizing diplomatic relations with Seoul-Tokyo-Washington; of an UN-inspected nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.  And then: Negotiate.  Much “American Diplomacy” is used to fight this; USA wants to control South Korea.

Vietnam: the US defeat was total as opposed to in Korea; there will be no war in the foreseeable future in spite of theories about how that unwinnable war could have been won.  But there was some basis for the imposed division between North and South Vietnam; how Vietnam overcame it may teach a USA divided North-South some lessons.  Vietnam improved its karma with USA; USA may learn to improve its karma with the world.  Peace is around the corner.

Conclusion: the general problem is a US deep culture as Chosen People with a Promised World.  Time has come, USA, to become normal.

________________________________________________

Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of TRANSCEND International and rector of TRANSCEND Peace University. Prof. Galtung has published more than 1500 articles and book chapters, 500 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service, and more than 170 books on peace and related issues, of which more than 40 have been translated to other languages, including 50 Years – 100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives published by TRANSCEND University Press. More information about Prof. Galtung and all of his publications can be found at transcend.org/galtung.


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Monday, January 01, 2018

 

Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: Two Ways of Being Western: Christianity and Science



Two Ways of Being Western: Christianity and Science

1 Jan 2018

pic-johan-hd-class#515 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

Farewell Seminar SCAR, George Mason University, Arlington-VA 6 Dec 2017

Two basic institutions in Western history and individual lives: Christianity offering Salvation to those following Laws, Commandments, and Science offering Truth to those who believe in scientific laws.

After Enlightenment ushered in a godless world, one is waning and the other vexing, seen as antithetical to each other. Is evolution being contested by “intelligent design”? By “diversity and symbiosis”? Neither one nor the other?  Or both? We do not know, nor do we come to grips with evolution beyond homo sapiens. Neither did Christianity.

But we are used in history to successors carrying the imprints of predecessors, and vice versa.  We are used to plus ça change plus ça este la même chose (the more it changes, the more it stays the same). And the more intended Italian cambiamo le cose affinche se mantengono le stesse (we change the things so that they remain the same).

Christianity and science have both been marked (and marred) by the heavy institutionalizations known as churches and universities. They are certainly Western in the sense of carrying the trade mark of competitive individualism: to bishop-archbishop-cardinal-Pope in one, to professor-dean-rector-Nobel in the other.  But that is not our focus, however Western. Our focus is how they both relate to Time.

Western time is often seen as linear or curvilinear upwards, progressing, even exponentially, or logistically petering out. However, for Western history this is much too simplistic. There are declines with falls, and discontinuous jumps, upward or downward. Western history is dramatic, with Antiquity and Modernity being so similar and different from the “Middle Ages” that we have used the term “Occident I” for the former and Occident II for the latter.

The task is now to spell out some time aspects of the predecessor Christianity, and then show how Science followed in its footsteps.

One way is to postulate a Western Time with six recurring phases:

  1. Normality
  2. Decline and Fall
  3. Awakening
  4. Progress
  5. CRISIS: make it (normality) or break it (decline and fall)
  6. If “make it:” new decline and fall; if “break it” new awakening.

And so on and so forth, as long as West exists, because:

          Western time is finite; it has a beginning and an end.

Other civilizations postulate time from eternity to eternity, also Hinduism with its complex recurring patterns and some similarity to the West.  Not strange, given the Indo-European meta-civilization.

Science followed the Christian universe; Creation beginning with a Big Bang beginning, and like Christianity did not answer in which universe the Creation or the Big Bang took place. Ex nihilo?

Science followed the Christian Armageddon ending with a 2nd Law of thermodynamics conversion of big bang energy to entropy, chaos.

There is no final, definitive “Christianity”, but Christianities in accordance with Western Time: of the Gospels, of St Augustine, of St Thomas Aquinas, of Luther-Zwingli-Calvin-Anglicans &c, evangelists including the US National Evangelism (like the First Baptist church).  Each was-is tapped to exhaustion for its salvation potential.

The Catholic-Orthodox gap was bridged by Pope Francis-Patriarch Kirill at the expense of deepening the gap to US-UK-Nordic evangelism, deepening Anglo-America/Russia rifts in circles of mutual causation.

Science followed suit, changing paradigms for thought-discourses for speech (Thomas Kuhn), tapping to exhaustion their truth potential. From Aristotelian stasis with everything in places commanded by nature to Galilean dynamism according to laws of nature; from 3-dimensional space in time to einsteinian 4-dimensional spacetime; from continuity to planckian discontinuous quantum jumps (Einstein protest:  Natura non facit saltus); from Euclidean points-planes-spaces to strings. There will be more, also as West opens up for other civilizations.

Then, exploring science for deeper understanding of Christianity.

Science has produced many laws of the Y=f(X) type, like s=1/2gt2, with chronological time as variable and g as parameter, also variable. The number of parameters knows no limits, some known, others unknown, still others unknowable, beyond limited human comprehension.

Science tries to beat the parameter tyranny by locking two of them in the standard context of [0C-760mm].  Chlorofluorocarbons, CFCs, close to that are non-toxic, inflammable, ideal for fridges.  Released into the ozone layer they are broken down by ultraviolet radiation, freeing chlorine to make holes in the ozone layer; the planet–with humans in it-is seriously damaged by that radiation.

That raises the question of a “normal” context for the Creation. It must be in God, and we get a glimpse in Genesis 1:30: God was a vegetarian. He created animals and humans, and they should all be herbivorous, not carnivorous. In other words, God defined a normalcy for humans and other animals. Animals basically obey God’s intent. Judaism-Christianity-Islam share Genesis, so all believing Jews, Christians and Muslims should be vegetarian. They are not.

The point is the idea of normality for Christianity and science.  God could have been different.  So could [0C-760mm].  Christianity and science, both, could have been different.  We have made choices.

We got from those two a salvation with no truth to it, and truth with no salvation in it. Fortunately there is more to Western reality.

People create salvations and truths by choosing countless values-goals, and building NGOs for their realization.  Like TRANSCEND, for peace as salvation from violence, pursued pragmatically-empirically.

But we are not limited to empirical reality. Between that and unreality are potential realities to be created.  By humans, as gods.

The strength of the West lies in that multiplicity of the goals pursued in a pluralistic society.  May it long last.

NOTE:

* I am grateful to Hajo Schmidt for a critical-constructive reading.

_________________________________________________

Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of TRANSCEND International and rector of TRANSCEND Peace University. Prof. Galtung has published more than 1500 articles and book chapters, 500 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service, and more than 170 books on peace and related issues, of which more than 40 have been translated to other languages, including 50 Years – 100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives published by TRANSCEND University Press. More information about Prof. Galtung and all of his publications can be found at transcend.org/galtung.

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

 

Sea level rise vs. the Honolulu rail project—what a new report portends


by Larry Geller

A Star-Advertiser story (paywalled) this morning (12/30/2017) announced the release of the Hawaii Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report.

Expecting grim reading, I was not disappointed. From the news article:

With 3.2 feet of sea level rise, Oahu stands to potentially face $12.9 billion in structure and land loss; the displacement of 13,300 residents; and the loss of 3,800 structures, including hotels in Waikiki, and 17.7 miles of major roads due to flooding.

The beaches and hotels at risk are already there, and they will have to deal with a new reality creeping up on them. All of Hawaii will have to deal with the spectre of a dying economy due to greatly reduced tourism as Waikiki is gradually washed away.

What separates Hawaii from some other Pacific island nations known for trading with stone money is that we have had, so far, a booming hospitality industry. With hotels flooded and beaches washed away, we could be headed for a real wipeout.

We do, however, have a choice about how we plan and execute new development. It’s not rocket science, and we didn’t have to wait for this new report to reveal the hazards of ignoring climate change (see: Welcome to Honolulu 2050, Venice of the Pacific, 9/20/2015).

Nor do we have to wait for 3.2 feet of sea level rise—the website has a helpful visualization tool which can be set for 0.5, 1.1, 2.0 or 3.2 feet of rise.

New Yorker climate change cover 20150706[8]The first question that came to mind as I read the newspaper article was what will become of Honolulu’s fearfully expensive rail project. Will some of the stations be standing over flood waters? (In New York City, the answer is likely yes, since many stations are close to the water line. But our rail line is not yet complete.)

Cranking up the report’s visualization tool, it appears that no station will be threatened by the ocean even with a 3.2 foot rise over the present.

But wait: the tool also has a layer illustrating flooding. The potential flooding area exists today, but flood events will be more frequent and more threatening as the seas rise.

Here is the blank map from the report website for Ala Moana:

map1


Next is the same area but with the Flood Hazard overlay turned on:

map2


The flood zones are derived from FEMA data. It’s not clear, and perhaps not yet known, how often the hazard area will be flooded. But kiss the Ala Moana rail station goodbye when the floods happen.

Here is the same area with the 2 foot rise economic loss layer activated. Note that the Diamond Head side of Ala Moana Center is pretty much wiped out economically. What this means for the station, I don’t know, but why have a station there if the destination will no longer be desirable?

map4 economic loss 2 ft

Note also the potential loss of those pricey condos facing the ocean on Ala Moana Blvd.  Sorry, snowbirds.

Even the economic loss at 1.1 foot of sea level rise would have some impact according to this overlay:

map5 economic loss 1.1 ft


Moving on now to Pearl City, where another rail station is to be located:


map6 Pearl City

The rail station is planned for Kam Highway near Kuala Street, just to the left of where it says Pearl City on this map.

Here’s the flood zone map for the same location:

map7 Pearl City flood zone

The rail station is just inside the edge of the flood zone. But remember: this is today’s data. The zone is not going to shrink.

The station is just at the edge of an area marked for economic loss – even for as little as a 0.5 foot sea level rise. The loss area increases as the higher level overlays are selected. Check it out.

Certainly, predictions are better crafted by the experts. We, the taxpayers, who are being made to pay for this project, have an interest in hearing, from a neutral source, what the projected effect on so-called “Transit Oriented Development” will be as the sea encroaches on Oahu.

I don’t know the implications of siting a rail station at the very edge of what is to become an economically blighted area, but I think it’s safe to say that developers are not going to be willing to build any “affordable” or any other housing there.

Friday, December 01, 2017

 

Kaimana Beach banner challenges slave-like conditions in Hawaii’s longline fishing fleet


by Larry Geller

Kaimana Beach Banner 20171130
( courtesy photo via Dylan Bedortha )

The Turtle Island Restoration Network and Ocean Defenders Alliance placed a banner on Kaimana (San Souci) Beach yesterday morning to call attention to the plight of foreign fishermen in Hawaii’s longlines fishing fleet. The banner was still there this morning.

Kaimana Beach is the site of the grounding of the Pacific Paradise, a Hawaii-owned fishing boat that grounded under strange circumstances on October 11. The wreck is still on the reef where it endangers swimmers, may be leaking fuel oil, and has destroyed a substantial amount of coral.

IMG_20171201_104111

The boat included 19 fishermen from Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines and Kiribati and an American captain. No one on the ship called for help when the ship ran aground in the night. The wreck was not discovered until daylight the next day.

Civil Beat reported that the rescued crew members were taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and then released to the boats that had contracted for their labor.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources will next issue fishing licenses to the men—in violation of Hawaii law, which prohibits the issuing of licenses to those not in Hawaii and is the root of an ongoing legal challenge. Without even the requirement that the men be able to read the contracts they will sign they will work confined aboard the other fishing boats for the duration of their contracts with the owners.

Salvage has proven difficult and the ship remains an eyesore and potential hazard off the popular swimming beach.

The wreck and the banner serve as reminders that Hawaii seafood is being caught not by local fishermen concerned with conserving the ocean’s limited resources but by exploited foreign labor often paid starvation wages and working under abusive conditions.

See: Hawaiian seafood caught by foreign crews confined on boats and articles in Disappeared News.

 

Maui judge Joseph E. Cardoza blocks Hawaii Longline Association from intervening in lawsuit challenging licensing of foreign fishermen


by Larry Geller

Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) denied without public hearing a petition filed by a Native Hawaiian waterman challenging the state's issuance of fishing licences to foreigners who cannot land in Hawaii. The petition was filed in April 2017 and ignored by DLNR until prompted in July, whereupon they denied the petition without a public hearing. The denial was appealed to the Environmental Court on Maui (see: New complaints challenge human rights abuses in Hawaii's fishing fleet).

Attorney Lance Collins issued the following information this afternoon following a ruling by an Maui Enviornmental Court Judge:

The Hon. Joseph E. Cardoza, Maui's Environmental Circuit
Court Judge, yesterday denied the Hawai'i Longline Association's request
to intervene in a lawsuit filed by Native Hawaiian fisherman Malama Chun
challenging DLNR's Division of Aquatic Resources' practice of issuing
licenses to foreign fisherman who have been refused permission to land
in Hawai'i by U.S. authorities and have been ordered deported.

State law restricts the issuance of commercial fishing licenses to
persons “lawfully admitted to the United States” Foreign fishermen
working in the longline fishing industry are refused permission to land
in the United States by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and are also
ordered deported. However, using a loophole, they authorize the
fisherman's boat captain to hold the fisherman's passport and the
deportation order and allow the boat captain to determine when the
deportation is to occur. To enforce the deportation order, the piers at
which the fishing boats dock are heavily militarized and access is
restricted.

Malama Chun petitioned the Board of Land and Natural Resources seeking
an order stopping the Division of Aquatic Resources from illegally
issuing permits. That request was denied and Chun appealed to the
Environmental Court.

Oral arguments will be held on December 13, 2017 at 10:00 am in
Wailuku.

See also New complaints challenge human rights abuses in Hawaii's fishing fleet for information on a complaint filed with the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.

The plight of foreign fishermen in Hawaii’s longline fishing fleet was first reported by the Associated Press on September 8, 2016 (see: Hawaiian seafood caught by foreign crews confined on boats or Like Hawaiian seafood? Here’s who’s catching it). The AP reporters have received a Pulitzer Prize for their work exposing human rights abuses in the fisheries that supply America’s supermarkets and restaurants.



Monday, November 27, 2017

 

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



Meanwhile, Around the World

27 November 2017

galtung_side#509 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

Trump is trumping himself by making America Last, not in the sense of long-lasting, but in the sense of going down. There is something to learn for those receptive to learning, and Islam puts it forcefully: togetherness, and sharing. We would add: as equally as possible. But Trump politics is the opposite of that, and the price is increasing. And so is today also much of Muslim politics, to their detriment.

Basic question: What does it say about USA that they elected him?

But look at the fate of empires. With today’s accelerating history their lease on time will shorten dramatically. In the Trump-USA case the nuclear button looms large when everything else becomes small, shortening for all of us. But his finger is not the only one.

To the prediction, long time ago, of the decline and fall of the US empire (system of client states), we now have to add the decline and fall of the US Republic itself. One aspect is its inability to face the situation seriously, demanding of everybody the best of their thought, speech and action. One would expect in major bookstores like Barnes & Noble an array of books dedicated to that. Not at all. Or in the print, listen and viewing media. Very little, if at all.

Another aspect is what we find: sports, arts, sex, Christianity. Worthy topics, but given the context they look like escape mechanisms, like ways of not having to face reality. And there is very much of them, the media are filled to the brim. Much of the sports and arts produced presently is superb, enriching producers, distributors and consumers alike, softening life in crises. But not solving them.

However, many well educated young people leave desk and counter jobs in favor of field jobs in the enormous, rich, US countryside, in agriculture. Americans are innovative; hopefully they will go for cooperatives with sales points and culture in small communities, enriching rural USA while ensuring for themselves the basics for life.

Wake up USA, face reality lest reality will crush and crash you.

Las Vegas was the 273rd mass shooting in 2017. But Americans are not likely to give up their guns as Gary Younge argues (The Guardian, 10 October 2017); the National Rifle Association uses increasing US violence as argument for their own against “terrorists, home invaders and drug cartels and carjackers and knockout gamers and rapers”.

The Global Terrorism Index 2017 shows a decline in 2017, 22% fewer deaths — 77 countries — than in the peak year 2014. But state terrorism, from the air or by sharp shooters, is not reported in this one-sided study, and they cause each other. Wake up, do a better job.

The most populous USA, China, India, Indonesia retain death penalty against Article 3 of the Human Rights Declaration, says Federico Mayor Zaragoza [http://www.other-news.Info/2017/10/death penalty-a-fatal-inhuman-practice-without-any-deterrence effect]. Big states lead to big power; make them smaller, respecting human rights.

Europe. Some Catalans demand independence; but more autonomy in financial matters helped in Germany (Bavaria), UK (Scotland), Belgium (the Flemish, the Walloons), Denmark (Faroe), Italy (South Tyrol, Lombardia-Veneto)–Rick Noack, The Washington Post 10-10-2017.

China. An effort to summarize recent trends, based on “In China, A New Political Era Begins”, Matthew Massee, Daily Digests 20-10-2017.

History has stored many centenaries in this year 2017: like both Luther and Lenin, the Protestant and Bolshevik revolutions, competing for their hallelujahs. The Balfour Declaration of 1917, establishing a “national home” for Jews, solving internal problems and pressures at the expense of Arabs-Palestinians. The Anglican Church may have hoped that more Jews in The Holy Land would accelerate the Second Coming of Messiah. It certainly did accelerate a lot, but apparently not that.

Not only acting and speaking, thinking matters; and for that concepts matter. Like the old war-horses justice, security, balance of power standing for punishment, preemptive warfare, domination. But if they becomes peace horses, if they stand for restoring a person, defensive defense, and balance of peace: equity and empathy both ways.

How about the concept “structural violence”–inspired in 1965 by “Rhodesia” boasting “peace” with no direct racial violence since 1923 domestic independence–with black life expectancy half of the white? To take half the life away, even if slowly, is that “domestic peace”? There was a conceptual void, crying for a word with “violence”. “Structural violence” did the job with 1.4 mio hits; but “solution orientation” has only 241,000. Evidently, there is work to do!

“Structure” stands for patterned interaction“, and “violence” for insults to basic human needs, survival, wellness, freedom, identity. The most obvious case is a hierarchy with different levels of living high up and low down; life expectancies will tell us how different.

Some people refer to this as “social injustice”. But “structural violence” indicates a way out: change structure to structural peace. And for that some structural literacy is needed: for polyarchy adding horizontal interaction (India, Japanese companies), for equiarachy only horizontal, and anarchy, no interaction, isolated individuals.

We need a word for linking presidential and state narcissism and paranoia by elections. Is the word democracy? Or democrazy, rather?


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of TRANSCEND International and rector of TRANSCEND Peace University. Prof. Galtung has published more than 1500 articles and book chapters, 500 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service, and more than 170 books on peace and related issues, of which more than 40 have been translated to other languages, including 50 Years – 100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives published by TRANSCEND University Press. More information about Prof. Galtung and all of his publications can be found at transcend.org/galtung.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

 

Star-Advertiser columnist documents reasons why tech firms generally must (I repeat, must) flee Hawaii


by Larry Geller

It feels great to be validated from time to time. I’ve been pressing on this issue since 1989 and in this blog for more than a decade. It seems obvious to me: Tech firms almost inevitably find they have to relocate in order to succeed.

As a result, our state government spends a fortune promoting “high tech” only to see successful firms (or firms that want to be successful) pull up stakes and head to the Mainland.

And that’s just what those firms should do.

20170725 B4

Usually I write something like this: “One day the bean counters will come knocking at the CEO’s door and let him know that it is not in the stockholder's interest to keep the operation in sunny Hawaii.”

Of course, that applies also to privately held operations. It doesn’t matter how much the founder likes surfing, hiking or snacking on our wonderful mangos or lychee.

That knock will inevitably come.

In today’s Star-Advertiser (paywalled) Mike Meyer relates in his Tech View column how a startup thrived after moving to San Francisco in 2015. A snip from his column:

Q: Does the San Francisco Bay Area make sense for local companies that have decided to make the move to the mainland?

A: If you are a B2B SaaS (software as a service) startup like we are, then yes, without a doubt.

Q: Can you provide some metrics as far as growth and sales that have occurred after your move?

A: Our staff grew from three to 12, and we’ve gone from six to 700 customers since moving to S.F.

Hawaii does have some financing options, but the article points out that there are more in SF. Even if a startup is backed by a Hawaii venture capitol company, the funders will expect their investment to succeed, basically. If that means the startup moving to the Mainland, then the funders will at some point push for that. So Hawaii backing doesn’t mean the entrepreneur is going to be able to enjoy surfing here forever.

Customers, suppliers, engineers, scientists, and a robust support structure are there, not here.

There’s not much to be done about Hawaii’s isolation. Nor is Hawaii unique. I imagine a tech startup in the middle of Wyoming faces similar prospects—move or stagnate. Move or close up. Wyoming probably has a lower cost of living, though. Our high costs work against tech companies remaining or relocating here.

One thing I learned from the article: Hawaii is a great place “to develop code in relative secrecy.” Ok. That might also apply to Wyoming, though.

Poor tech opportunites impact our public school and college graduates as well. STEM programs are great, and certainly, every student is entitled to have the best education. Those who become enthusiastic and those who excel in science and maybe graduate at or near the top of their class face pressure to move to the Mainland for job opportunities—shattering the strong cultural preference to keep families together.

Sure, there is some high-tech here. No contribution to our economy should be discounted. But the basic impediments remain.

And no matter how good our educational system might become, or how much we can improve venture capitol opportunities, the knock will still come one day on each door.

I often add to my many articles that there does not seem to be a solution in sight. Islands in middle of the ocean usually don’t do well. Maybe they have guano, but that doesn’t last long.

So thank goodness we have a thriving tourism industry. Or we’d be trading stone money for those mangos and lychee.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

 

New complaints challenge human rights abuses in Hawaii's fishing fleet


An AP story is making its way around the world, reviving the as-yet unresolved issue of human rights violations aboard ships in Hawaii's longlines fishing fleet.

The story reports that a complaint has just been filed with the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.

Simultaneously, an agency of the Hawaii State government has denied without public hearing a petition filed by a Native Hawaiian waterman challenging the state's issuance of fishing licences to foreigners who cannot land in Hawaii. The denial will trigger an immediate court action.



The following snip is from an article in the Bangkok Post:

Turtle Island Restoration Network told The Associated Press on Wednesday that they filed the complaint last week with the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. The filing asks the panel to determine the responsibility of the US for human rights abuses against foreign workers in Hawaii's longline fishing fleet.

An Associated Press investigation into the seafood industry revealed that hundreds of men are confined to Hawaii boats that operate due to a federal loophole that exempts the foreign fishermen from most basic labour protections.

Many come from impoverished Southeast Asian and Pacific nations to take the jobs, which can pay as little as 70 cents an hour.

The fleet catches $110 million worth of luxury seafood annually.


Today attorney Lance Collins issued a press release regarding the dismissal of a petition filed with the Board of Land and Natural Resources on April 12 (see below). Not only did the BLNR delay responding for three months, but they also issued their denial without holding the customary public hearing.

Collins announced that the denial will be appealed immediately to the Environmental Court on Maui.

It is fair to say that the issue of human rights violations uncovered by an AP investigation published September 8, 2016 will stay in the public eye worldwide until the state government takes effective action to end the abuses. At the root of the problem is the illegal issuance of fishing licences by the state to foreign fishermen who are not allowed to set foot in the state.





Press Release 7/20/2017

The Board of Land and Natural Resources denied Native Hawaiian waterman Malama Chun's petition seeking to stop the Department of Land and Natural Resources from issuing commercial fishing licenses to non-resident fishermen who are confined to boats at Honolulu and Hilo harbors when at port. The Board refused to address the substantive issue of its Division of Aquatic Resources illegally issuing commercial fishing licenses to non-resident fishermen who are not legally allowed to enter the United States and as a consequence of their status are held in prison-like conditions on their boats while docked in Honolulu and Hilo. The Board also did not hold a public hearing to deny the matter – going against its traditional custom of making its decisions at public meetings.

On April 12, 2017, Malama Chun, a Native Hawaiian waterman, who fishes, filed a petition with the state Board of Land and Natural Resources challenging DLNR's Division of Aquatic Resources practice of issuing licenses to foreign fisherman who have been refused permission to land in Hawai'i by U.S. authorities and have been ordered deported.

State law restricts the issuance of commercial fishing licenses to persons “lawfully admitted to the United States” Foreign fishermen working in the longline fishing industry are refused permission to land in the United States by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and are also ordered deported. However, using a loophole, they authorize the fisherman's boat captain to hold the fisherman's passport and the deportation order and allow the boat captain to determine when the deportation is to occur. To enforce the deportation order, the piers at which the fishing boats dock are heavily militarized and access is restricted.

Chun said, “The members of the BLNR must have been too ashamed to make their decision at a public meeting. The situation is bad for these fishermen and its bad for Hawaii's people. And I know in their hearts they know its wrong which is why they didn't give us a public hearing before deciding.”

Chun's attorney, Lance D. Collins, added: “The Board's claim that Mr. Chun has no interest in their illegal issuance of commercial marine licenses is not only erroneous but absurd. We will be appealing this decision to the Environmental Court immediately.”


Sunday, July 16, 2017

 

Hawaii might look to Europe for offshore wind power innovation


A recent issue of the IEEE Spectrum featured an exciting article for those impatiently waiting for offshore wind power to become practicle: For the First Time, Offshore Wind Power Will Be Profitable Without Subsidies".



Europe’s offshore wind power industry recently achieved a major milestone: three projects to be built without government subsidy. Bent Christensen, who is responsible for energy-cost projections for Siemens’s wind power division, credits industry-wide cost cutting that has outstripped expectations. “We’re three to four years ahead of schedule,” says Christensen.


Part of the cost breakthrough is due to recent innovations in power transmission technology.

Hawaii cannot count on local development to make offshore wind power feasible. Staying in touch with European leaders may work well for us and help reduce the outrageous rates we pay for electricity at present.


Tuesday, July 04, 2017

 

Hawaii should fear a "knapsack" attack more than a N. Korean ICBM


It's July 4th. While looking forward to today's hotdogs and tonight's firework celebration, at the same time our Twitter feed shouts out ominous reports of North Korea's latest test firing of an ICBM:



In Hawaii we probably should be worrying about our vulnerability as a future missile target. We should, however, also be concerned about a more immediate potential threat: conventional targeting of tourist or military facilities in conventional terror attack.

Do you think it couldn't happen here?

Watch the sky tonight, particularly if you live on the upper floor of a condo or anyplace high over the city. I'll bet there will be plenty of illegal aerials, as usual.

Even though they have long been outlawed there seems to be no way to stop them.

Clearly, it's pretty easy to bring them in. Your neighbor may be buying them and then shooting them off each year with impunity.

We can't keep them out it seems.

This inability to keep out explosives could be a more immediate threat than expecting a N. Korean atomic bomb to be launched in our direction one day.

Tourism clearly is a common terrorist target, as we all too often read in the news. Terrorism is aimed now at innocent gatherings of civilians and at places popular with tourists. ISIS leader Al-Baghdadi declared a jihad against tourism. It works very well for the evildoers, who seek the media attention the attacks bring even more than the death toll they can achieve.

Professor Johan Galtung named what I am describing as "knapsack" attacks. That is, someone brings the material into Honolulu and then uses it to blow something up.

The lesson from the repetitive display of illegal fireworks is that this may be very easy to do.

The targets might be malls, PXs, Waikiki beaches or hotels, or Chinatown nightclubs or gatherings.

Any such incident would likely have a lasting impact on tourism, the driver of the state's economy.

A "knapsack" attack is very low-tech and doesn't risk nuclear counter-attack. Why anyone would concentrate on developing and then dropping a missile on us escapes me, to tell the truth.

What to do about this? I suggest we begin talking and not just waiting for it to befall us.


Monday, July 03, 2017

 

Repost 2017: History that should not—and will not—disappear: July 4, 1894, illegal overthrow of Hawaii completed



President Cleveland further concluded that a "substantial wrong has thus been done which a due regard for our national character as well as the rights of the injured people requires we should endeavor to repair" and called for the restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy.

by Larry Geller

Cannon on the steps of Iolani palace[3][6]

Cannon on the steps of the occupied Iolani Palace


On July 4, 1894, the Republic of Hawaii was declared, with Sanford B. Dole as president. The illegal overthrow of the independent nation of Hawaii was complete.

Yes, although your daily paper may want you to forget this, it is history that should not be ignored. There’s even a federal law confirming the truth of the history they refuse to print.

From the Apology Resolution, United States Public Law 103-150:

Whereas, in a message to Congress on December 18, 1893, President Grover Cleveland reported fully and accurately on the illegal acts of the conspirators, described such acts as an "act of war, committed with the participation of a diplomatic representative of the United States and without authority of Congress", and acknowledged that by such acts the government of a peaceful and friendly people was overthrown... President Cleveland further concluded that a "substantial wrong has thus been done which a due regard for our national character as well as the rights of the injured people requires we should endeavor to repair" and called for the restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy.

Whereas, the indigenous Hawaiian people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people or over their national lands to the United States, either through their monarchy or through a plebiscite or referendum.

A treaty of annexation was never passed by Congress, and President Grover Cleveland withdrew the treaty. Then on this day in history…

On July 4, 1894, the archipelago's new leaders responded to this rebuff by proclaiming a Republic of Hawaii, with Sanford Dole as president. Under its constitution, most legislators would be appointed rather than elected, and only men with savings and property would be eligible for public office. This all but excluded native Hawaiians from the government of their land… [From Overthrow, a book by Stephen Kinzer]

What was the motivation? Need you ask? Why is the US in Iraq?From the Washington Post review of Overthrow:

As Stephen Kinzer tells the story in Overthrow, America's century of regime changing began not in Iraq but Hawaii. Hawaii? Indeed. Kinzer explains that Hawaii's white haole minority -- in cahoots with the U.S. Navy, the White House and Washington's local representative -- conspired to remove Queen Liliuokalani from her throne in 1893 as a step toward annexing the islands. The haole plantation owners believed that by removing the queen (who planned to expand the rights of Hawaii's native majority) and making Hawaii part of the United States, they could get in on a lucrative but protected mainland sugar market. Ever wonder why free trade has such a bad name?

The road leading up to the declaration of the Republic of Hawaii was rocky, and can’t be summed up in a short blog article. Did you know, for example, that a US Senate investigation revealed that a bribe had been offered to Queen Liliuokalani to turn against her people and support the Republic? This snip is from a New York Times article on the Senate investigation, dated 1/29/1894:

Bribe_thumb3[2][4]

The declaration of the Republic was not a single, static event. There was considerable debate in Congress on resolutions condemning the overthrow and proposed annexation. For example, this snip from the 1/25/1894 New York Times will give you an idea of the complexity that we lose in simplifying Hawaii’s history:

Debate_thumb2[2][8]

Each article is much longer than the snips above. It would be worthwhile to skim the New York Times for a complete account of the Congressional debate. No doubt this has already been done. If not, the articles are available on-line for the harvesting..

If you’re not familiar with Hawaiian history, beware of websites that work hard to re-write it. The true picture of the overthrow is not pretty, nor can the acts of the US government be justified or whitewashed. Google cautiously.

Let your children know that there is more to July 4 than barbeques and fireworks. It is a holiday that tears people apart here in Hawaii. See how you can work this history into your celebrations and festivities, so that it will never disappear.





Thursday, June 29, 2017

 

Homelessness crisis: Let's stop using the bogus term "affordable housing" and say instead (for example) $800/month rent


Honolulu is making little to no progress in solving its chronic housing shortage--a problem which has been recognized in the press as a crisis at least since 2003. It's time we pushed our elected leaders to commit to firm plans for creating the 20,000, 24,000 or 60,000 rentals that will be needed according to the time frame and who is expounding on the subject.

Waiting for Santa Claus to fly over the Honolulu rail route one day and deliver "affordable housing" does not qualify as a viable plan.

Newspaper articles equating 140% of AMI (Area Median Income) as "affordable" are counter-productive when homeless or near-homeless need housing at 30% of AMI. The lack of journalistic honesty takes pressure off of our elected officials (City Council and state government) to develop concrete plans. Government lets the crisis slide along, and instead put its energy into the gentrification of Kakaako and Waikiki. That of course benefits mainly the ultra-rich and the Whole Foods-type of merchants that the well-off need to enjoy whatever number of months they actually stay in their expensive condo apartments.

I suggest re-starting the dialogue and never mentioning the word "affordable". The word has no meaning without a frame of "affordable for whom." In truth, housing is needed across a broad spectrum of monthly rental rates. Why not talk about the need for and availability of $800/month apartments, $1,000/month apartments, $1,800/month apartments, and so forth? People seek housing according to what they are able to pay.

In the face of competition from those with generous military housing subsidies and the burgeoning Airbnb-type of vacation rentals, the low- and medium-range of rentals will continue to fail residents who are trapped by the low paying jobs prevalent in Hawaii.

In the absence of adequate Section 8 housing and some form of rent control, the best-laid plans, even if they existed, would fall short.

But there is no plan to resolve what is arguably the worst crisis of homelessness since the Great Depression. Rents continue to rise and wages continue to stagnate. Other costs of living increase inexorably as well. Much of our population lives on fixed incomes. There need for realistic plans at a scale that has a chance to make a meaningful difference. Neither our city nor our state have promulgated plans that their constituents can hold them to.

It's important to acknowledge that the housing crisis was recognized at least as far back as 2003, with several newspaper articles at that time calling for action. Yet none was forthcoming. Here's an article from November 16, 2003:


Just as the rail project is viewed by many as a con against the public perpetrated by citycouncilmen beholden only to the development community who pay the largest share of their campaign contributions, the concept that "Transit Oriented Development" will provide much in the way of low-income rental units is also a con.

Bullet points on a PowerPoint slide do not amount to an actual "plan". A plan typically has a budget, personnel assigned or need recognized, a timeline, etc. All measurable, of course, so those in charge can be held accountable to it.

There is no Santa Claus. The hoped-for housing that's needed will have to depend on the ingenuity and dedication of urban planners working for the people instead of wishing for progress led by developers and their agents in city government. So far, government shows no signs of delivering.

The media could fulfill an important role, if it were also dedicated to the needs of newspaper readers instead of newspaper advertisers. They could document how many housing units are needed in each rental bracket and give up on the bogus "affordable" narrative that currently dominates articles.

We need to get all hands on deck to solve this so-far intractable issue.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

 

Honolulu Star-Advertiser publishes illegal vacation rental how-to article


IMG_20170621_135230

Wednewday’s Star-Advertiser front page is dominated by a pretty useless full-page graphic that illustrates the easy profits to be made in Hawaii's vacation rental business. If, as is likely to happen, this presentation encourages more homeowners and renters to tap this extremely lucrative (though illegal) source of income, the pool of affordable rental housing in the state will be further reduced.

Yes, this is news. The presentation, however, crosses a line into promotion. Tenants cash in despite risks (Star-Advertiser p.A1, 6/21/17) only vaguely suggests, in its closing paragraph on an inside page, that this popular practice might be problematic. Nowhere does the article state that the proliferation of these short-term rentals is a contributor to Hawaii's chronic housing shortage and the growing homelessness crisis.

Of course short-term rentals (think, for example, of those arranged via Airbnb) are usually illegal here, but right at the top of the page is data reporting that fines levied so far this year total only $2,000. The third paragraph states that profits from renting to vacationers can "fetch upwards of $1,000 a week."

Also on the front page is a list describing the size of this business ("the alternative accommodations industry"): $1.4 billion in household income and 34,000 jobs.

Clearly, enforcement is effectively nonexistant. Profits are high. Risks are low. The article can't fail to attract the attention of renters and homeowners curious about how to make money through on-line services such as Airbnb. It mentions five ways to post a listing. It demonstrates that the risk of getting fined is close to zero. No specialized degree or qualifications are needed to make big bucks. Lots of people are already doing this. Sounds worth trying, right?

There is no context or perspective on benefits or harms to our economy or quality of life.

As an article in the Local section, this topic would make more sense. It's not "front-page" news because the societal impact is omitted. What's left is an effective promotion for an industry that demonstrably harms state residents while primarily benefiting out-of-state special interests.



Sunday, May 14, 2017

 

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



In September, an extensive Associated Press investigation detailing poor labor conditions aboard Hawaii longline vessels that catch ahi and swordfish sparked national attention and public outrage….But eight months later, little appears to have changed when it comes to protecting the foreign fishermen who can’t stray from their American boats docked at Honolulu Harbor without risking deportation.
Star-Advertiser, 5/14/2017


by Larry Geller

Time marches on (see: Three months after the AP revealed slave-like conditions aboard boats in the Hawaii fishing fleet, no fix is in sight, 12/7/2016).

In truth, nothing has changed to protect the foreign fishermen whose plight was described in the September 2016 Associate Press stories.

(See these AP stories for background)

From today’s article:

The foreign longline fishermen exist in a sort of legal purgatory. While they are legally employed by U.S. vessels, they aren’t actually allowed to step foot on U.S. soil and aren’t afforded the labor protections of American workers.

While locals and tourists at restaurants like Nico’s off Pier 38 dine on the fresh ahi caught by foreign longliners, the fishermen remain confined to their boats just yards away.

[Star-Advertiser p. A1, Isles’ longline industry little changed after investigation, 5/14/2017]

2017-05-14_160642

Today’s story revealed that Whole Foods, which had discontinued buying fish from the Hawaii Fish Auction when the abuses were revealed in September, resumed buying the fish in late December.

So much for retailer pressure on the industry to end the abuses.

The concerns expressed initially by our Congressional delegation have gone nowhere.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources heard a petition to change their rules, but denied it.

Bills introduced in the state legislature to prevent licensing of foreign fishermen did not succeed. In fact, there is already state law prohibiting the issuance of fishing licenses to fisherman who cannot legally land in Hawaii, but DLNR refuses to enforce it.

Most recently, a new petition has been sent to the Bureau of Land and Natural Resources in April. Although they are required to hear it, so far they have not scheduled it on a hearing agenda.

The “self-regulation” of the industry described in news articles is effectively non-existent because the document that the fleet operators created and describe as a “contract” is not, in fact, the fishermen’s labor contract, and it is unenforceable—the fishermen have no means to enforce it.

So it’s now eight months after the original AP stories spread around the country and around the world, and nothing has changed in Hawaii to end the abuses.



Monday, May 08, 2017

 

Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: The Post Glory Exuberance Disorder-PGED


The Post Glory Exuberance Disorder-PGED

8 May 2017

galtung_side#480 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

Very well known is post trauma stress disorder, PTSD; no doubt a very painful disorder experienced by many, most, maybe by all of us. Something went very wrong: a shock, violence, physical, verbal, by and to individuals, groups in society, societies, groups of societies. Not only by and to individuals: PTSD does not belong to psychology only.

However, as Buddhist epistemology informs us: there is symmetry to the world.  Anything can be seen from at least two angles: to “I walk down the street” add “the street moves toward me, ‘walks me up'”.  Was Einstein inspired by Buddhism when he asked his famous question, “Does Zurich stop at this train?” Maybe not; his relativity, “moving relative to each other”, forced that question upon him anyhow.

For Buddhism, however, this thinking goes far beyond movement, into concepts and discourses.  What would be the opposite of trauma? Evidently something positive. For one, like this author concerned with war and peace, one type of trauma is defeat in a war and the opposite is victory.  Basking in the glory, not suffering the gloom of trauma.  And then, if trauma could lead to a state of stress, deeper and more permanent the deeper and more repetitive the trauma, maybe deep and repeated glory could lead to a state of, let us call it exuberance?

This opens for behaviorism: avoid trauma, seek glory. But the idea is deeper. Deep-repeated trauma leads to stress disorder, not only stress. Deep-repeated glory may lead to exuberance disorder: let us have more wars to enjoy more victories! Not only for defense!

We may refer to the same war. Death in a war is a major trauma for the bereaved and all, victory a major glory for many and all. The loser is traumatized, the winner glorified. The loser may suffer deep disorder, like nations traumatized by Western colonialism. Or they may say “Never Again” and launch a peace movement.  The winner will do his best to keep war as an institution.  Till his time comes to lose.

For micro level analysis, marriages in patriarchic families offer obvious examples.  Through centuries an experience so traumatic for women that one way of handling the stress was to become a nun, the frock being a visible No to marriage. But most women lived with stress in a subhuman state that itself was a disorder, indeed.  And the man?

Enjoying it all, as so often pointed out having a maid, servant, prostitute and care-taker all rolled into one, the “wife”.  A glorious state of affairs leading to a hopefully lasting exuberance multiplied and repeated with mistresses and concubines. Pathological.

But why call it a disorder when men see it as a lasting order?  Because of the effects on others, on the victims, on those whose suffering, stress, was and is the condition for his exuberance, glory.

What is PTSD for some may be PGED for others, as simple as that.

But that insight is lost by focusing on only one side, as so often done in Western thought.  We mentioned war, colonialism, patriarchy, think also of slavery and racism.  So much world history comes up triggered by these terms. But it is mandatory to see both sides.

Why?  Because to any PTSD it makes sense to postulate a PGED as a strong cause having that PTSD as effect. If we want to reduce the PTSD it is obviously insufficient to work on the victim side only, with therapies and remedies when PGED reproduces PTSD.  A whole system has to be changed.  And we have mentioned the names of some of those systems: slavery, colonialism and patriarchy changed or changing; war and racism continuing, to give more content to these assertions.

Take the war system, writing in Easter 2017, as alive as ever with threats of major wars in many places in the “Middle East” (West Asia), the USA-EU-Ukraine-Russia complex, and in the “Far East” (East Asia).  The relatively peaceful continents are in the “Third World”, Latin America-Caribbean and Africa; the enormity of violence against them being structural more than direct war.

In this there is a message to those who naively believe that “development leads to peace”; right now it looks more like the other way around.  Why, given all the suffering, the PTSD, caused by wars?

Because of PGED enjoyed by the winners.  Not only basking in the glory of ticker tape parades and similar orgies, but in billions to the winners, incidentally also to some of the losers unless forced to pay “compensation” being defined as guilty.  Wars make money flow.

The world’s major war machine is the United States of America.  No US president winning a war has ever been blamed for human suffering caused. The crimes of a President Polk in the 1846-48 war, stealing more than half of Mexico’s territory, do not include human suffering. The war in Vietnam was lost, a terrible trauma for US leaders, population, and the bereaved of 58,000 killed. But not of 3 million Vietnamese? Grotesque insensitivity.  Questions raised were not about the political use of war but how to win future wars to overcome the “Vietnam syndrome”.

To win means collective glory and exuberance, individual profits in the billions high up, and some heroism glory and medals lower down. Of/from the millions killed and tens of millions bereaved: no word.

Try one minute, or an hour rather, to contemplate the total PTSD perpetrated by US warfare on the peoples of Afghanistan from 2001, and Iraq from 1991, and 2003. True, there has been no US PGED but even some US PTSD from the “unfinished wars” as CNN calls it. Also true, lots of US psychotherapy for PTSD has been made available both places.

But most in need of counseling are Americans hit by wanting PGED, demanding winnable wars as therapy; disasters to the victims all over, even counting in the millions, with enormities of PTSD in their wake.

We are victims of a negative psychology of individual therapy. And short on a positive psychology to provide work for negative and positive peace, for security and good relations to higher ups who want PGED. And to remove causes of war: unsolved conflicts and unconciled traumas.

______________________________________

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

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

Sunday, May 07, 2017

 

Legislature acted responsibly in denying rail funding


by Larry Geller

analysis

Today’s Star-Advertiser ran a front page editorial accusing the state legislature of failing to fund Honolulu’s drastically overbudget and late elevated rail project.

The article is by a political reporter, but its positioning, its thrust and its conclusion represent a position on the part of the paper’s editors.

Labeling what many consider a sensible decision as an “Epic Fail” in screaming all-caps and accompanied by a cute space-wasting illustration is a clear indication that the paper feels that state taxpayers should somehow rescue this ailing city project that threatens to bar sensible development and maintenance expenditures into the indefinite future.

I cannot do better than post here the arguments made on the Senate floor on May 4 by Senator Laura Thielen. Here’s the video. I would like to pretend that I could state the arguments as well as she could, but that’s not true—please watch the short video which is worth a couple thousand of my words (click the thingy at the lower right for full screen):



[thanks to Donna Wong for pointer to this video]

The Star-Advertiser depends on full-page ads by condo developers. There’s not a development that won’t qualify for a front-page article with space-guzzling photo despite the fact that any particular new or planned condo in Honolulu is far from important news. Rail is expected to bring massive development along its route and so it’s understandable why the paper might take this position. Development equals ad revenue.

For the rest of us, though, we might well prefer air conditioning in the schools or (say) a reduced maintenance backlog or funding of infrastructure improvements that benefit all citizens of the state. None of that will happen if rail drains the needed funds out of state budgets for the indefinite future.



Friday, May 05, 2017

 

Will state agencies learn from court ruling in OHA Sunshine Law violation?



Following an appeal to the court by the board of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), the First Circuit Court upheld the Office of Information Practices’ Opinion Letter No. F15-02, which had determined that the OHA board violated the Sunshine Law when it (1) engaged in serial communications outside a meeting when deciding to rescind a letter sent by its Chief Executive Officer (CEO); and (2) did not allow the public to testify on an agenda item scheduled for executive session.—
from OIP: What’s New: Court upholds OIP opinion on OHA, 5/5/2017


by Larry Geller

From West Hawaii Today in a 2014 article:

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs violated the state Sunshine Law when trustees corresponded by telephone and email before sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry rescinding an earlier letter by Chief Executive Officer Kamanaopono Crabbe.

Then the board violated the law again when it refused to allow public comment before conducting a closed-door session discussing Crabbe’s conduct.

That’s the finding of the state Office of Information Practices in a Nov. 7 opinion responding to a complaint by six Hawaii residents.

[West Hawaii Today, State: OHA broke Sunshine Law, 11/14/2014]

Let me answer my own question, “Will state agencies learn from court ruling in OHA Sunshine Law violation?”

No.

If OHA had learned what Hawaii’s Sunshine Law requires, it would never have taken the matter to court. The OIP opinion was very clear, and has now been supported by a judge.

OHA is a state agency. Whatever they spent attempting to justify their wrongdoing in court is at taxpayer expense.

From OIP’s regular What’s New email:

Following an appeal to the court by the board of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), the First Circuit Court upheld the Office of Information Practices’ Opinion Letter No. F15-02, which had determined that the OHA board violated the Sunshine Law when it (1) engaged in serial communications outside a meeting when deciding to rescind a letter sent by its Chief Executive Officer (CEO); and (2) did not allow the public to testify on an agenda item scheduled for executive session. As allowed by law, OIP did not participate in the court’s April 19, 2017 hearing and let its opinion speak for itself, which resulted in the court’s “Order Denying Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Board of Trustees’ Motion for Summary Judgment” in S.P. No. 14-1-0543 (JPC).

The May 1, 2017 decision by Judge Jeffrey P. Crabtree has been posted to OIP’s website.

It’s not as though this decision breaks any new ground. Disappeared News reported in a 2013 article on attorney Lance Collins’ win in the Hawaii Supreme Court in a case involving the Kauai County Council’s serial recesses and serial communications in deliberate violation of the Sunshine Law. A snip of the opinion from page 66:

… serial communications regarding Council business circumvented “the spirit of the open meeting requirement” and “thwarted and frustrated” the “strong policy of having public bodies deliberate and decide its business in view of the public.

That decision cited other case law.

If OHA wasn’t aware of its responsibilities at the time of the Crabbe letter to then Secretary of State John Kerry, it was educated by the OIP opinion. It should also have been educated by its attorney.

But they refused to learn.

So one state agency contested another in state court. We pay for all this, of course.

Over the years I may not have agreed with everything OIP decides, but that may be my problem. Overwhelmingly they explain and uphold the Sunshine Law when a state agency ignores a public records request, for example, or violates the open meeting laws.

And that’s with a greatly diminished budget over the years—the Legislature’s odd way of asserting its power over an agency charged with enforcing laws that the Legislature itself has passed (this is from a 2015 tweet by @NathanEagle of Civil Beat):

budget

They also teach the requirements of the law. OHA (and other state agencies) can come up to speed easily—which means that the Kerry letter caper and related violations should not have taken place to begin with.

This is not to single out OHA, of course. The Kauai County Council, in the case cited above, should also have known that they were violating the law. In that instance, I believe they may have known. I base my theory on a video that was given to me many years ago and that unfortunately is gone along with the demise of my late beloved HP TC1100 tablet computer, in which a Kauai County Council member appeared to be debating, on video, whether the Council should follow the Sunshine Law or not.

Perhaps it is naïve of me to expect that this will change.



Thursday, May 04, 2017

 

Hawaii House rebellion: Shogun resigns, daimyo take a head


by Larry Geller

Today in Hawaii, as in ancient Japan, feudal goverment factions clashed.

In the midst of the fray the House shogun abruptly resigned and a powerful daiymo is being forced from her fief, her head served up on a platter.

Tokuda kubijiken

Civil Beat reported that Speaker of the House Joe Souki has resigned (see letter via Civil Beat) and that powerful Ways and Means Chair Jill Tokuda will be deposed from her commanding post in the Senate.

I’ve offered the theory that Hawaii’s state legislature does not follow the Democrat/Republican system prevalent in the rest of the country but instead is more akin to the ancient Japanese feudal system.

In the House, for example, the feudal lords (daimyo) are the committee heads. Under the daimyo are their retainers, the committee vice-chairs. The committee members are lesser vassals, obeying the orders of committee chairs on how to vote.

As shogun, the Speaker of the House rules over them all, and somewhere nearby is the emperor, the governor.

The Senate structure is the same.

Tokuda is being blamed for the failure of the Legislature to agree on a funding mechanism for Honolulu’s late and drastically over-budget rail construction. The full story (read Civil Beat or your newspaper) is complicated by pro- and anti-rail factions in the general population. It appears that there is no good solution.

So expect more internecine battles as a plan continues to evade lawmakers.

In the meantime, enjoy the kabuki play.



Thursday, April 27, 2017

 

Street-level rail is more convenient, cheaper, faster to build, and encourages retail development


by Larry Geller

An op-ed in today’s Star-Advertiser pushes the idea of street-level rail from Middle Street.

I’ve been advocating street-level rail because it could be extended all the way out to the Leeward Coast and to Waikiki, thereby bringing people from where they live to most of the places where they work—downtown, Ala Moana and the hotels. It could take tourists to and from the airport.

Street-level transit would encourage retail development along the route, instead of disrupting it with overhead tracks.

Additionally, it would not blight downtown or ruin anyone’s views.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so this short video snip should be priceless. I’m re-running it from an earlier article. It is from a program that aired on PBS e2 (e-squared) series "Portland: A Sense of Place" imany years ago, describing the city planning that helped make Portland, Oregon such a great place to live.

Click the thingy at the lower right for full screen.



 

Enjoy a great meal for really little at group fundraiser in town May 3.


by Larry Geller

Is it “you get what you pay for” or you “pay for what you get?”

I have found a way to transform these political fundraisers held during the legislative session into a real social benefit. Please read or skim through this until the end. I’m going to reveal a secret.

Yesterday we learned that the price of a Hawaii Speaker of the House would be $1,000 for an evening get-together during session. And although I’ve been comparing our legislature to a medieval Japanese feudal system, there’s no need to carefully wrap your contribution and bow low as it is pushed across the table. Well, you could still bow low, that’s fine.

High class fundraising

Again, this is not unethical under the ethics laws (because lawmakers won’t pass bills that would make it illegal). In the normal usage of the word “ethics” it is hard to justify the most powerful person in the House soliciting money contributions while matters affecting the contributor are still pending before the legislature.

Today I learned of other House members holding a fundraiser during session. This time they are ganging up together, and the suggested contribution mentioned is a more affordable $100. And no free parking.

Group grope

Rep Creagan and Rep. Evans hail from the Big Island. It’s not too likely that many of his constituents can afford the air fare and hotel charge to come to Oahu for this shindig. Rep. McKelvery is from Maui. Rep. Morikawa is from Kauai County. Same for them.

Lobbyists and corporate interests, on the other hand, will be able to walk over after work. So you tell me who this fundraiser is designed to attract?

It oughta be illegal but its not.

Help these legislators feed the hungry

Now, I wouldn’t dare suggest this, but the food at the Executive Center is not terrible, and anyone in town that day could probably indulge for very little. Even for a buck. There’s no minimum charge for admission.

In these times of #Resistance I dream of someone rounding up, say, 100 people and crashing one of these events. And doing it again for the next, and the next…

It could also be a really cheap date. Hobnob with the lobbyists. Find out why they want you to eat GMOs. Or whatever. Finally get to speak with these legislators. Or just enjoy the buffet.

Don’t say you heard that here.



 

Editorial: Get the complete operating plan before approving any tax extension for Honolulu rail



Sen. Lorraine Inouye and Rep. Sylvia Luke spent the better part of 45 minutes in a testy back-and-forth argument about how far to extend the general excise tax surcharge to provide additional funding for a rail project that is far over budget and far behind schedule.

Inouye wants the GET surcharge to run 10 additional years until 2037, while Luke wants it to go only two years beyond its 2027 sunset date. Their differences reflect sharp disagreements among Senate and House leaders about rail funding and whether the surcharge extension should be used to fund other transportation projects.—Civil Beat, 4/26/17


by Larry Geller

The Honolulu rail project is not just “far over budget and far behind schedule.” It’s much worse than that. There is no plan that assures taxpayers they will be able to afford to use the service when it becomes available.

Until plans for maintenance and operations costs (including approximate fare required per ride), why not withhold funds and make the city sit down and finish the job of planning? Aren’t we as taxpayers owed that?

There is also no plan that guarantees that truly affordable housing will be built along the route, an important promised benefit.

Most people understand the need for planning. For example, assuming a person is not independently wealthy, does it make sense to just quit your job, pack up and move to a new city hoping to find a job? Some people can pull that off, others will end up homeless on the street.

For most people, saying “I like country music, so I should be in Nashville” doesn’t compute unless one can survive there. How much will it cost? How will I pay rent?

Because taxpayers are made to cough up the cost of rail construction does not mean we are each independently wealthy! So we need to have a plan to prevent financial disaster.

Yet disputes over financing Honolulu’s rail system continue, and the project advances inch by inch while still we have no idea what it will cost to use and maintain the system.

The people charged with planning either don’t know how to do it or have been deceptive. Remember the overhead power line fiasco? It was no secret that the high-voltage lines would have to be dealt with, and the cost should have been figured into the budget from day one. But it was either deliberately (my theory) or negligently omitted. Still, the bill will have to be paid.

Now, it is very reasonable to expect that before the first length of track is laid, before ground was even broken, that we taxpayers should have been told what it will cost to use the system. If it’s going to be cost-prohibitive, it should not be built. Period. It’s bad enough that it will serve so few riders because it doesn’t reach where people live or work on Oahu. It’s bad enough that it will blight the landscape.

This is not at all a criticism of mass transit for Honolulu. It is just that we should not be paying for this now or ever (much less through a regressive tax for the next 20 years) if we won’t be able to afford to use it.

Planning for operating the system not only isn’t complete, it may not have been started.

Perhaps the legislature should withhold additional funding until they have an audited, complete plan in hand. Then see if it should be funded.



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