Tuesday, November 25, 2014

 

Did Ferguson deliberately let black businesses burn?



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


by Larry Geller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



 

The good, the bad, and then there’s Kakaako, the ugly


by Larry Geller

Too much[3]

The newspaper asked “Too much, too fast?” as its headline to accompany a photo of proposed development in the Kakaako area of downtown Honolulu.

What’s good about this? That Kakaako land is being made available for development. We have long had a crushing housing shortage on Oahu.

What’s bad about this? That it’s not for us. The claim of “mixed-use development” is tilted too far towards the wealthy and ultra-wealthy while pent-up demand for affordable housing, including affordable rentals, goes nowhere fast.

What’s ugly about this? Just about everything. Look at those drab buildings. Forget about a “Hawaiian sense of place,” the model pictured more closely resembles Hong Kong than Hawaii.

What architectural principles, if any, are developers held to before the HCDA rubber stamps their plans? Do we have and apply an urban land-use framework that would prohibit the sprouting of concrete monoliths like those depicted on the newspaper front page? Do we have and enforce landscape infrastructure requirements that would preserve a quality environment to be enjoyed by all?

Housing has long been and remains a critical issue for Oahu residents. The shortage of affordable housing has, as one of its symptoms, lead to an increase in homelessness that put Hawaii in the record books in not a good way. It is a symptom of failure to administer government for the benefit of its citizens.

I am saddened that the reason poverty and homelessness are at last getting media attention is because hotel lobbyists and Waikiki businesses have become annoyed with people living on the streets. Developers can’t be too fond of the contrast between penthouses and sidewalk tents, either.

In reaction, the city has proposed to sweep away and exile the homeless to Sand Island. What about doubling down on creating an environment in which real housing will become available, instead?

The various task forces working on the issue at the state or city level, searching desperately for solutions to the affordable rental crisis that has been plaguing families for many years, posit warehousing people in tiny boxes (“micro-units”) or containers of one sort or another (and presumably not in Kakaako, near the luxury apartments!).

That’s an architecture of the poor, a surrender, not a solution. At least, make it temporary. Is Hawaii a place where we live in tiny boxes and containers? That’s more appropriate for a third-world country.

Hard-working, decent people should be able to afford decent housing—and should expect our government to facilitate that.

Honolulu’s inattention to its ongoing housing crisis has lead not only to homelessness but to marginalization of communities. Packing these communities into boxes is no solution. It is a surrender to the unsatisfactory status quo. We need a more humanistic solution than that.

(One glimmer of hope may be—and it’s not something that anyone can plan on—should the military downsize, we might get some of their quality housing to re-purpose.)

The combination of low wages and high housing costs is a slow-acting poison. It is not economically sustainable. Yes, there’s demand for high-end high-roller living—with penthouses above and Whole Foods emporia below. We should definitely have some of that. But to issue permits for the development pictured—to let it go forward without at least tapping the opportunity to strong-arm greedy developers into contributing to our overall housing needs—is to destroy, rather than enhance, the island’s chance to overcome endemic poverty and to support an orderly transition to the sustainable economy we badly need.



Sunday, November 23, 2014

 

Got an issue needing support? Tell it to the advocates on Monday at Kokua Council’s 11th Annual Community Forum


by Larry Geller

Are you concerned about the high cost of energy? Disappointed at the scale of media consolidation in the state? Looking for housing solutions? Dislike the way the homeless are being treated? Want decriminalization of marijuana in the state?

These issues and more—are on the agenda for tomorrow’s 11th Annual Community Forum. Vote on legislative priorities. Send a message (140 characters or less) to the new governor.

If you have an issue, there is likely to be some time after the planned program for anyone to take two minutes to ask for support and explain how others can do that.

Come to Harris United Methodist Church, Vineyard Blvd. and Nuuanu Avenue, 11:30-1:30. An optional lunch begins at 11:30, the formal program at noon.

Be there. Listen. Speak up. Speak out.



 

From Garden of Eden to Kakaako condos—how Honolulu is falling apart


a rant by Larry Geller

I’m still an optimist, but I don’t like what I am seeing around myself. For example, outside the window, traffic on the H-1 only gets worse. I looked out the other night and felt that the road rage could build to the point where it explodes!

Road rage

The H-1, Vineyard Boulevard, School Street and S. King Street were all visible, all bumper-to-bumper or not moving at all. I just had to draw what I was thinking.

If you look at the extreme right of the photo, cars are backed up on the on-ramp for blocks—waiting to get onto a highway that is hardly moving at all.

At one time Honolulu resembled a kind of Garden of Eden, a tropical paradise. But that has already vanished under spreading layers of concrete and asphalt. Farms taken away to create an unaffordable suburbia, condos stealing precious land and views to house only the super-rich, near unbearable daily commute times—these are only the latest manifestations of a rapid decline in living standards on this island.

We even have to defend the country, it seems, or it will be swallowed up by developers. There will be little of Eden left that can be recognized. Yes, keep the country country, it is all we have left.

Aside from the developer-government complex, probably few of us have asked for this. Condos for the super-rich do not generate many jobs, and the retail jobs needed to supply those folks with caviar, fine cheeses and Italian shoes are few and pay badly. What we need is housing for ourselves, not for them. Ask anyone which is more important, an affordable rent or ritzy neighbors.

Are we falling apart? And can that explain the low civic participation, one manifestation of which is low voter turnout?

When there is an issue, such as defeating Abercrombie’s PLDC, or defeating Abercrombie himself, for that matter, we get the job done. If we are concerned about pesticides affecting school children’s health, we do act.

It’s just the in-between times.

But look—the nation has seen a decline in wages and living standards over (say) the last 30 years, and Hawaii has seen the same. Our top college graduates must leave Hawaii to find jobs suited to their achievements. Even highschoolers face a grim future because there so few jobs for them, and at the same time, their prospects of being able to move out from their parent’s homes get dimmer each passing day. Even if they find a job, it won’t pay the rent.

Vanishing farms, long commutes, and all the other symptoms of decay seem intractable. What can we do as individuals to save this place? There is no direction for us. So mostly we do nothing.

Nor does the university help us. There might as well be a wall around most of it, call it the Great Wall of Manoa, that cements the separation. Perhaps inside they know the answers—or more important, they are capable of helping us to find the answers—but yet, nothing happens, and the decline of the Honolulu we knew continues. I can’t get it out of my head. Our best minds have their noses in textbooks studying the words of dead white men while their knowledge and curiosity could be put to practical use. Study Honolulu, please.

Is this just negative thinking? Shouldn’t we be concerned that mega-condos are winning out over preservation of our air, water, farmland, open spaces, and straining the carrying capacity of the land itself? Just as the world largely ignores climate change with inevitable consequences, are we, here, on a smaller scale, ignoring our march to becoming a Hong Kong in the Pacific?

If that’s ok with everyone, fine. I don’t think it is, but again, there’s been no survey, no poll, no study. Instead, the condos rise, the traffic increases, and we remain victims of it all.

Do we need the super-rich at all, or do we need jobs paying a living wage and affordable housing?

I like to think that we can take charge of our future. How to get started? How to draw a different roadmap than the one we have?



Saturday, November 22, 2014

 

All the parts we need to overcome poverty are here, but not functioning properly yet


by Larry Geller

Nationally there appears to be a trend, quite properly denounced as a “war on women,” to restrict or eliminate women’s right to control their own reproduction. At the same time, we have apparently reversed our march toward democracy as many of the same states move to restrict citizens’ right to vote.

The war on women is a war on families and can only increase and promote poverty. Keeping primarily poor people from voting deprives them of one way to improve their situation by electing better representatives.

The assault on autonomy and poverty could not exist without at least the tacit support of a good part of the electorate, and the move to restrict voting rights is an effort to solidify political control by eliminating opposition at the most basic level, at the polls.

Nationally, politics is stagnant, if not retrograde. With corporations dictating to politicians, it’s hard to see how citizens can regain control.

Hawaii is different, though.


We’re more politically evolved…

Here in Hawaii we have perhaps different issues. Our political system has evolved beyond the crude machinations of two-party politics. While those who choose to identify as Republicans here decry the dominance of a single party because they have been unable to make significant or lasting inroads to power under the Republican banner, anyone can still run for office and win if voters deem them worthy. Although the politics of party have not yet dropped away here, it is much less important than in other states. In this, Hawaii may be truly unique, even if we have not claimed it yet.

It’s easy to blame blatant discrimination, bias, misogynist thinking or racism on Republicans—too easy because often the labels fit perfectly. But they would also fit many Democrats in Congress. The strong party divide feeds on itself—a religious conservative aspiring to national office would do better as a Republican.

In Hawaii, we have religious conservatives in both parties. One doesn’t have to be a Republican. In fact, as we saw in the recent gubernatorial election, the Republican candidate thought it better to play down his strong religious convictions (see todays Star-Advertiser for its re-emergence, now that the election is over, or Ian Lind’s article at the link).

When citizens do act, they can overcome corporate money and achieve great things. A well-funded governor who ignored his constituency lost a primary election. He can blame it on whatever he wants, but ultimately, the people made their choice and evicted a sitting governor even as entrenched wisdom said that this does not occur. And look at the counties of Kauai, Maui and Hawaii—they enacted GMO-related ordinances that demonstrate how much power the people really have here.

We also have perhaps a historically greater than average number of legislators truly concerned with the common good, as evidenced by reading through the list of bills enacted into law at the end of each legislative session. Voting for exemptions for the Superferry may have been the wrong thing to do, as an example, but many lawmakers were motivated by the expected benefits of an inter-island ferry system for the use of business, tourists and residents (perhaps in that order…). We have had insurance coverage for full-time workers for many years, including rate regulation of premiums and other people-centered protections against the ravages of greedy insurance companies. Citizens of mainland states have not been that lucky.


… yet we don’t reach our potential

There is room for improvement, however, as a second-grade teacher might say when trying to encourage an underachiever.

Hawaii has historically lagged in the protection of its most vulnerable, in protection against the factors responsible for widespread poverty, in protecting and advancing cultural practices unique to its people, and in protection of public assets. Too often the courts have had to assure an education for students with disabilities, fix the abuses at the State Hospital or in the prisons, or even to get sidewalk curb cutouts in Honolulu.

Where is that second-grade teacher?

Today is as good a time to examine public policy as ever. Unfortunately, we are on our own with this, since our state university remains siloed in Manoa and by and large does not participate in urban planning or public policy. Ordinary citizens could use informed advice and guidance, but we seldom see it from UH.

So while there is an urban planning department that could work with concerned citizens, we’re left to protest the sellout of Kakaako (for example) to the ultra-rich while poverty drives record numbers of people onto the streets in tents. Providing low-cost housing is doable, but we’re not yet doing it. Ordinary people can design communities and urban spaces with the assistance of architects and urban planners. It worked in Portland and elsewhere, it can work here.

Maybe it’s us rather than them, perhaps we have yet to ask for help.

Where is the school of social work as compliant city workers illegally dump personal possessions into garbage trucks? Social workers know how to work from the micro to the macro level to improve the well-being of society. They are the best people. I know because I married a social worker. Unleash those students, and kick the faculty out of their offices a few days a month, and we can solve many of Hawaii’s problems. I’m convinced they know how to do that.

Why do we have Future Studies if they whisper to themselves about Hawaii’s future and never leave their campus offices? Is our future tied to exiling people to Sand Island, to cutting off mental health services and to spending zero (as Honolulu does, compared with the other counties) on senior services? Or do we have a better future, and how do we get there?

If all we demand is that UH sports teams win for our entertainment, then why do we need the rest of the university? It was crumbling, let it go.

Of course, I do not mean that. But this state has a political climate that should make it possible to protect the well-being and common good of its people, yet our many resources are not being brought to bear to do that. It bugs me that people cheer and hoist beers in sports bars and then complain outside if they see poor people pushing shopping carts on the street. Surely those of us who do care can bring improvement, but UH needs do more than just win games.

Step one might be to study and lay out the necessary steps to advance people out of poverty, which is also a public health concern. Step two might be to implement a plan to do that. Then it’s a question of measurement and adjustment to be sure we make progress. Sadly, even when academia has produced “blueprints for change,” they have not been implemented. That also could do with a bit of study. Why does that happen? Does it discourage academic participation in civil society?

At a state level it appears we may be about to embrace a Housing First program that would ease the condition of the lowest end of the poverty scale. We have done nothing about poverty for so long that we find it challenging to get started. It would be better if the state were doing this 100% for the benefit of its citizens and not because Waikiki business don’t like the sight of poverty on their streets. But heck, if that works, we can embrace it.

But that’s all we seem to be doing, and there’s a difficult road ahead. We are not providing affordable housing for the overwhelming numbers of people who need it, while we grease the skids for rich developers and the ultra-rich who will feed their greed. We also need to prevent rent increases that force people out of their homes, and we have yet to do anything at all about that.

The economy needs to change course, and as the book “Land and Power in Hawaii” reveals, that is not going to be easy to do.

Hawaii can do it. We’re not Mississippi. The parts to turn this place around are all here, but need to be assembled into a working machine.



Friday, November 21, 2014

 

Advocates to Mayor Caldwell: “Stop the #waronthepoor”



“One month they took all her toys. It was so sad. She would say where's my toys mommy? What was I supposed to tell her. Every since then, she does not like rubbish trucks.”—mother of 3-year old Thalia Martin quoted in Hawaiinewsnow.com
Opponents protest against sit-lie expansion bill


by Larry Geller

Rally at Honolulu City Hall
(Photo credit: Thanh Bidwell)

Advocates and allies joined forces with homeless families yesterday in a noontime rally at Honolulu Hale protesting Bill 48, a measure that has already passed the Honolulu City Council and is awaiting Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s signature. The bill would expand the city’s new sit-lie ordinance to many other areas of the island of Oahu, potentially criminalizing those caught napping by police.

Those caught sitting or napping may be cited, and if they fail to show up in court or cannot pay their fine, they could end up with a criminal record. That is, if they are homeless, since the ordinances enacted by the city are aimed squarely at the homeless, which is to say, the most vulnerable among the poor in Honolulu. It is unlikely that a senior citizen, for example, falling asleep at a bus stop, would be cited. The Mayor has been clear that his program of “compassionate disruption” is aimed only at the homeless.

Mayor Caldwell’s office told Disappeared News that he is waiting for an opinion from the city’s attorney before signing the bill.

Tabatha Martin hands over petition

Tabatha Martin, mother of Thalia Martin, hands over a petition with 1,199 signatures at Mayor Caldwell’s office. The Mayor himself was out of town.

(Photo credit: Thanh Bidwell)

Letter to Mayor Caldwell

Letter to Mayor Caldwell (text is here).

(Photo credit: Thanh Bidwell)

[Hawaiinewsnow covered the rally—see their story and video here. It’s a well-done interview with good video—click and check it out.]



Thursday, November 20, 2014

 

Mark your calendar: Kokua Council 11th Annual Community Forum Monday Nov. 24


by Larry Geller

See if you can come to Kokua Council’s community forum on Monday. Find out what will happen during the 2015 legislative session, and how you can support the issues you feel are important. You can also be a speaker.

There will be three panels – a government panel, a non-government panel, and a people’s panel. If you have an issue to present, you can get two minutes to explain it and how people may support it – subject to time available, that is, to how many people have requested to speak.


WORKING TOGETHER TO HELP OTHERS

11th ANNUAL COMMUNITY FORUM
              Be a Part of the Solution

Public Invited Free

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2014, 11:30-1:30PM

Harris Methodist Church Miyama Main Hall Nuuanu and South Vineyard Blvd.

Extra theme: "TELL IT TO THE GOVERNOR!"

Panel discussion by legislators, Private Sector

Advocates Followed by Q and A

CAREGIVER SUPPORT, COMMUNITY SERVICES, HOMELESS CONCERNS, LONG TERM CARE, ENERGY, UNEMPLOYMENT, ABUSE CAMPAIGN REFORM, … and MORE

Representatives from nonprofit and other organizations involved with seniors as well as advocacy groups who have needs/concerns that can be helped legislatively or by other means will also present their issues.

Please join us for lunch (optional)! 11:30 Luncheon—$5.00 donation

To ask for time on the agenda or for more information call Laura Manis, 597-8838 or email, manis@lava.net



 

Rally today at 11:30 at Honolulu Hale opposing expansion of sit-lie law to other areas of Oahu


by Larry Geller

Let’s face it—tourism is booming. While Waikiki businesses may not like finding the homeless outside, they are doing very close to nothing to assist.

For example, Honolulu has a chronic shortage of pubic toilets that affects residents, tourists, and of course the houseless. Sure, the Waikiki Improvement Association has arranged for one bathroom to be open, but what are people supposed to do—take a bus to get to the bathroom?

Rally

Instead of contributing to a solution, the WIA and other businesses, which are happy to contribute to the war chests of prominent politicians, have backed Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s draconian sweeps and the ordinances that criminalize homelessness and poverty.

Today there will be a rally opposing Bill 48, which would expand Honolulu’s new sit-lie ordinance to many other areas of the island. It is scheduled for 11:30 at Honolulu Hale (City Hall) and was mentioned in an article in this morning’s Star-Advertiser.


Enforcing sit-lie ban when there is no place to go may be unconstitutional

There are many reasons to oppose these sit-lie bills, including that they are selectively enforced against the homeless, and of course do not assist the target population in any way. Instead, they create suffering and further disadvantage for those targeted. With a criminal record it is much harder to find housing or work in the future.

At this time also, the city has no Housing First options available, nor will the shelters accept many of those now living on the streets [Side note: despite assurances that IHS will not turn away someone who cannot pay, during the FACE Housing Summit held recently at the State Capitol, a Hawaii resident, who is still a Canadian citizen, testified that he was turned away because he could not pay $150. Who else has been similarly turned away?]

With no place to go, these city ordinances may be considered status offenses and could be unconstitutional.

Daniel Gluck, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, submitted written testimony to the Council warning that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined "criminalization of basic human functions in the absence of options for shelter violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment."

Gluck said that additionally, discriminatory enforcement of sit-lie bans "could give rise to an equal protection challenge."

[Star-Advertiser p. A8, Sit-lie opponents will rally for veto of expanded bill, 11/20/2014]


The city’s approach is not only wrong, but a waste of taxpayer money

The state has a plan, a budget, and understands Housing First. It appears that it is prepared to provide the supports that will help keep people in their apartments.

The city, on the other hand, appears clueless. City Managing Director Ember Shinn recently testified to the City Council that Honolulu was “in the vanguard of Housing First programs” nationally. The exact opposite is true. While the city has enacted laws that would criminalize houselessness, it has no active Housing First program yet. In order to possibly escape constitutional challenges the city proposed isolating the homeless in their own tents on a Sand Island tract that may be contaminated. Even if that proves not to be the case, it is not Housing First. City funds could more appropriately be spent on real Housing First and the necessary support services.

An alternative is to let the state run the Housing First program and contribute to making that a success. And finally, until there is an alternative, punishing people (and potentially giving them a criminal record) for “basic human functions,” the City Council should have waited before even considering its punitive ordinances.

Finally, as we have seen especially during the Kakaako raid last week in advance of the Hawaii Five-0 chase scene filming, the city doesn’t even follow its own ordinances—they destroyed, rather than stored, personal possessions.

What does this say about governance in Honolulu?

There’s a rally today 11:30 to 12:30 at Honolulu Hale. You can join if you think there is a better approach to Honolulu’s housing crisis than criminalization.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

 

Caldwell’s willing executioners


by Larry Geller

One thing has been nagging me since the Thursday raid on the homeless residents of Kakaako. How could someone take a tent, including personal items such as ID, money, medicines—or a kid’s school stuff—and throw it into the compactor at the back of a garbage truck, to be destroyed?

tent into truck 1

tent into truck 2

From all reports it appears that city workers, who ultimately report to Mayor Kirk Caldwell, did exactly that on a large scale. Around 100 people were treated this way. Since the raid was conducted during the daytime, some people were off at work or at school, and they would have lost everything.

By not putting belongings in bins so that they could be reclaimed, as the law requires, they rather expeditiously destroyed what they seized. Why the rush?

no parking

This is one of the No Parking signs put up after the raid so that Hawaii 5-0 could film their car chase scene over the next few days.


Why didn’t city workers refuse to do that dirty work? Do they have any trace of the so-called “aloha spirit” left in them, or for that matter, any trace of humanity? And what of the police who oversaw the operation?

There is a book that might explain it:



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

 

Real news: Detroit sprinkles a golf course while cutting off drinking water to 150,000 residents


by Larry Geller

Some of the best news coverage on TV is on Comedy Central. Four nights a week newsman Jon Stewart (who plays a comedian on the show) focuses on subjects that should have importance to his viewers. Last night the program went to Detroit to look for water.

20141117 Daily Show 1

You’ve probably seen reports that Detroit is in the process of cutting off water to about 150,000 residents, who have gone so far to protest to the United Nations. Slate

Even if the UN decides the cutoff is a human rights violation, it’s unlikely any government entity in this great country of ours will listen to the UN.

Jessica Williams did more for Detroit residents on last night’s Daily Show than the UN ever will do.

What I and no doubt most viewers learned from the program is that only the poor are being cut off, and even if they want to 20141117 Daily Show 2set up a payment plan, it makes no difference to those caring people running the city. At the same time, businesses that owe millions of dollars are not being cut off. Actually, that info has been on the web for some time. I guess I just didn’t see it. Well, last night a huge audience was made aware.


In the skit, Williams went looking for water with her divining rod, and found it at a golf course.

20141117 Daily Show 3


So while 150,000 people may be cut off, golfers can enjoy things like this water feature:

20141117 Daily Show 4


Yes, the golf course and other businesses are allowed to use (and waste) water while thousands of Detroit residents are reduced to living in a third-world country without running water or human waste disposal.

20141117 Daily Show 5

One thing has always puzzled me—why do so many sociopaths and other evildoers agree to be interviewed on the Daily Show? Stewart, his writers and the correspondents have a knack for exposing the unsavory actors in government and business. They have an edge over other news outlets that, at best, are often merely stenographers for the official line. If not actively evil, some interviewees appear to be willing or ignorant pawns in a bad system. Not that a pawn should be excused.

Jon Stewart has repeatedly insisted that he is a comedian, not a journalist.

That’s so funny.



 

Fake news: Electricity cheaper on Oahu


by Larry Geller

Not cheaper

Suppose a weather report on TV let us know that it was 81 degrees out with a relative humidity of 70 percent. Ok, a bit hot and muggy. But the report is accurate, right? Yes.

What perhaps they could also report is that the hurricane is still coming. Which is to say, one can be accurate and still not report the real news.

The Star-Advertiser reports that here on Oahu our electricity is cheaper “thanks” to lower fuel costs.

Thanks would be premature. Electricity costs in Hawaii are still at about three times the national average.

That $10 is only a 3.5% drop over January, and if you look at the chart they provided, costs were significantly higher, say, June through October. Heck, October was 3.6% up from January.

That $10 is just in the noise, as we old shortwave listeners would have said in the day. A household could have wiped it out simply by baking a couple of pizzas and taking some long, hot showers in the muggy weather.

The news, if there is any, is that electricity costs in Hawaii remain at the same obscene levels, and that nothing so far has given us any relief.



Sunday, November 16, 2014

 

FACE gets overwhelming support for its affordable housing advocacy


by Larry Geller

Yesterday’s FACE Housing Summit was a remarkable event. It was very well attended—the State Capitol auditorium was completely filled.

The keynote address delivered by Mayor Kirk Caldwell was, for this writer, a major disappointment. I sat on my hands through all the applause that political speeches elicit from an audience. Yet Caldwell’s speech can also be viewed as a positive statement. So why my disappointment?

New Doc 141116 (1)Read today’s paper, which describes one aspect of the affordable housing problem which has paralyzed Honolulu for the past decades.

Vicki Viotti covers the territory well in her editorial A maze of regulations: Uncoordinated and inefficient city and state procedures make it difficult for developers to build homes for those who need them most (Star-Advertiser p. E1, 11/16/2014).

The high cost of housing, along with outrageously high energy bills and food costs keep a large number of Hawaii’s citizens in perpetual poverty and result in multi-generational families stuck living together in inadequate housing. As was explicitly stated several times during the day, no number of working hours is sufficient for most families to pay the rent, much less feed themselves. Children are forced leave Hawaii and their parents in order to get jobs on the Continent suited to their education and abilities.

If nothing changes, more Hawaii residents will be priced out.

James Fitzpatrick, a community organizer with FACE, said he only sees his brother at Christmas or Thanksgiving since his brother left the islands to live somewhere more affordable.

“We have become tourists in our own neighborhoods,” he said.

[Civil Beat, Hawaii Housing Summit Highlights Need for Low-Income Rentals, 11/15/2014]

It was a familiar refrain at Saturday’s conference — stories of family and friends forced to leave Hawaii because of the high cost of living.

There’s nothing new about that, although it bears re-stating. A passive population and an uncaring government have allowed developer greed to rule the state. When I arrived in Hawaii so many years ago there were already articles lamenting the “brain drain,” but nothing was done to overcome the obstacles that kept people from returning to their island home.

Read also Susan Essoyan’s account of the Summit on page B2, Summit ponders housing solutions.

So why did I not applaud Caldwell?

The shortfall in affordable rentals is variously cited as around 18,000 to 24,000 depending on scope of the survey. Yet Caldwell promised 2,000 units.

As you know from earlier articles here and elsewhere, his answer to homelessness is enforcement of cruel ordinances that criminalize homelessness and poverty. The city’s approach to Housing First is inadequate, and that program might better be left to the state.

Caldwell[5]The Mayor’s plan falls far short of what is needed. It’s like shoveling asphalt into a pothole as a solution to Hawaii’s bad road conditions. The Mayor’s address was a welcome gesture, and a needed one, but thoroughly inadequate. Attention must also be given to helping  people stay in the houses or apartments that they have, which means rent control, rent stabilization, or some other effective countermeasure to perpetually rising rents. If rents continue to rise, then people will drop into the category of needing city-supported home construction, until the rental market stabilizes, which could be a very long time coming.

We need to see action, and we need to have measurements in place and plans with timelines and signposts to indicate that progress is being made.

Will everyone be happy? Certainly not. Developers and the associated support industries do better selling outrageously priced houses and condos to the extremely wealthy, and that wealth is also the source of campaign contributions feeding politicians at both the state and county levels.

Much too muchTo get the pipeline filled with affordable housing will likely take a decade or two. We don’t have much experience in how to do it. It will go better if citizens are allowed to do their own urban planning with the support of architects and other experts. See “Charrettes” as one path to citizen participation in urban planning (1/25/2014). Read the article. If we don’t involve ourselves in urban planning, we’ll just get more housing for the rich. Since the HCDA has proven to support only unaffordable housing, it might be good to abolish that organization and replace it with one that serves the people.

So far, the ordinary citizen’s voice has not been heard. We need to change that.

FACE is on the right track, and I hope they continue to lead in the struggle. Unlike the city, the leaders of FACE are good listeners, and they have a huge constituency.

I hope they will take a leadership stance and ask their congregations if they want affordable housing in Hawaii. If they hear the expected resounding “Yes!” then they can continue to be the catalyst that we need to make change happen.



Saturday, November 15, 2014

 

Hey! My stuff is gone! (really!)


by Larry Geller

I attended the FACE Housing Summit today—it was a great session. The State Capitol auditorium was completely packed, so hundreds of people must have attended.

FACE is Faith Action for Community Equity. They have been one of the most effective advocacy organizations on housing, long-term care and a number of other issues.

During one of the breakout sessions in a meeting room upstairs I needed to visit the restroom, so I left my folder on my seat to hold my place. I’ve always done that, and nothing odd has ever happened. But today—when I came back, my stuff was gone!

I had my notes inside, including a handful of emails I had people write down for me. I had promised to contact them with information on becoming topic speakers at the Kokua Council Community forum on November 24. That important info and my other notes were in that folder.

People in the room said they saw a woman pick it up and go off with it.

What an awful feeling! I rushed outside the room hoping to ask people if they might have picked up my folder, but there were only a bunch of men in a group outside.

Now, imagine how it must have felt on Thursday when kids came back from school or adults from work to their spot in Kakaako only to find that the city had raided the street while they were away and dumped all their stuff into a garbage truck.

On Thursday city crews removed 4.3 tons of rubbish and 10 shopping carts, stored one bin of items that may be recovered later, and issued one sidewalk nuisance ordinance ticket in that area.

[Star Advertiser p. B1, Homeless blame 'Five-0' for street sweep, 11/15/2014]

If my little loss made me mad and upset, imagine how the 100+ people felt on Thursday! Imagine you’re a kid and lost all your school work. Or those who lost ID or medicines.

Note that only one bin of items were taken for storage. This means that the city violated its own ordinance and trashed everything else. What goes into the trash compactors at the back of those garbage trucks cannot be returned.

Where is the ACLU? Where is an attorney willing to defend these people? Seizure and destruction of possessions without a warrant or due process seems unconstitutional enough to me.

Kionina Kaneso, 59, who camped on Olo­me­hani, said she lost her wok, stove, food, some clothes, a shopping cart and her granddaughter's plastic toy cart during the sweep Thursday.

"I can't cook because I don't have stove now," she said. "I'm angry. I don't have food because they take my rice away."

These are items that the city should have stored, but they destroyed them. It’s an open and shut case, isn’t it?

Shame on Mayor Caldwell and shame on those who did his dirty work on Thursday. I suppose they were “only following orders.”

The S-A story was bylined Leila Fujimori. If only she had asked the questions that go along with her observations. It’s in part because the media don’t do their job and report the whole story that these atrocities continue.



Thursday, November 13, 2014

 

“Shirikiretombo”—a story cut short—leaves readers poorly informed about Obama’s net neutrality proposal


by Larry Geller

If net neutrality is an important issue for you, you may have read the November 11 story in the Star-Advertiser, Obama urges strict rules for open net (Star-Advertiser p. A3, 11/11/2014) with interest. By the end of the story you’d understand that the president is planning to protect broadband services against carriers that would create a “fast lane” for those providers who pay while slowing down others. His proposal would require the FCC to regulate the Internet as a utility.

The story also indicated that the FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, an Obama appointee, had his own plan.

Ok, so that’s where it is. At least there is a possible solution, if Obama can get the FCC (composed of three Democrats and two Republicans) to go along with his proposal. Let’s see how it goes.

The trouble is, that’s not the end of the story, and wasn’t the end of the original New York Times story that the Star-Advertiser edited to fit.

Theshirikiretombo Japanese word Shirikiretombo (尻切れトンボ) refers to a dragonfly with its tail cut short. Horrible thought! But it can be translated to mean premature termination, or “cut short,” as perhaps a story cut off before the ending, leaving the listener or reader in suspense.

(original photograph by R. A. Nonenmacher, used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)


I’ve always been fond of the expression because so many times we are fed only part of the story. Mostly, we don’t even know that we’re missing anything. Like cutting the tail off a dragonfly, that seems very wrong.

Regional newspapers often run stories sourced from the big nationals, since their resources are very limited. It’s not a bad thing to see a story from the Washington Post, LA Times, or the New York Times in our local Star-Advertiser, because most likely the reader would not have seen the story elsewhere.

But the only news you get is what fits. There is a blank space at the top of the third page where national news is routinely plugged in. Quite often, the original story is quite a bit longer than the space allows, and the Star-Advertiser editors then cut it. Editors everywhere have a habit of just cutting off the excess at the end. Sad. Like that poor dragonfly.

Particularly in the case of a New York Times story, sometimes the meat is towards the end. In fact, they have been known to “walk back” their splashy headline with material in the last few paragraphs. This we do not ever see if the story is cut short.

Since we don’t know what we are missing, we’re satisfied with what we have. Imagine that you had no idea what nachos were, and were only served the fried corn tortillas. Cool, they taste quite good. But the most important part you didn’t get, and you wouldn’t know it.

I like to check out the original when the story looks important, just in case. I’ve found stories that appeared in the S-A, say at the bottom of the page, that were only about half the original.

If net neutrality is something you are interested in, you might want to check out the  full story on the New York Times website here.

What did the Hawaii reader miss? Two key items. The first is that the president’s proposal would not, in fact, protect broadband services, because, according to the story, even if reclassified as a utility under Title II, rates can be regulated (implying that a provider could still be charged more for higher speed). And equally important, the “disappeared” text indicates that it would be difficult to implement Obama’s proposal. To wit:

Title II also carries with it the possibility of regulating rates, but Mr. Obama asked the F.C.C. to refrain “from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services.”

But forbearance from portions of the law are not always easy, because Title II has upward of 1,000 requirements, said Robert M. McDowell, a former F.C.C. commissioner.

“As a legal matter,” Mr. McDowell said, “it would be very difficult for the F.C.C. to subject the Internet to common-carrier regulation while at same time forbearing from the vast majority of Title II.”

[NY Times, Obama Asks F.C.C. to Adopt Tough Net Neutrality Rules, 11/10/2014]

So, if this bit is correct, the president’s proposal may not be practical, and in any case may not protect users from tiered pricing or speed throttling.

Even with this additional information, we have not been given the whole story.

For one thing, the Times has not mentioned that Wheeler came from the communications industry, and perhaps will go back there when he leaves the FCC. He has his own ideas about how to change the rules.

For another, the Times did not mention that the primary objectors to a Title II solution are the cable companies and their ilk. Those are Wheeler’s folks. The quoted paragraphs above could have come from any of the big carriers.

From Democracy Now headlines for November 11:

The FCC is an independent agency, meaning Obama cannot directly control its actions. Obama’s appointed chair of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the cellphone and cable industries, says the agency will need more time to craft its new rules.

And this, also from Democracy Now:

Obama’s proposal comes as his appointed FCC chair, Tom Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the cellphone and cable industries, is considering breaking with the president on net neutrality. According to The Washington Post, Wheeler met with officials from Google, Yahoo and Etsy on Monday and told them he preferred a more nuanced solution. Wheeler reportedly said: "What you want is what everyone wants: an open Internet that doesn’t affect your business. What I’ve got to figure out is how to split the baby." On Monday, protesters called on Wheeler to favor net neutrality as they blockaded his driveway when he attempted to go to work. Protests also took place in a dozen cities last week after The Wall Street Journal reported the FCC is considering a "hybrid" approach to net neutrality. This would apply expanded protections only to the relationship between Internet providers and content firms, like Netflix, and not to the relationship between providers and users.

[Democracy Now, Obama Calls for Net Neutrality, But His Own Industry-Tied FCC Appointee Could Stand in the Way, 11/12/2014]

Without knowing Wheeler’s situation, a reader can’t properly evaluate the chances of the president’s proposal being implemented, or the obstacles it faces.

If you’d like to know more, check out the Democracy Now video and transcript at the link. Ok, here it is for you. Click on the thingy at the lower right for full screen.

Video: “The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.



Sunday, November 09, 2014

 

New York City takes steps to control its storm water handling, why can’t we?



In what officials have billed as one of the most ambitious programs of its kind in the United States, New York City has, with little fanfare, embarked on a roughly 20-year, $2.4 billion project intended to protect local waterways, relying in large measure on “curbside gardens” that capture and retain storm-water runoff.


by Larry Geller

The best thing to do with stormwater is to let it go into the ground where it falls. That’s tough when the ground is covered with concrete and asphalt. The alternative is to tax the citizens for pipes necessary to take the water away.

New York City is going a step further—they are trying to short-circuit the stormwater that now ends up in the streets and let it percolate into the ground by installing attractive “curbside gardens.”

The goal, according to the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, is to soften the “impervious urban landscape” of asphalt and concrete and absorb rainfall that might otherwise funnel into the combined sewer system. (During heavy rain, storm water can exceed the capacity of the city treatment plants. Overflows are discharged into local waterways to avoid flooding the plants, which can harm water quality.)

[NY Times, New York Plants Curbside Gardens to Soak Up Storm-Water Runoff, 11/7/2014]

Check the links for pictures and discussion.

Many other states and municipalities have passed ordinances requiring developers to handle the stormwater that falls on their property. That is, the city, say, will not let them just dump it into the streets or into the city stormwater system. They have to arrange their property so that there is a way for the water to drip back into the ground, the way it used to before they got there. The rainwater then refills the aquifers instead of being piped into rivers, streams and the ocean.

At present, in Honolulu, the city handles the storm water. From a Disappeared News article from November, 2012, a diagram showing part of the stormwater system we all pay for:

Stormwater system

Mostly, the infrastructure, paid for by your taxes and mine, never gets into the news, and so remains below public notice. After Hurricane Ana, though, there was this:

Honolulu is restoring power to a major sewage treatment plant that was overwhelmed by storm water and sludge during Hurricane Ana.

[Star-Advertiser, Honolulu restoring power to damaged sewage plant, 10/23/2014]

Storm waterI’ve written often about how Honolulu wastes our taxpayer money, and its failure to control stormwater, when other regions have done so for years, is one of my pet peeves.

Historically, the city provided a free service to land owners, but it’s one that has cost us over the years and ought to be short-circuited. For example, if you walk down a main street in Chinatown, you’ll see that rain from the roofs and alleys is simply piped down and discharged into the streets.

There’s not much to be done about that. But any new development should not be granted this “service” when it can be required to take care of its own water.

Here's a snapshot of a drainage ditch leaving the Zippy’s Vineyard Blvd. property and taking water under the public sidewalk and into the street. The Zippy’s property is extensive enough, and even has a green area fronting Vineyard Boulevard, that it is perfectly able to take care of its own runoff. But there is no requirement for it to do so.

I’ve also posted pictures of the drains throughout the Kapiolani Community College parking lot. They’re just like the drain slots you see on street corners in town. Although they have little medallions advising that there should be no dumping, the water goes to the ocean, in practice every leaf, every bit of rubbish, that falls on the asphalt can be washed down those drains. Plastic bags, cigarette butts, everything goes down there, along with water that could instead be drained right into the ground through the use of permeable asphalt or other measures.

KCC was not required to put in those systems when the parking lots were constructed.

At least, we could require new developments to handle their own water and consider measures such as New York City has adopted.

Going back to Zippy’s for a moment, here’s a snap of the front of the property:

That’s another channel going under the sidewalk to drain water off the planted area and into the street. There’s no reason why that area cannot simply discharge its water into the ground. Who knows what fertilizers or pesticides are being washed into the gutter and ultimately into the ocean?

There’s no reason except that it’s easier for the city to do nothing as long as we are willing to pay and pay and pay to let the city handle stormwater flowing into city pipes.

I’d like to end by going back to that KCC parking lot. We taxpayers foot the bill for removing an enormous amount of water just from there. But how about this as an alternative (one of many possibilities). The video demonstrates permeable asphalt. There are other ways to dispose of runoff that channel it back into the ground instead of dumping it into the city stormwater system.

If New York City is investing all that money, there must be a reason. As taxpayers, we should demand answers from our city government since we are the ones paying for the system—and developers reap the benefit of taxpayer-funded infrastructure.

No fair.

Though relatively untested on the scale outlined by the de Blasio administration, similar gardens have proved effective in other cities, most notably Philadelphia, according to advocates and researchers. The push for so-called green infrastructure projects across the country dates to at least 1987, when Congress revised the federal Clean Water Act.



Saturday, November 08, 2014

 

Civil Beat: City May Scrap Plan for Sand Island Homeless Camp



The costs of appeasing state concerns about potential soil contamination may not be worth it, Ember Shinn, the city’s managing director, said Friday.—Civil Beat report


by Larry Geller

ap·pease (verb): \ə-ˈpēz\ : to make (someone) pleased or less angry by giving or saying something desired

Appease? The state Department of Health is not requiring anything unreasonable. It’s not a question of either pleasing them or making them less angry.

The city should not have chosen that Sand Island location in the first place.

Advocates and this blog pointed out the city’s errors from the very beginning. The site is adjacent to a known dump location that was in relatively unregulated use for 65 years. Clearly, testing would be needed to see if the location is safe, and the city should have done that up front rather than have the public press them to do what is necessary. The city should have checked with the Department of Health and performed any required testing before proposing the site.

As it is, the Board of Land and Natural Resources granted the city a permit conditioned on meeting health testing as specified by the DOH. If not for that, who knows, the city may have tried to put people into the area without any testing.

Advocate Kathryn Xian not only expressed her concerns, but she provided easily available documentation as soon as the city’s plan became known.

So what was the city’s reaction? They proposed to cover the site with asphalt.

But asphalt itself is not suitable for locating individuals and families in tents. They should have known that, and if they didn’t, again, they should have done their homework (also known as “due diligence”) before proposing that solution.

The city did not put very much thought into the Sand Island proposal. At a community meeting neighbors expressed a variety of concerns related to the city’s ability to run the open-air “shelter” or tent city. Xian pointed to the layout map and noted that it was unsafe to require women and children at the family camp area to walk through the men’s area to get to the port-a-potties. The city should have thought about that also. The plan appeared to be hastily thrown together.

Now, as Civil Beat reports, it will be very expensive to test the area for contaminants, and asphalt has been ruled out as a living surface.

Asked if the city was looking to scrap the project entirely, Shinn said, “I can’t say that isn’t a consideration. I cannot say that we aren’t worried about that because the price tag is almost a million dollars now and we think that we can do a lot more with $1 million.”

[Civil Beat, City May Scrap Plan for Sand Island Homeless Camp, 11/7/2014]

Yes, one thing that the city can do with the $1 million is: Housing First. It’s the evidence-based solution that they don’t seem to understand.



 

More SWAT team idiocy


by Larry Geller

Orange County Sheriffs enjoy their work altogether too much

On the day of the raid, the team first sealed off the parking lot; next, two undercover cops entered to size up the danger; and then – BAM! – the SWAT team hit the unsuspecting suspects. Wearing riot gear and brandishing guns, the team seized half-a-dozen of the enterprise's kingpins and cuffed them, while officers searched the premises for more than an hour.

You might assume that this was a narcotics operation, but no. In fact, Strictly Skillz is barbershop. What possible criminal activity led to such a militaristic show of brute force? "Barbering without a license."

[Jim Hightower, Florida police swat at barbers, 11/7/2014]

Oh, the barbers had a perfectly good license. And the cops (the Orange County Sheriffs Office) didn’t have a search warrant.

“It was a scene right out of a Hollywood movie,” the Court’s ruling began. “Teams from the OCSO [Orange County Sheriff’s Office] descended... with some team members dressed in ballistic vests and masks, and with guns drawn, the deputies rushed into their target destinations, handcuffed the stunned occupants—and demanded to see their barbers’ licenses. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office was providing muscle for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s [DBPR] administrative inspection of barbershops to discover licensing violations.”

The Cout’s 44-page ruling, which will allow four barbers to proceed with a lawsuit that the cops violated their Fourth Amendment protection from unconstitutional searches, vividly describes how a team of local and state police ran amok—and then claimed immunity from prosecution, which the Court rejected, when the raid’s victims sued.

[AlterNet, Federal Appeals Court Ridicules Florida Cops For Using SWAT Team To Check On Barbershop Licenses, 9/18/2014]

 

Jim Hightower wrote about this yesterday. It relates to the previous article on the militarization of the police (and Hawaii not collecting any federal goodies).

It’s so funny it’s not funny at all. Give some cops high-tech weapons and outfits and they can’t seem to resist getting all dressed up, wiping their feet on the Constitution on the way out the door, and playing soldier with their fancy toys at citizen expense.

Speaking of citizen expense, when the target citizens sue, as they do (if they are lucky to live through it), then other citizens, the taxpayers, are made to cough up money for the settlement.

And the cops? Their toys are not taken away. They usually don’t do jail time or even lose their jobs. That’s just pathetically poor city administration which won’t change until taxpayers get really mad. That’s not yet happening.

In the case of the story on the right, a judge ordered these cops three times now to quit staging these SWAT raids, but they won’t listen.

Lucky we live Hawaii.



 

FOIA reveals Hawaii is the only state not receiving military gear from the feds



While serving as a U.S. Marine on patrol in Afghanistan, we wore desert camouflage to blend in with our surroundings, carried rifles to shoot back when under enemy attack, and drove around in armored vehicles to ward off roadside bombs.

We looked intimidating, but all of our vehicles and equipment had a clear purpose for combat against enemy forces. So why is this same gear being used on our city streets?—Paul Szoldra in The Business Insider, 10/12/2014

…Hawaii is the only state not participating, apparently, in the 1033 program…—Terai, Guy B LTC USARMY NG HIARNG (US) in response to MuckRock’s Shawn Musgrave on Oct. 3, 2014


by Larry Geller

The Militarization of Everywhere Else

America’s Founding Fathers wouldn’t recognize the country today. Here’s what Hawaii is missing out on:

Militarization

The militarization of America’s police was on grand display during the #Ferguson protests and is still fresh in our minds, even after the chaos of national elections.

It’s remarkable that no protesters were killed—one day, if Ferguson repeats elsewhere, it is sure to happen. Remember the videos of that cop with an automatic weapon pointing it at protesters and threatening to kill them? All it would have taken would be an inch contraction of his index finger, in anger or accidentally, for him to have carried out his threat.

The disenfranchised population of a Missouri town reacted to the police shooting of a Black man with generally peaceful protests, but they were met with full military force on the part of the police. It was the show of force and the display of military equipment that threatened social stability in Ferguson, not the peaceful protests. The police disregarded the Constitution as they imposed limitations on speech, assembly and freedom of the press—and they got away with it.

A fear of rebellion, particularly Black rebellion, but these days extended even to peace movements, is deeply rooted in America’s white-dominated society. The police have played out their role from the very beginning—New York police sent back both runaway and freed slaves to the South in their earliest days, for example, when it was legal to do so and when it was not. Again in New York, the policy and practice of “stop and frisk” persisted for years, terrorizing Black and Latino communities, and may only recently have come to an end (we’ll see).

Add to this mix the provisioning of local police forces with military equipment under the 1033 program and law enforcement becomes a threat to the rule of law.


Their uniform would be mistaken for a soldier's if it weren't for their "Police" patches. They wear green tops, and pants fashioned after the U.S. Marine Corps MARPAT camouflage pattern. And they stand in front of a massive uparmored truck called a Bearcat, similar in look to a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, or as the troops who rode in them call it, the MRAP.—Business Insider 

Police are currently using their military toys not for homeland security, not for counter-terrorism (though it’s possible that they view peaceful protesters as terrorists…) but for drug raids and other mundane police tasks. It’s as though they have been watching too much cable TV. And city government, to whom the are ostensibly responsible, has failed to restrain them. For example, this:

From the way police entered the house--helmeted and masked, guns drawn and shields in front, knocking down the door with a battering ram and rushing inside--you might think they were raiding a den of armed criminals.

In fact they were looking for $1,000-worth of clothes and electronics allegedly bought with a stolen credit card. They found none of these things, but arrested two people in the house on unrelated charges.

They narrowly avoided tragedy. On hearing intruders break in, the homeowner's son, a disabled ex-serviceman, reached for his (legal) gun. Luckily, he heard the police announce themselves and holstered it; otherwise, "they probably would have shot me," he says. His mother, Sally Prince, says she is now traumatised.

Peter Kraska, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University's School of Justice Studies, estimates that SWAT teams were deployed about 3,000 times in 1980 but are now used around 50,000 times a year. Some cities use them for routine patrols in high-crime areas. Baltimore and Dallas have used them to break up poker games. In 2010 New Haven, Connecticut sent a SWAT team to a bar suspected of serving under-age drinkers.

[The Economist, via the Business Insider, Why America's Police Are Becoming So Militarized, 3/21/2014]

In August, when the dramatic events in Ferguson brought the Defense Department's 1033 program to national scrutiny, MuckRock submitted public records requests to all 50 state coordinators. Since the Pentagon refuses to disclose which police departments nationwide had received weapons, armored vehicles and even bomb robots via the 1033 program, we asked each state directly.

[MuckRock, 11/5/2014]

In response to a Freedom of Information Request by MuckRock in Hawaii, a number of documents dating from around 2005 were turned over—because, the response noted, there was nothing more recent.

And although there were some camouflage outfits listed, and an ambulance and a truck, for example, most of the swag consisted of file cabinets and other office supplies.

Full documentation of the Hawaii FOIA request is on the MuckRock website here, and it’s very instructive—if anyone is interested in doing a FOIA, it’s a good example of the process. The documents received are also posted on that page. Have a look at it to see what the Maui Police Department, among other agencies, received from the feds.

Here’s a snip from the first page of one list:

Item
Description
TRUCK, M1008
NVG, AN/PVS-5C
PARKA, COLD WEATHEI
PARKA,COLD WEATHEF
VIDEO CASSETE PLAYE
PARKA.WET WEATHER
NOTEBOOK
PHOTO SLIDE
MONITOR
TRIPODS
TROUSERS
LENS, CAMERA
MICROSCOPE
FIRE ARMS TRAINING
COAT
TROUSER CAM
VAC-RITE
TAPE RECORDER
SAFE SUITS
CASE OPTICAL INSTRU

Of course, there’s lots more, but there are no MRAPs, anyway. And who knows why there are cold-weather parkas sent to Hawaii. The M1008 at the top of the list is an antiquated Chevy pickup truck.

Now, in many areas of endeavor, Hawaii is simply slow, or behind the curve. There’s nothing to say that a cargo ship won’t show up one day soon with those MRAPs and sound cannons.

All it would take would be a bombing, or an incident at our relatively unguarded State Capitol, for the Honolulu and other police departments to file their heavy equipment requests with Washington.

In the meantime, if the response to the MuckRock FOIA is really all that there is to tell, Hawaii is actually doing the sensible thing by not setting up a polarization between its citizens and its police. Another possibility is that, using taxpayer money instead of a federal handout, they’ve already gone shopping for what they need.

Outside of Hawaii, cities have become huge militarized zones, which cannot but have dire consequences down the road. This is no exaggeration if SWAT teams are being used 50,000 times a year in this country.

Combine militarization with the pervasive security state revealed by Edward Snowden, the cruelty of US immigration policy and the grasp of the private prison industry, and the stage is set for a level of internal strife that the country has not seen in its entire history.

Lucky we live Hawaii, it seems.



Friday, November 07, 2014

 

Measuring voter turnout, effect of Real ID on registration, and more…


by Larry Geller

As I research “non-voting,” I’m aware that I’m coming at it cold. It’s not an area of my expertise or experience. So I’m grateful for the comments of those who are working in this area.

Since many people don’t read comments, I’ve reproduced Bart Dame’s comment attached to yesterday’s Are the voters or the political pundits the more apathetic? (11/6/2014). He clarifies how the voter turnout numbers should be interpreted. And it seems, the devil is very much in the details.

Check out Carmille Lim’s comment attached to the above article also.

If we are to rely on numbers to measure our rate of voter participation, especially if we want to compare our turnout to other state,s or if we want to monitor or turnout here compared to previous years, we need to make sure we are comparing apples with apples.

There are two main approaches to measure voter turnout. Both have serious defects. The most common way is to calculate the number of ballots cast as a percentage of registered voters. This approach has serious problems. Some states keep names on their voter rolls even if they have not voted in several years. This "dead wood" on the voter rolls makes turnout look bad. Some states actively encourage voter registration. Hawaii has made it very easy to register to vote via self-affirming Wikiwiki voter registration forms, motor voter registration, etc. Some states recruit voters in the high schools. Reliance on the traditional measure of voter turnout penalizes states who make voter registration easy.

The second approach, adopted as a way to (try to) overcome these problems, is to calculate turnout as a percentage of the "voter eligible population" (VEP). They use US Census data to determine the number of residents over the age of 18, minus the number of incarcerated felons. This overcomes problems caused by voter suppression, or voter registration suppression, which varies from state to state. This is the approach used by a George Mason University study which has appeared in news accounts. This methodology grossly under-reports Hawaii's turnout, because we have the highest percentage of non-resident military in the whole country. Our "VEP” is over-inflated by about 100,000 people, well over ten percent! No other state comes even close. Any news account which say Hawaii has the lowest turnout in the country relies upon this study and reflects lazy reporting.

There have been "solutions" proposed in the past for increasing turnout in. In 1978, the Hawaii constitution was amended to eliminate the partisan closed primary election. Advocates promised this would encourage turnout. The first election conducted on this basis was in 1980. Turnout had been declining prior to and after that "solution" was adopted. A second "solution" was to lower the voting age from 21 to 18. While this did increase the number of voters, it lowered voter turnout as a percentage of registered voters, as young people vote in much lower numbers than middle-aged and seniors.

Same day voter registration would appear to less likely to screw up the voter turnout percentage, since people would become registered voters and actually VOTE rather than just inflate the registered voter rolls. But I remain skeptical that it will actually do much to change who votes or boost the actual turnout over time. Younger voters and tenants are more likely to benefit from it. But even once they get registered, younger voters and tenants rarely vote. SO it appears their low rates of participation are not likely to change much with SDR. Also SDR will increase the workload at polling places, as well as the work of collecting and processing those forms. This, at a time when the Office of Elections in Hawaii, but also in virtually every locale across the country, is already overburdened on Election Day. Saying we will support more funds to pay for these extra costs is a nice, but empty gesture.

A much bigger obstacle to voting are the Real ID standards for drivers licenses and state IDs. Hawaii law does not require a picture ID to vote. We are better than those states where the GOP has passed Voter ID laws. But a picture ID meeting Real ID standards is still required to register to vote. And low-income people are much less likely to satisfy the Real ID standards. So the effect of the Republican voter suppression laws will gradually have its impact here, even if we have tried to avoid that impact at the polling place.

Common Cause, the LWV and other voter advocacy groups would be wise to pay attention to that problem now.

posted by Anonymous Bart Dame : November 7, 2014 at 8:59:00 AM HST



Thursday, November 06, 2014

 

To understand voting in Hawaii: it wouldn’t hurt if we did better polling…



Hawaii, meanwhile,
has a long history of terrible polling, perhaps because of the state’s demographic makeup. Between 1998 and 2012, polls of gubernatorial and Senate elections there missed the final margin by an average of almost 12 points, the largest error of any state but Wyoming, according to the FiveThirtyEight database.


by Larry Geller

I figured I’d mosey over to fivethirtyeight.com to see how Nate Silver’s predictions worked out, but I soon tripped over a couple of mentions about Hawaii’s lousy polling.

PollingWho knew? I don’t recall much self-criticism in the local media. The article at the right, Hawaii: Where good polling goes to die, ran in the Washington Post. So much of the rest of the nation knew this about us, but we remained ignorant.

Going back in time, this, from fivethirtyeight:

In 1998, Democrat Ben Cayetano was re-elected as Hawaii’s governor despite trailing Republican Linda Lingle by 11 percentage points in pre-election surveys.

So ok, all those annoying calls you get in the months before each election don’t work very well despite the effort and expense. Why?

The Washington Post tries to explain the difficulty:

Also, as we've written before, polling in Hawaii is difficult for a host of reasons — and in large part because the state's large Asian American population is more difficult to correctly sample and often less willing to answer a pollster's questions.

This is especially a problem given that many of the state's big Democratic primaries pit a white candidate against an Asian American one. Advertiser polling in 2002 and 2010 showed a better picture for the Asian American candidates in those races than was probably the case, while Civil Beat's 2012 poll skewed heavily toward the white candidate, Case.

Ok. Whatever.

Meanwhile, Civil Beat explained their methodology here, if you’re interested in digging deeper.

There is one poll that’s deadly accurate: it was taken on Tuesday, election day. It was a sample of 34.9% of all electoral voters.



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