Thursday, June 22, 2017

 

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




Yesterday'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 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 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.



Tuesday, April 25, 2017

 

Shogun of the House to hold out-of-district fundraiser today during legislative session


by Larry Geller

Who is the “shogun of the House?” in this old diagram, the face is still Calvin Say’s, but the current shogun is Speaker of the House Joe Souki. Yeah, I’m still pushing my analogy of the Hawaii state legislature as the Japanese government during the feudal era.

Fiefdom[4]_thumb[2]

The legislative calendar is at a crucial phase in which bills are assigned to conference committees which meet behind closed doors, out of public view, to impose the intentions of the powerful leadership on each bill.

The shogun (Speaker) appoints the House members of the conference committees. Clearly, the fate of any bill depends on who he appoints and what is whispered to them before they enter those rooms where sunshine never penetrates.

Tonight the shogun is holding a fund raiser out of his district (Hawaii District 8, Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Wailuku, Waikapu). He is suggesting a donation of $1,000, more than his average constituent is likely to be able to afford, not to mention the air fare and hotel cost to fly to Oahu to attend his fundraiser.

Simply and particularly because of Souki’s position of power, holding a posh fundraiser on Oahu is likely to attract mainly lobbyists and special interests. This raises ethical questions for me, in the common usage of the term. The Legislature has been unwilling to impose a ban on in-session fundraisers and so they are legal. I am not claiming otherwise. And sure, he has a Constitutional right to hold a fundraiser anywhere he pleases, in the absence of restrictions. I’m sure it falls under free speech rights, the same as are enjoyed by a panhandler standing outside the Royal Hawaiian Center tonight. Inside or outside, same rights.

Still… I wonder if the contributions will be suitably wrapped.

In feudal Japan, and often pictured in period television dramas, a merchant would always make sure that the bribe he was passing to the corrupt official was impeccably presented (see image at right snipped from an episode of the long-running period drama Mito Komon).

happy birthdayBribe


 

In the Mito Komon dramas justice was always done just before the commercials at the 49 minute mark. Each time it looked something like this:

Mito Komon

Mito Komon traveled incognito with his two samurai sidekicks Sukesan and Kakusan, fighting crime and corruption. Somehow just moments before the episode ended the three appeared on the scene in a pose something like this. The “mon”, or family crest, would be instantly recognized and everyone would hit the ground with lowered heads.

Then the evildooers would decide to rebel and a sword fight would ensue.

There was never blood nor a costume ripped to shreds, which is how the same actors managed to do the same thing in different roles the following weeks. In Hawaii, also, the same scenes are played out during each annual legislative session. What we are missing, though, is our own Mito Komon.

This year Souki is asking for a suggested donation of $1,000. That’s a step up from much earlier, when $25 would do.

Souki 20150311_thumb[4]

Another difference is that this year’s invitation makes it clear that donations go to “Speaker of the House” Rep. Joseph Souki. Truth in advertising.



Monday, April 24, 2017

 

Ground Zero, my apartment!



The tubby tyrant has threatened to use his ICBM to reduce the US to ash as the two countries stand on the edge of nuclear war.

US president Donald Trump has vowed to deal with Kim Jong-un and could launch military strikes over his nuclear weapon programme.

One of his nukes, the long-range ICBM, will be capable of reaching the US once it is fully operational, with Hawaii believed to be in his targets due to it being the closest state.—article in UK Daily Star


by Larry Geller

One of several articles in the sensationalist UK paper Daily Star notes that

Downtown Honolulu would also be turned into a crater with buildings in a mile radius of the blast being wiped out.

I was a bit tense last week, but not now. Why? If a North Korean nuke should hit Honolulu, I wouldn’t have anything further to worry about, would I? The Daily Star article gives me reassurance of that.

Unless it misses its target, the “tubby tyrant’s” bomb is headed, according to their map, directly for the rooftop where I live:

Ground Zero

The presence of Kourtney Kardashian’s butt next to the map didn’t distract me from noticing exactly where the paper placed that pin on the map.

Our condo has underground parking that could possibly be a suitable fallout shelter if stocked with food, etc., but if Kim’s nuke comes down our chimney, no further worries about that, of course.

The Daily Star ran at least three articles on the subject, here, here and here. The story has legs, though, which might possibly impact tourism if potential visitors take it to heart. From one of several dozen Vietnamese newspapers that picked it up:

Bang Hawaii là mục tiêu dễ bị tấn công vì nằm gần Triều Tiên nhất.

Khu phố sầm uất ở Honolulu sẽ biến thành đống gạch vụn trong khi các tòa nhà cao tầng đổ sụp trước tác động của sóng xung kích.

[Google translate]

Hawaii is the most vulnerable target because it is located near the North.

The busy streets in Honolulu will turn into rubble while high-rise buildings collapse before the impact of shock waves.

Another here. No Kardashian pics, though.



 

Recap: Judge agreed that Gov. Ige’s appointment of Tom Gorak to the PUC was proper, so Senate should confirm him



…THE COURT ACCEPTS DEFENDANTS ARGUMENTS WHICH INCLUDED THAT A VACANCY OCCURRED UPON THE EXPIRATION OF MR. CHAMPLEY'S TERM OF OFFICE. THUS, THE COURT FINDS GOVERNOR IGE'S INTERIM APPOINTMENT OF MR. GORAK WHEN THE SENATE WAS NOT IN SESSION TO BE VALID AND SUBJECT TO ALL OTHER LIMITATIONS FOUND IN ARTICLE V, SECTION 6, PARAGRAPH 5 OF THE HAWAII CONSTITUTION.—
Judge Edwin C. Nacino, Minute order, 8/26/2016


by Larry Geller

[See also: Petty politics should not prevent the Senate from approving a fully qualified PUC appointee, 4/23/2017]

Well, the judge said it in all caps, you’d think that the matter is pretty much done with. The pull quote is from the minute order issued on August 26, 2016 by Judge Edwin C. Nacino in the case Morita v. Gorak. Morita did not appeal. It’s over. Done.

Apparently, Sen. Roz Baker disagrees with the judge:

The committee voted 4-3 to not recommend confirmation of Gorak. The decision is now up to the full Senate, which can confirm Gorak if 13 of the 25 senators vote in favor before May 4.

[Committee chair] Baker said the issue with Gorak is not about his qualifications, but how the governor made the appointment without consulting the Senate.

[Star-Advertiser, Senate committee votes against Ige’s choice for PUC, 4/21/2017]

As to the timing of the appointment before the NextEra vote, the company’s proposed aquisition of Hawaii Electric Industries was widely opposed. Nor was Hawaii alone in rejecting this suitor. See: The Public Utility Commission of Texas unanimously agreed Thursday that NextEra Energy’s proposed $18.7 billion acquisition of Texas utility Oncor is not “at this point” in the public interest, RTO Insider, 3/30/2017. Perhaps NextEra needs to read their copy of The Art of the Deal once more.


To turn down a fully qualified appointee is an affront to the public interest.

The Senate should approve Gorak to continue on the PUC.



Saturday, April 22, 2017

 

Petty politics should not prevent the Senate from approving a fully qualified PUC appointee



“It is the chair’s belief that Mr. Gorak’s qualifications are not the truly important issue before this committee,” Baker said, reading a prepared statement before the vote. 
Civil Beat, 4/21/2017


by Larry Geller

Don’t we need qualified people in government? We ought to be constantly striving for the best public servants. Tom Gorak appears to be very well qualified to serve on Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission. Unfortunately, the politics of Hawaii’s feudal system of government is complicating his confirmation by the Senate.

According to the Civil Beat story (which includes a link to his resume),

He has devoted almost 40 years to public utility regulation at the state and federal levels, authored dozens of papers, spoken at national and international conferences and served as the PUC’s chief counsel from 2013 until Ige appointed him in June to replace outgoing Commissioner Mike Champley.

There was plenty of support for Gorak, with almost all the written testimony in favor, including from the Sierra Club; former Consumer Advocate Jeff Ono; the former head of the state energy office, Mark Glick; well-known Hawaii energy expert John Cole and others.

[Civil Beat, Committee Rejects Governor’s Choice For Utilities Commission, 4/21/2017]

Sen. Baker’s objections appear based on the manner in which Gov. David Ige appointed Gorak on an interim basis. Yes, this bypassed the Senate confirmation process temporarily. Gorak’s appointment was made just before the PUC was set to decide on a $4.3 billion proposal for Florida’s NextEra Energy to acquire Hawaiian Electric Industries.

Baker perhaps feels that her own power has been challenged by the interim appointment. This is feudal politics at work.

Further into the article we read of Sen. Baker’s own shenanigans:

The morning hearing went smoothly, save for a few snips from Baker. She interrupted Gorak a couple times, including once right in the beginning when he asked to make an “opening statement” to the committee. She told him this was not court, but that he could make a statement.

For a bit more on Sen. Baker’s conduct of her committee hearings, see yesterday’s article on censorship of testimony. Scroll way down to just below the horzontal line. There’s a video to watch as well.

The current controversy over Gorak’s nomination is temporary. The need for qualified appointees to the PUC and elsewhere in government should be a stronger consideration.

It does not punish the Governor nor change his politics to reject Gorak. But it hurts the people of the state to reject him if he is best qualified to serve.



 

Cayetano’s message to Trump is well timed, but perhaps misplaced in the Washington Post



You and I met in 1998 when your Miss Universe
Pageant was held in Honolulu. I recall you
commented on the beauty of Honolulu and how
you felt it was the perfect venue for the pageant.
The rail project plans include seven massive elevated
rail stations 50-60 feet high and the 35 foot high
elevated rail line through the heart of downtown
Honolulu. If built, this will change the beauty and
ambience of the city forever.—
former governor Ben Cayetano’s ad in the 4/21/17 Washington Post



by Larry Geller

Former Hawaii governor Cayetano’s message in his Friday full-page ad in the Washington Post is clear, and he may have the right psychological approach for President Trump. He’s asking Trump to cut off federal funding for the Honolulu rail project (see ad, below).

But his expensive ad is in the Washington Post. Does Trump even read the Washington Post? If he does, would he ever get to page 15, which is where the ad ended up? Was Trump even in Washington when the paper was published? Maybe it needs to be re-run in the Palm Beach Daily News.

Maybe someone will actually show it to Trump.

Not only is the psychology tuned to Trump’s thinking, the timing could not be better. No doubt Trump is pissed at Hawaii for fouling up his Muslim Ban executive order. Cayetano offers him a way to apply the screws.

It would perhaps be more effective, though, if instead of the Washington Post, the venue were a commercial on Fox and Friends. That’s what HBO’s John Oliver did.

Oliver ran a series of commercials on a program that Trump is known to watch.

Oliver

Esquire

Of course, this is not a serious suggestion. It would be not only Trump who views the commercial but a sizeable chunk of the TV audience that Hawaii needs to attract as tourists.

It’s much less likely that potential tourists will be reading the Washington Post ad.

Here’s the ad. Click for larger.

Ad



Friday, April 21, 2017

 

AG opinion on Hawaii Senate “censorship” of testimony is not the last word


by Larry Geller

censorship

A Hawaii Attorney General opinion posted along with an article on April 11 by Civil Beat should not be the last word on this issue. In fact, there is good reason to question the opinion based on its omission of critical case law on the subject.

Chad Blair reported:

Hawaii’s Department of the Attorney General says the state Senate improperly denied a person’s constitutional protected right to submit testimony for legislative hearings.

Such protections are covered by the petition clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. and Hawaii constitutions, Deputy Attorney General Robyn Chun wrote to state Sen. Breene Harimoto on March 29.

Harimoto requested the opinion after learning that the written testimony of a woman working for A Place for Women in Waipio was withheld from lawmakers and the public. The testimony contained personal information about another testifier who was critical of the organization.

[Civil Beat, AG: Hawaii Senate Improperly Withheld Testimony From Public, 4/11/2017]

This would not be the first time testimony has “disappeared” after submission to the Legislature. See below for more on this.


Isn’t an AG opinion the last word on a subject?

Definitely not. The AG (or his deputies) regularly lose in court. It is reasonable to question opinions and even to question whether there might be some bias. We all have biases. This opinion may also—it may have a bias based on religious beliefs, given the particular subject matter.

One never knows, but when an opinion omits pertinent case law, it seems reasonable to question why.

One more snip from the Civil Beat story provides background for this line if inquiry:

At issue is Senate Bill 501, which would require all “limited service” pregnancy centers like the one in Waipio to disclose “the availability of and enrollment information for” reproductive health services.

An earlier version of the bill identified as part of that information abortion services, but the latest version uses the words “pregnancy-related services.”

SB 501 is supported by the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii and the local chapter of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. It is opposed by religious organizations such as the Hawaii Family Forum, the Roman Catholic Church in the State of Hawaii and Mauka Makai Ministries.

Let’s dive into the legal issues first.

I was pointed to Schwab v. Ariyoshi,  58 Haw. 25, 564 P.2d 135 (1977) by someone who cares about this issue. This is the key case omitted from AG Doug Chin’s opinion (posted by Civil Beat at the end of the above article or click here).

Google reveals that Schwab is a frequently cited case when legislative procedures are challenged, so its omission is curious.

From The Hawaii State Constitution (Oxford Commentaries on the State Constitutions of the United States), Apr 15, 2011, by Anne Lee, p.99, on Article III Section 12 of our state constitution: 

Because the legislature is empowered by Section 12 to determine the rules of its proceedings, the court has declined to investigate possible violations of legislative rules. In general, the judiciary's role in supervising legislative activity is limited to seeing that such activity does not violate any constitutional provisions. Therefore, it will not "interfere with the conduct of legislative affairs in absence of a constitutional mandate to do so, or unless the procedure or result constitutes a deprivation of constitutionally guaranteed rights" (Schwab v. Ariyoshi, 1977).

At issue here, then, is whether there is a constitutionally guaranteed right that testimony submitted to a committee chair or a Senator must be distributed to other members or all members. It’s just not there.

Nor is there anything prohibiting the Legislature from changing, failing to follow, or even violating its own rules. They do so fairly regularly, in each and every session. Advocates may grouse about it, but it’s not illegal.

We need to look at one more case that was recommended to me, though:

Minn. Bd. Commun. for Colleges v. Knight, 465 U.S. 271, 281 (1984). In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the implication by the AG's recent opinion that the "right to petition" the government under the First Amendment can control legislative procedure.

The Constitution does not grant to members of the public generally a right to be heard by public bodies making decisions of policy... To recognize a constitutional right to participate directly in government policymaking would work a revolution in existing government practices.

There’s nothing to prevent any citizen (or anyone else, for that matter) from emailing all the Senators on a committee in order to be heard, as an example. The person whose testimony was “censored” could do that, and perhaps did. So there would be no infringement, as the AG suggests, of a person’s "right to petition" the government under the First Amendment. Email, fax, hand over a letter, whatever—petition away.


So what “bias” may be at play?

It wouldn’t be unusual for a person’s personal or religious beliefs to influence professional views on a subject intentionally or unintentionally. I can only speculate that perhaps this could be why the opinion fell as it did.

SB100 has been strongly opposed by the religious right. It seems that the Senate intends to withhold the personal information revealed in that testimony in order to shield a survivor from further victimization. Others appear to want the opposite.

Chin

And here is a photo, posted in a tweet by prolific tweeter Senator Gilbert Keith-Agaran dated April 13 (two days after the Civil Beat article) of AG Doug Chin welcoming people to the Hawaii Prayer Breakfast.

There’s no implication of wrongdoing in suggesting that a person’s possible beliefs may influence the thoroughness of a professional work product. It happens.

Did it happen here?



Other instances of “censorship” of testimony

At one time I was a frequent testifier at the Legislature, spending far too many days waiting my turn to weigh in on controversial bills. It did happen that my testimony, submitted well before the committee meeting, didn’t make it into the committee’s paper packet that preceded computerization. It also happened rarely that my testimony did not make it into the compiled on-line pdf file after computerization.

Since I always came with a couple of copies of my written testimony I simply gave it to the chair and went over it orally for the rest of the committee.

Sh*t happens. But mostly, the process worked quite well.

A better example of “censorship” was on public display at a Senate hearing conducted in March, 2012, at which Senator Roz Baker, chair of Senate hearingCommerce and Consumer Affairs Committee, refused to hear oral testimony in opposition to the appointment of HMSA’s chief lobbyist to a position on the board of the Hawaii Health Connector. The entire incident was caught on video and led to a complaint by two organizations (one of which was Kokua Council, of which I was president at the time) about the chair’s conduct.

I wrote at the time (see first link):

On Friday, March 23, Senator Rosalyn Baker strong-armed approval of the nominees through her committee. She didn’t allow testimony from the public waiting in the room to speak until confronted by a member of the audience. And even then, she interrupted those who did come forward to testify against the nominees. Example: she would not let me refer to information in a Star-Advertiser article I brought with me.

The complaint, of course, went nowhere because the Senate can realistically do almost whatever it wants.

Recently I was asked in an email about apparent censorship of testimony submitted properly via the Capitol website. It took me a while to get to the issue, but when I did, I learned that the Capitol website simply forwards testimony to the committee, where presumably a staff member assembles the testimony as in days of yore. The emails to me included the receipts received from the system.

I did not look at the testimony in question—it doesn’t matter whether I would agree with it or not. In my view, the Legislature should, in general, assure that all testimony is properly compiled. I could not learn from the committee staff if testimony was ever deliberately withheld, and one person’s response wouldn’t necessarily be definitive anyway. Perhaps I could have more aggressively pursued the question, but there was no assurance that I could accurately learn the reason for the disappearance of this particular testimony.

That is not to say that “disappeared” testimony isn’t of interest—it is, just that in this single instance I could not form a conclusion. If there is a pattern and practice of omitting testimony, that alone should be of public interest.

Anyone who is concerned about this, please comment below if you also have had testimony “disappear” that you think was unfairly treated.



Thursday, April 13, 2017

 

Did you know that Blaisdell is a war memorial? Do you care that big bucks may be spent to unnecessarily “improve” it?



The Blaisdell is a “living” or functional war memorial, a common type of memorial from the mid-20th century. Living memorials follow a dual purpose of honoring veterans while also serving the community.—
Civil Beat article 


by Larry Geller

Thanks to Tanya Harrison (follow her on Twitter as @BlaisdellMemorl), the city’s plans to reconstruct this facility have now been exposed to a larger audience.

Among the several questions Tanya asks is the economic one:

With the problems of rail, homelessness, and infrastructure, why is this a priority? Wouldn’t it be more prudent to simply renovate? The initial estimate of $400 million could easily balloon to more than $ 1 billion. While the powers-that-be wrangle over revenue increases to balance the budget, discussion of Blaisdell redevelopment, budgeted for $12 million next year, is not on the public’s radar.

[Civil Beat, Is Anyone Paying Attention To The Blaisdell Center Makeover?, 4/13/2017]

The planned redevelopment likely links with the theft of Thomas Square as a public park. Taken together, renovation of Blaisdell would whet the city’s appetite for commercial development. But is this in the public interest?

Why has the Arena’s status as a war memorial been shrouded from public awareness as these plans continue?

Read the article at the Civil Beat website. If you enjoy concertgoing or even shopping at the Wednesday farmers’ market, you might also be concerned about this plan, apparently developed with as little public participation as possible.



Wednesday, April 12, 2017

 

Petition filed by Native Hawaiian fisherman against Hawaii’s illegal licensing of foreign longline fishermen


75% of workers in Hawaii’s long lines industry are said to be foreign fisherman who are not allowed to even set foot in Hawaii because they are in a technical state of deportation as they fish (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).

State law is pretty clear but is not enforced: HRS §189-5, titled "Aliens not admitted to United States," states that: “It is unlawful for any person who has not been lawfully admitted to the United States toengage in taking marine life for commercial purposes in the waters of the State.”

The press release explains this new action, which is a petition that the Board of Land and Natural Resources is required to hear. An OCR copy of the petition is attached below.

Wailuku, Maui — Malama Chun, a Native Hawaiian waterman, who fishes, has 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.

Malama Chun said, "Fishermen are the state's first line of defense in observing and reporting harmful activities that threaten our public marine resources. These individuals are prohibited from freely moving in Hawai'i and are subject to the total control of their employer. They are simply unable to report violations to authorities."

Chun's attorney, Lance D. Collins, added: "The statute is clear when it limits commercial fishing licenses to persons "lawfully admitted" to the United States. Previous to 1949 when "lawfully admitted" was added to the statute, any person could obtain a fishing license."

Under Board of Land and Natural Resources rules, the Board will now consider the petition and either grant a declaratory order confirming the practice as illegal or deny the petition.



Download 20170412 Mchun Petition for Dec Order to Blnr - OCR from Disappeared News



Monday, April 10, 2017

 

It will be Hawaii, not Mar-a-Lago, that is at risk if Trump provokes North Korea




Counterpoint podcast: Hyun Lee on North Korea

Hyun Lee


Update: The transcript of the Counterspin interview with Hyun Lee on North Korea is now posted. Read it here.


For an expert analysis including the “disappeared” history that never makes it into the mainstream news, tune in to this week’s episode of Counterpoint. Download the mp3 file linked from this page and skip ahead to about the 4:30 point for the interview. At this writing, no transcript has yet been posted on the fair.org transcript page, but there should be one in a few days.

Understanding of the US relationship with North Korea will not come from Trump, our own dear leader. To understand the tense and perhaps fragile situation will take research beyond his tweets and press statements. Nor has the mainstream press been at all reliable, most habitually dismissing N. Korean leadership as bumbling clowns with nuclear weapons.



 



by Larry Geller

The mainstream media seems to love Trump’s “presidential” act of bombing that Syrian air field. They love it. As a distraction from the ongoing investigations into Russian involvement in the election, it’s been a winner.

For the moment, anyway, the tide of media approval has swamped the Russian thing totally, as may have been intended.

tweet 6 poliical theater

The investigations haven’t halted, of course, and could bob to the surface any time soon. In that case, since Trump enjoys “winning,” there has been speculation in the Twitterverse that he could try for an encore performance by provoking North Korea militarily.

If he does that, as I tweeted on Thursday, Hawaii better watch out:

tweet 0 mine

The path of an ICBM would be shorter to Hawaii and opportunities to intercept it fewer. Plus, the islands are home to a vast military presence, including the Pacific Command.

Of course, the United States could then blow N. Korea off the map.

Kim Jong Un would have to be crazy to attack Hawaii. Right?  Right??

Well, John McCain recently called Kim Jong Un a "crazy fat kid" on MSNBC. Here’s a report of the reaction:

The state-run Korean Central News Agency accused McCain, and Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, of attacking North Korea's "dignity," calling their comments a "grave provocation, little short of declaration of war.​"

[USA Today, Kim Jong Un, North Korea blast McCain for 'crazy fat kid' remark, 3/30/2017]

And now this:

tweet1 cnn

That Trump may have N. Korea in his crosshairs is a hot topic on Twitter. He seems to be preparing. Preparing something, we don’t know what, since his actions appear to be based more on whim than on policy.

tweet 4 nukes

None of this is secret. The tweets have thousands of re-tweets.

Also, and this is a new twist I think in American politics, Trump stands to profit from the military adventures he instigates. The bombing of the Syrian airfield was ineffective—planes took off from it the very next day. But the 60 or so missiles fired drove up Raytheon stock, and Trump invests in Raytheon stock.

tweet2 n korea 2

There’s nothing funny about this, but there was an article in The Onion that rang too true to be amusing:

tweet 3 onion

…President Donald Trump held a press conference Friday to express his full confidence that the airstrike had completely wiped out the lingering Russian scandal. “Based on intelligence we have received over the past several hours, the attack on the al-Shayrat air base in Homs has successfully eliminated all discussions and allegations about my administration’s ties to the Russian government,” said Trump.”

[The Onion, Trump Confident U.S. Military Strike On Syria Wiped Out Russian Scandal, 4/7/2017]

 

tweet 5 distraction of syria wears off

2017-04-10 S-A
Today the threat went mainstream, at least in the Honolulu newspaper. The Star-Advertiser gave almost its entire front page to a story about the threat.

In Hawaii a profusion of four-star military commands — including U.S. Pacific Command, which oversees U.S. military activity over half the globe — makes Oahu a strategic and symbolic target. The threat from an unpredictable North Korea, in turn, is prompting a revisitation of some old Cold War practices that until recently seemed laughable.

[Star-Advertiser p.1, Specialists think North Korea poses nuclear threat to Hawaii, 4/10/2017]

The well-researched story by reporter William Cole notes that once we were prepared (as best as one could be, I suppose), but no more:

Nuclear fallout shelters? In 1981 Oahu had hundreds of them. The Prince Kuhio Building could hold 14,375 people — not because it has a secret underground bunker, but because its concrete parking structure could be used as shelter.

“Each one of those facilities had to be surveyed for how much concrete density (was present),” said Toby Clairmont, executive officer of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, the successor to Civil Defense. “And they had to be equipped, so they put medical kits in them, food, sanitary kits, all that kind of stuff.”

As time went on, funding for those provisions stopped, and the stocks were disposed of because they became too old, Clairmont said. In the majority of cases, existing fallout shelter markings are out of date and no longer applicable.

It’s scary for many people to realize that Donald Trump really is president.” Some wake up in very real fear of deportation or of losing their health insurance and then their health. For us in Hawaii, we have Trump’s intentions toward North Korea to worry about as well. What he does may well have consequences for us.

What to do about it? That discussion should start immediately at all levels of our government.



Sunday, March 26, 2017

 

Honolulu 2140 ?


by Larry Geller

Former Mayor Mufi Hannemann tried a commuter ferry called TheBoat as a way to ease traffic congestion coming into cental Honolulu. It never worked, and cost taxpayers an estimated $120 per roundtrip rider to operate. Commuters preferred their cars or TheBus.

But suppose neither of those were an option one day as sea levels rise, turning streets and highways into canals. If the tall condos and downtown office buildings are not abandoned entirely, the only way to get to them will be by boat.

The cover of a novel by Kim Stanley Robinson (author of the Mars trilogy) released just this month, New York 2140, is a great illustration of what Honolulu also might become. Here’s the cover that you’ll see on Amazon:

ny 2140

Assuming that buildings made of steel and concrete can remain standing with their feet perpetually immersed in salty sea water, they’ll no doubt have to arrange for some kind of access by watercraft. For this cover illustration the artist has chosen to show individual moorings around each building. Here’s a magnified section of the cover:

ny 2140 enlarged

New York 2140 is science fiction. Global Warming is not, and Honolulu will be facing the consequences one day.

At least Honolulu’s rail line is being built with elevated platforms. Here’s a vision, this time a New Yorker cover, of the great beach access that we’ll enjoy some time in the next few decades:

New Yorker climate change cover 20150706[8]



Monday, March 20, 2017

 

Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: World Politics-Economics Right Now



World Politics-Economics Right Now

20 March 2017

galtung_side#473 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

The Cold War ended by an agreement that the USSR leaves Eastern Europe and the USA does not enter the area. What the USA did is treason, like Sykes-Picot. NATO expanded from 16 to 28: Bill Clinton added Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary; George W. Bush the Baltics, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria; Obama attached Croatia and Albania. In 1999, 2004 and 2009, respectively.  However, did those countries want it? They could have made their own pacts with neither USSR nor USA. The Soviet empire, and the Soviet Union itself, had collapsed.

With NATO at the border, Russia took back its 1954 Crimea gift to Ukraine within the Soviet Union.  Kiev with US help fought in Eastern Ukraine to make ethnic Russians escape to Russia.  Maybe 60% did.

Enters world history: The Pope and the Patriarch declare their Christianities one and the same (Havana Airport, VIP Lounge, 14 Feb 2016).  EU will no longer fight US wars (Bratislava, 6 Nov 2016). Protestant-Evangelical Christianity is marginalized. So is the USA.

Denmark and Norway were with Anglo-America fighting US wars in Libya; and with prime ministers as NATO’s secretary general. “Cold War jitters arise in Norway–arrival of US Marines stoke fears of being in cross hairs of Russia–a more likely bomb target” (NYT 18 Jan 2017).  But they are low on the US “Ranking American Allies” (NYT 7 Feb 2017); the top three are Canada, Britain and Australia (top three enemies: North Korea, Iran, Russia). And “US Threatens to Penalize Allies on UN Voting (IPS 7 Feb 2017). Given that and US marginalization, how long will they remain “allies”?

Charles Glass, “How Assad Is Winning” (NYRB 23 Feb 2017): solving national conflict is a sum of local solutions, using local superiority to offer security for local opponents laying down arms; government and opponents both benefiting from fees from road controls.  Israel will not get Syria cut into small pieces; USA will not get Sunni rule; Turkey will not control the Kurds; Russia keeps its air-navy base. Colombia, watch out; this may also be your alternative to US bombing. Politically the world is multi-polar, not run by superpowers. The West wants power-over-others and loses power-over-self; others have more Self-control, not Other-control. How does that work economically?

As debt. The debt/GDP ratio is: USA 98.3%, China 8.2%, India 23.0%, Russia 29.2%, and above 100% for many (Wikipedia “World Debt Clock”). The US 2016 trade balance was -$0.7 trillion, with China -$349 billion, with Mexico -$64 billion (Fortune, 1 Mar 2017).  The 2016 US annual interest was $241 billion; the 2027 projection is $768 billion. Will Trump cancel the debt unilaterally? Or bomb creditors to cancel?

Another key factor is finance economy speculation–as opposed to real economy investment–in derivative chains with super-commissions. If drug chains are illegal and boycotted, why not also derivatives?

China’s 8.2% debt/GDP ratio is the lowest of the 30 states listed. How does Chinese economic policy differ from the West? A first simple formulation: qualitative, focused on “revolutions”, not quantitative focused on “growth”.  The Economist Intelligence Unit, The World in 2017 fails to capture new qualities, too obsessed with quantitative growth.

Less simplistic: this difference follows from basics. The West has a creation myth, setting things right, with quantitative change, China has a never ceasing dialectics, new holons, with new realities. The two ways of thinking become self-fulfilling prophecies.

This author had a theory of China changing from distribution to growth and back every nine years from 1949 till 1989; with a 1976-1980 break after Mao’s death and before Deng launched the capitalist revolution.

That theory no longer holds.  From 1989 the ethos has been distribution oriented: lifting a sector up–now under Xi Jinping the lagging countryside–or a part, the West; or simply more consumption.  6% growth does not even put China among the ten “Top growers”.

China Daily (27 Feb 2017): President Xi Jinping uses his village level experience for policies lifting them up, “stunned that there was still a place with such poor and difficult conditions after so many years of reform and opening up”. Problems: health, education.  The typical reporting on Xi in the West, however, is on power struggle in the Communist Party, failing to catch processes involving millions.

USA: The Economist (p. 99) reports that “Americans–including those at the very bottom–have enjoyed surprisingly robust income gains of late.”  Better distribution, great; but “8 richest men match wealth of half the world” (NYT 18 Jan 2017), 6 of them are Americans (one is Spanish, Ortega; one is Mexican, Slim); 3 of the 6 are the founders of Microsoft-Amazon-Facebook, like Internet changing the world we live in.

But USA has economic power-over-others: Lex americana extracted 40 billion dollars from European companies as fines to US authorities (Le Monde Diplomatique Jan 2017). The 1977 US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was extended to foreign companies in 1998; laws forbidding trade with states under US embargo likewise.  US law is extra-territorial, so are US judges-courts, CIA-FBI-NSA at US embassies are the police. States that deviate from US norms when using boycott and trade for foreign policy risk their interests in the USA and prefer not to challenge it.

The net conclusion?  The enormous US imbalance: no longer winning wars, less political clout, economically bankrupt but still powerful, shaping the world culturally.  Wise US policy would celebrate the last two; unwise policy would Make America Great Again-military-political, as Trump wants.  Drop “Again” Mr. Trump, Make America Great! Will do.

And wise world policy? Celebrate the military-political decline of the last superpower, fight lex americana, treat US$ like any other currency–in baskets with others or not–and the US federal reserve bank like other central banks.  Normalize the USA from the outside.

And create world, UN, equivalents of Internet etc. as parts of the common human heritage, like oceans and space–beyond state ownership. In deep gratitude to the US–all immigrants–creative, innovative talent.

_______________________________________

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.

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

 

Let’s declare April 1 to be the official Fake News Day


by Larry Geller

Suitable for high school: Trump’s tweets vs. real events

1plus1

Today’s Congressional hearings present a great opportunity to apply critical thinking skills.

Our 45th president, whom we should normally be able to trust in view of the integrity that accompanies his office, emitted a series of tweets as the hearings progressed.

James Clapper and others stated that there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2017

As the Washington Post clarified,

But in his opening testimony, FBI Director James Comey announced that a criminal investigation into possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign was indeed active and ongoing.

One more tweet:

The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process. pic.twitter.com/d9HqkxYBt5

— President Trump (@POTUS) March 20, 2017

The Post:

This was a strange claim, especially because if you watch the video, [NSA Director Michael S.] Rogers makes clear that, when asked about whether Russian cyber-actors changed vote tallies in Michigan and other states, he replied: “I would highlight we are a foreign intelligence organization, not a domestic intelligence organization. So it would be fair to say, we are probably not the best organization to provide a more complete answer.”

Indeed, when later asked about the presidential tweet, Comey said it did not reflect what he and Rogers had said: “It certainly wasn’t our intention to say that today.”

This is a teaching moment.

 

For middle school: Trump’s wiretap tweets are a great lesson

For younger students one might discuss the difference between an assertion and a fact.

In these tweets from earlier this month, should we ask whether it is legal to tap Trump’s phone prior to the election or must we first question the assertion that the tapping took place?

Heck, a president said it, so it must be true, right?

Is it legal for a sitting President to be "wire tapping" a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017

I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017

How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017

Young students might be surprised that a president says one thing and is contradicted by others, for example, the FBI director (again, in the Washington Post article):

“I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey said. “The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components. The department has no information that supports those tweets.”

After all, young children are taught to believe authority, especially if their parents say something.

I don’t really know what a teacher might do if a kid says “But my dad said that Obama tapped Trump’s telephone.”

I’m glad I won’t have to face that response.

Good luck, teachers.

Let’s choose April 1 each year as a day to teach critical thinking in our schools at every grade level [actually, darn, it falls on a Saturday this year, so let’s use the day before].

April 1 or April Fools Day is a day to pull pranks but also a day to publish fake news stories in newspapers and on the web.

Some appear very real but most are fun and easy to spot.

These days we may be fed fake news most any day of the year. The trick is to be able to recognize it. It seems that many people can’t do that.

What about the steady diet of #FakeNews that the public has been exposed to at least since the election campaigns began last year? Many people seemed to glom onto it. Perhaps they could not tell the fake from the real. Perhaps they wanted the fake news to be real.

Of course there has always been fake news, but it was never popular enough to have its own hashtag. #FakeNews is now “trending” as they say. We even have fake news about “alternative facts.” Sheesh.

Such is the sad state of reason in an age when it is not ok to challenge someone’s “belief system.”

Our schools can teach students to think critically, a skill that would serve them well throughout life. So let’s do that, at least this one day of the year.

Yes, I know, encouraging critical thinking is blasphemy in a culture so dependent on selling things to each of us. If we teach critical thinking, who will buy all that crap sold on TV, who would vote for deceiving politicians, who would pop those supplements we are told we should eat?

Our 45th president in particular seems to be very invested in the fake news genre. In fact (if the word still has any meaning) he has popularized fake news not only in his campaign but as he attempts to carry out his official duties.

Declaring as fact that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower is only the latest installment. Tomorrow there will be something new. Believe me.

So why not take the opportunity to declare April 1 as the day to teach young people better thinking skills?

It’s too late for the older folks who have made it through our educational system only learning reading and math. Of course, that kind of schooling is what advertisers and politicians want for us.

We’re supposed to be uncritical consumers in order to keep the economy going and elect charlatans to political office.

Dunce_cap

No. Stop. Let’s make America think again.



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