Saturday, September 24, 2016

 

Of course high-tech firms leave Hawaii


by Larry Geller

Ryan Ozawa posted two columns on Civil Beat discussing the exodus of high-civilgeekstech firms from Hawaii.  Aha, someone else has noticed. Here on Disappeared News, I’ve been writing about this occasionally for more than a decade.

It makes sense for high-tech firms to start here when they can get financing, tax breaks, incubator space and even (in the case of the “high-tech park” in Mililani) facility deals. All while enjoying an exceptional quality of life in one of the world’s best climates.

Startups produce only limited jobs, generally speaking. The stereotype is the entrepreneur and a bunch of pals. That’s a broad generalization, but I think it holds true. The media then pile up on the newly successful ventures. But almost inevitably, they leave.

But as I’ve said many times, one day the bean counters come knocking on the CEO’s door. It’s time to pack up the surfboard and head off to California where there are markets, investors, a pool of trained workers, and an adequate supply chain. All the ingredients of success—are over there, not here.

[I’ve wondered if a new high-tech firm seeking programmers in Silicon Valley need do any more than open the window at lunchtime and shout “Python!” in a loud voice in order to attract a mob rushing the front door to compete for the jobs.]

Venture capitalists probably don’t care as long as they profit from their investment. In fact, savvy folks that they are, they already know that these startups will leave. If they don’t leave when it’s ripe to do so, there will be a bunch more knocks on the CEO’s door.

What Ryan didn’t attempt, and it wouldn’t be easy, was an analysis of whether promoting high-tech in Hawaii makes economic sense. Certainly some federal money comes in. And there are some firms and jobs. It would be very strange if there were not.

One recent example comes to mind: Hoku Scientific, a darling of the media for far too long, created plenty of jobs. In Pocatello, Idaho. Then, following the path of many others, it’s gone. We didn’t get those jobs yet the newspaper kept hyping Hoku.

I’ve wondered if the best high-tech jobs in the state are the government and private organizations that promote rather than do high-tech.

While I feel that every student should have the best education possible, I’m sad that those who excel in STEM courses will likely have to leave Hawaii to make any money in tech. Keeping families together is a cultural value here, but since we really have few high-tech jobs, there is a brain drain. And of course, that also works against high-tech firms considering staying here or relocating to Hawaii.

The calculation would be interesting: how much is the state paying in one way or another to promote high-tech without the expected return, which I contend must be measured in jobs for the people more than tax money returned. We’re paying big bucks for executives and staff to promote something that seems not to be producing the expected return. Or is it? What’s the reality?

So what should we do to create high-tech jobs? Wish I knew. We’re an island in middle of the Pacific Ocean. The promotional line put out by the High Tech Development Corp. many years ago that our state is ideally located between the West Coast and Asia, straddling the time zones, was ridiculed by Guy Kawasaki in a talk at the UH business school. We’re actually not in the right place, we’re in the wrong place. We are not the high-tech “hub” of the Pacific.

We do need high-tech for our own purposes, and that should create some jobs. Many state and private organizations still have not moved into the 21st century as far as computer automation goes, for example. There’s room for some growth here.

costly“I saw a lot of people working really hard on bad systems that were antiquated, and they were heroically making things happen that were almost impossible given how old the systems were,” he said. “It’s surprising to see so many boxes of paper and that everything has to flow through paper instead of electronic.”

Systems that are 40, sometimes 50, years old crunch along often on parts sought online, including at the state’s biggest single department, education, tucked in the basement of the central Department of Education’s administration building, where stacks and stacks of colored cards are considered the payroll database.

[KHON, Costly consequences of outdated payroll technology, 5/22/2015]

Manual payroll? Really? Shame.

I noticed many years ago that many businesses were in the habit of turning off their fax machines at night to save electricity. Why didn’t the orders come in? Well, the fax was off. That was high-tech, Hawaii style.

This complicates the calculation, of course. If the DOE and other government agencies should come up to speed on computer processing, wouldn’t people lose their jobs as a consequence of the automation?

It also seems odd to me that our government promotes high-tech for everyone else and yet is so bad at it. There are more examples besides just payroll.

So let’s not be surprised that high-tech and other startups leave Hawaii. That’s the way it is. Accept it. Good thing we have tourism and hospitality jobs, all else has been a struggle here. Will high-tech help? Has it so far? Curious taxpayer minds want to know.



Friday, September 23, 2016

 

Pay the Honolulu Police Department and they will enforce your favorite law


by Larry Geller

Law enforcement is for sale in Honolulu. No kidding: it appears that if you pay big bucks, the Honolulu Police Department will enforce a law for you.

Otherwise, not, I assume. If they did it for free, no one would be inclined to pay for it.

HPD

The Honolulu Police Department will receive an $85,000 boost to enforce sidewalk laws in Waikiki.

The Waikiki Business Improvement District Association is giving the money to the police department. The funds will be used to curb illegal activities like peddling on sidewalks.

[KITV, HPD gets $85K to enforce sidewalk laws in Waikiki, 9/21/2016]

If peddling on sidewalks is illegal, shouldn’t the HPD be enforcing that law without extra payment? Could the Waikiki Business folks chip in a little more to, for example, make the streets safer by enforcing some traffic laws?

I have just sent the following inquiry to HPD via their web page contact form:


I read that the Waikiki Business Improvement District Association is giving $85,000 to HPD to enforce sidewalk laws in Waikiki. The article, on KITV’s website, did not say how long the enforcement will last. So I have a few questions perhaps you could respond to:

1. The intersection near where I live at Vineyard Blvd. and Nuuanu Ave. gets very congested during the evening rush hour. Often cars on Vineyard rush into the intersection as the traffic light turns yellow, blocking both ongoing traffic and the crosswalk. Pedestrians, especially those on wheelchairs or scooters, have a difficult time crossing or are blocked completely. Yet I have never seen HPD enforcing the traffic laws at that intersection at that time (or actually, at any time). So the possibility of buying enforcement could become one way to ensure pedestrians safe access to those crosswalks.

2. Do you have a rate schedule or price list that you could send me so that a fundraising campaign might be mounted with the goal of having the traffic laws enforced. We would insist on a full menu, that is, including infractions such as failure to stop before turning right on red, intentionally blocking the intersection, blocking the pedestrian crosswalks, failure to obey the crosswalk laws, etc.

3. Since there is a similar situation during the morning rush hour, I would like to know if enforcement can be purchased during specific hours or time periods.

4. Is there an extra charge for enforcement of traffic laws during holidays or on Sunday?


 

I don’t really expect a reply, but you never know.

For any tourists who might read this: Welcome to Hawaii, where laws can be enforced if your budget is big enough. Be careful crossing the streets because so far no one has paid extra for pedestrian safety that I am aware of.

Of course, what I am getting at is something like: we already pay HPD to enforce the law. Why is this payment necessary, what will it achieve, and shouldn’t it be refused on ethical grounds? Will HPD enforcement be different because they have accepted this payment? If so, where is it written that selective enforcement of laws is at all permitted?



Thursday, September 22, 2016

 

Hawaii residents petition state agency for transparency in fishing licenses


by Larry Geller

Attached is a press release announcing the filing of a petition to Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources to require transparency in fishing licenses. It is intended to break through the veil of secrecy surrounding hiring and working conditions on Hawaii fishing vessels and reform the licensing process.

[Disclosure: I am one of the signers of the petition.]

A copy of the petition is attached below.


Hawaii Residents Across State
Petition DLNR to Amend Rules
To Require Transparency in Fishing Licenses

Press Release

***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***

Petitioners File to Amend Rules Requiring Transparency
in Longline Fishing Licensing
September 22nd 2016

Honolulu, HI – Residents of O'ahu, Maui and the Big Island have filed a petition for the DLNR to amend its rules to require commercial marine license applicants/holders to disclose: (1) if they are ineligible for landing privileges in Hawaii, (2) if applicant is an owner or captain, to list the names of all licensees under their hire/command subject to the "detained on board" deportation order, (3) citizenship of a licensee who is ineligible for landing privileges, and (4) the complete name and contact information for any person who assists an applicant/licensee who does not read English and cannot, without assistance, certify that they understand the terms of the license.

These additions to the commercial marine license application rule will provide the public, consumers, fish buyers and state and federal regulatory agencies transparency and immediate informational access to ship that utilize the recently publicized "detained on board" deportation order scheme where fishermen who work for Hawaii longline fishing companies are prohibited from coming ashore when docked in Hawaii's harbors and the boat owner/captain holds the travel documents of such workers.

Last week, DLNR Chair Suzanne Case stated in a widely reported press release: "While our jurisdiction only extends to the protection of natural resources, we are certainly very concerned about any human rights violations that are reportedly occurring on the longline fishing fleet, and stand ready to assist in any way possible."

Kathryn Xian of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery in Honolulu, states: "What is lacking in recent efforts, to give these worker basic labor rights, is transparency. These longstanding and pervasive exploitative labor practices can't simply be solved by a contract, when workers don't have any status or access to justice. Furthermore, local consumers deserve to know how their purchased product arrives to their dinner tables so that they can make an informed decision on whether to buy into such an industry. This proposed rule change would help accomplish this."

Karen Chun of Maui said: "If the DLNR feels the eye color of the licensee is important enough to require to be disclosed on the license application, they can ask meaningful questions that will help both the public and labor regulators identify which licensees engage in the immoral ' detained on board' deportation order scheme."

Larry Geller of Honolulu said: "Every applicant is required to certify that they read the terms of the application yet we now know that many of these fishermen who are held prisoner on these boats have very limited English skills. The person that is assisting them in filling out these applications should also disclose their involvement and certify that they have faithfully translated the terms of the license."

###

 


 

Download BLNR Proposed Amended Rule Filed 20160921 from Disappeared News




Monday, September 19, 2016

 

Complaint details widespread violations of labor laws that protect foreign fishermen docking in Hawaii


by Larry Geller

Note: This is a re-post of an article originally posted several days ago which included a file that was not properly redacted. The solution: the document included below is the first 11 pages of the full 71-page document. What is omitted is 60 pages of of fishing license detail and other supportive material that isn’t really necessary to understand the complaint.

Media reports on human trafficking in Hawaii’s longline fishing industry have rested on the observation that working conditions have been permitted due to a “loophole” in federal regulations.

A complaint, filed with Hawaii’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, details violations, cites applicable laws, and names names.

The complaint is quite detailed and includes attachments—a total of 71 pages.

The complaint is meticulous in its references to specific sections of state law, for which there is no "loophole,"

Here is an example of the precision which characterizes this complaint--a snip pinpointing an applicable section of Hawaii wage law:

We believe that the Wage Standards Division has jurisdiction over these matters. State wage laws which provide workers with more protections do not conflict and are not preempted by federal law or maritime law for workers that work within the territorial waters of a state or the high seas adjacent to the state's coast. See Pacific Merchant Shipping Ass'n v. Aubry, 918 F.2d 1409 (9th Cir.1990), cert. denied, 504 U.S. 979 (1992).

The complaint details failures of recordkeeping, failure to post notices, and improper wage withholding practices, among other violations too numerous to list here.

Download 20160919 Complaint to DLIR re slave ships - minus attachments from Disappeared News



 

Ah, a public works project that makes Honolulu rail look really good


by Larry Geller

Tsukiji

It really is a sad story of bureaucratic mismanagement and incompetence.

No, not the Honolulu rail project, this one is in Tokyo Japan.

The 81-year old Tsukiji fish market was to be relocated to a new site at Toyosu, but the new site, constructed at great expense, is unusable. The relocation has been halted, at great expense.

There’s one thing that it does have in common with our poorly planned rail project (and I use the word “planned” reluctantly, since parts of the rail project were never actually planned): lack of stakeholder input.

“People who don’t know anything about a fish market designed the Toyosu site. We were never consulted,” said Tai Yamaguchi of Tsukiji-based fish merchant Hitoku Shoten.

Read the Japan Times article, here. For one thing, it will take your mind off our own problems for a moment. For me, as someone who worked for many years just a stone’s throw from the original Tsukiji market, it is, as one might say with Japanese understatement, regrettable that such terrible mistakes were made.

It didn’t have to be that way.

Many also complain the shop spaces allocated to them are smaller than those at Tsukiji. The smallest shop compartment is 1.5 meters wide. Some tuna wholesalers have lamented they cannot even cut the huge fish in their own shop.

The drains are too small to handle the water and scrap runoff. And the soil restoration under the buildings (the site was contaminated with chemicals from a gas plant that occupied that location) was never done. No one knows where they will park their trucks.

Back in Honolulu, the lack of community input and direction to the rail project with regard to route or type of transport and the neglect to calculate the cost of ducking the high-voltage power lines is also “regrettable.” But can we regret on an ongoing basis the failure to even estimate running costs, for example?

We’re watching an expensive failure that is still in motion.

Related:



Sunday, September 18, 2016

 

Great minds think alike: alternate uses for an unwanted elevated rail guideway


by Larry Geller

160918_083542

An op-ed in today’s Star-Advertiser is headlined “It’s not too late to make right call on rail” and is accompanied by a picture of New York City’s “High Line”, which is a disused elevated rail line repurposed as a public park.

The High Line, featuring innovative seating and other attractive features for individuals and families, is very popular among residents and tourists..

The Honolulu rail guideway is a bit narrower than the High Line but it might work anyway.

Cycle snake_thumb[2]

Great minds think alike. In May, with tongue firmly in cheek, I suggested we could emulate Copenhagen’s elevated bikeway.

Commuters could avoid traffic, get exercise, and not be packed like sardines into a hot train car to and from work.

Just leave what’s built as is, but provide entrance and exit ramps for the bikes.

Skating rink[7]

Or check out this April Fool themed article in which Mayor Tam officially opens Honolulu’s new elevated ice skating rink in 2018.

It could transform an eyesore into a unique recreational resource eyesore, anyway.

As you read the op-ed in today’s paper, keep in mind that this elevated rail line/bike path/skating rink was to cost less than $3 billion initially, and now upwards of $10.5 billion is commonly cited. If you think my suggestions are crazy, please note that the real thing became crazy at some point and we’re still not laughing.

I wonder if Guiness recognizes a world record for cost overruns…



 

“Campaign contributions down since 1990” is not the only important measure


by Larry Geller

Ian Lind digs relentlessly into political data, often yielding insights that should be more widely exposed than a mere blog post can accomplish. So it is with his research into campaign contributions then (in 1990) and now.

So digging back into the past, I found a copy of my old Hawaii Monitor newsletter with a list of the top corporate and pac contributors to Hawaii state and local candidates between January 1, 1990 and the 1990 primary election.

Then, using the data reported to the Campaign Spending Commission, I identified the top contributors between January 1 and August 13, 2016 (that’s the latest report to date).

The surprise is that companies and pacs are actually giving far less directly to candidates than they did in 1990, at least in during election year.

[ilind.net, Corporate and PAC campaign contributions down since 1990, 9/17/2016]

Please click over and read his entire article.

I would love to know, just for information value, what proportion of campaign contributions fueled politicians back then in comparison with today. Why? It’s a measure of the corruption of our government. One measure. But one that it may be possible to compute.

Of course, just knowing current numbers can be used to posit where we stand on corruption today.

Last October Dr. Kioni Dudley researched the percentage of campaign contribution support received by our city council members. See his calculations here.

Dudley named names. For example, he found that council member Brandon Elefante is 91% beholden to “entities who will profit directly from approval of Rail.” He checked into several members’ contributions and found, for example, that:

Kymberly Pine also had marvelous additional help from PRP who paid for three mailings at roughly $30,000 each to get her elected.  That $90,000 raised her percentage of money spent by builders for her candidacy to 82%!

It is hard to imagine that a city council stacked heavily in favor of development interests will keep voters’ interests primary in their deliberations or votes. Remember, these are investments, not charitable contributions, that development interests are making.

I can’t believe that I’m about to quote Donald Trump, but he famously said:

“As a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do,” Mr. Trump said. “As a businessman, I need that.”

During a Republican presidential debate he said:

“I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them, and they are there for me.” He added, “And that’s a broken system.”

If Dr. Dudley’s calculations are correct, we can assume that our city councilpeople will do whatever the hell their development-interest donors want them to do.

“And that’s a broken system.”



Thursday, September 15, 2016

 

$3 billion cap on rail spending evaporated within a decade without a squeak



"I was startled that the people who are doing the alternatives analysis (study) are looking at a $3 billion cap on spending rather than a system that will work for Oahu," Councilwoman Barbara Marshall said.—
0/9/2006 Star-Bulletin story


by Larry Geller

So now we’re looking at $8.1 or maybe $10 billion and still won’t have “a system that will work for Oahu.”

So full speed ahead—with no plan in sight.

That story was published on September 8, 2006, almost exactly 10 years ago. But another significant date mentioned in the article was January 1, 2007: the day the extra 0.5 percent transit surcharge was to begin.

So not only was there no plan, but they were going to steal more tax money from us to pay for the non-plan.

Only in Hawaii (I wonder) will people accept this from their government. Well, regardless of whether we are unique in this regard, it’s troubling to me that  we let our “leaders” get away with this.

Next thing you know, they will want to steal our parks and other public spaces from us. Oh yeah, that’s already in the works.

Bottom line for me is the question why we just take whatever is dished out to us without much protest, or at least without enough to matter?

Some of those citycouncilpeople still have their jobs today, for example, and one of them is even running for mayor.



Wednesday, September 14, 2016

 

Seattle Fish Company joins Whole Foods in boycott of Hawaii fish


In response to allegations of human rights abuses in Hawaii's fishing fleet, Colorado-based Seattle Fish Co. has released a statement of concern and said it hopes it can help to provide a solution in a timely manner.
...
The company said that due to seasonality it has been buying very little fish from Hawaii and that it will not be buying more until it is confident that plans are in place to address concerns.

[Undercurrent News, Seattle Fish concerned by allegations of abuse in Hawaii fishing industry, 9/14/2016 ]



Tuesday, September 13, 2016

 

“The state ignores the squalor on these fishing boats”



As the AP report discovered, slavery is not limited to far off waters. In Hawaii, the majority of the fishing fleet is made up of undocumented workers, many of whom were taken against their will from their Southeast Asian homelands. The state ignores the squalor on these fishing boats, which often lack a toilet and may barely feed the men. As long as the workers don’t set foot on shore, no laws are being broken. Trapped on board, the workers watch crowds walk past on docks in Honolulu and San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.


by Larry Geller

Asked why no one in Hawaii had done anything to intervene, [reporter Margie Mason] said that people told her, “‘Hey it’s legal.’ That’s what we heard over and over again. Customs is involved. Coast guard is involved. Because it was legal, no one challenged it.”

[thefern.org, When fishermen are slaves, labor audits mean nothing, 9/13/2016]

The story continues to echo in the media, with no action so far to change conditions on these ships or to compensate fishermen for the fair wages they did not receive.



 

No consequences for Honolulu city employee’s “blatantly inaccurate” statements that will cost taxpayers $1 million



I think it's set forth in Mr. Sasamura's and Mr. Shimizu's declaration which was submitted to the Court, that the City does not destroy personal property under the SNO [sidewalk nuisance ordinance]. … And we're not interested in dismantling homeless individuals' personal property [or] removing their social security cards or trashing their personal identification and financial information. None of that is being destroyed by the City
.—Ernest H. Nomura, Esq., Department of the Corporation Counsel, from transcript of 9/22/2015 federal court hearing


by Larry Geller

cbCivil Beat reports that we taxpayers could be on the hook for $1 million to pay the costs of defending the City’s unconstitutional and routine seizure and destruction of the personal property of street dwellers.

That expense could easily have been avoided—had the City read and followed the US Constitution in the first place. But more to the point, the legal arguments would have been cut short quickly had the City not denied, through testimony of its employees and statements of its attorneys, that it did indeed engage in the destruction of personal property including ID, money, kid’s school books, usable tents and so forth.

Because the City denied its actions, which were abundantly documented via videos, social media and the very occasional news story, the court denied a motion for a preliminary injunction and the case moved forward. Collecting the evidence to confound the City’s denial then ran up legal expenses.

The City continued to deny the truth of what they were doing…

… But, after weeks of an expensive discovery process, attorneys for the homeless people were able to demonstrate to the court that the city’s testimony was “blatantly inaccurate.”

[Civil Beat, Lawsuit Against Homeless Sweeps Could Cost Taxpayers $1M, 9/13/2016]

So you and I taxpayers will be on the hook for $1 M because of those “blatently inaccurate” statements.

Perhaps Mayor Caldwell might dub this “compassionate taxation.”



Mr. Garo was homeless and living in Kakaako during the November 13, 2014 sweep. He was prohibited from taking any papers from inside his tent by a policeman. He had a clean tent taken from him, various forms of identification, and cash. After the City took his identification, Mr. Garo was unable to travel to the Big Island in time to see his ailing father, who died within a week of the sweep.—from ACLU/AHFI motion to federal court re Honolulu sweeps of homeless encampments


I can't believe what inept politicians and cops we have in Hawaii who think solving the homeless problem means taking their stuff. Try having all your worldly possessions taken by guys with guns at 3AM... guys who tell you their job is to protect and serve. See how long it takes you to recover mentally from that and stop being homeless when all you can think about is how much you need to poop and drink water and eat and sleep and wash/dry your clothes and get out of the rain and heal your wounds but you can't because the cops took your clothes and soap and bike and tent and bed and food and meds and trash you were gonna recycle for cash.—
Anonymous comment


From a UH study conducted in early 2015:

The amount of personal property lost during the sweeps can only be described as shocking. Over 50% of those surveyed had lost identification during sweeps. Only 16% of those who had lost identification were able to retrieve it. Nearly half reported that their identifications were thrown away. The individuals surveyed lost other critical items as well: 43% lost clothing during sweeps, and 40% lost tents.

Despite what should have been obvious, in the face of the City’s denial the court was forced to move on to collect the evidence. Here’s a snip from comments by U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor after each attorney presented their position on September 22, 2015, from the transcript:

Here, we don't have a meeting of the minds of the parties. The plaintiffs' claims are that personal property is being destroyed immediately by the City, and the City's position is, no, personal property is not being immediately destroyed; it is being stored and tagged and notice is given. That's a factual dispute.

This statement explains, in a few words, why the bill the taxpayers will have to foot could be $1 million.

There are synonyms for the act of saying something that is “blatently inaccurate,” but I won’t suggest any, because I might then be hauled into court myself.

Shouldn’t employees responsible for those “blatently inaccurate” statements be held accountable? I think so. Otherwise, the City will just rely on its ability to pick our pockets for the money next time as well.

It’s an election season, and it’s fair to ask why Mayor Caldwell allowed the unconstitional sweeps to occur and then allowed his employees to deny before a judge what they were pretty obviously doing, as the plaintiffs were able to prove.

Related: ACLU files new motion to stop Honolulu’s illegal destruction of property during sweeps of homeless camps (11/4/2-15) (contains snip from deposition you’ve just gotta read)



Monday, September 12, 2016

 

Enjoy your cheese, sunbirds



Specialty meats and some 35 cheeses also may be purchased by the pound. The cheese offerings will expand as more selections arrive from local purveyors, said Johan Svensson, executive chef for Dean &DeLuca.
Star-Advertiser, 9/12/2016


by Larry Geller

Perhaps you thought I was kidding when I predicted lots of cheese in Kakaako’s future. In fact, it’s not possible to do gentrification properly in today’s America without cheese.

The red carpets rolled out to lure wealthy sunbirds and millionaires to pricy Waikiki or Kakaako condos are strewn not with flowers but with wedges of cheese.

CheeseAnd so it’s no surprise at all that today’s Star-Advertiser article (in the “Money” section, of course) announcing the opening of Dean & DeLuca’s in the posh Ritz-Carlton Residences Waikiki Beach features a chef holding a platter of cheese. (Star-Advertiser p. B1, Dean & DeLuca to open first Hawaii site in Waikiki, 9/12/2016). Of course, cheese is featured.

[Just to demonstrate that I have no antipathy to cheese, note the small sampling of cheeses from our own fridge.]

So they will start with 35 cheeses and expand from there. Gentrification is well under way.

The ultra-rich need their Zabars, Whole-Foods, Dean & DeLucas and cheese shops because they eat lots of cheese.


“When Miss Petitfour made a fancy salad, Minky watched the way the lettuce leaves bent under the slight weight of the Parmesan; when Miss Petitfour had cheese toast for tea, Minky noticed how the cheddar melted into every little crevice and crater of the toast. She licked her whiskers greedily when Miss Petitfour lowered her hand to feed her snippets and smidgens, pinches and wedges, slices and crumbs. Minky loved all cheese--Swiss cheese, Edam cheese, Gruyere and Roquefort, Brie cheese and blue cheese, mozzarella and Parmesan, hard cheese, crumbly cheese, creamy cheese, lumpy cheese. Minky even had a cheese calendar that she kept with, which Miss Petitfour had given to her for Christmas. Each month there was a big picture of a different kind of cheese in a mouthwatering pose: blue cheese cavorting with pears, cheddar laughing with apples, Gruyere lounging with grapes, Edam joking with parsley.”
― Anne Michaels, The Adventures of Miss Petitfour


Instead of workforce housing which would make sense so many ways, our legislators decided to cater to the rich, ultra-rich, foreign investors and sunbirds. For one thing, no $8.1 billion train is needed if one can walk to work or take a bus to Waikiki. Instead, we’re making it possible for the ultra-rich to walk a short distance to nearby Whole Foods or Dean & DeLuca.

Too bad we, the public, are not involved in city planning.

Here is the gift we are giving the moneyed folk:

Kakaako 2050[3]

If you would like to drive over and sniff the cheeses, the article notes that parking is $4 per half hour for your sniffing.

 

Worse from a moral sense is the history underlying these luxury condos and cheese shops. It’s not just third-world countries that clear the slums to build housing for the rich. Honolulu city government did the same, with its repeated sweeps of Kakaako homeless and lack of planning for affordable housing (there still is no plan to produce the number of housing units the city will need).


I can't believe what inept politicians and cops we have in Hawaii who think solving the homeless problem means taking their stuff. Try having all your worldly possessions taken by guys with guns at 3AM... guys who tell you their job is to protect and serve. See how long it takes you to recover mentally from that and stop being homeless when all you can think about is how much you need to poop and drink water and eat and sleep and wash/dry your clothes and get out of the rain and heal your wounds but you can't because the cops took your clothes and soap and bike and tent and bed and food and meds and trash you were gonna recycle for cash.—
Anonymous comment

Enjoy your cheese, sunbirds.



Sunday, September 11, 2016

 

Seriously now, can Hawaii double domestic food production while ag land is being taken for development?



The carpenter needs work, but here it comes at the expense of the farmer
.quoting myself again


by Larry Geller

20160911SAA Star-Advertiser front-page story today reports that Hawaii Governor Ige has revised a campaign pledge to double domestic food production by 2020. Now it’s 2030.

Should we be surprised? Here’s the same paper’s front page just two days ago:

20160909SAThe cryptic headline is attached to a report of groundbreaking for the sprawling Hoopili development, located on what may be the best agricultural land on Oahu.
Land use on Oahu is a municipal matter, and I don’t think there is much doubt that the City Council is in the pockets of the developers (see, for example, the data in this article). If so, the gov’s pledge hasn’t a chance.

It’s not just the City Council. Mayor Caldwell has been in the news this election season re questions about his “side job” for a bank that earns him $200,000 a year. It’s fair to ask if he has a conflict should development be a policy issue that his bank might have an interest in.

Without abundant land to be farmed it’s hard to see that agriculture can increase materially by 2030, and a campaign pledge of 2020 now sounds like a huge joke. On us, of course.


The pull-quote above is from a rant I posted in 2012, Hoopili, Koa Ridge: Part of Honolulu’s end game. A snip:

In Honolulu, the transformation from a Pacific island to Los Angeles by the Sea is approaching reality. Our city government sees no reason to restrain developers and gives in to each and every grand scheme. Residents of Honolulu, unlike, say, the concerned citizens of Portland, Oregon, are content to leave city planning, if there is such a thing here at all, to elected officials fattened by developers and related architects, engineers, and trade unions. The carpenter needs work, but here it comes at the expense of the farmer.

Paving over farmland is also well advanced. The lush Manoa valley used to be the breadbasket of Honolulu. Each day enough rain would fall, and then the sun would cause any kind of plant to grow. There were cows and horses, I’m told. But look at it now. Yes, lawns in the valley are lush and green, but they don’t feed anyone.

We already import almost all of our food, a situation which causes local money to fly out of state since supermarkets are owned by Mainland firms. What kind of idiots are we, to prefer canned vegetables to freshly grown?



Friday, September 09, 2016

 

High-tech not producing the jobs we need to pay for affordable housing



It seems to happen with increasing frequency. An ambitious local entrepreneur announces that she’s moving to the West Coast, or a feisty Hawaii-born startup announces that it’s setting up an office in San Francisco. The Facebook post gets dozens of likes and congratulatory comments, but more than a few “sad” emoticons as well.—
Ryan Ozawa in Civil Beat article


by Larry Geller

I don’t know about “increasing frequency”—so-called “high-tech” firms have been packing up and leaving Hawaii (with, thankfully, some exceptions) since I began watching in 1989.

It would be strange if there were no high-tech here, but not surprising that both new ventures and established companies move to where their markets or suppliers are.

Investors don’t care, as long as their investment grows.

We should care by measuring the effectiveness of taxpayer money spent growing and attracting these high-tech firms. Why? We need well-paying jobs for Hawaii people, not better jobs for Mainland folks.

Just before the millennium the state was promoting a “high tech park” that was really a Castle & Cook industrial park near Mililani, not much more than that. Castle & Cooke was the most important player in the deals, because it could make it attractive for a company to set up in the park. Nevertheless, companies like Verifone left, and Motorola, despite a commendable effort to convince them to move to Hawaii, ultimately declined.

The state and the newspapers regularly highlight one high-tech darling after another. “Success” stories such as Hoku Scientific turned sour in due time.

Hawaii is indeed a great place to start a business. Particularly if the founders or CEO are attached to the lifestyle or the climate. Sooner or later the bean counters come knocking, though, urging that CEO to put away the surfboard and check out the most appropriate place for the company to locate in order to prosper. Investors urge the same. And so the company leaves.

I’ve written about this often enough.

Let’s look at the big picture. We need well-paying jobs here, whether high-tech,  low-tech or no-tech. Housing is expensive. We need more truly affordable housing (which would, incidentally, make the state a more reasonable place to start and retain a business—employees need to be able to afford to live here!).

We have a homelessness “crisis” that requires we not only have housing but have jobs that can pay the rent.

Should we be investing in high-tech as a solution?

Maybe. But so far, it isn’t working. In fact, a February 2015 Star-Advertiser editorial page article noted that Hawaii is last in the nation in high-tech jobs—yes, last out of 51 states and DC.

As taxpayers, we deserve a report on the return on our investments. It won’t be easy increasing the number of well-paying jobs, but it’s important to work on it.

No, I don’t have a great idea on how to do that. Sorry, I don’t believe in pie in the sky solutions. But something’s gotta give, we can’t afford to just increase taxes on a population already experiencing growing poverty.



 

AP articles on conditions for foreign fisherman should make us pause before buying



Though federal laws and rules don’t mention Hawaii’s fishing fleet by name, technicalities buried in immigration law, maritime regulations and agency rule books have combined to give it a rare distinction: In the Aloha State hundreds of foreign fishermen are stuck on their boats for years.—AP


by Larry Geller

If  “Boat owners, captains, and most of their crew are supposed to be American [see: How US laws trap foreign workers on Hawaii’s fishing boats, (AP) 9/8/2016]” how come the deception that our fish are caught by Hawaii fisherman continues?

The short AP article cites the laws that make this possible. Please click and read.

Those laws remain in effect. That could mean that the situation won’t change any time soon.

Since we like our poke, who will be motivated to free the foreign fisherman who supply it, or to push for laws to protect them?

Think of who is explointing these fishermen as you stare at the poke counter at Costco or the fish counter at Whole Foods next time.

If we continue to buy this fish, we are part of the problem.



Thursday, September 08, 2016

 

AP story on Hawaii fishing fleet conditions begins to spread internationally


by Larry Geller

The AP story on conditions on ships delivering the Hawaii fish harvest is beginning to spread around the world. Google Translate makes it possible to kind of read each one to see how the story is presented overseas. So far, the coverage isn’t any prettier than the original AP English version.

Here’s a small sample. More stories are sure to be on the way: the AP report is still just freshly released.

Sleepy cages pay 5.4 yuan 10 years

Hawaii Honolulu pleasant scenery, local seafood is also very famous. But after six months after The Associated Press survey found that about 700 undocumented illegal workers from Southeast Asia and the Pacific island countries, the local fishing boats working at an hourly rate as low as 70 cents (approximately HK $ 5.4), and lack of basic labor protection. usually live in isolated, very poor hygiene boats can not get food and clothing, and trafficking in human beings is no different. 

[wenweipo.com, 夏威夷血汗漁業 「販運」黑工, 9/9/2016]

An Indonesian article focused on two Indonesian fisherman who were able to escape from bondage on Hawaii vessels:

Associated Press investigation found a number of foreign fishermen in the United States who work like slaves, because they were paid very low in very poor working conditions. Two fishermen from Indonesia managed to escape from slavery in the ship.

As shown Coverage 6 SCTV hours, Thursday (09/08/2016), two fishermen from Indonesia who work on foreign fishing vessels that supply fish to the biggest fish auction in the United States, in Honolulu, Hawaii, in March 2016 and fled from fishing boats where they work.

[Liputan6.com, Jakarta, VIDEO: A Tale of Two Fishermen Indonesia Fleeing From Foreign Ships in the US, 9/8/2016]



 

Now the condition of undocumented workers in Hawaii’s fishing fleet is exposed—but who will act to reform the system?



Hawaii's high-quality seafood is sold with the promise that it's caught by local, hard-working fishermen. But the people who haul in the prized catch are almost all undocumented foreign workers, confined to American boats for years at a time.AP video


Some salaries break down to as little as 70 cents an hour; for many boat owners, bait and ice cost more than crew salaries. ... The U.S. Attorney's office says the system is legal. ... A loophole in federal regulations pushed by lawmakers including late Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye allows foreign men to work on the fleet. … The men catch seafood including marlin, swordfish and ahi tuna used to make poke, a Hawaiian salad made with raw fish that's a staple in the islands. One fish can bring as much as $1,000 at Hawaii's fish auction, the only one of its kind still operating in the U.SLike Hawaiian seafood? Here's who's catching it, AP, SeattlePI


by Larry Geller

AP stories

The Associated Press received the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for public service for the work of its investigative reporters in revealing slave labor conditions in Asian fishing fleets. Thousands of captive workers were freed as a direct result of their work.

Now Margie Mason and Martha Mendoza, lead AP investigators on this issue, have published their findings after visiting Hawaii to research conditions on fishing fleets that supply Honolulu’s famous fish auction.

The investigation found men living in squalor on some boats, forced to use buckets instead of toilets, suffering running sores from bed bugs and sometimes lacking sufficient food. It also revealed instances of human trafficking.

Their report exposed unacceptable conditions on ships that echo the farm labor scandals that came to light not so many years ago in Hawaii. Legal action probably ended the majority of slave labor conditions in farming, but who will act to end the abusive practices in Hawaii’s fishing fleet? Will the publication of a story revealing that Hawaii government right up to the late Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye created the loopholes that make exploitation possible now motivate lawmakers to close those loopholes?

From the SeattlePI story:

Around 700 undocumented foreign workers, mostly from impoverished Southeast Asian and Pacific Island nations, work on Hawaii's commercial fishing fleet, the country's fifth-highest grossing fishery. They catch prized ahi tuna, mahimahi and other seafood at some of the country's finest restaurants, markets and hotels. They do not have visas and cannot enter the country, staying confined to their boats for sometimes years at a time — all with the blessing of high-ranking federal lawmakers and officials. An Associated Press investigation found instances of human trafficking, active tuberculosis and low food supplies.

[seattlepi.com, Like Hawaiian seafood? Here's who's catching it, 9/8/2016]

APVersions of the story have appeared in newspapers around the country, including a front-page story in today’s Star-Advertiser. The full AP story is here.

Click the image below for an AP video.

AP video



Monday, September 05, 2016

 

Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: Islam Right Now


 

Islam Right Now

5 September 2016

galtung_sideNº 445 | Johan Galtung, 5 Sep 2016 - TRANSCEND Media Service

Watching Christianity nearly a century–fundamentalist Christians fighting ritualistic Christians fighting secularism, generally moving fundamentalism–>ritualism–>secularism–maybe the same for Islam?  Their similarities make “Islam right now” a repetition of Christianity; their differences shout, Watch Out! Let us see where this leads us.

Violence-prone fundamentalist evangelical Christians are still on top of the USA and some Nordic countries; but much less in ritualistic Catholic-Orthodox Christianity, meaning by far most of Europe. Beauty of worship, the psychology of confession, less verbalism; all help.

Secularism makes faith so metaphorical for many that Christianity becomes only a ritual for Christmas-Easter, baptism-marriage-funeral (if there are no secular alternatives).  Result: empty churches.

Our secular age makes literal faith in dogmas difficult, and that tears at the faith.  But this is where two major differences enter:

The point of gravity in Islam moves more easily from faith to practice; and may stop there. There is much built-in outer practice that will survive a decrease in inner faith. Result:  full mosques.

Moreover, the four pillars are compatible with key secular values:

A “good Muslim” does all that; what does a “good Christian” do? Going to mass and to the confession booth are church, not social, answers. The clear social answer is monastic orders, monks and nuns dressing, living apart from others, doing Samaritan work. Others are invited to do the same, but where-when-how? Easier leaving it to the state.

The West should stop talking about jihad and jihadism as “holy war”, even if also abused by some Muslims, and try to understand[i]. Jihad means “to strive, exert oneself in the path of God”[ii]. There are four aspects: inner, greater jihad fighting the evil in oneself; spreading Islam by the word; by good deeds, like honest business; and defensive jihad if Islam is trampled upon with moderate retribution. No aggression: “Fight in the way of God against those who fight you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! God loveth not aggression.” (Qur’an 2:190).

Jihad accommodates honest business a religious duty.  Like chosen people, promised land (Genesis 15:18) in Judaism makes fighting for Israel from Nile to Euphrates a religious duty. Like warfare to protect the West is a Christian duty, for God, King and Fatherland.

God is divine, King semi-divine as rex gratia dei, Fatherland not. The gap between Christianity and secular Fatherland has been bridged by preventive war as sacrament[iii]; reactive war against attack not needed.  In EU, however, there is a mix of Fatherlands with no King and no God. Hence Br-exit for her to continue to Rule the Waves, for God or not.

Imagine Muslims abusing a Western sacred word, democracy, calling Western wars “democratism”.  They would be right because people who profess democracy also often go to war.  And they would be wrong by missing the whole idea. Like “jihadism”, “democratism” would locate the cause of war on the other side, and not in the relation between them; making the relation even worse instead of appreciating the profundity.

Christians give to Caesar that of Caesar and to God that of God, opening for secularism. Islam does not, but moves from fundamentalist true faith to ritualistic true practice are compatible with secularisms.  Such as democracy, in Muslim Egypt and Turkey; Islam embracing “all equal under the law” as a special case of “all equal under Alla’h”.  USA did not like it but preferred a military coup. To Washington, national evangelist, “true” democracy means “pro-USA” democracy.

How about IS, is it more I for Islamic faith, or more S for State with institutions for the other four pillars?  It could be both, making transitions from true believers to true ritualistic practitioners easy. The problematic word is not “Islamic” but “State”.  Pitted against USA and EU IS may take on their attributes; after Brexit more USA than EU.

The historical record is terrifying and long-lasting, including:

Six violences, three by each.  The first four lasted centuries, a bad omen for the last two.  But have a second look.  In the first two the two religions played major roles; in the last two the state system, United States vs Islamic State[vi].  State wars are shorter; decades, not centuries. However, the wisdom of challenging IS as an Islamic state rather than as an invincible ummah with provinces can be disputed[vii].

We have given reasons that Islam will survive secularization better than Christianity, having much to fall back upon; how about IS vs US?

We might argue that both will lose because the state system itself is yielding to regionalism and localism. Islam is ready, with ummah regionalism and imam localism.  Christianity, however, is split between Latin and Anglo America, US and EU, Catholic-Protestant and Orthodox Europe–much more than Sunni vs Shia and Arab vs non-Arab. And local churches are more for spiritual, not also for mundane affairs[viii].

On top of that: the world, even USA, is tired of endless warfare.  Let Islam settle.  The West and Christianity have serious work to do.

NOTES:

[i].  Gary Wills, the famous columnist, took the trouble to understand: “My Koran problem”, NYRB, 24 March 2016.  His Koran problem was that he knew nothing: “–we Christians begin with the greatest deficit of knowledge /whereas/those who know the Koran have quite a lot of knowledge about Torah and Gospel, since Allah sent them both to earth before he sent the Koran.–we Westerners cannot even remember it unless we learn something about the Koran. It’s about time”.  Indeed.

[ii].  Professor Mohammad Hashim Kamali, chairman of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies in Malaysia, in a lecture and in articles like “Concept of ‘jihad’ misunderstood”, New Straits Times 14 July 2014.

[iii].  Look at who comes to the funerals of Norwegian soldiers with mandate to kill in Afghanistan: the King, top bishops.

[iv].  Robert Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters. White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800, Palgrave Macmillan.

[v].  Sarah Birke, “How ISIS Rules”, NYRB, 5 Feb 2015: armed resistance being difficult, the alternative from the inside was silent resistance, or migration.  Or what we have now, open US/IS warfare.

[vi].  But religious discourse did not wither away, here are two:

* George Bush 10 Feb 2003, on a possible attack on Iraq: “Liberty is God’s gift to every human being in the world”. (Washington Post, 10 Feb 2003);

* Osama bin Laden 11 Feb 2003: “victory comes only from God, all we have to do is to prepare and motivate for jihad”. Audio message conveyed by jorgenj@peace.uit.no.

[vii]. For a deep analysis of the present situation, see Abbas Aroua, “The Salafiscape in the Wake of the Arab Spring”, www.cordoue.ch.

[viii]. In a play, Maria og Magdalena; Lidelseshistorien og kristen=dommen (the Passion Story and Christianity) Oslo: Kolofon 2016, this author tries to liberate Crist, driven by conscience and compassion, from the Church as Mary’s son, not God’s begotten by the Holy Spirit–as inspiration for us all.

_____________________________________

Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published over 400 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service and over 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

 

Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: The Global Power Imbalance


 

The Global Power Imbalance

29 August 2016

Nº 444 | Johan Galtung, 29 Aug 2016 - TRANSCEND Media Service

galtung_sideDear Reader: This editorial 444–the number calls for attention–is dedicated to a global overview, the world “right now”, so unstable with imbalances everywhere that what we are living is fluxes and jumps.

Let us start with two major relations: nature-human, USA-Rest.

Look at the human-nature relations.  We are used to being on top, killing and taming animals, protected against many of nature’s hazards including micro-organisms. But nature comes up with ever smaller viri, and larger, or more, tsunamis and earthquakes, and an erratic climate. We oscillate between blaming ourselves, including military scheming, and the anthropomorphic “Mother Nature is angry” (Evo Morales).  If nature is angry, she has good reasons for a good riddance of us. And we are slow at a deeper human-nature relations respecting and enhancing both.

Nature is on top and our natural sciences are simply not good enough, taken by surprise all the time.  Meteorology is good at covering the whole Beaufort wind range from 0-12; others not.  Maybe we have desouled nature and besouled ourselves too much to establish our own Herrschaft (rule, dominance), at the expense of Partnerschaft (partnership).  Unless this changes, imbalance with nature on top, and surprises, will continue.

Maybe the opposite holds for the US-Rest imbalance; that US exceptionalism serves USA as badly as humans above nature serves us?

This author, in 1976, compared the decline and fall of the Roman Empire to a possible decline and fall of the West in general and the US Empire in particular, based on the synergy of uni-causal paradigms.  Rome considered itself exceptional and invincible by barbarians, but the counterforces were tearing at them; and they lived on past glory. Clinton, straight from the past with some domestic renewal, will enact that past; any realistic assessment being close to treason. There are elements of the latter in Trump, but he lives in his own bubble, insensitive to the context on which he depends. 60-40 for Clinton?

What happens then?  A continuation of the USA on a collision course with three of the other seven big powers in the world.  With Russia over Ukraine; with China over “everything but China” TPP, and navy navigation rights in the South China Sea; with Islam over the Islamic State, to be eliminated before it is understood.  The USA says this is with Putin-Xi-IS, grossly underestimating how representative they are.

The relation with the other four is not too good either: with major powers Germany and France in EU-NATO over Ukraine; the USA still unable to treat African and Latin American-Caribbean unification with dignity, and on equal terms, and to handle India’s many ambiguities. They think they have Japan–not among the 8 Big–in the pocket with “collective self-defense”, but may underestimate Abe’s ambiguities.

We mentioned a human tendency to desoul nature and besoul humans. There is a similar US tendency to see others as objects to be handled by the only true subject, the USA.  The objects, all seven, now enter subject-hood with their own goals and ways of pursuing them.  Some of the ends and means may be incompatible with those of the US; spelling conflicts.  However, rather than solving those conflicts creatively the USA may turn these subjects in ultimate object-hood, bombing that recalcitrant thing into the Stone Age (from which they then emerge).

This will not work.  The US-topped pyramid will tumble down, and in the debris at the bottom USA will find itself on more equal terms. There will be massive US resistance, already visible, and few allies will sign up on the US side. The most likely are those of the same evangelical faith, Denmark and Norway, bombing Libya, contributing the latest (last?) NATO Secretaries General. The world as a whole, more afraid of USA than others, is sick and tired of the whole thing. The balance there once was, like for the Roman Empire, has smoldered away, a victim of massive abuse and living in the past. Clinton will speed this up, leaving for the 2020 president to create a new reality.

But there are more imbalances.  Inside EU, Germany is now on top of a pyramid, realizing a German goal from two “world” wars in Europe.  This is not what the others want: if EU, then equality. Germany will come tumbling down too; Volkswagen with all its tricks contributing.  Much German technical magic, like the US political magic, is gone. Other members can also make cars and things, flattening the pyramid.

Still more imbalances and a rather major one: Europe vs Eurasia, Europe in the old sense of EU and some more vs Eurasia with not only Russia and former Soviet republics, Caucasian, “stans”, but with China and potentially the rest of Islam, Mongolia–and Turkey in the middle. Middle?  A US NATO ally fighting the Kurds, another US ally, in Syria; and turning to Russia for good neighbor relations in spite of history. How successfully, we shall see; the shadows of history are deep indeed.

1600+ years have split Orthodox and Catholic Europe, with a power balance to Russia abused by a Napoleon, a Hitler. Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill bridging deepens the split to the Evangelicals and strengthens Eurasia. The old “balance” may yield to a European House.

Still more.  The relation of Russia to Eastern Europe took the shape of a power balance with the latter enrolled in NATO and EU.  The relation of Russia to China became SCO against US encirclement; NATO vs a Warsaw Pact moved 10,000 Km to the east and very much stronger. Is Russia able to persuade Eastern Europe not to be afraid of Russia, that Crimea-Ukraine was special? Is China able to persuade Russia not to be afraid of Chinese farmers moving into former Chinese territory?

What we see all over is “power balance” based on force on both sides yielding to imbalance because one is smoldering, or yielding to peace, meaning a balance based on good things flowing.  In short, what we see globally is not power balance but power imbalance that can lead to war “before it is too late”, to passive coexistence, or to active coexistence, peace.  Very, very dynamic indeed.  No stability.

_____________________________________

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

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

 

Justice Department to end use of private prisons—when will Hawaii do the same?



“This is a huge deal. It is historic and groundbreaking,” said David Fathi, director of the ACLU National Prison Project. “For the last 35 years, the use of private prisons in this country has crept ever upward, and this is a startling and major reversal of that trend, and one that we hope will be followed by others.”—
quoted in Washington Post article


by Larry Geller

Various news outlets reported today that the Justice Department will end its use of private prisons.

wapoDeputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced the decision on Thursday in a memo that instructs officials to either decline to renew the contracts for private prison operators when they expire or “substantially reduce” the contracts’ scope. The goal, Yates wrote, is “reducing — and ultimately ending — our use of privately operated prisons.

[Washington Post, Justice Department says it will end use of private prisons, 8/18/2016]

This does not affect other federal agencies, for example ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), but it is a beginning.

Now, when will Hawaii follow suit?

Former Governor Neil Abercrombie announced his intention to stop using private prisons on the Mainland, but did not follow through:

Ige’s predecessor, Neil Abercrombie, was a former probation officer who said bringing back Hawaii prisoners was one of his top priorities.

“It is dysfunctional to send people out of the state. It costs money. It costs lives. It costs communities. It destroys families. It is dysfunctional all the way around — socially, economically, politically and morally,” Abercrombie told reporters in December 2010.

[Civil Beat, Ige: Number of Hawaii Inmates Imprisoned in Arizona Will Go Up Before it Goes Down, 8/3/2015]

mjThe DOJ decision follows the publication of an extensive exposé of conditions in private prisons conducted by Shane Bauer for Mother Jones. He spent four months working as a prison guard at Winn Correctional Facility a CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) prison in Louisiana. Read the Mother Jones article here.

dnA Democracy Now interview is here.

See also the ongoing Civil Beat series, Hawaii Behind Bars with articles by reporter Rui Kaneya. Particularly troubling is that Hawaii prisoners are being subjected to “valley fever” in Arizona and reportedly not receiving proper treatment. The disease can be and has been fatal.

But that is only one of many abuses, including and especially the separation of inmates from communities that help them make a successful re-entry to society at the end of their sentence, and the devastating effect on their children and families:

Kat Brady, a Hawaii-based prisoner advocate, decries her state’s practice of shipping their prisoners to Arizona, stating that “our people have been moved around like chess pieces, sold to the lowest bidder, in essence. I hear the anguish of families, of children who miss their daddies, of wives struggling to keep their families together and the desperation of people trying to locate their loved ones.”

[Prison Legal News, Study Details States’ Abuses of Out-Of-State Prisoner Transfers to For-Profit Prisons, 11/10/2015]

What to do with the prisoners? Brady suggests  reducing offenses that put people in prison in the first place. Too many of our state prisoners should not be in prison to begin with, and reducing their number would clearly reduce chronic overcrowding and the need to ship prisoners to private facilities on the Mainland.



Monday, August 15, 2016

 

Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: Money, Economy, Economics


 

Money, Economy, Economics

15 August 2016

Nº 442 | Johan Galtung, 15 Aug 2016 - TRANSCEND Media Service

Money is the key: that genius innovation for storing general value and exchanging specific values according to price.  Not strange, that heads of state had their faces imprinted on coins and bills.

But not on cents and euros.  The EU is faceless.  Brexit is not.

Coins and bills are fading; not money, capital, and its growth. Look at The Richest Man Who Ever Lived: The Life and Times of Jacob Fugger by Greg Steinmetz, brilliantly reviewed by Martha Howell (TNYRB, 7 Apr 2016).  Born in 1459, in that pivot German city Augsburg, he died in 1515, and here is how he used the system:

“Fugger expanded his business from trade and used his ability to provide ready credit in order to secure rights to productive assets, such as mines that reliably yielded returns over considerable periods of time.  He made princes, in this case the Habsburgs dependent on his money.  He financed their elections to the sponsorship, extended loans to pay their armies, and bribed their enemies to keep them at bay.”

Sounds familiar? Half a millennium ago. Solid. There is more to it:

“-wealth was made not in production as Marx thought but in “arbitrage”  trade, where goods like silks and pepper, gold and silver, furs and wax, were bought cheap and sold dear. -wealth came from long distance trade, and the longer the distance traveled, or the more difficult the journey, the more mysterious the origin, the more rare the goods transported, the more exotic or the more vital to rule the products supplied, the greater the chance for profit”.  Like David Ricardo.

The quip about Marx is important.  His brilliant analysis of means and modes of production, with exploitation of the body and alienation of the soul, focused only on production, not on “trade” or new means of transportation-communication, as important as new means of production.  They invent new products, like computers, but trade in the chain from producers to end consumers often fetches more profit[i].

Even if Marx missed that point[ii], Fugger did not.  He settled on pepper, and became richer than the Medicis, Rothschilds, Rockefellers. Considerable risk-taking, gambling, speculation, were parts of it.

What corresponds to pepper today?  Drugs, for deeper tastes.  Making drugs illegal increases risks and hence the price. If demanded, products from Moon-Mars-Venus would fetch even higher prices.

What is new is on the money side: processing money into financial objects at ever-higher complexity, derivatives, with enormous amounts to gain and lose. No investment, no contact with the real world, only with the virtual finance economy world, speculating also with other people’s money, often ruining them. Fugger would have joined with enthusiasm, like the (Spanish)-Portuguese-Dutch-English; “invariably aided by ruthless exploitation of human labor and natural resources”.  Capital grows, many humans and much nature deteriorate; then as now.

The real economy extracts resources from Nature, processes them through Production, distributes to Consumption through trade, sending waste from production and consumption back to nature.  An astounding amount and variety of products–goods and services–available on the market on a demand-supply basis to those who can afford the price. But  there is no built-in protection and enhancement of humans and nature, only of capital. Hence, the term capitalism–as opposed to humanism, naturism, or a mix of the three–for that economy is entirely correct.

The not built-in must come from the outside. States, which helped Capital work the way it does, may come to the rescue.  The State can regulate Capital, and be deregulated, like before the 2008 crisis[iii].  Limitations on capital flowing abroad can be lifted: “international capital flows are now more than 60 times the value of trade flows”[iv].

Civil Society can boy/girlcott, and establish alternative economies[v].

That an inequitable system produces inequality, now[vi], as between Fugger and his peers, and the rest, is small wonder.  The history is called modernity. The sociology is called class. The geography of “ruthless exploitation of human labor and natural resources”, by the companies and warships of the states mentioned, spells colonialism; in the Americas where the indigenous almost disappeared, in Africa with rampant slavery, and in Asia.  The situation is now improving many places[vii]; not because the economy changed, but colonialism did.

A social science with data and theories about how that economy works would be economics, or “capitalistics” rather.  Marx did that, predicting its demise. The economy had obviously gone, was, wrong[viii].

Economics also went wrong[ix] as mathematized, contradiction-free virtual real economy, latent with a manifest equilibrium in its womb. Not Aristotelian statics with things in natural places; but Galilean-Newtonian dynamics with static laws.  Balances: “willing buyer-seller” (no side-effects), demand/supply (but demand/supply-driven economies), Smith’s invisible hand turning egoisms into altruism (but not yet).

Enters daoism: in balance there is imbalance, and vice versa, forces and counter-forces, contradictions.  The West needs more daoist thought and less modeling frictionless mechanics and virtual economies on each other[x]  The sciences of politics and society were more open to change and alternatives, not trying to canonize any present version like economics did.  Why?  Because domestic and global elites found alternatives meeting their interests whereas economics already did?

Companies-states were bodies, capital the position, its growth  was the distance covered, rate of growth the speed, maybe accelerating, A. By laws of nature, bodies move and companies-states accumulate capital. To accelerate from feudal statics takes entrepreneurial force E=MA; M being the levels of inertia of the company-state, to be overcome.

Beautiful, but celestial bodies either move in circles-ellipses like planets and satellites, or linearly, like meteorites with a crash and a crater, hole, like for the pensioners whose savings disappeared. That in a finite world linear growth ends as if that has not sunk in.

An “economics” only for the quiet, balanced is like a meteorology for calm and breezes, not for gales, storms, let alone hurricanes. Beaufort 0-6 at most, not 7-12.  We would not accept that meteorology.

The remedy? An economy centered on meeting basic human and nature needs, and empirical-critical-creative economics exploring how to do it[xi].

NOTES:

[i]. A personal example: As an author, I may get 13% from the sale of my books; the shop selling them 40%.  Cut out the shop and Amazon accumulates the money.  Cut out printed books–

[ii]. Marx did it his way in “On the Jewish Question”, linking capitalism to Judaism and the overthrow of capitalism to “the emancipation of mankind from Judaism”: “The Jew–has acquired financial power–insofar as through him and without him money has risen to world power and the practical Jewish spirit has become the practical spirit of the Christian peoples. The Jews have emancipated themselves to the extent that the Christians have become Jews”.  Michael Walzer, reviewing David Nirenberg Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition in TNYRB 20 March 2013 debunks Marx and others with a dialectic approach to Judaism and Jews, but the point here is Marx’ view, not Walzer’s.

[iii]. See Paul Krugman–admitting he did not foresee 2008–reviewing Mervyn King, The End of Alchemy, Norton, in TNYRB 14 July 2016.

[iv].  J K Sundaram, “Illicit Financial Flows”, english@other-news.info 29 Apr 2016; “end up in–US and the UK /and/ tax heavens”.

[v].  Barbara Harris-White, “Poverty and Capitalism”, Economic and Political Weekly, 1 April 2006, discusses 8 processes–and counter-processes–mitigating poverty; having in common that they have to come from outside the capitalist system.  The same applies to the “15 Roads to Equality” by Norwegian economists discussed in Klassekampen October 2015.  However, for the 23 to be “built into the economy” the economy has to have another focus than capital growth.

[vi].  And it is getting worse in the US economy: “–the poorest of the poor were a lot worse off in 2012 than in either 1996 or 1998.” Christopher Jencks, TNRYB 9 June 2016, reviewing K J Edin and H L Schaefer, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, Houghton Mifflin.

[vii]. J K Sundaram, “The Geography of Poverty”, english@other-news.info 30 June 2016.

[viii].  Edmund Phelps “What Is Wrong with the West’s Economies?”, TNYRB, 13 August 2015: lack of justice; Bentham’s maximizing “sum of utilities” by redistributing from high to low, Rawls’ taxes and subsidies “to pull up people with the lowest wages”.  But rather than abstract “lack of justice–meaning what?–the simple answer is “concrete suffering of humans and nature”.

[ix].  In “What’s the Matter with Economics?”, TNYRB, 18 Dec 2014 Alan S. Blinder–mainstream economist and textbook author–argues against Jeff Madrick Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World, Knopf; also see the follow-up exchange in TNYRB 8 Jan 2015.  The Seven ideas are major doctrines by economists, No. 1 “the invisible hand”.      The book is reviewed favorably by Paul Krugman, “The dismal science of economics”, INYT, 27-28 Sep 2014: “Hardly any economist predicted the 2008 crisis”-“Economists presented as reality an idealized vision of free markets, dressed up in fancy math that gave it a false appearance of rigor”.

Also see Krugman’s review of R B Reich, Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few, Knopf, in TNYRB 17 Dec 2015; a more dubious thesis.

[x].  Joel Kaye, A History of Balance, 1250-1375: The Emergence of a New Model of Equilibrium and Its Impact on Thought, Cambridge University Press, argues that the economy and the role of money inspired mechanics rather than vice versa.

[xi].  For an effort, see this author’s Peace Economics, Transcend University Press, 2012.

________________________________________

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

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