Monday, June 27, 2016

 

Feds want to arrest a tugboat in Hawaii


by Larry Geller

Yes, a ship can be arrested. It happens all the time.

According to this report from The Courthouse News Service, Feds Demand Tug After Costly Harbor Mishap (6/27/2016), the tug Maulani was involved in a mishap while towing the SBX-1 radar dome through Pearl Harbor. The allegation is that the tugboat caused an incredibly expensive communication cable outage when its towing cable dragged the bottom. Bad tug. So the feds want to see it pay the penalty.

You may have seen the radar dome as you drive along the coast—it spends most of its time not watching for North Korean missle tests as it was designed to do, instead whiling away its time in balmy Honolulu. As you may have guessed, it doesn’t really work despite its $2.2 billion price tag.

Here is a pic of the dome as it was towed into Pearl Harbor one day (see: Watching You Watching Me, 5/31/2008).

RadarDome

For the complete story, please click on the link above. The article is well-written, clear, and has juicy details of the incident and some background on the SBX-1.



Sunday, June 26, 2016

 

Nigerian prince learns Hawaiian



Makemake au e relocate i ko oukou aina a me koʻu hopena makua kāne dala, a i ke koena o ka $ 3.5 miliona dala i loko o kona kapa hoike. … Pela kaʻu mea i keia mea o koʻu kumu no ka contacting ia oukou pela oukou e kokua mai oe iaʻu e hoolilo i ka kala iloko o ko oukou mooolelo pela au i hiki mai ai i ko oukou aina, e noho ilalo, a hoomau i koʻu hoʻonaʻauao, oiai oukou e kokua mai oe iaʻu i ke kālele 'i ke kālā.

(I want to relocate to your country and my late father funds, and the remainder of the $ 3.5 million dollars in its report. My late father Mr. David Dodo, ua'apu poisoned to death on the 21 July 2015. … So my thing is my reason for contacting you so you will help me to make the money in your account so I come to your country, to sit down and continue my education, while you help me to invest the money.) (Google translation)


by Larry Geller

I often wonder what the token Hawaiian language column that appears weekly in the Star-Advertiser means. Sadly, though I have lived here so many years, I cannot read it.

But actually, I can now… Google Translate includes the Hawaiian language.

I was put to shame actually by one of those “Nigerian prince” emails that popped into my inbox yesterday. A snip of it is in the pull-quote above.

Obviously, the Nigerians (or whoever they are) feel the necessity to communicate with people who live in Hawaii in their own language. This kind of makes sense, I suppose, in a Nigerian prince sort of way. Although the spams you and I generally receive are in English, no doubt they send German-language spam to Germany, Spanish-language spam to Venezuela, and so forth. So of course they should send me an email in Hawaiian. Some algorithm they use has put emails togther with their location.

Am I supposed to believe the email is genuine because for some reason this Nigerian girl speaks Hawaiian? It’s the same crappy email I get in English, but somehow I never questioned how it is that all these rich folks in Nigeria speak English. After all, everyone in the Prince Valient comic speaks English, as do the  fish in Sherman’s Lagoon. Prince Valient speaking anything but English would be weird.

But now there is a new question: just why is there a column in the Star-Advertiser in Hawaiian? There used to be real Hawaiian-language newspapers in this town. I am not suggesting it should not be there, but it does raise the issue of tokenism. Why? Because if it were important, the paper would translate it so I could actually read it! And how many news articles does the paper translate into Hawaiian? Hmmm?

Try giving testimony at the Legislature in one of the state’s official languages—Hawaiian—and of course they will not understand a word of it. The legislators sit poker-faced and listen but comprehend nothing. When this occurs, I do understand that an important point is being made. But a regular column that, face it, very few readers can actually read, is problematic—because the paper could translate it but doesn’t.

If what is written in the paper in Hawaiian was at all important to the editors they should have provided a parallel English translation. Without it, it’s something like that testimony at the Legislature.

Well, with Google now accepting Hawaiian-language text, it’s up to me to grab the next column, let the technology work, and read the message it is trying to convey.


Well, after writing the above, I went to the Star-Advertiser website. Since I am a subscriber, I can read the op-ed Kauakukalahale myself.

I plugged it in to Google Translate.

What critical local issue is being discussed? Rail? The failure of Hawaiian Homelands? No… it’s about… get ready for this …

Problems with the translation of English into Chinese at a Disney park in Shanghai.

Maybe I don’t need to read these columns after all. The Nigerian prince email was about as relevant.



Saturday, June 25, 2016

 

Did Speaker Souki have to “dance” around his condemnation of Mayor Caldwell’s leadership at Caldwell’s fundraiser?


by Larry Geller

First, Speaker of the House Joe Souki blasts Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s leadership:

Honolulu Star-Advertiser transportation reporter Marcel Honore reported last week that HART has already spent $96.6 million in design work and property acquisition for those four final and mostly-likely-never-to-be-built rail miles.

“This screws it up royally,” said Speaker of the House Joe Souki, one of the Legislature’s biggest rail supporters.

“For both mayor and Council, it shows that both don’t have the bravado to be a leader,” said Souki, who offered this advice: “Find the money, the money is there.”

[Star-Advertiser p. E1, On Politics: Mayor’s race is important, but rail transit is more so, 6/19/2016]

Then he sponsors a fundraising reception for Caldwell:

fundraiser

Go figure.

Terrible puns:

I would have loved to see how Souki and Caldwell danced around each other after Souki’s earlier remark about Caldwell’s leadership ability, or rather, the lack thereof. Odori-ko  (踊り子) means “dancer” in Japanese.

But Odoriko is also a limited express train service in Japan operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East), which runs between Tokyo and Shizuoka Prefecture. The Japanese train has been running since October 1981. Honolulu’s train, now to be limited to stopping at Middle Street, may begin running … when?



Sunday, June 19, 2016

 

Did FBI encourage Omar Mateen to carry out a terror plot?



While the full extent of Mateen’s contact with the FBI is unknown, it is clear that it extended into the realm of planning a bogus terror attack. The question now is whether manipulation by a FBI informant had any impact on Mateen’s deadly decision.

“The FBI should scrutinize the operating procedure where they use undercovers and informants and pitch people to become informants,” said Rowley. “They must recognize that, in this case [with Mateen], it had horrible consequences if it did, in fact, backfire.”—Alternet


Read the article on the Alternet website:

Before Omar Mateen Committed Mass Murder, The FBI Tried To 'Lure' Him Into A Terror Plot: New revelations raise questions about the FBI’s role in shaping Mateen’s lethal mindset (Alternet, 6/19/2016)



Friday, June 17, 2016

 

Your front-row seat at the Ninth Circuit GMO/pesticide hearings that may have national implications (videos)



The implications of the court's ruling or rulings in this case will be vast.—
Courthouse News


by Larry Geller

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, meeting Wednesday in Honolulu, heard four cases challenging the Hawaii state court rulings striking down three counties' ordinances seeking to regulate the use of pesticides and GMO crops. Videos taken by the court are posted below for convenience.

The Courthouse News service has posted an excellent summary by reporter Nicholas Fillmore. See: Ninth Circuit Digs In on Hawaii GMO Rules (Courthouse News Service, 6/17/2016). The article appears to be a very complete summary of the courtroom action--check it out. The reporter concludes:

After more than three hours of testimony, Judge Thomas thanked the audience and thanked the lawyers for their interesting arguments on issues of such importance.

The Ninth Circuit is the biggest federal appeals court in the country, covering Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The implications of the court's ruling or rulings in this case will be vast.


15-16466 Alika Atay v. County of Maui

Published on Jun 16, 2016

Alika Atay and other ballot proponents of a Maui ordinance which establishes a temporary moratorium on the cultivation of genetically engineered organisms, appeal from the district court's summary judgment in an action challenging the ordinance


15-15246 Robert Ito Farm, Inc. v. County of Maui


Published on Jun 16, 2016

Appeal from an order denying intervention in an action brought by Monsanto Company and others challenging a Maui ordinance prohibiting the cultivation of genetically modified organisms pending further review.



14-17538 Hawai'i Papaya Industry Assn. v. County of Hawaii

Published on Jun 16, 2016

An appeal from the district court's summary judgment and permanent injunction against enforcement of Hawaii County Ordinance 13-121, which governs testing and cultivation of genetically engineered crops.


14-16833 Syngenta Seeds, Inc. v. County of Kauai

Published on Jun 16, 2016

The County of Kauai and others appeal the district court's order entered in favor of Syngenta Seeds, Inc. and others in an action challenging Kauai's County Ordinance 960 which regulates pesticides and genetically modified organism crops.




 

Mayor Tam officially opens Honolulu’s new elevated ice skating rink


by Larry Geller

Skating rinkAPRIL 1, 2018 (HONOLULU)—Eager crowds lined up this morning at the turnstiles all along the route of the new Honolulu Elevated Ice Skating Rink awaiting the former rail line’s reincarnated grand opening.

Honolulu Mayor Tam, elected some say on the basis of his suggestion to refrigerate the already frozen Honolulu rail line and turn it into a profitable tourist attraction, officially opened the skating rink as man-made snow sprinkled the assembled guests and press corps.

“This will not only be recognized by Guiness as the world’s longest artificial skating rink, but it will qualify Honolulu to bid on the 2022 Winter Olympics.”

Tam also announced the awarding of concessions to local businesses to rent skates, protective knee pads and helmets to tourists and to daily commuters (with a Kamaaina discount). Other vendors will offer snacks and souvenirs.

The estimate that commuting to town via ice skates would take less time than waiting for a train will be tested for the first time as skaters lined up for an inaugural race from East Kapolei to Middle Street. The winner will be awarded a lifetime supply of shave ice.

When the opening bell sounded, crowds rushed onto the slick surface. Most were first timers who found that ice skating is not as easy as it appears on the TV screen, and casualties were reported within minutes of opening. Mayor Tam indicated that he would prefer to watch rather than step out on the ice.



Thursday, June 16, 2016

 

Based on this Courthouse News article, the Honolulu Zoo should be audited then closed



Among various concerns for the elephants, the  [Association of Zoos and Aquariums] criticized the zoo's limited shade, brackish pools and untested chlorine levels in the pools.

Meanwhile rocks in the yard could hurt the animals' feet and pose problems if the elephants threw them, according to the report.

"Of course the AZA had a major problem with the elephants," [Former chief of the Zoological Society Catherine] Goeggel said. "Lack of water. No enrichment. This barren, sad exhibit."
  
Goeggel noted that "the elephants were recently found playing with a car battery that got in there somehow, or they unearthed."


by Larry Geller

I have not seen a better compendium of reasons for first auditing then shutting down the Honolulu Zoo than this Courthouse News article by Nicholas Fillmore. Please read it.

… Goeggel noted that "several of the keepers at the zoo came from Las Vegas, where the animals do shows."
     "I was watching them put the animals through their paces, and it reminded me of the circus," she said. "They had the animals doing tricks, basically, with use of an 'ankus,' this nasty bull hook they use in the elephants tender spots, in the armpit, behind the ears."
     Goeggel worried that things will get worse if the zoo gets a bull elephant.
     "When they're in musth they're uncontrollable," she said.

[Courthouse News Service, More at Stake Than Money for Honolulu Zoo, 6/16/2016]

Why an audit? The article mentions that only a small part of the funding actually goes to the zoo. If true, all the more reason to shut it down, but the numbers should be established first by a competent and independent audit.

It’s not just the AZA criticism that begs for shutting down this facility. The article concludes with this report:

… the Honolulu Zoo scored poorly as well with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA reports have flagged rusted metal, flaking paint, inaccessible areas and a moldy, wooden nesting box as posing significant dangers to animals.

There’s much in this report that is shocking. After reading it, think if you want to weigh in somehow on this issue. If we the public don’t care, who will care for the animals?



Tuesday, June 14, 2016

 

Democracy Now: The connection between mass killings and domestic violence



ThinkProgress reports that between 2009 and 2012, 40 percent of mass shootings started with a shooter targeting his girlfriend, wife or ex-wife.

Last year alone, nearly a third of mass shooting deaths were related in some way to domestic violence.


by Larry Geller

Related: In Orlando, as Usual, Domestic Violence Was Ignored Red Flag (Rolling Stone, 6/13/2016)

For the final segment of today’s Democracy Now (tonight or tomorrow morning on `Olelo or on the web here) Amy Goodman interviewed journalist Soraya Chemaly, the author of the Rolling Stone article linked above.

[Amy Goodman]: We turn now to this often-overlooked connection between domestic violence and mass shootings. ThinkProgress reports between 2009 and 2012, 40 percent of mass shootings started with a shooter targeting his girlfriend, wife or ex-wife. Just this month in California, a UCLA doctoral student gunned down his professor, prompting a lockdown on campus. But first, Mainak Sarkar allegedly killed his estranged wife in Minnesota, climbing through a window to kill her in her home, and then he drove thousands of miles to California and killed his professor. Last year alone, nearly a third of mass shooting deaths were related in some way to domestic violence. And the majority of mass shootings in this country actually take place inside the home. Just this past weekend, as national attention was fixed to the massacre in Orlando, a man in New Mexico allegedly gunned down his wife and their four daughters.

[Democracy Now, When It Comes to Orlando Massacre, Domestic Violence is the Red Flag We Aren't Talking About, 6/14/2016]

Time for a discussion is limited in a short video/radio segment, but there is an implicit call for action. My interpretation: police departments should spend less time spying on mosques and Muslim communities and more time refining their response to domestic violence incidents.

Unfortunately, as the interview mentions, police intervention is not an option for many abused spouses. This subject deserves far more attention no matter where we live. One last snip from the Democracy Now interview transcript:

Soraya Chemaly]: … With domestic violence, we tend to think still that it’s private, very often separated from the way we think about public violence or terrorism. And if we consider, however, the connection between institutionalized and state-sanctioned violence—and in this instance, I’m actually explicitly talking about extremely high levels of domestic violence in our policing communities; some estimates of self-reported domestic violence put that number at about 40 percent of policing communities—you begin to see the overlap between private behavior and public behavior, and then the implications in terms of state action or inaction. For many people who are suffering from domestic violence, going to the police is simply not an option, either for matters of their community and race or gender and sexual identity, but also simply because they feel that they don’t have faith that when they go to the police, that as an institution it will be supportive. And so, until we better address domestic violence in policing communities itself, it’s very difficult to say that the police are an active resource in these situations. They understand the violence, for sure. But the question is: How do they respond to it?

Police are under scrutiny as protests continue across the country against police violence, even if our local newspaper fails to report on it. Is this mention of domestic violence in “40 percent of policing communities” part of a larger and more pervasive issue that cries out for reform?

This is an important program, but it also calls for a community response and a focus on recognizing and remedying domestic violence.



Monday, June 13, 2016

 

Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: Japan Right Now–And the USA



Except for a dark shadow, all is normal in the land of Japan.



Japan Right Now–And the USA

13 June 2016

Nº 432 | Johan Galtung, 13 Jun 2016 - TRANSCEND Media Service

Except for a dark shadow, all is normal in the land of Japan.

The local levels function very well with diligent Japanese working together to lift them up.  Except for those with nuclear power plants, particularly one of them, on the coast, hit by a tsunami.  Except too for rural communities laid waste, people aging, leaving, empty villages, hit by having to import rice instead of cultivating it.

Ride the trains, walk the streets with the Japanese; as brisk and busy as ever.  A little older, more canes, fewer bicycles, more cars, better streets and roads, cars run faster.  In addition, a little fatter, sharing aging and putting on weight with developed societies all over.

Missing are older ladies on bikes navigating the narrow streets with elegance, skirting pedestrians by a centimeter or two–bikes ride on sidewalks in Japan not on the streets–heads high, unperturbed.

Not missing are school classes of lovely children following the teacher with a flag–the small girls being as sweet as anywhere in the world or more so.  Judging by their faces the future looks bright.

Tokyo has modernized almost to the extreme. From a concoction of villages with scattered houses of all shapes and colors to a megalopolis of skyscrapers.  Totally void of any charm, but mega-modern.  We all pray they can stand an earthquake or two.  There was a small one during the night; maybe just informing us all that “we are still here”.

Restaurants are filled to the brim, food as delicious as ever.  Plus a more recent phenomenon: tables just for women, or having the room that evening, joking, laughing, self-assertive, accompanied by no males.  Next, tables only for children; accompanied by no parents?

Ancient Japan shows up as temples and shrines and gardens, as beautiful, as spiritual as ever.  It is all there, to our delight.

But under the shadow of the relation to the USA, occupied for 70 years, a colony, micro-managed in the smallest detail and spied upon.

The leading author and politician, governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, caused a major stir in 1989 with his book, The Japan That Can Say No.  But very few say no.  They do not say yes either, they may prefer not to know.  Or deep down to suffer from a servility that may one day explode in a burst of anger and violent revolt.  How come?

One interpretation: the USA-Japan war from 7 December 1941 Pearl Harbor till the Instrument of Surrender 2 September 1945 ended with not only military but spiritual defeat. After the Meiji Restoration Japan had constructed a state Shintoism using Western Christian models with a divinity, the Sun Goddess, bestowing divinity on her offspring, the emperors.  However, she was defeated by a Western rex gratia dei–emperors, presidents, PMs by the grace of God. Defeated by FDR-Truman by the grace of a US God that proved stronger than Amaterasu-o-mikami. That God resided in Washington DC, USA.  The theory explains not only the submission, but also the strong desire to learn and internalize things American; to be one with those higher and victorious forces.

Another interpretation is more geo-political, realist.  It would pick up how USA-FDR decided long before Pearl Harbor to defeat Japan, having watched Japan imposing itself on the Ching dynasty 1894-1905, Russia 1904-05, then growing economically and expanding territorially; very far from just being “opened up” by a Perry to trade with USA. This is the story of provocations, preparations for war and more importantly for occupation of Japan, showing how some were warned and some not–like the commander of the fleet in Pearl Harbor who was sacrificed with a fleet with the youngest ship being 27 years old and no aircraft carrier–to prove to the world that Japan had attacked.

The two theories do not exclude each other; in fact, they support each other.  At the level of geo-politics, Japan fell into the well-prepared trap, was not only defeated but also genocided; at the spiritual level Japan underwent a conversion that made the defeat acceptable.

More than that, maybe even desirable.  If the USA is really as so many Americans believe a chosen people directly under God, superior to Japan as proved by the war contest, by how that war came about, submission, even servility, under such power follows.  Moreover, if USA is threatened by Satan’s forces–as it looks right now–it becomes not only a duty but also an honor to be called upon to share the burdens as “collective self-defense”, shoulder to shoulder, around the world.

The USA has become a Patron, a Lord, Japan a dependent vassal.

As such, the USA has not only the right but also the duty to impose itself on Japan, including micro-managing and spying.  By doing so on Japan, not a small power itself by any means, USA confirms its divine status–the Americans call it “exceptionalism”–and Japan’s closeness to Higher Forces.   Like Archangel Gabriel, who carries out the Father’s will–or like the Son called upon to “judge the living and the dead”?  Under, yes, but to be under the Highest does not mean to be low.

To reduce USA to a geo-political power-greedy state reduces Japan  not only to a defeated outcast in this world, but to a Japan so stupid as to have fallen into the Pearl Harbor trap, and on top of that to be duped into de facto colonization and accepting it.  There will be very strong forces of denial from the top of the major ministries (finance-foreign-defense), themselves conveyors of the US demands on Japan and the vehicles of their realization.  A hard battle due to come.

However, demystification of USA-Japan relations is bound to come.  But only from the source acceptable to “The Japan that Says Yes” (yes-yes-yes-yes–): from the USA itself.  From a USA losing one war after the other since Korea 1953, a USA of war fatigue, for whatever reason.  To a Japan deeply worried about Trump not only for pulling troops out leaving Self-defense to Japan itSelf, but for becoming Great alone, not bestowing indirect greatness on others.  Making Japan ordinary.

We will see.  Probably quite soon.  And hopefully nonviolently.

______________________________________

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.

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

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

 

Civil Beat goes non-profit


by Larry Geller

This isn’t disappeared news—by 7 a.m. this morning at least four email announcements appeared in my inbox. You probably received some as well. No? How come?

Read: Civil Beat: Finding Our Place In Hawaii’s Media Landscape (Civil Beat, 6/8/2016)

Civil Beat has applied to become a 501(c)3 non-profit and will be accepting donations to keep running. What does this mean? It’s time for congratulations, but also for some concern.

Suppose they don’t take in enough to cover operating expenses? This is a problem plaguing many Hawaii non-profits. It’s a new ballgame for Civil Beat.

Will Pierre Omidyar continue his support? Omidyar is also the driving force behind The Intercept. Will he be shifting his attention more to that platform?

We shall see. Also, we’ll be able to see their 990 form eventually to learn how they’re doing.

My concern is only that Civil Beat continue and prosper. We badly need the kind of journalism they have exemplified over the past six years.

Good luck, Civil Beat!


Update: in my original post I forgot to mention that the Civil Beat paywall has been taken down. Fantastic. I hate paywalls. But on the other hand, I hope the revenue that subscriptions brought in will be replaced.

Going non-profit may be risky in a town where the cost of living is so high and income so low…  there is not much left for many families to donate to the best of causes. So my fingers are crossed hoping it works out—for them and for all of us who need the quality journalism that democracy depends upon.



Monday, June 06, 2016

 

Arizona border towns paralyzed by Mexican drug-dropping drones


by Larry Geller

APRIL 1, 2017 (MEXICO CITY) – Traffic in Arizona towns bordering with Mexico and as far away as the outskirts of Tucson were plagued by random automobile collisions and traffic accidents last week as first-time drug users took to the roads under the influence.

Sporadic gun violence related to road rage fed by drug use was reported.

Mexico strikes back

The chaos was the result of the first retaliatory salvo launched by Mexican drug lords angered over the completion of the first section of President Trump’s Great Wall along the Arizona-Mexico border. Unable to supply markets in the US by means of mules or by hiding drugs in commercial truck cargos, Mexican drug lords switched to one of the most modern technologies—autonomous fixed-wing drones—to preserve their lucrative incomes.

Trump was right—Mexico did pay for the Wall (which was built largely, by the way, by Mexican contract laborers). But they paid China, contracting with Chinese research labs and factories to produce a fleet of flat-winged, autonomous drones capable of carrying cargo largely undetected over the Wall and into the hands of their US agents.

Some have called Trump’s agression and the Mexican response “Wall War I.”

Drug lords go high-tech

VTOLThe drones were based on a design exhibited at CeBit 2016 in Hannover, Germany by a Swiss robotics firm.

The motors can propel the UAV to cover up to 60km and can push it to speeds of up to 100km/h. The craft is very light and can carry a small payload of 1.5kg, which is enough for observation and sensing missions or carrying out small deliveries. The first application for Wingtra is expected to be in forest management.

[Engineering and Technology Magazine, Hybrid drone revealed for CeBit 2016, 1/27/2016]

The Mexico-funded, Chinese-engineered clone drones fly farther than the Swiss prototype and are completely autonomous. Each contains a GPS chip identical to the one in a smartphone that enables its route to be completely pre-programmed. The drone takes off, makes its US drug drop, and returns home entirely on its own, without radio contact with a pilot.

So Trump did make Mexico pay, in the end, but they paid China for this new technology.

Unfortunately, countermeasures put in place by Arizona police backfired, resulting in the carnage that focused national and international attention on what has been described as the first test of Trump's foreign policy leadership.

The chaos in Arizona last week started Wednesday when police decided to jam the GPS frequencies used by satellites guiding the drones. When they fired up their jamming transmitters, motorists over a wide area suddenly found their car GPS units going crazy. Meanwhile the fleet of drones, carrying heavy payloads of illegal drugs, dropped out of the sky onto people’s lawns or backyards. Kids hunted fallen drones the way they might search for Easter eggs around the neighborhoods.

At first motorists crashed as they were distracted by poking at their GPS units trying to get them to respond. By far the largest number of fatalities were caused as car and truck drivers followed GPS guidance and turned the wrong way into one-way streets or avenues. Others drove off piers or crashed construction fences.

By the end of that first day a new hazard prevailed. Drones crashing short of their destination gave up their payload of illegal drugs to whomever was nearby. Suddenly there were newly-minted drug users throughout the Tucson suburbs, shooting up with no experience with dosage or the effects that powerful opiates would have on their judgment.

Drug-addled Arizonans packing guns used them on fellow drivers as they dug into their stashes and then took to the roads. Hospital emergency rooms were crowded with overdose victims and injured motorists and passengers.

Drug lords carpet-bomb Tucson streets

Although the GPS jamming had ceased, Mexican drug lords began pelting Tucson neighborhoods on Wednesday with small drug drops. Many of the packages included instructions in broken English to encourage experimentation with the deadly contents.

Trump denounces Mexicans as “terrorists as well as rapists”

President Trump’s denunciation of their tactic in a press conference that evening as an act of terrorism only encouraged drug kingpins to escalate their drops the next day. Police in Tucson as well as far-away Yuma reported ongoing drug-related shootings and gun violence related to the random drug drops.

President Trump was said to be closeted with his advisors yesterday in the White House Situation Room. An unauthorized report indicated that he would likely appeal to the Israelies to install a version of their "Iron Dome" missle defense along the Wall to shoot down drones before they could cross into US territory.

No US drug dealers were apprehended because the drones did not reach their destinations, and as they crashed, their programs automatically erased their data.

The death toll in Ariona is still undetermined.

Mexico is planning to exhibit their technology in CeBit 2018 in Germany.



Friday, June 03, 2016

 

Honolulu Rail: Rethinking a transit plan that should have been thought through to start with


by Larry Geller

I find it strange that there are not significant protests to the mismanagement resulting in the meltdown of the Honolulu rail project. The current re-thinking of the route demonstrates a massive and expensive #FAIL. Where are the crowds demanding that heads roll? Or demanding anything. It’s too quiet. Responsibility can be apportioned not only to HART but to our City Council and the Mayor’s office and Department of Transportation. It seems to me that taxpayers are owed not only an explanation—but a best-possible fix.

As citizens and taxpayers, should we just accept this debacle with a ho-hum attitude? It didn’t happen by itself, or by chance. It is not inevitable. Should we just uncomplainingly continue paying our excise tax surcharges without questioning the ability of our city government to handle the crisis that after all, they created?

It didn’t, and doesn’t, have to be this way.

loop_map_201102_lores[4]Let's see... Portland was to put in an extension to its light rail system at a cost of $44.3 million per mile. I didn't follow up to see if it actually came in at that cost, but anyway, note that this is a tiny sum compared to the current cost for Honolulu's fiasco-on-steel-wheels which is about $405 million per mile.

At that rate, will it ever be extended to (say) UH Manoa? I doubt it.

Besides, although the current single rail route was set in motion by political whim instead of by urban planning, at some point we citizens should elect representatives who believe in urban planning with citizen participation. Cutting the line short at Middle Street is not a “plan.” It would be an act of desperation.

The current situation should be a lesson. It should, but maybe it won't. I'm surprised that Honolulu taxpayers are so passive. In effect, we are allowing the City Council and Mayor to sneak into our homes at night and pick our pockets to pay for a system that profits developers and construction interests—and of course the politicians themselves, through campaign contributions. Why do we accept this?

We could have done a lot more with that $8.1 billion. Ian Lind discussed the AIA recommendation for light rail in an article yesterday. That recommendation should have been considered as part of a sensible urban planning process. As Ian notes, the AIA study was simply dismissed.

TunnelWhat kind of transportation can a few billion dollars buy? The just-opened Gotthard Base Tunnel in the Swiss Alps is 35 miles long and was completed for $12 billion. That's $343 million per mile. In other words, this engineering marvel—the world's longest and deepest train tunnel—came in cheaper than Honolulu's old-school overhead rail.

Of course, I'm comparing apples and oranges here. My point is that we're paying dearly for something that likely should have been recognized as a costly mistake had there been adequate planning in place (for example, a plan that didn't deliberately ignore the cost of dealing with electrical power lines along the route). If something plans out as a mistake, you don’t do it.

We don't need an overhead train system. We could use a system that (like Portland's) would be economically extendable to other parts of the island.

Portland's entire system, part of their overall city plan, has been designed with a "pedestrian first" philosophy. A light rail system fits that philosophy—riders quickly and easily get on or off the tram or bus. Stops can be added, subtracted or moved over time. Not so an overhead rail system. Also, as the video below mentions, it's fast and cheap (usually) to build a street-level system. Businesses are inconvenienced only for a short time and shouldn't go bankrupt due to the crippling construction obstruction that we are witnessing now in Honolulu.

Just a word about that pedestrian-first philosophy, because it illustrates the value of overall urban planning. From a 2012 article:

In downtown Portland, and in fact, in Portland neighborhoods, the pedestrian is the first-class passenger. That's the rule. You don't have to press a button to cross an intersection. There are wide sidewalks. The intersection timing is such that there's enough time to get across the street. We don't build huge, wide streets that are impossible to cross. There are a hundred little things that implement the common-sense policy that in a city, the pedestrian comes first and everything is organized around that.

[Charles Hales, Senior Vice President, HDR Engineering, in e2 Transport, Portland A Sense of Place]

What a contrast.

In Honolulu, we expose pedestrians to unprotected crosswalks and other unsafe conditions, with the result that we set records annual for the number of seniors killed crossing the street. Crosswalk signals don't give enough time for those with walkers or canes to make it safely across. That's by design!

I mention this because I don't believe our transit plan was designed for the benefit of transit users. Our Departments of Transportation don't think that way—instead, the design will maximize the opportunity for development along the route.

That's not so strange given that (for example) our City Council members are beholden to rail and development interests. If our city government were looking out for our interests, the streets would already be safe and convenient for us to use. Bus routes would not be truncated. The Handi-Van would be an on-time and efficient service. Traffic laws would be enforced. We likely would not be looking forward to riding an inconvenient overhead rail system. It's all one fabric.

Finally on this point, please read my earlier article recounting how the rail route was chosen—especially note that it could have gone through Mapunapuna if Romy Cachola had prevailed at one point on behalf of a development interest. Where were we, the pedestrians/riders, in that planning process? We didn't exist then and still don't exist now. If the rail line should stop as is being considered at Middle Street, it will not be for our convenience.

Back to transport.

E2 Transport, Portland A Sense of Place was a video that ran on PBS but is currently unavailable. I posted a snip of it in that 2012 article in order to demonstrate that a light rail system boosts retail along the route. Property values are increased. A light rail system could run all the way to Waianae, and could catalyze economic development the whole way. Stores, churches, restaurants and bars would spring up along the route.

Please see the article, but here is the video snippet again for convenience (press the thingy at the lower right for full-screen):



Thursday, June 02, 2016

 

Backlash needed: Abuse of the land for investors instead of affordable housing for all



The small mid-century house originally on the property behind the fence in front of me was torn down in February to make way for a new 25-foot-high residential structure to be built by an investor from Tokyo. The home will sprawl out over the entire lot. The investor’s local agent says the man from Japan will be living in the new house about two months of each year.—
Denby Fawcett in Civil Beat




by Larry Geller

Denby Fawcett: The Monster Houses Among Us (Civil Beat, 5/31/2016) is a must-read.

It’s news that has been “disappeared” from our daily paper because, basically, they depend to a large extent on ad revenue from developers. Developers of expensive housing, for the rich and ultra-rich.

I’d like you to read the article, and pass it on if you like. Why? Becasue it concludes with an appeal that makes sense. In fact, the only way that Honolulu will escape being paved over from property line to property line is if we answer its call for a backlash.

Architect John Black thinks the only hope to stop residential lot mini-mansions would be a backlash.

Black says it will take a change of attitude that puts less value on “monster houses” and more value on smaller houses that people can easily maintain.

Neighborhoods around us are in flux. It is impossible to predict what will happen next.   I just wish someone; anyone would step in and say, “Stop. Enough already!”

Honolulu’s poorly planned and economically bloated rail project is a wet dream for developers. Although the “promise” of affordable housing along the route occasionally breaks into print, it is really just that—a promise. Show me an area map detailing the location and number of affordable units and the low rentals that will be enforced in perpetuity (see: Units in Kakaako 'workforce housing' condo being flipped for big profits, HawaiiNewsNow, 5/26/2016).

In truth, what’s in the pipeline are houses and condos that will transform Oahu from a comfortable place to live into an affluent urban bedroom community. Tourism, booming at present, may tank when that transformation advances sufficiently. The rest of us will certainly suffer the consequences: extreme degradation of our quality of life.

It’s not just crowded homes and loss of open space, views and the scent of fruit trees. We will lose the ability to travel on our own streets and highways as more and more cars are added to the traffic.

Who will prosper? The rich investors, snowbirds, and the ultra-rich. Also, the commercial media, real estate firms, and Whole Foods.

So where’s the backlash already?



Wednesday, June 01, 2016

 

It’s not just for the birds--GM mosquitoes could stave off Zika in Hawaii



GM mosquitoes could provide a powerful control tool which, if used in a properly funded program with support from the public and relevant agencies, could — in my view — greatly mitigate the problem and yes, in short, save these rare birds
.--Luke Alphey, a co-founder of British company Oxitec, quoted in Huffington Post


by Larry Geller

Hawaii’s native birds have been and continue to be threatened to the point of extinction by mosquito-borne disease:

Since human contact, 71 of Hawaii’s 113 endemic bird species have gone extinct, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. And of the 42 that remain, roughly 75 percent are listed as endangered species.

[Civil Beat, Can GMO Mosquitoes Save Kauai’s Endangered Birds?, 5/31/2016]

The article discusses using genetically modified mosquitoes to save the remaining species before it’s too late.

I suggested that we should get busy developing this technology locally in order to contain the Zika virus in BBC program suggests use of genetically modified mosquitoes could fend off a Zika outbreak on the Big Island (2/16/2016).

Zika will not just disappear in Hawaii, it will take constant vigilance, and lots of pesticide spray, to keep it in check. Releasing genetically modified males, which do not bite, into the environment can control those mosquitoes without harmful pesticides. The BBC article referred to in the link above explains how it works.

From the BBC:

Mosquitoes are the most dangerous animals on the planet. They spread diseases - malaria, dengue and zika – that kill huge numbers of people and cause suffering to many more.

This should not turn into a “mongoose” situation; Hawaii foolishly introduced an alien species only to find that the scheme turned into a major plague of its own. This strategy leaves nothing behind.

Basically, the male mosquitoes mate and die. Their offspring do not live. Goodbye mosquitoes, or at least, vast numbers of them. No sprays needed. No mongooses left behind. Should it not work as expected, we simply stop doing it.

To save the birds we would need to get good at genetically engineering regular-type mosquitoes, not just the kind that carry Zika and dengue. All sorts of approvals would be needed. It would take some effort and time on our part.

But isn’t this a technology we should learn and deploy? So many birds have been lost already… and our tourist-based economy (tourists are kind of an invasive species in a sense) will keep re-introducing Zika to the islands until the rest of the world succeeds in eradicating it.

Zika is only temporarily in abeyance, and more endangered bird species will be lost—unless we get started with this technology that works on both problems.


Update: For a much more comprehensive discussion of mosquito control, see Hawaii Business Environmental Report: Mosquitoes: Tiny, Deadly and Hard to Eliminate (HawaiiBusiness, 5/2016). Thanks: Sen. Josh Green

Saturday, May 28, 2016

 

Attorney General Doug Chin thanks the public for their help—the right way


by Larry Geller

A press release landed on the Disappeared News city desk this morning that is impressive several ways.

The email explains that:

Less than 24 hours after a request for public assistance, Honolulu Police Department officers this morning arrested Andrew Patyjewicz at Ala Moana Beach Park.

Patyjewicz was arrested on a grand jury bench warrant issued upon his indictment for criminal charges related to the possession and distribution of child pornography. The investigation was handled by the Hawaii Internet Crimes Against Children unit in the Attorney General's office.

What impressed me was first that the AG took the trouble to quickly thank the public, but more than that, he made it clear that

Patyjewicz is presumed innocent unless and until he is found guilty of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

That’s really important, especially in these crazy times when the public needs to be reminded that anyone who looks different is really not likely to be a terrorist. Yes, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, that’s the American way, even if we need reminders once and awhile.

So Patyjewicz, despite the seriousness of the charges, is still innocent. I’m glad that the AG took the trouble to mention that.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

 

Rail stations in inundation zone? Make it a feature, not a fault


by Larry Geller

In a June 29, 2015 article I sarcastically suggested, inspired by a New Yorker magazine cover, that running Honolulu’s rail along the waterfront would be, by 2060, a feature, not a fault:

Feature not fault

Honolulu would join New York in being able to transport tourists directly to the beach by public transport.

Seriously though, and it is serious—the current meltdown of Rail planning is not the result of any surprises at all. It is the result of a project hatched by politics with the complete absence of urban planning, especially planning which involves citizen participation.

In the wake of yesterday's 5-4 City Council vote approving the first phase, Mayor Mufi Hannemann said he was "very confident" that construction would begin by 2009.

"The key to this was to be willing to compromise, to be able to give something to get something," Hannemann said.

The council voted to retain a controversial route along Salt Lake Boulevard rather than immediately link the system to Honolulu International Airport.

The 20-mile route selected yesterday would begin near the planned University of Hawai'i-West O'ahu campus and end at Ala Moana Center.

Hannemann allies unexpectedly had swapped the airport link for Salt Lake Boulevard last Wednesday to win a crucial swing vote from Councilman Romy Cachola that kept the project alive.

[Honolulu Advertiser, Vote clears way for initial transit work, 2/28/2007]

The 2007 story is worth reading. Urban planning? None. Another snip:

Apo had tried to steer the route back to Hannemann's original proposal of going past the airport by tacking on promises that later links to Salt Lake and UH-Manoa would be top priorities.

Djou, Garcia and Tam joined him yesterday. But the vote fell short when Okino, who had come up with the Salt Lake compromise last week, refused to abandon that route.

Doing so would have stabbed Cachola in the back, and someone else would then almost certainly have switched his or her vote to kill the route anyway, Okino said.

My own preferences were for light rail or rail-like enhanced bus systems that could link through to Waianai. First of all, people live out there who work in town or in Waikiki. But most of all, the entire corridor would likely see an explosion of retail and commerce that would be of immense benefit to the community.

Instead:

Wai'anae resident James Manaku Sr. said he did not believe the system would ever help the Leeward Coast.

"It's not going to benefit us in any way, shape or form," he said. "It's just going to benefit those who develop property along the way."

It’s certain that our now-$8 billion elevated rail will not be extended to Waianae. Heck, it doesn’t actually even go into Kapolei.

The above Waianae resident’s words rang true as the City Council debacle proceeded:

Romy Cachola was at it again:

Transit stop sought for Mapunapuna
Landowner says rail stop there could spur redevelopment in area
...
A train station could help redevelop the area for increased industrial, commercial and residential use, according to Reit Management & Research, which manages 150 acres of Mapunapuna land for Massachusetts-based HRPT Properties Trust. [Honolulu Advertiser, 5/14/2008]

Those who know Maunapuna know how wet it is now and may wonder whether it will be even inhabited by (say) 2060 or will be some kind of lake.

To see what we’re missing out on, see Retailers will lose a bonanza if rail passes overhead in Honolulu (10/23/2009) (includes video) and Streetcars bring desire (4/19/2010).

HART boardYesterday’s Star-Advertiser front-page article seems to indicate that HART, the  Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, is itself being thrown under the bus. Although routing was determined without planning input but instead by spats among City Council members, HART could have railed (sorry) against the mandate handed to it, but did not. There were many red flags by the time they took over, including the power line issues and appropriateness of the route in view of global warming, sea rise, and storms.

We questioned in 2008 whether global warming was being considered as the rail route squabble advanced (see: Commuting to work in galoshes, 2/18/2008).

The City will make us pay for this if we let them

If newspaper readers can visualize dollar signs flying by faster than a speeding bullet train, they should also understand that it will be up to all of us to apply the brakes. HART’s charge is to complete the project, not to scuttle it. As to the Mayor or City Council, it would be death to their individual careers to just say Oops! and walk away from the project. As long as taxpayers allow the City to pick their pockets, Rail will advance. Somehow.

Watch also for the possibility that City officials let HART pull the plug on the plan so that they don’t have to. Or it might be rigged so that the feds pull their funding and can be blamed for terminating the route.

The recent re-emergence of the power line issue is but another example of the stunning lack of sound planning. Even the proposed benefits have been cons on the public. Strong words? What about the claims of traffic reduction, when the same number of cars will be entering the downtown business district and Waikiki each day after Rail would be completed as before? What about the promise of affordable housing along the rail route when none is planned? (Show me a plan designating the number of units, their location, and guaranteed rental costs.)

As to the wires, those high-voltage power line poles did not suddenly spring up along Dillingham or elsewhere on the settled route.

Here’s an image I posted in 2008:

Dillingham[3]

The City Council knew the wires were there, as did HART when it assumed responsibility. 

“Whoever planned this had to have known they would have problems with this,” Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Board Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa said during a special public meeting Tuesday to discuss the costly overhead utility line clearance problems that are helping to significantly drive up costs for the project.

[Star-Advertiser p.1, HART board eyes route alternatives, 5/25/2016]

Speaking of leadership: HART’s new chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa, according to today’s news, has set a different destination for herself—the US Congress. Can she handle the current HART meltdown at the same time as she runs for Congress, or will the city be looking for yet another HART chair? Wouldn’t she be wise to distance herself from the stinking rail quagmire? Prior chairman Don Horner resigned before the quicksand could swallow him. Will Hanabusa save herself?

Speaking of planning: it’s easier to fix blame than to find evidence of sound planning. Yet the commercial media hasn’t gotten around to sorting out who is responsible for the current problems, and so Honolulu is still saddled with leadership that remains unaccountable to the public. A lesson needs to be taught and learned—that those who would set public policy through uneducated squabbling should not be allowed to continue that kind of leadership or be allowed to commit taxpayer funding.

Cycle snake

[With tongue mostly in cheek, I suggest we could find uses for the elevated structure completed so far. See the “Cycle Snake” tweet to the right.]


It’s never to late to start planning

By starting a proper citizen-inclusive urban planning process we can determine the best thing to do from this point onwards to bring rapid transit to as much of Oahu as we want, and at reasonable cost.

Portland’s enviable transit system is the product of a planning process that delivered real dividends to its citizens. For example:

Portland Streetcar Loop Project will extend tracks from the Pearl District, across the Broadway Bridge, connecting via Weidler Street to Lloyd Center at NE 7th Avenue, south on MLK Blvd. to OMSI and return north on Grand Avenue to Broadway and the Pearl District. The Loop Project will provide 28 new streetcar stop locations. … The cost estimate for the Loop Project is $148.27 million dollars…

[quoted in Portland puts in transit extension for about what Honolulu wastes in delay costs, 10/11/2012]

Anything beats leaving our transit plans to our City Council to squabble over.



Saturday, May 21, 2016

 

A better way to detect Stingray use: crowdsource transient cell tower appearances



Functioning as a so-called “cell-site simulator,” the Stingray is a sophisticated portable surveillance device. The equipment is designed to send out a powerful signal that covertly dupes phones within a specific area into hopping onto a fake network. The feds say they use them to target specific groups or individuals and help track the movements of suspects in real time, not to intercept communications. But by design Stingrays, sometimes called “IMSI catchers,” collaterally gather data from innocent bystanders’ phones and can interrupt phone users’ service—which critics say violates a federal communications law.—
Slate Future Tense, 1/10/2013



by Larry Geller

I learned this morning about an app that has the potential to impact the controversial use of cell tower simulation devices used to spy on our communications.

The use of false mobile towers. a surveillance technology also known as  “Stingray,” to capture cellphone traffic has become commonplace. If the police (or hackers!) are operating a device that tricks nearby cellphones into sending it their traffic, everyone’s data is swept up. The cellphone user is unaware that everything said or transmitted as data is being captured.

If the user accesses a bank account, for example, the user name, password and the answer to that secret challenge question designed to enhance security, is all captured. If you believe that browser encryption saves you, fine. I’m not confident that it does, and not all access information is encrypted. Phone calls are typically not encrypted. They’ll have that. And the metadata identifies where everyone is and who they are communicating with, encrypted or not.

The use of these devices creates a “man-in-the-middle” attack that the smartphone user can’t defend against, especially since there’s no indication shown that the cell connection has been compromised. The only countermeasure? Leave your cellphone at home, with the battery removed. Of course, that’s not at all practical.

FOIA request stymied by Feds-an example of the difficulty faced by privacy advocates

This is old but illustrative news (a snip):

On Tuesday, the ACLU filed an emergency motion to preserve records after the U.S. Marshals Service seized documents on stingray tech from local Florida police in Sarasota, just hours before the documents were due to be released in response to a FOIA request.

Reason reports: "According to the ACLU, 'a few hours before that appointment, an assistant city attorney sent an email canceling the meeting on the basis that the U.S. Marshals Service was claiming the records as their own and instructing the local cops not to release them. Their explanation: the Marshals Service had deputized the local officer, and therefore the records were actually the property of the federal government.'

"The feds then physically removed the records to an unknown location. ACLU officials soon found that the records were also no longer in the possession of the county court which had authorized use of the technology, nor are there any docket entries acknowledging their existence, even though the law requires that such information be kept. The feds apparently made a clean sweep of the information sought by the civil liberties group."

[Freedom of the Press Foundation, 6/9/2014]

So far, the main approach to detecting the use of Stingrays and their ilk by government agencies has been to file Freedom of Information Act requests. For example, here is a snip from an ACLU web page:

Last year, the ACLU sent public records [requests] to three dozen police and sheriffs’ departments in Florida seeking information about their use of Stingrays. Stingrays, also known as “cell site simulators,” or “IMSI catchers,” are invasive cell phone surveillance devices that mimic cell phone towers and force phones in the area to broadcast information that can be used to identify and locate them. Even when used to track a particular suspect's cell phone, they also gather information about the phones of countless bystanders who happen to be nearby. Numerous law enforcement agencies across the country possess Stingrays, but it’s often difficult to tell how much and how often they are used.

[ACLU, Florida Stingray FOIA]

While I’m glad that the ACLU and others are aiming to increase transparency, that alone will not prevent the violation of innocent citizens’ privacy rights. It could be the beginning of something, but I’ve thought that the road is likely to be long, hard and uncertain.

Why not, I thought, crowdsource the detection of these devices? It ought to be simple. Smartphones can tell which towers they are communicating with. New cell towers are seldom erected, so if a new cell tower ID appears, watch out, it might be a Stingray (or a hacker parked outside your house trying to steal your bank account access data).

Apps like Llama use tower ID information to find your location even when the phone GPS is off or the user is indoors. So, for example, I might be reminded of shopping I need to do in the Manoa Longs when the app detects that I’m in Manoa. Back home, there are an entirely different set of towers seen by the app.

So why not create an app to detect a new tower in a place you’ve already been? In other words, the phone keeps a database of cell towers and notes (and reports) the sudden appearance of a new cell tower. Perhaps transmission via a newly-discovered cell tower could even be blocked somehow, or at least, the user could be warned.

I let that thought die and wither away, since I don’t know how to develop the kind of app it would take to detect a new tower.

Fortunately, great minds think alike. An app is under development that does this, and it appears it can upload and download cell tower data to a central database.

So ACLU Florida: please have a look at it.

The app appears to be in its early development stage. I have no idea if it is effective. From their web page, they claim to be able to:

Check Tower Information Consistency
Check LAC/Cell ID Consistency
Check Neighboring Cell Info
Prevent silent app installations
Monitor Signal Strength
Detect silent SMS
Detect FemtoCells

That first part, detecting cell tower consistency, is the bit I mused on. The rest, to be honest, I have no idea what they are talking about. There are links, so I could eventually learn what a FemtoCell is…

So although I’ve just discovered this app, I have a suggestion for the ACLU and other privacy organizations:

Keep up your FOIA efforts, but at the same time, consider working with this or other app developers to create a public database of Stingray use.

I think the transparency question might be resolved more quickly, and a robust, production-quality app could be used to possibly protect also against hackers and this kind of surveillance.

Still not convinced this is needed? If you live in a city where there is a peace demonstration or perhaps even a Bernie Sanders rally, and even if you are not a participant, you could end up in a police database.

Or, if the technology should spread unchecked, a vehicle parked outside your condo or office building could pick up all the access info for everyone inside. Instead of police, the vehicle could belong to a hacker.

So I hope this kind of app—one that crowdsources observed Stingray usage—might be supported and that a national database can be created. It could be the fastest route to transparency, at least as far as knowing where the surveillance is taking place. Then bring on the FOIA to find out who is doing it.

At the very least we’ll learn who is being watched and how many of us are being watched.



Friday, May 20, 2016

 

Defending the indefensible: Supreme Court hears the Office of Elections try to justify its handling of 2012 election ballot errors



What does it take to affect people? We had people whose votes weren't
counted. And according to you, that doesn't affect people's right to
vote
.—Justice Richard Pollack


So the remedy is make people sue and not to create a system that avoids
this?—
Justice Richard Pollack


This is the constitutional, fundamental right to vote that is being
denied. This is not the right to paper clips.—
Justice Sabrina McKenna


Does the record reflect how much money the state saved by denying these
people the right to vote?—
Justice Sabrina McKenna



by Larry Geller

Attorney Lance Collins has been a great champion of the Hawaii Administrative Procedure Act and in particular its application to our wayward Office of Elections. See Disappeared News coverage of the case Babson v. Cronin which related to the use of electronic voting machines in an insecure fashion and in the absence of rules regulating their use.

This case, heard yesterday (Thursday 5/19/2016) by the Supreme Court, was brought by the Green Party of Hawaii, and is based on what appears to be a clear violation of the right to vote not only of the plaintiffs but of at least 57 more people mentioned in the oral arguments and others. First there was a shortage of ballots, then voters were provided with incorrect ballots. Many left without the opportunity to vote.

Shouldn’t there have been rules governing the printing of ballots? As you will hear from the recording, there’s a statute. Now, if only there were rules under the HAPA to effectuate that statute.

What makes this hearing especially interesting to me is how the attorney for the Office of Elections appears to squirm to avoid agreeing that citizens were deprived of their right to vote.

For a description of the exact controversy, see the official summary below.

Look, if I were I newspaper reporter, I’d just be documenting the arguments presented by each side. And you would not be reading even this far.

Instead, I urge you to skip ahead in the recording to 31:30 where the Office of Elections gets their turn. Each side was allotted about 30 minutes, but their attorney got grilled for close to an hour.

I hope Lance won’t mind. His arguments appear to me to be cut and dried, very logical, and so there’s not much drama in them. For example, at about the 27 minute point he explains that the purpose of the HAPA is to reign in an agency’s unbridled discretion. This is important, of course, because it was the exercise of the Office of Elections’ discretion that resulted in the shortage of ballots. You can rewind later to the beginning of the recording if you like. Lance gives clear arguments in his rebuttal at the end, which is good listening.

Instead, make yourself some popcorn or open a beer and skip ahead to that 31:30 point.

I’ve learned long ago that I can’t divine the thought processes of judges by listening to their questions in the oral arguments. If you skip ahead as I suggest, you might think this case is a slam dunk. But we’ll have to wait for the final decision.

I’m hoping, of course, that voters’ rights will be better protected in the upcoming elections this year. It seems we can’t count on the Office of Elections’ discretion to protect those rights.

The audio is below. Many browsers will just play it if you click, or download the file and listen in your favorite player. I found the official recording to be mostly inaudible, so I improved the sound so you won’t feel you’ve wasted that beer. The case summary from the Supreme Court website follows below the line.

Listen to my edit of the oral arguments here.

Listen (if you can hear it) to the Supreme Court official recording here.


No. SCWC-14-0001313 Wednesday, May 18, 2016, 8:45 a.m.

GREEN PARTY OF HAWAII, KAREN M. HOLT, ELIZABETH M. RUZE, MICHAEL KRATZKE, MOANI KEALA AKAKA, KIM DUFFETT, MARY JO DENNISON and MAKA`ALA KA`AUMOANA, Petitioners/Plaintiffs-Appellants, vs. SCOTT NAGO, Chief Elections Office, State of Hawai`i, and STATE OF HAWAI`I, Respondents/Defendants-Appellees.

The above-captioned case has been set for argument on the merits at:

Supreme Court Courtroom
Ali`iolani Hale, 2nd Floor
417 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96813

Attorney for Petitioners:

Lance D. Collins

Attorney for Respondents:

Kimberly Tsumoto Guidry, First Deputy Solicitor General

NOTE: Order accepting Application for Writ of Certiorari, filed 03/10/16.

COURT: MER, C.J.; PAN, SSM, RWP, and MDW, JJ.

Brief Description:

This case involves an action by the Green Party of Hawaii and seven registered voters who voted in the 2012 General Election (Petitioners) seeking a declaratory judgment pursuant to HRS § 91-7 (2012) that certain methodologies and procedures used by Scott Nago, Chief Election Officer, and the State of Hawai`i (collectively “Respondents”) in the 2012 election are invalid under the Hawaiʻi Administrative Procedure Act (HAPA). Specifically, Petitioners contend that Respondents violated rule-making requirements for failing to adopt administrative rules pursuant to HAPA regarding the methodology and procedures used to determine the number of ballots to be delivered to the precincts, request additional ballots when a precinct runs out of paper ballots, and address the situation where a voter votes on a ballot that includes some races in which the voter is not entitled to vote.

The Circuit Court of the First Circuit (circuit court) granted summary judgment in favor of Respondents holding that the challenged methodologies and procedures were regulations concerning only the internal management of the agency. On October 24, 2014, the circuit court entered final judgment, which was timely appealed by Petitioners. In a December 18, 2015 published opinion, the Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) affirmed the circuit court’s judgment. The ICA concluded that none of the procedures challenged by Petitioners were rules as defined in HAPA.

Petitioners filed an Application for Writ of Certiorari with this court on January 27, 2016, which was granted on March 10, 2016. Petitioners present five questions in the application: (1) whether the ICA gravely erred by applying a standard in an election contest for overturning an election result based upon Petitioners’ claim of deprivation of voting rights and holding that such claims were immaterial because it would not have affected the outcome of the election in regard to ballot shortage procedures; (2) whether the method used for ordering ballots was a one-time occurrence that would not affect future public rights or procedures; (3) whether the improper handling of ballots is a matter of internal management and thus exempt from rulemaking requirements; (4) whether the ICA misinterpreted Hawai`i appellate precedent; and (5) whether the ICA erred in finding that Petitioners failed to cite to the record showing the circuit court determined the obligation of the agency was mitigated or relieved by failure to apply to the agency to engage in rulemaking procedures pursuant to HRS § 91-6. Petitioners maintain that the challenged procedures and methodologies are rules as defined in HAPA and that the rules are invalid as they were not adopted pursuant to HAPA. Respondents assert that the challenged procedures are not rules as defined by HAPA and, accordingly, the ICA did not err in affirming the circuit court’s judgment.



Tuesday, May 03, 2016

 

Jeremy Scahill, Glenn Greenwald on presidential candidates, drones, assassination as foreign policy, more…



And what the Obama administration is doing right now is basically trying to rebrand and engage in historical revisionism about what is going to be one of the most deadly legacies of the Obama era, and that is that somehow they came up with a cleaner way of waging war. I would say that the most significant aspect of what President Obama has done, regarding drones and regarding the so-called targeted killing program around the world, is that Obama has codified assassination as a central official component of American foreign policy. And he has implemented policies that a Republican probably would not have been able to implement…—
Jeremy Scahill on Democracy Now, 5/3/2016

LARRY WILMORE: It looks like you’re really enjoying your last year of the presidency. Saw you hanging out with NBA players like Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors. That was cool. That was cool, yeah. You know, it kind of makes sense, too, because both of you like raining down bombs on people from long distances, right? Yeah, sure. What? Am I wrong?at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, quoted on Democracy Now, 5/3/2016


by Larry Geller

Even if you have never watched Democracy Now, consider tuning in to today’s program either tonight on `Olelo or on the web at democracynow.org .

The last segment of the program fills in important background on the Democratic presidential candidates that supporters of either Clinton or Sanders need to know.

Here are the program segments, by way of encouragement:

  • Jeremy Scahill Remembers His Longtime Friend, Father Daniel Berrigan: "The Man was a Moral Giant"

  • "The Assassination Complex": Jeremy Scahill & Glenn Greenwald Probe Secret US Drone Wars in New Book

  • ""This Isn’t a War on Leaks, It’s a War on Whistleblowers": Snowden Pens Foreword to New Scahill Book

  • Jeremy Scahill: Clinton is Legendary Hawk, But Sanders Shouldn’t Get Pass on Role in Regime Change

    Whether you’re old enough to remember Father Daniel Berrigan or young enough never to have heard of him, yesterday’s program was a good review of the life of this anti-war priest and his importance in the history of American protest.

    Finally, I think we owe thanks to Pierre Omidyar for creating and backing The Intercept (as well as Hawaii’s Civil Beat). And of course to Amy Goodman for Democracy Now. Today’s program illustrates the value of honest, thorough, fearless journalism. Don’t miss the program.



  • Friday, April 29, 2016

     

    Which presidential candidate will assume the divine right to rule America?



    Why should I die for the Water Board, or at the command of an arbitrarily selected group of variously virtuous people, unless I believe that they are owed obedience, as representatives of something more divine?—
    from The political animal : biology, ethics, and politics, Stephen R. L. Clark, 1999, p. 147



    by Larry Geller

    We have not given up on the divine right of kings in this country. The ghost of George III still animates our model of national leadership, especially our strong need to deify our elected presidents.

    While our military volunteers literally die in obedience to our own “Great Leader,” for the rest of us, it is safe to say that the political and public reaction to Obama, the first black man elected to the White House, has been strongly dependent on whether or not he is recognized as one to whom we “owe obedience,” that is, on whether or not a black man can assume a divine mantle and rule over white people. The prohibition of dark skin is deeply rooted in our religious mythology—was Jesus as light-skinned (and often light-haired) as He is most often depicted?

    And so the part of the country that granted Obama near godliness elected him to his office, and then the part of the country that denies him any devine right refuses to cooperate. They feel that they owe no obedience because he could not possibly be closer to their God than they are.

    So now come Trump and Clinton. Are either of them fit candidates to rule, which is to say, to don the mantle of the divine right of American presidents in January 2017?

    Trump’s behavior so far is far from godly, but he has time to demonstrate some wisdom before election day. He’s a blank slate which he himself can fill in. While Trump is widely despised, he also has a following resembling a widespread religious cult. For sure, many of his followers expect him to not only build walls but to part the waters of government or to turn the thin gruel that the economy provides them with into wine. In fact, no other candidaate holds out those possibilities, though Sanders comes close in some respects (as a Messiah figure perhaps).

    Clinton has a track record, and it is full of warmongering. Now, going to war is something kings have always done, but their popularity among the masses depends to a large extent on the outcomes as well as to a lesser extent on their methods. America’s wars have been disasters for so many in Asia and the near-East and so costly to American taxpayers that Clinton is already cut down a few notches on the godliness scale.

    Trump is onto something with his emphasis on “winning.” No matter how cruel the dictator, or for that matter how many civilians an elected president or prime minister may dismiss as “collateral damage,” if they can win, we tend to overlook their inhumanity and cruelty.

    What of Ted Cruz as a divinely-inspired ruler? I’m not the only one who has latched onto this thesis. John Boener gives him strong negative marks in this regard:

    Former House Speaker John Boehner launched a verbal attack against Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, calling him "Lucifer in the flesh" and a "miserable son of a bitch." Boehner was speaking during a forum at Stanford University. The comments were recorded by journalists from the campus paper, The Stanford Daily. This clip begins with Stanford history professor David Kennedy.

    John Boehner: "Lucifer in the flesh. In Washington, I have many Democrat friends, and I have Republican friends. I get along with almost everybody. But I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life."

    [Democracy Now, Ex-House Speaker Boehner Calls Cruz "Lucifer in the Flesh", 4/29/2016]

    A “Lucifer” can lead—one could cite the ascendence of the current leadership of North Korea, of Hitler, or of any of a number of dictators in the past or the present. But we, as Americans, don’t want a Lucifer as our president, hence John Boeher’s warning.

    Before I end this rant, let me point out that nothing prevents our national leadership from concluding a “pact with the Devil” provided their divine rights have already been established. For such kings, almost anything is possible. So Bush Jr. can buddy up (or hold hands, even) with the cruel Saudis, yet Obama is condemned for concluding a pact with Iran. Obama’s godliness quotient was too low for him to do get away with that. 

    Forget Democracy. From the evidence available, George III is our true Founding Father. We are weighing, in this election cycle, which candidate is fit to rule in his line.

    Wednesday, April 27, 2016

     

    Support Democracy in Hawaii—contribute to the fight for good government


    by Larry Geller

    Your help is needed to support a grassroots effort to solve several abuses that diminish democracy in Hawaii.

    Stories break into the news and then mysteriously disappear—for example, does former House Speaker Calvin Say live in the district he represents in the House? The question isn’t settled yet even if there are no reporters covering the ongoing struggle.

    Another news story that “disappeared:” Hawaii’s Office of Elections' mishandled the 2012 election (see below). Now we find outselves in another election year.

    Should we just brace for more missteps, or how about fighting for improvement?

    Several legal actions are gathered together in a crowdfunding page for the Hui for Good Government Hawaii. While legal action is typically costly and out of reach of good government advocacy groups, attorney Lance Collins has agreed to argue several cases pro bono (without charge) for these groups. He has argued and won good government cases including cases that have gone to the Hawaii Supreme Court—for example, he won Kanaehele v. Maui County, a Sunshine Law case, in 2013.

    But there are court costs that must be paid, and other expenses related to these suits.


    Citizen funding can make a difference

    Fixing the 2012 election problems comes down to correcting lax rules governing election procedures. Since the Office of Elections hasn’t done this even as we now approach a new election season, it falls to concerned citizens and the court to make ‘em get their act together.

    From the crowdfunding page, here is the brief description of the case filed against the Chief Elections Officer:

    The Office of Elections' mishandled the 2012 election. They ran out of ballots, delivered ballots to the wrong place, and had people voting on the wrong ballots. Why? We argue they needed more and better rules to protect our right to vote. The case is before the Supreme Court and oral arguments are set for May 18 at 8:45 am.

    Supreme CourtYou can attend the hearing—it’s a historic courtroom and attorney Collins argues eloquently.

    Wouldn’t it feel even better if you have chipped in to correct the election errors? Sitting proudly in the front row, you’ll know that you are part of the solution that hopefully will come out of this citizen effort.

    This isn’t the first time Collins has tangled with the Office of Elections:

    Judge Joseph E. Cardoza granted an injunction today against Hawaii’s illegal use of electronic voting machines and the illegal transmission of vote results over the Internet. A written decision will be issued in the coming weeks, he said.

    The suit (Babson v. Cronin, Civ No. 2cc08-1-000378 ) was brought by attorney Lance Collins on behalf of five citizens of Maui against Hawaii’s Chief Elections Officer (see background on Disappeared News in these articles).

    [Hawaii’s 2010 elections enjoined by Maui judge, 5/20/2009]

    Check out the crowdfunding page, and chip in if you can—small donations can pay the costs of keeping these actions alive.

    Monday, April 11, 2016

     

    ACLU of Hawaii posts Rights of Hawaiiʻs Homeless website guide


    Check it out here:

    https://acluhi.org/homelessness-in-the-city-county-of-honolulu-know-your-rights/

    From their news release:

    Many of the rights outlined in the guide resulted from the U.S. District Court’s order in the Martin v. City and County of Honolulu lawsuit, brought by the ACLU and the law firm of Alston Hunt Floyd and Ing, in response to City sweeps.

    The guide is the latest in a collection of Hawai‘i-specific “Know Your Rights” materials that the local ACLU has created, including a “First Amendment Toolkit” and a “Youth Rights Guide.”

    These resources, and more, are available at www.acluhawaii.org.



     

    Yet another part of Hawaii’s stalled homelessness program grinds to a halt


    by Larry Geller

    shed

    It’s hard avoid the conclusion that the leaders of our state—including legislative committee chairs, legislative leadership, the Governor and his task force on homelessness—really have no intention of doing anything that has a chance of working to alleviate the crisis.

    Yesterday I wrote a kind of open letter query which I did send to each task force member, with little to no expectations of a reply, of course.

    Today’s Star-Advertiser story bearing the cryptic headline Shed project encounters more hurdles is just the latest chapter in the ongoing  work of fiction that is the state’s program to end homelessness.

    The “shed” is a proposed homeless shelter in Kakaako. Even if completed, it won’t make much of a dent in the population of street dwellers. But will it ever be completed? it was proposed to be open in February and to be closed two years later (another reason why it really won’t help much). Don’t get me wrong—more shelter is a good thing, but is no substitute for a correctly implemented Housing First program applied on a scale to match the magnitude of the need.

    Gov. David Ige’s office proposed spending $900,000 in annual operating costs for the shelter, which is supposed to operate for only two years.

    But a House bill provides no money, and a Senate version includes only half of the requested annual amount, or $450,000.

    Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator, said he understands the public’s frustration that the shed remains empty and unrenovated after it was intended to open in February.

    [Star-Advertiser p.1, Shed project encounters more hurdles, 4/11/2016]

    I’m not sure the public is frustrated that the shed remains empty—just maybe, perhaps, the public is frustrated that we are now on our third (count ‘em) state housing czar and even have a governor’s task force, but all of that is not moving people into permanent housing.

    Maybe the public is frustrated because so many cannot afford soaring rents.

    Now, is this simply a case of armchair quarterbacking? I don’t think so. The observation that little is moving that might help to end homelessness here is becoming self-evident as time passes and as plans and pronouncements fail to be fulfilled. The “shed,” as just the latest example, will not get started without funding, which (so far) is not forthcoming. Neither the state nor city requests are so far being funded.

    About the only thing running “smoothly” is the program of daily raids on street dwellers conducted not only during the daytime but starting often from 1 a.m. or 3 a.m. Those raids do nothing to assist those affected to settle into permanent housing. At least the Mayor can no long destroy personal possessions, but it took a federal court order to stop him. I’ve gone out at night to watch the action on the streets. There’s nothing helpful about the city crews moving people along. If I hung around after a raid I would observe that people simply moved elsewhere, often around the corner, or just came back.

    So will there be a renovated “shed?” Let’s see.

    Will next year’s count of street dwellers increase yet again? Let’s see.

    Will anyone press our state leaders to get busy on the multiple parts of the issue? Let’s see.

    Can a czar without an army be effective? Let’s see.



    This 

page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

    ‹Older