Friday, November 28, 2008


Newspapers vs. the immediacy of the Internet

by Larry Geller

Maybe newspapers really are obsolete. Yesterday’s Advertiser had a sad article on the Senate appointments. Instead of relying on their own reporters for news at the State Capitol, a few blocks from their offices, they ran copy from the Maui News. It was incomplete. I was looking to find who was the chair of the health committee but didn’t see it in the article, which was understandably a bit Maui-centric.

As we watch one of our own two daily papers decline (and of course, newspapers across the country and in a few European countries as well are shrinking or folding entirely), news via the Internet has been picking up in speed and efficiency. The horrific terrorist massacres in Mumbai were covered first by tweets, not by the commercial press, as this Wired article, Mumbai Attack Aftermath Detailed, Tweet by Tweet, points out.

First-hand accounts of the deadly Mumbai attacks are pouring in on Twitter, Flickr, and other social media.

Twitter has fresh news every few seconds, on Mumbai, Bombay, #Mumbai, and @BreakingNewz.

"Hospital update. Shots still being fired. Also Metro cinema next door," tweets mumbaiattack. "Blood needed at JJ hospital," adds aeropolowoman, supplying the numbers for the blood bank.

A Google map of the attacks has already been set up. So has a shockingly-current Wikipedia page, which features a picture of one of the gun-toting attackers.

The problem with this immediacy is that you have to know how to get it. For most people, the TV or radio is still their first connection with events, followed by the details and analysis in the next day’s paper. They are not sitting at their computers or monitoring tweets on their cellphones.

Newspapers are not yet obsolete in America. They may not go the way of the horse and buggy—more likely some will survive and some will not.

It may depend, in part, on who is driving the buggy.

These past few days have been a time to read for me, rather than to write. Mumbai is both distressing and depressing, and confusing at this time of year. We are supposed to be thankful, according to the calendar, but world events don’t cooperate. Contradictions continue.

As I write this, I am supposed to instead be standing in line to make Black Friday purchases, although the economy has nosedived and prudence would indicate that putting some money under the mattress would be a wiser move than giving it to Wal-Mart. What Wal-Mart doesn’t get from us willingly will be given to Citibank and the automakers whether we like it or not. And Obama appoints those who caused this mess to get us out of it.

I’m not laughing as I read.


Sunday, November 23, 2008


GM, Wal-Mart, disappearing pensions and health care

by Larry Geller

Katy Rose posted a comment to my recent auto crisis article which deserves greater visibility than  a mere comment would get:

Here's an interesting article from 2006 by Malcom Gladwell about the historical roots of GM's financial crisis:

It boggles my mind that US corporations - and small businesses for that matter - are not on the front lines demanding a single-payer health care system. I can't quite figure out why they're not. Sadly, I don't think we're going to get it until they do.

I know that a few years ago Andy Stern was pulling together a coalition of unions and big corporations like WalMart to create a united front for health care reform, but I'm not sure where that went or what they've been up to. At the time, I got the sinking feeling that single-payer was off the table for the group from the get-go.

Do you know anything about that Larry?

I did write about Wal-Mart’s coalition here but did not follow up. (sigh!) There’s so much to follow and so little blogging time…

Along the way I’ve remarked that considering all the money corporations give to politicians as bribes campaign contributions, you’d think they could get universal health care in a wink. It would not only take health care expenses out of the corporate budget but it would sweep the issue off the table during labor/management negotiations. Now that corporations are feeling better about the benefits of “socialism” for themselves, perhaps they’ll allow a little “socialism” for everyone.

The New Yorker article that Katy links above is an interesting read, with background from the 19

The article is dated August 2006. More than two years ago the author wrote that…

America’s private pension system is now in crisis. Over the past few years, American taxpayers have been put at risk of assuming tens of billions of dollars of pension liabilities from once profitable companies. Hundreds of thousands of retired steelworkers and airline employees have seen health-care benefits that were promised to them by their employers vanish. General Motors, the country’s largest automaker, is between forty and fifty billion dollars behind in the money it needs to fulfill its health-care and pension promises.

So back then GM was 40-50 billion behind in its pension obligations. There’s that casual use of “billion” again, like it was 49 cents or something. You’d think this would have caused people to get upset big time back then. But no. Maybe GM figured it could escape its obligation or get bailed out or something. You know, tell the government it was too big to fail. Would we have laughed then? Now we know. Only the little guy is allowed to fail.

Auto Worker There is no rush to bail out the automakers. This can be left until the next administration comes in. Although I’m prepared to be disappointed, still, I hope that Obama will work something out that takes care of the little guys. You know, Joe and Jane Automaker.

This is depressing. Please go read the New Yorker article Katy linked to, stay informed, and see you later.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Latest abuse case raises questions about the Department of Human Services

by Larry Geller

The two Honolulu papers reported today on the Makekau abuse case, but one story omits some crucial information. The Advertiser story is Abused Hawaii children 'angry' that aunt's sentence only 5 years and the Star-Bulletin’s is Child abuser is freed for appeal.

Yes, Rita Makekau was sentenced to only five years, and yes, she is free until at least December 22 while an appeal is prepared. After five years she could be back in her home.

It’s easy to be an armchair judge and question whatever motivated the court to impose a five-year sentence, but look at the evidence before us as presented by the newspapers. Here’s a snippet from the Advertiser story:

Victims describe abuse

Three of the children were present in court, and a social worker read statements from them in which they recounted horrific details of their treatment at the hands of their relatives.

Makekau used a hammer to break and chip their teeth when they misbehaved. She struck them on their heads with knives and metal spoons, causing bleeding and permanent scarring.

The children said they sometimes went without food for a week, and one had been forced to sleep under the house with dogs and insects and without warm clothes or bedding as punishment for misbehavior.

From the Star-Bulletin story:

They allege that Makekau shoved a broomstick down their throats, held them underwater in the bathtub, pushed them down the stairs and held their hands over flames from the stove.

Makekau was the aunt, but the children were abused also by the parents:

[Deputy Prosecutor Lori] Wada said Makekau was "the worst offender," but alleged that Gabriel Kalama beat one child with a belt "for jumping on a bed" and forced another to eat a sibling's feces.

Barbara Kalama, 28, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree child endangerment and six counts of abuse of a family member.

There’s more if you read the full articles. I’ll bet it was much worse than the papers can print. You be the judge. Child abuse concerns all of us.

Aside from what happened to these children, we should question why the other family children were allowed by DHS to remain with these parents.

That’s the key difference in the stories. The Advertiser story not only has more detail, but includes this report:

Court records show the Kalamas have four children of their own and are raising a fifth child Barbara Kalama had by a previous relationship. Those children were taken into foster care for a day when the Kalamas were first arrested, but were returned because the couple had no history of abuse or neglect of their own children, state officials said.

The Kalamas' biological children remained with them, and the couple agreed to accept state services and state monitoring of the family until the case was closed on June 9, 2008, according to the Department of Human Services.

Ok, so there are still children remaining in that family. Can that be ok? If you are still unconvinced, here’s just one more account, from a KHON story of August 13, 2008, of how the others were treated:

Like the time one of the kids got caught shooting off fireworks.

Deputy Prosecutor, Lori Wada describes the event,"as a result he taped hands together, holding the fireworks, then set the fireworks off in hands, causing pain and burns."

Given the parenting practices of the father and mother, how can we be sure that the remaining five children are safe? Is it ok to close this case? Is monitoring of these children really over? What happens when the unrepentant auntie returns to this family in just a few years?

I’m concerned because Hawaii’s DHS seems to give family reunification a high priority while both state and federal law require that child safety be given top priority. This is also common sense. Why? To do otherwise results in too many dead children.

In July, 2007, in Is DHS still prioritizing family reunification over child safety? I wrote about the state’s continuing obligations to protect the children involved in an abuse case:

Is this an issue only in the few cases that break into the news? No. A 1999 legislative audit concluded that "DHS and Family Court emphasis on family reunification exceeds federal requirements." The report described situations where "child safety is often displaced at the expense of efforts focused on reunification with and rehabilitation of parents who refuse services." A 2003 follow-up audit found that fully half of CPS cases failed to meet the requirements of the federal law and that child safety is sometimes jeopardized by family reunification goals."

In another article later that month, DHS defense in child starvation case falls far short, I described how DHS director Lillian Koller attempted to pass responsibility for shortcomings in her department’s procedures on to the Legislature.

It’s high time for another audit. Child abuse is a problem that will continue to plague society, but our response must always be to protect the safety of children. Has DHS changed its ways, or is it still pushing children back into families where they are not safe?

I would be very sad if there were another abuse headline in the future asking why any children were allowed to stay with this family. Is monitoring really over, or does it continue? Instead of waiting, we need to ask Lillian Koller those questions right now. And let’s crank up one more audit, it seems justified to me.


The auto crisis as symptom of failed corporate-government alliance

by Larry Geller

Bush (remember him?) is apparently in Peru talking up the benefits of free markets: “Our nations must maintain confidence in the power of free markets,” he said.

Never mind that “free market” means the government will bail out the catastrophic failures that it has made possible by removing regulations on its favorite businesses. With the unresolved financial crisis still upon us, now the automakers are lining up at the public trough for their taxpayer-funded bailout. It’s not a simple thing, though, because the jobs, pensions and healthcare of auto workers and their families are involved. They are at risk because of “free marketeers” like Bush (not to let Clinton off the hook either).

Here’s a discussion by Kevin Zeese, The Auto Bailout Shows the Failure of Corporate-Government More than the Failure of Detroit. I’ll snip out part of the article discussing health care, since I think that is one of the things we’ll have to push Obama to fix:

The Causes of the Auto Crisis

Corporate-government created the three major causes of the auto industry crisis: health care, the credit crunch and low efficiency cars.

Health care is an out of control cost where double digit annual price increases are more common than rare. While other industrialized nations have controlled the cost of health care, the United States has not. President Truman called for a single payer national health insurance plan many decades ago, but the Congress has been unable to show the will to face-up to the issue because of the power of the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries. While health insurance is on the Obama-Kennedy agenda, they are still not challenging those industries as they should and not confronting the real problems.

Every business small and large has struggled with paying the health insurance costs of their employees. It has held back hiring and holds back wages. A mega-corporation like General Motors sees those problems amplified. It would not be unfair to describe General Motors as a health insurance provider who happens to make cars. GM spends $5 billion annually on health care for 1.2 million people – only 150,000 of whom work for the company. GM, Ford and Chrysler have a combined unfunded retiree health care obligation of more than $90 billion. Health care adds $1,500 to the cost of each vehicle. This reality alone makes it virtually impossible for GM to have a successful economic model and it is not something GM can fix. Health care is a major problem not only for the auto industry, but the airline and steel industry as well as businesses of all size. The failure of Congress to face up to single payer health care is becoming a threat to the American economy.

Please check out the full article for more on the automakers’ crisis.

[Kevin Zeese is Executive Director of the Campaign for Fresh Air and Clean Politics ( whose projects include Voters for Peace (www.VotersForPeace.US., True Vote (www.TrueVote.US and and Climate Security ( He is also president of Common Sense for Drug Policy (]

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Disappearing orange juice: It’s not just candy bars that shrink


Some supermarkets have jacked up prices more than others on a particular item. It’s hard for the consumer to tell whether increases are due to the higher cost of ingredients or just plain price gouging.

When the manufacturer shrinks the product, it’s easier to detect. Unless there’s a smokescreen intended to deflect the buyer’s attention.

Here’s a case where the packaging is being pushed instead of the product! (read more…) Tags: , ,

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Super- Superferry contract for Austal

by Larry Geller

This is the military contract that Austal has been hoping for. It’s for one vessel, with the potential for nine more.

For those of you who like to know about engines, payloads, and other technical details, a story on the 11/14/2008 Marine Log website, Austal wins potential $1.6 billion JHSV contract, will give you the numbers. There are two nice pics there. You can see the resemblance to the Hawaii Superferry.

See also Brad Parson’s article, Here is the Contract...for 1 ship with NAVY Option for 9 more.


New York Times Special Edition hits the streets in New York City, Los Angeles

by Larry Geller

Special Edition - New York Times

“This special edition of The New York Times comes from a future in which we are accomplishing what we know today to be possible.

The dozens of volunteer citizens who produced this paper spent the last eight years dreaming of a better world for themselves, their friends, and any descendants they might end up having. Today, that better world, though still very far away, is finally possible — but only if millions of us demand it, and finally force our government to do its job.” [The New York Times – SE, 7/4/2009]

Click the link in the text for a list of organizations that can help us make this a reality. Clicking on the picture should take you to the front page. Hundreds of thousands of copies of a fake edition of the New York Times were reported to be handed out in New York and Los Angeles by today’s Democracy Now.

Enjoy, before reality sets in again.


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Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Disappeared Constitution

by Larry Geller

Well, George Bush continues to trample on what he is reported to have called “a goddamned piece of paper.” But the Constitution has been interpreted throughout its history, it seems, and perhaps Bush has only been the latest person in power to dis it.

Here’s a Libertarian website with something to say about that. I can’t believe I’m sending readers to a Libertarian site, but this is food for thought perhaps. Here are just two of a long list of Constitutional Dead Letters in the article:

I just picked two. Have a look an how the Constitution of today has become so different from the document signed so long ago. More:

It can hardly be a coincidence that all of the dead letters happen to place limitations on the scope and power of government. In contrast, the few provisions of the Constitution granting powers to government have been interpreted expansively. The clause giving Congress power to regulate interstate commerce, for example, has been interpreted by the courts to allow Congress to imprison people for acts that can be linked to either commerce or interstate activities only by a tenuous series of conceptual inferences.

There are even provisions which were included in the Constitution to limit government but which have now been interpreted to empower government. The Takings Clause, which states that no person shall be deprived of property "without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation," was recently construed by the Supreme Court to give government at all levels near carte blanche power over all property. In a 2005 decision entitled Kelo v. City of New London, the Court reinterpreted the phrase "for public use" to mean for whatever use any government desires – including private use.

Update: I know that many people don’t read blog comments. An excellent discussion follows in line of flight’s comment attached to this post. Check it out.

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Surf vs. Superferry – will they cancel at the last minute? Or worse, will they sail?

by Larry Geller

I don’t surf so I don’t follow water conditions, but here’s the latest report from Brad Parsons, inventor of the Barf-O-Meter. Basically, the winter season may be beginning, with high seas forecast for Thursday and Friday.

Can they route the ferry around the problem? Will they cancel? Will they sail, and if so, with what effect on passengers?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Superferry book and more scuttlebutt

by Larry Geller

There’s a new book out on the Hawaii Superferry.

The book was just released on Monday, and although I’ve had a pre-order in at for some time, it hasn’t shipped. So I can’t say anything about it yet.

Copies are circulating on Kauai, though. And the blogs are alive with discussion.

If I send you to Brad Parson’s article, The New Book, Fargo on the Big Island, and Confronting Act 2, you’ll have the heart of the discussion. Between Brad’s analysis and his links, particularly to Joan Conrow’s post today, there’s plenty of news you won’t find in the daily papers.

I’ll probably be the last blogger to get my hands on the book, but I’ll give you my thoughts when I do receive it.

Meanwhile, please visit Brad via the link above, and from Brad switch to Joan. Tags: ,


Disappeared fact about Obama’s White House visit

by Larry Geller

Now, he and his family will move into a stately white mansion that was built in part with the labor of black slaves and where several Southern-born presidents brought their plantation slaves as servants during the pre-Civil War era. [China Daily, Obama makes historic White House visit, 11/11/2008]

Reuters noted this, and so it’s all over the foreign press. I checked a few domestic papers and didn’t find this.

The New York Times did a fashion piece, elaborating on how Bush and Obama were dressed, even on how they shook hands:

When the president and Mrs. Bush greeted the Obamas at the driveway on the South Lawn, the women hugged and their husbands shook hands, with Mr. Obama using the two-handed greeting common among senators, with his left hand on Mr. Bush’s right arm during the handshake. The two men were dressed almost identically in dark blue suits, white shirts and blue ties. Ms. Bush wore a brown suit, and Ms. Obama a burnt-orange dress. [New York Times, As Transfer of Power Begins, Obamas Visit White House, 11/11/2008]

This and most other domestic coverage that I reviewed looked long on fluff and short on news. There wasn’t much to report on, given that no statement was released, yet Australian and other newspapers did report on Bush/Obama talks related to the auto industry, for example.

Probably since Reuters reported on the slave connection, variations of it appeared in overseas news coverage. Maybe Americans would rather forget this part of their history. So the fact has been disappeared for us, if not for everyone else.

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Sunday, November 09, 2008


Barack Obama and new media

by Larry Geller

What a world of difference. George Bush doesn’t even read newspapers, but Barack Obama’s campaign was powered by new media. Put his name into Google and says he has about 91,800,000 hits. (My name gets 775,000, not too bad, thanks to Elvis.)

Of course, we don’t know if Obama himself ever goes near a keyboard.

Check out this stuff:

There’s probably more Obamamedia out there. Like the Google Maps mashup mentioned above, there is content created by others all over the place.

A serious (though not Obama-related) site to keep an eye on is As Obama’s presidency advances, this site should be a good source of poll analysis and perhaps more. The site nearly brought’s servers to their knees in the heat of the election. It attracted, according to Blogger report, 50 times more comments than the next most commented blog. It’s still worth a visit now, to track the few undecided races and catch up on what really happened on election day. Tags: , , ,

Saturday, November 08, 2008


Still waiting for Ted Liu's resignation

by Larry Geller

Doug White comments in his article on Poinography! earlier this week,  Honolulu Prosecutor (instead of an independent counsel) asked to consider hydrogen fund allegations, on Attorney General Mark Bennett's passing the buck to Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle to investigate allegations against DBEDT director Ted Liu. The article links in turn to Bob Jones' article in MidWeek, Governor Lingle And The Liu Ruse.

Jones says pretty much what I said earlier (If HTA chief had to resign over improper emails, shouldn’t DBEDT head resign after procurement irregularities?). He writes:

Any reasonable person must conclude that upon reading the Senate Investigative Committee findings on how Liu awarded management of the state’s $8.7 million Hydrogen Investment Fund.

Remember how quickly Lingle called for the head of Tourism Authority chief Rex Johnson, an ally of Hawaii Democrats, when he screwed up? In the Liu case - sheer misdirection of state money rather than a mild e-mail indiscretion - you must conclude that Lingle or one of her top operatives was complicit in the ruse. Or else Liu would certainly be out the door.

Why spend money on this investigation at a time when both city and state are looking for services to cancel because of the economic downturn?

The Senate Investigative Committee findings appear reasonable, so the governor might expedite things by having a word with Liu about his imminent resignation.

I suppose that even if Liu resigns, the question of whether he broke the law will have to be investigated. But resignation sounds like a good first step to me, given the Senate findings, and the governor might speak to him about it—if for no other reason than to save us all an expensive legal process.

That money could go to children's health insurance, for example, or to any of the other services that the administration is busy cutting.

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Friday, November 07, 2008


Hey, world, come to Obamaland instead of Disneyland this year

by Larry Geller

A small Japanese town has jumped on Obama’s victory to boost their own tourism. It will probably work. Now, how about we do the same?

As followup to the pics of Obama, Japan posted a couple of days ago, here is a crazy YouTube video produced there. It could be shorter… much shorter… but here it is:

That’s the Anyones Brothers Band, hoping for a hit. Hey, I used to live in Japan, this could move them right to the top of the charts. For about 17 seconds.

Obama [Japan] is aware of [Barack] Obama’s Hawaii roots, and they’re capitalizing on his election victory. Here’s an LA Times picture gallery of a party there complete with hula dancers (thank goodness, these are still pictures).

Back here in Hawaii, I don’t see “Obama slept here” signs on Beretania Street, or “Obama Ate Here” t-shirts in local restaurants the way they’re springing up in Chicago, apparently (see Friday’s Advertiser, p. A2). Let’s face it, Obama isn’t a person with strong Hawaii identification. Although Lee Cataluna is trying her darndest to claim Obama as a kamaaina, it won’t work.

Cataluna misses a key point: He left.

She says:

Well, he is our own. Of course, everyone is laying claim to Obama now. Kenya and Kansas, Chicago and Jakarta. But he was born here and graduated from high school here.

Obama has made it clear that he’s the senator from Illinois, not from Hawaii. High school graduation doesn’t mean anything on the Mainland. His accomplishments are there, not here. He looks and sounds like the Harvard Law School graduate that he is (did you hear his first press conference? What a refreshing difference!).

Obama’s sister still lives here, but suppose she decides to move to DC and live a different life as First Sister? Could happen. Security is pretty weak in Honolulu for someone suddenly related so closely to the President of the United States.

Now, having said all this, why not capitalize on the Obama craze as long as it lasts? If tourists stop every day to snap pictures in front of Dog’s little bail bond office, shouldn’t there be a place where the tour buses can bring them for that “Obama feeling?”

Tourism is in a slump. Why not print up the t-shirts, make some souvenirs in China and get busy promoting Hawaii while the opportunity is still alive. Name a beach for him. He stayed at a hotel when he visited—how about renaming his rooms the Obama Suite? (It works for the Manila Hotel which has a very nice MacArthur Suite).

C’mon, all you entrepreneurs, do your bit for our economy.



Pundits unreformed, but what did we expect

by Larry Geller

This just-concluded election campaign has been punctuated by some stunning lies. Far from deflating the falsehoods, political pundits have thrown gasoline on the flames.

Their track record, if one kept track, is not very good, but it seems their audience cares not. Here is a short essay by Jamison Foser on the subject, Media Matters: All over but the lying, from the Media Matters for America website. This is just a snippet, I recommend clicking on the article link to read the entire essay:

On Tuesday, Americans chose as their next president an African-American named Barack Obama who campaigned on a near-universal health-care plan, allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire, and a move away from the belligerent foreign policy of the past eight years. Republicans, and some journalists, had spent months (falsely) saying Obama is the single most liberal member of the U.S. Senate -- and maybe even a socialist. The American people responded by electing him in a landslide.

This, naturally, is very good news for the Republicans, according to many pundits. It proves once again that America remains a "center-right" nation.

Right about now, you're probably scratching your head, wondering how the election of the "most liberal" member of the Senate, a man who campaigned on a promise of near-universal health care, could possibly be described as evidence of a conservative country.

To be sure, it requires some creative thinking.

NBC's Tom Brokaw, for example, looked at county-by-county election results and concluded that counties carried by John McCain account for greater land mass than those carried by Barack Obama. This would be meaningful, if only fields and streams and rocks and trees were conservative voters. . . .



Advice for Republicans

Don Brown circulated an email “Before the Republican Bloodbath begins...” which I really enjoyed. Makes good sense to me. Reproduced here with permission:

Dear Friends...

After the electoral landslide by President-Elect Obama and a trouncing by the Democrats in the House and Senate for the second election in a row, there's been much speculation about how to talk the Republican Party off the ledge.

That the Republican "brand" is bankrupt is a given, but being the generous centrist patriot that I am, I offer 15 easy steps for the GOP (Grumpy Old Party)  to wage more effective campaigns in the future:

1. Find some less-polarizing mouthpieces than Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. They stir the pot, but burn the beans.  Distance yourself from Faux News, there's nothing Fair and Balanced happenin' there.

2. Stop being so partisan. Some things (global warming, supporting the troops) are  not red or blue.

3. Stop being hypocritical. Unmarried teenage pregnancies are nothing to be proud of, especially when you're the Family Values party.  Practice what you preach, or you have zero credibility.

4. Bone up on Separation of Church and State. The Founding Fathers gave it to us for a reason.

5. Accept that most Americans do not want regulation on what goes on in their personal lives and bedrooms.

6. Start thinking about the poor and middle class instead of just your own bank accounts. Politics is more than just lowering taxes for the rich.

7. Stop spying on and torturing people. That's not very nice.

8. Don't send our troops to die in battle unless you really know what the hell you're talking about.

9. Start agreeing with Democrats that Bush 43 is the worst president in history...99% of the world will agree with you.

10. Nominate for once a candidate who is intelligent, curious and articulate.

11. When Americans are facing the worst economic crisis in 75 years, terrified for their jobs, homes and savings, do not obsess for the final months of your campaign that your opponent (a) pals around with terrorists, (b) has a half-Aunt who may or may not be an illegal alien, and (c) is both an elitist and a socialist. Kinda makes voters feel like you're utterly clueless about the issues most important to them.

12. Stop playing so dirty. You got away with it in 2000 and 2004, but in the age of internet surveillance, it  doesn't work anymore. Get used to it.

13. If you see Karl Rove or Steve Schmidt, run the other way.

14. No matter how strong the temptation, do not make as a centerpiece of your campaigns the support of cartoon-like characters like Joe the Plumber, Ed the Dairy Man, Doug the Barber, Tito the Builder, Christine the Florist, Phil the Bricklayer, Cindy the Citizen, Rose the Teacher, Corina the Nurse, Vicki the Realtor or Clark the Cook. This cheap tactic turns your campaign into Sesame Street, and toddlers don't vote.

15. Do not put anymore vacuous and ill-informed MILFs a heartbeat from the Oval Office, especially when the person at the top of your ticket is a 72-year-old cancer survivor. Americans want a vice-president who can name the countries in North America and knows that Africa is a continent not a country.

They want someone smart and qualified... like Dan Quayle.



Kauai burial plan rejected—graves illegally capped?

by Larry Geller

If you’re following the Kauai grave desecration issue, Joan Conrow reports the inside scoop in her Thursday post, here.

Giant concrete sewer covers placed over graves, but who ordered them? Who ok’d them? What laws were involved that may have been broken?

Check out the article.

Oh, if you shop at Wal-Mart on Oahu, remember that as you drive in, you’re driving over a mass graveyard under the concrete ramp. It was in the film Noho Hewa. Just thought you’d like to know. The Kauai grave desecration issue is our issue also.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008


Obama gives us the opportunity for change

by Larry Geller

. . .  but first he has to break his campaign promises.

Here’s a letter from William F. Brabenec to Danny Schechter that appeared in his emailing today (and here):

"Yesterday wasn't an election for a new president.

For most Americans, black skin had little to do with the event.

Yesterday was a revolt.

Tuesday was a classic revolution.

Instead of muskets firing powder and shot, Americans Tuesday fired their .50 caliber ballots. They stormed the precincts and raised the original American flag over every polling booth in the land.

Americans revolted against Corporate America and against Wall Street and against the Federal Reserve and against Big Pharm and against the Power Elite and against Big Money and against all the social leaches who suck the financial blood from the 95% of people in this great land who struggle every day to live.

Americans didn't vote for President Obama because he was black. Americans didn't really vote for a president. They revolted - once again - to be free.

O say, can you see our flag finally flying without the dollar signs of corporatism in place of the stars! Without the banner of Empire flying over the White House! It's been a long time coming. But it's here.

Now, let's put our house in order and clean, reload and cock our ballots for the next attack.

And there will be a next one.”

It was really wonderful. I let myself be happy, even euphoric, a whole day yesterday. Barack Obama elected president! Really, cause for celebration. At the same time, unlike young people who accept this great milestone quite easily, I found myself concerned that Obama make it safely to inauguration day. Because really, there are those who are not celebrating, and a few who are likely to be hatching plots against his life.

I tried to remember where I was on April 4, 1968, when Martin Luther King was assassinated. It was in the evening, so most likely I was home, but in those days I often worked late. I just can’t remember.

I know where I was when the Rodney King verdict came down (young folks can google for the history). It was another April day, April 29, 1992. Los Angeles was in flames when an all-white jury acquitted police officers accused of beating black motorist Rodney King. I was visiting New York, and businesses were shutting down early, afraid that the rioting would spread from LA to other cities. A friend and I did an intervention at a New York City school to give the students a chance to express their anger and outrage in a safe way. We were accosted on the subway later, and my mind is blank on how I talked our way out of likely harm. Even right after the incident, I couldn’t remember what it was that I said, but training sure paid off!

Or, last personal story, how I drove a black commentator home from radio station WBAI to 9th Avenue one evening and noticed that we were being followed by white cars with rifles out the windows. I thought at first that it was umbrellas being used to scare us, but no, they were real guns. Yes, in those days struggle was very real. It still is today, and for people of color, often a matter of life and death even as a black man prepares to enter the White House.

Oh, it goes on and on, including most recently the case of the Jena Six. Black children faced with a noose at school!

Though it’s 2008, this country of ours still has no shortage of racists, white supremacists and bigots. Given that he is an uppity African-American trying to break into the White House, it was a natural tactic for John McCain to pile on other reasons why he should never be allowed into our white world. McCain took advantage of simmering hatred at rallies when he encouraged supporters to believe that Obama is a terrorist, a socialist, even a communist and traitor. He was accused of supporting voting fraud (by those actively suppressing the vote!), and so threatening the very fabric of democracy. McCain clearly fanned the flames of hatred for his own benefit.

The crowd booed Obama at McCain’s concession speech. What McCain started cannot easily be undone. The seeds that were sown continue to bear ugly fruit on right-wing hate radio, blogs, and in newspapers. Obama won, so the hatred in many people is even stronger than had he lost.

Thanks to McCain, Palin and their Republican supporters, Obama’s life is in danger. The assembled crowd clearly wanted to hate him. We can’t hear the boos of the television audience. Some will own guns. Some will know how to use them. Some believe that demographics, that is, the rising number of people of color in this country, accounted for his election, and that his election is a symptom of a growing problem that is now out of control.

So our first responsibility (though how a citizen exercises it I don’t know) is to keep Barack Obama and his family safe.

The next task may be to realize our own dreams. Some of Obama’s campaign promises, if kept, would put him to the right of George Bush. He wants to invade Pakistan. He wants to move more troops into Afghanistan, where the war is probably already lost. He promised Israel that Jerusalem will be the capitol of Israel.

He’s also just offered the position of his chief of staff to a man, Rahm Emanuel, who is at the extreme right of the Democratic Party on mid-East policy.

There’s some good reading along this line. The first is from Professor Johan Galtung, who was a visiting professor at the University of Hawaii many years ago. I’ll snip a little, and suggest you click over to it and read the whole thing:


Yes, it is.  The race barrier broken, the referendum on the 43d US president, George W. Bush won overwhelmingly, there will be a basic change in the image of the United States of America all over the world.  People around the world love to love USA, warts and all.  Bush made it impossible for most, Obama makes it easy, natural.  The biggest win for a Democratic candidate in popular votes since 1964, a landslide in electoral votes, a one party country, President-Senate-House united.  The road is open.

Prof. Galtung mentions a paper by psychoanalyst Ramon Lopez-Reyes that was publicly presented on the evening of November 4 to a gathering of students and followers. I recall Lopez-Reyes’ observation that McCain’s speeches were characterized by his repeated use of the word “fight” while Obama repeatedly used “march”. Marching is something we all can do, indeed, it was a series of civil rights marches that brought us to this happy day when a black man can be elected president. Perhaps the point is that we still need to march, this is just a beginning.

Next is today’s Democracy Now, which you can still catch at 10 p.m today on channel 56 on Oahu or at their website: President-Elect Obama and the Future of US Foreign Policy: A Roundtable Discussion. Here’s the intro:

Congratulations pour in from around the world for President-elect Barack Obama after his historic victory Tuesday night. But what are Obama’s foreign policy positions, and what are the concerns for those living in countries at the target end of US foreign policy? We host a roundtable discussion with filmmaker and investigative journalist John Pilger in Britain, Columbia University professor and Africa scholar Mahmood Mamdani, Laura Carlsen of the Center for International Policy in Mexico City, Iraqi analyst Raed Jarrar, Pakistani author Tariq Ali, and Palestinian American Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada.

Don’t miss this:

A Child's Garden Of Right-Wing Reaction To The Obama Win

MELISSA CLOUTHIER: By which I mean, get down off that cross, because we need to burn it, on someone's front lawn.

Sam Smith (Progressive Review) may sound harsh, but that’s only because, I think, he is experienced enough to take a pragmatic view of Obama’s candidacy and election victory, whereas I admit to still being caught up in the wonder of Obama’s remarkable victory. Again, I suggest reading the entire article:

As James Krichick wrote in the New Republic, "Obama is, in his own words, something of a Rorschach test. In his latest book, The Audacity of Hope, he writes, 'I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.' "

This is remarkably similar to Ted Koppel's description of Vanna White of TV's Wheel of Fortune: "Vanna leaves an intellectual vacuum, which can be filled by whatever the predisposition of the viewer happens to be."

Obama has left the same kind of vacuum. His magic, or con, was that voters could imagine whatever they wanted and he would do nothing to spoil their reverie. He was a handsome actor playing the part of the first black president-to-be and, as in films, he was careful not to muck up the role with real facts or issues that might harm the fantasy. Hence the enormous emphasis on meaningless phrases like hope and change. [Can we talk about the real Obama now?, 11/5/2008]

Sam Smith frankly describes what he sees in Obama based on his record.

This last article is rich, complex and a good starting point for our marches that lie ahead. And march we must, because this election solves nothing, but gives us possibilities that we would not have had if the outcome had been different. We still need to end the wars, get universal health care, fix the economy, and accomplish all the things that needed accomplishment on November 3rd.



Rail route may shift again--why not, no one is planning this

by Larry Geller

Advertiser headline November 5, 2008

Surprise, in the absence of any urban planning in Honolulu, today’s paper prepares us for another shift in the rail route, and perhaps more juggling of cost estimates.

"With that (Tuesday's) vote, we should be able to take a look at all options available to us," [councilman Nestor] Garcia said. "I wouldn't mind having that (airport route) discussion again.

"If we're going to put something on the ground, let's do it right." [Honolulu Advertiser, City may revisit airport rail stop, 11/5/2008]

To do it right would mean planning communities first, then deciding what kind of a transit system would serve them best and where it should go.

Jugglig act But that would be urban planning. This Council prefers entertainment.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


How to be “non partisan” in Hawaii?

by Larry Geller

Dead Elephant

I found this graphic on Democracy Now’s web page (hope they won’t mind my borrowing it), just as I was thinking of what the loss of more Republican seats in the Hawaii legislature might mean.

With Senator Trimble’s loss to Democrat Brickwood Galuteria, only two Republicans are left in the senate.Two out of 25. Republicans frequently complain about the Democratic machine, or the old-boy network, or the Democrat-controlled legislature, but bottom line is that they can’t get themselves elected.

In the House, it looks like a loss of one seat as well, though I don’t know if the race between Denny Coffman and Andy Smith has been resolved on the Big Island. So that means that only six Republicans remain in the House out of a total of 51.

There is no Green or Libertarian or any other party represented.

Let me think out loud for a moment, if I may. There’s no conclusion to this. Joan Conrow might call it a “musing” I guess.

I was surprised by Gordon Trimble’s loss. He often voted with the majority on veto overrides and has a clear, logical and empathetic approach to measures that come before him. Voters have spoken, though, and so the Republicans are down one more seat. What power, as an opposition party, can they have left?

One-party rule (and rule is the right word, I think) is not in our best interests as citizens. It means that pretty much whatever Speaker Calvin Say directs his minions to do will come about. Same in the Senate. If the Senate President dictates, it most likely happens.  There is seldom meaningful debate and no loyal opposition. What happens in the darkened conference committee rooms is easily controlled by leadership and makes a mockery of the democratic process earlier in the session. If Say or Hanabusa don’t want something passed, it can sail through committee after committee, eating up hundreds of hours of personal time for individual testimony, only to meet its fate at conference time, a fate ordered by House or Senate leadership.

In the Senate, Senators Slom and Hemmings can make some noise, but with only two votes, they might as well be squeaking into a dead mike. They do make waves in the newspapers. The Star-Bulletin, bless their right-wing hearts, needs their letters or op-eds, who else is there for them? The Advertiser, under NRA conservative Lee Webber, seeks out one of the two for a quote any time they can, usually Fred Hemmings. To read our newspapers you’d think that Senate Republican voices still matter. They should, perhaps, but they don’t, IMHO. Being “fair and balanced” by checking with Hemmings distorts the facts on the ground and gives Hemmings more significance than he actually has as a legislator. That’s not a character judgment, just recognition that he has only one Republican vote in a Democratic Senate.

Over on the House side, Republican numbers have not shrunk to the same extent. I don’t think many are in particular danger. Cynthia Theilen, for example, would be a leader in any party she chooses to belong to. Regardless, the same dynamics play out—it takes numbers, and instead of gaining, they are falling back. There are six of them left, only six. Are any in danger? Is constituent loyalty to their party or to them as individuals, keeping them on for their own good qualities?

Despite the dwindling Republican numbers, when the legislature talks about forming committees, for example an ethics committee, they place equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats on the committee (I haven’t actually researched the committees, though).. Why equal numbers? That gives Republicans unearned power. Nor is it written anywhere that our legislature is composed of only two parties. One day there could be a Green Party legislator. Would that person be on an ethics committee? Would that person be excluded from an ethics committee? If there were two Greens and only one Republican left, who exactly would/should be appointed to committees?

I feel, anyway, that an opposition to the dominant Democrats is necessary, even though I am a Democrat. One-party rule is just not good government. Opposition could come from anywhere, and could be a party that reflects the unique values of Hawaii and is not so influenced by Washington politics.

For there to be an opposition, there must of course be candidates of stature willing to run. Those seem to be a bit short in any party. Unpopular governor Linda Lingle could have been elected, you know, not because she was so popular (which could be a myth constructed by her PR friends), but because the opposition was simply too weak. Mazie Hirono could not compete with the Lingle PR machine. Randy Who? couldn’t compete either. So Lingle was elected.

Third parties have even a harder time producing viable candidates. Who would want to campaign as a Green and be creamed by the Dems? Power leads to more power. But who knows. I’ll bet it could happen one day in Hawaii.

Expect more Fred Hemmings quotes in the Advertiser, they’re trying, for some reason, to go out of business, it seems. Being a square peg newspaper politically in a round hole town hasn’t made the Star-Bulletin successful and won’t work for the Advertiser either. More on that later.

Next election, will the Republican slide continue,or has it hit bottom?

So this is just a musing.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Nova M Radio – another alternative source for election coverage

This will work even from a web-enabled mobile phone.


Democracy Now election coverage right here on Disappeared News

Democracy Now’s election coverage—your alternative to Fox, CNN and all those others

2 pm to 7 pm Hawaii time here or on their website. You can click someplace to get full-screen on your computer.


Oprah’s vote flipped

In case you missed this the other day (click to go to story on Bradblog):

Oprah's vote lost

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Democracy Now! will run 5 hours of election coverage starting 2 pm Hawaii time

by Larry Geller

For alternative media coverage, try Democracy Now, which will stream video for five hours beginning 2 pm.


The world’s newspapers vote for Obama

by Larry Geller

The election isn’t over, but before polls even opened, many newspapers in Europe and around the world have called it for Obama. In looking at the front pages posted at the Newseum, I found none that featured a picture of McCain alone. Many had pictures of both, often of extremely high quality. When one candidate appeared alone, it was Obama. And again, some really spectacular photos and composites.

Here’s a selection of those featuring Obama alone. Click for larger. On some browsers, if you click again, it gets even larger. The newspaper is identified if you move your mouse over the picture.

Please visit the Newseum website for a huge assortment of front pages. Of course, there will be more tomorrow. Speak a foreign language? Try it out on the Newseum’s front pages.

These pages are not trying to influence anyone’s vote. And the pictures are often so exuberant, even bold.

1. Kleine Zeitung, Germany

2. Die Presse, Vienna, Austria

3. De Morgen, Brussels, Belgium

4. De Standaard, Brussels, Belgium

5. Politiken, Copenhagen, Denmark

6.  Taxydromos, Volos, Greece

7. La Repubblica, Rome, Italy

8. La Stampa, Torino, Italy

9. Avui, Barcelona, Spain

10.  El Periódico de Catalunya- Catalan Edition, Barcelona, Spain

11. Haaretz, Tel-Aviv, Israel

12. Correo - Piura, Piura, Peru

13. Peru.21, Lima, Peru

14. The Times, Johannesburg, South Africa

These front pages reproduced here for educational purposes only.

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Monday, November 03, 2008


Really disappeared news!

by Larry Geller

The server at my hosting service went down Friday, and although they said it would be up by midnight CST, it just came up now, Monday afternoon. If I had put a temporary site up to give readers a message, it would have interfered with the fix.

It seems that a cheap hosting service is something like cheap medical insurance--it's fine when everything is going well. When you need help, they don’t care about you.

I spent much of the weekend on the phone, being told different things by different technicians. In the end, I decided to move to a new hosting service.

Now, where to get started? The election is tomorrow, Republicans are stealing votes, it makes my little problems small by comparison.

The country, indeed the world, needs a good outcome from this election.

I might post some insignificant things under this post. Too burned out to think, and tomorrow is election day, after all. I’ll be busy moving files (I have lots of websites with these folks), and there will be a few hours (only, I hope) downtime when I make the switch.

So I hope you haven’t given up on Disappeared News. Please check back later, and apologies for the service interruption.


P.S. Any donations welcome, they help pay for the hosting service.

Update: Hey! Here I am on HostMonster! Less than an hour after I posted this and signed up with them. Meanwhile, back at midPhase, they still don't have it working.

No need, heh, heh, I'm about to cancel them. End of headache.


'Way to Go

Obama train station
(Flickr photos by nagaremono)

This city is crazy about Obama!

Obama statue in Obama

Obama t-shirts in Obama

Obama for Obama

Obama city street sign

Obama Park 

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Theory on why right wing nuts are still trying to get an original copy of Obama’s birth certificate

by Larry Geller

I can’t figure out why some right-wing blogs are still after a copy of Obama’s birth certificate with an embossed seal on it.

Oh, yes, I can! How about this:

When he becomes president, imagine how much that would sell for on eBay!



Maui lawsuit was to protect Hawaii's vote against "Man in the Middle" attacks

by Larry Geller

A "Man in the Middle" is a simple way that computers can be used to alter the vote.

Do you think it can't happen here? Here's a description of the "Man in the Middle" from a segment on today's Democracy Now program. Mark Crispin Miller is professor of media culture and communication at New York University and the author of Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008. Stephen Spoonamore, according to Miller, is a conservative Republican, a former McCain supporter, and a renowned and highly successful expert at the detection of computer fraud.
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, it’s a system—if people go to the website for Velvet Revolution, particularly, they’ll find the documents that Spoonamore has filed describing the setup that’s known as “Man in the Middle.” This happened in Ohio in 2004.

It involves shunting the data that comes from the website for the Secretary of State—I mean, the election returns—taking those election returns as they come to the website in real-time and shunting them to a computer somewhere else. What happened in 2004 was the election returns from Ken Blackwell’s website were shunted to a computer in a basement in Chattanooga, Tennessee, under the control of a very partisan private company to which Connell was connected. The data was shunted to this strange computer in Chattanooga and then directed back to the Secretary of State’s website. As Connell—I mean, sorry, as Spoonamore has said, the only purpose of doing this Man in the Middle thing is to commit crime.

Bev Harris of Black Box Voting has lately reported that there are similar Man in the Middle setups in Colorado, Illinois and Kentucky. So it’s very important that tomorrow, when we’re out there engaging in election protection and working to make the turnout as large as it possibly can be, because the larger the turnout, the harder the theft, people have to be paying very close attention to the numbers. They have to be watching the traffic at different precincts, and so on.

The Maui lawsuit I wrote about earlier won't be in time to stop similar shenanigans in Hawaii. Unlikely? Perhaps, but why not follow Hawaii's election law and avoid the possibility?


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