Throwback Thursday: In the kitchen c.2001

Here’s a selfies with one of our homemade pizzas in May 2001, before the word “selfie” was applied to such photos. It was just months after the Star-Bulletin and I parted ways following it’s purchase by Canadian publisher, David Black.

The photo was taken in our kitchen in Kaaawa using a Canon S10 digital camera, according to the embedded data.

It appears to include pepperoni, green peppers, olives, basil, mozzarella cheese, probably anchovies, on a homemade crust.

2001 pizza

Staying aloof from the Sanders-Clinton battle

I admit that I’ve been trying to stay out of the increasingly bitter arguments between supporters of the two Democratic presidential candidates.

I’m not a fan of Senator Sanders, despite agreeing with most of his big picture political critiques.

On the other hand, I had some personal history with the Clintons during my reporting career, stemming back to my reporting on at least one part of what became known as the Asian fundraising scandal that grew out of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. In fact, my first story after joining the staff of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 1993 was about the initial stages of an FBI investigation into the activities of a couple from Hawaii who had moved to the mainland to do fundraising for the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. It gave me insights into the larger campaign and the insider relationships with the Clinton camp that were very unsettling. And although that’s somewhat ancient history, the experience leaves me less than enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Here are a few of the stories from that period.

The first published account of the links between former Hawaii
consultant Nora Lum and then-Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, and
allegations of campaign fundraising abuses involving a company they
controlled, appeared in the Star-Bulletin in September 1995, months
before the issues broke in the national media. Nora Lum and her
husband, Gene, later became the first to be convicted in the
fundraising investigation.

  • Ex-islander “looted” Oklahoma firm, suit claims. Case involves
    links to Clinton administration. Sept
    1, 1995
  • Ron Brown not involved, official says, but Commerce
    Secretary’s son is company director. Sept
    2, 1995
  • Oklahoma company headed by ex-islanders linked to illegal
    $15,000 campaign gift.
    Oct 18, 1995
  • Lums linked to golf course projects and contributions. Gene
    Lum cited Fifth Amendment when questioned last year about $10,000
    contribution to Gov. Waihee. Oct
    18, 1995
  • Isle woman part of campaign probe. Former resident Nora Lum
    figures in a congressional investigation into ’92 finances.
    Congressional investigators have renewed a probe of former Hawaii
    resident Nora T. Lum, and a 1992 campaign project which she
    headed. Oct
    28, 1996
  • Lum’s windfall, Dem donations under scrutiny. A “no money
    down” investment apparently yielded a windfall of $8 million or
    more in just a few months for an Oklahoma company controlled by
    Democratic contributor and fundraiser Nora Lum. Nov
    4, 1996

And I recall how terrible it was to see President Bill Clinton take anti-progressive positions on criminal justice issues and welfare reform. At the time, it was argued that these positions were necessary to ward off even worse legislation that would otherwise have come out of the Congress. Perhaps. But it didn’t make it any easier to swallow Clinton’s pivot to the right.

So this year, I’m not enthusiastic about either Sanders’ “idealism” or Hillary Clinton’s “realism”.

I know that I’m far from alone in feeling the fact that there were really no more than two potentially viable candidates is unfortunate. Hillary really was successful at sucking up political resources very early on, leaving other potential rivals with little to work with.

There’s a disquieting sense that Clinton’s early insider organizing artificially limited the choices for Democratic voters.

And a friend recently shared his concern that this could very well backfire on the party before the convention. He agrees with the view that Clinton’s campaign will likely lead to the nomination, despite all her problems.

He summarizes his view in query aimed at Clinton: “Is it right to lose, or risk losing, the presidency because you feel entitled?”

He fears that her campaign could melt down if any one of the many bits of political baggage she carries suddenly blows up into a hot new public scandal.

Realistically, she’s not about to withdraw.

Equally realistically, Democrats need to ponder that “what if”…

Our friend believes there’s still a chance for Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren to step up if “drafted”…A brokered convention, perhaps, sidestepping both candidates?

And the campaign season marches on.

A few images of Vancouver

VancouverI wanted to share some images from our week in Vancouver. I’ll blame lingering jet lag for the failure to get this posted early this morning, as planned. I had the photos prepared, the post nearly written, and then I got distracted. Elements of the distraction included decided that Ms. Annie needed a vet visit to deal with some unwelcome scabby spots on her ears and chin. In any case, the actual post was lost in the shuffle. So here it is, just a bit late.

This photo was taken at one of the great spots in Vancouver–The Umbrella Shop. We learned about this store from a friend in Kaaawa, who swears by their umbrellas. Some are still made at their own factory in Vancouver, but all are made to their high standards, and are backed by a great warranty and service. They offer an incredible variety of umbrellas in different styles, sizes, and weights, and with a wide range of fabrics and colors.

And if you’re at all interested, they offer flat rate $20 shipping to Hawaii. A year or so ago, I ordered three umbrellas, and they arrive within a week, all for that $20.

So when we found their main retail store while wandering around downtown Vancouver, of course we went in. We learned a lot about umbrellas (like how to properly close my large, folding umbrella).

While we were paying for our umbrellas, the woman who had given us a great tour of their products took our First Hawaiian Bank Mastercard, noting its lack of a security chip.

“So the U.S. could put a man on the moon, but they can’t produce secure credit cards,” she commented somewhat wistfully.

Meda said it just be because our banks are so poor (tongue firmly planted in cheek).

–> See the more photos of Vancouver!

Good series on road maintenance by the Star-Advertiser

Star-Advertiser reporter Marcel Honore deserves credit for his excellent package of stories on the sad state of island roads, which was also well illustrated and presented to readers.

The stories went beyond a catalog of issues and feel like they got a lot closer to the underlying issues

After years of neglect, crews race to fix roads

Oahu behind the times, road repair experts say

‘Roads in limbo’ compound upkeep problems on island

There are familiar patterns here, and you can almost feel the common factors emerging.

And I especially liked the way Honore undercut the way road repair issues are usually spun.

Here are the takeaways that I found very useful.

1. Hearing elected officials bragging about how many potholes they’ve filled is not good news.

Filling thousands of potholes is “not anything to be proud of,” said Larry Galehouse, director of the Michigan State University-based National Center for Pavement Preservation.

The repairs are temporary, stopgap measures to keep failed roads afloat, and in large numbers they indicate that an agency isn’t keeping up with maintenance, Galehouse and other experts say.

And:

the city’s 37-member pothole-repair team is scrambling to complete tens of thousands of annual repairs across Oahu.

To keep up, the team uses the fastest but least-durable methods to patch potholes on aging streets still waiting to be repaved. That often means it has to return to potholes it fixed because the problem has resurfaced.

“We’re not repairing them in a fashion that you would normally repair defects. We don’t want to fall too far behind,” Department of Facility Maintenance Director Ross Sasamura said.

2. Chronic budget shortfalls have hampered both state and city road repair efforts.

(DOT spokesman) Sakahara said in an email that DOT’s Highways Division “does its best balancing its limited budget and time to ensure that it can meet its highway related duties.” Its needs have “historically exceeded its resources, which is a trend that is expected to continue,” he wrote. DOT officials did not respond to requests for further information.

3. The State Department of Transportation continues to lack transparency and accountability, despite Gov. Ige’s rhetorical support for increased transparency.

The state DOT did not respond to Honolulu Star-Advertiser requests to interview Edwin Sniffen, who heads the highways division, or to emailed questions over the past several weeks.

Refusing to respond for “the past several weeks”?

Hey, the legislature is in session, maybe legislative committees can get more answers? In the past, the problem has been that much of the funding for highways and airports is dedicated funding, and doesn’t rely on routine legislative largess. So DOT has learned that it can essentially ignore pressure from legislators.

4. Poor management is a big part of the problem with road maintenance. A proper maintenance program needs careful planning.

Simply put, local maintenance officials need to do a better job (or in some cases, any job) extending the life of roads by treating them regularly with rubberlike sealants — materials that other places have used for more than 40 years, the experts say.

Moreover, maintenance crews need a detailed program to manage all the work, as well as the leadership and budget to ensure it’s done right, industry experts add.

Remember the UH maintenance backlog? Until relatively recently, maintenance requests were tracked manually using index cards. That’s a management issue.

Anyway, thanks to the S-A for a job well done on this. I definitely recommend wading through the stories.

Travel Day: Returning from Vancouver

We’re on our way back to Honolulu today after spending much of the week attending the Western Society of Criminology annual meetings in Vancouver, Canada.

Meda’s been a member for decades, and has earned many of the society’s honors over the years. Several years ago, they named one of their annual awards in her honor, the Meda Chesney-Lind Award, “For significant contributions to scholarship or activism on the intersection of women and crime.”

I tag along to carry luggage and act as her scheduler.

It’s been cold, our short visit to winter.

Now we’re on the way home.

Here’s my placeholder, a panorama taken Saturday afternoon down along the Vancouver waterfront.

It’s a really nice city.

Please click to see a larger version of the photo.

2016