Category Archives: Politics

Strange days in national politics

How weird is it when NY Times columnist Tom Friedman, not known for any progressive tendencies, writes another scathing column highlighting the no-nothing nature of the Republican Party candidate, and the conservative Arizona Republic newspaper endorsed the Democratic Party presidential candidate for the first time since it began publishing in 1890.

Both write simply that Donald Trump is unqualified.

In his Times column, Friedman wrote:

My reaction to the Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton debate can be summarized with one word: “How?”

How in the world do we put a man in the Oval Office who thinks NATO is a shopping mall where the tenants aren’t paying enough rent to the U.S. landlord?

NATO is not a shopping mall; it is a strategic alliance that won the Cold War, keeps Europe a stable trading partner for U.S. companies and prevents every European country — particularly Germany — from getting their own nukes to counterbalance Russia, by sheltering them all under America’s nuclear umbrella.

How do we put in the Oval Office a man who does not know enough “beef” about key policies to finish a two-minute answer on any issue without the hamburger helper of bluster, insults and repetition?

And he proceeded on, point by point, from there.

And here’s just part of the Arizona Republic’s take on the presidential race.

Make no mistake: Hillary Clinton has flaws. She has made serious missteps.

Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of State was a mistake, as she has acknowledged. Donations to the Clinton Foundation while she was secretary of State raise concerns that donors were hoping to buy access. Though there is no evidence of wrongdoing, she should have put up a firewall.

Yet despite her flaws, Clinton is the superior choice.

She does not casually say things that embolden our adversaries and frighten our allies. Her approach to governance is mature, confident and rational.

That cannot be said of her opponent.

Clinton retains her composure under pressure. She’s tough. She doesn’t back down.

Trump responds to criticism with the petulance of verbal spit wads.

That’s beneath our national dignity.

Read the newspaper’s full endorsement here.

But, of course, the danger appears to be that enough voters, including some progressives and former Bernie supporters, could feel alienated enough to see Trump’s lack of qualifications as a virtue.

For those Bernie supporters who are still deciding whether to vote for Clinton in the end, I recommend this recent column by Shaun King in the New York Daily News (“KING: If you don’t vote against Donald Trump, we may all soon regret it“). Thanks to Bart Dame for the link, and for his comment (“What Shaun says. Ditto. To every detail.”).

Polls show that this campaign is more about voting against a candidate than it is voting for one.

I am that dude and I hate it. I’m voting against Donald Trump far more than I am voting for Hillary Clinton. I even hate writing this column because I am just not a fan of Hillary. To this day, I still believe that Bernie Sanders would have absolutely mopped the floor with Trump.

But that’s not where we are.

We are 45 days away from electing either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump as the next President of the United States.

I have 99 problems with Hillary Clinton, but I am 100% sure that she is a significantly better option than Donald Trump.

If you don’t see that, you are either lying to yourself, delusional or woefully misinformed.

Obliteration of Thomas Square history apparently already underway

The city’s ignorance of history is no excuse for destroying the heritage of Thomas Square. This is an instance where the mayor needs to step forward and take action to save this highly symbolic piece of island history.

Thanks to Doug Matsuoka for reminding us of the situation in a Facebook post last week.

He wrote:

The City & County of Honolulu is erasing the Hawaiian flag from Thomas Square… The pathways in Thomas Square are designed to look like the Union Jack in Honor of Admiral Thomas who restored Hawaiian sovereignty back in 1843. You can still see the design in the Google Earth image.

But this last Sunday… check the pano. No paths. They’re fertilizing the paths away, disappearing even the memory of Hawaiian Sovereignty. WTF?

The top photo from Google Earth shows the design of Thomas Square. The Union Jack design is still clearly visible.

Thomas Square

But in the photo below, taken just over a week ago, the paths and the historic design are being obliterated. Click for a larger version of the photo.

Desecration

This isn’t esoteric Hawaii history. Do a quick online search for Thomas Square and you’ll find numerous references to the importance and significance of the British flag design.

Read Denby Fawcett’s recent column in Civil Beat, which is an excellent review (“Denby Fawcett: Tap The Brakes On Thomas Square Proposal“).

Earlier, Thomas Square was identified as one of our most threatened history sites in a 2014 Honolulu Magazine review (“The 8 Most Endangered Historic Places in Hawai‘i“).

From the article:

Thomas Square is Hawai‘i’s first official public park, dedicated in 1850 by King Kamehameha III for British Rear Adm. Richard Thomas. During a ceremony in 1843 on the plot of land now bearing his name, the admiral restored the sovereignty of the Hawaiian Kingdom after British subjects unlawfully seized the Hawaiian government. It was during that ceremony that King Kamehameha III spoke the famous words that would become the state’s motto, “Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘?ina i ka pono.” Nearly 90 years later, additional features would be added to the park, including a central water fountain, radial coral pathways arranged in the pattern of the Union Jack and the Beretania Street Promenade, designed by landscape architects Catherine Jones Thompson and Bob Thompson. The park was placed on the National Register for Historic Places in 1972 based on its political significance.

WHAT THREATENS IT?
In his 2014 State of the City address, Mayor Kirk Caldwell listed the restoration of Thomas Square as one of his top priorities, says Curtis Lum, spokesman for the city Department of Planning and Permitting. “His vision is to see Thomas Square emerge, once again, as a crown jewel and, with the Blaisdell, become a more active gathering place that anchors a vibrant arts and cultural community,” Lum says. While concrete plans have not been developed, one proposal discussed in April includes designing a bike path through the park, box planters and hard pathways. The concepts “were not based on restoring the features and characteristics from the historic period, but rather would erase most of the landscape architecture designed by Thompson and Thompson,” says Kiersten Faulkner, executive director of Historic Hawai‘i Foundation.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?
The public should make its opinions known. The city has made no decisions on Thomas Square’s future, says Lum, but the public will be asked for its feedback during the various phases of planning.

The city expects to complete an environmental assessment of the project soon, and public comment will be essential.

I find it sad that Mayor Caldwell, who benefited from a large property tax exemption due to the historic designation of his residence, is turning a blind eye to the far more significant history of Thomas Square.

Come on, Kirk. The city can certainly renovate the park without destroying its historic character. Show some leadership.

Setting up for this afternoon’s presidential debate

Whatever your tastes, you’ll almost certainly be able to tune in to this afternoon’s presidential debate through a medium of your choice.

Wired.com has a fine rundown of the many ways to watch the debate, whether on one of many participating broadcast channels, online streaming, or via social media (“How to Watch the First Presidential Debate“).

One online effort worth a special mention? PBS NewsHour and Microsoft have created an interactive site where you can check out presidential debates since 1960, filtered by specific topics or by year. Mon dieu, Mondale!

And, of course, over here on WIRED’s live blog we’ll have our entire fact-checking team working to judge the veracity of the candidates’ claims about WIRED issues like science, automation, and cybersecurity.

And Wired won’t be the only place for fact checking.

PolitiFact will have 18 fact-checkers working Monday’s first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The best way to follow along is by watching the live Twitter stream below, which will provide you fact-checks in near real-time starting at 9 p.m. E.T. by relying on our database of nearly 13,000 fact-checked claims.

Anyway, the debate is scheduled to run from 3-4:30 p.m. Hawaii time.

And The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS) will be going live right after the debate wraps up. That’s probably one worth watching, too.

Mayor Kenoi’s latest escapades call attention to potential ethics issues

Billy Kenoi, the lame duck Hawaii County Mayor, just can’t catch a break these days. His lawyers’ attempts to get criminal charges thrown out before trial was rejected, and then a video surfaced in which the apparently inebriated mayor liberally tosses out F-bombs in a rambling toast of sorts during an after-hours social event at a conference on Kauai.

The Hawaii Congress of Planning Officials Conference was held this week at the Grand Hyatt at Poipu, Kauai.

Civil Beat posted a video of the scene on Thursday (“Profanity-Laced Video Shows Mayor Partying Hard At Conference Party“). It’s a cringeworthy episode, and it’s hard not to feel sorry for the guy as he steers what’s left of his political train into another very big ditch.

Reporter and blogger Joan Conrow (Kauai Eclectic) identified the source of the video.

Though CB branded the video like it was its own, it was actually lifted from the Facebook page of Jonathan Scheuer, a member of the state Land Use Commission. So curious, that CB fails to note the one thing that actually is interesting about this shtick: a public official secretly taping other public officials.

To his credit, Scheuer deleted the two videos he’d taken at the event, and issued a FB apology:

First, the regular folks at the party did not expect to be videoed, even if the videos were not primarily of them. Second, the videos may have given some people the wrong impression that all we do is drink and party at this conference. This was one after-hours gathering at a three-day conference that is digging deeply into many substantive issues that face our islands. I am friends with many, many people at this conference, and many planners around the state, and they are some of the most dedicated people I know. I really regret having posted the videos for those reasons, and apologize to my planning colleagues for the harm this may have caused. I am sorry. 🙁

Conrow is critical of Civil Beat’s use of the Kenoi video.

Though the video has absolutely nothing to do with anything, and isn’t even entertaining, reporter Chad Blair justifies it because “Kenoi has been accused by criminal prosecutors of using taxpayer money to buy, as the prosecutors put it, “exorbitant amounts of alcohol.”

Uh, except that’s totally irrelevant, since no taxpayer money was used to host the after-hours Kauai Hyatt hospitality suite where the toast occurred.

But Conrow is wrong when she says “the video has absolutely nothing to do with anything,” although it’s not Kenoi’s self-destructive monologue that’s of public interest.

It seems to me that there are many potential ethical pitfalls in a setting like this which brings Hawaii’s government and corporate planners together under the sponsorship of many of the same development interests these planners are called on to regulate in their official capacities.

According to Civil Beat:

Kauai County spokesperson Sarah Blane told Civil Beat on Thursday the party was “an informal social gathering that was held after the formal program of events.”

The food and drinks were paid for by “event sponsors and individuals,” Blane said in an email. “The county did not make those purchases.”

…The conference was sponsored by some major corporations who do business in the state, including Kaiser Permanente, D.R. Horton Hawaii, Alexander & Baldwin, Kamehameha Schools and R.M Towill Corp.

The three-day conference included an evening of music and dance which boasted “prizes for best costume!”, a “Casino and Karaoke Night”, and a mid-week golf tournament at the Po‘ipu Bay Golf Course.

“There was also a giveaway contest of three Apple Watches or a two-night stay at the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina,” according to Civil Beat.

So forget Kenoi’s F-bombs. The real issue is ethics. I don’t know about you, but when our public planners are enjoying themselves to the booze and prizes provided by corporate sponsors who they will be called on to regulate when they return to their day jobs, I think that’s a serious concern. And that golf tournament? Did any of the government planners or board and commission members have their entry fees paid by friendly lobbyists? Were development and real estate lobbyists among those registered for the conference? Will all these activities be disclosed?

I hope staff of the State Ethics Commission take a good close look at the various issues raised. At minimum, it would be useful for everyone to have the commission’s guidance on how an organization like the Hawaii Congress of Planning Officials can avoid ethical issues when planning this kind of government-industry gathering in the future.

Former island woman founded agency aiding refugees in Greece

As far as I know, I’ve never met Ariel Ricker.

She lived in Honolulu for a couple of years, working first as a law clerk for Circuit Court Judge Steve Alm, who just retired, then working in the Senate Majority Research Office at the Legislature.

Ricker then traveled to Europe, where she has founded a nonprofit group, Advocates Abroad, that provides legal assistance to refugees.

I’ve been following her activities from a distance. Frankly, I’m awed and humbled by her ability to dive into relief work among the refugees in different parts of Europe.

Her Facebook posts give a personal look at what’s happening on the ground in areas inundated with refugees.

Advocates Abroad provides remote and on the ground advocacy for refugees and asylum seekers in Greece, other EU member states, and Turkey.

Advocates Abroad is a non-governmental organization, registered in Greece, and comprised of more than 100 lawyers, human rights experts, academics, and government officials.

The field teams of Advocates Abroad are based primarily in Greece, where they provide daily aid to the 60,000 refugees and asylum seekers currently stranded throughout the country.

BBC is airing a short interview with her about the fire at Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.

“They have nothing and no one is helping them,” she said.

Her Facebook posts of the past 24 hours tell more about the situation and the role of international organizations and volunteers.

24 hours ago: The riot earlier today at #Moria rages on. Now fires light up the night and refugees who fled the camp earlier to avoid injury are stranded outside. Stay safe, all.

23 hours ago: Could this be the night this camp burns down completely?

23 hours ago: Moria has nearly been entirely burnt down, FRS and family compound still standing. Refugees have fled, in Mytilene now. NGO offices and tents destroyed. No word on authority response.

Im told by several refugee and official sources that it began as a fight with the afghans and another nationality.

If anyone else is here in Mytilene, please PM me. I’d like to head by the harbor where refugees are gathering, to pass out water and check for basic first aid needs. I have a car, and will be heading there in a bit.

23 hours: Swimming pool hall/harbor is the place to be now, you medics and EMTs. Anyone able to pick up bottled water and has a first aid kit, please join us there. I am going back to Moria to check on a few clients first.

22 hours: Entered Moria by back entrance. Can anyone come with water and biscuits.
Extremely extremely hostile local crowd.police waved us through, kept us safe from locals screaming at us for entering to help.

21 hours: Qualified medics needed inside Moria. Injuries all around, worst ones inside. Destroyed interiors of camp keeping pregnant and wheelchairs trapped.
Where are the NGOs? I see 3 groups: #advocatesabroad #unitedrescueaid and #Eurorelief who just showed up.

20 hours:
Inside the family compound. Injured, pregnant, elderly, all alone, all begging for help. I’m alone here, trying to help well over 120 vulnerables. Please someone come help. We need doctors, medics, please!

20 hours: Before gd, I will not forget this night and those who refused to escort the injured to the gate where the few medics wait. These are the people denied help by the only other NGO here: the 9 month woman, the 73 year old alone with massive anxiety, breathing problems, the sick children everywhere.

If you ‘don’t know’ if you can help walk a pregnant woman down a dangerous hill with fires and fights flaring up then you shouldn’t be here. Help or get out of the way.
Meanwhile, medics are needed inside. Entrance is not an issue, once you get past the riots of villagers and police barricade . Please come. If you’re willing to act. Stay out if you aren’t.

17 hours: Thank you #movementontheground #becausewecarry – your nurse and medical team made a world of difference, arranged by Justine Grace Swaab. Thank you #eurorelief for coordinating a massive relief effort of water, food, checking on camp residents, all at 2, 3am. You guys are unflappable and great to work with.

Thank you #URA and #SAO for your quick reaction and transport of vulnerables to #Pikpa and #Attika, where many volunteers cooked and tended to very shaken and injured individuals. Thank you Manos Kalaitzis Jonas Hein, two steady and quick thinking Advocates of #AdvocatesAbroad.

I got a ton of messages from Facebookers tonight looking to help – thank you. Tents, sleeping bags and pads, clothes, mens shoes, water, food, and medical attention are still badly needed. The camp is quiet now with many sleeping. Doctors, medics, nurses please come tomorrow if possible.
Stay safe and keep loving. Kali nychta.

17 hours: Many, many serious injuries from rocks and fights, most common was head injury and broken bones. Smoke inhalation a major issue for kids, esp as fires were next to and in front of family compound.

Panic attacks, nervous breakdowns by many, esp the women.

14 hours: “Dear Mrs Ricker what are you doing in our homeland? Greece is for Greeks. Get out.”

Only one response possible: “Being awesome.”

Well, the fascists were bound to find me AND incorrectly assume I had tethered myself to a male in those happy bonds of matrimony.

Here’s Ricker’s advice to those who would like to support Advocates Abroad.

Hey everyone, thank you for the support. I’m getting messages asking how to donate to me and my NGO, #advocatesabroad. As most of you know, we provide free legal services all over Greece in person, and all over Europe and the Middle East remotely. I fund most of the NGO, so its kind of you all to offer help.

First thing I’m going to put donations toward is replenishing my first aid kit, which was depleted completely tonight.

Paypal is best, with no commission: ariel.ricker@gmail.com

Otherwise: https://www.gofundme.com/arielricker/donate

Thank you all. Good night.