Category Archives: Politics

North Shore Neighborhood Board considering tour limits

The following information just came in from North Shore activist Blake McElheney:

North Shore Residents Seek Commercial Tour Bus Ban at Special Meeting Tonight

North Shore residents have have watched with interest the success of Windward Oahu residents in protecting their quality of life and important public resources such as public parks.

For example, since February of this year, commercial tour bus activity has been prohibited at the most popular beach parks from Makapuu to Kailua.

The North Shore Neighborhood Board is hosting a special community meeting at Waimea Valley tonight, April 25, at 6:30 pm for the Board and residents to discuss the following Board Resolutions:

1. Requesting City Council member Martin and the City Council pursue measures to protect the community from the increasing utilization of public parks by commercial tour bus operators; and

Calling for the protection of rural Oahu in the General Plan.

Council members Ernie Martin and Ikaika Anderson (author of the Kailua and Waimanalo bans) will be in attendance to share their insights on how the community can approach these issues.

Proponents of the commercial tour bus ban are encouraging North Shore residents to contact the City Council to request that the City Council pass ordinances like those passed for Waimanalo and Kailua protecting public beaches from commercial tour buses.

The meeting is tonight, April 25, at 6:30 pm in the Pikake Pavilion at Waimea Valley.

Reso on federal constitutional convention needs to be killed

Thanks to Sophie Cocke for the update in today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser on HCR 50, a resolution now pending in the State Senate that would put Hawaii on record favoring a “limited-purpose” federal constitutional convention to “restore free and fair elections.”

The idea of rolling back the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Citizens United, which gave corporations the same rights as individuals to throw money behind candidates and issues in elections, is certainly appealing.

The problem, as pointed out in testimony offered by the state’s Attorney General, is that it is legally unclear whether a constitutional convention can be contained to a limited subject, as called for in this resolution.

“…[M]ost importantly, it is not known whether an Article V convention can be limited to one topic or must be a general convention, which could hypothetically propose amendments for any provision of the federal constitution, or propose a totally novel amendment unrelated to existing constitutional provisions.

I was stunned by a statement by Sen. Karl Rhoads, quoted in Cocke’s story.

“If we don’t do anything we take a risk; if we do something we take a risk,” Rhoads is quoted as saying. “But I’m looking for the downside risk, and I don’t know if I see it.”

Apparently Senator Rhoads hasn’t noticed all the downside risk we’re experiencing these days, with Congressional district gerrymandering, voter intimidation and suppression, a federal attorney general who doesn’t think its right for courts to hold presidential power in check, ethics laws ignored, and rights being eroded, not to mention that pesky Russian interference.

We have everything to lose, and that’s very real downside risk, whether Rhoads wants to admit it or not.

As Common Cause Hawaii noted in its testimony: “Simply put, a Constitutional Convention would create an unpredictable Pandora’s Box. There is far too much at stake to risk putting the entire Constitution up for a wholesale re-write as part of a Constitutional Convention.”

You can find recent testimony on this bill by going to its status page, and clicking on links to testimony on the right side of the page.

Update: The reso has been quietly recommitted to committee. This appears to mean that it is dead for this year, at least.

Required reading?

One interesting answer was set out in a New York Times column on Sunday, “Why You Should Read Books You Hate.”

It appears to have had an earlier title: “The joy of hate reading.”

Here’s the key paragraph:

…reading what you hate helps you refine what it is you value, whether it’s a style, a story line or an argument. Because books are long-form, they require more of the writer and the reader than a talk show or Facebook link. You can finish watching a movie in two hours and forget about it; not so a novel. Sticking it out for 300 pages means immersing yourself in another person’s world and discovering how it feels. That’s part of what makes books you despise so hard to dismiss. Rather than toss the book aside, turn to the next page and wrestle with its ideas. What about them makes you so uncomfortable?

And more:

It was only by burrowing through books that I hated, books that provoked feelings of outrage and indignation, that I truly learned how to read. Defensiveness makes you a better reader, a closer, more skeptical reader: a critic. Arguing with the author in your head forces you to gather opposing evidence. You may find yourself turning to other texts with determination, stowing away facts, fighting against the book at hand. You may find yourself developing a point of view.

The reader comments are also interesting. Many are in agreement. Others argue that with so many great books still unread, why waste your time on ones that you end up hating?

Sticking to reading through books you hate requires the luxury of time, which most of us don’t really have these days.

Another readers laments: “Unfortunately for most Americans you can stop with “Why you should read books…””

In any case, it’s a good read and a good argument to have.

Parallels between Russian media meddling and right-wing propaganda spin

Media Matters for America had a good story this week describing changes in the news food chain, as fringe media have developed techniques to shoehorn misleading or false stories into the news (“The Susan Rice Unmasking Story Is A Perfect Case Study Of The New Pro-Trump Propaganda Ecosystem“).

Groups that used to be contained to their own bubble have been able to insert themselves into the food chain and been able to spread not just misleading, but patently false information to right-wing outlets and sometimes even in turn to mainstream media. A new dubious allegation regarding Susan Rice, former national security adviser to President Barack Obama, illustrates how this new pattern can spread pro-Trump misinformation and propaganda from fringe sources into mainstream media outlets.

What’s interesting to me is that this incestuous and multi-layered Alt-Right media machinery looks very much like the system used by the Russians in their attempt to support tRump’s candidacy in the 2016 U.S. elections.

Reread the Washington Post’s coverage, or go to the intelligence agencies’ report to Congress (at least the unclassified version).

From the Post:

The Russian campaign during this election season, researchers from both groups say, worked by harnessing the online world’s fascination with “buzzy” content that is surprising and emotionally potent, and tracks with popular conspiracy theories about how secret forces dictate world events.

Some of these stories originated with RT and Sputnik, state-funded Russian information services that mimic the style and tone of independent news organizations yet sometimes include false and misleading stories in their reports, the researchers say. On other occasions, RT, Sputnik and other Russian sites used social-media accounts to amplify misleading stories already circulating online, causing news algorithms to identify them as “trending” topics that sometimes prompted coverage from mainstream American news organizations.

The speed and coordination of these efforts allowed Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience. Some of the first and most alarming tweets after Clinton fell ill at a Sept. 11 memorial event in New York, for example, came from Russian botnets and trolls, researchers found. (She was treated for pneumonia and returned to the campaign trail a few days later.)

That’s very much like what Media Matters describes taking place in the case of the Susan Rice “story.”