Category Archives: Politics

Answering Clinton’s Wall Street challenge

This from Bob, a friend and former neighbor in Kaaawa.

First, he flagged this excerpt from a story in today’s New York Times regarding last night’s Democratic debate (“Hillary Clinton Is Again Put on the Defensive Over Perceived Ties to Wall Street“).

At one point, she challenged her opponent to identify even one example of how her Wall Street contributions or paid speaking fees resulted in a favor from her, calling the implication an “artful smear” by Mr. Sanders. “If you’ve got something to say, say it directly, but you will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation that I ever received,” Mrs. Clinton said.

He then linked to a short 2004 interview with Elizabeth Warren, which provides at least one response to Clinton’s challenge.

Elizabeth Warren on when Hillary changed position after taking money from Wall Street.”

Looking back at the roots of Hawaii’s prison crisis

My Civil Beat column this week tries to explain the modern history of Hawaii’s prison system, which began in the 1960s and 1970s as a plan to create a modern and humane way to deal with crime (“Ian Lind: Falling Short Again On Prisons“).

It’s a sad story of bureaucratic inertia, administrative infighting, and political opportunism destroying what was seen at the time as a remarkably innovative plan to recreate and modernize the state’s prison system.

I’ve gotten just one comment so far on the column, an email from an old friend who has spent his life dealing with prison issues. Russ Immarigeon wrote:

I just read your recent column about prison-building plans in Hawaii. What a terrific column! Man, it’s so rare to hear someone with such a fine sense of the history of failure of prison-building proposals. Not only that, I think you hit the target on why past plans failed and future plans are likely to fail.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the Civil Beat column.

Forty years ago, Hawaii tried to re-envision and reform the state’s old and obsolete prison system. The aim: to create a prison system second to none.

The magazine of the American Correctional Association, an organization of prison professionals, reported that Hawaii’s new prisons were expected to be “the most modern, the most humane and the most sophisticated anywhere.”

But even as the new buildings were going up, the widely hailed vision was being undermined by bureaucratic inertia and infighting, and by the Legislature’s failure to fund key parts of the system.

And with a surge in crime brought about, in part, by the unprecedented size of the the baby boom generation, we saw the arrival of a new political era that leveraged the fear of crime into a potent campaign issue, first nationally and then locally.

Instead of leading the nation, Hawaii’s new prison system was overcrowded on the day it opened. The state has spent much of the past several decades struggling with chronic overcrowding and administrative woes, continuing allegations of civil rights violations, lawsuits, and repeated periods of direct federal supervision of several of its facilities.

In the process, the explosive growth of the prison population has become a huge drain on the state’s budget, pulling money away from desperate needs in education, health care, family services, and on and on.

This history is rather depressing.

But the current reality is even more depressing.

The prisons have become a sacred cow. The public knows little about what goes on in them because they have become closed institutions and because most of us don’t want to know.

We’ve lost the understanding that these aren’t simply “criminals”, but are sons, brothers, uncles, and friends who have gotten into trouble and need a way out.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, there was more community concern about what went on in our prisons and jails. There were community groups with considerable social and political clout that were actively involved in prison issues. Things didn’t go totally unnoticed.

Today it seems quite different. The prison and jails are far more isolated from daily life of the rest of the public. Weak administration allows chronic conditions to continue (poor health care for prisoners, excessive overtime and favoritism among guards, inability to staff family visits, etc, etc).

And now, with preciously little attention to the deeper issues, Governor Ige is pressing for approval to commit half a billion dollars to moving the Oahu Correctional Center so that developers can access the current site in Kalihi, and other private interests can profit on constructing a new facility. All with little, if any, public discussion of why we’re doing this and, far more importantly, where this is taking us.

I hope that some of you have access to CB and can check out the column.

Demographics of Sanders-Clinton backers spells trouble for Dems

Here’s an excerpt from a New Yorker article following the Iowa caucuses (“Bernie Sanders Just Changed the Democratic Party” by John Cassidy).

Speaking on CNN as it got late, David Axelrod, President Obama’s former campaign manager, made an acute point. One of Hillary’s problems is that her campaign is largely about her—her experience, her electability, and her toughness. “I will keep doing what I have done my entire life,” she said in her non-victory speech. “I will keep standing up for you. I will keep fighting for you.” Sanders, on the other hand, rarely mentions himself in his speeches. His campaign is all about his message of taking America back from the billionaires. And, as Axelrod pointed out, it is often easier to inspire people, particularly young people, with an uplifting theme than with a résumé.

And the article highlights the significant age gap between the two candidates.

Sanders captures the under-40 voters by a large margin, while Clinton did far better than Sanders among voters over 40.

A Washington Post analysis points out that this exceeds the youth support claimed by President Obama in 2008 (“Bernie Sanders crushed Hillary Clinton by 70 points among young voters in Iowa“)

The most amazing stat coming out of the Iowa Democratic caucuses is this one: Among voters between the ages of 17 and 29, Bernie Sanders won 84 percent of the vote to Hillary Clinton’s 14 percent.

That’s astounding, even given the fact that we knew going into the caucuses that Sanders, a 74-year-old socialist, was clearly the choice of young people in the state. How astounding? Barack Obama won the 17-29 vote by “only” 43 points in the 2008 Iowa Democratic caucuses. (Clinton finished third among young voters in Iowa in 2008; she got 11 percent of the vote.) Yes, Obama faced more — and more serious —opponents. But still.

If Iowa proved that Sanders is the candidate of Democratic youths, it also showed why young people aren’t likely to carry him to the nomination. Why? There just aren’t enough of them.

For the Democratic Party, this is a troubling and dangerous bifurcation between younger and older voters. Once a candidate is selected, the divide somehow has to be bridged if the party isn’t going to flounder in the general election.

Hawaiian convention off to a rough start

Following news reports on the opening of the Nai Aupuni Native Hawaiian constitutional convention made my head hurt.

As Hawaii News Now reported:

Molokai activist Walter Ritte signed up to run in the Na’i Aupuni election, but later dropped out. He was turned away at the entrance to the Royal Hawaiian Golf Club even though he said he just wanted to observe the proceedings.

Organizers told Ritte to return on Tuesday, after the participants had a chance to discuss whether to allow non-participants into the convention.

“It was such a bad situation. How can you build a Hawaiian nation by dividing us like this right from the get-go and keeping the Hawaiians out so they cannot see what’s going on?” said Ritte.

Let me try to understand that one. Ritte was all set to be a regular participant in the convention, but then bailed out for his own reasons, rejecting the whole process. Now, not much later, he’s outside protesting his inability to be there in the room?

And blaming others for the “bad situation”?

Give me a break. That’s a pretty twisted view of events.

Opening the doors of the convention to the public won’t be workable, and favoring some “observers” over others will just be a whole new can of worms.

So sit back and let the delegates see if they can reach consensus on anything.

If you find any social media threads especially useful in getting a sense of what’s going on inside, please share the links here. I’m sure there are lots of folks who would be interested in following the back-and-forth.

Fatal Kailua boating incident again raises “cult” allegedly linked to Hawaii Congresswoman

A series of anonymous but detailed online articles have linked the alleged driver and the owner of a zodiac involved in a fatal boating incident in Kailua last month to a cult with numerous ties to Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

The cult is led by Chris Butler, who also uses the name Siddha Swarupananda Paramahansa Parbhupad, according to published accounts.

Butler is the son of the late Willis Butler, a physician well known for his radical views, and during the Cold War was dubbed by local media as “the Red doctor of Molokai” for his socialist and Communist associations.

Hawaii News Now reported last month that the alleged driver of the zodiac was well known for operating the craft dangerously in waters off Kailua and Lanikai (“Boat operator in fatal Kailua boating accident known for speeding“).

Using the television station’s video of the boat apparently involved in the fatal incident, an online report identified the boat’s owner and driver as members of the Butler cult, and alleges Gabbard is a part of the cult’s inner circle.

An owner of another of the zodiacs associated with the Butler cult is named in one of the accounts as Nimai Titcomb, reportedly a nephew of President Obama’s high school friend and golfing buddy, Bobby Titcomb.

This Facebook comment thread is full of interesting allegations and observations.

Stories of Gabber’s association with the Butler cult have circulated for years (see Civil Beat, “Krishna Cult Rumors Still Dog Tulsi Gabbard,” published in March 2015).