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Where There’s Smoke, There’s Usually a Smokescreen

08/15/2012

Welcome everyone to the new and expanded General Election season in Hawaii. For the first time, we get to endure 3 months of newspaper, television, radio,and internet political ads. I’m just glad I that I DVR all my TV shows and listen to NPR so I can avoid most of them!

It isn’t that I don’t want to hear what candidates have to say. It’s that I can’t stand the methods that they employ.
  • #1: “glorified resume reading” and “lookie, lookie at what Iʻve done”
  • #2: “I’m an outsider who will fight for you against the big guys” or “stay with a proven quantity”
  • #3: “I care about you but my opponent doesn’t” or “I’m like you but my opponent isn’t”
By now, almost everyone has dispensed with #1 and has moved on to #2. This is where you as a voter need to be wary because outsiders and insiders look an awful lot alike. In the Senate race, you’re going to see Lingle ads asking you to break the Democratic stranglehold of the the D.C. delegation. She will portray herself as the outsider who breaths new life into the Senate. Somehow, with all the RNC and super-PAC money she is getting, her definition of outsider is highly suspicious. Then you have Ben Cayetano who will trot out his rags to riches story and tell you how he has always been the outsider. Again, if you look (and not even that closely) you will see how this doesn’t ring true. Here is a man who was Lieutenant Governor for 8 years, Governor for another 8 years, raised more money than 2 Primary opponents, and who is close friends with Governor Abercrombie. Tell me again how he qualifies as an outsider?

As Iʻve said before, single-issue politics makes me crazy. Unless the one issue is repelling an alien invasion, nothing can be so important that it makes all others irrelevant. In the Mayorʻs race, Mr. Cayetanoʻs campaign was founded on a promise to halt the rail project at any cost. During the debates, he brought out a new issue of fiscal responsibility and the bogey-man spectre of Honolulu being run into the ground by… you got it… rail. He cites the examples of Stockton and San Bernadino which he thinks are comparable to Honolulu. I found this article about the California bankruptcies plus a few more and it seems to me that their situation had more to do with the overall financial health of California and many bad choices by their elected officials rather than a single project like rail.

The part of the campaign that I really dread is when the candidates get into tactic #3. Their television commercials will be filled with multi-racial families and localisms to get you to see how much they are like you. The worst example I can think of is the 1996 mayoral campaign where Arnold Morgadoʻs slogan was “Local Roots, Local Values”. Talk about pandering.

My point here is that voters need to be wary. We live in a world where candidates will say just about anything to get elected. Itʻs going to be a long road to the General Election so be vigilant.
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Retreat or Surrender?

08/13/2012

In the face of overwhelming odds, the smart tactician knows when to retreat, and eventually, when to surrender. He weighs the benefits of counter attack or falling back to a fortified position. Basically, the idea is cut losses in order and maximize what can be gotten.

 

Today, I feel like a company commander under siege after the announcement of Paul Ryan for VP. Every media site and social media is filled “informed” punditry blabbing about how this affects the race. Worse yet, every moron (re: far-left or far-right wingnut) with a computer is trying to tell me how their viewpoint is now valid. It isn’t that they have anything new to say, rather that they now feel justified in recycling old stories and explaining how it is now relevant.

 

Enough! I surrender.

 

When it comes to national politics, probably the only perk of living in Hawaii is that I can ignore the presidential contest. Here are the reasons:
  1. I don’t have any national following as a blogger so I’m not going to be swaying voters in a battleground state.
  2. Unlike some people I know, I understand that social media rants don’t sway voters.
  3. Regardless of how I vote, President Obama will win in a landslide in Hawaii.
  4. Even if I’m wrong about #3, the 4 electoral votes that can be won from our state will never make a difference.

Here are the benefits:

  1. I can concentrate on races and issues that actually affect my life.
  2. I get to speak to an audience that is more likely to listen to my reasoning.
  3. I don’t have to read another biased article about or rambling transcript of Mitt Romney, Michelle Bachman, or that lunatic Congressman from Texas. I left that one intentionally vague due to the large number of people who can fit the category.
  4. I can stop pretending that Obama is a native son instead of the product of a snobby, elitist prep school who turned his back on the state he grew up in. (but that’s just my opinion)

Don’t get me wrong. I won’t be able to swing a dead cat without catching something appalling on the news, internet, or Facebook. I just know that I can safely ignore it without any guilt.

I’m not suggesting that any of you do the same thing but, to paraphrase those wise Oompah Loompahs:

Oompa Loompa do-ba-dee-da,
Listen to me and you will go far.
You will live in happiness too,
Like the oompa loompa do-ba-dee-doo.
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Get Out and Vote Today!

08/11/2012

Voting is a right that too many people take lightly. If you choose not to be heard, others will do it for you.

Itʻs election day and I only want to remind everyone who hasnʻt already done so to get out and VOTE!

If you need any help deciding, try this or this.

If you have already voted, call friends and family and remind them.

Please, if you have any interesting experiences today, let me know.
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Rail in Honolulu

08/10/2012

I have two disclaimers regarding my position on the topic of rail in Honolulu:

#1 I catch the bus to and from work every day. As currently designed, I will probably never use the rail.

#2 I am a supporter of Kirk Caldwell.

A couple months ago, I went to a training class in Waikiki and didnʻt want to hassle with parking so I caught the bus. When the class finished at about 4:00pm, I boarded a bus on the far end of Kuhio Avenue near the zoo. It must have been shift change time because, as the bus headed out of Waikiki, it became packed with uniformed hotel-workers and almost none of them were speaking English. I point this out only to highlight that these were immigrants who work in the hotels and use public transportation daily. I got off at South King but the bus was still full and I imagined them headed to transfer points and then to areas where they lived. Areas probably outside of central Honolulu where housing costs are affordable to them.

These are real people who will benefit from rail. It will probably save them between 30 and 60 minutes of commute time every day. Additional time they will have to spend with their family that they would never have otherwise. And eventually, when the line is extended into Waikiki, they will enjoy even greater time savings. These are people who perform the work that our #1 industry relies on. Is it asking too much to do something that will benefit them?

Regarding the polls in the paper and on television. They’re welcome to do this but public policy should NEVER be driven by polls. I can’t stress this point enough because if it is, all that will get us is politicians with their finger in the air, who can never see past the next poll or election. In 2008, voters approved the rail charter amendment by a 52% – 47% margin. If rail opponents were really interested in killing the project because it is so unpopular, why didn’t they start a ballot initiative of their own? Instead, they choose to run candidates who promise to kill the project. My guess is that Mr. Cayetano is more interested in the power of the Mayor’s office than actually addressing the issue of providing the people of Honolulu with effective transportation. Otherwise, he should have left it up to the voters and trusted that they would show up to vote rail down.

Here is my perspective on the main rail issues:

  • Yes, itʻs a job program. Design, construction, and maintenance will provide jobs and tax revenue. Yes, the jobs go primarily to the construction industry but the taxes they pay benefit us all.
  • Stop whining about how much it costs you. The additional .5% tax only adds up to $50 on $10,000 spent in a year. Even if it had to be extended for a few years, whatʻs the big deal to the average tax payer? Tourists contribute a large portion of the sales tax and poor families have tax exemptions. So, all in all, it’s fair and quite reasonable.
  • News flash, the landscape and views were already spoiled by far too many hi-rise buildings from the 60ʻs and 70ʻs. Where were these same anti-rail people back then? Probably investing in those condos or living in them today. This issue is just a smokescreen by opponents looking for converts to their cause.
  • Want to keep the country, country? Rail reduces the need for expansion of the urban blight into the country areas by allowing more people to live in the Honolulu – Kapolei corridor.
  • Stop claiming that we should add more buses and increase road capacity. The existing roads are already not maintained very well. I was in a bus going down South Beretania the other day and I swear that I had fillings that were shaking loose. More buses will only make the roads worse.
  • Don’t concentrate on where it does or doesn’t go. Once the main line is in place, it is inevitable that additional routes will be added. This has happened in virtually every city where rail has been implemented.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m Positive It Isn’t Negative

08/09/2012

I’ve been hearing a lot of people complain about what they term negative campaigning. These same people tell me that they only want to hear a candidate say what they have done in the past and what they will do in the future. Basically, they want a resume recital. It seems to me that if anyone attempts to draw any contrast to their opponent, it suddenly falls into the category of negative.

In this fantasy-land scenario, these voters are practically begging to be lied to. “Sure”, says candidate A, “I promise you clear skies, smooth roads, no taxes, and a perfect future if you vote for me”. If candidate B says, “Candidate A is lying to you because he has no skills to to change the weather, no funds to repair roads, and no fiscal plan to eliminate taxes”, suddenly, B is labeled a negative campaigner. Welcome to Hawaii, ground-zero for passive/aggressive behavior in the Pacific.

I’m not even going to try and pretend to understand this mentality because I want candidates who clearly delineate differences and donʻt make me guess where they stand on an issue. I want candidates who arenʻt afraid to point out that their opponent has lied and will continue to do so if left unchecked. I also want a candidate who isn’t afraid to paint a picture of what the world will look like if their opponent is elected. Especially if that world is full of cronies that have been hiding under the candidate’s skirt during the election.

In a nutshell, hereʻs my take on what does and does not constitute negative campaigning.

Negative Campaigning Is:

* Unfounded or unprovable accusations

* Unflattering stories about family members

* Modifying photos to make an opponent look sinister

* Harping repeatedly on a single issue to the exclusion of all else

* Questioning an opponent’s character based on here say

 

Negative Campaigning Is Not:

* Comparing and contrasting past performance

* Questioning plans and asking for specifics

* Highlighting ethical lapses that, while not illegal, indicate problems

So, if you can handle a little difference of opinion, stop whining about negative campaigning and vote for a candidate that actually wants to do something instead of telling you what you want to hear.

 

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Communications 101 (Fall 2012)

08/09/2012

Maybe it’s just the fact that this is an election year but it seems to me that we’re losing the capacity to engage in reasonable discussions. It isn’t just online blather that bothers me. It’s the adversarial tone I see on television and in comments by public figures reported on the news.

I was brought up in an house where my parents set a great example by not raising their voice to make a point. I was talking to a friend who told me that her family always sits down to dinner and, along with their food, they talk about their day. Like my family growing up, they understand how important it is to share a meal and their lives. How else do you learn that screaming at someone isn’t acceptable?

The four most beautiful words in our common language–I told you so
Gore Vidal

I was reading some of the obituary pieces on Gore Vidal when I saw this quote. I didn’t know much about him but after reading, I could see how his “celebrity” mannerisms had become the template for bad behavior everywhere. All I have to do is watch a Sunday news show to see some pundit dying to say, “I told you so.” Every politician has to tell us how he has the only accurate vision of the future and amazingly, the public buys it.

I’ve had to learn the hard way that sometimes, no matter how right I am, I’m not going to convince someone of my point. When this happens, I’ve really got no choice but to be adult enough to swallow my pride and just walk away. Hopefully, there will be other days and other ways to win an argument. I think we should demand this same behavior from politicians running for office. Show that you really understand a topic by accepting that there can possibly be two sides to an argument. This “my way or the highway” attitude is for petulant children, not adults who want my vote.

If you agree that civility has a place in our society, tune out the noise and make an effort to find news and information that will allow you to make smart choices. If you don’t, you’re just one of many who I’m not going to convince that lack of civility is a curse that will lead to your demise. I can live with that.

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Bus Stop Blues

08/08/2012

When I decided to ride the bus instead of drive to work, I knew there would be trade-offs. I had to leave earlier, couldn’t carry as much stuff with me, couldn’t easily run errands after work, and sometimes had to sit and stand next to some interesting smelling people. I knew all this but decided that it just cost too much for a parking space and gas. Plus, it was the environmentally-friendly thing to do. Until recently, I had only minor quibbles with bus service.

For those of you who don’t know, The Honolulu bus system (The Bus) has a long history of winning awards and providing excellent service. I used it as a high school and college student and it was great. However, in recent years, service has deteriorated mostly due to budget cuts which I completely understand. The price of fuel skyrocketed so they needed to alter, and even eliminate, some routes. I can see running the buses less frequently in the middle of the day or later at night.

That brings me back to my situation. I catch the #9 bus at the very top of Waialae Ave. and get off at what would be considered the other end of that street. This morning, and many mornings for the past 2 months, the bus was packed. It has nothing to do with school because only one kid got off at Kaimuki high school. I don’t know if they eliminated one bus from the morning schedule but I do know that it is a tinier bus that now picks me up! So, as if it weren’t bad enough to be standing, I’m standing in a cramped aisle.

As I was standing in the bus, I couldn’t help noticing the advertising placard for HEA, the bus GPS/locator application that is supposed to tell you when a bus will arrive at a stop. When I first discovered this service, I was actually ecstatic. A website that could tell me when to be where to catch a bus? What a concept! Then reality set in. When it worked, it was great, when it didnʻt, it was worse than a fraud. It wasnʻt just that times were off. Evidently, there are invisible buses and I donʻt have the special glasses to see them.

If you or someone you know is a bus rider, please let me know. Letʻs band together and demand better service!

***Inserted Text***
When I went to the Support Forum for HEA, I discovered that it has practically been abandoned. There are a few questions posted but no answers.