Monday, November 24, 2014

ASKING FOR IT

If you missed the original Rolling Stone article on the pervasiveness of rape at the University of Virginia- and many other campuses across the country if the Title IX investigation is any measure- you'd get little sense of the substance of the piece from official and media reaction


We're hearing a lot of "shocked-shocked" reactions from the school- and Virginia politicians- as if this was the first they heard of it, despite the university's awareness of, if not complicity in dealing with it.


There's a lot of "we need to stop these rapes from happening" (duh) but for the most part the essence of the article is ignored. Because while there's a lot of condemnation of fraternities- where the incident cited in the article took place- and they have been shut down temporarily at U Va, no one is talking about the culture that has allowed the attitudes toward women behind the actions to still be pervasive among our young adults, even after generations of efforts to reverse them.


The article is not really about not the specific case of gang rape of freshman "Jackie"- wrongly described as a "graphic depiction" by the press- but the fact that we are still plagued by a misogynistic generation of men who think nothing of sexual violence and who are not just enabled by university officials but whose actions are indeed protected by other students, including many if not most women on campus.


Although there have been media citations regarding pressure to avoid hurting the reputation of U Va, the article goes into depth as to how the real pressure was apparently from other women who warned "Jackie" that she would be shunned and black-balled from the alcohol-fueled "party scene" at the "#1-ranked party school" should she speak out or "make a big deal about it."


That was the most distressing part of the article. The focus on the "gang rape that happened that night" at "that fraternity" ignores the fact that we are still producing children who accept rape and even encourage it with a 20th century mindset that blames the woman or takes a "boys will be boys" attitude.


It's hard for those of us who have been involved in the feminist movement for decades and thought we have made progress to find out that, despite all attempts and claims of success in, at a minimum raising awareness, our children are no different than their grandparents.


But if the media coverage continues to see this as a plague of individual events at U Va or even at schools across the country rather than a problem of a culture that still raises children who haven't learned to respect women, we may never make any progress.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

HELP: GENIUS WANTED

I need someone a lot smarter than I am to help me with some simple research.


I have been thinking lately about how the "median income" - a dollar amount representing a point at which the number of people earning above that amount equals the number of people earning below it- may not really be as representative of levels of wealth and poverty as would be the "average" income- the amount that is reached by adding up all the incomes and dividing the result by the number of people "earning" that income.


So I started by Googleing "average income in Hawai`i" and the results, only showed "median income." At first I thought of Googleing "no you idiot, I said AVERAGE" until I came across an article that reminded me that the "average" anything is also called the "mean."


Fair enough- I'm the idiot. So I Googled "mean income in Hawai`i" and without exception, I got a page of listings for "median" income.


Now I did get an occasional reference to "per capita income." But that isn't the mean income. Per capita would denote the total of all income made divided by the total number of all residents, including people like children, the unemployed or others with zero income.


The problem with "median income," which, according to Wikipedia, was $68,020 in 2013 in Hawai`i, is that the dollar amounts above the median could conceivably, for argument sake, "average," $300,000 per year while the mean for those below it could average only $25,000 a year.


Meaning that the rich are a lot richer and the poor are a lot poorer than the $68,020 median- which seems pretty high to begin with- would seem to indicate to statistically-challenged idiots like me.


Based on nothing but noting the poverty of the regular working people I know who make $8-12 an hour and the relative apparent opulence of those who live in million dollar homes or half-million dollar Honolulu high rise condos I get the feeling that - surprise surprise- "median income" statistics are either lies or damnable lies.


Even at the $12 an hour rate, for a 40 hour work week that comes out to just a smidgeon under $25,000 a year. At $10/hr it's just under $21,000.


Is there a research/data/ statistical genius out there who can figure out the "mean" income for those above and below the median income. I have gone to the US Census and they don't even have "mean" just "per capita" and "median."


I started a math major in college but I never claimed to be any good at arithmetic. I remain your humble numerical idiot.

Friday, October 24, 2014

I'D LIKE TO SOLVE THE PUZZLE, PAT- IS IT "NO F*CKING WAY?"

As you might expect, the three Kaua`i County Charter Amendments on the ballot November 4 are meant to consolidate power in the hands of the mayor and reduce transparency by asking "trick" questions that don't really tell voters what the real intent- much less content- might be.


So let's play "Who do you trust?"


Ballot Question #1:
Shall the Department of Personnel Services be changed to the Department of Human Resources, with additional human resources functions?


This first one may look like the long-awaited change to get rid of our Department of Personnel and replace it with a modern day Department of Human Resources. But like the fake change a few years back from having an "Administrative Assistant" to a "Managing Director," it is merely a change in title.


It does do one more thing- it takes a whole list of powers away from the Civil Service Commission and give them to the newly renamed Director of Human Resources who is appointed by and answers to (drum poll please)... the mayor.


The Department of Personnel has been the seat of the infamous Kaua`i patronage system for decades and rather than ending that this amendment would finally put practice in print by giving the mayor even more control over who gets "merit-based" civil service positions.


How? Well, it removes the phrase "All positions in the county, except those exempted by law, shall be under civil service" and adds "The director of human resources shall be responsible for the execution of the human resources management program which shall include" followed by a list of general functions that used to be, in theory, under the perusal of the Civil Service Commission.


But at the bottom of the list it adds (hides?) the phrase "other related duties as may be determined by the Mayor"... presumably, now officially, including the appointment of hizzonah's cousin-guys to that new opening in public works.


This one stinks like Mount Kekaha. Vote "No" and tell them you want a real Human Resources Department.


---------


Then we have "Hide the Salami for 1000 Alex"


Ballot Question #2
Should the county be allowed to publish summaries of charter amendments or a new charter in a newspaper of general circulation and the entire text on the official website of the County of Kauai?


This one simply allows them to stop publishing the full text of charter amendments in the newspaper and do that only at the cumbersome, unsearchable county web site- although you'd never know that to look at the question. It makes it sound like this is a wonderful, new additional service we don't have now. By failing to use the words "instead of" it doesn't arouse suspicion... or for that matter communicate the true intent.


Although there aren't any statistics for how many people aren't on-line on Kaua`i , there are probably a lot considering the local newspaper is free on the internet yet it still has the print circulation to survive.


The real question should be "Should the county be allowed to publish only summaries of charter amendments or a new charter in a newspaper of general circulation instead of the currently required entire text, and publish the entire text only on the official web site of County of Kaua`i?"


But why confuse the already bamboozled, eh?


If this is the kind of flim-flam "summary" that we'll be getting in the newspaper from now on it will assure that it's even more of a supreme hassle to look for what they are really planning to do... and that less people will bother to do it.


---------


Okay twice-divorced "Dating Game" contestants - is it "the third one is the charm" or "if you agree to it you'll be a three time loser."

Ballot Question #3
"Shall Charter section 27.07 regarding recall ballots be amended to comply with State law and to meet voting system requirements?"


Whatever those "state requirements" may be if they even exist since the state elections bureau is notorious for not having administrative rules.


This is yet another of our favorite type of "trick" question, used in the past to dupe voters into removing the county charter's open meeting law- which was permissibly stricter than the state's Sunshine Law- by asking us if the charter should "comply" with the state law.


Although the question on the ballot says nothing about the actual change to the charter it would change the sentence (* added to denote the change) "Immediately *to the right* of the proposition there shall be designated spaces in which to mark the ballot FOR or AGAINST the recall" to "Immediately *next to* the proposition there shall be designated spaces in which to mark the ballot FOR or AGAINST the recall," changing the words "to the right of" to "next to."


We've tried to figure out the no doubt sinister motive behind this to no avail. That and the fact that the question has nothing to do with the actual change in wording makes us even more suspicious.


But as usual the things that really need change are not on the menu.


Just about everybody agrees that the perennially broken charter section regarding "The Office of the County Attorney" could use some changes, perhaps making it an elective office or at least noting that he or she should serve the public. It has also been proposed that it should, at a minimum, be changed to a "Corporation Counsel" system as all the other counties use... although they would probably just propose changing the name without changing the current arrangement that was seemingly intentionally designed to cause a natural conflict-of-interest in serving both the council and the administration.


Or maybe a change to elect the police and/or planning commissions.


Or an amendment to create a Department of Environmental Protection like Maui has.


Or allowing for council confirmation of department heads. Not requiring any of them (except for the county attorney) to have to be confirmed by the council when being appointed by the mayor explains in a large way why we are said to have a "strong mayor system." Which also explains the pervasive administrative corruption since department heads are not required to even show up if the council wants to have a little chat. You'll notice how council agendas "request the presence" of say, the county engineer or planning director.


It's something that would be much more effective in terms of administration accountability than having some meaningless "county manager system" since any change in how we select the administrative chief is meaningless compared to having the right person in the job.


Yeah- those'll all happen. We've only been working on them for 35 years.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

IS IT FARTHER TO L.A. OR BY BUS?

In any compendium of incompetence our local Kaua`i newspaper has it's own volume. But the current editor has  brought drivel and illiteracy to previously unparalleled heights and depths, respectively .  

With "Yes," "No" and "Maybe" choices, today's "poll" asks:

"Do you think James Pflueger, 88, received the appropriate sentence (seven months in jail, 5 years probation) for his role in the the (sic) Ka Loko dam failure on March 14, 2006 that killed seven people?"

Leaving aside the question of why on earth a person go to the trouble of answering an opinion poll question with a "maybe,"  exactly what information does a "no" convey? 

It certainly doesn't indicate whether you think it's too little... or for that matter, too much. It's enough to befuddle Goldilocks.

Garbage in, garbage out- how appropriate for the The Garbage Island.

Next week's question: If you're flying in a canoe and your ears fall off, how many elephants can you fit in a dog house? Hint: Ice cream has no bones.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

(PNN) ZUCKEBERG IS NEW "MYSTERY" OWNER OF LEPE`ULI

We now know who bought the Bowman's Lepe`uli property that include the ancient Alaloa and beach access trials- Mark Zuckerberg who owns Facebook, according to Pacific Business News.


According to testimony before the Kaua`i County Council the then-unknown buyer intended to withdraw the previously approved subdivision of the property where 80 "gentlemen farms" were planned. Testimony indicated that it could have been many more lots if it had been "CPRed." But just as important as scratching the subdivision it self, the development would have forced the county to take a difficult rocky beach access rather than the gently sloping existing ancient trail down to "Larson's" (Lepe`uli) beach.


And, it was said by the attorneys, the new owner said he would not develop it.


Previously after a "full court press" by the administration and the county attorney's office, the council was poised to approve that access for months but rather deferred action over and over due to objections from the public, especially from Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiians).


Councilmembers Tim Bynum and Gary Hooser were instrumental in delaying the action until the property was eventually sold, despite having been told there was nothing they could do to stop it by Deputy County Attorney Maunakea Trask.


If true, Zuckerberg has apparently given a true gift to the people of Kaua`i however for now the future of the Alaloa has yet to be determined.


UPDATE: Here's an article from Forbes on Mark Zuckerberg's Pila`a and Waipake purchase. It seems to have different information that the Pacific Business News article.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

WHOSE GAME IS THIS ANYWAY?

We don't complain much, do we? (Don't answer that). But Richard Borreca is stealing my material.

In his pay-walled "On Politics" column today he leads by saying:


---
"You look up and down the bench and you have to say to yourself, 'Can't anybody here play this game?'"


Casey Stengel said that about his 1962 Mets ballclub that lost 120 of its 160 games.


If the baseball coach who had won five championships with the New York Yankees were alive today, he might say the same thing watching Hawaii's state and city government swing and miss the slow pitches."
-----


HEY DICKIE-BOY...THAT'S OUR JOKE. Not only was "Can't Anyone Here Play This Game" an actual "tag" at this "blog" but it was a running joke no less that 20 times from 2008-2013.


Stand-up comedians have performed vengeful, twisted practical jokes for less.


Actually Borecca is snootily infamous for his abhorrence of "blogs," having claimed to have "never read one" apparently relegating them to some kind of "glorified gossip columnist" genre... that is until they began appearing as an essential part of most news-gathering and reporting organizations.


So it's possible his pompous dinosaurism- and this goes double for his content which apparently purports that repetitions of conventional wisdom are actually Borreccian pearls of wisdom- has allowed him to be blissfully ignorant of anyone's content but his own.


We'll take it as "plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery."

Sunday, July 20, 2014

PNN News Analysis: NO LEGAL BASIS EXISTS FOR COUNCIL TO DECIDE "CHARTER AMENDMENT VS INITIATIVE" QUESTION; CONSIDERATION ITSELF OVERSTEPS AUTHORITY

News analysis by Andy Parx


(PNN) -- "Is it a cat or a dog," Kaua`i County Council Chair Jay Furfaro has infamously asked regarding the "Kaua`i Rising (KR)" charter amendment ballot petition- one which the county attorney claims is really an "initiative" disguised as a "charter amendment."


Well, legally the answer is essentially, it's none of their business.


The council will meet Wednesday to figure out whether to "receive" the petition so that the county clerk can verify and count the signatures for what KR says is a charter amendment. But Deputy Attorney Mona Clark issued an opinion at the last meeting claiming that "(t)he substance of the petition determines the required procedure."


That second sentence of her written opinion is actually a false premise. And, as is usual with any postulate, as the late great Johnny Carson used to say of his comedy pieces, "if you buy the premise you buy the bit."


But it's hard- make that impossible- to find any justification for that premise in the actual words in the county charter, the overriding document that governs the county like a state or federal constitution.


What difference does it make? Well the charter calls for 5% of the number of voters in the last election to sign a charter amendment petition while an "initiative" requires 20%.


Two court decisions regarding the two past Kaua`i citizen-petition charter amendments have struck them down saying, at least in the case of the first one, that it had elements of an "initiative," defined as a ballot measure which creates an ordinance or a "law," something otherwise passed by the council.


But, in the more-than-a-decade since the original ruling the county has failed to act to clarify the plain words in the charter regarding the process for certifying charter amendment petition.


In those two petitions the "cat or dog" question never came up until they were already enacted by the electorate with the council in both cases simply doing what the charter requires of them- be the body with which the petition is filed before the county clerk processes it.


The charter simply says of charter amendment petitions that as long as a few technical requirements are met:


"Upon filing of such petition with the council, the county clerk shall examine it to see whether it contains a sufficient number of valid signatures of registered voters."


That's it. No ifs, ands or buts. The council has no part in the process but to receive the filing. And the clerks role is simply to determine sufficiency of form and if there are enough valid signatures.

An initiative has a completely different process that includes giving the county attorney the power to essentially make changes to the petition whereas with a charter amendment the county attorney can only suggest changes.

The reality is that nowhere- not in the charter, not in any ordinance and not in any rule- is there any provision that gives the Kaua`i County Council any legal authority whatsoever to reject- or even consider rejecting- any citizen-initiated charter amendment petition for any reason.


And certainly nowhere does it say, as the county attorney did in her opinion, that


"The County can refuse to process a petition for a Charter amendment based on noncompliance with the Charter. The substance of the petition determines the required procedure. If a petition for an ordinance is labeled a charter amendment, it still remains an initiative and must comply with the procedures for an initiative. Both the County Council and the County Clerk have authority to refuse to process an initiative as a charter amendment."


While the opinion is allegedly based on the Hawai`i Supreme Court ruling a decade ago as to what distinguishes a charter provision from an initiative- in a case where essentially the county sued the county (yes indeedy, you read that right- the county attorney sued the mayor)- nowhere does the ruling instruct the county on what to do or how to do it or give the council or the clerk the power to reject a citizen petition based on which kind of animal they think it is.


That part came solely from the mind and pen of Clark.


While the county council and the charter review commission have discussed what to do about this potential "constitutional crisis" as presented by the rulings they have essentially sat on their duffs and the law remains the same as it was before the two petitions went to the ballot.


That means that the law is very clear- the only thing that separates an initiative from a charter amendment is what the petitioners call it.


And in this case that is a charter amendment, not an initiative.


And we may be mistaken but we don't believe there have been any court rulings saying if the county doesn't like the law they can ignore it and do as they please. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1803 in Marbury v Madison that we are "a government of laws and not of men"... and certainly not of autonomous Kaua`i County Councilmembers or their attorneys.


The Hawai`i Supreme Court in fact is also very clear as to what to do in interpreting laws. According to Awakuni v. Awana (2007), before getting into any interpretive gymnastics you must look at "the language of the statute itself," saying:


"First, the fundamental starting point for statutory interpretation is the language of the statute itself. Second, where the statutory language is plain and unambiguous, our sole duty is to give effect to its plain and obvious meaning." (emphasis added)


As we said, the law is plain- "upon filing of such petition with the council, the county clerk shall examine it to see whether it contains a sufficient number of valid signatures..." It doesn't say "oh, but the council can reject it if they feel like it or if their attorney comes up with some convoluted reason to do so." And it certainly doesn't allow their clerk- yes, a clerk- to do so either.


At the July 9 council meeting when a tie vote caused the matter to come up as the Special Order of the Day at the very beginning of this Wednesday’s (July 23) meeting, Councilmember Tim Bynum detailed it well.


After Councilmember Gary Hooser pointed out that the process has always been to receive the petition and pass it on to the clerk and to do otherwise this time would be at best unfair, at worst unlawful, Bynum detailed the history of the past decade plus.


That included revealing his own emails from a few years back predicatively pointing out the potential for the current "crisis" and the existence of a resultant still-secret county attorney opinion issued on the heels of the second successful charter amendment petition and subsequent court ruling.


The emails demonstrate how the county had every opportunity to introduce and pass it's own charter amendment clarifying things and instead sat and figuratively twiddled their thumbs.


And of course the charter review commission has been debating this year whether to "equalize" the two by either lowering the number of signatures for an initiative or raising the number for a charter amendment. But they couldn't agree on which to do and neither will appear on the ballot this November.


Not only that but the very charter section cited above was altered in a technical amendment in the 2012 election without addressing the "cat or a dog" question.


At the last council meeting Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura went on at length with lawyerly questioning of Clark with an eye toward how the council could go about rejecting the KR petition but never questioning whether they had that power based on the law to begin with.


She eventually cast a "silent" vote which, according to council rules, goes "with the motion" meaning it is essentially a yes vote. That left the seven member body in a 3-3 tie with the excused absence of Councilmember Mel Rapozo.


He is seen a sure "no" vote this week due to his presumed opposition to the substance of the petition regarding further regulation of the chemical "biotech" industry's pesticide/GMO (genetically modified organism) experiments on the island in the wake of the passage of Ordinance 960 (Bill 2491) last year.


The problematic "no" votes were those of Councilmember Mason Chock and Chair Furfaro who were swayed by the complexities presented by Clark and Yukimura, feeling that Clark's opinion was some kind of edict based on a court ruling rather than just an "opinion" and so leaving the question of process and following the law obscured.


It was easy to see why. For one thing no one had any time to read much less analyze the opinion because it was handed out only minutes before the meeting.


Few but the introducers and their attorneys would disagree that the past two charter amendment petitions were submitted as such because of the four-fold number of signatures required for an initiative. And with both being struck down by the courts KR's effort is no doubt destined to end up in court too no matter what anyone does on Wednesday.


If the council rejects it, KR will no doubt sue. And if the council accepts it the county will no doubt go to court for a declaratory ruling or wait for passage and then get a definitive ruling on it from the courts. If they don't you can be sure the chemical cartel will.


The simplest thing to do would be to accept the petition and "count the votes- er, signatures" as councilmembers kept saying during the last meeting, apparently having the 2000 presidential election in Florida on the brain after Bynum mistakenly said it in passing.


Then the county can go to court for a "quick" declaratory ruling. It would not only be the most efficient but the most economical path.


But mostly it would follow the plain words of the Kaua`i County Charter.


Many if not most in movement to regulate the use of pesticides and GMOs on Kaua`i have been, shall we say, less than enthused at the petition effort. The document extraordinarily long, contradictory, at times impossibly and bafflingly confusing and probably illegal for many more reasons than the "cat or dog" question. And it was foisted on the community by a rich north shore developer, Joan Porter, and organized by the brusk, always incommunicado leader of KR, Michael Shooltz, and prepared by a mainland attorney who had apparently had little or no idea what Hawai`i and Kaua`i law says.


It usurped much of the energy that could have been used to pass the real "next step" if they had simply consulted with the grassroots members of the community that rallied to pass Bill 2491. Most think KR's idea of having a Department of the Environment is a good one- one that Maui has already adopted.


But instead they not only ignored the concerns of those on Kaua`i with a little political savvy but refused all help and in fact would not even return emails containing suggestions- including suggestions that would have corrected technical errors on the petition that led to the rejection of the first round of signatures and caused KR to have to go out and collect them over again from scratch.


As a matter of fact KR's link to the the new "purple petition" containing supposedly new text is broken and doesn't work.


Going into the July 9 meeting we were among those who had had it up to here with the effort and were willing to listen and even agreed with those who argued that the courts had said that, since substance determined whether a measure is a charter amendment or an initiative, the county council should reject it if it "smelled like an initiative." And after much testimony, first from Clark and then from Shooltz, Potter and their mainland attorney, we were ready to declare the substance of the measure to be a "cat."


But Bynum's and Hooser's comments made us see that the real "process" in question is whether a group of citizens followed the rules and, just as importantly, based their efforts on past actions by the county. They and they alone are the ones who, according to the charter, have the right to say "it's a dog."


And we say "woof."


We don't expect Councilmembers Ross Kagawa or Mel Rapozo to vote yes to receiving the petition, counting the signatures and allowing the petition to go to the November ballot. But we expect more nuanced thinking from Chock and, we can only hope, Furfaro... and maybe even a recognition on the part of Yukimura that the legal basis for the a council determination is nowhere to be found in the plain words and meaning of the law.


If you would like to respectfully give your mana`o and urge Councilmembers Chock, Furfaro and Yukimura to allow the counting of the signatures as a charter amendment you can email them at mchock@kauai.gov , JFurfaro@kauai.gov and jyukimura@kauai.gov respectively. You can also testify on the measure by emailing counciltestimony@kauai.gov .


The meeting begins at 8:45 a.m. this Wednesday July 23 and will be streamed live on-line at the county's webcast site.