Thursday, July 21, 2016

ACCOUNT-A-BULL-ITY


"Stop us before we appropriate again?"


The now-defeated proposed Kaua`i charter amendment to put 1% of real property tax revenue was an incredibly blatant political move to protect the Kaua`i County Council from itself and allow them to shirk their decision-making responsibilities so they can't be held accountable.

The whole problem is that visitors do not pay their fair share of taxes and vehicle fees especially without our fair share of the Transient Accommodation Tax (TAT) from the legislature.


So why not raise property taxes on resort-zoned properties and other visitor accommodations? Gee- you don't think it's because the tourism industry sector is the biggest campaign contributor do ya?. Or the fact that we couldn't even pass a decent lobbyist law (such as the one Councilmember Hooser proposed before the rest of the council watered it down to irrelevancy).


We are being robbed blind by the visitor industry. Not only does that keep real property taxes on homeowner-occupants high but keeps residents' fees unfairly high for instance when car rental companies register their vehicles in Honolulu.


And those "jobs jobs jobs" they create are predominantly low (if not minimum) wage putting even more financial stress on residents and the system in general.


God forbid, since the state legislature won't do it, we pass a $15 minimum wage at the county level- something not forbidden under the state's $10,10 minimum wage law. An island like this is the perfect place for a $15/hr minimum wage because people can't just go to a neighboring county for goods and services negating the business' usual (fallacious to being with) arguments against it.
It seems like the concept of progressive taxation has never occurred to the council’s Tea Party majority who want to raise vehicle registration and weight taxes... much less real property taxation where resort and speculative visitor accommodation don't pay their fair share when compared to what they are costing us all.


There's your $100 million in road repairs- a figure that was seemingly plucked out of thin (hot) air - in the first place.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

VOLUNTEERS FOR AMERICA



No matter what Chuck Todd says there actually are staunch Bernie Sanders supporters who say that, in comparison, Hillary Clinton may not not that bad.


A fellow "Berner of a certain age" posted on Facebook today that she "won't be devastated if (Clinton is) the nominee. She'll be an effective executive. Besides, she has made some platform changes that were inspired by Bernie. She's not exactly progressive, especially in foreign affairs. But she's far to the left of the Republicans on social and environmental issues, and her SCOTUS appointees will never overturn Roe v. Wade. Of course, if she resurrects Glass-Steagall I'll plotz. Bernie's supporters can do worse. "


She may be right in some ways but that's not going to convince the burned baby Berners.


Expanding on the Zenish theme I pondered on Monday, even if Clinton has more votes and delegates in the end, it is also true at the same time that she and the party conspired to create rules and processes that essentially made that point moot... and moreover its veracity indeterminable.


Should she win the nomination Hillary's downfall in the General will be in not having told the Democratic Party bosses- and in fact her own advisers- early on to back off and create a transparent, fully democratic process and let the chips fall where they may. Instead of standing up to them (as if) she has, at best, allowed them to embrace the traditional crooked procedures to the point where no one will ever be able to even tell if she would have won without setting up a system to assure she got the lions' share of delegates or whether she earned them democratically or not.


While the threats of misogynous trolls among the Bernie or Bust crowd are not just wrong but stupid and unproductive they are just the ugly side of a frustration with the corporate corruption of the country that has created a generation of revolutionaries who simply cannot wait for another generation or two to magically correct itself incrementally.


Look what's happening out in the street- Got a Revolution?

Monday, May 16, 2016

STEALIN' IT FAIR AND SQUARE




No one doubts the fix is in if you ask Bernie Sanders' supporters. In a Politico piece this week describes just some of the Democratic Party's shenanigans at the national and state level.


This weeknd Sanders delegates to the Nevada Party convention reportedly stormed the stage in protest of the way the "party bosses" have shut out the millennial Berners. unable to comprehend that the election if not the future of their party itself depends on keeping the newbies engaged.


But at the same time, there's a distinct possibility that Hillary Clinton may go into the national convention with more elected delegates and, if we can suspend disbelief for a moment and assume republican democracy is actual democracy, she should get the nomination.


So which is it? Have the Clintonians set up and knocked down the bowling pins by appointing cronies to the position of pin boy or presuming she wins some sort of "fair" electoral process, should she win the nomination?


The truth is that both are true- even if Hillary wins by a few votes on the up and up at the same time it's true that that the fix is in.


Admittedly it's hard for people to hold two opposing thoughts in their heads at the same time. But think of it like the OJ trial. While it appears the cops framed him, at the same time, it appears he did it.


The Democrats' problem is more existential than who wins or even how they actually win. It's future depends on the perception of these two factors.


How could the Berners not see it as a "vast right wing conspiracy" to deny Sanders the nomination. The young Berners see it as a "the fix is in" situation because, well, it is.

Here's the bottom like: Most Sandernistas don't really give two tweets about the Democratic Party. And every time they catch another whiff of "the fix" it confirms what they already think they know- Party politics is a dirty, corrupt, circular-firing-squad process from the get go.


And you can't just say "well, it's politics" because what it is is inside-baseball, office politics, not politics as in "electoral politics."

That's what the Democrats are dealing with because even if Clinton has the majority of the total of "elected" delegates, the perception will be that DNC "fixed" the whole process.


The young idealistic Berners don't really care. They have nothing invested in the Party. And the Hillary campaign- and more so her supporters- have dissed the kids at every step of the process.


The Berners may be a lot of things but they aren't stupid. They "get" the fundamental difference between Sanders and Clinton. They see her as a corporate militarist who believes in American Exceptionalism. Bernie, not so much.


Almost half a century ago many Baby Boomers felt the exact same way about the Liberal Lion of the day, Hubert H. Humphrey and peace candidate Eugene McCarthy. And when Hubert was nominated amidst a police riot in the streets of Chicago, the party lost slews of potential Democrats for these 50 years... so far. (and don't nit-pick with us about about McCarthy).

Once again youth is feeling ignored and they hear and they see it in the booming media echo chamber- as Hillary amplifies it and they her with everyone eager to "turn to the general" so they can continue to lead every newscast with the word "Donald Trump."

Democratic Party stalwarts have a bigger problem than getting youth to support Clinton. They have the opportunity to turn them into lifelong Democrats. But if Hillary's campaign and supporters keep it up they'll lose them for 70 years.


We used to say that Humphrey stole the nomination fair and square. Is history repeating itself?


See you in Philadelphia .

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Death of a lobbying bill LOBBYING REGULATION BILL WEAKENED, GUTTED; MOVES TO FINAL COUNCIL VOTE WEDNESDAY GIFT BAN LIFTED AT BEHEST OF LOBBYISTS DESPITE MASSIVE WRITTEN PUBLIC TESTIMONY

Death of a lobbying bill
LOBBYING REGULATION BILL WEAKENED, GUTTED; MOVES TO FINAL COUNCIL VOTE WEDNESDAY
GIFT BAN LIFTED AT BEHEST OF LOBBYISTS DESPITE MASSIVE WRITTEN PUBLIC TESTIMONY

(PNN)-- Tues., March 8 -- The corporate takeover of our American republican democracy has been pegged to the sway of "K Street" lobbyists who have more than just the ears of congress. While the final "decision-making" may rest with elected representatives massive influxes of campaign contributions and gifts often produces laws actually written by the lobbyists.


At the state level groups lobbying groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC pass around sample bills which are passed verbatim by Republican legislatures across the nation. And local jurisdictions often have no lobbying or lobbyist gift-giving laws at all.


Kaua`i County is one of them despite the fact that the Hawai`i state constitution requires that counties have lobbyist regulation ordinances. There had been one,on Kaua`i, passed in 1975 but for some mysterious reason that remains unclear, it was repealed in 1987.


Kaua`i Councilmember Gary Hooser noted this discrepancy and drafted the "best bill" he could- a "model law" that takes the strongest measures from other counties and states in order to give Kaua`i a strict regulatory lobbyist bill- one that island could be proud of.


But guess what? If you've lived on Kaua`i for five minutes you won't be surprised that the other six councilmembers managed to amend the bill to the point where it has become a mish-mosh of weak-kneed provisions, all at the behest of- unnecessary drum roll please- the lobbyists themselves.


The new and degraded bill is up for passage at this Wednesday's (March 9 at 8:30 a.m., @ the Historic County Building on Rice St.) County Council meeting- a bill that, despite over 80 written testimonies in favor of passage of the original bill, was changed after a couple of lobbyists showed up to the Feb. 17 Committee of the Whole meeting and whined and sniveled until they got their way.


(The committee meeting can be seen at http://kauai.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=1756&meta_id=98630 beginning at the 2 hour 8 minute mark and picks up again again at the 6:30 mark or so.)


Nancy Kana, a lobbyist for the Board of Realtors was the first to testify and tried to conflate paid lobbyists with members of the public saying the council is lobbied every day when they go out to dinner and that lobbyists are just "regular people" like anyone else that have "good intentions for the island."


She made lobbyists sound like god's own gift to legislators who would be lost without the "information" she provides.


Then came former newspaper reporter Jan TenBruggencate who now runs his own "consulting" and PR firm. He was even more demanding of changes in the bill, using often outlandish and many times fallacious and unrelated "what if" scenarios to infer that anything beyond the "old way" of just letting lobbyists "sign in" at meetings before they give testimony was superfluous.


TenBruggencate has played fast and loose with his lobbying activities refusing to release a full list of his clients and how much he is paid by, among others, chemical industry giants like Dow and Monsanto who have been "growing seeds" while experimenting with Restricted Use Pesticides primarily on the West Side of Kaua`i.


The original bill could have been written for him. But now it looks more like a bill that could have been written BY him.


The final draft of the bill was changed from a strict prohibition on any gifts from lobbyists to councilmembers to the well-known mushy, mumbo-jumbo that the US Supreme Court used to justify Citizens' United and other decisions striking down limitations on campaign contributions, known as the "quid pro quo" test. It basically says that unless you can prove that an actual bribe took place, anything goes.


The original bill put the onus on both the lobbyist and the official not to give or receive gifts of any kind although Hooser was willing to accept amending the bill to exempt flower leis and "educational materials."


But the final draft amends the bill to ban only the receiving of gifts and then only if the councilmember decides that the gift constitutes a bribe, using the standard "intent to influence" language contained in other ethics and anti-bribery laws... something that makes the prohibition superfluous.


Somehow Council Chair Mel Rapozo claimed that this made the bill stronger, not weaker, admonishing the public not to use this change to say he was weakening the law.


Other major changes included eliminating a measure that prohibited registered lobbyists from serving on the Ethics and Charter Review Commission or on any commission where the subject matter on which the lobbyist focused was the focus of the commission.


The council deleted this and kept the ban only on lobbyists serving on the Board of Ethics (BOE), although some opposed even this prohibition. The BOE often rules on whether councilmembers have conflicts of interest or are violating gift-giving laws as well as in other matters.


Grove Farm Vice President and Councilmember Aaryl Kaneshiro was the most adamant about allowing lobbyists to serve anywhere and everywhere, to no one's surprise since he often denies he has any conflict of interest when discussing and voting on issues that directly effect Grove Farm, one of the biggest land owners on the island of Kaua`i.


Some critics go as far as calling Kaneshiro "Grove Farm's representative on the council" however he has never voluntarily recused himself from any matter involving Grove Farm. The county charter requires those with a conflicts-of-interest to recuse themselves from both discussion of and voting on measures that cause the conflict.


But perhaps the most surprising support for the amendment came from councilmember JoAnn Yukimura. She described as an example, when she sat on a task force representing the council to draft shoreline setback legislation along with an attorney paid to represent developers and described how she actually allowed him to help draft legislation, saying it was an important part of the process to include all "stakeholders" and claiming it didn't matter because she and the council were the "final decision-makers."


Sound familiar?


For those who want to understand the way the other six council members rationalized stripping the bill of these and other provisions go to the 7 hour 11 minute mark of the February 17 committee meeting, especially the debate between Hooser and the rest of the council on the subject of gift-giving and receiving.


"I'm not trying to be facetious but why would a lobbyist be giving us a gift (if not) to influence us" Hooser asked over and over in many ways. Citing the many "gift baskets" with nuts, honey, coffee and all sorts of "goodies" that councilmembers receive every Christmas Hooser asked "They're not giving them to the public. They're giving it to us because we're councilmembers. Why are they giving it to us (if not to) influence or reward us?"


But it was to no avail and the council resorted to the quid pro quo- literally "something for something" rule established in opinions by the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in Citizens' United and other campaign finance law rulings saying that corruption can only occur when an actual bribe takes place.


The pervasive influence of money is politics isn't corrupting and is, in fact "free speech" the doctrine claims.


Some polls show that upwards of 80% of the public disagrees- including apparently six pf seven members of the Kaua`i County Council.


The discussion about having lobbyists serve on boards, commissions and most importantly task forces- such as the joint Fact-finding group on Pesticides formed last year- featured a plea from Yukimura as she described the task force on the shoreline setback bill (at the 7:28 mark) with community activist (and volunteer) Caren Diamond and uber land-use attorney Max Graham who would certainly be forbidden from serving under the original definition of a lobbyist and service provisions.


The original didn't forbid having diverse people serving, it just said that they should not fall under the definition of lobbyist.


"I made decisions and council did the final decision-making" Yukimura said but admitted that Graham was being paid to be there and actually helped write some of the bill. Mason Chock, usually a member of the three person progressive faction of the council along with Yukimura agreed.


But Hooser, the third member and sponsor of the bill, didn't saying there was an "inherent imbalance" between having an attorney who is being paid to be there lobbying on one side and a volunteer community member on the other.


One of the unfathomable discussions on gifts is one not unique to Kaua`i regarding the value of a gift and how much should be allowed- as if it's not a matter of IF an elected official can be bought but how much it takes to do it.


Predictably this was the case with the council discussion. Again Hooser kept essentially asking why else would they be giving them gifts if not to influence them while the rest- especially Rapozo- took offense at the notion, not that he could be bought at all but that they could be bought for as little as $25 or say the price of a meal.


In the end they just threw out any restrictions and relied on the ethic provisions in the ethics law that essentially requires a bribe take place to be covered.


There's a really old joke- sorry if you've heard or are offended by it- about a guy who asks a woman if she'd have sex with him for a million dollars. She's about to say no but then she think of her family and kids and how she lives from hand-to-mouth, paycheck-to-paycheck and how much a million dollars would do to pay off her deep debts and make life bearable.


"Well, a million dollars is a lot of money. I guess the answer is 'yes'" she tells the guy.


"Well, how about ten dollars?" he says.


"Ten dollars! What kind of girl do you think I am?" she gasped.


"Well," the guys says "we've established what kind of girl you are, Now we're just haggling over price."


The physical presence of two lobbyists and the physical absence of the over 80 people who submitted written testimony supporting the original bill says a lot about how important "showing up" is.


We'll see whether it's too late for those motivated to show up and sit there all day on Wednesday (it will probably be taken up in the afternoon but don't count on it) waiting for their six minutes of testimony to try to get the council to revert to the original bill by shaming them into it after 80 people call them crooks.


Or not. As they say half of life is showing up.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

WANT TO VOTE FOR BOTH TRUMP AND SANDERS? OR RUBIO AND CLINTON? YOU CAN IN HAWAI`I CAUCUSES

Apparently anyone in Hawai`i who wants to can vote in both the Democratic and Republican Presidential Caucuses according to the rules of each party.


The Republicans will caucus next Tuesday, March 8, and the Democratic caucus is on Saturday March 26th and the rules for each party say that anyone can register to vote, join the party and vote- all at the election site on the day of the party's caucus.


In other words someone can join the Republican party and vote this coming Tuesday in the Republican caucus and then turn around and join the Democratic party and vote again in the Democratic caucus 18 days later.


Hawai`i is a "no party registration" state where joining a political party is a matter under the control of the parties, not the state. You cannot be a "registered" anything- not a Democrat, a Green, a Republican, a Libertarian or any other party. The "tradition" has been that anyone who wants to join a party must sign a party's "card" to become a member and then remains a member until they sign a different party's "card."


But each party determines who, how and when members vote in their presidential caucuses which are run by the parties with no regulation by the state.


This year, according to each party, as in the past if you show up and are a registered voter- or register to vote at the caucus- you can simply "sign the card" for that party and vote in the caucus. There are no limits on how long you have to have been- or remain- a member.


The Democratic Party will send 34 delegates to the national convention in July, 25 of whom will be determined at the caucus and nine of whom who are "Superdelegates" who can vote for any candidate. Superdelegates include Gov. David Ige, US Senator Brian Schatz, US Senator Mazie Hirono, US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, US Rep. Mark Takai and four party leaders.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

FREEING THE MUNCHKINS

I've taken some flack in the last 24 hours due to some celebratory words on the death of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.


But this "do not speak ill of the dead" business is the ultimate in hypocrisy. Are people saying that we need to observe some kind of revisionist history as soon as someone dies?

It's important to not just remember but remind people of the suffering Scalia caused and the irreversible damage to the country and even the world he has wrought.


As a matter of fact, Scalia's legacy is one of hypocrisy, his so-called "originalism" being a convenient myth to be turned on and off to justify predesignated results that supported his vision of American fascism.


Brilliant? Yes... brilliantly diabolical. He is the father of the very corporatism many of us seek to reverse this elections season. What better time to discuss that legacy than upon his death and the death of the Scalia era of constitutional abuse?


You'll get no apologies from me. I'm deliriously happy one of, if not the most murderous figures of our time is dead. People claim that every life is precious. But there's a unique irony here in welcoming the death of someone who has made so many lives so cheap.

How many women have died- or worse lived lives of poverty and misery- due to lack of abortion services?.. How many guns are on the streets killing our kids? How many state-sanctioned murders- often of people too poor to buy their way out or even of the wrong person- has he caused? How many died in Bush's wars after Scalia appointed him? Now is not the time to be silent.

In a way we're really debating the old canard regarding whether one would go back in time to "kill baby Hitler" but with the "twist" of asking whether we should be happy if someone else did.


By law, death was the only way Scalia's reign of terror was going to end. And it couldn't have come a day too soon.

Personally I'm long beyond the youthful folly of blanket pacifism in the face of powerful- for lack of a better word- evil. That doesn't indicate any less of an adherence to the principles of non-violence, just a recognition that the death of an active oppressor can be time for celebration.


Frankly, I'm still kind of apprehensive of the flying monkeys.

Friday, February 5, 2016

CORPORATE CASH? NEVER HEARD OF IT.

It may in the future be looked upon as the worst political blunder in presidential campaign history when Hillary Clinton in last night's debate tried to deny that the millions flowing to her from Wall St, Big Pharma and the like in speaking fees and SuperPac contribution might just effect her position on issues that concern her donors

Though Republicans and Democrats may disagree as to whether "it's the government" or "it's the corporations" that have run amok and essentially "wrecked the economy" ended republican democracy in America you'd be hard pressed to find one that doesn't think politicians listen to those who give them lots of money.


Calling it an "artful smear" on Bernie Sanders' part to dare to intimate she's in the pockets of those who have given her millions of dollars will no doubt have the affect of causing people of all political stripes to wonder if she's just grasping at straws looking for a response to those charges or if she's really that out of step with the thoughts on the issue- thoughts held by 99% or more of the electorate


You hear it from every "retired" member of congress- the ones who don't immediately go into the lobbyist profession- regarding how they had to spend all their time raising money for reelection and were therefore under pressure to do the bidding of their biggest contributors, even allowing lobbyist to write legislation.


All Hillary did was play right into Bernie's wheelhouse, allowing him to simply restate his populist stump speech about money in politics- a message that appeals to just about everyone and at the same time makes clear that the shaky ground upon which she is standing is giving way like a sink hole.


Time will tell. But you've gotta think that HRC has assembled the worst political advisers ever as she slides down the razor blade to the nomination of someone else... once again.