Archive for December, 2011

A resolution no one can afford to ignore

December 27th, 2011
By



ThinkTech Hawaii

Islands, and island states, are fragile. It’s not that they have the depth to keep on going no matter what. By definition they’re isolated and vulnerable and have to work harder. If tourism wasn’t there to catch us after plantation agriculture, what would we have done? If real estate development wasn’t there to enhance the tourism, what would we have done?

But somewhere along the line, it got static. There’s nothing to take over if and when we don’t have tourism and real estate development, the land based economy. There was a hope in the early 2000’s that we would have a tech or “innovation” industry, but in our wisdom we dumped on that and now there is only a smattering of it. We forgot or got bored and in any event we moved on. Witness the tumbleweed on Ilalo Street.

As tech went quiet, energy sprung up in 2008. It was the new tech, the tech that tech should have been. There was excitement about the Clean Energy Initiative and its glamorous goals, and about words like wind, solar, geothermal, biofuel, wave energy, OTEC, algae and others too that stirred the imagination. All were laden with promise. It was a new time.

Now three years later, we’ll still studying everything but wind and solar. Geothermal is awaiting political leverage, biofuel is fragmented, and wave energy, OTEC and algae are still being studied. Solar is married to the tax credits, and in some if not many places wind is the object of downright derision.

So in many ways we seemed to have moved on from energy too. The talk is still prominent and promising, but rhetoric doesn’t build railroads. It seems only a matter of time that we will realize the talk is more aspiration than action and we’ll give it up and move on to something else instead. At this point, I wish I could think of what that might be.

Maybe we’ll go back to tourism and real estate for the Chinese visitors we’d like to expect, but frankly right now that seems like a long shot. Remember the Chinese are having some economic problems of their own and those problems are linked to a global recession. Optimism is not indicated. They’re not going to catch Hawaii on the down stroke and bail us out.

So here on the cusp of a new year, you have to wonder what 2012 will bring. In failing to meet our own expectations on energy, we seem to have lost control of our economy and thus our destiny. What we need to do is regain that control. It’s not only making a plan, it’s getting people, everyone, on board and executing the plan. Political will, perhaps? As a state, we’re not so good at that, certainly not in recent years.

Going into 2012, we need to make some resolutions for solutions. I keep thinking of kindness and generosity for the new year, but it isn’t that. That simply doesn’t do the trick. I think also of public investment in the community, but it won’t be that either. We simply won’t put our money there – we’ll wait for someone else outside to do it, to take the risk and reap the reward.

So how about a modest resolution, the resolution simply of enhanced community awareness. It doesn’t sound hard. If we are aware of the sea changes around us, we are more likely to think of how to deal with them, and if we know the risks and possibilities, we are more likely to take action about them and do things for the public good.

That means reading the whole story, not just the headlines or the six o'clock news. It means engaging in community dialog, not just being a fly on the wall. It means critical thinking about the issues, separating the wheat from the chaff, not just buying an obvious bill of goods. It means participating, writing, speaking, arguing in the tumult of a classical democracy, not just going through life in linear intervals of work and recreation. Consensus is not the language of innovation. Awareness is, however, the pathway to progress.

Decent citizens must be more than observers. If we fail to meet that obligation, we’ll lose our momentum and slide down the slope. We already are. It’s time for every man Jack to get close, familiar and even intimate with the issues of our state and time, to develop strong and well-formed opinions about those issues, and to express them, even if that means a good and face-to-face argument.

I mentioned the silent majority in my article today about Lanai’s future. Frankly, I have no great expectation that the silent majority in Lanai will speak up, break out or do anything at all. They’ll just watch the activists speak for them, in their name, place and stead, like watching a ball game from the sidelines and leaving it to the other team to play. That way, your team loses and you can disappear.

In a state rife with protest groups, joining up with the silent majority is the riskiest thing of all. We have plenty of careful bystanders who consistently abdicate their rights and any speaking part in the program. Going along isn’t good enough. If we keep on doing the wallflower, we become the victims of our own reticence. We’ve got to be on the dance floor, taking part, or soon enough the dance will simply come to an end, like it or not, leaving us in the lurch.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it and, whatever your island, make this your overarching resolution for 2012. Molokai has gone south and left town. Lanai can’t afford to become another Molokai, although there’s a fair chance it will, and we the other islands certainly can’t afford to become another larger Lanai. The future of our society in Hawaii depends on our awareness and intelligent participation in public issues. If we don’t speak for ourselves, who will? And will they know what they’re talking about?

What better time than 2012 for Hawaii to become a state.

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Some reactions to the Molokai Blockade

December 20th, 2011
By



ThinkTech Hawaii

Here are selected and toned-down quotes and phrases from some of the mail and messages responding to my December 6th article dealing with the Blockade on Molokai. Personal references have been omitted.

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I couldn't agree more with the conclusions and tone of your tome. Thank you for writing the article.

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After reading your article in the paper today I have to say that I could not agree with you more. I was wondering when someone was going was going ask those questions. People from Molokai have already started to bar locals from other islands from activities there. Comments about the boats supporting the canoe race not being able to fish while they are in Molokai waters. And it goes on and on. They are many who feel as you do.

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Your article today hit the nail more than squarely on the head!

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Thank you for your position. This attitude also extends to the fishing and diving grounds around Molokai. A person just cannot go and fish and dive anywhere on the island of Molokai. I am talking about areas that should be available to the public. It is spooky.

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Right on! I agree completely and appreciate that you identify the common element between the Kauai and Molokai harbor blockages - secessionism (from the state and the nation). Do you think that the majority of the people in Hawaii even recognize that the island-independence concept, which is frequently considered to be an amusing and tolerated foible, is unacceptable in a united state as well as the United States? Thank you for reporting what is happening in Molokai!

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Where were the authorities, police when the assemblage was blocked from landing on Molokai?

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I could not agree more with your article on the Molokai isolation. This brings to mind the blowing up of a water line some years ago. The incident was related to protests against a west Molokai development. There again no one was arrested. It appears there is a lack of official prosecutorial will for certain types of crimes.

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Congratulations on your Molokai column. The blockade was indeed an outrage.

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Pretty good article in the Star Advertiser today but take it a step further. The Office of Naval Intelligence compiles a monthly report from multiple sources captioned the Worldwide Threat to Shipping. One of the reporting subsets is: ”Blocking – Hampering safe navigation, docking, or undocking of a vessel as a means of protest.” The usual suspects that make this report include Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd and other eco-terrorists. If it hasn't already been done a report should be sent to NGA and the IMB (International Maritime Bureau) Piracy Reporting Centre.

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Your article was right on the spot. There are so many here that feel similarly, it's a shame our voices don't get as much traction as the loud tyrannical minority.

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How right you are regarding Molokai. Something very wrong is going on there. I have friends from Molokai who were in favor of the SuperFerry and also favor letting tour boats into the harbor, and they are definitely not the only ones.

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I can only say one thing....AMEN! Your article was right on and it is about time that we stop this stupidity by a few that affects the masses. We already lost the SuperFerry thanks to a few and some politicians. Let's not continue to allow the half of a fraction of a percent to ruin the lives of those in need.

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You say that as a taxpayer for the State of Hawaii, you have an equal say over the direction of Molokai's economic development, and cultural issues. That argument would never fly in New York. The different counties, cities, towns, villages, hamlets, and other municipalities would throw you out of their jurisdictions. Those jurisdictions mostly recognize the local residents' concerns from that jurisdiction. Outsiders are usually not welcomed if they have opposing views.

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I just wanted to thank you for your article re the blockade of the wharf at Molokai. We totally agree with you as does a majority of residents on this island. However, we are afraid to speak out.

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I was very happy to see your article. I would like to hear what the Commander, 14th Coast Guard District, had to say. I would also like to hear from William Aila, the new director of the Dept of Land and Natural Resources, as a DLNR agent was on sight at Kaunakakai. If I took a boat into Honolulu Harbor to blockade another vessel, I would be confronted immediately by a USCG vessel. I would be arrested.

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Has anyone heard of Homeland Security? A commercial harbor is a commercial harbor, large or small, no matter what island it is on. The Coast Guard could have flown their helicopter there in a few minutes. The on sight DLNR agent should have stopped the "protest". The tour vessel had all their documentation, permits, etc, just like the many vessels that go in and out of Kewalo Basin and Honolulu Harbor daily. Should there be further action from State and Federal agencies?

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What if Haleiwa, Kapolei, or Kailua decided that it didn't want tourists? There is no one in these places telling the tourists of its special attractions either. Do they have the right to close off the roads entering their towns? Let me tell you a little history; King Kamehameha united the Islands for everyone's benefit.

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If [the people on Molokai] don't like others to get involved, secede from the state and we'll gladly use monies and services presently going to Molokai for other worthy purposes. The people of Molokai are divided on growth but until the silent majority on that island stands up, the youth of that island will slowly migrate elsewhere because there are no opportunities for them.

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I don't believe that the average person on Molokai wants to be isolated. I believe it's more of [one person] saying we will be isolated and his small but vocal group who are making the ruckus. It's a shame that such a small group can ruin things for the rest of the community.

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Excellent article. However, there are also a good number of people who want Molokai to grow its economy albeit controlled growth. I'd like to see how Governor Abercrombie will address this issue because it's clearly wrong to block a state harbor. Molokai, and to some extent Kauai, has always done this and yet they feed off of the services of the state.

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While it is true that the Hawaiian Islands make up one state, we are a very diverse state. All of our Islands are different and allow different life styles. If the people living on Molokai like a quiet, rural lifestyle, then how is it okay for someone not from there to tell them to change? It truly would be sad if Molokai were to become like Oahu.

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If you want to claim Molokai in the name of Sovereignty, take it. Find your own source of income which will not come from State or County resources. The State of Hawaii and Maui County will gladly remove their resources (upkeep of infrastructure, Police and Fire Departments, Public Schools, Social Services, Airport and its personnel, upkeep of the harbor, etc). I wonder how Molokai will then generate revenue to support itself.

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Okay, how about the State and counties give us back all our 'aina and resources and we'll figure out our own way to bring in income. Give me a break the State and its agencies survive off Kingdom land. No worries, just give us back ours and we don't need nothing from these entities.

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When you say MOLOKAI, what do you mean? High unemployment, high amount of welfare per capita, vocal minority not interested in helping people get jobs allowing them to continue living on Molokai? Or is it the silent majority whom would really appreciate being able to continue living there with a job allowing them to, provided by a company that was welcomed into the community and not chased away by some groups personal agenda. What would an independent survey of residents find?
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The real issue is whether Hawaii belongs to all permanent residents with unity, equality, and aloha for all vs. whether there are two classes of citizenship with full rights only for ethnic Hawaiians while everybody else must sit at the back of the bus.

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Molokai is held hostage to the extreme agendas of a few.

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It is not true that "the people of Molokai have no more right to say what happens on their island.” They do, it's called voting. And guess what, Molokai has the right to vote just as any other area in the nation. What the people of Molokai don't have the right to do is to stop a law-abiding from coming to port through law-breaking.

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Good article. Things were said that needed to be said. The law is being broken and the overthrow, which was not right then, does not make breaking the law now right.

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I agree with this article. As much as diversity is ok, and as great as it is to see Molokai with its rural lifestyle, etc., breaking a law is breaking a law regardless of where you are in the state or nation. Wake up Molokai and get real. Or go to another island in another part of the world, because in the end you are citizens of the US whether you like it or not.

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Aren't the County and Federal law enforcement agencies interested?

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And a postscript on those comments – On December 8, 2011, American Safari Cruises reported that it had canceled a stop on the island of Molokai, the third port call canceled since Safari Explorer was blocked by protesters in November.

A public meeting is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 21st at the Mitchell Pauole Center on Molokai to discuss the idea of developing a "sustainable resource plan applicable to ship visitors."

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It's getting harder to tell a lie

December 12th, 2011
By



ThinkTech Hawaii

There was an article in the New York Times Sunday week reporting that a number of computer science and linguistics researchers have been working on software that listens for lies.

This goes way beyond conventional FBI lie detectors. It also goes way beyond Dragon Dictate and makes you wonder when speech-to-text programs will come with comments about the speaker. Maybe the iPhone will be able to get up to the same level by iPhone 5, and maybe Android will do the same.

For the moment, it seems like the intersection between linguistics and computer science is getting real traction. With this technology, 70 percent of the time they can tell when you're lying, and that percentage will go up with so many researchers working and collaborating on it.

This is linguistics looking deep inside the psyche. The spoken word conveys so much more than written words and conveys the state of mind of the speaker. Not only is this likely to be a better lie detector, it will also detect the emotional state of the speaker. Yes, sometimes we do want to know when a person is lying, but this will actually go way beyond that.

Now you don't have to have a machine with wires connected to your arms and legs or sensors that read your heart rate and respiration. You just listen to variations in the speech, the way the words are put together, the relative sound levels, the breathing and pausing between words, the use of certain words that telegraph a lie or other emotion. And it isn’t limited to English. It can apply to all languages, and they're building it to cover a variety of languages, including Chinese.

Years ago when parties negotiated deals, they did it mostly by spoken word. They negotiated in person or by phone. I knew one lawyer who recorded his calls with adversaries so he could listen to them again to evaluate their bargaining positions. So it goes beyond detecting a lie – this technology can tell whether a person is exaggerating and whether he really means it’s his last and final offer when he tells you that. You can find out how convinced and confident he is, and thus how hard you can be when you respond. Of course, he can use the same technology on you.

A UH team was working on a sensor system that could read the beating of a heart through a brick wall. This was for street fighting in Central Asia when you needed to know if someone was hiding in the next room. But if you know more about the heart and respiration you can also learn about the emotional condition of the person behind that wall. If you use both so as to confirm one of these technologies with the other, you’ll have an even more accurate reading.

These days, negotiations are often only in writing and by email, so you may not have the benefit of listening to the sound file and finding the emotional weaknesses on the other side. But if you have that sound file, the linguistics technology can give you a huge and reliable advantage. You can have the benefit of all of the recent advances in electronics, biology, linguistics, psychology and sociology, all rolled into one. Once this becomes available, everyone will want to have it.

The fact is that in the ordinary course of human events, people do deceive and exaggerate, and it can be helpful to know when and on what they are doing that. But sometimes, you may not want to use this technology at home or where you can’t keep it secret. Sometimes an exaggeration is better left alone. And sometimes we may want to rely simply on our human intuition to evaluate the credibility of those around us, just as we have been doing for thousands of years.

Technology works its magic in so many ways. Sometimes we think it's limited to what goes on at Best Buy, but there are things happening out there that still absolutely boggle the mind. We should be in a continuing state of amazement over what technology can do to change everything in our lives, sometimes for the better and sometimes not.

Law enforcement agencies must be ecstatic. But giving them the power to know your state of mind simply from listening to your spoken words is somehow a little disconcerting, like one of those new scanners at the airport.

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Further to my article on insular shift

December 8th, 2011
By



ThinkTech Hawaii

In my column in the Star-Advertiser this past Tuesday, “Molokai cannot be allowed to isolate itself from Oahu,” I quoted a statement by the Molokai Chamber of Commerce from other media.

The Molokai Chamber has since advised me that the full text of its statement on the subject is rather as follows:

"The Molokai Chamber supports all business & tourism that compliments our unique lifestyle and we understand the vital role it plays in our community. When there is interference with lawful commerce it can set a precedent that may have significant consequences to a fragile economy like ours."

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Hawaii's Young People should see the World

December 6th, 2011
By



ThinkTech Hawaii

Shara Enray was a reporter for Hawaii Business Magazine. I thought she was a great reporter. She had a special talent of being able to get people to open up to her, and then write it up in great copy.

Shara went to Ethiopia on a humanitarian trip last July, and her life changed. She resigned her job at Hawaii Business and volunteered to work at an orphanage for children with HIV or who’ve lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.

Yes, Ethiopia (capital, Addis Ababa), which lies between Sudan and Somalia. It’s as big as Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico combined. It’s Africa’s second most populous (90 million) and it’s one of the poorest nations on earth.

I recently got an email from her advising that she had arrived in Dire Dawa and would be writing a blog about her experiences and asking if I wanted to get her postings. Are you kidding? Of course. Her blog is at sharainethiopia.wordpress.com. Her last post was only a few days ago.

She said that before she left, one of her mentors told her something that really hit home. She said: “Everything that you've experienced up until this point in your life has been training for what comes next.”

Shara has the inquiring mind to look well into what is going on there. She’ll have no trouble finding the contacts and sources, and writing things up in a way so that anyone who reads her blog can join in the adventure.

But why did Shara, doing so well, leave the fast lane on Bishop Street and go half way around the world to a developing country short on creature comforts to work in an orphanage undoubtedly long on tales of hardship and risk.

What I think - because she has the inquiring mind she showed at Hawaii Business and it makes her want to explore things all the way to the far side. She can, so she will. In Ethiopia, she’ll explore a new view of the world.

The details of her thinking will, I am sure, be revealed in her blogs going forward. We’ll learn more about what drew her there and what she finds there, in herself and in the people she meets.

Why don't more of Hawaii’s youth do his? Many of them do know there are fantastic opportunities waiting out there that don’t take a lot of money, just moxie. So just find a non-profit or a government agency and dive right in.

A generation ago it was safer and young people could travel to many places now no longer safe. In a world of unrest, it’s different today. This makes the prospect more exciting, requiring more courage but yielding greater rewards.

Shara is a model to follow. Hopefully, other young people in Hawaii will also find her blogs and learn what she’s doing and learning and thinking, and from her gain the confidence they will need to spark their own outreach.

Will Shara return to Hawaii? Given her talent and value to the community, I hope so. If she does, it’ll be a benefit for all of us. She will bring her stories and lessons back out of Africa, and they will enrich everyone who listens.

But let’s face it - crossing the globe and living in such a faraway place may put her on another path that takes her somewhere else, and she may simply not return. We don’t prefer it, but it’s ok too because her success began here.

In either event, we should be proud of Shara for taking this bold step, and we should encourage others to do the same. Not only for the good deeds they can do to help the developing world, but for what they can do to help Hawaii.

They are Hawaii’s emissaries and envoys, showing the world the special stuff that Hawaii people are made of, building our franchise everywhere. Good for her. We’re with her on this trip, and we wish her well in every particular.

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