Browsing articles in "Politics"
Oct 28, 2014

Vendo Vote

Vendo Vote (buy your own politician)

With elections just around the corner, I have been thinking about the little man in my glove compartment.  He has been riding around there, in his vending machine ball, since he was given to me by my ingenious friend Nancy Aleck.

For an art project, Nancy fashioned several (dozen?) little clay people to represent politicians and put them in vending machine balls with “Vendo Vote” on the bottom.  She couldn’t afford the size of vending machine that would allow the Vendo Vote toys to come out, so she used a regular gum ball machine — making it even funnier, because you could put in your 25 cents again and again and nothing would come out.  Her piece was a little bit of performance art and a lot of political commentary.

In my mind, the idea of buying politicians has never been expressed so simply or humorously.   The little clay figures are all faceless, making it even more ridiculously appropriate.





P.S.  Possibly not coincidentally, this dollar bill showed up at the grocery store the other day:

“Not to be used for bribing politicians”

Sep 3, 2014

More than 50,000 Gun Deaths Since Newtown

The estimate of 55,000 gun deaths since Newtown is based on real CDC figures for 2010 (two years before Newtown) estimated for January 2013 – through August 2014.  This is not an unrealistic figure.  In 2010, the CDC said that among those killed by guns were 2,964 children and teens.  In Chicago alone, there have been more than 1300 shootings this year, on track to be down between 15% and 20% since last year, but not nearly good enough.  At the bottom of this blog are the number of school shootings in 2013.  (chart from Salon).  There were 26 or one every other week.  How many did you know about?

After Newtown, I decided to write(every day)  about a real person killed by a gun on a given date.  I researched their death and anything I could find out about their family.  One was headlined “His Mother named him Rayshine.”  I don’t know if the mother meant the connection that I made to the rays of the sun.  I could feel all the hope imbued in this child, only to be cut down in his youth by America’s favorite toy.

Last week, at a shooting range, a nine year old (9 year old!) girl shot and killed her instructor accidentally with an uzi.  It is hard to imagine a shooting range where 9 years olds can shoot an uzi.  And who, in fact, is the victim here?

More than two dozen states have weakened their gun laws since Newtown, the most heinous being Georgia’s.  According to a post be Aljazeera America : Georgia’s new gun rules kicked in Tuesday, allowing residents to carry firearms into bars, nightclubs, classrooms and government buildings in a measure slammed by anti-weapon activists as a “dangerous kill bill.”

The law, which critics are calling the “guns everywhere” law, is considered one of the most extreme pro-gun bills in the country. Under its provisions, residents with a proper gun permit will be allowed to carry guns at a number of previously off-limits places.The carry laws even extend to allowing people to cross Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport checkpoints with a gun.

A few states, most notably Connecticut and Colorado, have tightened their gun laws.  More anti-gun groups have been formed, most notably Gabrielle Giffords’ and Moms Demand Action.  Bill Gates just gave $1,000,000 to fight the NRA.  But it’s far from enough. The NRA continues to be one of the richest lobbying groups in our country.   With the second anniversary of the Newtown shootings right around the Christmas corner, domestic gun violence has taken a back seat to shootings and beheadings in the Middle East.  But not because it has gotten better.  We can’t forget about it.  We can’t let it go.

School Shootings in 2013

Jan. 7, 2013 – Apostolic Revival Center Christian School, Fort Myers, FL – Kristopher Smith, 27, a student’s parent, was killed.
Jan. 10, 2013 – Taft Union High School, Taft, CA – one injured.
Jan. 11, 2013 – Osborn High School, Detroit, MI – one injured.
Jan. 15, 2013 – Stevens Institute of Business and Arts, St. Louis, MO – two injured.
Jan. 15, 2013 – Hazard Community and Technical College, Hazard, KY – Taylor Jade Cornett, 12, Caitlin Cornett, 20, and Jackie Cornett, 53, were killed.
Jan. 16, 2013 – Chicago State University, Chicago, IL – Tyrone Lawson, 17, was killed.
Jan. 22, 2013 – Lone Star College, Houston, TX – three injured.
Jan. 31, 2013 – Price Middle School, Atlanta, GA – one injured.
March 18, 2013 – University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL – The gunman, James Oliver Seevakumaran, 30, killed himself.
March 21, 2013 – Davidson Middle School, Southgate, MI – Tyler Nichols, 13, killed himself.
April 18, 2013 – MIT, Cambridge, MA – MIT police officer Sean Collier, 27, was killed.
April 29, 2013 – La Salle High School, Cincinnati, OH – one injured.
June 7, 2013 – Santa Monica College, Santa Monica, CA – several were injured and six people were killed: Marcela Dia Franco, 26, Carlos Navarro Franco, 68, Margarita Gomez, 68, John Zawahri (the shooter), 23, Samir Zawahri (the shooter’s father), 55, and Christopher Zawahri (the shooter’s brother), 24.
June 20, 2013 – Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, West Palm Beach, FL – Christopher Marhsall, 48, and Ted Orama, 56, both custodians, were killed.
Aug. 20, 2013 – Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, Decatur, GA – a gunman fired shots and barricaded himself in an elementary school; no one was injured.
Aug. 23, 2013 – North Panola High School, Sardis, MS – two were injured and Roderick Bobo, 15, was killed.
Aug. 30, 2013 – Carver High School, Winston-Salem, NC – one injured.
Sept. 28, 2013 – Gray-New Gloucester High School, Gray, ME – Gaige McGue killed himself.
Oct. 4, 2013 – Agape Christian Academy, Pine Hills, FL – two injured.
Oct. 15, 2013 – Lanier High School, Austin, TX – Adrian Alvaresz, 16, killed himself.
Oct. 21, 2013 – Sparks Middle School, Sparks, NV – two were injured and Mike Landsberry, a teacher and Afghanistan veteran, was killed. The shooter, 12-year-old Jose Reyes, killed himself.
Nov. 2, 2013 – North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, NC – one injured.
Nov. 3, 2013 – Stephenson High School, Lithonia, GA – one injured.
Nov. 13, 2013 – Brashear High School, Pittsburgh, PA – three injured.
Nov. 21, 2013 – South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Rapid City, SD – a professor, Alberto Lemut, 37, killed himself.
Dec. 4, 2013 – West Orange High School, Winter Garden, FL – one injured.
Oct 4, 2013

My Government Shutdown

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog about West Point Grad and Boston University Professor Andrew Bacevich’s book, Breach of Trust, a cogent argument for universal service which underscores the distance between our government/military and the citizenry.   He attributes it largely to a volunteer army, pointing out that only 1% of the country has served in Afghanistan or Iraq (or both), accounting for the way in which we as a country have not sacrificed and so many of us (most of us) have not felt the war.  Even more chilling, the removal of the citizenry from any direct affect of war making allows the government to make war freely, which it pretty much does.  As Bacevich says, they don’t need our vote, or our money (see Bush’s off-the-books war making).

My experience of the government shutdown is at once thankfully and regrettably the same.  I do not have a grandchild in head start, or a child who has been kept from a cancer study.  I do not have a daughter or daughter-in-law dependent on WIC for formula for their children.  I do not have a father who is wheelchair bound and attempting to visit the World War II memorial.  I am not planning to visit a national park any time in the near future.   I had my flu shot, so the news that the CDC is shutting down the flu shot program is somebody’s else’s problem, not mine.

I could be glad that over 6000 people in NSA were furloughed, so they might not be spying on me at any given moment.  But I am not glad because many of them may need their jobs.  I only know one person who has been furloughed, and that person can do okay without his paycheck.

Even the sequester, which meant tens of thousands of Kentuckians lost their child and kinship care benefits, 57,000 children lost their head start programs (add 18,000 more because of the shutdown…so far), and put 1/5th of Kansas’ unemployed off of the food rolls hasn’t “really affected me”  I do not live in Kansas or Kentucky, and I am lucky enough to not need help from the government just now.

If I wanted to write to my congresspersons it would not be necessary because they are all Democrats, and they will all do the right thing — as soon as they are permitted to do so by the Repos in the House and the ersatz Speaker.

All of this points to the deterioration of citizen participation in our democracy.  The volunteer army makes it possible for those of us not involved to go on with our lives as if nothing is happening to our fellow men and women.  The sequester only really hurts some of us, allowing others of us to act as if it weren’t that bad an idea.  Likewise the government shutdown, which so far has affected so few of us (relatively speaking) that the impetus to act, even if just in protest, is minimal.  The Repos, according to the misguided Michelle Bachman, seem “happier than they have seemed in a long time.”  Sara Palin calls the shutdown a pinprick.

We are told that there are basically 15 tea party republicans that are running this show (on behalf of less than 2% of the country that sympathizes with them) and the rest of the republicans, including Boehner, are afraid to stand up to them.   Ted Cruz has handily slunk out of view, having set off this firestorm.

As a citizen, I can do nothing but sign petitions, write letters of protest, and post blogs like this one.  The game has been so thoroughly rigged that we are all like Jerzy Kozinski’s Chance the Gardner.  Except while we might not “like to watch” it is pretty much all we can do.



Sep 20, 2013

An Argument for Universal Service

I don’t usually do book reports, but I have just finished Breach of Trust (How Americans Have Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country) by Andrew Bacevich and I am surprised that I agree with his very credible and well made argument for universal service.  I have been a fan of his since I read Washington Rules (America’s Permanent Path to War) wherein he argued that it doesn’t matter who is in office — Democrat or Republican — America is/will be at war.

I am among those who have wondered why there isn’t more citizen-involvement in war making and if citizen involvement would make a difference.  Bacevich’s answer is “yes.”  From the time Nixon initiated a volunteer/”professional” army the military and society have moved further and further apart.  Our current “support” of the troops is a shallow orchestration of what it should be.   Bacevich’s opening chapter is a visceral recounting of a Fourth of July celebration at Fenway Park.  I don’t need to tell you what went on — it has been like that at every major sports event since 9/11.

Bacevich lays out the argument in lock-step fashion, making it clear that Washington can wage war any time it wants;  they don’t need our vote and they don’t need our money.  Far too many of us have no skin in the game.

The famously-fired Stan McChrystal evidently made the argument for a draft at an Aspen conference after he had been fired for dumping on the President in the pages of Rolling Stone magazine.  It makes absolute sense.

We have met Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex full force and we are the enemy.  All of us know that big corporations have too much at stake in this game to see that it isn’t working, or to deliberately ignore its failure.

( An aside:  We have just learned the contractor who executed the security clearance for Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis was the same firm that cleared Edward Snowden for duty.  They may or may not be fired, but whatever happens it will be a blip on the screen.)

Many, many families have paid far too dearly for a volunteer army, losing loved ones to long and unnecessary wars.  The nation as a whole has literally paid too much for out-of-control military spending.  Consider just these few failures cited by Bacevich:

  • the radar-evading helicopter called “the quarterback of the digital battlefield” was cancelled after $6.9 billion was spent, yielding “two aircraft suitable for museum display.”
  • the Crusader artillery program, intended to “produce high volume, precise cannon fire” consumed $2 billion before it was cancelled  
  • the Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, intended to develop a “family of weapons, drones, robots, sensors and hybrid electric combat vehicles connected by a wireless net work” died 11 years after conception, failing, but having spend $18 billion.

During these failures and others like them, and during the killing and maiming of volunteer soldiers, we watched while the House of Representatives cast 40 “symbolic” votes to defunded Obamacare.  The recent concern over a possible strike in Syria by both the congress and the country is a first in a long, long time.

Among many other great points, Bacevich argues for a draft of a citizen-soldier military –asking what it would be like if Malia Obama at age 18 [had] “the same chance of being drafted as the manicurist’s son or the Walmart clerk’s daughter?”

In his final chapter, there is this damning paragraph:  ”Is the past prologue?  If so, here is what Americans can look forward to:  more needless wars or shadow conflicts sold by a militarized and irresponsible political elite; more wars mismanaged by an intellectually sclerotic and unimaginative senior officer corps; more wars that exact huge penalties without yielding promised outcomes, with consequences quickly swept under the rug even as flags flutter, fighter jets swoop overhead, the band plays the “Marines’ Hymn”, and commercials tout the generosity of beer companies doing good works for ‘the troops’.”

Bacevich calls all of us to account:  liberals and neocons, republicans and democrats alike.  And he makes a sound argument:  we have failed our soldiers and our country.

Sep 11, 2013

On Owning A Business in Kailua

Yesterday I posted an ironic blog about the Kailua Neighborhood Board’s resolution  to ask the HTA not to promote Kailua as a visitor destination alternative to the more “lively Waikiki” (from HTA’s website.)  My friend Malia Zimmerman picked up the blog piece, with my permission, and posted it on Hawai`i Reporter.

Predictably, one of the posted comments accuses me of owning a visitor business (I don’t; but visitors like the business that I am part owner of) and of not reading the resolution (I did).

There is, I guess, a small problem in owning a business in Kailua and also enjoying the practice of writing the odd opinion piece.  One does not, in my opinion, preclude the other.

The real irony here is that the business which I am part owner of was in fact started to serve local people.  There were very few visitors in Kailua when we opened the store, and we opened it in order to be part of the redevelopment of Kailua, as opposed to standing on the outside and criticizing it.  Having skin in the game.  Our thought was to help make sure that Kailua had a preponderance of local businesses, versus nationals, and that it would evolve to serve the local populous without mimicking so many “gentrified” small towns on the mainland.

Our business is a local business.  We make our products here in Hawai`i.  We employ people from Hawai’i.  We help kids with their college educations.  We pay well, and we pay for health insurance for  people who do not have insurance already.  Banks would not lend us money; the debt, which we still have eight years later, is our own.

We live in Kailua, we volunteer in Kailua, we support Kailua schools and Kailua charities (like the Boys and Girls Club).  My business partner almost single-handedly (for three years running)made sure that thousands of Kailuans (and out of towners) could enjoy the 4th of July fireworks — a 65 year tradition that had been abandoned by the Kailua Chamber of Commerce.

If I sound defensive, I am.  No one likes to be misunderstood.  To the people who think we see only $$ signs, I would say that I would be glad to see more $$ signs so we could pay off our debt.

We love owning a store in Kailua.  We see our friends.  We don’t have to drive to town.  We shop locally, supporting our fellow merchants pretty much exclusively.

The health and well being of Kailua’s small businesses has benefited enormously from the visitors who come here.  They are important to keeping stores like ours open, and also stores like Bookends, Lanikai Juice, Kailua Nails, Mary Z’s and even Whole Foods.  There are a whole slew of restaurants that wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the visitors PLUS locals mix that is Kailua today.

Before Kaneohe Ranch began to redevelop their (lion’s) share of Kailua, most of the small businesses here today could not survive.  One example:  My business partner and I helped Lanikai Juice (for instance), which was struggling— in return for juice coupons.  We brought them 20+ years of branding expertise and helped them build the Fresh.Pure.Hawaiian. image they have today.  We helped make it possible for them to stave off the newly arrived competition from the mainland, Jamba Juice.

The local Kailua businesses pay rent to a landlord which supports Kailua, its schools, its Boys and Girls club, its halaus and its sports teams through a foundation like no other small town in Hawai`i has.  The benefit of having a single commercial landlord is that the town was redeveloped with a big picture in mind ( like it or not).  This big picture view gave us new cross streets, more stores and more restaurants.  The money, unlike so many other places, stays in Kailua — at least the greater part of it does– and much of it goes back into the community.

The same people who think that any small business that benefits from the visitor industry was created for the visitor industry aver that the price of housing in Kailua is high because of the visitors.  This is simply not true.  The cost of housing in Kailua is high because it is a desirable place to live, and because all housing in Hawai`i is expensive.  And because it is (for the very most part) built out.  There is a fixed pie.

For those who say they are worried that our cultural institutions are hurt by visitors?  We now have many occasions on which local halau perform — occasions that weren’t there before.  We who live here are interested in the preservation of the marsh, the endangered species, the heiau.  The tourists who visit are respectful of them.

It ain’t perfect by a long shot but then nothing is.  Hawai`i –for better, I think — is a visitor destination.  That means people come to see and enjoy its beauty and many here profess a desire to share our Aloha.  That means we have to take care of the land (we should do better than we do) and the sea and air around us.  That means that our local cultures can be celebrated, seen and understood.

Some have said that tourism is a healing business.  Hawai`i is a place where people come to recover themselves, to relax and to heal. And that is a noble purpose.  We share our aloha with others and they take it home — small gestures of peace from human to human contact, carried back to places faraway.

We are lucky Hawai`i is a visitor destination.  We must share our roads and beaches, stores and restaurants with strangers.  But then we get to live and work here.  How lucky we are.





Gloria. Circa 1955.

Gloria. Circa 2012.

Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.

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