Sunday, September 21, 2008

Musings: Business as Usual

You’d think I’d learn. I always go into the campaign season with optimism, thinking this time, surely, things will be different, things will change.

Then I see the final printout and it’s clear that on Kauai, it’s gonna be the same old same old all over again.

And so it was this time around, with the Council incumbents getting another go, and Bernard Carvalho — carrying on the dead tired Baptiste legacy — solidly in the number one spot for mayor.

Even having a record 22 candidates in the running, and two puka on the Council to fill, didn’t end up making much difference. It certainly wasn’t enough to nudge someone like Ron Kouchi, making an unbelievable 12th run for Council, out of the action.

So what does it mean, aside from the fact that all the talk about “vote the clowns out” was, yawn, simply that: a bunch of talk?

Maybe it means that people have given up on politics, or just don’t care. After all, Hawaii had a record low voter turnout of about 34.6 percent, so you can’t exactly say that anyone can claim a popular mandate.

Maybe it means voters weren’t always thrilled with their choices. Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, who was running unopposed for prosector, received 10,052 yes votes — and a whopping 4,505 blank votes.

Maybe it means that people think things are hunky dory just like they are, or that they’re afraid to vote for someone new and different because change, for most folks, is a very scary thing.

In the end, what it really means is that the old guard has always run the show on Kauai and they still do. Expect business as usual, folks.

It’s my nature to be hopeful. As Jimmy Torio said on the radio the other day: “I keep voting and I’m confident that one of these days someone I vote for will get elected.” I guess that’s what keeps me going to the polls, too. And every now and then, I score a small victory with a Mina Morita or a Gary Hooser.

But it’s crystal clear that the revolution will not come through the voting booth. So if it’s real change you be seeking, that ain’t the place to put your time and energy.


John Tyler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ed Coll said...

Definitely not the place to put your energy, but rather one to hold your nose as you do your duty. With only 34.6 percent willing to vote the legitimacy of those who govern is called into serious question. And a Mother Jones the "community organizer" noted, "you don't have to vote to raise hell."

Fortunately voting is not the only way citizens can exercise their rights.

Radical change is increasingly possible and can occur in a blink. We lose, we lose, and suddenly we win!

Take a square frame and pour equally sized marbles into that frame. The result will always be a pyramid. The un-assimilated marbles will be bounced out of the system. Using different marbles or different sized marbles, or a different number of marbles (well you need at least 4) or a different sized square frame will not alter the final result.

Until the shape of the frame itself is changed the result will always be the same, a pyramid.

Changing the frame is a radical (change from the root) and fundamental one, and apparently the only solution. To radically change the shape of the frame the system itself must become increasingly unstable with a lot of marbles bounced out of the system.

The increasing number of bounced marbles has created the recent resurgence of anarchism whose successes are in large part due to technological innovation (internet,cell phones, etc) which allows people in different geographical locations to communicate and coordinate disruptive activities.

This primary election serves as an example that while the elite power structure continues to maintain control their legitimacy is under attack as never before, and "consent of the governed" is highly questionable. System instability is accelerating beyond the capacity of traditional power elites to handle, as more and more marbles are bounced out of the system.

They loosing their marbles.

Anonymous said...

I noticed Dickie Change had his TV show "Wala`au" next to his name on the ballot. This helps reinforce name recognition, and is a free form of advertising for his business as well. This is the type of innovative win-win thinking we need in local government.

Anonymous said...

That the left's political and social opinions do not represent a majority of voters is not an indication that the system is failing. In fact, we have the system we do so that minorities who think they know best can't impose their views on the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

That a minority of people did not vote in the primary election is not an opinion of the left (or the right) but fact.

Anonymous said...

"That a minority of people did not vote in the primary election is not an opinion of the left (or the right) but fact."

Above should read :That a majority of people did not vote in the primary election is not an opinion of the left (or the right) but fact."

Anonymous said...

A majority of people not voting in a primary isn't a sign of a failing system either.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Joan, I too was disappointed with the voter turnout and devoid sentiment. The public does not appear to be engaged on the critical issues. The leaders don't either. The outlook is not good for the energy, infrastructure, etc. issues to be addressed on Kauai.

Anonymous said...

When your choices are

1) Business as Usual with the donations to prove it

2) Business as usual with Lap Dances and rude treatment of opponents

3) Dithering, dizzy and decidedly unprepared

4) Who?

it's not inspiring to vote.

For the Council, the elderly Japanese voters show up so we get Kouchis, Kawakamis and Kaneshiros. That crowd know where their butter has come from for 50 years. The fact that a select few take the biggest slice doesn't seem to make a difference.

The Filipinos give us Asing. Clearly Ron Agor can't even motivate this crowd given his usual underperformance. He has the Haole Repugs in hand so it seems Wingnuttery just doesn't sell to hard core Dems despite the "tribe" affiliation.

Obviously the "progressive" vote just isn't there if Pasadava can't even bust into the top 14. Clearly the population at large doesn't buy into your political viewpoint.

Doesn't make your viewpoint wrong, merely unpopular. There may be lots of sound and fury against development etc. but at the bottom line, more people are making a buck off of construction than off of selling herbal teas. C'est la vie.

PS -- almost 8,000 declined to vote for the odious Shaylene I-C.

Ed Coll said...

Excellent analysis Anon 11:45 PM!

"more people are making a buck off of construction than off of selling herbal teas."

Or as Mark Twain observed "Show me where a man gits his corn pone and I'll tell you what his `pinions are"

Ken Stokes said...

Right, Joan! We might best put our energy in the 3rd Sector, as I advocate in my book. To heck with government; expect these "leaders" to follow.

Still, no need read too much into this vote. Folks didn't vote; we don't know what Kauaians think...yet.

Anonymous said...

I was baffled by the results for County Council. Kouchi and Kaneshiro have been voted out in the past. Why did they exude such confidence with attitudes that they donʻt even have to campaign...same with thatʻs a shock. LIke they knew something nobody else did????

There is a disturbing undemocratic propriety with these voting machines.
There was a small print instruction on how to MARK the ballot. I would truly like to know how many ʻmismarked, rejectedʻ ballots there were because they were marked with an X or a check.

It is just unbelievable that certain people have been reelected. People that nobody wanted in anymore...almost as if they were allowed to handpick their own council.
Itʻs disturbing to me. I wish an election, ballot box professional watchdog could shed some light on this while thereʻs still time to do something if needed.
At least I donʻt have to listen to Kouchiʻs nauseating ads anymore: wonder if anyone told his kid (the one in commercial saying his dad will protect the island for him and others) hey your dadʻs been one of the biggest destroyers of this island.

Anonymous said...

If you mismarked your ballot it was rejected by the machine (the one with the slot where you inserted your hand marked ballot). If you put only a check or an x you were informed of that immediately upon inserting your ballot in the machine/box. Then you would have the opportunity, after competing some paper work, of revoting. And besides, there were clear instructions on how to vote right in front of the voters' noses in the booth. It's ridiculous to imply there was a purposeful withholding of instructions.

Don't be so paranoid. Just because you don't like some candidates doesn't mean nobody wanted them anymore. What is that? I voted for Kouchi and so did a bunch of my friends. Don't be so shocked that people disagree with your world view.

Katy Rose said...

As Joan says, "Business as usual." Unfortunately, until progressives are able to make the case that a switch to sustainability will provide for the economic security of regular working people, we will not be all that convincing to the majority who either vote for the status quo or don't vote at all because there is nothing compelling on the table to vote for.

I appreciate the point about herbal tea. Let's be realistic: all of us who are dependent on blue-collar jobs for our livliehoods don't consider those livliehoods dispensible. Many of us have invested decades learning and perfecting trades with little economic security to show for it. For many, it is too late to start a new profession at the bottom of the ladder in the name of sustainability. On the other hand, if all our construction workers could use their valuable skills on retrofitting buildings to be green, and building new affordable green housing, they'd be stoked to do it if they could still earn the decent wages and benefits they have worked hard to gain.

These concrete things have to be spelled out to get the attention of working people: This many jobs at this rate of pay and benefits will be created by doing x, y, and z.

And like it or not, voters may continue to vote for familiar names and families - this is the nature of small communities wherever you go. This isn't a big anonymous urban area where names don't mean anything. Let's accept that reality and keep working at the grassroots to build a compelling program that people can rally behind in a broad-based way, which centralizes the bread-and-butter needs of everyday working families. Eventually, that will be the thing that creates change and influences those in office, whoever they are.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 11:54: The Filipinos give us Asing???

As for development, economic forces thousands of miles from our island will have a far greater impact than the local elections.

The question is what will our president, governor, mayor and legislative bodies do to provide basic services without running in the red. How will our next mayor's budget provide firefighters, police officers, road maintenance, sewer maintenance, water service, park maintenance, etc. with diminished tax revenues? While not much can be done at the county level, what do the candidates propose to do as tourism continues to decline? Has either Bernard or JoAnn ever addressed these issues?

Imagine Kauai's economy one year or even six months from today. No matter who our elected officials are, I pray that they govern wisely.

Anonymous said...

From the NY Times:

On Sept. 7, 2006, Nouriel Roubini, an economics professor at New York University, stood before an audience of economists at the International Monetary Fund and announced that a crisis was brewing. In the coming months and years, he warned, the United States was likely to face a once-in-a-lifetime housing bust, an oil shock, sharply declining consumer confidence and, ultimately, a deep recession. He laid out a bleak sequence of events: homeowners defaulting on mortgages, trillions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities unraveling worldwide and the global financial system shuddering to a halt. These developments, he went on, could cripple or destroy hedge funds, investment banks and other major financial institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The audience seemed skeptical, even dismissive. As Roubini stepped down from the lectern after his talk, the moderator of the event quipped, “I think perhaps we will need a stiff drink after that.” People laughed — and not without reason. At the time, unemployment and inflation remained low, and the economy, while weak, was still growing, despite rising oil prices and a softening housing market. And then there was the espouser of doom himself: Roubini was known to be a perpetual pessimist, what economists call a “permabear.” When the economist Anirvan Banerji delivered his response to Roubini’s talk, he noted that Roubini’s predictions did not make use of mathematical models and dismissed his hunches as those of a career naysayer.

But Roubini was soon vindicated. In the year that followed, subprime lenders began entering bankruptcy, hedge funds began going under and the stock market plunged. There was declining employment, a deteriorating dollar, ever-increasing evidence of a huge housing bust and a growing air of panic in financial markets as the credit crisis deepened. By late summer, the Federal Reserve was rushing to the rescue, making the first of many unorthodox interventions in the economy, including cutting the lending rate by 50 basis points and buying up tens of billions of dollars in mortgage-backed securities. When Roubini returned to the I.M.F. last September, he delivered a second talk, predicting a growing crisis of solvency that would infect every sector of the financial system. This time, no one laughed. “He sounded like a madman in 2006,” recalls the I.M.F. economist Prakash Loungani, who invited Roubini on both occasions. “He was a prophet when he returned in 2007.”


Plant your gardens and get ready. The change is gonna come.

Anonymous said...

Um, even a stopped clock is correct twice a day. If someone is a perpetual doom sayer, then they can always take undue credit when things go bad for a while (which they inevitably do from time to time).

Anonymous said...

The NY Times article does point out that Mr. Roubini's predictions have not always been accurate, but you can't deny that he's right (unfortunately) this time. He's not the only one who has been warning us for years that the sky was about to fall.

Yes, things go bad from time to time, but except for those who lived through the Great Depression, this is beyond anything that we will hopefully see in our lifetimes. Do you have confidence in the politicians and bankers who led us into this mess to get us out of it?

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:59

I believe you are suffering from the delusion that because most of the people you know don't like Kouchi/Kaneshiro/Asing/etc that they didn't get the votes honestly. How much time have you spent talking to the over 70 year old "local" voters that stream in to vote?

I worked the polls in a location with 1000+ ballots cast. Since I worked near the ballot box, I got to see over 98% of those people up close. If even 10% of them were <30 I'll eat crow. If less than 50% were 60+, I'll eat crow. Our voting public is simply not young and progressive.

I can also assure you that the optical scanning machine is extremely sensitive to marks. I'd bet $10,000 that any check or X in a box was recorded 99.9% of the time. I saw a dozen or more rejected/spoiled ballots because someone merely rested a pen point inside a box and then didn't color it in giving them 8 or more council choices thus triggering the error alert. (part of the job is helping those who cant understand or just refuse to absorb the instructions).

We had roughly 5-10% of our voters spoil their first ballot and have to go back to try again so I saw pretty much every way one can foul up a ballot.

Same thing when people just put the smallest dot in a second party's races.

The ballot design was crap as usual, but I don't think the machines are at fault here. Blame the electorate. For the most part, the majority is getting precisely the government they want.

Joan said...

Thanks for da inside scoop, Anon. 1:41 pm.

Anonymous said...

"Don't be so paranoid. Just because you don't like some candidates doesn't mean nobody wanted them anymore. What is that? I voted for Kouchi and so did a bunch of my friends. Don't be so shocked that people disagree with your world view."

Itʻs not paranoia, relax, sounds like youʻre getting a little hot under your whatever. The fact that there are abundant 2nd language voters, abundant illiteracy, etc. the instruction for marking ballot box WAS NOT sufficiently indicated.
As to Kouchi, I am shocked his numbers rose because he had been UN-REELECTED last time around. And Kouchi, by the way, does not fall into my ʻworld viewʻ. To me he is as important as a gnat on a fly, same with Bynum, Kaneshiro and Agor.
Guess what Iʻm saying is: How pathetic, is that all you got?

Anonymous said...

"The fact that there are abundant 2nd language voters, abundant illiteracy, etc. the instruction for marking ballot box WAS NOT sufficiently indicated."

The instructions for marking the ballot were A DRAWING showing the wrong way = ballots marked with x's and checks and showing the correct way = ballot colored in.

If the instructions were not sufficient explanation then society is in a lot worse trouble than wringing hands over Ron Kouchi conspiracy theories can solve.