Category Archives: Current affairs

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Wealth gap in Honolulu

Inequality–the one-word description of our dichotomous economy post Great Recession.  On one hand, we are soaring at new DOW heights and home values well beyond the real estate bubble of 2008.  On the other hand, there is no recovery and we are sliding backwards as our incomes stagnate while the cost of living from food to health care, housing, and college tuition continues to rise precipitously.

Inequality re-shapes the landscape before my eyes.  Ross Dress-for-Less stores crop up everywhere replacing establishments like Barnes N Nobles.

Symphony Honolulu - Luxury Condominium

Symphony Honolulu – Luxury Condominium

Construction cranes proliferate the Kakaako area, a prime Honolulu real-estate neighborhood just west of Waikiki, signifying a boom in vertical construction.  Most projects are high-end, luxury condominiums, glass towers boasting sweeping ocean views replete with spa-like amenities (cushion backed lawn chairs aside tiled pools of water).

The most luxurious of these high-end developments is Howard Hughes Corporation’s Ward Village, a master-planned luxury community spanning two blocks of Kakaako. For instance the Ae’o residence, will neighbor a new Whole Foods store and incorporate luxuries with up-scaled names such as a sky terrace (otherwise known as a roof-top deck) perfect for throwing spectacular outdoor soirres and also an amenity deck (otherwise known as the BBQ/pool area) that includes the usual amenities plus a pet-friendly dog-run (aka a yard).

801 South St. - Affordable housing

801 South St. – Affordable housing

On the other hand, there is a token “affordable” condominium project aptly called Kakaako Workforce Housing (no frills in that name) targeted for local working people, not foreign investors.  Of course, most locals are priced out of the new affordable, which ranges from 400 sq. ft. studios at $250k to 860 sq. ft. two bedroom, two bath units at $500k.  The lack of affordability manifests into a growing homeless population in the same area–communities of tents along sidewalks or under freeway overpasses.

Kakaako homeless

The facades of the two construction types quickly depicts the challenge of current times–the indulgent glassy rich and the plain worker class, the tale of two cities, capital gains and ordinary income, the 1% and the rest of the 99%, the wiping out of the middle class and the new landscape of inequality.

Shutdown from my point of view

Day 15 of the (partial) government shutdown

Yawn.

I’ve moved on. I can’t seem to stay interested in a bunch of old fogies, namely Boehner and Obama, disagreeing on the national budget. It’s as interesting as being involved with my parents’ disagreements.

Dad: “Your mother can still wash the dishes.” Mom: “Dad just doesn’t get it.”

Obama: “Government can re-open right now, this minute.” Boehner: “The President won’t negotiate.”

There is no other appropriate reaction to this kind of banter than to roll one’s eye-balls. Continue reading

#Dear Congress

91 veterans from Mississippi treat the shutdown the way it should be–like it never happened.                                              Photo by Karen Bleier / AFP / Getty Images

Five years ago you agreed to bail out the big banks with public funds. It was a remarkable feat of transfer of corporate loss to public loss minus the lofty profits. Call it an act of congress. No, call it a great act of congress.  

Lacking any acts of congress this week, let alone a great one, maybe the big banks could throw a bailout to the 800,000 furloughed federal employees while you sort things out?

Posted shutdown signs at the Statue of Liberty         Photo by Spencer Platt / Getty Images

I think it would mean a lot to the people, not only to those federal servants and their families, but also to those veterans traveling from afar to remember their fellow fallen men and to those thousands visiting our country’s iconic (now increasingly ironic) symbol of Liberty.  Thanks.

Sincerely,

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Hotter days: does our planet have a fever?

Solar flare composite image by NASA / JAXA

The world did not end in 2012. There was no magnetic pole reversal or solar flare catastrophe. But for one country at least, 2012 was a marked year of solar intensity and extreme weather. The United States (excluding Hawaii and Alaska) experienced its warmest year, by far, in 2012 since records began 118 years ago says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA). NOAA scientists also say the new record significantly sets itself apart from the rest of the data, breaking the last record set in 1998 by a full degree versus the much more typical fractions of a degree. Higher temperatures translate to extreme weather as both record years are also tagged as the United States’ two most extreme weather years. Continue reading

Winds of change: my doomsday story

It’s January 2013 and I still report to my desk job the same as usual instead of somewhere underground sheltered from nuclear fallout or solar flares or other fantastic cataclysm (not that I have such an underground shelter to go to). December 21, 2012 came and went and the biggest headliner was about a looming fiscal cliff. Continue reading

The declaration of the Higgs boson and what it means

This past Fourth of July was like most other Fourth of July holidays. It included getting up late, preparing an All-American meal (which turned out to be boiling some corn and cutting cubes of watermelon), swimming in the afternoon, and by late evening attending a fireworks show to commemorate the United States’ 236th birthday. Little did I know, this fourth of July, in another part of the world a different historical event was taking place—the declaration of the Higgs Boson.

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Larry Ellison buys an island in Hawaii

You probably haven’t been there before, to Lanai (pronounced La-nigh-ee). I myself have lived in Hawaii for 25 years now and I’ve never set foot on Lanai either. The island is and was privately owned for the last 100 years. Incidentally, the island of Niihau (pronounced knee-hee-ow) is also privately owned, first purchased from the Kingdom of Hawaii by Elizabeth Sinclair in 1864. Her descendants, the Robinson family, still own the island today. So it’s no surprise that I haven’t set foot on Niihau either.

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