U.S. Senators call for investigation into FCC cyber attacks

Today, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to prioritize an investigation into the reported cyberattacks on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Following increased media coverage of the FCC’s net neutrality proceeding, the Commission reported that it was the victim of distributed denial-of-service-attacks (DDos), where bad actors flood a website with more online traffic than it can handle in an effort to crash the site. These attacks may have prevented the public from accessing and commenting on current proceedings before the FCC.

“This particular attack may have denied the American people the opportunity to contribute to what is supposed to be a fair and transparent process, which in turn may call into question the integrity of the FCC’s rulemaking proceedings,” the senators wrote. “We request that you update us on the status of the FBI’s investigation and brief us on this matter.”

The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Acting Director McCabe:

On May 8, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it was the victim of “multiple distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDos),” where an attacker overwhelms a network with information to prevent legitimate users from accessing information or services.  This attack appeared to target the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System, which is the portal through which the public may submit comments on ongoing proceedings.  While the FCC has released little information to date about the reported attacks, the agency has stated that the attacks “were deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC’s comment system with a high amount of traffic” and that “[t]hese actors were not attempting to file comments themselves; rather they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC.”

The FCC is important to the lives of all Americans because it oversees our Nation’s telecommunications networks.  These networks are important for both consumers and industry, contributing to public engagement, individual livelihood, public safety, our national economy, and our ability to remain competitive globally.  The public comment period associated with the FCC’s rulemaking authority is a critical part of the regulatory process and the primary way for the American people to make their voices heard.  The reported cyberattack on the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System is extremely troubling given that it threatens to stifle the public’s ability to weigh in on these issues.

A Congressional inquiry has already been sent to the FCC asking for details about the attack.  We ask that the FBI prioritize this matter and investigate the source of this attack.  Any cyberattack on a federal network is very serious.  This particular attack may have denied the American people the opportunity to contribute to what is supposed to be a fair and transparent process, which in turn may call into question the integrity of the FCC’s rulemaking proceedings.

We request that you update us on the status of the FBI’s investigation and brief us on this matter by June 23, 2017.  Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Will Caron
Trump’s planned budget cuts to tsunami warning puts thousands at risk

The Trump budget proposes to eliminate seismic and water monitoring, needlessly putting coastal residents in jeopardy

Proposed budget cuts by President Trump would compromise the timeliness and accuracy of tsunami forecasting and warnings, thereby putting thousands of coastal residents at needless risk, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The budgetary reductions unveiled last week would also negate key provisions of the Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act which Trump himself signed into law on April 18.

According to National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration experts, the cuts will significantly reduce warning time of an incoming tsunami to coastal populations, especially in Alaska and Hawaii. In addition to eliminating over 60 percent of the staff for the NOAA Tsunami Warning Center (from 40 positions to only 15), the Trump budget would terminate funding for three separate tsunami detection systems: Land-based seismic sensors; Coastal water level sensors; and Deep-ocean buoys (the Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis or DARTs).

NOAA’s own Congressional Submission concedes that, “This termination is anticipated to have a 20 percent or greater impact on the accuracy, certainty, and timeliness of NOAA’s tsunami watches and warnings.”

However, NOAA experts who have contacted PEER indicate that even this admitted marked deterioration of advance warning capacity and accuracy is a significant underestimate of the impacts. In addition, the cuts most affect the coastal populations already at the highest risk from tsunami inundation and damage.

“Disconnecting land and water-based tsunami sensors is an incredibly foolish false economy,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the total package of $35 million in proposed spending reductions would be dwarfed by the public savings from timely early warning of even a single tsunami. “This proposal makes it apparent that the experts at NOAA are divorced from their own budget planning.”

In addition, the Trump cuts would functionally nullify key provisions of the Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act (part of the larger Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 unanimously adopted by both houses of Congress). Its purpose is to improve “mapping, modeling, and assessment efforts to improve tsunami detection, forecasting, warnings, [and] notification….” 

“It looks as if the left hand does not know what the right hand has already signed in the Trump White House,” added Ruch, pointing out that this was one of the few substantive new laws (other than repeals of late-term Obama regulations) Trump has signed. “While many predict that this Trump budget will not be adopted, disturbingly, the logic that produced this plan still persists among Trump decision-makers.”

Ai-jen Poo: building and sustaining a movement for social justice

Ai-jen Poo is the director of the National Domestic Worker’s Alliance and is Co-Director of an initiative called Caring Across Generations that seeks to establish an infrastructure for Universal Family Care. We asked her for her thoughts on building and sustaining a movement for social justice, broadly, and how the Hawaiʻi campaign to pass kūpuna and family care legislation, specifically, ties into that larger movement.

Ai-jen Poo: A lot of people have been asking how we’re going to sustain the movement for social justice in this country, and all of the activity that’s happening on the part of everyday people who are in motion right now. And I will say that part of what is so powerful about this moment in history is that it involves new people every week who are coming in. It’s actually people who are not jaded, who are not cynical, people who feel like their voices need to be heard and can have an impact in this moment and want to do something.

We have to create organizations and moments like the Women’s March, like the People’s Climate March, like the March for Science—all of these big, mass-mobilizations that are being planned—and then also targeted campaigns which are about holding people in power accountable to American citizens. When Andrew Puzder—the nominee for the Secretary of Labor in the Trump administration—withdrew, that was a huge victory on the part of thousands of workers who said, “How are we going to let a CEO who is known for violating the very laws he would be tasked to enforce become labor secretary?” It’s a victory on the part of everyday people. So we need campaigns where people can feel the impact of their activism. And we also need these moments that bring in new people so that we can constantly renew the energy with which we fight.

And it’s not just about fighting from an angry place. I think it’s about offering an alternative way forward: it’s not just opposing, it’s also proposing. That’s why the Kūpuna Care legislation that was passed this session thanks to the Caring 4 Our Kūpuna campaign is so important to me. I’d been fighting evil things—the targeting of immigrants, bans, walls, raids—for three months straight. The second I got to Hawaiʻi and I was talking about how to create what we actually need for our Kūpuna, it’s a completely different energy: trying to create the solutions we need instead of fighting against the attacks. We need those solutions and we need to be able to continue to make progress on those solutions ins order to sustain ourselves. So I am excited about bring in a whole new set of Hawaiʻi-based activists through this Kūpuna Caregiver bill.

Will Caron
Proposed revisions to Central O‘ahu Plan available for review

The Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) has completed its comprehensive review of the revised Central O‘ahu Sustainable Communities Plan (SCP) and it is now available to the public for review.

The plan will be presented at the Waipahu Neighborhood Board meeting on Thursday, May 25, at 7 p.m. in the Filipino Community Center, 94-428 Mokuola Street. The DPP has already made presentations to the Wahiawā/Whitmore Village Neighborhood Board and the Mililani Mauka/Launani Valley Board.

The revised document is an update of the 2002 Central O‘ahu SCP, which is the city’s guide for the future of the region that includes Wahiawā, Mililani, Mililani Mauka, Waipi‘o, Kunia, Waikele and Waipahu.

Central O‘ahu is expected to experience moderate growth between now and 2040, with the addition of 12,600 new housing units to accommodate projected population increases. According to the DPP, “The plan provides capacity for residential development while protecting 10,350 acres of high-quality agricultural land. The updated plan also addresses the need for affordable housing in Central O‘ahu, revitalization of Waipahu and Wahiawā, and the protection and conservation of natural resources.”

The plan has been submitted to the Planning Commission, which is expected to hold a public hearing on Wednesday, July 19, 2017. The commission will make a recommendation to the City Council for further review and action.

For those unable to attend this week’s board meeting, copies of the plan are available on the DPP website. The plan also is available at the DPP, 650 South King Street, 7th Floor; Kapolei Hale, 1000 Uluohia Street; and the Mililani, Wahiawā, Waipahu, and Pearl City libraries, as well as the main Hawai‘i State Library at 478 South King Street.

Will Caron
How the Trump budget would affect Hawaii’s families

“President Trump’s budget proposal is not just radical, it’s cruel. But make no mistake – this budget is dead on arrival. When the administration tried to cut these programs for this fiscal year, we didn’t let it happen. This time is no different,” said Sen. Brian Schatz today in a statement. “I will fight as a member of the Appropriations Committee to protect the programs that make our local economy and our communities stronger.”

The Trump proposal would cut more than $1 trillion from programs critical to families in Hawai‘i and across the country including:
·      Medicaid;
·      Native Hawaiian Education Act Program;
·      Children’s Health Insurance Program;
·      Social Security Disability Insurance;
·      Planned Parenthood;
·      Public health preparedness programs, which help to prepare Hawai‘i and other states for outbreaks like dengue and Zika;
·      Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program);
·      Emergency Medical Services for Children Program;
·      Social Services Block Grant, a program that helps support children and families in need;
·      Community Development Block Grants, a program that helps local governments fund affordable housing and anti-poverty projects;
·      National Park Service;
·      National Institutes of Health; and
·      Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8 housing).

Will Caron
10 questions for the new police chief

ACLU Hawaii to Police Commission: "The appointment of a new chief of police marks a turning point in the City and County of Honolulu as it is a unique opportunity for the leadership of the Honolulu police to regain the trust of the people they serve."

Will Caron
How to build a progressive consumption tax

Apropos to the State Legislature’s reticence to extend the GET surcharge, a proposal to build a progressive VAT.

Ikaika M Hussey
Ethics commission gives award to legislature - for doing what they are legally obligated to do

From the commission’s website:

The Commission wishes to congratulate all Representatives and all Senators for having completed their 2017 Disclosures of Financial Interests by the January 31 filing deadline, and has therefore issued Ethics Awards to both houses of the Legislature in recognition of their 100 percent success rate in completing the filing requirement on time. Speaker Joseph Souki and President Ronald Kouchi were presented with certificates signed by all five Ethics Commissioners.


Will Caron
Is Souki’s leadership in trouble?

Within today's announced House committee chair shuffle lies the very real potential for an impending leadership shakeup.

The Hawaii State House leadership announced today that Rep. Angus McKelvey would be removed as chair from the Committee on Consumer (CPC) Protection and reinstated as chair of the House Committee on Higher Education (HED). Former Committee on Education (EDN) chair Roy Takumi will take over as chair of the CPC instead. Justin Woodson will take over as chair of the Committee on Education (EDN). While Speaker of the House Joe Souki is sticking to the line that this rare, mid-session shuffle was “mutually agreeable,” the reorganization could mean a lot more than leadership is letting on.

Amid the growing criticism over McKelvey’s handling of the CPC committee (passing bills without consultation, as well as adding last minute amendments to sabotage bills, as was the case with HB790, the pesticide disclosure bill) the resolution to reassign him was introduced. But during the lead up to the day’s session, Speaker Souki spoke strongly against any motion to remove McKelvey, effectively attempting to strong arm House members who were upset with the CPC committee chairship into falling in line. This inflamed fracture lines within the majority caucus that could threaten the fragile coalition that resulted in Souki’s election as leader of the House over former Speaker Calvin Say in the first place.

Some form of meeting seems to have occurred with certain members of the majority caucus regarding Speaker Souki as well. And while the Speaker was unavailable for comment to confirm at the time of publication, rumors fly around the rotunda, and it seems that there was the possibility of an immediate attempt to remove him from his position as well.

The resolution to reassign McKelvey ultimately went forward to the floor for a vote, for which Speaker Souki was absent. The vote passed and the reassignments went forward. No resolution regarding Souki was introduced.

Interestingly, the Maui Mayoral election is up in 2018, and scuttlebutt has it that current Lieutenant Governor (LG) Shan Tsutsui might make a run for the office. That would mean that the President of the Senate, Ronald Kouchi, would be up to inherit the position, but it’s not clear he would take the job. Which would then leave the road open for Souki to step into the LG role. And that’s when the real fight for House leadership could begin.

Will Caron
Former Sacramento mayor reenters politics in Hawaii after dual scandals

Allegations of sexual assault and shady handling of public education follow former mayor Kevin Johnson and his wife, former D.C. school system chancellor Michelle Rhee as they try to remake themselves in Hawai'i politics.

On January 18, 2017, the Hawai‘i State Legislature convened the 29th Biennium Legislative Session. Senate President Kouchi introduced Kevin Johnson, the former Mayor of Sacramento and a former professional basketball player, and announced that “he has been meeting with Johnson and hopes to work with him to address many of the concerns in Hawai‘i that mirror those of the Mayor’s hometown” (as per Damon Tucker).

In addition to this appearance on opening day, Johnson has been making the rounds with legislators, and was most recently spotted last week at the Hawaii Business 20 for the next 20 event.

Johnson is an alleged serial perpetrator of sexual assault, something that has been covered extensively in media, including on HBO’s “Real Sports” news program. Among other allegations, Johnson was said to have used his standing in the community to keep his teenaged victims, many of whom he mentored, from coming forward.

See also: slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/10/12/kevin_johnson_sexual_assault_allegations_sacramento_mayor_faces_questions.html

In his speech, it was clear that Senator Kouchi had invited Johnson because of his work with charter schools, but it seems he must not know the full details of either Johnsons’ involvement with charter schools, or that of Johnson’s wife, Michelle Rhee. As a former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. school system, Rhee has also been the subject of controversy after closing a number of Washington D.C. schools without public hearing, and making unsubstantiated claims that she had improved test scores from the 13th percentile to the 90th. Her eventual approval rating dropped to 43 percent, prior to her resignation. More recently, Rhee has advocated for school vouchers, allowing public funds to be used for private school tuition, at events funded by recently appointed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

While Kouchi’s close association with Johnson as an alleged sex assault perpetrator should, at the very least, raise eyebrows and give legislators pause before working with him, Kouchi’s stated intention to seek guidance from advocates of controversial educational policies may carry serious repercussions that could affect public school children, teachers and taxpayers far into the future.