Nuclear Wake Up Call

Flawed interface design can be easily fixed: The real missile mistake is militarism.

Will Caron
Ige responds to Rep. Hanabusa’s 2018 challenge, touts record of “hard work” over politics

The governor claims to have eliminated favoritism and pay-to-play cronyism in state government.

Governor Ige’s response to Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s official announcement that she intends to challenge him for the governorship in 2018:

The people of Hawai‘i are always served by choices in leadership. I welcome Colleen’s entrance into the race.

It is one thing to criticize, and it is another to get the people’s business done. I am proud of our record during the last three years. We have made hard decisions, sometimes unpopular decisions, because it was the right thing to do and in the best interests of the people of this state.

Our team has improved our financial standing saving the state hundreds of millions in interest payments and rekindled long-stalled infrastructure
projects. I kept my promise to cool schools, protected over 40,000 acres of watershed forests on four islands, and ended favoritism and pay to play cronyism in state government, opening up more contracts to our local small businesses. I am also proud of how my administration has taken on the Trump Administration when they have put Hawai‘i’s and the nation’s values and rights in jeopardy, doing more than most other governors to fight unfair and discriminatory policies coming out of Congress and the White House.

I may not be the typical politician, but what we need today is less politics and more hard work. The historic firsts coming out of my administration and things I have done since taking office reflects this effort. That is the kind of leadership I believe Hawai‘i deserves.

13 ways the Trump-GOP tax plan will hurt working people

According to tax experts, the proposed legislation will benefit the wealthiest Americans—like President Donald Trump, his cabinet and members of Congress—at the expense of working families with children.

Ige’s budget reflects continued reliance on outdated, ineffective and injurious policies

Inside the governor's Supplemental Budget proposal are requests for money meant to crack down on the houseless and to explore private prison options

“Keep public places public”—the governor’s new phrase for keeping the public out of public spaces, per his supplemental budget request. He’s asking for money to beef up security to crack down on the homeless at public locations.

Specifically, $419,302 for deputy sheriffs positions to “support homeless and illegal camping operations.”

To be fair, he’s also asking for $50 million for homelessness programs like Housing First and rapid rehousing and $75 million for the affordable housing revolving funds, which is great. But the perceived need for those extra sheriffs to force houseless people into shelters and other housing programs is a proven waste of taxpayer dollars and a contributing factor to our overcrowded jail and prison population.

Speaking of prison “highlights,” the governor wants $10 million for Department of Public Safety statewide facility master plans (they’ll be ADA accessible though, so, at least we can incarcerate the disabled without worrying about a lawsuit there), as well as an additional $33 million for new prison housing facilities and site assessments on each of the neighbor islands and and other $4.7 million for the department’s general administration and lump sum CIP.

Also, embedded in the capital improvement project budget, way down at the bottom, is $1 million for planning and assessment of public-private prison partnerships. Because making a profit off of incarcerated individuals has never, ever led to human rights-violating conflicts of interest.

Will Caron
Voter suppression in Alabama confirms true threat to free and fair elections

Under the guise of enforcing voter fraud protections—and with a gutted Voting Rights Act doing little to stop them—conservatives in power appear to be doing everything they can to suppress minority votes.

Dechauna Jiles has always voted at the First Assembly of God church in Dothan, Alabama. Last fall, she cast her ballot there in the presidential election. When she returned to her longtime polling place a week ago, on Tuesday, December 12, to vote in the Alabama special Senate election, poll workers said her registration status was “inactive.”

“That makes no sense,” Jiles told ThinkProgress. Workers told Jiles that she could only cast a “provisional” ballot, one that would not be counted unless she drove to another precinct to update her information. Jiles wasn’t the only one at the First Assembly polling place that was told this. Six other voters were given the same line.

“It’s not that we’re not showing up to vote—we’re being suppressed,” said Jiles.

Jiles, who is African-American, said it would be a “dishonor to her family” not to vote. Her parents grew up two blocks from the historic 16th Street Baptist Church: a rallying point for civil rights activists during the pivotal Birmingham Children’s Crusade of 1963. It was here that one of the era’s most heinous acts of terror occurred. Klu Klux Klansmen set off a powerful explosive during a Sunday morning service, killing four little girls, in September of that year.

Doug Jones, the winner of the Alabama Senate election, successfully prosecuted two of the Klansmen responsible nearly 40 years after the bombing.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) expressed concern going into the special election that Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill’s decision to inactivate 340,000 voters one month before the August primary, as well as his recent threat of jailing crossover voters, would have a chilling effect on turnout.

Merrill said he was updating the voter rolls to reflect address changes. But Black voters in Alabama are right to be suspicious. Accoriding to the SPLC, the state has a long history of making it harder for them to cast their ballot. In an interview with the SPLC ahead of 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Dorothy Guilford, then 94, recounted taking a literacy test to become eligible and standing in long lines to pay her poll tax.

“Now that, I think, discouraged a lot of people, the long lines, because so many had to go back to work,” Guilford said in the interview.

The Voting Rights Act (VRA) put an end to such overtly discriminatory measures, but the Supreme Court’s decision in 2013 to gut key provisions of the Act opened the door to new forms of discrimination.

In January of 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation concluded that Alabama—which requires a form of photo ID to vote—disproportionately hurt Black voters in 2015 when it closed 31 driver’s license offices, including offices in eight of the 10 counties with the highest proportion of Black residents.

“Based on its investigation, DOT has concluded that African Americans residing in the Black Belt region of Alabama disproportionately underserved by [the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency]‘s driver licensing services, causing a disparate and adverse impact on the basis of race,” the department said.

Thanks to the federal probe, some of the offices have since reopened. But the closures weren’t the last attack by an Alabama lawmaker on the right to vote.

Just before last year’s presidential election, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill attacked the policy of automatic voter registration calling it the “sorry and lazy way out,” and claiming that “just because you turned 18 doesn’t give you the right to do anything.”

Merrill’s comments were not only ignorant (the 26th Amendment gives citizens who turn 18 precisely the right to vote), but demonstrative of a broader campaign to suppress minority voters.

This campaign appears in the form of President Trump’s wildly unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud, in lawmakers’ purges of voter rolls, in lawsuits against poor counties for out-of-date voter rolls and in gerrymandered districts, which The Root calls potentially the “Civil Rights issue of our time.”

And it appeared in Alabama last Tuesday, when voters across the state reported misleading ballots, police intimidation at the polls and text messages erroneously telling them that their polling locations had changed.

“It’s important for everybody to be able to vote and let their choice be known,” Dorothy Guilford told the SPLC shortly after the VRA was gutted.

Without its protections, systematic voter suppression—not voter fraud—is the real threat to free and fair elections in the United States.

Of course the GOP won’t seat Jones until next year

The petty, partisan, mean and blatantly hypocritical move to try and save Trump's tax plan by blocking the will of the Alabama voters should come as no surprise.

Alabama voters picked former prosecutor Doug Jones over right-wing, Trump-endorsed Roy Moore as their next U.S. senator. Besides an historic upset in a Republican stronghold state, the loss of a Republican vote in the senate and the subsequent addition of a Democratic one could make for a serious roadblock for the Trump administration’s agenda of privatizing public goods, opening tax loopholes for wealthy donors and corporate buyers and dismantling the very social safety net made necessary by the greed of those same wealthy donors and corporations.

Voter analysis shows that this upset wasn’t the result of white, Republican voters in Alabama defecting over allegations that Moore pursued, harassed and assaulted underage women. Rather, it was because Black voters—especially women—and millennials turned out and overwhelmingly supported Jones.

Why? Because he campaigned on values and policies that resonate with these core constituents: access to affordable education, access to affordable healthcare, defending a woman’s right to choose, defending social safety net programs and opposing the Trump administration’s corporate agenda, in particular the tax plan. The upset, therefore, was a definite rebuttal of the Trump’s administration’s anti-poor, anti-minority, anti-women policies, and its appalling rhetoric. In urban areas, where Black and minority voters live, Moore was decidedly rejected. In Jefferson County, which includes Birmingham, Jones captured more than 68 percent of the vote. And in Madison County, home to Huntsville, Jones won 57 percent of the vote.

So when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s says he will not seat Senator-elect Doug Jones before the end of the session, he is directly denying the will of the voters in Alabama based purely on policy and ideology. McConnell’s insistence that Republican Luther Strange—the current, temporary Alabama senator—stay in the seat is a move designed to keep a reliable vote in the Senate for the Trump tax plan in the coming weeks despite the fact that the Alabama voters who picked Jones reject that plan. But this should come as no surprise, given the complete lack of integrity and decency exhibited by the GOP leaders who obviously care more about maintaining ideological control, wielding power and collecting donations from their bankrollers in the corporate oligarchy than they care about building a strong, prosperous and just country.

Republicans rammed through the Senate version of the Trump tax plan in the dead of night a few weeks ago with almost no time for senators to review the document. They even hand-wrote some of the edits in the margins. The committee reconciling the House and Senate versions of the bill could release its next version any day now and the Senate could vote as early as next Monday, December 18. Seating Jones is, therefore, a matter of extreme urgency.

In 2010, when Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s seat in a special election after Sen. Kennedy’s passing, then Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Brown’s election a referendum on the ongoing congressional deliberation to pass health care legislation and argued that the Senate should not finish voting on health care legislation until Brown was seated. Then-Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid honored that request and decided not to hold a vote until the Senate had sworn Brown in.

Democratic Senator Jim Webb supported the move, saying “It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.”

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans held a Supreme Court seat open for an entire year before the 2016 election just to prevent then-President Obama from appointing a judge to the bench. Now they want to rush through a vote before their majority shrinks. The hypocrisy is palpable. It seems only fair that the Senate should wait to take such an important vote until its newest member is seated, especially given the clear message of opposition those Alabama voters who will be most affected by the tax plan sent to Donald Trump about his corporate agenda and racist rhetoric.

Roy Moore is an alleged pedophile, and while some in his party refused to support him after women came forward to report how he had harassed and even assaulted them as teenagers, the Republican National Convention renewed its support for Moore by pointing to his policy positions. They made it about the issues, choosing to skirt around the moral character of the candidate.

Doug Jones ran on a pro-choice, pro health-care platform. He voiced his opposition to the Trump Tax Scam during the race. Republicans must now accept that voters did not just reject Moore’s appalling behavior, they rejected his policies. The Senate must not hold a final vote on the Trump tax scam until Alabama’s new senator is able to vote on it.

But, true to the GOP M.O., Roy Moore is refusing to concede, and the Alabama secretary of state will not certify the results until after Christmas or into the new year. The people of Alabama elected a Democrat to the Senate for the first time in 25 years. They deserve to have their voices heard, especially when sweeping legislation that will affect them and the rest of the country is at stake.

Edit: an earlier version of this piece misidentified Merrick Brian Garland as a “progressive” judge. While he was eminently qualified to fill the position, he would more accurately be described as a “centrist,” which was part of the reason then-President Obama nominated him—so that a reasonable GOP-controlled Senate would confirm him and most people could live with his decisions. Of course, we do not have a reasonable GOP-controlled Senate, which is still the point of this piece.

Will Caron
Hawaii becomes first state to invest in elder care infrastructure

The newly launched Kupuna Caregivers Program will help working caregivers pay for vital support services for their elderly charges.

Working caregivers who pay for services to support kūpuna may now be eligible for up to $70 per day of financial help to cover the cost of adult day care, chore services, home-delivered meals, homemaker services, personal care, respite and transportation.

The Hawaiʻi Executive Office on Aging (EOA) has officially launched the state’s Kupuna Caregivers Program which was mandated through a law signed earlier this year by Gov. David Ige. The law, Act 102, was championed by the Hawaiʻi branch of a national initiative called Caring Across Generations (CAG) through a campaign called “Care For Our Kūpuna.”

“The landmark initiative is a first step in recognizing the significant contributions and sacrifices of Hawaiʻi’s working caregivers as they celebrate and honor their kūpuna,” said Gov. David Ige in a press release. “Support for our caregivers is critically needed as Hawaiʻi’s population is aging more rapidly than the national average and our seniors live longer than seniors in any other state.”

“We are hopeful that this program will provide working caregivers with the opportunity to continue working and with peace of mind knowing that their loved ones are safe and are receiving services and supports that maximize their independence and quality of life,” said Terri Byers, director of the EOA. “[We are] looking forward to analyzing the data we collect during this first six-month pilot period to evaluate demand for services, provider capacity and how effective the program is in helping caregivers retain employment and ease financial burden.”

Hawaiʻi was the second state in the nation to pass a domestic workers bill of rights, signed into law by former Governor Abercrombie in 2013. As part of her work on that initiative, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance Ai-jen Poo realized that the importance of the domestic workforce would become increasingly vital as the United States population continues to age. “More and more of us have family members who are growing old and living longer, and we want them to be able to stay at home and be a part of their families and their communities,” she said in an interview conducted for The Independent’s sister publication, Summit. “The need for care is just exploding.”

So she returned to Hawaiʻi, and visited a few other states, to help create CAG. “We have a major problem in this country where we really underpay and undervalue our caregivers—whether they are family caregivers or professional caregivers. Hawaiʻi is poised to become the first states in the country to reverse that trend,” said Poo.

Every day, 10,000 people turn 65 in America. That’s one person every 8 seconds; 4 million per year. Because of advances in healthcare and medicine, people are living longer, healthier lives. By the year 2020, about 300,000 people will be over the age of 65 in Hawaiʻi alone.

“It’s potentially a great opportunity: the ability to live longer also means the ability to connect with your family longer, to work longer, to contribute, to love—all these opportunities, if we have the right support in place to actually take care of people, and to make sure that have what they need to live healthy lives. And that’s what this campaign is all about,” Poo said.

Under Act 102, qualified caregivers who apply for the program may receive up to $70 per day in services (subject to the availability of funds and paid directly to contracted service providers, not the caregiver). To be eligible, caregivers must be employed at least 30 hours a week by one or more employers and provide direct care to a care recipient who is a citizen of the U.S. or a qualified alien, 60 years of age or older, and not covered by any comparable government or private home and community-based care service, except kūpuna care services. The care recipient cannot reside in a long-term care facility and must have impairments of at least two activities of daily living or two instrumental activities of daily living or one activity of daily living and one instrumental activity of daily living or substantive cognitive impairment requiring substantial supervision.

There are about 4 million home care workers and caregivers providing elder care in the United States, and about 52 million family caregivers: people who are providing up to 20 hours a week of care for their family members on top of full-time jobs, class and other commitments. Managing the pressures of working while supporting family members is one of the primary pain points that working families experience today.

“When we think of infrastructure ... we think of roads and bridges and pipes and fiber optic cables. In the 21st century, when 75 percent of children are growing up in households where all of the adults are working outside the home, we actually need a whole new infrastructure to support people while they care for their families,” said Poo. “And Hawaiʻi, through the Kupuna Caregiver bill, has become the first state to invest in that infrastructure, to invest in the ability of working families to keep their loved ones at home instead of putting them in institutions; to insure that the workforce that supports that infrastructure is fairly compensated. It invests in both workers and families. It’s about the value of care giving.”

Interested caregivers should contact the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) as soon as possible to apply for the program. Program funding is limited to a total of $600,000 available until June 30, 2018 unless a subsequent appropriation is made by the Hawaii State Legislature. Applying for the program includes employment verification, assessment of the care recipient, and a caregiver burden assessment. For further information or to apply, call the ADRC statewide phone number (808) 643-2372, ADRC TTY line (808) 643-0899, or go to hawaiiadrc.org.

To read the complete interview with Ai-jen Poo, visit summitzine.com

Will Caron
8 takeaways from the state tax system review

Hawaiʻi Tax Review Commission recommendations will form the backbone of House and Senate revenue packages in 2018.

Kris Coffield
A Thanksgiving guide to indigenous justice

Resources for important holiday discussions with family and loved ones about race and justice

The $700 billion military spending package could pay for tuition-free college with room to spare

127 Democrats, including Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, backed the proposed National Defense Authorization Act of 2018.

Both Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to approve the $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 on Nov. 14, 2017. The bill would boost military spending by $80 billion a year. Senator Bernie Sanders’ proposal to create tuition-free public higher education would have cost the federal government $47 billion per year to cover 67 percent of the cost. (Even if the federal government were to pay for 100 percent of the proposal, it would cost just $70 billion per year.)

The vote tally was 357–70, with 127 Democrats—including Rep. Colleen Hanabusa—backing the bill. Sixty-seven Democrats—including Rep. Tulsi Gabbard—voted against the legislation.

The bill provides funding for 90 F-35 jets—20 more than President Trump requested—and approves more than $12 billion for the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency just as tensions between the United States and North Korea are at an all time high.

According to the Associated Press, the legislation additionally “includes money for as many as 28 additional Ground-Based Interceptors, which are anti-missile missiles that would be launched from underground silos in Alaska in the event the U.S. decided to try to shoot down a North Korean missile heading toward the United States. The interceptors are designed to directly hit the enemy missile outside the Earth’s atmosphere, obliterating it by the force of impact.”

The Senate will debate the legislation shortly after Thanksgiving before voting on whether or not to send it to President Trump’s desk. Because the spending package far exceeds the $549 billion ceiling set by the Budget Control Act, which President Obama signed to resolve the debt-ceiling crisis of 2011, House and Senate leaders will first have to strike a budget deal that increases the cap.

The single biggest section of the discretionary portion of the budget is military spending. The Pentagon tried to hide $125 billion in wasted spending last fall, and it has been unable to pass a financial audit. Major new weapons systems, including the F-35, have been outright disasters.

U.S. war efforts in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan have cost $4.79 trillion as of 2016.

If the bill is signed into law, the U.S. would begin spending more than three times as much as China on its military, and 10 times as much as Russia. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the U.S. already accounts for more than a third of all military spending on the planet.

Lobbying groups in this sector contributed more than $11 million in campaign donations in 2016, with 38 percent going to Democrats and 62 percent going to Republicans. The top 100 aerospace & defense (A&D) companies accounted for $709 billion in revenue, resulting in $69 billion in profits for 2016, an increase from $689 billion in revenue and $64 billion in profits compared with 2015.

Senator Sanders was the top recipient of Congressional A&D donations in 2016 during his bid for president. A&D was not in the top five industries that donated to the Sanders campaign. Out of the previous four election cycles, Republicans were the top recipients in three of them. The fourth, 2008, saw then-Senator Barack Obama receive the most A&D money.

Will Caron