Thursday, March 30, 2017

Homeless in Hawaii: My "little grass shack" report

     Remember that old song describing the wonders of living in a "little grass shack" in Hawaii?  Those days are long gone.  Why?  Because there are almost no little grass shacks left in Hawaii any more (probably due to building codes) -- and as a result, there are a lot of people here who are homeless.

     On Waikiki Beach alone, I recently counted approximately 23 megalith-style high-rise hotels and/or condos.  And I might have missed some too.  Each hotel charges at least $200 a night -- but usually a whole lot more.  Two-bedroom condos here sell for a million dollars a bedroom.  What homeless person can afford that?  

     For many people in Hawaii these days, those little grass shacks have been replaced by shipping container boxes -- but this is actually a good thing.  As the State of Hawaii, like the rest of America, discovers that more and more of its citizens are becoming homeless, the government here has tried everything it can to house as many people as it can by any means that it can -- hence the wide-spread use of shipping container boxes as homes.

     According to Mike Zint, a national advocate for the rapidly increasing homeless population in America, "What does it take to get off the streets?  Money?  Affordable housing?  Employment?  Of course the answer is yes, but none of those things is the first step.  The first step is stability.  And stability is the one thing that is most commonly removed [from the homeless]."  So Hawaii is at least making an effort to get some stability into the lives of those who are forced to go homeless.

     Hawaii also offers many boot-strap-like services to get homeless Hawaiians back on their feet.  Some of these efforts are working.  Some of them are not.  And as the native Hawaiian population becomes less and less able to afford housing in their beloved Hawaii, they are being forced to move over to the mainland in droves where the rent is cheaper.

     According to one native Hawaiian I met here, "So many of us are now moving to Las Vegas due to its lower rents and warm climate, that Las Vegas is now known as Hawaii's ninth island."

     But this migration to the mainland is also a two-way street.  "Many of the colder mainland states are purchasing airline tickets in order to send their homeless population here.  This is true.  I have seen it myself." 

       In addition, "We also have a lot of people who come here from Micronesia who get priority for our HUD housing because they can no longer live on their radioactive atolls because many of them have become really sick due to cancer from the nuclear weapons tests.  So they move them here -- out of sight, out of mind."

     Another factor in the severe limitation of affordable housing in Hawaii is the huge US military presence here.  The so-called "Pivot to Asia" apparently starts here.  "The US military is our number-one economic factor," said my Hawaiian friend.  Even greater than tourism?  Apparently so.  I saw some pretty posh military housing spread out all around the island of Oahu -- definitely not little grass shacks.

     I've been living on pineapple and macadamia nuts here for too long -- and also French fries.  Remember what happened in "The Martian"?  He lived on potatoes for a whole year because of their protein?  A whole year is too long to live on potatoes, even in beautiful Hawaii.  It's time for me to fly back home to Berkeley -- where the 1000-plus homeless population just manages to squeak by on pizza-by-the-slice.

PS:  Am currently reading a book called The Up Side of Stress, and apparently one way to reduce stress is to be altruistic.  "Caring for each other amplifies our resources," says the author.  "Human beings have a basic need to help others...and the more that they help others the happier they are because altruism both creates hope and prevents the defeat response."

     This need for hope is apparently one of the reasons why the State of Hawaii is so compassionate towards its homeless citizens.  Hawaiians try to honor the human "tend and befriend" response to stress instead of the more well-known "flight or fight" response.  Hawaii even has a word for this befriending response to stress.  It's called "Aloha".

PPS:  Remember that bumper-sticker from back in the day that read "Life is a competition.  The winners are the ones who do the most good deeds"?  Or as they said in Lawrence of Arabia, "Allah favors the compassionate".  And this truism is still true, no matter how many Americans die from lack of housing and healthcare here and how many babies our war contractors murder in the Middle East.

     Am I pissed off by all this lack of compassion here at home and heartless slaughter in the Middle East?  Hell yeah.  Once people in power in America found out that there are huge profits to be made by stealing homes and murdering babies, there appears to be no stopping them from stealing and slaughtering again and again -- both here and abroad.


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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Hawaii: My own private "Pivot to Asia"

      "There are only 8000 actual native Hawaiians left here right now," said a friend of mine who I was visiting in Honolulu.  So.  What has happened to the rest of them -- besides the usual death by disease and colonialism that is.  "They can't afford to live here any more.  They have been forced to move to the mainland." Ah.  Economic genocide strikes again. 

     Hell, I can't afford to live here either -- but then who can?  The American military, that's who.  "In the past two years, we've seen tremendous growth in the number of military units deployed here and also the number of military housing units built," said my friend.  Oh.  Right.  The pivot to Asia.

     But Hawaii has also pivoted to Asia in another big way -- its Asian tourists.  Staying in a Waikiki hotel is really expensive -- and yet even the most expensive hotels here are positively flooded with thousands of Japanese and South Korean tourists right now, many of them being sweet young married couples with really cute babies.  But how the freak can they afford to vacation here in such large numbers?  I  thought that China was the one siphoning off most of America's money.  Apparently not.

     My friend also told me, "Developers are building a whole bunch of condos over near the Ala Moana shopping center right now, ones that sell for two or three million dollars a pop.  And the Japanese are buying them up as fast as they can be built."  Oh.  That makes sense -- so that when the entire island of Japan becomes radioactive because of Fukushima, people over there will have another island to come to.  That's thinking ahead.  For now.

     Anyway, I came over here to speak at a book convention -- and my talk went very well if I do say so myself.  Who knew that I would excel at public speaking?  Certainly not me.  But public speaking is a lot like writing.  No interaction with individual people is involved.  That works for me because I'm just not at ease with being one-on-one with individual people.  Plus at the conference's banquet, I finally got to sit at the popular kids' table.

      I love Hawaii, would love to live here.  The weather is nice, the beaches are amazing -- plus you don't have to go all the way to Tokyo or Seoul (or time-travel to Vietnam under Nixon) to get that happy feeling of being in Asia.  You don't have to pivot very far any more.

     I can't even imagine what it must feel like to be a native Hawaiian living here right now, working a menial job, seeing all of this breath-taking beauty that is Hawaii and knowing that all this paradise used to be theirs -- but is not any more.  Perhaps they might feel like Palestinians do, thrown off their land by European colonialists who strongly believe in the motto, "Do unto the Palestinians what the Nazis did unto us."

     Oh, if only President Trump had passed his travel ban just a little bit earlier -- then Captain Cook and James Dole wouldn't have been allowed to land here, kept out "for national security reasons".  And the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria would have been turned back too -- not to mention that the Pilgrims would have been prohibited access to Plymouth Rock. 

      And then there would have been no brutal Indian massacres, no ghastly slave trade, no Civil War that butchered hundreds of thousands and perhaps even no World War I or World War II.  And the Muslim Holocaust in the Middle East wouldn't have happened either because America would still be in the hands of the Cherokee and the Sioux who don't really care about being greedy and blood-thirsty colonialists.  And millions wouldn't have died in Africa either because there would be no American corporate pirates over there to steal Africa's land, diamonds and gold.

     Europeans would have been forced to stay in Europe where they belonged and not brought their terrorism here.


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Saturday, March 11, 2017

A writer's life: Spying on one's own mind

    On March 16, I'm going to give a short talk at a writers' convention in, wait for it, Hawaii!  Yay!  Never been there before.  Am quite looking forward to it.

     In order to warm up for this big event, I'd like to talk here about what happens to me when I write.  It's a subliminal process.  I try to keep my conscious brain very quiet so that I can spy on the secret workings of my subconscious mind, back there where all the good stuff is lurking in the shadows, swamps, recesses and mountain-tops of my own mental reservoir.

     There are several ways to spy on one's brain.  Meditation, long walks, dreams.  It doesn't take waterboarding or the NSA to figure this stuff out.  Just try to shut up and listen.

     Another way to find out what's going on backstage in my mind is to actually physically write down words on paper.  Who the freak knows what will actually come out of my brain if I do that?  Certainly not me.

     In her book Wild Mind, Natalie Goldberg suggests writing ten minutes a day -- starting each paragraph with "I remember..."  I can do her one better than that.  Buy a 10.4x8-inch wide-ruled spiral notebook and write two pages a day, starting each paragraph with "I predict..."  And then finish off each paragraph with what you think about your new prediction.

     You can think big, such as "I predict that ten years from now Americans will feel as foolish and embarrassed about hating Russia as they now feel foolish and embarrassed about their tainted love affair with Senator Joseph McCarthy back in the 1950s".

     What do I think about that prediction?  "If Americans actually do come to their senses in just ten short years, I will be very surprised.  There is no indication at all so far in the last fifty years that Americans are anything but gullible dupes for any kind of propaganda that is shoved in their faces."

     Or I might write, "I predict that, in the future, Americans will finally realize that they've been suckered into 'wars' on Syria, Libya, Palestine, Yemen, Ukraine, etc. just like they were suckered into the 'wars' on Vietnam and Iraq." 

     My thoughts about that?  The Nazi Holocaust only murdered six million Jews.  The American/British/French/Israeli/Saudi neo-colonial Holocaust has already slaughtered seven million Muslims.  But then who's counting dead Muslims?  Certainly not any of us American suckers.

      Or how about this one?  "I predict that Americans are really going to miss unions after they're gone."  No, that's just wistful thinking.  Americans will be too busy working three jobs and scrambling to keep out of the poorhouse to think philosophical thoughts like that.

PS:  The last time I did a whole bunch of spying on my own mind, I ended up writing a book.  "Visions of a Lost and Future World".  So if I can do it, then so can you.

PPS:  My life is going along really well right now.  I'm speaking at a book conference, just had the principal role in a student film at the California College of the Arts, have a car that is still running, my Social Security pension keeps me going and am in good health thanks to Medicare.  And the greedy idiots in the beltway are, as usual, busy trying to screw up my good life in any way that they can.

     We haven't had anyone who knew what they were doing in Washington since the CIA had John Kennedy assassinated -- with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter.  Bush, Reagan, Eisenhower, both Clintons, Obama, Bush 2, Congress and even the freaking Supreme Court have done every single thing that they possibly can to destroy our economy and get us into World War 3.  And now Trump is also trying to screw up my world by bombing babies in Syria and Yemen and giving Wall Street a free lunch.

     And what the freak was a Navy SEAL doing in Yemen anyway?  Besides helping those mean Saudi bullies steal poor defenseless Yemen's oil?

    Doesn't anybody inside the Beltway know how to do anything right?  Doesn't any one of those jackasses know that America is all about me -- and those salt-of-the-earth types like me -- and not about them.  Apparently not.


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Sunday, March 05, 2017

Gorsuch: Choosing between God & Trump is gonna be hard

    The Berkeley-Albany Bar Association has done it again!  At its latest monthly lunchtime meeting, BABA served us up the perfect guest speaker -- and the perfect rubber chicken as well.  What more can you possibly ask for.  Our speaker clearly laid it out to us, just exactly what President Trump's new Supreme Court nominee is up to.  "Neil Gorsuch is a positivist," the guest speaker said.

     "But what the freak is a positivist?" you might ask.  Our speaker was about to tell us -- and in more detail than we ever would want to know if we in any way plan to look forward to the next decade with hope.  T.M.I.

      "Positivism is an outdated English legal philosophy, tracing its roots back to John Austin, who thought that law was just a command of the sovereign.  There was no connection between law and morality, as Austin would have it; law should be value-free.  The sovereign ordered something and the courts enforced it."  Period.  "Positivism imagines that the law represents an order that must be carried out."

      And then our speaker went on to tell us more about Gorsuch specifically.  Apparently, not much compassion or morality or consideration of expert opinions or even the law itself is involved in Gorsuch's thought processes.  It's more like if whoever Gorsuch considers to be the top dog tells him to jump, Gorsuch will just say, "How high?"  And currently, that top dog appears to be The Donald.

     But apparently there is one exception to Gorsuch's blind allegiance to Trump.  According to the speaker at BABA, "There is, in Judge Gorsuch’s reported decisions, a tendency to blur the constitutional lines between church and state."  So.  What if God tells him to do something and Trump says not to do it.  Who will Gorsuch choose to be his OG?  God or Trump? 

    And, also, what would happen if God contacts Grosuch on His hotline from heaven -- and Gorsuch gets a bad connection or misinterprets the call?  What if God sez, "I am pro-life," and Gorsuch doesn't even realize that what God is saying has nothing to do with abortions.  God is simply stating that He is for the rights of women, freedom for all, a fair living wage for the meek and that He is also anti-war -- but Gorsuch has simply gotten confused. 03/01/the-supreme-court-just- delivered-a-major-victory-for- gerrymandering-opponents/

     Or suppose God thinks that most American "wars" are crimes against humanity, that giving welfare to corporations (but not to the poor) is an Abomination and that the Clintons, the Bushes, Obama and Trump are all going to Hell for killing millions in the Middle East.  Will Gorsuch then dutifully show up at the Pearly Gates and plead President Trump's case regarding why the Prez shouldn't be joining that huge bunch of panderers to Wall Street and War Street who are already in Hell?

     But no matter what the real story actually is, apparently Gorsuch truly believes that his hotline to God is well-connected.  But what if Gorsuch is actually right and not just some crank hearing voices in his tinfoil hat?  In that case, anyone who actually knows what God is thinking is gonna be a really handy person to have on the Supreme Court, right?  Until, of course, the day arrives when Gorsuch has to chose between God and Trump.

     Or, even worse, what if Gorsuch chooses God over Trump and then discovers that Nietzsche was right?


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