Friday, June 23, 2017

Another Trump ally exposed

This time it's the tub-thumper for fake news about voting, Kris Kobach. A federal court fined him $1,000 for lying.

Admonitions from courts are not rare but fines are. So Kobach really screwed the pooch. The Los Angeles Times reports:

The court took Kobach at his word, O'Hara wrote, but upon review of the documents – produced under a court order – found that they did relate to the voting rights case.

The judge wrote that while the court could not say that Kobach "flat-out lied," the "defendant’s statements can be construed as wordplay meant to present a materially inaccurate picture of the documents."

To make America great . . .

. . . you have to find great Americans.

 Like William Bradford.

In a December 2016 tweet, Bradford referred to former President Barack Obama as a “Kenyan creampuff.” In another tweet, he dubiously claimed Obama might refuse to leave The White House at the end of his presidential term and suggested a “military coup” could be necessary to remove him.

That's perhsps his most decent tweet. Oh, and, yes, you don't even have to ask. He faked his CV.

He's a Trump appointee.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

L.A. homes back to 2007 prices

Nominally, anyway, although the Los Angeles Times notes that, adjusted for inflation, they are still 11% short.
In summer 2007, the Los Angeles County median home price hit an all-time high of $550,000. It soon plunged as the housing bubble burst and the national economy crashed.

Now the median, the point where half the homes sold for more and half for less, has finally passed the heights of 10 years ago — the result of an improving economy, historically low mortgage rates and a shortage of listings.

According to a report released Wednesday from real estate firm CoreLogic, the county’s median price in May rose 6.8% from a year earlier to reach $560,500 as sales jumped 4.8%.

When adjusted for inflation, May’s median remains 11% below the 2007 high . . .
I mention this in a Maui blog only because of "shortahe of listings." We have that, too.

If you don't build house, you won't have enough houses.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Winning edge

In 1884, an Oxford undergraduate, Charles Oman, won the Marquess of Lothian’s Prize for an essay on “The Art of War in the Middle Ages.”  Although he essay is still read and has even been updated to reflect 20th century scholarship, it hardly seems likely to be of more than antiquarian interest in the 21st century. However, this is not the case.

Oman, nothing if not a confident 24-year-old, had a  message for his elders in his essay, although they were too obtuse to learn it until the events on the battlefields of Flanders 30 years later demonstrated how right he was. But there is more to it even than that, because the same lesson — suitably modified for modern times — applies today, and the masters of war of our time are proving as obtuse and stupid as the generals and politicians of late Victorian and Edwardian time.

While the theme of the essay is tactics, the lesson concerns the difficulty of recognizing when the terms of battle have fundamentally changed.

In brief, from the Battle of Adrianople (378), the supremacy of the Roman infantry legion was superseded by the charge of the heavy armored horseman — the cataphract, a development of, primarily, Iranians that spread to dominate Europe and western Asia for over a thousand years, fundamentally reshaping economies, politics and social organization.

From the late 13th century, two innovations began to overthrow the undisciplined, aristocratic knights: the phalanx of Swiss pikemen and the corps of Welsh longbowmen. Yet for over a century, the knights refused to recognize the change, no matter how many of them were slaughtered at, for example, Crecy.

The run of the Swiss and the English was much shorter, less than two centuries, and they, too, were very late in recognizing that a new way of fighting had made them vulnerable.

Push of pike
The introduction of firearms set up a period of innovation and confusion so that for some time there was no obvious best form of fighting, but the introduction of the long-range rifled musket in the 1840s began a new period of mastery.

The generals did not know it, as proven by Grant at Cold Harbor in 1864, and when Oman wrote in 1884, the supremacy of infantry in field works armed with long range weapons was still denied. The supremacy was enhanced by the introduction of breechloaders, repeaters and finally of machine guns. Small armies could defeat big ones, as the Turks demonstrated at Plevna.

The generals, who tend always toward incompetence, did not notice, until July 1 on the Somme in 1916 when more men were killed in a day than had happened since, perhaps, Cannae 2,100 years earlier.

The tank was invented to overcome the fieldworks, but its run was short. It was over for most conflicts by 1945.

For the past 70 years, in most conflicts where one side had tanks and planes and the other did not, the tankless, planeless fighters prevailed. As long as the population shelters him the guerrilla — if he can get submachine guns, rocket grenades and bullets, as he usually could in the age of nuclear standoff between the great powers — prevails.
The United States and the NATO nations spend close to a trillion dollars a year on their militaries. More planes, more ships, more radars — however necessary to deter similar national actors — are unlikely to gain results against committed fighters who have the backing of locals.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Gimme shelter

The Grenfell fire reminds us that if you are afraid of -ists, you are threatened more by capitalists than by Islamists.

Material used in the cladding that covered the Grenfell Tower was the cheaper, more flammable version of the two available options, an investigation of the supply chain has confirmed.
Although the Grenfell tower was public housing (council housing in England), its maintenance had been privatized. It provides a sickening confirmation of a phenomenon RtO has often written about, the "Fireproof Hotel"scheme.

(I wrote a summary today as a comment on a call not to attribute "wickedness' to the Grenfell perps: 

(Don't define wickedness down. I have often commented on the 'Fireproof Hotel' ploy. If you own a hotel, you can attract more business by advertising that it is fireproof. You can either paint 'fireproof hotel' on a firetrap or you can invest in fireproofing. You will make more money by using just paint, at least until your hotel catches fire. If you're lucky you will outcompete the honest hotelier and drive him out of business. That appears to have been the case at Grenfell. Seems wicked to me, even when no one burns to death.)

On a side note, when I heard on a radio broadcast that a high-rise was on fire "on every floor" I was skeptical. Tall buildings cannot do that; regulations forestall it.  But it turns out that the myth of over-regulated Britain is a myth akin to other rightwing fake news. Again, The Guardian:

In the UK there are no regulations requiring the use of fire-retardant material in cladding used on the exterior of tower blocks and schools. But the Fire Protection Association (FPA), an industry body, has been pushing for years for the government to make it a statutory requirement for local authorities and companies to use only fire-retardant material. Jim Glocking, technical director of the FPA, said it had “lobbied long and hard” for building regulations on the issue to be tightened, but nothing had happened.
I had planned to write about subsidized housing in Britain and Maui before the Grenfell fire. I delayed and now events sharpen the point.

Before the election in the UK, John Lanchester in The London Review of Books had written about London real estate in terms that sounded a great deal like Maui:

   A person who didn’t know modern Britain well might guess that the body in charge of this hugely ambitious project would be one with formidable powers of oversight and planning, combined with decades of expertise. A person who knew modern Britain better would be more likely to guess the truth, which is that there is no such body. No one is in charge of VNEB. There is no plan. The developments are the result of developers’ proposals, as well as occasional blurting interventions on the part of central government, under the supervision of local councils, in this case Wandsworth and Lambeth. Mayoral action and inaction play a role too. Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson were both pro-skyscraper; Johnson came up with a great phrase about not wanting to create ‘Dubai-on-Thames’, and then did everything in his power to do exactly that. In 2007, the mayor acquired the power to override local councils on ‘strategic’ questions of building, though this power doesn’t seem yet to have included restricting tall buildings, as opposed to allowing them. From this mismatch arises the marvel that will be VNEB, a chaotic patchwork of architectural ambition, developers’ greed and mostly well-meaning but always overmatched local councils. The new ‘homes’ are being targeted mainly at overseas investors. When the first properties in Battersea Power Station went on sale Businessweek ran a story about it that you didn’t need to read. All you had to do was look at the byline: Kuala Lumpur. Typical of the flats that have gone on sale so far is a two-bedroom apartment for £1.5 million. No Londoner – no Brit – is going to spend that kind of money to live in a two-bedroom flat in Vauxhall. The target market is glaringly, self-evidently non-local.
This is happening in a city where, by universal consent, one of the biggest problems is the lack of affordable housing. For many Londoners, younger people especially, the cost of housing is their first concern; living in what the Joseph Rowntree Foundation calls ‘housing-cost-induced poverty’ is central to their experience of life in the capital. This is one reason London is suffering a net loss of people in their thirties – a terrible warning sign for any city, especially one so pleased with itself. There is something here which reaches beyond the standard four-legs-good, two-legs-bad of party allegiance. Look at it from a Vauxhall local’s point of view: 1. housing is in crisis and desperately needs fixing; 2. the single biggest thing to be happening in the local economy in decades is a housing development; and yet 2 has nothing to do with 1, will not alleviate it in any respect, and may even (if it succeeds in flooding the London market with yet more foreign capital) make 1 worse. There is a total disconnect between what a majority of citizens want – I’m guessing, but London is a city where the majority of people are renters rather than owners – and political outcomes. Who should you have voted for, if you didn’t want things to get to this point? Most of it happened under Labour, at all three levels, local, mayoral and governmental. The Tories made it worse. Who should you vote for in Vauxhall at this general election, if you want to stop what’s obviously going to happen: the creation of a huge number of the very last things the city needs, new luxury flats under absentee foreign ownership?
The answer is that it doesn’t much matter, because on this issue you have no agency. I know that this may look like a trick answer, since planning decisions are taken by local not central government (except when the reverse is true, à la Prescott Towers). But our political system is man-made, not the creation of divine decree, and it is the system which is failing in this respect. In the case of housing, the solution to this problem is obvious and has been known for years. It is to build more housing. The Barker review in 2004 came to the conclusion that the UK has an annual shortage of 245,000 new homes.
I encourage you to read the whole, wordy thing.

Maui's housing deficit is said to be 16,000 although I believe it is considerably higher.

16,000 is 30 Waiehu Heights projects, which I propose as a model for adding housing for households with 2 earners of middling income.

As for where, acquire 1,000 hot, dusty acres from HC&S in the vicinity of Puunene. Houses there would not be so attractive to offshore buyers.

I did not hear his talk, but Peter Savio was on Maui last week. A friend who went to see him tells me he said if you want affordable housing, the gummint must absorb the infrastructure costs; sewer, water, open space etc.   

Even then, any housing would be affordable only to the middling sort. You cannot build new housing that is affordable by people working in retail, the largest category of workers on Maui

 In other places, affordable housing is older housing -- sometimes originally mansions, sometimes originally tract houses or cheap apartments -- that is in decline. This works only where there is a stock of older housing; it doesn't work in expanding communities like ours.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

And a fraud against the Congress

Secretary of State Tillerson has been smoking rabbit grass again.

Don't these guys ever check anything?

A fraud against the courts

If you read all 86 pages of the 9th Circuit’s devastating ruling against Whiny Baby Donald and his travel ban, the big message — never explicitly stated — comes through like thunder: the judges are not ready yet to allow the neonazis in the White House to permit wholesale fraud against the courts.

Had the same arguments and judgments been written against what the ruling calls EO1 (the first Executive Order, the one Whiny Baby likes), then that could not be said. Lawyers write bad papers sometimes.

But after their errors have been shown to them (and the whole world), if they repeat the same errors, the judges are going to be irritated.

The 9th Circuit judges are vastly irritated.

Even if, as the judges said is not the case, Whiny Baby could have made a persuasive case, he did not even try. The Immigration and Naturalization Act requires specific steps (and consultation with Congress) to even think about doing what Trump did. He didn’t bother.

That he did not bother confirms the suspicion that 1) he had (and has) no intention of acting lawfully and 2) he had no intention of having a temporary travel ban.

(Note: the ostensible purpose of EO1 and 2 was to allow time for reviewing and improving the clearance procedures for certain applicants. Some on the left have said, see, it has been far longer than 90 days, and the new rules have not been announced. But this is unfair: Judge Watson enjoined the agencies from initiating an internal review, but the appeals court removed that. The clock is now running on the 90 days. Mark your calendar; the revised procedures should be announced around Sept. 11.)

Not only did the EO not provide the necessary determinations when WBD signed it, when the District Court enjoined it, the government lawyers did not bother to rebut the assertion of failure (page 14).

The ban was intended to be permanent.

However, in reality, the ban was not addressed at the 6 or 7 countries, or even at its root against  Muslims. It was really aimed at fearful, ignorant Americans — of whom there are many —and their votes and support in opinion polls.

When times are troublous, the cry of “the nation in danger” is often a vote-getter. The nation does not have to actually be in danger; as the appeals court noted, no one from any of the target countries has ever committed an act of terror in the United States.

The danger is mythical and the rightwingers didn’t even pretend to the court that it is anything but.

However, something up toward half the population is terrified. The terrorists have won without committing any act.

(If WBD were really concerned about religiously motivated acts of violence, he would be ginning up a campaign against Christians, who are the source of more political violence in America than any other cult, or than all other cults combined.)

RtO has warned now for months about the rightwing assault on the courts. The courts have noticed. The appeals judges observed that (quoting a 1977 opinion), “Over no conceivable subject is the legislative power of Congress more complete than  it is over the admission of aliens.” (Page 33) The assault on the courts is also an assault on the legislature but the Republicans in Congress are too bemused by their chairmanships to see that.

About claims that a president has an inherent superior power to defend the nation, the court tartly says, “National security is not a ‘talismanic incantation’ . . “ (Page 43)

Even presidents have to comply with the laws.

The 9th Circuit judges said they didn’t have to get to Hawaii’s claims about constitutional rights, since WBD’s misfits had so completely screwed up even the bare machinery of following the statutes. But it is pretty clear that if Congress were to rewrite the statutes(which the court advised it could do), the constitutional claims would still be powerful.

Listing the many deficiencies in EO2, the judges wrote, it “does not provide any link between an individual’s nationality and their propensity to commit terrorism or their inherent dangerousness.” (Page 39)

The judges did not cite the WorldWar II absurdity that locked up antiNazi German aliens (many of them Jews) because of their nationality. That was more evident in Britain than in the United States, although it happened here, too.

Nationality is a state of mind, and that should be evident above all to the quivering cowards in the Republican Party who are so exercised at the thought that white people from European countries are traveling to fight for the Islamic State in the Mideast.

The mistakes of World War II ought to have taught us something, but clearly they did not. This blade cuts both ways. In a summary list of immediate harms to Hawaii interests, one is reduction  of tourism.

In 1942, when German submarines were torpedoing scores of tankers and freighters moving up and down the East Coast, at night, using the backlight from beach towns to silhouette their targets, the Navy proposed a blackout. Numerous mayors squealed loudly that that would ruin the tourist trade. The lights stayed on and sailors burned to death in oily seas.