Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Future of Transportation: Getting There

Undoubtedly there are successful rail systems in the world -- but nobody has ever built a successful suburban “commuter” rail system which is what this is -- the difference being that urban rail systems are overwhelmingly successful where population densities are 20,000-50,000 per square mile, achieved only in major metropolitan areas of over 10 million people.

So while New York, Tokyo, London, Paris, Bangkok, Mexico City do indeed have overwhelmingly successful rail systems, even there they have never designed nor run a commuter rail service as Honolulu is proposing to shuttle people from Kapolei to downtown Honolulu -- through areas where the population density is quite low.

Rail makes overwhelming sense when it is running through the most densely populated areas of a community -- rather than as a suburban commute -- which even in places like New Jersey, is done by bus rather than rail. Meanwhile, underground rail through Manhattan is the only thing that makes overwhelming sense. But Honolulu is obviously not those conditions.

What really ticked me off during the hearings for the rail, was that tremendous deceptions and fabrications were unloosed in the City Chambers -- such as that Honolulu was the fifth most densely populated city in the nation --even if it was true that they were planning to build it for the most densely populated areas rather than to serve a suburban commute of lower densities of largely single family dwellings.

It seems like the media (newspapers) were leading the way in these deceptions -- just as 25 years ago, Kapolei was supposed to be the answer to the traffic congestion problems, by being the Second City. So, many of us who are slightly more skeptical of hearing these promises of panaceas and world-class achievement, are more likely to look upon the proposed great rail system as the Hawaii Convention Center on wheels, rather than a real solution to anything.

If the facts were compelling, I’d be solidly in your camp, but I see no will to solve anything -- least of all the traffic situation with the promotion of current mass transit, car pooling, intelligent bike laws and enforcement, pedestrian amenities. The previous Administration took the advance money for a “bus rapid transit system” and once that money was gone, there is no evidence that that was once proposed as a solution other than the federal funding to manufacture jobs that the following Administration would largely undo.

I’m inclined to believe the era of mass systems is over -- just as with the personal computers -- and the future is with personal transport systems, the smaller the better, that really provide an unprecedented freedom of mobility, to go where people actually want to go, and not just to where the mass transit takes them.

That would seem to be the appropriate step beyond mass transportation systems -- individualized and personalized transporters. Honolulu seems to be on that scale of feasibility -- and by developing that next generation of transportation possibilities, legitimately makes us world class and the leader in innovation. Otherwise, we’re just hoping that by following what has been successful elsewhere, we can be successful too -- without regard for optimizing for our unique conditions.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What Is the Context?

Anything can seem to be true if there is no surrounding context -- which makes any observation and statement true or false, valid or invalid. Take anything out of context and that statement becomes meaningless -- so of course, that is a tactic heavily used in political discussions -- to make any point seem “valid.”

But rather than spend the extra time to create the context, as many “professional” writers do as a separate task, good writers provide that context in their very observation -- integral to to action of their focus. This is the integrated point of view by which the observer is also the observed -- rather than the observer apart from what he observes -- if such a thing were actually possible.

In that claim of being "objective," one creates the separation of the observer from the observed -- and because of that, can project all their own inadequacies, prejudices, resentments and pettiness onto the world and everybody else, while claiming to be completely “objective,” which has no reality beyond that insistence that one regard the author as such.

So rather than the claim that one is “objective” or not, which is at face-value absurd, what the reader should be looking for is the reporter’s awareness of their own biases and prejudices -- just as it is obvious to those who are most aware of these subtleties. With diligence and practice, they become much more obvious as deliberate attempts to deceive and manipulate -- which these practitioners just think is what everybody does, because they have so little insight into their own actions and motivations.

People get that way because they’ve never learned to view themselves alternatively -- as others might. They are convinced that the one way they see the world is the only way it can be seen -- and their teachers reinforce that “correctness,” and nothing else. And so such people grow up thinking they see the world rightly -- and that to see it any other way, is just incorrect -- because everybody in their crowd believes that also.

This of course, is mass conformity (indoctrination) -- rather than the truth and validity of anything , which they are convinced, they possess exclusively, as all the others in conformance with their point of view -- which in the popular media and culture, is the “liberal” or “liberated” point of view, without realizing that is all they have been taught to know -- as though they chose that rightness for themselves.

That’s how people can make such wrong choices thinking they are unquestionably right -- because everybody else around them, agrees that is the proper thing to do, and all their upbringing in life, is to surround themselves with people who think exactly as they do -- and that for them, is being enlightened, worldly, sophisticated and liberal. The alternatives, is that which they will not allow themselves to consider for a moment -- that there could be any other way of thinking or regarding the world, which is to have a perspective of knowing that the observer is also the observed.

If one could do that, one has the proper context for observing things truly, accurately, validly -- but not to have any awareness of this consideration, is to have no understanding of anything at all -- which leads to tremendous chaos in "government." So this quality in being able to tell this difference, is what people should look for in great leaders -- rather than those who merely confirm all one’s prejudices, no matter how liberal and objective they think they are.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Popular Culture and the Significance of Life

Popular culture (mass media) thinks that the number of "hits" or the number of "comments" is a meaningful measure of a blog's usefulness and value -- when in fact, it is the quality of the writing, reading, thinking and freedom of expression that is the significance of any blog.

Those things are difficult "to measure" except by the participants themselves -- but that is the major reason many of the old media writers fail to make the transition to the new media, because they are too indoctrinated with the old paradigm of publishing (public writing) success, which is judged by the commercial acceptance, and manner of payment (usually by the word).

So a major mistake is dumbing down hoping to reach the lowest common denominator, using as many words to say the least as possible or nothing -- rather than trying to reach up to the highest denominator of intelligence in the universe, saying the most in as few words as possible, which is the art of anything.

Blogs are an artistic expression most of all -- rather than just another mass medium of popular culture.

Blogs are not just journalism in a new medium but is the step beyond it (virtual reality) -- that even journalists have to learn, and create. A lot of the "traditional" journalists (published writers) have a huge problem with that because they are used to being given deference -- and that is no longer a "given," but has to be earned in each communication freshly.

The most popular blogs, the Democratic Underground and the Daily Kos, are worthless because the are a step below the old graffiti on the bathroom walls. There is no question that they get a lot of hits and comments -- by people one wouldn't want to be communicating with, much less known by -- or know.

Understandably, the worst of the blogs. is what the mainstream media will usually use as an example of "blogging" and blogs -- because they can compare themselves favorably to them, and in that way, maintain their illusions and delusions of superiority (or mere competence).

Although most people say they believe in equality and all those noble sentiments of liberalism, they really like having a permanent advantage and distinction, which of course means the other has to have a disadvantage -- of which the "liberal" mind finds no contradiction, but in maintaining that cognitive dissonance, they cannot see the truth of anything else either.

That is the well-known and constantly-displayed "liberal hypocrisy."

What is difficult for most journalists to come to grips with is that the way they see the world is also biased, prejudiced, and bigoted -- rather than the entirety of the world experience, and "objective," as they insist everybody must believe about them.

In that way, they are like every other special interest group that believes that their way and their superiority to everybody else is indisputable -- or God wouldn't have placed them in charge of overseeing the First Amendment as the special right and privilege of journalists -- rather than the right of all citizens to their own freedom of expression.

In every discipline and field of study, that is the major barrier to overcome -- in realizing that what one thought was an inviolable and unquestioned truth, is the faulty assumption and premise that prevents us from seeing the truth. And that is the proper work of man -- that gives any life meaning, purpose and significance.

That is what is useful to know.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Embracing New Ideas

The greatest problem we have in Hawaii is one: that of accepting, or even allowing to be heard, new ideas, let alone embracing them. Because our education, indoctrination, socialization is to reject and resist new ideas -- in our training (conditioning) to be bureaucrats , rather than innovators and artists in work and life.

So the first impulse is always to want suppress new ideas -- in favor of repeating the old ideas, and because they do not work satisfactorily, persisting that simply more effort, time and money, is the only course of action henceforth -- rather than in being able to break away and rethink the problem wholly new and differently.

People who do this regularly call it brainstorming for new ideas -- which to the bureaucratic minds, mean hearing only the old ideas in different words -- and arriving at the inevitable conclusion, that the only things needed, are more time, effort and MONEY. This predisposition to the same old ideas is abetted by the overrepresentation of lawyers in government.

Law is a discipline based on precedent: that is to say, that ideas are right based on a previous right idea -- and there cannot be a right idea that has no precedent, which is the truly new. In such cases, that manner of thinking is entirely untrained to deal with such new realities. That is also the problem of bureaucrats and unionists -- who value and defend the old ways of doing things as a “right” in itself, and that those who have been doing things that way the longest, are to be the most highly valued.

Even the media, schools and universities, which one would think would be among the first of the institutions to accept new ideas are instead resistive to anything but their own ideas, which are the old ideas -- and they are among the most resistive to hearing and learning new ideas, because that would immediately not give them a great advantage in knowing the new ideas as they have in knowing the old ideas -- and maintaining that advantage, is the premise of what gives them value in society.

So innovation and creativity in society and the workplace, is an art (skill) that has to be cultivated and learned -- for the betterment of all, and not just as a competitive advantage for one -- because that is what innovation does: it lifts on boats, and levels the playing field -- which is not to the liking of the old socioeconomic hierarchies and personalities, and so they feel vested in keeping and defending the old status quo, which places them at the top.

It is only a relative top however, because the top persons in such a society are not as free, independent and well-off as the average person in a dynamic, innovative society producing greater accessibility and equality to the total wealth of that society (world) for all its citizens. That is the mark of a modern civilization/society over a traditional one, which spends most of its time, effort and resources, to maintain the pecking order (social hierarchy), and that is why the peculiarity of “democracy” in Hawaii, is to perpetuate the traditional status quo and socioeconomic hierarchies as though that were an inviolable and unquestionable right in itself, for all time.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Two Half-Truths Don’t Make the Whole Truth

The unfortunate development of politics is that it has become partisan and increasingly petty -- and thus ineffective, because the original intent was to unite the whole community in concerted and deliberative action. When anything becomes its own antithesis -- it obviously negates and destroys itself, creating the need for the evolution to the next level that overcomes that futility. Ineffectiveness can not just go on indefinitely -- for no other purpose but to perpetuate itself.

Some societies perpetuate those behaviors as their “cultural heritage” -- because that was an important component of that culture, that has now become essentially extinct -- except for the annual rituals that revive those ties to the past. But that is all they are now -- a repetition in itself, with no meaning and purpose anymore. Such behaviors occupy the time and energy that could be devoted to productive ones.

A large part of that perceived divisiveness is the result of the reporting -- or the representation of the issue as an eternal argument between the left and the right, liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican -- as though that was necessary to understand the particulars, rather than a distraction from ever understanding the issues without these preconceived notions (prejudices) of them. So this battle becomes the entirety of the issue, rather than any resolutions beyond the partisanship -- which of course, would be the statesmanship, politics at its best is about.

At its worst, politics is about these personal struggles and ambitions of one against every other for sole dominance and prominence -- and then once one is there, their entire preoccupation is to maintain that status at the top of the pecking order rather than do any possible good for anybody else. It becomes entirely self-serving and self-aggrandizing, and any other perception than the one they wish it to be, is considered the assault against the sensibilities.

A half-truth is a nice way of saying something is a lie -- because that’s what it is if it is not an attempt at the whole truth. Another half-truth to counter that distortion, doesn’t bring everyone closer to the whole truth -- but multiplies the deceptions, distortions and manipulations into hopeless confusion. More testimonies of partial (partisan) truth (lies) then makes the arrival at any truth impossible. And that is what a lot of so-called hearings are all about these days -- for which the most astute have realized is futile to attend when it is clear what the "forum of inquiry" has already decided. It becomes a mockery of justice and fairness -- justified by simply being the reality of partisan politics, which should never be acceptable -- rather than convincing us that is the way it is now.

That’s how the media lost its moral bearings and authority -- and became essentially useless. The reporters became so overwhelmed by the arguments and deceptions, that they are the first of the casualties of such battles to deceive and manipulate -- because of their superficial knowledge pretending to know more than they actually do. That is clear from the confusion in their reporting -- that while the words are all there -- they have no idea what they are talking about, but have to continue because that is their job and what is expected of them. Their editors know even less -- because all they know are the words, and that they should have any meaning, is somebody else’s job.