The Drumpf phenomenon

15 Oct

A friend in Australia asked me if the US Constitution allows for parties to be disbanded if the situation gets too dysfunctional, and more generally about the 2016 election. Here’s my answer: There…

Source: The Drumpf phenomenon

No, KHNL, Carleton Ching is not even well informed

17 Mar

So yes, Carleton Ching is a controversial choice to run the DLNR. Ige sticks to him like an opihi, despite warnings that the Democrat base is hugely opposed to Ching in many ways.

Now KHNL general manager Rick Blangiardi has stepped up to support the untenable Ching, saying the poor fellow never had a chance. Mr. Blangiardi, what are you thinking? The issue really was clarified in Ching’s testimony: he could not answer basic questions about the role of DLNR in shepherding the lands of Hawai’i. It is not only that he has made a career out of opposing protection for the lands of these islands, it is that he cannot even articulate what he has already done. Evidently, he is just a spokesperson for development, and may lack understanding of what he has been doing all these years. If I were him, I would be deeply embarrassed at my inability to answer questions about the island environment and my role in its protection.

Now I need a new television station, and darn it, I am a rare person who thinks Guy Hagi is as good a weatherman as island weather can manage.

Carleton Ching saga continues

13 Mar

This is a letter I just sent to the Maui State Senators. Share if you wish.

Dear Maui senators,

Thank you for your service and support of Maui County. There are a number of issues that are demonstrably important to Maui voters, and high among them is protecting our environment.

You will make some good progress with environmentally oriented voters if you take a stand against Carleton Ching as head of DLNR. I strongly suspect this will turn into an albatross for Gov. Ige, and you can distinguish yourself from him now by using your influence in this case. Ching represents everything the environmentalist hates: pro-development, working throughout his career to derail and eliminate environmental regulation. I suspect Ige’s continued support of Ching will deal a mortal blow to his political future, because environmentalist voters do not forget, and they are motivated to organize, as is demonstrated by the growing anti-GMO movement. Abercrombie’s support of the PLDC lost him a significant segment of Democratic voters, and any stance for big development will work against you, as will stances in favor of GMOs and Big Agriculture.

This is my opinion, but I know it is widely shared. I hope you make the better choices here and in future deliberations about our environment.

Aloha a hui hou,
Stephen H. Fox, PhD

Opposition to Carlton Ching as head of the Hawai’i DLNR

22 Feb

This is my letter to the leg, drawn from the article. Feel free to use it in part or in whole when submitting testimony:

Dear Hawaii Legislature,

Governor Ige’s choice of Castle & Cooke exec Carlton Ching to head the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) would be a terrible mistake. Ching is registered as a lobbyist for developer Castle & Cooke, and placing him in control of the agency responsible for oversight of development shows a stunning level of favoritism for development. A petition immediately began circulating on in protest. Politicians who support this appointment may regret it in the next election.

Governor Abercrombie made a similar early misstep when he supported establishment of the Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC) in 2011, supposedly as a vehicle to help generate funds for the ailing DLNR.

The language used in Act 55 authorizing the PLDC gave its board broad powers to circumvent established due process in Hawaii land decisions. This placed lands with massive historic, scenic and cultural value available for development at the PLDC’s whim, and drastically weakened processes of environmental review and public input. The PLDC was so unpopular that Gov. Abercrombie was forced to repeal the act less than two years later. Ching is a lobbyist who has worked tirelessly for weakening of regulations via the PLDC and other measures. Gov. Ige has again placed protection of Hawaii’s lands in the hands of those most motivated to profit from their development.

What both men seem not to realize is that, while Hawaii’s Democratic Party does benefit from support of construction and hotel industries, environmental and conservation groups hold enormous sway. Malama ‘āina is more than a cool bumper sticker slogan; the maxim is buried deep in the psyche of the people here.

This was most recently demonstrated by the victory of Maui’s GMO moratorium initiative. Environmentalist groups spent around $60,000 on their campaign, compared to at least $6 million spent by Monsanto and their fellow agro-chemical companies. If nothing else, this should show Gov. Ige and our legislators that while they may have gotten campaign dollars from developers, money alone cannot overcome grass roots opposition to those who would poison the ‘āina—whether with chemicals or over-development.

Gov. Ige is alienating a large segment of his base at a time when he should be establishing positive feelings around the state. His primary victory over Gov. Abercrombie last Fall showed, more than anything, how deeply unpopular Abercrombie had become. Gov. Abercrombie’s base began to erode swiftly during the fight to repeal the PLDC. His support of the pro-development corporation splintered the shaky coalition that brought him to victory.

Between the burgeoning digital communities dedicated to holding government and the private sector accountable, and the good old coconut wireless word-of-mouth tradition in the islands, politicians simply cannot fool all of the people all of the time. And memories are long in Hawaii.

Take care of this ‘āina, Governor and legislators. The people are watching.


Stephen Fox

Deferment of GMO protections

20 Feb

I sent this letter to Rep. Tsuji, and I am posting it here because it takes a few days to get material posted on other places I publish. Also, this is a letter, not an article, so it is not really journalism, but rather, is an editorial. I do challenge anyone to dispute my facts.

Hello Rep. Tsuji,

If the Maui GMO initiative last election should give anyone a lesson, it is that massive spending may not work when people become aware that their well-being is threatened by moneyed interests. Monsanto and their allies lost that moratorium initiative, despite spending $8 million, compared to $65,000. That should make you consider your actions carefully.

Similarly, Gov. Abercrombie suffered a drastic loss of support when he backed the PLDC implementation. I and others wrote and published articles about that, exposing his questionable ties to big development interests. He had the good sense to back off and rescind, but that initial action alienated a section of his support base. People in Hawai’i do not forget easily. Gov. Ige has made a similar mistake, and I have already published an analysis of his DLNR nomination (Ching) that has enjoyed gratifyingly wide readership. I and writers of my ilk will similarly begin to dismantle your base of support.

I suggest that you need to realize that tides have shifted. People care deeply about their health, and major food corporations are distancing themselves from GMOs even in areas where the pesticides and questionable genetic effects are not an issue. Are you going to become a dinosaur with a big bank account drawn from sources like Monsanto that actually will make your voters hate you? It is a short sighted plan, when you will be faced with increasing questions about diseases arising from environmental toxins you could have prevented.
Rep. Tsuji, I suggest you reconsider your course of action and begin to protect your voters, instead of protecting big agricultural concerns who give you a lot of money but care little about the people you represent.

Aloha a hui hou,
Stephen H. Fox, PhD


Graphic of my FB network

12 Aug

Graphic of my FB network

I got curious about the network visualization tools mentioned in Rheingold, so I had a graphic calculated by the Yasiv ap.

pondering the emerging cultural dynamics of life on the Web

11 Aug

pondering the emerging cultural dynamics of life on the Web.

Pondering the cultural dynamics of social media

11 Aug

ETEC 642 Week 4

I seem to have anticipated Rheingold’s fourth chapter, with its opening emphasis on the human propensity for cooperation. I am convinced about the value of the social brain hypothesis and expect that we will see a continued limit of around 150 direct contacts regardless of how many “friends” one might have on FB. Within the hundreds or thousands on a friend list, I suspect the closer interactions will remain limited to that group size because it is just how we are hard-wired. Cultural evolution has to some degree outstripped our neurolgic capacity.

Humans are notoriously bad at thinking on very big scales, as is illustrated in the “tragedy of the commons” (Kramer & Brewer, 1984) and in denial of effects of carbon fuels as we race to burn up global reserves. Ostrom’s superb enumeration of factors needed for successful “institutions of collective action” become too abstract to achieve buy-in when the average person must imagine cooperation with people on the other side of the globe, even if that average person is running a country. We inexorably think in terms of in-group and out-group, even when the group is made up by researchers in a lab using the most meaningless criteria they can dream up, as Marilyn Brewer has demonstrated for decades (Brewer, 1979, etc.). We align best with villages and clans, though we are capable of identification with super-ordinate groups such as national, ethnic, or religious groups (Kramer & Brewer, 2006). Unfortunately, this is most effectively done in contrast to an opposing group and not in unifying the human race for cooperative efforts.

The section on crowdsourcing gives a certain amount of hope, though Rheingold’s summary of Sharma’s elements of successful crowdsourcing begin with buy-in and include identification with the superordinate project group to stimulate a sense of self-interest .

            Sharma’s elements

  • Vision & strategy
  • Human capital
  • Infrastructure
  • Linkages & trust
  • External environment
  • Motive alignment of the crowd


In the long run, commons based production will be a challenge for prevailing social psychological thought. That thought, however, is based on a predominance of Western researchers located in the US, using American college students as participants, most of whom are raised in a highly individualistic culture. The Web democratizes intercultural contact beyond any single region or culture, perhaps providing a counter to the alarming focus on individual gain characteristic of American culture and business.



Brewer, M. B. (1979). In-group bias in the minimal intergroup situation: A cognitive-motivational analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 86(2), 307-324. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.86.2.307

Brewer, M. B. (1996). When contact is not enough: Social identity and intergroup cooperation. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 20(3-4), 291-303. doi:10.1016/0147-1767(96)00020-X

Kramer, R. M., & Brewer, M. B. (1984). Effects of group identity on resource use in a simulated commons dilemma. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46(5), 1044-1057. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.46.5.1044

Final project, stage 1

29 Jul

Final project, stage 1.

The birds-eye lowdown on the good, the bad, and the ugly of online pedagogy. “Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it. Thank you” (Wonka, 1971).

14 Jul

A post for my first class assignment in several years:

This first week already challenged me to examine my attitudes and beliefs about certain tools and how I use technology in my teaching. My teaching is almost entirely online these days, but I resist stepping outside of the learning systems of my universities (HPU- Blackboard & UH-Laulima) for a number of reasons. Notably, I am nervous about exposing student information and violating FERPA, but I could also relate to several issues of personal boundaries discussed this week. My thoughts for the week follow, adapted for blog. I do portray myself in this blog, but my name has been changed to protect the innocent.

The ugly:

The main thing that holds me back from using Facebook is that I need a life outside of teaching. I really do not want my students having access to my friends and family, and the lines blur every time privacy settings change. I have had people I blocked show up again, so I have serious doubts that barriers cannot be crossed on any platform, especially ones that regularly monitor activity for profit.

I am a psychologist, and I can assure you that 3% of your students will develop a psychotic disorder during their lives (I suspect the number may be higher among administrators), with about 1/3 of those eventually being fully schizophrenic, hopefully not while in your classroom. At any time, 12% will be depressed, etc. What frightened me, looking up these stats, is that 5.9% will develop something called Borderline Personality Disorder, sooner or later, in which they glom onto particular people like an emotionally challenged lamprey. The film Fatal Attraction (1987) was Hollywood’s version of that. I have an ex-wife who came close.

A goodly number of my instructor friends have a story about some whackadoodle student who made their lives miserable for some amount of time, from stalker sex-offenders to extreme classroom disruptors threatening students and teachers with physical violence or extended, tangential tirades (I am not sure which is worse). If you wondered, they all have internet access, too, especially the ones where you wish they needed a background check to get online. I want to be able to go home from work and not have them follow me.

The bad:

Those points having been raised, and despite a host of reasons why not, I see the educational tide going toward widespread use of FB and other social networks, and towards massive expansion of MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) as the norm for online education. “Resistance,” as The Borg would say, “is futile.” Despite Snowden’s elimination of any illusion that sweeping government surveillance is not a fact and is just a delusion of our psychotic 3%, we are mid-leap from that cliff like lemmings into the churning sea. We now know for sure that any private electronic communication with a student is an open book and, yes, you violated FERPA already somewhere. Keeping it within university firewalls at least gives us plausible deniability.

The slightly worse part is that admin is infatuated with MOOC’s, taught by superstars at MIT and Stanford and robo-graded, because admin has not yet figured out that the “Open” part means there is no resulting institutional income and they will also lose their jobs. Much as automation and outsourcing has killed manufacturing jobs, higher-ed is on borrowed time as an employment option. Well, if you want income to pay for food. I actually aspire to gear the text I am writing toward MOOC usage (feel The Dark Side pulling within you…). It is like academic Stockholm Syndrome. (Note: psychological studies say Stockholm Syndrome is not empirically supportable)

The good:

All hope is not lost. Best evidence says a really bored Disney (1958) film crew had little Inuit kids gather up lemmings during a horribly boring stint filming in the Arctic, and made up a fictional, fatal migration so they would not return with 0 interesting film moments ( My crap filter is stuck on high 🙂

As Rheingold (2012) says, nothing is set in stone. Yet.

If Gutenberg perfected the printing press in 1450, even accounting for the acceleration of cultural change (see Shirov and Gordon, 2013), we are probably only shortly past Luther’s Ninety-five Theses in 1517, counting from the dawn of The Net. The equivalent revelatory power of Darwin’s (1859) Origin of species may not happen for a decade or so. What happened as a result of Gutenberg has been a phenomenal expansion of knowledge, unfortunately a lot of it about refinement of ways to kill all life on the planet (I rarely compose any music all in a major key). Amazingly, it took less than two minutes to find and correct my desired Willy Wonka quote above, so all important knowledge is immediately available, hurray! Well, except perhaps knowledge about how to be happy and how to work toward a sustainable future as a species. Our ratings on those measures are slipping.

But expand knowledge the printing press did, and still accelerating in development we are in this age of digital publication across the globe (go grammatically correct Yoda!). If we can save ourselves and the planet, it will probably be as a result of our coming together digitally on a planetary level, because boundaries are becoming meaningless, and everywhere but Texas and the Sudan, young people are likely to find shared identity on a global level.

(Note: this new dissemination of media info is also pushing adolescent rebellion and hyper-sexuality of youth into the faces of very conservative cultures every day, which may be a little more troubling to them than “our freedoms.”)

The birds-eye lowdown:

As educators, we still have a few moments to shift the trajectory of this mammoth vessel on which we travel. A fraction of a degree difference in direction can result in a remarkably unexpected destination in only a few million miles. Considering that we in Hawaii are spinning at about 970 mph and orbiting the sun at 66,660 mph, the proverbial butterfly’s flap in education today may be the difference between heaven and a living heck for our descendants.

The assignment questions:

I really, sincerely apologize that my thoughts were not easily fit into format of these questions, but I will address them individually to assure thoroughness. I think most elements are covered above, but I just got peer-reviews back on something last night, and I accept that I do not always make explanations clear and explicit to a degree where all humans understand.

  • What new technology and concepts did I learn this week?
    • I am really enjoying this, so please do not misinterpret me.
    • I immediately set up an account on Twitter, and I still loath it. I already had the other accounts and use those services
    • The concepts are not new, but they have been refined to an incredible degree in just 1 week
  • What excited me about the week’s activities? Why?
    • Most exciting is the opportunity to explore ideas I have resisted.
    • Why? I really prefer not to fossilize while I still breath, and it is getting close.
  • Which of the week’s activities helped me to understand emerging technologies better? Why?
    • Just picking the platforms to compare for the group assignment stretched my awareness and thinking nicely.
  • Which of the week’s activities was least useful to me? Why?
    • No activity was not useful.
    • I say this because they all made me think in new ways.
  • How can the week’s activities be strengthened?
    • On a very minor note, please do not force me to devalue any activity, as is required to answer the previous question affirmatively.
  • What new insights and problem solving strategies did I realize during discussions or while working with others?
    • I think this will play out over a long time, yet to come.
    • In this first week, I am more aware of problems raised regarding privacy and protection of the young.
    • This week has forced me to face the fact that I must figure out how to connect my teaching to the social tools in my daily life- the ordering of elements in that question are a direct result of this week’s discussions.
  • What would I like to learn more about? Why?
    • There are two topics about which I feel a need to learn, the first of which is about ways to use commonly accessible tools to facilitate learning amongst my students.
      • Obviously, I need to do this to keep my students engaged and to keep my course relevant to their lives.
    • The second big thing is to know clearly what the legal ramifications of using social media in my courses might be, and that is because I do not want to be sued.

A suggestion would be to have a designated place to correspond with other students at low-stakes. We have no location to just bond without penalty or reward, and hence have less chance of creating a community for social support.  This can be as simple as an unmonitored student chat room.