After This Virus

When (and if) this episode of the Covid-19 virus passes, will the Hawaii economy be left in hopeless tatters?

That’s a fair question in light of nearly 20% of our state GDP coming from tourism, and the likelihood that many mainland and overseas people will be too financially shocked to consider a Hawaii vacation.

There’s also the fear that as cooler weather comes in fall and winter, the virus could resurrect itself. In that aspect, it is much like other flu organisms.

The U.S. government is much more capable of a quick economic recovery because the Treasury can print money to buy bonds. We cannot.

But we can start up an ambitious, funded-by-wealthy-investors construction program, including doing what we should have done many years ago — build truly affordable high-rise housing for low income residents and give units out on either a buy-in basis or a rent-to-own basis. It’s often called the Singapore Model.

And housing projects should be geared toward putting people closer to where they work. It’s exciting that the Navy is doing planning on a residential and retail community adjacent to Pearl Harbor and the shipyard.

It’s silly for us to have housing in Kapolei for people who work in downtown Honolulu. But we do that because most cannot afford downtown housing. It’s priced for money-parking by foreigners. We blew it with Kakaako!

The transit train will also be a major recovery project. Yes, some of the hard-core naysayers will continue to badmouth it, but I suspect the general public will see it as both the worthy public works project and necessary transportation asset that it is or at least will be.

There are some good signs already on the national level. Even as the spread of COVID-19 accelerates in many regions, institutional investors are becoming ever more bullish about the prospects for the stock market. That’s according to a survey by RBC Capital Markets.

“Our respondents are highly bullish on stocks, the most optimistic they’ve been since we started our survey in the first quarter of 2018,” wrote Lori Calvasina, head of U.S. equity strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

So don’t just cry “woe is me.”

Look for some opportunities.


We Need To Get Tougher

The photo below by the Star-Advertiser’s Dennis Oda was at Ehukai Beach Park. Social non-distancing. It matches what I saw yesterday on a moped ride past Queen’s Beach enroute to Makapuu and back for some fresh air. Many dozens of cars, people under canopies grilling and picnicking, beach groups. Like a normal Sunday.

I saw one police car, but it was sitting mauka of the highway near Sandy’s

My daughter is a diplomat in Australia and sent me this notice of how strict the police there have become about the stay-at-home order. Now you can’t even go for a drive:

Top cop says Australians will be fined for ‘blatantly’ being on the road in coronavirus lockdown even if they don’t set foot outside

  • Queensland police warned anyone just going for a drive could be fined
  • Even if you don’t leave the car, it breaks coronvirus lockdown rules that the state
  • Other states cracking down too as Victorian teen on driving lesson got $1,652
  • A couple were fined $2,000 for sitting in their car in the NSW Hunter Region.

I’m shocked at our state’s casual stay-at-home approach. Also, if we have to allow tourists in from other states because of the Constitution, why don’t we have mandated, supervised quarantine rather than the current “self-quarantine” rule? That’s asking for viral exposure!

We need more workers in some critical positions but Gov. Ige is afraid of offending the public worker unions by assigning them new jobs instead of furloughing them with pay — something you sure don’t get if you’re a laid-off restaurant worker or barista.

We won’t beat this thing with half-assed measures.

Coronavirus Pandemic Takes Toll On Newspaper Industry

P.S. Since this post appeared at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 4, the Star-Advertiser’s publisher has publicly acknowledged the revenue loss ($3.4 million), and furloughs and reduced hours among the paper’s 78 journalists. Nothing yet about MidWeek’s suspension of all its paid columnists. 

Something I found very odd today: did you, too?

The Star-Advertiser ran a half-page AP story about newspapers either folding or cutting staff due to limited advertising during the Covid-19 shut-downs. Lots of specific papers on the mainland mentioned.

But not a word about here! MidWeek suspended all its paid columnists/contributors. According to Honolulu Civil Beat, the Star-Advertiser has furloughed/cut workdays of staff.

Why would you run a story about newspaper predicaments elsewhere without mentioning your own?

An odd practice of journalism, don’t you think?

The Navy Has Self-Inflicted Troubles

The Navy didn’t want to stop bombing Kahoolawe.

The Navy had that Tailhook Scandal in which officers were alleged to have sexually assaulted 83 women and seven men, or otherwise engaged in “improper and indecent” conduct at the Las Vegas Hilton in Las Vegas, Nevada.

It was a Navy captain running administrative operations in Saigon during the Vietnam War who was convicted of stealing goods and money under his command.

It was a Navy SEAL who was accused of serious war crimes in the Middle East but was allowed to retire with his benefits and his dolphin pin intact.

The Navy has let the Pearl Harbor Shipyard get so swamped by work that ships’ crews often are landlocked for a full year until repairs can be made and their ships returned to sea duty.

The Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly looked stupid saying the aircraft carrier skipper who warned of rising virus infection on the ship could have “caused our adversaries to take advantage.” What? Iran is going to attack our fleet because one carrier is temporarily down for crew change?

And now the Navy is saying it still plans to hold RimPac at Pearl Harbor and at sea off Hawaii. Will it keep all crews confined to ships? We sure don’t want a few thousand sailors walking around town!  I’m hearing about maybe a one-day exercise and then head to sea or homeports. What good is that? Waste of money and wear-and-tear on ships.

And some very respected experts are questioning the Navy’s whole ability to adequately defend us in the event of war with Russia or China.

In an interview with the political affairs publication The National Interest, Milan Vego, Professor of Operations at the U.S. Naval War College, said “lack of understanding of naval theory” makes it difficult for the Navy to develop “sound doctrine”, and as a result, to determine force requirements.

 For example, Vego notes that the Navy has an ingrained offensive mindset, which contributes to neglect of the defensive elements of naval combat such as mine warfare and protecting maritime trade. At the strategic level, this conditions a preoccupation with sea control (offensive), as opposed to sea denial (defensive). However, Vego said, it is not inconceivable, especially as capable competitors emerge, that the U.S. Navy might be put on the defensive and forced to shift its focus from sea control to sea denial.

The United States Navy plans to rapidly expand its fleet of ships, as part of the Trump era military buildup, but finding enough sailors to keep them operational could pose a serious challenge, according to analysts.

The Navy plans to reach 326 active ships by 2023 from its current 283, according to its long-range construction plan. That net increase of 43 ships could require approximately 35,000 more sailors than the roughly 328,000 active duty sailors now serving.

We have a relatively new Navy Secretary appointed by President Trump, but his time to make changes might be limited. He’ll likely be gone if Trump loses the 2020 election.

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