Saturday, September 30, 2017

Hog Commentary Published by Honolulu Star-Advertiser

I’m walking down the street in Wailuku and I hear the familiar rumble of a large Hog (Harley-Davidson motorcycle) approaching from the rear. As is my habit, I quickly plug my ears with my fingers. The biker stops at a stop sign just ahead, turns to glare at me and repeatedly revs his engine to a deafening level, taunting and punishing me for not admiring him and his noisy machine.
It has been firmly established that frequent or prolonged exposure to loud sounds can cause or aggravate serious health problems, including hearing loss, anxiety and high blood pressure. Unwanted noise is a major cause of stress. We acknowledge this by enacting and enforcing laws that forbid excessive noise from defective car mufflers, car stereos, barking dogs, late-night parties and construction projects. Inexplicably, we have exempted motorcycles from such regulation.

Many large cycles, especially Hogs, are horribly loud off the assembly line, then routinely made even louder with muffler modifications by the owners. One such bike roaring through a neighborhood interrupts all conversation, relaxation, sleep, and enjoyment of music and television. Hundreds of people are affected by one biker. When twenty such bikes roar by together it’s as loud as a jet airliner taking off. 

Why do we put up with this tyranny of noise? The technology exists to silence motorcycles as effectively as car mufflers silence 300-horse-power sedans. Some large bikes use such technology and zoom along quietly. But Hog owners, encouraged by the Harley-Davidson company, which has patented the rumble, have a fetish for the noise and they enjoy imposing it on others. They make no exceptions for schools, libraries, hospitals or residential neighborhoods late at night. Why do we tolerate this?

One person told me that any effort to restrict motorcycle noise is doomed to fail because “it’s a cultural thing, like fireworks.” But we allow and endure fireworks only a couple days a year, not every minute of every day. It used to be culturally acceptable to smoke in restaurants, theaters and offices. Now it’s unthinkable. We can change cultural norms if we want to.

Society has made a lot of progress in raising awareness about air, water and food pollution. We have made some progress against noise pollution, but not nearly enough. We need to cancel the sacred-cow status of two-wheelers. Large bikes are not the only offenders. We have a growing problem with little scooters that sound like huge chainsaws.

A Hog owner told me he loves to hear the rumble of his bike with the wind in his face. I suggested he put on headphones, crank up a recording of a gang of Hogs and sit in front of a fan. But then he wouldn’t have the perverse pleasure of imposing his racket on others.

Of course, industry lobbyists oppose efforts to quiet the cycles, so it would take political courage to improve the situation. There isn’t much of that in our state and county legislatures, so lovers of peace and quiet will have to apply pressure, much as anti-smoking activists have done with great success.  

Monday, August 22, 2016


I was walking on the sidewalk outside Starbucks at the Queen Kaahumanu Mall when I heard a Harley-Davidson motorcycle approaching from behind and slowly going by. I did what I always do when a Hog is nearby: I plugged my ears with my fingers. I never looked at the biker but just kept walking.

The rider took great offense at this. He stopped at the stop sign, now about 50 feet ahead of me, and turned back to give me a murderous stare as he revved his engine to a painfully loud level. Then he flipped me the middle finger, showing off his I.Q., and roared off.

Some version of this incident happens quite often, which shows that most of these guys are like three-year-old brats banging on pots and pans to get attention. But they are also thugs and bullies who are capable of reacting with rage if you don’t admire them and their noisy, smelly machines. I would wager that a high percentage of them are genuine psychopaths, that is, antisocial personality types who care nothing for the rights of others.

Hogs are not primarily modes of transportation. They are big, expensive toys used mostly to show off. Why else would the riders so often move in gangs, roar through towns on their way to nowhere, and always make as much noise as they can? Why else would they roar into quiet nature reserves like Iao Valley where people go to enjoy the quiet?  Why else would they give stink eye to pedestrians who plug their ears, and their infants’ ears, as they go by? (Infants can suffer permanent hearing loss from repeated close exposure to loud Hogs.)

There is no technical justification for motorcycles to be as loud as Hogs. Modern cars with far more power are 5 percent as loud. There are plenty of fast motorcycles that make very little noise. And powerful electric cars and motorcycles make almost no noise. Hogs are loud by design. The company has even patented the sound of its bikes, as if it’s a good thing. Ken Schmidt, a Hog executive, calls Harley noise “The Voice of God” and said to dealers, “Noise is good; noise is the foundation of your business.”

We are exposed to so much noise that many of us suffer serious hearing loss fairly early in life. The excessive noise also causes stress that can contribute to health problems such as anxiety and hypertension. Of course, some loud noises are unavoidable, such as those from buses and big cargo trucks. Exposure to others, such as loud music, is mostly voluntary and for the enjoyment of the listener. But we should not be forced to hear completely unnecessary noise that we hate and that interferes with our normal activities. 

Hogs are especially irritating at night when we are conversing with family and friends, doing homework, watching TV, listening to music, meditating or sleeping. A single Hog speeding (they usually speed) through a quiet neighborhood creates a wide swath of deafening noise for blocks on either side and interrupts the normal activities of hundreds of people. 

Why do we put up with this? Why do we give Hog riders an exemption from the usual standards of civilized behavior? Part of the answer is political intimidation. Whenever a bill is introduced in a state or county legislature to enforce EPA noise limits all hell breaks loose. The bike dealers and their gangs of customers make a racket even worse than that of their Hogs.

The EPA noise limit for motorcycles is 82 decibels and most Hogs are (barely) in compliance when they leave the factory. However, Harley sells modified mufflers into the aftermarket that are more than ten times as loud, and many, perhaps most, Hog riders buy them. A heavy jackhammer generates about 105 decibels and the illegally modified Hogs are often louder than that. The decibel scale is logarithmic, so 105 decibels is many times as loud as 82 decibels.

Now we have news that Harley-Davidson has been doing a VW. That is, the company has been selling mufflers in the aftermarket that not only make more noise but also cause far more air pollution than allowed by EPA rules. So Hogs imposes both illegal noise and illegal hydrocarbon poisons on the entire population. What more proof do we need that the company itself is psychopathic?

Some mainland communities are so besieged by noise from Hog gangs that tourism has decreased significantly, affecting the incomes of thousands of residents. But opponents are fighting back. If you want to join them, check out and Noise Free America.

Meanwhile, if you are brave and want to show these thugs how you feel about their polluting ways, turn you back on them as they roar by and ostentatiously plug your ears. 

Links to all my blogs:

For more detailed critiques of various forms of quackery, including naturopathy, see my book A Consumer’s Guide to “Alternative Medicine”.  It was expertly edited by legendary quack buster Stephen Barrett. MD. When the book was published almost 30 years ago it was strongly praised by responsible health experts and the rare responsible media, but trashed by new-age critics and even vandalized in bookstores by new-age fanatics. It is as true and relevant as ever, and has been mostly vindicated by time. Yet my courageous and far-sighted publisher, the venerable Prometheus Books, is still sitting on lots of copies. Please help validate their integrity by buying a copy. Or two or more as gifts. Perhaps 10 for your local school library and health classes. See their website for assorted discounts. Make them an offer. (My royalties are insignificant; this little promo is for the benefit of one of the world's great publishers, Prometheus Books.) 

Maui's future foretold
Barbarians In Paradise -- Terror Comes to Maui. This is a prophetic flash novel about a future police state and those who rebel against it. Available in paperback and ebook at 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Stupidest Moves on Maui Roads

Most people tend to think that drivers in their town must be the worst in the world or at least in this country. This is natural since they directly witness stupid moves in their local traffic. Even taking this into account, however, I can assure you that Maui drivers are truly among the worst. I have driven and walked in cities all over the United States, Mexico and Europe. Believe me, Maui is up there with the worst.  

Because I walk everywhere in Central Maui and spend about 12 hours per week on the roads and sidewalks, I see a lot more than most people do. Though stupid moves by drivers are the most dangerous, bicyclists and pedestrians make dumb moves too.

Here are the stupidest moves I’ve witnessed, some of them almost every day. Some are seriously dangerous, others are more annoying than dangerous.

Most Dangerous Stupid Move by Drivers

This stupid move is when a driver is trying to turn right into traffic, either from an intersecting street or from a parking lot, and keeps his eyes glued left while waiting for an opening. He never even glances right for pedestrians about to walk in front of him in the crosswalk or on the sidewalk. It’s even more dangerous when the driver doesn’t come to a full stop, but just glides through the stop sign or red light, turning right while staring left.

I have been almost hit by such drivers so many times that I have resorted to waving a white cloth and yelling. I’m looking for a loud horn that’s not too heavy to carry around. Sometimes after a close call I angrily kick the car and yell insults at the driver. Once I keyed a car as it went by far too close to me.

Here is my scariest experience along these lines. In Kahului I was walking south on Puunene toward Dairy Road and I came to an intersection without lights but with stop signs. I took one step into the crosswalk when a massive big-tire pickup roared toward me. Playing it safe, I stepped back onto the curb and waited to see what he was going to do. The tint of the windshield and the glare of the sun made it impossible for me to see the driver. He did come to a full stop, but several feet past the stop line and nosing into the crosswalk.

Since I clearly had the right of way and oncoming traffic seemed to preclude his proceeding, I resumed my walk, this time a couple feet outside the crosswalk to be as far from the truck as possible. I kept my peripheral vision on the truck and suddenly it lurched forward, straight at me. If I had been in the crosswalk it would have nailed me. I almost crapped my pants.

With the change of angle the glare was reduced and I could see the driver. To my horror, I realized that he had never seen me at all and still didn’t. He never glanced right or even straight ahead the entire time and was still looking left. I yelled as loud as I could, “Stop you stupid shit”, and similar angry words. I happened to be carrying a heavy-duty glass bottle that I use for coffee on my walks and I had a strong impulse to throw my best fastball at the windshield or the driver-side window. The bottle was hard as a rock and five-sided with angular edges. It would have done real damage.

I restrained myself and settled for more yelling and some serious stink eye. He went on his way without apologizing or showing his face. I was angry and stressed for the rest of the day. In fact, I’m still angry about it and the many other times when I could have been killed or crippled because drivers are too lazy and too stupid to come to a full stop and look both ways before they go. Many Maui drivers act as if pedestrians don’t exist, or that they have no right to be on the road.

These fools should remember that when a driver kills or seriously injures a pedestrian through negligence or bad judgment, several lives are ruined, including the driver’s and those of loved ones on both sides.

Most Annoying Stupid Move by Drivers

This is when a driver waits 25 seconds for a pedestrian in a crosswalk when he could have made his right turn in 2 seconds. Some drivers have no sense of timing and tend to play it so overly safe it annoys the pedestrians as well as other drivers. Let’s say the pedestrian light indicates walk and I start into the crosswalk. I have almost 30 seconds to walk the width of 4 lanes. This is a lot of time, so I have no reason to hurry, but I don’t casually stroll either.

Meanwhile a driver almost 50 feet away, facing me in the right lane of oncoming traffic and wanting to turn right across my path in the crosswalk, sits and waits for me even though he and the 3 or 4 cars behind him could make the turn easily without coming close to hitting me. This poor timing sometimes causes right-turning cars to back up dangerously into the faster-moving lane to the left. When I see this I feel obligated to hustle, no matter how tired I may be.

I often wave such drivers on, urging them to make their right turn ahead of me, but half of them refuse to do so, and wave me on, again making me feel I should hustle. The law does not require a driver to wait for a pedestrian two or three lanes away to get through a crosswalk. It’s a false courtesy. When a pedestrian waves a driver on, the driver should proceed, with caution of course.

Second Most Annoying Stupid Move by Drivers

To describe this offense I must first admit that on very rare occasions I jaywalk. Okay, I jaywalk all the time, but very carefully. Of course everyone jaywalks, but I do it more than most people because I walk more than most and I know where it’s safe to jaywalk. Some intersections are so dangerous that it is better to jaywalk where you have to watch for traffic from only two directions instead of four or five.

I may be jaywalking across a street, fully aware of the car coming in the next lane and timing my pace so that he passes before I get to his lane. But a few drivers, though they could easily make it before I reach their lane, slam on their brakes. They force me to cross the lane inches from their front bumper or, worse, they end up stopping smack in front of me and blocking my way across the street. They also block the cars arriving behind them, and those drivers blame me.

These Nervous Nellies are probably the same drivers who wait unnecessarily in the example above. They have no sense of timing and surely make terrible dancers. When a driver sees a jaywalker ahead, he should proceed cautiously and let the walker time his moves. Of course, if the jaywalker is obviously intoxicated or otherwise incompetent, the driver should consider stopping and turning his hazard lights on until the poor soul is safely across the street. 

Third Most Annoying Stupid Move by Drivers

I am standing on a sidewalk and a nearby driver has stopped and is waving and honking for me to cross the street. But I’ve made no indication that I want to cross the street. I may be gazing at something across the street, but I am standing still on a sidewalk 3 or 4 feet from the curb, perhaps in the vicinity of a crosswalk, perhaps not. A driver should not make assumptions about what a pedestrian on the sidewalk intends to do. The law says a driver must stop for a pedestrian when the latter is in the crosswalk, not when he is on the sidewalk near a crosswalk, when he is looking at a crosswalk or when he is simply near the curb looking toward the other side of the street.  

Most Baffling Stupid Move by Drivers

Many Maui drivers seem to have no idea how a merge lane works. The driver is supposed to proceed cautiously down the lane, watch for an opening in the lane to the left, and merge or wait near the bottom of the lane. Instead, these drivers come to a full stop near the top of the lane, sometimes right on top of a crosswalk. Traffic backs up behind them as they watch for a chance to (illegally) race left across solid lines and a bike lane. Sometimes they cut off the rare driver who did go lower in the merge lane and was trying to properly merge left. Come on, guys! Think about what merge lanes are for. It’s not that difficult.

 Most Dangerous Stupid Move by Bicyclists

Bicyclists, according to the law, are not supposed to ride on the sidewalk in business-zoned areas, but they do it all the time with impunity, even when a bike lane is just three feet away. They often ride dangerously fast and yell at pedestrians to get out of the way. On one occasion a cyclist going downhill at least 20 mph yelled at me, “Move, moron!”, sped by a foot from me, then narrowly missed a mother pushing a baby stroller.

So what? you say. Well, think about the physics of it. 200 pounds of metal, bone and flesh slamming into a person delivers enormous force. A man on a bike once slammed into me while I was in a crosswalk. He wasn’t going very fast, but I was knocked out for a few seconds and suffered a concussion. You can go online and find examples of bicyclists killing or severely injuring pedestrians.

Most counties take the problem seriously, but not Maui. Consider the following scenario. You are walking on a sidewalk when a very quiet bicycle speeds toward you from behind. There is a bike lane running parallel to the sidewalk about a yard away, but the cyclist prefers the sidewalk. Pedestrians, especially older ones like you, don’t walk in perfectly straight lines and cyclists don’t ride that way. Both wobble a little and the sidewalk is narrow.

As he passes, almost giving you a heart attack because you never heard him coming, he clips you, sending you sprawling, and he speeds away. There is no visible tag on the bike and you have no way of identifying him. You have osteoporosis and you are in agony because now you have a broken pelvis and a broken arm.

If I tell a cyclist that it is illegal to ride on the sidewalk he invariably reacts with disbelief and hostility. If I offer to show him a copy of the law he insults me, swears at me and may challenge me to a fight. They react this way because there are no signs that inform cyclists of the law. There are signs everywhere telling drivers and pedestrians what they cannot do, but none telling cyclists to, for example, walk their bikes on public sidewalks. None! On the entire island!

Besides signs for cyclists, we obviously need better laws and better enforcement. Cyclists should be required to have and use bells; to have and use lights for night riding; to have tags that are clearly legible from 50 feet; and to ride the right way on one-way streets.

Cyclists should be forbidden to ride on sidewalks in nonresidential areas; ride on sidewalks where a bike lane is available; go more than ten mph where allowed to ride on sidewalks; ride within three feet of a pedestrian; and ride more than 5 mph past a pedestrian on a sidewalk.  

Most Baffling Stupid Move by Legislators

The Maui County administration and the county council have resolutely ignored all my pleas for better enforcement and better laws. I even volunteered to spend days painting “no bikes” signs on sidewalks if the county would supply the paint and stencil. I got no reply. I emailed them a warning that the county would be liable for injuries caused by bikes illegally riding on sidewalks because it has made absolutely no effort to inform cyclists of the law, to enforce the law or to do anything to protect pedestrians from cyclists. I got no reply. Stupid move. Someday the county will have to pay millions to an injured pedestrian. Only then will it improve the laws and their enforcement.  

Most Dangerous Stupid Move by Pedestrians

The most suicidal stupid move is dashing across a 4-8 lane highway while not in a crosswalk. There have been a few deaths in recent months due to this move. The driver is also traumatized by the grisly collision. Enough said.

 Most Baffling Stupid Move by Pedestrians

I once saw women jogging 3-abreast in a bike lane, completely blocking it, even though a sidewalk was three feet away. What were they thinking? Thank God I’ve never seen this stupid move again.

Links to all my blogs: 

For more detailed critiques of various forms of quackery, including naturopathy, see my book A Consumer’s Guide to “Alternative Medicine”. It was expertly edited by legendary quack buster Stephen Barrett, MD.  The critics say:

"Superb!" -- Dr. Victor Herbert in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Excellent" -- National Council Against Health Fraud.

"Five Stars" -- Cooking Light.

"Thought provoking; a great book" -- American Journal of Health Promotion.  

When the book was published almost 30 years ago it was strongly praised by responsible health experts and the rare responsible media, but trashed by new-age critics and even vandalized in bookstores by new-age fanatics. It is as true and relevant as ever, and has been mostly vindicated by time. Yet my courageous and far-sighted publisher, the venerable Prometheus Books, is still sitting on lots of copies. Please help validate their integrity by buying a copy. Or two or more as gifts. Perhaps 10 for your local school library and health classes. See their website for assorted discounts. Make them an offer. (My royalties are insignificant; this little promo is for the benefit of one of the world's great publishers, Prometheus Books.) 

Maui's future foretoldBarbarians In Paradise -- Terror Comes to Maui. This is a prophetic flash novel about a future police state and those who rebel against it. Available in paperback and ebook at