January 10, 2009

Poinography May 2007 archive

Filed under: — Doug @ 2:21 pm



Hanabusa strips Judiciary Committee chairmanship from Hee

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:48 pm
After a press release posted without comment at Hawaii Reporter yesterday, today the Advertiser and Star-Bulletin report on a change in the leadership structure of the Senate. Senator Hanabusa is still President, but after a session full of grimacing through Senator Hee’s unpopular actions, she has stripped Hee of the Judiciary Committee gavel. Taking Hee’s place at Judiciary chair will be Senator Taniguchi, who after so many years in the white-hot Ways and Means spotlight, plodded along in relative obscurity this past session as chair of Commerce—Taniguchi is called back up into the bigs, so to speak. Hee will take over the Water and Land Committee (stripped of its Hawaiian Affairs portfolio, which freshman Tokuda will chair in conjunction with Agriculture). Senator Kokubun’s involvement in the rejection of Peter Young as DLNR director clearly led to his “voluntary” reassignment to Commerce. Kokubun tries to spin this as a continuation of his sustainability focus, but I doubt many people are fooled.

Anyway, I’m too tired to write much tonight, but I think it’s ironic that the next DLNR nominee (whoever that may be) will go from the Kokubun pan into the Hee fire. Oddly enough, there is no similar “punishment” for Senator Espero, who killed the Iwalani White nomination at Public Safety. Probably because nobody else (in the pro-Hanabusa faction) wants that backwater post…

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Live by SCOTUS, die by SCOTUS

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:10 pm
The Advertiser has an update about the Hawaii Bar Association response to David Rosen’s search for plaintiffs to challenge Kamehameha Schools’ admissions policy. Basically, the HBA punts, saying they are conducting a study to consider new rules about solicitation of clients. The Office of Disciplinary Council will (perhaps) address Rosen’s behavior in a more substantive way, but there is little known about when that will be resolved.

Meanwhile, on the Advertiser letters to the editor page, Jonathan Osorio expands on the thoughts I concluded a previous post with. Osorio writes:

Rosen thinks that Kamehameha should seek a just ruling from a bench that has reached a peak of conservatism and from a federal system that has been distorted by right-wing politics under George W. Bush. Personally, I’m glad the trustees are not that stupid.

A few days ago there was a response (of sorts) by Trisha Kehaulani Watson to Rosen’s Sunday op-eds. The various letters to the editor pages have seen many other letters on the topic, too. Both sides of the debate are essentially talking past each other at this point. Rosen relies on (mostly) legalistic reasoning. Rosen’s critics, apparently recognizing the almost-inevitable legal defeat, scold Rosen for a lack of Aloha, unchecked greed, cynicism, racism, etc.

The Civil Rights movement lived by a friendly Supreme Court (a Court that pulled a reluctant Congress along for the ride), and now it seems that a hostile Supreme Court will take its revenge and, in the process of dismantling benefits for Native Hawaiians (and others), will use many of the same arguments that initially propelled the civil rights movement. This reciprocal legal swell has been a long time coming, but now Rosen is simply lining up to catch the wave. Rosen is nobody special; if Rosen is somehow shouted down by the opponents then another attorney with thicker skin would step up. The John Roberts regime will be on the SCOTUS bench for a long time. Too long, I reckon, for Kamehama Schools to maintain the status quo.

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The old “Back in one hour” note falls short

Filed under: HI Media — Doug @ 7:20 pm
A rather amusing story in the SB about a low-power television station being fined for maintaining it’s “studio” up on Palehua Ridge. FCC rules require that there be public accessibility in order to contact the licenseholder at a physical office space. The complete FCC ruling is here.

On July 10 an FCC field agent, the KAIM site manager and KAIM contract engineer took the one-lane mountain road to the transmitter site and found two locked gates — locked to prevent public access, the site manager said.

Posted signs warned against public approach, due to danger from high electromagnetic fields.

The FCC “found no apparent means by which the public could access the site,” according to last week’s forfeiture order.

A station also is required to maintain a meaningful managerial and staff presence at its main studio, but on July 10 the FCC agent found a windowless transmitter building containing four racks of electronic equipment and transmitters, a file cabinet and single chair. The site had no landline phone, staff, running water or rest room. There was however, an undated, handwritten note by the door with the words, “Be back in one hour” and a cellphone number.

Okay, I’ll admit it, I left that handwritten note by the door. haha

To add a “Hawaii politics” angle to this story, one could (and still may) often find similar notes (with comparable veracity) on the door of Representative Nishimoto’s office. He’s a serial violator, but he’s not the only one by a long shot.

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Memorial Day observed

Filed under: General — Doug @ 4:02 pm
I went to Punchbowl this morning for the Mayor’s Memorial Day ceremony and to pay my respects at my friend Seph’s niche in the columbarium. Honestly, the crowd did not seem very big, and this year an artillery salute was not part of the program (it was replaced by rifle volleys). Light rain made the F-15 flyover less impressive than usual. After the event was pau I had breakfast with a friend who lives in Nuuanu and then decided that I would also go to the Governor’s event at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe. No artillery over here, either. Oh, and the National Guard helicopter flyover didn’t use the missing man formation. Go figure.

Anyway, I don’t want to give the impression that it was a disappointing day. Both events included the Army’s Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps from Arlington, Virginia. I had never seen them perform, and at the Kaneohe ceremony they played a medley lasting several minutes. It got this former Marine thinking that Hawaii is past due for another visit by the Silent Drill Platoon.

The only real bummer of the day was when my motorcycle tipped over on the uneven ground where I had foolishly parked it. Superficial damage only, but sickening to watch it happen just a bit too far away for me to save it.

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Who is he, and what is he up to?

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 9:29 am
Attorney David Rosen, the man behind the new effort to find plaintiffs for another lawsuit against Kamehameha Schools’ admission policy, managed to get op-eds in both Honolulu newspapers today. Rosen’s piece in the SB is a “who da guy?” effort [with a headline (of Rosen’s choice?) that slyly invokes the recent “F*cking haole” assault case], and the Advertiser published Rosen’s explanation of his motivations. If nothing else, Rosen shows some media savvy here. Newspaper editors typically ask/demand that op-ed contributors do not submit their work to other outlets, so apparently Rosen wrote two different pieces. No way for me to know for sure, but I suspect neither editor knew of the other op-ed.

In the Advertiser piece Rosen essentially “calls out” KS:

Had the trustees allowed the “John Doe” case to be considered by the highest court in the land, I would have been satisfied with whatever decision was reached, and I would not be seeking to bring another lawsuit against Kamehameha Schools.

Most importantly, the community as a whole would have had an answer, and this issue could have been put to bed.

Because this resolution was not permitted, the need for another lawsuit exists. Despite the protestations of the trustees, their army of attorneys and public relations machine, a 7-8 decision by the 9th Circuit does not constitute well-settled law. To ensure that the trustees are not able to buy off another lawsuit, I am attempting to put together a sizeable group of plaintiffs for the next lawsuit.

I am not undertaking this case because it is going to be fun or because I need the work. I have a busy legal practice, and I would much rather spend what limited free time I have with my family rather than in my office writing legal briefs and reading angry e-mails.

However, my family and I have made the difficult decision to make this sacrifice because we do not want our children growing up as second-class citizens in their own home.

Those with whom I have spoken about participating in this lawsuit expect to make similar sacrifices for the same reason; none of them have made any mention of seeking a monetary settlement.

To those who still believe this is about money, I am publicly making this offer. I will agree to limit my fees in this case to $1, provided that counsel for the Kamehameha Schools and the trustees agree to do the same.

I am also willing to obtain an agreement from any potential clients I may represent in this case that they will not seek any monetary damages, provided that the Kamehameha Schools and the trustees agree to assist in having this issue put before the U.S. Supreme Court on an expedited basis.

Will Kamehameha Schools respond in an equally public forum? I doubt it. I also doubt that there will be any agreement to limit damages, limit fees or expedite the case. I do know, however, that all of this makes for a good legal drama. On another front, these public statements also establish some evidence of Rosen’s intent should any disciplinary proceedings against Rosen go forward.

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Traffic experiment to mimic impacts of Superferry in Kahului

Filed under: Science, Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 9:28 am
A very clever experiment on Maui aims to simulate the pedestrian and vehicle traffic associated with the arrival and departure from Kahului of the Hawaii Superferry. The Maui News story describes it like so:

The Pacific Whale Foundation and Maui Tomorrow Foundation will conduct a traffic simulation of what they think roads will be like when the Hawaii Superferry begins operations at Kahului Harbor.


Irene Bowie, executive director of Maui Tomorrow, said she hopes to get 220 cars to participate to illustrate the average number of cars that could be departing on and disembarking from the Superferry when it arrives at Kahului Harbor daily. The Superferry is designed to carry 200 passenger vehicles and up to 15 large trucks.

The demonstration will also have volunteer pedestrians to simulate passengers getting off and on the ferry as part of the demonstration on Friday, Bowie said. The 340-foot-long Superferry will carry up to 900 passengers.

?We want to make it close to what it will be like as possible,? Bowie said.


According to the Hawaii Superferry schedule filed with the state Public Utilities Commission, the ferry will arrive in Kahului at 9:30 a.m. daily and depart for Honolulu at 11 a.m.

The departure area for passengers and cars will be at the end of Puunene Avenue across from the First Hawaiian Bank Kahului branch.

For the traffic simulation, Bowie said the cars that participate will travel up and down Puunene Avenue to demonstrate departing and arriving traffic. Cars will also travel on Kaahumanu Avenue to turn onto Puunene Avenue to simulate other traffic heading to the Superferry dock.

Bowie said she has notified police, fire and other emergency responders and the Mayor?s Office of the plans for the simulation.

The logistics of getting that many volunteers organized for an experiment to be held on a weekday morning won’t be easy. Still, if they manage to pull it off, then you can pretty much guarantee that the Superferry proponents will attack the experiment as poorly-conceived and the results will be called biased and irrelevant. However, a better reaction from a scientific standpoint would be for the Superferry supporters to attempt their own experiment using hundreds of their own volunteers and following their own protocol. Somewhere in the middle would probably be the actual arrival/departure scenario…

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Chinatown going wireless; liability going underground

Filed under: Honolulu Politics — Doug @ 1:44 pm
The Advertiser has a story that dusts off the previously proposed wirelesss internet service for part of downtown Honolulu. It will be free for the first year, and then it is expected to become a pay-as-you-go service. No city money is said to be expended in the effort.

Here’s the only odd part of the story:

Once up and completely running, the network will provide Internet access across a 27-block area ranging from North Beretania Street to North Nimitz Highway, and from Fort Street Mall to the Nu’uanu Stream. Chinatown was chosen because it is an area targeted for redevelopment by Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

Equipment needed to provide the service, including 19 wireless antennas, is on order and should be installed soon, Bruce said. The antennas will be installed on light poles and stoplights. Among the myriad of legal questions that needed to be addressed was who is liable if an antenna falls and injures someone, Bruce said.

So who’s to blame if that happens? “I’m not going to tell you,” Bruce said. “We also learned we don’t have to disclose that.”

Huh? Bruce learned from who that they can keep the bearer of the liability a secret? I don’t think it’s likely that a wifi antenna is going to fall off a mount and hurt someone, but Mr. Bruce’s smug attitude is enough to make me want to know who would be liable if only just to prove Bruce wrong. It’s not as if withholding this information could make the potential liability disappear. If an antenna falls and hurts someone, then the lawsuit will probably name everyone from Earthlink, to the City, to whatever entity hosts the mounting point. Somebody somewhere owns the antennas, and made agreements with people who own the property where the antennas are installed. If those agreements are with the City, then how can they be private? Who owns the utility poles anyway—the City or the utilities?

Oh, and I’d like to know if it still part of the plan to use the wireless network for additional security cameras.

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Xenu-non wows the easily-impressed local media

Filed under: HI Media — Doug @ 7:38 pm
In a rather unsettling example of celebrity worship, KGMB and MidWeek both run fawning pieces about John Travolta and his Punahou-alumna wife who were in Honolulu for a fundraiser on behalf of a drug abuse treatment center that will be based on the Narconon program. You may recall that I wrote about this Scientology-related jabberwocky previously, but apparently all it takes are a few pretty faces to make some of the media drop their guard altogether. Sigh.

Punahou-grad Preston arrived home ahead of her husband to prepare for the occasion, and to check on progress of the drug education program she helped launch here two years ago. Travolta is on a promotional tour for his new film Hairspray, which opens July 20 in theaters nationwide.

?It started with a wonderful boost because the first two public screenings broke records, and I?m very excited about that,? Travolta says.

We catch up with Preston at Narconon Hawaii headquarters at Nimitz Center before racing home to watch Travolta on Oprah. Show biz doesn?t get better than this, we sigh. We get to interview a beautiful actress in the afternoon, then watch her talented husband dazzle audiences on my favorite talk show.

?John will pilot his jet to Honolulu,? Preston says. ?He?s bringing our son Jett. Our daughter Ella is already here with me.?

You read correctly. Travolta is flying his own aircraft to town. A licensed pilot, he owns a Boeing 707 and operates a multitude of jet aircraft. He says he likes his airplanes big, and in 2002 was given a model 747-400ER Extended Range jet, the first of six to be delivered to Qantas Airlines. The couple has a private airstrip at their home in Florida.

Gag. Objectivity thrown to the wind, and a dose of wealth porn, too.

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Special Committee named to scrutinize Bureau of Conveyances allegations

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:26 pm
Both Honolulu dailies (SB and Advertiser) report on a Joint Investigative Committee formed pursuant to SCR 226. The 10 legislators named to the committee will follow up on the work of other investigators and pursue items raised during testimony for the (failed) Peter Young confirmation hearing.

The Bureau has been dysfunctional for so long that I’m not sure we should expect any change. Morale is extremely low, and positions at the Bureau are very hard to fill. My prediction is that some shocking stories of dubious management and employee practices will emerge, perhaps even some charges and disciplinary action, but I don’t foresee a resolution to the overall backlog problem.

Oh, and I suppose that since Young has already been shown the door, he’s as likely a candidate for fall-guy/scapegoat as anybody…

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A search begins for new plaintiffs to challenge admissions policy at Kamehameha Schools

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 7:17 pm
Not that I am at all surprised, but already there is an effort underway to find new clients willing to challenge the Kamehameha Schools’ admissions policy after the recent settlement defused a potential hearing at the Supreme Court. The Advertiser has a story and a column about the email (text available at iLind and KITV) sent by a local attorney seeking to represent new plaintiffs. The SB story and Lind’s subsequent blog post pursue the notion that the email is contrary to the ethics rule for Hawaii lawyers regarding direct solicitation of clients. Meanwhile, the unofficial Supreme Court of Hawaii blog posts a link to a SCOTUS decision that may be relevant.

I am not a lawyer, but I think the ethics complaint will go nowhere (unless there is more to it than has been reported so far). I’ll leave aside for now a discussion of the totally arbitrary prohibition against using email to directly solicit clients while allowing written solicitations (clearly labeled as advertising) to proceed. What’s up with that? Weird. If an attorney were to run a television or newspaper ad soliciting prospective clients, that would be deemed “ethical,” so what is the big deal about email?

Anyway, this seems to be the specific language in the Rules of Professional Conduct that is raising the ruckus:

(f) Written communications to prospective clients for the purpose of soliciting professional employment are subject to the following requirements:
(1) written communications to prospective clients shall be sent only by regular U.S. mail, not by registered mail or other forms of restricted delivery, and not by facsimile or e-mail

Hmmm. Unless Mr. Burgess or Mr. Rowland have (or are, heh) school-aged children ineligible for admission to Kamehameha Schools, which I highly doubt, then the email they received was not a “communication to prospective clients.” If Burgess and/or Rowland know or learn of any prospective clients and forward those names to the attorney, then, so long as those prospective clients are not contacted by the attorney using email, this would not seem to violate the ethical rules as written.

However, in the SB article there is mention of “indirect solicitation:”

Rules prohibit attorneys from soliciting clients through e-mail, though it is OK to use regular mail or advertisement, said James Kawachika, an attorney who gives lawyers ethics advice and represents them before the Disciplinary Board.

“He would still be violating ethical rules because he cannot do indirectly that which he himself is prohibited from doing directly,” said Kawachika, a former chairman of the board, which oversees allegations of ethics violations and misconduct by attorneys.


The Hawaii State Bar Association, prompted by a wave of complaints it got about Rosen’s e-mail, will investigate the matter at a regular board meeting tomorrow, said President Jeffrey Portnoy.

“I find this kind of solicitation of clients to be very troubling,” he said, noting that courts have been loosening attorneys’ solicitation laws to protect their free-speech rights. “It’s a tough debate.”

Jon Van Dyke, a University of Hawaii constitutional law professor who has helped Kamehameha defend its preference policy, said those rules tend to be relaxed in civil liberties cases of high public interest.

All very interesting, to be sure, but this bell cannot be unrung. Even if this particular lawyer is punished for these emails, the word is now out that prospective clients should contact Burgess or Rowland. I have little doubt that either man would forward the names of prospective clients to a sympathetic attorney. To be blunt: there will be new plaintiffs, a/additional lawsuit[s] will go forward, and eventually one will reach SCOTUS before being settled.

Spokeswoman Ann Botticelli noted the school now enjoys the legal backing of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled 8-7 in December to uphold the admissions prerequisite.

“We knew there was always a possibility we would get sued again,” she said. “We are not interested in settling this case. We have legal precedent at the 9th Circuit level that our policy is lawful and that it does not trample the rights of non-Hawaiians. … He is gambling, and it’s a huge gamble.”

Kamehamameha Schools talks tough now, but if the KS legal team had been equally certain that the Ninth Circuit decision would prevail, then they would not have settled before achieving the finality of a SCOTUS ruling to uphold it. We can only wait to see if the next case is settled before being granted certiorari.

As for the Supreme Court decision mentioned in the opening paragraph, it dealt with an attorney directly soliciting (first verbally and then in written form) a prospective client on behalf of a public-interest law firm (the ACLU). That’s not the same behavior that we have in the instant example, so far as I can tell, but the ruling did hold that

Solicitation of prospective litigants by nonprofit organizations that engage in litigation as “a form of political expression” and “political association” constitutes expressive and associational conduct entitled to First Amendment protection

…so, depending upon the bona fides and “non-pecuniary” motivations of who is underwriting this latest effort to find plaintiffs, it might be protected.

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Cashing in on disasters

Filed under: HI State Politics, Science — Doug @ 7:13 pm
Hurricane season starts in a few weeks, and both papers cover a news conference urging everyone to prepare for the arrival of a storm. The Advertiser story is here, and a SB report is here. A good reminder, if a bit of a yawner.

But, there was this in the Advertiser:

After the exercise, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced its forecast of two to three tropical depressions, tropical storms or hurricanes forming in the Central Pacific this year.

The forecast by Jim Weyman, director of NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center, was identical to last year’s.

But it was a closely guarded secret because the Chicago Mercantile Exchange has begun trading in hurricane futures, Weyman said, and NOAA officials now need to be particularly careful about their predictions.

Heh. I’m squarely among the negative net worth crowd, so futures trading is not a subject I’m very familiar with… The Chicago Mercantile Exchange describes the gamble investment instrument here.

“These new CME Hurricane contracts will provide an additional way to help address the needs of the insurance industry and other markets,” said Felix Carabello, CME Director of Alternative Investment Products. “Following the devastating 2005 hurricane season that caused an estimated $79 billion in damage, it became apparent that there was limited capacity to insure customer claims. With these hurricane contracts, insurers and others will be able to transfer their risk to the capital markets and thereby increase their capacity to insure customers.”

In addition to insurers, other customers such as energy companies, pension funds, state governments and utility companies will be able to hedge their risk of hurricanes striking in the United States in five areas defined as the Gulf Coast, Florida, the Southern Atlantic Coast, the Northern Atlantic Coast and the Eastern U.S.

“We are excited about our joint venture with CME,” said John Cavanagh, Joint CEO of the Carvill Group. “CME is the clear market leader in weather derivatives and we believe this new product will offer a wider range of catastrophe solutions to our customers. The convergence of the insurance markets and the broader financial community continues at a rapid pace, and our products, particularly in the catastrophe area, are becoming more commoditized in order to appeal to a more diverse range of capital providers. An exchange traded derivative product for catastrophic hurricane risk is a natural progression to this trend.”

Unless the program has been changed from how it is described above, the hurricane futures market does not include storms in the Pacific. Thus, I don’t understand the need for “secrecy” regarding the Hawaii prediction. The fact that the NOAA meteorologists appear to be working more carefully simply because the prediction suddenly is of added economic imporance to investors and insurers, well, that bothers me.

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Blogger tries to shed her spots

Filed under: HI Media — Doug @ 7:11 pm
Nothing really new in the two stories today about Malia Zimmerman being subpoenaed by the owner of the Kaloko Dam (Advertiser and SB), but they are notable for attempts to define the intersection of blogging and journalism.

Zimmerman, who does not consider herself a blogger, describes Hawai’i Reporter as an online journal. The Web site, founded in 2002, has investors and sells advertising. The site posts original reporting, along with guest commentary, news releases and letters.

Zimmerman’s reporting, under headings such as “Blonde Uprising,” is often more opinionated and combative than mainstream news media and usually has a conservative-to-libertarian perspective.

The differences between bloggers and journalists also have been blurred now that mainstream news media ? including The Advertiser ? feature blogging. (The Zimmerman-Pflueger legal fight has been documented in Capitol Notebook, a blog by the paper’s Capitol Bureau.)

Jeff Portnoy, Zimmerman’s attorney, said Hawai’i Reporter is, in effect, a daily newspaper and that Zimmerman should have the same protections available to more traditional reporters.

“I wouldn’t argue that if I sat down tonight and sent out a blog, that that would be the same thing,” said Portnoy, who also has represented The Advertiser in legal cases. “But I think if you look at her background and what she does, the blogging issue, to me, is a red herring.”

Gerald Kato, chairman of the UH-Manoa School of Communications, said it is important to protect the First Amendment and the unfettered flow of information, not necessarily the people or the medium that provide it.

Well put, Mr. Kato. That Advertiser article is quite thorough and even-handed. The AP story in the SB, however, is less so.

Attorney William McCorriston, in a lawsuit brought by landowner James Pflueger over the failure of the Ka Loko Dam, claims that Malia Zimmerman of Hawaiireporter.com is a blogger who is not entitled to withhold her sources of information.

But Zimmerman, an editor and reporter for the Web site, says she is a legitimate journalist, not just some hack who offers half-baked commentary on the news of the day. [Pot, this is kettle. You’re black!]

“Any journalist who gives their word that they’ll protect somebody’s information or keep them in confidence, you have to abide by that,” Zimmerman said. “It’s not the medium you publish in, it’s what you do with that information.”

Circuit Judge Gary Chang has ordered Zimmerman to submit to questioning under oath by McCorriston, likely in June. She can refuse to answer questions, but she must explain her reasons for doing so, and the judge would later rule on whether she is justified.

Hawaii does not have a journalist shield law, like those enacted in 31 states to protect reporters’ rights to keep their sources confidential.

That means there will be two issues for Chang to decide: whether Zimmerman is a real journalist, and whether reporters have a qualified privilege to refuse providing confidential information to lawyers in a civil case.

“It seems to me that if a blogger is a journalist, everyone can produce a blog and never be subject to a subpoena,” McCorriston said. “Are all bloggers journalists? It’s a question that’s never been answered anywhere.”

Hawaiireporter.com covers politics and business news, frequently from a conservative or libertarian perspective. It began publication in 2002, and Zimmerman said she does not consider it to be a blog, which generally is a Web site that posts a mix of fact and opinion.

McCorristorn is setting up a false dichotomy. There is a middle ground between “all bloggers are journalists” and “no bloggers are journalists.” In my opinion, that middle ground is held by bloggers who promise confidentiality to a source. Like Mr. Kato of UH, Zimmerman herself says that the medium of publication should not matter. I agree. Show me a “journalist” who does not publish in a medium consisting of “a mix of fact and opinion.”

I think (and hope) Judge Chang has three (not just two) issues to decide: is Zimmerman a journalist and/or a blogger, are some bloggers functionally equivalent to journalists at some times, and is there a qualified privilege to protect sources used by either (or both) class.

Oh, and taking a deep breath here, the whole “blogger or not” angle may just blow over if this part of the Advertiser article is true:

The judge said Zimmerman could refuse to disclose confidential information or sources but had to appear for a deposition.

Chang said a judge would then have a more complete record to decide the larger legal question of whether Hawai’i journalists have a qualified privilege and can refuse to turn over confidential information in a civil case.

Thus, it seems that if McCorriston never raises questions in the deposition that could compel Zimmerman to refuse to reveal a source, then Chang would have no basis to rule on any of the questions.

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New leader for Hawaii GOP; Duke Aiona to run for Governor, perhaps

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 7:51 pm
The SB seems entirely silent about the Hawaii GOP convention this past weekend. The Advertiser has a perfunctory report. A far more substantive account is found in a Hawaii Reporter post. Go figure.

The biggest surprise at the Hawaii Republican Party convention this weekend — themed ?Republicans Do Make a Difference? — was the soft launch of Lt. Gov. James ?Duke? Aiona?s campaign for governor in 2010. Rumors circulated for the last year or so that Aiona had no interest in replacing Gov. Linda Lingle when her second term expires three years from now, and instead preferred a position at the University of Hawaii.

But the lieutenant governor quelled those stories on Saturday, May 19, when he outlined in a 25-minute speech what ?I believe.? Introduced by his wife Vivian as a ?super hero,? his comments largely focused on continuing to implement the Lingle/Aiona platform by strengthening the economy, helping small businesses and reducing crime and substance abuse — he also spoke of much he?d learned and grown as a public servant in the nearly 5 years he?s served in this position.

Gee, too bad none of the Honolulu media bothered to attend, because the public might be interested to know that the LG is setting his sights on the top job (and people like me would like to read such news in a more reliable venue).

A little section about the new GOP chair:

Willes Lee, a West Point graduate who retired as an Airborne and Ranger Army officer after 22 years of service, was elected State Chairman of the Hawaii Republican Party on Sunday, May 20. He replaces Sam Aiona, a former state Representative and cousin of the lieutenant governor who served as state chair for 3 years in the 2006 election cycle.

Currently serving as the Chairman of the Hawaii State Boxing Commission, Lee was also the former manager of Councilmember Charles Djou?s 2006 campaign and the Gov. Linda Lingle Campaign Committee Director of Coalitions. He has extensive experience working in the Republican Party locally, also serving as Party Vice-Chairman, Chairman of the Rules Committee, a member of the Hawaii Republican Party Victory Campaign team, Delegate at the Republican National Convention and member of the Republican National Committee Platform Committee. His wife Julie is one of the heads of the Oahu Republican Women?s group.

Lee says he will bring the party back to basics and focus on the issues that the average Hawaii citizen believes is important: ?The Lingle-Aiona Administration has led our state through unprecedented economic times, however, Hawaii has yet to see the true benefits of a two-party system. I am committing 100 percent of my time to doing that.?

Gov. Lingle says: ?Willes brings the commitment, discipline, and experience of grassroots campaigning that helped my campaign be as successful as it was to the Party. He understands the importance of team building and creating an environment that people want to be a part of.?

Finally, the Governor spoke, too:

Gov. Linda Lingle admitted that the party has been struggling since she won the governor?s seat in 2002. House numbers have dropped from 20 to 8. The Republicans cannot ?veto proof? the House. And the Senate can vote down her nominees at will.

Lingle addressed this problem head on, saying Republicans can make serious gains if they are united and determined (and she added, if they don?t air their dirty laundry in public).

?We?ve had good and bad days, have to learn from the past, look forward with optimism,? Lingle says.

She pointed to her own victory — being elected as Maui mayor in 1990 as the first (and only) person to not born there — as one seemingly impossible feat that the Republicans helped pull off. She reminded them that she was the first woman governor and first Republican governor in 40 years to be elected — and that in her bid for re-election, she was the first governor to ever win in all 51 House districts. ?I am asking for your help again,? Lingle told a packed room of cheering Republican supporters.

Lingle outlined her specific plans over two Saturday speeches. Republicans will improve their grassroots organization and communication, which they say ?helped grow the party when Linda Lingle served as Party Chair back in 1999.?

Specific plans to improve grassroots organization and communication. Genius! Why didn’t Sam Aiona think of that? Heh.

Was there any deliberation regarding amendments to the party platform?

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Adjutant General says “long war” will last 50 years! Plenty of time to call your recruiter, kids.

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 7:51 pm
Tucked into an otherwise routine SB story:

The military relies heavily on National Guard troops for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also has sent Guard members to the Horn of Africa and other less noticed posts in the campaign against terrorism.

State Rep. Mark Takai, a member of the House Military Affairs Committee, said recent deployments have been difficult for some soldiers and their families.

Hawaii Guard members “are on pins and needles every time there is a rumor or a newspaper or a media report suggesting that deployment is right around the corner,” said Takai, who is also a captain and a preventive-medicine officer in the Army Guard.

Maj. Gen. Robert G.F. Lee, the Hawaii Guard commander, said his soldiers are not likely to be among units mobilized soon, because most just returned from Iraq a little more than a year ago.

He added that the Pentagon’s January decision to hire and train 92,000 additional active-duty Marines and soldiers should reduce the need for the military to call on the Guard so frequently.

He also likes how the Pentagon has decided to mobilize Guard members for no more than one year each deployment instead of 18 months.

Lee praised these moves as good steps toward preparing the military for a “long war” against terrorism he said will take 50 to 75 years.

So, I guess that rules out a withdrawal from Iraq during the Bush administration… Is that estimated duration shared by the Guard’s commander-in-chief, i.e. Governor Lingle?

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The way forward for the GOP

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 6:40 pm
Sorry, the blog was running super slowly today (when it was served at all, that is). I think it is resolved now.

The Maui News reported on Saturday (their web edition goes online late each day) that the Governor and Lt. Governor were scheduled to speak at the GOP convention. I have no idea what they told the convened party members, because judging by the contents of the Sunday papers it seems that nobody bothered (or is it that nobody was allowed?) to cover the event.

Meanwhile, the SB editorializes today that the Hawaii GOP should reinvent itself in the mold of Lingle:

Their habit of clinging to the national GOP’s conservative core has failed and they need to rethink their strategy.


Lingle is a Hawaii anomaly, a Republican moderate whose appeal crosses party lines. Other GOP candidates will be destined for irrelevancy until they understand her success and replicate it.

Well, the common wisdom is that the votes are in “the moderate center,” but it’s hard to fire up the electorate (much less the contributors and party loyalists) by offering “choices” between moderates.

There was also this interesting paragraph:

Unlike in most other state legislatures and Congress, Hawaii’s legislative aisle does not signify an ideological divide. Instead, party affiliation reflects the overwhelming influence of the state’s public employee unions. Liberal measures are not necessarily enacted if they fail to directly benefit organized labor.

Wha? So pro- and anti-labor is not an ideological divide, then? That makes no sense, and, in fact, that ideological divide does mirror other state legislatures and Congress.

Nevertheless, just to play along with their thinking, let’s combine those two lines of thought. Governor Lingle has (quietly) made peace with the public employee unions and this year she was able to negotiate (without arbitration) public employee pay raises. If the Hawaii GOP were to “replicate” the governor’s detente with the public employee unions, then, by the SB’s reckoning, wouldn’t there be two parties influenced by the public employee unions? Put more bluntly, which party would represent capital if both major parties are “overwhelmingly influenced” by labor? (As an aside, I’m curious which “liberal measures” allegedly failed due to organized labor opposition.)

Governor Lingle has also angered the GOP base by allowing the GET surcharge for mass transit become law (simply because labor favored that project, too?), for her support of the Akaka Bill and the Kamehameha Schools’ admissions policy, and for other betrayals of the pillars of conservatism. I have written many times about the ambiguous meanings of a party label in Hawaii, but asking one of the major parties to simply cast off the remaining vestiges of its “brand” is an unusual strategy to advocate. Whatever. I doubt that the Hawaii GOP will do it.

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Bad news for drivers is good news for shareholders

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:27 am
Two Pacific Business News stories this week about rising gasoline prices. The first attempts to explain the price increases, but is based upon phenomena that make more sense on the mainland than in Hawaii. The second notes that the stock prices of gasoline producers are rising along with the pump prices for gasoline. No surprise there.

Both articles are based upon a new (weekly) report from the Energy Information Administration, where there are so many data than I can hardly comprehend it all. I have hunch that somewhere in there are the datasets needed to make a time-series plot of manufacturing, taxes, and distribution costs versus retail prices…

Meanwhile, the SB has a story that quotes economist Paul Brewbaker from Bank of Hawaii:

“What’s happening on the mainland has more to do with refining and distribution, and less to do with crude oil,” said Brewbaker.

Mainland prices have shot up due to ongoing concerns that refiners are not making enough gasoline to meet peak summer driving demand. The gasoline shortage is due to a number of unexpected refinery outages this spring, and continued strong consumer demand — despite rising prices.

Some analysts say the outages are the result of refineries having to work extra over the past year and a half to make up for the loss of output caused when Katrina and other storms shut down virtually all Gulf Coast oil operations for several weeks.

Those refineries were unable to stick to their regular maintenance schedules and are now paying for it, according to Brewbaker.

“Here in Hawaii, our refineries are just fine,” he said.

But that does not mean Hawaii is insulated from price spikes.

Refiners say one of the reasons behind Hawaii’s recent rise in prices is the cost of crude oil from Asia, from where much of Hawaii refiners’ stocks come.

Crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange has traded between $60 and $65 a barrel in recent months. In Indonesia, where Chevron secures much of its oil, the weekly average has been between $65 and $69 a barrel since April, according to figures posted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“Quite frankly, the crudes that we run in Hawaii that emanate in the Pacific Rim are not stable,” said Albert Chee, a spokesman for Chevron Hawaii. “The benchmark crudes for the Pacific Rim have actually increased on the order of 25 to 30 percent since January.”

Yadda, yadda, yadda. We’re still waiting for the Governor to sign the legislation to pay for the PUC to monitor the petroleum industry…

That’s all for now. Off for a day of sailboat racing—in very light wind. Ugh.

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Close voting on marijuana eradication, but it may not even matter

Filed under: Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 8:41 pm
The Hawaii County Council has narrowly voted to reject a federal grant to pay for marijuana eradication, although a final vote is still needed and the funding may ultimately be accepted via other channels. The Hawaii Tribune-Herald story is here, a SB article is here, a West Hawaii Today piece is here (and, for a nice change, it’s not the same story as what is in the HTH), and Hunter Bishop blogs about it here.

First, some subtle regional bias from the WHT:

Police helicopters that search for marijuana plants on the Big Island may soon be grounded, as the Hawaii County Council voted to remove federal funding for a marijuana eradication program from the proposed 2007-08 operating budget.

About 50 residents, mostly from the east side of Big Island, expressed their opposition to the county accepting federal dollars for the marijuana eradication program during a meeting on Wednesday.

Okay, I don’t know if that is a true statement or not, but if it is, then I would not be surprised to learn that people who live closer to Hilo turn out in higher numbers to meetings held in Hilo. I would also speculate that residents from the more fertile east side are subjected to more helicopter traffic than the residents on the more arid west side.

Moving on to the substance of the articles, it seems this vote may be a relatively low-risk venue for Councilmembers to stake out some poltical turf. It sounds unlikely that the helicopter surveillance and eradication will stop.

Police helicopters that search for marijuana plants on the Big Island may soon be grounded, as the Hawaii County Council voted to remove federal funding for a marijuana eradication program from the proposed 2007-08 operating budget.

About 50 residents, mostly from the east side of Big Island, expressed their opposition to the county accepting federal dollars for the marijuana eradication program during a meeting on Wednesday.


Officials indicated during the meeting that the Police Department, regardless of whether the council removes the program money from the budget, will still be offered the federal money. Jacobson said during a break in the meeting that the issue of whether the county accepts the money will come to the council as a separate issue sometime later this year.

Before the vote, Jacobson said it’s important residents “see who’s voting for and against these programs.”

He categorized it as “a failed program.”

Deputy Police Chief James Day told the council the federal money could only be used for the marijuana eradication program, and that other federal grants are used toward the elimination of harder drugs such as meth.

Higa wondered what would happen to the Police Department’s helicopter program if the county didn’t accept the money, and Day said it would be severely curtailed.

Day said the federal DEA would continue with the helicopter operations on the Big Island without any assistance from local police.


Councilman Stacy Higa, who cast a lukewarm vote to keep the money out of the budget, said the action was a technicality that will lead to more discussion.

With the Council split 4-4, Higa twice voted “kanalua,” a Hawaiian word meaning “undecided.” By law, two such votes are counted as a “yes” vote.

But the kanalua votes also signaled that Higa might change his vote later.

Another vote is needed June 1 before the budget is approved for the mayor’s signature.

The county accepts grants from a variety of agencies, Higa said. The eradication grants are the only ones placed directly in the budget at the beginning of the fiscal year, he said.

With their removal from the budget, the Police Department would have to come to the Council later and give a detailed justification of the eradication program, he said.

Higa said he has heard countless stories of police helicopters hovering over people’s homes and officers rappelling down ropes into people’s yards.

“I believe in due process,” he said. After marijuana is spotted from the air, “I want to see a search warrant. Send in a ground crew,” he said.

I am not a lawyer, but it would seem to me that the time for a search warrant would be before the eradication officers conduct each flight. i.e. Shouldn’t law enforcement officers need to establish probable cause sufficient to justify the unreasonable(?) low-altitude scrutiny? Perhaps not, since I have my doubts if the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches extends to the airspace over ones property and, more specifically, to ones “houses, papers and effects” visible from aloft.

Turning to Higa’s comment, would a judge deny a search warrant “after marijuana is spotted from the air?” At that point the “search” is over, isn’t it? Yes, but the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable seizures without a warrant, too. I reckon much (most?) of the marijuana is cultivated on land that doesn’t belong to the grower anwyay, so the grower would have no protection against unreasonable searches and seizures when not on “their” property. On that point, are large landowners obligated and held legally liable to patrol their property and eradicate any marijuana being grown? I dunno, but it’s another interesting wrinkle to this program.

Anyway, enough with the unlicensed legal practice for tonight.

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New GOP leader to be named this weekend

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 9:07 pm
The SB reports that Honolulu Councilmember Djou’s campaign chair is (so far) unopposed in the race for chair of the Hawaii GOP. The party convenes this weekend on Maui. The current Chair, Sam Aiona, is not seeking re-election, which is no surprise considering the continuing losses of Repblican representation under his tenure. i.e. Sam Aiona is being quietly fired.

According to the Senator Slom, few of the elected Republicans will even bother to attend the convention. Slom, by the way, strikes many of the same tones as the critics of the GOP that have been sounding off at the Hawaii Reporter and elsewhere. Maybe that’s a coincidence? [cough]

As an undergraduate in 1996 I observed both the Democratic and Republican state conventions, and it was a real eye-opener to see the “true believers” from each party debate their platforms. It’s as instructive to see which platform proposals are defeated as it is to consider which planks are adopted, so I hope the media attend and they pay attention. The article quotes Neal Milner (and Senator Slom) describing the dire straits of the GOP both locally and nationally, but the article would have been improved by some comment from Mr. Lee, the soon-to-be Chair, who (I assume) would share a different attitude about the chances for revival.

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A Hawaii GOP email mystery

Filed under: HI State Politics, HI Media — Doug @ 8:17 pm
Representative Thielen’s son (remember him?), David, a Democrat who is nonetheless on the Hawaii GOP email distribution list, posts on his blog and on a photo sharing website two anonymous messages that continue the Hawaii GOP circular firing squad theme.

The computer geek in me wants to know if every Hawaii GOP member on their email distribution list got a copy of these emails, which would imply that all the party records have been compromised, or if the messages only had limited distribution (which, among other possibilities, could be attributed simly to sloppy bulk email practices using cc: ). Also, I’m wondering what the full headers of the email might reveal and if the return address was spoofed (or genuine?) to show a sender at gophawaii.com.

The non-computer-geek part of me is just tickled that the Eric Ryan faction (or others sharing his viewpoint) is continuing to stir the pot. Heh.

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Economists dispute DBEDT’s optimism

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:17 pm
The SB carries an interesting story where two noted local economists take issue with a rosy DBEDT press release that they say doesn’t accurately describe the data (PDF).

“The difficulty that we face looking at the outlook in Hawaii right now is that strong positive adjectives no longer align with the pace of real, inflation-adjusted economic activity,” Brewbaker said. “The language is increasingly out of sync with the numbers, and part of the reason for the lack of synchronicity is that inflation has gotten so high that it turns positives into negatives in real terms.”

Given the current economic climate, Brewbaker said he would characterize the economy as OK, but hardly solid as it has been touted by the state. For instance, visitor spending would have to grow more than 4.5 percent to yield a gain in real terms, he said.

“Not much here (in the visitor industry) has kept up with the pace of inflation,” he said. “Note that unlike the people writing these press releases, we who are forecasting have not been trying to spin the message and we’ve still been too optimistic. So my reaction is that Aldous Huxley [sic, George Orwell] lives: Down is up, hate is love and war is peace.”

Hawaii Pacific University economics professor Leroy Laney agreed with Brewbaker’s assessment that while moderate growth is occurring, the state is in the throes of economic slowdown.

“No boom and no expansion last forever,” he said, adding that Hawaii’s economic indicators were far stronger in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

I could be wrong, but I don’t ever recall these economists uttering anything beyond sober interpretations of data. It’s certainly the first time I know of where the economists bluntly call the administration message, “spin.” Very interesting.

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Prosecutor drops charges; accused man freed or not?

Filed under: Honolulu Politics, HI Media — Doug @ 8:17 pm
The Advertiser reports that for the second time in the past few weeks Honolulu prosecutors have dismissed charges against another man accused of sexual assault. The SB has a version of the story that gives the impression that this dismissal is only a temporary thing. Both papers reported last week on the hearing where the accused pleaded not guilty, as did the local television stations.

Here’s the kicker: the SB report says that the accused man is still being held at Oahu Community Correctional Center on outstanding misdemeanor warrants and is unable to post $500 bail. The Advertiser says the man “is under no legal restraint and could leave Hawai’i or the country. It also raises concerns that authorities either had to release a man whom they believe preyed on a young girl or they held an innocent man behind bars for a week.”

So, which is it? Is the accused behind bars (for the unrelated matters) while the prosecutor continues to review the sexual assault case, or not? This is the type of accusation that could put him at significant danger of vigilantism, especially since he is said to be a homeless person. Of course, prisoners sometimes assault sex offenders accused of preying on minors, so I’m not sure which outcome, freedom or confinement, is less safe…

UPDATE: The SB had it correct and the Advertiser was wrong, so today the Advertiser published this
story (that never really admits their mistake, by the way) with the info previously reported in the SB.

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Kamehameha Schools dodges SCOTUS bullet

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 8:00 pm
As expected there is a flood of coverage about the settlement reached in the lawsuit challenging Kamehameha Schools’ admissions policy. Items in the Advertiser here, here, here, and here. Coverage in the SB here, here, and here. Editorials from the Honolulu dailies are here andhere. A statement from the CEO of Kamehameha Schools is here. Finally, a SCOTUSblog post provides a slightly more jargon-laden legal discussion.

I’m thinking about what this means for the Native Hawaiian Recognition legislation (i.e. “Akaka Bill”). From the articles today, there are these comments:

Many said they now believe Hawaiians should concentrate on supporting the Akaka bill.

“What I’m concerned about is that the Congress recognize the Hawaiian people as an indigenous people or as Native Americans,” said Roy Benham, a former teacher and OHA trustee. “Everybody else does.”

Formal recognition would help Hawaiians prevail in future lawsuits, said Clyde Namu’o, OHA administrator. “The need to pursue the Akaka bill becomes even more significant because we know there are going to be other challenges that may be trying to get past the 9th Circuit decision,” he said.

Members of Hawai’i’s Congressional delegation and top state officials ? all of whom support Kamehameha’s admissions policy ? applauded the settlement.

“I hope that Kamehameha Schools will now be able to carry forward its special mission and fulfill the dreams of Princess Pauahi,” U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye said.

Gov. Linda Lingle, in showing her support, said in a release, “I believe Kamehameha Schools is perhaps the most important institution for preserving Hawaiian culture for future generations.”

Hawai’i’s Congressional delegation had filed an amicus brief in support of Kamehameha Schools that urged the Supreme Court not to review a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in the case, thereby upholding the admissions policy and “restating our position that Native Hawaiians are indigenous peoples, as are Alaska Natives and American Indians,” said U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono.

The settlement allows Kamehameha Schools to focus on providing education for Native Hawaiian children, she said.

Hirono said Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, author of the Native Hawaiian Recognition Bill, said he will continue to push the legislation through Congress.

“I am pleased that both parties have resolved their differences. But the matter of federal recognition for Native Hawaiians remains unresolved,” Akaka said in a news release. “I remain committed to working with my colleagues in Congress to enact legislation formalizing the existing legal and political relationship that Native Hawaiians have with the United States.”


The political implications and legal ramifications of the Kamehameha Schools settlement were “nothing but positive” for the Native Hawaiian bill, U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie said.


So the status quo at the school seems fairly well insulated for now. Regardless, the settlement should not signal that the school should rest on its laurels.

For starters, the school trustees need to continue their support for federal recognition of Native Hawaiians as a political class. The Akaka bill seeking federal recognition for Native Hawaiians is key to that.

Failing the passage of that bill in Congress, there may be other clarifications in federal law that should be sought.

For example, the majority opinion of the circuit’s judges argued that Congress has implicitly exempted Native Hawaiians from being covered by the civil rights law cited in the case. The majority opinion pointed to an update of that law in 1991 and cited various subsequent programs benefiting the education of Native Hawaiians as evidence that Congress affirms them as consistent with federal law.

The dissenters find fault with that conclusion, and in fact it would be prudent for a congressional delegation to seek more specific language in federal law spelling out the exemption as part of the special status Hawaiians have enjoyed under the federal umbrella.


The fear of more challenges to Kamehameha Schools and to government programs that favor native Hawaiians has many isle politicians calling for passage of the so-called Akaka Bill, which is currently before the U.S. Senate. The bill would set up a framework for a native Hawaiian government to be recognized by the federal government.

“We must remain mindful that a host of other important programs serving native Hawaiians remain targets of opportunistic lawsuits,” said Haunani Apoliona, chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. She called for an increased effort in Washington to pass the Akaka Bill.

Gov. Linda Lingle echoed the sentiment. “This action doesn’t remove the need for the Akaka Bill. The need is stronger than ever,” she said.


Lingle, who just returned from lobbying for the measure in Washington, said the chances of passage for the bill have neither improved nor diminished.

The bill, first introduced in 2000, has been stalled in the Senate, where informal filibusters have blocked the measure from a vote on the floor.

The Akaka Bill needs 60 votes to break the filibuster, and neither the Democratic nor Republican supporters have been able to put together enough votes to advance the bill.

“We haven’t lost any support on the Republican side, but it is still chasing 60 votes,” Lingle said.

Asked about the opposition from the administration of Republican President Bush, Lingle said the bill must clear Congress first.

“I have talked to the president many times about it,” she said. “He is very aware of it, but you still need 60 votes and I think it is premature to talk about what the administration is going to do when you need to ask, ‘Where do you get the 60 votes?’”

Hawaii’s congressional delegation also said the Akaka Bill is still needed.

“The need for the Akaka Bill remains critical,” Rep. Mazie Hirono said. “The dismissal doesn’t mean we are out of the woods as far as legal threats to other programs that assist native Hawaiians.”

A few scenarios to consider:

Akaka Bill fails to win a cloture vote in the Senate. Kamehameha admission policy remains in place, but challenges to other Native Hawaiian programs march ahead and (possibly/likely) chip away at the legal rationale upholding the admissions policy.
Akaka Bill passes Congress and is vetoed by President Bush; veto stands. Kamehameha Schools admission policy and other Native Hawaiian programs are severely undercut and vulnerable to (existing and new) lawsuits.
Akaka Bill passes Congress; signed by President Bush with a “signing statement” that hobbles the implementation. A mixed bag, the statements of Congressional intent contained in the bill would clarify the status of Native Hawaiians and would thereby help Kamehameha Schools maintain its admissions policy and would strengthen other programs benefiting Native Hawaiians, but if the the Bush administration’s Department of the Interior fails to carry out the specific procedure outlined in the bill then any “new” benefits/formal status would be unlikely—until January 2009…
Akaka Bill passes Congress; President Bush signs the law and the DOI implements it promptly; the bill survives legal challenges all the way to SCOTUS. The Kamehameha Schools admissions policy and programs benefiting Native Hawaiian emerge stronger and more comprehensive than ever before. Swine take flight.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the fight is worth the effort and, insofar as the settlement preserves the status quo, it is a victory for Native Hawaiians. Still, my gut feeling (and layman’s legal hunch) is that so long as the Roberts Court is around the (legal) future is bleak for the Kamehameha Schools admissions policy in particular, and Native Hawaiian programs in general.

I’m not very confident that the Akaka Bill is the salvation that it is implied to be.

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Still more 2008(!) candidates emerge

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 7:59 pm
The Advertsier reports that Representative Sonson intends to challenge Senator Nishihara in the primary for the Waipahu seat in the Senate, and the West Hawaii Today reported Sunday that former Senator Andy Levin is not ruling out a run for Hawaii County mayor (where he could face Senator Lorraine Inouye).

Sonson is an inscrutable contrarian, to be generous. (He is downright weird at times, to be less high-falutin.) Nishihara is an avuncular figure, but otherwise mostly unremarkable. I think Sonson could beat Nishihara, but I’m not sure if that would be a good thing… Sonson lost many times (aginst my former boss) before finally winning his House seat, so he’s clearly not shy about taking risks. Nishihara, for his part, mostly had the good fortune to run against Cal Kawamoto when the incumbent’s reputation was at its nadir.

A Inouye vs. Levin race? That could be close, but I’m really not familiar with either candidate and I only follow Hawaii County politics at a superficial level. It would present an interesting East v. West battle, if nothing else.

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Another prime number

Filed under: General — Doug @ 7:17 pm
I’m taking the day off. It’s my birthday.

I’ll comment on the Kamehameha Schools news tomorrow, when more has been written and said.

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Prison study a “surprise?”

Filed under: HI State Politics, Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 11:01 am
According to a Hawaii Tribune-Herald article, the budget appropriation to plan and design new prisons (possibly several smaller facilities instead of one large facility?) in Hawaii County comes as a surprise to the County’s managing director. Strange, especially when you consider that Representative Evans, the Chair of the House Committee on Public Safety, is from that island. Furthermore, the same appropriation was in the House Draft of the budget since March. Apparently nobody in the Kim administration follows the legislature very closely; they ignore it at their own expense.

Hunter Bishop, who blogs from the Big Island, has a new post in strong opposition to the idea of any new prison in Hawaii, especially a prison in his Puna district. He writes:

I favor more treatment facilities and drug rehab centers, especially to keep the non-violent criminals out of the prison systems and welcome more such facilities in the community. But violent and hard-core repeat criminals who need to be put away to insure a safe society have no claim on expensive local facilities so they can be close to their families.

Who said expensive? Mayor Kim intends to do it at the same cost as exporting inmates to the mainland.

Good data on the prison system are hard to obtain (especially since the Department of Public Safety ignored and then de-funded the program with the best shot of providing good data and making useful population forecasts), but the number of repeat offenders who are “violent” and “hard core” is less than the number of people who return to prison for the types of parole violations that Bishop (and I) would rather see more aggressively handled at the community level. Unfortunately, I have only conversations from corrections officials and no link to data to back that up. Furthermore, the mainland prisons (understandably) often exclude the most violent offenders from out-of-state. Ironically, they exclude the “worst of the worst” … to placate their own host communities.

In the abstract, it’s easy to dismiss the clamoring of inmates for the opportunity to be incarcerated nearer to their families. It’s much harder to tell the young child of an inmate that mom or dad has been sent far away with essentially no chance for visits. Such de facto banishment gives the prison sentence an extra twist of punitiveness that may appeal at some primal level, but the notion (and the social costs) of punishing an entire family for the crime of one family member is not an idea I will ever support. The families endure enough hardship, banishment seems cruel and gratuitous.

It’s understandable that Bishop does not want the prison in his community, and, like he said, it’s likely that the site(s) selected will be in cheapest (and politically weakest) area(s). If Mayor Kim’s plan is able to do it all at the same price as the mainland prisons (I doubt it), then the economic argument goes away.

On the other hand, this issue has been studied to death, and we still have no new prison. I see (and expect) no groundswell of support for the idea based on compassion for inmate families.

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Options for new prison on Big Island

Filed under: HI State Politics, Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 9:53 am
There has been another appropriation made to study the idea of a new state prison in Hawaii County, according to this Advertiser story. It’s not clear from the story, but my bet is that the plan will (again) turn out to be for a private developer to build and operate the prison. The Lingle administration is not so keen on the concept, preferring to establish transitional programs to help inmates return to society (and, I’m going to presume, to continue exporting inmates to the mainland prisons).

The more interesting part of the story is this:

Andy Levin, county executive director for Mayor Harry Kim, said Kim offered to develop a proposal for a new treatment facility on the Big Island for inmates from the county, but never got a response from the state prison system.

As an alternative to sending inmates out of state, Kim offered to develop a plan for a new facility for 400 to 500 “light- to medium-security inmates,” Levin said. “It would focus on those inmates whose families and roots are on the Big Island, because he recognizes that (family and community ties) are so important for rehabilitation. The goal would be to develop programs that would assist and transition inmates back into society.”

If the state were willing to seriously consider the idea, Kim offered to further develop the plan “to address the entire scope of what is needed to work with inmates from the time of their incarceration through their release, and he would make a point to have it focus on family and community involvement,” Levin said.

He said Kim wanted to include job training and other programming, and proposed that the state pay the county the same amount it is paying private prison operator Corrections Corporation of America to house Hawai’i inmates out of state. The county would contract with private operators to deliver the job training and other services at the new facility, he said.

That proposal is on hold until a new director is appointed to run the prisons, Levin said.

If Mayor Kim can produce a workable plan to accomplish all that, and if he could do it all at the same per-inmate/day cost that the state pays CCA, then we’d be foolish to not give it a very close look. But… color me skeptical.

The article concludes with a taste of community reaction. The prison site is still ambiguous, and this ambiguity will defer the NIMBY scenario—for the time being. I seem to recall from my days as House Public Safety Committee clerk that much of the ‘remote, wide open spaces’ on that island turn out to be not very suitable for a prison. Lack of water and wastewater disposal, limited electric grid, cultural sites, etc, could add to the cost of developing a prison significantly. Lava inundation zones further restrict the possible sites.

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The same (tiresome) show as last time?

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 7:40 pm
If Jerry Burris’ column and a related Advertiser article sound familiar to you, they should, because previously Governor Lingle and the Hawaii congressional delegation were making very similar comments about the (vaguely) “cooperative” effort to pass the Akaka Bill. (To refresh yourself on last time, see here, here and here.)

Burris offers his interpretations of the subtexts in the most recent media comments, and his conclusions sound about right to me.

Lingle said the state’s congressional delegation hasn’t shared its strategy for getting Senate approval or overcoming a possible White House veto of the Akaka bill, and that she wasn’t sure Congress would approve it this year.

Lingle said she asked about strategy when the delegation ? Democratic Sens. Daniel Akaka and Daniel K. Inouye and Democratic Reps. Neil Abercrombie and Mazie Hirono ? introduced the bill in January, but received no clear answer.

“I don’t know because I’m never involved in the strategy with them. I don’t know if they have a strategy,” she said.

“I am disappointed by the governor’s remarks,” Inouye said in a statement.

The Republican governor has said she could be persuasive in winning support from the Bush administration for the Akaka bill, particularly important in light of the congressional delegation’s limited influence in the Bush White House, Inouye said.

“The state’s congressional delegation has made it clear that (Lingle) could do a great favor for Native Hawaiians by convincing President Bush and his administration to support the passage and enactment of the Akaka bill,” Inouye said. “This is the right and just thing to do.”

Akaka said he is committed to getting the legislation enacted into law.

Short of some aggressive vote-trading on other divisive issues in equally marginal condition, I just don’t see the delegation (much less the Governor) mustering up a veto-proof Senate majority. Especially when I read this:

If all Democrats and independents voted for the bill, plus Republicans who supported it in the past, supporters might be able to get 63 votes ? enough to overcome Senate roadblocks.

But the potential of a Bush veto looms large.

Michael McDonald, a political expert at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., said Bush’s veto last week of a bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a veto of an embryonic stem-cell bill last year have broken the ice on his use of that presidential power.

A veto requires a two-thirds majority in each chamber to overcome, a big stumbling block given the past Senate vote.

“As it stands, I don’t see much of a chance if Bush decides to veto (the Akaka bill),” McDonald said.


The Justice Department, speaking on behalf of the Bush administration, issued a letter opposing the bill on the eve of last year’s Senate vote. The letter said it would be “inappropriate” and raise “difficult constitutional issues” to give Native Hawaiians tribal recognition.

Despite that, Lingle said the bill’s supporters presented the situation to her this year as one where the bill was cruising through Congress until a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on it last week.

“As things turned out, there was a very strong statement (PDF) from the Justice Department that focused on policy as opposed to constitutionality, which is their responsibility ? not policy,” Lingle said.

At the hearing, Gregory Katsas, a Justice Department attorney, said the administration opposed the bill because, “We think it’s wrong to balkanize the governing institutions of this country along racial and ancestral lines.”

But Lingle said she would continue to lobby Republican lawmakers and to talk with the White House about not taking such a hard position on the bill.

Well, if you read the arguments that the DoJ testimony made, their reasons to oppose the bill are not the sorts of things that I see a way to “soften,” or I should say, I don’t see how the DOJ could soften its stance without losing a lot of credibility. Not that I would ever dismiss the possibility that the DoJ under the Bush-Gonzales regime would have (yet another) a change of heart that strains credibility, but I would never expect such a turnabout to be a change in a political direction favoring the Democrats. Lingle who? Heh.

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Playing hooky

Filed under: General, Sailing — Doug @ 8:58 pm
I went sailing. Now I need to study for an exam tomorrow. No time for posts, sorry.

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No sense in actually reading the law to determine if it could accomplish what the LG says it will…

Filed under: HI State Politics, HI Media — Doug @ 7:48 pm
I noticed a breaking news story yesterday morning about this, and today both Honolulu dailies covered a press conference at the Lieutenant Governor’s office about a new law intended to bar sex offenders from changing their names. (Advertiser story is here, and SB story is here)

Three offenders who sought to change their names admitted in their applications that they are registered sex offenders. But unless an applicant indicates he or she is a convicted felon or sex offender, applicant screeners do not run a criminal history check because of a lack of resources, state officials said.

“In a perfect world, if you had every resource available you would screen every application,” said Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona. “The bottom line is you have enforcement. The citizens of Hawai’i must be protected from convicted sex offenders who may be trying to use a different identity to hide from the law, or [to] avoid their obligation under the law.”

“We were concerned that the loophole in the law could adversely affect public safety,” said state Attorney General Mark Bennett.


Aiona acknowledged the new law relies on those filing for a name change to tell the truth.

Applicants must provide a notarized statement about the truth of their statements, but not all applications are checked, Aiona said.

Under the old name-change law, applicants were required to report any felony convictions. Aiona said his office was not able to screen all applicants to make sure that all felony convictions were disclosed.

“The practice is to check as time allows. We don’t check every single application that comes in. We are hoping people will be honest about it,” Aiona said.

Hmmm. In addition to “hiding from the law,” sex offenders may also be seeking name changes to hide from vigilante murderers, too…

Anyway, if the public safety is truly the paramount concern and the LG is unable to afford criminal history checks for every applicant, then this law will neither improve “public safety” nor save any money. This is because the law only requires judicial approval (which would incur an additional state expense) for name change applications submitted by individuals who are subject to registration with the sex offender registry. So, if applicants continue to lie about their status and the LG continues to fail to compare every applicants to the sex offender registry, then there really is no change in public safety.

Thus, the real question is why the LG did/does not compare every application to the sex offender registry. If the registry is as accurate and foolproof as Aiona and Bennett would want us to believe, then it should be as reliable a tool for determining which name change applicants are sex offenders as it would be to conduct criminal history record checks on each applicant—and searching the sex offender registry would be far cheaper. If the sex offender database is not even reliable enough for such a screening purpose, then this new law is almost pointless without a more effective way (and funding) to determine which name change applicants will require judicial approval.

I’m hoping the reporters simply didn’t read the new law, because if the reporters read it and still published the press conference rhetoric without comment, then they’ve done a disservice to the public.

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A modest proposal for affordability

Filed under: Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 7:42 pm
I’m pretty sure this fan of aluminum-framed housing did not intend to riff off of Jonathan Swift, but a letter to the Maui News editors suggests a modest proposal for affordable housing:

Everyone talks about affordable housing, how badly we need it, and what we can do about it. With entry-level homes running around $500,000, even working folks with dual incomes have less and less of a chance of securing one.

The realities are: Landowners are not likely to reduce the value and cost of their land, and construction labor costs are unlikely to come down. All those in the construction trades need to make a living to support their families.

With little chance of ever bringing those two financial factors down to the ?affordable? range, where do we turn for the answers?

We must look to our lending institutions. A 200-year mortgage can bring a monthly payment into the affordable range. Lending institutions know that the value of the land will increase over the 200 years, but what they need is a structure that will last that same two centuries.

Yeah, and lending institutions would also need mortgage-holders who will be alive (and able to make their payments) for two centuries, too.

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Price offers on-air apology; so Perry picks up the flag

Filed under: HI Media — Doug @ 9:34 pm
The Larry Price v. Gary Hooser incident continues to simmer, with Price issuing an on-air apology Monday—immediately followed by his partner, Michael W. Perry, asserting that Price was wrong to apologize. The Advertiser has a transcript and story here, and the SB version is here. The Advertiser again includes a link to an mp3 of the original telephone call, but so far I haven’t found the audio of the Price’s apology and Perry’s retort. If that is online anywhere, please let me know.

UPDATE: The apology is online in mp3 form at KITV, but it does not include Perry’s negation of the apology.

If Price apologizes, but Perry immediately and vociferously argues that an apology is unwarranted, then what has KSSK really done to address the situation? Not much, in my view. The xenophobe hat simply moves from Price to Perry, who, since Perry is a blue-eyed malahini just like Hooser, must proudly don it over the top of his hypocrisy beanie.

Now that Perry has assumed this tack, somebody should listen to the next morning show, make a list of advertisers, and then systematically contact each of them to see if any of them would like to explain (or reconsider) the decision to continue buying commercial time on the show. By now all of the local advertising clients should be aware of the public concerns, so even if nobody makes the effort to contact the sponsors directly like I suggested, in the meantime listeners can fairly infer each sponsor’s tacit support for Perry’s endorsement of Price’s comments merely by the airing of each advertisement.

So, if you listen to the show, please try to remember who the sponsors are so we can list them in the comment forum. I’ll approve the comments early Wednesday evening.

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Cockfight law puts fans in a quandary; HPD announces less gambling enforcement

Filed under: HI State Politics, Honolulu Politics — Doug @ 7:59 pm
A strange incident of one Advertiser story passing another in the night: First there was this article about a new federal law making several cockfighting related activities into felonies.

President Bush signed a bill Thursday that makes a felony out of staging, promoting or facilitating a cockfight. The new law also prohibits buying, selling or transporting animals across state or international borders for the purpose of fighting.

And it prohibits buying, selling or transporting knives, gaffs and other weapons used in cockfighting. Federal and local law officials say they are not sure how the new federal law will be enforced here.

“This new law will be analyzed by the Department of Justice and then they will send us guidance on their interpretation of this law,” said Ed Kubo, U.S. attorney for the district of Hawai’i. “After that, I expect to have meetings about the federal scope of this law with both HPD and with representatives from the Hawaiian Humane Society.”

Honolulu police said they have not reviewed the law and cannot comment on its enforcement.

“We haven’t had a chance to review the amendment but we support any laws that increase protection for animals,” said Michelle Yu, Honolulu Police Department public information officer.

Cockfighting was in the news last year after several Honolulu police officers were accused of protecting illegal cockfights.

That was follwed by this article about HPD shifting focus away from undercover gambling interdiction operations because under state law the offense is only a misdemenor, takes too long to investigate, and is considered a low-priority task for scarce undercover officers.

“We’d prefer the state had better state laws to address this problem,” said Robert J. Kauffman, acting special agent in charge of the FBI’s Honolulu division. “We look at gambling as part of criminal enterprises because other crimes are usually involved such as drugs, extortion and money laundering. We do have ongoing work in that area and are looking statewide at this problem, not just on this island.”

Some see the Police Department’s shift away from undercover gambling operations as a prudent preservation of labor and resources.


“The fact that this conduct is a misdemeanor that resists enforcement should be a consideration for those who decided it was illegal in the first place,” said Ronald Becker, head of Chaminade University’s criminal justice program and a former Texas state trooper. “Legislators should not only decide what interest groups want but whether or not police will use valuable, limited resources to enforce what appears to be an unenforceable law to appease those who are offended by chickens fighting.

“Anybody but the most avid animal lover should recognize there are more important things for the police to be doing. What people want, people will get (prohibition, lotteries, casinos, race tracks). When we legislate morality we can expect a significant portion of the population to make those decisions for themselves despite the legislation.”

Apparently these two reporters (and their sources) don’t talk to each other or follow the national news?

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Representative Green prescribes defeat for Senator Whalen

Filed under: HI State Politics, Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 10:21 am
He’s a cheeky one, ain’t he?

According to a West Hawaii Today report Representative Green (who has now completed his 4th session at the Lege) told the wife of Kona’s incumbent in the Senate, Paul Whalen, that he would serve a few years in the House and then win Senator Whalen’s seat. Whalen describes this as evidence of Green’s arrogance. Whatever. Green is an emergency room MD, a profession which in my experience seems to attract and/or produce a disproportionate amount of messianic personalities. The swagger of excessive confidence is a good thing when your rib cage is spread open on an operating table and the MD is trying to save your life, but in a non-clinical setting it can be a bit tiresome. In my opinion, emergency room MDs are akin to figher pilots (a culture that I’ve had more exposure to than MDs), who never fail to exude cockiness.

Green, an emergency room physician who ousted Republican incumbent Mark Jernigan for the seat that represents greater Kailua-Kona, said West Hawaii is ignored by the Senate because of Whalen’s party affiliation.

“The sad truth is, we can expect a general disregard at the state Capitol if we elect another Republican to the Senate,” said Green. “We’re still waiting to fund the North Kona water supply and a new hospital, and as far as the Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening goes, it should have been completed 10 years ago.”

Green’s statements are naive, according to Whalen. “It takes a long time for any government project to move forward,” he said.

It is no accident the Queen Kaahumanu Highway project was prioritized by Transportation Department officials who were appointed by GOP Gov. Linda Lingle. “I’ve been able to work with the administration,” Whalen said. “The Queen Kaahumanu Highway project started on my watch and it is well along.”

Heh, I’m sure the Governor will thank Senator Whalen for openly assigning political motives to how the DOT sets roadway project priorities. Should Kona residents thank Rod Haraga or Bob Awana for that?

Whalen claimed he has been approached by numerous Democrats to run again. However, [Senator Lorraine] Inouye, who said Green would be a great senator with a lot to offer, is not among them.

Hmmm. What does it mean when people from an opposing party urge you to run again?

Oh, the article also goes on to note that Senator Lorraine Inouye is considering a run for Hawaii County Mayor. Which could precipitate a race for her seat where Dwight Takamine would likely crush Cynthia Evans. No comment from Evans (on the mainland) or Takamine (who rarely responds to media inquiries).

UPDATE May 7: The Advertiser chimes in.

“West Hawai’i deserves a state senator who shows up for work every day and comes to the Capitol for all the votes and never backs down,” Green said Friday, referring to Whalen’s occasional absences from committee hearings and floor sessions.

Whalen, first elected in 2002, said there was no mystery Green had political ambitions beyond his House seat.

“If he has something negative to say about my performance in representing our constituents he should have approached me about it,” Whalen said Friday. “Regarding my voting record, every vote I made, I know my constituents would be happy with it.

“And as for the statements about the absences and what not, I’m there for the important stuff.”

Oh, really?

Of the 15 measures vetoed so far by the Governor, Whalen was absent from 9 of the votes to overturn her veto, while voting only once to uphold her veto. (The other five veteos were not challenged by the Senate.) The evidence of Whalen’s, uh, “Stonebrakerism” is not hard to find if you look for it.

Senator Whalen is on pretty shaky ground if he thinks that his attendance record will withstand much scrutiny.

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Maui’s Reverend Moore wannabes reconsidering?

Filed under: Neighbor Islands — Doug @ 10:21 am
The latest Maui Time Weekly “LC Watch” column updates the strange tale of dancing in Maui bars that I wrote about earlier. Anthony Pignataro writes:

Let me set the scene: the commission has just voted to junk a petition brought to them by a group of determined citizens who want to see a liberalization of the county?s rules governing dancing at nightclubs. Stunned at the accusing questions, arguments and even insults various commissioners hurled at them during the public comment portion of the hearing, the citizens have filed out of the hearing room. With the public gallery empty (save the Akaku camera and me), one commissioner then turned to LC Director Franklyn Silva and asked what the bars and restaurants around the county think of the rules governing dancing.

Never mind that the commission had just told a bunch of citizens there was no need to reexamine the county?s prohibition on dancing outside of specially marked dance floors. Now, suddenly, as if none of the preceding hearing had taken place, the commissioners wanted to know what the licensees thought.

?I could send a letter to them,? Silva said. ?And then report back to the commission.?

So… does this mean the petition may end up being a success after all? The implication that the liquor license holders’ collective opinion of the dancing regulations should outweigh the citizens’/customers’ concerns evidenced by the petition is an indictment of the Commission. Nice work, Pignataro.

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Bills to affect disclosure of tax credit data and disbursement of trade delegation funding head to Governor

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 10:20 am
Sean Hao continues his good work of political economic reportage with this recap of legislation heading to the Governor for possible approval or veto. One bill focuses on the high technology tax credits, and another bill focuses on the way trade delegations spend money solicited from the private sector. The Governor seems to be leaning toward approval of the first bill, which would provide some transparency as to what the high technology tax credits are gaining and costing the state. The Governors comments on the other bill suggest that she will veto it.

The bill to require disclosure of the Act 221 tax credit data applies only to new investments, and since the maximum penalty imposed on those claiming the credit should they fail to submit the data is only $6,000 (remember, some of these credits are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars) it’s possible that some filers will happily pay the fine in order to maintain the secrecy of their data. Why the bill did not stipulate that the filer’s entire tax credit is contingent upon promptly submitting the data, I have no idea. Because the bill has no teeth, it’s no wonder the high technology sector is now said to support the final draft of the bill. I expect that filers claiming the tax credit will submit the data that are flattering and will withhold the data that are embarrassing.

Moving to the trade delegation bill:

In using a nonprofit DBEDT was able to keep confidential the identities of trade mission sponsors, individual sponsor amounts and records on how sponsorship money was spent. State House Rep. Marcus Oshiro, D-39th (Wahiawa), chairman of the House Finance Committee, said the bill would make data on future trade mission sponsors and expenditures public.

“They need to account for that,” said Oshiro, who introduced the bill. “They can’t just put (the records) in a shoebox and hide it under a desk.”

However, Lingle’s adviser Smith said the bill would result in less accountability over private-sector sponsorship money by directing such money into the general fund where it could be spent on nontrade-mission projects. “We don’t believe that it fits into this category of transparency and accountability,” she said.

DBEDT Director Ted Liu, who testified against the bill, was unavailable for comment yesterday. In March, Liu said he was willing to work with the Legislature to develop trade-mission funding guidelines that would allow more openness in the transaction of government business that involves private money. That could include requiring a state Procurement Office or state Ethics Commission opinion prior to engaging in any fundraising effort.

“These guidelines may accomplish the legislative intent, without affecting the state’s efforts to develop business and economic development marketing and promotional activities,” said Liu in his March testimony submitted to the Senate Committee on Ways & Means.

Sigh. I’ll say it again, the bigger ethical problem, the problem that was never really held under scrutiny, is in the way the state solicited the private funds for the trade mission. This bill, with a requirement that the legislature become the conduit for the private funds to be expended, is only going to give the ethically dubious solicitation process a (slow) stamp of approval. As the conference committee report puts it:

Your Committee on Conference understands that this bill targets trade show activities coordinated by state agencies where participants from the business community are responsible for offsetting part of the costs of booths, equipment, and other related expenses. However, while the procedures required by this bill would increase transparency and accountability, they will also delay the ability of agencies to gain access to solicited funds.

To allow this valuable public-private marketing program to continue unabated, your Committee on Conference has amended this bill by inserting an appropriation of $50,000 as seed money for initial costs and expenses.

After the Governor vetoes it, the lege should take up Director Liu’s offer to set up those guidelines involving the ethics commission and the procurement office. This bill is a ham-handed way to address the (wrong) issue.

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On-air interview gets personal

Filed under: HI Media — Doug @ 10:20 am
In addition to not watching television, I rarely listen to Hawaii radio. I commute by bus and I don’t own a car, so listening to the radio is simply not a regular part of my routine. Thus, I missed the exchange between KSSK announcer (and MidWeek columnist) Larry Price and Senator Hooser (a loyal Poinographer reader) that seems to have set the local media into “Don Imus mode.” The Advertiser has an article, and in the sidebar of a KHNL story you can hear an audio clip of the interview (unfortunately, you can’t hear the full interview, so maybe there is more context to it). I reckon other stories might follow, too.

UPDATE May 6: Advertiser provides a mp3 of the entire interview.

Just like Price’s co-host, Michael W. Perry, I have blue eyes and, although I’ve lived here since 1989, I was not born in Hawaii. Frankly, Mr. Price, well I [honestly] don’t care what you think. Heh.

More seriously, if this type of ambush interview and xenophobic commentary is to become commonplace on the #1 rated KSSK radio program, then at some point advertisers might begin to feel uneasy about underwriting the show. I wouldn’t expect either scenario to happen overnight, though.

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Another dose of jargon that could be useful if it were explained

Filed under: HI Media — Doug @ 8:03 pm
About six months ago I did a post about a SB story regarding quarterly business results for Tesoro, wherein I lamented that the information seemed like it must be meaningful but the article did very little to give it meaning. Well, they have done it again. I have no idea why these reports detail Tesoro’s high refining margins but do not make any attempt to connect the economic data to (or, if justifiable, disconnect the data from) high gasoline prices!

The average gap between crude-oil costs and refined fuel prices jumped 59 percent from a year earlier on the U.S. West Coast, where most of Tesoro’s plants are located. Demand gains and supply disruptions lifted U.S. fuel prices at the pump.

Tesoro is adding a second refinery in California with its May 10 purchase of a plant near Los Angeles.

Chief Executive Officer Bruce Smith told investors today on a conference call that may make an acquisition in Asia after maximizing its share of domestic fuel-making capacity in the lucrative California gasoline market.

He had previously said antitrust regulators wouldn’t allow Tesoro to make any more deals in California after the $1.9 billion Los Angeles plant.

“Asia Pacific for us would make a lot of sense,” Smith said, but did not elaborate.

Adding a refinery in Asia would allow San Antonio-based Tesoro to ship gasoline to California and take greater advantage of some of the industry’s widest profit margins, an analyst said.

“There are plenty of refineries in the Asia-Pacific region and more in the works,” said Charles Ting, an analyst at Lehman Brothers in New York.

One possibility would be to form a joint venture with a company in Asia, rather than buying a plant outright, Ting said.

So, it’s profitable for Tesoro to refine gasoline in Asia for sale in California, yet Hawaii’s high prices are attributed to limited refining capacity presenting a barrier to any new entrant to our market? I just don’t get it. It sure seems like there could be a story here…

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Revisionist constitutional history

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 7:21 pm
I’ve been quiet about the passage, veto, Senate override, and perhaps as I write, House override, of SB 1956. The Honolulu media have been skeptical of the idea, because the bill would commit Hawaii to casting its electoral votes for whichever presidential candidate won the national popular vote. The intent is to make it impossible for a repeat of the 2000 election where the popular vote winner (Gore) nevertheless was defeated in the electoral college vote by his opponent (Bush). The Advertiser has a story about the man behind the effort, and bloggers have been noting concerns (DePledge and Lind, among others). I haven’t seen it, but Honolulu Weekly has a piece by Lind about the bill this week, too.

None of these articles or opinion pieces attempts to argue that it is a good thing for the electoral college to create an outcome contrary to the popular vote, instead most of what I’ve read locally sidesteps that point to instead trot out the old argument about the electoral college “helping” small states. Plenty of people “know” this to be true, but there are few facts to support that argument.

As my wonkish ways would have it, I own a copy of America’s Constitution: a Biography by Akhil Reed Amar which includes many pages of discussion regarding the electoral college. Indeed, for its almost line-by-line discussion of the U.S. Constitution, the book is unique and invaluable. Amar writes on page 344:

The twelth amendment itself, by both omission and commission, would only compound the big-state advantage, as was repeatedly emphasized during congressional debate over the measure. After 1800 it was evident both that any state seeking to maximize its clout had to select a statewide slate of electors, winner-take-all, and also that under a general regime of winner-take-all, big states would enjoy an advantage. Though prominent proposals had surfaced after 1801 to require states to renounce winner-take-all systems, the framers of the Twelfth Amendment spurned all such proposals and instead increased the big-state advantage in two distinct ways. First, the amendments separate ballots for presidents and vice presidents reduced the likelihood of an electoral-vote tie between running mates and thus increased the odds that elections would be decided by the electors themselves (in a system favoring big states) rather than in the House (operating on a one-state, one-vote rule). Second, in the event no presidential candidate had an electoral-vote majority, the House could only choose among the top three vote-getters, rather than among the top five. This, too, shrank the domain over which the state-equality principal would operate.

Off-topic sidebar: On page 347 of Amar’s book it is noted that in 1860 Lincoln won the presidency despite having garnered zero[!] popular votes in the ten states south of Virginia. Wow.

My hunch is that if the electoral college system were to be subverted by this interstate agreement and the popular vote became the mechanism to elect the president, then it would not be the smaller states that would be ignored/weakened by the change, so much as it would be the smaller media markets. In that case, Honolulu, as one of the 50 largest cities in the nation (although not in the list of the 50 largest media markets) would probably not suffer much of a reduction (if any) in candidate attention.

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There may not be a dissenting opinion this time…

Filed under: HI State Politics — Doug @ 7:36 pm
You may recall how last year the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights publicly opposed the Akaka Bill even though the Hawaii State Advisory Commission to the USCCR supported the bill. Well, according to this SB story, the State Advisory Commission is in the process of being stacked with new commissioners that are prominent opponents of the bill and/or of programs benefiting Native Hawaiians generally. Since some of these nominees have been (still are?) plaintiffs in lawsuits challenging benefits for Native Hawaiians, I wonder if they might have conflicts of interest (not that I would predict the new commissioners to have any intentions to abstain from actions regarding the Akaka bill).

If these people are seated and are able to hold hearings before the bill wends its way through Congress, then the USCCR will probably speak with one voice against the Akaka Bill this time around.

However, as a consolation, I wonder if other State Advisory Commissions might also voice their opinions. The Akaka bill would apply to all Native Hawaiians (not only those residing in Hawaii), and there are many states with significant Native Hawaiian populations (CA, NV, WA, etc.) that might have SACs less likely to be dominated by commissioners oppose the bill.

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A lot of details — that seem like none of our business

Filed under: HI Media — Doug @ 7:15 pm
For several months the SB has been reporting on a teenaged girl from Cambodia who suffered a disfiguring leg injury. SB readers contributed money to help the girl come to the Honolulu Shriners Hospital where she is about to begin treatment. The latest article describes, in what I consider to be a surprising amount of detail, the treatment options spread before her. It’s a very compelling human interest story, but I have to wonder if this type of reporting/charity is playing on the fringes of the HIPAA stipulations regarding privacy, and on the boundaries of journailistic ethics.

Can a girl (and/or her guardians) whisked away from a undeveloped village to a metropolis in a foreign country, a girl who is the recipient of so much generosity that makes both the trip and the previously unimaginable care a possibility, truly “consent” to the release of all this information? In my opinion, we (the public) don’t deserve to know the intimate details of such a life-altering event simply because some of us contributed a few dollars. What do you think?

I should add that it’s not clear from the article that the hospital is the source of all the detailed information about her treatment options, so perhaps the legal point is moot if the girl’s family is the source for the article. That scenario wouldn’t erase the ethical question altogether, though. The newspaper is, to some extent, counting on the relaxed inhibitions of this patient for (additional) positive media exposure. If this patient declined further interviews and status reports, then the newspaper would be left in an awkward position.

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