Saturday, October 22, 2016


There is “disappeared news” in the Hawaii slave ship media coverage

by Larry Geller

(an audio link is at the end of this article)

Listen to The Conversation on Tuesday on Hawaii Public Radio

Tune in to The Conversation on Tuesday, October 25 at about 8:05 a.m. Host Beth-Ann Kozlovich invited me to explain the legal issues, and I’ll do my best. If you can’t tune in live, try the Hawaii Public Radio website later in the day to listen to a recording.

I have to admit that I thought reports of the foreign fisherman who make up most of Hawaii’s longline fishing fleet and are confined to their ships for years, sometimes badly abused—would be just a flash in the pan. I thought the story would have its 15 minutes in the news cycle and then disappear again.

But since the Associated Press revealed conditions in the Hawaii fleet on September 8, articles have ricocheted around the country and around the world.

Hawaii’s shame reported internationally

JakartaMalayBusiness MirrorTexasSpanishIndonesiaSpanish 2

So what’s happening to correct this deplorable situation? Nothing so far.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources says it has nothing to do with “labor issues.” DLNR is wrong—it is not being asked to deal with labor issues. It is charged with issuing fishing licenses for the purpose of conservation, not labor. DLNR must take the first steps toward correcting its oversight, and so far it has shirked its responsibility.

Homeland Security says it can’t enforce the so-called “universal contract” drawn up by an industry consultant. In truth, no one can enforce it, and it isn’t really a contract. The terms of employment would be part of an employment or recruiting contract.

Bottom line here: so far, no part of government says it can do anything at all about the “slave ships.” All this and plenty of commentary has appeared in the newspaper, on-line and on TV.

And yet, there is still “disappeared news.” What is it? Simple. That Hawaii is breaking laws as it issues fishing licenses to the fishermen, and there are clear steps state government must take to begin to reform the system.

The legislative informational briefing held earlier this week was not only posted with less than 24 hours notice, but it was dominated by industry spokespeople and the government agencies who say they can do nothing about the situation.

By the time attorney Lance Collins was called to testify, after more than two hours and twenty minutes had passed, nearly all the reporters and video cameras had left the room. So his testimony became the “disappeared news.” Yet since he pinpointed the specific laws that the state is violating, his testimony was the only one to provide a pathway to correcting what others are lamenting they cannot cure.

Sure, there would be many changes needed to eliminate the abuses. Instead of floundering around claiming they can do nothing, state agencies need to start from what they are doing wrong and commence making repairs. The petition turned down by the Board of Land and Natural Resources would have begun that process [disclosure: I am one of the signers of the petition].

I recorded the informational briefing from my seat in the peanut gallery and tried to improve the audio quality by post-processing in the computer. Download or listen to the testimony given by attorney Lance Collins by clicking here or right-click and save it to your hard disk.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Rally, legislative briefing on human trafficking in Hawaii’s fishing fleet today

by Larry Geller

Sorry for the late post.

Today at 10:30 there will be a rally at the State Capitol on the continuing conditions in the Hawaii long-line fishing fleet. Since the Associated Press exposed the issue on September 8 until the present moment, nothing has changed.

At 11:00 today a legislative briefing is to be held in Room 309. The announcement went out only late Tuesday, but it may be very crowded—if only because of the long list of planned testfiers. See Briefing On Fishing Labor Issues (Civil Beat, 10/18/2016) for the story and a list of invitees.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


The #Fail heard ‘round the world: Hawaii DLNR refuses to revise its rules in order to eliminate human trafficking in Hawaii’s fishing fleet

by Larry Geller

I haven’t posted on the recent hearing before the Board of Land and Natural Resources on the petition to change the rules for licensing long-line fishermen because I’ve been too busy working on my testimony and then attending the hearing to give it, and on other hot projects. So yes, disclosure, I’m writing about something that I’m personally involved in.

But there’s no question it’s news. In fact, far from “disappeared news,” the story of the Board turning down our petition to revise the rules for fishing licenses has traveled far—it’s making its way internationally today. The story of BLNR’s failure to do anything about the conditions in the Hawaii fishing fleet that were uncovered in AP stories published September 8 has spread farther than all but those original stories.

Jakarta PostHere’s a screenshot of the story in the Jakarta Post. Basically the same article appeared on newspaper websites in Pakistan and elsewhere, including newspapers across this country.

Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesman Dan Dennison confirmed the board's denial after its meeting on Friday.

"It was predicted but it's nevertheless disappointing," said petitioner Kathryn Xian, who runs the nonprofit Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery. "The DLNR has really shirked its responsibility in doing an easy fix."

[Daily Times, Pakistan (AP), Hawaii board denies changes in rules for foreign fishermen, 10/16/2016]

The original story, posted by the AP on the night of September 7, also spread far and wide. Here it is, for example: Impoverished Migrants Are Catching Hawaii’s Prized Seafood, Report Finds (Yahoo News, 9/7/2016).

So between September 7 or 8 and today, the Hawaii state government continues to license fishermen who are confined to their ships, in violation of state law—and they haven’t done a thing to fix it. Nothing has changed.

Do the petitioners give up? I don’t think so.

The petition was only one arrow in our quiver.

Thursday, October 06, 2016


USGS releases awesome video of Kilauea Volcano eruption and hot lava flow

by Larry Geller

The U.S. Geological Survey has just released an 11-minute (11:20) video intended as “B-roll” for news media. It’s made up of clips that a TV station, for example, might include in a news story that they produce themselves.

I don’t think I disqualify Disappeared News just because I’m willing to use the word “awesome” in a title or headline—no AP style book is going to convince me that this video is anything less than awesome. And we’re all citizen journalists these days, right? So here’s the video for you.

If you’ve invested your kids’ college fund in a home theater, a 4K resolution of the USGS video is available here. For the rest of us, the YouTube video is here or you can watch it below. Go to either site, however, for information about the clips and to read credits for their production.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island is our favorite vacation spot possibly in the whole world. Go there to witness both destruction and creation in a short walk along the Devastation Trail, and of course, to try and see hot lava with your own eyes. Smell the sulfur. Feel the warm ground. Visit the Jaggar Museum. At night, see the Milky Way spread out above while threads of hot lava creep down the mountains toward the sea. Awesome is an understatement.

For now, watch this new video. Part of it shows the scientists at work. You cannot actually see these shots in person.

Do click the little thingy at the lower right to view in full-screen mode, and for a list of the scenes, click one of the links above.

Monday, October 03, 2016


The Oahu commuter ferry con is on again

“The intent is to get more cars off the road, to help alleviate the H-1 (and) H-2 merge, and so forth,” [Hawaii Department of Transportation Director Ford] Fuchigami said. “We have to be able to offer different modes of transportation to get people into town, to get cars off the road.”—
Star-Advertiser front-page story

TheBoat, Honolulu's commuter ferry from Kalaeloa to Aloha Tower, gives West O'ahu residents an oceangoing alternative to increasingly clogged highways, for no more than $4 per round- trip ticket.

What makes the service so cheap is that Honolulu taxpayers pay an additional $120 per roundtrip rider to cover the actual costs of operating TheBoat, according to a city study.—Honolulu Advertiser, 2/15/2009

by Larry Geller

First, here’s a video of this morning’s H-1 traffic coming into town from the west side this morning to play while you read this article. Just start it up and read on. It has nothing to do with the commuter ferry story, just as the commuter ferry will have nothing to do with H-1 traffic.



That Boat

Today’s story is interesting in several ways, most of them demonstrating that our Department of Transportation leaders may have a thing or two to learn about transportation. The newspaper, also—it covered the original Superferry so poorly that readers would likely not have known about the poor ride conditions and high cost of operation of the inter-island ferries. Today’s article didn’t mention the running cost of the earlier Oahu ferry.

The inter-island Superferry company ultimately declared bankruptcy, and certainly one contributing factor would have been that it seldom, if ever, make a profit, according to outside estimates at the time. The fuel cost of running those huge engines was likely not recouped from the ferry fares.

Just as our city department of transportation to this day has not said what the cost of running the train will be after it is built (recently: if it is built), the state DOT will have to tell commuters what they will pay and how much it will cost to operate. Why? Because they have tried this before, and it was an expensive fiasco.

That Boat again

TheBoat, Honolulu's commuter ferry from Kalaeloa to Aloha Tower, gives West O'ahu residents an oceangoing alternative to increasingly clogged highways, for no more than $4 per round-trip ticket.

What makes the service so cheap is that Honolulu taxpayers pay an additional $120 per roundtrip rider to cover the actual costs of operating TheBoat, according to a city study.

The cost of carrying each passenger on TheBoat is about 62 times more than the cost of an average trip on TheBus. It is also significantly more expensive than comparable Mainland ferry services.   [Honolulu Advertiser, High subsidies may scuttle Hawaii's ferry, 2/15/2009]


For nearly two years, TheBoat has been a little-used leg of Oahu's TheBus system, three 75-foot double-hulled vessels running six round trips daily, sailing between the Aloha Tower Marketplace and the growing communities of West Oahu.

[Yahoo News, Hawaii's cheapest cruise sails into sunset , 7/2/2009]

TheBoat utilized vessels whose running cost was (or should have been) well known before they were put into service. It should have been easy to get that information: they had been in service elsewhere. Did the DOT ask? If so, Honolulu taxpayers were cheated badly by its mayor and city administration. Did they not even ask? Then I return to my question about competent leadership.

As to the claims about reducing traffic on the H-1, no one has so far refuted my oft-repeated observation that if the number of parking spaces in town, at UH and in Waikiki, remains the same, no cars will be removed from the H-1. If one person decides to commute to town by boat (or train, or even by bus), another car will take that parking place. In town parking places are a profit-making resource. Nor can I see UH tearing down any part of their parking structure. So cars will keep coming on the H-1.

In fact, rampant home construction in central Oahu means potentially adding even more cars. There’s no ferry, no train, that will reduce this.

Finally: So what benefit is left to public transportation in Honolulu? There are at least two benefits:

1)  If done right, it would boost retail and allow businesses to locate along the route. That would require a grade-level system. See the second video in this article. This would mean some local retail and supply-line jobs as well. A grade-level system going all the way to Waianae would create a long, local retail corridor that benefits everyone. Plus restaurants, coffee shops, churches, etc., all taking advantage of convenient grade-level transportation.

2) Public transportation increases the productivity of labor. Workers who are not car owners can be offered lower pay. This is true today.

Ok, done. The video above is still playing, isn’t it? Compare, if you like, after the train and potentially theBoat are running. By that time traffic should be even worse.

Friday, September 30, 2016


Jim Williams is correct in resigning from the Board of Education following Governor Ige’s huge snub

Williams wrote [in his resignation letter] that the work of Ige’s
Every Student Succeeds Act team, which aims to “develop a blueprint for Hawaii’s public schools that is consistent with ESSA,” actually falls under the BOE’s jurisdiction. The ESSA team was announced in April 2016.—Civil Beat article by Courtney Teague

by Larry Geller

Hawaii’s Governor Ige seems to have a penchant for setting up teams that work outside the organizations responsible and so undermine the authority of those organizations. Jim Williams, whose many positions in the educational sphere were described in the Civil Beat article, resigned on Thursday citing Gov. Ige’s “lack of faith in and support of the Board.”

At issue is Gov. Ige’s creation of a task force charged with creating a blueprint for implementing the federal Every Student Succeeds Act in Hawaii—outside of the constitutionally created state Board of Education.

Had Ige discussed the need for a “blueprint” with the BOE, they could have formed a team themselves, or taken whatever other action they felt appropriate. The Governor could have offered resources or asked them to let him know what they might need that would not (say) be covered in their budget.

If the BOE were to fail to take action, well, that would be a message and perhaps a green light for the Governor to step in more directly in some way.

Considering that the BOE was bypassed in creating Ige’s “blueprint,” can they be expected to embrace it wholeheartedly? When the document lands on their desks, what kind of a reception will it get?

And what about the Superintendent of Schools, who was notably excluded from the task force:

In a high-profile snub that's raising eyebrows, the governor decided against appointing state schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi to a newly-formed task force charged with overhauling Hawaii's public school standards and testing.

[HawaiiNewsNow, Superintendent kept off governor's task force to overhaul Hawaii schools, 5/10/2016]

Who or whom (?) does the Governor think will be charged with implementing whatever his team comes up with? Both the Superintendent and the Board have been snubbed, so one might forgive them for being less than enthusiastic about the team’s work product, if that’s how it turns out.

Someplace in my dusty archives from pre-Internet days I have a couple of other “blueprints” produced as a result of efforts outside the state agency responsible. My memory tells me that despite long and earnest effort, they were not implemented.

A recent example, with apologies for changing the subject for a moment: Recall the Governor’s emergency proclamation and formation of a  Governor's Leadership Team on Homelessness last year that was given the following responsibility:

The Governor’s Leadership Team on Homelessness will identify and assign parcels of land to be used for the creation of temporary shelters in one or two communities; implement measures to transfer residents of homeless encampments to shelters; work with service providers to establish protocols to assess shelter residents for financial, physical, mental health and other needs; and determine costs and obtain funding to meet these objectives.

[from a news release dated 6/27/2015]

These activities should have been carried out under his homeless czar, and it is hard to see how legislators, the Honolulu mayor, and representatives of two congresspeople, none of whom have expertise or a connection to the tasks described, can be effective. And that’s besides the fact that the goals assigned are not at all the ones that can reduce homelessness in Hawaii.

Wouldn’t it have been better to beef up the staff of the gov’s homeless czar to create an authority capable of making a dent in the growing problem, which actually will require not just the responsibilities that the Governor described but must include creation or identification of truly affordable housing in sufficient quantity and a solution to the problem of Hawaii’s chronically low wages?

Team member Rep. Sylvia Luke was quoted in the Governor’s news release:

“We really need to come together on enforcement, but also in providing alternative sites and coordinated services. This is a monumental step to pull together resources of the federal, state and county governments,” said Rep. Luke, chair, House Finance Committee.

That’s not to say we don’t need temporary shelters—we do. But again, the responsibilities Ige described were to be solved outside the office of the homeless coordinator, undermining his authority.

The entire news release is based on “enforcement” and “shelters,” and omits any mention of evidence-based solutions such as Housing First which actually can reduce the number of Hawaii’s street dwellers by providing housing and the necessary supports to enable people to remain in their homes. In other words, the charge given to the task force by the Governor is doomed from the outset.

And what contribution can Rep. Luke make if she believes that the services provided at present, which are valuable but cannot reduce the street population, along with adding more shelters, are what they must do?

Back to education.

Jim Williams has made a statement. It has been heard, per the Civil Beat article.

Now, how will Governor Ige both repair the damage that his task force appointments have created, and also ensure that Hawaii embraces the Every Student Succeeds Act to the greatest extent, and in a way that can do the best job for our keiki?


New federal rules for long-term care homes are very extensive, will require more diligent state monitoring

by Larry Geller

The article below is double-posted from Disclosure: I am a board member of Kokua Council.

New federal rules that are to take effect November 28 will prohibit pre-dispute binding arbitration agreements for long-term care facilities that receive federal funds—usually Medicare or Medicaid. Removing these clauses, which prevent families from suing, is very appropriate and welcome. This applies to new admissions only, after the effective date.

But the rule brings extensive changes in other areas, and it will be necessary to closely monitor whether long-term care facilities have made the changes necessary to comply. For example, surveyors may have to determine if staffing is sufficient to provide food to residents that is served at an appropriate temperature and in an appetizing form and is sufficient to prevent unintended weight loss and dehydration. That is just one new requirement of the new federal rule, but it illustrates that enforcement will not be a matter of simply taking a quick glance around the facility.

Hawaii’s Department of Health will have to drastically revise its lax attitude toward protecting residents of long-term care facilities

Kokua Council currently is suing the DOH to compel it to post inspection reports as required by state law.

DOH has declined to carry out unannounced inspections, which are the best way to uncover violations of these or prior state or federal rules.

It is also grossly underfunding the office of the Longterm Care Ombudsman to the point where the office cannot fulfill its mission to handle complaints related to the state’s 12,300 residents living in 1,700 long-term facilities.

The new rules are posted for download below and can be read on-line. Here are some highlights, which may not give a complete view of the changes—the document is 713 pages long, including comments and responses.

Mandatory arbitration prohibited in new agreements

This rule change applies to new agreements and does not prohibit arbitration in new disputes, if both parties choose that procedure. What the rule prohibits is pre-dispute arbitration clauses—that is, the prohibitions against court action that may be typically found in care home agreements. Again, these rules apply only to facilities receiving federal funds.

When a spouse or relative has to be admitted to a care home, the entire process is extremely traumatic for the family. Often, decisions have to be made on very short notice and without time to understand all the implications of the papers that must be signed. So requiring a family to sign away their right to sue in the event that a care home seriously injures their loved one is predatory.

The knowledge that there is an arbitration clause may lead some homes to take fewer precautions to ensure good care, knowing that they cannot be sued.

Families are not equipped for and cannot usually afford to go to arbitration. The process is also inapproriate to handle claims of neglect such as might arise, and which would be far more common in a care situation than the monetary claims typically seen in commercial or consumer arbitration instances.

Changes in facility and procedure requirements

This short summary touches on only a few changes and is not intended to be comprehensive. If there are errors in the points below, they are mine.

The new rule mandates changes in newly constructed, reconstructed, or newly certified facilities including:

Changes for all long-term care homes include:

A table in the rule document summarizes all the changes.

Download New CMS Nursing Home Rule from


Consequences of defective parts in rail structure could be deadly

Honolulu’s tardy, overbudget rail project just got tardier and more expensive.

Oh, and the part that’s already been built? Some key components fell apart.—Civil Beat

by Larry Geller

A Civil Beat article posted yesterday includes a photo of cracked insulation pads pulled out of the already over-budget Honolulu rail structures.

Cracked already? And the trains aren’t even running yet.

The HART board was briefed on failures of some of the “tendons” that hold together segments of the train’s guideway. Workers have also discovered cracks in the shims being used to level the guideways and pads used for electrical insulation.

The contractors say they are fixing those problems at no cost to HART. But HART board chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa questions whether they’ve done a thorough enough investigation to gauge the extent of the damage.

[Civil Beat, HART Raises Estimate For Total Cost Of Rail Project To $8.6 Billion, 9/29/2016]

Materials problem or design problem?

Although the contractors are to replace the defective parts at no cost to the project, there seems to be an important question of whether the failures are defects in the particular parts supplied or whether, for example, the “tendons” failed due to defective design. The latter would be more serious because a design failure could be exceedingly expensive to correct if discovered or could lead to fatal accidents if not discovered and left uncorrected.

Nor could trains run until these quality or design issues are fully resolved.

Once trains begin to run, strains on the structure will be greater and the consequences of failures could conceivably be deadly.

What exactly would it mean if “tendons” broke as a train flew by over Kam highway, for example? Remember, this is an elevated line. What might a train wreck look like?

Instead of this:


It could be this:

Gare Montparnasse 1895_thumb[1]

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Public record bonanza–West Maui Land Court docs now online

What—you are not on Maui? Not from Maui? Ok, you can go back to Instagram and Facebook.

But for those interested in public records, for historians, for those who need this, and for the curious—the North Beach West Maui Benefit Fund and the Judiciary have concluded a years-long project, and important court files are now available on-line.

Read about it in their press release:

Historic West Maui Land Court applications now available online to the public

Historic West Maui Land Court applications are now available
to families and historians online at the West Maui Land Court Archive
( The North Beach West Maui
Benefit Fund worked for four years to obtain and digitize the court
files and to make them available online.
    In 1903, the Territory of Hawaii adopted the “Torrens” system of land
registration where claimants of land could petition the Land Court, in
Honolulu, to confirm their title and be issued a certificate of title.
The territory (and now state) guarantees the validity of any certificate
of title issued. Applications to register land generally included
information about the land itself and many times history about the
families that lived on the land.
    Families doing research today on family or land history are required to
fly to Honolulu during the work week to look at these historic court
files on microfilm at the courthouse in Honolulu. Copies cost at the
courthouse are $1/page. Some applications are a few hundred pages while
others are thousands of pages.
    In 2012, Dr. Sydney Iaukea, during her research of the book Keka'a: The
Making and Saving of North Beach West Maui, wrote to the Benefit Fund
explaining the difficulty she had with accessing the materials and
concern about how much more difficult it would be for working families
on Maui to go to Honolulu to do research on family land and asked the
Benefit Fund to look into making access easier for Maui families.
    The Benefit Fund has spent several years obtaining the permission
necessary from the Judiciary to get these historic applications
available online.
    Benefit Fund spokesperson, Lance D. Collins stated; “The Benefit Fund
extends its deep gratitude to the Chief Staff Attorney of the Supreme
Court and the Registrar of the Land Court for their assistance in making
this project a reality.”
    While the Judiciary has long term plans of putting all of its historic
applications online, due to significant budgetary constraints, it is
presently unable to do so. It is hoped that the archive can be used as a
model for others, like the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, to digitize and
archive online more historic applications for other regions.
    The lands were originally identified by tax map key number and the
applications identified for inclusion inadvertently included land
registered on Lana'i – which is part of the West Maui tax map key zone.
The Benefit Fund decided to include the Lana'i applications in the
archive in an effort to make these historical applications as available
as possible to families and the public.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


Of course high-tech firms leave Hawaii

by Larry Geller

Ryan Ozawa posted two columns on Civil Beat discussing the exodus of high-civilgeekstech firms from Hawaii.  Aha, someone else has noticed. Here on Disappeared News, I’ve been writing about this occasionally for more than a decade.

It makes sense for high-tech firms to start here when they can get financing, tax breaks, incubator space and even (in the case of the “high-tech park” in Mililani) facility deals. All while enjoying an exceptional quality of life in one of the world’s best climates.

Startups produce only limited jobs, generally speaking. The stereotype is the entrepreneur and a bunch of pals. That’s a broad generalization, but I think it holds true. The media then pile up on the newly successful ventures. But almost inevitably, they leave.

But as I’ve said many times, one day the bean counters come knocking on the CEO’s door. It’s time to pack up the surfboard and head off to California where there are markets, investors, a pool of trained workers, and an adequate supply chain. All the ingredients of success—are over there, not here.

[I’ve wondered if a new high-tech firm seeking programmers in Silicon Valley need do any more than open the window at lunchtime and shout “Python!” in a loud voice in order to attract a mob rushing the front door to compete for the jobs.]

Venture capitalists probably don’t care as long as they profit from their investment. In fact, savvy folks that they are, they already know that these startups will leave. If they don’t leave when it’s ripe to do so, there will be a bunch more knocks on the CEO’s door.

What Ryan didn’t attempt, and it wouldn’t be easy, was an analysis of whether promoting high-tech in Hawaii makes economic sense. Certainly some federal money comes in. And there are some firms and jobs. It would be very strange if there were not.

One recent example comes to mind: Hoku Scientific, a darling of the media for far too long, created plenty of jobs. In Pocatello, Idaho. Then, following the path of many others, it’s gone. We didn’t get those jobs yet the newspaper kept hyping Hoku.

I’ve wondered if the best high-tech jobs in the state are the government and private organizations that promote rather than do high-tech.

While I feel that every student should have the best education possible, I’m sad that those who excel in STEM courses will likely have to leave Hawaii to make any money in tech. Keeping families together is a cultural value here, but since we really have few high-tech jobs, there is a brain drain. And of course, that also works against high-tech firms considering staying here or relocating to Hawaii.

The calculation would be interesting: how much is the state paying in one way or another to promote high-tech without the expected return, which I contend must be measured in jobs for the people more than tax money returned. We’re paying big bucks for executives and staff to promote something that seems not to be producing the expected return. Or is it? What’s the reality?

So what should we do to create high-tech jobs? Wish I knew. We’re an island in middle of the Pacific Ocean. The promotional line put out by the High Tech Development Corp. many years ago that our state is ideally located between the West Coast and Asia, straddling the time zones, was ridiculed by Guy Kawasaki in a talk at the UH business school. We’re actually not in the right place, we’re in the wrong place. We are not the high-tech “hub” of the Pacific.

We do need high-tech for our own purposes, and that should create some jobs. Many state and private organizations still have not moved into the 21st century as far as computer automation goes, for example. There’s room for some growth here.

costly“I saw a lot of people working really hard on bad systems that were antiquated, and they were heroically making things happen that were almost impossible given how old the systems were,” he said. “It’s surprising to see so many boxes of paper and that everything has to flow through paper instead of electronic.”

Systems that are 40, sometimes 50, years old crunch along often on parts sought online, including at the state’s biggest single department, education, tucked in the basement of the central Department of Education’s administration building, where stacks and stacks of colored cards are considered the payroll database.

[KHON, Costly consequences of outdated payroll technology, 5/22/2015]

Manual payroll? Really? Shame.

I noticed many years ago that many businesses were in the habit of turning off their fax machines at night to save electricity. Why didn’t the orders come in? Well, the fax was off. That was high-tech, Hawaii style.

This complicates the calculation, of course. If the DOE and other government agencies should come up to speed on computer processing, wouldn’t people lose their jobs as a consequence of the automation?

It also seems odd to me that our government promotes high-tech for everyone else and yet is so bad at it. There are more examples besides just payroll.

So let’s not be surprised that high-tech and other startups leave Hawaii. That’s the way it is. Accept it. Good thing we have tourism and hospitality jobs, all else has been a struggle here. Will high-tech help? Has it so far? Curious taxpayer minds want to know.

Friday, September 23, 2016


Pay the Honolulu Police Department and they will enforce your favorite law

by Larry Geller

Law enforcement is for sale in Honolulu. No kidding: it appears that if you pay big bucks, the Honolulu Police Department will enforce a law for you.

Otherwise, not, I assume. If they did it for free, no one would be inclined to pay for it.


The Honolulu Police Department will receive an $85,000 boost to enforce sidewalk laws in Waikiki.

The Waikiki Business Improvement District Association is giving the money to the police department. The funds will be used to curb illegal activities like peddling on sidewalks.

[KITV, HPD gets $85K to enforce sidewalk laws in Waikiki, 9/21/2016]

If peddling on sidewalks is illegal, shouldn’t the HPD be enforcing that law without extra payment? Could the Waikiki Business folks chip in a little more to, for example, make the streets safer by enforcing some traffic laws?

I have just sent the following inquiry to HPD via their web page contact form:

I read that the Waikiki Business Improvement District Association is giving $85,000 to HPD to enforce sidewalk laws in Waikiki. The article, on KITV’s website, did not say how long the enforcement will last. So I have a few questions perhaps you could respond to:

1. The intersection near where I live at Vineyard Blvd. and Nuuanu Ave. gets very congested during the evening rush hour. Often cars on Vineyard rush into the intersection as the traffic light turns yellow, blocking both ongoing traffic and the crosswalk. Pedestrians, especially those on wheelchairs or scooters, have a difficult time crossing or are blocked completely. Yet I have never seen HPD enforcing the traffic laws at that intersection at that time (or actually, at any time). So the possibility of buying enforcement could become one way to ensure pedestrians safe access to those crosswalks.

2. Do you have a rate schedule or price list that you could send me so that a fundraising campaign might be mounted with the goal of having the traffic laws enforced. We would insist on a full menu, that is, including infractions such as failure to stop before turning right on red, intentionally blocking the intersection, blocking the pedestrian crosswalks, failure to obey the crosswalk laws, etc.

3. Since there is a similar situation during the morning rush hour, I would like to know if enforcement can be purchased during specific hours or time periods.

4. Is there an extra charge for enforcement of traffic laws during holidays or on Sunday?


I don’t really expect a reply, but you never know.

For any tourists who might read this: Welcome to Hawaii, where laws can be enforced if your budget is big enough. Be careful crossing the streets because so far no one has paid extra for pedestrian safety that I am aware of.

Of course, what I am getting at is something like: we already pay HPD to enforce the law. Why is this payment necessary, what will it achieve, and shouldn’t it be refused on ethical grounds? Will HPD enforcement be different because they have accepted this payment? If so, where is it written that selective enforcement of laws is at all permitted?

Thursday, September 22, 2016


Hawaii residents petition state agency for transparency in fishing licenses

by Larry Geller

Attached is a press release announcing the filing of a petition to Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources to require transparency in fishing licenses. It is intended to break through the veil of secrecy surrounding hiring and working conditions on Hawaii fishing vessels and reform the licensing process.

[Disclosure: I am one of the signers of the petition.]

A copy of the petition is attached below.

Hawaii Residents Across State
Petition DLNR to Amend Rules
To Require Transparency in Fishing Licenses

Press Release


Petitioners File to Amend Rules Requiring Transparency
in Longline Fishing Licensing
September 22nd 2016

Honolulu, HI – Residents of O'ahu, Maui and the Big Island have filed a petition for the DLNR to amend its rules to require commercial marine license applicants/holders to disclose: (1) if they are ineligible for landing privileges in Hawaii, (2) if applicant is an owner or captain, to list the names of all licensees under their hire/command subject to the "detained on board" deportation order, (3) citizenship of a licensee who is ineligible for landing privileges, and (4) the complete name and contact information for any person who assists an applicant/licensee who does not read English and cannot, without assistance, certify that they understand the terms of the license.

These additions to the commercial marine license application rule will provide the public, consumers, fish buyers and state and federal regulatory agencies transparency and immediate informational access to ship that utilize the recently publicized "detained on board" deportation order scheme where fishermen who work for Hawaii longline fishing companies are prohibited from coming ashore when docked in Hawaii's harbors and the boat owner/captain holds the travel documents of such workers.

Last week, DLNR Chair Suzanne Case stated in a widely reported press release: "While our jurisdiction only extends to the protection of natural resources, we are certainly very concerned about any human rights violations that are reportedly occurring on the longline fishing fleet, and stand ready to assist in any way possible."

Kathryn Xian of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery in Honolulu, states: "What is lacking in recent efforts, to give these worker basic labor rights, is transparency. These longstanding and pervasive exploitative labor practices can't simply be solved by a contract, when workers don't have any status or access to justice. Furthermore, local consumers deserve to know how their purchased product arrives to their dinner tables so that they can make an informed decision on whether to buy into such an industry. This proposed rule change would help accomplish this."

Karen Chun of Maui said: "If the DLNR feels the eye color of the licensee is important enough to require to be disclosed on the license application, they can ask meaningful questions that will help both the public and labor regulators identify which licensees engage in the immoral ' detained on board' deportation order scheme."

Larry Geller of Honolulu said: "Every applicant is required to certify that they read the terms of the application yet we now know that many of these fishermen who are held prisoner on these boats have very limited English skills. The person that is assisting them in filling out these applications should also disclose their involvement and certify that they have faithfully translated the terms of the license."




Download BLNR Proposed Amended Rule Filed 20160921 from Disappeared News

Monday, September 19, 2016


Complaint details widespread violations of labor laws that protect foreign fishermen docking in Hawaii

by Larry Geller

Note: This is a re-post of an article originally posted several days ago which included a file that was not properly redacted. The solution: the document included below is the first 11 pages of the full 71-page document. What is omitted is 60 pages of of fishing license detail and other supportive material that isn’t really necessary to understand the complaint.

Media reports on human trafficking in Hawaii’s longline fishing industry have rested on the observation that working conditions have been permitted due to a “loophole” in federal regulations.

A complaint, filed with Hawaii’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, details violations, cites applicable laws, and names names.

The complaint is quite detailed and includes attachments—a total of 71 pages.

The complaint is meticulous in its references to specific sections of state law, for which there is no "loophole,"

Here is an example of the precision which characterizes this complaint--a snip pinpointing an applicable section of Hawaii wage law:

We believe that the Wage Standards Division has jurisdiction over these matters. State wage laws which provide workers with more protections do not conflict and are not preempted by federal law or maritime law for workers that work within the territorial waters of a state or the high seas adjacent to the state's coast. See Pacific Merchant Shipping Ass'n v. Aubry, 918 F.2d 1409 (9th Cir.1990), cert. denied, 504 U.S. 979 (1992).

The complaint details failures of recordkeeping, failure to post notices, and improper wage withholding practices, among other violations too numerous to list here.

Download 20160919 Complaint to DLIR re slave ships - minus attachments from Disappeared News


Ah, a public works project that makes Honolulu rail look really good

by Larry Geller


It really is a sad story of bureaucratic mismanagement and incompetence.

No, not the Honolulu rail project, this one is in Tokyo Japan.

The 81-year old Tsukiji fish market was to be relocated to a new site at Toyosu, but the new site, constructed at great expense, is unusable. The relocation has been halted, at great expense.

There’s one thing that it does have in common with our poorly planned rail project (and I use the word “planned” reluctantly, since parts of the rail project were never actually planned): lack of stakeholder input.

“People who don’t know anything about a fish market designed the Toyosu site. We were never consulted,” said Tai Yamaguchi of Tsukiji-based fish merchant Hitoku Shoten.

Read the Japan Times article, here. For one thing, it will take your mind off our own problems for a moment. For me, as someone who worked for many years just a stone’s throw from the original Tsukiji market, it is, as one might say with Japanese understatement, regrettable that such terrible mistakes were made.

It didn’t have to be that way.

Many also complain the shop spaces allocated to them are smaller than those at Tsukiji. The smallest shop compartment is 1.5 meters wide. Some tuna wholesalers have lamented they cannot even cut the huge fish in their own shop.

The drains are too small to handle the water and scrap runoff. And the soil restoration under the buildings (the site was contaminated with chemicals from a gas plant that occupied that location) was never done. No one knows where they will park their trucks.

Back in Honolulu, the lack of community input and direction to the rail project with regard to route or type of transport and the neglect to calculate the cost of ducking the high-voltage power lines is also “regrettable.” But can we regret on an ongoing basis the failure to even estimate running costs, for example?

We’re watching an expensive failure that is still in motion.


Sunday, September 18, 2016


Great minds think alike: alternate uses for an unwanted elevated rail guideway

by Larry Geller


An op-ed in today’s Star-Advertiser is headlined “It’s not too late to make right call on rail” and is accompanied by a picture of New York City’s “High Line”, which is a disused elevated rail line repurposed as a public park.

The High Line, featuring innovative seating and other attractive features for individuals and families, is very popular among residents and tourists..

The Honolulu rail guideway is a bit narrower than the High Line but it might work anyway.

Cycle snake_thumb[2]

Great minds think alike. In May, with tongue firmly in cheek, I suggested we could emulate Copenhagen’s elevated bikeway.

Commuters could avoid traffic, get exercise, and not be packed like sardines into a hot train car to and from work.

Just leave what’s built as is, but provide entrance and exit ramps for the bikes.

Skating rink[7]

Or check out this April Fool themed article in which Mayor Tam officially opens Honolulu’s new elevated ice skating rink in 2018.

It could transform an eyesore into a unique recreational resource eyesore, anyway.

As you read the op-ed in today’s paper, keep in mind that this elevated rail line/bike path/skating rink was to cost less than $3 billion initially, and now upwards of $10.5 billion is commonly cited. If you think my suggestions are crazy, please note that the real thing became crazy at some point and we’re still not laughing.

I wonder if Guiness recognizes a world record for cost overruns…


“Campaign contributions down since 1990” is not the only important measure

by Larry Geller

Ian Lind digs relentlessly into political data, often yielding insights that should be more widely exposed than a mere blog post can accomplish. So it is with his research into campaign contributions then (in 1990) and now.

So digging back into the past, I found a copy of my old Hawaii Monitor newsletter with a list of the top corporate and pac contributors to Hawaii state and local candidates between January 1, 1990 and the 1990 primary election.

Then, using the data reported to the Campaign Spending Commission, I identified the top contributors between January 1 and August 13, 2016 (that’s the latest report to date).

The surprise is that companies and pacs are actually giving far less directly to candidates than they did in 1990, at least in during election year.

[, Corporate and PAC campaign contributions down since 1990, 9/17/2016]

Please click over and read his entire article.

I would love to know, just for information value, what proportion of campaign contributions fueled politicians back then in comparison with today. Why? It’s a measure of the corruption of our government. One measure. But one that it may be possible to compute.

Of course, just knowing current numbers can be used to posit where we stand on corruption today.

Last October Dr. Kioni Dudley researched the percentage of campaign contribution support received by our city council members. See his calculations here.

Dudley named names. For example, he found that council member Brandon Elefante is 91% beholden to “entities who will profit directly from approval of Rail.” He checked into several members’ contributions and found, for example, that:

Kymberly Pine also had marvelous additional help from PRP who paid for three mailings at roughly $30,000 each to get her elected.  That $90,000 raised her percentage of money spent by builders for her candidacy to 82%!

It is hard to imagine that a city council stacked heavily in favor of development interests will keep voters’ interests primary in their deliberations or votes. Remember, these are investments, not charitable contributions, that development interests are making.

I can’t believe that I’m about to quote Donald Trump, but he famously said:

“As a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do,” Mr. Trump said. “As a businessman, I need that.”

During a Republican presidential debate he said:

“I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them, and they are there for me.” He added, “And that’s a broken system.”

If Dr. Dudley’s calculations are correct, we can assume that our city councilpeople will do whatever the hell their development-interest donors want them to do.

“And that’s a broken system.”

Thursday, September 15, 2016


$3 billion cap on rail spending evaporated within a decade without a squeak

"I was startled that the people who are doing the alternatives analysis (study) are looking at a $3 billion cap on spending rather than a system that will work for Oahu," Councilwoman Barbara Marshall said.—
0/9/2006 Star-Bulletin story

by Larry Geller

So now we’re looking at $8.1 or maybe $10 billion and still won’t have “a system that will work for Oahu.”

So full speed ahead—with no plan in sight.

That story was published on September 8, 2006, almost exactly 10 years ago. But another significant date mentioned in the article was January 1, 2007: the day the extra 0.5 percent transit surcharge was to begin.

So not only was there no plan, but they were going to steal more tax money from us to pay for the non-plan.

Only in Hawaii (I wonder) will people accept this from their government. Well, regardless of whether we are unique in this regard, it’s troubling to me that  we let our “leaders” get away with this.

Next thing you know, they will want to steal our parks and other public spaces from us. Oh yeah, that’s already in the works.

Bottom line for me is the question why we just take whatever is dished out to us without much protest, or at least without enough to matter?

Some of those citycouncilpeople still have their jobs today, for example, and one of them is even running for mayor.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Seattle Fish Company joins Whole Foods in boycott of Hawaii fish

In response to allegations of human rights abuses in Hawaii's fishing fleet, Colorado-based Seattle Fish Co. has released a statement of concern and said it hopes it can help to provide a solution in a timely manner.
The company said that due to seasonality it has been buying very little fish from Hawaii and that it will not be buying more until it is confident that plans are in place to address concerns.

[Undercurrent News, Seattle Fish concerned by allegations of abuse in Hawaii fishing industry, 9/14/2016 ]

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


“The state ignores the squalor on these fishing boats”

As the AP report discovered, slavery is not limited to far off waters. In Hawaii, the majority of the fishing fleet is made up of undocumented workers, many of whom were taken against their will from their Southeast Asian homelands. The state ignores the squalor on these fishing boats, which often lack a toilet and may barely feed the men. As long as the workers don’t set foot on shore, no laws are being broken. Trapped on board, the workers watch crowds walk past on docks in Honolulu and San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.

by Larry Geller

Asked why no one in Hawaii had done anything to intervene, [reporter Margie Mason] said that people told her, “‘Hey it’s legal.’ That’s what we heard over and over again. Customs is involved. Coast guard is involved. Because it was legal, no one challenged it.”

[, When fishermen are slaves, labor audits mean nothing, 9/13/2016]

The story continues to echo in the media, with no action so far to change conditions on these ships or to compensate fishermen for the fair wages they did not receive.


No consequences for Honolulu city employee’s “blatantly inaccurate” statements that will cost taxpayers $1 million

I think it's set forth in Mr. Sasamura's and Mr. Shimizu's declaration which was submitted to the Court, that the City does not destroy personal property under the SNO [sidewalk nuisance ordinance]. … And we're not interested in dismantling homeless individuals' personal property [or] removing their social security cards or trashing their personal identification and financial information. None of that is being destroyed by the City
.—Ernest H. Nomura, Esq., Department of the Corporation Counsel, from transcript of 9/22/2015 federal court hearing

by Larry Geller

cbCivil Beat reports that we taxpayers could be on the hook for $1 million to pay the costs of defending the City’s unconstitutional and routine seizure and destruction of the personal property of street dwellers.

That expense could easily have been avoided—had the City read and followed the US Constitution in the first place. But more to the point, the legal arguments would have been cut short quickly had the City not denied, through testimony of its employees and statements of its attorneys, that it did indeed engage in the destruction of personal property including ID, money, kid’s school books, usable tents and so forth.

Because the City denied its actions, which were abundantly documented via videos, social media and the very occasional news story, the court denied a motion for a preliminary injunction and the case moved forward. Collecting the evidence to confound the City’s denial then ran up legal expenses.

The City continued to deny the truth of what they were doing…

… But, after weeks of an expensive discovery process, attorneys for the homeless people were able to demonstrate to the court that the city’s testimony was “blatantly inaccurate.”

[Civil Beat, Lawsuit Against Homeless Sweeps Could Cost Taxpayers $1M, 9/13/2016]

So you and I taxpayers will be on the hook for $1 M because of those “blatently inaccurate” statements.

Perhaps Mayor Caldwell might dub this “compassionate taxation.”

Mr. Garo was homeless and living in Kakaako during the November 13, 2014 sweep. He was prohibited from taking any papers from inside his tent by a policeman. He had a clean tent taken from him, various forms of identification, and cash. After the City took his identification, Mr. Garo was unable to travel to the Big Island in time to see his ailing father, who died within a week of the sweep.—from ACLU/AHFI motion to federal court re Honolulu sweeps of homeless encampments

I can't believe what inept politicians and cops we have in Hawaii who think solving the homeless problem means taking their stuff. Try having all your worldly possessions taken by guys with guns at 3AM... guys who tell you their job is to protect and serve. See how long it takes you to recover mentally from that and stop being homeless when all you can think about is how much you need to poop and drink water and eat and sleep and wash/dry your clothes and get out of the rain and heal your wounds but you can't because the cops took your clothes and soap and bike and tent and bed and food and meds and trash you were gonna recycle for cash.—
Anonymous comment

From a UH study conducted in early 2015:

The amount of personal property lost during the sweeps can only be described as shocking. Over 50% of those surveyed had lost identification during sweeps. Only 16% of those who had lost identification were able to retrieve it. Nearly half reported that their identifications were thrown away. The individuals surveyed lost other critical items as well: 43% lost clothing during sweeps, and 40% lost tents.

Despite what should have been obvious, in the face of the City’s denial the court was forced to move on to collect the evidence. Here’s a snip from comments by U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor after each attorney presented their position on September 22, 2015, from the transcript:

Here, we don't have a meeting of the minds of the parties. The plaintiffs' claims are that personal property is being destroyed immediately by the City, and the City's position is, no, personal property is not being immediately destroyed; it is being stored and tagged and notice is given. That's a factual dispute.

This statement explains, in a few words, why the bill the taxpayers will have to foot could be $1 million.

There are synonyms for the act of saying something that is “blatently inaccurate,” but I won’t suggest any, because I might then be hauled into court myself.

Shouldn’t employees responsible for those “blatently inaccurate” statements be held accountable? I think so. Otherwise, the City will just rely on its ability to pick our pockets for the money next time as well.

It’s an election season, and it’s fair to ask why Mayor Caldwell allowed the unconstitional sweeps to occur and then allowed his employees to deny before a judge what they were pretty obviously doing, as the plaintiffs were able to prove.

Related: ACLU files new motion to stop Honolulu’s illegal destruction of property during sweeps of homeless camps (11/4/2-15) (contains snip from deposition you’ve just gotta read)

Monday, September 12, 2016


Enjoy your cheese, sunbirds

Specialty meats and some 35 cheeses also may be purchased by the pound. The cheese offerings will expand as more selections arrive from local purveyors, said Johan Svensson, executive chef for Dean &DeLuca.
Star-Advertiser, 9/12/2016

by Larry Geller

Perhaps you thought I was kidding when I predicted lots of cheese in Kakaako’s future. In fact, it’s not possible to do gentrification properly in today’s America without cheese.

The red carpets rolled out to lure wealthy sunbirds and millionaires to pricy Waikiki or Kakaako condos are strewn not with flowers but with wedges of cheese.

CheeseAnd so it’s no surprise at all that today’s Star-Advertiser article (in the “Money” section, of course) announcing the opening of Dean & DeLuca’s in the posh Ritz-Carlton Residences Waikiki Beach features a chef holding a platter of cheese. (Star-Advertiser p. B1, Dean & DeLuca to open first Hawaii site in Waikiki, 9/12/2016). Of course, cheese is featured.

[Just to demonstrate that I have no antipathy to cheese, note the small sampling of cheeses from our own fridge.]

So they will start with 35 cheeses and expand from there. Gentrification is well under way.

The ultra-rich need their Zabars, Whole-Foods, Dean & DeLucas and cheese shops because they eat lots of cheese.

“When Miss Petitfour made a fancy salad, Minky watched the way the lettuce leaves bent under the slight weight of the Parmesan; when Miss Petitfour had cheese toast for tea, Minky noticed how the cheddar melted into every little crevice and crater of the toast. She licked her whiskers greedily when Miss Petitfour lowered her hand to feed her snippets and smidgens, pinches and wedges, slices and crumbs. Minky loved all cheese--Swiss cheese, Edam cheese, Gruyere and Roquefort, Brie cheese and blue cheese, mozzarella and Parmesan, hard cheese, crumbly cheese, creamy cheese, lumpy cheese. Minky even had a cheese calendar that she kept with, which Miss Petitfour had given to her for Christmas. Each month there was a big picture of a different kind of cheese in a mouthwatering pose: blue cheese cavorting with pears, cheddar laughing with apples, Gruyere lounging with grapes, Edam joking with parsley.”
― Anne Michaels, The Adventures of Miss Petitfour

Instead of workforce housing which would make sense so many ways, our legislators decided to cater to the rich, ultra-rich, foreign investors and sunbirds. For one thing, no $8.1 billion train is needed if one can walk to work or take a bus to Waikiki. Instead, we’re making it possible for the ultra-rich to walk a short distance to nearby Whole Foods or Dean & DeLuca.

Too bad we, the public, are not involved in city planning.

Here is the gift we are giving the moneyed folk:

Kakaako 2050[3]

If you would like to drive over and sniff the cheeses, the article notes that parking is $4 per half hour for your sniffing.


Worse from a moral sense is the history underlying these luxury condos and cheese shops. It’s not just third-world countries that clear the slums to build housing for the rich. Honolulu city government did the same, with its repeated sweeps of Kakaako homeless and lack of planning for affordable housing (there still is no plan to produce the number of housing units the city will need).

I can't believe what inept politicians and cops we have in Hawaii who think solving the homeless problem means taking their stuff. Try having all your worldly possessions taken by guys with guns at 3AM... guys who tell you their job is to protect and serve. See how long it takes you to recover mentally from that and stop being homeless when all you can think about is how much you need to poop and drink water and eat and sleep and wash/dry your clothes and get out of the rain and heal your wounds but you can't because the cops took your clothes and soap and bike and tent and bed and food and meds and trash you were gonna recycle for cash.—
Anonymous comment

Enjoy your cheese, sunbirds.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Seriously now, can Hawaii double domestic food production while ag land is being taken for development?

The carpenter needs work, but here it comes at the expense of the farmer
.quoting myself again

by Larry Geller

20160911SAA Star-Advertiser front-page story today reports that Hawaii Governor Ige has revised a campaign pledge to double domestic food production by 2020. Now it’s 2030.

Should we be surprised? Here’s the same paper’s front page just two days ago:

20160909SAThe cryptic headline is attached to a report of groundbreaking for the sprawling Hoopili development, located on what may be the best agricultural land on Oahu.
Land use on Oahu is a municipal matter, and I don’t think there is much doubt that the City Council is in the pockets of the developers (see, for example, the data in this article). If so, the gov’s pledge hasn’t a chance.

It’s not just the City Council. Mayor Caldwell has been in the news this election season re questions about his “side job” for a bank that earns him $200,000 a year. It’s fair to ask if he has a conflict should development be a policy issue that his bank might have an interest in.

Without abundant land to be farmed it’s hard to see that agriculture can increase materially by 2030, and a campaign pledge of 2020 now sounds like a huge joke. On us, of course.

The pull-quote above is from a rant I posted in 2012, Hoopili, Koa Ridge: Part of Honolulu’s end game. A snip:

In Honolulu, the transformation from a Pacific island to Los Angeles by the Sea is approaching reality. Our city government sees no reason to restrain developers and gives in to each and every grand scheme. Residents of Honolulu, unlike, say, the concerned citizens of Portland, Oregon, are content to leave city planning, if there is such a thing here at all, to elected officials fattened by developers and related architects, engineers, and trade unions. The carpenter needs work, but here it comes at the expense of the farmer.

Paving over farmland is also well advanced. The lush Manoa valley used to be the breadbasket of Honolulu. Each day enough rain would fall, and then the sun would cause any kind of plant to grow. There were cows and horses, I’m told. But look at it now. Yes, lawns in the valley are lush and green, but they don’t feed anyone.

We already import almost all of our food, a situation which causes local money to fly out of state since supermarkets are owned by Mainland firms. What kind of idiots are we, to prefer canned vegetables to freshly grown?

Friday, September 09, 2016


High-tech not producing the jobs we need to pay for affordable housing

It seems to happen with increasing frequency. An ambitious local entrepreneur announces that she’s moving to the West Coast, or a feisty Hawaii-born startup announces that it’s setting up an office in San Francisco. The Facebook post gets dozens of likes and congratulatory comments, but more than a few “sad” emoticons as well.—
Ryan Ozawa in Civil Beat article

by Larry Geller

I don’t know about “increasing frequency”—so-called “high-tech” firms have been packing up and leaving Hawaii (with, thankfully, some exceptions) since I began watching in 1989.

It would be strange if there were no high-tech here, but not surprising that both new ventures and established companies move to where their markets or suppliers are.

Investors don’t care, as long as their investment grows.

We should care by measuring the effectiveness of taxpayer money spent growing and attracting these high-tech firms. Why? We need well-paying jobs for Hawaii people, not better jobs for Mainland folks.

Just before the millennium the state was promoting a “high tech park” that was really a Castle & Cook industrial park near Mililani, not much more than that. Castle & Cooke was the most important player in the deals, because it could make it attractive for a company to set up in the park. Nevertheless, companies like Verifone left, and Motorola, despite a commendable effort to convince them to move to Hawaii, ultimately declined.

The state and the newspapers regularly highlight one high-tech darling after another. “Success” stories such as Hoku Scientific turned sour in due time.

Hawaii is indeed a great place to start a business. Particularly if the founders or CEO are attached to the lifestyle or the climate. Sooner or later the bean counters come knocking, though, urging that CEO to put away the surfboard and check out the most appropriate place for the company to locate in order to prosper. Investors urge the same. And so the company leaves.

I’ve written about this often enough.

Let’s look at the big picture. We need well-paying jobs here, whether high-tech,  low-tech or no-tech. Housing is expensive. We need more truly affordable housing (which would, incidentally, make the state a more reasonable place to start and retain a business—employees need to be able to afford to live here!).

We have a homelessness “crisis” that requires we not only have housing but have jobs that can pay the rent.

Should we be investing in high-tech as a solution?

Maybe. But so far, it isn’t working. In fact, a February 2015 Star-Advertiser editorial page article noted that Hawaii is last in the nation in high-tech jobs—yes, last out of 51 states and DC.

As taxpayers, we deserve a report on the return on our investments. It won’t be easy increasing the number of well-paying jobs, but it’s important to work on it.

No, I don’t have a great idea on how to do that. Sorry, I don’t believe in pie in the sky solutions. But something’s gotta give, we can’t afford to just increase taxes on a population already experiencing growing poverty.


AP articles on conditions for foreign fisherman should make us pause before buying

Though federal laws and rules don’t mention Hawaii’s fishing fleet by name, technicalities buried in immigration law, maritime regulations and agency rule books have combined to give it a rare distinction: In the Aloha State hundreds of foreign fishermen are stuck on their boats for years.—AP

by Larry Geller

If  “Boat owners, captains, and most of their crew are supposed to be American [see: How US laws trap foreign workers on Hawaii’s fishing boats, (AP) 9/8/2016]” how come the deception that our fish are caught by Hawaii fisherman continues?

The short AP article cites the laws that make this possible. Please click and read.

Those laws remain in effect. That could mean that the situation won’t change any time soon.

Since we like our poke, who will be motivated to free the foreign fisherman who supply it, or to push for laws to protect them?

Think of who is explointing these fishermen as you stare at the poke counter at Costco or the fish counter at Whole Foods next time.

If we continue to buy this fish, we are part of the problem.

Thursday, September 08, 2016


AP story on Hawaii fishing fleet conditions begins to spread internationally

by Larry Geller

The AP story on conditions on ships delivering the Hawaii fish harvest is beginning to spread around the world. Google Translate makes it possible to kind of read each one to see how the story is presented overseas. So far, the coverage isn’t any prettier than the original AP English version.

Here’s a small sample. More stories are sure to be on the way: the AP report is still just freshly released.

Sleepy cages pay 5.4 yuan 10 years

Hawaii Honolulu pleasant scenery, local seafood is also very famous. But after six months after The Associated Press survey found that about 700 undocumented illegal workers from Southeast Asia and the Pacific island countries, the local fishing boats working at an hourly rate as low as 70 cents (approximately HK $ 5.4), and lack of basic labor protection. usually live in isolated, very poor hygiene boats can not get food and clothing, and trafficking in human beings is no different. 

[, 夏威夷血汗漁業 「販運」黑工, 9/9/2016]

An Indonesian article focused on two Indonesian fisherman who were able to escape from bondage on Hawaii vessels:

Associated Press investigation found a number of foreign fishermen in the United States who work like slaves, because they were paid very low in very poor working conditions. Two fishermen from Indonesia managed to escape from slavery in the ship.

As shown Coverage 6 SCTV hours, Thursday (09/08/2016), two fishermen from Indonesia who work on foreign fishing vessels that supply fish to the biggest fish auction in the United States, in Honolulu, Hawaii, in March 2016 and fled from fishing boats where they work.

[, Jakarta, VIDEO: A Tale of Two Fishermen Indonesia Fleeing From Foreign Ships in the US, 9/8/2016]


Now the condition of undocumented workers in Hawaii’s fishing fleet is exposed—but who will act to reform the system?

Hawaii's high-quality seafood is sold with the promise that it's caught by local, hard-working fishermen. But the people who haul in the prized catch are almost all undocumented foreign workers, confined to American boats for years at a time.AP video

Some salaries break down to as little as 70 cents an hour; for many boat owners, bait and ice cost more than crew salaries. ... The U.S. Attorney's office says the system is legal. ... A loophole in federal regulations pushed by lawmakers including late Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye allows foreign men to work on the fleet. … The men catch seafood including marlin, swordfish and ahi tuna used to make poke, a Hawaiian salad made with raw fish that's a staple in the islands. One fish can bring as much as $1,000 at Hawaii's fish auction, the only one of its kind still operating in the U.SLike Hawaiian seafood? Here's who's catching it, AP, SeattlePI

by Larry Geller

AP stories

The Associated Press received the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for public service for the work of its investigative reporters in revealing slave labor conditions in Asian fishing fleets. Thousands of captive workers were freed as a direct result of their work.

Now Margie Mason and Martha Mendoza, lead AP investigators on this issue, have published their findings after visiting Hawaii to research conditions on fishing fleets that supply Honolulu’s famous fish auction.

The investigation found men living in squalor on some boats, forced to use buckets instead of toilets, suffering running sores from bed bugs and sometimes lacking sufficient food. It also revealed instances of human trafficking.

Their report exposed unacceptable conditions on ships that echo the farm labor scandals that came to light not so many years ago in Hawaii. Legal action probably ended the majority of slave labor conditions in farming, but who will act to end the abusive practices in Hawaii’s fishing fleet? Will the publication of a story revealing that Hawaii government right up to the late Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye created the loopholes that make exploitation possible now motivate lawmakers to close those loopholes?

From the SeattlePI story:

Around 700 undocumented foreign workers, mostly from impoverished Southeast Asian and Pacific Island nations, work on Hawaii's commercial fishing fleet, the country's fifth-highest grossing fishery. They catch prized ahi tuna, mahimahi and other seafood at some of the country's finest restaurants, markets and hotels. They do not have visas and cannot enter the country, staying confined to their boats for sometimes years at a time — all with the blessing of high-ranking federal lawmakers and officials. An Associated Press investigation found instances of human trafficking, active tuberculosis and low food supplies.

[, Like Hawaiian seafood? Here's who's catching it, 9/8/2016]

APVersions of the story have appeared in newspapers around the country, including a front-page story in today’s Star-Advertiser. The full AP story is here.

Click the image below for an AP video.

AP video


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