Wednesday, December 07, 2016


Three months after the AP revealed slave-like conditions aboard boats in the Hawaii fishing fleet, no fix is in sight

Another threat to Hawaii’s tuna and swordfish fisheries are the deplorable conditions for foreign workers on the boats, recently described as “slave-like,” by the Associated Press.  The treatment of these workers is unjust and un-American.  These disgraceful conditions are perpetuated by boat owners who do not want to pay the minimum wage, so they jump through immigration loopholes to employ foreigners, many of them desperate, and are often indebted to the owners.  What will the owners do if they are forced to pay their workers a living wage?  Will they give everyone a raise and start hiring American citizens, or will they move the fleet to an island country where these conditions are allowed?  We assume it will be the latter, and when that happens it will not be the fault of the conservationists, but that of the fishing boat owners, who put personal profits first.—
article in The Hill

by Larry Geller

Despite world-wide publicity resulting from Associated Press articles that exposed slave-like conditions aboard Hawaii’s long line fishing fleet, almost exactly three months after the story broke, nothing has been done to bring relief to the foreign fishermen.

Hawaii’s government leaders came in for withering criticism Tuesday at a Capitol Hill forum on abusive labor conditions for foreign fishermen employed as contract workers.

Witnesses described working conditions on the Hawaii-based tuna fleet as “tragic,” “gruesome,” “unconstitutional” and “brutal,” asserting that the foreign workers have been exempted from U.S. labor laws and protections to boost the profits of the fishing industry.

[Civil Beat, Activist: Officials Care More About Fish Than People Aboard Ships, 20161207]

Fishing "is used as a tool for slavery," said Kathryn Xian, executive director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, a Honolulu-based advocacy group.

Xian and other speakers at the forum urged Congress to close the loophole that allows workers to stay on the boats without coming ashore.

[from the forum held in Washington DC yesterday, widely reported in an AP story]

See Disappeared News article below for a video of the forum.

From the Civil Beat article:

About 60 people attended the event, including Capitol Hill staffers and officials from the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Justice Department.

It was held in a meeting room located just upstairs of a giant statue of King Kamehameha in the rotunda of the Capitol Visitors Center.

Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, which has been issuing licenses to foreign fishermen confined to ships and unable to land in Hawaii, continues the practice even though it is in clear violation of Hawaii state law to do so. The signatures of these fishermen are obtained by the captains or owners without the assistance of translators, another violation of state law and also of federal law.

A petition to correct DLNR’s rules so as to conform to state and federal law was denied at the hearing. [disclosure: I am one of the signers of the petition]

Congress has not yet closed the loophole that permits workers to remain on the boats in deportation status, with the ship captains holding their passports.

In the absence of action either in Hawaii or in Congress, conditions aboard Hawaii’s long line fishing fleet will likely remain unchanged for the short term. The Associated Press can be expected to follow the situation, and Hawaii will continue to be embarrassed by the resulting world-wide coverage until indeed something changes to bring relief to the fishermen.

Subscribers to the Star-Advertiser may find an article on the forum buried in back of the business section on page B7, just before the obituaries. Apparently November home, condo sales jump is a more important story to the editors.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016


Watch Fishing for Justice forum from Washington, DC, with Hawaii panelist Kathryn Xian

Congress should act immediately to improve slave-like conditions for hundreds of foreign fishermen working in Hawaii’s commercial fleet, speakers at a congressional forum said Tuesday. “These fishermen are treated like disposable people,” said Mark Lagon, a scholar at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, who told the forum the fishermen live like modern-day slaves.--Seattle Times (AP)

by Larry Geller

Here’s the YouTube video of today’s forum. Click the thingy at the lower right for full screen.

An AP story covering the forum is here via the Seattle Times.


The sound in the YouTube video was barely audible on my computer. If you’d like a version you can actually hear, click this link. It takes a while to load, it’s a big file.

Monday, December 05, 2016


Kathryn Xian is in Washington—tune in tomorrow at 8 a.m. HST for live stream of Fishing for Justice forum

by Larry Geller

Note change in URL from previous post.

Kathy sends a new link for the live stream—different from my previous post.

Tune in at 8 a.m. Hawaii time Tuesday Dec. 6 at to watch the presentations.

The House Natural Resource Democratic forum examines recent reports of forced labor and human trafficking in the seafood industry; discuss legal frameworks that have the potential to combat labor and human rights violations at sea; and explore multi-stakeholder initiatives that promote the safety and working conditions of fishermen. The panel is open to Members of Congress, staffers, the media, and the public.

Panelists will be:

Mark Lagon, former Director Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S Department of State

John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute

Kathryn Xian, executive director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Kathryn Xian, Executive Director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery (PASS), called to Washington to testify on fishing abuses

by Larry Geller

Kathy Xian testifyingKathryn Xian, Executive Director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery (PASS), has been called to testify before a Congressional committee to report on human trafficking and other abuses in Hawaii’s long line fishing fleet.
: see the announcement here (Executive Session - Fishing for Justice: Slavery and Human Rights Abuses at Sea.

The session of the House Committee on Natural Resources will be live-streamed from on December 6, HCNRD2016 from 8:00 – 9:00 a.m. Hawaii time (1-2 p.m. EST).

In addition to Xian, the panelists are scheduled to include:
Mark Lagon, formerly ED of the anti-human trafficking non-profit Polaris Project and Director of the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP)

John Connelly, President of the National Fisheries Institute

Clare Ogden, Administrator, Centennial Fellows Program at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service (SFS)

The panel moderator will be Paul Greenberg, author of books including "Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food”

Kathryn Xian is the founder of  'Girl Fest Hawaii' whose mission is to prevent violence against women and girls through education and art. Girl Fest Hawaii was instrumental in passing the nation's first state law outlawing sex-tourism, a law which became become a model for other states. As ED of PASS she lobbied for the passage of Hawaii’s first labor-trafficking law and reforms to the state's promoting prostitution statutes.

She is currently a leader in the effort to eradicate human trafficking and other labor and human rights abuses discovered in the Hawaii long lines fishing fleet.

Monday, November 28, 2016


Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: The State of the World Right Now: A View


The State of the World Right Now: A View

28 November 2016

#456 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

“View” meaning not only a glimpse from above, but a position taken on the world on which the US electorate is now dumping Donald Trump.

That world is today basically multi-polar, maybe with 8 poles: Anglo-America, Latin America-Caribbean, African Unity, Islam-OIC from Casablanca to Mindanao, European Union, Russia more region than state, SAARC from Nepal to Sri Lanka, ASEAN, Australia-New Zealand.

And multi-regional Shanghai Cooperation Organization, SCO, with China and Russia, Islamic countries, India and Pakistan.

There is a waning state reality, smaller states being increasingly absorbed in regions.

There is a waxing region reality with the above eight; adding West Asian, Central Asian and Northeast Asian regions, maybe eleven.

There is a global reality based on IGOs, inter-governmental organizations with the United Nations on top; TNCs, the transnational corporations with the US-based on top so far; and INGOs, international non-governmental organizations, with religions on top.

Insert into all of that something concrete from William Blum’s Anti-Empire Report #146 and his Rogue State. From WWII, the USA has:

  1. Attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically elected;
  2. Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries;
  3. Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders;
  4. Attempted to suppress populist or nationalist movements in 20 countries;
  5. More involved in the practice of torture than any other country, performing, teaching, providing manuals and furnishing equipment.

Then, insert President Xi’s proposal November 17-23 2016 for Latin American countries and 21 APEC countries meeting in Lima, Peru:

  1. FTAAP: Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific; inclusive, for all;
  2. RCEP: Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, also inclusive as opposed to TPP, Trans-Pacific Partnership, excluding China.

TPP to FTAAP moves the power center from Washington to Beijing.

Into this reality dump Trump who has pledged to ditch TPP.

That does not mean buying FTAAP-RAW; maybe more a set of Chinese divide and rule bilateral deals than a real multilateral IGO. However, negotiating deals with China should appeal to Trump the businessman.

Now, given the 5 Blum points from US history, will a move of one important power center from Washington to Beijing be permitted by the US military-economic forces, Pentagon-Wall Street, in conjunction? Will they prevail upon Trump to change his mind and ditch the pledge to drop TPP, or simply move ahead along the lines of points 1-5?

Depends on Congress overriding Trump Executive directives and Trump vetoing that, and so on.  That in turn depends on to what extent Congress is now GOP Republican or Trump Republican. Nobody knows.

There is more going on in the world than USA-China relations.

China-India trade is overtaking China-USA trade before China overtakes USA economically. Both are Asian countries, both are SCO. A concrete implication is that a decreasing percentage of world trade deals is made in US dollars as they recognize each other’s currencies.

At the same time the top country in the EU, Germany, is in great difficulty because a leading corporation, Volkswagen has problems with its emission swindle, paying hefty fines, now sacking 30,000 workers.  Now is the time, if ever, for France-Italy-Spain-Sweden-Czech to produce jointly an alternative car.

At the same time the bottom country in the EU, Greece, is doing well, playing the Chinese card. China is buying Piraeus, making Greece the entry point for Chinese business in Europe with products, goods and services at highly acceptable quality over price ratios.

At the same time US economy is running out of options, losing its hold on EU with Brexit. The Bratislava Summit of 27 EU members 16 Sep 2016 refused to fight US wars.  That may tempt USA even more to wage their own with mini-nukes &c. But Trump foreign policies with Russia, China and in East Asia may deprive them of arguments for doing so.

However, what does Trump have to build upon to make America great again economically? With an American economy servicing huge debts, with freshly printed dollars far beyond the value of the economy (but still no inflation), with a risky finance economy in command, and little of quality to export but arms, and some cars? Jobs to build infrastructure have to be financed and he has promised lower taxes. Although reforming tax codes may stop some loopholes.

Possible answer: increased foreign trade, based on better foreign relations, seeing others as business partners, not as threats. Just wait, one day USA may trade with North Korea, competing with China.

If Trump can lay his hands on money flowing in from abroad, and make trading companies invest in the much lagging US infrastructure.

Yet, the counter-forces are strong.  William Blum #146:

Everything is “rigged” for a Clinton tenure of belligerence.

Instead they got Trump foreign policy. Against very heavy odds.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. Prof. Galtung has published 1670 articles and book chapters, over 450 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service, and 167 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.

Friday, November 25, 2016


Will Hawaii remain a leader in solar installation? Or rather, how do we salvage a wounded solar industry?

To understand the effects of smart solar inverters on utility systems, there’s no better place to study them than Hawaii. The state has the highest electricity rates in the United States, which, along with incentives from the utility, has given residents and businesses powerful motivation to install their own PV systems. The state now has about 20 times as many solar installations connected to its grid as the average mainland state does, and that trend is likely to continue.
IEEE Spectrum

by Larry Geller

IEEE Spectrum is a remarkable magazine in several ways. It’s technical, of course, since it is published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Yet most of the articles are accessible to a more general audience.

Smarter solarAlso, they post many (most?) of the printed articles to the web. Anyone can read these, a great service.

The pull-quote above is from a current article in the magazine: Can Smarter Solar Inverters Save the Grid? and is all about Hawaii.

It turns out that programmable inverters are actually the best way to solve the grid instability issues presented by the interconnection to HECO’s power grid of so much rooftop solar. What kind of inverter are they talking about? Check out the article, it’s not so complicated. In a nutshell, the inverter reacts on its own to correct voltage or frequency imbalances, performing a service to all grid users.

Sending commands from a central point to control thousands of inverters simply won’t work properly. This will.

Now, as to the pull-quote’s rejoicing that the trend in solar installations is likely to continue, unfortunately not. Or not yet, anyway. Check out Henry Curtis’ article Oops, The Small Print, Gotta Read the Small Print (ililani media, 11/25/2016). If I understand the numbers correctly, installations appear already to have ground to a virtual halt.

Could it be that as usual, Hawaii is just more technically challenged than other places? The IEEE article suggests the opposite. Or is it that we are not good at planning? Perhaps. That has consequences. The solar industry brought us job growth and then expired. Did it have to?

If you don’t have solar panels installed on your roof yet, check out this article while you wait.

Update: Henry reviewed the IEEE article in more depth, also pointing out some errors. See: Smart Solar Inverters Stabilize Electric Grids in Hawai`i (ililani media, 11/26/2016).

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Audit faults Hawaii’s Dept. of Taxation in a slick and accessible report format

We have serious concerns about DoTAX’s extended delay in promulgating rules. It has been more than ten years since the current form of the film tax credit was enacted. … We also found that the film office’s analysis of film tax credit data does not measure the incentive’s true costs and reports economic impacts that are based on incomplete and overstated data.—Audit of Hawai‘i’s Motion Picture, Digital Media, and Film Production Income Tax Credit

by Larry Geller

Hawaii taxpayers are likely footing the bill for large tax credits given to film producers while the benefits to the state cannot be defined by the Hawaii Film Office or the state Department of Taxation.

Les Kondo, the new Legislative Auditor, has a way with words—that is, using them clearly and effectively for public benefit. As ED of the state Ethics Commission he explained the ethics statutes in plain language to legislators. They didn’t like what they heard, but that’s a long-running theme in our state government. Now at his new post he has found a way to make the formerly dull business of investigating the state’s business accessible.

Just-released audit 16-08: Audit of Hawai‘i’s Motion Picture, Digital Media, and Film Production Income Tax Credit or the summary here is a well-presented as a modern magazine article. Imagine: an attractive audit report! 

Now, a good audit report is not generally measured by its form, but rather, by its thoroughness and accuracy, perhaps. Sure. And then, who reads it? We have to depend on news Auditors Summaryreporters to decipher it and reveal its essence in the couple of paragraphs allowed in our shrinking daily paper.

Click on the image at right and gaze upon the summary of this report. It has a large photo illustration, sub-heads or breakers that provide useful leads to the material, and even sidebars, pull-quotes and illustrations. The full report is equally attractive.

This report resembles a magazine article more than a government audit, and is much more readable and accessible than previous reports. I say kudos, Kondo.

Les Kondo has done the work for the news media. I’m also wondering if ordinary citizens will now find the reports interesting enough to skim through them and learn about the underlying issues of law and governance the reports raise.

Failure to have required administrative rules or to properly administer a program and be ready to account for it to the legislature are not uncommon themes. Reading audit reports is one way to be informed about the efficiency of our government and how well it administers our hard-earned tax money.

There’s a lot that needs improving in Hawaii’s state government

Having information accessible to the public means that it is easier to highlight where we need to chase after government administration to get its act straight. The pull-quote at the top of this post provides some suggestions.

First, can you imagine allowing a decade to pass without required administrative rules?  Second, who has been watching this for the past decade? Which parts of government should be held accountable?

Any good story needs some conflict

There is conflict and drama in the report as well. The Auditor and the state Attorney General clash on whether the Use Tax is an out-of-state expense. Note that the AG does not have the last word. In these cases it must be kept in mind that he is the client’s (the agency’s) attorney.

The audit notes that paying tax credits for out-of-state business expenditures is not the intent of the statute. How long has that been going on? Ten years? That’s why the rules are needed. A side question: can tax credits improperly paid be reclaimed?

Monday, November 14, 2016


Trump hasn’t taken office yet the mythology of equality in America is being dashed already

…We’ve seen and witnessed a group of young black teens being harassed by another group of white teens calling them the N-word and telling them that they need to go back to Africa, and if they want to go back to Africa, not to worry, that Trump sends them there free. So, it was really crazy and
Democracy Now, 11/14/2016

by Larry Geller

Contrary to much contemporary wisdom, the United States has one of the longest uninterrupted political traditions of any nation in the world. What is more, that tradition is unambiguous; its meaning is articulated in simple, rational speech that is immediately comprehensible and powerfully persuasive to all normal human beings. America tells one story: the unbroken, ineluctable progress of freedom and equality. From its first settlers and its political foundings on, there has been no dispute that freedom and equality are the essence of justice for us. No one serious or notable has stood outside this consensus. You had to be a crank or a buffoon (e.g., Henry Adams or H. L. Mencken, respectively) to get attention as a nonbeliever in the democracy.

The above is from p. 54 of The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom. A search took me to this book and this page, I have’t read much else of it and what I have leads me to say I can’t recommend it. But we seem to have one new name to add to Bloom’s list.

Of course, I disagree with the basic thesis. Our history of slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the mass internment of Japanese-Americans, the Native American genocide, and the suppression and near-genocide of Native Hawaiians contradicts Bloom very clearly. Not to mention the current wave of voter suppression and women’s never-ending struggle for equality and basic human rights.

Each country has its own mythology. Bloom is describing ours. Perhaps it should remain as an ideal, even though it doesn’t ring true otherwise. One day, perhaps, it might be achieved… though not apparently any time soon.

Social media and alternative media including Democracy Now report the abuses currently rampant across our land, revealing that the “unbroken, ineluctable progress of freedom and equality” remains actually as broken and dubious as ever.

No sense of this appears in our shrunken daily newspaper. It seems to me to be essential that this be reported, so we may deal with it as concerned citizens. Somehow.

Trump is the enabler, but I am saddened by the eruption of racism and bigotry on the streets, in the tweets, and in schools.

From today’s Democracy Now, a high school sophomore from New Jersey, speaking to the reporter at a protest:

… A friend I know went to high school on Wednesday, and people were saying racial—or religious slurs toward Islamic people who go to her school, and things like that. It’s definitely prevalent.

A parent:

We started to hear that there are violence or abuses against the people of color, children of color, in rural neighborhoods in the United States, and that’s a really dangerous sign. Here in New York, diversity is embraced, but you don’t know what is going to happen, even in a progressive state like New York. And we’re really concerned that a Trump administration is going to incite violence, hate, racism and other dangerous policies, which could affect or threaten safe environment for parents to raise kids.

In time, perhaps over several generations, the mythology might have prevailed. Now, I am not so sure. It hurts deeply to see how easily the racist, misogynistic underbelly of this country has come to the fore. The students are acting out what they learned from their parents. Now they are repeating the abuse, setting back the possibility of democracy, freedom and equality for another generation.

Friday, November 11, 2016


1998 book predicts “something will crack”

One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the
past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals,
will be wiped out.—
Richard Rorty

In Germany there was a yearning for fascism before fascism was invented.—Chris Hedges

by Larry Geller

This snip from a 1998 book has been retweeted more than 6,000 times at this writing:

[M]embers of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will
sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to
prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported.
Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar
workers themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not
going to let themselves be taxed 10 provide social benefits for anyone

At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will
decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a
strongman to vote for someone willing to assure them that, once he
is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond
salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the

One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the
past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals,
will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into
fashion.... All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel
about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will
find an outlet.

[Richard Rorty, Achieving our Country, 1998, available as an ebook from] [but hurry up, the waiting list is growing…]

Chris Hedges quotes this same passage from Rorty more completely in his Death of the Liberal Class, 2010, p. 35:

Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. The words "nigger" and "kike" will once again be heard in the workplace. All the sadism that the academic Left has tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.

and then Hedges goes on:

The hatred for radical Islam will transform itself into a hatred for Muslims. The hatred for undocumented workers in states such as Arizona will become a hatred for Mexicans and Central Americans. The hatred for those not defined as American patriots by a largely white mass movement will become a hatred for African Americans.

Where is this possibly headed? Hedges wrote (p. 34), referring to right-wing groups:

But, as I was told by Fritz Stern, a scholar of fascism and a refugee from Nazi Germany, "In Germany there was a yearning for fascism before fascism was invented." This is the yearning that we now see, and it is dangerous.


Greg Palast: The Election was Stolen – Here’s How

Starting in 2013 – just as the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act – a coterie of Trump operatives, under the direction of Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State, created a system to purge 1.1 million Americans of color from the voter rolls of GOP–controlled states.
Greg Palast

by Larry Geller

If you watch Democracy Now, you already know this.

Please do click over to, read his article, and watch his short, 4-minute video.

I’ll snip his illustration of what happened to this election, and one reason that Donald Trump got “elected.” He is describing how a voter purge system called Crosscheck was used to steal the votes of minorities and so swing the election to Trump:

Trump victory margin in Michigan:                    13,107
Michigan Crosscheck purge list:                       449,922

Trump victory margin in Arizona:                       85,257
Arizona Crosscheck purge list:                           270,824

Trump victory margin in North Carolina:        177,008
North Carolina Crosscheck purge list:              589,393

As you read his article, please keep in mind that this is nothing new. Palast has been reporting on Crosscheck for some time. Had the purges been stopped, the outcome of the election would have been very different.

But our government didn’t intervene, and so we are in our current predicament.

Monday, November 07, 2016


“Would we want ivanka trump?” as our next School Suprintendent in Hawaii?

“Would we want ivanka trump?” the Oprah Network

by Larry Geller

As a transplant from New York City to Hawaii, one thing I miss is the political activism, the concern, the opinions that motivate New Yorkers to action on most any important subject. The media encouraged activism by supporting a variety of views from Right to Left, from Conservative to Liberal, or any other way one chose to slice public opinion.

Now School Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi is on her way out. It took a while, didn’t it, and still, media are not really examining what qualifications a school superintendent should have. Nor was there any great uprising on the streets when a person with no pedagogical experience was chosen to lead our statewide school district.

When faced with a similar situation, New Yorkers rebelled.

Here’s a re-run of my May 2013 article:

Sunday, May 05, 2013

A tale of two Cathies—New York parents rejected a school chancellor with no educational background, Hawaii parents did not

by Larry Geller

New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg appointed Cathy Black as school chancellor in 2010 even though she had no suitable credentials. She was a publishing executive with no experience in education.

New York parents revolted, and she was booted out of there.

Kathryn Matayoshi was also appointed in 2010, by Hawaii’s appointed Board of Education. The BOE has a decided business background itself, and it appointed a person in its own image. Matayoshi is an attorney, who served, for example, as executive director of the Hawaii Business Roundtable. Like NYC’s school CEO, she also lacks credentials in the field of education.

Cathy Black was booted out, but Kathryn Matayoshi is still in office.

The tale of the NYC Cathy is alive again as a court ordered some of Mayor Bloomberg’s emails to be released publicly after a long struggle.

Now here's a NY Post editorial from this weekend after the Cathie Black emails were released and revealed her to be as clueless about education and unqualified for the job as her critics said she was.

[Perdido Street School, A Tale Of Two NY Post Cathie Black Editorials, 5/5/2013] [scroll down—the link to the original NY Post editorial no longer works, but there is this]

That article will take you into the heart of the New York issue, including a description of the psyops strategy intended to slide Black into office:

They courted celebrities such as fashion designers Donna Karan and Diane von Furstenberg. They tried Caroline Kennedy, who wisely didn’t respond. “Would we want ivanka trump?” wondered Black in one e-mail. The jewel in the crown was Oprah, who sang Black’s praises in a newspaper interview and sealed the deal.

[New York Post, The Oprah network, 5/4/2013] [use link above]

I was aware of the two Cathies similarity when they both were appointed. But did anyone but me care that our new schools superintendent was just as unqualified as New York’s Cathy Black? It didn’t seem so at the time, and it doesn’t appear so now.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike license.

Permalink posted by Larry @ 5/05/2013 05:31:00 PM 


Political appointees who are qualified to do the job? Don't go there. Down that road lies madness. Soon you will babble of measuring job performance, the end of nepotism and a transparent government. Madness, sir, madness.

# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : May 6, 2013 at 7:55:00 AM HST

Saturday, October 29, 2016


You’d think Hawaii would be the perfect place to test driverless cars… if only we maintained our roads

by Larry Geller

Watch this Tesla Motors video. Click the thingy at the lower right for full-screen, it's worth it:

You’d think Hawaii would be the perfect place to test driverless cars. With our ideal year-round climate, engineers could get a solid start. Those places with snow are not likely to get driverless cars early on anyway.

Unfortunately, I doubt any manufacturer would agree, considering how abominably we maintain our roadways. Notice in the video that the streets and parking lot are perfectly painted. Not so in Honolulu, anyway.

Here's an image of a section of the H-1 with long-standing confusing markings left by repair work that was just left as you see it.

I don't need to repeat here all the photos I've posted over the years of disappeared pavement paint on ordinary streets. There are even traffic lights installed above the wrong lanes. Ok, just one photo:


Forget about testing the cars for development. When driverless cars finally become commonplace, Honolulu will be on some sort of blacklist. Instead of being the first to use this technology, we’re more likely to be the last.


Thursday, October 27, 2016


The post-election potential new world order

by Larry Geller

I just stumbled across a book listed on that includes this sentence in its description:

Outlines the contours of a New World Order which feeds on human poverty and the destruction of the environment, generates social apartheid, encourages racism and ethnic strife and undermines the rights of women.

The book could be about today’s political scene, or next year’s, after the presidential election. I thought this must have been recently published, but no.

The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order was apparently published in 2003.

I’m not going to read it, I was just fixated on that sentence, written by some reviewer 13 years ago.

It’s not like we don’t know what could happen depending on who is elected.

So please vote.


Star-Advertiser: Your bias is showing

by Larry Geller

I don’t read the right-leaning columnists in the editorial section, but I diligently read the editorials in the Star-Advertiser. As Honolulu’s major daily news source, they are opinion leaders. So I was disappointed to find this, in today’s endorsement of Republic Gene Ward:

In a Democrat-ridden House, Ward’s opposition to proposals such as vehicle/gas tax increases in face of dubious spending is welcome.

“Democrat-ridden??” Like, “lice-ridden” or “disease-ridden?” It didn’t sound right to me as an editorial statement. I googled the definition to check myself:


“filled with or containing something unpleasant or unwanted”

I didn’t expect to actually see that in print in an editorial.

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


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