Thursday, April 17, 2014


Mark your calendar: April 21: Defending Hawaii's food supply by fighting farm labor trafficking

by Larry Geller

Please attend the meeting (see announcement, below) on Monday, April 21, if you are concerned with the safety of your food, and how the deplorable treatment of farm workers affects all of us. The problem is not “out there someplace”—it’s right there in front of you, on your dining room table.

If the previous article (below this one) scares you, it should.

The commercial press celebrated when federal charges had to be dropped against Aloun Farms, and never pursued the related issues of human trafficking on other farms in Hawaii nor the excessive use of pesticides that endangers all of our health.

Disadvantaged minorities don’t do well in Hawaii, whether they are special ed students, those who suffer mental health issues, Pacific Islanders, or—and these may be among the most disadvantaged of all—trafficked and exploited workers on Hawaii’s farms. Yes, human trafficking whether of sex workers or farm laborers is a terrible thing. In this instance, the problem can’t be ignored because it affects us all in our homes, on a daily basis.

Come hear two speakers who have been closely involved with remedying the problems of farm worker trafficking. Learn about the implications of Hawaii’s tolerance of the situation and how it affects you.

Perhaps Monday’s presentation will lead to a course of action to protect both the workers and our food supply.

On many Oahu farms, foreign workers hired as pesticide “sprayers” get sick and have even died as a result of repeated, excessive exposure to this pesticide.

Several of the workers on Oahu farms who Hawaii Reporter spoke to through translators cannot read product labels and warnings because they are written in English, so they may not mix or spray pesticides safely.

In many cases, Hawaii Reporter found workers are not given protective gear by Oahu farm owners and don’t have the proper training to apply pesticide safely on the fruits and vegetables they grow. The fruits and vegetables are then sold at Hawaii’s farmers’ markets and grocery stores and also are shipped overseas.


Monday, April 21, 2014

11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Miyama Main Hall, Harris United Methodist Church

Nuuanu Ave. and South Vineyard Blvd.

Ample parking - driveway off Nuuanu Ave.



11:30 Optional luncheon: Various Subway Sandwiches, Salad, Dessert—$5.00 Donation


11:50 Welcome: Introductions and Remarks, Larry Geller, President


12:00 Program: Defending Hawaii's food supply by fighting farm labor trafficking”

Guest Speakers: Malia Zimmerman and Clare Hanusz

Malia Zimmerman, Editor of the Hawaii Reporter, has won journalism awards for her public service reporting and for her investigation of human trafficking.

Attorney Clare Hanusz has represented many of the Thai farm workers trafficked to Hawaii. She is a founding member of the Hawaii Coalition for Immigration Reform and has spoken on immigration issues before many local groups and university classes.

Can Hawaii's food supply be considered safe if farm workers are compelled to apply pesticides in an unsafe manner?


12:30 Questions and Answers

1:00   Adjourn 


Hawaii’s trafficked farm workers may ultimately be compensated—but the health issue continues

The article below is reproduced with kind permission of the Hawaii Reporter. A bit of the formatting has suffered—to see the original, click here.

Food for thought: As you read the report, in addition to understanding the plight of trafficked workers on Hawaii’s farms, think of the produce that you buy, and the implications of potentially unsafe application of dangerous pesticides to Hawaii’s food crops. While wage theft, abuse and even injury and death on farms may seem like issues that have nothing to do with us, think again. Yes, abuse of farm workers affects us all. Pesticide residue can’t be rinsed off our veggies.

Note also that neither our Department of Health nor our Department of Agriculture are able to protect our food supply.

There’s a lot in this excellent article—please pay serious attention to the many issues it raises.

On many Oahu farms, foreign workers hired as pesticide “sprayers” get sick and have even died as a result of repeated, excessive exposure to this pesticide.

Several of the workers on Oahu farms who Hawaii Reporter spoke to through translators cannot read product labels and warnings because they are written in English, so they may not mix or spray pesticides safely.

In many cases, Hawaii Reporter found workers are not given protective gear by Oahu farm owners and don’t have the proper training to apply pesticide safely on the fruits and vegetables they grow. The fruits and vegetables are then sold at Hawaii’s farmers’ markets and grocery stores and also are shipped overseas.

Oahu Farm Fined $460,000 After U.S. Department of Labor Investigators Document "Deplorable" Conditions, Back Wages Owed

FAT LAW BASIL FARM BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN - HONOLULU – Fat Law Farm, which distributes herbs and vegetables to Safeway, D. Otani Produce and a number of other stores locally, and is exports 80 percent of Hawaiian-grown basil to the U.S. mainland and Canada, has been fined nearly a half a million dollars by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour division for its treatment of its Laotian workers.

The 425-acre farm in Leeward Oahu, owned by Frank Law, Alice Law and Tim Law, must pay $428,800 in back wages and liquidated damages to workers and another $31,200 in civil penalties because of “deplorable housing, safety and health conditions for workers," according to judgment approved by U.S. District Judge Michael Seabright.

Fat Law Farms violated the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions between 2011 and 2013, court documents show. (See Fat Law Consent Judgment)

“Failure to pay minimum wage and overtime to agricultural workers has become distressingly common when large agricultural actors, such as Fat Law’s Farm, establish a clear system of nonpayment or underpayment of wages,” said Janet Herold, the department’s regional solicitor in San Francisco. “This judgment makes clear that the department will not permit the creation of a second-tier workforce in which coercion, substandard housing and underpayment of wages rule the day.”

Terry Trotter, district director for the U.S. Department of Labor Wage & Hour division in Hawaii, said his department is aiming to make the workers "whole” after they were not paid the lawful minimum wage.

Ruben Rosalez, regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Labor Wage & Hour division in Western region, said the case is extremely significant because it is “very rare”, even nationally, to have this amount of back wages.


Living conditions at Fat Law are deplorable, the DOL saidLiving conditions at Fat Law are deplorable, the DOL said

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour division executed a search warrant in 2013 and reviewed Fat Law’s records.

“The department made use of a search warrant to get an honest snapshot of the pay practices and working conditions established by the employer and the documented effort to hide evidence and witnesses from inspection,” said Juan Coria, acting regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Western Region. “With the warrant, we obtained unhindered access to employee and payroll documents reflecting names and payment disbursements to workers employed at the farm, including employees paid only in cash. We will continue to protect workers, prevent abuse and enforce labor laws, particularly where workers are vulnerable and violations are so egregious, as in this case.”

Investigators discovered numerous violations including that Fat Law’s owners treated two main groups of workers very differently: Filipinos from the Philippines were paid $7.25 per hour and overtime, and Laotians were paid $5 per hour in cash, without overtime, for an average of 70 hours per week.

Trotter said the disparity in pay could lead his department to refer the case to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for further investigation.

And while it isn’t illegal to pay Laotian workers in cash, the case may warrant investigations by other agencies to determine if tax, insurance and employee mandate provisions were violated, Trotter said.

Farm Owners Go on the Record

While the federal decree signed by Seabright approved the judgement against Fat Law’s Farm formalizing the fines and violations, Alvin Law, spokesman for Fat Law Farm, said the document doesn’t tell their side of the story.

“Many allegations were also made about us and there are two sides to every story,” Alvin Law said.

U.S. DOL said living and working conditions at Fat Law are unsafe

U.S. DOL said living and working conditions at Fat Law are unsafe

The Fat Law farm employs 40 workers in its $5 million a year business, and said on its web site that its mission is to "provide global consumers year-round with fresh Hawaii grown Sweet basil, Thai basil, and other Asian herbs."

Alvin Law maintained Fat Law Farm does not have to pay minimum wage if workers are given a place to stay or meals.

“Most workers would rather be paid less in minimum wage and have a place to stay and eat, rather than be paid the minimum wage and commute to work. This is what we offered and what some of the workers wanted," Alvin Law said.

Trotter said it doesn’t matter what agreements workers and employees enter into, because that does not trump the statutory standards and minimum baseline standards relating to housing, transportation and pay.

Alvin Law maintained "workers were supplied a kitchen, lodging and laundry area" and said because the farm provided housing, Fat Law should have had a credit toward wages.

However, Rosalez countered that the credit toward wages is only considered when housing is not substandard. Rosalez said it is “shameful” that Fat Law would consider the living conditions “standard.”

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour division went even further in its report, calling the Fat Law Farm housing “deplorable."

Alvin Law also maintained there is an exemption for overtime for agricultural workers, which Fat Laws Farm was following.

Fat Law maintains it provided kitchen facilities to workers but the DOL said that is shameful.

Fat Law maintains it provided kitchen facilities to workers but the DOL said that is shameful.

“Most of our workers were under the exemption. However, what is not clear is that if a farm handles produce from another farm, even though the exemption is broad, the cases appear to indicate the exemption for overtime is lost. So during a work week one of our workers could handle 50 boxes of produce, and be exempt from overtime, but if they handle one box from another farm, the exemption is supposedly lost,” Alvin Law said.

“The bottom line is the rules are complex and we are working with the Department of Labor to become in compliance. We would suggest working with the DOL if there are any compliance questions since many of the standards and rules are not apparently obvious to small farmers,” Alvin Law said.

“Elements of Human Trafficking”

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour division began its investigation into Fat Law and other Oahu farms after a series of Hawaii Reporter stories highlighted how Laotian workers are trafficked from Laos to Hawaii via a B2 visitor visa scam and then placed on one of several Asian vegetable farms where they are subjected to deplorable working and living conditions, underpaid, and essentially are living in servitude for years.

Alvin Law said there are no illegal foreign workers currently employed with Fat Law, but didn't answer whether the farm had employed illegal workers in the past.

Kathryn Xian is head of GirlFest and the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery.

Kathryn Xian is head of GirlFest and the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery.

Kathryn Xian, founder of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, is an advocate for farm workers who have been trafficked in Hawaii. Her organization, which documented and reported the labor violations on several farms along with Hawaii Reporter over the last two years, is named as one of the entities Fat Law Farm must report its compliance efforts to.

"We are very pleased to see this step toward justice accomplished on behalf of the exploited workers on Fat Law Farms,” Xian said, who is also a candidate for Congressional District 1. “It's an embarrassment to the State that these offenses have been going on for so long and even continue on other Hawaii farms.”

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour division also put in its judgment that Fat Law must not hold the passports of workers, refuse to let workers leave the farm, or order workers to pay a fee as a prerequisite to being hired, which Xian noted are all elements of human trafficking.

“We've been hearing serious complaints from these victims of human trafficking which also include labor law violations, the latter which was addressed by the great work of the U.S. Department of Labor,” Xian said.

Alvin Law maintains the allegations by the Department of Labor against Fat Law spelled out in the judgment is a misunderstanding, and the farm didn’t keep anyone’s passport, prevent workers from leaving or charge a fee to new hires.

“This is an allegation and could have been a misunderstanding with the DOL. Fat Law Farms respects their employees and they are free to come and go from the farm. It is in our new employee handbook,” Alvin Law said.

In terms of passports being withheld, Alvin Law said: “This may have evolved with workers asking us to hold their passports. Our current policy is if anyone gives us a passport, we will make a copy for our records and then return it to the worker.”

Rosalez said the U.S. Department of Labor participates on a human trafficking task force and said where elements of human trafficking are detected, the appropriate agencies will be brought in to investigate.

Pesticide Poisoning Concerns Not Addressed

Pesticide on Oahu's farms

Xian said another concern, which the U.S. Department of Labor has no jurisdiction over, is how workers are applying pesticide on produce.

On many Oahu farms, foreign workers hired as pesticide “sprayers” get sick and have even died as a result of repeated, excessive exposure to this pesticide.

Several of the workers on Oahu farms who Hawaii Reporter spoke to through translators cannot read product labels and warnings because they are written in English, so they may not mix or spray pesticides safely.

In many cases, Hawaii Reporter found workers are not given protective gear by Oahu farm owners and don’t have the proper training to apply pesticide safely on the fruits and vegetables they grow. The fruits and vegetables are then sold at Hawaii’s farmers’ markets and grocery stores and also are shipped overseas.

pesticide on Oahu's farms

pesticide on Oahu's farms

“We also hope that soon, the serious offenses related to the misuse and toxic effects of pesticides, used on these farms, comes to light publicly. These workers suffer more than just wage violations. They are at risk of significant poisoning by these pesticides which they are forced to spray on crops that end up on our dinner tables,” Xian said.

In 2012, Fat Law Farm, which deemed itself "King of Basil” in Hawaii, was ordered by the state Department of Health to destroy its entire basil crop – all 29 acres – because it used an unapproved pesticide.

Through spot testing, state investigators found the farm was using the pesticide methomyl at two of its farm properties. Methomyl is toxic to humans and for that reason was unapproved for use on some foods.

State Department of Health spokesman Gary Gill then confirmed the sale and use of pesticides are strictly regulated because they are dangerous to the untrained and unprotected sprayer in concentrated form.. Improper use can negatively impact both sprayers and consumers, Gill said.

Problems at Other Law Farms

The Law family is well known in the farming community. In addition to Fat Law, Tommy Law and Tony Law, brothers to Frank and Tim, run farms on Oahu. The family is originally from Laos, and started farming in Hawaii in 1986.

In 2011 and 2012, Hawaii Reporter produced a series of investigative reports related problems involving pesticide and working conditions at both Tony and Tommy Laws’ farms.

While the Fat Law Farm civil judgment is significant, Xian said there are abuses at many other farms across the island that need to be addressed by federal and state agencies.

“We hope that more investigative work will be done both on the Civil and Criminal level to expose the rampant exploitation of farm workers in Hawaii,” Xian said.

Editor's note: Photos of Fat Law Farm were provided by the Department of Labor at Hawaii Reporter's request.

Friday, April 11, 2014


So someone tell me why Hawaii has a low voter turnout and why it matters

"The state was last in voter turnout in 2008 and 2012, with its rate decreasing 4.6 percentage points over those years.

"It was the only state with turnout below 50 percent in 2008 and the only one with less than 45 percent turnout in 2012."

by Larry Geller

Every so often a news story (or editorial page column, in this instance) Votereports the dismal fact that Hawaii’s voter turnout is pretty dismal.

Richard Borreca took up the issue in today’s paper, also commenting:

The people who show up will rule.

[Star-Advertiser p. A13, Elections chief struggles to increase voter turnout, 4/11/2014]

Well, not exactly. The politicians who can attract the most moola from developers and other moneyed interests rule. Our role as voters is merely to give them the opportunity.

I would love to see the newspaper or other media entity invest in a poll or a study to find out why Hawaii doesn’t vote. Perhaps there has been such a study. If so, we need to see the results in print, alongside articles like this.

But to the point. So what? I know voting is important. No argument. But as long as no crazy faction has taken over (in an attempt to “rule” perhaps), and as long as the outcome pretty much represents the wishes of the population as a whole, so what?

Ok, so, the state’s Chief Elections Officer wants to increase turnout.

How? Without knowing why people are not voting, how can we plan an effective intervention? How can the Chief Elections Officer maximize his campaign, given his limited budget? There could certainly be multiple, if not myriad, reasons why a person didn’t vote.

Do we even want to spend state money to improve a statistic?

Hawaii has all kinds of problems—this may be among the least of them. I would place it way down on the list, below tooth decay, struggling schools, pathetic urban planning and wasteful or ineffective government administration. You might have your own list of gripes, and I’ll bet low voter turnout doesn’t compete with most of them.

The low turnout has not prevented us from having a government, and more votes may not actually change anything for better or for worse. So I really want to see an analysis and discussion.

In some countries there is a statutory fine if voters don’t cast their ballots, though I understand those laws might be spottily enforced, if at all. Here, we have the freedom to let our neighbors carry the water for us. Which is better—to be purely democratic about it and respect the right not to vote, or to impose some kind of sanction, material or otherwise, in an attempt to gather more paper ballots and improve the numbers?

Bottom line for me—I’m tired of articles rehashing that we have a low voter turnout unless they can explain why that is and why that matters.

Monday, April 07, 2014


State appears to have cheated Hawaiians out of $150-200 million on Kakaako land transfer

Abercrombie described the Kakaako proposal as "comprehensive," not "universal." But, he said the settlement would well exceed $200 million because the land — described by the governor as "prime" — would grow exponentially in value.--
State Offers OHA $200M Kakaako Land Settlement (Civil Beat, 11/16/2011)

A rally has been called tomorrow (Wednesday, 4/8_ 11:00 a.m. -2:00 p.m. at the State Capitol by the Friends of Kewalos, to protest legislation that, if passed, will permit residential development in Kakaako Makai).

by Larry Geller

Checking through news coverage of the transfer of state land to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (which, it should be noted, is itself part of the state government), the valuation of around $200 million dollars for the land was seldom challenged. The value of the land is key—the transfer was supposed to wipe out debt that the state has owed OHA.

It looks like OHA (and hence its Native Hawaiian beneficiaries) has been cheated. Even besides that, it looks like the transfer is being used to shove residential developments on Kakaako Makai down all of our throats.

Although the state is obligated to pay OHA revenue that is generated from ceded lands, it has not done so. Side comment: It hasn’t put Native Hawaiians on their homelands, either.

So this deal was supposed to settle it. More recent news reveals that the value of the land, in the absence of residential development which is currently not allowed, would be closer to $50 million.  If so, OHA has been cheated of $150 million. Wait a moment—OHA knew this, so can one really say they were “cheated?” OHA’s appraisal of the land deal, done by Medusky & Co., Inc. acknowledged that residential uses of that land are not permitted.

The claim that the transferred land  is prime and “would grow exponentially in value” appears to have been an inexcusable lie.

But is even $50 million a fair price for land that would need extensive reclamation and in any case is threatened by sea rise due to climate change?

Under water[3]

Evacuation map[2]

As explained in OHA’s idea for residential construction in the tsunami inundation zone is, well, all wet (1/30/2014), the pink area in the map above right is the evacuation zone, the inundation zone hugs the water a bit more. Also, the area will be pounded by storm waves and suffer groundwater infiltration long before climate change reclaims it for the sea.

So perhaps OHA allowed itself to be cheated of the whole $200 million.

Now, as you can tell, I personally feel that residential development in this area was, and still is, foolhardy. Kakaako Makai should be preserved for the use of all residents, not turned over to rich sunbird condo dwellers. That’s what piggy bankwould need to happen to squeeze the most value from the land, and don’t think that our state government, owned as it is by developers and their friends, would hesitate one moment, if allowed, to overdevelop Kakaako any way it can.

The Star-Advertiser did a good job of exposing Governor Abercrombie’s campaign contributions related to Kakaako development in their front-page story on March 30, 2014.

But by holding such a personal view, am I saying that I do not believe Native Hawaiians should be allowed to realize full value from the land they have been “given?” That’s part of the dilemma the “$200 million” OHA deal presents. And no doubt, it will be part of the pressure applied to state legislators to approve residential construction in Kakaako Makai.

It’s not for me (or anyone) to suggest what is best for Native Hawaiians. But somehow, creating contention between the valid claims owed by a delinquent state government and the many who oppose this use of the land, and which specifically benefits the greedy development lobby, is also not right.

If the state owes $200 million, it should make arrangements to pay it, not pull tricks on anyone, and certainly not create yet another level of oppression in the “aloha state.”

Friday, April 04, 2014


Dear Mr. Speaker: Just Say No to outrageous waiver requests

by Larry Geller

screwedQ: How many legislators does it take to screw the voters?

A: Two: A committee chair and the Speaker of the House

I know that we can’t do much about abuses in Washington, but we can hold our own legislative leaders to a higher standard. We can hold them to their own standards, in fact. How radical is that?

Corporations have not (yet?) taken over the Hawaii Legislature. We, the people, are still supposed to have an opportunity to review bills and give testimony. This means, for example, that the Legislature should follow its own rules requiring public notice.

Check out the hearing notice below. The public was given exactly 21 minutes notice.

Sure, there must have been some argument for why such short notice was requested, but what about transparency and fairness to the public? Some of the bills on the agenda don’t look like breaking the rules is needed.

Update: Just after posting this article I learned that the House Judiciary committee posted notice of a hearing for SB2048 Relating to Cable Television Systems, just 61 minutes before it was to be held this afternoon. That hearing notice is attached at the very end of this article.

Why we should care

In the past, legislators have run roughshod over the public interest, so it pays to remain vigilant:

This [2006] session has been unusual in the number of procedures or rules that have been bent, each time with the effect of keeping the public in the dark on legislative activities.

[House Minority Leader calls attention to breach of 24-hour notice for 30 bills, 4/20/2006]

Earlier that same year the public was royally screwed by the House.  

A nasty maneuver introduced a 61-page amendment without public review, killing the gas cap law. We all have been paying for that at the pump, thanks to an undemocratic attitude that says "anything goes" if legislators can get away with it.

It was an expensive lesson for the public, but profitable for the energy lobby (and no doubt for the campaigns of the legislators they supported).

See the details below the jump.



A March 22, 2006 article, Capitol Crime, explains how legislators connived with the energy industry in Hawaii to block the public from reviewing a bill or providing input to their decisionmaking process. This article refers to a bill that killed Hawaii’s gas cap. The language was made available on a Wednesday only at a legislator’s office, and only if you knew about it, for a quick-and-dirty joint committee hearing Thursday morning. With the office closed for the evening, no copy could be obtained. Clever, huh?

Thursday at 9:00 in room 312, three House committees will hear a Gas Cap bill. This should be a raucous public event, with gasoline-hungry consumers in one corner of the ring, the oil barons in the other, and a dozen or so legislators watching to see which side will come out on top. The trouble is, it won't be a fair fight. The House has rigged the match in favor of the oil barons

Normally, bills are introduced at the beginning of the session, go through several hearings, cross over, and are heard by the other house. Thursday's gas cap bill just came on the scene. The chase is on, and you are the driver.

First, you have to find a copy of it of course. You can only pick up a copy of the 61-page bill (yikes!) in room 314. Tough luck if you live on another island, in Waianae or the North Shore. You're not intended to participate, sorry.

If you can get one, speed-read it, type testimony at 1000 words a minute, then rush down to the Capitol to confront the oil barons who of course know exactly what is going on. You can bet they have copies. Can you win this high speed chase?

So the oil barons are prepared, the public is not. You can imagine what might result from this imbalance. May as well kiss your wallet goodbye, or just give Chevron your second mortgage and let them take care of it for you. Highway robbery indeed.

Honest, I don't know if this bill is a good one or not, I don't have a copy yet, and I can't get one unless I go over there tomorrow. I'll never be able to read it in time to prepare testimony.

The House cannot hold a "real" public hearing because the public doesn't have access to the bill that will be debated.

Killing the gas cap was no small thing. The public should have been given ample time to review the language and have a say. We were all cheated by the legislative leadership.

So we must remain ever-vigilant. Are we being cheated again? It’s hard to tell with only 21 minutes notice.

SpyUpdate: This is the 61-minute notice posted today. No rest for the weary:

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Decisionmaking on three bills that criminalize homelessness set for 10:30 today (Thursday)

by Larry Geller
Decisionmaking on three bills that would criminalize homelessness has been continued until this morning.

Senator Hee, unlike many committee chairs, did not impose a time limit on each testifier during his hearing yesterday. The committee (JDL) was also good about posting all testimony, including “late” testimony, on the Capitol website even before the hearing. You can read the testimony by clicking on the link above, then on the bill number for each of the bills.

It was quite refreshing that everyone who wanted to was able to express themselves. He even allowed one more testimony after he called “last one!” on one of the bills. By allowing everyone to speak, the committee ran out of time, and recessed until today (Wednesday) at 10:30, still in room 016.
Doug Matsuoka was there with his live streaming camera – you can see and hear all the testimony at his Livestream channel page here.

I see from the channel page that Doug is already over at the capitol streaming the AG committee hearing in the auditorium. They seem to be holding a hearing at this moment on GMO labeling. I don’t know if he will shift over to the Judiciary hearing which is scheduled to do decisionmaking on yesterday’s agenda (including the three bills that would criminalize homelessness) which is set to begin at 10:30. Best to click over to his page at that time and see. If not, the AG committee hearing is also important, and thanks to Doug, you can watch that.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Three bills to criminalize homelessness scheduled for their last hearing tomorrow (Wednesday)—submit your testimony soon

by Larry Geller

Three bills aimed specifically at Hawaii’s homeless population are scheduled for their last hearings before possible passage tomorrow at 10 a.m. in room 016 of the State Capitol.

If you were thinking of submitting testimony, better hurry.

HB2409 criminalizes falling asleep at a bus stop. Make no mistake about it, the cops will not charge a businessperson napping next to his briefcase or a UH student snoozing off against her knapsack. The only ones charged with disorderly conduct (what can be less “disorderly” than sleeping?) will be the homeless. If this bill becomes law, it will be used to punish the homeless, that’s all. I also can’t imagine the cops hauling away grandma if she nods off while waiting 45 minutes in a warm breeze for her bus. Yup, only the homeless will be made to suffer.

RhoadsThe bill has surprisingly attracted almost no testimony so far. Please send in yours today–it’s easy! Just click on the “Submit testimony” button at the upper right of the linked page.

This great example of “aloha” in the “Aloha State” was introduced by Representative Karl Rhoads.  At least he hasn’t offered plans to go out hunting sleepers with a sledgehammer (as far as I know…).

HB1660, introduced by Representatives Rhoads, Brower, Nishimoto and Saiki, criminalizes not only homelessness, but could be easily used, should it Browerbecome law, to criminalize lawful assembly.

(1)  A person commits the offense of obstructing if, whether alone or with others and having no legal privilege to do so, the person knowingly or recklessly [obstructs]:

(a)  Obstructs any highway or public passage[, whether alone or with others.]; or

(b)  Provides less than one meter of space for passage on any paved public sidewalk.

(2)  A person in a gathering commits the offense of obstructing if the person refuses to obey a reasonable request or order by a law enforcement officer [to move]:

(a)  To move to prevent [obstruction of a highway or other public passage;] or to cease any activity prohibited under subsection (1); or

(b)  To move to maintain public safety by dispersing those gathered in dangerous proximity to a public hazard."

Note that Honolulu has several substantial areas where simply standing on a sidewalk would obstruct passage to less than one meter. I’ve measured and documented sidewalks with only 31 inches of passage with no people at all.

So if the police want to arrest demonstrators, this bill would seem to give them a way to do it.

But make no mistake, it’s really aimed at Honolulu’s homeless population. Note the first two legislators who introduced the bill—the punishers.

Hawaii (and the city of Honolulu) need to abandon their policy of punishing the homeless—it hasn’t worked, has cost taxpayers globs of money that could have been used to assist the homeless, and hurts both tourism and our reputation as the “Aloha State.”

2013-03-07 12.10.24_thumb[3]Finally, please note that the city regularly obstructs its own sidewalks. Will the cops arrest the city workers who do so? I doubt it.

Some pictures indicating the criminality of city officials that won’t be punished:


Here’s a whole sidewalk obstructed (at Thomas Square). Merely by walking on it, you’d be in violation. Or a cop could chase away or detain either a homeless person or someone demonstrating or holding a sign even though it’s a public sidewalk.


20130120 Pic7a_thumb[2]

This ought to be against the law. Now, if only this is what legislators mean by “obstructing.”


20130120 Pic1_thumb[2]

And this one—there’s not even a meter of sidewalk left to walk on.

The city violated its own “complete streets” ordinance by narrowing the sidewalks without consultation. While this seems remote from the topic at hand, it illustrates that obstructing sidewalks isn’t the real concern of this bill.


The third bill is HB33, which didn’t make it in 2013. It has one hearing this session—tomorrow, before the committee which didn’t hear it last year.

This bill criminalizes urinating or defecating on streets. One can feel a certain sympathy for it, if only there were public toilets provided—not only for homeless persons but also for residents and tourists. “No public restrooms” signs are ubiquitous, and of course it is not the business of restaurants to provide public facilities that the city should undertake.

The ACLU submitted testimony last year in opposition. A snip:

H.B. 33 is poor public policy because it fails to address the underlying causes of homelessness. Treating homelessness as a crime only exasperates the problem as punitive actions like this bill serve only to make the lives of homeless individuals more difficult. H.B. 33 will push people away from services and turn them into criminals (just for not having access to bathroom facilities), both of which make it more difficult for them to obtain employment and housing.

Rather than passing punitive measures like H.B. 33, we should look towards constructive alternatives to combating the underlying causes of homelessness and its consequences.

Well said.

If only our lawmakers were listening.

Click the links. Have your say. Make a difference.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


KGMB News displays bias

I'm waiting in the customer lounge at an auto dealership waiting for the parts center to open. The coffee is not bad, but in exchange I have to endure sitting in front of the tv.

KGMB news just reported that Donna Kim has filed papers to run for Congress. They mentioned all the other candidates who have declared their intention to run--except for Kathryn Xian, referring instead to her as "and others."

To learn about ALL the declared candidates without bias, see Video of Congressional CD1 candidate forum (2/24/2014).

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


The larger problem: Does the House only censure Native Hawaiians?

January 17, 1893—the year the Hawai’ian Kingdom was overthrown by a group of businessmen backed by US Marines, followed by its annexation in 1898—was a true day of infamy. The centennial ceremonies starting January 16, 1993 were more important than the December 7, 1991 ceremony as commemoration of brutal statecraft.

Maybe some day we shall have an independent, multicultural, multiracial Republic of Hawai’i? Everyone, including the USA, would have much to gain. Wounds, if they are not dressed and healed, tend to fester.

However, efforts to undo the direct and structural violence of the past, counter the violence of the present and forestall the violence of the future would be of scant avail if the underlying cultural violence is not addressed.—
Pax Pacifica: Terrorism, the Pacific Hemisphere, Globalisation and Peace Studies by Johan Galtung, Pluto Press, 2005

by Larry Geller

Did you ever send an email knowing that most likely you’d never get an answer? I sent one late Sunday afternoon to Joe Souki, Speaker of Hawaii’s House of Representatives, with mixed feelings. I would like an answer, but don’t know if this email will even get through his staff to his desk, and even if it does, will he reply? I need to give it a little time.

Subject:    query on further censure actions
Date sent:    Sun, 09 Mar 2014 14:50:46 –1000

As Speaker, do you intend to censure or take action in another form with regard to other House members who have or who may have broken the law?

Clearly, my question is related to the news about Rep. Hanohano, a Native Hawaiian, who is currently the sole legislator to be so censured.

Larry Geller
Disappeared News

Sure, if I worked for a newspaper or a TV station, the odds of getting an answer would be much better. And obviously, it’s a “loaded” question. And also, no answer is kind of an answer. But the commercial news media will never ask such a question.

Sure, I have a point of view.

Chad Blair wrote in a Civil Beat article:

The chief clerks in the House and Senate told me last week that they could not recall any incident in recent memory in which a representative or senator was forcibly removed from a committee, censured or expelled.

Well, now it’s happened. See: House Speaker Publicly Scolds Rep. Hanohano for 'Intimidating' Conduct (Civil Beat, 3/6/2014).

I was not present for any of the incidents cited by the Speaker, but my question is clear: why is Rep. Hanohano the only one, “in recent memory” now, to be censured?

Do other legislators have some kind of permanently installed halo that protects them from censure under House or Senate rules?

I thought this anonymous comment, attached to my March 3 article, demonstrated the sensitivity that all of us, including legislative leadership, should be careful to exercise in this state, considering its history:

Writing as a local of Japanese ancestry, I understand that some might find the language Rep. Hanohano used offensive. I wouldn't like to encourage its everyday use, nor do I think she uses that language on an everyday basis. When facing the cultural imperialism embedded in our system of government and the flood of Western perspective invading Hawaii for far too long, it is far more offensive to ignore the genocide of the Hawaiian culture than it is to use the "J" word. Who are we to legislate the Hawaiian relationship to sharks especially when we allow the US Navy to bombard all ocean life with sonar and to use the ocean as dumping grounds for obsolete or hazardous weaponry?

# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : March 10, 2014 at 7:51:00 PM HST

When does the real conversation begin?

Where is an appropriate forum? TV will likely never go there, and while our daily newspaper finally noted (for example) the state’s failure to meet its trust obligations to put Native Hawaiians back on their land, the paper did not pursue the issue as an example of systemic and structural violence against Native Hawaiians in Hawaii.

I urge readers in Hawaii to read the Wikipedia article on structural violence. It begins:

Structural violence is a term commonly ascribed to Johan Galtung, which he introduced in the article "Violence, Peace, and Peace Research" in 1969. It refers to a form of violence where some social structure or social institution may harm people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs. Institutionalized elitism, ethnocentrism, classism, racism, sexism, adultism, nationalism, heterosexism and ageism are some examples of structural violence as proposed by Galtung. According to Galtung, rather than conveying a physical image, structural violence is an "avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs". As it is avoidable, structural violence is a high cause of premature death and unnecessary disability. Since structural violence affects people differently in various social structures, it is very closely linked to social injustice.

The Wikipedia article also touches on cultural violence, and how society’s actions become “invisible” and part of everyday life.

Here’s another snip that applies directly to Hawaii:

Theorists argue that structural violence is embedded in the current world system. This form of violence, which is centered on apparently inequitable social arrangements, is not inevitable, they argue. Ending the global problem of structural violence will require actions that may seem unfeasible in the short term. To some this indicates that it may be easier to devote resources to minimizing the harmful impacts of structural violence. Others, such as futurist Wendell Bell, see a need for long term vision to guide projects for social justice.

In Hawaii we’re sometimes willing to “minimize the harmful impacts” of ongoing structural violence such as taking small steps to improve the health of Native Hawaiians. This is at most, harm reduction, not removal or mediation of the harm, which remains ongoing.

Just as an example of ongoing structural violence, we allow the failure of the state to meet its obligation to Native Hawaiians under its Hawaiian Homelands trust to go on for decades. Even now, the State of Hawaii is contesting beneficiary damage claims in state court. An already decade-long trial could be stretched out for another decade or more, at the current pace.

Doesn’t that meet the definition of structural or cultural violence? Why does the state refuse to correct its ongoing neglect of a single ethnic group??

So, Speaker Souki, are you concerned only with the language used by one Native Hawaiian legislator, or do you intend to treat all legislators equally? And what, exactly, have you or other legislators done to fix the abysmal performance of the Department of Hawaiian Homelands? I didn’t ask that in my email because I know I’d never get an answer if I did. Certainly, there are many more questions that could be asked besides that one.

There’s a larger problem here, and every state legislator is a part of it. As perhaps, I am, and we all are.

Monday, March 10, 2014


Oppose HB2139, which opens a loophole in the open meetings law as big as a barn door

by Larry Geller

For some reason, granting exemptions to perfectly good law seems to be the fashion these days in Hawaii. Whether it’s height exemptions when the public decided against them, or (in this case) an exemption to allow abuse of the state’s open meetings law, it’s bad public policy.

The Superferry failed because the lege gave it an exemption. Well, it was also unable to make a profit. Last session the public rose up against the PLDC, an organization created to hand out exemptions and destroy our urban environment. The PLDC law was repealed. We’re still stuck with the HCDA, an organization created, like the PLDC, to hand out exemptions.

HB2139 looks like an invitation for abuse of the state’s open meetings law by exempting county councils. They’ve been looking for ways around the law for quite some time, and this would open a big loophole.

The bill would allow unlimited numbers of County Council members to attend an external “informational” meeting.

The abuse? Heck, there’s no watchdog overseeing what they say or do. For sure, since the county councils have been hunting for ways to escape the law, they will predictably begin to “chat” among themselves about anything and everything, and even to make decisions, as long as they are together.

What better opportunity to talk “business” than over a plate of pupus, without the public being aware? Speaking of “business,” who else (developers? contractors?) might also be at that meeting, with access to county council members that citizens don’t have and don’t even know about?

The bill is to be heard next tomorrow (Tuesday, 3/11). Here’s the hearing notice. It’s easy to submit testimony, please check out the bill and click on “submit testimony” to put your own comments on file.


Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: Ukraine-Crimea-Georgia–the West and Russia

Europe had the Cold War experience that a neutral-nonaligned belt between West and East is useful; the roles of Finland and Sweden, Austria and Switzerland, Yugoslavia.  To Washington they were half-way traitors, “equalizing” West and East, to be won over, even coerced.  But, a non-aligned borderland between today’s NATO Poland-Lithuania and Russia and NATO Turkey and Russia, could also one day be useful.

Ukraine-Crimea-Georgia–the West and Russia

10 March 2014

by Johan Galtung, 10 Mar 2014 - TRANSCEND Media Service

There is much in a name.  Ukraine means borderland.

The position of the extreme West–like US neocons–is clear: get all into NATO, encircling, containing, defeating Russia.  Some in Ukraine and Georgia share that goal.  The less extreme West would focus on EU membership, both being European countries.  Some of them, in turn, might focus on loans as there is much money to be made. Thus, Bosnia-Hercegovina had $9 billion debt before the EU take-over as “high authority”; now $107 billion.  “Austerity” around the corner.

The position of Russia as expressed by Putin and Lavrov: no way. Crimea will revert to Russia after it was given to Ukraine in 1954 by Khrushchev–himself born in Kalinovka, Ukraine in 1894, his wife a Ukrainian–possibly mainly for economic reasons as his son at Brown University R.I., USA argues.

However, Ukraine is not only a borderland but also two countries between Poland and Russia.  The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of 1569 and the Austria-Hungarian Empire once covered most of Ukraine; so did czarist Russia and Soviet Union in their heydays.  More importantly, the dividing line of the Roman Empire from 395, confirmed by the schism between Catholic and Orthodox Christianity in 1054, is reflected in Ukraine’s extremely complex history.  The result is unmistakable: moving east the Catholic attachment yield to the Orthodox and Ukrainian to Russian.  When Poland became a member of EU and even of NATO, the handwriting for Ukraine was on the wall; bringing to mind Polish First Marshal Pilsudski’s Odessa-Black Sea ambitions after WW-I.

Odessa is in the West, Donets in the East, Ukrainian in the West, more Russian in the East.  And Kiev–origin of Russia, Rus–the capital, in the middle.  No doubt there is also a Ukraine uniting the two, a land, not only a border; also united in popular revolt against corruption all over. One split in two, two united in one: both true.

But watch out: one thing is the corruption-inequality pandemic all over the world hitting Ukraine; another is centuries of history leaving lasting impacts.  Imagine corruption-inequality subsiding, and the fault lines will come up, even with a vengeance.

So much for diagnosis.  Prognosis:  Crimea reverts to Russia; Ukraine under Washington-Brussels hegemony; civil war threatening.  Anti-semitism, islamism.  But not escalating to a world war: NATO is strong; even stronger is SCO-Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Russia-China+.  However, balance of terror is not peace, so what is the possible therapy?

But first Georgia, also deeply divided with Russian-speaking Orthodox South Ossetia and Abkhazia within 1921 borders where Stalin–a Georgian, Dzhugashvili–played a key role (Gamsakhardia, independent president in 1991, re-asserted Georgian hegemony; now more disputed).

The Soviet power center was in Moscow, but they showered the non-Russians with gifts of various kinds, even land. The two stories are similar, with Russian troops in Abkhazia-South Ossetia and military encounters. Thus, Georgia attacked South Ossetia in 2008, evidently hoping to provoke Russia to provoke NATO– but the plot was revealed (by BBC-4 among others: the Russian T72 tanks were made of cardboard).

Georgia 2003-Ukraine 2004 had rose-orange “color revolutions”; now USA uses more forceful demonstrations also helped by OTPOR!-Отпор! Resistance!, the Beograd student group fighting Milosevic–to install governments.  Europe is more sensitive to conflicts between nations, making a NATO consensus unlikely (State Department Victoria Nuland: “Fuck the EU“).

Europe had the Cold War experience that a neutral-nonaligned belt between West and East is useful; the roles of Finland and Sweden, Austria and Switzerland, Yugoslavia.  To Washington they were half-way traitors, “equalizing” West and East, to be won over, even coerced.  But, a non-aligned borderland between today’s NATO Poland-Lithuania and Russia and NATO Turkey and Russia, could also one day be useful.

The choice for Ukraine is not between one unitary state ruled from Kiev, and two states run from, say, Odessa and Donets.  There are three in-betweens.

First, there is devolution, decentralization, already working, with regional parliaments reflecting the deep differences.  But they are weak relative to Kiev, let alone relative to Washington-Moscow.

Second, federation; the Federal Republic of Ukraine, with high level of autonomy for the two parts to express their character, yet sharing foreign, security (neutral!), finance and logistics policies.

Third, confederation, the Ukrainian Community, two independent countries each other’s major partners economically and politically.

Examples of the three: United Kingdom, Belgium, the Nordics; with similarities and differences.  Thus, the UK is now loosening, possibly breaking up in spite of shared language and history.  How Belgium will turn out, history will show.  The Nordics work well with even more differences than there is inside Ukraine and are not even contiguous.

The West and Russia compete with economic offers, but identity is probably more important.  Ukraine West feels West, Ukraine East feels Russian; united historically, divided culturally.  Could one be in EU and the other in the Russian federation, both enjoying the carrots offered?–in a Ukrainian Community with open borders?  Too divisive.

None of the three is perfect, but the federation may be the best way out.  There is unity and diversity.  Ukraine, a founding member of the United Nations, is still a country, yet the different identities are fully respected.  Be smart, could that federation even be both an associate member of the EU and the Russian federation?

For Georgia, a federation is much overdue as a way out; also for Adjar, the Muslim enclave.  Encased in a Caucasian Community, all three with strong EU ties as Europeans.  But keep NATO and SCO out.

Prediction: within 5 years we have both federations—and the crisis is over.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 3.0 United States License.

Sunday, March 09, 2014


UH needs a management overhaul

by Larry Geller

GE’s former CEO Jack Welch isn’t spending his retirement idly playing golf—he runs several management training courses—Google will find them for you. Maybe the University of Hawaii should apply for one.

Clearly, the current UH management style does not make them winners (Jack famously expected each GE division to be number one in its field, or it wouldn’t remain part of the company). Far from winning, as today’s story in the Star-Advertiser highlights once again, UH management isn’t even competent.

If you subscribe to the paper, check out UH's poor oversight adds costs to delayed project, audit says (Star-Advertiser p. A1, 3/9/2014). The story focuses on poor management of improvements to the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletic Complex that has resulted in delays and cost overruns.

A report by the UH Office of Internal Audit released Wednesday cited deficiencies in managing and monitoring the project as well as a lack of communication. Board of Regents member Jeff Portnoy has described the issues plaguing the facility as indicative of a "University of Hawaii-wide problem."

Portnoy told the regents, "These are such basic, systemic issues. I mean, saying the (school) and architect and contractor should be meeting on a weekly basis is like common sense. If I'm (adding) on to my house, I have weekly meetings."

Yes, it’s common sense, but it is also rather basic management of a key project, don’t you think?

Or check out the article in yesterday’s paper: UH cost itself millions, HNN asserts (Star-Advertiser p. C1, 3/8/2014).

Until the UH administration learns the basics of competent management, it will be one thing after another: cost overruns, maintenance backlogs, whatever can fail because it was not handled competently.

UH has a style of management that fits the so-called “garbage can model” that I’ve written about several times. I won’t describe it again here—please check the link.

Unless there is an intervention, which could be instigated by either the Regents or the state legislature, there is no self-healing mechanism in that model. Administrators of lower- or mid-level universities and colleges which have not learned to manage their affairs appropriately simply reach into the garbage can each time and go with what they find.

It seems paradoxical that a university can’t learn, but that seems to be a consequence of the model. There’s always something in the garbage can to grab onto, something that was tried before.

By “intervention” I specifically don’t mean another Senate inquisition. What is needed is positive action to improve management skills at the university and to instill a lasting culture of competence that will serve the organization, the students and the people of Hawaii on into the future.

No, it doesn’t have to be a Jack Welch course. I keep my eye on “Neutron Jack” because I worked for GE for more than 20 years. The company went through a number of leadership changes over that time, but its basic management structure was robust and persistent so that the company was able not only to grow and adapt to changing conditions, but to succeed in a competitive environment.

Can the same be said about UH leadership?

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


No U.S. government or international agency is monitoring the spread of Fukishima radiation—we’ll have to do it ourselves

No U.S. government or international agency is monitoring the spread of low levels of radiation from Fukushima along the West Coast of North America and around the Hawaiian Islands.--
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 1/28/2014

by Larry Geller

It’s getting harder for concerned citizens to know what to be concerned about most these days.

Whether it’s BPA (or worse) in our sippy cups or Fukushima radioactivity in our ocean water, it’s frustrating to know that vital information is being withheld from us by corporations and by our governments. You can find out more about chemicals in plastic containers at the link just above, but ocean water radiation reports seem to be more elusive.

A new project seeks to fill the gap by crowdsourcing testing of ocean water. We can gather information that we’re not getting from government sources ourselves.

How you can become an ocean water radiation monitor

Take action
You can propose a site, begin fundraising, and ultimately submit samples for testing. Or you can contribute to an existing site so that they can complete testing. Click on the image and get involved.

Taking radiation monitoring into our own hands

Help protectWith plumes of radiation-laden ocean water predicted to move from offshore of Fukushima, Japan across the Pacific and first to the US West Coast and then to Hawaii, you’d think that there would be monitoring of ocean waters here. The Department of Health claims they are monitoring, but the details seem obscure and hidden.

The question then remains:

How radioactive

How radioactive is our ocean? More important, as Fukushima water arrives at our shores, how radioactive will it be, and should we be concerned also about the sea creatures that come with it?

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has created a program to harness the social power of the Internet to monitor ocean water.

WHOI monitoring program

I asked WHOI about their program last month. In particular, I was wondering who would be doing the monitoring in Hawaii. I was hoping to interview the volunteer monitors for an article.

The way it works is that WHOI and its web pages support volunteers around the country, each of whom must raise funds for the ocean water testing. The volunteers have the option of remaining anonymous, and although WHOI passed on my request for an interview, the Hawaii volunteers have chosen to remain anonymous. All I know is that on Oahu they are from the University of Hawaii and have monitored once at Kaneohe Bay. Their fundraising page is here, and as you see, they have reached their goal and posted one test result.

Here’s how it works, from a WHOI email:

The money being raised funds the collection and analysis of a seawater sample, which costs between $550 and $600, depending upon location. Once the full amount is raised, the individual will receive a sampling kit to collect 20 liters (about five gallons) of seawater to be shipped back to the Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity lab at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for analysis. The results from those analyses will be posted on an evolving map online, where you can see cesium concentrations and links to information about radioactivity in the ocean and what the levels tell us.

Another volunteer, on the Big Island, has not yet raised enough funding to begin testing (go here to help out).

WHOI also confirmed to me that at this time they are not monitoring fish or seafood.

Who knows where Fukushima water will touch down first? Here is a link to animated plume predictions. Hawaii will be enveloped by the plume by April, 2016 if not sooner, according to the animation.


Arguably, government silence is nothing new. Tobacco is perhaps the best example of the sacrifice of public health for corporate profit, and our own government didn’t hesitate to test or use nuclear weapons. One way or the other, it looks like citizens still need to take the initiative to protect our lives and health whether from harmful chemicals or from radiation.

For almost three years, a question has nagged at people living near the coastline in Alaska, British Columbia, Hawaii and along the U.S. West Coast. Is a plume of radioactive ocean water really inching its way toward us from Japan? By all accounts, yes it is.

[, How You Can Help Scientists Test U.S. Coastal Waters for Fukushima Radiation, 2/6/2014]

Is our federal government protecting us? What about the state? A bill just passed out of the Hawaii Senate to monitor radiation levels in the future (see below) received overwhelming popular and legislative support, moving forward despite state government objections.

Is the Hawaii Department of Health actively protecting us by monitoring ocean water that may contain Fukushima radiation? It’s hard to tell if they are.

The DOH home web page says nothing about radiation monitoring at all. But aha, there is a search box. typing in “radiation” brings up a few hits, mostly about response to radiation emergencies. But there is this:

Fukishima link

It’s dated August 14, 2013, but might as well click and take a look. Clicking on the link takes one not to a radiation report, but to a missing report on “south-beach-diet-protein-smoothie-mango.”

DOH report on Fukushima

In a KITV story, the DOH response to a senator’s question on the age and visibility of its reports was “duly noted.” Noted, perhaps, but it’s now a month later and it’s not fixed.

So much for DOH commitment to radiation monitoring.

SB3049 passed third reading and was submitted to the House this morning. The SD1 states, in part:

The department of health shall implement a radiation monitoring pilot project that shall:

     (1)  Measure and monitor radiation levels in items such as food, dairy products, rainwater, aquifers, and drainage ditches that may be susceptible to increased radiation levels due to the March 11, 2011, Fukushima nuclear disaster; and

     (2)  Post periodic reports on the department's website of those radiation levels and their significance to the State.

Interestingly, the Senate bill omits ocean water.

Individual testimony submitted to the committees on this bill was universally in support—with the notable exception of the Department of Health. Some of the testimony called for even more extensive testing, for example, of depleted uranium radiation. People do seem concerned about the lack of monitoring in Hawaii.

The Department of Health submitted late testimony in opposition. In their testimony, they stated that they are on top of things already.

This bill is unnecessary because the Department has already implemented additional radiation monitoring since March 11, 2011.

Fiscal Implications: Implementation of this measure may require additional funding for sampling and laboratory analysis at a cost of approximately $1000.00 per sample

The Department has already established enhanced radiation surveillance around the islands in response to the Fukushima nuclear event. This includes continuous air sampling through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Radnet system located in Honolulu; monthly (or as rain capture permits) precipitation sampling; quarterly milk and drinking water sampling; quarterly shoreline surveillance on the Islands of Hawaii, Kauai, Maui and Oahu; and surveying of Japan Tsunami Marine Debris (JTMD), as needed.

Trace amounts of radioactive material were detected in air, milk and precipitation samples for a few weeks following the Fukushima event, but were far below levels of public health concern. Levels have long since returned to normal values associated with background radiation. Reports of findings and advisories have been periodically posted to the Department’s website since March 14, 2011, along with links for additional resources from various agencies.

So the DOH is monitoring? What tests are they performing, and according to what procedures?

As to links, DOH refers to the federal government’s RadNet data. At least the feds have a web page. Data is for air monitoring. We might be more curious about water around the Hawaiian islands since the Fukushima reactors continue to dump radioactivity into the ocean.

So who will monitor ocean water? Scientists have said that any radiation will be too dilute to be harmful, but yet there is controversy. If no radiation shows up, great! But who is watching?

We’ll have to do it ourselves.

See the sidebar for information on the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute program that proposes to  crowdsource ocean water monitoring. You can become a monitor. Check it out.

Monday, March 03, 2014


Legislature should clean up its act before censuring Rep. Hanohano

I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group.--White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, by Peggy McIntosh

by Larry Geller

Except for the unfortunate title, the article posted today by Civil Beat reporter Chad Blair (Chad Blair: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Hanohano?, Civil Beat, 3/3/2014) is an excellent summary of the situation now facing the Hawaii House of Representatives. No person is a “problem,” Chad.

Between the lines is the real story though: the House has chosen to do nothing, so far. What should House leadership do, if anything, in response to media coverage of remarks by Rep. Hanohano?

Perhaps the leadership and other representatives have more sensitivity than the media have shown to this and other issues related to Native Hawaiians in what used to be their own country. Perhaps they also understand that selective enforcement of legislative rules is discriminatory.

Certainly, Rep. Hanohano could have expressed herself differently. I am not arguing to excuse her words, nor was I personally present when she spoke them. But I do want to say that the House of Representatives has a lot of enforcing it might do before getting around to this situation. A lot.

Privilege and oppression

First, please read Murals and the hydraulic theory of oppression (9/18/13). This article was intended to bring some of the discussions of the 1980’s and 1990’s into 2014 Hawaii. Oppression, and its effects, are nothing new in either the academic or popular literature, but we seem to be in denial that anything like that applies here in the “aloha” state.

Perhaps state legislators, though, do understand a thing or two.

Next, gaze upon the front pages of yesterday’s and today’s Star-Advertiser:

20140302 S-A

20130303 S-A


Nearly three decades after signing 99-year leases with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, several dozen homesteaders in this arid and isolated region of the Big Island still are waiting for the agency to deliver the one thing critical to their ranching and farming lots: water.

They're also waiting for DHHL to subdivide the land.

Without a completed subdivision, the 36 homesteaders do not have tax map keys showing the precise boundaries for their leasehold lots.

Without tax map keys, they have been unable to get county permits or general financing to build homes on the property, although a few have done so anyway.

[Star-Advertiser p. A1, Big Island homesteaders still waiting on DHHL, 3/2/2014]

Note that the state has failed its obligations for “nearly three decades after signing 99-year leases.”

From today’s article:

Big Island rancher Daryl Kaluau Sr. spends several hours each week filling his tanker truck and hauling 6,000 gallons of water to the hillside pasture he’s leasing from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. Even though the lease was awarded more than a quarter-century ago, the department can’t say when it will get water service to Kaluau’s lot or to 23 other pastoral homesteads in South Point.

[Star-Advertiser p. A1, Land beneficiaries struggle in arid conditions, 3/3/2014]

Don’t miss the “quarter-century ago” part. It’s key to understanding that the State of Hawaii continues to deny state and federal obligations to Native Hawaiians on an ongoing basis even up to today.

These and other failures were front and center in the The Kalima v. State of Hawaii class action case that was filed in 1999 in Circuit Court. I wrote about the case in Hawaiian Homestead case scheduled to resume Friday in Circuit Court (8/30/2012). It was filed by public interest attorneys Thomas Grande and Carl M. Varady and argued all the way to the state Supreme Court and back. From the attorneys’ web page:

The trial for the liability portion of Subclass 1, Waiting List, started on August 4, 2009.  The trial ended on September 11, 2009.  Approximately three weeks later, on November 3, 2009, Judge Eden Hifo rendered her written decision and ruled that the State of Hawaii breached its trust obligations and was liable for the delays in receiving homesteads by the beneficiaries. …

Despite the decision in 2009, the case is still being argued—the state is doing anything in its power to avoid settling for damages. The newspapers largely ignored the case. Even in the Star-Advertiser’s excellent series on the problems with the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, there was no mention of the case. I did email the reporter, and some time later the paper ran a separate series on the Kalima trial. The trial exposed the stories of beneficiaries who waited decades to receive their land—in many, many cases, they were to old at that point to farm, or retired and so could not qualify to build a home on their lot. And many of the lots were unsuitable to have been given to beneficiaries in the first place, or they were not allowed to get to “their” land.

Irene Cordeiro-Vierra applied in 1984 and lived on the beach for much of her wait.

"Now I am 82 years old, I get letters from Hawaiian Homestead now saying I have homes you can apply for, I am not capable anymore," said Cordeiro-Vierra.

The points I would like to take away from Kalima are that not only is the oppression continuing, but the state legislature has not taken action to fix the problems. The waiting lists continue, people die before receiving their land, and when they get something, it is often no good, as these recent articles demonstrate.

The responsibility to fulfill trust obligations to Native Hawaiians was accepted at the time of statehood, and cannot be simply dismissed.

Returning for a moment to Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, the paper from which the opening pull-quote was taken,  it’s a question of privilege to be able to ignore the customs and experiences of those of a different race or culture.

In order to explain that last point, though, I think I need to set some background to start with. Bear with me. Background is in the sidebar on the right.

So my point is? Go back to the hydraulic theory. When someone speaks up, we are anxious to plug the leak, stop the noise, get back to forgetting that we are continuing to apply the pressure, the ongoing oppression.

At the same time, if the Legislature enforces its rules (which it is happy to break on a regular basis each session) against Rep. Hanohano, it might first explain why it has not enforced its rules against, for example, legislators who break the law by filing incorrect, incomplete or false reports.

See: Politically powerful state senator files false ethics reports (, 5/21/2011). I’ve written several articles about false disclosures remaining uncorrected (for example, this article). I even wrote to the Senate President concerning the Senate’s own rules. Despite the “statutory penalties,” then-Senate President Shan Tsutsui declined to take action against the “politically powerful state senator” under Senate Rule 72.

The House has so far also not taken action against Rep.Tom Brower, whose violent tactics targeting the property of homeless persons in Waikiki. And if he “rousted” them from bus stops while carrying his sledgehammer, though I’m no legal expert, I wonder if that might fit the definition of assault. Brower embarrassed Hawaii nationally and internationally, but the House has remained silent.

So long story short, I have no doubt that Rep. Hanohano could have chosen other words, but as far as enforcing its rules against her, if the House did so it would itself be an embarrassment to the State of Hawaii since the Legislature has ignored far greater infractions of its rules and decorum.

From Chad Blair’s article:

The chief clerks in the House and Senate told me last week that they could not recall any incident in recent memory in which a representative or senator was forcibly removed from a committee, censured or expelled.

So how would it look if the only action the House takes “in recent memory” is against a Native Hawaiian, given that it chooses to ignore far greater infractions on the part of other legislators?


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