Thursday, June 30, 2011


Citizens uniting in the Colbert SuperPAC

by Larry Geller

Comedian Stephan Colbert has always been serious. His choice of communication medium has just been comedy. Both he and Jon Stewart use humor as a way to both report and comment on the news as well as on the condition of our politics, our country, and our world.

He made a very serious move this morning by gaining Federal Elections Commission approval for his shiny new SuperPAC, which is now open for business. After addressing the rally that formed outside of the FEC, he got started immediately—by offering to shake hands with all of his supporters—for one dollar a handshake.

The Atlantic made a good try at explaining how the new SuperPAC will operate, including describing Colbert’s choice to seek FEC approval rather than go the simpler route of just registering a 527 organization. Colbert took the high road because the FEC imposes transparency obligations he could have avoided, had he chosen to simply register as a 527 with the IRS.

He may pave the way for other community organizations to do the same (though they could also go the 527 route). The Atlantic article (read from the link below) concluded:

… for PACs that already exist, and aren't bashful about disclosing who their donors are, Colbert has just mainstreamed the idea of shunning donations to candidates in favor of unrestricted independent election advertising.

[The Atlantic, Colbert's 'SuperPAC' Pushes the Limits of Election Law, 6/30/2011]

The Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision left ordinary citizens with fewer “free speech” rights than wealthy corporations. There are moves afoot to deny corporate personhood that have poor chances of success, since corporations have so much power over our federal government. While that plays out, if we can’t beat ‘em, why not join ‘em?

Will Colbert’s bold move lead to more interest in citizens uniting to form their own SuperPACs?

(thanks to @FreeRangeNan for spotting this story)


Colbert gets his SuperPAC

From the Huffington Post:

(click thingy at the lower right for full screen)

(if you don’t know what this is all about, don’t worry, Colbert will make sure that everyone knows)

It appears that Stephan Colbert got his SuperPAC from the SEC this morning.

This is an interesting twist. I wonder if it will be imitated and how it might level the playing field.  Ok, that's just a dream. But you never know.

Could unions get together to form a LaborPAC? Could good government advocates form InegrityPAC?  Would any of them attract any funding?

If votes are for sale, can we let evil corporations do all the purchasing?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Hawaii seems stuck in computer dark ages, can’t manage to put voter registration on-line

by Larry Geller

House Bill 545 requires electronic voter registration on the Office of Elections website by January 1, 2014.  The Governor objects because the estimated cost is $2.5 million, but no appropriation is provided.

Where did that $2.5 million come from? It sounds high by a factor of 10 to 20, maybe more.

On-line voter registration should be a piece of cake to program, and should save the state money on the principle that any time data entry can be pushed down to the end user, state employees don’t have to do the keying-in.

That principle is as old as data processing itself. And tools to fill out forms on-line are as old as the Web, and in use on other Hawaii government web sites. People fill out forms on the Web every day to order things from on-line vendors or to reserve seats at events, and so forth.

How easy is on-line voter registration to program?   It’s just a bunch of questions to be answered, and it’s already been done.

You can try it yourself. Go to this Rock the Vote web page and pretend you haven’t registered to vote yet. Or if it’s true that you’re not registered, go ahead and register!  Since Hawaii has no on-line system (and won’t any time soon if the Governor vetoes that bill), the program will generate a mail-in form for you. It knows you’re in Hawaii from your zip code.

Clearly, what is needed is just to skip the paper form and put the data directly into the Office of Elections computer. What could cost $2.5 million?

A more advanced program might perform certain checks on the input data to reduce errors or to let applicants know that they are already registered, for example, and ask if this might be a change of address or other information.

This is not rocket science, Governor, and how will we demonstrate our technical expertise to APEC 2011 delegates if the truth is we don’t have any?


Google’s answer to Facebook is looking good so far

Big picture take-away: Google has built an attractive, intuitive, intelligent service that's fun to use and speaks to a deep human need for contextual integrity of communication. There is not just public/private, life is more complex than that. This need, unmet by almost any other social network today, is where Google is aiming to win the hearts of users. The app the company built towards that aim is smooth and pleasing to use.

by Larry Geller

The pull-quote above is from Marshall Kirkpatrick’s article First Night With Google Plus: This is Very Cool (ReadWrite Web, 6/28/2011). Kirkpatrick explains the core functionality, Circles, that make this app the anti-Facebook.

Can it succeed? Who knows. Instead of rehashing the details here. why don’t you click over and read his article.

Another good one is Google Launches Google+ To Battle Facebook (, 6/28/2011).

Check these out for a good tour of this interesting new product.


Trial of Aloun Farms Sou brothers could take 2-3 weeks

by Larry Geller

At a pre-trial conference before Judge Barry M. Kurren today, it was estimated that the jury trial of the Aloun Farms brothers Mike and Alec Sou on charges related to human trafficking could take approximately two to three weeks. The Department of Justice intends to call witnesses who will require interpreters, thereby lengthening the time needed for their testimony and cross examination.

Motions filed today with the court clerk involved identification of alleged substandard housing provided to the workers, including shipping containers without air conditioning or indoor plumbing, and other matters.

For background and a current summary of the case, please see Government Issues Subpoenas for Trial of Alleged Aloun Farms Human Traffickers (6/16/2011), by Malia Zimmerman of the Hawaii Reporter.

Google แปล : ที่ประชุมก่อนการทดลองใช้ก่อนที่ผู้พิพากษาแบร์รี่เอ็ม Kurren วันนี้ก็คือการทดลองคาดว่าคณะลูกขุนของ Aloun ฟาร์มพี่น้องไมค์และอเล็กซ์ Sou เกี่ยวกับค่าบริการที่เกี่ยวข้องกับการค้ามนุษย์อาจใช้เวลาประมาณสองถึงสามสัปดาห์ กระทรวงยุติธรรมมุ่งมั่นที่จะเรียกพยานที่จะต้องใช้ล่ามจึงยาวเวลาที่จำเป็นสำหรับพยานหลักฐานและการตรวจสอบข้ามของพวกเขา
การเคลื่อนไหวยื่นศาลวันนี้กับบัตรประจำตัวพนักงานที่เกี่ยวข้องกับที่อยู่อาศัยด้อยคุณภาพที่ถูกกล่าวหาให้กับคนงานรวมทั้งภาชนะขนส่งโดยไม่ต้องเครื่องปรับอากาศหรือประปาในร่ม, และเรื่องอื่น ๆ
สำหรับพื้นหลังและปัจจุบันสรุปของกรณีที่โปรดดูหมายศาลปัญหารัฐบาลสำหรับการทดลองการค้ามนุษย์ Aloun ฟาร์มกล่าวหา (2011/6/16) โดย Malia Zimmerman ของผู้สื่อข่าวฮาวาย


Monday, June 27, 2011


Party time at HMSA? Abercrombie guts Hawaii’s health protection laws

by Larry Geller

A Democratic governor will have achieved what even the Republicans didn’t dare to do—remove Hawaii’s special health care protections.  The result, aside from costing citizens of the state pain, suffering and even death, will bring profit to the health insurance companies.

Of course, the Legislature passed SB1274, the bill that removes a patient’s right to appeal insurance company denials to the Insurance Commission. Their motivation for doing that should be examined. But the Governor could have vetoed it. Also, as the Star-Advertiser breaking news reports, he does plan to veto a bill that was intended to protect our health care:

Gov. Neil Abercrombie notified state House and Senate leaders on Monday that he may veto 23 bills, including a bill intended to protect the state's landmark Prepaid Health Care Act.

Among the potential vetoes is a bill that removes provisions of the Prepaid Health Care Act that sunset the act in the event of a national health care plan

[Star-Advertiser, Abercrombie may veto 23 bills, 6/27/2011]

As I understand it, there is only one governor’s message of intent to veto bills. When that list was posted, I read it a couple of times looking for SB1247. It wasn’t there. That means that the bill will become law.

Yes, it will be party time at HMSA, Evercare and the other insurance companies. But sad for those of us who may become ill and are denied treatment or medication. And that will include legislators and their families along with other public workers.

Update: Although not posted yet on the Capitol website, it appears that Gov. Abercrombie has signed SB1274 into law today.


Common Cause on today’s Supreme Court decision striking down Arizona law

Below is a statement by Common Cause on a Supreme Court decision that does affect Hawaii's election law.  HB1575, which didn’t pass this session, will be introduced again next session to fix it. Follow its progress on the Voter Owned Hawaii website.

Supreme Court strikes down Arizona “trigger” funds

but reaffirms constitutionality of public financing to fight corruption


The Supreme Court today reaffirmed the constitutionality of public financing as a means of fighting political corruption in the  case Arizona Free Enterprise v. Bennett (also known as McComish v. Bennett), while striking down one mechanism used in Arizona’s program.  The foundation of public campaign finance programs remains strong,  and it is more important than ever that we preserve and extend those reforms, campaign finance groups Common Cause and Public Campaign said.


“The Court’s misguided ruling affects only one mechanism of public financing, and there are numerous ways to fix it,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar.  “Today, in the wake of Citizens United, it is more critical than ever that we change the way we pay for our elections by moving to a small donor system that gives the public a voice back in our government. Nothing short of our democracy is at stake.”

“The five-vote big-money majority on the Court has spoken again in favor of wealthy special interests,” said Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Public Campaign. “Fortunately, the Court has left room for small-donor driven systems like the Fair Elections Now Act.”

The ruling was far from a surprise. The Fair Elections Now Act, which is pending in Congress, was developed as an alternative and written to meet the criteria laid out today by the high court. It allows participating candidates to obtain public funds by voluntarily agreeing to limit their acceptance of large, private donations. Small donations of $100 or less to the Fair Elections candidate are then matched on a five to one basis. In contrast to the Arizona system, Fair Elections candidates do not receive additional funds based on the spending of their privately financed opponents or independent expenditure groups.


As the Supreme Court continues to dismantle common sense campaign reform legislation, it’s up to members of Congress, as well as state legislators, to move forward with legislation to ensure our elections are of, by and for the people—not bought and paid for by special interests.


Fair Elections laws reduce the actuality or appearance of corruption that can arise as a result of private campaign spending, free participating candidates to devote more of their time and energy listening to the concerns of all voters – not just those who give them campaign donations – and have encouraged dozens of political newcomers, who lack independent wealth or a pre-existing network of financial support, to enter the political arena.


Justice Elena Kagan’s dissent shows a far firmer grasp of the First Amendment and its purposes than that proposed by the majority opinion. As Justice  Kagan noted, “The First Amendment’s core purpose is to foster a healthy, vibrant political system full of robust discussion and debate.  Nothing in Arizona’s anticorruption statute, the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Act, violates this constitutional protection.  To the contrary, the Act promotes the values underlying both the First Amendment and our entire Constitution by enhancing the “opportunity for free political discussion to the end that government may be responsive to the will of the people.”


In the coming months, Common Cause and Public Campaign will work with reform advocates and reform-minded elected officials across the country to adapt crucial public funding programs to the Court’s new ruling and defend against future challenges.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Hawaii’s hidden history—slave labor, profit, and the taking of Waikiki

by Larry Geller

If you’re a visitor to Hawaii, or planning a trip, and a Tweet or Google search has brought you here, there’s a movie about Waikiki below. You can skip the words (but please come back later) and just watch the 35 minute documentary about Waikiki. Click the little thingy at the lower right for full-screen. Enjoy!

This film might be shown in all of the schools as a history lesson, but of course, no such thing will happen. It’s a documentary centered around how Waikiki, originally a rich center of agriculture and aquaculture, became the present tool of the tourism industry. Tourism (and to a lesser extent, service to the military) drives the economy of the state and separates us from other Pacific islands wallowing in intractable poverty.

Why post it now?

For one thing, when the film was made, there was no Internet to post it on. Now, a documentary can be seen by millions, by people anywhere in the world. This film needs to be seen. When it was made, the extensive effort needed to produce a film could attract only a few eyeballs. I assume it was aired on `Olelo, the public television channel, but it could not have gone viral. Without YouTube, it that would have been tough.

For another, as we follow the development of Waikiki, we learn some history that is uncomfortable today, and so likely to be neglected. Particularly as the first of a series of human trafficking trials is set for July in Honolulu, that is, not even a month away, it may be revealing to many to learn that Hawaii’s plantation economy was based on slave labor. The documentary touches on that.  Slave labor is nothing new here, and if the federal charges stick, we will sadly learn that it has not yet been wiped out in “Paradise.”

Next year Hawaii will be the scene of another trial, the largest human trafficking trial in US history, potentially involving as many as 600 Thai workers kept in indentured servitude. From the documentary we learn that the penal code and voting laws of the nascent “Republic” were based on the laws of slave states Louisiana and Mississippi, respectively. Slavery and voter disenfranchisement were built-in to the laws by those who stood to make obscene profits by exploiting both the land of Hawaii and its people.

As to Waikiki, I first learned about the rape of the land during a visit to the lookout point up on Tantalus. I can’t remember who was with me, but looking out over the vast space between Tantalus and Diamond Head on a stunningly beautiful, clear tropical day, I was told that the entire area was planted in breadfruit and taro. Indeed, the documentary describes the advanced engineering that went into the irrigation system of pre-contact Hawaii. What happened to that land and the Native Hawaiians who farmed it and fished nearby? Watch the documentary.

Finally, the state administration is upset just now that it cannot wring unending growth from tourism. It is also undertaking the privatization of public lands based on a law passed this year. And it’s in the news that the best agricultural land in the state (perhaps in the country, capable of four harvests in a year) is on the verge of takeover by developers.

So the documentary might have been made yesterday. We seem still to depend on slave labor, low-paying jobs in the tourist industry to profit the rich, and the loss of farmland to development. We still have a government that knows how to do nothing else for the economy but rape and exploit the land and people. We’re in no position to dismiss our history because it continues to the present day.

Watch the video.

Taking Waikiki   Directed by Edward Coll and Carol Bain (1994).

[Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0]



Saturday, June 25, 2011


Down to the wire on your right to appeal health care denials in Hawaii

by Larry Geller

On Monday the Governor issues his list of possible vetoes. Any bill not on his list will become law, either with or without his signature.

SB1274 ought to be on his list. If it’s not, there will no longer be a right to appeal health insurance denials to the Insurance Commission in Hawaii. The Patients’ Bill of Rights and Responsibilities will be gutted.

The bill is an administration bill. It will take a groundswell of opposition to kill it.

Have you called the Governor’s office yet? 586-0034. I would normally give their fax number also, but when I asked if they got my fax they said they didn’t, so I don’t know what’s going on there. When you call, ask that your message be given to the Governor to put SB1274 on his veto list.

Aside from the danger to life and limb to patients needing expensive treatment (and isn’t that what health insurance is supposed to cover?), passage of that bill will bring windfall profits to the insurance companies. Every time they deny a treatment, procedure or medication, they make money.

So please call 586-0034 and leave a message.

Thank you!


Governor Abercrombie Talks About the Issues

By Henry Curtis

On June 23, 2011 Governor Neil Abercrombie hosted a community forum at Washington Middle School.

Permits and Regulations

Should bad projects be stopped? Should the public be able to influence agencies to reject bad projects?

Governor Abercrombie: “Where this is concerned, where business is concerned, we have to make sure that we, don't put artificial barriers up for permitting …to see that the permits are not a barrier or an obstacle but that the permits are there for what it's intended to do, which is to facilitate good projects. The problems with regulations that are seen as just ways to stop everything, is that it ends up stopping good projects as well ... So we are going to take a look at all of those rules and regulations that are actually stopping us from progressing.”

Reappointing Resignees

The Governor recently asked for Board and Commission members appointed by the previous administration and unanimously confirmed by the State Senate to resign.

Governor Abercrombie: “Why do you think it is that I am talking about trying to get Boards and Commissions that are going to reflect the changes that I would like to see. It's not because I'm characterizing those serving now, I might even appoint them back if I had the opportunity. That's not the issue.”


Should soup kitchens only give free food to those who are living in a shelter? Should they require proof of residence? Should they be prevented from feeding people who wander in from parks and streets?

Governor Abercrombie: “Its difficult in a macro micro-sense, to necessarily see that progress is being made every day, but that's what we're doing, that's one of the reasons why we had to make a decision about, saying to people its not a good idea to feed, people, in the park, its not a good idea to aid and abet people in continuing to have the disease they have, that they have a mental illness, a chronic condition that they have to come to grips with, you have to take them out of that context in order to make a change, so that's why we have the hotlines out there, the numbers that can be called, we have coordinated in an unprecedented way over the last 60 days, we're not up to the 90 days yet, with the service organizations that are out there, so that we have actually prevented more people from going into homelessness, we've been able to stop some of that.”


Governor Abercrombie: “We're going to change the diet around, we're going to be doing things like trying to purchase, right now believe it or not pineapple is still part of the landscape, the native cultural landscape in Hawai`i. We should be purchasing pineapples for our schools, for our hospitals, for the prison system, for our public facilities right here in Hawai`i. We have to change some of the rules around.”

Utilizing Unimproved Areas

Governor Abercrombie: “I just finished the conversation yesterday morning with Secretary [of the U.S. Department of the Interior] Salazar ...The other thing the Secretary is very very interested in aiding and assisting us with, and [Lt. Governor] Brian [Schatz] will be working on this, is the, I almost said the ring, but what I'm talking about is the walk, we are know about Kamehameha's walk that saved Kamehameha. All along to coast of Kona from Hapuna all the way down past Pu`uhonua past Honokohau Harbor there's federal parks, there’s state parks, there's hotel entrances, there's harbors, there's agriculture, there's recreational areas. We're going to connect those up and we're going to connect them up in such a way, that you'll be, [able to] literally walk from one end to the other and not have to go to a hotel. The hotels going to help us with that. Because they understand that is part of the idea of Hawai`i. That makes it different from tourist destinations from the rest of the world.

So I can assure you whether it is, whether it is seen to that we, I don't even want to say restore, because it wasn't necessarily available before. We're going to make available, to our people, literally, the Kona Coast, to be able to transverse it as human beings, rather than be isolated in an automobile, and just driving from one hotel to another, or one business activity to another.”

Ka`ena Point

Over the past several decades there have been intense fights over Ka`ena Point. Some want to keep it the way it is, an unimproved wild area. Others want to preserve it by offering amenities that will enable large numbers of people to visit it.

Governor Abercrombie: “We're going to try to do the same at Ka`ena Point, on this island, to see to it that it is preserved, and that it is utilized in a way that reignites our sense of aloha for one another and the blessing that we have for living in paradise.”

Inmate Food

There are several ways of reducing the cost of housing inmates. These include providing cheap foods lacking nutritional value, limiting portion size, and eliminating drug treatment programs. Thin inmates are not always healthy inmates.

Governor Abercrombie: “Jodie Hirata is here tonight, the head of our Department of Public Safety. I can tell you right now when you see stories in the papers about unwanted weight loss, well that's a new affliction to me by the way. I don't know about the struggle you have, but unwanted weight loss is something I could really get or try to figure out.”

Exporting Inmates

The Hawai`i Government just signed an agreement with CCA for the continued export of Hawai`i inmates. The new three-year agreement (with two one-year extensions) will continue the practice of housing inmates abroad and justifying it with shoddy and inaccurate financial accounting methods.

Governor Abercrombie: “Very shortly we'll be coming out with a complete prospectus for you to consider with regard to new prison facilities to make sure we keep all of the prisoners, we don't want more prisoners in Hawai`i, but if somebody has to go away we want to keep them in Hawai`i, so that we can try and keep the families together and give them a chance to straighten their lives out they going to be growing their own food.”


Donalyn Dela Cruz (Governor’s Press Secretary): “Another big issue that came up was growing our own food, importation. ...There are going to be a lot of questions on this issue you can see. ... How can we get more produce, local produce, in our grocery stores? And to that I'll ask the other question as well. Very similar. What's being done to make changes in Hawai`i from being an importer to an exporter?”

Can we grow our own food? Can we eliminate the huge rains on our economy, exporting dollars for foreign food?

Governor Abercrombie: “We'll I start work from the last backwards. We are doing some exports now, niche industries right at the moment, that are out there. What we want to do with the Department of Business and Economic Development is, working right now, we're working with the Department of Consumer Affairs, and so on that has some of the regulations coming around public television, public access, and working on internet issues and broadband issues.

What we intend to do, is see to it that our agricultural industries, which are entrepreneurial and for the most part niche at the moment, are able to be out there. People want coffee from Hawai`i, not just Kona coffee by the way anymore, Ka`u coffee, Moloka`i coffee, Hawai`i coffee. I, we are making tremendous progress in these industries, farmers elsewhere that are providing a living for people I cannot tell you the number of young people who want to farm, but they have to be able to do it in a business-like fashion.

As my friend Richard Ha on the Big Island said to me over and over again, who's a farmer who is growing many of the tomatoes that your enjoying and was a pioneer in that effort. He said that ‘if your not, if your farming and your not in the business of farming your gardening.’ Nothing wrong with gardening. Nothing wrong with that.”

# # #
Henry Curtis


Somebody give Civil Beat a printing press

by Larry Geller

The Society of Professional Journalism awards were announced last night, but you’d never know it from today’s Star-Advertiser. Makes you wonder if anyone is working there over the weekend.

On the other hand, they did not really do very well this year. Check out the winners at the SPJ web page here.

Looking at incremental changes, I was most impressed by the showing of Civil Beat, which, since it has dropped its paywall and is available to anyone state-wide (actually, world-wide), was able to demonstrate its wealth of talent and experience. Here’s hoping they have a sustaining business model.

Now, if only that business model involved a printing press.

Too bad the Star-Advertiser skipped the award story, an omission which speaks for itself.

The SPJ awards didn’t include a category for news aggregation. The Star-Advertiser could have won that. In fact, I truly appreciate the increased national and international coverage in the paper now when compared to the slim national column in the Advertiser, but it really is just aggregation, the same as many blogs typically practice. Because they have a subscription and advertising base, they can run full articles. Blogs have no budget and so they provide a few lines (fair use) and a link. That’s the diff. Aggregation is valuable if well done, but there’s not much to award for it since it isn’t original material.

Also note the rise of the Hawaii Reporter. I have noted here Malia Zimmerman’s exceptional coverage of the human trafficking cases now working their way through the courts. And the Hawaii Independent made a good showing.

We’re doing well in Hawaii, I think, with good gains for on-line journalism. This is probably a reflection of the coming iPad generation (does generation i come after generation X or before it?).

Check the link for the complete list of awards, and congratulations to our hard-working journalists.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Civil Beat: Subpoena dropped for names of MauiTime website commenters

by Larry Geller

While I was off at the all-day Access to Justice conference at the UH law school, Civil Beat got the scoop on the Maui Police dropping their subpoena asking for the identification of commenters on a MauiTime website.  Editor John Temple did a good job emphasizing the importance of protecting the public interest that the Maui police were trying to violate.

Read the article at: Maui Cops Come to Their Senses — Drop Subpoena (6/24/2011).

Allowing easy access to information such as the Maui Police broadly requested violates the sanctity of what might be described as a privacy privilege that protects the public interest in a way similar to an attorney-client or doctor-client privilege of confidentiality.  All of these can be breached for good and lawful reasons, but are not to be surrendered lightly. Strictly speaking there is no privilege with regard to press sources, which is why governments have enacted shield laws, for example.

Kudos to the MauiTime editors and publisher for sticking to their principles. I agree with John Temple that it is a shame that taxpayer and private funds were expended to end what was an obviously unreasonable request from the start.

I also wonder if the Maui police might, heaven forfend, have been seeking some payback for the earlier MauiTime article on alleged assault by one of “Dog” Chapman’s security guards and a police officer. See story here. The thought just crossed my mind.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


‘Big Wind’ blowing ill on Molokai

After much equivocating, a representative of Pattern Energy said, “If the community doesn’t support this it will not happen.” This answer was met with boisterous applause

If there was any doubt whether or not Molokai residents want to be part of the largest wind power development in Hawaii history, last night’s meeting at the Mitchell Pau’ole Center was pretty conclusive: NOT!

The meeting was the second of three meetings this week organized by Pattern Energy and Biological Capital, which have recently formed the exploratory group Molokai Renewables LLC to study the feasibility of bringing a 200-megawatt wind turbine generating project to Molokai.

[Molokai News, Message to Pattern Energy: ‘No Big Wind on Molokai!’, 6/23/2011]

I can’t find a way to snip this long and detailed article and keep the sense of it. Please click the link and read it on the Molokai News website.


IAEA: Nuclear “plant layout should be based on maintaining a ‘dry site concept’

by Larry Geller

Rachel Maddow did a segment on the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant situation last night. Click the link or the pic to view.

I was particularly impressed with this IAEA recommendation, in view of the siting of the two Nebraska nuclear facilities in a (now flooded) flood plain:


Hawaii has new anti-labor trafficking law

by Larry Geller

Governor Neil Abercrombie signed HB141 into law on June 22 as Act 146 of the 2011 legislative session. The new law, which passed through the Legislature without opposition,

Establishes class A and B felonies for labor trafficking offenses, a nonpayment of wages offense, and an unlawful conduct with respect to documents offense. Establishes provisions related to prosecution of the offenses. Requires the Attorney General to report on labor trafficking provisions. Effective July 1, 2011

Hawaii had been criticized as one of the few states without an adequate law relating to labor trafficking. It is also the state where the US Department of Justice is prosecuting two human trafficking cases, one against the owners of Aloun Farms that is set to go to trial next month, and one against defendants working for the recruiting firm Global Horizons. The latter case has been described as the largest human trafficking case in US history and could ultimately involve up to 600 Thai workers. So far, three of the eight defendants have pleaded guilty to various charges related to the case.

Additionally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed its largest civil suit in the agency’s history against Global Horizons and six Hawaii farms in April, 2011.

Google แปล : Neil Abercrombie ราชการลงนามในกฎหมาย HB141 วันที่ 22 มิถุนายนเป็นพระราชบัญญัติ 146 จากสมัยนิติบัญญัติ 2011 กฎหมายใหม่ซึ่งผ่านสภานิติบัญญัติโดยฝ่ายค้าน
กำหนด felonies A และ B ชั้นสำหรับความผิดการค้ามนุษย์แรงงานการไม่ชำระค่าจ้างของการกระทำผิดและดำเนินการผิดกฎหมายที่เกี่ยวกับความผิดเอกสาร กำหนดบทบัญญัติที่เกี่ยวข้องกับการดำเนินคดีความผิดที่ ต้องมีอัยการสูงสุดเพื่อรายงานเกี่ยวกับการค้ามนุษย์แรงงานบทบัญญัติ มีผลบังคับใช้ 1 กรกฎาคม 2011
ฮาวายได้รับการวิพากษ์วิจารณ์ว่าเป็นหนึ่งในไม่กี่ประเทศที่ไม่มีกฎหมายเพียงพอที่เกี่ยวข้องกับการค้ามนุษย์แรงงาน นอกจากนี้ยังเป็นรัฐที่ US ของกระทรวงยุติธรรมจะดำเนินคดีทั้งสองกรณีการค้ามนุษย์อย่างใดอย่างหนึ่งต่อเจ้าของฟาร์ม Aloun ที่กำหนดเป็นไปทดลองใช้ในเดือนถัดไปและหนึ่งกับจำเลยที่ทำงานให้กับการสรรหา Horizons บริษัท ทั่วโลกที่ กรณีหลังได้รับการอธิบายเป็นกรณีการค้ามนุษย์ที่ใหญ่ที่สุดในประวัติศาสตร์ของสหรัฐอเมริกาและในที่สุดอาจเกี่ยวข้องกับการได้ถึง 600 แรงงานไทย จนถึงสามของแปดจำเลยมี pleaded ผิดไปค่าใช้จ่ายต่างๆที่เกี่ยวข้องกับกรณีที่


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There is no “no-fly zone” blackout for foreign press about potential for disaster at Fort Calhoun or Cooper nuclear sites

by Larry Geller

While the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission buries its head in the sand bars, the plight of the Calhoun nuclear reactor that is threatened by flooding and could become the next Fukushima is at last getting some traction in the media:


There has been little coverage in the US up till now except in the alternative media. This snip is from an Italian article (Google translation of, Nuclear: 2 U.S. submerged plants from Missouri. At Fort Calhoun is an emergency level 4, 6/23/2011) :


Yes, there is a no-fly zone in the USA. Yes, it has kept journalists away. In this country. The outside world seems to be paying attention.

Of course, we hope that there will not be a disaster of any magnitude. How bad could it get?

Look at this—a website says it can do a simulation:



And where is this website?  In Egypt (!).

Egyptian site

Will we be surprised to read one day about Fukushima, USA in our morning paper? Should Obama continue to push for new nuclear plants?

I think the Egyptians might have a few words for us about our folly. Tags: , , ,


Have you been denied by your medical insurance company? You may have only this week to appeal to the Insurance Commission

by Larry Geller

This week is almost over.

It’s really down to the wire on external appeals of health insurance denials.

If SB1274 is not on Governor Abercrombie’s list of potential vetoes, which is due out next Monday, then the bill will become law and whatever your insurance company denies you will probably stick.

Anyone who had the right to appeal to the Insurance Commission will lose that right. Well, you might be able to take them to court, but it’s usually cheaper to pay for the treatment, even if very expensive, yourself. SB1274 will also be a windfall for insurers, who make their money through denials. As whistleblower Wendell Potter noted in his book Deadly Spin, “the denial of claims goes straight to the bottom line of insurance companies' profits.”

Odds are, you yourself have not been denied anything life-threatening by your insurance company. I know that. I’d just like you to think what would happen if you were. What would you be able to do about it? Just turn over and die as they expect?

How about calling the Governor’s office and asking that SB1274 be vetoed?  808-586-0034.

Though I’m not an attorney, it looks to me like if SB1274 doesn’t get on the potential veto list, the Insurance Commission would likely stop accepting external appeals because of the likelihood that they may be vacated on the basis that the Commissioner lacked jurisdiction to hold a hearing and enter a decision.

External appeals have saved lives. I know of someone personally whose life was saved this way.

There has been direct action on this. A remarkable meeting took place this week at the State Capitol inside the governor’s administrative offices.

On Tuesday about 30 people gathered in a room at the State Capitol to tell two representatives of the Governor why passing SB1274 is such a bad idea. There were doctors, lawyers, two law professors, Rep. Karl Rhoads (who voted against SB1274), about six registered nurses, eight parents with and without kids, and a social worker.

It was the parents’ stories that were most impressive. They brought with them three kids with cystic fibrosis, two medically fragile kids from Kauai, and one medically fragile kid from East Honolulu. Their message was, indeed, powerful. Some of their children would likely be dead except for the treatment they were able to keep because they have the right to appeal insurance company denials.

Would an insurance company deny life to children with cystic fibrosis? You betcha.

The Patients Bill of Rights is very powerful protection for Hawaii’s citizens and has been a model for other states. It works. One parent told the group how she had been denied by Medicaid. When she told them on the phone that she was going to appeal to the Insurance Commissioner, they caved immediately and reversed the denial. There was no need to go forward with it.

That demonstrates that the Patients Bill of Rights and Responsibilities is working. Take away the right of appeal, and where would the children be?

So please join the movement to protect our protections. Call the Governor right away (since Monday is the deadline for putting bills on the potential veto list) at 586-0034. Don’t worry, the Governor himself doesn’t answer that phone, just leave your message.

Or, if you live on Oahu, tell it to the Governor directly. There is a public forum this evening, June 23, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., at Washington Middle School. There should be plenty of parking. They want to talk about what they’re doing for (or to) the homeless. We can tell them what they should do about this very bad bill.

Please do something to protect the Patients Bill of Rights and Responsibilities today or tomorrow. Before it’s too late.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Honolulu has formidable competition in “Meanest Cities” competition

by Larry Geller

I felt sure that Honolulu would move into the ranks of America’s “Meanest Cities” after Governor Abercrombie and his homeless czar Marc Alexander declared that organizations and individuals should stop feeding the hungry homeless in the parks. But it appears we have strong competition. Actually, we’re not officially on the list this year, but that could change.

A sure contender for the title this year is Orlando, Florida. Orlando has passed and is enforcing a law limiting the sharing of food to twice a year per park. So far, a website reports that Orlando has made about 20 arrests for the crime of giving food to the hungry.

Where is this website? In Japan.

It’s natural that there should be some attention paid to this immoral act by the City of Orlando in Japan. Even before the current crisis caused by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters, Japan has had compassion for those in need.

Orlando is a popular tourist destination. They don’t need the bad publicity that their hard heartedness is beginning to attract overseas.

The Japanese website, Tokyo Progressive, has started a petition. You can sign too. Show them that we in Hawaii are still a kind and generous people. And tourist-friendly, of course.


P  L  E  A  S  E       S  I  G  N        N  O  W

The Tokyo Progressive is also a good source of Fukushima information, particularly if you’re bilingual (but that’s not necessary):

Tokyo Progressive

The website Food Not Bombs has started a campaign to resist the Orlando law through civil disobedience—that is, by feeding the homeless in the park. Read about it here. They are encouraging people to go to Orlando and risk arrest by doing the right thing.

Gov. Abercrombie should be careful that he does not hurt our lynch-pin tourism industry by further heartless action against our homeless citizens. Look at it this way: starving them is not going to do them any good. A Gestapo-like sweep just before APEC will not make Hawaii seem like a Mecca of compassion as it hits overseas news headlines. When Lingle stepped in to the mess Mufi Hannemann was making (for example, arresting leading homeless advocates) she did it by doing something positive for those forced to live outdoors—she opened shelters for them. Abercrombie seems not to be on that compassion track. That could be bad news domestically and overseas.

Besides, if those affected march right back into Waikiki during APEC in November, there’s not a thing he can do about it. There’s still no legal way to arrest people for walking on a public sidewalk. If they wish, those he would starve can easily and effectively retaliate.

We residents of Honolulu can do our bit not by travelling to Orlando to get arrested, but by supporting or participating in a feeding program right here, or by supporting any church or agency that provides services to the homeless. Remember also that about a third are children. They need an education, and also school supplies, tissues, even toilet paper, because Hawaii, like a third-world country, makes children bring these things to school. Many families struggle with the expense, and those living in the parks or beaches may not be able to provide these things at all. Want to help? How about dropping off school supplies for homeless kids?

There’s lots we can do. We can help without denying food to hungry people.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


DBEDT Director Richard Curtis Lim has major energy investments

By Henry Curtis

Director Richard Lim addressed the Hawaii Economic Association at the Plaza Club (June 2, 2011). He stated: Of course, there will always be the vocal minority that will object. Think of the super ferry. And, there have been other projects that have been derailed by well heeled NIMBY’s and special interests. While I am all for protecting the environment, we need to strike a balance. We can do responsible and sustainable development.”

Richard Lim’s State Ethics Commission financial disclosure statement revealed investments valued between $6.4 million and $11.7 million, including $750,000 to $1 million in Hawaiian Electric stock owned by his wife. Ian Lind summarized these investments ranked by value.

Richard Curtis Lim has a number of investments in energy companies.

An investment of $750,000-999,000 in Hawaiian Electric Industries owner of HECO, MECO and HELCO. The stock pays a dividend equivalent to about 5% per year. Thus HEI pays Richard Lim $40,000-50,000 per year.

This includes an investment of $50,000-99,999 in Allegheny Energy, Inc. which owns and operates electric generation facilities and delivers electric services in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia. Allegheny Energy owned 22 coal-fired generating stations in 2005. Blaine Township, a small town about 40 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, sought to ban coal mining within its borders. The town passed three ordinances that ban coal mining and require corporations in any industry to disclose their activities to local government. As of June 2009, Penn Ridge Coal LLC, a division of Alliance Resource Partners, and Allegheny Pittsburgh Coal Co., a division of Allegheny Energy, were suing the township in federal district court, charging that the ordinances violate their corporate rights.

An investment of $50,000-99,999 in TECO Energy, an energy company headquartered in Tampa, Florida. TECO Energy has four business units including TECO Coal, producer of coal in Kentucky and Virginia which in turn owns Clintwood Elkhorn Mining Co., Perry County Coal Corp. and Premier Elkhorn Coal Co.

An investment of $50,000-99,999 in Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. or Petrobras, the largest company in Latin America by market capitalization and revenue, and the largest company headquartered in the Southern Hemisphere by market value. While the company ceased to be Brazil's legal monopoly in the oil industry in 1997, it remains a significant oil producer, with output of more than 2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, as well as a major distributor of oil products. The company also owns oil refineries and oil tankers. Petrobras is a world leader in development of advanced technology from deep-water and ultra-deep water oil production.

An investment of $250,000-499,999 in Conoco Philips. Conoco and Phillips merged in 2002 creating the sixth-largest publicly traded oil company in the world and the third-largest in the United States. ConocoPhillips explores for and produces oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids around the world. ConocoPhillips is the fourth-largest non-governmental controlled refiner in the world.

An investment of $25,000-49,999 in Williams Companies, Inc. Williams produces enough natural gas for more than 5 million homes per day. Over the past five years they participated in the development of 7,200 new natural gas wells. Williams gathers and processes natural gas both onshore, in production hubs like the Rockies, and offshore in the deepwater Gulf. With thousands of miles of pipeline across the United States, Williams delivers about 12 percent of the nation's daily supply of natural gas.

An investment of $25,000-49,999 in The United States Oil Fund, LP which tracks the movements of light, sweet crude oil.

Richard Lim co-founded Sennet Capital, a Hawai'i merchant bank that provides strategic financial and advisory services and private equity financing to mid-market and renewable energy companies and projects.

The Sennet Capital team includes: Paul Alston, Paul Casey, Herbert Conley (formerly Co-Managing Director of Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties), Lawrence M. Johnson, Bert A. Kobayashi, Cathy Luke (President of Loyalty Enterprises, Ltd), Duncan MacNaughton (founding partner and Chairman of The MacNaughton Group), Colbert M. Matsumoto (Chairman and CEO of Island Insurance Company, Ltd.), Kenton Eldridge (co-founder of Aina Koa Pono, and co-founder Sennet Capital), Dr. Karl Stahlkopf (former HECO’s Senior Vice President, Energy Solutions and Chief Technology Officer and President of HECO’s Renewable Hawaii Inc., an unregulated HECO subsidiary) Admiral R.J. “Zap” Zlatoper, USN (Ret.) and Robert F. Clarke (Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) President and Chief Executive Officer (1991-2006), serves on the board of Aina Koa Pono, a biofuel company).

# # #

Henry Curtis


Gov. Abercrombie’s damage control needs some damage control

by Larry Geller

Governor Neil Abercrombie’s letters to members of the Public Utilities Commission and four other boards and commissions raised a storm of criticism, reflected by opinions published in the newspaper and on-line.

On Monday it appeared, from a report in the Star-Advertiser, that the Governor’s damage control efforts may need a little damage control themselves. A snip (please read the complete article):

Gov. Neil Abercrombie said Monday that his request that more than two dozen appointed members of state boards and commissions resign was not a reflection of their service or an issue of personalities.

The appointees do not have to resign and can choose to remain until their terms expire, he said. "Our administration needs to be able to work collaboratively with our boards and commissions to get work done in the public's best interest," Abercrombie said in a statement.

"This includes a new approach to maintaining our public housing units so residents can live safely and with dignity; developing a statewide vision for our sporting events and venues; and changing our policies for managing and utilizing our limited resources and land.

[Star-Advertiser, Governor defends requests to resign, 6/21/2011]

So now they don’t have to resign? This is in conflict with an earlier article that indicated, with respect to the Aloha Stadium Authority at least, the gov has replacements already picked out:

Bruce Coppa, comptroller at the state Department of Accounting and General Services, said he has drawn up list of prospective candidates for the governor.

[Star-Advertiser, Stadium panel shown door, 6/17/2011]

If the Governor truly believes that “"Our administration needs to be able to work collaboratively with our boards and commissions to get work done in the public's best interest” then why doesn’t he just do that? Asking them to resign and then backpedaling under fire is not a great way to begin the collaborative process.  In fact, it sets up nothing but bad feeling and could work against collaboration. In fact, Abercrombie really wanted them out and had replacements in the wings for them.

In fact, he has implied that the current appointees are not working in the public’s best interest. That’s not going to win friends or favorably influence those who might choose to ignore his resignation request and continue to serve—as they have, in the public interest. How many who received letters asking them to resign were Abercrombie supporters? How will they feel should they stay on?

Of course, the problem disappears if all 28 should resign.

Why could not any new ideas that the Governor says he has for Aloha Stadium or for anything else  be presented to any board as previous administrations have always done? It’s the way things work. Check some of the publicly available agendas or meeting minutes. Boards and commissions regularly work with administration departments or agencies, depending on their function.

State Board and commission members serve staggered terms so that there is continuity and maintenance of expertise and knowledge. Certainly, as an example, the newly appointed state Board of Education can be accused of knowing little about their responsibilities because the Governor declined to appoint any knowledgeable and experienced members of the previous (elected) board. Although in the future they will serve staggered terms, they were handicapped to start with by the same clean-sweep obsession that seems to have driven the request for resignations. The public did request that certain serving BOE members be retained, but those dedicated, experienced people were spurned.

It’s predictable also that such a slipshod appointment process may be resisted by the Senate at confirmation time. After all, they previously took testimony on and confirmed the appointees whom the Governor would now like to boot out without cause.

Bottom line, the damage control may turn out to be even more damaging. It will depend on whether current appointees do in fact resign. The ones who decline and stay on can be excused if they remain wary of this governor and his proposals.

(Disclosure: I was appointed by Gov. Lingle to the State Rehabilitation Council.)

Monday, June 20, 2011


Consumer Advocate makes a Great Recommendation

By Henry Curtis

HECO, MECO & HELCO signed a contract with Aina Koa Pono for biofuel biodiesel generated through a non-commercialized, unproven microwave process. HECO proposed that their ratepayers could wind up subsidizing HELCO ratepayers. Life of the Land and Hawai`i Renewable Energy Alliance applied to be parties before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), but were denied.

The PUC stated they lacked legal jurisdiction for approving inter-island electric utility rate subsidies. The docket was put on hold so that HECO could alter the law.

In March HECO took an unrelated bill which has passed the State Senate that would require the PUC to adopt electronic filing of all documents. As part of late testimony before a House Committee, HECO sought to amend the bill to allow inter-island rate subsidies. The House passed the combined bill, and both parts survived conference committee. The bill was sent to the Governor and he signed it into law as Act 69.

The PUC then asked HECO and the Consumer Advocate if hearings were needed for the proposed rate hikes.

HECO: “The Companies believe that public hearings are not required by State law (including Act 069), but may be held at the discretion of the Commission. Act 069 (Section 4) of the 2011 Session Laws of Hawaii does not contain any requirement to hold public hearings prior to establishing a Biofuel Surcharge Provision. The Companies are unaware of any other state law requiring public hearings for the Companies' revised requests. In addition, the Companies also recognize that surcharges have been approved by the Commission in the past, with and without public hearings.”

Consumer Advocate: “The Consumer Advocate submits that HRS § 269-12(c) applies to this docket: the HECO Companies' proposed Biofuel Surcharge Provision clearly results in an increase in rates that triggers the contested case and public hearing provisions of HRS §269-16(b).

Furthermore, HRS section 269-16 (b) creates an exception for a rate "established pursuant to an automatic rate adjustment clause previously approved bv the commission." The Consumer Advocate contends that this language supports the conclusion that a public hearing is required for any new rate adjustment clause while changes in a surcharge already approved by the Commission would not require a public hearing for every change or increase made pursuant to the rate adjustment mechanism.

In the instant case, the HECO companies seek to recover their costs pursuant to the, recent amendments to HRS section 269-93 that allow for the HECO companies to aggregate their respective renewable portfolios and to then distribute and allocate these costs among the HECO companies respective ratepayers by way of an automatic rate adjustment clause that is to be established and approved by the Commission. This is a new rate adjustment clause that is governed by HRS section 269-16, which requires a public hearing prior to approval.

On a final note, while the Consumer Advocate contends that the existing statutory language supports the need for public hearings to be held as a result of the HECO Companies' request, the Consumer Advocate acknowledges that the governing statute may leave room for a differing interpretation. Even if the Commission deems that HRS § 269-16(b) does not require public hearings, the Consumer Advocate recommends that the Commission determine that conducting public hearings on this matter would best serve the public interest. This recommendation is predicated on the belief that allowing public hearings would offer the customers likely to be impacted by this Application an opportunity to better educate themselves on the issues as well as to voice their testimonies on those issues.”

# # #
Henry Curtis


Reserve now: “The Good, Bad and Ugly”–June 22 at the State Capitol







Wednesday, June 22, from 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon


Hawai`i State Capitol, Room 325


WHAT: Key legislators will offer their perspective of the session and ideas for the next session. After their presentations, any member of the audience can suggest issues of concern for consideration in the 2012 session.


To register: Call Laura Manis, 597-8838 or e-mail by June 19.


Sponsored by: Hawai`i Alliance for Retired Americans and Kokua Council


A continental breakfast and light lunch will be provided FREE.


Disappeared Technology #1: Leakproof dry cells

Disappeared Technology

by Larry Geller

I’ve mentioned some technologies that never got to Hawaii, for example, permeable pavements that let the water filter right through into the ground. This technology, coupled with laws in some states and municipalities that make developers responsible for managing their own storm water, relieve the stress on ageing sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants.

But there are also technologies that have truly disappeared. And I don’t mean buggy whips and other things that have become anachronisms or lost their utility. 

Today I’ll introduce the first in a series on Disappeared Technology. Our topic: leakproof batteries.

“Batteries” should properly called dry cells, but the term seems to be in disfavor. I have an idea why. Perhaps it is because staying “dry” is a goal seldom reached.

Disappeared Technology: Leakproof dry cells

Last month I took a battery-operated closet light out to change the three AA batteries, since it wasn’t lighting up any longer. When I opened the battery compartment, I learned why these things are not called “dry” cells any more.  The inside was sloshing in leaked electrolyte.

For the record, the batteries were Kirkland, and were well within their expiration date.

So I cleaned it out with a cotton swab and baking powder. The idea is to get every bit of it out or the contacts and electrical parts can corrode later on.

As I cleaned, which is a huge waste of time (but thank goodness I got to it early), I was reminded that when we lived in Japan, the Sony AA batteries we used never, never leaked. In fact, they had a little warranty on each one saying that if the battery leaked, Sony would replace the item with the same one, or if it should not be available, with one of equal value, plus new batteries.

Dead DuracellsHa, try that, Kirkland! How about a little warranty for your product, Duracell. Do you dare, Eveready?

They can’t. Their products leak. Sometimes the contacts corrode and have to be cleaned.

The Duracell batteries pictured at left were never used, and had not expired. Well, they obviously did expire, but I mean the expiration date had not been reached. They sat in a cool, dry place, along with their package-mates, but they clearly had died.

I once saw a pair of Eveready D cells still in their blister pack hanging on a hook in Safeway, both covered with thick white fuzz.

Sony alkalineIn Japan, I used Sony AA and AAA batteries in all my flashlights and radios. I had a tiny Sony shortwave radio that we took with us on our trips around Asia. It was exceptionally well designed and very expensive. Of course, it had Sony batteries inside. Would I have dared put something leak-prone into a radio costing several hundred dollars? No way.

Whether the Sonys just sat on the shelf or whether they were run down from use, none ever leaked. In 16 years, none leaked. So there is technology that keeps a battery from leaking.

And that technology either never made it to these shores, or it has disappeared.




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