Archive for October, 2010

What Do You Djou?

If we were handing out political courage awards, we wouldn’t exactly break out backs trying to carry the ones needed for Hawaii’s political class.  Especially on the Akaka Bill.  Heck, a three-year-old child could probably handle the load on that one.  Hawaii’s Democrats are rather remarkably in lockstep agreement on a fairly controversial issue–which pretty much indicates that the Party has declared its approval and will brook no dissent.  Hawaii’s Republican Party (such as it is) thankfully lacks the inflexible message of the Democrats, but makes up for it with party leaders who take a half-measures approach that consists mainly of offering weak disapproval and then caving-in after a few showy are largely meaningless “compromises.”  (Yes, there are exceptions.  There always are.  But not enough of them.)  Thus we have Linda Lingle’s shift on the Akaka Bill and Charles Djou’s rather bewildering variations.

Djou, in particular, is an interesting case.  Prior to getting elected, he gave some the impression that even if he wasn’t a vocal opponent of the Bill, neither did he plan to promote it.  But consider the statement he made in a recent radio interview: “Should the Akaka bill come back to the U.S. House, I’m confident that I’d be able to garner far more Republican support for the Akaka bill — make it bipartisan, make it less controversial, and make its passage far smoother.”  It’s hard not to see this as full support for the Bill’s passage.

Then, perhaps sensing that his position on Akaka was gaining him no friends among the Republicans and Independents that he needs in order to win, Djou decided to add a little nuance to his stance on the Bill.  Now, he says that he supports public hearings on the Bill and a non-binding vote from the Hawaii people.  Needless to say, those who are concerned about the impact of the Akaka Bill feel that the voice of the people of Hawaii on the issue should be a binding one–the current suggestion raises the strange possibility that hearings and a vote could show significant opposition to the Bill only to have it overridden by Congress.  Still, Djou’s latest position demonstrates some understanding that the most radical political questions since statehood deserves a public voice.  And of course Djou’s opponent, Colleen Hanabusa (a Democrat) is an unreserved supporter of the Akaka Bill (she has mentioned some support for public hearings, but not for a public vote).  Clearly, election day this year may have a real effect on what happens next in the effort to pass the Akaka Bill.


Bar None

The American Bar Association is currently lobbying in favor of the Akaka Bill, having sent a letter this week to every US Senator in favor of its passage.  This is much less impressive than it sounds.   Much like The Simpsons or David Lee Roth, the ABA is a shadow of its former self, living off the credibility of a name that too few have realized no longer carries any guarantee of quality or professionalism.

So when did the ABA jump the shark?  It’s hard to say . . . it’s really one of those incremental things.  Until one day you wake up and they’re applying purely political considerations to their evaluation of judicial nominees.  Among those people who follow such things, it’s common knowledge that the ABA no longer has any credibility as a neutral arbiter of constitutional interpretation or judicial ability.  Now, it functions more like a mouthpiece for the left wing of the Democratic party.  Take the aforementioned letter to the US Senate on the Akaka Bill.  One might imagine that the American Bar Association would present a neutral evaluation of the constitutionality and possible objections to the bill.  Don’t make me laugh.  In essence, it’s little more than a distillation of the same arguments presented by the pro-Akaka Lobby.  In fact, it bears such a similarity to an OHA column that one hopes the ABA didn’t spend too much money to produce such a propagandist rehash.

Of course, that’s how the game is played nowadays . . . bias disguised as neutral analysis is par for the course in modern politics.  It’s just a shame that such politics-as-usual methods are preventing a true debate on the merits of the bill and its possible impact on Hawaii.


The Best of Free Press

We are a cynical culture when it comes to the media.  And with good reason.  The impartial journalist of integrity is starting to seem like a quaint, old-fashioned notion–soon to be replaced entirely by the journalist who pursues an obvious political agenda, even while loudly ridiculing the possibility of media bias.  And as for local news . . . well, all too often it seems to have devolved to weather updates, local tragedies, and an extended recap of high school sports scores.  (Ironic, most of this can be learned about more quickly by asking the lady next door.)

But there are exceptions.   And today, we’re celebrating the 9th Anniversary of one the best of them.  Yes, today, Hawaii Reporter turns 9.  (Happy Birthday!)

People want to use all the trendy buzzwords about communication in the 21st century to belittle the importance of community news, but the truth is that it’s still as important as ever.  My ability to send a message to Washington DC in a matter of nanoseconds doesn’t make them more interested or dedicated to our interests out here.  And when was the last time you saw something about Hawaii on the national news that didn’t deal with the LA Lakers training camp, a beauty pageant, or a television show?  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  And for all of this time, Hawaii Reporter has been setting the standard for an active, invested, and free community news source.  More than any other news outlet in Hawaii, they have concerned themselves with providing a voice for the regular local guy and keeping abreast of the issues that we really care about (and without the editorializing that so often derails one’s enjoyment of the Advertiser and other Hawaii newspapers.)  Let’s hope they’re around for many more anniversary celebrations.


Hawaii Voter Recommendations for November 2010 with special focus on the Akaka bill

1. U.S. Senate: I recommend Cam Cavasso (R), against Dan Inouye (D).

2. U.S. House District #1: I recommend Colleen Hanabusa (D), against Charles Djou (R). [very interesting analysis]

3. U.S. House District #2: I recommend John Willoughby (R), against Mazie Hirono (D).

4. Governor and Lieutenant Governor: I recommend James “Duke” Aiona (R) and Lynn Finnegan (R) against Neil Abercrombie (D) and Brian Schatz.

5. Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee (5 seats to be elected):
O’ahu seat: I recommend Jackie Burke to unseat incumbent Walter Heen.
Maui seat: I recommend a blank showing opposition to uncontested incumbent Boyd Mossman.
At Large 3 seats: I recommend casting only two of the 3 votes allowed, in favor of Keali’i Makekau and Kama Hopkins; to unseat the 3 incumbents Rowena Akana, Oz Stender, and John Waihee IV.

Detailed analysis for each contest — especially the surprising recommendation to vote against Charles Djou for Congress — is on a webpage at

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Writ or Wrong

So, what ever happened to the much-ballyhooed OHA petition to force money out of the Hawaii legislature?  I remember when they filed it with the Hawaii Supreme Court.  How could I forget?  I got two separate press releases, a print newsletter article, an e-newsletter brief, and multiple links to the story as picked up (and especially endorsed) by other media outlets.  No one would let me forget it.  As I recall, the spin went something like this: the Hawaii legislature was resistant to approving the payout plan for a $200 million settlement between OHA and the Lingle Administration related to ceded land revenues, so OHA petitioned the Hawaii Supreme Court to force the legislature to pass a law regarding this pay-out  In the OHA version of the story, the reason for the Legislature’s foot-dragging is unexplained, though one is free to conclude that the Legislature is just full of culturally-insensitive money-grubbing politicians.  (Not that this is necessarily totally inaccurate, but fairness compels me to point out that our current economic and budget woes make this a bad time for the legislature to try to carve out another $200 million for OHA.)

Anyway, it turns out that the State Supreme Court has ruled on OHA’s petition for a Writ of Mandamus, though in order to learn what happened, I had to read a small column in the lower right corner of page 7 of OHA’s monthly newspaper.  No email blasts for this one, I guess.  As you may have surmised, the OHA petition was denied based on (in the article’s somewhat mendacious words) the court’s, “understanding of the technical requirements for a mandamus action.”  Allow me to translate this into plain language: The court said no, based on the fact that the OHA petition was a bit of public grandstanding with no legal merit.

As I said in my earlier entry on this issue, to me, the big problem is not whether the state owes OHA the money or how they should pay.  I just continue to be amazed at the insensitivity of the powers-that-be at OHA.  After such a difficult economic year, these kinds of stunts don’t do much to bolster the agency’s image.  And trying to obscure the evidence of their miscalculation doesn’t help much either.


OHA report alleging racial disparities in criminal justice

On September 28, 2010 the State of Hawaii Office of Hawaiian Affairs issued a press release about a new report it created entitled “The Disparate Treatment of Native Hawaiians in the Criminal Justice System.” The Honolulu Star-Advertiser published an article about it the following day. The complete report, filled with many beautiful photos of taro, is at

There are important scholarly/statistical issues raised by the report, and equally important political issues. It’s clear that the OHA report is an exercise in political propaganda rather than a serious scholarly analysis or civil rights inquiry.

A major rebuttal is now available at

Here’s an outline of topics covered in great detail in the rebuttal:

1. What the OHA report said, and how the underlying study was conducted. Data collected and analyzed in secret was then destroyed, making peer review impossible. OHA and the group who produced this “study” should be embarrassed if their methods are compared with legitimate work done by scientists developing new drugs or reporting experiments in physics, biology, etc.

2. Slick, artistically composed pages show that the purpose of the report is political propaganda rather than scientific scrutiny. Emotional appeals are made to a creation legend from the ancient Hawaiian religion, and the report is filled with emotionally rousing artistic photos of taro patches (because taro plays a key role in that creation legend). Unverifiable claims are made that ethnic Hawaiians suffer more trauma than other races when sent to prisons outside Hawaii, because their spiritual link to the land is broken. Emotional appeals are made by quoting the inspirational words of Kamehameha The Great on his deathbed, and by quoting the words of a song written by ex-queen Lili’uokalani when she was “unjustly imprisoned” (just like ethnic Hawaiians today!!). [By the way, her imprisonment was entirely justified, and was a very mild punishment for the crimes she committed. See section 6 below. Her activities after release showed she was never rehabilitated! But she did stop participating in violent activities.].

3. Youthfulness is an important factor in explaining why ethnic Hawaiians (allegedly) have higher rates of arrest and incarceration, and longer jail sentences and probation, than criminals of other races. In the last decennial census the median age for ethnic Hawaiians was 25, while the median age for everyone else was 39. Criminal behaviors — especially violent crimes deserving lengthy prison sentences — are the sins of youth rather than middle age. But the OHA report does not adequately examine and does not draw appropriate conclusions about age.

4. Percentage of native blood quantum must be taken into account in analyzing data alleging racial disparity. Someone who is only 1/8 Hawaiian should clearly not be counted as Hawaiian. An incarcerated criminal who is 1/2 Chinese, 1/4 Filipino, 1/8 Irish, and 1/8 Hawaiian would properly be counted as Chinese if outcomes are to be attributed to only one racial group. The best method would be to allocate fractional tally marks when attributing outcomes to racial groups. But nobody at OHA or any other racial-partisan institution bothers to collect or analyze racial data that way because the results would undoubtedly torpedo most of their racial grievance claims.

5. If the author of a so-called scientific report has a motive to tell falsehoods or skew the results, then the facts alleged in the report, and the conclusions, can be set aside as lacking credibility. In the case of OHA’s report alleging disparate treatment of ethnic Hawaiians in the criminal justice system, OHA has strong motives to portray ethnic Hawaiians as victims of unequal or unfair treatment in order to spur political support for the Akaka bill now pending in Congress. OHA has especially strong motive to undermine an agreement between Governor Lingle and Hawaii’s two Senators to amend the Akaka bill in such a way to deny the Akaka tribe immediate sovereign jurisdiction over the criminal justice system. Also, the Justice Policy Institute in Washington D.C., which helped write this report, has its own political motives which include dismantling America’s punishment-oriented prison system.

6. If a witness in court — even an expert witness — says something false about one topic, then it is reasonable to doubt his credibility on other topics. This OHA report makes false and misleading statements about Hawaii’s history, which ordinary people can verify are wrong. Also, the historical content is presented in a chaotic narrative which scrambles the chronology. Therefore even people lacking expertise in scientific knowledge and statistical methodology are justified in doubting what OHA’s report says about technical issues, and we can wonder whether the gathering and analysis of data was as chaotic as the chronology in the history section. Some wrong statements about Hawaii’s history contained in this report are described in the rebuttal, and proof is provided that they are wrong.

7. Are disparate bad outcomes for ethnic Hawaiians in health, economics, and the criminal justice system found only in Hawaii? A recent study shows that ethnic Hawaiians living in California are doing better than the average of all Californians. Why are Hawaiians thriving in California but not in Hawaii, despite the fact (or is it because of the fact?) that Hawaii provides a plethora of racial entitlement programs not available to them in California?

For extensive analysis and evidence regarding these seven topics, see the full rebuttal at

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