Archive for December, 2010

The Lure of Bad History

A long time ago, in a state far, far, away, I was a history major.  In answer to the question already forming on the lips of some of my readers, no.  I did not want to be a teacher.  I was a history major because I liked history in general and I liked it a whole lot more than other things that one can major in. I also, quite obviously, had no notion whatsoever of useful majors for lucrative post-college careers.  But that’s not the point of being a history major.  The point of being a history major is the ability to watch movies and then bore your friends with a huffy catalog of historical inaccuracies therein.  Be kind to your history major friends as they do this.  They had to write 20-page examinations of the political situation in medieval France and have no other outlet for this knowledge.

And we do live in a world full of historical inaccuracies.  This is nothing new, of course.  The temptation to reframe history for one’s own purposes (or because of one’s own biases or learned biases) is an eternal one.  What’s important is that we recognize that tendency and work to prevent it from becoming the basis of bad policy.  No, I’m not just legitimizing your friend’s tendency to go on about the problems in the movie Titanic.  (A noble calling in itself.) To some extent, history can be a matter of interpretation, but we can’t just give bad facts and specious interpretations a pass.

And when it comes to Hawaiian history, boy do we have a minefield of inaccuracy.  Whether based on the desire to romanticize the past or a political agenda, very few things have become as distorted as Hawaii’s path to US statehood.  It can even rear its head in a simple corporate publication, as Ken Conklin’s recent article in the Hawaii Reporter demonstrates.  Conklin identifies and corrects a series of inaccuracies in a recent HMSA magazine. The article is worth reading in its entirety, but here is a small sample:

Jokiel writes “In the years following the 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai’i, the new government worked tirelessly to eradicate the Hawaiian language.” That’s totally false. Here’s what’s true.

Immediately after the revolution of January 17, 1893 royalist newspapers (both Hawaiian and English language ones) were suspended by the Provisional Government. That’s normal after any revolution. But after a few weeks all the newspapers resumed publication, with zero censorship.

Noenoe Silva published a book in 2004 entitled “Aloha Betrayed: Native Hawaiian Resistance to American Colonialism.” On page 181 Silva says there were both Hawaiian-language and English-language newspapers supporting Lili’uokalani after the overthrow and throughout the Republic period; and also newspapers in each language that were pro-Republic.

When the Republic of Hawaii was created in July of 1894, its Constitution was published in both English and Hawaiian. The continued publication of Hawaiian language newspapers, and publication of the Republic’s Constitution in Hawaiian, clearly disprove Jokiel’s assertion that “the new government worked tirelessly to eradicate the Hawaiian language.”


Thank You, National Review

The omnibus spending spending bill died last week for lack of support. Senator Inouye had inserted into it a mandate for a study to figure out how to make a federally recognized Indian tribe out of persons who have native Hawaiian blood.

Commenting on that insert, National Review online editorialized: “ That’s a reference to the notorious Akaka Bill, an odious piece of segregationist legislation that would establish a race-based government on the Hawaiian archipelago”. That is a great description. Thank you National Review. It now appears that the proposed Bill is road kill. Now if we could only get some prudent management of the grant activity revealed on this website. That’s the mission, please help.

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Omnibus Luau

I don’t know why we should be surprised that Senator Inouye is so accomplished at adding pork to the federal budget.  After all, if there’s one thing we love out here, it’s a luau.  But even the most liberal spender might blanch at the provision that Inouye just attempted to slip into the notorious Omnibus Spending Bill:

SEC. 125. The Secretary of the Interior shall, with funds appropriated for fiscal year 2011, and in coordination with the State of Hawaii and those offices designated under the Hawaii State Constitution as representative of the Native Hawaiian community, including the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and the Attorney General of the United States, examine and make recommendations to Congress no later than September 30, 2011, on developing a mechanism for the reorganization of a Native Hawaiian governing entity and recognition by the United States of the Native Hawaiian governing entity as an Indian tribe within the meaning of Articles I and II of the Constitution.

Allow me to cut through the legislation-ese:  This provision grants an unspecified amount of money for a study (made in cooperation with OHA and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands) on implementing the Akaka Bill constitutionally.  If it weren’t for the fact that it’s a blatant pork project, one would be tempted to say something like, “Hey, since you’ve been pushing for this for years, don’t you think it would have been good to address this earlier?”  However, given the nature of politics and the truer meaning of this project, perhaps the best response would be, “Hey, you sure have a lot of nerve funneling money to the two biggest supporters of this legislation to produce a ‘study’ that will support it.”


Akaka’s Civil Rights Problem

So much of the argument for the Akaka Bill is couched in Civil Rights terms–we are given to understand that to oppose it is to somehow oppose the rights and privileges of Native Hawaiians.  In fact, one of the most pernicious historical fallacies surrounding the former Kingdom of Hawaii as it relates to the argument for the Akaka Bill ca be found in the way that Akaka supporters blithely ignore the multi-ethnic make-up of the Hawaiian government at the same time as they push for the wholesale creation of a race-based “reorganization.”  In light of this sensitive question, it might be interesting to examine where some of the nation’s experts on matters of civil rights stand on the Bill.

Would you be surprised to hear that they oppose it?  It’s true.  On Dec. 7, 2010, the United States Commission on Civil Rights delivered a letter to key Congressional leaders reiterating their opposition to the Akaka Bill. If you’re interested, you can read the letter in full here.  (And the earlier, more detailed letter it references can be seen here.)  Without equivocation, the USCCR expresses its opposition that any attempt made to attach the Native Hawaiian Reorganization Act to a spending bill this session.  In addition, the letter states that the changes that have been made or proposed to the Act are insufficient to overcome the constitutional concerns that have been raised, and reiterates the Commission’s opposition to the Bill.

What is the source of the Commission’s opposition?   The reasons given should be familiar to most of those who have made a careful study of the legislation and its possible consequences: that Congress lacks that constitutional authority to thus “reorganize” ethnic groups into dependent sovereign nations without a strong history of self governance; that doing so will set a dangerous precedent; that it should not be used as an attempt to shore up race-based benefits threatened by recent court decisions; and that it is contradictory to the history of the Hawaiian government.

Above all, the opinion of the Commission makes it clear that the questions of race that surround the Akaka Bill are far more complex than Akaka’s supporters would like to admit.  It’s as though, in their efforts to help one ethnic group, the pro-Akaka lobby has deliberately ignored the fundamental principles of civil rights.

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Transparency?— Not with the Akaka bill

Yesterday there was much talk in Washington, DC that Senator Inouye was planning to attach the Akaka bill (presumably the latest version after major changes) to the Senate Omnibus Spending bill later in December. That would mean that would mean that it would pass without hearings or any other vetting. Indicating that the possibility was real, four seasoned U. S. Senators released statements deploring the idea. See press release here. At about the same time, Hawaii Reporter reported the story and quoted Peter Boylan, Senator Inouye’s spokesman, as saying Inouye was not planning such a move and reaffirming Inouye’s 2009 statement that attachment to an appropriations bill would be “nonsensical”. See text here.

Next was Robert Costa at NRO who reported Senator Inouye told NRO that he would like to bring the bill forward, but “it depends on if we can work out something with amendments”. He then quoted the Senator “We’ve been working on this for over a decade now….. No one can say we’ve been hiding this”. That remark prompted a response from Steven Duffield here.

If you are not confused, you should be. But here is the bottom line: there is no transparency here. GRIH stands for transparency in government. Hawaii’s people do not know anything substantive about this bill and people in government are keeping them in the dark.k

Before statehood in 1959, Hawaii had a Plebiscite. Approval was 94+%. Now a secret “nonsensical” attachment will skirt that? Walk your talk, Senator Inouye.


Senators Kyl, Alexander, Cornyn, Coburn publicly oppose Inouye stealth maneuver

The following news release from 4 U.S. Senators shows that they are aware of Inouye’s stealth maneuver and are working hard to prevent it.

Kyl, Alexander, Cornyn, Coburn: Don’t Slip Controversial Measure Into Bill to Keep the Gov’t Open and Funded

GOP senators respond to reports that Native Hawaiian Gov’t Reorganization Act may be added to Omnibus or CR

WASHINGTON – Senators Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) today released the following statements in response to reports that the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act – legislation that would establish a new governing entity for individuals of native Hawaiian descent – may be added to an Omnibus Appropriations Bill or a Continuing Resolution, one of which must pass Congress and be signed by the president this month, or the federal government will not have the funding to operate.

“Legislation as highly complex and divisive as the native Hawaiian bill requires vigorous discussion, debate, and amendments,” Kyl said. “An attempt to include it in unrelated legislation to keep the government operating is a breach of process and is an example of what the American people are tired of – back room deals that are inserted in secret packages written behind closed doors.”

“I’m concerned by reports that a special Native Hawaiian bill, or any other controversial measure, might be quietly inserted into must-pass legislation that’s needed to keep the government open,” Alexander said. “If the Democratic majority wishes to pass legislation that would create a new, sovereign government within our borders based solely upon race, it should be brought up separately and debated openly on the Senate floor with the opportunity for amendment.”

“This November, Americans spoke and we listened,” said Cornyn. “Unfortunately, some of my Senate colleagues did not hear the resounding message that rejected secret backroom deals and controversial legislative distractions like this, which have no place in important bills that we need to pass keep our government running. I sincerely hope that Senator Reid will not slip this bill into the omnibus bill and reassess his legislative priorities to reflect the wishes of the American people.”

“Any efforts to circumvent the thorough vetting process of Congress to pass Native Hawaiian legislation is an affront to taxpayers and the U.S. Constitution,” Coburn said. “The federal government has already established a process for recognizing tribal groups. Recognizing Native Hawaiians as an Indian tribe and sovereign entity by circumventing the established process not only creates a parallel sovereign government in the State of Hawaii, but will set a dangerous precedent that could threaten the framework of our nation.”

Akaka bill now being attached to “must-pass” legislation despite Akaka and Inouye previously deploring such a maneuver.

Sources in the Senate report that Sen. Inouye is personally working to jam through the Akaka Bill this month. He would do it by attaching the bill to an omnibus spending bill that his staff is writing in secret. According to Senate sources, Inouye would wait to offer that secret bill until just before the “continuing resolution” funding the government is set to expire. His colleagues would then be forced to either vote for the porked-up omnibus bill (with no public comment, little opportunity for debate, and certainly no chance of amendment) or reject the whole bill and deny the government the funding it needs to stay open. It’s a game of chicken.

Every lame duck session features an omnibus spending bill, sometimes called “the Christmas tree,” used by Senators and Representatives to give expensive gifts to their campaign contributors in the form of earmarks and riders. But attaching controversial and dangerous new policy legislation to an appropriations bill is unusual and unethical, especially when there’s no floor debate on it.

But which version of the Akaka bill will Senator Inouye try to attach?

Read the full essay at

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