Archive for category Office of Hawaiian Affairs

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:

NATIVE HAWAIIAN RECOGNITION STUDY AUTHORIZATION
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.”

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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.

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That’s “Entertainment”?

So, how often do you like to kick back and watch a little Pacific Network Internet television?  Yeah, me neither.

But would you make more of an effort if you knew that they were getting nearly a million dollars from OHA for the creation of a “Hawaiian-themed internet television station and web portal”?  It kinda makes you wonder what a cool million buys these days in the way of internet entertainment . . . aside from buckets of Farmville cash or enough “adult videos” to end up under permanent FBI surveillance, of course.

Curious as to what a Hawaiian internet TV station might look like, I checked out their website, and was confronted by . . . Puppies!  Adorable ones! In a shopping cart!  Also, canoeing wipe-outs and some footage of a party in Waikiki that didn’t seem interesting enough to click on.  In all honesty, it looked more like a creation of the Hawaii Tourism Authority than anything intended for Hawaii residents, much less Native Hawaiians.  And if this were a private enterprise, that would be no big deal.  I mean, I would question their business plan, but we live in a country where people are entitled to waste their own money in whatever way they wish.  And I would no more stop someone from starting a questionable business enterprise than from going to an Rob Schneider movie.  (Ok, that’s not entirely true.  I would probably at least try to urge them, out of basic human decency, to avoid the movie.)  But this is beside the point.  Because we’re not talking about private enterprise here.  We’re talking about money intended for the benefit of the Native Hawaiian people.  And we’re talking about a quasi-governmental agency that hopes to have a big hand in the proposed Native Hawaiian Reorganization proposed by the Akaka Bill.

The crazy thing is that we have seen plenty of media enterprises aimed at speaking primarily to one minority group succeed (BET and Telemundo come to mind, but there are others too).  But they succeed or fail in the marketplace by learning to speak to their audience and growing their audience in a profitable way.  Who is the Pacific Network speaking to?  The lack of advertising on the website suggests that profitability at this point is determined only by the success of their grant proposals.  If you were (or are) Native Hawaiian, would you consider this an effective way of reaching out or fostering the Native Hawaiian community?  Or is it just another OHA vanity grant that looks good on paper, but disappoints in reality?

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Apology Resolution Apology

In 1993, radical activists managed to pass PL103-150, otherwise known as the “Apology Resolution.”  The resolution itself was based on the writings of a single activist author, Davianna McGregor, and went through no vetting process to establish whether or not any of the “whereas” clauses regarding the history of the Hawaiian Islands and the Hawaiian Revolution of 1893 were accurate.  It was passed through the Senate with limited debate and assurances that it was a “simple apology,” and was passed by the House of Representatives with no debate at all through a voice vote.  It was stealth legislation of the lowest order, and its passage has reverberated with adverse consequences for the past 16 years.

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An Open Letter to Barack Obama

Dear Mr. Obama,

As the final days count down to your inauguration, I would like to share with you one very specific hope and its corollary fear I have.  Throughout your campaign, although I did not support your candidacy, I greatly admired your rhetoric on race and race relations.  As the first “hapa” president, although you and I don’t share specific bloodlines, we do share the experience of being built and raised struggling with the idea of whether or not we were “half” this or “half” that, or a “whole” something else.  I believe the answer we both arrived at is that we are “whole” people, and that beyond “black” and “white” we are both in fact “human.”

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We are all Hawaiian

In a sad reminder that freedom is not free, a group of radical racial sovereignty activists assaulted Iolani Palace staff, broke into both the grounds and the buildings, and desecrated a public historical treasure on Statehood Day, 2008. Led by James Kimo Akahi, an ex-convict claiming to be the King of Hawaii, a group of violent activists declared that all State of Hawaii citizens were under “federal arrest”. Although this further escalation between racial separatists and the general public of Hawaii has its roots as far back as the 1800s, it has been encouraged and exacerbated by modern day racial demagogues and the politicians who believe they can appease them.
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