Friday, September 24, 2021
Home Blog Page 2

With the Epic Fail In Afghanistan, It’s Time To Ask What We’ve Become

0

With the incredible failure in planning and leadership, not to mention the almost belligerent reluctance to act on the part of the Biden administration on the issue of Afghanistan – and the subsequent posturing by the mainstream media and the political Left, the time has arrived for serious self-examination.

What have we become as a country when we can elect such politically self-absorbed narcissists into leadership? Who are we as a people if we elect such unaware, arrogant, and ineffective embarrassments to office?

In one of the most embarrassing and chilling responses to a question posed by a member of the media, a question about Afghan’s falling to their deaths from the exoskeletons of US Air Force C-17s departing from Kabul airport, our president, President Joe Biden, said – annoyed that he was even being questioned on the matter, “That was four or five days ago!”

What kind of a human being responds to a question on an issue of that magnitude so dismissively? What kind of a politically opportune narcissist callously attempts to deflect from a question like that?

And then we have the President either lying directly to the American people or disclosing the fact that he doesn’t have a handle on what his own administration is doing, in his insistence that he was caught off guard by the swift Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in the shadow of the US withdrawal.

The Wall Street Journal reported, as conveyed by Blaze.com:

“The July 13 cable signed by nearly two dozen Embassy staffers went through the Department of State’s confidential dissent channel and warned of swift ground gains by the Taliban and the subsequent collapse of Afghan security forces, and it also supplied suggestions on how to mitigate the crisis and expedite an evacuation, the two individuals said, according to the outlet.

“‘The cable, sent via the State Department’s confidential dissent channel, warned of rapid territorial gains by the Taliban and the subsequent collapse of Afghan security forces, and offered recommendations on ways to mitigate the crisis and speed up an evacuation, the two people said,’ the Journal reported. ‘The cable, dated July 13, also called for the State Department to use tougher language in describing the atrocities being committed by the Taliban, one of the people said.’”

And then we have the nauseating declaration by the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, that the United States military doesn’t have the ability to provide safe passage to Americans and US assets out of Afghanistan.

As reported by The Washington Examiner, Austin told reporters:

“I don’t have the capability to go out and extend operations currently into Kabul…We don’t have the capability to go out and collect up large numbers of people.”

But this sentiment is exposed as another blatant lie from a member of the Biden administration, and one that is tangibly putting American lives and the lives of American assets in grave danger.

Again, from The Washington Examiner and analyst Tom Rogan:

“[US] Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue has told his British Army counterpart, a high-ranking field-grade officer of the British army’s 22nd Special Air Service Regiment, that British operations were embarrassing the United States military in the absence of similar US military operations…

“…I understand that the SAS has conducted operations to bring American citizens, as well as British citizens and at-risk personnel, through checkpoints and to the airport. This is not an indictment on US capabilities or special operations intent, but rather, it’s a reflection of political-military authorities.”

So, again, the actions of our duly elected federal government in Afghanistan –  and in addressing Afghanistan – beg the question: Who are we as a people; what have we become?

The idea that the Taliban was sincere in its declaration that the government they intend to establish is to be “inclusive” and equitable toward women is so far beyond the realm of reality it defies even disillusion. The Taliban is not “Woke” and never will be.

And yet the US State Department, UNICEF, and the United Nations issued almost identical statements declaring they were “optimistic” about the Taliban’s declaration, UNICEF’s chief of field operations in Afghanistan, Mustapha Ben Messaoud, going as far as to say, “We have not a single issue with the Taliban…”

Meanwhile, Taliban Islamofascists have brutally massacred members of the minority Hazara community in the Ghazni province despite public claims that the Taliban would provide amnesty across Afghanistan.

According to Amnesty International, Hazara men have been shot and “three were tortured to death, including one man who was strangled with his own scarf and had his arm muscles sliced off.” The human rights group said the Taliban “killings likely represent a tiny fraction of the total death toll inflicted by the Taliban to date, as the group has cut mobile phone service in many of the areas they have recently captured, controlling which photographs and videos are then shared from these regions.”

Providing a first-hand warning in an interview with India’s News 18 of what is to come for the women of Afghanistan, Khatera, an Afghani woman, insisted the Taliban will not respect or honor women’s rights despite the Islamofascist group’s assertions to the contrary.

Khatera, 33, told of a horrific attack that took place in 2020 when her father – a Taliban fighter – tipped off the local Taliban faction that his daughter was employed (women, under Sharia law, are not permitted to work).

In October of that year, Khatera said that her father conspired with the local  Taliban faction to attack her as she returned home from work. During the attack, Khatera – who, ironically worked for the police in a US-NATO controlled area – was shot at least eight times, stabbed, and had her eyes knifed out of their sockets before Taliban fighters left her for dead. She was pregnant at the time.

In a statement by the leader of the underground church ministering to Christians in Afghanistan, a first-hand account of the realities on the ground in that Taliban-controlled territory serves up monstrous details:

“The Taliban has a hit list of known Christians they are targeting to pursue and kill. The US Embassy is defunct and there is no longer a safe place for believers to take refuge… 

“All borders to neighboring countries are closed and all flights to and from have been halted, with the exception of private planes. People are fleeing into the mountains looking for asylum…

“The Taliban are going door-to-door taking women and children…The people must mark their house with an ‘X’ if they have a girl over 12 years old, so that the Taliban can take them. If they find a young girl and the house was not marked, they will execute the entire family. If a married woman 25 years old or older has been found, the Taliban promptly kill her husband, do whatever they want to her, and then sell her as a sex slave.”

The responsibility for the wholly inept execution of the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan rests exclusively with President Biden and his administration. They had the ability to change course up to the very last minute and, instead, chose to ignore reports from responsible underlings in deference to whipping the political agenda vehicle that is COVID, an event that is all but over.

In fact, the British Parliament, the governing body of our greatest ally, voted to condemn not the United States, but President Biden himself for the disaster the withdrawal has turned out to be.

The Daily Mail reported:

“The speed of the Taliban’s gains after the US-led forces withdrew the bulk of their troops from Afghanistan surprised the West, leaving many nations having to scramble to get their diplomats and Afghans who had helped them out of the country.

“Several lawmakers on Wednesday focused on the US decision to withdraw – a move which Johnson admitted left Britain with no choice but to pull out its own forces – and Biden’s subsequent criticism of Afghan forces’ surrender…”

Former British Prime Minister Theresa May, said on the floor of Parliament, “Was our understanding of the Afghan government so weak? Was our knowledge of the position on the ground so inadequate? Or did we just feel that we have to follow the United States and hope that, on a wing and a prayer, it would be alright on the night.”

A recent poll exclaiming that President Biden has hit a low-water mark in his approval rating reveals that 54 percent of Americans disapprove of Mr. Biden’s performance. Additionally, approximately 1-in-10 Democrats regret their 2020 vote with 15 percent of Black Americans regretting their vote.

But what of the other 10 Democrat voters who still support Mr. Biden? What of the 46 percent of the electorate that believes Mr. Biden’s performance is a positive thing?

Higher gas prices. Higher food prices. Higher construction material prices. Higher taxes. The dissemination of our economy. An exploding national debt. The diminishment of America’s standing in the world. The facilitation of the rise of China. And now the facilitation of the enslavement and slaughter of millions of innocent, trusting Afghanis.

So, again, some questions beg to be asked.

What have we become as a country if we can elect such inept and politically greedy people to positions of power?

Have we become so addicted to “being right,” to “winning at all cost for the sake of winning,” so blind to the actions of the charlatan activists who run for public office that the difference between right and wrong simply doesn’t matter any longer?

Have we, as a nation, become a pathetic gaggle of self-absorbed, self-centered, elitist cry-babies that places more priority in “being offended” by gender pronouns and claiming victimhood for the wrongs of generations past than in preventing the enslavement and slaughter of an entire nation, acts facilitated by our ridiculous “Woke” cultural disability?

We cannot claim the mantle of righteousness if we do not stand up to tyranny in real-time when Islamofascist tyrants are slaughtering people and enslaving young girls and women as sex slaves. We cannot feign outrage at the slavery of America’s past if we do nothing to stop the enslavement of women and children today. We cannot claim to be the last best hope of freedom on Earth if we turn our backs on those begging for freedom.

Today, the people who have tasted freedom for the last 20 years in Afghanistan are crying out for help. They are begging for our help so they can hold on to freedom as bloodthirsty Islamofascist barbarians begin their slaughter in the name of their demented religion.

And as they beg, as they plead, as they fall from in-flight C-17 aircraft to their deaths in attempts to escape the certain deaths; the grisly deaths that await them if don’t at least try, our President is more concerned with who is wearing COVID masks and who isn’t, even as his order facilitates that slaughter and slavery.

If we, the American people, stand at this moment in time, as we witness the uncaring cruelty that our government is unleashing on the Afghan people and especially their females – and especially those who aided us in good faith over the last 20 years, we must all ask ourselves: What have we become as a nation if we allow this to happen without lifting our voices to the Heavens in protest to force our elected officials to do the right thing.

It is time to dispense with the Alinskyite politics of win at all cost. It is time to do the right thing. If we don’t, then who are we really? What have we become?

Frank Salvato is the executive partner at The CompassPoint Group, LLC. He is the co-host of the Underground USA podcast as heard on iHeart Radio, Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Podcasts, and anywhere podcasts are heard. His writing has been recognized by the US House International Relations Committee and the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention. His analysis has been published by The American Enterprise Institute, The Washington Times, National File, and Accuracy in Media, and is nationally syndicated. Mr. Salvato appeared on The O’Reilly Factor on FOX News Channel and is the author of six monographs examining internal and external threats facing our country. He can be heard twice weekly on “The Captain’s America: Third Watch” radio program syndicated nationally on the Salem Broadcasting Network and Genesis Communications affiliate stations.

Prepping healthy food with kitchen appliances for the Covid Era

0

Let’s face it folks. We’ve spent a helluva lot more time in our kitchens in the last year or so than we ever dreamed possible. We’ve had no choice but to prepare nearly 100% more of our own meals. Not all of those meals were healthy and there are a lot of expanded waistlines to prove it. I’ve tried to use this period to learn how to prepare food that is going to not only be tasty but better for me.

The first device in my healthy kitchen arsenal is the Vitamix Ascent 2500 which occupies the upper mid-range of the company’s product line.

For readers who are serious home chefs, Vitamix is hardly an unknown entity. There’s a near cult-following around the product which was introduced in 1949.

I didn’t really understand the enthusiasm around this blender until I started using it. Now I get it and would have to agree, this is one bad-ass kitchen appliance.

Some have likened the Vitamix to a “Ferrari”. As I’ve written in another article, I would compare it to a Rolls Royce. Not the car but the jet aircraft engine. This came to mind after my “first blend” which is what the instruction manual calls your first cleaning after set it up.  (Naturally you’ll want to clean the container before you use it).

Ascent A2500 black faceplate
The Ascent 2500 control panel is easy to use. There’s a speed for every application and clicking on the icon (on righthand side of dial) will automatically blend smoothies, frozen desserts, spreads and soups.

The instructions direct you to add water and a few drops of soap.  Then the fun begins.

You’re instructed to slowly crank up the rpms for 60 seconds—from 1 to 10 on the dial.  The blades whip the soapy water in a foamy frenzy.

Holy moly! At “full throttle” the 2.2 horsepower motor it screams like a 747 on takeoff. It was impressive and to me, the uninitiated, it was a little scary. I mean my weed wacker probably doesn’t have the ponies that the Ascent 2500 has.

Was this thing going to blow up and scatter shrapnel around my kitchen?

No way.

These are built on the order of “milspec” (military specifications) — like a tank. Maybe more dependable than an Abrams Tank. The warranty is good for ten years!

So, I started making stuff.

First were smoothies from dragon fruit, bananas, papaya—you name it. I’ve got a big garden that’s quite productive this time of year. So, it was smoothie city, throwing in items such as ginger and turmeric. For good measure I added vanilla. Not the stuff you get in the store. One of my neighbors cultivates the real deal. OMG, these smoothies oozed of good health.

Ascent Series Container 64oz
The blender comes with a massive 64 oz container with “self-detect” technology that will read the size of the container (via wi-fi) and adjust blending times and speeds. The nice thing about this item is that it’s really easy to clean.

Then onto humus and soups. Did you know that you can make hummus out of black beans or kidney beans? Experiment, kids!

So this is where the technology offers the home chef a few options. You can either point the dial to an automatic setting for smoothies, frozen desserts, and soups and flip the switch…and walk away. The program knows what to do.

Built into the system is “Self-Detect” technology. That means the blender “reads” the container size (which is communicated via wi-fi) and adjusts blending times and speed.

Or, you can download their “Perfect Mix” app and pair the blender with your smartphone.

Once you have the app on your tablet or phone you find  the hummus recipe. You add the ingredients to the container and point your finger to the “blend” icon on your screen. That brings up a bunch of other icons. For hummus you’ll want to find the “spreads” symbol. Tap that icon and the command is sent to the Vitamix.  

The “Perfect Mix” app comes in very handy. I used it for a hummus recipe.

Now the Vitamix “knows” has its marching orders. Flip the switch and the machine will take care of the rest.

Or, you can operate the 10-speed blender manually.  My white kidney bean, or as we say in Italian (the can was imported) Fagioli Cannellini hummus was creamy smooth and the cumin seeds (which is what the recipe called for) were simply vaporized. It only took sixty seconds.

In the future I may try 30 or 45 second to get a slightly rougher texture using the manual controls.

The engine is so powerful, the Vitamix can grind coffee or make nut “butter”. (For example, you toast walnuts and made walnut butter). It will pulverize anything to the point where the temperature of your mixture will rise if you don’t remove it in time. You can even grind grain and make flour with the Vitamix.

Of course, you can take your soups or dhal or whatever is loaded with vegetables and beat it into creamy submission.

Simply Blending”, a 95-page recipe book comes with the package. There’s something for everyone.

One nice perk that comes with the blender is Simply Blending, a 95-page recipe book. It’s superbly photographed with some wonderful recipes to get you started.

Is this for everyone? At $500 probably not, if you’re just into weekly smoothies.

However, if you are serious about making other dishes and are willing to spend a few more bucks for a machine that’s a “keeper”, you’ll want this device.

A great selling point is that the Vitamix works both as blender and a food processor, so you get a two-fer. You can pack up that old food processer and give it away.

Leave it to the Italians for a wonderful sense of aesthetics. The small footprint of the the DeLonghi Livenza Air Fry Digital Convection Oven will both fit and look good on your counter.

My other kitchen acquisition is the DeLonghi Livenza Air Fry Digital Convection Oven. Essentially, it’s a 9-function digital Air Fry, Convection, Toaster Oven, Grill, Broil, Bake, Roast all-in-one toaster, air fryer, broiler and convection oven. Yes, it has nine presets.—Toast, Pizza, Bake, Broil, Grill, Air Fry, Convection, Cookies, Keep Warm and Pre-Heat.

Why opt for something like this?

Having a multi-functional device saves room and money. I don’t bake a lot of cookies or pizza. My primary use for this machine is to toast my whole wheat bread slices from the Bread Shop on Waialae and use it as an air fryer.

During this Covid era I decided to go primarily plant-based and the Livenza is perfect for air frying tofu (which takes about 25 minutes).  Simple recipe—just cut the firm tofu into cubes, marinate it in shoyu, lime, garlic and a touch of chili. Roll it around in some hemp seeds (the kind from Costco) and put it in the air fryer basket which comes with the unit.

Amazon.com: De'Longhi Livenza 9-in-1 Digital Air Fry Convection Toaster Oven,  Grills, Broils, Bakes, Roasts, Keep Warm, Reheats, 1800-Watts + Cooking  Accessories, Stainless Steel, 14L (.5 cu ft), EO141164M : Everything Else
The air fryer does a wonderful job of making healthy dishes without overdoing on the oil. I like making tofu.

I also started using the air fryer on this device to make “chips” from edible hibiscus or “bele” (which is popular in the South Pacific) and other greens such as kale. Just harvest the leaves, tear them into about 3″ pieces, massage with olive oil and a bit of shoyu and air fry for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees. You can eat them like potato chips but they are much healthier.

At $158 on Amazon, it’s very reasonably priced and has a small footprint on the counter.

If there’s just one or two of you and there’s limited counter space (19 x 17.5 x 12 in) it’s perfect.  

You can cook everything and save energy to boot. Of course, you’re limited by volume. If you’re gong to bake cookies, you won’t have all that much room compared to a standard oven.

Here are the features I really like: The oven’s interior is illuminated when cooking so you can see what in the heck is going on inside. It will beep when its finished.

The control panel of the DeLonghi Livenza Air Fry Digital Convection Oven offers nine options.

The digital display is easy to read. The oven is constructed from stainless steel which is aesthetically pleasing and very robust.

If you plan to cook or toast anything you must experiment and see what will work. Two steps are involved for making anything—set the time and the function. With the toaster you can opt for 2,4 or six slices.  In addition to the air fryer basket you get a bake pan, pizza pan, wire rack, crumb tray and a one year warranty.

To make the walnut butter I described in the Vitamix I first toasted the nuts in the Livenza. It worked perfectly for that, and they provide a pan for this purpose.

The only thing I didn’t like about the design was that the oven door handle will hit the counter before it entirely opens. Thus, you have to keep some weight on the door when you open it or it will pop closed. There is a way around it.  If you slide the front of the oven near the edge of the countertop the door handle will then overlap the edge and stay open by itself.  Not a deal breaker.

You’ll want the Good Grips Easy-Clean Compost Bin on your kitchen counter.

The final item in your high tech kitchen is decidedly low tech but, entirely green in concept.  It answers the age-old question, ‘what do you do with compost without attracting flies or stinking up your kitchen?’ I ditched the coffee can and went to the 1.75 gallon Good Grips Easy-Clean Compost Bin ($29.99). The smooth plastic makes it easy to clean or better yet you recycle a plastic bag you get at the grocery store. It has a “stay-open” lid so you can easily toss the egg shells or watermelon rinds. And yes, the lid is removable for convenient emptying.

Rob Kay, a Honolulu-based writer, covers technology and sustainability for Tech View and is the creator of fijiguide.com. He can be reached at Robertfredkay@gmail.com.

An Outrageous Statement by UNICEF Chief: ‘Not a Single Issue With the Taliban’

0

An official for the UN’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said Tuesday he was “optimistic” after several local Taliban leaders expressed support for the education of females following the Islamofascist group’s seizure of Afghanistan.

UNICEF’s chief of field operations in Afghanistan, Mustapha Ben Messaoud, said he met with local Taliban representatives in the conquered territories of Kandahar, Herat, and Jalalabad, among others, who claimed they wanted schools “up and running.” Other Taliban leaders said they are waiting for guidance from higher-ups…

Adding that 11 of the country’s 13 UNICEF field offices were operational, Messaoud said, “We have not a single issue with the Taliban in those field offices.”

Also Tuesday, a spokesman for the Islamic Emirate’s cultural commission said the Taliban has declared a general “amnesty” for all in Afghanistan and urged women to seek roles in government despite the group’s history of extreme oppression toward females including the mandated wearing of burqas and the curtailing of individual liberties…

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan doesn’t want the women to be the victims anymore,” the spokesman said. “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is ready to provide women with environment to work and study, and the presence of women in different [government] structures according to Islamic law and in accordance with our cultural values…all sides should join” the government…

The Taliban has since been accused of seeking “those who had worked with” or who “had fought alongside the Americans” in executing a “kill list” while “terrified” Afghanis scramble to destroy any proof of association…

An English-speaking Taliban spokesman, contested the reports.

Why This Is Important

Several truths are important to understand so these declarations can be understood in context and through the eyes of the Islamofascists who issued them.

We in the West have a horrific habit of contextualizing statements from devout Islamists and Islamofascists through Western eyes. This has been a mistake in the past and, in the ridiculous woke culture of today’s West, remains a mistake.

The Taliban, the total of the Islamofascist terror groups and regimes, and indeed the whole of the devout Islamic world is not woke. They have no intention of becoming woke. In fact, the concept of wokeness is anathema to Islam. They look on the West’s fascination with wokeness as self-destructive and deviant; something to be vanquished, not acquiesced to.

The reality is that the Taliban statements are more about al taqiyya than it is about the softening of their stance and seeking to join the international community. Al taqiyya is defined thusly:

“There are several forms of lying to non-believers that are permitted [in Islam] under certain circumstances, the best known being taqiyya (the Shia name). These circumstances are typically those that advance the cause of Islam – in some cases by gaining the trust of non-believers in order to draw out their vulnerability and defeat them.”

Understanding that the Taliban exists as one of the most devout Islamic groups on the planet, they are bound to the Quran, the Hadith, and Sira literally. In devout Islam, the Quran is the literal word of Allah and is not open to interpretation. Therefore, the edicts in the Quran are not subjective, they are binding.

In my monograph, Women in the Fundamentalist Islamic Culture, I write:

“A traditional Islamic saying is that, ‘A woman’s heaven is beneath her husband’s feet.’ In the Islamic culture, to show someone the bottom of one’s shoes, to figuratively place them beneath one’s feet, is an insult of the highest order.

“The fact of the matter is that women in the fundamentalist Islamic world are relegated to the status of possessions. They are subjected to incredibly harsh and degrading cultural edicts where transgressions are punished – justified under Sharia Law (Quranic Law) – by whippings, beatings, stoning and death.”

The Quran makes it clear in 4:11, 4:34, 2:228, and 2:223, respectively,

“The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females…Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women)…and the men are a degree above them…Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will.”

So, because members of the Taliban are devout Muslims they must adhere to these edicts. This poses a number of issues with the statements emanating from the spokesman for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The idea that women will be educated and involved in government is one advanced through al taqiyya.

Yes, women will be educated but they will be educated in the misogynistic ideology of the Quran. If they are even taught to read it would be approaching a taboo in Islamic culture. Their education would most likely come in the form of spoken proselytizing of the Quran, Hadith, and Sira.

Yes, women will be included in the new IEA government, but not as legislators, department heads, or in any position of authority. They, instead, will be included as burqa-wearing secretaries and extreme subordinates to the authority of men and for this reason. A woman in fundamentalist Islam is worth only half that of a man. How is a woman supposed to issue regulations or govern men when their worth is only half?

And understanding that the past is a good indication to the future, I once again turn to my monograph, Women in the Fundamentalist Islamic Culture:

“[W]hen the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan in 1996…a decree was issued forbidding women to leave their homes. Prior to the Taliban’s seizing of power, women in Afghanistan held jobs in hospitals, schools and in the civil service sector. Women were doctors and teachers. They were professionals. With the Taliban’s decree, employment and education for women came to a screeching halt. In fact, many would become beggars.

“This tyrannical dogma extended to men who tried to help women. In 2006, years after the “liberation” of Afghanistan [by the Taliban], a 46-year-old Afghan schoolteacher, was dragged from his family, his home, and horribly murdered – disemboweled and then dismembered – for defying orders to stop educating girls.”

Today, the women of Afghanistan are fearful of the same future they endured during the first reign of the Taliban. Iranian journalist and activist Masih Alinej posted this video of an Afghan woman describing her fear:

Alinej posted a subsequent interview with this brave Afghani woman:

The level of naivety possessed by the West where the Taliban’s decorations are concerned – and especially their declarations about the females of Afghanistan – is stunning. It is as if they are completely ignorant of the Taliban’s history or the fundamentals of Islam and the Islamic culture.

The West has become too self-absorbed, unable to view the world through the eyes of those who exist in other regions of the world. Wokeness, the petulant self-absorption of the ignorantly self-righteous who unwittingly serve as the “useful idiots” of the transformative class, compounds that cultural ignorance.

The women of Afghanistan are in clear and present danger. They are in harm’s way. And the ridiculous positions taken by UNICEF, the US State Department, and the United Nations telegraph the message to these women that help is not on the way. Perhaps the new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan should be “All hope abandon ye who enter here.”
Please read my monograph, Women in Fundamentalist Islamic Culture, available on Amazon, and then contact your federally elected representatives and local clergy to ask them to take action in aiding the women of Afghanistan in this desperate hour. Their lives depend on us.

The Time Tax

0

This week we reflect on a piece in “The Atlantic” that argues quite persuasively that your government not only taxes people by taking their money, but also imposes administrative burdens that waste countless precious hours of people’s time.

“The issue,” the article says, “is not that modern life comes with paperwork hassles. The issue is that American benefit programs are, as a whole, difficult and sometimes impossible for everyday citizens to use. Our public policy is crafted from red tape, entangling millions of people who are struggling to find a job, failing to feed their kids, sliding into poverty, or managing a disabling health condition.”

Our own recent struggles with the unemployment system here in Hawaii illustrate this phenomenon.  Hawaii Public Radio did an October 2020 story on “Thousands still waiting action on unemployment claims,”  One person profiled in the story described the processes of applying for unemployment benefits as a “full-time job.”  Civil Beat’s Denby Fawcett told the story of one claimant who called the unemployment office 22 times only to be put on hold for an hour when the person who answered said she needed to consult with her supervisor.

The Atlantic argues that some of this difficulty is by design.  Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said as much:  “Having studied how [the system] was internally constructed … it was, ‘Let’s put as many kind of pointless roadblocks along the way, so people just say, oh, the hell with it, I’m not going to do that,’ …. It was definitely done in a way to lead to the least number of claims being paid out.”

The unemployment office is not the only government agency imposing a time tax on their so-called customers.  One of our articles in 2015 profiled our Department of Taxation.  Tax is not a simple subject, but it nevertheless operates on a “you figure it out” model as well.  When people call in for help, at that time there was a more than 50% chance that their call would not be answered, at all.  In fiscal 2020, the Department’s call answer rate crept up to 82%, basically answering five out of six calls (irrespective of waiting time, which wasn’t discussed in the report).  At the same time, published guidance by the Department remains scarce, so it is still difficult for taxpayers to search for information to resolve their own problems.

No article on the time tax in Hawaii would be complete without mention of the obscene length of time that Native Hawaiian beneficiaries remain on the waitlist for lease awards of Hawaiian homestead land.  Some have been on the waitlist for decades and some have died on the waitlist.  Kalima v. State, a 2020 decision by the Hawaii Supreme Court, decided that the State breached trust obligations and needed to pay damages to those on the waitlist.  Hopefully this case will lead to some mitigation of the time tax.

Nationally, the Atlantic argues, the time tax is regressive.  It falls most heavily on the poor, the less educated, the ethnic minorities.  It might be imposed unwittingly.  Legislatures pass laws that are carefully drawn to benefit the “right” people, such as those hit by the pandemic.  Agencies implementing the laws want to weed out the fraudsters and the liars, and those otherwise not worthy of the benefits.  As a result, claimants, assuming they find out about the benefit at all, face an uphill battle in applying for it between navigating through complex qualification requirements and trying to get the application through an agency that is more focused on having a claimant run the gauntlet than in cooperating to get that claimant the benefits allowed by law.

Here in Hawaii, we can and should do better.  We need benefits laws that are easy to understand and make sense of.  We need agencies that execute the laws to educate the public clearly and thoroughly on what is required to participate.  Our agencies should be reasonably responsive to the public.  We the taxpayers are not just pigs clamoring around the feeding trough and shouldn’t be treated as such.  Overall, lawmakers need to be aware of the time tax and what it does to their constituents.  Once they do, maybe they can help make the system better.

Why You Can’t Compare the Vaccinated with the Unvaccinated

0

As the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus travels through society, we are being told that those who were vaccinated against the Alpha, or original, variant of the virus will experience lower mortality as a result of that vaccine. While there are currently reports of susceptibility to the Delta variant in both vaccinated and unvaccinated populations, the campaign to promote vaccination continues to compare the vaccinated with the unvaccinated in an attempt to persuade the latter to “get the jab”, reasoning that if you do get sick from COVID with the vaccine then it will be less severe.

But can we compare the vaccinated with the unvaccinated? Is this a fair and scientifically accurate comparison? Or is it comparing apples with oranges?

Over the past year of vaccine promotion, it is clear that there are two distinct segments of the population regarding vaccinations. There are those who completely believe in vaccines and their essential use, and there are those who avoid vaccines like the plague. I will call these groups vaccinophiles and vaccinophobes.

Vaccinophiles are more likely to follow mainstream medical advice. They are more likely to go to a doctor when sick, and are more likely to want pharmaceutical treatments over alternative health or lifestyle treatments. They are more likely to believe in the advice from mainstream medical authorities, and are more likely to comply with pandemic mandates of masking, isolating, and social distancing. They more likely to listen to mainstream media and have trust in government.

Vaccinophobes, however, are more likely to follow alternative medical advice. They are more focused on disease prevention and natural immunity, and are more likely to go to an alternative medical provider. They are more focused on diet and dietary supplements than vaccinophiles, and have a greater appreciation of lifestyle in the cause and prevention of disease. They are more likely than vaccinophiles to question medical authority and to believe in conspiracy theories, more likely to listen to alternative media, and less likely to comply with pandemic mandates.

When comparing these two groups, you are comparing sub-cultures with different lifestyle strategies, values, and belief systems. We could expand on the differences, such as which group is in overall better health, which group has a higher rate of co-morbidities, which group has a higher rate of prescription drug use or abuse, and so on, but the point is that these two subcultures have differences which impact health and behavior, including how they are responding to the pandemic. 

As a result, we cannot compare the morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 between these two groups. Vaccine status is only one variable among many variables which impact health and disease prevention. 

It’s important to also realize that positive placebo effects and negative placebo, or nocebo, effects will differ for these two groups regarding the immune response and adverse reactions to the vaccine. Those who are vaccinophiles will have enhanced immunity due to the belief in the vaccine, which is a positive placebo effect. This could also minimize adverse side effects, or at least the perception of these effects. On the other hand, those who are vaccinophobes are more likely to experience negative placebo, or nocebo, effects due to negative expectations, along with worse side effects.

This means that the impact of the vaccine depends, in part, on the mindset of the person getting vaccinated. Mandating vaccines, or vaccine coercion, can make vaccinophobes more ill from the vaccine than would be the case for vaccinophiles. 

Masking has dubious advantages for viruses, along with known harmful impacts on physical and mental health, altering respiration and heart rate, causing hypoxia and hypercapnia, creating dental and dermatological problems, and creating psychological issues. Vaccinophiles are more likely to wear masks than vaccinophobes, creating another variable in assessing the health differences between these two groups and the impact of vaccination on health. 

Social distancing has the potential to create psychological problems, along with reduced immune function, since the immune system atrophies and weakens when lacking exposure to pathogens. Vaccinophiles are more likely to socially distance compared to vaccinophobes, adding this health issue as another variable. 

Stress is a known factor impacting health on many levels. Those who are most frightened by the pandemic are more likely to get vaccinated. This makes this group more stressed out than the vaccinophobes. You might think that vaccination ends the fear, but the attacks by the vaccinated against the unvaccinated attests to the continued fear experienced by these vaccinophiles.

From this brief, logical assessment of the differences between vaccinophiles and vaccinophobes, it should be clear that you can’t compare morbidity and mortality to COVID-19 based solely on vaccine status. If these two groups become better characterized, perhaps we can compare the vaccinated and unvaccinated within each group. Providing that these groups are relatively homogeneous in the issues raised above, we could then compare the outcomes more reliably. 

But for the moment, we are in the midst of a vaccine promotion campaign waged by the government, industry, and the media, with the goal of getting needles in arms. Whatever challenges that agenda is suppressed or censored. This means that reason and science take a back seat to propaganda and an agenda which must show vaccines are more effective than natural immunity, even if it isn’t.

So don’t fall for the false comparison between vaccinophiles and vaccinophobes. These are two distinct groups with greater differences than just vaccine preference. But don’t expect good science and political honesty to suddenly prevail in the response to this pandemic.

The best advice is this: If you believe in vaccines, then take them. If you don’t, then don’t take them. Being true to your own beliefs is important in any healthcare. The choice should be yours to make for yourself. Only you know if you are an apple or an orange. 

A Policy Statement About Fines

0

This week we are taking up as a new and noteworthy development Bill 17 being considered by the Honolulu City Council.

That bill would give the city’s Department of Planning and Permitting a clear pathway to enforcing fines that the Department imposed by allowing the Department to record liens against the property that the fines concern, and then to foreclose on the liens like a mortgage company would if a mortgage was in default.

Except that the Department doesn’t really want to do that stuff.

Department Director Uchida was recently quoted in the Star-Advertiser. “The problem is to go the next step to put a lien on the property and actually foreclose, you got to go to the court system,” he said. “[Corporation] Counsel is understaffed, we’re understaffed, so everything gets bogged down there.”

The Department has the authority under current law to slap liens on property and foreclose them. Yet, some properties have unpaid fines totaling more than $150,000, or fines that have remained unpaid for more than five years.

If the Department has been acting like a toothless tiger all this time although it certainly had the teeth, why do lawmakers think that this bill is going to cause any significant change?

“The purpose of Bill 17 is to make a policy statement that you need to address noncompliance with the housing code, specifically public nuisances, and that at a  certain point the department must act,” said Tommy Waters, council chair and introducer of Bill 17.

But it seems that the problem might not be something this bill can solve.

If a CEO of a normal company told the Board of Directors that the staff were too busy to collect unpaid money that its customers owed, and that the unpaid receivables on occasion exceeded $150,000 per customer or were outstanding for five years or more, that CEO wouldn’t have that job for much longer.

Even if the CEO was a really talented subject matter expert, there are just some basic competencies that just have to be there so that the business can survive.  The same is true even in government.  The basic competencies need to be there, although perhaps for different reasons.  Here, we want our agencies to deter bad behavior by enforcing fines and penalties.  If it were well known that penalties weren’t being enforced, there’s a good chance that bad actors would ignore the penalties, continue to act badly, and maybe encourage others to do the same.  Lawmakers sometimes overlook these basic facts.

To solve the problem here, there needs to be a change in the underlying mentality. Enacting a bill as a “policy statement” can’t be expected to accomplish much.  Something else needs to be done.

Perhaps the Council should consider requiring the Department to turn over its seriously unpaid fine cases to its property tax collectors.  Those folks record liens and do foreclosure suits all the time and don’t complain about doing them.  By the way, current law already allows the fines to be added to other debts the taxpayer might owe, including property taxes, so it would not be a serious crimp in the system to have the Department fork them over to the property tax folks.

Save the policy statements for the campaign trail – if we want to go forward with this, we need thoughtful action.

Property Forfeitures and What Our AG is Doing About Them

0

First, a quick question:  What’s worse than having your property condemned, or taken for a payment representing “just compensation”?

The answer:  Having your property taken for no payment.  Taxation, of course, is one way this happens.  But it also can happen if personal property, such as cars and currency, is connected to certain criminal offenses.  The property may be forfeited without a court hearing, without compensation, and at times, without even a criminal charge filed against the property owner.  The Attorney General oversees this kind of property.

In the Report No. 18-09, the State Auditor examined the Attorney General’s oversight of forfeited property and had some startling findings. 

First, there wasn’t any written document either telling internal staff how the program worked, or administrative rules to educate the public and other agencies (such as law enforcement agencies).  That led to frustration by law enforcement agencies such as county police departments who wanted to seize properties connected with illegal activity (and profit from them, as explained below), and by folks whose properties were taken who wanted to show that they weren’t connected with crime and could be returned. 

The person in charge of the program at the AG’s office, furthermore, had responsibilities outside of the program, and as a result oversight of the program had been piecemeal and, well, second-rate at best.  Processing petitions for administrative forfeiture took an average of 561 days (about 1 year and 7 months).  Worse, the office couldn’t account for some of the cash or property it was supposed to have.

Finally, the laws governing property forfeiture specified that the agency initiating the forfeiture and the prosecutor’s office associated with that agency each get a cut of 25% of the cash or sale proceeds from the forfeited property.  The Auditor also found that 20% of the balance was to be used to support drug abuse education, prevention, and rehabilitation programs.  The 20% allocation was news to the AG’s office at the time, as not a penny had been spent toward drug abuse mitigation programs.

Recently, the Auditor’s Office issued Report No. 21-09 on whether its 2018 recommendations were being implemented.  Here’s what the Auditor found.

The AG did indeed issue administrative rules covering the program, but they were an easy lift because the governing law allowed the AG to adopt the rules without a public hearing.  The AG did not, however, adopt any internal procedures to guide its own staff.  So, there is a chance that within the AG’s office there may be some arbitrariness as the staff responds to each case on its own facts.

The rules seemed to help with the office’s backlog.  Average processing time for petitions for administrative forfeiture dropped from 561 days to 204 days.  The good news is that they knocked one year off the processing time.  The bad news is that they still need seven months.  That’s a long time for a person to be without a car, for example, if it’s found that it wasn’t lawfully seized.

The Auditor also found that the AG’s staff got better at accounting for the money seized, but still didn’t keep an inventory of the hard goods.

And, when it came to the requirement that 20% of money be used to support drug abuse education, prevention, and rehabilitation programs, the AG’s staff couldn’t find the requirement in the law.  So, they ignored the Auditor’s point.  The AG’s position here is defensible.  Even though the law passed by the Legislature said that the Legislature intended to create a 20% requirement, there was nothing in the law that in fact created it.  If the Department spent money on drug abuse mitigation, justifiable criticism could follow.  Legislators should take note and make sure that their intent stated in a bill matches the law that they intend to enact.

We’re making progress, it seems; perhaps not as quickly or smoothly as folks would like, but the program is better now than when the Auditor first looked at it.

Tactical Everyday Wear from VERTX

0

Covid-19 has upended just about everything.

For those of us who have been fortunate enough to work out of our homes, meeting primarily via Zoom, there’s no longer the need to “dress up”.  Sure, you need to look presentable, but there’s no reason to be a clothes’ horse.

Your days of spending money at Nordstrom are mercifully over.  

In other words, the pandemic has transformed our relationship with clothing.

Essentially, we’re buying fewer garments. According to a recent piece in Fast Company, fashion industry revenues dropped in the neighborhood of one third last year. Consumers were choosier but increased spending on “casual wear” and “active wear”.

Plenty of room for your mobile device and other gear. (Yes, it does help to be in good shape).

In the active apparel department crossover wear–clothing that can be used in any number of environments has become an important niche. Whether it’s a hike up Tantalus, a BBQ (whenever that becomes possible) or a visit to Costco you’ll want something that’s durable and practical.

Looking halfway decent is always a nice thing to consider as well.

Over the last few years I’ve been writing a great deal about Crossover wear and one of the brands I’ve come to like is VERTX. Owned by famed investor Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, the 175 year old company was, and still is, known primarily as a manufacturer of tactical clothing. (During WWII they made a lot of government issue uniforms).

The Grip has 14 pockets but they are not that readily apparent. Thank goodness. There are two cargo-like pockets just beneath the model’s hands that would work for documents.

They still manufacture military and law enforcement garments used by real “operators”. Because the clothing is designed to allow law enforcement professionals to blend in, you can wear them casually, without looking like a soldier of fortune wannabe.

You’re not going to find these pants for sale in a boutique but that’s not where I shop. The point is, you won’t feel self-conscious wearing their covert line of pants. They are stylish too. You won’t be mistaken for a security guard at Walmart. 

Their products are priced upper to mid-range—from $60-85. What you get, for paying a little more, is something that will last. These garments that are over engineered like Swiss or German machinery.

The Cutback SF is slightly slimmer and more stylish than the Grip, so if you have an athletic body, you can flaunt it. (You can also get a “normal” Cutback that is not tailored to a slim physique).

They have recently come out with a couple of new products that are ideal for the Coivd era.

VERTX describes that Grip pant ($69.99) as “The look of workwear, the feel of your favorite casual pant”. I agree, although I’d say it’s a cross between work and casual.

Constructed in a lightweight, stretch broken twill it will highlight your better features while allowing you to hike or work in the garden with them. Or, perhaps carry out a covert operation. The fabric’s feel is nice and soft. Very comfortable.

The Cutback is also available as a short. It has all the same features as the long pants.

It has (count em) 14 pockets but thank the Lord it does not look like some overly pocketed cargo pant. As the website says, “Grip Pants blend into the crowd without censoring your style.”

Here are the construction highlights:

  • Athletic fit provides low-profile silhouette
  • Full gusseted crotch and four-way stretch allows greater range of motion
  • Brass YKK® locking zipper
  • Contoured higher back rise
  • 8 belt loops are 0.875-inch wide and fit up to 1.75-inch belts
  • Front pockets are reinforced to reduce wear and tear
  • All heavy-wear seams are double-stitched
  • Bar tacks or YKK® rivets at critical stress points

I can live with that.

Got an AR-15 magazine to stash? No problem with the Grip or the Cutback. There’s another similar pocket on the other side where you can slip your EDC flashlight or, another magazine.

The other style I like is the Cutback SF ($79.99), which VERTX describes as “Streamlined Urban Camouflage”.

I can dig that.

The Cutback actually comes in two versions, the SF (the slim cut) or the “original” Cutback. If you have a physique that can accommodate the slimmer Cutback SF, I would suggest you get that one. It’s going to look better on you. If not the original will serve you well.

For reference sake, a comparison of beltloops. Cutback SF featured on top vs. a more conventional pant from Western Rise on the bottom. This is an example of the “over engineering”, which you’d expect for operators’ use.

The Cutback SF is a bit slimmer than the Grip , and is definitely more stylish. It “only” has 7 pockets. I would suggest that there are plenty of places to stash your credit cards, money, cellphone, passport, etc.

I could totally see these pants used for travel (once that becomes in vogue again) because of the pockets designed to accommodate passports, money, and whatever else you wish to hide.

You can even take these to the range and no doubt be the best dressed on the firing line.

I like the SF design because they really can be construed as casual even if they are built for LE men (or women). The slim tailoring will also blend in with the crowd.

As the VERTX website says, “On the job or out for some R&R you can depend on the Cutback SF for low-profile preparedness, because when you’re on the streets, you never know what could be around the corner.” (Maybe a Tinder date?)

The deep mesh pockets (featured on both styles) are a nice touch.

Here are the features:

  • 7 pockets keep tools and essentials at the ready
  • Deep front pockets are made of soft highly-breathable mesh
  • Watch pocket in right front pocket
  • Right front pocket has pass-through slots for comms lead or a RATS tourniquet
  • Dual angled rear yoke pockets fit standard smart phones and rifle mags
  • Wallet traps in both rear pockets keep wallet or passport secure
  • 5 mini stash pockets let you pre-load key items from 1.75 to 2.25 inches long
  • Keyring and lanyard anchor point in both front pockets
  • Concealed DropLoop pass-through in each belt loop for flexible restraints or reinforced tether points for lanyards or gear
  • 320D Cordura® reinforcements on watch and rear yoke pocket openings and cuff kickplates

The bottom line is that these pants are both sturdy and have a modicum of elegance. Both are equally comfortable but the Cutback fabric does not have quite the soft feel of the Grip. (It consists of Stretch 6.2 oz. 40% Cotton/ 27% Polyester T400/ 25% 37.5® Polyester twill).

Both and utilize VaporCore a technology that VERTX claims will keep you cool, dry and smelling nice. (It controls odor).

A testament to the durability of VERTX garments: Been wearing the above pants (which are now dedicated to garden duties) for 5 years.

What’s not to like?

One of the over-engineered components are the the mesh pockets (on both pants) which appear to be very durable. Ditto with the massive and numerous belt loops which you could probably hang out of a helicopter with. (Don’t try it though…).

You’ll also have a full range of movement—you’ll be able to squat, run, kneel, etc. And they will last a long time.

These are truly everyday wear that you can travel or, you can head out on the trail with. Easy to stash your cell phone in one side pocket and your EDC flashlight in the other.

I have been using VERTX products for a number of years (see above photo) and can attest to their longevity. For everyday wear, you can’t beat ’em. If you can use them for a covert mission, that’s a bonus.

Robert F. Kay is a columnist for the Honolulu Star Advertiser, a health nut, the author of two Lonely Planet guidebooks and Fijiguide.com. (He also likes crossover wear).

The Real Reason for “Vaccine Hesitancy”

0

The term “vaccine hesitancy” is being used to characterize a large percentage of people who have not lined up to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The term “vaccine hesitancy” implies a pause to reflect before getting vaccinated. It is a term that implies that people who aren’t vaccinated are simply thinking it over, or are procrastinating, but they will eventually come around and receive the jab. It’s a public relations term to help vaccine holdouts see themselves as only temporarily unvaccinated. The assumption is that everyone, deep down, really wants to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but some temporary concerns, all unfounded, are getting in the way. 

However, many people are not hesitating to get vaccinated for COVID. They are resisting. 

“Vaccine resistance” happens when you don’t want the vaccine, and you feel the government is trying to force it upon you, which we might call “vaccine coercion”. Many people are wary of the hard-selling  of these vaccines and “vaccine coercion”, and have an instinctive resistance to being pushed. The more you push, the more they resist. 

Some people think of vaccines, especially heavily promoted ones with novel technology that is currently only under emergency approval, as riskier than the disease, and are resisting these vaccines to protect themselves from potential side effects. The fact that the science regarding these side effects is still developing and uncertain adds to this vaccine resistance. 

Realize that people who do not trust vaccines are more likely to experience negative side effects than those who want the vaccine. This is due to a negative placebo, or nocebo, effect. When people expect a negative outcome, they are more likely to experience it. This raises ethical concerns about “vaccine coercion”. Forcing people to receive a vaccine which they fear and do not want will create more hardship and side effects for these people than for the general, vaccine-accepting public, and is therefore exposing this group to greater harm from side effects.  

This raises issues of social justice, which requires the respect of diverse opinions and lifestyle choices, including the choice not to vaccinate. We typically respect that choice, as well as the choice of what kind of medical care one is willing to accept. Coercion to vaccinate by “vaccine shaming” those who resist is inequitable treatment of this group.

Ironically, the greatest proponents of mandatory vaccinations and forced compliance are the politically progressives, who want to protect all minority and oppressed groups other than the unvaccinated. They see the unvaccinated as a threat to others and a remnant of malignant individualism. Meanwhile, some conservatives in US culture  see “vaccine coercion” as a malignant threat to individual liberty. Public health mandates are inherently anti-individual and anti-freedom, and will be resisted by those who see individual freedom as the highest social value.

Confounding the entire vaccine issue is the profit motive. In an investment article about the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it is noted,“The worst-case scenario for Pfizer and Moderna was that their COVID-19 vaccines wouldn’t work. The second-worst scenario might be that their vaccines work too well.”  The reasoning is that, “If their vaccines provide protection against COVID-19 for years, the companies won’t sell nearly as many vaccine doses in future as they will in 2021 and 2022.” The article concludes, “Pfizer and Moderna want their vaccines to be highly effective, but they also hope that booster doses are needed at least annually. That’s the best-case scenario for both companies.” 

Many people already realize that the drug industry profits from disease, and prefers pharmaceutical interventions to natural remedies or letting the body heal itself.  Billions of dollars annually are spent on “alternative medicine” treatments, as mistrust in Big Pharma grows. The Food and Drug Administration is highly influenced and lobbied by drug companies, with a “revolving door” policy, where officials move between government advisory boards and drug company advisory boards. It’s healthy to be skeptical about healthcare advise from anyone, but especially when money is to be made. Some drug companies have made a killing on COVID. And Congress still has an insider trading problem

All these considerations help reveal why so many millions of people resist COVID-19 vaccination. Distrust in the vaccine reflects distrust in the medical and political system. It also means there may be a control group of unvaccinated individuals to compare with the vaccinated group over the years. Will there be adverse vaccine side effects revealed years down the road? Will the unvaccinated regret their decision to stay clear of the vaccine? 

Time will only tell, as this public experiment in pandemic management unfolds. 

Special Land and Development Fund, Revisited

0

Some time ago, we devoted some of this space to discuss the State Auditor’s findings regarding the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Special Land and Development Fund (SLDF).  That fund is the repository of all land rents the State receives for land that is either leased or used under a revocable permit (such as those used by airport or harbor-based businesses), and it also is funded by earmarks off two taxes:  HRS section 248-8 gives it 0.3% of the highway fuel tax up to $250,000, and HRS section 237D-6.5(b)(4) gives it $3 million of the transient accommodations tax, each year.  (This TAT earmark was not affected by House Bill 862, which became law by veto override.)

In 2019, the State Auditor’s Report No. 19-12 had some unflattering things to say about management of the fund:

In our audit, we found that the Land Division is not fulfilling its mission.  It has neither a strategic plan for the long-term management of its public lands, nor an asset management plan to identify and fulfill its obligations and goals related to the administration of these lands. . . .

We also found that the Land Division lacks clear and consistent policies and procedures necessary to guide day-to-day operations. Without them, the Land Division does not adequately perform two of its four core lease management functions: (1) it has significant difficulties collecting delinquent rent; and (2) it does not perform field inspections to ensure compliance with lease terms, including lessees’ obligation to upkeep and maintain leased premises.

DLNR’s management responded with a scathing rebuke of the Auditor’s findings, and we thought many of those comments were hollow excuses.

The Legislature is now poised to do something about it.  The House formed a special investigative committee, chaired by House Majority Leader Rep. Belatti, which had its initial meeting on July 15th.  Under House Resolution 164, the committee is to investigate the Auditor’s findings and report by the beginning of the 2022 legislative session.

In the meantime, we have heard from people, some that are or were in DLNR.  They describe some policies or practices that have us shaking our head.

  • The marketing strategy for offering leases of vacant lands consisted of posting a “For Lease” sign on the property and waiting for the phone to ring.
  • There was no way of figuring out whether leases were priced at fair market rent, or of dealing with cases where the rent was obviously below market.  For example, what happens when the rent for the property was $100,000 while subleases of the same property brought in $300,000?  Instead, leases were routinely extended on the same terms.
  • When leases were priced with a percentage rent component (where a shopping center or hotel was on the property, for example), there was no process or procedure in place for verifying whether the reported sales (on which the rent was based) were reported accurately.
  • One person, a civil servant, was given the authority to transfer any ceded lands revenues to the SLDF.  Those funds could then be used for the purposes authorized for that fund, which seems to ignore the requirement of section 5(f) of the Hawaii Admission Act that ceded land revenues be used to benefit Native Hawaiians.

We wish the House Special Investigative Committee the best of luck in carrying out their work.  They are going to need it if they aim to take the policies and practices that are broken and try to fix them.