Current Thoughts (Mostly Hawaii)

Listening to wisdom vs. how you act on it

Now that the United States House of Representatives Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party has had its first meeting on February 28th, this blogger decided to go in and see what’s up with the committee. 

Senator Josh Hawley
PC: “Josh Hawley Primary Night” by Natureofthought is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

What prompted this inquiry was a letter sent by Senator Josh Hawley on March 10, 2023, to Chinese President Xi Jinping. Even in the lofty world of diplomatic-speak, where one should speak softly, observes much, and acts little, the letter is far from the optimum language that a leader in one part of a government, speaks to another. In the letter, Hawley does not even try to be discreet in his request, but overtly states to President Xi “time is up” when it comes to China’s disclosure about the origins of the COVID virus in 2019. 

Juxopose that blunt statement with Committee testimony on how to approach the overall discussion on China. In its first meeting, again on February 28th, the committee received testimony from H.R. McMaster, who is currently a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. 

Now one would think that McMaster, who served as National Security Adviser under President Trump, would be in line with the blunt language presented in the letter from Hawley to Xi. 

However, McMasters words are much more sage in their nature and show that, potentially, not everyone in Washington DC, on this subject, is all in line with a hawkish tone toward China. 

In McMasters 11-page testimony to the Committee about China, he concluded his remarks about how the United States should approach China at this key time with this statement, 

We can no longer afford to be complacent about the threat from China’s campaign of cooption, coercion, and concealment. But we should be confident. We might remember how in In May of last year the Kremlin leadership watched a well-choreographed military parade even as its poorly-led, ill-trained, and undisciplined military was failing in Ukraine. Meanwhile the CCP was doubling down on its self-destructive Zero Covid policy and continuing its crackdown on the tech sector as it scrambled to contain a real estate crisis. Authoritarian regimes are brittle. Democracies are resilient. This Committee is an example of why we should be confident. Americans have a say in how we are governed and can demand better policies to compete with the CCP.

Testimony of Herbert Raymond McMaster to the Select Commitee, 2-28-2023
The profile photo of the Select Committee
PC: The Select Committee on the CCP on Twitter

If one listens to the talking heads in conservative media, it’s a sure bet that this conclusion won’t be shown in their report on the Committee, or how we should look at China. And the reason is that this does not carbonate the passions of the core conservative movement to run a loud and pointed campaign against China. 

And the more they promote a “us versus them” tone like Hawley does, the less opportunity there will be to show confidence in re-adjusting the relationship between the United States and China, which McMasters promotes in his testimony. As a follower of long-term diplomatic history, it should be noted that the promotion of what McMasters says goes further than what Hawley said, for continued engagement with China. 

Politics Hawaii with Stan Fichtman invites writers from different perspectives to share their knowledge and mana’o on subjects affecting Hawaii and how Hawaii sees issues that are happening around the world. If you are interested in pitching a story, please go to the “Contact Us” portal on this website and submit a pitch.

A bad idea 

While looking over the news flow this last week, an article popped up that just seemed too bizarre to be true. It said that a Florida State Senator by the name of Jason Brodeur introduced a bill that would require all bloggers who write about elected officials to register with the government. 

Florida Senate Bill 1316 added a new section to its law regarding public notice publication, with rules and regulations requiring bloggers to register with the state, file timely reports, and fines for those who do not file in a timely fashion. 

When this blogger read this, it was hard to believe that a government entity would issue such a bill in such an up-front fashion, stating that if you write about an elected official in the State of Florida, you need to register with the government for that right. 

But it’s true, a Senator in the State of Florida, a state part of the United States that’s sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and its amendments, has put out a bill that would limit the voice of independent media in reporting on the actions of its government. 

The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States
PC: “The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution” by BrentDPayne is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

While it’s been universally declared unconstitutional by anyone who knows about media law, it’s important to look at the details of this bill to know who and what’s targeted. 

The first part is who. The bill states a blogger is any person that submits a blog post to a blog that is subsequently published. Later in the bill, it differentiates that the blogger’s compensated for their work. It then links all that up and says that bloggers paid for their work are most likely playing the role of lobbyists when it comes to the material they publish. 

Therefore, any blog could be subject to this potential law. Even those, like this blog, whom the owner of it gets no compensation, but pays for the website address and the technical needs of maintaining the blog. 

The second part is what is being targeted, and that is a much simpler one – independent media. As part of the bill, it provides a carve-out for any newspaper or other similar publications website from the law. So, technically, an established media website, like a TV station whose talent is also able to blog, is excluded from being registered under this bill. 

Translate this bill to what it would look like in Hawaii, it could seriously decimate anything approaching independent media. From Civil Beat to Think Tech Hawaii may be a target. This blog could be included based on the definitions presented. It’s a bill that would monopolize the sources of information to that of established media, and silence, except for the most dedicated (and potentially the better well-off) to try and promote an independent voice in Hawaii. 

As for why any legislator anywhere in the United States would put out such a bill. From a statement, Senator Brodeur made to “Florida Politics”, “Paid bloggers are lobbyists who write instead of talk. They both are professional electioneers. If lobbyists have to register and report, why shouldn’t paid bloggers?”

But at least the article went deeper as to potential intention, stating in the last paragraph that the Senator has been the subject of frequent criticism by the media when he ran for Florida Senate in 2020. 

Regardless, to this blogger, whether you like how something’s portrayed in the media does not give any elected official or bureaucrat the right to limit it. It’s a violation to limit the voices of those in independent media. Furthermore, it’s bad for Florida to allow a bill like this to see the light of day, and it would be equally as bad for any legislator in Hawaii to think they could introduce something similar. 

Politics Hawaii with Stan Fichtman invites writers from different perspectives to share their knowledge and mana’o on subjects affecting Hawaii and how Hawaii sees issues that are happening around the world. If you are interested in pitching a story, please go to the “Contact Us” portal on this website and submit a pitch.

Modern, political communication

In the category of “turn down the political volume and maybe you’ll hear something interesting,” this blogger has found it thought-provoking to see how our current spate of leaders in Hawai‘i and Honolulu are revamping their public messaging. 

Let us start with a recent development coming out of Honolulu Hale’s third floor – Mayor Blangiardi’s office. It would seem that during the COVID lockdowns and the need to use Zoom, he could also procure enough equipment and material to convert it into broadcasting a podcast. 

The first sign of this was on Twitter, on February 9th, 2023, when the Mayor’s Office posted the “inaugural” podcast called “The One O‘ahu Podcast”. In the Twitter blurb that the Mayor’s office put out, the Mayor introduced the program with this statement:

 Well, what I think we are doing is trying to message as many people as we can. One of the things I love about Podcasting is such personal communication, so I hope we can build an audience. But the intent here more than anything is to continue the work of our administration what we’ve done but more importantly what we are going to do. Because I want people to hold us accountable. I want people to understand what it is that we spend our days doing and what they can reasonably expect. I know that we have to raise the bar on our expectations with the community. We came into office knowing that the trust had eroded over the years. It’s our intent to build back that trust but we know we can only do it through action and deed.

Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s first statement on his Podcast.
(Top to bottom)
Mayor Rick Blangiardi
Councilmember Augie Tulba
Representative Lauren Chepe Matsumoto.
Blangiardi:  CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Tulba: “Augie T – Pagoda Hotel La Salle Room” by CharlieBoy808 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Matsumoto: “File:Lauren Cheape for 45.jpg” by Dcastro 07 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Before this Mayor and his podcast, the Mayor’s office typically used the bully pulpit at the Managing Director’s office conference room to relay his thoughts to the public. Mayor Hannemann, Carlisle, and Caldwell all summoned the press when they had something to say and may be used the soundbites in their press releases after the conference was done. 

Going the way of the Podcast puts the microphone squarely in the hands of the producer and, if done correctly, can create a controlled narrative that directs constituents to see things in a certain way. It also has the power to combat any counterargument on things before they take root, before the Mayor’s office can come out with its message. 

As a former podcaster, who for about two years produced the “SuperflyOz Podcast” I will say that if you have the resources (people & time) to produce good content, the power that message has can be quite high. Needless to say, the Mayor’s office of Honolulu has those resources and seems to be using them well. 

Another Honolulu City official that uses targeted messaging on social media, and has an audience is Councilmember Augie Tulba, District 9. 

Since before he was a Councilmember, back in the days of his first campaign for office, he garnered a great deal of content and audience on his Instagram account. He converted that audience to this Instagram site of which, almost every day, there is some new content posted. 

Instead of his pieces being scripted like the Mayor’s office podcast, Councilmember Tulba does the more “instant” message format in which he puts out short informative pieces on what is going on in the district. For instance, the recent sewer leak in his district brought him out to assess the situation, show it to the people and get City leaders to speak about it, like Roger Babcock, Director of Environmental Services for the City. 

This type of on-spot reporting is more akin to a news broadcast, but instead of the stilted press-official interaction, you have a city official talking to another city official, right there at the incident, showing what is happening. While there is no counter as to how many saw the piece, this specific one did get 50 likes – a bit astounding when other officials don’t get that many on a more scripted piece, or have to lean on “bots” to boost the numbers. 

It also helps to show that the Councilmember whom the people voted for, is on the job and taking notes. This material can be used for a re-election campaign, if anything, to show that he is aware of issues in the district above that of the criticism of his opponents. 

A third, relatively recent outreach by officials, this time by State Legislators, is the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday broadcast of the Legislatures Minority Caucus on Salem Media’s AM 690, during the pau hana drive time. Called “Capitol Conversations” the program is hemmed by House Rep. Lauren Cheape Matsumoto, the Minority Caucus Leader. She brings on other members of the caucus to talk about issues and what legislative actions they are doing in this current session. 

Governor Josh Green at his whiteboard sessions

While one could say that the audience for this is already defined (most likely a listener of this will also listen to other shows like Dennis Praeger and Sebastian Gorka), the effort of the Republican minority in the Legislature to have a show and to present ideas in a scheduled way shows that there is a step-up effort to get a message out there from their side outside of the finicky nature of the local press to cover it. 

In all three examples (and yes, we should include here Governor Green’s whiteboard episodes – his last two episodes of that can be found here and here), one can see that politicians in Hawai‘i, albeit slowly, are warming up to the idea that they can do independent messaging outside of the traditional media realm. 

And if the spread of independent voices, at least in the lawmaker realm, expands, will the independent voice that puts out blogs, vlogs, and podcasts get more space to also hear their voice, in Hawai‘i? Only time, and persistence, will tell. 

Politics Hawaii with Stan Fichtman invites writers from different perspectives to share their knowledge and mana’o on subjects affecting Hawaii and how Hawaii sees issues that are happening around the world. If you are interested in pitching a story, please go to the “Contact Us” portal on this website and submit a pitch.

Read past entries of Stan Fichtman and!

What am I listening to?

These are the Podcasters that I am listening to, try them out!

Pod Save America (on YouTube)

Regular Car Reviews 

Who am I reading/getting news from

I am very choosy as to where I get my news from, here are some dependable sources I refer to when reading up on topics

The Atlantic


Civil Beat (Hawaii on-line newspaper)

Honolulu Star Advertiser (mostly paywalled, but you get free headlines)

Beat of Hawaii (Tourism based news source from Kauai)

Twitter Feed

Here are my current thoughts of things going on.

The Best of The SuperflyOz Podcast
By Stan Fichtman

The best of my podcasts dating back from Jan. 2018.
Go to The Best of the SuperflyOz Podcast