Current Thoughts (Mostly Hawaii)

Have we run out of ideas?

So a few days ago, on my Facebook page “Politics Hawai‘i with Stan Fichtman”, I posted an article by CNBC, outlining how the order came down to take out Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, by a US drone. It talked about the conversations made to the President, Donald Trump, by advisers who, at Mar-A-Lago, presented options to the President in response to Iranian attacks in the Green Zone in Baghdad.

One of the things that the article said was that, within the list of options presented, one of them was the assassination of this Iranian Major General. It was said in the article that this was the “most extreme” reaction that the President had as an option, among others.

Wait, so there was an option, a viable option, presented to the President of the United States to assassinate a member of the Government of Iran, a sovereign nation? Let that sink in for a second.

For a long time, the United States has differentiated who it went after when it came to targeted individuals. When it came to people like Osama Bin Laden and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the veneer of them being “state agents” didn’t exist. They were nothing more than violent rebels that the United States targeted, and took their shot without worry.

In this case, here, the President and his advisers decided that a governmental leader of a sovereign state should be downgraded to the same level as the violent rebel, and treated as such. Needless to say, as a scholar of traditional political science, the fact that the Untied States at this current time has taken this step is quite surprising.

The reason I say that is because for many years during the cold war, the United States would be a major player in the “taking out” if you will of sovereign leaders and their people. From President Allende of Chile in 1973 (the Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”) backed that one) to the 1963 South Vietnamese coup that took out President Ngô Đình Diệm, again with CIA oversight but all linked to the desires of the administration at the time.

The United States has taken out soverign leaders before
(L) Salvador Allende, Chile; (R) Ngô Đình Diệm, South Vietnam
PC: (L) “SalvadorAllende.jpg” by Jorge Barahona is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 
PC (R) “U1093469” by Tommy Truong79 is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

After these events, and a few more, scrutiny and criticism of these actions led the United States Congress to tell the President that it didn’t want the country to be in the business of killing off governmental leaders in other sovereign countries. After all, if we went and took out any bad guy we wanted to, even if they ran a legitimately recognized country, we could be seeing the same activity happen on our shores, with international players assassinating our leaders.

So, despite this logical equivalency of “if you take out mine, we can take our yours” as the justification for not killing off governmental leaders in countries we don’t like, has the United States decided, still, to re-engage in this activity?

It is my hope that we have not. Going back to the aides that provided the President the option to kill Soleimani as an option to respond to Iranian action in Baghdad, I cite a quote from the 1979 movie “Time After Time”.  HG Welles, played by Malcolm McDowell, says to Amy Robbins (Mary Steenburgen) says “The first man to raise a fist is the man who’s run out of ideas.”

Did the aides giving this recommendation to the President do this because they have run out of ideas? I really hope not, for the sake of this country.  

The Brutality of the Museum Market

On Saturday the 28th of December, a museum closed its doors for the final time.

And no, we are not talking about the recent reports on the Barbers Point Naval Air Museum, which by the way is going to court.

No, we’re talking about here another World War II-themed museum, the Home of the Brave Museum in Kakaako. A couple of months ago its owner Glen Tomlinson, announced that due to increasing rent in this hot section of Honolulu, that the museum could not afford and would close down at the end of the year.

It looks like there was no leeway on the rent price, and so another museum has closed its doors. They aren’t the only one, by the way, that has made moves to downsize or close up shop.

One of the more prominent museums in Hawaii – the Honolulu Museum of Art – has decided to slim down and shed properties that seemed to take more money to maintain than what was being generated. The Spalding House on Tantalus, which was a second location for the museum, was shut down earlier this December and is being sold. Listing price of the property, $15 million.

So, as these developments occurred, along with what Brad Hayes of the Barbers Point Naval Air Museum told me about how museums make a living in this town, I had to wonder if there is a stated formula to keep these entities open. In other words, what keeps some of these museums open and thriving and some of them to die on the capitalistic vine?

The key I have learned is the tour industry (Roberts, Polynesian Hospitality, Grey Line, etc.) and whether they direct traffic to these entities. Looking into this, I found out that if you’re not on the tour bus routes, where passengers are dropped off on pre-paid tours, your entity is already behind the eight-ball when it comes to people traffic to your location.

Brad told me in my interview with him that one of the reasons why the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum does so well is because it’s “on the routes” of tour buses bringing tourists from Waikiki and other locations to their area to buy admission and look around. Other locations that seem to do well with this includes the Arizona Memorial and Punchbowl.

Despite other transportation options, many tourists to Hawaii still utilize tour groups, and their buses, to get them to desired attractions.
PC: “IMG_6311” by pdxjeff is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

Even restaurants get into the game on this with my observation of a tour bus dropping off hungry tourists at Lobster King restaurant on King and Keeaumoku Street. Without that link, I am sure that not all the seats at that restaurant would be filled.  

As for what deals are made to make those busses drive up to the entrance way of a museum, or restaurant, or dinner cruise boat, that is something I am sure takes negotiation on both sides. It could be assumed that the deals made benefit both the tour company and the entity itself. After all, how did Crouching Lion, which is a restaurant on the East Coast of Oahu and really out of the way of anything urban, become a go-to place for tourists?

Oahu explored
Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery attracts over 2 million visitors every year, many of them come by tour bus to look around. This is on top of those who come to honour the passing of veterans and loved ones.
PC: “Oahu explored” by NancyFry is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

What it boils down to at the end, unfortunately, is the power of the market and how the market values certain things. In tourism, that value is measured so frequently by those promoting those entities that one day you could be the best attraction for tourists, and the next day you’re not. And for those who are able to adapt, like the Honolulu Museum of Art, you downsize and sell off hoping to right size for the market.

But for others, like the Home of the Brave Museum, you sign off.

…Try Something Else

While the State of Hawaii was busying themselves with last minute shopping and preparations for Christmas, the Government that runs the state announced that they would make a move to stand down police and security at the Mauna Kea standoff of the Thirty Meter Telescope (“TMT”).

Mauna Kea, August 2019
PC: The Author

It was said in that announcement that the Kia`i (means “protector” in Hawaiian, pronounced “kia e” and is the presumed name of any Hawaiian actively opposing specific types of developments across the state, including TMT) would need to stand down from their positions on the intersection of Daniel K. Inouye Highway and Mauna Kea Access Road by the 26th of December.

Otherwise, according to the Kia`i, force might be used to clear the road.  

In comes the ineffective diplomat, Big Island Mayor Harry Kim, announcing that he brokered a “truce” if you will between the County of Hawaii and the Kia`i. His truce literally says that because the state pulled the police off the mountain, that the Kia`i will take their tents that are blocking the road at the cattle guard, and put them off to the side of the access road.

This “truce” is to be in effect for two months. The move happened on Friday, the 27th of December.  

The “truce” allows the Kia`i to stay at the mountain, albeit off to the side of the access road, while the Mayor told them that there would be no move of equipment during the truce. All the while, opaque sounding statements by Mayor Kim eluding to further discussions with all parties will take place, and that the truce might go longer than two months.

So, in other words, nothing is in play to truly “solve” this issue. And to boot, those in positions of power, like Hawaii House of Representatives Speaker Scott Saiki, say just as much – this is solving nothing.

A quote from a successful friend of mine came to mind when watching all this. It’s a play on the whole “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again”. He shared with me another way to look at this phrase:

“If at first you don’t succeed, try something else.”

If this is a “try something else”, it really does not seem like a lot has actually been done. And at $15 million dollars burned up in the ensuing 5 months of police watching the Kia`i and doing little else, it feels like we have reached just another level of stalemate. As mentioned in an open letter to the Governor a couple of months back, the people managing this problem need to be put to the side and real negotiators need to be brought in. Otherwise we could go into a holding pattern action which we do the same thing over, and over and over again on this issue.

And that is not trying something else. That is, instead, insanity.

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