Current Thoughts (Mostly Hawaii)

The Lone Ranger

As this blogger was scrolling the news on Sunday, May 21, the first notice was that former Hawai‘i State Senator Sam Slom had passed away. Over the next couple of days, more recollections and reflections on Sam came out, reminding everyone that a generation of political actors are passing away.

The loss hit as others who have been part of the Hawai‘i Republican Party, which was respected in the general community, had also passed away recently. One person in that realm that PHwSF will write about in good time is recollections of Marion Gray.

Sam Slom – 1942-2023
PC: “File:Sam Slom 1.jpg” by SAF/CCRKBA is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

I FIRST GOT TO KNOW Sam Slom from a distance. That distance was the fact that he was running for Hawai‘i Kai Senate in 1996, and I was a junior in college at the University Of Hawai‘i. At a time when bigger names in the conservative movement were also running for office – more specifically Orson Swindle who was running for Congress – Sam didn’t feel so out of place, and in fact, almost felt that a Caucasian running for the Legislature in Hawai‘i Kai was not much out of the ordinary.

Almost a decade later, and three jobs later, I would finally meet Sam face to face. While I don’t exactly remember the event it was at, his presence was not lost on me or the audience he addressed that night. And at the personal, face-to-face level, Sam was really hard to beat. He was personable in his one-on-one with people, firm handshake and all. And then he would immediately convert into a public speaker, impressing a crowd that was there, more times than not, for another candidate.

And that was the thing with Sam, he played the conservative superstar in Hawai’i, at times even overshadowing the Governor of Hawai‘i, who was also Republican. More often than not, Sam would be at these events talking up the crowd. Eventually, I realized that if you were a Republican candidate for office, and wanted superstar power at your fundraiser, you called on Sam.

And he delivered.

Of course, his schtick was that of the “Lone Ranger” – being the only Republican Senator in the Hawai‘i State Senate. But even with his presence, he ensured that whatever he was doing was noted and publicized. I remember his attempt to rewrite the entire state budget as an amendment to the state budget that was currently on the floor of the Senate. It was an elaborate effort (having seen a similar effort done by my then-boss, Charles Djou, for the City Council). And then not resting, put together presentation and media materials to explain why his budget was better.

It went nowhere, as predicted.

But as an elected official, he tried. For me, you give Sam Slom 10 points for trying because, despite the futility of moving a Republican idea in a body that is 96% Democratic (as the political landscape in Hawai‘i generally is), Sam said it, and did it anyway, and then proudly put his name on the idea, labeled it Republican values and then let the dice dictate the outcome. Find me a politician these days that can do that, with Sam’s style.

I don’t see many if any at all.

WHILE DISCUSSING RESPONSIBLE SPENDING, I recall a memory of Sam’s approach to purchasing supplies for his Senate office. If you were to speak with him or his team, you would learn that he prided himself on never using a single penny of his Senate office allowance, which is provided to each Senator for expenses such as food, water, and office supplies. Sam even highlighted this during his speeches at campaign fundraisers, possibly hoping to inspire other candidates to follow suit if elected.

But as far as I know, no other Republican officeholder was as virtuous as Sam on this issue.

More so, during his prime years in serving, Sam would never put on the airs of office, or even pretend that somehow, he was more well-off than the average citizen. I remember him talking about buying water and such for his son’s baseball team, and saying that he transports that all in his Saturn Relay minivan. For someone that at one time was the lead economist for the Bank of Hawai‘i and then a state senator, his choice of transportation seemed very pedestrian, if not normal for a good majority of the people of Hawai‘i.

Although Slom held onto more fiscal values in his service, he did delve into social issues and was criticized for it. The photo shows Sam at a statehood event that he organized on the grounds of Iolani Palace. He clashed with Hawaiian Independence protesters that came to counter the statehood event. Slom reportedly engaged with the protesters. But he also learned to probably not do this again.
PC: Dennis Oda, Star Bulletin, 8-19-2006

During the years 2010-2019, it became apparent that Sam’s energy levels were decreasing even though he still had a spark within him. He had previously established Small Business Hawai’i, which was an impressive organization similar to today’s Grassroot Institute of Hawai’i, but unfortunately, it lost its effectiveness and was eventually shut down. As Sam announced his candidacy for the 2016 election, observers recognized that he would need to channel the same level of energy he had in 1996 to compete with the formidable opponent, Stanley Chang.

It was disheartening to witness Sam’s inability to uplift the spirited campaigner, who unfortunately ended up losing to Chang. What made matters worse was that after the defeat, Sam withdrew and began to recede. Despite earning significant recognition from both political parties, Sam had the chance to transition from being a mere elected official to a prominent Hawai‘i statesman. We caught a glimpse of his potential statesmanship when he and Colleen Hanabusa hosted a “crossfire” style segment on Rick Hamada’s morning radio program.

In fact, in an “in memory of” Sam shows that Hamada held on Tuesday the 23rd, Colleen made it clear that Sam got OG respect from the side of the aisle that Colleen sits on. It is probably a good bet that while those on the Democratic side would not interface with Sam too much, many likely were privately paying attention to what he put forward in the Senate and paid more attention to his speeches on the floor.

Maybe those stories will come out when more detente occurs between the parties.

AT THE END though, with the respect that he deserved, Governor Josh Green ordered all flags at half-staff during the week Sam died. It was a nice gesture as it’s always hit or miss whether a Democratic governor of Hawai‘i will recognize the passing of a prominent Republican.

Of course, those who thought more of Sam would wish that the Governor would allow for a viewing in the Capitol rotunda with the pomp and circumstance that a ceremony like that deserves. In a final reflection, I am sure that Sam wouldn’t ask for it, but he wouldn’t eschew the demonstration if provided.

That was, who was, Sam Slom.

In principle, and then formally

This blog’s last post on the 22nd of April entitled “Silent and silence” suggested that as of April 10, 2023, the national emergency over COVID was over and done with. This had to do with the passage of a Joint Resolution in Congress, signed by President Biden, that ended the emergency. 

And then this blogger wrote that he was surprised that there was very little fanfare over the end of the provisions as if everyone shrugged and said “Yeah it’s over, moving on.”

Well, that was not the end of the story, it seemed. 

As announced even before the Joint Resolution, President Biden had pegged May 11th as the formal end of the COVID emergency, rescinding all final rules put in place during the emergency, including the imposition of immigration “Title 42” on those crossing the border illegally

As May 11 approached, more news broadcasters were making more of a deal of the date, with all that it entailed. And then when the date hit, the more formal “notification to society” of the end of the rules took place. 

Here in Hawaii, that formal notification came in the form of memos circulated to employees from state departments, announcing the end and thanking the employees for their service during the time. The Governor of the State of Hawaii held a press conference with other state officials in signaling the end of the national emergency rules. 

Of course, being our Governor who as Lt. Governor, became the face of the effort to combat the virus during the fights “dark days”, of which if you listen to the press conference, he highlights a lot of efforts, with a notable filter of what he did. 

Letter from Dept. of Health Director Fink, to DOH employees on the end of COVID rules, 5-11-2023
PC: PHwSF, provided by a source

With that, how can one who called it done earlier, rationalize that, now, it’s really, truly done? One way to look at it is if we look back in history, at the end of other epic conflicts. The example that will be used here is how the real end of World War II played out. 

AS HISTORY RECORDS, after the bombing of Nagasaki by the United States on August 9th, 1945, the Japanese Imperial Government seeing the writing on the wall, signaled their unconditional surrender 5 days later, on the 14th. 

That is a day that is known as “VJ Day”, and is seen as the date that World War II ended. However, that is not the only day that signals the war’s end. 

Fourteen days later, on September 2, 1945, in Tokyo Harbor, on board the USS Missouri, the formal documents of surrender were signed by all allied powers and the Imperial Japanese Government. That is, according to historians, the “formal” end of the war. 

The formal surrender of Japan signaled the formal end of World War II on September 2, 1945. A half-month earlier, the war was declared over by Imperial Japan by their signal of unconditional surrender in principle. This ceremony on the USS Missouri formalized it.
PC: “Allied Commander during formal surrender ceremonies on the USS MISSOURI” by Marion Doss is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Translating back to how this relates to the end of the COVID emergency rules, is that there are two formal days that one can look at. One is the “in principle” and the other is the “formal” date. 

The “In Principle” date, in this case, would be April 10, 2023. That would be the date that the war with COVID was declared over in certain parts of society. This includes healthcare systems, travel restrictions, and general societal rules that regulated interactions during the pandemic. 

The “formal end”, therefore would be May 11, 2023, and if one day a politician wants to make a new holiday for Americans to celebrate, that would probably be the date it’s pegged to. This is the date that all other rules were removed, and formally reverted to “full normal”. 

So to adjust the number of days we had been under the issue of COVID, here is a rundown:

From April 20, 2020, when the first mandate was put in place in Hawai‘i: 

  • 1,116 days
  • 3 years, 21 days
  • 799 weekdays and 318 weekend days
  • 159 weeks and 3 days
  • 26,784 hours
  • 1,607,040 minutes
  • 96,422,400 seconds

 And as for its effect on Hawaii: 

  • 1,896 deaths
  • 382,669 recovered
  • 3.5 million vaccinations given

Silent and silence

It started so silently that there was not even a notice in the paper, or at the clinic door. It happened when this blogger went to his physical therapist appointment at the clinic on April 6, 2023.

In walking through the hallways, a sight came upon that was startling…a fellow patient in the clinic not wearing a surgical mask. Thinking about how strict everyone has been about wearing masks in a hospital/clinical setting, the thought of “Oh, he’s in trouble!” came quickly to mind.

There was more news about the elimination of mask mandates on airplanes in the nation than there has been on the ending of all COVID 19 mandates 1,100 days after they started.
PC: “LX-VCF B747 MASKED CARGOLUX” by JonPsPICs is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

And then, out of nowhere, there was another. In waiting for the doctor to come out to call me in, another patient not wearing a mask came into the waiting room.

“What is happening?” I asked myself with my ill-fitting mask over my mouth and nose.

Going through the physical training session for my shoulder, I noted that none of the techs in the room were wearing masks. Some patients like I still were, but some were not. Finally, I asked the therapist, while trying to catch my breath if I could keep the mask off for a minute.

His response “Oh, don’t worry, no more mask mandate, wear it if you want to, not mandated anymore, started today”.

 I retorted “Where was the notice on this?” thinking that I missed the email or bulletin or even put a notice on the door that I may have missed. The answer back was even more surprising “Nope, they just took down the signs saying to wear a mask.”

And that was that. After three years (From April 20, 2020, when the first mandate was put in place in Hawai‘i), 1,082 days, and countless amounts of noise on both sides of the debate, the last of the mask mandates that affected any level of the population in Hawai‘i had been dropped.

Just a few days later, after that experience, President Biden signed a bill passed by Congress that ended the national emergency proclamations related to COVID. And again, like a notice that almost no one said, it quietly went into effect, with a 2-minute read in an ABC News website, and maybe some mention in other places.

And just like that, everything about COVID was over. After a similar amount of days (approximately 1,100), the whole emergency was done. Note: COVID is not done as a pandemic, but the rules put in by politicians to address the pandemic, are over.

This blogger, noting the time and date of the end of the emergency rules, thought that there may be more to be said than just “ending” it all, considering how much of a life-level disruption the emergency rules were to millions of people in the United States, and, at times, over 200,000 unemployed people in Hawai‘i.

Let alone the thousands that uprooted their lives in Hawai‘i and moved to the mainland, along with the various physical and mental health issues that came from it. Not to mention the yelling and screaming by some who bemoaned the “loss” of their liberties, the friendships that were strained and broken over taking sides on the mandates, dictums, and overall philosophy of how to fight COVID.

Now that the emergency laws/mandates and orders are done nationwide, we did get through it together, but now we have to determine fixes to things that were broken during the COVID emergency of three years.
PC: “Mask & boarded up shop” by kahunapulej is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Nothing…not even an announcement like in M*A*S*H* announcing the Korean War Armistice and that the war was over. It was as if the news came, people shrugged, and they moved on with whatever they were doing.

Truly, the end of the emergency came as quietly as a mouse, a thief in the night if you are biblically inclined to equate it, silent and silence as the title of this piece is.

To determine the ramifications of this very quiet development in the continued saga that we call life, maybe that is for historians to do sometime later when the ending of the emergency rules has been gone for longer.

But for now, we have been returned to our regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.

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.
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