Current Thoughts (Mostly Hawaii)

Never-ending sourcing

Since my start as a podcaster when I produced The SuperflyOz Podcast from 2017 to 2019, and then when I continued my punditry under my current blog, I have been on a continued quest for seeking out the best sources of information on news and events.

The process of finding sources, especially in the current American media environment, is challenging to say the least. With the fragmentation of the news media into a “me versus you” thinking, which is more noise than knowledge, in my opinion, one who wishes to know must be quite selective in their news choices.

What I have come to discover in the four years of seeking, is that the sources of information to trust are going to be ones that other like-minded people like you listen to first.

This was the case with Tim Pool. Until my friend who tracks politics told me about his Youtube channel,  of which he does 20-minute spots and longer spots, I would have never known this voice existed. So, about a year and one half ago, I started listening.

Now I will say I don’t agree with everything he says, and sometimes I find his points of view opposite to what I am thinking. But he does back up his stories with sources that are fact-checked, and typically does not expound or “add fluff” and assumptions to the subject from the sources.

So, I listen to at least one of his episodes during the week, typically on my drive to the office.

Another source that came to my attention, and I pay attention to now, came from a source on Facebook. Not entirely sure who it was, but they had a link to the musings of Heather Cox Richardson.

In her public profile, Cox Richardson is described as an American historian and professor of history at Boston College, where she teaches courses on the American Civil War. She currently provides her insight on current political activities on her Facebook page just about every evening (Hawai‘i time). Some of her posts are more a digest of activities that happened that day – a Supreme Court judgment, something important said by someone, etc.

Sometimes she will do longer single-subject pieces which have an academic and analytical perspective. While some will say that Richardson leans Left in her perspective, I find her angling more toward the center, politics-wise.

walter cronkite
No longer can the casual information seeker go to just one source for the news. Unlike past generations, where Walter Cronkite could be depended on.
PC: “walter cronkite” by theNerdPatrol is licensed under CC BY 2.0

But don’t be fooled, she does not like Trump and is not gentile with the current activities of the national Republican Party – just warning my more Conservative friends. I typically read her stuff just before or during my evening walk with my dog, Legacy.

A third source came from a fellow Hawai‘i blogger, Ian Lind. In a post that he put up a few months ago, he cited a news site called “Lawfare”. On the website, they have long-form articles on several subjects which they do deep dives on a variety of issues of the day.

What I find, though, more valuable is their daily news digest that you can get in your email. At their “subscribe” site you can sign up for their “Today’s Headlines and Commentary”. The email that comes to you will take no more than 2 or three minutes to read – five if you read every single word. But if you’re a person that wants to know the most important news going on, and at least have knowledge of it for watercooler talk, this is a digest to consider. I typically read it on my lunch break as they transmit during the morning time, Hawai‘i time.

While I might not speak about the topics in these sources, on my blog, more times than not I am speaking about these things with other pols in my circle. Being informed without the fluff is important especially when, at times, you and your friends start taking on hefty political subjects.

But the seeking continues. If you have one that I should look at, that is not entirely in the mainstream, let me know by posting it on my Politics Hawai‘i Facebook page.

The story did continue

Sometimes the follow-up to a story will come from a unique place. In this case, it came from a glance at an ad, on Facebook, by a local estate auction company.

In the post, I recognized the logo of a company that this auction company – Oahu Auctions and Liquidators – posted on its ad.

Logo of the Naval Air Museum Barbers Point

It was the logo of an air services company that I wrote about in the series of reports about the eviction of the Naval Air Museum at Barbers Point in and around November of 2019. The company at the center of the saga was called Aloha Wing Spirit.

One can read the entire saga in Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Going back to the identification of a logo in an auction company’s ad, turns out they are liquidating the assets of Aloha Wing Spirit. In the description of the auction on the website, it reads,

 “Wing Spirit, a luxury private charter operation servicing the islands and Asia, filed for bankruptcy in November of 2020. Up for auction are runway & aviation support equipment along with medical equipment.”

Oahu Auctions description, pulled from website

That got me thinking of why I didn’t hear about the bankruptcy when it happened last year. Turns out the news on this was almost buried by the local press. Outside of a blurb in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the event was only reported in the legal trade papers.

From those trade paper reports, it also turns out the bankruptcy had its saga. Filing for Chapter 11 (corporate restructuring) in November 2020, the case was converted to a Chapter 7 filing (liquidation) on March 22, 2021

With the conversion came the order for sale.

In looking at the auction itself, Aloha Wing Spirit seems to have anticipated brisk operations upon start-up. They have a computer, aircraft, and office equipment for sale (and as of Wednesday 6/23, you could pick up a computer monitor for a song).

While one can pin the demise of Aloha Wing Spirit squarely on economic effects from the COVID-19 pandemic, the volume of things in the auction shows that at one point, they were dead serious about getting operations off the ground.

Current location of the Naval Air Museum’s planes at Kaleaeloa Airport.
PC: Google Maps, pulled 6-24-2021 (circle shows where the planes are parked)

Now whether the company, who landed one of their planes at Kalaeloa Airport during my reporting, was going to be a permanent presence at that airport decamping the Museum, that may never be known. As of the most recent Google Maps look at the area the Museum was at, the planes that the State said would be removed are still there.

The museum is reportedly out of business as of the middle of 2020.

Hawaii needs a better watchdog

Potential police misconduct.

Potential corruption on major projects in Hawaii

No oversight of governmental actions including the suspension of the Sunshine Law and ignoring the needs of people who need government services.

And the list goes on and on.

For years Hawaii, in general, has been dogged by the feeling of many that in the henhouse of the state, the only group that has been allowed to watch are the foxes. Recent stories regarding procurement rules being violated at the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit (HART), as well as the ongoing sagas of the Lindani Myeni and Iremamber Sykap police shootings, have led have given weight to that feeling.

And these are just the most recent examples.

Turns out it could very well be true – that the government watchdogs that are supposed to root out corruption have been taken over by enablers to the corruption. One of the most glaring examples of this takeover took place a few years ago when Chuck Totto, the City and County of Honolulu Ethics Director, was put aside by the Mayoral administration of Kirk Caldwell.

File:HK North Point Java Road ICAC HQ Building Logo 2 a.jpg
The ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) is a worthy model to look at for Hawaii.
PC: “File:HK North Point Java Road ICAC HQ Building Logo 2 a.jpg” by KRTaikoo is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

But you may counter that “well, we have the legislative bodies (the City Council and the State Legislature) to hold people accountable.” Turns out those bodies seem to either be feeble in calling for accountability of the Governor or are on their trips trying to play gotcha games with appointees. In other words, even the elected watchdogs have decided to not hold authority entities accountable and instead talk up a good game only.

With that, you may then ask “what is the solution?” The answer to that could be what Hong Kong created years ago to root out its corruption.

When you talk about corruption, your not just dealing with the corrupt entity. You also have to address the people, companies, industries, and citizens that are either involved or are affected by the corruption. Turns out corruption affects all kinds of “political and citizen circles”.

Hong Kong, in its creation of an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), worked to solve the problem of how graft and corruption affected society overall. With its civil service acting in a pay-to-play model in the late 1960s and early 1970’s, economic development of the British Colony (now known as a Special Administrative Region, or SAR) was impeded. The impediment is very similar to what we have here in Hawaii – that one needs to pay up for their projects (some with substantial investments) don’t go through.

You say that “corruption and graft like what they saw in Hong Kong don’t happen here?”, may one be reminded of the recent indictments of five employees from the City and County of Honolulu’s Dept. of Planning and Permitting, instilling a pay-to-play model to approve building permits.

The ICAC in Hong Kong, as a model proposed for Hawaii to follow, would be structured similarly to how Hollywood created the mythical “Hawaii Five-0” – that it’s a creation of the Governors’ office, accountable only to that office of activities that it does. In this case, the activities would be to root out corruption wherever it may find it.

This type of structure helped Hong Kong move from being one of the most graft-ridden cities in the world to one of the least corrupt. In Hong Kong, the ICAC also helped clean up the image of the police, rooting out corruption in the ranks and instilling public confidence in the force. Although Honolulu has a Police Commission that is set up to oversee the Honolulu Police, it has come under increasing criticism as to how it handled the Louis and Katherine Kealoha scandal as well as their initial love-for but lost love for the outgoing police chief Susan Ballard

Hong Kong
Not only does the Hong Kong ICAC have a main office, they have satellite offices throughout the SAR. They also have an active outreach on media.
PC: “Hong Kong” by DrBob317 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

In conclusion, if the State of Hawaii intends to move beyond the effects of the COVID saga, and the corruption scandals that have plagued it, to the benefit of Governor Ige’s “Hawaii 2.0”  plan to bring in new industries and new opportunities for Hawaii people, it needs to get its “house in order” when it comes to its image.

A creation of an ICAC in Hawaii, overseen by its executive, would go a long way in promoting Hawaii as a place that one can do business in. It would provide confidence that the investment coming in will play on an even field legally and morally. For the next generations of our residents, it should be worth pursuing.

Read past entries of Stan Fichtman and PoliticsHawaii.com!

What am I listening to?

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

Tim Pool (on YouTube)

Pod Save America (on YouTube)

Sargon of Akkad - Carl Benjamin (on YouTube)

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

CNBC

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