Category Archives: Blogs

Expect irregular posts for a few days

Expect some irregularity here for the next few days.

I was unexpectedly drawn into a family emergency yesterday requiring a call to 911 for an ambulance, first responders from HFD followed by the ambulance arew, and then hours in the Straub Hospital emergency room while waiting for tests and news.

Both Meda and I are fine, but the family sometimes requires more attention, and this is one of those times.

So I’ll try my best to get a few posts done, but won’t promise to be successful.

Not quite missing in action

Yes, I missed getting a post online yesterday. Lots of reasons, no excuses.

I got dropped off downtown early in the day and spent several hours in the Circuit Court documents room, going through some case files.

When I was done, I headed for the bus and just forgot to finish the job.

One of the cases I checked on was the Hawaii State Teachers Association’s lawsuit against the State Ethics Commission over the commission’s guidelines prohibiting teachers from accepting free travel when serving as chaperones during educational trips for students.

Last week, Judge Rhonda Nishimura voided a commission advisory opinion and related memorandum issued in August 2015 spelling out its interpretation of the ethics code as applied to these educational trips.

Despite some key arguments made on behalf of the HSTA by attorney (and Congressional candidate) Colleen Hanabusa, the ethics commission declined to give any ground or to soften their position. I’ll get back to additional details of the arguments in a later post.

So after hearing oral arguments, Nishimura ruled the commission’s travel guidelines affect a broad section of the public and are not limited to a specific case or situation, are forward looking, and therefore must be adopted as agency rules, with opportunities for public input guaranteed by state law.

One key point was buried in the arguments. Hanabusa pointed out that the same issues underlying the disagreement over teacher travel and education trips are also involved in applying the gift provisions of the ethics code to legislators and other public officials.

One part of the what is at issue is the ethics commission’s interpretation of this part of the law, which provides:

Gifts. No legislator or employee shall solicit, accept, or receive, directly or indirectly, any gift, whether in the form of money, service, loan, travel, entertainment, hospitality, thing, or promise, or in any other form, under circumstances in which it can reasonably be inferred that the gift is intended to influence the legislator or employee in the performance of the legislator’s or employee’s official duties or is intended as a reward for any official action on the legislator’s or employee’s part.

HSTA repeatedly questioned how the ethics commission decides what is a “reasonable inference.”

It’s the same provision at issue, whether applied to teachers or to lobbyists and legislators.

This is dangerous territory, because prior ethics opinions about gifts to legislators have been grumbled about at the State Capitol but not directly challenged. It’s a rare elected official who wants to publicly be seen on the wrong side of ethics.

This is clearly tricky territory, especially because the ethics commission is bound by the ethics laws, which are passed by the Legislature and can be amended by them as well.

If the commission holds to its prior position, and the teachers case is ultimately pushed to rulemaking, it will necessarily open the door to challenges to the way gifts to legislators have been treated by the commission. Lobbyists and legislators may be anxious to renew that debate. I’m not sure the public wants to risk loosening of existing restrictions.

Back when people survived plane crashes into the ocean

I received an email early today from Dave O’Malley, who writes and does graphics for the Vintage Wings of Canada website.

These free stories are subscribed to by more than 14,000 people worldwide. We do this to honour aviation history and our veterans and civilian aviation heroes. Vintage Wings owns and operates 16 WWII fighters and trainers in flying condition and we fly at air shows and hold youth leadership programs and events.

He explained that he’s been searching for a photo of the old Honolulu Airport to illustrate a story about the famous ditching of a Pan Am passenger plane that went into the ocean between Honolulu and San Francisco in October 1956 after two of its four engines failed.

Amazingly, by today’s standards, all of the 31 people aboard survived.

At that time, the Coast Guard stationed a ship mid-way between Hawaii and the west coast for just such emergencies.

He requested permission to use one of my collection of photos showing Boeing StratoCruisers at Honolulu Airport in 1952. The photo shows my parents and sister, Bonnie, with the planes in the background.

My parents & sister

Check out their website and the many interesting tales!

Premature post

The best laid plans….

My schedule is totally messed up today, and I figured that I would write a post in advance and have it automatically uploaded this morning.

But when it came time to hit the “send to blog” button, I forgot to add a scheduled delay.

So…the post about the Butler Cult in Kailua, intended to appear this morning, went online Sunday afternoon.

And I won’t be back here until Tuesday.

So it goes.

Profiting from fear mongering

Just in case you missed this sobering Washington Post item a few days ago, do take a few minutes to check it out (“What was fake on the Internet this week: Why this is the final column“).

The “What was Fake” column started about 18 months ago to debunk fake Internet “news.”

But it really didn’t work because the Internet has gotten more partisan and more blatantly cynical in creating and passing on fake news. Too many online sites now pride themselves in profiting off of fear-mongering, or so the WaPo writers concluded.

I find its conclusion profoundly depressing.

If you’re a hoaxer, it’s more profitable. Since early 2014, a series of Internet entrepreneurs have realized that not much drives traffic as effectively as stories that vindicate and/or inflame the biases of their readers. Where many once wrote celebrity death hoaxes or “satires,” they now run entire, successful websites that do nothing but troll convenient minorities or exploit gross stereotypes. Paul Horner, the proprietor of Nbc.com.co and a string of other very profitable fake-news sites, once told me he specifically tries to invent stories that will provoke strong reactions in middle-aged conservatives. They share a lot on Facebook, he explained; they’re the ideal audience.

And more:

Needless to say, there are also more complicated, non-economic reasons for the change on the Internet hoax beat. For evidence, just look at some of the viral stories we’ve debunked in recent weeks: American Muslims rallying for ISIS, for instance, or Syrians invading New Orleans. Those items didn’t even come from outright fake-news sites: They originated with partisan bloggers who know how easy it is to profit off fear-mongering.

Do read the column. And do ponder its implications.

Have a nice day.