Friday, August 28, 2009

Musings: Lotsa Laughs

The sky was rosy gold all around the edges, with Venus a glowing orb in the east, as Koko and I headed to the beach this fine morning. Waialeale and Makaleha each wore a cap of clouds, and their massive bodies were bathed in soft pink.

The sun began to rise, a glowering scarlet disc, just as our feet and paws touched the sand, and as it climbed it shot blue-silver shafts into the heavens and cast a sparkling path upon the sea. The wind rose, too, and iwa glided on the thermals, perhaps portending a shift in the weather, although that didn’t deter a fishing boat that had either been out all night or gotten an early start.

The Farm Fair, Kauai’s biggest event, started last night, and since I was in Lihue and had a free ticket, I cruised through it, marveling, as always, at how much work it takes to put it together and the absolute throngs of people who attend it.

I felt rather sorry for the animals, though, and not because they would soon be up for auction. I knew they’d been raised more humanely than any of the food that folks were gobbling on the midway.

No, I felt for them because the noise, light and commotion had them up way past their bedtimes, and looking a little nervous, as they suffered the indignities of dozens of strange hands trying to touch them and the antics of stupid people, like the man trying to photograph a sow’s private parts with his cell phone as his friends laughed uproariously.

Turns out Austal is laughing all the way to the bank following the boondoggle of the Hawaii Superferry. Brad Parsons blogged a link to a Finance News Network interview with Austal CEO Bob Browning that made it quite clear the whole thing was a set up:

[Interviewer] Clive Tompkins: Given the substantial hit you took to your bottom-line on the Hawaii Super Ferry contract, are you going to change the way you get paid for similar deals?

Bob Browning: Sure, yeah the Hawaii Super Ferry contract really was quite unusual. We were actually helping that company get started and put $30 million of mezzanine debt into the business which then allowed us to contract to build two large catamaran ferries for them. And strategically was important because it allowed us to build our workforce up in Mobile, Alabama which then allowed us to win the Joint High Speed Vessel program which is a very close derivative to that hull form. So while it was unfortunate that Hawaii Super Ferry filed for Chapter 11, it was an unusual thing that we normally wouldn’t do, but it did position us for a much more lucrative contract with the Navy.

Browning then goes on to talk about he expects that in two years, two-thirds of the company’s income will come from U.S. Navy contracts:

Clive Tompkins: And is this a conscious decision, or have you just followed the work flow?

Bob Browning: It really was a conscious decision. We were actually prevented form operating or selling in the United States through some protectionist legislation called the Jones Act, and so the establishment of our facility in Mobile Alabama was designed to allow us to produce ships for that market. We then saw an opportunity with a vessel we produced for a customer in the Canary Islands that we thought an adaptation of that would fit the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program and were successful in winning that contract.

It’s all very interesting, especially the part about the JHSV being “a very close derivative to the HSF hull form." It does make me wonder why the two Honolulu dailies never thought to conduct a similar interview, or if they’ll pick up the story. Surely all those Honolulu residents (and reporters) who were trashing Kauai folks for their opposition to the big boat and adherence to “wild conspiracy theories” would want to know they were snookered, right?

Kauai taxpayers, meanwhile, have been snookered into pungling up some $3 million for “special counsel” in the past two years, even though we have a fully staffed — and presumably fully capable — county attorney’s office. One down side of this practice is that outside counsel has access to the county’s deep pockets, and that gives rise to such tactics as trying to spend their opponents into submission, rather than settle. And of course, what incentive do they have to resolve things quickly when they’re earning, according to The Garden Island article, “an hourly rate of between $185 and $350”?

This has prompted County Attorney Al Castillo to wonder, profoundly, if it mightn’t be cost effective to hire more staff instead:

”I’m not an accountant, I’m not a fiscal man, but this is a lot of money,” Castillo said.

Of course, once they’re on staff, it’s harder to get rid of the incompetent ones whose bad advice and shoddy legal skills have gotten the county into some of the legal messes that it can only extricate itself from with the help of special counsel.

One of the high profile cases involving outside counsel is the county’s attempt to stop the resumption of commercial boating in the Hanalei River. The county yesterday lost its motion for a preliminary injunction against Lady Ann Cruises, which has been using Sheehan’s boatyard to launch Na Pali tour boat cruises.

The ruling had Lady Ann attorney Richard Wilson making some very questionable statements:

Wilson reasserted his claim that the injunction was politically motivated, with the county “pandering to a small group of people who are very, very vocal.”

The bottom line, Wilson said, is that the commercial boating operation is not harmful to the environment.

I think it’s more about attorneys like Wilson pandering to a small group of people — Sheehan and tour boat owners — who have the money to push for a use that the people of Hanalei have opposed for more than 20 years, precisely because it is harmful to the environment. Considering all the money that's been poured into legal fees on this issue — with more yet to come — win or lose, they're the ones laughing all the way to the bank.


Anonymous said...

a use that the people of Hanalei have opposed for more than 20 years

You mean a use that a small group of people who are very, very vocal have opposed for more than 20 years, that is when those same people weren't opposing every other knee jerk cause where all the same usual suspects can be found opposing something or other.

Anonymous said...

"quite clear the whole thing was a set up"

-- what? the quoted statement seemed pretty clear and straightforward - they helped finance an operation which in turn facilitated their workforce development, which in turn allowed them to bid on other contracts. ya, real cloak and dagger "set up" stuff..

as to the boatyard, the county and protesters still do not seem to have either understood or come to terms with that river being declared as a federal navigable waterway...which brings into play issues of federal preemption, the commerce clause, "reasonable regulation" etc etc. i defer to people living in that area and/or who go there often as to a few boats being "so terrible," but the county's case has been a loser for a while (yet still funded..)


Anonymous said...

"small group of people"

Yes, maybe the same small group of people show up day after day to protest commercial tour boats in the Hanalei River Estuary. However, an overwhelming majority of the North Shore community does share their views. We will not or have not forgotten how bad it used to be.

Anonymous said...

maybe the same small group of people show up day after day to protest commercial tour boats in the Hanalei River Estuary. However, an overwhelming majority of the North Shore community does share their views.

Uh-huh. As Joan said earlier:

"If you're going to quote polls, please reveal the source so those who are interested can determine their validity."

Anonymous said...

opposing commercial tour boats in your Hanalei River Estuary is like opposing your neighbor breathing your air. It's a free country. You're just going to have to get used to that, and over yourself.

Anonymous said...

""If you're going to quote polls, please reveal the source so those who are interested can determine their validity.""

That means you, Anonymouse 10:38

Anonymous said...

For darwin was pretty smug --

Definitions of "set up" on the Web

to get ready for a particular purpose or event;

Anonymous said...

"That means you, Anonymouse 10:38"

Thanks, 4:49!! You are so right and so, so funny!

Anonymous said...

oops...I meant 4:59.

Bob Keller said...

This needs to be done all over the government!
We are always hireing consultants to do the job of the administrators. I thought thats what they were hired for, they're ability to handle the department they are responsible for.
It would be interesting to total up the sive of our tax dollars thats wasted on double employment.
So if we face a budget shortfall, they should be the first to go. If the department head can't handle the load they would be the next to go, and hire someone who CAN do the the job!
Kudos to our County Attorney who is doing his job. Maybe he could teach a course to other dept. heads.

Mahalo For Your Time

Bob Keller

Anonymous said...

Privatization, baby!

Anonymous said...

I was a management consultant for decades. Some of my fav sayings about a client:

"You will know the truth, and the truth will set my fee." - paraphrase Bible verse

"There's a client born every minute." - paraphrase WC Fields

"My work is: 1) fast; 2) high quality; 3) inexpensive. You can pick any 2 of the 3." - my own invention. Think about really works that way.

Anonymous said...

Aren't the people of Kauai a lot like the poor Farm Fair animals being exploited and patted down by the State, County, and Superferry folks.

Try smile, show private parts, and more Aaaalllllooooohhhhhaaaa!

Anonymous said...

Anon said, "My work is: 1) fast; 2) high quality; 3) inexpensive. You can pick any 2 of the 3."

That is VERY GOOD Anon. Thanks for putting it in the public domain by posting anonymously. I will use it.