Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Musings: Rats and TV News

It’s gray, cool and windy, and usually, I don’t mind this sort of weather, but today it feels gloomy, perhaps because I’m confronted with the specter of the state Legislature approving the utterly disturbing bailout bill for Hawaii Superferry.

Or maybe it’s the lingering odor of a decaying rat, snuffed out under the house during the termite tenting, that has me slightly on edge and off kilter.

Either way, I smell a rat.

I don’t have a television, so I’m fortunately spared the banality of local TV news, but last night I happened to be near one, so I tuned in to see what was happening with the Superferry.

I got to see Rep. Joe Souki shut down Rep. Marcus Oshiro when his questioning of Gov. Lingle apparently got too hot to handle. Not only does the guv get her way on the Superferry, but she doesn’t have to answer any hard questions. I can’t wait to see how she stonewalls the state auditor charged with digging into how Lingle’s Administration got us into this mess.

Before he got cut off, Oshiro asked why lawmakers should pass a bill specifically to save the Superferry. The governor explained, according to a summary of the exchange in the House blog, that she doesn't believe that the purpose of the bill is to save one company; it's about saving the service that the Superferry provides for the people of Hawaii.

What kind of double-speak is that? And why didn’t the media interviewing Lingle afterward ask her to clarify that statement, press her for more details?

Instead, they let her cop out with a lame comment that Oshiro “just either has a different opinion or an ax to grind."

The blog goes on to report that Oshiro, chair of Finance, later recommended the committee vote aye with reservations, but also encouraged members to vote their conscience on the issue.

What is this aye with reservations? Some 14 senators took that mealy-mouthed position. What are they saying with such a stance? That it’s not such a good idea but they’re going to do it, anyway? In the end, it all comes out the same: an affirmative vote to benefit one corporation.

Flipping through the channels, I also got to see two stations covering the publicity stunt of Superferry employees selling tee-shirts to raise funds for “furloughed” workers. Do the employees know, or care, that they’re being used as PR pawns in this high stakes game?

And why do the TV stations play into that kind of shibai? That’s not news, any more than pro-EIS groups selling their own tee-shirts — and that certainly hasn’t gotten any coverage. Is it any wonder that the public, which gets most of its “news” from TV, has such a skewed view of the issue when it’s fed that sort of pablum?

A few nights before, again tuned in to the TV, I got to see a missile shot down over the water off Polihale, on Kauai’s Westside, during the latest war games, followed — coincidentally, I’m sure — by footage of the Superferry, whose role in furthering the militarization of the Neighbor Islands is pretty clear.

“Why do we need any of that?” my friend moaned in despair.

I couldn’t answer.


Larry said...

I bought one of those large map books of Oahu a couple of months ago after discovering that the copy I use was dated 2001. I noticed yesterday that the whole back cover is a SuperFerry ad. I had never paid attention to it, since my brain has a habit of automatically blanking out most ads.

This suggests an answer as to why the press doesn't ask hardball questions but may have an actual bias (horrors!) towards the company. They expect to get a steady stream of ad revenue from the ferry company. If it sails, of course. If it doesn't operate, no money for the papers or TV.

Just as the ferry company has to satisify its investors, so do newspaper and TV companies. We shouldn't confuse them with some kind of public service, operating for our benefit.

Anonymous said...

And so it goes. The great cycle which began with "denial" is slowly moving away from the "anger-bargaining" loop into the "depression-acceptance" loop. I'm sure there will be some overlap of those loops for a while, and I hope nobody ends up hurt or in jail.

It is interesting to see many blog and news reports note the shift from the HSF per se to how the HSF has uncovered the possible true motivator of the unrest and division of opinion...the lifestyle changes occurring due to population and development in general. The "environment arguement" may not have been the real pressure point after all.

Anonymous said...


A beautiful phrase capturing the essence of the anti-HSF sentiment.

Charlie Foster used it in his blog today in this sentence:

"But, if one is paying attention, one hears anger expressed as well - in the occasional letter to the editor, or a bit of overheard converstion on the street - by people who do not oppose the Superferry toward the sort of insular possessiveness expressed by some opponents."

Joan Conrow said...

You don't seem to understand the environment is also the basis for concerns about development and population growth. It's all inter-related and connected.

Anonymous said...

"The governor explained, according to a summary of the exchange in the House blog, that she doesn't believe that the purpose of the bill is to save one company; it's about saving the service that the Superferry provides for the people of Hawaii.

What kind of double-speak is that? And why didn’t the media interviewing Lingle afterward ask her to clarify that statement, press her for more details?"

Aww, C'mon, Joan:

I wasn't there that day, but I can guess the answer to your question. The evil mainstream press didn't get Lingle to "clarify" why she thinks the Superferry session is not a bailout for one company because she already gave her answer: The Superferry benefits the whole state, and therefore (she contends) the session isn't a special interest bailout.

You must have interviewed Lingle, so you know she will repeat that talking point over, and over, and over, no matter how many times you ask. You don't have to agree with her, but THAT IS HER ANSWER, and politicians know that simply repeating the same sentence works well in politics.

Press availabilities in any administration frequently feature reporters asking the same question seven different ways, and getting the same freaking answer back. We might wish she would suddenly cave and announce, "You're right, I admit it, it's a special interest bailout," but she won't. She's not an idiot. Cayetano would fly off the handle once in a while, but Lingle is utterly scripted.

Not even the all-powerful Mainstream Media are allowed to hook her up to a polygraph or threaten her with physical harm when she refuses to directly answer questions. And refuse she does, time and again.

Anonymous said...

Lest I be taken out of context, as should be obvious from my complimentary posts about Sen Hooser's floor remarks, I do not reduce all anti-Superferry or pro-EIS arguments to "insular possessiveness."

However, there IS an element of insular possessiveness expressed by SOME opponents. And, as evidenced by letters to the eds and overheard conversations, it DOES understandably rile some folks from the other islands and others who happen to disagree.

Personally, I don't carry around strong convictions one way or the other on the issue. There are some good arguments on both sides and some dumb ones. I see obvious foibles committed on both sides and I comment on them. I've criticized the Superferry and the admin, as well as Superferry opponents.

Anonymous said...

I believe the environment is "A" basis for concerns...not "THE" basis.

I believe that the preservation of the rural lifestyle is an equally large basis.

As some "letter to the editor" said, even if all environmental concerns could be eliminated, Kauai folks still wouldn't want "all those Oahuians" trampling "their island".

Similar to development. If a huge condo complex of house subdivision could be planned with negligable impact on the biological environment, people still wouldn't want it.

They simply don't want their island of 68K residents to become 100K residents, plus an increased number of visitors.

The point is, it isn't "their" island. It is the state's island, that part of which isn't private property.

Which brings us back to the insular possessiveness angle shared, no doubt, by the many.

I'd feel the same way about my little patch of paradise if some corporation wanted to plunk a condo resort between me and the ocean. But I wouldn't cloak my concerns with "the environment".

Just as Lingle has crafted the bill to never mention HSF but, more generically, the "services", I believe a significant proportion of neighsayers are using the environment to shild more private concerns.

Larry said...

At least "the environment" has some laws to protect it, so when those laws are violated or skirted there's a remedy.

People have local governance. The county councils spoke out on the ferry. It's not true that the state "rules" over everyone and that there is no local control. Although people on Oahu would love that to be true, it just isn't, and that saves other places from looking like built-up Oahu.

Control over the place we live is not something unusual. Portland, OR, for example, looks as nice as it does because of their style of urban planning.

As to "insular possessiveness", hey, that sounds like a good idea to me. Oahu is an example of an island that has become overrun with outsiders owning hotels, outsiders building massive developments for their own profit, and has been exploited throughout its history. We're a bunch of sheep over here.

More power to residents of any island who want to avoid the fate that has befallen Oahu.

Anonymous said...

Although outsiders have overrun Oahu, it begs the "insular possessiveness" question....the local owners at the time (private property or county-managed) didn't have to sell...

Isn't is so that, for the most part, people in general do all this to themselves?

Anonymous said...

Ah, the way of the world, as so elequently stated centuries ago and still applicable:

"I returned to see under the sun that the swift do not have the race, nor the mighty ones the battle, nor do the wise also have the food, nor do the understanding ones also have the riches, nor do even those having knowledge have the favor"

Anonymous said...

Or as the Firesign Theater (anyone old enough to remember them?) titled one of their comedy albums:

"We're all Bozo's on this bus"

Larry said...

Yes, not only do I remember them, but they are still alive and well and doing audio/video podcasts.

Anonymous said...

While it's no surprise that the television and newspaper reporters fail to follow up with hard questions for Governor Lingle, it's still a huge disappointment. Not even a polite "what did you just say?" One wonders what the court of public opinion would say if the press fired some high, hard ones at the Lingle Administration in this matter. Compare how Perry and Price interviewed Senator Hooser with their kid glove treatment of Governor Lingle. Well, keep up the good work, Joan. If it weren't for the blogs and a few articles in the Advertiser, we would all believe that everything was A-OK.

Anonymous said...

I just found out that Joan and Hunter Bishop are going to be on Public Radio this Thursday to discuss the ferry. I wish I could hear what they have to say but unfortunately, we don't get a good reception of public radio here in certain parts of Kona.
I am very disappointed in how things have turned out. The super ferry is just as bad as the Hawaii 2050 Sustainable plan. They both favor big business and the military. I hate what Hawaii is becoming. Time to flush Hawaii down the toilet bowl.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article in today's Advertiser about Bob Awana's involvement in the Rajdatta Patkar extortion case and the FBI investigation into the matter. How will her handling of the SF issues and the baggage from Bob Awana affect Governor Lingle's political career?

Anonymous said...


"Thursday 5-6 p.m. on KIPO, 89.3FM. Or if the wave doesn't penetrate to where you live, Hawaii Public Radio streams on the Internet from here. The call-in numbers are 941-3689 from Oahu or 1 877 941-3689 from elsewhere."

Larry's "here" stream link is:


Anonymous said...

Take aways are tough. The islanders who want to sail with their vehicles in tow for whatever reason do not want to diminish any chance for this "ferry land-bridge" The insular islanders don't want to lose a lifestyle they see fading bit by bit as more and more poorly planned development moves onshore. Nothing new here. The natural environments decline. Reefs are smothered, fish are gone so we move to the next great place. No stewardship just more timeshares with nothing left to share.

What is new (to us neophytes) is the blatant rather obscene way the deal got done and sadly a confirmation about how the legislature really works.God knows we've seen plenty of sidesteps and backward lunges from the federal lot but this is the backyard and more of us were actually watching this time.

We confirmed how almost everything gets done behind closed doors and scoffed at the show and blowby of legislature questioning. The conga line snakes through the hall but there were some other dance steps, rip rap stuff with most outer islanders standing wallflowers.

We saw Rep Souki reign in Rep. Marcus Oshiro when he drilled The Gov and then again(instant replay, my rules) when he grilled Garabaldi about ferry employee roles (part-time/ full time) training and what was communicated to them about job security, lay off benefits and more. Oshiro also asked specific questions about the operating agreement, who was involved in negotiations , and "the biggest bone of contention" in negotiating the agreement. We learned there are "reopeners" in the agreement and funding coming together was worrisome and no one area more difficult than next. Oshiro inquired if HSF had purchased a type of insurance(sorry my notes are void here) and Garabaldi replied it was not available through London or New York markets. A point was made about "no track record". This led to a line of questioning about the Maritime Admin. loan and a "commitment letter " (lots of back and forth here.) A point was made that if HSF defaulted on loan Boat design drawing would go with boat to be reassigned to new owner. Austral would go along with this so all value of asset gained (is this standard..probably) We learned "Visa program" in process. Oshiro questioned the due diligence of HSF board (who looked like "who's who of fortune 500")in reference to on-going law suit and operating agreement. Oshiro asked where this valuable boat could go from Hawaii and Gagabaldi talked about other markets specifically the military. He also made note some where in this testimony how the military was anxious to have production in U.S. and not Australia. There is a bit more but this is already too long.

The point is: When Souki grew impatient with Oshiro questioning Oshiro had to plead for more time but shortly after got the boot from Souki , Paraphrasing...."you've done enough, you must be tired, leave" Orhiro left the stage and Souki made a few comments about loss of ferry and jobs Garabaldi talked about his fiduciary duty to investors and was then dismissed by Souki. The next witness was called. Other panel members continued with questioning. From what I saw on Olelo, Oshiro was not finished sans Souki.

Joan Conrow said...

Thanks for that informative briefing.

Anonymous said...

Joan, If you read I.lind today you can see why Oshiro asked many of his questions...some of them reference pieces and parts added to the bill