Can Oshima Fix What’s Broken?

I’ll borrow here from the old KGMB-TV theme song, with a slight change: “One of the NOT good things about Hawaii” has been its all-eggs-in-three-baskets approach to economic well being, and a stultified political class (Democrats) that resisted change where it interfered with the visions of union leaders.

Quite a mouthful, yeah?

So I momentarily got excited when I got the news release about Gov. Ige appointing Alan Oshima to lead our eventual economic recovery after COVID-19 expires or at least runs into antibody resistance.

Alan Oshima
Alan Oshima

And the governor set out one of Oshima’s tasks as “re-evaluate and restructure Hawaiʻi’s economy to meet the new normal and desired future for Hawaiʻi. Identify and invest in systemic changes in the economy and society which furthers economic diversification, environmental preservation, sustainability and Hawaiʻi’s values and way of life.”

We should hope!

Our economy is tourism and the military and the salaries of our huge body of public employees. The first is subject to disruption by terrorism and viral/bacterial disease such as COVID-19 and Legionnaires Disease. The second can disappear overnight if our soldiers, Marines and Air Force units are called out for an international crisis. The third you don’t touch.

We long ago snubbed the opportunity to have a rocket launching facility at South Point on Hawaii Island. We’ve done our best to run the TMT people out of town. Our technology development is next to zero. A large proportion of our people work for around $10-$12 an hour or tips, and aren’t guaranteed full-time employment with medical coverage.

So resiliency, Alan Oshima’s Part III task, is not us by nature.

The governor says everyone will have input. I expect the biggest input to be, as it always is, from the government employee unions making sure their members get first dibs on the pot of federal recovery money.

Whether Oshima will bother looking at our suffocating regulatory system that stymies small business we don’t know. You tamper with the favorites of the Democratic State Legislature at great risk. That’s where regulation resides.

We can recover to where we were, with time, but where we were is insufficient and dangerously exposed to things beyond our control.

We’re like an amateur investor putting all his money on high-flying stocks and saying “I’ll either be a billionaire or I’ll be broke, and I love the anticipation.”

No, Alan Oshima won’t lead us into the land of milk and honey. That’s a political task, not one of those fixes Oshima could impose when he led Hawaiian Electric.

He’ll quickly be up against those who like the nests they’ve made, not newfangled ones by a guy who’s not even been in the union!

Tell me if I’m wrong.

Will The Virus Kill Trump (Politically)?

(CNN)The chaos and confusion rocking President Donald Trump’s administration on the most tragic day yet of the corona virus pandemic was exceptional even by his own standards.

There are a couple of ways to read the tea leaves of this coming 2020 presidential election.

One is that Trump supporters will overlook any slips he’s made in handling this virus because they intensely dislike the governing style of Democrats, whom they see as taxers and spenders and liberals of the worst sort who want to reshape conservative American values.

The other is that enough independents will sour on his narcissistic style and enough blacks and Hispanics — major casualties of COVID-19 — will blame him, and between the two more than equal the white and lower-educated voters who swear by Trump’s American First policies.

I have a tendency to read a lot into #2 because I’m not a fan of Trump, his attorney general, his secretary of state or his son-in-law-adviser. It’s always dangerous when you let your personal feelings steep in there with those tea leaves.

But then the carrier Teddy Roosevelt misstep might turn around some of the members of our armed services, who tend to vote Republican because that party is seen as more pushy against America’s adversaries. And then there’s the economic carryover from this virus — the ruined businesses, the old people who’ve lost savings, the demise of air and sea travel and tourism. That’s not Trump’s fault but the person sitting on the throne when the devastating earthquake hits always gets the blame.

Trump makes it hard to like or sympathize with him unless you’re a southern redneck, a northern racist, an eastern fascist or a western land privateer.

People tend to like a wartime president, but ours generally win them — although Korea and Vietnam were sort of  draws. Trump may not even get a draw in this war against the invisible enemy. We could potentially lose — badly.

Trump hasn’t made us feel confident about our fighting ability. He waffled on whether to even go to war. He’s pitted scientist against scientist on the issue of weapons — the drug or drugs that might turn the tide of battle. He may be becoming a Woodrow Wilson — charming for fans at the start but a fizzle-out.

Would I write this column differently if I didn’t have such a long-standing antipathy of things Trump? I don’t think so. I liked Obama but wrote flamingly about his inability to govern with strength rather than wishy-wash, his political failings, and how he gave away the farm to certain constituents in order to get the full-of-holes Obamacare passed by Congress. And then there was Syria and Iran and China’s buildup in the South China Sea. His monuments or the entrance to his presidential library should say “He tried hard and meant well, but in the end he failed.”

Trump’s should say “He didn’t try, he was surprised he won, and he spent four years getting even with those who wrote him off as a not so smart, two-bit developer.”

The Sneaky Marketing Of Salmon

Got my first-of-the-year pieces of Copper River salmon last week. At a small store with few customers and impressive disinfecting protocols.

For many years, come fresh salmon harvesting in Alaska and I’m dashing to buy my $20-per-pound Copper River fillet.

Gotta have it! It’s the best. People say so. Frankly, to me it tastes like, well, like salmon but not that metallic, farmed Atlantic kind. But looks really red!


Then an old newspaper colleague posted on Facebook that Copper River salmon was just plain old King, Sockeye, Coho, or maybe even Chum found in the other Alaska rivers but much more smartly marketed to us know-nothings in Hawaii.

Can that be? I’d recently driven along the Copper River. Nothing special for Alaska. Bears poop in it. Fishermen pee in it. A Ukrainian dude was surfing in it on a board secured by rope to a steel post set in wave-producing rapids. 

The salmon race past, head upriver to lay eggs or fertilize those eggs and then die. They get red meat from their diet rich in carotenoids, the pigment that gives un-GMO’d carrots their color.

So was I being had for maybe $30 for a chunk of fish I could have here at one-third the price? After all, I don’t buy my sashimi based on whether the ahi had been caught in this fishing spot or that.

I hit the research road.

You probably know that salmon go to spawn at precisely the upriver pool where they were born. The sense the chemical makeup of the water. Copper River runs 300 miles. So a salmon going way up needs to eat greedily before starting. They need fat because they stop eating as soon as they enter fresh water.

But a lot of other rivers’ salmon are just as fatty. That’s where the fishermen and women come into the story.

Most always netted and roughly unloaded their salmon and were casual about icing them. But in the 80s some Copper River fishers tired of the low prices they were getting convinced the others to frequently unload nets, handle the salmon carefully and quickly toss them in any icy slurry. Then they promoted this to restaurants for chefs to tell the diners.

The professional marketers took over from there. Copper River salmon tend to spawn earlier than most others, so diners were told they’re also getting the first salmon of the season. Doesn’t that make your fillet worth $60?

So yes, it is good fish but it’s just King or Sockeye, very red, very fatty, and from that magical place Copper River.

Finally, There can be no denying that among seafood lovers, Copper River is now a brand name meaning yummy. Those fishermen earn nearly twice as much money for their salmon than for those caught elsewhere in Alaska, even though they are catching the same species, born in the same rivers and fattened in the same cold Pacific waters.


Elizabeth Versus The Donald: I’ll Take Liz

I’ve never been a fan of kings and queens, even the British form of monarchy which leaves affairs of state nationally and internationally in the hands of a parliament and a prime minister.

Monarchies strike me as pretentious, expensive and unnecessary. They perpetuate the perception of an elite leadership staffed by people of ancestral heritage rather than self-directed accomplishments.

But I confess to being moved by Queen Elizabeth’s recent public talks, which one newspaper writer called “ambitious words to reassure and inspire.”

I’d take Elizabeth Rex over Donald Trump for reassurance and inspiration in a heartbeat!

It was exactly what her people needed at the moment. And me, too. It doesn’t reassure or inspire me to hear Trump telling me that his news conferences do better ratings that most TV shows and how much people love him.

In a recent Bob Jones Report, I mentioned how much we need inspiration locally — not just about the virus control but about our ability to regain our footing and move ahead. Neither Gov. Ige nor Mayor Caldwell inspire me. One drones on with facts like the technician he is, and the other seems to be mostly trying to corral votes.

                                              *             *              *

I need some reassurance after reading Denby Fawcett’s excellent piece of reporting in today’s Honolulu Civil Beat.

Civil Beat

Health Director Bruce Anderson, who’s also an epidemiologist, says we’re probably doomed to this lockdown until June. And no promise after that, either.

The experts also aren’t promising that even if COVID-19 withers for lack of non-immune victims, it or a changed version of it could pop up again at any time. Like this winter when we normally get a flu attack.

                                          *               *              *

I suspect this is the end for a long time of ocean and river cruises by ships and boats. I know I’m not going to sign up on any.

I cannot imagine a place more likely to breed a new infection than aboard a vessel with people living long periods in very close contact and sharing many facilities.

Viking, Avalon, NCL, Holland-American — they might as well mothball right now. I feel very, very sorry for all those poor-country people who work those vessels, mainly for the tips. These will be tough times for their families.

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