Voice of the lone Republican in Hawaii

Lack of empowerment in Hawaii. It is is the only state without either state-wide initiative, referendum, recall or term limits.

Hawaii state capitol

The video provides an excellent look into the functioning of Hawaii’s legislative process and shows why the state will run out of cash in a few years.

▶ A Better Day with Senator Sam Slom May 2014 – YouTube: “”

(Via .)


About the Big Island’s Water Quality

Blogger and farmer Richard Ha writes about the recent study on water quality.

About the Big Island’s Water Quality (Ha Ha Ha!): “About the Big Island’s Water Quality

Richard Ha writes:

The State of Hawai‘i tested 24 sites throughout the islands for pesticide residue, and the Big Island tested the lowest. Of all the islands, we had the lowest amount of pesticide residue.

It’s interesting to note that ‘the USGS laboratory methods used for this study measure compounds at trace levels; commonly 10 to 1,000 times lower than drinking water standards and aquatic life guidelines.’

The document is called the 2013-14 STATE WIDE PESTICIDE SAMPLING PILOT PROJECT WATER QUALITY FINDINGS, A Joint Investigation by the Hawaii State Departments of Health and Agriculture.

From the executive summary (there’s lots more detail within the study itself):

Surface water samples collected from 24 sites statewide were analyzed for a total of 136 different pesticides or breakdown products. All locations had at least one pesticide detection. Only one pesticide, a historically used termiticide exceeded state and federal water regulatory limits. Five other pesticide compounds were detected at levels exceeding the most conservative EPA aquatic life benchmark. All other pesticides detected were lower than the most stringent aquatic or human health guideline value.

These findings represent a snapshot in time from a single sampling event within watersheds with multiple upstream inputs. While they provide useful information about pesticide occurrence across different land uses, they may not be representative of typical conditions or identify specific sources.

Key findings:

Every location sampled had a trace detection of one or more pesticides; however, the majority of these represented minute concentrations that fall below state and federal benchmarks for human health and ecosystems.
Land use significantly impacted the number and type of pesticides detected. Urban areas on Oahu showed the highest number of different pesticides.
Oahu’s urban streams had the highest number of different pesticides detected. Manoa Stream at the University of Hawaii showed 20 different pesticides and breakdown products.
Dieldrin, a termite treatment that has been banned from sale in Hawaii since 1980, exceeded State and Federal Water Quality standards in three urban locations on Oahu.
Fipronil detected in Manoa Stream and Waialae Iki Stream exceeded aquatic life benchmarks for freshwater invertebrates. Fipronil is an insecticide commonly used in residential settings and applied by commercial pest companies to treat soil for termites.
Atrazine and metolachlor, two restricted use herbicides, were detected on Kauai at agricultural sites downstream of seed crop operations. One location had levels that exceed aquatic life guidelines, but remain below regulatory standards.
The number of pesticides detected in water samples on Hawaii Island was lower than that of Kauai and Oahu.
Atrazine, a restricted use pesticide, was the most commonly found pesticide in the study. Of the sites tested, 80 percent had atrazine detections. Only two sites, one on Kauai, and one on Maui, reflected elevated concentrations suggestive of current use of atrazine. All of the remaining detections were trace level concentrations far below state and federal benchmarks.
The pilot study tested stream bed sediment at seven sites and found glyphosate, in all samples. Glyphosate (trade marked as Roundup) is widely used for residential, commercial, agricultural and roadside weed management.
Read the rest”

(Via .)

Innovative approach to providing animal feed in Hawaii

From Pacific Business News

May 13, 2014, 2:46pm HST
eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s Ulupono Initiative invests $1M in Hawaii Pacific University’s feedmill project
Hilo Feedmill Rendering Enlarge Photo
Courtesy Hawaii Pacific University
This rendering shows the proposed feed mill Hawaii Pacific University plans to build in Hilo. Ulupono Initiative, founded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, has donated $1 million toward the project.

Hilo feedmill rendering 304xx1200 800 0 0

Duane Shimogawa
Pacific Business News
Email | Google+ | Twitter | LinkedIn
Ulupono Initiative, the Honolulu-based social impact investment firm created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, has given Hawaii Pacific University $1 million as part of a newly formed partnership for the development of a state-of-the-art facility that aimed at helping with the issue of local food security.
As part of its mission to increase local food production, Ulupono Initiative is helping to finance HPU’s prototype feed mill to be built on the Big Island.
The long-planned project is spearheaded by Oceanic Institute-HPU, which became a direct research unit of the state’s largest private university last year.
Hawaii’s isolation makes food security a priority for its residents, since 85-90 percent of the state’s food is imported, making the state vulnerable to natural disasters and global events that disrupt shipping and the food supply, the two private entities said.
Nearly all of Hawaii’s animal feed is imported because the cost of local inputs is too high, and for local animal producers, feed is the single largest operational cost.
“Hawaii’s aquaculture and livestock industry play a critical role in the food security and resilience of our state, but they are threatened by the volatility of feed, fuel and fertilizer,” Kyle Datta, general partner of Ulupono Initiative, said in a statement.
Through this feed mill project, researchers from Oceanic Institute-HPU will create feed for animals including cattle, poultry, and moi, and will incorporate byproducts from local industries such as sugarcane, fisheries, papaya and algae, which otherwise go to waste.
Once formulated to meet each animal’s specific nutritional needs, the feed will be tested on a scale relevant to Hawaii farmers.

“Currently at our OI-HPU Makapuu campus, we have the only pilot-scale research feed mill for tropical and subtropical aquaculture in the US and Pacific-Island region,” Shaun Moss, executive director of OI-HPU, said in a statement. “This partnership with Ulupono Initiative provides an unparalleled opportunity for us to evaluate locally available waste products and transform them into feed ingredients on a commercial scale to support local food production.”
Ulupono Initiative said that its investment funds the installation of the necessary equipment to automate the plant, making it more productive, efficient and economically viable, which, if successful, would catalyze development of commercial feed mills in Hawaii.
The long-run competitiveness of Hawaii-based beef, dairy, poultry, fish, and hogs are dependent on local feed availability, the firm said.
“Feed represents 70 to 80 percent of the costs of raising an animal, and feed prices have nearly doubled since 2009, forcing many Hawaii producers to cease operations,” said Datta. “By investing in this feed mill, which is capable of supporting pre-commercial feed trials, Ulupono seeks to help lower feed costs with a locally produced alternative to imported feed that will improve the financial viability for Hawaii’s aquaculture and livestock producers.”
The feed mill is also supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Hawaii Departments of Agriculture and Land and Natural Resources and private donors.

Obamacare fallout begins in earnest.

Obamacare. Higher costs, less care.

From Pacific Business News

May 16, 2014, 6:30am HST
Kaiser Permanente Hawaii posts $5.8M Q1 loss after paying $8M in ACA fees

Pacific Business News
Kaiser Permanente Hawaii said costs related to the federal Affordable Care Act added $8 million to its expenses in the first quarter and contributed to a $5.8 million loss for the quarter.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports Kaiser said it collected $296.1 million in premiums during the first three months of the year, and paid $302.8 million in benefit expenses, which resulted in a $6.7 million operating loss that was offset by investment gains of $900,000, for a net loss of $5.8 million.

The newspaper reports Hawaii’s largest health-maintenance organization, which did not have an estimate of how much in ACA fees it would have to pay this year, said that the ACA fees account for about 2 percent to 3 percent of insurance premium costs.

The newspaper reports a Kaiser spokeswoman said the Affordable Care Act fees pay for subsidies for low-income families and individuals to purchase health insurance on the Hawaii Health Connector, which helps achieve a major goal of the federal legislation, which was to increase access to health care.
Meanwhile, the Hawaii Medical Service Association attributed much of its $30.1 million loss for the first quarter to the $46.1 million in Affordable Care Act fees that the state’s largest health insurer paid during the quarter.

Broken pension promises

A worker toils for twenty, thirty or more years and is promised a pension upon retirement. He or she must make the assumption that the promise will be kept. In recent years the promises have been broken and people that have been retired for years have found their financial situation much different than what they had planned for.

Old Guy in helmet   2008 09 02

To get a clear view of the reasons for this betrayal we need to take a simplified look at two of the basic types of retirement plans.

Defined benefit plans

The oldest plans are the defined benefit plans.These were developed in the golden age of American industry and provide a fixed “guaranteed” payment. Money is put into the plans by the employer during the employee’s working years. An interest assumption is used to determine if the plan is funded adequately to provide the guaranteed benefit. The interest assumption is just that, an assumption. If the percentage does not reflect the actual performance of the investments, then the plan is underfunded. If it is underfunded the employer must come up with more cash to fund the plan.

The financial crises of 2008 clearly demonstrated what happens when interest assumptions are glaringly incorrect. Real interest and market performance plummeted leaving many corporations with these plans unable to fund them. Some companies declared bankruptcy. What happens in bankruptcy to defined benefit plans?
They are protected by the Pension Benefit Guarantee (there’s that word again) Corporation. There are multiple requirements to collect the pension and reductions in payout are common. The PBGC is funded by premiums paid by companies that have defined benefit plans. It is possible that with enough bankruptcies the payouts will exceed the premium contributions.

If a giant corporation like General Motors put its plans into the PBGC the PBGC would have to go to congress for help and all those receiving their pension from that organization would be in jeopardy.

Defined benefit plans are becoming a dinosaur. Most companies have terminated these plans and switched to a defined contribution plan to be discussed next. The exceptions are government employees. Government agencies continue to fund these programs for one simple reason; their unions want them. They provide guaranteed benefits superior to those in the private sector. The employer (government) does not have to make a profit and does not have to worry about funding them. They simply raise taxes and fees to do so. This works well until the tax and fee base simply cannot support them.

The Detroit bankruptcy is a prime example. Many public employees are now forced to change their lifestyle even though they may have been retired for many years.

Defined contribution plans

As the name implies, these plans take put an amount every period into a 401K or IRA. When a person retires the amount they receive is variable depending on the contribution amount and the investment performance. Companies love these plans because they no longer have to fund a guaranteed payout.

Upon retirement the pensioner has several options including a monthly withdrawal from the IRA/401K or they may purchase an annuity from an insurance company which can guarantee (there’s that word again) an amount payed each period.

Both basic options have risk. For example the insurance company can itself become insolvent. They will have insurance for the annuity holders but the amounts are determined by the state. It is possible that the insurance is insufficient to cover the guaranteed payout. The pensioner is subject to the audit or lack of audit as to the remaining balance in their account.

Where to turn

There are government agencies that are supposed to help those who have been harmed by events beyond there control. How do they work? Not very well.

In the case of the defined benefit plan the PBGC will determine your pension and it may be far less that you had originally planned for.

In the case of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), I personally have found them to be essentially unresponsive to individual requests. They are supposed to set plan standards for companies but if you as an individual have been harmed by legal or illegal manipulation of a retirement plan it is unlikely you will get help from this agency.

The recent scandal regarding the VA medical center’s total disregard for some of the people they are supposed to serve exists in other agencies as well. Know your retirement plan. Get as much information as possible and above all do not believe The Promise or The Guarantee. Oh yes, don’t rely on your government to help.

The Ethanol Disaster

This article was originally published in Reason.com

The Ethanol Disaster

Last November, when the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) proposed moderating years of escalating mandates by reducing the amount of ethanol that must be mixed into gasoline, a top ethanol lobbyist seemed perplexed. “We’re all just sort of scratching our heads here today and wondering why this administration is telling us to burn less of a clean-burning American fuel,” Bob Dineen, head of the Renewable Fuels Association, told The New York Times.

CornHere are a few possible reasons why: America’s ethanol requirement destroys the environment, damages car engines, increases gas prices, and contributes to the starvation of the global poor. It’s an unmitigated disaster on nearly every level.

Start with the environment. After all, when the renewable fuel standard (RFS), which since 2005 has set forth a minimum annual volume of renewable fuels nationwide, was first set, one of the primary arguments for mandating ethanol use was that it was a greener, more environmentally friendly source of fuel that released fewer greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

This turns out to be complete hogwash. Researchers have known for years that, when the entire production process is taken into account, most supposedly green biofuels actually emit more greenhouse gasses than traditional fuels.

Some proponents of the ethanol mandate have argued that the requirement was nonetheless necessary in order to spur demand for and development of more advanced, environmentally friendly biofuel like cellulosic ethanol, which is converted into fuel from corn-farm leftovers.

But there are two serious problems with cellosic ethanol. The first is that cellulosic ethanol turns out to be rather difficult to produce; despite EPA projections that the market would produce at least 5 million gallons in 2010 and 6.6 million in 2011, the United States produced exactly zero gallons both years — and just 20,069 gallons in 2012.

The second is that cellulosic ethanol is also bad for the environment. At least in the short-term, the corn-residue biofuels release about 7% more greenhouse gases than traditional fuels, according to a federally funded, peer-reviewed study that appeared in the journal Nature Climate Change last month.

The environmental evidence against ethanol seems to mount almost daily: Another study published recently in Nature Geoscience found that in São Paulo, Brazil, the more ethanol that drivers used, the more local ozone levels increased. The study is particularly important because it relies on real-world measurements rather than on models, many of which predicted that increased ethanol use would cause ozone levels to decline.

To make things worse, ethanol requirements are bad for cars and drivers. Automakers say that gasoline blended with ethanol can damage vehicles by corroding fuel lines and injectors. An ethanol glut caused by a misalignment of regulatory quotas and demand has helped drive up prices at the pump. And the product is actually worse: ethanol blends are less energy dense than regular gasoline, which means that cars relying on it significantly worse mileage per gallon.

American drivers have it bad, but the global poor have it far worse. Ethanol requirements at home have helped drive up the price of food worldwide by diverting corn production to energy, which dramatically reducing the available calorie supply. A 25-gallon tank full of pure ethanol requires about 450 pounds of corn — roughly the amount of calories required to feed someone for a year.

“[E]thanol requirements have few serious defenders except the people who profit from its production and the politicians who rely on those people for votes and campaign contributions.”
Some 40% of U.S. corn crops go to ethanol production, which in effect means we’re burning food for automobile fuel rather than eating it. Studies by economists at the World Bank have found that a one% increase in world food prices correlates with a half-percent decrease in calorie consumption amongst the world’s poor. When world food prices spiked between 2007-2008, between 20-40% of the effect was attributable to increased global reliance on biofuels. The effect on world hunger is simply devastating.

Ethanol lobbyists are still pretending the renewable fuels mandate is a success, and Senators from corn-friendly states in the Midwest are still urging the agency not to proceed with the proposed reduction to the mandate. But at this point, ethanol requirements have few serious defenders except the people who profit from its production and the politicians who rely on those people for votes and campaign contributions.

Judging by the cut it proposed last November, even the EPA seems to be wavering. A final regulation has yet to be submitted, but the proposal would reduce the amount of renewable fuels the agency requires this year from 18.15 billion gallons to 15.2 billion gallons. That’s if the EPA sticks to its original plan. The agency is under heavy pressure to moderate its proposed cuts, or avoid them entirely.

Those cuts, if approved, would represent a productive step forward. But they wouldn’t be enough. Congress should vote to repeal the renewable fuel standard entirely. The federal government shouldn’t be telling people to burn less ethanol; it shouldn’t be telling anyone to burn any of it at all.

– Peter Suderman

This article originally appeared here on Reason.com.

Peter Suderman is a senior editor at Reason magazine and Reason.com, where he writes regularly on health care, the federal budget, tech policy, and pop culture. He is also a film critic for The Washington Times and a 2010 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow. Suderman also worked as a writer and editor at National Review, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, FreedomWorks, Doublethink, and Culture11.

Reducing the amount of choking government regulation

Most of us eventually come to the realization that we have too much stuff. We have too much stuff in our homes, we have too much stuff on our computers, we had too much stuff on our smart phones.

So, eventually we must come up with a means to get rid of the worthless useless stuff on our computers in our homes and our smartphones. Now, this does take some time and it takes an effort to sort through the stuff to figure out which is good stuff and which is stuff to throw away.

The problem with legislation, rules, regulations and laws is that there doesn’t seem to be a method to sort through them and get rid of the ones that we no longer need. Regulations that are ill-conceived, discriminatory, unenforceable, too costly, or simply no longer needed must be repealed.

This might lead to a new type of political promise. Right now, we seem to rate legislators on the number of bills they sponsor and get passed. What about a new criteria? How about grading performance on the number of regulations repealed or otherwise killed?

Or, we might modify procedure to allow that for a new law to pass, there must be three repealed in the same section or area.

Here is a comment by a former member of the New Zealand parliament:

— E. Donald Elliott is a Professor (Adjunct) of law at Yale Law School and a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of the international law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP

For a number of years I was a Member of the New Zealand Parliament, during which time New Zealand, facing the same problem of obsolete and contradictory law, set out to clean up its statutes. The process we used was to systematically re-write the corresponding statutes of each sector of the economy we reformed – such as the tax code and health care – so that the laws were clear and unambiguous, and reflective of the needs of contemporary society. These re-written statutes were then passed by Parliament and all the related old ones were repealed. In my view this was a very effective process. New Zealand’s environmental laws, for instance, went from being 25 inches thick to just 348 pages. The action of repealing all the old laws also automatically repealed all the regulations built on those laws so the regulatory code was cleaned up at the same time.

And here is the full article from The Atlantic.