What If The U.S. Had Not Annexed Hawaii?

Hawaiian protesters insist that the annexation of Hawaii by the United States in 1898 was illegal. The remedies they demand are many, including the recognition of Hawaiians as an indian tribe or a separate independent nation.

Assuming the US did not annex Hawaii, it helpful to understand that several international powers had their eyes on Hawaii. Due to its strategic location in the middle of the Pacific it would have been impossible to maintain an independent Hawaii. It is entirely possible that any takeover of Hawaii by a nation other than the United Stares would have been accomplished by far more violent means. You will note that even the threat of military action was enough to cause capitulation. Below are historical incidents which demonstrate the fragility of Hawaii’s independence.

Russia

In 1815 the Russian empire affected the islands when Georg Anton Schäffer, agent of the Russian-American Company, came to retrieve goods seized by Kaumualiʻi, chief of Kauaʻi island. Kaumualiʻi signed a treaty making Tsar Alexander I protectorate over Kauaʻi. From 1817 to 1853 Fort Elizabeth, near the Waimea River, was one of three Russian forts on the island.

France

In 1839 Captain Laplace of the French frigate Artémise sailed to Hawaii under orders to: Destroy the malevolent impression which you find established to the detriment of the French name; to rectify the erroneous opinion which has been created as to the power of France; and to make it well understood that it would be to the advantage of the chiefs of those islands of the Ocean to conduct themselves in such a manner as not to incur the wrath of France. You will exact, if necessary with all the force that is yours to use, complete reparation for the wrongs which have been committed, and you will not quit those places until you have left in all minds a solid and lasting impression. Under the threat of war, King Kamehameha III signed the Edict of Toleration on July 17, 1839 and paid the $20,000 in compensation for the deportation of the priests and the incarceration and torture of converts, agreeing to Laplace’s demands. The kingdom proclaimed: That the Catholic worship be declared free, throughout all the dominions subject to the King of the Sandwich Islands; the members of this religious faith shall enjoy in them the privileges granted to Protestants. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu returned unpersecuted and as reparation Kamehameha III donated land for them to build a church upon.

Britain

In January 1843 Lord George Paulet on the Royal Navy warship HMS Carysfort entered Honolulu Harbor and demanded that King Kamehameha III cede the Hawaiian Islands to the British Crown. Under the guns of the frigate, Kamehameha stepped down under protest. Surely this meant that the islands were British? but how, why and when did the Brits lose the islands to America. Later Paulet’s commanding officer, Admiral Thomas. apologized to Kamehameha III for Paulet’s actions, and restored Hawaiian sovereignty on July 31, 1843

France

In 1849 French admiral Louis Tromelin arrived in Honolulu Harbor with the La Poursuivante and Gassendi. De Tromelin made ten demands to King Kamehameha III on August 22, mainly demanding that full religious rights be given to Catholics, (a decade earlier, during the French Incident the ban on Catholicism had been lifted, but Catholics still enjoyed only partial religious rights). On August 25 the demands had not been met. After a second warning was made to the civilians, French troops overwhelmed the skeleton force and captured Honolulu Fort, spiked the coastal guns and destroyed all other weapons they found (mainly muskets and ammunition). They raided government buildings and general property in Honolulu, causing damage that amounted to $100,000. After the raids the invasion force withdrew to the fort. De Tromelin eventually recalled his men and left Hawaii on September 5.

Japan

In 1897 Empire of Japan sent warships to Hawaii to oppose annexation

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

Staff
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.

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/03/obsolete-law-0151-the-solutions/255141/

Cost per enrollee in Obamacare

From the Hawaii Free Press:

Cost-per-enrollee in each state’s Exchange

by Jay Angoff, FindJustice.com, May 7, 2014 (excerpts)

…There was a very large variation in cost-per-enrollee among the Exchanges. Of the 15 state-run Exchanges, the state with the lowest cost-per-enrollee was California, at $758, while the state with the highest cost-per-enrollee was Hawaii, at $23,899. Excluding Hawaii and the District of Columbia, which were outliers, the state Exchange with the highest cost-per-enrollee was Massachusetts, at $5,681. Hawaii’s cost-per-enrollee was 32 times California’s, while Massachusetts’s was 7 times California’s. …

The five states with the lowest cost-per-enrollee are all states whose governors and/or legislatures have resisted the ACA, and whose Attorneys-General challenged the constitutionality of the ACA. They are as follows:

State Cost-per-enrollee

Florida $ 76
Texas $ 102
Georgia $ 240
Virginia $ 376
Michigan $ 427
The five jurisdictions with the highest cost-per-enrollee include three whose elected leaders support the ACA and two that oppose it. Those five are as follows:

State Cost-per-enrollee

Hawaii $23,899
District of Columbia $12,467
North Dakota $ 7,089
Delaware $ 6,825
Wyoming $ 6,323
The common denominator among these five jurisdictions is that they are very small–all with populations of less than 1.4 million–and thus must spread the fixed costs of the Exchange over a very small base. Nevertheless, Hawaii and DC, which run their own Exchanges, had costs-per-enrollee that were far higher than those in any of the federally-run small states–almost twice as high in DC, and more than three times as high in Hawaii….

read … Kaiser Health News

Background: Final Deadline: Hawaii Spends the Most and Gets the Least from Obamacare