Governor appoints Chris Todd to fill late Rep. Clift Tsuji’s seat

Todd was one of three nominees selected by Hawai‘i County Democratic Party

Three nominees were selected by the Hawai‘i County Democratic Party to fill the vacancy left when Rep. Clift Tsuji (Dist. 2, Hilo) passed away on November 15, 2016. Governor David Ige today appointed Chris Todd to the State House of Representatives to fill the seat.

Todd was born and raised in Hilo, where he earned his college degree in economics and political science from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. He held several positions at the Suisan Fish Market before becoming distribution manager for Hawai‘i Paper Products last year. Todd also coaches football at Hilo High School. His wife, Britney, is a teacher at Kalanianaole Middle School.

“I am happy to support the Governor’s appointment of Chris Todd to succeed Rep. Clift Tsuji in the Hawaii House of Representatives,” said House Speaker Joseph M. Souki. “Chris has big shoes to fill, but his business and coaching experience along with being born and raised in Hilo will give him a wide knowledge of the issues and concerns of Big Island residents. We miss Clift at the State Capitol but believe the District 2 seat will be in good hands.”

At least one progressive action group, the Hawai‘i chapter of the Young Progressives Demanding Action (YPDA) endorsed Moana Keli‘i, one of the other candidates to fill the seat.

“YPDA executive members held a conference call with Keli‘i to assess her stance on some of the most important issues facing Hawai‘i. We believe she will be a strong, progressive ally on many of the issues that YPDA-Hawai‘i and its nearly 800 members take most seriously, including Fight For $15 legislation, graduate student unionization, houseless advocacy and other economic justice issues with strong support from the community,” the group wrote in its endorsement, which was delivered to the governor’s office on December 7, 2016.

Keli‘i has more than 20 years of experience within the democratic party and won 40 percent of the vote in her bid for council seat (Dist. 3, Hilo), coming in just behind her incumbent rival during the last election.

“This suggests a high level of political competency. Her experience as a social worker makes us confident in her empathy for our disenfranchised and marginalized brothers and sisters,” YPDA added.

The governor is required by law to make his selection from a list of nominees submitted by the Democratic Party.

“I am very grateful for this opportunity to serve my community. I look forward to the hard work ahead and will always keep an open door and mind,” Todd said.

$700,000 withdrawn from First Hawaiian Bank over Dakota Access Pipeline

According to the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi, organizations and private residents have withdrawn more than $700,000 from First Hawaiian Bank as “an act of solidarity with those opposing construction of an oil pipeline under the Missouri River, known as the Dakota Access Pipeline” (DAPL). The bank is owned in significant part by BNP Paribas, an international investment bank backing the pipeline construction. The goal is to withdraw $1 million by December 31st.

“We are withdrawing our funds from this bank because we are clear which side we are on. As Native Hawaiians, we stand with our native brothers and sisters at Standing Rock for the protection of our water against the fossil fuel industry. Now we are asking First Hawaiian Bank: whose side are you on?” said Kumu Hula Vicky Holt-Takamine of the PAʻI Foundation at a press conference outside First Hawaiian Center in downtown Honolulu. Since the blockade against the DAPL began 10 months ago, dozens of Native Hawaiian community leaders have travelled to Standing Rock in a show of solidarity.

“Investment in this pipeline represents the destruction of our planet, contamination of water and loss of our traditional cultures. It represents the loss of our future,” said Addison Davis, a student with Wild Kids Hawaiʻi, a group advocating against fossil fuel pipelines.

“As the next generation of leaders, we will inherit the consequences of the choices made today. We are the ones that will see the detrimental effects of the North Dakota Access Pipeline,” added Kennedy-Anne Marx, also a student with Wild Kids Hawaiʻi. “We stand with Standing Rock today because we want to see a world tomorrow where everyone has access to clean water, and there is no risk of global warming,” she said.

“Further investment in fossil fuel infrastructure like this oil pipeline in North Dakota is simply insane,” said Jodi Malinoski, coordinator for the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi’s Oʻahu Group. “Hawaiʻi has already made the commitment to transition to a 100 percent clean energy future. It is time for our local banks and industry to get with the rest of us and get off oil.” The Oʻahu Group is one of many organizations withdrawing their funds from First Hawaiian Bank in an effort to defund the DAPL.

“We know that communities like ours are the consumers of the oil pushed through these pipelines, harming marginalized communities,” said Marti Townsend, Director for the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi. “We also know that accelerating the transition to clean energy here means communities everywhere are cleaner and safer. We have to get off fossil fuels right now, for us, for our neighbors, and for our future generations.”

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What I don’t know and what I do know about Aleppo

A reflection on the current discussion surrounding tragedy and the politics of disbelief

Above: A bombed-out street in Aleppo / Wikimedia

My parents are both survivors of the Korean War. For me, the siege of Aleppo has been filtered through what I know about civil war, from family stories and graduate seminars about the Korean War. I don’t know if more “boots on the ground” would save lives or take lives.* I don’t know how much to blame Russia or the U.S. and geopolitical realpolitik.*

I do know that the images of families fleeing the rubble of their city have an emotional reality that has absolutely nothing to do with assigning blame and everything to do with empathy. My parents endured three years of civil war as children. My dad was orphaned at the age of 7. My mom was bundled up by my grandmother and put on a refugee boat to a southern island. A quarter of a million pounds of napalm was used to firebomb entire cities.

All of this is reality for the people of Aleppo and Syria too.** It’s a goddamn tragedy we have seen countless times before and in this case, it’s some next-level bullshit that people are trying to convince me to discount the suffering of Aleppo’s residents as propaganda. Seoul was taken by the North Korean military, retaken by the U.S. and South Korean armies, and then taken back yet again by the North Korean combined with Chinese military and then once again by the allied forces. And each time the city changed hands there were massacres and reprisals and targeted revenge killings on both sides. I suspect that accusations of atrocities and killings against the rebels as well as Assad’s troops and foreign fighters will be borne out.

But I cannot call a pox on both their houses, because in both houses are families and children and siblings and aunts and uncles. That rebel jihadist? That government stooge? They are people, in all of their heartbreaking complexity. My spouse’s grandfather went North before the war to help start what he believed would be a just society based on equality instead of a hierarchical system of exploitation. My grandfather stayed South and sought to improve understanding with the American military government. After that goddamn civil war, one was kidnapped with whereabouts unknown and the other was dead or alive on the other side of the most densely militarized border of the Cold War. So don’t tell me that I should only mourn the innocents, apportion out my caring and grief based on whether people deserve it or not. Sorting out the deserving or undeserving dead is ghoulish.

* I’m referring to both the war in Syria and the Korean War.

** 5 million people have fled Syria because of the six-year-long civil war. In total, the U.S. has accepted 100,000 Syrian refugees. Canada, with a population barely a tenth the size of the United States, has resettled three times more Syrian refugees since last fall. (source: Washington Post, Sept 2, 2016).

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Hawaii electors call for CIA declassification

Hawaii’s four electors to the Electoral College have added their names to a growing list of electors and members of Congress who have called for declassification of a CIA report on Russian hacking during the election. This comes just five days before the Electoral College is set to pick the next president of the United States on Monday, Dec. 19. The electors sent the following statement out yesterday:

We the undersigned Electors from Hawaii are asking the President to release to electors the CIA report on Russia’s hacking of electronic devices related to the election. The information contained in the report is essential to carrying out our constitutional obligation of casting our vote in an election that is free from tampering from outside entities. Ten electors from other states and some members of Congress have already made this request.  We wish to add our names to the list.

John Bickel
Janice Bond
Marie (Dolly) Strazar
David Mulinix

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“Remember Pearl Harbor!” and forget all else

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Standing Rock Sioux Tribe statement on USACE denial of DAPL easement

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will not approve an easement that will allow the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe. The following statement was released by Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II after yesterday’s announcement:

Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not be granting the easement to cross Lake Oahe for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Instead, the Corps will be undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes. We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all of Indian Country will be forever grateful to the Obama Administration for this historic decision.

We want to thank everyone who played a role in advocating for this cause. We thank the tribal youth who initiated this movement. We thank the millions of people around the globe who expressed support for our cause. We thank the thousands of people who came to the camps to support us, and the tens of thousands who donated time, talent, and money to our efforts to stand against this pipeline in the name of protecting our water. We especially thank all of the other tribal nations and jurisdictions who stood in solidarity with us, and we stand ready to stand with you if and when your people are in need.

Throughout this effort I have stressed the importance of acting at all times in a peaceful and prayerful manner - and that is how we will respond to this decision. With this decision we look forward to being able to return home and spend the winter with our families and loved ones, many of whom have sacrificed as well. We look forward to celebrating in wopila, in thanks, in the coming days.

We hope that Kelcey Warren, Governor Dalrymple, and the incoming Trump administration respect this decision and understand the complex process that led us to this point. When it comes to infrastructure development in Indian Country and with respect to treaty lands, we must strive to work together to reach decisions that reflect the multifaceted considerations of tribes.

Treaties are paramount law and must be respected, and we welcome dialogue on how to continue to honor that moving forward. We are not opposed to energy independence, economic development, or national security concerns but we must ensure that these decisions are made with the considerations of our Indigenous peoples.

To our local law enforcement, I hope that we can work together to heal our relationship as we all work to protect the lives and safety of our people. I recognize the extreme stress that the situation caused and look forward to a future that reflects more mutual understanding and respect.

Again, we are deeply appreciative that the Obama Administration took the time and effort to genuinely consider the broad spectrum of tribal concerns. In a system that has continuously been stacked against us from every angle, it took tremendous courage to take a new approach to our nation-to-nation relationship, and we will be forever grateful.

Learn more about the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe at standwithstandingrock.net