Monday, March 31, 2008

Faleomavaega Fiddles While Pago Pago Burns

It is getting more unbelievable by the day. As I suspected, Eni's strategic decision to publicize his bombshell of switching positions on the next wage raise by releasing the news just ahead of the long Easter weekend worked as he planned. By the time the daily paper published again on Monday, it was all forgotten. Not a peep all week thereafter. Same with the island's most listened to newscast, which also was on a three day weekend hiatus.

To further underscore that Samoa News really does not understand, they buried the ramifications in a page one story in today's paper wrapping up the governor's weekly radio call in show on Saturday. The headline of the article is "Governor appeals to Eni for help for displaced workers." But the story should have been headlined "Canneries Set To Leave" because the real news is in this quote:

Togiola also revealed that he was informed by the canneries that if the next 50 cent hike goes into effect, the canneries will leave the territory and the administration is working with the canneries to prevent this from happening.

The startling news was handled as almost an after thought. One might think in view of the circumstances that Faleomavaega would have cleared his Easter recess schedule (formally called a "district work period" by Congress), either to be home to explain what is going on, work with the canneries and governor to find a solution or to stay in Washington to redouble his efforts to find a solution to the problem.

But it's all business as usual for our wandering delegate. According to story datelined Majuro yesterday, Eni just spent six days in the Marshalls conducting a field hearing. Six days. Can you imagine? The recent field hearing conducted in American Samoa was confined to a single afternoon. The subcommittee got in on a Thursday night, paid some courtesy calls on Friday morning, held a hearing for three hours Friday afternoon, called it a day and went over the Western Samoa for the rest of the weekend until plane time. In contrast, The Marshalls gets six days of his time.

But will the American Samoa media cover any of this? Don't count on it!!

Meantime, Samoa News this morning also reports a newcomer is jumping into the congressional race. Some retired military enlisted officer who works in an administrative job at the college. They must be high fiving and breaking out the champagne in Eni's office. It's just what he hoped for when he rammed through a bill to let him win elections by a plurality. The anti-Eni vote now can be split between the newcomer and veteran politico Aumua Amata, thus giving Eni yet another term to continue his globetrotting. And so it goes.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Faleomavaega Knuckles Under to Miller, Kennedy

Before everyone scurried out of Washington for Easter recess, Delegate Faleomavaega switched his position on another minimum wage hike in American Samoa in what can only be described as an effort to curry favor with two powerful members of Congress: Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA). The two men, who chair the the committees that oversee wage legislation in their respective chambers, co-wrote a letter to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao on March 14 saying her department's study of the potential effects of additional wage raises in American Samoa and the Northern Marianas provided insufficient justification to halt the increase scheduled to go into effect in May in the two territories.

Only two weeks earlier, Faleomavaega was the lead witness in a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee (which has jurisdiction over territorial issues), in which he testified in favor of a bill to halt such an increase. At the conclusion of the hearing, a sympathetic Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) promised to do all he could to pass legislation to freeze the minimum wage at the current level.

It would come as no surprise if Bingaman felt betrayed by Faleomavaega's change of heart, which was guided no doubt by his fear of Kennedy's and especially Miller's power in Congress but it really should come as no surprise because this is at least Faleomavaega's fourth and perhaps fifth different position on the issue since it first arose over the 2006 Christmas holidays before Democrats took formal control of Congress.

Among others, American Samoa's tuna industry is likely to be furious at Faleomavaega's new position which he expressed in a letter to Governor Togiola transmitting a copy of the Kennedy/Miller letter to Chao. Saying "As indicated in their letters, the bottom line is we need more specific data and information before we put a hold on another 50-cent increase on our minimum wage."

This bombshell was dropped in time for the Thursday edition of Samoa News but not in time for any immediate reaction. Owing to the Easter holiday, the paper won't publish again until next Monday, leaving all those whose legs were cut out from under them time to stop the bleeding before reacting in public.

In the meantime, add one more crucial issue to the growing list of issue over which time grows shorter and shorter for Faleomavaega to demonstrate he can exercise any substantial influence. In the past, early in his career, he could argue he was too junior. In the middle of his congressional career, he could argue we was in the minority. Now he is a senior Member in the Majority and a subcommittee chairman. The time to produce has come or be exposed for the fraud so many insiders know he is.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


In response to a brewing controversy over the racial attitudes of the pastor of his church, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama this week delivered a masterful address on the subject of racial divisions in America. Yet, even though American Samoa Congressional Delegate was one of his earliest and strongest backers in the face of institutional support of Hillary Clinton in American Samoa, Obama totally ignored Pacific Islanders in his speech.

Three times in his remarks Obama referred to minorities in the U.S. but each time omitted Pacific Islanders. In the first instance Obama referred to "problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all. " Referring to his pastor's church, he went on later in the speech to talk about "a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old." Finally, he talked of "schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children."

Nowhere is there any indication that he recognizes that Pacific Islanders matter, too. Hillary Clinton announced some time ago that she was appointing American Samoa Governor Togiola Tulafono as a national co-chairman of her advisory council on Asian and Pacific Americans. We have seen no similar announcement that Faleomavaega has been appointed to any role in the Obama campaign. Obama may be building coalitions, as he stated, but it is apparent that Faleomavaega need not apply for a role with a group that is not part of it.