Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Togiola Upstages Faleomavaega with Hillary Clinton

Following his recent re-election, Faleomavaega decided to stick around the island for awhile, because Secretary of State was due through for a refueling stop on the final leg of her recent trip through Asia.  Faleomavaega, of course, is still chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific until January 3, 2011, when he will lose that post as his party sinks into the minority in Congress.  According to press reports, Faleomavaega used the little time he has with Clinton during her 90 minute stop to raise the matter of the Cambodian war debt while Governor Togiola stuck to issues of much more concern to American Samoa.  He was able to extract out of the secretary a promise to look into allowing American Samoa to have observer membership in the Pacific Islands Forum, a desire that every American Samoa governor has had going back to Peter Coleman.   He also asked her to devise a means to allow American Samoa to participate in U.S. policy making on APEC issues, especially fisheries.

Some observers believe this may be the opening salvo in a 2012 congressional campaign that would pit the two men against each other.  Togiola is term limited and cannot run for governor again.  Even though Faleomavaega has won 12 times, Togiola knows he remains vulnerable.  While all the other delegates to Congress long since have consolidated their constituencies, Faleomavaega consistently has had reasonably close races in good Democrat years and bad.   This was a bad year for Democrats but he had his subcommittee chairmanship and seniority to argue for another term.  Now he loses the gavel and probably his vote in the Committee of the Whole.  There also is a real possibility Republicans will abolish the Natural Resources subcommittee on insular affairs.

From his perch as governor, expect Togiola over the next two years to set up situations where he can emphasize how little Faleomavaega has actually accomplished in Congress for American Samoa and, as he did with the Clinton visit, show how he concerns himself with American Samoa issues while Eni is still focused on Asia.  I am sure it did not hurt this time that Togiola was an early Clinton supporter in the 2008 presidential primaries while Faleomavaega was an early Obama backer.  So far, Faleomavaega's Obama connection has gotten him nothing out of the Obama administration.   Stay tuned.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Faleomavaega Wins Battle, May Have Lost War

A tired and haggard-looking Faleomavaega thanked his supporters for giving him a twelfth term in Congress at a time when 60 of his Democrat colleagues--including several Members more senior than he is--were dropping like flies in the Nov. 2 federal elections.  But while he may have won that battle, the victory may be short-lived as his party's losses forced the Democrats into minority after only four years in power in the House.  Democrats have not had such a short run since 1981-1895, over 100 years ago.  Even though the loss of some of his senior colleagues, three of whom chaired powerful committees, means he moves up a few notches in seniority, his higher ranking won't count for much, as House rules put all the power in the hands of the Majority.  Perhaps he can squeeze a slightly larger office out of it, since they are assigned strictly by seniority without regard to party affiliation.

What is he losing?  Well, first, he already has been stripped of his subcommittee chairmanship, so he will have no platform to push his pet projects, such as a Japanese apology to Korean comfort women, self-determination for West Papua, and U.S. environmental cleanup in Southeast Asia.   Moreover, the Pacific regional USAID office recently announced by Hillary Clinton wasily could fall to the Republican budgetary axe next year.

The territories in general are at a disadvantage in that all six of them (including the District of Columbia) because they are all Democrats.  When the decisions are made in the House Republican Conference, there is no one to make their case.  Therefore, the earliest decision to watch in whether Republicans abolish the rule that gives delegates a vote in the Committee of the Whole on the House Floor.  Then also look to see if the House decides to count the delegates when deciding party ratios for committees.  Republicans probably will set the ratios without counting the delegates then make the delegates count against the ratios in committee.

Then early next year, the  new committee chairmen will decide how to organize their subcommittees.  Watch to see if the subcommittee that considers insular legislation is abolished.  If it is, then jurisdiction would revert to the full committee.  If the new chairman of Foreign Affairs might decides to remove global environment affairs from the jurisdiction of the Asia Pacific subcommittee, that would be another blow to Faleomavaega, who has interest in those issues and also used the jurisisdiction as a pretext for his incessant world travels.

 Of course, what has always been top priority for Faleomavaega is his ability to travel.  He may not suffer too much because congressional delegations need to be bipartisan to qualify for military aircraft.  Quite often when they were previously in the majority, Republicans were grateful to have Faleomavaega around to give them bipartisan cover for foreign travel.  Word got around Congress that he was generally available for any trip the GOP wanted to organize.  So, he won't need the global environment jurisdiction to let him continue to be a globe trotter.

He still has to watch his back at home because, unlike the other delegates, he has not secured his seat.  Only in his second term, his Northern Marianas colleague, an independent, managed to beat competitors, including a former governor and former lt. governor, from the three established parties with 43% of the vote.  Delegates from the Virgin Islands (71%) and the District of Columbia (91%) had comfortable victories while the Guam delegate was unopposed for re-election.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Obama Repeats Faleomavaega Racist Slur against Republicans

There has been a Republican backlash against President Obama for employing a term associated with the Civil Rights era as he has taken to the campaign trail in support of his party’s nominees in next week’s midterm elections.  Although he insists that he wants to reach out to Republicans after the elections to solve the nation’s problems together, in recent stump speeches he also has said, "We don't mind the Republicans joining us. They can come for the ride, but they've got to sit in back."

No doubt if a Republican officeholder had used that phrase, he would have faced howls of protest from African American activists who recall vividly that the modern Civil Right era was sparked in the mid-1950s by Rosa Parks’s refusal to sit at the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama as was required by the segregation laws and policies of the times.

When asked about the comment at a White House briefing, Presidential Press Secretary Robert Gibbs insisted Obama was not trying to label Republicans as racists, but there was no such ambiguity when Faleomavaega used the same phrase at a hearing last year on his ASPIRE bill, which was meant to bail out Star-Kist, American Samoa’s remaining cannery.  The bill has languished in the Natural Resources Committee and is not expected to be taken up in the lame duck session planned for after the election.

Although Republicans were joined by virtually everyone else who testified (except for the Tri Marine Company whose boats supply fish to Star-Kist, Star-Kist itself and the territory’s governor) in opposing the bill, his statement singled out only the Republicans by saying “Republicans should make [the situation] right, not by asking Samoans to ride in the back of the bus, but by supporting legislation which puts American Samoa back to work.”

There is no indication Obama, who, like Faleomavaega, grew up in Hawaii, was aware of the delegate’s slur when he made his own similar comment but Faleomavaega will have a difficult time building bridges with Republicans if he should be re-elected to the House next week and find them in the majority next year.

At the time Faleomavaega offered his slur, Samoa News, where Faleomavaega’s sister-in-law works as a reporter and editor, made no mention of it in its coverage of the hearing, so it will be interesting to see if the paper makes any reference to it if they cover the Obama flap on the Mainland.  Interestingly enough, with but six days to go before the election, Samoa News, which is the territory’s leading source of information, has published not a single story about the campaign for Congress, just an announcement from the election office of where the polling places will be.  They have, however, published some of Faleomavaega’s announcements of federal grants awarded to the territory.  With the deck so loaded in his favor, it is doubtful they will cover the “ride in the back” controversy.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Communist Group Credits Faleomavaega

Saying “His call for Washington to assert its own position on Fiji and other regional matters now appears to have received a favorable hearing in the State Department,” the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), through its official World Socialist Website, has credited American Samoa congressional Delegate Eni Faleomavaega with playing the key role in changing the U.S. government’s position on dealing with the Fiji dictatorship.

The ICFI is the international Communist organization that follows the Marxist teachings of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, a leading rival to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin until Stalin had him assassinated in 1940. Although Faleomavaega was for years a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, from its inception in 1991 until he quietly dropped out when his membership threatened to become a campaign issue earlier this decade, and the caucus has ties with Democratic Socialists of America, it is unclear what ties, if any, Faleomavaega may have with the ICFI or other Trotskyite organizations.

Nonetheless, in addition to his vigorous defense of Fiji military dictator Commodore Frank Bainamarama, Faleomavaega also has been cozy with autocratic leaders in Kazkhstan, Laos and Vietnam, the last where he praised Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi a couple of years ago.

As evidence of the shift in U.S. policy, the ICFI in the article points to

  • Obama recently issuing a personal statement marking the 40th anniversary of Fijian independence;
  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton including the Fiji Foreign Minister in an hour-long meeting in New York with senior Pacific leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in later September;
  • Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell’s testifying before Faleomavaega’s subcommittee that “Our objective is to put Fiji back on track for . . . elections no later than 2014,” tantamount to endorsing a timetable which now puts “Washington . . . at odds with Canberra on this question:”
  • the U.S. recently announcing it will re-establish an AID mission in Suva after a 15-year absence;
  • State Department opening a new multi-million dollar regional embassy in Suva;
  • The U.S. government issuing no comment on the arrest of former Prime Minister and current Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry, “on spurious charges of breaking an emergency decree . . .”

Faleomavaega no doubt approves of all these developments. At the hearing at which Campbell testified, he said “Clearly, the Australian and New Zealand policy of sanctions and isolating and punishing Fiji has not only failed but totally been counterproductive. For too long we effectively outsourced our policymaking toward the Pacific Islands to Australia and New Zealand. “

“Unfortunately,” he continued, “the sometimes imperious attitudes and actions of our friends in Canberra and Wellington toward the Pacific Islands have fostered a degree of resentment and distrust that has limited their influence as well as their ability to represent US views and interests . . . By deferring to the foreign ministries of Canberra and Wellington, we left a vacuum in the Pacific that China has been only too eager to fill.”

Given Faleomavaega’s closeness to Communist China in recent years, it is unclear why he is expressing concern about China’s activities in the Pacific and the article in this publication sheds no light on that.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Election time again

Well folks, it's election time again, so we are opening up our survey to give you a chance to choose who you prefer to replace Faleomavaega as delegate to Congress. The choices this year are Aumua Amata begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting, who has contested the seat several times in the past and Tuika Tuika, Jr., who has run for congress once before.

The good news for a lot of governments around the world is that they are safe from Eni's wrath for three weeks while he confines himself to the territory to face the voters. So, he will have to put aside his two main, seemingly contradictory preoccupations: coddling dictators and championing the oppressed. In the former categories are such people as Frank Bainamarama (Fiji), Nursultan Nazarbayev (Kazakhstan), the late Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam) and Bouasone Bouphavanh (Laos). The oppressed people include West Papua's Melanesians, French Polynesian separatists, Armenians, Koren comfort women, Cambodian Agent Orange sufferers, Native Hawaiians, American Indians on reservations and low-wage cannery workers.

The only place where he has had any impact, as far as we can tell, is with the low wage cannery workers. He fought for and won for them an increase in the minimum wage, forcing one cannery to close and the other to downsize, so that now he can champion a new group: the no-wage ex-cannery workers. Atta boy, Eni, way to go in your never-ending search for "social justice."

The good news for Eni is that if he wins again, he is likely to have a whole lot more time to devote to his pet causes because if Republicans take control of Congress, as many analysts now believe they will, he won't need to show up in Washington every once in a while to chair hearings or cast committee votes at the direction of his party to give cover to real members. As was the case for the 12 years Republicans controlled the House between 1995 and 2007, he will be largely irrelevant as a member of the minority. Even though Republicans will control travel budgets, they do like to have Democrats on their fact-finding delegations abroad to show "bipartisanship," and Eni has proved useful for that purpose because he never refuses a trip he is offered.

He seems to have adopted a strategy of flying under the radar this election, as he made no formal announcement of his candidacy, just quietly filing his petitions to activate his candidacy. And he can count on Samoa News, where his sister-in-law is one of the editors, to play his little game of keeping controversy out of print. There are only 22 days left in the campaign and so far there have been exactly NO stories in the paper about the campaign. The candidates each made the first of their customary television presentations last week and Samoa News did not even bother to cover them. nor have any of the media taken the simple step of going on-line to the Federal Election Committee website to see how much money has been raised any from whom. Virtually every other newspaper in the country does this for their local congressional races but apparently not Samoa News. Maybe his sister-in-law won't like what she sees: massive contributions from people with Asian names with addresses in the U.S. No one seems to care or wonder why all these people would be so interested in a congressional race on a small, remote Pacific Island. As long as the voters are fed on Election Day, why bother, I suppose?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Wage Delay Law Shows Faleomavaega Weakness

At literally the last minute before adjournment, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted the Senate version of a bill that originated in the House that delayed the implementation of a scheduled increase in the minimum wage for American Samoa. The hike was to have taken effect October 1. In a press release following passage, Faleomavaega thanked what seemed like half the Congress—Republicans and Democrats alike—for taking this action, which could stave off the departure of the territory’s remaining tuna cannery. However, Faleomavaega’s release was vastly overblown considering what little it actually accomplished.

Perhaps it was the delegate’s intention to distract the attention of voters so close to election time from his larger inability to accomplish much more than this delay, considering his position as a senior member of his party, which overwhelmingly controls Congress, particularly the House, which is run by Members who over the years he has touted as being among his closest allies. As is Faleomavaega, both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller are protégés of the late U.S. Rep. Philip Burton.

Following the 2006 midterm election, after which Democrats regained control of the House, Eni was in line for and received a subcommittee chairmanship. Although he was senior enough on Natural Resources to take over the subcommittee on insular affairs, the body with primary legislative jurisdiction over American Samoa, he chose, instead, the subcommittee on Asian, Pacific and Global Environmental Affairs, which specifically is precluded from considering American Samoa issues, which are considered domestic.

Shortly after taking over the subcommittee, Faleomavaega, predictably, took a trip out of Washington, and when Miller crafted a federal minimum wage bill that was to become the first priority of the new Congress, Eni was nowhere to be found when Miller and the Speaker threw him under the bus by deciding to include American Samoa in the wage hike bill. Faleomavaega disingenuously blames Republican Rep. Mark Kirk for this action because it was Kirk who first asked why American Samoa was not included in the proposal but virtually everyone who understands how the House operates knows that the minority has no power at all and no minority member was in any position to demand anything the Speaker or Miller weren’t prepared to do anyway.

In one story about the delay, Miller was quoted as saying it was Kirk who first raised the issue of American Samoa and the Northern Marianas but this is likely fabricated because Miller intended all along to include the Northern Marianas to strike back at Jack Abramoff. Indeed, when it came to final passage, a majority of the Republicans voted against the bill, so blaming Republicans just won’t wash.

In any event, Faleomavaega, who said he supported the first year’s increase, has had four years to get American Samoa removed from the law but was unable to get Miller or Pelosi to budge, thus demonstrating that his touted "closeness" to his fellow Burton protégés was more myth that reality. If anyone needed any additional proof, when Pelosi put together her 21-member delegation to U.N. global warming talks last year, Eni was not included. Giving him jurisdiction over global environmental affairs apparently was just a way to let him travel the world beyond Asia and the Pacific.

So, he has his wage delay but that is not going to be enough to keep Star-Kist on island for very long. Permanent repeal might have helped but a delay, even for two years, does not end uncertainty for the cannery. They are looking for a subsidy that was the centerpiece of Faleomavaega’s signature legislation in this Congress: ASPIRE, which is an acronym for American Samoa Protection of Industry, Resources, and Employment Act. He had much publicized hearings at which everyone but Star-Kist representatives, even fellow Democratic Members of the House, testified against the bill. It never attracted a single co-sponsor and remains “alive” only because the House is coming back into a lame duck session after the election.

The bad news for Eni is that the elections do not look very promising for his party. On election night in 1992, when Democrats regained control of the White House while holding control of the House and Senate for the first time since Jimmy Carter, Faleomavaega proclaimed that now that his party had won it all, it was up to them to produce. Well, they did not produce and in 1994, Republicans won control of the House for the first time in 40 years and Eni was consigned to 12 years in the minority.

All signs point to Republicans regaining control of Congress next month but even if they do not, they will make significant enough gains to achieve philosophical control. In that case, it is going to be very tough for Eni to get any legislation enacted. It was perhaps sensing the reality of his soon-to-be new status that led him to proclaim in his press release how he always has worked on a bipartisan basis when the record is replete with his attacks on Republicans, such as accusing them of wanting Samoans to ride the "back of the bus" by not supporting ASPIRE>. More important than his wage delay or ASPIRE, which is going nowhere under any scenario, he also has a provision in pending legislation called the tax extenders bill, that would give Star-Kist an $18 million tax break. He also has a request in the works for $25 million through Interior funds.

If he could achieve these objectives when his party was riding high these past two years, with the seniority he did not have the last time Democrats controlled both political branches in 1993-94, a subcommittee chairmanship, and as an early supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy, it is difficult to see how he is going to be able to do much beyond continue his worldwide travels as a non-voting delegate in the minority in the next two years and perhaps beyond. Indeed, perhaps the worst of all worlds for him would be to return to an evenly divided House which Democrats continue to control. Then his party would need him to be present for committee votes where his vote could be the margin of difference. That even happened at least once in this Congress when the Speaker insisted he stay in town to vote on an energy bill, forcing him to cancel a trip home for the funeral of a high chief from his village.

Unfortunately, the voters are not aware of Eni’s weakness and ineffectiveness, and neither the local media, the local political leadership, nor his political opponents have taken the time to educate the voters. They continue to think he brings home millions of dollars in federal grants when in fact American Samoa has received nothing more than the Northern Marianas has received--and the Northern Marianas did not even have a delegate to Congress at all until last year.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Eni and the dictator

In a post headlines "Coup Supporter Eni Faleomaega Way off the Mark AGAIN," well respected Fijian blogger Sai Lealea systematically picks apart Faleomavaega's lengthy rebuttal to former Fiji Times Editor Russell Hunter's criticism of Faleomavaega's support for the Bainimarama regime. THe blog contains a photo of the smiling congressman and the dictator arm in arm in Suva. Faleomavaega boasts that he has made four trips to Fiji this year so far, which probably exceeds the number of trips he has made to American Samoa. You can read Eni's full response to Hunter's commentary, which was published in the Samoa observer, here:

The man is so arrogantly confident of his re-election that he did not even bother to announce he was running again this year. He simply filed his papers.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Faleomavaega Engineering Destruction of American Samoa Economy

In an absolutely stunning development, Faleomavaega admitted to a Samoa Observer reporter that he has been encouraging officials of the territory’s last remaining major private sector employer, StarKist Tuna, to relocate its loining operations to the nearby independent state of Samoa.

“I encouraged Star Kist to look to Western Samoa,” revealed Faleomavaega to the observer. “There is also another canning company I encouraged to come to W. Samoa to set up shop because this company has the capacity. Not only can they can and process tuna, but they can also process vegetables and things where there is tremendous potential here.

“Western Samoa has got more land capacity to grow crops, agricultural production things that can be canned not just tuna but canned vegetables and fruits,” he argued in the amazing interview.

Observer reporter Mata’afa Keni Lesa went on to write that “Faleomavaega suspects StarKist plans to establish a loining plant here. “

“It would provide jobs for our people here to process the tuna,” says Faleomavaga. Since so many of our people (working in American Samoa) are from Western Samoa - I would say 70 to 80 per cent of the workers – the plant will help them tremendously.”

It is unclear if Faleomavaega appreciated that in this 21st century world of instant communication, his interview would be seen in American Samoa almost immediately. Indeed, Samoa News linked directly to the story last Wednesday and on Friday covered the issue itself in a page one story that carried a secondary headline pointing out Eni’s treachery.

Yet at the same time, despite the secondary headline, the paper did not go out of its way to amplify on Eni’s words or discuss the implications nor did the paper have anything further to say about Eni’s role in a follow up story done over the weekend in which they confirmed with the Samoa government that it is in negotiations with StarKist about establishing operations on Savai’i.

Perhaps it is all a bluff on StarKist’s part, hoping to press Faleomavaega to move his bill through Congress to delay the next wage hike before it is scheduled to go into effect in September. In a recent release, he blamed the freshman delegate from the Northern Marianas for the bill being stalled in the Senate. How is it possible a first term delegate can hold up an action desired by a powerful ten-term member? Easy. The senior Faleomavaega is not powerful at all. Samoa News, where Faleomavaega’s sister-in-law is a writer and editor, won’t say it, but we will.

Governor Togiola is off-island but when he returns, he likely will have more to say on Eni’s role in sabotaging the American Samoa economy, for that’s what he is doing.

Incidentally, in another demonstration of his lack of influence, he gave the interview on his way to American Samoa from Vanuatu, where he attended the recent Pacific Island Forum. His major issue is the future of West Papua but despite whatever pleas he made, the Forum refused to discuss the issue at their summit. Eni should have stayed home. After all, this is called a "district work period" and last time we looked, Vanuatu was not in his district. We wonder where he is headed next?

Monday, May 17, 2010


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced a tightening of the rules to curb congressional travel abuse as Democrats head into what looks to be a bad year for majority incumbents, but the new restrictions are unlikely to slow the pace of Faleomavaega, whose time on airplanes borders on insanity.

Among other reforms Pelosi has announced, House Members now will be required to travel economy class on flights less than 14 hours. It is unclear from news accounts if the time threshold applies to total time between departure and arrival cities or time on each segment. In the former case, Eni is well covered because most of his Asian destinations are longer than 14 hours away total travel time.

If the restriction is per segment, Eni easily can get around that by flying non-stop to places like Hong Kong or Bangkok in business class then travel economy from one of those hub cities to his final destination. Rest assured, this restriction will not affect his travel one bit.

The speaker also is requiring more documentation for the rationale of committee-arranged trips, known universally as CODELs--short for Congressional delegation. It is not clear if this documentation will be available for public scrutiny but the media in American Samoa have shown little interest in the whereabouts or the whys of the delegate’s travel and there has been no public clamor for the information. Frequently he announces that he is “on assignment” in Asia without ever revealing who is making these assignments, so perhaps this new documentation will shed light on that. Samoa News, where his sister-in-law is an editor, dutifully prints his press releases and the public believes he is on some sort of "assignment."

The new rules also reminded lawmakers that government travel per diem is to be spent for official business and that excess money must be returned. The rules prohibit lawmakers from taking aides from their personal offices along or from putting aides temporarily on the committee payroll to get around the restriction but it would be difficult to determine if Eni heretofore has abused the system in these regards. Faleomavaega routinely apportions some of his staff salaries between his personal office and the Foreign Affairs Committee, but it is not clear whether this is to get around travel restrictions or just to hide the true salaries of some of his staff.

Pelosi also made clear that the costly use of military aircraft would be limited and that to qualify for one of the scarce jets, lawmakers must be traveling on a bipartisan basis and have enough colleagues traveling to justify a government plane. Despite his seniority and position, Eni has not been very successful in obtaining the use of military aircraft, so this new rule should not pose any difficulties for him.

The only rule change that might have made a difference is if Pelosi had required any sort of certification of a member’s health. For years Faleomavaega has had serious health problems and periodically has had to have been hospitalized. In addition to obesity, he has had heart problems, circulatory problems, halitosis and foot problems, including suffering from gout. It has been rumored that on his last trip to American Samoa for Flag Day last month he was so ill he had to be hospitalized and missed the ceremonies.

He reportedly was wheeled to the plane in a wheel chair for the return trip to Washington, was again hospitalized in Honolulu and finally again in Washington, which may have been the reason why he was absent in a photograph of all the other territorial delegates standing behind President Obama when he signed an Executive Order re-establishing an Interagency Group on Insular Affairs.

Perhaps it is illness that also has led to his silence so far on the 40% reduction of work force StarKist announced Friday for its American Samoa cannery. Faleomavaega recently made a point of announcing he had flown to Seoul to meet with the cannery owners and was given assurances that the company did not intend to close its facility in the territory. Perhaps not at the moment, but the handwriting is on the wall.

Sick or not, you can expect that just as soon as he is able to do so, Faleomavaega will be back on another plane to Seoul to hold further meetings with StarKist. The congressional Memorial Day recess is only two weeks away. Count on the travel. In fact, expect there to be a travel frenzy the rest of this year because it increasingly looks like Republicans will be taking control of Congress in November elections.

Republican control will not slow the pace of Faleomavaega’s travel but it will restrict his freedom to choose where he goes. Right now, he can go anywhere in the world because his subcommittee has jurisdiction over not only Asia and the Pacific but “global environment.” The word “global” must have brought tears to his eyes when the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman agreed to give him that responsibility. Most recently he held a hearing on “saving the whales,” although there is another subcommittee that has responsibility for fish, wildlife and oceans. So, I am sure we can expect to hear about Eni’s globetrotting adventures in search of rare whales.

But even if he will not be able to call his own shots if Republicans control the House, the bipartisan requirement will remain. During their 12 years in the majority, a number of Republicans found great value in having Faleomavaega around because they knew he was always available to join a CODEL and that gave them the bipartisan cover they needed to put trips together. Meanwhile, now that there is a new requirement for travel justification, it would be interesting to see how he might justify a third trip to the remote Torres Strait Islands. We'd settle for seeing how he justified the first and second trips.

In short: if he’s breathing, he’s traveling.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


When a major politician is seriously ill, it is the responsibility of the media to report it. Whatever you think of him, Faleomavaega is a major politician. Senior in Congress, head of a subcommittee. But a lot of people know that when he was in American Samoa recently for Flag Day, he had to be hospitalized. Then he went to the plane by wheel chair for Honolulu, where he was hospitalized again. Then to Washington where again he was hospitalized. Not a word in Samoa News, where his sister-in-law is an editor. If Samoa News is an honest, independent newspaper, we challenge them right now to put a reporter on this story and find out what is going on with Faleomavaega’s health. Although he was in Washington at the time, he was the only territorial delegate to skip a White House meeting with President Obama. Some people thought it might be because he would have been forced to wear a standard American business suit, which he no longer does (he is usually dressed in open shirtsleeves, sometime with a loose Indian bolo tie when required (like on the House floor), a lavalava and sandals. Perhaps he missed it because he was in the hospital or otherwise sick in bed.

Meantime, looking drawn and with an unusually weak and raspy voice, he nevertheless conducted a congressional hearing. He ranted. He raved. He fumed. But in the end, like everything else he tries, nothing will come of Faleomavaega’s April 22 subcommittee hearing to specifically discuss the lingering affects of unexploded ordnance in Laos left from the Vietnam War-era. As is not uncommon, he issued a press release labeling the hearing as “historic,” and as usual, the sycophantic Samoa News, where his sister-in-law is one of the editors, dutiful carried the description. Please don’t bother to ask Samoa News to ask Faleomavaega why this hearing was so historic. There was no mention of it in the New York Times or Washington Post the following day. Neither Time nor Newsweek magazine saw fit to say anything about it in their editions the following week. Historic maybe in Eni’s mind and now all those who read it in Samoa News but hardly anywhere else. Don’t hold your breath waiting for legislation to remove all the ordnance, either. Ain’t gonna happen.

Maybe something will happen with the bill he has introduced in the House to authorize the Tribal Development Bank to support U.S. tribes to engage in trade relations with the First Nations of Canada, Maori tribes of New Zealand and perhaps even the Sami of Norway and Finland. If the House accepts such amendments, indigenous nations in countries such as Canada and New Zealand, who commit to protecting indigenous nation trade from unfair import/export duties or tariffs, will be able to engage in business partnerships with U.S. tribes. The bill to create a Tribal Development Bank for Native Americans is Inouye’s brain child. Amendments involving other “First Nations” are Eni’s, so don’t expect much here, either.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Faleomavaega attacks Japanese leader; decries vestige of imperialism

At a March 17 hearing of his own Asia-Pacific subcommittee called to examine U.S.-Japan relations, Chairman Faleomavaega in his opening statement attacked Japan Prime Minister Hatayama for his “financial scandals and uneven leadership,” which he says are among the reasons his popularity has deteriorated steeply since his election last year.  So unpopular is Hatoyama that “only one-quarter of voters say they plan to cast their ballots for the party in July’s Upper House elections,” asserted the combative chairman.

He also recalled that the Ryukyu Islands, of which Okinawa is a part, was once a sovereign kingdom that was annexed by Japan and remains a vestige of Japanese imperialism.   He also said Okinawans “face discrimination throughout Japan.”  During a visit to Tokyo in January, Faleomavaega said the wishes of the Okinawan people should be given priority in deciding the dispute over the future of the U.S. military presence on the island.

Here is the relevant text of Faleomavaega’s statement:

The burdens the Okinawan people have shouldered on behalf of the alliance should not be underestimated. With less than one percent of Japan’s land area, Okinawa is host to two-thirds of the American forces based in the country. We should also remember that Okinawa, once the sovereign Ryuku [sic] Kingdom, was forcibly annexed by Japan in 1872, and that during the Battle of Okinawa, one-third of its inhabitants died. To this day, Okinawa remains a vestige of imperialism as it languishes behind the rest of the country economically and educationally, and its people face discrimination throughout the [sic] Japan.

In dealing with the Futenma relocation issue, we must not neglect this history. Politically, we must also recognize that Prime Minister Hatoyama’s approval ratings have deteriorated steeply from almost 80 percent when he took office to 30-40 percent now, largely as a result of financial scandals and uneven leadership. Even worse for the DPJ, only one-quarter of voters say they plan to cast their ballots for the party in July’s Upper House elections.

After Faleomavaega finishes liberating West Papua from its Indonesian oppressors, one wonders if he plans to turn his attention north to pry the poor, subjugated Okinawans away from their Japanese masters.

Meanwhile, Congress is on Easter recess and most House members have returned to their Congressional Districts to explain what Obamacare will mean for their voters.  Not Eni, of course.  He contented himself with issuing a press release, which Samoa News dutifully ran, and headed off to Taiwan to meet with President Ma, who has just concluded a six-nation swing of the South Pacific.  So far, no mention of this trip in Samoa News, where his sister-in-law serves as an editor.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Faleomavaega Admits ASPIRE Failure; Blames Others

Give him credit.  He tried to downplay it in his news release and Samoa News, where his sister-in-law is an editor, obliged him with an attention diverting headline that reads “Eni Reports to Fono on GAO impact study,” but make no mistake about it, the real news is the second paragraph: “Faleomavaega also noted that there is opposition in Congress over the ASPIRE bill, which would provide subsidies to the canneries and fishing boats that off-load whole tuna in American Samoa.”

We have been saying that for months but Samoa News has kept silent.  Now they have no choice but to print the truth: Faleomavaega has failed to convince Congress to move his bill to provide subsidies to the remaining tuna industry.   Telegraphing his punch, Faleomavaega has advised the Fono that the GAO study on the impact of wage hikes that will be released next month will indicate that “advance copy shows that American Samoa’s economy is at the tipping point.   But, the report makes no recommendations about what should or could be done given that every worker in America is entitled to fair wages and an income that keeps up with the cost of living.” 

Read between the lines.  He is saying that the GAO report is not likely to persuade Congress to freeze wage hikes in American Samoa.  Meanwhile, he goes on to point out that while he continues to try to find a way to move his ASPIRE bill, “[w]hether or not these efforts will be successful remains to be seen since the U.S. economy is in serious recession.”

Not content with just blaming the economy for his failure, he also pointed a finger at the canneries, saying “Congress has already provided hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks to local tuna industry every year for the past 20-years— these breaks could have and should have helped our canneries prepare for a rainy day.”

As another excuse for not moving the bill he noted two of StarKist’s competitors “have enlisted their Democratic Members of Congress who represent California, Georgia and Puerto Rico to oppose ASPIRE and any modifications to it.”  (emphasis added)  Then, came the real blow: “StarKist may not have the time it needs to wait for the outcome (of the attempts to move ASPIRE).”

Finally, of course, he points a finger at the local government:  “I am hopeful that ASG will continue to do all it can to diversify its economy and put in place the recommendations of the American Samoa Economic Advisory Commission which released its report in 2002, well before the tuna industry was under the threat it is today and long before minimum wage hikes.”

In other words, hey folks, StarKist is about to pull up stakes.  Don’t blame me.  I warned you years ago and the governor and Fono haven’t done a thing to replace them.  I am powerless to do anything in Washington because the rest of the tuna industry has lined up my own colleagues to stop me and the GAO has not made a persuasive case to stop raising the minimum wage.  The public likely will buy in to his line of reasoning once again with an “Attaboy, Eni, at least you tried.”

Meanwhile, Samoa News has said not a word about whether President Obama is going to stop in American Samoa later this month on his way back to Washington from Australia.  There was a big story in Guam's Pacific Daily News about Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo talking to Obama about his Guam stop at a showing of the new HBO series "The Pacific."

Obama held a private screening of the premiere at the White House and afterward Bordallo was quoted by PDN as saying "President Obama was a gracious host and told me that he was looking forward to visiting Guam next week."

The article mentioned that "The screening was also attended by Rep. John Dingell, dean of the House of Representatives; House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton; Sen. John Kerry; and American Samoa delegate Eni Faleomavaega.

Faleomavaega? Hmmmm.  Why no press release from Eni about that?  Why no Samoa News story or even a question to Eni about the status of his invitation?  Perhaps he is hoping no one will remember his invitation to Obama.  Has anyone seen any Secret Service agents or White House advance team around the island yet?

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Perhaps he already has received a signal from the White House that President Obama is not going to stop in American Samoa on his way back to the Mainland from Australia later this month and wants to use his hard line approach to the Administration as an excuse for why he failed to secure the visit.

That is the most logical explanation fro his non-stop bashing of the Obama Administration over a variety of issues. This week it is Indians. At a hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources, which has legislative jurisdiction over Native American issues as well as territories, Faleomavaega questioned the adequacy of the Administration’s proposed $3.4 billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit over long-standing federal mismanagement of Indian tribal trusts.

Faleomavaega called the settlement “a pittance” to correct a 100-year-old grievance. In response, Blackfeet tribal member Elouise Cobell from Montana defended the amount, pointing out that a federal judge last year wanted to hold the government responsible for only about $450 million. Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes told the committee he felt "this settlement is fair and appropriate,” saying “We want to close the book and look ahead."

Even if the nearly half a billion dollars is the “pittance” Faleomavaega suggests, it sure is a lot more than he has asked the committee to authorize to subsidize wages to keep the StarKist tuna cannery in American Samoa. So far, that bill has gone nowhere, despite Faleomavaega’s seniority and theoretical influence.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


In the wake of the travel scandal that has forced U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel to stop down from his post as chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs has published a study of congressional trips to Israel funded by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), which is considered an independent entity from its parent group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which self-identifies as “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby.”

The AIEF was established to get around the congressional prohibition on corporate sponsored travel that Congress imposed on itself following the Jack Abramoff scandals. Rangel was admonished by the House ethics committee last week for traveling to the Caribbean under corporate sponsorship, although he insisted he was unaware of whop bought his ticket.

The whole report can be read here: but we thought it would be more useful to compare the non-voting delegates and the Hawaii delegation to put the travel into some sort of perspective.

It will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog that despite having any responsibility for U.S.-Israeli relations, Faleomavaega is by far the biggest recipient of AIEF funds for travel to Israel. Although he only took two trips on AIEF’s nickel, they were beuts, averaging over $16,000 per trip. Runner up was Hawaii Rep. Maizie Hirono, who spent $12,000 of AIEF’s money for a single visit to Israel.

Madeleine Bordallo, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, took only one trip but, at $6,600, it cost only about half of Hirono’s junket. Hawaii Senator Dan Akaka’s one trip was even cheaper at $4,600. These were the only four who took any AIEF sponsored trips at all. The other six did not travel to Israel at AIEF expense. All 10 are Democrats. Here are the figures:

Abercrombie, Neil (D-HI 1) $0.00 0
Akaka, Daniel K (D-Hawaii Senate) $4,610.00 1
Bordallo, Madeleine Z (D, GU-AL) $6,599.15 1
Christian-Christensen, Donna (D-VI AL) $0.00 0
Faleomavaega, Eni F H (D-AS AL) $32,598.15 2
Hirono, Mazie K (D-HI 2) $12,258.26 1
Norton, Eleanor Holmes (D-DC AL) $0.00 0
Inouye, Daniel K (D, HI Senate) $0.00 0
Pierluisi, Pedro (D-PR AL) $0.00 0
Sablan, Gregorio (D-MP AL) $0.00 0

Of course, you can expect Samoa News, where Faleomavaega's sister-in-law is an editor, will sweep this under the rug but it really wouldn't matter because his constituency would be proud to know their champion has once again stuck it to the man. You go, Eni!

Over Obama, Clinton Objections, Faleomavaega Casts Deciding Vote on Genocide

Faleomavaega has continued to stake out his maverick course in dealing with the Obama administration by recently voted for a House Foreign Affairs Committee resolution that, if passed by the full House, would put Congress on record calling for Turkey to acknowledge and apology for a genocide imposed on its Armenian minority during World War I. Turkey over the years has refused to accept that it conducted such a genocide.

Although Faleomavaega is not very influential in Congress, he does have a full vote in committee and in this case his vote turned out to be very influential, because it was the tie breaker in a 23-22 vote in favor of the resolution. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have signaled to House speaker Nancy Pelosi that they hope the resolution will not be put to a test on the Floor of the House.

For someone who represents a constituency that is so reliant on the federal government for assistance, Faleomavaega is either very brave or very foolish to buck the White House so often. His genocide vote comes only weeks after he condemned the very same Obama and Clinton for failing to include meetings with Pacific Island leaders on her maiden trip to the region. That trip was truncated in Hawaii because of the Haiti earthquake and despite promises by Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary for the region, at a recent Foreign Affairs Committee hearing that Clinton would include island leaders on her rescheduled trip, it is by no means certain she will do so, especially if Faleomavaega continues to pummel the administration.

In addition to the genocide vote and the criticism of the Clinton trip, at the same hearing Faleomavaega complained to Campbell that the 176,000 dollars U.S. has given Communist Laos to clear around 80 million bombs that failed to detonate during the Vietnam was grossly insufficient. "This is absolutely outrageous,” ranted Faleomavaega, “and it's not the America that I would think of." He continued: "They never declared war against us. We're the ones that just simply went over there and bombed the heck out of them." But Campbell stood his ground, insisting that while both Vietnam and Laos want better relations with the U.S., much needs to be done in the area of human rights and democracy before real progress can be made. Once again, the ultra liberal Faleomavaega seems to turn a blind eye to such matters when it comes to his favorite left-wing and right-wing dictatorships.

Meanwhile, there has been no word out of the White House as to whether Obama will accept Faleomavaega’s invitation to visit American Samoa on his return from Indonesia-Australia trip later this month. He leaves for the Pacific in just nine days’ time: March 18. Rahm “The Enforcer” Emanuel no doubt is weighing Faleomavaega’s behavior towards Obama in the deliberations. Perhaps that is what Faleomavaega hopes to achieve: carve out an independent course and use that as an excuse if Obama declines to visit the territory. It’s all part of the Washington game. And the voters likely will rally around Faleomavaega for the discourtesy Obama would have shown. Never mind any discourtesies Faleomavaega might have shown the White House.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Faleomavaega Embarrassed on Census

This is the year once every decade the U.S. counts all of its people. Historically, minorities have been undercounted, a lot of times because they come from countries where government is oppressive and they want to keep their heads ducked. But in the U.S., the statistics gained from the census, help determine the share of federal resources each state gets in program money, including programs that are aimed at helping minorities.

So minority organizations are working hard to make sure their constituencies are aware of the census and to make sure everyone is counted when the census taker comes knocking at the door. Some of the west coast group enlisted Faleomavaega to speak at their Census kick-off events last week in northern and southern California.

Faleomavaega likes to tell groups they need to be more visible. He would do well to take his own advice. As we have said so many times in the past, he travels so much that he is not really very well known in Washington and is not very influential. In fact he has done so little to get American Samoa noticed that if go to the internet and click on the Census Bureau’s website,, and click on the menu of states on the right, you will find the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, but not American Samoa.

Also try entering American Samoa’s zip code, 96799. The site does not recognize it as a valid zip code. Fortunately, the Postal Service does although considering the lack of speed of service, sometimes that is debatable as well.

Fortunately for Faleomavaega, there was no Q&A session for someone to ask him why his own territory is forgotten. What an embarrassment. Anyone who is a regular reader of this blog knows the answer. This is just yet more proof.

If you are reading this blog later than March 8, 2010, then you know that even if Faleomavaega gets no attention in Washington, someone reading this blog has reported the omission to Census and they have addressed the matter. If so, we will take credit.

Faleomavaega Backs Hawaiian Apartheid

Apartheid (separateness) was a system of legal racial segregation in South Africa and, by extension, is a term applied now to any similar policy of racial separation. Last week Faleomavaega skipped the most important Washington meeting of the year for territories: the annual meeting of the Interagency Group on Insular Affairs. Co-chaired by the White House and the Department of the Interior, it brings together to discuss make federal issues, the territorial governor, delegates to Congress and senior White House and cabinet officials.

What was so important for Faleomavaega to miss the meeting? He chose, instead, to witness the final debate and vote on the latest attempt by Congress to create a separate sovereign government for Native Hawaiian people. Faleomavaega proudly announced publicly that he chose that floor activity over the IGIA meeting and issued a press release saying “the House took a historical step towards affording our Pacific brothers and sisters the opportunity to organize their own government similar to the First Americans and the indigenous Native Alaskans. This legislation is a culmination of 10 years of hard work…”

Since the House already had passed the measure before only to see it die in the Senate each time, the only reason he could have labeled it historic is because House Democrats added new provisions backed by left-wing radical Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D) that made the legislation so onerous (and thought by many to be unconstitutional) that Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle (D), heretofore a proponent, was forced to withdraw her support. That was enough to prompt nearly every Republican in the House to abandon the measure, which then passed on a party line vote.

Chances of Senate passage have dimmed considerably with the Democrats loss of their super majority so it is unclear what Faleomavaega gains by giving priority attention to the issue, which is well outside his jurisdiction. However, it must be remembered that while he was born in American Samoa, his family emigrated to Hawaii when he was at a young age, and his formative years actually were spent in the Aloha State. With schooling there and on the Mainland and army service, followed by work in the federal government and ultimately election to Congress, besides his early childhood Faleomavaega has lived in American Samoa only for the two years in the run up to his first unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1980 and then again the four years he served as lt. governor.

Some people question even counting the latter four years because he traveled frequently with the blessing of the governor, who found him an annoying thorn in his side. Indeed, he once was absent for nearly half a year during his term riding around the Pacific with the crew of the Hokule’a Hawaiian Voyaging Canoe. In fact, Faleomavaega does not even have his own home in American Samoa, so it is no wonder many believe his heart lies mainly with Hawaii.

His support for a race-based government in Hawaii is consistent with the racism he has displayed over the years. In short, as one person put it, “He hates haoles.” Born in the early 1940s, perhaps it was white racism he experienced in early in life that informs his world view today. Unlike Indian tribes that are governed in specific geographical areas with defined borders, Native Hawaiians are thoroughly mixed in the islands, making management of a separate government a difficult proposition. Given his past radicalism and devotion to lost causes, it is not hard to imagine that his support of the bill will carry no weight in the Senate and may marginally harm the cause.

So, Eni, do your friends a favor and keep on traveling. Easter vacation is coming up in a couple of weeks, so get your bags packed. Memo to the folks at home: don’t hold your breath waiting for him to appear here.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Faleomavaega Uninfluential with Japan, Too

Faleomavaega Uninfluential with Japan, Too

Perhaps Faleomavaega spends so much of his time abroad because he gets the respect there that he has not been shown in Washington. However, it appears he has as little influence in Japan as he does in the U.S.

During the Tokyo stop of his four-nation Asian swing in January, he commented that the feelings of the Okinawa people should take priority in deciding on the future relocation of U.S. bases on the island. The move of 8,000 Marines to Guam has been stalled in part because the people, to whom the new Government of Japan has been sensitive, want other bases there, which were to be moved elsewhere on the island under the agreement with the U.S. on the Guam move, to be shut down and the personnel on those bases also moved to Guam or the Northern Marianas.

No doubt Faleomavaega was hoping to break the logjam. Well, apparently he did—but not in the way he intended. Signaling a possible end to the dispute, a Japan vice defense minister has told Bloomberg News that the Japanese government will allow a U.S. military base to stay on Okinawa. Okinawan residents will be offered "compensation" in return for accepting the Japan government's decision.

So, if the Bloomberg story is correct, the Japanese will have ignored both the people on Okinawa who want all 50,000 U.S. troops moved off the island, and Faleomavaega, who says the people’s feeling should be the determining factor. The Japanese obviously do not give any great weight to Faleomavaega’s chairmanship of the House subcommittee that has oversight of U.S.-Japan relations.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Faleomavaega Ineffectiveness Underscored in Healthcare Debate

There are five non –voting delegates to Congress from the U.S. territories. All of them are Democrats, the majority party in both houses of Congress. Faleomavaega is the most senior of them by far and has the additional advantage of having endorsed Barack Obama’s campaign for the presidency very early in the process. In other words, he is owed. But so far he has been unable to collect. We have recounted numerous instances since his party can back into power and especially since Obama also has been in office, where he has been snubbed, insulted and dismissed by political leaders in Congress and the White House.

The latest example comes with the health care debate. The territories have been omitted from the trillion dollar package that is moving through Congress. This letter was co-signed by all the delegates but it particularly highlights the ineffectiveness of Faleomavaega, since he is the senior member and should have the most clout. Let the words speak for themselves in this letter jointly addressed to Obama, Sen. Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

“The current Proposal is clearly unfair in its treatment of [those] living in the U.S. territories [and] also runs contrary to numerous written pledges and verbal assurances . . . received from the Administration and congressional leaders . . . We cannot understand how one can justify such treatment of one’s fellow Americans . . . What is so dispiriting is that the Proposal flies in the face of a nearly-constant stream of pledges and assurances from the Administration that the territories would be fairly treated in the final legislation . . . Our constituents deserve to be treated as first-class citizens in all aspects of our democracy, in war and in peace. This Proposal fails them and, therefore, we cannot support it in its present form.”

Of course, the threat of withholding support rings rather hollow because these delegates are all non-voting. Nevertheless, the proposal passed the House by only a 220-215 margin last year and the delegates did con clued their letter with the threat that “[w]e are sure that many of our voting colleagues from the states—particularly those who represent the millions of Americans born in the territories—will have similar concerns.”

Vice President Joe Biden as a senator for years told the story of advice he got from a powerful senior committee chairman when he first entered the senate. The chairman told him the best way Biden could get his agenda accomplished was to never send the chairman a letter he did not want to receive. Obviously the point he was making was that it was better to work behind the scenes to accomplish your goals than to try to crate public pressure towards the same end.

Perhaps the delegates have worked something out with the White House or the House and now are just publicizing their position for the record but it does not sound like it. It appears they are con fronting their colleagues and Obama in hopes public pressure will force modification of the health car plan. Given his kamikaze approach, Faleomavaega might have tried this approach on his own, but it is doubtful the delegates from the other small territories would have gone along without the cover of Puerto Rico. The small islands do not have any significant leverage but Puerto Rico does because of the sizable Diaspora in key states with pivotal elections this year. Whether this letter will get the desired results remains to be seen.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Faleomavaega Snubs White House

Every year the National Governors Association holds its winter meeting in Washington in late February. To take advantage of all the territorial governors being in the capital for that gathering, Congress schedules budget hearings and a number of other groups hold meetings as well, including, in recent years, the Interagency Group on Insular Affairs (IGIA). Established by President Clinton, the group is in theory co-chaired by the President and the Secretary of the Interior, as the head of the lead department on territorial issues.

As a practical matter, the IGIA is co-chaired by a White House staffer on behalf of the president and the lead insular officer at Interior, an assistant secretary in the Obama administration. The congressional delegates and their staff also are invited and usually participate because this is the one time of the year that the federal government pays major attention to insular issues. About a dozen federal agencies send senior representatives so it a forum that cannot easily be matched.

Surely it is a crucial meeting for American Samoa, given its serious economic woes and pending legislation in Congress to forestall the departure of the territory’s remaining tuna cannery. Sitting shoulder to shoulder with his governor, this is the chance for Faleomavaega to make a real push to get Obama administration backing for his bill.

No question that Faleomavaega needs the exposure for he has been out of the country for most of this year so far. He started with a trip to Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Japan (where the Pentagon may not have been too happy he said the wishes of the people must come first in the move of the U.S. Marines on Okinawa). Then he was in Washington long enough to wash his underwear before heading off to Morocco, Spain and Austria.

But in what must have been a stunning admission to all who heard him make it at the House Insular subcommittee’s hearing on Wednesday, Faleomavaega proudly if not arrogantly admitted he skipped the IGIA meeting so he could watch the final vote on the Hawaii Sovereignty Act on the House floor. Last we looked, Hawaii is not a part of his congressional constituency. And since he has no vote on the floor, there was no need for him to b e there. Even if he had a vote, the final result was already a foregone conclusion. Besides, this is only a first step. The bill still needs to be considered by the Senate where, if it passes, certainly will have been amended and will need reconsideration by the House before final passage. The bottom line is that this was not a valid reason to miss the IGIA meeting and snub the White House in the process—since he is hoping to have Obama stop in American Samoa on the way back from his Australia trip.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Critics of Faleomavaega Visit to Hmong Camp Persist

Faleomavaega’s travel blitz covering Asia, North Africa, Europe and the Western Pacific over the past six weeks has been so truly breathtaking in his scope it is difficult to remember that one of his first stops was Laos, where he pronounced returning Hmong refugees free from persecution in their repatriation camp outside the capital. Early on he was denounced for turning a blind eye to the real situation and even though he is long gone and on to other issues, the criticism persists.

However, that testimony has not pacified many observers concerned about the status of the recently repatriated Hmong. Writing for Worldnet Daily, Anthony C. LoBaido says Faleomavaega’s “testimony has not pacified many observers concerned about the status of the recently repatriated Hmong.”

LoBaido notes that Amnesty International contends Thailand's deportation of the Hmong "violated [Thailand's] obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which provides that state parties must not send people to countries where they risk torture. The government also claimed, after holding them [the Hmong] for three years in arbitrary detention in constant fear of forcible return, that the Hmong agreed to return to Laos voluntarily. In fact, the Thai authorities told them that they would be resettled to third countries only if they first agreed to go back to Laos."

The U.S. ambassador to Thailand wrote in the Bangkok Post that "All the refugees we interviewed in Nong Khai told us on December 28th, that they did not wish to return to Laos, clearly indicating that the return was involuntary. The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program was available to consider referrals of individuals from this community. This was clearly articulated repeatedly by U.S. officials. Both the UNHCR and the Royal Thai Government had, indeed, determined that many among this population were in need of protection. And the United States, along with many other countries, stood ready to provide third-country resettlement as an option, but this course was not allowed."

Like the People’s Republic of China and Vietnam, two other governments Faleomavaega likes to champion, Laos is a Communist dictatorship. One has to wonder what it is about communist dictatorships that Faleomavaega finds so appealing, especially when so many other people see things that seem to escape his attention.

The complete Worldnet story can be found at

We are not holding our breath that Samoa News to cover this continuing story or anything else about his travel. At this point, we would settle for the paper to simplyh inform its readers that over the past six weeks, the delegate has visited Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Morocco, Spain, Austria and Palau in three separate junkets, with very little time in Washington, which, supposedly, is his duty station.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Faleomavaega in Travel Frenzy; Voters Unaware

Once again, we have to use the internet and other methods to find out what is or is not going on in Washington or other parts of the world as it involves American Samoa or our leaders because Samoa News, the primary source of information on this island, DOES NOT INFORM ITS READERS.

Oh yes, we are getting a blow-by-blow report on the trial and now jury deliberations of our lt. governor and one of our senators, but the Governor is in Washington for a whole bunch of important meetings, including the National Governors’ Conference, the Pacific Basin Development Council, the Coral Reef Task Force, congressional hearings and who knows what else. This week all the territorial governors are in DC because of the NGA meeting, which includes a meeting with the President and a dinner at the White House. So a lot of other organizations hold their meetings (and congressional hearings) to take advantage of everyone being there.

Therefore, this week over the years has become one of the busiest and most important for island officials. Has Samoa News ever told us that? No. Will they tell us what is going on this week? Doubtful. Most likely they will wait for the governor’s return and the issuance of a press release. Or, if the governor doesn’t hand one out, they will wait for his radio report to the people, take notes from that and write a story about the radio program. Seriously.

And with this week being as important as it is, all the island delegates in Congress can be expected to be in place, right? Most will be. How about American Samoa? After all, Faleomavaega has his “crucial” ASPIRE bill in the works. You would think he would want to take this opportunity to brief the governor and enlist his support to get the bill moving. You would think he also would want to accompany the governor to the PBDC and Coral Reef meetings so he can follow up with initiatives in Congress. You would think he would want to partipate in an oversight hearing by a subcommittee which he is the senior member of.

Then there is the matter of Faleomavaega’s quite public invitation to President Obama to visit American Samoa on his way back from Australia, which he will visit after Guam and Indonesia next month. Surely he will want to coordinate efforts with his governor, since the governor will be seeing the President twice, once at a White House dinner and again the next day at a White House meeting with governors only. Needless to say, this is the best opportunity to press the case for a stop, which is optional at best since Air Force 1 does not need to refuel between Australia and the U.S. Mainland.

Now, we don’t have any more access to information than anyone else, so we can only speculate. But we can do some fundamental calculations based on time, distance, airplane speeds and access to information on the internet, the same information everyone else has, including Samoa News. In a February 19 CSCE press release, Faleomavaega was quoted making a statement at an interparliamentary meeting in Vienna, Austria that day. The National Governors’ meeting starts Feb. 20 and ends Feb. 22.

Other meetings follow all this week, including two hearings conducted by the House insular subcommittee. One of those hearings, at which the governor surely will testify, is on Feb. 24. It is the Oversight Hearing on the President's Fiscal Year 2011 budget requests for the Office of Insular Affairs. That is the office that funds our ASG operating budget and that is also the subcommittee that has jurisdiction over Faleomavaega’s ASPIRE bill that has gone nowhere since the hearing on it last fall. This is also the chance to brief Congress on the tsunami last September and the urgent need for additional federal assistance. Under the circumstances, no hearing could be more crucial to us.

Yet, I have a PINA news story that says Faleomavaega has accepted an invitation to be the keynote speaker at a Tuna Policy Summit in Palau on February 25. Given the distance to Palau from Washington and adding the international dateline as a factor, it is difficult to see how Faleomavaega can attend two House hearings on the 24th and give a speech in Koror on the 25th. We will be watching the hearings on the internet to see if he is there. It is also hard to imagine he got back to Washington from Vienna in time to have any serious meetings with the governor before the governor went off to be with the president on February 21 and 22.

If there is a verdict in the lt. governor’s trial, you can bet that the Samoa News special correspondent covering the trial will have that result flashed back to Samoa News immediately but while he is waiting, do not expect him to cover any of what I have recounted above. Even if he did file a story, you could bet that Faleomavaega’s sister-in-law, who is one of the editors, would be certain that its readers remained ignorant of their delegate’s outright dereliction of duty. All they know is that he has invited Obama to American Samoa. Never mind whether Obama actually shows up. The fact that Faleomaveaga invited him proves to them how influential he is. It’s not results that count and it’s not even effort that counts. It’s perception of effort is all that matters. Give us a break.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Tiring of public criticism over their frequent breaks during the year, Congress some years ago renamed their recesses “district work periods” to more accurately reflect what Members were doing during the times Congress was not in session. Right now they are in the midst of the Presidents’ Day district work period and, being an election year in which voter anger at incumbents is extraordinarily high, most Members indeed are back home pressing the flesh and tending to constituent needs.


But not all.

The American Samoa Fono (legislature), which is part time and only meets for 60 days in two sessions per year, just happens to have resumed its first session of the year. What marvelous timing, because it gives Faleomavaega an opportunity to report to the legislature the progress of his ASPIRE bill designed to dissuade the territory’s remaining tuna cannery from pulling out. There are a whole host of other issues as well and since the President has just submitted his FY2011 budget to Congress, it is timely to make sure the needs of the local government are reviewed so Faleomavaega can have fresh input on the appropriations process on their behalf.

Surely one would expect Faleomavaega to be on hand. After all he sacrificed being in his seat in Washington when his party took charge of Congress in January, 2007 so he could be on hand for the ceremonial opening of the Fono that year. Even though by so doing he was out of town when new Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a flick of the wrist ordered Rep. George Miller to add American Samoa to the minimum wage bill that was first order of business (H.R. 2). Besides, Faleomavaega is just back from an extensive trip to Asia.

Oh, wait. We forgot. Faleomavaega is not in Pago Pago but in Morocco on his way to Spain to visit a naval base and hold bilateral talks. Then it’s off to Austria to participate in a parliamentary meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Hmm. We checked the committee roster and, nope, he’s not on the subcommittee that deals with North Africa-Middle East issues. And, nope, he is not on the Europe subcommittee. And he’s not on the subcommittee that deals with international organizations. Maybe this is his consolation prize for being left out of the Speaker’s delegation to Copenhagan for the U.N. Conference on Climate Change last year—even though that is precisely an issue over which his subcommittee does have jurisdiction.

Even though he will miss the Fono, his Europe meetings should be over in time to get him back to Washington to confer with his governor, who arrives over the weekend for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association and several other groups that will be meeting while all the governors are in town.

Wait until the Fono reads about this in the territory’s only daily newspaper. They will be enraged and so will the voters. Oh, I forgot. They won’t know about this because Samoa News, which carefully protects the dear traveling congressman, won’t tell anyone. Faleomavaega’s sister-in-law, an editor at the paper, will see to that.

And so it goes.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Faleomavaega Continues Assault on Clinton

Despite the backlash caused by his intemperate public attack on President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for Clinton ignoring the small Pacific Islands in her first visit to the region, which was truncated by the Haiti earthquake, Faleomavaega appears intent on continuing the assault, regardless of the consequences.

At a recent appearance before Pacific Island students at the University of Utah, according to a story in the Utah Daily Chronicle, he "expressed discontent with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to Asia, during which she passed over a visit to the islands, which he referred to as “fly-by diplomacy.”

The Chronicle quoted the delegate as saying “We have developed a new policy for the Pacific,” referring to a lack of interaction between American Samoa and the United States. “This is sad, but true.”

The Chronicle did not report if he reminded students that as chairman of the House subcommittee on Asia, Pacific and the Global Environment, he shares in the responsibility for developing American policy to the region. In a recent story in Samoa News, the local Republican Party of American Samoa pointed out that American involvement in the Pacific Islands has declined in direction proportion to the rise of Faleomavaega's seniority and supposed influence in Congress.

Has anyone in the media asked the delegate when the last time Clinton has had a private meeting with him to discuss U.S. policy in the region and issues over which his subcommittee has jurisdiction. Not Samoa News, where his sister-in-law is one of the editors. But apparently not the Utah Chronicle either. They headlined their story "Delegate stresses ties to culture for Pacific Islanders." The issue of U.S. involvement in the Pacific was buried in the story's 10th paragraph, right at the end.

As yet, no one seems to have connected the dots. Lisa Williams and the rest of his press staff back in Washington can give themselves another High Five.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Faleomavaega's money

The Free Republic blog picked up on a Samoa News Story in which Faleomavaega claimed he sent $500,000 down to American Samoa for call centers under the headline "U.S. Congressional Delegate from American Samoa, Eni Faleomavaega Believes Taxpayer Dollars are HIS."

Here are a variety of reader reactions to the story:

Typical of the morons in Congress, the delegate from American Samoa believes that HE is the one sending funds to help his people when indeed it is the American TAXPAYERS. The man, who is Samoan, is also taking a shot at one of his targets in American Samoa simply because he wants to introduce the Samoan people to other opportunities besides packing tuna. It is time to send ALL of Congress home regardless of party affiliation!

Acute Obamaitis.

It's going around.

They can try to horn in on Barney Frank’s packing operations. If they can pack tuna, they can certainly pack fudge.

“Faleomavaega” (def- noun) - A disease of the crotch, a puss-oozing sore.

It is time to send ALL of Congress home regardless of party affiliation!

I wonder how much pork those “delegates” take home to their non-American places of origin.

As one of a few freepers living in American Samoa, I am friends with Eni. Of all the problems in today’s society, American Samoa suddenly found itself subject to the increase of the minimum wage, thanks to Nancy Pelosi. This led to the shutdown of Chicken of the Sea, and the reduction of jobs with Star-Kist. Add a tsunami last September and the only thing keeping this economy going is FEMA money and SBA loans.

Until the United States Government stops relegating this Territory as a backwater, the Territory of American Samoa will never prosper.

they ARE his dollars. They sure are not yours or mine.

Nancy Pelosi, Samoa, tuna, minimum wage exemption.... I remember this. Now, to make all Americans serfs eking out livings with Chinese wages, eating dogs and begging for crumbs.

And someone researched and posted his liberal positions on the site. The voters would be outraged but they will never know because the daily newspaper, Samoa News, will never let them know:

Voted YES on expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines. (Jan 2007)
Voted YES on allowing human embryonic stem cell research. (May 2005)
Voted NO on restricting interstate transport of minors to get abortions. (Apr 2005)
Voted NO on making it a crime to harm a fetus during another crime. (Feb 2004)
Voted NO on banning partial-birth abortion except to save mother’s life. (Oct 2003)
Voted NO on forbidding human cloning for reproduction & medical research. (Feb 2003)
Voted NO on funding for health providers who don't provide abortion info. (Sep 2002)
Voted NO on banning Family Planning funding in US aid abroad. (May 2001)
Voted NO on federal crime to harm fetus while committing other crimes. (Apr 2001)
Voted NO on banning partial-birth abortions. (Apr 2000)
Voted NO on barring transporting minors to get an abortion. (Jun 1999)
Rated 100% by NARAL, indicating a pro-choice voting record. (Dec 2003)
Emergency contraception for rape victims at all hospitals. (Sep 2006)
Rated 0% by the NRLC, indicating a pro-choice stance. (Dec 2006)
Provide emergency contraception at military facilities. (Apr 2007)
Ensure access to and funding for contraception. (Feb 2007)
Focus on preventing pregnancy, plus emergency contraception. (Jan 2009)


On the website, Joshua Kucera wrote that at a recent hearing of the U.S. Helsinki Commission marking Kazahkstan’s assumption of the rotating presidency of OSCE, Faleomavaega said Kazakhstan’s recent human rights record should be seen in the context of the country’s decision to give up the nuclear weapons it inherited from the Soviet Union. "While human rights groups continue to point fingers at Kazakhstan, I submit that only Kazakhstan had the moral courage to renounce nuclear weapons altogether for the sake of all mankind." He said Faleomavaega also noted that Kazakhstan public opinion polls showed a high level of support for the United States. "This is a direct result of President Nazarbayev’s leadership and commitment in the service of his people." The website Kazakhstan Today reported in 2006 that at a Washington dinner honoring Nazarbayev, Faleomavaega said "I consider that the President of Kazakhstan deserves to receive the Nobel Prize for his contribution to cause of peace on the Earth."

Kucera quoted Erica Marat, a political analyst who was in attendance, as saying the hearing was a "missed opportunity [in which] Kazakhstan’s leadership was once again given soft treatment for failing to fulfill the promises the government made at the OSCE Madrid conference in 2007. Because there was little attention paid to the more substantive issues Kazakhstan is facing today, the entire hearing was of little value. It just served to help Kazakhstan’s campaign for a better international image."

Noted Kucera: one member of the Helsinki Commission, Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), referred to Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record in his written comments: "Given the distinctive focus of the Helsinki Commission on democracy, human rights and the rule of law, I would be remiss not to note that Kazakhstan is the first country assessed as "not free" by Freedom House to assume the OSCE chairmanship."

Meanwhile, the Epoch Times wrote that “Fiji’s interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, announced that democratic elections are still planned for 2014, but any elected government will follow the military’s plan for Fiji’s future. The leader says his aim to establish a multicultural nation has some support, but his methods of achieving it have been raising concerns amid democratic nations. Bainimarama, who took over the country during a 2006 military coup, plans for the military to oversee any newly elected Fijian government, ensuring continued military authority over a wide range of institutions, such as the Great Council of Chiefs and the Methodist Church. The former naval officer has exhibited few democratic principles so far, while exiling some of his critics and gagging local dissent, including the media.”

Nonetheless, the Times quoted Falomavaega as saying “Bainimarama has made it clear that he intends to draft a constitution that will reflect the country’s unique culture and history. He has also promised to enact electoral reforms that will establish equal suffrage and to hold free, fair, and democratic elections,” which the Times called “a surprising display of support last year. The Times also quoted Amnesty International’s Pacific researcher Apolosi Bose as saying “With Fiji cracking down even harder on its own people, this is not the time for New Zealand and other countries in the region to back down from their strong stance. They must intensify their calls for Fiji to immediately halt arbitrary arrests, intimidation, threats, assaults and detention of critics of the regime.”

In an opinion piece for Fairfax News, Faleomavaega says sanctions have not been helpful. “Canberra and Washington have employed heavy-handed tactics and misguided sanctions that have hurt average Fijians far more than the interim government at which they were targeted,” he wrote. “Foreign policy elites in Australia and New Zealand erroneously view the region with a Eurocentric mentality without having a better sense of appreciation of Fiji’s colonial history.”

It seems this must be Faleomavaega’s “balanced approach” to foreign policy: if you are going to be an apologist for the left wing dictator of Kazahkstan, you also should do the same for the right wing dictator in Fiji.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Remember that you read it here first. January 8, 2010 is the day Faleomavaega reached the peak of his influence in Washington. If you are startled because you have read so many of our previous essays in which we indicated that he is lightly regarded in Congress, there is no contradiction. He is not very influential to begin with, but whatever influence he has had, he began to lose once he issued a press release—widely printed throughout the region—publicly criticizing President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for ignoring the small island states during her aborted trip to the region. Once a copy of the release crossed the desk of Rahm “the Enforcer” Emanuel, who was brought in as White House Chief of Staff because of his ability to keep House Democrats in line behind Obama, we can easily imagine him reacting “What a f**king retard.”

Just 11 days after Faleomavaega’s injudicious attack on the leaders of his own party, Massachusetts Republicans captured the senate seat previously held by Edward M. Kennedy and set off a political earthquake in Washington. Coupled with victories last November in governorships in New Jersey and Virginia, Republicans gained enough momentum to derail Obama’s legislative agenda and leave open the question of what Congress will accomplish this year. As congressional Democrats’ fortunes fall, so, too, do Faleomavaega’s. After all he has a lot riding on his proposed legislation to bail out StarKist so they will keep their tuna cannery in American Samoa.

In his 21 years in Congress, Faleomavaega always has had an explanation for his ineffectiveness that the voters swallowed hook, line and sinker. After a very narrow first election in 1988, when he ran for re-election in 1990 and 1992, he explained how difficult it was for him to do much because the White House was controlled by a Republican who did not give much priority to the territories. After he was re-elected in 1992 along with a Democratic president to go along with continued Democratic control of Congress, he told the media that they had to produce now that his party controlled everything.

But in fact he produced nothing in the next two years but when facing the voters in 1994, he argues that he still was much too junior in the House to have any great achievements. Be patient, he counseled, be patient. Of course, on election night the voters sent him back to the House by a comfortable margin but the House and Senate would be quite different, because Republicans had taken control of both chambers.

For the next three terms he told voters he was doing the best he could under the circumstances (of being in the minority) and for three more terms he spoke of the additional burden of trying to accomplish things with a Congress and White House run by Republicans. But then in 2006, Democrats won back control of the Congress and Faleomavaega had acquired enough seniority to be awarded a subcommittee chairmanship.

House leaders no doubt were relieved that Faleomavaega’s interest was in foreign affairs because that is a subject over which the House has little power. Eni has proved himself a loose cannon over the years, so they hoped he would do little damage as chairman of the Asia Pacific subcommittee. He still argues he was somewhat handcuffed because George Bush still ruled the White House.

Then came 2008. Like 1992, Democrats won it all, only this time Eni now was very senior in his party, had a subcommittee chairmanship and had the advantage of having been an early supporter of Barack Obama while the nomination was still contested. Moreover, Obama grew up in Hawaii, as did Faleomavaega. So when Congress convened in January 2009, at last Faleomavaega had it all.

Now, just a year later, it all has come crashing down with his press release. As crazy as the move seems, perhaps there he is setting up a new excuse for failure. Let’s take a look at what has happened since Eni has “had it all” with Obama’s inauguration.

• He was not invited to accompany Hillary Clinton on her trip to Indonesia last year, even though Indonesia’s West Papua policy is his number one issue;
• The Speaker did not invite him to join her congressional delegation to Beijing to discuss climate change, even though both China and global environment are within the jurisdiction of his subcommittee;
• The Speaker did not invite him to join her massive delegation to international global warming talks in Copenhagen;
• Obama did not invite him to the State Dinner for the Prime Minister of India, even though he is a senior member of the congressional caucus on India;
• Hillary Clinton did not seek his input on the itinerary for her trip to the Pacific, ignored small island state issues in her East West Center address, did not invite Faleomavaega to be there for her speech and did not invite him on her trip;
• The administration and several Democratic colleagues testified against his proposed legislation to subsidize StarKist so they will stay in American Samoa.
• The Interior budget for FY11 contains no funds for a prospective StarKist bailout.

So, if this is the peak of his influence, what’s the point? Perhaps his attack on Obama and Clinton was meant to put him in a position to be “punished” so he has yet another excuse at election time as to why he did not deliver. Why not? After all, his condemnation of his leaders was embraced warmly by his electorate.

Meanwhile, his fortunes in Washington continue on a downward spiral. But as long as he has the checkbook to pay for his relentless travel schedule, why should he care? Especially since he has Samoa News in his pocket, willing to cover up any and all of his foibles and failures.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Faleomavaega Escapes Local Scrutiny Again

The hands of Lisa Williams must be raw from all the high fives she gets from other staff when the local media lets her boss Faleomavaega skate out of yet more difficulty in trying to explain how American Samoa will fare under national policies being considered. Williams, who is Faleomavaega’s chief press aide, also is his chief of staff, top legislative assistant and, with her six-figure salary partly paid by the Foreign Affairs Committee, his chief foreign policy adviser as well. Some say she performs other services for Faleomavaega as well but that’s a story for another day.

Since Faleomavaega gets mainly positive coverage in the local media in American Samoa, you would have to say Williams well earns her hefty salary. But you would have to consider that it isn’t a fair fight in the first place. American Samoa has two newspapers. One is more of a community newspaper that comes out three times a week and does not have the resources to do much more than run his press releases. The larger, daily, newspaper, Samoa News, is an Associated Press affiliate and does have the resources but it, too, contents itself largely with running Faleomavaega’s releases. He is also helped by the fact that his sister-in-law is one of the paper’s editors.

The single television station is government-owned and has an evening newscast that largely ignores the delegate. Only one of the local radio stations has a local news operation. It, too, pretty much runs his releases. Another station gives the delegate an hour each week for a show with content of his own choosing, so a sitting member of Congress could hardly have a sweeter deal than that. No wonder Williams has the time to do multiple jobs at once. She hardly has to break a sweat in dealing with the local press and, somewhat surprisingly, no one in the national press has paid much attention to Faleomavaega, even though fewer than 8,000 people every two years have made it possible for him to rise in Congress to the point at which he now is only two heartbeats away from chairing the House Foreign Affairs Committee. That would make him ostensibly a key shaper of American Foreign Policy, as frightening as that thought would be.

However, as Faleomavaega has demonstrated over an over again, he is no team player and has a foreign policy of his own, even if no one can figure out what it is. Consistency has never been his strongest suit. So, even though he is a protege of the late Rep. Phil Burton, the same San Francisco congressman who mentored Nancy Pelosi and George Miller, it is unlikely they will ever put the House’s foreign affairs machinery into his unstable hands. Evidence? Pelosi took a delegation to China last year to discuss climate change but did not include Eni, even though his subcommittee has jurisdiction over China and global environmental issues. She also did not put him on her massive delegation to Copenhagen for international global warming talks.

If anything, Faleomavaega’s foreign policy seems to be pro-dictator. He famously toasted Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi a couple of years ago on one of his multiple trip to Vietnam and in January this year he helped the local Cambodia Communists celebrate the annual observance of the Vietnam communists’ invasion of Cambodia to topple the Pol Pot government. That gesture was so controversial that the other members of his delegation diplomatically absented themselves from the occasion.

He is so loved in Kazakhstan that the dictator there (who also held the job as a Communist during Soviet times) even took out an advertisement in the Washington Post to praise one of his several visits to the central Asian country. He also has turned in recent years from being a friend of Taiwan to being an ardent backer of the regime in Beijing and--in a demonstration it is not just communists he adores--he has become the chief defender of Fiji’s military dictatorship, in the process condemning (and alienating) Australia and New Zealand. He has no fans in Jakarta because of his attempts to force Indonesia to give up its West Papua province, they are not wild about him in Ankara because of his stance on Armenian genocide and Tokyo is not pleased about his demands that Japan compensate World War II Korean sex slaves.

But how much of all this do the people know about in American Samoa? None. Unless he puts it in a press release, the local media will not touch it. And the voters cheer him on even if members of his own party in Washington wish he would just go away. There always are hopes because his health has been in general decline for years and at age 67 he can’t hope to go on much longer. He can hardly walk, has had major heart surgery and is seriously overweight. His travel schedule is so brutal, that he can be seen nodding off to sleep in congressional hearings on occasions when he is passing through Washington.

One occasion in Washington he never misses is the annual State of the Union address. Viewers always know he is there because he is one of those members who shows up in the House chamber hours early on the day of the speech so he can assure himself a seat on the aisle the president comes down as he makes his way to the podium. That way he can shake hands with the president and be seen on television. Except this year.

Adorned with his trademark bolo tie (the only member of the House who does not regularly wear a standard necktie--not even those members with Indian blood wear the bolo), he could be seen this year sitting next to his freshman colleague from the Northern Marianas on a separate aisle. Perhaps he wanted some distance after having blasted Obama last week for not ordering Secretary of State to hold a summit with island leaders while she was in the region.

So, how did he escape local scrutiny again? Well, at the State of Union, Obama asked Congress to impose a three-year spending freeze on all discretionary domestic programs. The story of the speech was carried in Samoa News but buried in the paper and no attempt was made to tie the request to the local situation. A freeze would be significant if not fatal to the local economy because Faleomavaega is asking for a $25 million subsidy to offset mandated wage hikes which threaten to force the remaining cannery to pull out. In fact, the canner has asked for only a three-month extension of its tax exemption rather than a year as they await word on what Congress is willing to provide.

Not a word out of anyone as to what effect the spending freeze would have on Eni’s $25 million request. And there is no evidence Samoa News took the simple and logical step of asking him, either by phone or by e-mail or through Lisa Williams, what the freeze would mean. Not a word in the paper. Not a single word.

So, today Obama has sent a budget request to Congress for the fiscal year that begins October 1 (fiscal year 2011). It is in the amount of 3.8 trillion dollars. Now that the budget has been made public, the various agencies can talk about their programs. If not to Faleomavaega (who may be traveling), Samoa News could make a simple call to the director of the Office of Insular Affairs at Interior, a Samoan, or to the desk officer, also a Samoan, or to the director of OIA’s budget office to ask “how much has been included to fund Faleomavaega’s tiny request of $25 million?” That’s $25,000,000 out of a budget of $3.8 trillion. Not billion, but trillion!

Don’t hold your breath. Most likely Samoa News and the radio station will wait for his press handout in which he will brag once again how he helped prevent the budget cutters from whacking away at the $23 million subsidy it provides the local government for its operations and $10 million for capital improvements, even though those amounts have stayed at the same level the whole time he has been in office while the population has doubled. Lisa Williams can pull last year’s release out of the file, update it, send it off to Pago Pago and high five the staff again as she lights up her victory cigar.

We are betting there is NO money in the Interior budget for Faleomavaega’s little scheme, which should once and for all convince all doubters that his bill is going nowhere at all. Perhaps his attack on Clinton and Obama last week was meant to give him an excuse for not delivering: retaliation by Obama for him “standing up for the little guy.”

Stay tuned.