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.