Great news today for Hoku Scientific—the Hawai‘i-based tech firm that took advantage of a lucrative corporate welfare package and opened a huge plant in Pocatello, Idaho. Their stock jumped 50 percent today! From $4.58 to $7.02 a share, according to today’s online Pacific Business News! And the reason for such a fabulous jump in wealth? Hoku Materials has just agreed to a 10-year deal to supply polysilicon to China-based Suntech Power Holdings! The deal’s potentially worth $675 million! It’s globalism, baby! Innovation! It’s about trading with China, because of its fast growing economy! I mean, American companies big and small have been opening plants and selling junk—sorry, things—in China since 1972 when Richard Nixon played ping pong with Chairman Mao in Beijing. Too bad all that talk of how opening up the Chinese economy to western investment and trade would lead to democratic reforms. I mean, that turned out to be a royal crock, but hey, what’s wrong with a little company like Hoku making a quick buck in a giant authoritarian state?
THURSDAY, June 14
The Honolulu Advertiser website reported today that Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Whitehall real estate fund has bought a “substantial” chunk of Consolidated Resorts, Inc., which develops timeshares on Kauai and Maui. Of course, Goldman Sachs refused to disclose just what “substantial” meant, and it has that right, given that it controls so much land, wealth and power around the world that you’d think they invented money. In 2006 alone, the group reported $37.67 billion in net revenues and $9.54 billion in net earnings—so much money, in fact, that the company could afford to spread some of it around to, oh, the odd politician here and there. According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), Goldman Sachs’ political action committee donated $3.4 million to candidates in 2006, 61 percent of which went to Democrats. In fact, since 1990, CRP reports that Goldman Sachs’ $24.9 million in assorted campaign donations makes it the eighth biggest political contributor in the U.S. And now they’re buying up Maui timeshares—doesn’t it just make you feel all warm and loved inside?
FRIDAY, June 15
Today marks yet another dark day in annals of American marketing and commerce. For today, newspapers around the country have reported that yesterday Ronco Corp. declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Yes, Ronco—founded in 1958 by marketing genius/late night infomercial king Ron Popeil, the company gave the world the Pocket Fisherman, Showtime Rotisserie, GLH Spray Hair and the Veg-O-Matic slicer. The company apparently owes $32.7 million to various creditors, including Popeil himself (he sold the company two years ago for $40 million in cash and a $16 million note, and according to the Los Angeles Times is still owed $11.8 million). No need to put those credit cards away, though—current Ronco CEO John Reiland told the Times that the company plans to stay open and keep all current employees, though that’s undoubtedly a limited-time offer so he’ll have to act fast.
SATURDAY, June 16
Boy this didn’t take long at all. Bob Awana, Governor Linda Lingle’s chief of staff, probably hasn’t had been on the news 10 minutes in the last two years, but this week he fell into a full-fledged media frenzy. And the really fascinating thing is that all the scandals and accusations surrounding him are at least a few months old. First there’s Awana’s still mysterious role in the Rajadatta Patkar case (you can read our take on the case in reporter Greg Mebel’s “The Strange Case of Bob Awana,” June 14, 2007). Patkar’s been in a Honolulu prison cell since March on charges of allegedly trying to extort $35,000 from Awana, who says he helped the FBI bring down a dangerous blackmailer (Patkar says he was just trying to protect a girl in the Philippines from Awana’s clutches—a charge Awana denies). And now today, the Advertiser has a story reporting that “last year” the fed “questioned” Awana “as part of an ongoing public corruption probe into a Saipan waste management contract awarded in 2002. Saipan? Waste management? 2002? Sounds bizarre, yet according to the story, Awana “denied the government’s accusations that he bribed government officials in Saipan to secure a contract worth more than $1 million to run a landfill on the U.S. territory from 2002 to 2007.” Awana hasn’t been charged. And what does Lingle have to say about all this? Ironically, she’s been in Asia since the Awana stories started coming out, and apparently hasn’t been able to comment.
SUNDAY, June 17
Now that’s what I call leadership.
MONDAY, June 18
Speaking of which, reporter Seymour Hersh has a devastating story in this week’s The New Yorker reminding us yet again that the Bush Administration values slavish loyalty over honesty and accountability. It’s on the fate of U.S Army Major General Antonio M. Taguba, the former Hawai‘i resident who in 2004 headed the best, most incisive investigation of the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal. Guess what? The Pentagon refused to go after any senior officers implicated in the scandal, but didn’t hesitate to kill Taguba’s career, leaving him no option except to tell Hersh how he really feels. “From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service,” Taguba told Hersh. “And yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget these values. I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.”
TUESDAY, June 19
Doomed? Oh, yeah.
Anthony Pignataro was just saying. MTW