Ah, chicken fighting. No other issue combines so many hot buttons—cultural sensitivity, gambling, law enforcement, animal cruelty—and also features, well, chickens fighting. The fowl sport (sorry) is back in the news because of HCR277, a resolution co-introduced by Central Maui Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran that passed through the House Committee on Tourism, Culture and International Affairs (TCI) this week. The resolution does not, as some have suggested, legalize chicken fighting, which is prohibited by both federal and state law. Instead it “supports the recognition of cockfighting as a cultural activity.” (One of many reasons cited in the resolution text, and I swear I am not making this up: “Abraham Lincoln was nicknamed ‘Honest Abe’ not for his politics, but because of his fairness as a cockfighting referee.”) Of course, that hasn’t dampened the outrage of animal-rights advocates. In a scathing blog post, national Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle dismissed the cultural justification: “A wide array of animal abusers use the smokescreen of culture as a defense for their depravity, whether they are bullfighters, dogfighters, or seal clubbers. It is just amazing that a group of elected officials…would provide a defense for a group of known, professional lawbreakers who enjoy the sight of animals trying to hack each other to death and like to gamble on the outcome.” Of the 11 legislators who serve on the TCI, only six voted; the final tally was four in favor and two opposed. The other five members, including West Maui Rep. Angus McKelvey, were excused. Hey, I’m sure they were busy—those asses weren’t going to cover themselves. (Update: After I wrote that and right before deadline, the House shelved the resolution and Majority Leader Blake Oshiro told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that “absent some extraordinary measures…it’s dead.”)…
The idea of increasing the tax on imported oil to fund alternative energy and local food security has been floated (and sunk) before, but a bill currently moving through the legislature (see By the Numbers, page 9) appears to have momentum. It sounds clear-cut, yet there are sticking points. First, oil companies will pass the cost on to consumers because that’s what they do and no one can stop them, meaning higher gas prices and electricity bills. Second, the measure doesn’t raise taxes on coal or imported biofuels like palm oil. As Honolulu-based Life of the Land pointed out in testimony submitted to the legislature in February, “[t]axing oil but not coal and not tropical biofuels will cause oil to be more expensive…and may lead to fuel substitution.” Brings to mind the phrase Obama repeated often during the health care debate: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Guess it comes down to how many compromises you can make before something is compromised…. Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and…Prince Kuhio? Apparently so. In a March 26 Twitter post, Honolulu Councilman and Congressional candidate Charles Djou (@Djou4Hawaii) wrote that “Prince Kuhio, a Republican…is a role model for me as a Congressman.” Never mind that Kuhio started out as a member of the Home Rule Party of Hawaii, and the Republican Party he eventually joined in the early 1900s had about as much in common with today’s GOP as it did with the Whig Party—it never hurts to compare yourself to a guy who’s had a day named in his honor. (Note: Don’t think it escaped my attention that I’ve made two Abe Lincoln references in one column.)… If contributor Greg Mebel’s December story about cuts in the Maui Public Defender’s Office didn’t convince you Hawaii is a bad place to wind up in court, perhaps this will: A survey of the nation’s legal systems by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released this month gave the Aloha State low marks across the board, including “Judges’ Impartiality” (37th out of 50 states) and “Judges’ Competence” (36th out of 50). I would like to say, for the record, to any Maui judge in whose courtroom I may find myself: I’m sure this isn’t about you….
In this week’s feature (page 12), noted journalist and activist Norman Solomon exposes the shortcomings of the health care bill Obama signed into law this week. I’ll add that it’s been truly bizarre to watch a gutted, watered-down, lobbyist-placating piece of legislation that features no public option and plays directly into the hands of private insurance companies get successfully branded as socialism. It would be like if, in the weeks after we invaded Iraq, thousands of protestors had taken to the streets calling Bush a peacenik. I mean, I get it; the recipe is simple: take something you don’t like, slap an “ism” on it, whip your base into a frenzy and stand back with a satisfied smirk. I guess I’m just disappointed so many people swallowed it.