There are a lot of numbers associated with Maui Land & Pineapple’s decision, announced this week, to cease pineapple operations: 97, the number of years the company produced pineapple on Maui; 285, the number of people who will lose their jobs; $115 million, the amount ML&P’s agricultural arm has lost since 2002, according to a statement by interim CEO Warren Haruki. But numbers don’t tell the story. We’re witnessing the last remnants of the plantation era being swept away (on Kauai, Gay & Robinson formally shut down sugar cane operations, leaving HC&S standing alone), while the industry that ultimately took its place is also in a freefall. This is a significant moment, a turning point. Trouble is, no one knows what’s around the bend…. Last week I promised there’d be more twists in the Sol Kaho‘ohalahala residency dispute. I’m a man of my word: On October 30, the County Clerk approved Kaho‘ohalahala’s Lanai voter registration, a blow to those claiming the Councilman doesn’t live on the island, but instead resides in Lahaina. (Kaho‘ohalahala produced evidence—travel and bank records, an application to pay utilities, testimonials—that he wasn’t able to present in his unsuccessful appeal to the Supreme Court.) In an October 31 Maui News story, attorney Ben Lowenthal, who represents Kaho‘ohalahala, drew an analogy between his client’s most tenacious critics and people who continue to question the legitimacy of Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate. Coincidentally, I compared the “birthers” to unflushable turds in this space last week. I asked Lowenthal if he was really equating the two groups (I didn’t mention the turd thing). His reply was hard to argue with: Some people refuse to change their minds, “even in the face of evidence.”… It’s official: Halloween in Lahaina is going out with a whimper and not a bang. Hints of civil disobedience didn’t materialize, and with the crowds much thinner than usual, the most drastic sentiments expressed were boredom and disappointment. That’s what the Cultural Resources Commission wanted from the beginning, but it’s giving them way too much credit to say they single-handedly killed the party (the economy and the County are at least co-conspirators). Bottom line: the “Mardi Gras of the Pacific” is now more like Ash Wednesday….
Hawaii residents: you can stop paying attention to the national health care debate now. OK, that’s probably physically impossible unless you’re looking at real estate in or around the underside of a rock. But, if Senators Inouye and Akaka have their way (and all indications are they will), whatever muddled, compromise-ridden piece of omnibus legislation our fine lawmakers in Washington spit out, it will have zero direct impact on the Aloha State. See, back in 1974, the Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Act mandated that employers provide insurance to workers who log more than 20 hours a week, which puts us way ahead of the national pack, even 35 years later. Whether that’s good, bad or some weird combination of the two is hard to say….
Hey, why don’t we reach into our always-overflowing intolerance grab bag and see what turns up? Oh look at this: a press release from our old friends at the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) titled “Obama Signs Hate Crimes Bill Into Law.” PJI, for those new to the party, is an organization that offers legal defense to (often) intolerant religious people, and claims to promote religious tolerance in the process. (Logic is not their strong suit. They’re more the fire and/or brimstone types.) To quote directly from the release: The bill “will now provide heightened penalties and greater federal involvement in crimes against homosexuals and transgender persons.” Hmm. Obviously PJI isn’t sending me this to say they think it’s a good thing, but are they really going to say it’s a bad thing? Couldn’t they maybe stay on the sidelines, and agree that even if gay people are bound for the lake of eternal fire, perhaps it’s a good thing to discourage people from committing crimes against them while they’re sinning here on Earth? The answer, as you’ve surely divined, is no. More from the release: “Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, testified before Congress against the hate crimes bill in 2007. Dacus commented, ‘It is fundamentally unjust for the government to treat some crime victims more favorably than others, just because they are homosexual or transsexual. This bill is an unnecessary federal intrusion into state law enforcement authority, and it is an unwise step toward silencing religious and moral viewpoints.’” I had to read that twice, because at first it almost sounded like Dacus was saying that trying to prevent people from beating up and killing gay people would be the equivalent of “silencing religious and moral viewpoints.” Oh, but then I read it again and I realized—holy Beelzebub, that’s exactly what he’s saying. Good work, PJI. You keep fighting for the right of True Believers to harass, belittle and—hey why not—use violence against people they fear. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be over here using our brains and stuff. Don’t mind us, we’re going to hell anyway. We’ll meet you there.