And then there were three: former County Planning Director Chris Hart tossed his hat into the Mayoral ring last week, joining Mayor Tavares and former Mayor Alan Arakawa on the list of confirmed candidates. Based on behind-the-scenes rumblings that list is likely to grow before the campaign kicks into gear, so ruminations on who will split votes with whom would be premature and quite possibly moot. Hart’s best quote, in a November 5 Maui News piece: “Now that I’m at an age where I should be thinking about doing something different, I think I could make a contribution.” It’s the “I’m-too-old-for-this-stuff-but-elect-me-anyway” strategy, which has been both successful (Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan) and not so much (Bob Dole, John McCain)…. It took one year of rejection and one year of inaction, but the Lahaina Town Action Committee says it will pull a permit for Halloween on Front Street next year. Two questions loom: Will the Cultural Resources Commission acquiesce, and if so under what conditions? And, more essentially, is it too late to revive the event after two underwhelming years?… Got a heads-up from GMO-Free Maui this week about Islam Siddiqui, Obama’s nominee for the post of Chief Agricultural Negotiator, which is kind of a big deal as agricultural negotiators go. The environmental and anti-GMO crowds are up in arms because Siddiqui currently serves as Vice President for Science and Regulatory Affairs at CropLife America, an organization dedicated, according to its Web site, to representing “the developers, manufacturers, formulators and distributors of plant science solutions for agriculture and pest management in the United States.” So the guy’s a lobbyist for Dow, DuPont, Monsanto et al, and now—pending confirmation—he’s going to be a key player in shaping and implementing the government’s agricultural policy. Yes it’s frustrating, disappointing, maddening, etc. But more to the point: it’s completely predictable. This is the way it works, whether we’re talking defense contracts or corn seeds—you do some time in the private sector, you hop over to the public sector, you hop to the private sector, you keep hopping like a coqui frog on ice and many backs are mutually scratched. Oh yes, it’s important to pay attention and to call it when you see it, but at a certain point you reach outrage overload….
This week’s feature (page 12) is a guide for the recently unemployed. On the other side of the ledger is a September 17 release from the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR), warning businesses that unemployment insurance rates are going to jump significantly in 2010. Unempoyment insurance averaged $90 per employee in 2008 and 2009; that figure will “increase to about $450 to $2,040 per employee depending on the company’s unemployment experience rating,” according to DLIR Director Darwin Chang. Hawaii’s unemployment rate has ballooned from 2.2 percent to 7.2 percent in the span of a couple years; somebody’s gotta pay. But for businesses teetering on the edge, this could be a fatal shove….Following up on last week’s report about the availability—or lack thereof—of swine flu vaccine: according to a Honolulu Advertiser report, state health officials say 146,500 doses have been “allocated” for Hawaii, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve all been delivered, let alone administered. And even if they had, that would still leave more than 1 million Hawaii residents unvaccinated. Dr. Lorrin Pang, Maui’s representative in the state Department of Health, told me that the 1918 swine flu outbreak did most of its damage between late October and early January, meaning if this inoculation is going to be effective, it had better hurry up. (To be fair, Pang also said the two outbreaks are different and won’t necessarily follow the same pattern, but added we’d be “fool[s] not to pay attention.”) Of course, so far most swine flu cases haven’t been worse than regular seasonal flu, so unless you’re in one of the identified high-risk groups (pregnant women, people with underlying health conditions) it’s not time to panic. (OK, nobody should panic, but you get my meaning.) In the end, pointing fingers is easy (and in many cases warranted). But what this really shows is that battling widespread, pandemic diseases isn’t easy, and when you add layers of bureaucracy and inevitable miscommunication (here’s an actual quote from Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, in a video titled H1N1 Flu Vaccine—Why the Delay?, “we wish that it would be easier for people to find out a way that they could easily get vaccinated”)…well, let’s just say take your Vitamin C and wash your hands, kids….
As I read in an AP dispatch that Obama is “nearing a decision” to send close to 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan early next year, I was reminded of a strategy proposed by a charismatic young Senator during the 2008 presidential primaries: “We need a bold new approach—one that is smart, tough, and targeted. This will require us to look beyond the structures of World War II and the Cold War to new tools that will allow us to target terrorism more precisely. It will require sustained U.S. leadership—but the kind that leverages the power of partnerships, rather than going it alone. It will mean raising the level of cooperation between law enforcement and intelligence agencies—while preserving civil liberties and the rule of law.” No, that isn’t Obama, but rather John Edwards. Mind you, I’m not saying I wish Edwards were President. But his ideas—and yes, they were campaign promises, which is one small step above “bald-faced lies” on the believability ladder—resonate. As I noted a couple weeks ago, Afghanistan isn’t known as “the graveyard of empires” because it’s a good country to occupy. Maui Time Weekly, Jacob Shafer