Irony of the tragic kind struck last week, when the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) damaged a section of reef at Keawakapu in South Maui. The irony part comes in because DLNR did the damage while sinking large hunks of concrete meant to serve as an artificial reef habitat. In a December 3 release, the department says it has “suspended deployment of artificial reef forms while it investigates the extent of the inadvertent damage that may have been caused…” Imagine if a private company had done something like this. Or don’t imagine—just think back to 2006, when a Maui Dive Shop boat destroyed a section of reef at Molokini and was later slapped with a $550,00 fine and had its commercial use permit suspended by the DLNR board. In light of that, it’ll be interesting to see what comes of DLNR’s internal investigation (those things tend to be like roads on the moon: they sound impressive but lead nowhere). For now what’s clear is that this was, at best, a case of gross, counterproductive negligence…. Ah, earmarks—always good for a little campaign-season controversy. The latest example: a $3.5 million allotment requested by Rep. Neil Abercrombie for Kahului-based Pacific Biodiesel, to grow alternative energy crops like sunflower and canola on Army land. Sounds innocent enough, but the fact that Pacific Biodisel co-owner Kelly King is connected to Abercrombie’s gubernatorial campaign muddies the water. Abercrombie spokesman Randy Obata told the Honolulu Advertiser that King is a voluntary co-chair who isn’t intimately involved in the campaign, and that to suggest unfair favoritism is “to make a connection that really isn’t there.” In the same story, King said she first lobbied for the funding before Abercrombie announced his candidacy. The whole thing may well be more molehill than mountain. But if King really did ask for Abercrombie’s help before he threw his hat in the ring, and if her involvement in the campaign really is mostly symbolic, the wise course would have been to never become a “voluntary co-chair.” Generally best to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, especially when $3.5 million is on the line….
I read with interest the transcript of Gov. Lingle’s December 3 radio address, in which she discussed the Honolulu rail project and the recently completed Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). To quote directly: “I have the obligation to conduct a thorough objective review of the EIS. Among the things I will review are whether all construction and design alternatives were sufficiently reviewed and whether or not the financial plan is feasible…. I take this obligation very seriously and I will not simply ‘rubber stamp’ the document. When I do receive the final EIS, I will take an appropriate amount of time to review it to ensure all the people of Hawaii will be well-served by this project now and in the future.” Sounds reasonable. After all, what kind of idiot would launch a major transportation venture without making sure it was both logistically and financially sound?… Interesting item in the December 4 Advertiser about how gun ownership in Hawaii has shot up in the early part of this century. In 2000, there were 13,600 guns registered in the state; last year, there were almost 26,000. And experts expect the number to rise even more, as Obama strikes fear into the hearts of firearm enthusiasts who believe they’d better buy ‘em now before he takes ‘em away. Here’s the most telling quote, from Harry Gerwig II, president of the Hawaii Rifle Association: “When people don’t feel confident about the direction the country is going, they look for another way to up their confidence level.” Funny thing, that statement makes me feel less confident about the direction the country is going. So…should I should buy a gun?…
The focus with both the Iraq withdrawal and the Afghanistan escalation has been on the number of U.S. troops in each country. But it’s important to remember they aren’t the only ones over there. According to Defense Department figures, as of September 30 there were 11,162 “armed private security contractor personnel” in Iraq, and another 10,712 in Afghanistan. Although our tax dollars are funding those men and women, they’re not part of our military, and thus not part of any exit strategy Obama has discussed. Most important, and disturbing, is the question of who, exactly, they’re serving…. As the latest attempt to reform health care in America crawls bludgeoned and babbling toward the finish line, the latest issue of Harper’s magazine offers one of the most incisive—and therefore depressing—critiques of the issue to date. The piece, by senior editor Luke Mitchell, convincingly casts the Democrats as stooges for the drug and insurance companies and the Republicans as jilted second fiddles, reduced to shouting incoherent platitudes from the sidelines. The concluding line is the gut punch: “It is difficult to imagine anything good coming from a system that moderates the will of corporations with the fantasies of hysterics.” MauiTime, Jacob Shafer