WEDNESDAY, Feb. 13
Once again, it looks like we’re going to get through a presidential campaign without talking about the small fact that we’re at war. In Iraq and Afghanistan. Nobody’s really been talking about the wars—certainly not our presidential candidates—but they’re still going on. Yes, casualties are down, but not completely out: today’s Honolulu Star-Bulletin has a grim story about a roadside bomb in Taji, Iraq that killed four soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division, based at Schofield Barracks. The troops were on patrol north of Baghdad when the buried bomb blew apart their Stryker vehicle.
THURSDAY, Feb. 14
Today the big Honolulu dailies are running obits on Robert C. Oshiro, campaign manager for three successive Democratic governors, who died two days ago at the age of 83. Former Governor John Waihe`e called him “the example of the ideal warrior” in the Advertiser; in the Star-Bulletin, state Senator Robert Bunda (D, Wahiawa) said Oshiro’s “forte was knowing the pulse of the community, and his knowledge of the numbers, where to press the buttons of various political groups.” There’s no question that Oshiro was a giant in the state Democratic Party for 30 years, but as is usually the case when one of these giants dies, the papers actually end up low-balling his influence. Oshiro was one of those guys—like the late Masaru “Pundy” Yokouichi—who exerted so much influence over land-use decisions that they actually shaped the way Hawai‘i looks today. A Campbell Estate master in 1963, Oshiro spent much of that decade in the state House of Representatives. But he left in 1970 to run gubernatorial campaigns—John Burns, George Ariyoshi and Waihee—as well as pursue a living as a private attorney for clients like Castle & Cooke and Amfac. In 1974, while in the midst of Ariyoshi’s first run for governor, Oshiro represented Castle & Cooke’s Lanai Co. before the state Land Use Commission (LUC)—even securing, on at least one occasion, a private meeting with one of the commissioners. “[Oshiro] was at that time one of the most politically influential people in Hawaii outside of government,” George Cooper and Gavan Daws wrote in their 1985 book Land and Power in Hawaii. “The fact that people like Oshiro were involved in applications was a reason why the LUC was now tolerable to Burns-Ariyoshi Democrats.”
FRIDAY, Feb. 15
Of course, all that’s ancient history. Hawai‘i is very different now than it was back in 1974. I’m sorry—did I say “different?” Yeah… I should have said “absolutely identical.” Take today’s Maui News: according to the top story (“COUNCIL BACKS HONUA‘ULA”), Wailea 670 Partners, LLC’s “representative” Charlie Jencks is just about at the end of the road to getting his bosses’ massive 670-acre South Maui development approved. The Maui County Council backed the project in a six-three vote yesterday—the first of two votes needed for final approval. This has been many years in the making—though dating back 20 years, the project’s most recent design goes back five years. It’s massive, controversial and any success it ultimately enjoys is due to Jencks’ intense lobbying. And he knows how big development gets done: for many years, Jencks worked as the county’s Public Works Director. But hey—if past generations jumped back and forth between public service and far more lucrative land development, why shouldn’t Jencks?
SATURDAY, Feb. 16
Man, I miss the Superferry in the worst way.
SUNDAY, Feb. 17
Hillary Clinton is going to contest Hawai‘i in the race to the Democratic Party candidate for president! That means Chelsea Clinton is coming to Maui! Today! To appear at a Democratic Party rally at… the tiny David K. Trask Building in Wailuku? Headquarters of the county Department of Liquor Control? Now this makes sense if you figure that a few hundred people packed into a small space like the Trask Building looks impressive on TV, but the same number spread out in the vastness of, say, War Memorial Stadium would look like no one cares about Clinton. Also, that former Mayor James “Kimo” Apana did the advance work on this one. Anyway, at least a couple hundred people crammed into the building’s courtyard, eating chili dogs and donuts while braving mosquitoes, humidity and local politicians talking about the importance of federal subsidies to organic farmers, all to see the former First Daughter, who today is nearly 28 and works at the hedge fund Avenue Capital Group, which enjoys close Democratic Party connections. But recently she’s started stumping for her mom—I said “stumping,” not “pimping”—on the campaign trail. I suppose there are worse places to smile at cheering party activists than Maui, and Clinton—a red, white and blue orchid behind her left ear and clad in a black dress and at least half a dozen leis—made a good show of it. The rally lasted nearly an hour, though Clinton spoke a mere two minutes, at most, saying little more than some variation of the phrase “please vote for my mom” (though the words “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you with my hula efforts” were pretty cool—making the malahini dance the hula is always a crowd-pleaser). Given the fact that Apana, state Senator Colleen Hanabusa, state Senator Roz Baker all spoke for considerably longer than two minutes, while Clinton had to stand on the stage and try her best to look interested, her brevity was completely understandable.
MONDAY, Feb. 18
How long has it been since investigative reporter Eric Schlosser wrote his best-selling expose Fast Food Nation? Six, seven years? How long have the American people known the ugly truth about how factory farms and slaughterhouses really operate? So why did I read in this morning’s Honolulu Star-Bulletin a story titled “Government orders recall of 143M pounds of beef?” After nearly two complete presidential terms of George W. Bush, does this nation still have a Food and Drug Administration? Will it ever be possible for regulators to make sure that bad/tainted/mistreated meat never enters the marketplace in the first place, making recalls like the one in the Star-Bulletin—apparently the biggest ever—completely unnecessary? Apparently, at least part of this beef, which came from a Westland/Hallmark Meat Packing Co. slaughterhouse accused of “animal cruelty and violation of food safety rules,” was destined for our schoolchildren. Oh yeah, we truly do live in the richest, most powerful nation on earth.
TUESDAY, Feb. 19
And it’s Hawai`i Democratic Party Caucus time! At press-time, officials said 37,182 people participated, which is not only more than seven times the number of votes from 2004, but is three times what the party expected. That Barack Obama blew away Clinton 76 percent to 24 percent isn’t really a surprise, so we shouldn’t come down too hard on poor little Chelsea Clinton. I’m sure she tried her best.
Anthony Pignataro is a twit. See for yourself at http://twitter.com/apignataro. MTW