Why must we, the taxpayers who pay for this great nation of ours, constantly baby the automotive industry? Did Henry Ford get a secret amendment to the U.S. Constitution saying, “We the People hereby grant Big Auto whatever the hell they want” or something to that effect? I thought of these unfortunately rhetorical questions after reading the very strange Washington Post story “In Detroit, pressure builds,” which ran in today’s Honolulu Advertiser. The gist of the story is that Congressional Democrats, environmentalists and even corporate and retired military honchos have automakers on the run as far as engine emissions standards are concerned. The story makes it seem like biofuel-powered vehicles are a done deal—so obvious, in fact, that President George W. Bush is out stumping for hybrids right now (though some people advising the president want automakers to get “substantial incentives” from the federal government to make the hybrids, which is asking taxpayers to pay for the same car twice. Hey! How about the government subsidizing the consumers who want to buy hybrids?). Anyway, in all likelihood truly clean-burning cars are probably a long way off. That’s because one of the most powerful Democrats in the House of Representatives is Michigan Congressman John Dingell (D, 15th District). He chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over any potential energy bills. Guess where he gets a huge chunk of his campaign money? According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Big Auto gave Dingell $103,350 during the 2006 election. In fact, the top three contributors to Dingell’s reelection campaign were General Motors ($31,250), Ford ($30,600) and DaimlerChrysler ($20,750). To be fair, Dingell is promoting hybrid engines right along with Bush, though both men stop far short of advocating zero-emission electric cars.
THURSDAY, Mar. 22
So Iguess we’re all stuck with the hated Certificate of Need (CON) process. For those not up on the nuances of state law, CON mandates a lengthy series of hearings, discussions and applications before a new hospital can be built in the state. It’s what ultimately killed the proposed Malulani Hospital for Kihei. Anyway, state Representatives—including rookie legislator Joe Bertram III, who represents South Maui—crafted a bill that would revamp or even end the whole CON thing. But yesterday, according to today’s Maui News, a state Senate committee killed that bill in a 3-1 vote. In an ironic turn that should but probably won’t give Malulani proponents pause, their ostensible nemesis Roz Baker cast the lone vote for the bill. Now more than a few hospital boosters have lately been ripping Baker a new one in the pages of The Maui News with some pretty vicious ads saying she hates babies, heart patients and medical professionals. So what’s next? Hopefully a new round of ads calling state legislators monsters who hate old people, heart patients and medical doctors. Man, I can’t get enough of those.
FRIDAY, Mar. 23
Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (D, 2nd District) calls today’s 218-212 vote in the House of Representatives setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq “historic,” and it may very well be, though given the way President Bush was snarling while promising to veto the thing, I doubt it. He and the Republicans will call it “micro-managing” the war effort, which may be nonsense—how can you “micro-manage” a war that isn’t being managed in the first place?—but it will keep the Democrats fractured on the war. And while the thought of the U.S. Congress dictating an end to the ruinous war is a pleasing thought, I see no reason to abandon the thesis I articulated last week, namely that the Democratic leadership doesn’t want the war to end. There is no way a withdrawal timetable will pass in the U.S. Senate, and even if it did, there’s no way Democrats could muster the majorities needed to override Bush’s assured veto. House leaders like Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D, California) know this, which is why they seem to be spending a lot more attention these days on those seven U.S. Attorneys who got canned than the war.
SATURDAY, Mar. 24
The Maui News is reporting that feral pigs are running amok in Olinda? And that they’ve been tearing up the yard of a “mostly vegetarian” woman? Damn, I love Maui.
SUNDAY, Mar. 25
“Today a $6.4 billion juggernaut, Starbucks is a respected and financially successful enterprise that doesn’t spend a hill of beans on advertising,” writes Susan Sunderland. Don’t know about the first part of that sentence, but there’s no question that last part is true. See, Starbucks doesn’t need to buy advertising as long as there are “reporters” like Sunderland perfectly willing to give the company free publicity in the form of embarrassingly fawning cover stories about the company in publications like Midweek, which is owned by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin—in this case, the issue that came out today. Did you know that “hanging out at Starbucks” is “an ultimate pastime”? Or that Starbucks is a “public venue” with “a trendy atmosphere and camaraderie” that has “cornered the market and built a cult based on coffee”? Or that “You don’t stand in line at Starbucks just to buy a cup of coffee. You stop for the experience surrounding the cup of coffee”? Sunderland certainly does—all the above quotes are from Sunderland herself. If she gets anything less than a lifetime supply of free lattes for her “work” she’s been ripped off.
MONDAY, Mar. 26
Today President Bush told automakers that motor vehicles which run on fuel based on something other than petroleum—which actually date back a century or so—are “a major technological breakthrough for the country.” We are so doomed.
TUESDAY, Mar. 27
By the way, Monsanto Hawai`i recently signed a 99-year lease to take control of 500 more acres on Molokai to grow genetically modified crops. That means the company that gave the world the deadly herbicide Agent Orange, Roundup and plants immune to Roundup will now be able to farm 1,200 acres of Molokai, according to the Pacific Business News. It’s been a dandy week, hasn’t it?
Anthony Pignataro somehow managed to get this far in journalism without ever drinking coffee. MTW