Today a reader dropped by the office to give us one of those old “Re-Elect JOE SOUKI” sponges, which I’ve got to say is the best campaign premium I’ve ever seen. Not only does it work on a metaphoric level—who’s going to forget a politician who identifies himself with a sponge?—but it’s terribly useful in real life. And since the Democrat Souki—who represents Wailuku and chairs the state House Transportation Committee—just made an even bigger name for himself than usual by killing the bills that would have required a full environmental review of the proposed Hawai`i Superferry, his sponges will come in handy. You can use it to wipe down your car’s tires before you get on the Superferry, to make sure you don’t transport any potentially invasive species to other islands. And if the lookouts on the super-fast Superferry aren’t looking where they should and the boat ends up plowing into a super-slow whale, you can use the sponge to wipe down the hull. “Dip in water,” it says. “See what happens.” I did as the sponge asked me, and it got all wet—just like Souki himself.
THURSDAY, Apr. 5
FRIDAY, Apr. 6
Haven’t heard from our friends the Hawaiian monk seals in a while. Some people might say that’s because Hawaiian monk seals can’t talk, but I’ve always been of the opinion that they could talk, but just never had anything to say. Though I must admit that opinion doesn’t seem very compelling these days—if I were one of the 1,200 remaining Hawaiian monk seals that’s still alive on the planet Earth, I’d be screaming my head off for help. Twelve hundred Hawaiian monk seals—can you believe that? And scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries believe that number will drop to less than a thousand in just the next four years. According to today’s Honolulu Advertiser, NOAA has actually posted a website—www.pifsc.noaa.gov/psd/captivecareproject.php#monkseal—where people can see the day-by-day travels of half a dozen tagged Hawaiian monk seals that live at Midway Atoll. Looking over the satellite images of Midway showing the seals’ tracks, I was forced to conclude that most Hawaiian monk seals really don’t do much. For instance, of the six seals on the NOAA site, just one—that would be PO42, born June 6, 2006—has actually left the atoll since the tracking began on Apr. 2. The rest just kind of casually bounce around Sand, Spit and Eastern Islands and occasionally the outer reef, apparently living a quiet, meandering life. But PO42 is different. “PO42 looks to be the most adventurous of the Captive Care seals,” reports the NOAA website. “Today she ventured out into the big blue sea and into much deeper water.” Now that’s a Hawaiian monk seal!
SATURDAY, Apr. 7
Today BlueEarth Biofuels managing partner Landis Maez tells The Maui News that he’s shocked—Shocked!—that a considerable number of Maui residents oppose his company’s plans to build a giant biodiesel refinery here that would use imported palm oil. “We didn’t think we would have as much opposition as we did,” he said in the article. What a beautiful statement. A corporate guy who wants to build a massive refinery on Maui decides to start throwing around the word “sustainable”—perhaps knowing that there are a lot of environmentally sensitive people on the island who take that concept very seriously—but doesn’t think anyone will mind that his “sustainable” biofuel refinery will consume huge swaths of rainforest for its palm oil feedstock. In a time when big corporations around the world are knocking themselves out advertising themselves as “green” and “sustainable,” it’s heartening that there’s so much opposition to BlueEarth Biofuels.
SUNDAY, Apr. 8
U.S. Army Private First Class Jay S. Cajimat (Lahainaluna, Class of 2005) is the 3,536th coalition soldier to die in the war in Iraq. Attached to the 1st Infantry Division, Cajimat, 20, died Friday—like so many of his fellow soldiers—in an IED attack in Baghdad. Given the rhetoric of not only our own brave Commander-in-Chief but also of his numerous wanna-be successors—not one of which wants to end the war immediately—it’s impossible not to wonder how many more young men and women will die like Cajimat.
MONDAY, Apr. 9
This week’s terrifying story comes to us from Pacific Business News, which reports on an Indian Country Today feature on a huge rise in subprime lending to Native Hawaiians. “[M]ost subprime specialists do a lot of lending to Native Americans,” reports PBN. “Lenders reported $21 billion in loans to Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders in 2005, up almost a fifth from the previous year and part of a nationwide trend of heightened lending to Native Americans, much of [it] at subprime rates that are currently getting attention as borrowers fall behind in payments.” That lenders are increasingly going the subprime route—higher-interest loans to people with bad or no credit histories—isn’t new. But when matched to a recent report put out by the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), a surprisingly ugly picture emerges of a credit industry gone horribly wrong. Lenders have long insisted that while subprime loans and mortgages may expose people to risky interest-only payments and such, they also open the door to home-ownership to millions of people who may not qualify for prime rate lending. But on Mar. 27 of this year, CRL reported that subprime loans made from 1998 through 2006 actually “have led or will lead to a net loss of homeownership for almost one million families.” This is because that even though during those years 1.4 million bought homes for the first time, “over 2.2 million borrowers who obtained subprime loans will lose or have already lost their home to foreclosure.”
TUESDAY, Apr. 10
Brings a whole new meaning to the term “predatory lending,” doesn’t it?
Anthony Pignataro is just finishing post-production work on his latest movie, a heart-rending love story tentatively titled When the Zombie Cries. MTW