Hey, crazy tourists unfazed by the prospect of waking up at three in the morning just so you can take a van up to the cold, cold Haleakala summit and then careen down the mountain with a pack of similarly crazed rubes: you better do it soon because the National Park Service is reviewing the whole downhill bike tour thing, according to today’s Honolulu Star-Bulletin. And it’s a real shame, too, because I’ve always loved driving extra-slow down Baldwin Avenue in the morning while following a pack of bicyclists—it lets me play out my life-long fantasy of being a Tour de France team mechanic, though without the French chicks lining the road, of course. But park rangers sound serious about there being safety concerns with the riders—a couple recent crashes would have turned fatal if riders hadn’t been wearing helmets. “Losing control like that and careening into lava rocks—I am amazed they survived,” Chief Ranger Mark Tanaka-Sanders says in the article. Amazing, indeed, until you think about the fact that most of the people who pay good American money to ride bikes down Haleakala probably consider the whole island to be a giant amusement park.
THURSDAY, June 7
There was a chilling story on our exploding defense budget posted on MotherJones.com the other day by Rolling Stone National Security Correspondent Robert Dreyfuss. “Democratic criticism of administration policy in Iraq looks muscle-bound when compared with the Party’s readiness to go along with the President’s massive military buildup, domestically and globally,” Dreyfuss wrote. “[A]ccording to the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, U.S. defense spending this year amounts to exactly twice the combined military spending of the next six biggest military powers: China, Russia, the U.K., France, Japan, and Germany.” Sure, you might say, we’re at war, and when at war we need to give the Pentagon what it needs. This is true, to a point—Dreyfuss points out that much of the defense money spent today is going to things like bombers, fighter jets, fancy new navy destroyers and aircraft carriers—big-ticket items that have nothing to do with ending the Taliban insurgency, getting rid of Afghani warlords or eliminating Baghdad’s murderous sectarian militias. But what really bites is Drefuss’ thesis that these massive weapons programs could never have gotten through without considerable Democratic support—support that stretches all the way to Hawai‘i, which sends four Democrats to Washington. According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), since 1989 U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye’s various reelection committees have taken considerable money from the defense industry—$252,350 to be exact. Of his top 20 campaign contributors, six are defense political action committees (PACs): Boeing ($41,800); Northrop Grumman ($35,000); General Dynamics ($34,350) and so on. CRP data shows U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka and Congressional Representative Mazie Hirono (D, 2nd District) have accepted minimal, if any, defense bucks, but venerable old Neil Abercrombie is right up there with Inouye, taking in $145,960 from defense PACs since 1989.
FRIDAY, June 8
And Republicans still say the Democratic Party is soft on defense. Whatever.
SATURDAY, June 9
So yesterday Mayor Charmaine Tavares spoke in front of a sell-out crowd of 250 at the Maui Tropical Plantation. She reportedly talked about how hard it is for the county to hire good people—or people at all—how we still need to spend county funds to promote tourism and how we all need to volunteer more. Her speech was part of a Maui Chamber of Commerce luncheon sponsored by Alexander & Baldwin. Anyway, I’m harping on the fact that A&B sponsored the appearance because for some strange reason, that tiny little fact—though clearly disclosed in recent Maui Chamber newsletters advertising Tavares’ speech—didn’t make it into today’s Maui News report on the event. And that’s really strange because Maui News Publisher Joe Bradley sits on the Chamber’s Board of Directors with both Grant Chun of A&B Properties and Mercer “Chubby” Vicens, a long-time consultant to A&B. You’d think that with tight connections like that they’d all be—forgive me—on the same page.
SUNDAY, June 10
This is really shaping up to be Senator Inouye’s week. I had thought he was, as one of the most senior Senators in the U.S. Congress, merely just a master of pork barrel spending and staunch friend of defense contractors. Shows what I know—he also possesses a remarkable grasp of domestic security issues. “At this time in our nation’s history, it is essential that our airports are secure,” Inouye said in a press release on new federal funding for airport security that’s quoted in today’s Honolulu Advertiser. What’s unclear from the story is whether this astonishing statement—made nearly six years after four simultaneous airliner hijackings ended up destroying the World Trade Center and seriously damaging the Pentagon—represents just Inouye’s assessment or the views of the federal government as a whole. As to why it took nearly six years for the federal government to spend $6 million to, as Inouye put it, “integrate Hawai‘i’s eight primary airports into a single, coordinated system that will meet the Federal Aviation Administration’s security requirements,” the paper doesn’t say.
MONDAY, June 11
Speaking of government not exactly being responsive to potential crises, the state Department of Agriculture still hasn’t ordered a quarantine on local honey, according to today’s Pacific Business News. The hope was a quarantine could slow the ravenous appetite of the varroa mite, which has annihilated Oahu bees but hasn’t yet reached Maui (see our May 31 cover story “To Bee or Not to Bee” for more on how a loss of bees could cripple local farming). In fact, it doesn’t look like state officials know what to do. Beekeepers and ag officials were to talk on Friday, but PBN says none of the bee-savvy officials bothered to show.
TUESDAY, June 12
I really hope we don’t have to wait six years for an answer to our bee woes.
Anthony Pignataro is not an expert on bees or beekeeping, though he was once stung by a dead bee. MTW