Pretty quiet day, really. A crowd of more than 1,000 Shiites just got stampeded to death in Baghdad after someone started yelling there was a suicide bomber in their midst; untold hundreds, perhaps thousands, are dead in flooded, Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, which for all intents and purposes doesn’t exist any more; and Camile Velasco just got a recording contract. See, nothing much of anything… Camile Velasco!? She just got a contract?! With Universal Motown Records! Oh my God! Camile Velasco! She’s that one Maui chick from American Idol last year! The one who made the top 10! Oh my God!!!!! Okay, I’ll stop now. Boy, that gave me a headache. Anyway, Velasco has a hell of a publicist, because today’s press release on the new record deal misspells her name once (“You’re invited to meet Camille [sic] Velasco…”), calls her “bouncy” twice and describes her debut single “Hangin’ On” as “a loosely-based [sic] cover of the big Supremes hit, ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’.” Loosely based. Isn’t the music industry just magical?
THURSDAY, Sept. 1
Courtesy of Bloomberg News and today’s Honolulu Advertiser, we taxpayers now know that our wonderful state and local officials are pretty much carnival rubes when it comes to municipal bonds. Put simply, just about every city, county and state uses bonds to finance big construction jobs. On the mainland, a lot of local officials put their bond sales out to bid. By playing the big bankers off each other, the local officials can get the best interest rates, which will save taxpayers millions of dollars over the 20-year bond life. But as Bloomberg found out, Hawai’i’s different. Turns out there’s not a single government agency in the state that puts bonds out to bid—instead, they all just negotiate with one bank and trust that they’re getting the best deal possible. In response to charges that local officials don’t know a competitive bond sale from a hole in the ground, Kalbert Young, Maui County’s finance director, offered an “everybody’s doing it, so why not us?” defense. “[O]ver 80 percent of municipal bonds are now sold through the negotiated process,” he emailed the Advertiser. “While we trust our underwriters to provide guidance and quotes on the bond rates, the County also does its own due diligence to ensure that our interests are fair.” Diligence aside, Bloomberg calculated that the state could have saved more than $6 million in interest on its current bonds if it had asked for bids. Do you have any idea how many Camile Velasco albums loosely based on old Supremes albums you can buy with that kind of loot?
FRIDAY, Sept. 2
Our state and county governments may not know much about savvy bond financing, but at least our Hawai’i Supreme Court still seems to comprehend due process. Today our robed jurists ruled that Amendment 1, overwhelmingly voted onto the books last November—is in fact unconstitutional. The amendment removed the ancient provision requiring unanimous jury decisions in cases involving combinations of sexual assault acts against minors. For Maui Time readers who remembered our Oct. 28, 2004 story “Four Amendments of the Apocalypse,” the Supreme Court’s decision is hardly surprising. But it sure put Attorney General Mark Bennett’s panties in a twist. After all, he spent thousands of taxpayer dollars last year boosting the amendment and its three equally detestable cousins. “First, this is yet another example of a Supreme Court decision undermining the Legislature’s attempts to protect young children from being repeatedly sexually assaulted by those with whom they live,” the state’s top law enforcement officer fumed in a press release today. “Second, the decision is undemocratic and disregards the will of the Legislature, the vote of the people, and past practice.” Undemocratic? Since when does justice reside with a popular vote? And when exactly did the legislature’s will trump the state Constitution? As for the court disregarding “past practice,” Bennett’s beloved Amendment 1 actually sought to overturn the 2003 state Supreme Court case State v. Rabago. But have no fear: Bennett’s still got three appalling, anti-civil rights constitutional amendments on the books.
SATURDAY, Sept. 3
So Republicans like Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R, Jerkland) are talking loudly about how maybe it’s not a good idea to rebuild New Orleans, since it’s a low-lying area prone to flooding and total destruction. How come Hastert only says stuff like that when a bunch of poor African-Americans are wiped out and never when all the rich whites who live in Malibu lose their homes every decade to floods, mudslides and fires?
SUNDAY, Sept. 4
I’m just saying.
MONDAY, Sept. 5
So how about them gas prices? Man, I bet the big oil companies are just laughing their asses off. Anyway, good news for Hawai’i—our beloved state is no longer home to the highest gas prices in the nation. Not even close, in fact: according to a press release sent out today by the Hawai’i State Legislature, the average price of regular 87 Octane here ranks an amazing 35th in the nation. Thirty-fifth. Not first or second like, well, always, but 35th, behind states like Nebraska, North Carolina, Kansas and Delaware. And you can take that ranking to the bank because it comes straight from AAA—the eminently powerful lobbying arm of American drivers. Why Hawai’i gas prices are no longer the highest in the nation is somewhat controversial. There’s Hurricane Katrina, of course, but then there’s, oh, I don’t know, the wholesale gasoline price cap. Heaven forbid that the new law, which went into effect Sept. 1, may have actually done its job. I don’t think Big Oil could live with that.
TUESDAY, Sept. 6
Turns out the U.S. Senate won’t be voting on the Akaka Bill any time soon. I think they’ve recessed to go into mourning because of the death of Bob “Gilligan” Denver, who died today at 70 from complications stemming from him being really old, but the Senate may also have just needed more time to appropriate emergency hurricane money.
Anthony Pignataro recently discovered evidence indicating that this country does indeed need a good five-cent cigar. MTW