In the spirit of the holidays which are still many weeks away but still fair game because the big corporate stores want people to buy, Buy, BUY!!!, I’m going to talk about Wal-Mart today. Specifically, on a story in today’s New York Times concerning a company memo the paper obtained on the high cost of medical benefits. That memo shows the complete, total and utter disdain the Wal-Mart corporation feels towards its drones—sorry, “Associates.” Were android workers ready and available for sale, let no one doubt Wal-Mart would immediately fire every oxygen-breather it employs. The point of the memo—which was secret until the Times came a-calling: Wal-Mart is paying too much health care money to its employees. “We also have one of the highest percentages of full-time Associates in the retail industry, even though full-time Associates are more expensive per labor hour (in terms of both benefits and wages),” stated the memo. That statement isn’t built on pride either—Wal-Mart is bitching and moaning that people would chose to work at its retail stores five, six and even seven years rather than bail after just one year, which would save the company soooooo much money every year since they wouldn’t have to shell out so much cash in benefits. Booo frickin’ hoo. The memo is so crass that one of the “bold steps” its authors propose is to give “Associates” private insurance access after just 30 days of employment. Sounds great, unless such a move doesn’t immediately translate into good public relations, in which case Wal-Mart will just forget about it. “Considering the steep cost… the team is rigorously testing these ideas with the public and policymakers to determine whether these investments would effectively ‘move the needle’ on Wal-Mart’s public reputation,” the memo explained.
THURSDAY, Oct. 27
By 10 a.m. this morning, an estimated 500 people were standing in line at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center box office for Eagles tickets. I don’t know about you, but stuff like this freaks me out.
FRIDAY, Oct. 28
You know Maui’s really hit the big time when the U.S. Attorney’s office announces that an alleged big-time spy has just been arrested at his Haiku home. Haiku—you know, the town that sports the Pauwela Cannery, the Hemp Stock and that building on the cliff with the big happy face painted on it. Now we have to add Noshir S. Gowadia, former Northrop Grumman employee, self-styled “father” of the B-2 stealth bomber and, until a couple days ago, upstanding Haiku resident, who happened to live in a million-dollar home shaped like the bat-wing bomber. But unlike other spymasters like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hansen, Gowadia—according to the criminal complaint posted on the Honolulu Advertiser website today—didn’t exactly peddle reams of classified schematics and files to KGB agents in back alleys. Instead, he “marketed” his specialist knowledge of the B-2’s jet engine technology to eight countries that have yet to be named. He also on multiple occasions allegedly “taught a course” to foreign nationals that involved “classified information” he obtained while working for Northrop. But funniest of all is today’s Honolulu Star-Bulletin revelation that until the FBI busted Gowadia—who admitted to investigators that he sold all these secrets “for the money”—he was under consideration as a sub-contractor to one of Purdue University’s military contracts. According to that paper, Gowardia’s possible contract is now “on hold.”
SATURDAY, Oct. 29
I’ve always said Purdue was a good school.
SUNDAY, Oct. 30
Thirty-six paragraphs into today’s Honolulu Advertiser story “Hawai’i gas cap isn’t closing price gap” about how the state’s gas market is more volatile today than before the cap went into effect is this fascinating observation: “Exxon Mobil Corp., the world’s largest oil company, on Thursday reported record third-quarter net income of $9.92 billion, a 75 percent increase from a year earlier.” I’m sorry, but whaaaaa!? Exxon Mobil made nearly $10 billion in profits in just one quarter? Three months? That’s about what the Bush Administration spends every year on the entire Department of the Interior. When the year’s up, Exxon’s 2005 profits will probably exceed the gross domestic products of a dozen nations. And now Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R, Tennessee)—currently under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for alleged insider trading—is talking up congressional hearings on windfall profits. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the country went through all this back in the 1970s, when oil shortages led to long lines at the pump, ballooning inflation, unemployment and more than one wrecked presidency. Good times.
MONDAY, Oct. 31
Apparently feeling that I wasn’t scared enough on this Halloween, Haiku resident Thomas Holzer emailed me a copy of yesterday’s Daily Press (Hampton Roads, Virginia) story on how the U.S. Army dumped tons and tons of chemical weapons into the water off 11 states, including Hawai’i, and has since lost track of where they are or what’s happening to them. “In 1944, at least 16,000 mustard [gas]-filled 100-pound bombs were unloaded off Hawaii in deep water only five miles from shore,” reported John M. R. Bull. According to Bull’s story, in 1976 a Hawaiian fisherman was burned when he accidentally brought up one of those bombs. Scared yet? How about the fact that Bull also reported that the army has never studied the effects of these dumpings—64 million tons of nerve and mustard gas bombs in total—or really knows where they are. “Over the decades, the Army has conducted environmental tests on only four of its dumpsites—and none since 1975,” wrote Bull. Oh, and scientists quoted in the story added that there’s no way to know how salt water corrosion is acting on the shells, which date to World War I, and said it’s easily conceivable that gas leakage on the ocean floor could occur for the next century. Now that’s scary.
TUESDAY, Nov. 1
Okay, not waiting-in-line-for-five-hours-to-get-Eagles-tickets scary, but scary nonetheless.
Anthony Pignataro stopped wearing a wristwatch because he felt it made him seem like an uninteresting person. MTW