“County to bill owners of junkers,” reads the top story headline in today’s Maui News. Do you know how incredible this is? The county is now going to start tracking down people who abandon cars on the roadside and billing them for the disposal fees. This is outstanding! It’s absolutely wonderful! It’s positively stupendous! It’s… wait a sec: why are they doing this now, and not, oh, 20 years ago? I mean, sure, it’s asking a lot of our overworked, understaffed police department to go out and somehow get the vehicle identification numbers (VINs) off the abandoned cars, then plug those VINs into a computer that’s connected to, I don’t know, maybe a database that only law enforcement people have access to that has every car’s ownership history listed by VIN. No, wait—hear me out: then the cops would find out who last owned the car and where this person lived, then go to this person’s house or apartment or whatever and knock on the door and ask if the person was at home and if he or she is, then the cop would bust his or her ass for dumping a motor vehicle on a public road. I know it sounds like science fiction, but this is the 21st century! We’ve got to dream!
THURSDAY, Dec. 8
So it looks like Honolulu superstar musician Don Ho is recovering nicely. It isn’t everyday the Waikiki performer has to fly out to Thailand to get an experimental stem cell procedure done on his very weak, 75-year-old heart. It’s shocking, I know, and my friends staggered under the news. “Don Ho’s only 75?!” said one, summing up our general feeling. Seriously, this isn’t a laughing matter. Don Ho is a Hawai’i institution, providing the sweet, sweet hapa haole music that millions of drunk tourists will forever remember when they recall their six days and seven nights in the islands. It would be wrong to try to belittle the whole affair by saying that it’s very likely Don Ho now has “Tiny Bubbles” flowing through his blood, as another friend recently observed. Very wrong.
FRIDAY, Dec. 9
Well, looks like the party’s coming to a close. It was a good run while it lasted. The sun is setting on our good fortune. What would cause me to repeat so many hackneyed cliches? Today’s Chicago Tribune story—picked up the Honolulu Advertiser—that quotes “experts” as saying the real estate boom is finally ending. Yes, those halcyon days of low mortgage rates and high-risk, interest-only loans may finally be over. Still, none of the economists mentioned in the story has yet predicted that the market will collapse—only that it will “stagnate,” forcing people to actually live, perhaps for years, in the homes and condos they’re buying. What a dark time, indeed.
SATURDAY, Dec. 10
Yesterday 37-year-old Mexican national Santiago Lol Tizol allegedly rushed the cockpit of a Northwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu. He did this after allegedly spending two hours staring at a baby and making vague threats with a cell phone cord. Given that Tizol decided to run around on an airplane just a couple days after Air Marshals at Miami International Airport blew away a guy they thought had a bomb, he’s clearly insane.
SUNDAY, Dec. 11
Big story in today’s Maui News on U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett’s much-publicized early morning trip to the Haleakala summit as part of her even more publicized weeklong tour of Hawai’i. Apparently dressed like a green Hobbit (if the story’s accompanying photo is any guide) Scarlett shivered in the cold morning air as she talked of President George W. Bush’s “philosophy” of “cooperative conservation,” which as far as I can tell is just politician-talk for letting corporations dictate environmental terms as much as possible through “partnerships” rather than “privatization.” “Conservation resides in the actions of everyone,” she told News reporter Valerie Monson. “While government can have a role, if we put all our eggs in one basket, we can’t achieve our goals.” Parsing out that devilishly simplistic quote would take far more space and patience than I have at the moment, but really the only important word Scarlett uses is “we.” We all want to protect the environment, she seems to be saying, though it’s not a true a statement. “We” want all sorts of things like sport utility vehicles, three-bedroom homes, clean oceans, nuclear weapons and gnatcatcher habitats that don’t really coexist easily. So it’s up to those in power—still Dubya, unfortunately—to figure out how to get those things that are truly important. And when you look at stuff like campaign contribution statements, proposed bills and Justice Department environmental law prosecutions instead of just listening to lofty rhetoric espoused by a bureaucrat from atop a mountain, it’s quite clear that the Bush Administration believes loggers, miners, power plants and polluters are the only ones who should have a meaningful say in how much of our land is “conserved.”
MONDAY, Dec. 12
Concerns about the 100-strong homeless camp on the Kahului Harbor breakwater are reaching a crescendo. So far county officials have been willing to live with the legions of families camped out there. But in today’s Honolulu Advertiser, Maui District health officer Dr. Lorrin Pang brought up the bacterial meningitis outbreak among Kihei’s homeless that happened two years ago and said the county’s “playing with fire” by letting the encampment continue as it is. In fact, he even said the county ought to build a special homeless area that has running water and full sanitation services—a recommendation county housing officials oppose. That means it’s now only a matter of time before the county just moves in and sweeps everyone out, scattering them across the island, until they eventually coalesce someplace else and the whole thing starts again. Sounds like a plan to me!
TUESDAY, Dec. 13
The average weekly wage for workers in Hawai’i is just $669, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported yesterday. They also reported that the average national weekly wage is $775. Don’t look for our wages to rise anytime soon, either, they added. No wonder the harbor breakwater is proving so popular.
Anthony Pignataro could not have been a contender. MTW