So a bunch of state officials have their panties in a twist because the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) has put together a draft report saying that the Akaka-Stevens Native Hawaiian Recognition Act is racist. According to today’s Honolulu Advertiser, which obtained a copy of the report, the bill is bad because it would “discriminate on the basis of race or national origin, and further subdivide the American people into discrete subgroups accorded varying degrees of privilege.” One of those pissed off, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, told the paper that the commission report “is based on a complete lack of understanding of federal policies.” This is completely wrong—clearly, the report springs from the Bush Administration’s near-total emasculation of the USCCR. In the old days—before George W. Bush took office, I mean—the commission was a fire-breathing group that believed government could fight discrimination. In 2001, it even exposed “voting irregularities” throughout Florida’s 2000 election. Not long after, President Bush began packing the commission with partisan Republican hacks who seem to feel their mission in life is to squelch civil rights. For instance, of the seven current members, five would love to see affirmative action completely dismantled. In fact, commission chairman Gerald Reynolds has called affirmative action “the big lie.” Fellow commissioner Peter Kirsanow has written that affirmative action “is racist, demeaning and repugnant to the most fundamental tenets of democracy.” You think guys like that are going to give a Native Hawaiian Recognition bill a fair shake?
THURSDAY, May 4
No more gas cap. Legislature dumped it today. Let the good times roll! Once again, market forces prevail in the State of Hawai’i! Hey, quick question: what happens if gas prices still go higher even without the cap? I mean, the price of oil is skyrocketing. What do we all do then, you know, besides seethe?
FRIDAY, May 5
There’s a great scene early in All the President’s Men that shows the various Washington Post managing, city and deputy editors—all white-shirted, white-skinned men—sitting around a table arguing about what to include on the all-important Page One. I kept thinking about that scene as I glanced through today’s Maui News, wondering how on earth they made the same choices—mostly because the most important story in the paper, in the top right corner—“above the fold,” us newspaper types call it—is an Associated Press piece on the end of the current legislative session. Fair enough, but my eyebrows kept arching as I checked out the other headlines. “Rising From The Ashes,” which included two full-color photos, told the story of the reopening of the Pukalani Golf Course. “Phillips lauds 3 strikes law” was basically a love note from Maui Police Chief Tom Phillips to the state’s new mandatory sentencing law. The bottom story was another AP pick-up, this time on the al-Qaida blooper reel U.S. forces recently released in Iraq. All in all, a rather typical Maui News Page One. But on the third page, a story carrying no byline but a Honolulu dateline told of how Kauaula Valley resident Ke’eaumoku Kapu won a surprising victory in the state’s Intermediate Court of Appeals on his fight against Makila Land Company’s plans to develop the land he believes still belongs to him. He hasn’t won clear title to the land, but the victory certainly denies such title to Makila. The verdict’s impact and potential repercussions are unknown, which is why it’s such a great story—certainly one that should have run on the front page, and earlier than today, considering that the verdict came out on Apr. 28.
SATURDAY, May 6
Can it be? Could the state Legislature finally be laying down the law to Superferry, Inc.? But why now, as opposed to, oh, a year ago? Remember back then, when we were all arguing about whether to force a detailed environmental review of the company that wants to run high-speed ferries between the islands and needs the state to hand over $40 million in Kahului Harbor improvements? That’s all done, of course, but now today’s Maui News is reporting that state officials are saying Superferry needs to start holding real, actual public hearings—proper meetings with proper agendas and public notices, rather than $30-a-plate luncheons that the company currently favors—or it won’t get $20 million from them. Company officials told the News that they’d be happy to comply, but what else could they say?
SUNDAY, May 7
What’s that ringing?
MONDAY, May 8
Great story in today’s Honolulu Star-Bulletin about how big corporate and labor political action committees (PACs) are getting hot under the collar over the state’s Act 203. The effects of the draconian act haven’t really appeared yet since it only became law on Jan. 1 of this year, but its $1,000 contribution limit per election—not candidate—for PACs will definitely dry up the big money come November. Given the way U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the last couple of decades have equated money with speech, gutting recent attempts at campaign finance reform, I don’t see how this law could possibly pass Constitutional muster, but hey—let’s enjoy it while it’s on the books.
TUESDAY, May 9
Pledging to talk about his Native Hawaiian Recognition Bill every single day on the floor of the Senate until he gets a floor debate, U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka has finally done something shrewd. He is, after all, in the middle of a campaign, and there are few better ways to show the voters back home that he’s tough and dogged. Though considering the following statement Akaka made in today’s Honolulu Advertiser, it’s a wonder he wants to return to the Senate at all: “When I first started my career in Congress, over 30 years ago, there was a protocol and a courtesy,” Akaka told the Advertiser. “If legislation was going to impact a particular state, and the leaders of that state all supported the issue, it was protocol that other members would not interfere or obstruct efforts to legislate on behalf of that state. Unfortunately, this longstanding protocol and courtesy no longer exists.”
Anthony Pignataro has somehow made it this far in life without having to work serving food to people. MTW