Against all odds, Senate Bill 2133, which would ban the use of mercury in any vaccines administered in Hawai’i, has passed the state Legislature and is right now sitting on Governor Linda Lingle’s desk. Lingle hasn’t said what she’ll do with the bill, but given today’s Honolulu Advertiser story on the vaccine mercury debate, it wouldn’t be surprising if she let the bill fall into her circular file. Headlined “Health experts downplay risk, warn against vaccine ban,” the story gives more than the impression that a sober, unified scientific community is trying to stop grieving parents and uninformed luddites who think the ethyl mercury-laden Thimerosal preservative in vaccines has something to do with a recent spike in autism cases among children from destroying our state’s vaccine supplies. I won’t go into the details of the debate—you can read all about it in Maui Time’s April 20, 2006 story “When the Cure is Worse than the Disease”—except to say that the Advertiser piece completely ignored a few “health experts” who say it’s entirely possible that there’s a link between Thimerosal and autism. For instance, there’s Columbia University epidemiologist Dr. Mady Nornig; University of Arkansas professor of pediatrics Jill James; and Northeastern University pharmacologist Richard Deth. All three names come courtesy of an excellent November 2005 Columbia Journalism Review article that bemoaned mainstream press accounts of the Thimerosal debate similar to today’s Advertiser story.
THURSDAY, May 25
Andres Balmacda is a student at Lahainaluna. Balmacda, though just 15, has already achieved a distinction few of us enjoy: he’s become a life lesson. You see, according to today’s Maui News, a reef shark recently attacked Balmacda off the coast of Lanai—bit his left knee, to be exact, while Balmacda and a friend were spearfishing. The shark bit Balmacda on the knee because Balmacda “poked” at the shark. Balmacda—and this part took real courage so don’t laugh—then told The Maui News that he was “kind of shocked” that the shark bit him. I find all this terribly amusing, not because I enjoy making fun of 15-year-olds, but because I am also a life lesson where sharks are concerned. You see, a few months ago I was sitting at a local bar with some friends, one of which was new to the island. And we were talking about sharks. “Mostly you find small reef sharks out there,” I said. “But every now and then you’ll hear about a tiger shark—those are the ones that’ll take your ear off.” And right then my two friends got real quiet for a moment, looked at each other, and then began snickering. A lot. “What’s so funny?” I asked. They responded with more snickering, which was now pretty much stifled laughter. Finally my friend from out of town leaned over. “That man sitting behind you only has one ear.” So Andres Balmacda, I may still have both of my knees intact, but I know your pain.
FRIDAY, May 26
Fascinating story in today’s Maui News about the Maui Planning Commission’s recent approval of Kihei plant nursery owner Dale Castleton’s zoning change. Headlined “Infested nursery gets OK from panel,” the story details how the commission gave its blessing to Castleton to expand his nursery property even though Maui County Environmental Coordinator Rob Parsons offered considerable evidence that the plant nursery is not even close to being coqui frog-free. Castleton told the panel that he’s been working with the Maui Invasive Species Committee (MISC) to eradicate the frogs, and while true, it does ignore the couple of years Castleton spent thumbing his nose at MISC and the county over the frogs (See Maui Time’s Jan 5, 2006 story “Infestation!” for more on this). Anyway, all this is fascinating because until this story, The Maui News had taken pains to portray Castleton’s plant nursery as anything but “infested” with coqui frogs. In fact, in a bizarre “clarification” to a letter to the editor in December that had alleged coqui frog infestation at an unnamed Kihei nursery, The Maui News insisted that the nursery “states that it has worked with every interested federal, state and county agency to deal with the coqui frog problem” and left the issue at that.
SATURDAY, May 27
“We believe that God in fact is in control and indeed He does work all things for good for those who love the Lord.” That’s what former Enron boss Kenneth Lay said the other day after a jury of his peers found him guilty of conspiracy and fraud. For some reason, President George W. Bush, who used to call Lay “Kenny Boy,” hasn’t commented.
SUNDAY, May 28
MONDAY, May 29
This is not, as election years go, a particularly happy one for the state Democratic Party, given their complete failure to find a strong candidate to run against Republican Governor Lingle and First District U.S. Representative Ed Case’s insistence on challenging entrenched U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka (D, Hawai’i) in the upcoming primary race. As such, there’s a lot of controversy over how the party should behave, if it’s to keep at least some control over the state. Headlined “Democrat urged to ‘get back to our values,’” there’s a story in today’s Honolulu Advertiser that at first, seems to violate one of the sacred rules of journalism. What “values” should the Democratic Party get back to? A living wage? Environmental support? Progressive income tax? Pacifism? Hell, we could go all the way back to support for slavery and opposition to a central bank if we wanted to. But then the story quoted U.S. Representative Neil Abercrombie (D, 1st District). “Some people of this party and some across the country are trying to say to us that we have to change our values in order to appeal to the people of this country,” he said. “And what I say is, ‘No, we have to get back to our values to bring the people back in this country and where they want to be.” And that cleared everything up—see, the Democrats have no clue what values they stand for either.
TUESDAY, May 30
Me, I’d like to see a more progressive income tax. You?
Anthony Pignataro wastes too much time wondering why women in caveman movies always have shaved legs. MTW