It’s a rare day there’s no cruise ship docked in Kahului Harbor. I was shocked to see the docks empty as I drove to work this morning, but then I noticed one was just off shore, slowly steaming in. God knows what the passengers are doing in Kahului. Anyway, it seems the boats all belong to Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL). There’s the Pride of Aloha, Pride of America and Pride of Extravagance. I kid, but not much—today’s Pacific Business News says the company made $49 million in profits during the third quarter alone. That’s $8 million more than NCL made in the third quarter of 2005. In terms of pure revenue, the company took in $592 million, which was nearly $100 million more than the same period last year. Hey, you think cruises are absurdly expensive for no reason?
THURSDAY, Nov. 16
So today’s Honolulu Advertiser tells us that four-star General John Abizaid—the top American commander in the war in Iraq, just testified before the U.S. Senate that Hawai`i’s own former army chief of staff General Eric Shinseki was dead-on when he said publicly in the run-up before the war that the invasion and occupation of Iraq would require “several hundreds of thousands” of troops. This is beautiful, wonderful and absolutely irrelevant, mostly because the Pentagon slapped Shinseki down hard after his comments, calling them “wildly inaccurate” and went on with the war and resulting catastrophe as though Shinseki had never spoken a word. And during it all, where pray-tell was the brave, fearless General Abizaid as his then-boss Shinseki was getting berated for telling the truth? Why, he was standing off to the side with the rest of America’s brass hats, doing and saying absolutely nothing while Pentagon officials they knew were incompetent began sharpening their long knives. The irony—ain’t it grand?—is that Abizaid’s in charge now, and we’re losing the war to the tune of two American soldiers—who are conspicuously not generals—killed on average every single day since the war began. I don’t know which is better: the fact that Shinseki’s reputation is finally getting restored, or that Abizaid’s is going down the drain.
FRIDAY, Nov. 17
Tiny story in today’s Honolulu Star-Bulletin on Honolulu Magazine’s November issue article listing Historic Hawai`i Foundation’s top nine “Most Endangered Historic Sites in Hawai`i” (how’s that for sourcing?). And Maui County is well represented, with three sites! There’s the Pu`unene Congregational Church, which isn’t too bad off except that it’s siting exactly where Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar wants to build a new ethanol plant; the Mapulehu Glass House, a giant greenhouse on Molokai that dates to 1930 and is today a lot more house than glass; and the entire town of Lanai City. No, you read that right—all the oldest structures in Lanai City, which dates back to 1922, have either been torn down or are getting ready for the sledgehammer. There’s a move to register the entire town as an historic district, but there’s some worry that Castle & Cooke (which owns 98 percent of Lanai) won’t do it. “I really feel that [Castle & Cooke] doesn’t want to register it, because it’s going to cost them too much money, when they want to do something profitable,” Nani Watanabe said in the Honolulu article. She should know, too, since she’s Castle & Cooke’s culture resource manager.
SATURDAY, Nov. 18
So it looks like the Maui County Council is actually serious about slapping some real, actual, tangible, even possibly effective traffic impact fees on local land developers. But there it was in yesterday’s Maui News: a 9-0 council vote—first reading only, though—to levy a $8,442 per unit fee on every new home built in West Maui, $4,625 on every new South Maui residential unit (the Westside has much, Much, MUCH more timeshare construction than anywhere else on the island) and other, often considerable unit fees for office, industrial, hotel and retail construction. Could it be that the teeth-grinding, mind-numbing traffic we’ve all been increasingly trapped in could have finally passed a tipping point and prompted our elected officials to finally attack the problem at the source with a plan that will, if not actually slow new development, would at least raise some cash with which to combat the problem? Or is this yet another good idea that looks way better on paper than in execution, like the old plan to get developers to build affordable housing that saw far more promises than actual home construction?
SUNDAY, Nov. 19
Intrigued by today’s Honolulu Star-Bulletin story on the final election tallies, I decided to glance over the state Office of Election’s massive 736-page final precinct-by-precinct run-down on the 2006 General Election (and I mean “glance”). I couldn’t help but notice that Randy Iwase kicked ass in Maui County during his ultimately disastrous bid to unseat Governor Linda Lingle. Of course, by “kicking ass,” I really mean, “losing 47 out of 57 precincts.” Considering that Lingle completely destroyed Iwase statewide (61.7 percent to 34.9 percent), this is not too shabby. I mean, Iwase took such precincts as the Waikupu Community Center, Maui High, Maui Economic Opportunity Center, Haiku Community Center, Keanae Elementary as well as the absentee mail and walk-in votes for the Wailuku/Pu`unene/Makawao/Paia area. Overall, not a bad take for a guy all but abandoned by the state Democratic Party, which clearly was no slouch during this campaign—they did, after all, win both the U.S. Senate and House seats, as well as near-complete control over the whole state Legislature.
MONDAY, Nov. 20
At a time when more Americans than ever are conducting business in a cashless way using credit cards, ATMs and just plain begging, the U.S. Mint announces that it will introduce brand-new $1 dollar coins. Unlike former $1 dollar coins honoring Susan B. Anthony and Sacajawea that are universally seen as the most evil things ever invented by humanity, these coins will honor U.S. Presidents. Each former president will get his own coin—including Nixon!—except for Grover Cleveland who, I kid you not, will get two non-consecutive coins in honor of his two non-consecutive terms. All this made no sense to me, until I remembered that the Mint is part of the federal government.
TUESDAY, Nov. 21
By the way, I’m still waiting for an answer to those questions I posed back on Saturday.
Anthony Pignataro is still waiting in line for a PlayStation 2. MTW