WEDNESDAY, Jan. 31
Superrich Japanese landowner and developer Gensiro Kawamoto wants to donate 50 acres and $5 million to the state Department of Education so they can build a Kihei high school, according to today’s Maui News. Now before we all celebrate, it’s my duty to point out that Kawamoto is, to put it mildy, a strange guy. Back in 1989, Kawamoto wanted to build 1,000 homes in Kihei, but dumped his plan after the Maui County Council demanded he help pay for, of all things, a school for the children who would move into his new development. He’s currently lapping up good press for his plan to rent out 18 of his homes in Kahala on Oahu to Native Hawaiian families for just $150 to $200 a month, but few are noting that back in 2002 Kawamoto sent 30-day eviction notices to 800 families. Their crime? They were renting homes Kawamoto owned in Sacramento, California and Hawai`i Kai that he wanted to sell as fast as possible. Officials in both states were outraged, and even appealed to Japanese diplomats for help. In the end, he gave the California renters 90 days to clear out and delayed selling Hawai`i Kai until 2004, when he sent out new eviction notices a few weeks before Christmas. In the 1980’s, he reportedly purchased $100 million in homes in Hawai`i without even looking at them first. Though once considered one of Japan’s richest men, “If he made all his investments in the same brilliant fashion he did in Hawai`i, he’s probably not the richest man any more,” University of Hawai`i finance professor Nick Ordway said in 2002. Still, Kawamoto loves the state. Last year Kawamoto put out a written statement saying, according to the Oct. 11, 2006 Honolulu Star-Bulletin, that “Hawai`i is a place for me to release my creativity.” Though for reasons not immediately apparent, Kawamoto also told the paper that, “Women are very difficult to get along with.”
THURSDAY, Feb. 1
Gotta love CNBC’s “The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch.” CNBC bills Deutsch as a “maverick CEO” who interviews “the most powerful men in business, entertainment and politics”—men like Bill Gates, Harrison Ford, Donald Trump and Joe Sugarman. Self-made men who strive for—excuse me, Joe Sugarman? Wailea’s own, the guy who used to own and publish the Maui Weekly? The guy who thought publishing sensational stories about a mythical “Big Cat” that supposedly roamed Upcountry was journalism? THAT Joe Sugarman? Yup. Tonight Joe Sugarman was talking on “The Big Idea” about—you guessed it—the infomercial, which Sugarman invented a thousand years ago to sell BluBlocker Sunglasses. “Infomercials are really entertainment,” Sugarman told Deutsch. “My genre was Candid Camera… The real key I’ve found is write an ad for it—one that you yourself would be interested in reading. I’ve built million-dollar businesses through my writing.”
FRIDAY, Feb. 2
For those keeping track at home with your Official 2007 Humpback Whale Strike Tally Cards, the number currently stands at three. This is, as the Honolulu Advertiser pointed out a couple days ago, an unusually high number, given that we’re now 32 days into the year. See, last whale season saw a total of six reported strikes, with four reported strikes in each of the three seasons before that, according to the paper. The question, still unresolved at press time, is whether there’s an increase in the actual number of strikes or just the reporting of strikes. On Jan. 31 the Advertiser quoted David Schofield, who tracks whale strikes here for the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Islands Regional Office, as saying that “13 to 15 knots” is a “safe speed” for boats sailing through Hawaiian waters during whale season. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the proposed Hawaii Superferry is supposed to run at 40 knots, though company officials insist the boat will slow down to an unspecified speed in “high density areas” during whale season.
SATURDAY, Feb. 3
SUNDAY, Feb. 4
MONDAY, Feb. 5
Poet Laureate and local resident W.S. Merwin speaks at Maui Community College (MCC) and on Mana`o Radio about how he supports young U.S. Army Lt. Ehren Watada, whose court martial for refusing to fight in Iraq and publicly arguing that the war is illegal began today at Fort Lewis, Washington. Now who would have thought that a gifted poet—one of the most thoughtful and intelligent men in America—would figure that a war begun from a series of lies and sustained by even more lies would be wrong? Or that he would find common ground with a young man who values integrity and the rule of law over imperial aggression? I know, I was shocked, too. Still, Merwin was up to his usual eloquent self. “But I hope I may speak for us all when I express my own indebtedness to Ehren Watada for his costly and painful act of conscience in a time, and with an administration, that has managed to make conscience seem downright old-fashioned,” Merwin said at MCC, according to a written copy of his remarks. “It is Ehren Watada, and those forbears of his who have taken a similar honorable and dangerous stand, who continue to make it possible for us to believe not only in democracy but in the value of human individuality.”
TUESDAY, Feb. 6
In yesterday’s Honolulu Advertiser, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye (D, Hawai`i) said it’s going to be tough to get the Congress to help out the tourism industry. “If the United States is going to make this a much more major industry, we will have to promote it, especially now when many Europeans and Asians look upon America as ‘Fortress America,’” he said in the paper. “We will have to work to undo that.” Undo that? Before President George W. Bush leaves office in 2008? Aren’t you asking a bit much from the Federal Government, Dan?
Anthony Pignataro thanks you for all the cards and letters. MTW