WEDNESDAY, Mar. 14
In honor of Sunshine Week, His Excellency Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona has an op-ed in today’s Maui News on all the great things he and Governor Linda Lingle have done to “restore trust in government by creating a transparent and open system that is fair to everyone—not just to those who make campaign contributions or are otherwise politically well-connected.” If you want to go ahead and sigh, feel free. I did, but that’s because I had a Mar. 13 press release from good government coalition Freedom of Information Hawai`i—which includes representatives from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Big Island Press Club, Honolulu Community-Media Council and the League of Women Voters—sitting on my desk while I perused Aiona’s mash note to himself. “Various state and county boards and commissions are not providing adequate service in releasing executive session minutes and notifying the public about meetings,” states the release on their annual “Freedom of Information Compliance Audit,” which measures how well our state is doing what Aiona insists they’re doing. “The public deserves better than this.” The coalition audit found instances in which board were ignoring requests for executive session minutes, improperly rejecting requests and publishing board meeting agendas that were “so vague that the public could not understand what was being discussed behind closed doors.” Now isn’t it ironic that Aiona never mentioned anything about the administration pressuring, haranguing or harassing state and county boards to open up in his little op-ed?
THURSDAY, Mar. 15
In response to boneheaded marketing attempts like Celebrity Cruises’ advertisement last September showing the statue of King Kamehameha toasting the company with a photoshopped glass of champagne, the Hawaiian Tourism Authority (HTA) has released a 23-page Style & Resource Guide. “To communicate the true beauty of Hawai`i—its culture, heritage and people—we all need to understand the beauty of Hawai`i that is ‘beneath the surface and beyond the stereotypes,’” HTA President and CEO Rex Johnson writes in the guide. “It is HTA’s intent that this document provide a starting foundation for the marketing of Hawai`i as a culturally sensitive visitor destination in the 21st century and beyond.” The authority’s intention is sincere, but the irony is too thick to ignore. While there is a lot of good information in the guide (“coconut bras or Tahitian headdresses are not Hawaiian”), it’s hard to take the guide seriously as it preaches Hawaiian cultural sensitivity while also lecturing copywriters on the need to include the appropriate trademark registration symbols after shameless HTA-owned commercial taglines like “The Islands of Aloha,” “The Magic Isle” and “Hawaii’s Island of Adventure.”
FRIDAY, Mar. 16
Man, Hawaii Superferry, Inc. really cashed in last week when they hired McNeil Wilson Communications to do public relations. This afternoon a McNeil Wilson flack blitzed the media today with an email guaranteed to grab people all over the state: “INDEPENDENT POLL SHOWS WIDESPREAD SUPPORT FOR HAWAII SUPERFERRY.” The poll, conducted by QMark Research & Polling, is based on 407 telephone interviews and has a 4.86 percent margin of error. After QMark pollsters read statements like “A ride on Hawaii Superferry will be as stable as any cruise ship in Hawaiian waters” and “These ferries operate all over the world and are safe and environmentally friendly” to those they were surveying, they asked questions like “What if [the proposed] new law [requiring an environmental review] means Hawaii Superferry may cancel plans to ever start service in Hawaii?” As such, it’s not really surprising that four out of five of those surveyed have “favorable” opinions of Hawaii Superferry or that three out of four “want operations to start on time.” PR firms produce polls like this all the time, but calling this an “independent” poll is stretching the term a big far. See, QMark is a subsidiary of Starr Seigle Communications. And on Mar. 8—just one day before Hawaii Superferry, Inc. hired McNeil Wilson—Starr Seigle and McNeill Wilson announced that next month both companies would merge into the state’s largest PR firm. Now isn’t that cozy?
SATURDAY, Mar. 17
SUNDAY, Mar. 18
MONDAY, Mar. 19
Today’s the fourth anniversary of the day President George W. Bush ordered our military and the mighty “Coalition of the Willing” to invade Iraq. Despite all our fighting, torture, killing and even that new-fangled counterinsurgency escalation dubbed “Surge” by our fearless leader, the death rate of U.S. soldiers in Iraq still averages three per day. What was a simple insurrection three years ago long ago gave way to bloody, sectarian anarchy. But don’t look for it to end soon. The Democrats may control Congress, but they’re still arguing over a “timetable” for withdrawal that will likely wither and die long before it reaches Bush’s desk. Don’t expect the arguments—or the war—to end soon. See, the Congressional leadership can oppose the war vocally but doesn’t need to do anything about it. They can threaten this and that for two more years, while popular opinion slowly strangles the Republican Party to death, leaving the White House vulnerable to… Hillary Clinton? Barack Obama? Of course, even if that happens, U.S. troops will probably stay in Iraq. Why? Because there is no Democrat or Republican with any kind of authority and ambition who has the political courage to say what should have been said four years ago: that our invasion was an act of aggression born of corporate and imperial greed but cloaked in lies and fear; that the army cannot bring a rule of law to a nation that lacks a civil society; and that perpetuating a war that was wrong to begin with is an even greater wrong. Every Democrat and Republican who wants to be U.S. President still wants to believe in the absolute power and legitimacy of the American military, even if that was proven mythical 40 years ago in Vietnam. Our leaders and wanna-be leaders have grown so addicted to the notion that the U.S. is the World’s Only Superpower that they dare not even think that we might actually be just like any other nation, with motives that aren’t entirely pure and an army that isn’t invincible.
TUESDAY, Mar. 20
So Happy Birthday, war. Here’s to many more.
Anthony Pignataro would love to know where it all went wrong. MTW