The week in review
February 07, 2008
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 30
Tents. That's how the State of Hawai`i is going to address the issue of prison overcrowding. According to today's Honolulu Advertiser, Governor Linda Lingle is asking the federal government for $12.65 million so her administration can build seven 7,064-square-foot "Sprung Instant Structures" at various prisons across the state. Each of these structures (they're really just tents) would hold 64 inmates, and two of them would go in at Maui Community Correctional Center (MCCC). Now prison overcrowding is a legitimate issue, and I suppose this solution is as good as any (early outs don't really play well with middle class voters). But if you really start to think about this idea, you can't help but see that there's something perverse about it. Here's a state taxpayer-funded government that will set up temporary but still habitable tents for people who've been convicted of crimes, but it won't do the same thing for poor people who haven't committed crimes but just lack homes.
THURSDAY, Jan. 31
Show of hands of all those who feel President George W. Bush would be pushing for immediate middle class tax cuts and rebates if 2008 was not an election year? Anyone? Such cynics you people are. Of course, the whole idea of a rushing through the congress an "economic stimulus package"—now endorsed by both Democratic U.S. Senators Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye, according to today's Honolulu Advertiser—seems to have bipartisan appeal. Too bad spending money is not something Americans already do enough of. Spiraling credit card debt, sub-prime mortgages: these are the things that sent our economy careening towards recession in the first place (and our ballooning national debt into the hands of Chinese bond-holders, but that's another story entirely). Alas, our elected officials feel that quickly sending everyone checks for $600 will end recession fears. This, as writers far more talented and astute than I have noted, is lunacy. "The experts caution that for maximum stimulus effect, we must be sure to spend it immediately," Michael Kinsley wrote with more than a little sarcasm in the Jan. 24 issue of Time Magazine. "No squirreling it away for a rainy day. In drinking circles, they call this hair of the dog: to cure a hangover, you have another drink."
FRIDAY, Feb. 1
It's not as sexy as state Representative Joe Bertram (D, South Maui)'s call for a state-sanctioned "marijuana growing facility" on Maui—which got front-page play in today's Maui News, but state Representative Blake Oshiro (D, Aiea, Halawa) has sponsored a new bill that's every bit as important, timely and, yes, humane. I say these things because his bill (HB 2557, as outlined in an Associated Press story today) WILL PROTECT ME. It's what we in the news business call a "shield law" and it's designed to prohibit the government from jailing a "journalist"—like me—until he or she names his or her anonymous sources. This is great, except that these days, no one really knows what a "journalist" is. Ohshiro's bill defines a journalist as someone "associated with any newspaper, magazine, news agency, press association, wire service, or radio or television transmission station or network," but this is potentially leaving out a lot of people. What exactly is a "news agency?" Can a blogger who's just one guy be a journalist? How about handsomely paid public relations people? And what about that guy who stands on the street corner holding a sign saying he's the gay lover of the mayor a journalist? At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I'm going to say that Oshiro's bill doesn't go far enough—all those people I just hypothetically outlined are journalists, in my opinion. In fact, I think anyone who gathers and disseminates information to the general public is a journalist, irrespective of whether they have press passes, those bitchen reporter's notebooks or miniscule paychecks.
SATURDAY, Feb. 2
You know how the gas pump asks you to press a special key if you're paying with a debit card as opposed to a regular credit card? Well, I just realized today (while at the gas pump) that I never press that key. Also, I realized that I don't remove my card "rapidly" like the pump says, but I do so in a more leisurely, almost deliberate fashion. I'm not sure, but I'm beginning to think this means I'm a bad person.
SUNDAY, Feb. 3
The Superferry is stuck in port until Monday with a busted rudder and has already lost 14 days of service due to the weather—four more days than the company told the state Public Utilities Commission it would miss in an entire year? The Maui News is reporting that Mayor Charmaine Tavares has banned county workers from using the boat for "official business?" The Advertiser is saying that the Maui Land & Pineapple Company—which poured a million bucks into Hawai`i Superferry, Inc. (HSF)—isn't booking passage on the Alakai because "currently rates are not cost-effective?" What's going on here? HSF has a lot of high-powered investors and executives with lots of friends in Washington and Honolulu—they got a law fairly easily passed exempting them from the state's environmental review requirements, after all—and yet they seem to be… what's the word? Ah yes: foundering. Tomorrow the Norwegian Cruise Lines—which has not been doing well financially (pesky American crewmembers with their American standard of living)—will send their Pride of Hawaii to Los Angeles and then Europe, where it will become the Norwegian Jade. Will the Alakai be far behind?
MONDAY, Feb. 4
Lest people think the state legislative calendar is filled with nothing but great bills, allow me to introduce HB 2455 and SB 3141, which seek end the practice of capping corporate donations to political candidates at $1,000. "If our legislature passes these bills, businesses will be able to give two thousand dollars to every House candidate, and four thousand to every Senate candidate," George Fox, executive director of the good government group Citizen Voice, said in a press release sent out today (candidates for governor would be able to get $6,000 from corporations as well). "Add all those up, and that's a huge amount of campaign money. So if I can only afford to give $25 to my candidate, what difference do I make?"
TUESDAY, Feb. 5
People are still worried about making a difference? How quaint. The last time I checked, we still live in a nation where the wealthy and powerful say and believe with no irony whatsoever that money is speech and speech is money.
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