The Week In Review
April 24, 2008
WEDNESDAY, Apr. 16
There was a tiny story on a new poll of homeowners posted on the Pacific Business News website two days ago that got virtually no play, possibly because much of the press is far more interested in the damage our three wonderful presidential hopefuls are doing to each other than that currently being inflicted on us by the current White House occupier. "Sixty percent said they definitely won't buy a home in the next two years, up from 53 percent in the September 2006 poll," reported PBN. "One in seven mortgage holders fear they won't be able to make their monthly payments on time during the next six months." These poll results, clearly due to the sub-prime mortgage crisis that hasn't played itself out yet, are also clearly the fault of one President George W. Bush, who tried to sell the nation on his vaunted "Ownership Society" and told lenders as far back as 2002 "to unlock millions of dollars [and] make it available for the purchase of a home." Like the invasion of Iraq, the bid to privatize Social Security, the big plan to make prescription drugs for seniors affordable, the move to rebuild New Orleans' Hurricane Katrina damage, everything Bush has touched has withered and died. Yes, Richard Nixon was a criminal who soiled the White House with his sniveling presence, but at least he didn't obliterate whole federal government departments and legacies. It's funny to count down the days until Bush is out of Washington, but sometimes I wonder if we as a nation will survive even those dwindling days.
THURSDAY, Apr. 17
Rubes. That's the word that came to mind when reading the new state Auditor's report on the Lingle Administration's decision to exempt Hawai`i Superferry, Inc. (HSF) from state environmental laws. As in: "I can't believe what a bunch of rubes we have running our state government." Turns out—to no one's surprise, I imagine—that our top state Department of Transportation (DOT) officials apparently never checked out HSF's insistence that the reason they couldn't do a full environmental assessment before starting Superferry service was because the federal government told them they had to get all their approvals by June 30, 2005. That date, which the auditor's office discovered came not from the fed but from the ship-builder, "drove the entire process." How's this for a comedy of errors: "The then-deputy director of harbors [Barry Fukunaga, Governor Linda Lingle's current chief of staff] told us he could not recall if the date was verified but that the department 'probably' did so because the department would not simply take Hawaii Superferry, Inc.'s word that all environmental clearances had to be given by June 30, 2005." (Feel free to sigh audibly at this point.) In any case, emails obtained by auditors found that some DOT planners and engineers were skeptical of HSF claims but felt that no one would listen to them because the company was so cozy with the Lingle Administration: "Would like to be more agressive [sic] with HSF, but concerned they will run to the Governor and we will be painted as not being helpful," one project engineer wrote in an late 2004 email.
FRIDAY, Apr. 18
So U.S. Congressman Neil Abercrombie (D, 1st District) is going after the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). What happened, Neil—is the War in Iraq not a bloody enough fiasco for you? According to today's Honolulu Advertiser, Abercrombie and two other congressional representatives want the Justice Department "to investigate whether the BCS is illegally restraining trade." Oh brother: ask any sports fan what's wrong the BCS—the insanely complicated arrangement that supposedly determines the "best" college football team each season—and you'll get a fit of sputtering and fury. Abercrombie's worry is that the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) is discriminating against schools, but I think he's missing a larger injustice. In 2006, according to the paper "The Economics of College Sports: Cartel Behavior vs. Amateurism," written that year by Cornell University's Lawrence M. Kahn, NCAA basketball and football earned $675 million. Not one dime of that rather bloated sum ever [we absurdly hope] made it into the pockets of any NCAA athlete, because the association strictly mandates that all players maintain an amateur status. Not to put too Marxist a point on this argument, but since that money is almost entirely due to the labors of the NCAA players, not letting them share in the wealth is outright exploitation. The argument, of course, is that the players' schools get a lot of that money, which in turn benefits the players. Of course, the vast majority of students never put on a jersey (so-called "free riders), so I'm going to stand by my original argument, though I'm sure there's some know-it-all sports fan/economist who'll take me to task for it.
SATURDAY, Apr. 19
|The Superferry has another super week|
Here we go again: with business running nearly as low as that month it spent all busted up in a Honolulu dry dock, all a boatload of bad pub swirling around the company from that recent state Auditor's report, can you think of a better time for Hawai'i Superferry to start up that second daily Oahu-Maui run they've long hinted at? "An afternoon voyage will benefit our customers who want the convenience of traveling later in the day," HSF President and CEO John Garibaldi said in a release sent out last night. It's gonna happen, too, mostly because, according to today's Maui News, Mayor Charmaine Tavares has apparently dropped the resistance she offered earlier this year when HSF announced they were doing a second run.
SUNDAY, Apr. 20
Earth Day is actually, technically, April 22, but everyone seems okay with celebrating it today—4/20. Go figure.
MONDAY, Apr. 21
Yesterday, The Maui News had a giant front page story (with giant color graphics) on the new county General Plan, which says we should all prepare for a 42 percent growth in population to about 186,300 residents. That will require 40,000 more homes, condominiums and apartments. Buried in the story (15 paragraphs in) is this undeniable statement: "Inadequate planning for growth on Maui already has led to overcrowded roads and schools and strain on the island's fresh water supplies." For more evidence of that, the reader had to do nothing more difficult than wait 24 hours for The Maui News story "Water levels Upcountry have officials worried." We're having trouble finding water for the people who live here now. Even with proper planning, how is adding 40,000 more homes going to make that easier?
TUESDAY, Apr. 22
And no, I don't expect an answer.
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