The week in review
July 24, 2008
WEDNESDAY, JULY 16
A bit of local political intrigue, with Councilwoman Michelle Anderson announcing she won't seek reelection to the South Maui seat. Citing "family health concerns," Anderson threw her support behind former Councilman Wayne Nishiki. "It is with great pride that I hand the reins back to Wayne," Anderson said in a press release. Not to nitpick—a look at Nishiki's record seems to indicate he'd be a fine choice—but there is that little formality we call the election and challengers Don Couch, Joseph Gannon and Norman Vares to get out of the way before anyone does any handing of reins.
THURSDAY, JULY 17
|I now pronounce you...hey, you kids got a permit?|
Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairwoman Laura Thielen jetted over to Maui in an effort to clarify the agency's controversial positions on beach wedding permits and fishing regulations. There's an interesting phenomenon that happens with public officials who always try to stay on message—sometimes they inadvertently say something really truthful that cuts right to the heart of the matter. Like this, from the Maui News' coverage of Thielen's visit and the DNLR's public hearing: "[Thielen] believes many permittees share the department's resource conservation goals, or would if they knew what they were." And that, folks, is the rub. Regulation in and of itself is not a bad thing; if you believe even a little in the idea that part of the government's job is to maintain and bolster the collective good, you have to favor some form of public oversight. The key is for the entities in charge of that oversight to execute it with clarity and a certain amount of common sense. Hopefully the DNLR can adopt a lot more of both.
FRIDAY, JULY 18
The Hawaii Tourism Authority's annual conference is set to ramp up next month, and you can bet the main topic of discussion will be: Where the eff are all the tourists? As quoted in the Honolulu Advertiser, Matthew Crummack of online travel giant Expedia thinks it's just a matter of promoting the "aloha spirit." Said Crummack, "You can't go to Mexico and say I'd like to experience some aloha spirit here." Huh. Food for thought, Matt. Here's another possibility: The Associated Press reports that consumer prices rose last month across the board at a rate not seen in decades, with skyrocketing fuel costs of course the primary factor. One of the biggest bumps came in the price of airline tickets, which jumped about 5 percent. Factor in lodging, dining and tiki shot glasses and that basically puts a working family of five in a position where they have to choose between spending a week on Maui and eating for a month. But if only they were better informed about the "aloha spirit"…
SATURDAY, JULY 19
Look, campaign ads are almost always hollow, manipulative and based on sketchy half-truths. And that's just the positive ones; the attack ads are downright pathetic. So we recognize that critiquing them is kind of like shooting yellow tang in a teacup with a bazooka. But McCain's latest entry is especially egregious. In it, the presumptive Republican nominee suggests that rising gas prices should be blamed on his opponent for refusing to expand domestic drilling. That's right, it has nothing to do with eight years of oil men in the White House, an increasingly volatile situation in the Middle East made worse by two poorly-planned wars, blatant price gouging and a lack of funding for alternative energy exploration. Let's just stick our tar-coated beaks in one more time and suck out the last of our oil here at home and things'll be dandy. Kinda reminds me of a joke campaign slogan someone (I think it was The Onion) made up for Bob Dole back in '96 that applies equally to McCain circa '08: "Digging a ditch to the 19th Century."
SUNDAY, JULY 20
Looks like the simmering transient vacation rental issue is about to reach its boiling point. The Maui News reports that the county is bringing legal action against Stephanie Rager of California for allegedly renting her four-bedroom Kihei home without a conditional use permit. Officials are planning to make an example out of Ms. Rager, having built an intricate case against her that involves repeated contact, surveillance and the tracking down and collecting of statements from former renters. If convicted, Rager could be hit with over $200,000 in fines. I believe that's called throwing the book at someone; if the book finds its mark (or even more so if it doesn't) it'll be a landmark test case for the many TVR fights that'll surely follow.
MONDAY, JULY 21
With 'The Dark Knight,' the latest installment in the Batman franchise, shattering box office records over the weekend, packing cinemas from Maui to Manhattan, it becomes sufficiently newsworthy for inclusion here. But theater receipts aren't really the reason it warrants mention, and neither is the film itself, which has some thrilling moments but is too long, a tad overwrought and in the end just another pretty-good superhero flick. No, what truly deserves ink is the performance of the late Heath Ledger. It was an acting job destined to be put under microscope when Ledger was found dead from a supposedly accidental prescription drug overdose shortly after filming wrapped. But here's the thing—his portrayal of the makeup-smeared madman the Joker is good. Really good. We're talking better-than-Nicholson good. Maybe even posthumous Oscar good. (Not that the Oscars are necessarily a reliable indicator of greatness, but you get the idea.) Even if you don't like movies about secret identity-owning crime fighters in tights—even if you don't like movies in general all that much—go see this performance. Not to gawk at the dead, but to celebrate the chillingly excellent final chapter in a book that was tragically cut short.
TUESDAY, JULY 22
The Maui News and other sources report that an Air Force B-52 bomber crashed off Guam yesterday while on its way to do a parade flyover. At least two of the airmen aboard were killed. While the needless loss of life is obviously the primary issue here, there's also the cost of the military equipment—paid for by you and me—and the massive search and rescue that ensued. And one is left with an obvious question: what's the point? Even when they go off without a hitch, these flyovers, done at dozens of baseball and football games and other events every year, are still a colossal waste of public resources. Is it really worth the risk and cost for a couple seconds of craning your neck and saying, wow, those planes sure are fast? We get it—our military has the biggest and baddest toys. Now do us all a favor and put them away until we actually need them. MTW
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