Whenever a person—a citizen, if you will—is arrested or sued, his or her name immediately becomes part of the public record. Newspaper reporters can look at the appropriate court documents or arrest reports and write stories naming all the individuals involved. By common agreement throughout the U.S., this is called “news.” And this is true here as well, with one small but glaring exception: if you’re a member of the Maui Police Department—a cop, if you will—and you get officially accused of committing some violation, then you get complete anonymity. A brief, unbylined story in today’s Maui News (buried on page A4) outlines in extremely vague terms three cases of MPD officers busted in some manner earlier this year. No names are given—“The names of the officers were not made public,” the paper soberly reminds us. See, the cops never give out names because they consider such incidents “personnel matters.” Even if a police shoots and kills someone and is temporarily pulled from duty, the name of the officer remains a closely guarded secret. Even the incidents themselves are described in rather patronizing terms. “A Maui Police Department officer was suspended for five days for failing to properly recover and report evidence seized, police reported,” the story tells us. What “failing to properly recover and report evidence seized” is exactly is left to the reader: Failure to fill out an evidence report? Mislabeling a container? Taking seized Ice and selling it back on the streets? Who knows? We can assume that since the officer’s sanction was a mere five-day suspension, the violation was more likely the former rather than the later, but it’s impossible to say for certain. And I suppose the police are cool with that.
THURSDAY, July 26
Looks like the proposed Malulani Health & Medical Center—that sparkling “state of the art” $212 million new hospital for Kihei—is no longer proposed. According to the July 24 Honolulu Advertiser, the group’s website now has a statement saying the move to build a big private South Maui hospital is now in “non-operational mode,” which I guess is how the kids nowadays are saying “dead.”
FRIDAY, July 27
So tonight around 5 p.m., as I’m just getting ready to head home, the Maui Chamber of Commerce decided to send me an email about botulism. “We received the following notification from Marc Nishimoto, Public Health Emergency Preparedness Planner, Maui District Health Office, regarding a possible botulism case on Maui and asking that we inform our membership,” wrote Chamber President Pamela Tumpap. “Please read on to help protect you and your family, your employees and those you know.” The email warned that it appeared someone on Maui had apparently come down with the dreaded, often fatal disease by consuming one of Castleberry’s botulism-tainted cans of chili, stew, hash or whatever else their many labels are churning out these days. What’s especially scary about this recall that it’s completely, totally, absolutely unnecessary. See, we live in a time when the Bush Administration—spurred on by their friends in Agribusiness—have gutted the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Department of Agriculture to the point where they’re approaching uselessness concerning food safety. Barely eight months ago, investigative reporter Eric Schlosser (of Fast Food Nation fame) wrote the scathing New York Times op-ed “Has Politics Contaminated the Food Supply?” on exactly this subject. “Cutbacks in staff and budgets have reduced the number of food-safety inspections conducted by the F.D.A. to about 3,400 a year—from 35,000 in the 1970s,” Schlosser wrote in the Dec. 11, 2006 story. “The number of inspectors at the Agriculture Department has declined to 7,500 from 9,000.” Schlosser went on to blame “undue corporate influence” and “overlapping bureaucracies” for the fact that an astonishing “76 million Americans are sickened, 325,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 die each year because of something they ate.”
SATURDAY, July 28
SUNDAY, July 29
So looks like Democratic U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka is “postponing” one of his more famous 2006 reelection campaign promises. According to today’s Honolulu Advertiser, Akaka won’t be headed up to Alaska this summer to talk to the Gwich’in Indians about how they feel the sinking of a bunch of oil wells in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) will make life miserable for the Porcupine caribou they live off. “I am disappointed that after extensive planning by staff from the Energy Committee and my office, that my visit to Alaska was cancelled at the last minute to do requests of postponement from those on both sides of the ANWR issue, based on scheduling conflicts,” Akaka said, according to the Advertiser. Whether Akaka actually goes to Alaska for his “fact-finding trip” to see the Gwich’in may be a moot concern. For the last 12 years, Akaka has insisted that he supports drilling ANWR because the proceeds will benefit “the Alaska Natives.” In fact, as we pointed out nearly two years ago (see our Aug. 4, 2005 story “Akaka’s Eskimos”) just 9,000 natives—the Inupiat people—will see any money from ANWR drilling. The rest of Alaska’s natives get nothing because of a shrewdly written 1983 agreement with the U.S. Department of the Interior that the federal General Accounting Office found to be “not in the government’s best interest.” Be nice if a single trip up north will change our good senator’s more than a decade of absurd support for oil drilling, but it’s doubtful.
MONDAY, July 30
In other Akaka-related news, today’s Advertiser says the senator’s vaunted Native Hawaiian Recognition Act—which is now in its seventh year of not going anywhere—has “little chance for a vote before the fall.” The fall? Hope they mean of 2009, because with old George W. still barricaded in the White House, the bill has no chance until he vacates.
TUESDAY, July 31
Neither do we, come to think of it.
Anthony Pignataro likes his eggs scrambled with diced ham, onions, cheddar cheese and as little botulism as possible. MTW