Monday, March 30, 2009

Let The Punishment Fit The Crime!

This has got to be the best possible example of the worst possible case of callous, cold-blooded corruption.

Electricians working for American companies have repeatedly done shoddy work on wiring in the construction of military facilities in Iraq with unthinkable consequences:

Nineteen U.S. military personnel DEAD by electrocution!

Here's the whole miserable, infuriating story.

This is one case when the electric chair would be the most appropriate answer.


Friday, March 27, 2009

James MacArthur - A Class Act and a Good Guy

I was channel surfing last night and happened to comes across an old Disney film, Swiss Family Robinson. The cast included James MacArthur, who is probably best remembered for his role as Danny Williams, sidekick to Jack Lord in the CBS series, Hawaii 5-0. (“Book ‘em, Danno!”)

I knew Jim back in those days and seeing that clip brought to mind a story about him that’s worth sharing.

I was running an advertising agency in Honolulu – this incident occurred sometime in the mid-80s – and had asked Jim if he would appear in a couple of 30-second commercials for a client of ours, a small local bank. He certainly didn’t need the money, and we could only pay him a pittance but, the very good guy that he is, Jim agreed to do it … more as a personal favor to me than anything else, I’m sure.

The shoot was set for 8:00 on a Saturday morning when the bank was normally closed. Jim showed up on time and was his usual friendly, professional self throughout the day. We shot one commercial at the bank’s downtown branch, broke for lunch, then moved out to the Manoa area for the second spot at another branch. As I recall, we finished at about 3:00.

Jim and I were chatting as the crew was packing up, and that’s when I learned he had returned from ten days of skiing in Aspen, Colorado, just the night before.

In fact, as the story unfolded, it turned out that there had been a severe snowstorm and his original flight out of Aspen had been cancelled. So Jim rented a car, drove 200 miles to Denver, and caught a flight to LA where he changed planes for the five-hour flight to Honolulu. Naturally, there had been an additional delay at LAX and by the time he got home and to bed it was after 3:00 a.m. Yet there he was the next morning, right on time without a word of complaint, ready to do our little commercials, for which he was being paid pocket change.

As you see, I’ve never forgotten that. In fact, I think of it every time I read about some temperamental actor pitching a fit over some non-issue or making unreasonable demands.

So here’s to James MacArthur, actor … a consummate professional and all ‘round good guy.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

There Was Only Radio … And We Were There.

Whoever referred to TV as “a wasteland” some years back would have to find a stronger descriptor for what’s offered on commercial radio these days. It’s crap.

Radio was quite wonderful once, back in the 40s and 50s. There was drama and comedy and music with brilliant lyrics (think Cole Porter). And newscasts that lasted a full 15 minutes and were delivered by people like Lowell Thomas or Ed Murrow or William L. Shirer … real newsmen who actually knew what they were talking about.

CBS had a program called You Are There in which real reporters interviewed actors playing historical figures during events such as the battle of Waterloo or the completion of the trans-continental railroad or the signing of the Declaration of Independence. At the beginning of the program, which was later produced on televison, Walter Cronkite, who anchored the dramatized coverage, would say:

“July 4th, 1776. What kind of a day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events which alter and illuminate our times. And you are there.”

And we really were there … standing, in our mind’s eye, right behind Charles Collingwood or Douglas Edwards outside the courthouse at Appomattox as he asked General Robert E. Lee to share his thoughts on the day that ended our Civil War.

Today, radio gives us information either in two-minute news dribbles read by disk jockeys or in three-hour rants by right-wing blowhards. And “wasteland” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ordinary Folks Pay the Price for Political Ambition

Comes news today that the never-ending source of blogging material, Sarah Palin, is going to turn down $160 million in stimulus money the would have gone to education and other aid directly to Alaskans in need. She’s refusing the money because, she says, the State of Alaska won’t be able to continue those programs after the federal dollars run out.

There is a firestorm of negative reaction coming from all across her state, but the Acting Mayor of Anchorage, Matt Claman, got things in perspective with a great comment. He says Palin’s action was like “turning down a gift card because it expires in two years.”

It should also be noted that Palin is the third Republican governor to decline stimulus money. The others are Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Mark Sanford of South Carolina. All three have been mentioned as potential Republican opponents for Barack Obama in 2012. My, my ... what a shocking coincidence!

Clearly, all three think the best way to the nomination is by pandering to the hard-core lolos* on the far right that now make up most of the shrinking Republican base. Trouble is, the people whose lives would be improved, or perhaps even saved, by these funds will be picking up the tab.

* lolo (Hawaiian): idiot, loony, crazy person


Thursday, March 19, 2009

And ... THEY'RE OFF!!

My good friend, Neil Abercrombie – I’ve mentioned him here and in my other blog several times – has announced that he will be running for Governor of Hawaii as a Democrat in next year’s election.

Photo: I had a chance to chat with Neil a week ago when he was here to kick off his Maui campaign.

This is good news for folks here in Hawaii. Neil has been in Congress for 20 years and, as governor, that experience will certainly help him help us. He’s also close to President Obama and that, too, should be a big plus.

The presumed Republican candidate will be the current Lieutenant Governor, James "Duke" Aiona, a very empty suit. The real race, the one that will almost certainly produce our next governor, will be the Democratic Party primary. Several other big-name Democrats are supposedly considering the race, including Honolulu’s mayor, Mufi Hannemann. Personally, I hope Mufi completes his 2nd term as Mayor and uses that time to really get Honolulu’s long-overdue transit system well underway. He has championed that project and it's taken real political courage.

No matter who the other players may be, with Neil in the campaign, it will be spirited, enlightening and fun watch. He's intelligent, having a PhD; he’s articulate and often inspiring; and he’s got a wonderful, often wicked, sense of humor.

Eh, Neil ... Go gettum, bruddah!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

One More Outrage ... and a Suggested Solution

Nothing like starting a Sunday morning with a good teeth-gnashing.

I refer, of course, to the news that AIG, recipient of some $170 billion-with-a-B bailout dollars, is proposing to pay $165 million in bonuses to their top executives.

The CEO says they have to pay those bonuses because (a) how else will they be able to keep "the best and the brightest" executives and (b) their lawyers say they have a legal obligation to pay and -- God forbid! -- they could be sued.

First, since these are the same people who drove AIG into the ground in the first place, let's fuggedabout the "best and brightest" argument. No one reading this is dumb enough to buy it, anyway.

As to the legal "problem," let's just ask each of the AIG executives on that Bonus List to voluntarily waive said bonuses. We'll tell 'em it's for the good of the country and they'll feel really, really good about themselves. Whatever.

Then, if they don't, we publish their names and addresses and phone numbers.

If they really are the best and the brightest, they'll go for that in a New York minute!


Friday, March 13, 2009

Some Very Random Wonderings …

1. Everyone seems to agree that a single payer health insurance system would reduce the cost of health insurance. So why aren’t business owners demanding it?

2. How long will it take for Manny Ramirez to get tired of La-La-Land and start sitting out games with a sore knee … and forgetting if it’s the left or the right one? (Yes, I’m a Red Sox fan, and if you root for the Dodgers, you are more than welcome to the big bozo.)

3. Why don’t the people ranting about “socialism” check out the actual meaning of the term? (Oh, wait … I forget … they don’t care what it means as long as it keeps the ditto-heads frothing at the mouth.)

4. Republicans like Knee-Jerk John Boehner are automatically against everything President Obama proposes. Wouldn’t it be helpful if they had some alternative ideas?

5. Why don’t the people responsible for the SpellCheck programs fix it so “Obama” isn’t flagged?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Got Health Insurance? Think You’re OK? Think Again!

The current issue of TIME magazine has a cover story on health care in this country. Read it!

There are several case histories that will break your heart. These are not rare occurrences, either. An illness or accident can leave you destitute and an empty pot for your heirs.

A couple of years ago, Harvard did a study of some 1,700 bankruptcies from around the country. In more than half the cases, medical problems were the major cause. And – get this! – 75 percent of those people had health insurance!

A big part of the problem is deceptive marketing by many of the insurance companies, lulling people into believing they will be adequately covered in the case of a serious medical problem.

One case mentioned in the article will make your blood boil. Here's a brief summary:

A man bought an insurance policy which he renewed every six months for several years. Toward the end of one of those six month terms, he complained about some symptoms to his doctor. A few months later -- he’s now in his next six-month term -- he was diagnosed with a serious illness. But the insurance company refused to pay on the grounds that the illness was a pre-existing condition. How can that be, you ask? Well, every time this poor guy renewed his policy, the company considered him to be a brand new customer.

For the record, the name of this miserable company-without-a-soul is Assurant Health, and they, according to their web site, are providing “peace of mind … at a price you can afford.”
Wrong on both counts!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

And Speaking of Earmarks and Hypocrites ...

Meet United States Senator John Kyl, Republican from Arizona.

This guy delivered an impassioned speech on the floor of the United States Senate in which he criticized President Obama's budget and ranted against all the awful earmarks put in there by various Members of Congress.

Well, guess what? It turns out that earmarks totalling 118 million bucks were put into the budget by -- yep -- United States Senator John Kyl, Republican from Arizona.

No further comment. None necessary.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Earmarks: The 'Great Satan' of the Budget Process

A cynical fraud slathered with hypocrisy is being perpetrated on the public these days. Republican politicians are railing against earmarks in the budget proposed by the Obama Administration. (Earmarks, as we should all know by now, are the special pet projects tacked onto money bills by Members of Congress.)

First of all, many – and I would guess probably even most – of those earmarks are for worthwhile projects.

But the fact is, earmarks account for less than one percent of the federal budget, so making such a huge deal over them is, as we say here in Hawaii, shibai … a fraud … willful B.S. It’s like complaining about the cost of foul balls being hit into the stands at a sold-out baseball game.

That said, the monumental hypocrisy in this fiasco is that some 40 percent of all those earmarks were put there by Republicans … the very same people who are beating their chests in mock outrage.

Clearly, these clowns think we’re stupid. And -- whether you’re left, center or right -- doesn’t that piss you off?


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Pork? Waste? Maybe … but, then again, maybe not!

A lot of the brouhaha over earmarks and pork is just irrelevant nonsense. What seems like a wasteful, unnecessary expense to a insurance salesman in New York City could almost literally be a matter of life and death to a rancher in Montana.

Of course there’s waste – the famous “bridge to nowhere” leaps immediately to mind – but I would venture to say that most federally funded projects have at least some merit.

Remember Senator William Proxmire from Wisconsin? He was frequently in the news for presenting bureaucrats and other politicians with what he called the Golden Fleece Award … his way of bringing the hot white light of publicity to bear on what he thought was wasteful government spending.

One of Proxmire’s awards went to an appropriation – put into the budget, as I recall, by our distinguished U.S. Senator Dan Inouye – that was to fund a program to prevent the brown tree snake from getting into Hawaii. I guess this seemed like a waste of money to the senator from Wisconsin.

Brown tree snakes found their way to Guam shortly after World War II, probably in cargo coming from the South Pacific. There are now literally millions of the damn things there and they are a huge problem. Most of these snakes are three to four feet long, but they can grow to more than twice that length. They crawl up utility poles and cause frequent electrical outages, they get into houses and bite people (painful, and can be fatal to little kids), and they kill and eat small family pets. Sadly, there are now almost no birds on Guam, because the snakes crawl up into the trees and eat the birds eggs.

By contrast, there are no snakes in Hawaii ... and we'd kinda like to keep it that way. Furthermore, we have hundreds of species of birds, many that are found nowhere else in the world, like this beautiful creature, the i’iwi.

So … do we think the funding Dan Inouye gets from the federal budget to inspect containers coming here from Guam is money well spent? Well, the late Senator Proxmire and all his good intentions notwithstanding … you’re damn right, we do!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Rushing to Mount Rush More

At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, the choir get a stem-winding wrap-up speech from their preacher, Rush Limbaugh. It was predictably ugly and incendiary. After all, that is Limbaugh’s mother lode.

Those are not my words, by the way. That’s how the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, described the remarks delivered by The Great Bloviator.

On his next radio broadcast, Limbaugh did what he does best: He attacked. He accused Steele of actually wanting President Obama to successfully get us out of this economic mess instead of hoping he fails, as Limbaugh does. And today, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee … caved! Said he was sorry. Said he respects that big blowhard. And acknowledged Limbaugh’s “leadership.”

What a sorry spectacle: The top Republican allowing Rush Limbaugh to speak for the party that has Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal as its emerging leadership.

Seriously... how pathetic is that!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Can this be the best the GOP has to offer??

I don’t want to always be picking on Sarah Palin or Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, but they keep on giving me such great material!

You will recall Jindal’s embarrassing rebuttal to President Obama’s speech to the joint session of Congress. Quite apart from the shameless self-promotion and the worn-out fallback to gummint-is-the-problem ideology, he also mocked some of the projects included in Obama’s stimulus package.

The legislation, he said, “is larded with wasteful spending … such as a magnetic levitation [rail] line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called volcano monitoring.”

Well, yeah, there’s money in the bill for rail – and their damn well should be! – but no specific mention of a Los Angeles-Las Vegas route. But here's the punchline: four days after Jindal mocked money for rail, his own Department of Transportation put in a request for some of that filthy lucre!

And, Bobby … here’s a photo taken from my front yard. See that mountain back there? That’s a freakin’ volcano! The experts say it isn’t active, but you can bet yer butt that I’m in favor of a few bucks being spent for them to keep an eye on it. Furthermore, I'd be willing to bet that people living near Mount Saint Helen’s would agree.