Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Suggestion to Dick Cheney: GO AWAY!

George W. Bush finally deserves some credit. He has quietly gone home to Texas where he has refrained from commenting on the performance of his successor. And good for him. Obama has his hands full and can do without any partisan criticisms from the guy largely responsible for the mess.

Dick Cheney is another story. He has no qualms about sniping away at Obama. And this is coming from the guy who told us there were WMD in Iraq when there weren’t … who continues to say there was a link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda, when there was not … and who still thinks it was OK for the U.S. to torture people, when it was and is illegal and when it’s pretty clear it doesn’t work anyway.

Dick Cheney is the poster boy for much of what has been wrong in this country for many years and he will be surely be judged harshly by history. His continued spiteful rumblings don’t seem to be hurting Obama and are reinforcing all his and Bush’s negatives. Nevertheless, we would all be better off if he would just fold his tent and disappear. Ironically, so would he.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

If After 83 Times You Don't Succeed ...

The so-called "torture memos" that the Obama Administration has ordered released have provided some real insights.

But they also seem to support the notion that torture doesn't work in the first place.

According to those memos, one guy, Abu Zubaydah, was waterboarded eighty-three times in one month!

Isn't that a definition of insanity ... when you keep doing the same thing over and over, but expect a different result?

Sure seems like the inmates were running the asylum.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What Price Must We Pay for Their Ratings?

I had a bite to eat tonight in the hotel restaurant/lounge here in Washington and on the wall in the far corner of the room was a big flat-screen TV. Mercifully, the sound was off, but I recognized Lou Dobbs who was – I could tell, even from that distance --pontificating about whatever was pissing him off today.

Sorry, I’m really not interested.

It's a wonder to me that anyone takes Dobbs and the others of his ilk seriously, especially the loonies at Fox : Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Glen Beck et al. (I cannot bring myself to say, “Fox News.”)

Having spent 20-plus years in and around the news business, I can tell you what goes on every day in the offices and studios at the networks that produce and broadcast the shows on which those people appear. Every morning, five days a week, the “star” sits down with his producers and writers and says, in effect, “OK, what the hell are we going to talk about today?”

Bear in mind, what they care about is not the quality of the content or the public interest. What they care about are ratings, because ratings – good ratings, that is – keep them employed and keep those paychecks coming. And the higher the ratings, the fatter the paychecks.

Every day, they have to come up with something that will first capture and then hold the attention of their audience. That’s a huge challenge for a weekly show, and it’s five times the challenge for a show that’s aired daily.

And so, ever in search of higher ratings, they pass from the stimulating to the controversial to the inflammatory to the outrageous, without regard to any journalistic standards or, for that matter, the truth. They have to … or they’re off the air.

And so they end up, as O’Reilly does, screaming at their invited guests to shut up or feigning some kind of a mini-emotional breakdown while blubbering that they love their country, as Glen Beck did.

When these clowns rant and rave that Obama is a socialist who’s secretly plotting to take us all down the road to communism, rational people don’t take them seriously. The problem – and it’s truly frightening – is that some the 40 IQs out there do … and one of them could decide to do something about it.

Been there, done that ... and I really couldn’t bear to go down that road again.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

I'm On The Road Again

There will be some interruptions in my postings over the next two weeks because I’ll be traveling. I’m leaving this afternoon for Washington, DC, to attend the annual meeting of the National Association of Railroad Passengers. NARP is a national, non-partisan organization advocating more and better passenger rail service as a transportation alternative. It’s my privilege to have been elected to serve on the Council of Representatives as Hawaii’s delegate.

I will have my laptop with me and will try to post items that will hopefully be of interest as thoughts and opportunities occur.

I’ll be taking several train rides, of course, and will perhaps add a few things here that I don’t post on my other blog.

And, with that … I’m off!


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Don't Care What It Is, We’re Against It!

Today that paragon of objective journalism, Fox News, is busily promoting the so-called Tea Parties being thrown around the country during which conservatives are chanting “taxation without representation” and protesting the Obama “tax hike.”

May I offer a couple of little nit-picky points?

Yes, the original Boston Tea Party was indeed about taxation without representation. But -- you see, fellas – this time around, whatever taxation we have comes WITH representation. Your point again is … ?

And exactly what tax hike are you protesting? Most Americans will be getting a tax cut. The only increase will be for those among us lucky enough to have a taxable income of over $300,000. For heaven’s sake, don’t let facts get in the way of your blathering!

So it continues: knee-jerk opposition to whatever Obama proposes and no alternatives put forward. Pretty lame, don't you think?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Where the Margin for Error is ZERO!

It’s abundantly clear that the right-wingers among us will never, under any circumstances, give Barack Obama credit for anything. Not ever.

Have a conversation with the Russians and he’s a wuss who caves into those who would do us harm. Say all Americans should have adequate health care and he’s leading us down the slippery slope to communism. In a way, I can almost muster some grudging admiration for folks who are so locked into their own ideology that our guys can do no right while theirs can do no wrong.

Liberals aren’t like that. We tend to look at each issue separately and come up with what may or may not be a typically liberal solution. And we certainly have no compunctions about taking Democrats to task if we think they have erred.

For example, Obama is in trouble with at least a few liberals for his choice of a Portuguese water dog named Bo as the family pet. There are liberals among us who are bitterly chastising the Obamas for choosing Bo over a dog from the DC pound.

Rescuing the economy is all well and good, but opt for a pure bred instead of a poi dog and you’re outta here, pal!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Do-It-Yourselfers Come Through ... Big Time!

When heavy rains washed away a section of road leading to Polihale State Park on Kauai, a number residents and some small businesses providing tours for visitors were cut off. It was a pretty simple equation: No road = no tourists = no income.

Typically, the State came out looked at the mess, studied it, and months later came back shaking their heads. Fixing the road and repairing the small bridge would cost $4 million dollars and we're facing a big deficit and there’s just no telling when we’ll get around to fixing the road. And ... oh, yeah … sorry about the inconvenience.

So a bunch of local folks said, “Screw it!” And using donated labor, materials and equipment, fixed the road and rebuilt the bridge in ten days!

The only thing left is to get the State to inspect and certify the new bridge.



Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dealing With Big Problems Ain't Easy!

The biggest problem we have when trying to deal with our biggest problems are the people who begin their comments with “All ya gotta do is …” They don't get it: There are no simple solutions to the complex problems facing our global society. In fact, in some cases there may indeed be no solution.

One of those maybe-insolvable problems is illegal immigration. It’s very easy in the abstract to say, “If they’re illegal, send ‘em home.” Would that it really were that easy.

There’s been a big crackdown here on Maui by the immigration people and it’s caused a backlash, mostly coming from religious leaders and legal alien residents, who find themselves having to deal with some very human reality.

What should be done, for instance, about the illegal worker (a man) who meets another illegal here (a woman) and marries her? Both are working and paying their way. Eight years later, they have two small kids.

One day the immigration people stage a routine raid on his place of employment. He’s discovered and arrested, taken back to the rental apartment where this wife is also discovered and arrested. Two days later, he’s shipped back to Guatemala, she’s deported to Honduras, and the two children are separated and placed in foster homes. The kids, you see, are both American citizens because they were born here, but are without passports.

Who’s better off as a result of all this? The husband? The wife? The kids? For that matter, is society better off?

I really don’t know how situations like these should be handled. But I do know that no one is better off.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

We had a nice family dinner the other night … Italian … with sausages, pasta with homemade tomato sauce, a nice salad and garlic bread.

But wait … in checking the label on the bread for warming directions – oven temp, time, etc. – I came across something else on the package: “A PRODUCT OF GERMANY”. What?? This frozen loaf of garlic bread has traveled across twelve time zones to reach our table here on Maui?Where’s the economic logic in that … let alone the energy consumption and other environmental factors involved?

We’ve had a long spate of chilly weather here – temperatures in the mid- to low-sixties, intermittent rain driven by wind gusts up to 30 mph. Unpleasant for us softies here in Hawaii.So I’ve had a fire going in out little cast iron wood-burning stove off and on for the past couple of months.

A few days ago, I ran out of the firewood I had gathered and split, so I stopped in at the Ace Hardware store in Pukalani on my way to the supermarket. There, stacked in front of the store, were bundles of pre-cut, pre-split firewood. According to the label, it comes to us from 4,000 miles away ... from Montana!

This is crazy!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

John Kernell: One of Frank's Original Good Guys

Many of you – well, mostly fellow members of the Hawaii Old Timers’ Club – will remember John Kernell. He was former Mayor Frank Fasi’s very first Director of the Office of Information and Complaint (I’m Number Two! I’m Number Two!) and went on to become a news anchor at KGMB-TV.

John is now happily retired, living near the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and churning out daily emails full of wonderful nonsensical stuff and to which you may subscribe for a pittance. Check out his web site, The Geezer Brigade.

And here’s a sample from today’s email ...

Never piss off a guy with a backhoe.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Go Ahead, Emptor … Caveat!

As we slog our way through these days of economic turmoil, an oft-heard theme has been that many of the people losing their homes or their life savings or both should have known better … that they are in trouble because of their own personal greed or carelessness or stupidity. No doubt that is indeed true in some cases.

But what if you're just an average hard-working person with an average understanding of the complexities of banking or real estate or investment?

Unfortunately, you could easily be screwed.

The other day we received the annual report from what I will only describe as a major fund, sent to us because we have invested a small portion of our meager nest egg with these guys.

The damn thing is 1140 pages long, is more than an inch-and-a-quarter thick, has been written by lawyers, and is printed in small type.

And on the cover it says ...