Monday, September 29, 2008

Musings: Tough Sell

Koko and I spent some time outside last night, the air still, balmy and perfumed with mock orange; the sky new moon-dark and packed so tight with stars that the Milky Way appeared as celestial broad avenue. We watched Makalii — Pleides — rise shimmering in the east as Jupiter glowed yellow in the south and all the while, crickets sang loudly.

Life is always so good, and so simple, at such times.

The new $700 billion bailout bill, up to 110 pages from the three-page document that President Bush initially sent to Congress, is no longer simple, but it’s clearly good for some:

While the plan broadly aims to prevent banks from profiting on the sale of troubled assets to the government, there is an exception made for assets acquired in a merger or buyout, or from companies that have filed for bankruptcy.

This detail could allow JPMorgan Chase & Co. to sell toxic mortgages and other assets it gained control of last week when it purchased Washington Mutual Inc. for a higher price than the failed thrift paid for them.


And not so good for others:

They [Democrats] failed in an effort to give judges the power to modify mortgage terms for people who have filed for bankruptcy and Democrats were unable to get approval for part of any profits the government might receive to go to help people facing mortgage defaults.

Despite Bush loudly ringing the fear alarm, it’s proving to be a tough sell in Congress and even tougher sell to the public:

Thousands of angry phone calls, e-mails and letters have poured into Capitol Hill from constituents. Supporters essentially acknowledged that it was a hold-your-nose-and-vote matter.”

Noted Rep. Dennis Kucinich in a Democracy Now! interview:

Well, what we have is a transfer of wealth, actually. It’s a continuation of a transfer of wealth. This whole government has become nothing more than a big machine that transfers the wealth upwards with our tax policies, our energy policies, with this fiscal policies, with the war. All the wealth of the country goes from the pockets of the people into the hands of a few. This is a very dangerous moment.

Will it pass? And if it does, will it work? Who knows? Our elected officials are making it all up as they go along.

I’ve heard a few people make similar references to former Star-Bulletin reporter Tony Sommer’s book, “KPD Blue,” which is being serialized on Andy Parx’s blog.

While that’s excessively harsh, there have been a few times when Tony was loose with the truth, or at least, his recollection of events wasn’t quite the same as mine. Mostly, though, reading the installments has been like taking a trip down bad memory lane, recalling some of the more sordid moments of my Kauai reporting history, such as the Fanta-See Express debacle and the really tragic Monica Alves murder trial.

This was especially true of yesterday’s installment, which dealt with the infamous Kauai serial killer, a case that chilled most women on the island and took an unpleasant legal turn for me after I wrote about it for Honolulu Magazine. As Tony writes:

The arrested man was, of course, KPD’s primary, in fact only, suspect and (off the record, of course) they were certain he was the killer but they couldn’t prove it.

His name was Waldorf “Wally” Wilson, and his name and picture were all over the west side on anonymously printed flyers.

But the Honolulu media executives would not publish his name until two years later—and then only because Wilson filed a lawsuit against KPD, a newspaper and a magazine.


The lawsuit came as a shock because the magazine’s attorney had vetted my article, and Wilson, who was identified in the piece, was still incarcerated on rape and kidnapping charges when he filed the suit, claiming my article had libeled him. It also named Dennis Wilkins of The Garden Island and various high- ranking KPD officers, who were accused of violating his civil rights by leaking information to the media.

The case was eventually dismissed, and attorneys said it was most likely filed as a sort of fishing expedition to learn just what evidence KPD had against him.

Anyway, I saw that whole episode as the time when then-Chief Freitas, who was not a Kauai boy, realized the depth of mistrust that residents had of KPD, and not because the cops were necessarily crooked or bad, but hesitant to bust anyone who was a relative or a friend. Frietas told me of getting a lot of heat from residents, especially Westsiders, who found it impossible to believe that in a tight-knit community like that, the cops didn’t have some knowledge about the culprit.

In the end, it seems, they did, and they got him off the street the only way that was possible at the time.

A friend said he’s talked to several folks who have read Tony’s whole book and are all up in arms, although I’m not sure why they should be. Mostly it’s a rehash of stuff that’s already been covered and discussed. Still, there is some power in putting it all out there in one place, and dredging up the stinky muck one more time for those who perhaps never knew the details or, like me, prefer to have forgotten.

I'm not sure why Tony wrote this book, which reads an awful lot like a vendetta. I've heard, though, that he's hoping it will be an instrument of reform and change, which is admirable, but always a tough sell when it comes to KPD.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Abercrombie and Hirono voted no along with Kuchinich. I can't get to both websites. I think both heve crashed. I guess the Bush doctrine of preemptive action doesn't fly.

Ed Coll said...

I have read Tony's book and while his framing in racist terms, in my opinion misses the mark, and there are some minor factual errors it is on the whole more accurate than say typical reporting in most dailies. As to why he wrote it it should be self evident. The corruption is still in full bloom but lagely dismissed as understandable as evident in Joan's comment "...not because the cops were necessarily crooked or bad, but hesitant to bust anyone who was a relative or a friend." Excuse me! Isn't that the definition of corruption differential treatment under the law based upon affiliation?

Tony had to rely primarily on Court records, because of County of Kauai secrecy that is still a HUGE problem as we speak, and many individual bad actors then are in positions of power as we speak. These problems are still with us manifesting themselves in a variety of ways and will not begin to be addressed by putting these events in the past tense creating the illusion that it is old newsand filed under, "dredging up the stinky muck one more time for those who perhaps never knew the details or, like me, prefer to have forgotten."

There are years of executive session minutes still have not released by the COK who is frightening tooth and nail to keep it that way. Both the board of Ethics and Police Commission remain dysfunctional (and that's putting it kindly). KOC has and continues to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars hiring outside attorneys to lose cases defending bad actors.
COK is more secretive today than ever and they knows that they have unlimited taxpayer funds to drag almost any issue out for so long that current events take on the patina of ancient history!

Joan said...

Ed, I agree that the corruption continues in full bloom, but if the coverage and discussion of the events at the time they occurred did not change things, why would we expect any different outcome from Tony's book? It's not like he has divulged any new information. Still, it may be new to some people, and so is valuable in providing a historical perspective for our present situation.

Ed Coll said...

Joan,
To answer your question KPD Blue, about old news and expectation for change I would note the bad actors have never been held accountable because the coverage then was contentious and debatable, and now the facts are in. Now we know, for example, it was a sheet-feed manipulated into a conspiracy for political purposes. Some of these people are seeking political office and have never justified their past actions.

I'm not expecting a different outcome, but hopeful naming names, and keeping the names of bad actor in (what's the new aged lingo, oh yeah) "Top of Mind Consciousness" may translate into corrective action regarding support for these bad actors.

Old information was also put into context to reveal patterns formerly not apparent in the ongoing reporting. The Fren Grotto contract for instance was news to me, as was the reason for the departure of Film Commissioner Judy Drosd. Finally it is often constructive to view a forest from above the treeline as opposed to from within the forest itself to better understand the forest as a whole.

Aaron Stene said...

Typical Washington D.C gridlock prevailed once again.

Hopefully Congress will be able to reach an amicable agreement on this matter within the next couple days. If not we’ll be probably seeing the economy falter further and more layoffs. There is even a possibility we may be facing another Great Depression. Especially since banks have severely curtailed extending credit to main street and other banks.The economy can’t recover or grow without banks extending credit.

Anonymous said...

While his book has a great deal of truth in it, Tony has his own issues. He had a reputation as a bit of a stalker and now trashes the objects of his desires in this book.

He also has an explosive temper and personally threatened people in my presence. A vendetta would be right up his alley.

His book is interesting and informative, but Tony is no knight in shining armor.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Regarding ʻKPD Blueʻ and the Serial Killer coverage, why do we have to find out that this murderer is out and probably back in Kauai from a book publishing that has thankfully been posted piece by piece on a blog site ?!

And, yes, Summers is correct...they covered for him.

My question is: What does the new Chief plan to do about Wilsonʻs terrorizing freedom? Does he qualify as terrorist? Or since he hasnʻt trespassed to protect burial sites, heʻs not so bad?

Should the public protect themselves once again by posting fliers? Women must be warned and better yet, Hawaii visitors should know.

This is beyond unbelievable. Thanks goes to Tony Summers for his book and courage to expose this despicable farce. It is a wonder how these detectives came to be called detectives. And to keep their jobs stress-less, they put you on a list so you donʻt make waves. Believe it or not there are lists. For harassment.

Joan said...

Dear Anonymous;
Wilson has been out of prison for four years now, and the sex offender registry shows him living on Oahu. However, it also says: "The information displayed may not be current because the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center has not received a required up-to-date periodic verification of registration information from this offender."

Andy Parx said...

Dredging up the past that everyone knows?. Obviously the chief doesn’t “know” it and a lot of people are still in the dark as to the witch hunt. Read the whole book and the joke of the Chief’s weekend newspaper column is all the more galling to those who know what happened. Most of the stuff in the book- and I’d advise reading it in total- was unreported and/or wildly spun by the government’s lap dogs in the local press a the time.

Anonymous said...

From the Angry Bear blog:

There are many incentives for reckless lenders to cut a private deal with reckless borrowers, not least of which is the cost of a default on a mortgage. Some people will have to start renting an apartment, as they should have done while saving up a proper down payment in the first place. Where is the shame in that? Only in the minds of the haughty.

One lesson in all this mess is clearest of all: That the American Dream, if it is limited to buying a house and spending lots of money, is a fragile dream.

My own version of the American Dream doesn’t involve buying anything. It involves getting a good education, working hard, and having the same chance as anyone else to succeed or fail. It means becoming a liker of people and a lover of great ideas and a traveler in the world. It means seeking to participate in the arc of great events as life moves from birth to death. To achieve any small part of this American Dream means more than what I own.

Anonymous said...

> One lesson in all this mess is clearest of all: That the American Dream, if it is limited to buying a house and spending lots of money, is a fragile dream.

My own version of the American Dream doesn’t involve buying anything. It involves getting a good education, working hard, and having the same chance as anyone else to succeed or fail. It means becoming a liker of people and a lover of great ideas and a traveler in the world. It means seeking to participate in the arc of great events as life moves from birth to death. To achieve any small part of this American Dream means more than what I own. <


BRAVO!!!
*stands and applauds*

Anonymous said...

From Thomas Frank's column today in the Wall Street Journal:

There is no way to measure the number of people who took out mortgages they knew they couldn’t afford, of course, but for what it’s worth, a 2007 report by the Mortgage Bankers Association reports that the FBI estimates “80 percent of all reported fraud losses arise from fraud for profit schemes that involve industry insiders.” That means the lenders, not the borrowers.

Just imagine the flights of fancy that the theory of borrower malevolence and Wall Street victimization requires conservatives to take: All these no-account folks, you see, got together and forced investment banks to engineer subprime mortgages into highly leveraged securities. Then they tricked all manner of hedge funds and pension funds and financial institutions into buying these lousy products. Just for good measure, these struggling homeowners then persuaded bond-rating agencies to misrepresent the risk associated with these securities.

Now imagine what such a fantastic scheme, if true, would mean for capitalism itself. This economic system, glorified by all, dominates the globe today, bidding prices up and down, forcing entire nations to change their ways to better suit its needs, and yet it is so fragile that when challenged by the weakest members of society and a handful of community organizers it simply crumbles. Thank goodness the Soviets never figured this out.