The moon, shrinking, was still bright white, although the dark sky was turning crimson around the edges, when I pulled up at my former neighbor Andy’s house for our walk this fine Sunday morning.
The clouds drifted to the south and north of us, and we could see them dropping rain, but not on us, as we headed for the mountain trail where Koko and Momi could run free through mud puddles and pastures and fingers sticky from snacking on three kinds of guava could be wiped clean on wet fern fronds and gauzy tendrils clung to jagged green peaks.
Last week when we walked we were so busy talking about other things that we didn’t get into politics until the very end, when we just briefly touched on the debacle that is Afghanistan and had a conversation that went something like this:
“Why did we even get involved there?” I asked.
“Well, if we pull out now, the terrorists might be emboldened and go after the Golden Gate Bridge,” replied Andy.
“Assuming they're even in Afghanistan,” I countered.
“That’s where Al-Qaeda was.”
"That’s where they said it was."
"No, I’m pretty sure that’s where they were."
“Oh, that’s right. And Iraq had the weapons of mass destruction.”
Then I came home and turned on the radio and lo and behold, two knowledgeable people who have traveled extensively in Afghanistan and produced a documentary and wrote a book, “Invisible History: Afghanitan’s Untold Story,” were talking about that very subject on New Dimensions.
You can listen free to the broadcast through Sept. 16, and I highly recommend it. I learned a lot about America’s manipulations of the situation there, including the way we baited the Soviets into the same quicksand where we’re now floundering, and also that the Taliban did not evolve from a tribal group, but is a security force started by Pakistan.
Anyway, to make sure we didn’t miss our political discussion this week, I launched right in by asking Andy if he’d seen former Councilman and unsuccessful mayoral candidate Mel Rapozo’s new blog, Straight From the Heart.
I hadn’t realized he’d started blogging again until he left a comment with a link on my last post, and when I checked it out, I found in his first six posts he’d covered TVRs on ag land, the planning department’s dismal performance and the bike path on Wailua Beach, among other topics.
“And he shares our views on all those topics,” I told Andy, which caused us to agree that perhaps we should have voted for him instead of JoAnn. I imagine he’s eying another run, and that she is, too.
Mel’s blog got us talking about why the county continues to hang on to Ian Costa, an architect who is as poorly suited to the planning department as he was to engineering, where former Mayor Maryanne Kusaka first got him on the county payroll.
Andy said he’d heard that Ian was the only qualified applicant for the planning director post, adding, “whatever qualified means,” to which I replied, “maybe he was the only one could speak pidgin.” Or as Andy noted, “could bring in a thousand votes.”
Who knows, maybe one of these days when the Planning Commissioners get tired of being sued and taking the fall they’ll remember that they have the power to hire and fire the director and they’ll use one of those executive sessions they adjourn to so frequently to discuss personnel matters.
Until then, we’ve got him, and obviously we’re not the only ones who are frustrated, as evidenced by this paragraph in Mel’s most recent post:
Take a look around. Planning Department trying to allow unregistered vacation rentals outside of the VDA. Unlawful structures being permitted. Shoreline certifications being waived in the interest of rich landowners. Council considering legalizing an illegal activity. TVRs on ag land are illegal. Why are we doing these things? Why are we not fighting for the PEOPLE OF KAUAI? Why so much effort to assist the transplants at the expense of our LOCAL PEOPLE? Let's try to help the local people for once. You know, the guy that wants to build an extension but gets hammered along the way? The guy that wants to build a family room for a homeless family member but gets denied right out of the chute. What about the local residents that have been told, for decades, that vacation rentals are illegal on ag land so they never rented out their homes as vacation rentals. THEY FOLLOWED THE LAW and now are being punished because they were law abiding citizens. The transplants that disregarded the laws are now allowed to continue the illegal operations. Come on County, WAKE UP!!!
It is hard to understand why the county bends over backwards to accommodate the Joe Brescias and Nicky Michaels of this island. Then Andy mentioned he had enjoyed the link to the Maui News editorial raking Gov. Lingle over the coals for dissing that island’s business community.
“She’s shooting herself in the foot and alienating everybody, even the business community,” I said.
“Oh, I’m sure she still has her supporters,” said Andy, referring to all the rich white conservatives that have been flocking to the Islands in recent years. He noted that former Gov. Ben Cayetano, in the final chapter of his autobiography, talks at length about the changing demographics of Hawaii.
“I wonder how Turk Tokita and those other staunch Democrats and old-time liberals who worked so hard to expand tourism and development feel about all the conservatives moving in,” Andy said. “Do you suppose they even realize that it was their policies that attracted their nemeses?”
“What do they care?” I replied. “They’re old now and they’ll be dead before these guys get firmly entrenched. And they profited hugely in the meantime.”
Then somehow we got to talking about state and county workers, and the widely held view that they’re all lazy slackers, even though most people would have been right there feeding at that trough, too, given the chance.
Andy, a retired state worker, said he thought most government workers do work hard, and we’ll realize that when we furlough and or fire them. But that some jobs, like the demoralizing task of cleaning the park bathrooms, could probably be privatized, and then if the guys weren’t doing their jobs, they’d be fired. Net result: cleaner bathrooms.
I’m not so sure. I went to the county recycling center near the Kapaa armory on Labor Day evening and it was so packed with materials — as it is at the end of weekends that are two days, much less three — that folks had piled their stuff up outside the bins. I returned the next day to drop my load and while the bins had been emptied, through what I believe is a private contract, the broken glass crunched so heavily underfoot that I wished I wasn’t wearing slippers and lots of loose trash was blowing in the wind. It looked like hell.
So whose job is it to clean that site? Ideally, the recycling public shouldn’t make such a mess, but since it does, somebody’s got to tidy up. You’d think it would be the guys picking up the bins, since they're right there. As Andy and I agreed, if there’s no oversight, it doesn’t matter whether the public or private sector is doing the work.
We also touched on NASA’s plans to fire a rocket at the moon, which prompted a friend of mine to email:
That made me sad. It isn't right or necessary. The comments that were for it saddened me too. Humans deserve every bad thing coming towards us. The rest of the critters don't but we do.
Andy didn’t think it was such a big deal, and I said, "Yes, because you’re a man. All these rockets and bombs and missiles are part of the patriarchal mindset characterized by the constant need to dominate and penetrate. Just look at the shape of these things."
“That’s the shape that’s the most aerodynamic,” he argued. “You wouldn’t made an arrow shaped like a feather.”
“No, feathers are not aerodynamic at all,” I replied, and we both got to laughing as he acknowledged that was a bad example.
All too soon we were back at Andy's and he was dispensing biscuits to the dogs and as we said our goodbyes, I thought again of how I miss living right down the street from Andy. But it makes me appreciate our weekly walks all that much more, and besides, it’s a beautiful day and I’m happy as a clam — not that clams probably are all that happy, what with the heavy metals and other crap we’ve dumped on their homes — because for the first time in nine years I have a washing machine at my home, thanks to my transfer station-scavenging landlord, who discovered this cast-off works just fine.