Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Musings: Real World

It’s interesting when you walk, especially on a road, because you see things you otherwise wouldn’t notice from a car, and a lot of it is dead. Today it was toads with their intestines hanging out, a belly-up gecko, a pile of feathers that once was a rooster and a rat with its head ripped off, presumably by a cat.

There’s a certain detachment that happens when you see the aftermath of death, rather than death as it happens, which is probably why the guys fighting in Iraq are troubled with nightmares and PTSD while the Americans at home — who don’t even see the aftermath — are now more preoccupied with their own finances than the war, where 4,000 GIs have died.

Still, it’s all worth it according to President Bush, who was quoted on Democracy Now! yesterday as saying:

“And I guess my one thought I want to leave with those who still hurt is that one day people will look back at this moment in history and say, thank God there were courageous people willing to serve, because they laid the foundations for peace for generations to come.”

Yes, George, I’m sure that will erase all the hurt and suffering, especially when there’s absolutely no indication that any foundations of peace have been laid at all.

That was followed by Cheney, the draft dodger, saying:

“The President carries the biggest burden, obviously. He’s the one who has to make the decision to commit young Americans, but we are fortunate to have a group of men and women, an all-volunteer force, who voluntarily put on the uniform and go in harm’s way for the rest of us.”

You have to wonder what world they live in. Certainly it’s not the same real world as the paralyzed veteran or the average American, who now spends 36 percent of his or her disposable income on food, medical expenses and energy — the highest percentage since records were first kept in 1960. Add in credit card payments and whopping mortgages, and things are looking pretty lean.

That also seems to be the situation for some folks on Molokai now that Molokai Ranch has announced it’s laying off 120 people and winding down operations in 60 days.

Today’s Advertiser article blamed the closure on luxury home opponents, but the comment from the Ranch’s Singapore owners didn’t seem to support that assertion.

The reporter wrote:

Molokai Ranch ordered the shutdown after failing to win enough support for a controversial master plan to develop 200 lots for luxury oceanfront homes at La'au that would help finance other ranch business investments that the company said loses a few million dollars annually.

According to the ranch's Singapore-based parent company GuocoLeisure Ltd., Molokai Ranch had positive cash flow last year by selling land, but GuocoLeisure's board told Molokai Ranch to cease operating.

GuocoLeisure added that the shutdown isn't expected to have any significant financial impact on GuocoLeisure, a publicly traded company that reported a $12.6 million net profit last year on revenue of $422 million and is headed by Malaysian billionaire Quek Leng Chan.

Do you suppose Chan would have been satisfied even if the La`au Point project was approved? I doubt it.

I thought of that when I was on Lanai, where owner David Murdock, one of the world’s richest people, has already built two very upscale resorts and is now selling off luxury home sites, thus perpetuating the pattern of gentrification that has come to characterize development in Hawaii.

It creates a strange mix of average people who work hard to survive in a place where gas costs $4.60 a gallon, and the bored super rich, one of whom I heard asking — unsuccessfully —for a local to take them around because, as his wife said, “We need an adventure today.”

Maybe they should try living in the real world.

Speaking of living large, I noticed the state today will dedicate the new Hawaiian Homes HQ — replete with a $75,000 portrait of Prince Kuhio — in Kapolei.

It’s yet another example of the misuse of money that is supposed to benefit Native Hawaiians, many of whom have died on the list waiting for a homestead award.

Along those same lines, got an email from Andre Perez of Hui Pu about a hearing set for Thursday afternoon on Senate Concurrent Resolution 138 SD1, which disapproves a proposal to hike the pay of trustees for Office of Hawaiian Affairs and also requests a financial and management audit of that agency.

It seems like a good time to bring OHA trustees into the real world occupied by their beneficiaries, many of whom don't have a job, much less a fat paycheck.


Anonymous said...

I strongly feel the foreign owners
of Molokai Ranch shut it down as retribution because the La'au Point
project got stalled.

The opponents of La'au are not blame.
The blame is squarely at the feet of
the foreign owners.They stupidly put all their eggs in one basket with the La'au project. They miscalculated the huge community opposition Thus
now everyone suffers because of that.

Anonymous said...

It sure looks like retaliation to me. I hope someone who cares can afford to buy and run the pieces of the business (such as the theater or gas stations) or do something for the community with them.

The story of the rich visitor looking for somebody to show them around makes me wonder how much they were willing to pay, and whether it would be equivalent to their own hourly rate. That's the problem with high end tourism, it drives up the price of everything, but the maid still gets $10/hr (which is an awesome wage for the mainland, but strictly minimum in HI).