Browsing articles in "Editorials"
Sep 20, 2013

An Argument for Universal Service

I don’t usually do book reports, but I have just finished Breach of Trust (How Americans Have Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country) by Andrew Bacevich and I am surprised that I agree with his very credible and well made argument for universal service.  I have been a fan of his since I read Washington Rules (America’s Permanent Path to War) wherein he argued that it doesn’t matter who is in office — Democrat or Republican — America is/will be at war.

I am among those who have wondered why there isn’t more citizen-involvement in war making and if citizen involvement would make a difference.  Bacevich’s answer is “yes.”  From the time Nixon initiated a volunteer/”professional” army the military and society have moved further and further apart.  Our current “support” of the troops is a shallow orchestration of what it should be.   Bacevich’s opening chapter is a visceral recounting of a Fourth of July celebration at Fenway Park.  I don’t need to tell you what went on — it has been like that at every major sports event since 9/11.

Bacevich lays out the argument in lock-step fashion, making it clear that Washington can wage war any time it wants;  they don’t need our vote and they don’t need our money.  Far too many of us have no skin in the game.

The famously-fired Stan McChrystal evidently made the argument for a draft at an Aspen conference after he had been fired for dumping on the President in the pages of Rolling Stone magazine.  It makes absolute sense.

We have met Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex full force and we are the enemy.  All of us know that big corporations have too much at stake in this game to see that it isn’t working, or to deliberately ignore its failure.

( An aside:  We have just learned the contractor who executed the security clearance for Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis was the same firm that cleared Edward Snowden for duty.  They may or may not be fired, but whatever happens it will be a blip on the screen.)

Many, many families have paid far too dearly for a volunteer army, losing loved ones to long and unnecessary wars.  The nation as a whole has literally paid too much for out-of-control military spending.  Consider just these few failures cited by Bacevich:

  • the radar-evading helicopter called “the quarterback of the digital battlefield” was cancelled after $6.9 billion was spent, yielding “two aircraft suitable for museum display.”
  • the Crusader artillery program, intended to “produce high volume, precise cannon fire” consumed $2 billion before it was cancelled  
  • the Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, intended to develop a “family of weapons, drones, robots, sensors and hybrid electric combat vehicles connected by a wireless net work” died 11 years after conception, failing, but having spend $18 billion.

During these failures and others like them, and during the killing and maiming of volunteer soldiers, we watched while the House of Representatives cast 40 “symbolic” votes to defunded Obamacare.  The recent concern over a possible strike in Syria by both the congress and the country is a first in a long, long time.

Among many other great points, Bacevich argues for a draft of a citizen-soldier military –asking what it would be like if Malia Obama at age 18 [had] “the same chance of being drafted as the manicurist’s son or the Walmart clerk’s daughter?”

In his final chapter, there is this damning paragraph:  ”Is the past prologue?  If so, here is what Americans can look forward to:  more needless wars or shadow conflicts sold by a militarized and irresponsible political elite; more wars mismanaged by an intellectually sclerotic and unimaginative senior officer corps; more wars that exact huge penalties without yielding promised outcomes, with consequences quickly swept under the rug even as flags flutter, fighter jets swoop overhead, the band plays the “Marines’ Hymn”, and commercials tout the generosity of beer companies doing good works for ‘the troops’.”

Bacevich calls all of us to account:  liberals and neocons, republicans and democrats alike.  And he makes a sound argument:  we have failed our soldiers and our country.

Sep 18, 2013

Fun with Guns

Iowa has passed a law that permits blind people to own guns (and,presumably, to shoot them).  There have been three permits issued, and several Iowa legislators say they did not know what they were approving when they passed the bill.  Nonetheless, the Governor of Iowa says there is no problem with it.

Meanwhile, in Louisiana, an NRA-backed constitutional amendment that guarantees gun ownership as a fundamental right has wrought a law suit from felons which won in a court case that struck down the law which said felons could not own guns.  Apparently Bobby Jindal,who endorsed the constitutional amendment, did not know that it could nullify many of Louisiana’s more sensible gun laws.

On to North Carolina, where the Winston Salem city council reluctantly passed a law allowing guns on their playgrounds.  They were forced to do this by a state law saying that guns were to be permitted on all playgrounds in North Carolina.

Captain Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords have recently produced videos of Kelly filling out a background check to buy a 45.  It took 5 minutes to get approval after Kelly answered “no” to a list of questions like “Are you a felon?” and “Are you addicted to marijuana?”

Kelly said in a television interviewed that there have been several (five, I think) mass shootings since Newtown (a mass shooting is defined as the killing of four or more people).  Kelly also pointed out that upwards of 65% of Americans don’t own guns.

That’s right:  65% of us don’t own guns.  So why can the NRA throw out two decent Colorado legislators and ensure that our national government does not pass gun laws:  not on the heels of Newtown, not now on the heels of the Navy Yard?   Harry Reid says he can’t get the votes.

Once again, I am reminded of Yate’s poem, where the “worst are full of passionate intensity, and the best lack all conviction.”  Robert Reich, Clinton’s Secretary of Labor, opines that we are near a tipping point — like the country was in 1901, and again in the 30s and the 60s.  He believes that things will tip in the direction of the values our country was founded on.  I wonder.

 

 

Sep 11, 2013

On Owning A Business in Kailua

Yesterday I posted an ironic blog about the Kailua Neighborhood Board’s resolution  to ask the HTA not to promote Kailua as a visitor destination alternative to the more “lively Waikiki” (from HTA’s website.)  My friend Malia Zimmerman picked up the blog piece, with my permission, and posted it on Hawai`i Reporter.

Predictably, one of the posted comments accuses me of owning a visitor business (I don’t; but visitors like the business that I am part owner of) and of not reading the resolution (I did).

There is, I guess, a small problem in owning a business in Kailua and also enjoying the practice of writing the odd opinion piece.  One does not, in my opinion, preclude the other.

The real irony here is that the business which I am part owner of was in fact started to serve local people.  There were very few visitors in Kailua when we opened the store, and we opened it in order to be part of the redevelopment of Kailua, as opposed to standing on the outside and criticizing it.  Having skin in the game.  Our thought was to help make sure that Kailua had a preponderance of local businesses, versus nationals, and that it would evolve to serve the local populous without mimicking so many “gentrified” small towns on the mainland.

Our business is a local business.  We make our products here in Hawai`i.  We employ people from Hawai’i.  We help kids with their college educations.  We pay well, and we pay for health insurance for  people who do not have insurance already.  Banks would not lend us money; the debt, which we still have eight years later, is our own.

We live in Kailua, we volunteer in Kailua, we support Kailua schools and Kailua charities (like the Boys and Girls Club).  My business partner almost single-handedly (for three years running)made sure that thousands of Kailuans (and out of towners) could enjoy the 4th of July fireworks — a 65 year tradition that had been abandoned by the Kailua Chamber of Commerce.

If I sound defensive, I am.  No one likes to be misunderstood.  To the people who think we see only $$ signs, I would say that I would be glad to see more $$ signs so we could pay off our debt.

We love owning a store in Kailua.  We see our friends.  We don’t have to drive to town.  We shop locally, supporting our fellow merchants pretty much exclusively.

The health and well being of Kailua’s small businesses has benefited enormously from the visitors who come here.  They are important to keeping stores like ours open, and also stores like Bookends, Lanikai Juice, Kailua Nails, Mary Z’s and even Whole Foods.  There are a whole slew of restaurants that wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the visitors PLUS locals mix that is Kailua today.

Before Kaneohe Ranch began to redevelop their (lion’s) share of Kailua, most of the small businesses here today could not survive.  One example:  My business partner and I helped Lanikai Juice (for instance), which was struggling— in return for juice coupons.  We brought them 20+ years of branding expertise and helped them build the Fresh.Pure.Hawaiian. image they have today.  We helped make it possible for them to stave off the newly arrived competition from the mainland, Jamba Juice.

The local Kailua businesses pay rent to a landlord which supports Kailua, its schools, its Boys and Girls club, its halaus and its sports teams through a foundation like no other small town in Hawai`i has.  The benefit of having a single commercial landlord is that the town was redeveloped with a big picture in mind ( like it or not).  This big picture view gave us new cross streets, more stores and more restaurants.  The money, unlike so many other places, stays in Kailua — at least the greater part of it does– and much of it goes back into the community.

The same people who think that any small business that benefits from the visitor industry was created for the visitor industry aver that the price of housing in Kailua is high because of the visitors.  This is simply not true.  The cost of housing in Kailua is high because it is a desirable place to live, and because all housing in Hawai`i is expensive.  And because it is (for the very most part) built out.  There is a fixed pie.

For those who say they are worried that our cultural institutions are hurt by visitors?  We now have many occasions on which local halau perform — occasions that weren’t there before.  We who live here are interested in the preservation of the marsh, the endangered species, the heiau.  The tourists who visit are respectful of them.

It ain’t perfect by a long shot but then nothing is.  Hawai`i –for better, I think — is a visitor destination.  That means people come to see and enjoy its beauty and many here profess a desire to share our Aloha.  That means we have to take care of the land (we should do better than we do) and the sea and air around us.  That means that our local cultures can be celebrated, seen and understood.

Some have said that tourism is a healing business.  Hawai`i is a place where people come to recover themselves, to relax and to heal. And that is a noble purpose.  We share our aloha with others and they take it home — small gestures of peace from human to human contact, carried back to places faraway.

We are lucky Hawai`i is a visitor destination.  We must share our roads and beaches, stores and restaurants with strangers.  But then we get to live and work here.  How lucky we are.

 

 

 

Sep 10, 2013

Forget About Kailua

The Hawaii Tourism Authority has announced that it will take steps to permanently erase all references to Kailua in its visitor information, including all print, broadcast and social media.

The HTA’s effort is in response to the Kailua Neighborhood Board’s resolution requesting that the State’s leading promotional organization abandon its efforts to tell people about Kailua.

The Kailua Neighborhood Board has been working towards this goal ever since the First Tourist showed up by accident in the small town on the windward side of O`ahu.  At the time, Kailua was a broken down little town which offered its residents no real place to shop, forcing them to go over the mountain to the “other side,” to procure anything but groceries.

Although the Kailua Neighborhood Board thinks of Kailua as an independent entity, the town is actually a throwback to plantation days, with most of the commercial space owned by a single landlord since time began.  That landlord, the Castle Family and its avatar Kaneohe Ranch, has developed the town into a successful, bustling place since the First Tourist’s accidental arrival at the intersection of Kailua Road and Kailua Road.

“After years of resident complaints about the pathetic retail and restaurant offerings in Kailua,” said a Castle family spokesperson, ” We got sick of it and decided to show them what their whining would mean.”

As part of its effort to drive Kailua from the collective visitor memory, the Kailua Neighborhood Board will demand that small businesses which serve the visitor trade close their doors.  This will allow Kailua to revert to the bleak little burg discovered by the First Tourist.  Additionally, the Kailua Neighborhood Board will ask The President and his family not to take their usual Christmas vacation in Kailua.  Talk is afoot about taking advantage of the disappearing shoreline to eliminate Kailu’s popular beach altogether.  ”After all,” said one Board member, “Residents don’t go there because there are too many visitors.”  The Neighborhood Board, it turns out, is responsible for the bumper stickers which say “I Liked Kailua Before You Came.”

Other solutions to this most egregious situation are being explored by the Kailua Neighborhood Board, which is actually powerless to do anything:  its members were baffled that the Hawaii Tourism Authority agreed to their request to stop promoting Kailua.

This move by the Kailua Neighborhood Board and the Hawai`i Tourism Authority is receiving broad press coverage here in Hawai`i, across the nation and throughout the world.  Word has it that Foder’s will feature Kailua as Hawai`i’s best kept secret in its 2014 Guide to Hawai`i.

 

Aug 21, 2013

“We Decided to Kill Somebody”

After finding the site that keeps track of gun deaths, I began thinking about the real people that have lost their lives since Newtown, now some 21,000+ people, and I thought I might try to find these real people and post something about one or two of them a day.

3 Kids Shoot College Baseball Star Because They Were Bored.

Today I found a site called “Kid Shootings” which records shooting of kids and shootings by kids.  According to Kid Shootings “3000 children and teens die from gunfire every year, and nearly 14,000 are injured.”

The particular story of three bored Oklahoma (monstrous) kids told of the shooting of an Australian man attending college on a baseball scholarship who was shot by three “bored” teenagers while he was jogging.  His name was Christopher Lane, he was from Melbourne and he was just 22 years old.

A 17 year old gave a confession to the police, but at the time of the shooting on August 16 they had not located the murder weapon.  According to the town’s police chief “They saw Christopher go by and one of them said: ‘There’s our target”.  The boy who talked to the police said “We were bored and didn’t have anything to do so we decided to kill somebody.”

The story did not say whether the guns were purchased legally — but anyway you look at it, had there been no guns, the man who had just returned to the U.S. from Australia two weeks ago would not be dead.

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Gloria. Circa 1955.



Gloria. Circa 2012.




Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.

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