Letters to the Editor


POSTED: Saturday, February 21, 2009

Capitol prayer didn't include non-Christians

Each day that the Legislature is in session begins with an invocation by local clergy. Last Thursday was Feb. 12; Lincoln's birthday and Charles Darwin's birthday. But, as one observer commented, “;Today the 'invocation' turned into a Jesus rally complete with cute story before the invocation that just extended his time to pray against HB 444 (relating to civil unions) that was being heard.”;

I, too, used to be occasionally invited to do those invocations; however, not for many years now. I'm apparently too controversial, that being that I think such public prayers ought not be sectarian exercises in religious exclusivity.

We are not all Christian! A part of the wonderful diversity of Hawaii is the many religious traditions represented here. The All Believers Network, our local interfaith dialog group, has folk from 13 religious heritages.

To “;invoke”; means to call forth. What spirit is called forth by such exclusionary prayer? It's certainly neither pono nor aloha.


Mike Young

Minister, First Unitarian Church of Honolulu


It's up to the people, as it should be

It is sad indeed that retired Hawaii state Supreme Court Justice Steven Levinson felt “;mugged”; by 70 percent of the voters in 1998 when one of the most basic principles of our constitutional government is that the ultimate power resides with the people. The separation of powers in our constitutional form of government grants the judiciary the power of interpreting laws not creating laws from the bench. The highly respected former senator, lieutenant governor and judge Nelson Doi, an original framer of the Hawaii Constitution, who authored the equal protection clause, declared in 1997, “;The 1950 Constitutional Convention did not attempt to change the universally understood meaning of the word marriage to include same-sex marriage. I don't think the courts can change the meaning of the word marriage.”; Thomas Jefferson has stated, “;If the three powers (legislative, executive and judiciary) maintain their mutual independence of each other our government may last long, but not so if either can assume authority of the other.”;

Levinson's miscegenation argument can best be answered by former Secretary of State Colin Powell: “;Skin color is a benign, non-behavioral characteristic. Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics. Comparison of the two is a convenient but invalid argument.”;

Finally, a nationally respected legal scholar, Bernard Schwartz, in “;A Book of Legal Lists: The Best and Worst in American Law,”; describes the Baehr v. Lewin case authored by Judge Levinson as one of the 10 worst decisions in American History.


Jack Hoag



Don't be paranoid about breeding taro

The Legislature's proposed ban on genetic research of taro is again defying all logic. It appears that the politicians are again being influenced by the activists. The facts are apparently being ignored. Hawaiian taro is vulnerable to pests and plant diseases that have the potential to eradicate taro production from Hawaii. For all practical purposes, there are no plant protection chemicals registered by Environmental Protection Agency to protect taro from pests and disease.

There is really only one solution to prevent the demise of the taro industry and that is plant breeding for resistance. Genetic engineering, despite the rhetoric against it, is a method of plant breeding that produces a solution to these pest problems within a minimal time period. Banning this scientific research on whatever pretext is guaranteeing the demise of the Hawaiian taro industry. You can put your money on it.


Don Gerbig



If taxpayers take risk, then they should profit

Congress will be back at work soon and faced with the most important economic issue of the day: how to save our financial system. When banks have shareholders and bondholders, lawmakers should ensure that they (those who bet on the big banks) pay for the mistakes those corporations made—not the taxpayers.

Congress must stop propping up Wall Street with taxpayers' money. If banks made bad investments, then their shareholders need to face the consequences before any more taxpayer money is thrown at the problem. It's only fair.

And if the government must invest money in the Wall Street banks, experts, like Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman and MIT economist Simon Johnson, agree that taxpayers must get a fair deal for any of their dollars invested—even if that means temporarily taking over insolvent banks.

If taxpayers' money is at risk, then taxpayers should get any profits realized from that investment. If we are asked to risk our money to help Wall Street, then we should get equity just like other stockholders.


John Williamson



Don't look for FTA approval of rail yet

The comment period for the draft environmental impact statement for the rail project ended last week. Because of the shortfalls in the DEIS, there has been criticism from many individuals and citizen groups. The DEIS is deficient in so many required areas that the Federal Transit Administration will surely ask for a supplemental DEIS. This is a common request.

This supplemental DEIS will take months. Then another comment period will follow. Until then, Honolulu will not have a Record of Decision from the FTA, which would allow us to move forward. The FTA 2009 Report on New Starts Funding mentions 31 cities that are moving forward on projects from preliminary engineering to full funding agreements. Honolulu is not included.

Even if Honolulu had provided a satisfactory DEIS, it is doubtful our project would get a good rating from the FTA. A satisfactory rating is a requirement for funding. Our small population, small projected ridership and growing projected cost for rail will probably produce very low ratings. Honolulu will get its worst rating for mobility improvements. The city engineers have said that traffic on the H-1 with rail will get 50 percent worse than it is today.


John Brizdle






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