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Sunday, July 22, 2001

Bikers need to use the sidewalks, too

Regarding Ben Wood's Scratchpad July 13: His rant depicts the problem that typifies Hawaii: Beautiful but with special interest groups trying to preserve it for their exclusive use.

Bikes are permitted on sidewalks. The issue is not who should have exclusive right and use of a resource but devoting the resources to teach people to share them intelligently and respectfully -- not creating one exclusive right of way for cars, one for pedestrians, one for bikes, one for the disabled. No community has that kind of unlimited resources.

Mike Hu

Editor's note: The Honolulu Police Department says that bicycles are not legally permitted on sidewalks in the business district.

Felix task force seeks truth behind expenses

Shame on Ivor Groves, Juanita Iwamoto and Jeff Portnoy for their efforts to elude the subpoenas of the Legislature's Felix investigative committee. The task force should be applauded by all taxpayers bringing to the table all the players and get to the real truth of where our $1.35 billion in tax money went.

As a researcher for the Senate minority, I have discovered millions of dollars in appropriations, misappropriations, conflicts of interests, contra- dictions within departments and divisions, and most of it is quite shocking.

It's a shame that Groves actually stated in a court hearing on April 23 that he estimated the state had spent only $500 million on Felix. It's a shame that the Legislature could not get straight answers out of the Department of Education and the Department of Health. It's a shame that those departments tell the federal court and court monitor a different story than they tell the Legislature.

It's even more of a shame that plaintiff's attorneys and Judge David Ezra appear to believe the Legislature is trying to stifle the state's efforts to comply with the federal special-education law rather than enable compliance and efficiency. It's a crying shame that the Legislature has appropriated $1.35 billion of taxpayer money for special education, and the federal court still finds the state in non-compliance.

It's a ridiculous shame that, instead of welcoming the knowledge that Sen. Bob Hogue could shed on the intricacies of special education, the investigative committee prefers to exclude his membership. It's a terrible shame that the officials who the people of Hawaii elected to create laws and hold accountable for state spending are now being chastised for doing exactly that.

The biggest shame of all: $1.35 billion and seven years later, the children are still waiting for the services, and still waiting to benefit from their education/services. Best of luck to the investigative committee, I would love to know where my taxpayer dollars went.

Nani Medeiros

Columnist missed mark on adoptions

Richard Roeper's July 7 column, "Moms make sad summer headlines," is one of the worst pieces of writing I've encountered in a long time. If I were teaching freshman composition this summer, I would trot it out for its multitude of "logical fallacies" (I'm an English professor). In this article, Roeper lumps together a woman who killed her five children with seemingly anyone (famous) who adopts children, whether it be two children or 12.

He maligns adopters for the purported sins of Paula Poundstone, accused of child molestation. Then, in a trans- parent move, he declares that "only a cynic" would think stars do this "because adoption doesn't sideline your career." Surely, he is the cynic of whom he speaks.

Has this man ever met anyone who went through the adoption process? My husband and I adopted a son from Cambodia. This process is no easier than the biological one, simply different. And its joys are profound, so profound that I wouldn't deny them even to a well-meaning Hollywood star.

His remark that "postpartum depression is a trendy topic" shares the general superficiality of his thinking and his prose. Depression is a real and a devastating illness and deserves more considered presentation in the paper than that remark indicates, even if it's being used -- as is everything in this article -- to suggest that mothers are troubling characters.

Susan Webster Schultz


"Paddling has been good to me. I don't think I should quit it just because of one season."

Nappy Napolean,
60--year-old founder of the Anuenue Canoe Club, who has been racing canoes for 50 years. His team was trailing in fourth place as of Friday in the Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association championships.

"This thing has gone too far in terms of the allegations (about) who's reneging, who's lying."

Davis Yogi,
State's chief labor negotiator, about the current impasse in discussions with public school teachers over the wording on pay raises in the teachers' contract negotiated last spring.

Congressmen escape risk of Social Security

Stories and articles abound about Social Security. Many discuss a trust fund. Some talk about the moral obligation of the federal government. Others point out that the outflow for Social Security will be larger than the inflow around 2011 or so. Almost all concede that the Social Security system is broken or seriously flawed.

Thus, it is reasonable to assume that our congressmen know the system is in trouble. So why don't they fix it?

How's this for an answer: They don't fix it because they don't need to do so. There is no "trust fund" at all. They have spent or obligated all the money. There is no moral obligation. A government doesn't have morals; that is a trait that only individuals enjoy.

Congressmen don't care about the 2011 problem because they might not be around when the stuff hits the fan. And, the best is last: Our congressmen do not participate in Social Security. It is not good enough for them. They have a special program for which they pay nothing. You pay; they collect.

If we took the congressional retirement program away and required that they enroll solely in Social Security as it is, they would quickly fix the problem. Meantime, lots of luck to you. You'll need it. But your congressmen won't; he is special, like the royalty in merry old England who our ancestors once endured.

Richard O. Rowland
President, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, Inc.

Capitol displays violate First Amendment

Rep. Jim Rath's ("Can't all of us and our deities get along?" June 21) is a noble idea when properly implemented. But his erroneous statement that, "Our Constitution assures freedom of religion, not freedom from religion," shows that he misunderstands American history.

Our colonist ancestors not only were concerned about political tyranny and taxation without representation, they were also vitally concerned about religious tyranny such as the payment of taxes for the support of religion.

The First Amendment has two clauses relating to religion, not just one. Rath says it guarantees freedom of religion in America, but that is not all it guarantees in regard to religion. Freedom of religion is the essence of the second clause.

However, the first clause in the First Amendment deals with our right to be free from religion. Displays on Capitol office doors are government displays in a public area that belongs to the people. So, when a non-Christian constituent walks into Rath's Capitol office he should not have to see his government hawking the symbol of a religion to which he does not subscribe. At best this religious flaunting by government is impolite. At worst it is unconstitutional.

Don Bremer

Bush should renominate Clinton's judicial choices

I am pleased that Attorney Shelton G.W. Jim On has responded to my July 10 letter urging our U.S. senators to work to withhold Rick Clifton's appointment to the federal bench until President Clinton's superbly qualified appointee, Jim Duffy, receives his appointment to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Jim On argues that the senators would be doing Hawaii a "great disservice by trying to force Bush into doing something that he's obviously not going to do and create a political stalemate." But who created a political stalemate that deprived the people of Hawaii of having Jim Duffy on the federal bench? Where was Jim On when the Republicans were holding up Clinton's appointments?

These questions bring us to a serious problem for the nation. There is a dire need to fill an excessive number of vacancies on the federal bench, at both the trial and appellate levels. This problem existed during Clinton's term and continues today.

The kind of politics recently played by the Republicans, when they were in control of the Senate, deprived our nation of needed judges solely on the basis of politics. An inadequate number of judges causes unconscionable delays for litigants and overburdens the courts, leading to shortcuts that can undermine the quality of justice.

Judicial nominees of the caliber of Jim Duffy and Rick Clifton should receive their appointments. Highly qualified lawyers nominated by any president should be appointed in due course. The practice of blocking first-rate appointments on purely political grounds is a terrible disservice to the people.

However, the only way to bring the Republicans to the table on this issue, and also to bring home the costs of excessive partisanship, is to use the opportunity of a Democratic majority in the Senate to withhold Bush's qualified appointments until excellent lawyers duly nominated by President Clinton and left hanging are renominated by President Bush and receive their deserving appointments.

After both Duffy and Clifton are on the bench, each party can tacitly agree, for the future, to support a president's judicial nominations of highly qualified attorneys -- regardless of party.

Richard S. Miller
Law professor
University of Hawaii-Manoa

Bill of Rights applies to everyone

For years we have heard about "the separation of church and state" and "the right to bear arms," as if these were the absolute highpoints of American freedom and liberty. My take on these exaggerated concepts is much less spectacular.

The point is not to allow the government to make church membership a qualification for citizenship. And the right to bear arms was to be regulated by a militia.

To those who try to make a big fight out of the separation of church and state, I suggest they realize that preserving freedom means allowing the church to freely express itself, not to be the victim of government gag orders.

The real challenge is to have an inclusive package of civil rights that apply to all the people all the time instead of dividing us into splinter groups where no one has any rights.

Steve Purnell

'Wall of separation' phrase is misleading

I was surprised to see such acrimony over my Independence Day article.

Willis Moore states (Letters, July 16) that I was "disingenuous in saying 'there is nothing in the Constitution to separate church and state.'" This is a misquote. Check the article. I didn't say that.

The word "disingenuous" is defined as giving a false appearance of simple frankness. To clear the murky waters caused by the "false appearance of simple frankness" was that the phrase, "separation of church and state," is unconstitutional. The phrase does not appear in the Constitution or in the founding documents.

Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist stated: "The 'wall of separation between church and state' is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor that has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned."

Alas, this misleading phrase continues to be hackneyed by infidels. Most people are weary of this worn-out, stock cliché. It is stale and pedestrian.

William Stonebraker
House of Representatives
State of Hawaii

Where is the military supposed to train?

Tony Castanha's July 20 letter is an example of why the military needs to be prepared. It is true that you never know who your enemies are. The military does not conjure them up just to train the forces. I wonder if the servicemen and women of Pearl Harbor knew that Japan was an enemy before they bombed the harbor?

What would you have the military do? Not train? Maybe just not in your backyard? If not yours, then whose?

The 25th Infantry Division (Light) needs Makua Valley. Some of the best training I ever received was at Makua. There are not enough places in Hawaii for the military to train. It is very costly to send everyone to the mainland for training.

I agree there should be an environmental impact study. If the results show that the Army will harm the environment, then they do what they've been doing for the past three years. But if it is reasonable to train without harming the environment, then the training there will add greatly to the Army's readiness.

William McCoy
Ewa Beach

Politicians, developers created Waikiki mess

The hodge-podge that is Waikiki and its diminished access within and without are the result of narrow private visions and initiatives, city acquiescence or collusion and the absence of city vision and planning. Politicians and Waikiki developers have a bad habit of influencing the city to bend its rules to serve narrow private interests, provide public funds or tax exemptions to help fund these projects, blaming the city of poor planning for problems created by these initiatives, then leaving it to the city to remedy the negative consequences.

For decades, despite resident protests, politicians and developers have systematically attempted to rid Waikiki of parking and vehicular space. Side streets disappeared into super blocks, on-street parking was eliminated indiscriminately, hotels and businesses were allowed to be built with fewer parking spaces and driveways than required and municipal parking lots remained far short of meeting the demand.

This trend remains unabated. Whenever Waikiki properties are renovated or revitalized, Waikiki suffers a net loss of parking and vehicular spaces. For example, the current Honu Marketplace project will result in a net loss of parking spaces and the proposed Outrigger projects most likely will result in the loss of a side street, loss of Lewers to vehicular traffic, diversion of traffic and congestion elsewhere and severely restrict public access to this area.

We have to stop creating these problems by stressing city, not private, planning and end special legislation and districting, concessions, exemptions and waivers for Waikiki enterprises.

Let Waikiki sink or swim on its own merits and financing, and not primarily through special favors and treatment paid for by taxpayers.

Richard Y. Will

Senate patients' bill will hurt, not help

The July 9 article by the Boston Globe, "Bush casts himself as patients' advocate," strongly implies that Bush's interest in patients' rights is purely political and stems from his "declining poll numbers" (totally irrelevant to the subject), or because John McCain is for the Democrat version (totally unbelievable).

In actuality, the president's interest is in preventing trial lawyers from taking a cut from the already bloated expenditures for private health insurance.

Three things will happen if the Senate bill becomes law. First, HMOs and insurers will abandon any pretense of trying to control costs. This is happening already. Second, trial lawyers will nevertheless find a way to get their cut; you can always find some excuse to sue. And third, untold numbers of Americans will lose their health coverage because employers, especially in bad times, can no longer afford the premiums.

People with individual coverage will be even worse off. And don't expect any help from the doctors. They think we should spend half the gross domestic product on health care.

By the way, no HMO or insurance company ever denied treatment to anyone. They on occasion simply refuse to pay.

W.B. Thompson

Readers take on ACLU vs. ThomasHawaii chapter finally redeems itself

Thank heavens that the Hawaii American Civil Liberties Union has come to its senses and decided to invite U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to its conference on free speech. The speed and vociferousness of the national ACLU's response to the Hawaii chapter's initial approach testifies to just how off the Hawaii chapter was.

Thomas may have different views on affirmative action from those of the ACLU, but the ACLU's purpose is to protect the civil liberties enshrined in the first ten amendments of the Constitution and not to serve knee-jerk liberalism through petty, empty gestures.

Geoffrey Rapp
Law clerk, U.S. Court of Appeals

Both sides in ACLU debate behaved badly

Thank you for the article on the American Civil Liberties Union and its tactics to demonize one of the Supreme Court justices. Not since the days of the right-wing's picketing against Adlai Stevenson in Dallas the week before President Kennedy was shot have I heard of such tactics.

Why can't the two lunatic fringes allow each other to promulgate their respective beliefs in peace? They're as bad a two religious sects fighting to the death and allowing the other no quarter.

Bob French

Leaders would rather censor ideas

The July 16 article by Grant Crowell about the Hawaiian chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union confirms that the people in charge have a political agenda to prevent and limit those whose ideas they disagree with rather than pursuance of their lofty goal to support freedom of speech and thought.

Otherwise they would have welcomed someone like Justice Thomas to debate in order to get their point of view across to others in a meaningful and rational way. Of course, that would require objectivity, reason, full knowledge of the subject matter, plus the ability to think on one's feet in order to do so.

One would surmise that their lack of confidence as concerns all of these requirements had something to do with their decision to exclude Justice Thomas and to vilify him as well. As we all know, argumentum ad hominem is just a way to avoid discussing matters rationally and is used when one cannot make a case for his or her point of view.

Clayton Ching
Los Angeles

Remarks on Thomas were inappropriate

It smacks of racism to say that inviting Clarence Thomas to speak to the ACLU-Hawaii Chapter would honor "black Uncle Toms." It's incredible that one could even utter that term in reference to an African American and get away with it in public.

Board member Daphne Barbee-Wooten's remarks don't show the kind of level-headed objective guidance I would like to see in the protector of my right to rant my head off. She should have saved that comment for the bathroom walls.

Craig Watanabe

ACLU needn't invite turncoat to speak

Regarding your July 5 editorial: The ACLU is not obliged to host Clarence Thomas just because Antonin Scalia and Bob Rees have suggested it.

Scalia's February appearance was not a debate but a forum for him as a proponent of the extreme right-wing and a paid vacation for him and his wife at the Kahala Mandarin. The ACLU does not owe the same to Thomas.

Thomas was chosen as the exact opposite of the great Justice Thurgood Marshall by the elder George Bush, and Thomas returned the favor by his vote to install Bush's son in the White House.

Nancy Bey Little

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