to the Editor

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Tuesday, November 20, 2001

Think tank to help restore economy?

Hawaii desperately needs to have a full-time group to think up, receive and promote workable ideas for economic vitality. This should not be a state-run office but an independent, volunteer think tank. The members should be creative thinkers and capable researchers who can think "out of the box." Their main job would be to gather and think up ideas and develop ways to implement them. These ideas would be sent to the governor along with draft implementing policies for the state's consideration and timely approval.

The way things are now is haphazard at best because there is no one place that gathers or evaluates ideas. The utility of ideas is measured in terms of political gain or which party likes or dislikes them.

Our current overdependence on the Legislature for good ideas isn't working. Legislators spend most of their time submitting, debating and revising bills, passing laws and trying to best their political adversaries. Too much time is devoted to problem definition and not enough to solutions.

One of the first tasks the economic vitality group should undertake is to find decent full-time jobs for the unemployed, underemployed and soon-to-be jobless workers. Perhaps a modern form of the CCC or WPA could help with this.

However important the issues are, this group should avoid getting mired down in such problems as airport security, dengue fever, the anthrax scare and tourism. Instead, they should fix their sights on finding ways to create jobs and improve Hawaii's economy as fast as possible.

Ed Cesar

Biodiesel can help keep America free

While discussions about America's dependence on foreign petroleum are not new, the events of Sept. 11 should serve as a wake-up call: America must find new sources of energy before we can ever achieve true national security. Our thirst for petroleum not only funds many terrorist activities, but is at the heart of much of our foreign policy.

Biodiesel, a fuel substitute made from the oil of vegetables such as soybeans, is quickly emerging as an immediate solution. The U.S. Department of Energy recently cited biodiesel as the fastest-growing alternative fuel in the country. After the Persian Gulf war and the energy shocks of the '70s and '80s, Americans wrestled with our addiction to foreign petroleum. Now true resolve is emerging in the direction of clean-burning, American-made fuels.

Biodiesel has clear advantages: It runs in any standard diesel engine, and it requires no change to existing refueling infrastructure. It is far less toxic than conventional diesel -- a study by the University of California, Davis found that the cancer-causing potential of biodiesel particulate matter is 80 percent less than that of petroleum diesel.

According to the Department of Energy, oil imports from 1979 to 1991 cost the U.S. economy about $4 trillion, almost as much as national defense during the same period and more than the interest payments on the national debt. By contrast, biodiesel keeps fuel spending in the homeland, creates jobs and directly benefits the U.S. economy by driving farm profits through demand. Biodiesel is a powerful tool to help safeguard America's freedom.

Rob Skinner
The Kunian Group


"You have to borrow money from friends. You're completely broke for a month, and you don't know anybody."

Justin Szmodis

Waianae Intermediate School teacher, explaining why some new teachers have difficulty adjusting.

"We do what we can. We're happy that we have jobs, even with rubber gloves."

Robin Trevors

Letter carrier, while donating to the Hawaii Foodbank on behalf of the Pearl City post office.

Good university blends old, new buildings

Randy Lum (Letters, Nov. 3) challenged me to justify the long-term costs of maintaining a medical school in Kakaako. Lum implied in his letter that it is more important to fix up old buildings at the University of Hawaii than to embark on any new construction.

When I first arrived at Harvard University as a freshman from Hawaii many years ago, I was surprised to find many dilapidated, old buildings in which classes were taught. I often wondered why these old, run-down facilities were still being used when Harvard was reputed to be the most richly endowed university in the United States. Interspersed between these old buildings, however, were rather new buildings like Lamont library for the undergraduate student body.

The point is that, in any viable dynamic educational institution, there will always be a blend of old and new facilities. The UH medical school biotech complex envisioned by UH President Evan Dobelle is in vital need of the new facilities to provide an infrastructure for new self-sustaining research. These research and science facilities can be provided by a partnership between the state funds and private donations.

New grants for research will attract dollars into our state. The university medical school has, indeed, a chance to grow and develop. As so aptly said by the dean of the medical school, Ed Cadman, and the director of the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, Carol-Wilhelm Vogel, "There is always a future, but destinies are for those who plan."

Malcolm R. Ing, M.D.

Attorney-client rule must not be breached

Your Nov. 12 editorial "Ashcroft tangles laws on privacy for attorneys and clients" cites one example of the erosion of civil liberties that has occurred in this country since Sept. 11 -- the authorization for federal agents to wiretap certain prisoners' conversations with their lawyers.

Beyond this chilling step, other egregious abridgments of constitutional rights since Sept. 11 have been either discussed at the highest levels of government, passed in recent legislation, or simply carried out without discussion as to their constitutionality.

I have been watching with trepidation since Sept. 11 as rights that Americans supposedly hold dear are being taken away from us. The fact that it is being done in the name of "fighting terrorism" presumably makes it more palatable to the public. But I urge readers to think carefully before accepting such abrogation of rights so readily. I predict that it will not be easy to win them back.

I realize actual terrorists do exist and, for a variety of reasons, have targeted this country. But allowing civil liberties and constitutional rights to be eroded is not the way to deal with it. Thinking that "we" won't be affected because we are not "terrorists" is a mistake. Watch carefully and see which individuals and groups the attorney general starts labeling "terrorist" in the months and years to come.

Joanne Heisel

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