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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Letters to the Editor

Surgeons know how much painkiller to use

Regarding the story on pain medication: I couldn't agree more on pain control for the terminally ill person in pain. Whatever legal methods are available for pain control should be used without concern for addiction; governmental authorities can be dealt with later.

However, it is different with the post-surgical patient. Surgeons do recognize that control of pain is important in the patient's recovery, and here the art of medicine and "bedside manner" come into play. The surgeon, based on experience with previous patients with similar operations, knows pretty well how much medication is needed and for how long.

Patients are not all alike, and so amounts of medication and duration of treatment will vary, but a surgeon in a rational discussion with a patient should be able to outline a program that is satisfactory for doctor, patient and government agencies.

Argyl Bacon, M.D. (retired)

In-depth reporting needed at Kane'ohe

Some in-depth reporting on the dysfunctional governance of Hawai'i State Hospital is long overdue.

Fine to make it an island joke, but millions of taxpayer dollars go unwisely through that institution year after year.

The hospital needs a true governing board that would include legislators, union and university representation, not one appointed by the governor to pay off his pals. To have most decisions made by the Mental Health Division chief gives us the chaos we have had for the past 125 years — poorly funded, inadequately staffed and dysfunctionally governed.

Where was The Advertiser when the decision to close Guensberg was made? The joke of Hawai'i State Hospital reflects on the extremely inadequate press coverage the hospital gets from The Advertiser and Star-Bulletin. The Honolulu Weekly coverage, although spotty, has been on the mark. And usually your editorials on the hospital, such as the one on June 18, strike me as insipid.

Jerry Dowling, M.D.

Isn't DOE supposed to support teachers?

Just in case most people missed it, the governor was mistaken in all his ads about Hawai'i's public school teachers being the 18th best paid in the nation. Recently Education Week pointed that out, and the governor's office said it was an "honest mistake." Actually, Hawai'i teachers are the lowest paid in the nation.

However, teachers don't have the support of the Department of Education. Recently I learned that the DOE does not want to pay the 3 percent differential for advanced degrees mandated in the new contract and is now saying it can only pay those teachers with professional diplomas from the UH-Manoa system and teachers with master's degrees in education or teaching.

In addition, it does not want to pay for each year of the contract, but only for the last year. Is not the DOE supposed to be on the side of the teachers?

I make $19,000 a year after taxes. I have a master's degree from Boston University in severe-special-needs education, the area in which I serve in public school. About to begin the second year in the RISE program, I am close to certification in special education. As outlined in a previous letter to the editor, New York City pays nearly twice as much for the same qualifications.

I read in the paper recently that a parent said, "My kids have never had playground equipment, and they are past elementary age now." He thought something was wrong. This was on Page One, in a cover story about the DOE's lack of funds. Somewhere, some people are very self-serving and greedy.

Who is supposed to give up monies to help us have playgrounds, etc.? Is it the teachers, who are still the lowest paid in the nation? Or perhaps do we need to cut some desk jobs?

Nandarani Evans

Akaka Bill actually could hurt Hawaiians

In his June 1 commentary, Bruss Keppeler says the Akaka Bill is intended to keep government money flowing to "Hawaiians" (defined by the "one drop of blood" rule). But to accomplish this, the bill would have to strip Hawaiians of their constitutional rights.

The bill's definitions of "Hawaiian" and "native Hawaiian" pick out the same groups as the state law definitions. In Rice v. Cayetano, the Supreme Court held those definitions are racial and imposed racial discrimination. If Congress can enact the Akaka Bill, it can legitimize racial discrimination by labeling a racial group an "Indian tribe."

To save the funding programs, the Akaka Bill would have to punch a loophole through the constitutional right to be treated equally, regardless of race. Rather than creating special rights for Hawaiians, it would impose special powers of Congress over Hawaiians.

Keppeler expects Congress to treat Hawaiians better than everyone else. But Congress could treat Hawaiians worse. That has often happened to Indian tribes. Congress has invoked its power over Indian tribes to "help" Indians by making them wards of the government and "civilizing" them at gunpoint.

If Congress can manufacture a Hawaiian "Indian tribe," it can treat Hawaiians as it historically treated Indians. How much would you sell your constitutional rights for?

Patrick W. Hanifin

Taxpayers shouldn't have to pay the bill

It was quite a test of physical endurance for that young man, Matthew Davidson, to attempt a swim from Kaua'i to Ni'ihau, but it sounds totally spontaneous and ill-planned.

After a 10-hour search and rescue, with Coast Guard divers, helicopter and a C-130, who pays for the bill?

Although search and rescue was initiated by a call from the Mainland, the Hawai'i taxpayers shouldn't be expected to foot the entire bill for such a foolhardy swim.

Timothy Fern

Lenient judges, parole board are the problem

In her June 15 column, Lee Cataluna took a potshot at me concerning my opposition to the hate-crimes legislation. Auwe, she missed the point entirely but "no worries," so do most journalists with a liberal agenda.

Regarding hate crimes, judges already have a lot of latitude in sentencing. If there is a problem in Hawai'i regarding the criminal justice system, part of the problem could be a few lenient judges and revolving doors at our prisons provided by the parole board. The evidence is the number of crimes by repeat felons out on parole.

We do not need more "politically correct" laws. Hawai'i does need stricter enforcement of existing laws.

Sen. Fred Hemmings

Some just won't accept military's presence

Regarding civilian complaints about U.S. Army training in Makua Valley: It is my impression that some people will never agree with having any military activity near where they live regardless of how beneficial the military is to the nation or community. To some civilians, no environmental impact survey would ever justify the presence of any military facility or activity. So why bother?

The military has been using Makua Valley for exercises since before World War II. Anyone who has moved to Makaha after the military started using the valley for training and exercises need not complain. Using burial grounds or heiau as justification to prevent military use is hypocritical since Hawaiian warriors also may have lived and exercised over ancient heiau. So what's the difference?

Military personnel and dependents are often subject to greater danger from civilians than vice versa. It does not help children understand the personal sacrifices and contributions of the military when civilian parents do not respect the military for what it does for the nation and community. Just in its Medevac mission, the military has saved hundreds of lives transporting injured civilians from accidents to hospitals and rescuing civilians lost on land and at sea.

Military personnel should be allowed to train in a safe and rational way to ensure their preparedness for humanitarian relief operations, as well as war. The next person they save may be you, a relative or a friend.

Regardless, let's hope they will be the best they can be when somebody needs their help.

R.A. Noguchi
Pearl City

Why were fireworks allowed in first place?

I read with interest Eloise Agiar's recent article on the Kailua fireworks Fourth of July pact to keep tradition alive. It's good to know there are environmentally conscientious organizations like Envirowatch out there to raise our awareness.

But why did the Department of Land and Natural Resources permit this practice in the first place? Permitting the fireworks on Popoi'a Island is a "no-brainer" because it is a state sanctuary, for heaven's sake. Why does it take a nonprofit to get paid professional natural resource "managers" to protect our fragile island?

Celeste Voeks

New road isn't needed at Kailua High School

Kailua High School does not need a new road. Use the money for computers and books.

In the '70s, Kailua High had up to 3,600 students with only one entrance. Now, with fewer students, it has two entrances.

Remove the signs on Kalaniana'ole that prevent right turns into Pohakapu, police the drivers and all will be fine.

Brett Phillips
Kailua High School Class of 1976

Drug court doesn't need a 'stick'

In House Republican leader Galen Fox's April 23 letter to the editor, he made reference to a prison carrot and stick. Drug addicts to not respond to punishment. I am an addict. I do not want to be an addict, but I am. There is no cure.

Once an addict relapses, his addiction takes control. The threat of punishment does not prevent relapse. Problem solving, coping skills, anger management and life skills do. These skills are taught in drug rehab programs and in our grade schools.

Relapse is a natural part of recovery. Relapse repeats itself. Therefore, drug addicts are naturally repeat offenders — and repeat-offender statutes increase prison time and create a bigger stick.

Punishment is no more a deterrent to an addict than it is to an epileptic.

In Fox's statement concerning drug offenders, " ... almost all such persons currently receive probation, not prison," he is obviously unaware of how the judiciary works.

Addicts sit untreated in OCCC for three to six months, sometimes longer, before reaching trial date. Probation does not occur until then. An addict cannot get a probation officer referral until the addict is actually on probation. Most programs will not touch an addict until he receives a referral. This guarantees payment.

In Fox's statement concerning prison overcrowding, "naive" is his choice of words to describe the premise that prisons are overcrowded with first-time drug offenders (nonviolent). His safety net here is the word "first."

For Fox's education, this is how it works. Day one, arrest. Days two and three, HPD cellblock to court. Bail is confirmed ($5,000 and up). The addict is transported to OCCC, processed and housed. Approximately seven days later, the addict faces a preliminary hearing. This is where witness statements determine if the court will hold the offender for trial. Approximately three to four weeks later, the inmate appears before court TV in module 9 for arraignment and plea. A not-guilty plea (per advice from the Public Defender's Office) is entered.

A trial date and a motion's deadline is then set for five to seven weeks off. One week before trial, the addict is taken before court for court call. This is to determine if the defense is ready for trial and to begin jury selection. It is at this point that plea bargains are made.

Finally, Fox is correct: Most nonviolent drug offenders are placed on probation (with time served). However, this does not officially begin for another two months. In order to implement this plea bargain, a presentence report must first be made. This requires an investigation on behalf of the probation department and a visit to the prison to interview the addict.

All in all, the addict has now spent four and a half to six months in prison awaiting drug treatment.

Drug addiction on a global level threatens civilized man. The mention of a rainy-day fund being diverted does not begin to address the hurricane-strength winds that addiction has caused in the State of Hawai'i. Let's not drop the ball to pick up the stick. Addicts belong in treatment programs, not prison beds.

Michael Spiker
Addict/inmate, OCCC