Letters to the Editor
Great gifts can be found at thrift shops
Giving a gift to someone we love makes us feel wonderful. Thinking we have no money for presents is truly poverty of spirit and only an attitude that has rare validity and depresses us. We know those who care about us want only to be treasured and thought of in a special way.
Retired, on a fixed income and having less cash flow than ever in my life, I've found a gold mine in thrift shops. The true meaning of Christmas, the gift of love, is easy to express with some of the following ideas:
- Retail $5 Christmas mugs sell for 50 cents each at most thrift stores. Add a couple of candy bars, candy canes and a love note plus cellophane and ribbon to make expensive-looking presents. I personalized my nine cups with a permanent marker.
- Wonderful books, tapes and disks are priced from 25 cents and up. I've found brand-new books and antique editions flowing over in good shops. The Treasure Box in Wai'anae has a particularly well-organized section. Values up to $35 each sell for practically pennies.
- All kinds of tins and colored bottles at a fraction of retail wait for the buyer who bakes, makes dressings and does crafts. Beautiful patterns on cloth can be cut up and transformed into new decorator pillows. Vintage linens are hard to find but show up occasionally, adding Victorian charm to any home. I love a corner shop in Kailua that has drawers in an old dresser full of finds: tablecloths from the '40s, lace-trimmed hand towels and special linens. Sparkly, white damask table napkins already adorn my dining table, waiting for Christmas. They don't have to match. Priceless as a collection, they cost only a few dollars each. Some handkerchiefs and old doilies lend themselves to framing and can add that special something to bedroom and bathroom walls.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He's at the Salvation Army, he's at the Goodwill and he's definitely in nature. Shell-decorated light switches, palm tree dried art pieces, peacock-feathers; they're all waiting to be gathered into an "I love you!" item of your own design. Merry Christmas!
Biotech companies threaten local farmers
Your Dec. 16 editorial about the fine that the Environmental Protection Agency recently imposed on Dow Agrosciences and Pioneer Hi-Bred for violating genetic engineering safety standards, "Biotech firms cannot afford technical flaws," totally missed the mark.
You said that the major threat from these mistakes was a decline in consumer confidence about genetically engineered crops. I disagree.
Pioneer was fined for failing to maintain safety standards that would prevent natural crops from being cross-pollinated by genetically engineered crops. Because biotechnology companies patent the new life forms they create (crops that contain pharmaceuticals, pesticides and human genes), even farmers who unwittingly grow genetically engineered crops must pay.
For example, a farmer in Canada named Percy Schmeiser grew natural canola that was cross-pollinated by nearby GE crops without his knowledge. Monsanto, the company that created this strain of corn (and that grows GE crops in Hawai'i), demanded that he pay the company for the altered crops now growing in his fields.
He refused to pay, as he never intended to grow these crops in the first place. Monsanto took him to court and won.
The EPA proved that the genetic engineering companies operating in our Islands do not follow the safety protocol we need to protect our growers from lawsuits like this one.
Now I ask you, is the real threat from the recent EPA fine that consumers might be less supportive of biotechnology? Or is the graver danger that the carelessness of these multinational companies puts our local farmers at risk of losing everything?
Vote opposed because of landowners' 'greed'
The recent leasehold vote by the City Council has resulted in a rash of letters by those against the decision: the landowners.
My recommendation to you people is to stop bashing at everyone else and instead look within your own group for the real cause of this decision. That cause can be summed up in one word: greed. There may be some of you landowners who are reasonable and ethical, but, unfortunately, you have aligned yourselves with those whose greed is affecting you ... or maybe is "infecting" you.
I'll give you an example of this greed. My condo sits on about 160,000 square feet of land. The lease rental per unit per month was $50 or $600 a year. I went to a meeting when this land was offered to me and the other unit owners to hear the landowners' real estate agent who wanted to explain the deal to us.
He said, "If you don't purchase your fee now, approximately $80,000 per apartment, when your rental comes up for renewal in a few years it will be between $600 to $800 per month or $7,200 to $9,600 per year. Bear in mind, there is no negotiating these prices. This is what the landowner wants and it's take it or leave it."
So, if I didn't purchase the fee, my rental costs over a 10-year period would be roughly the same as the fee cost, $80,000. Now don't get me into how they arrived at the value of the fee because that's an even worse scenario. And don't get me started on the history of the lease system, the circumstances and conditions of the time, the values to lessees and lessors of the time, the ethical nature of the system, etc. It gets worse.
So landowners, stop finding fault with everyone else and look into the greed of your own group as your problem.
Robert W. Levy
Assessment of problems doesn't come as surprise
The audit of the Employees' Retirement System by the state auditor definitely points out shortcomings. I am a retired government employee and strongly feel that the assessment of the problems encountered by the ERS was right on target. Many of us should not be surprised at the problems that the audit uncovered. They have existed for years.
And the response only reflects a defensive attitude. It could be 3,000 pages. Who cares? Yes, it has made some improvements, but there is a lot more to be done.
Since we have a terrific retirement system according to all facts, I strongly feel that all elected officials and judiciary members should have our plan.
Also, whatever returns from the investments the ERS receives, some of the money is skimmed off to the general fund. All of the monies should remain in the system and be used for the beneficiaries.
Thank you Marion Higa for bringing these problem to light. Now, let's do the right thing and improve the overall performance.
Alfred C. Akana
Incarceration does help prevent crime
In regard to the Dec. 8 Focus piece by Loren Walker, "Prisons fail," it, without a doubt, has its merits. Incarceration alone will not prevent crimes is true to a certain extent. However, treatment facilities alone will also not prevent crime.
Everyone has jumped on the bandwagon of recidivism, yet no one has clearly explained the results of the lack of prison beds. Hawai'i suffers the highest rate of property crime in the nation, mainly because the lack of prison space equates to little or no consequences for the perpetrators' actions. I wonder if Walker realizes how many so-called "career criminals" with 40 to 100 prior arrests for offenses, such as burglary, theft from vehicles, robbery, etc. continue to plague our streets by stealing from the very fabric and hearts of our communities.
Imagine if we had ample prison space, and the perpetrators responsible for committing these crimes were actually made to serve their full prison term. When a person has 100 or more prior arrests, this really means that this individual was only caught 100 or more times.
However, there is no way to show how many other property crimes this individual actually committed. Unfortunately our legislature and this state feel that property crime does not constitute prison time. People have been sold on the premise that property crime is neither heinous nor an offense against persons that would warrant actual jail time as mandated by the Hawai'i Revised Statutes.
Just imagine if the perpetrator were arrested and made to serve the full five or 10 years of prison time. This would ultimately result in fewer property crimes. So the question is, "Does incarceration prevent crime?" The answer is "yes!"
Let murderers choose to get death penalty
It's about time we reconsider our constitution's provision that doesn't allow "cruel and inhuman punishment." With the recent and past cruel and inhuman murders of children and others, we should look at the facts.
If and when the individual is caught and convicted after many hours or years of police work, trials, attorneys' time and sad memories for survivors let's see what happens. The murderer receives unlimited health care, nutritional meals, exercise and recreational programs, television and, oh yes, the murderer doesn't enjoy the freedom to mingle with the public.
How about total isolation no visitors, no TV, no recreational or exercise programs, minimum food and no pardons. We could then allow the murderer to choose the death penalty.
James F. Duffy
Scholarship program at UH can't discriminate
Lee Hiromoto, in his Dec. 17 Island Voices piece, "Professor praised for Army criticism," praises University of Hawai'i faculty and me personally for our stand regarding gays in the military. The issue before the Manoa Faculty Senate, however, was not really the military's "don't-ask-don't tell" policy, as directed against out-of-the-closet gays serving in the Armed Forces. The faculty didn't really have anything to say about this policy and its rationale.
The dilemma, rather, for UH is this: From the point of view of the university, ROTC is a merit-based scholarship program. Naturally, the university welcomes these scholarships, and a recent vote of UH students, endorsing ROTC, reflects our appreciation of the benefit it provides for some.
However, this scholarship program discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation something that a public educational institution obviously cannot permit in the programs it administers. Those who support the education of military officers in civilian institutions must work creatively toward reconceiving ROTC in a way that is compatible with the university's commitment to high academic standards and humane values. It is time for a ROTC of the 21st century.