EVERYWHERE, U.S.A. — Reflecting on 2009, known to the Chinese as the Year of the Ox, Kapana Gecko, the well-informed fictional character, as well as this columnist, declare 2009 “The Year of the Stupid” — countywide, statewide, nationwide.
Stupid decisions, stupid actions and stupid — sometimes outrageous — statements make you wonder where we are all headed. Even as we approach Dec. 31, the “Year of the Stupid” appears to be gaining more momentum.
A Lahaina barber visited too infrequently by this columnist noted in conversation last week that “the smarter people are, the stupider they are. But don’t ask me why because I am not very smart.” Nevertheless, there was more wisdom in these words than can generally be found in print or on TV.
“There is no common sense anymore,” this observer noted. “People are being riled up (by talk show hosts and ordinary citizens). Then a few accept what they have heard and go off and do something stupid. It’s because children are being taught no respect. This means anything goes.”
Here’s a partial list ”stupids” in 2009:
• County threatens Launiupoko residents with civil and criminal action if they do not lop off two feet of six-foot stone walls and electric meter stands that they did not know violated zoning codes when they bought their homes. This is the equivalent of the county mimicking Ronald Reagan by saying, “Mr. and Mrs. Launiupoko, tear down this wall.”
• County announces the only garbage truck on Lanai has broken down. There will be no garbage collection for a month (this is not a joke)!
• State education officials decide to curtail school bus service by not asking for a $12 million emergency appropriation.
• County Council members rally to support member Sol Kaho‘ohalahala and fail to kick him out of the council, even after a court rules he was elected improperly.
• Some restaurants say that this year, they are not to provide biodegradable takeout containers to customers... because prices would increase 15 cents per order.
• State officials fail to recognize that providing essential services is a function of good government. If you have a $720 million deficit, you do not cut vital services. You raise taxes. You add a penny or two to the tax on goods, recognizing that some of the millions raised will come from visitors.
• State officials act irresponsibly by furloughing teachers on Fridays, reducing school days below federal standards.
• State fails to immediately tap rainy day fund to meet extraordinary needs. Officials do not recognize that this economic situation is, in effect, “a rainy day.”
• Union official says in radio ad last week that students will get a better education if furlough days are reduced and teachers devote the time to planning instead of putting keiki back in school.
• State official wants to take away transient accommodations tax (TAT) money normally given to counties — who are also strapped for cash — to help with Hawaii’s budget deficit.
• Republicans criticize Neil Abercrombie for resigning from Congress in order to campaign for governor and spend full-time in the islands, so voters can get to know and judge him. Complaint is it will cost extra money for special election. Since this is a democracy, this is an essential cost of governing.
• News weekly declares Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as “Person of the Year.” Bernanke ignored views of both Republican tea baggers and liberals who wanted him to make banks help ordinary citizens/small businesses and drop high credit card interest charges. Federal bailout money had few conditions.
• Banking industry gives itself bonuses in 2009 while foreclosing homes of hardworking Americans.
• A U.S. senator interrupted President Obama’s “State of the Union” address to shout out, “You lie!” This comment — accurate or not — showed no respect for the Office of the President.
• Zealots again claim global warming is a hoax, even though ice caps are melting massively for the first time in the recorded history of the planet. Polar bears have no ice to sit on and are dying out. Majority of world scientists trained to be objective say global warming is real.
• Birthers claim Obama is not an American citizen because he does not have a Hawaii birth certificate, even though his birth announcements appeared in Honolulu newspapers more than 40 years ago, when no one would have ever guessed he would run for office. Birthers don’t know that people born in Hawaii do not have “birth certificates.” State confirms it has record of Obama’s birth in its files.
• Democrats can be faulted for compromising like crazy to water down health care bill to avoid a filibuster, which public pressure eventually would have ended.
• Rapper Kanye West rushes on stage at MTV Music Awards and takes spotlight away from Best New Artist winner by saying someone else should have won.
• Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said, (Fill in the blank).
• Republican Sarah Palin said, (Fill in the blank).
Finally, there are the ultimate “stupids” — people like all of us. We vote for individuals on the basis of names that represent the “right” ethnic origins and accept local government, that is mediocre at best. Oh well... maybe next year we can get a fresh start.