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LETTERS for February 2 issue

February 2, 2012
Lahaina News

BAN CELL PHONE USE WHILE DRIVING ACROSS THE U.S.

This letter is in response to the articles covering the decision by the National Transportation Safety Board calling for a nationwide ban on the use of cell phones and text messaging devices while driving.

It seems that everyday we hear of yet another traffic "accident" resulting from road rage, teenagers speeding through curves or the average citizen in a hurry to go nowhere. Now we are seeing the results of how cell phones/texting devices compromise the safety of a driver and those outside the vehicle.

When I back my car up, and the rear of my vehicle strikes the rear of another vehicle (for instance, in a supermarket parking lot), that is an accident. But when an individual operating a motor vehicle demonstrates such a callous disregard for the safety of others, that is reckless driving.

This phenomenon is indicative of what has happened to our society: people could not care less about their fellow citizens. People would rather experience the "thrill" of traveling at high velocity than consider the consequences of their actions.

Now, they can travel at high speed and be distracted all at the same time. Evidently, the punishments being meted out for these crimes are not severe enough, but then again, it has never been proven that the death penalty has a direct affect on reducing murder.

One solution for reckless driving caused by the use of cell phones (while driving) is the installment of a device allowing for hands-free cell phone use. Essentially, the cell phone operates through the car radio. All drivers must be required to have this installed in their motor vehicle. This solution may not prevent all drivers from being distracted by cell phone use, but it would sure be a strong attempt at keeping our attention where it belongs.

As for texting devices, we must outlaw their use in a motor vehicle - period.

My nephew was killed in a car accident as a result of a texting argument with his girlfriend. The autopsy confirmed there were no drugs or alcohol in his system. Studies have confirmed that texting lowers a driver's reaction time worse than alcohol.

Unfortunately, there is really no way you can stop their use unless you spot someone texting, or you find the device among the rubble of a mangled car or truck. There is too much evidence to indicate that most people cannot "chew the fat" and drive at the same time.

As for cost, the same argument can be made about the airlines' failure to install cockpit security doors. If those cockpits had been secure on Sept. 11, 2001 (after 30 years of airplane hijackings), some 3,000-plus United States citizens would be alive today. My nephew would be as well.

JOE BIALEK, Cleveland, Ohio

MAUI GROUPS HEL ANIMALS

Are you aware of the animal organizations on Maui and what they do? Check each website, or call them.

9th Life Hawaii (www.9thlifehawaii.org), an all volunteer, no-kill cat sanctuary and rescue, is conducting free/low-cost spay and neuter clinics through Feb. 3. Call 572-3499 or check the website to get cats "fixed." They pick up and deliver.

East Maui Animal Refuge, a.k.a. the Boo Boo Zoo (www.booboozoo.com), an all volunteer, no-kill sanctuary for injured and orphaned animals for over three decades, is now forced to make extensive physical alterations by government regulators. Call 572-8308.

Maui Pit Bull Rescue (www.mauipitbullrescue.com/) is an all volunteer, no-kill rescue, rehab and adoption group for this abused breed. Call 280-0314.

SPCA Maui is an all volunteer, no-kill animal organization. Call 280-0738 or see spcamaui.org/ to learn of their spay/neuter clinics and their public meeting on Friday, Feb. 4.

The Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation (HARF), 876-0022 or 269-9829, or visit www.hawaiianimalrescue.org to learn how they rescue dogs on "death row" and find good homes for them.

Leilani Farm Sanctuary (www.leilanifarmsanctuary.org, 298-8544) is yet another all volunteer, no-kill sanctuary for farm animals in need.

West Maui Animal Shelter (269-6979, www.westmauianimalshelter.com/index.html) presently offers free spay/neuter services on the West Side.

Last Resort Dog Rescue (www.dogrescuehawaii.com, 769-6767) also manages numerous cat colonies.

Maui Animal Rescue Sanctuary (575-7698) is a bird sanctuary located in Haiku.

Feline Foundation of Maui (www.mauicats.com, 385-2181) assists trap, neuter and release programs on Maui for feral cat colonies.

Pacific Primate Sanctuary in Haiku (www.pacificprimate.org, 572-8089) is another nonprofit, no-kill sanctuary for threatened, distressed and endangered monkeys.

And Kalee's Horse Retirement Stable in Lahaina (357-6100) cares for retired work horses and conducts equestrian therapy with special-education keiki.

MIKE MORAN, Kihei

DOLLAR DEMOCRACY

Corruption is as American as apple pie.

"The quality of government is seriously compromised when decisions made by elected politicians benefit those who funded their ascent to power," says the anti-corruption watchdog group Transparency International.

That sounds like just another U.S. election campaign.

Some eras are worse than others. Historians say the post-Civil War period was America's most corrupt, with the 1920s to '30s a close runner-up. We're now caught in a third wave of entrenched influence-peddling and crony capitalism.

After the Civil War, railroads ruled the United States. During the Roaring '20s, Big Oil virtually ran our government. The unenforceable prohibition on alcohol consumption also corrupted every level of government.

Big business dominated the government until the 1929 stock market crash and subsequent Great Depression ushered in Franklin D. Roosevelt's populist policies.

These epochs of extravagant graft and bribery have much in common. They closely followed major wars. They coincided with periods of great concentration of wealth from bubbles enabled by "business-friendly" governments. The first two subsided when recessions exposed the cost of business gone wild, and reform movements regulated corporate power.

Today, corporations are in command again. Experts expect the 2012 electoral campaigns to cost more than $6 billion. This will keep client politicians dialing their corporate patrons for dollars and promising business-friendly policies.

In 2011, finance, insurance and real estate companies gave Mitt Romney $7.7 million and Obama $4.1 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Military contractors are close behind, along with the health insurance companies that spent big shaping the Affordable Care Act.

These are America's new overlords. Big campaign donations make smart investments for crony capitalists. Deregulation and lax oversight have brought billions in profits and tax breaks to financiers, even while the Great Recession has stripped $7 trillion from American household wealth. Unless it's overturned with a constitutional amendment, the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling (which enabled corporations to make unlimited political contributions) will stand.

U.S. corruption has become too big to measure. It's the new normal.

How can the 99 percent respond? The dark humor of the oppressed has historically made it easier to bear.

"I think I can say, and say with pride, that we have some legislators that command higher prices than any in the world," Mark Twain quipped in the 1870s. "We have the best government that money can buy," Twain also said.

"The best thing about this group of candidates is that only one of them can win," Will Rogers observed half-a-century later.

Today, people get that kind of relief from Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show," or when they watch Stephen Colbert poke fun at at Super PACs.

"I couldn't afford a politician, so I bought this sign," read a Mississippian's sign in Occupy Tupelo.

But corruption isn't funny. Bad governments create economic instability at a terrible human cost. Dollar democracy can turn people off of politics, even knowing that when voters become alienated, the worst politicians will get elected.

We laugh to keep from crying for our democracy.

TIM BUTTERWORTH, Institute for Policy Studies

 
 
 

 

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