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August 14, 2004 - Saturday

Jahan Byrne, son of the late information activist Desmond Byrne, added this comment on last Sunday's Bob Rees column:

I was surprised to see the strange linkages Rees made about Mark Takai and UH. I knew Takai well at UH. He was president of ASUH the same time I was a VP. Here's what Rees wrote:

"Takai, as UH student body president in 1989, had attempted to undermine President Al Simone, which was, as Doris Ching of UH commented at the time, "totally inappropriate."

Takai was actually extremely closely aligned with the administration, especially Ching and Simone. I am quite sure Ching's comment referred to one specific incident (15 years ago, BTW) in which ASUH threatened to kickstart the search for a new VP for Academic Affairs by independently placing an ad in the Chronicle of Higher Education. That sent Bachman into a fit.

Other than that, Takai had a very professional and cordial relationship with the administration at the time. In fact, he was later hired in a Bachman Hall administrative position.

Meda also unloaded on Rees in a Honolulu Advertiser letter to the editor yesterday. Here's her conclusion as it appeared:

Demanding accountability on the part of those given positions of power, trust and responsibility apparently irritates Mr. Rees.

But the Advertiser cut out the final sentence of the letter that was submitted, which read:

I admit to finding myself puzzled as to why this is the case, but I have even more difficulty understanding why the Advertiser would grant so much attention to an individual with this intellectual track record.

I hope this edit reflects an issue of available space rather than an indication that questions of accountability are also a source of irritation for the state's largest newspaper.

Here's the most insightful comment I heard about the Dobelle controversy this week: "They (the Board of Regents) had to fire Dobelle," one UH employee quipped. "It was the only way to get his attention."

On a larger issue, check out the winners in Move On Pac's Real People ad competition.

August 13, 2004 - Friday

Can it be? This is the story that was buzzing around the Star-Bulletin's newsroom yesterday:

We're told that up the street, Monday is T-shirt day, the day the new Honolulu Advertiser is to roll off its new presses.

To commemorate the INAUGURAL new-press edition, a front-page mock-up was prepared and printed on 600 T-shirts, which employees have been told to wear on Monday. The front-page mock-up appears on the back of the shirts.

The word "inaugural" is misspelled in the headline on all 600 shirts.

Unconfirmed, of course, for now at least.

How does Paké do it? After my mention of the Marmion banyan last week, he reached into his bag of tricks and came up with a brand new, never worn banyan T-shirt from the original 1989 limited edition. My own original copy was worn out and gone to rags long ago, so seeing this was a real flashback. Notice the ghostly rendition of the Twigg-Smith name in the banyan's roots, a reference to former Honolulu Advertiser owner Thurston Twigg-Smith, who insisted on cutting down the banyan and destroying the artesian well prior to sale of the Kakaako property to a Japanese buyer despite appeals to let the buyer determine their fate.

Click for larger photo
It's been a wet week, turning our early walk into a race with nature on several mornings. We speculated on whether we could get home before that very visible rain would catch up with us. The right answer, as it turned out, was "no". I was just giving bits of dog biscuit to the last two dogs on our route when it hit. It made that last 90 seconds of the walk seem much longer than it actually was.

August morning
Kaaawa, Hawaii

August 12, 2004 - Thursday

Last week's mention of the banyan oasis on Marmion Lane (I recalled it as Marmion Street, but those involved at the time say it was Marmion Lane) resulted in a couple of historical gems being unearthed by Paké Zane and Julie Lauster at Antique Alley (1347 Kapiolani, under the ramp that used to run up to China House restaurant).

This is the graphic from a postcard invitation to a three-day event, "In Decent Exposure", subtitled "Art and the Epicurean Experience", one of many wild events now recalled with awe and almost reverence by people who attended.

Click on the graphic to view the whole card.

I would welcome a chance to scan some photos from these events if you happen to have any stashed in closets or stuck in storage.

Tomorrow: The "Stop Eco-Terrorism" T-shirt.

In other news, a Canadian woman says her lost cat returned after 18 years. I don't know how that is possible,'s the tale.

August 11, 2004 - Wednesday

I was surprised to receive an email on Sunday from Hanno Soth, who was a central character in my October 2000 story about the legal battle over the will of a Hawaii woman who died a decade earlier.

Soth, now a real estate developer in Indonesia, expressed the view that the story was "very one sided and unfair" and posed a series of questions "to satisfy my curiosity".

He asked about sources, about efforts to contact him at the time, about possible links between myself or the Star-Bulletin and the Christian Science Church, which opposed Soth in the legal case.

I responded, describing the query that led to the story (not a tip from a lawyer or other "insider") as well as attempts to obtain comment.



At the time, as I recall, Soth's attorney described him as "unreachable", former friends said he was in Bali but lacked specifics, and messages to an email address turned up in an Internet search got no reply.

In a subsequent message, Soth included several points, presumably for the record:

1. I was never Carmen's "Handyman" Carmen actually had a Handyman named Henry Rodriquez as well as a gardener.

2. I do not now nor have I ever lived in Uluwatu.

3.  I never purchased land with jewelry....if there is any place in the world that I can trade 25 acres of oceanfront for $60 Jewelry I am there.

4. The statement "posing as a major developer" is a misleading. In 1998 the Indonesian government granted me my first major development license.

5. There was never any romance between Carmen and me. (the suggestion is offensive), etc.

I raised the possibility of an interview, and will have to see whether that goes anywhere.

Noted: The Advertiser has a correction today in their small "Getting it straight" section stating that UH Regent Byron Bender did not make the campaign contributions to Gov. Lingle attributed to him by Bob Rees in Sunday's column. Well, it didn't say precisely that--Rees' name was not actually mentioned, just the date of the column.

August 10, 2004 - Tuesday

After yesterday's diatribe, it's time for a little peace and quiet. And there's nothing like a cat in the lap to calm things and bring the blood pressure down. In this instance, that's Mr. Duke in my lap after one of our early walks over the weekend. While Duke's in the lap, that's him as a kitten on the shirt. It's a little hard to see in this thumbnail, but just click on the photo for a larger version.

August 9, 2004 - Monday

Luckily I didn't actually read Bob Rees' infuriating column ('The meaning of the Dobelle incident') in yesterday's Honolulu Advertiser until sometime in the early afternoon, so was blissfully unaware for half the day that I was again among his targets.

I really should give Rees his due. After all, he is very good at what he does. He is a master of the snide comment, the gratuitous insult, the McCarthyite innuendo, the loaded phrase, the degrading witticism, the anonymous allegation, and the ad hominem attack. Although a civil libertarian in other contexts, as a writer he appears to believe passionately in guilt by association. He cares little for "facts" or fact checking, for any semblance of fairness, or for the possibility--however small--that his preconceptions might be wrong, preferring instead to begin with his own conclusions and make up whatever it takes to give his inventions the illusion of substance.

Yesterday's column is vintage Rees. He begins by asserting a conclusion, then musters various bits and pieces that are at best vaguely related, beats his chest about how brilliant his insight is and then declares it proven and moves on to the next claim, never bothered by the notion that he has presented absolutely no evidence to back up his position.

In yesterday's column, for example, he leads off with the charge of political retribution, reciting the obvious tensions created by Dobelle's endorsement of Mazie Hirono in the last election, assuming--as if the whole world agrees--that such an endorsement was patently proper. He avoids pesky expert opinions such as those cited by the Chronicle of Higher Education which noted that such endorsements are both rare and ill-advised. He sidesteps the point that the ouster movement began with regents appointed by a Democrat and gained support from key Democrats like Rep. Mark Takai, the House Higher Education chairman.

Rees cites a KITV report as evidence that the Board of Regents unfairly rushed its decision to fire Dobelle, but ignored the same station's report that the decision was moved forward in part in response to "Dobelle's concerns that newly named regents who had not been part of the evaluation process would vote".

But don't bother Rees with contrary evidence when he's on a roll.

Then suddenly the Rees rant on retribution was pau without presenting any evidence of retribution whatsoever and he was spinning off to his next point. The reader's head spins, drawn on by an almost prurient interest in who Rees will slander next.

Farther along, Rees is in full stride when he gets to the section he calls "think local, act provincial", in which he simply derides those who criticized Dobelle's administration without ever attempting to tackle the substance of their arguments.

His avoidance of substance left me confused. Certainly he's not saying concerns about racism, sexism, or the patterns of discrimination they create are parochial. But that's precisely what he is saying, at least when it seems to fit the needs of his argument of the moment.

And much of what Rees presents to bolster his preconceptions is just plain and simple wrong.

In the same "think local" section, he quotes from what he describes as "the response of the university" to comments by Ted Hong. But the quote is not the university's response but what was described by the Star-Bulletin as a personal comment added to a UH release by Paul Costello. A small but significant difference.

Other errors are much more egregious. As far as I can tell, looking at records filed with the Campaign Spending Commission, retired UH professor and Board of Regents member Byron Bender never made the $12,000 in contributions to Gov. Lingle that Rees' so boldly attributes to him.

John Radcliffe, associate director of the faculty union, describes the Rees style this way:

What he does is say something which is  true (Byron Bender)and then in a truly McCarthyite way sort of duct tapes it to something outrageously false (gave $6,000 in 2002--same as he gave in 1998) creating a third, implicitly wrong  thing to leave in the minds of his readers....When caught, and mostly he is not,  he will then say something like, --"Well, Byron Bender was President of UHPA (true) in 1998 (false) and in 2002 (false) and UHPA gave a bunch of money (true) to Lingle,   so that's the same thing." Which it most certainly is not.

There's no doubt that Rees' one-liners, which he uses to dismiss or trivialize others, obscure rather than enlighten.

Radcliffe points to his own speech, cited by Rees, and invites others to compare the Rees comment with the original. I have to say it is a hell of a speech!

And I would certainly invite readers to return to my extended comments about Dobelle's ties to First Hawaiian Bank, which are far more nuanced than Rees gives credit for (see my entries for August 7-8, 2002).

There's much more to be said, but the sun rises in half an hour. Seeing the sunrise is important, debunking Rees less so.

August 8, 2004 - Sunday

Hitting an "estate sale" as we drove in to Kaneohe on Friday was a humbling experience for me. Meda wandered through piles of junk stacked in the lanai of a home in Haiku Plantation and came up with three "finds" that cost her $2. It all looked like junk to me.

It started with an old pair of kids' scissors, metal with blunt ends. They're scissors that you can carry on a plane because they're small and don't have sharp tips. Okay, score one.

Then she found what looked like a somewhat weird pepper mill. We got home and she found it was a French nutmeg grinder which sells new for $21. Score two.

And the third find--the one she was really excited about--was the little ceramic piece in the photo above. Score again. This time a home run. To learn why, click here.

Here's a new round of Kaaawa's morning dogs, including one of the last photos I've got of George, who was killed on Kamehameha Highway near his home last week. Just click on this picture of Lucy & George to see the latest.

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