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Thursday, June 25, 2015

SHADES OF HAWAII

Let me begin with something that has no connection to Hawaii, the second coming of Jackie Evancho, for Tuesday night, 11-year old Arielle Baril of Pennsylvania, in her initial America's Got Talent performance, captured the hearts of America with  the same song as Jackie's first audition, Puccini's O Mio Babbino Caro, and gained a Golden Buzzer from Heidi Klum.  Jackie was only 10 and more polished,  but Arielle, who was taught to sing by her brother, shows immense potential.  Think back to when you were in the 5th grade and get amazed by Arielle.


The only connection to Hawaii here is that Maui at 727 square miles is slightly smaller than Okinawa at 877 square miles.  So, with only 0.6% of Japan's land, Okinawa hosts 74% of all American bases.  No wonder that a string of governors and mayors have pleaded:  leave, please.   Remember that 160,000 Okinawans were killed in World War II (WWII).

Why are we in Japan, anyway? WWII ended 70 years ago.  We have 49,430 American troops in Japan and 38,015 in Germany.  Add 30,000 in South Korea, where the Korean War ended more than half a century ago.  How much is this costing us?  Well:

Keeping one American service member in Afghanistan costs between $850,000 and $1.4 million a year, depending on who you ask. But one matter is clear, that cost is going up.

Do the mathematics, and the annual cost of just the above amounts to more than $100 billion/year.  How significant is this?,  Our Atomic Bomb project in World War II only cost $2 billion:

  1. Eventually, the Manhattan Project employed more than 130,000 people and cost nearly US$ 2 billion (equivalent to US$ 23 billion in 2007 dollars--or $26 billion today).
  2. So in comparison, we have spent more than $3 trillion since WWII just keeping troops in Okinawa, and a lot more actually, for there have been reductions since the early days.  Even worse, you need to add the 40,000 dependents and 5500 American civilians there, just in 2013.  There were a lot more earlier.  What is $3 trillion worth (from Kiplinger):
  • 126 million cars
  • Average income of 60% all households in America.

That's a trillion dollars above, in $100 bills (note man in red to the left.)

President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.  He just won two major victories, and Republicans helped him succeed.  First, they gave him almost all the support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement among a dozen Asian-Pacific nations, providing trade and investment opportunities for American companies.  All four Hawaii Democrats in Congress dinged against the President.  You could say that TPP is anti-China, for it is not included, nor are South Korea and India.

Secondly, the Republican-dominated Supreme Court rejected the Obamacare lawsuit, preserving the program at least for the next couple of years.  If our next president is Republican, and they retain control of Congress, they can still scuttle the Affordable Care Act.  The 6-3 vote wasn't even that close, but three conservatives sided with the liberals, including Chief Justice John Roberts.

Now something 100% Hawaii:  we are Death Valley for fine cuisine.  As far as I know, there is no 3-Star Michelin restaurant in Hawaii.  Mind you, neither does Los Angeles.  San Francisco just this year gained two 3-Stars:  Benu and Saison, which is the most expensive restaurant in San Francisco:

Dinner for two will now cost over $1,000 before wine. That makes Saison, judging by starting price, the most expensive restaurant in California (after Urasawa, at $395), and the second most expensive restaurant in the U.S. (after New York City's Masa, at $450).

Those numbers don't add up, but...  Worse, Hawaii has not even one 1-Star Michelin.


So it's no great shock that the Sunday list of Hawaii's Best of 2015 in the Star Advertiser indicates that the best Mexican restaurant in the state is Taco Bell and the best seafood restaurant is Red Lobster.  Of course, these selections are from people who actually vote, Best should be replaced with Popular, and certainly should not be interpreted as any measure of cuisine quality.  We do have Vintage Cave, and I think it compares with the best 3-Star Michelins in the world, but how many people here have gone there?  Hint:  this is a very low number.

Here is another reason not to live in Hawaii.  I have a Swiss Army knife type tool that has a flashlight.  There are four tiny LR41 batteries.  So I went to Long's and found that each cost $3.99, plus tax. or four for something north of $16.  The whole thing cost me less than $10 in Thailand.  So I went to Amazon.com.  Twenty, yes, twenty LR41 batteries cost $5.39, with no tax and shipping charge.  That's 27 cents/battery, or 15 times cheaper.  Now, I'll never use more than 4 in my life, for I doubt that I'll ever actually use that flashlight, and will almost surely misplace it later this year...but this is why Radio Shack has gone bankrupt.  Long's better watch it!

Last month I posted on:

     IS HAWAII SHRINKING AWAY FROM PROGRESS?

Yet again, Hawaii seems to be waffling away from doing something monumental.  On the other hand, if you are among those who feel that Mauna Kea is sacred, and yet another telescope should not be built to further desecrate the holy grounds, maybe that, too, is progress.  In any case, we are already being superseded, as Europe is building their Extremely Large Telescope (ELT--129 feet diameter--right) on top of Cerro Amazones in Northern Chile, and they hope first light will be observed in 2024.

The Hawaii 30 Meter Telescope (TMT--98 feet diameter--above left) might now never be built.  If they succeed, so what.  The concept was advanced in the Year 2000, and all those lawsuits, protests and stuff have effectively marginalized the effort to the point of making it almost irrelevant.  If this is progress, then we might as well become a giraffe.

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