Monday, August 14, 2023

State of Disaster

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The wildfire that destroyed the scenic town of Lahaina on Maui was nothing short of horrific. The death count keeps rising and it's my sad suspicion that what's been reported to date will likely be a fraction of the final tally. 

I've visited Hawaii many times, having family there, and so have strong feelings about what happened - and the likelihood that it didn't have to happen, or at least not with the tragic severity we've seen.

The problem, as illustrated in the "from the vault" posts below, is that Hawaii creates such a laid-back attitude in people that important things fall between the cracks and don't get done. There's always tomorrow and, if it's a beautiful day, well, there will be another tomorrow after that. This creates enormous inefficiency and ineptitude in all government-managed services including, sadly, emergency services. Case in point: some years ago, a study showed that Lahaina was at huge risk from wildfires. But nobody got around to fixing it. The weather was too nice.

On a visit to Oahu some years ago, I was startled one morning when my parents' home started shaking around me - hard. It was a modest earthquake with a magnitude of about six. Not big enough to level structures, but enough to make for a pretty terrifying wake-up call. But when the shaking stopped, there was still a significant worry: would there be a tsunami? And were my family and I on high-enough ground?

A lot depended on the strength of the earthquake (which we still didn't know) and where it was centered (which we also didn't know). Turning on the radio, we searched the dial for any news at all but found none. So we loaded into a car and drove higher into the mountains.

We eventually parked at an altitude that seemed safe-ish and continued to listen for radio updates. But it was a Sunday and there was no live programming at all. Just pre-recorded programs about investing, real estate, and getting right with God. And we never did get a damn update from any officials. We just waited until we thought it was safe to go home - encouraged by someone in the neighborhood who said that they were going to call the cops on us for looking "suspicious." Maybe they thought I'd kidnapped my 80-year-old mother. The bastards.

But my point here (and below) is that while Hawaii is a nice place to visit, you wouldn't want to live there. Liberal politics and an almost inescapable laissez-faire culture have made it unsafe.

From the Vault: 1/15/2018

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The Aloha State of panic.

On Saturday, palm trees swayed in tropical breezes, warm surf washed pristine beaches, and tourists in Hawaii wept, screamed, cowered in fear, and stuffed their children into storm drains because of an "oopsy" alert (delivered to phones, radio stations, and wailing sirens) saying the island paradise was about to be vaporized by incoming nuclear missiles.

We single out "tourists" as being terrified rather than actual citizens of Hawaii, because those who have lived there for longer than a week already know the Aloha State's ill-kept secret: local government officials screw up pretty much everything they touch, so the odds of a false alarm were (as Trump might say) yuge.

We have plenty of personal experience with Hawaii from which to draw this conclusion. The state, which is almost psychedelically beautiful, has several factors working against it. The first is that it's essentially a jungle, with rainwater, vines, lizards, and highly aggressive insect colonies attacking every manmade bit of infrastructure on a non-stop basis.

The second is that all government functions are run by aloha-shirted Democrats and can't-be-fired civil servants, all of whom have a uniquely Hawaiian year-around "Spring fever" which keeps them from really committing to work when the weather is nice. As in, "daily."

While overt public terror is nothing to laugh at, except from the mainland, things could have been a lot worse: imagine what was going through the minds of our military personnel who were wondering if they should quickly launch a counterattack before going out in a Slim Pickens-style blaze of glory.

Theoretically, all of this was caused by one person "pushing the wrong button." Arguably the worst mistake made by a Hawaiian government official since Department of Health official Loretta Fuddy stated that she (and she alone) had looked at Obama's birth certificate and sent him a copy.

Shortly after which, she became the only fatality in a plane crash. Oopsy.

From the Vault: 8/24/2018

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A lot of people might get lei'd to rest...

Within the next few hours, we'll know if Hawaii has been devastated by its worst hurricane in decades or if the fates have smiled once again on the islands and steered Hurricane Lane back out to sea.

If disaster is avoided, however, it certainly won't be because of anything the local government and emergency preparedness agencies have done (specifically on the island of Oahu, the home to Honolulu, Waikiki, and Pearl Harbor). To put it delicately, the officials' preparations would feel right at home on a pupu platter...because those plans are pupu from top to bottom.

A quick bit of back story: for many years, Stilton's parents lived on Oahu (a sibling still does), and so we were frequent visitors. The island is unquestionably spectacularly beautiful, but anything government has touched has gone straight to hell. Pretty much nothing works right in Hawaii, in part because the island's culture encourages a lackadaisical attitude toward anything like efficiency, responsibility, and basic competence. When visiting, our day-to-day mantra was "Nothing is easy in Hawaii."

It's among our most socialist states, with almost everyone getting some kind of handout from the government. It has the highest per capita homeless population of any state. Prices for everything are sky-high. Their medical system has been described as that of a "third world country" owing to doctors fleeing the state because of unsustainably small payments from Medicare and Medicaid (a canary in the coal mine that we on the mainland had better pay attention to). And for many years, building standards were so lax (and builders so casually inept) that a significant percentage of homes offer no protection at all in case of emergency conditions. Frankly, Gilligan's Island had a way better model of sustainability.

Which now brings us to Hurricane Lane. Considering hurricanes are pretty much a known threat to Hawaii, you'd think they'd have emergency plans out the wazoo. But no, their plans remain firmly in their wazoos along with the residue of a lot of macaroni salad and Spam.

Residents are being warned to head to shelters for safety, but there are a few little problems with that. For one thing, no bureaucrats have bothered to keep a list of official shelters. In reviewing the shelters they can find, it seems that exactly none of them have been hardened to stand up to even a Category One hurricane (the weakest and most cuddly sized). But having the roof collapse on their heads may be the least of people's problems because many of the shelters are located in flood zones. Apparently, the emergency preparedness folks never considered the likelihood that a hurricane just might be bringing along a buttload of rain.

If people do go to one of these unsafe shelters (and there's only room for about one-fifth of the population), they're being told they'll have to survive in a 3-foot by 3-foot space for up to two weeks, they need to bring their own bedding and anything else important, and - oh yeah! - bring their own food. Because it never dawned on Hawaiian officials that people in shelters might actually need to eat. Although it being Hawaii, there's a fairly good chance that the waves crashing though the shelter doors will bring fresh fish, and coconuts will regularly be exploding through windows at 100 mph. So there are some benefits to living in Paradise.

We're obviously hoping the best for the people of Hawaii, but think this should serve as a graphic (and hopefully not deadly) reminder that there's a great danger in putting too much faith in government bureaucrats to watch after your safety, welfare, and future.

Which is, of course, exactly what those on the Left are shooting for. And if they get their way, we'll all be saying "Aloha" to our very way of life.


Dan said...

When I was stationed at Schofield Barracks in the late '80s-early '90s, one of the guys I knew said (reflecting your comment) that Hawaii was a third world country that just happened to be a state.

As far as the Maui fires, I was curious how much of the non-indigenous plants feeding the fires were variants of the Maui Wowie variety.

Still, if I was a rich man, I'd be willing to move back there.

JustaJeepGuy said...

I never imagined I'd read of a hurricane described as "cuddly". @Stilt, you're the only one who could ever do that!

My father went to Hawaii in early 1942 to repair aircraft damaged in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Aside from a few photographs, the sole souvenir he brought back was a dollar bill with the word "Hawaii" stamped on the back. I need to find out what a 1939 one-dollar silver certificate is worth today. I know I'll never go to Hawaii and spend it.

Fred Ciampi said...

Gee Stilt, it sounded as if you're describing the once glorious state of California. Except they, for the most part let the environmentalists (whose average IQ is 6) determine what steps to take for flood control, fire prevention, and homeless folks living on the streets. And what's more important, a community of 500 homes and businesses or a community of baby ducks? (But that's a sad story for another soapbox. Happened in 1983) Footnote; when I was at Kaneohe Bay, USMC Air Station, in 1961 the aircraft hangars still had bullet holes in them. OK, time for more coffee. Have a nice forever.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the background and perspective… who knew?! [rhetorical question]

Roger Myers said...

Spot on as usual Stilton, be prepared. What's Hawiian for 'racist" ?

TrickyRicky said...

I wonder if the cause of the fires will ever be discovered. There have been lots of arson fires on Maui in the recent past.

Grizzly said...

I don’t get it, Stilton. You were searching for what to do after the earthquake, and the radio said “Get right with God.” Sounds like you got your answer.

Brie Camembert said...

Its all the fault of Climate Change and the only way to stop it is for everyone (except elites) to pay much more moolah to the Government. (+ 10% for the "Big Guy")

Roger said...

Heard on the streets on the Big Island: (decipher in Google translate)

Aloha ino Maui e hele i ka heenalu

ʻAuhea kahi ua nui i ka wā e pono ai ʻoe

Mea ino

American Cowboy said...

I wondered if I would be the only one making a comment tied to December 07, 1941. I see I am not.

Reading a list of warning signs that were either "missed" or ignored for nearly a full year prior to the "surprise" attack on Pearl Harbor on that date caused me to draw many parallels to today's blog.

In 2020, Obama famously warned, “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f–k things up.”

That quote pretty well sums up Pearl Harbor then, if Joe's name were replaced with democrats, and sums up what happened in Maui now in the same way. IMO.

M. Mitchell Marmel said...

Where's Steve McGarrett when you need him?

The real one, not the pale imitation...

John the Econ said...

I'm not sure which is worse: "Laid-back" governance or "We're gonna fix everything!" governance.

My usual retort is "You guys can't even manage pavement. I have absolutely no reason to believe that you are capable of addressing the bigger problems."

As to the Maui fires: Over the weekend I took note that the media was beating the "Climate Crisis!" drum, as in "Your SUV and first world living is responsible for this! Shame on you!".

Actually, humans were somewhat responsible. But it wasn't the climate. It was the decline of agriculture on the islands that has allowed formerly managed acreage to go fallow to be taken over with invasive grasses that grow quickly when it rains, but dry out and become highly flammable within hours of any dry spell. And as @Stilton points out, this has been identified as a problem for some time now, but nobody had taken any steps to address it.

Of course, there is also the weather, but it has nothing to do with spewing out CO2. Last year, we had a volcano that spewed literally trillions of gallons of water vapor into the upper atmosphere. Whereas CO2 is a mediocre greenhouse gas, water vapor is a very potent one. In fact, last year NASA predicted rising temperatures due to this, which of course the media immediately flushed down the inconvenient memory hole.

It's also an El Nino year, where the Pacific ocean belches its stored up heat. Oh, and we're headed towards the peak of a very active solar cycle.

But until Progressives figure out a way to hold you responsible for volcanoes, El Nino, or the Sun, they'll continue to harass you over our gas stoves.

Anonymous said...

SJ, Great analysis of the situation in Maui. I to, have family living on the Big Island, who use to live in Lahaina, and you’re spot on with the “government helping” rant. Zip, zero and nope. Really tragic situation and I agree, totally preventable, except you’re having to deal with bureaucrats, that makes California bureaucrats look exceptional.. Beautiful place to visit, been many many times , but I can’t handle living on an island in the middle of the Pacific.
Danger Will Robinson

Maoz said...

Makes one wonder whether Ronald Reagan was visiting Hawai'i when he said, "The nine most frightening words in the English language are 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

Idle curiosity: I wonder how many words that comes out to in Hawaiian?

I haven't been there since the previous century😁. But I recall that the phonebooks had a series of pages with Civil Defense information. How to prepare for the approaching hurricane season, possible inundation zones in event of a tsunami, the significance of the different types of CD sirens ("Alert -- turn on your radio for information/instructions"; "Warning -- attack approaching, go to nearest bomb shelter"; "Attack is imminent or ongoing; take cover immediately" [a.k.a. Bend over and kiss your 'okole goodbye]), things of that nature. My folks taught us kids, at the age-appropriate stage, to review those pages from time to time. Obviously, this was before cellphones existed -- is there even such a thing as a (physical) phonebook anymore? Maybe that's the problem: with the demise of the phonebook, the Civil Defense guidance also went extinct....

Sandra Gray said...

Several years ago, we had a customer getting a professional photo for real estate. They said they had moved here from Hawaii. We were like "Wow! If you were living in Paradise, where would you go on vacation?" She said "Well, you stay at home because you can't afford to go anywhere over there!!"

Lee The Voice said...

Well said.

Drew458 said...

A little extension of what John the Econ said, re: invasive grasses. When the fires first started, I read an article at CNN that essentially blames white people for this. See, the big bad greedy destructive capitalist patriarchy came to Hawaii and planted sugar cane, coconuts, pineapples etc. When the market for these things dried up, the white farmers left, and the bad "introduced" grasses moved in. No mention was made that all of this nice well cared for farmland could have been used for local crops by the slothful natives.

PS who in their right minds would introduce garbage grasses there? What's the point?

The Inukshuk said...

Until Covid, I had visited Hawaii every year since 1979 from Ontario, Canada. Sometimes multiple times a year, different islands. I have eaten in every restaurant in Lahaina, going back to the Blue Max in 1979. It cannot be rebuilt, not the way it was. If the ultra wealthy manage to buy up the burned out land, they will complete the theft of Hawaii started by the Annexation in the 1890s. If arson or any other nefarious cause is determined, I hope the punishment is meted out using the laws of the last king to rule from Lahaina as its capital - King Kamehameha III.

JustaJeepGuy said...

@John the Econ said "...But until Progressives figure out a way to hold you responsible for volcanoes, El Nino, or the Sun, they'll continue to harass you over our gas stoves."

I've read that some "progressives" are already doing that regarding volcanoes. I'll never understand how they can blame humans for volcanoes, but that's progressive thinking for you: it doesn't have to make sense, it just needs to have the proper target--and the proper target is anyone who isn't a communist.

John the Econ said...

@JustaJeepGuy asks, "I've read that some "progressives" are already doing that regarding volcanoes. I'll never understand how they can blame humans for volcanoes, but that's progressive thinking for you..."

No doubt that it's because we need to start throwing our remaining straight, white kids into them.

Rod said...

We visited Hawaii around Christmas 1975. Geez, that's coming up on 48 years ago. Got there by flying 5 hours South to get out of Alaska for just a little while. Did not get any feel for governance nor politics then & so very glad of that. It might be a lot worse now too.

We had a good friend on the pipeline project (may he RIP) who owned a small tract of land on the Big Island. We're pretty sure it was covered by lava a long time ago.

Enjoyed our brief stay very much. Visited many interesting sites on three islands & used a lot of Kodachrome. It was very dark in Alaska about then; but Alaska has the Aurora!

Anonymous said...

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Alfonso Bedoya said...

My eyes must be failing. The picture at the top of the article looks curiously like that of Steve Martin....not Bradley Cooper.