Costco Is A Really Bad Idea

I’m being very careful about my shopping for necessities during this virus crisis. That’s not like me. I probably run up to my neighborhood supermarket in normal times about four times a week to pick up small culinary items, and the Friday and weekend Wall Street Journal editions.

Maybe Long’s twice a week for some small need from the personal care department, paper goods, or because a $6.00 Off coupon is burning a hole in my wallet.

Costco? Once a month for fish, coffee, frozen blueberries, and some things I don’t need but what the heck!

Now? Costco is a really bad idea. Too many people. Too much handling. But for every one of me not going there seem to be maybe a dozen others who are. In its latest earnings results, the company said the uptick in demand had a 3% “positive impact on total and comparable sales.”

Chief financial officer Richard Galanti says “members are turning to us for a variety of items associated with preparing for and dealing with a virus such as shelf stables, dry grocery items, cleaning supplies, Clorox and bleach, water, paper goods, hand sanitizers, sanitizing wipes, disinfectants, health and beauty aids.”

The one thing that has suffered is its in-house travel business. Many members go to Costco’s online presence to plan cruises, rent cars, and buy guided tours. But not now, of course.

My suggestion for shoppers is to use the small places such as Palama Supermarket on Makaloa Street, the Micronesian Market on Kalakaua Avenue, and even convenience stores. They generally have few customers at one time.

I did some liquor buying at a hole-in-the-wall at University Avenue and Beretania Street and was the only customer in the store. The cash register operator was wearing a full face shield.

Most of the small places limit the number of customers who can enter the store at the same time.

I’m using Farm Link Hawaii to get a $30 box of mixed local produce every week. My pickup point is across from the UH.

My neighbor Sheila Watumull brought me fresh Leonard’s malasadas and some fried chicken. Our friend Carol Lin treated us to pints from La Gelateria.

For Easter dinner, I’m doing green beans baked as if they were french fries, with panko and parmesan, and a salad of thinly sliced beets and carrots topped with an exotic dressing; and lastly a salmon filet in a yet-to-be-decided style. No lamb this year. But some special green tea ice cream from Japan and piece of to-die-for cake by master baker Alia Pan.

What crisis?

The Year Of Infecting Dangerously

I think it was a serious political mistake for Nancy Pelosi to announce that a congressional commission will be formed to assess what might have gone wrong with Trump administration response to Covid-19.

We will need an inquiry to determine what mistakes might have been made and maybe avoid those in the future. But after this crisis has passed. Bringing that up now sounds like basic partisan politics.

Will the Trump people be blamed for slow reaction? Hard to say. Maybe it’s because Americans don’t read Daniel Defoe, Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley, Jack London or Albert Camus. They all told tales of massive epidemics that brought down societies — and in Shelley’s novel, the whole human race.

Some insist on calling this the China virus. Maybe that’s geographically true. A lot of evidence says it started there, maybe with bats that bit animals that were eaten by people.

When some people starting dying early last December, the Chinese  ignored the cause for a few weeks and even told experts to shut up or be charged with fomenting public disorder.

But by  January 7,  Beijing woke up to the seriousness and began to institute the kind of mandatory responses generally only an authoritarian government can impose on a timid people. It worked.

Two provinces that had the lead virus cases went into a 45-day lockdown. A real lockdown. You had to get food delivered to your house or apartment by approved couriers. You did not go out, period.

Now the peak has passed in China and hospitals have not been overwhelmed. China is going to be sending us respirators and protective gear for health workers. Us. American can’t provide its own? Our National Strategic Reserve had been left unfilled with the things it was set up for.

The Chinese closed all restaurants, shops and schools in affected provinces right after the Lunar New Year. By comparison, look at the sloppy approach we had in Hawaii and still have in some mainland states.

We’ve continued to allow limited travel and we say this and that can stay open and people can go out for walks and runs and drives and all manner of shopping at whatever stores stay open.

Not in the Chinese provinces with infections. You stayed home, period, unless you were hospitalized or dead. The infections began to drop off.

China moved government workers into needy positions in healthcare and public surveillance to make sure the lockdowns were obeyed.

In Hawaii, our governor says he has to think about the collective bargaining agreements with the HGEA and UPW before he can move any of the many furloughed-with-pay people into much needed positions handling health, safety and unemployment compensation. It’s enough to make you vomit even if you aren’t affected by the virus!

People are out sunning and fishing and swimming. Some go to grocery stores and Longs just to get out of the house.

You don’t do that in the virus-affected provinces of China.

I’m not promoting fascism. I’m promoting common sense in a time of very, very serious invasion of a very, very toxic virus that might come back to us next springs even if we get it under control this summer.

The corner liquor store is not an essential service. Nor are the drive-thru’s of McDonald’s, Jack In The Box, Taco Bell, Burger King and Popeye’s. That’s not a lockdown. That’s economic permissiveness overriding public health management.

If we end up blaming Trump, we should end up blaming David Ige, too. And Big Island mayor Harry Kim, who resisted even a minimal lockdown for silly reasons and exposed his people to more infection.

We’re going to have huge amounts of blame to hand out.

Why Can’t #1 Pick #2 In Hawaii?

I wasn’t around back then to know exactly how this happened, but Hawaii’s writers of the state constitution decided we should elect lieutenant governor nominees to run in the general election with their party’s governor nominee. And they should always be of the same party.

They probably thought that was more democratic than the U.S. Constitution model, which allows each presidential nominee to pick a running mater.

Hawaii Constitution, Article V, Section 2:

There shall be a lieutenant governor who shall have the same qualifications as the governor. The lieutenant governor shall be elected at the same time, for the same term and in the same manner as the governor; provided that the votes cast in the general election for the nominee for governor shall be deemed cast for the nominee for lieutenant governor of the same political party.

45 of the 50 states have an office of lieutenant governor. In two of those 45, the speaker of the upper house of the legislature also serves in that capacity.

In 26 states, the governor and lieutenant governor must come from the same political party. In the other states, they are elected separately and  may be of different parties.

Tennessee and West Virginia  give the title of lieutenant governor to their senate presidents. The states that do not have a lieutenant governor position at all are Maine, Arizona, Wyoming, New Hampshire and Oregon.

I’d have preferred to have our governor candidates pick running mates — people they are comfortable with on major policy matters and with compatible personalities.

Our system works okay part of the time, and part of the time not okay.

Our  first statehood election paired Gov. Bill Quinn with Lt.Gov.  Jimmy Kealoha, who clashed with the boss from Day 1 and made it clear he could hardly wait to run against Quinn. He did, but lost. (He’d against lose in ’66 in a run for a U.S. House seat.)


Gov. Bill Quinn                     Lt. Gov. Jimmy Kealoha

Next, we had Jack Burns as governor and he was saddled with a man he just could not stand, Tom Gill. I interviewed Burns plane side when he returned from a trip the night of our election of a lieutenant governor. I told him it was Gill. Burns replied “Oh, Jesus, not him!” Burns had wanted Kenneth Brown. The next four years were hell. Then Gill ran against Burns and lost.

Gill and Burns  making nice for the cameras.

When Republican Linda Lingle  won the top job, her picked-by-the-voters mate was Duke Aiona. There was no dislike there as in the Quinn and Burns cases, but Lingle was a very progressive Republican and Aiona was not. Aiona would later run for governor against a Democrat and lose.

My pitch for a “picked” lieutenant governor doesn’t draw huzzahs from all quarters. Pennsylvania played with the idea and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quickly shot it down, editorializing that:

“If a gubernatorial candidate wants to have some say about a running mate, he or she should line up behind a candidate for lieutenant governor in the primary, giving voters an early look at the chemistry between them. Diminishing the voters’ voice in the electoral process is a misguided idea.”

I say that our system is a “forced political marriage” which sometimes disrupts state government. We’ve just weathered that little dust up between Gov. Ige and Lt. Gov. Green over Covid-19 policies and this news release from the Health Department made me smile:

Update from Lieutenant Governor Josh Green, State Healthcare Liaison for COVID-19: Lt. Gov. Green continues to work with Governor David Ige, General Kenneth Hara and the healthcare community to evaluate Hawai‘i’s healthcare capacity and prepare for any possible surge in COVID-19 cases and individuals needing hospitalization.



Will It Survive This Life-Threatener?

My MidWeek arrived and (no pun intended) it was paper thin.

The plethora of ad inserts was missing. So were the columns by paid writers. Me, Dan Boylan, Jade Moon, Michelle Malkin and Pat Buchanan among them. I was called almost a week ago and told that all of us paid contributors were forthwith suspended due to financial issues.

You now get Lanai with his guests’ island recipes, former TV exec John Fink urging you to Think About It, a woman who fronts for Ben Franklin stores ads, and Ron Nagasawa is back in print. He used to be called publisher but that’s been changed to Director of Content.

Nothing was written about why we paid columnists were gone. We simply vanished overnight. You had to guess. Strange, but MidWeek can sometimes be a strange place. It’s mainly an ad carrier, not a newspaper. It needs a hefty-majority-plus of its total space to contain editorial material in order to qualify to be delivered by ordinary mail.

I’d been writing for it for 32 years. Most subjects passed muster, unless they cast less than a favorable light on an advertiser or prospective advertiser. I had columns killed about the fat PR program at the UH and the fat salaries paid to some CEOs and consultants or professional fund-raising firms hired by our non-profit organizations. Both, it turned out, had lucrative deals going with MidWeek.

None of my political columns were ever touched. And Dan Boylan was allowed a wide berth, too, with his Mostly Politics.

I don’t know that MidWeek can make it if this lockdown continues into June. The owner, the Star-Advertiser, has subscribers for the daily paper to bring in some revenue and a fairly sophisticated web site. MidWeek is free by mail and its only revenue is from ads. The ads are drying up. It’s website is primitive.

If there are no good columns to read and few grocery ads, why would people bother looking at it? It’s a “shopper” and most shops are closed for the duration.

It’s not a “news” paper and so it’s not essential for us. It’s more of a revenue source in good times for Oahu Publications.

I can’t say with a straight face that it would be sorely missed.

I can say that I miss writing for it — and for you readers. That’s why I’ve started this blog of issues and opinions — and occasionally some fluff!

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