Friday, January 4, 2008

From Joan Conrow's blog

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Musings: Lifting the Veil

Koko was literally hopping when we set out this morning, because the chickens were up and about, and that urge to chase and kill always gets her excited. I wasn't hopping, or experiencing any bloodlust, but I was excited, too, just from being out in the world.

A thin, white moon could be seen overhead, waterfalls coursed down mountains draped in pink mist and the sun was struggling valiantly to break free of the clouds.

It lost that battle, and a gentle shower accompanied us for the final half-mile, the kind of light rain that falls at a slant, each drop visible. I got to thinking about how the sun is such a strong, burning force, yet so often it's hidden by flimsy, unsubstantial clouds.

And that got me thinking about how the deeper meaning, the fireball, of so many things remains hidden behind a veil that effectively obscures, but does not obliterate.

Such is the case with Hawaii Superferry. The veil, in this case, is the rhetoric that accompanied its arrival: all the talk about uniting the islands, providing an alternative form of transportation, helping farmers get their produce to market, bringing `ohana together.

But I felt the fireball, the true purpose, behind the ferry remained hidden.

Why, I so often wondered, had it come to Hawaii? And why did it stay, through lawsuits and protests, when its own principles admitted it could make money elsewhere?

Why was J.F. Lehman & Co., the private equity firm of a man who was formerly Secretary of the Navy and a member of the 9/11 Commission, a firm that invests almost solely in defense related industries, putting $58 million into a passenger ferry service?

Why was Gov. Linda Lingle expending such tremendous political capital to push the ferry forward without an environmental review? Why was she, a Republican, able to get the Democrat-controlled Legislature to do her bidding?

Why the big rush to get the ferry operating, even though its start date coincided with the season of rough waters that prompted widespread seasickness among its passengers and numerous days of cancelled service?

And how in the world was it going to make any money with such low passenger counts, no service to Kauai and fuel prices that just keep edging upwards?

I heard often that its true purpose was military in nature, that it was intended to transport the Styrker brigade between Oahu and the Big Island. While I didn't doubt that explanation, it didn't fully answer all my questions. If that was the case, why didn't it start with service to the Big Island? And would the Strykers really be moving often enough to warrant such a service?

Then one day I got a phone call from a man who urged me to read a column by Bill Gertz published Dec. 28, 2007 in The Washington Times. Subtitled "Notes from the Pentagon," it included this account:

Navy v. China
 The chief of naval operations told Congress yesterday that the U.S. Navy is building up its forces to be ready to challenge a future military threat from China.

Adm. Gary Roughead was asked by Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, during a House Armed Services Committee hearing what steps were being taken by the Navy to address China's large-scale naval buildup.

"We look at the capabilities that navies have that are evolving, China being one of them," Adm. Roughead said. "And that has driven our advancements in certain capabilities, whether it be in anti-submarine warfare, ballistic missile defense, the command-and-control capabilities that we need on our ships as we operate globally as a global Navy."

Asked whether China's military buildup has prompted planning for more submarines, more missiles and more aircraft, Adm. Roughead said, "yes, sir."

The four-star admiral said one example is the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship that is made for fighting near coasts but also is "capable of running and providing enhanced [anti-submarine warfare] capability to our more traditional battle formations, our expeditionary strike groups and carrier strike groups."

The new ship is "a function of the need that we see for anti-submarine warfare, mine warfare and anti-surface warfare capability in areas where we see the threat evolving," he said, "to include China."

Hmmm, I thought, this is very interesting, so I began checking into the Navy's experimental x-hull craft, as the caller had suggested, saying its design and aluminum composition was "eerily similar" to the Superferry's.

He was right, as you can see for yourself:

And so began many hours of investigation, the fruits of which I will be revealing in subsequent posts aimed at lifting the veil and exposing the multi-billion-dollar fireball beneath.