Letters 9-13-13


Overfishing cause of shark attacks

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why there are all these shark attacks. Sharks are about one thing — eating. When there are no fish to eat, they come in closer to feed on big, juicy humans.

And why are there no more fish for the sharks? The culprits are everywhere. It’s the hordes of fisherman in all these fishing tournaments pulling out tons of marlin and sailfish. It’s scuba spearfishermen getting scads of fish out where they shouldn’t be in the first place. It’s so-called live-off-the-land residents killing beautiful reef fish to eat. It’s the unchecked aquarium poachers vacuuming the ocean of fish. It is the professional fishermen plundering our skimpy Kona coastline. But most of all, it is the mindset that “Mother Ocean” is so big that we could never affect her. Wrong.

That’s what’s depleting our ocean, no surprise that the sharks are coming in closer to feed on people. The ocean is becoming empty and sparse and sharks have to eat.

Until there are strict-er limits on fishing tournaments and professionals, until there are more people who care about the moana (ocean), as well as caring for the aina, until we hire more game wardens to bust illegal spearfishermen and until we get a governor who does not appoint a fish collector to oversee fish collecting — sharks are going to keep chomping off more arms and legs for dinner.

Dennis Gregory

Kona

Same-sex marriage and constitutional rights

Barbara Ferraro’s letter (West Hawaii Today, Aug. 29) imploring the governor and Legislature to refrain from considering same-sex marriage legislation absent a majority mandate from an electorate supportive of Christian values raises serious issues of governance under our system of laws. In case Ms. Ferraro forgot, we do live in a constitutional democracy of which there are three branches of government — legislative, executive and judicial.

The form of democratic rule suggested by Ms. Ferraro’s letter has never guaranteed freedom. It is simply a mechanism by which governments are established by popular will at the ballot box. Applying her paradigm to the legislative process, if a majority of the populous prefers that our duly elected representatives enact laws that oppress a minority of their fellow citizens (remember Jim Crow/separate-but-equal laws) then that is simply a byproduct of Ms. Ferraro’s view of democracy — historically described as the “tyranny of the majority” by such notables as John Adams, Alexis de Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill. Even the Federalist Papers, the bible of many a conservative constitutional scholar, uses that phrase in describing “the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.” (Federlist 10, first published in 1787.) Fortunately, that is not how these United States were intended to function.

Our Constitution, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, is the supreme law of the land. It sets a minimum standard of conduct to which all states and individuals must adhere. It provides in relevant part: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (14th Amendment, Section 1.)

Only the rule of law can allow freedom to thrive under any democratically elected government. Laws must embrace and guarantee those values and an independent judiciary must enforce them, even in the face of contrary popular sentiment.

As to Ms. Ferraro’s specific concern regarding same-sex marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court has addressed, and will no doubt continue to address such constitutional issues. Most recently, the high court struck down as unconstitutional the federally enacted Defense of Marriage Act notwithstanding majority support in Congress and the executive branch when originally enacted. The court found the act’s provision defining, for federal law, “marriage” only as a legal union between a man and a woman and “spouse” only as a person of opposite sex who was a husband or wife, unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment. (United States v. Windsor (2013) U.S., 133 S.Ct. 2657.)

Ms. Ferraro is certainly free, under the First Amendment of that same Constitution, to believe and worship as she chooses so long as she does not interfere with the constitutional rights of others to do the same.

Edward H. Schulman

Kailua-Kona