Friday, October 24, 2014

Musings: Final Stretch

It's coming down to the final stretch of the campaign season — thankfully — and candidates are keen to get their names and messages out there.

But sometimes they're too cryptic, like this postcard, mailed first class from St. Paul, Minn. Who sent it? Who is it for? KipuKai and Arryl? An overall pitch to get out the vote for Council? Poor Eddie, the way his name is used without his consent. And in this case, exactly where would Eddie go?
Plus what's up with the chicken, and the “sistah” reference? Bizarre.
Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, meanwhile, chose to propose a tax increase to fund the Kauai Bus. As a friend noted in an email:

Is Joann trying NOT to get reelected? Don’t they teach you on the first day of class at Politician School that you shouldn’t be talking about raising taxes – certainly not the SALES tax – 2 weeks before an election? And especially not for something as lame as the Kauai Bus which is really … lame … speaking as someone who has actually ridden it. Bad enough their tinkering with the property tax formula — not just in an election year but in the DAYS before an election – but now JY jumps into the act with more ideas on taking money away?

Ya gotta wonder....

Speaking of public transportation, I see Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. has launched the North Shore shuttle, something that's been talked about for how long now? It's just his way of telling NS voters, hey, I still care about you guys, even though you did call me the birth defects mayor for vetoing that illegal Bill 2491, and then compounded the insult by backing that kook who's running against me.

Which leads us to Dustin Barca. If you're still undecided about the guy, just check out his Facebook pages. I mean, I can understand if you don't want Bernard. But to actually support Dustin? Yikes. Here's a spooky sample of where that guy's head is at, in all his CAP LOCK screaming glory:

THE GMO FIGHT IN HAWAII-KAUA'I,OAHU,MOLOKA'I, MAUI AND THE BIG ISLAND IS ABOUT POISON NOT FOOD!! IT'S A HUMAN HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH ISSUE!!! THIS IS ABOUT OUR KEIKI AND AINA!! WE are the Root of a Worldwide Problem. WE are THIS IS TERRORISM! Blocking US the Tax Paying People By Suing Every County For Protecting OURselves From 6 Times More Poison Per Acre than Anywhere in America!

Yes, Dustin, you and your fellow “fistees” are indeed the root of a worldwide problem. It's called ignorance.

SORRY TO ALL THE DUSTIN BARCA SURF FANS FOR NOT POSTING SURF STUFF! but IM ON A MISSION FROM GOD TO UNITE KAUA'I and SAVE OUR HOME FROM THE LARGEST CHEMICAL corporations IN THE WORLD!!!!!!

Ya know, Dustin, ya might just want to stick to surf stuff, cause your unification (and punctuation) skills really suck.

TO ALL YOU CALIFORNIANS!!
In Kaua'i, Our Aquifers are contaminated by Large Ag. Restricted use Pesticides like Atrazine and TCP

Mmmm, really, Dustin? Like which ones, exactly? And are you talking to the wealthy Californians who are funding your campaign, or just Californians in general?

After the Ebola plane landed on Kauai for a Navy mission, Dustin linked to an article that claims Monsanto created the Ebola virus so it could make money on an Ebola vaccine it developed with the Department of Defense. The article ended, aptly, with this sentence: “There’s just something wrong with this whole picture.”

Ya think? But Dustin swallowed it hook, line and sinker, posting:

WHY ARE WE THE EXPERIMENTAL ISLAND?
TOO MUCH CRAZY CRAP GOES ON HERE!!!!
Airport is NOT shut down? Department of health didn't even know about this when we called this morning? WTH IS GOING ON?!?!!

Mahana Mari, one of his conspiracy theorist followers, had the answer:

quite the "coincidence" that the top Monsanto executives and the Ebola plane are on Kaua'i at the same time...

Oh, yes, quite. This was my favorite, though:

WAKE UP HAWAII !! WE ARE BEING PLAYED FOR FOOLS AT ALL LEVELS!!

Well, he's certainly right about that one....

Which leads me past Dustin and on to Councilman Gary Hooser. Remember EPHIS, the Environment and Public Health Impact Study that Nadine Nakamura and JoAnn actually authored? The one that was supposed to figure out just how poisoned all the westsiders actually are? The one that was supposed to give them answers, and then some relief?

Well, the resolution that authorized that study was approved separately from Bill 2491, which meant it could have stood on its own. But Gary, in his infinite wisdom, absolutely insisted that it be wrapped into Bill 2491. And it was.

So when Bill 2491 was struck down, EPHIS was, too. That's right, folks. If it weren't for Gary, the EPHIS would already be under way, shepherded by the Council. Instead, it's dead, and the Administration and Department of Health are pursuing a much narrower study.

Way to go, Gary! Kind of makes you wonder, yet again, who he's really working for.

But it seems no matter how badly Gary blows it, he just can't shake the faith of his “red shirt” followers, as evidenced by the GMO-Free Kauai “voters guide.” Seems they're back at it after a hard-earned “activist vacation.” Cause it's just so exhausting to be in a constant state of agitated alarm, not to mention the stress of flitting between islands and posting bullshit on Facebook round the clock. Here's their slate:

Mayor: Dustin Barca. County Council: Gary Hooser, Tim Bynum, Mason Chock, Felicia Cowden, Tiana Laranio.

A friend likened the current polarization over GMOs to the conflict in the Middle East, and it seems a reasonable comparison. Personally, I blame the "red-shirts" and "fistees" — I know some folks have complained about those labels, but truly, you brought them upon yourselves — for launching a war before they even tried diplomacy.

Still, it's possible that one day Kauai, and the rest of Hawaii, may be able to heal the wounds, bridge the divide. I'm not at all confident, though, in part because people like Gary — the original fistee fomenter — and Dustin — a fighter by trade — are just itching to keep the conflict alive:
Perhaps the place to start is by replacing — and rejecting — politicians who are an impediment to peace.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Musings: On My Critics, Round 2

Yesterday's post, where I asked why good people in the anti-GMO movement hadn't stood up against the jackboot behavior of their cohorts, prompted this comment from Ed Coll:

You say you have no soft soft spot for the chem/seed companies yet the bulk of your criticism is aimed at the anti-movement. Where is the balance? You decry “the promulgation of misinformation” by the anti-movement and do a great job pointing such misinformation out but fail to point out the misinformation of the chem/seed companies. Likewise you analyze funding sources and amounts the anti-movement spends but not the spending and lobbying of the chem/seed companies. No mention of the historical relationship between HICA and UH-CTAHR, the projects and research members of HICA fund at CTAHR or how such funding might influence what is researched, or how much HICA pays Becker Communications to churn out propaganda, or how much Jon Entine and Karl Haro von Mogel were paid and by whom. You also stress “voluntary disclosure” as if the fox guarding the hen house has ever been good for the chickens. No mention of how the FDA has been a captive agency since 1977 and has failed to regulate the use of antibiotics on feed animals perhaps resulting in antibiotic resistance in humans.

While it is valid to criticize the uncivil, stumbling, bumbling mis-steps of local "activists" and their "leaders" how about looking into the misdeeds of corporate and government actors as well. You seem to be always aiming at David and giving Goliath a free pass.

I want to respond to that comment in a post, because it's a criticism that others with ideological blinders and short memories have levied, too. And it's pure bullshit.

For nearly a decade I wrote frequently about the seed/chem companies in Hawaii, primarily for the Honolulu Weekly. I was the first journalist to cover the issue in any depth in Hawaii, and the first to write about it for a mainstream Hawaii publication — Honolulu Magazine. I wrote about biopharmaceuticals cultivated in Hawaii, minimal state oversight, federal dominance, the appointment of industry officials to federal agencies, the state's efforts to attract biotech, the industry's support for UH research.

My reporting earned me the ire of the chem companies, most notably Pioneer's Cindy Goldstein, who tried to publicly discredit me, rallying some UH biotech researchers to her cause. My work, which I thought was important for the public's right to know, cost me assignments with Hawaii publications that didn't want to risk alienating advertisers because I was too hot to handle. The general public, meanwhile, didn't seem much interested.

During the seven years of writing this blog, I've continued my research, writing extensively about pesticides and genetic engineering, the cozy relationship between regulators and all industry, the problems associated with using antibiotics on livestock, stressors on pollinators, etc., etc. I've covered countless local and international environmental issues, as well as the misdeeds of numerous “government actors,” most notably former Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri.

As recently as a year ago I was still castigating the seed/chem companies, though by that time I had begun to realize that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Or to paraphrase, I had come to understand that the anti-GMO movement in Hawaii — and pretty much all the environmental movements, too — was not a David fighting Goliath, not an underdog, not in any way pono.

My disenchantment began in early 2013, when the Vandana Shiva circus came to town, and I realized somebody was pumping a whole bunch of money into what had been a tepid, powerless movement. Simultaneously, but not coincidentally, Councilman Gary Hooser began drafting Bill 2491, ignoring those of us who cautioned against overreach and including GMOs.

Meanwhile, I was investigating and writing the Abuse Chronicles series, in which I catalogued the systemic failure of a Kauai County regulatory process involving vacation rentals. I saw clearly, as did the entire County Council and Administration, the problems that can arise when government is unwilling or unable to enforce the law.

So when I asked Gary about enforcement of his pesticide/GMO bill, and he replied that enforcement didn't matter, all that mattered was getting the bill passed, I knew that he and outside influences were using Kauai to wage a bigger battle, and that our community was going to suffer.

I began digging around with the help of an akamai friend. We soon saw how much of the environmental movement is funded by the same corporations they claim to be fighting. We saw the ugly totalitarian tactics embraced by people we thought were progressives. We saw reasonable folks embrace a wild disinformation campaign. We saw activists intentionally stir up fear with absolutely no basis in fact. We saw the movement swell with people who were either new to the island, or paid instigators, like Nomi Carmona and Jennifer Ruggles.

I saw the intense pain they were causing by the attacks they were leveling on longtime farmers and local people trying to work in ag, and how they were undermining all agriculture with their short-sighted stance. Sadly, I saw folks who I thought were good people either stand by and say nothing about the ugliness, or join in the fray.

After watching the mob action that resulted in the passage of a badly flawed bill, and the deceptive Council shenanigans that led to Mason Chock's appointment to override the mayor's veto, I realized I was covering what my journalism professors had termed a “man bites dog” story.

In other words, what began to interest me was not the usual bad deeds of corporations, but the bad deeds of the so-called “good guys” — the folks whose rhetoric speaks to love, peace, aloha and progressive tolerance, but whose actions reveal them to be rabid fanatics who will stop at nothing to promote their cause.

What's more, they were so deluded, or stupid, they didn't even know they were being funded by the heirs of big oil and manufacturing,  that they were engaged in seed gathering activities exactly of the sort that had resulted in the collection of the Seed Savers Exchange being sent to the vaults at Svalbard — a seed bank funded by Dow, Syngenta, Bill Gates and the Rockefeller Foundation, with treaties that allow that genetic material to be patented — that they were pushing a bill that gave the industry exactly what it wanted: a clear court ruling that solidified the state's pre-emption.

They didn't even see they were being played as fools by Gary and all the other political ideologues who don't give a shit about what's right, but are driven instead by ego, power and their allegiance to forces other than their constituents.

As my friend wrote in comments yesterday: "When the anti side achieves what the chem corp wants, we need to question."

I began to question all the premises I'd previously held, all the slack I'd previously cut activists because I believed them to be on the side of good. Because when the “good guys” are using the same tactics as the “bad guys,” they can no longer claim moral superiority. With the sympathetic blinders off, I began to see that many of the activists I'd been covering for years are narcissists who love conflict and drama, and have no desire to solve problems or reach resolutions. I came to realize that lawyers I'd previously admired, like Paul Achitoff of Earthjustice, lie and deceive just like their opponents, and have a financial incentive to keep the litigation going.

Along the way, I also began to change my views about biotech. It isn't all evil, all bad. Decent people with lofty aims are devoting their lives to this research, believing it can do good. It shouldn't be shut down because of the false beliefs of ignorant fanatics. I've come to suspect that GMO labeling initiatives aren't driven by the "right to know," but an attempt to instill fear in order to build market share for organic producers. And I've learned that organic farming isn't environmentally benign, and it has its corporate backers, too.

It's all very complicated, and it's all intertwined. What's more, we're all complicit. It's mad foolishness to be blaming the corporations for our woes when we're all buying their products, helping their bottom line. And there isn't one activist, one true believer, who can honestly claim he or she is pure. I'm sick and tired of watching phonies claim the moral high ground.

So don't be dinging me for not bashing the “bad guys” enough. Been there, done that. There's a reason why I'm now banging on the “good guys." I'm hoping that some of you in that camp will open your eyes and see. But given the response to yesterday's post, denial and self-righteous is still rampant.

This is where I'm at these days, with a nod to Dave Mason: There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys; there ain't no us, there ain't no them. There are only different belief systems, some rigid, some fluid. Some people cling doggedly to their beliefs, while others — including several in the Kauai political arena — exploit them for nefarious purposes.

But that doesn't change this one absolute truth: We're all in this together. And the sooner we realize that, and step away from our respective camps, the sooner we'll start working to create a better world. Until then it's just war driven by the false belief of separation.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Musings: On the Dark Side

I understand why good people have gotten involved in the anti-GMO/pesticide movement in Hawaii — they're genuinely (though perhaps misguidedly) concerned about human and environmental health.

What I don't understand is why those good people haven't said anything about the ugly dark side of their movement: the ongoing death threats against folks who express a different opinion, the intimidation, the lies, the dissemination of distasteful social media memes like this:
In the case of Alicia Maluafiti — former executive director of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association — even her worthy volunteer work on behalf of stray dogs and cats was viciously targeted by anti-GMO extremists like Nomi “Babes” Carmona.

I've not seen even one public statement censuring these abhorrent tactics, not one instance of anyone distancing themselves from the nasties.

So one can only assume those out-front either condone such behavior, or they don't have the strength and/or courage to stand up against it. Either way, it doesn't speak well for the moral fiber, the character of the movement. Which is why I personally find it so repellant.

Now, thanks to the Center for Food Safety video “we are the movement,” we can attach names and faces to the “red shirts” — identify those in our community who overtly or tacitly approve of bullying, the stifling of dissent by any means, the promulgation of misinformation.

Sadly, some of these people identify themselves as educators, parents, health practitioners, politicians — folks one would expect to set a good example in their community.

In the video, I hear people who should know better repeating the same lies: we have very little information about what our families are exposed to; we don't know what they're spraying or when; the seed companies are unwilling to observe even modest buffers — none of which is true on Kauai.

And though the CFS website tells of how “residents organized to pass Ordinance 960,” it fails to mention the ordinance was struck down by the courts. Instead, it falsely claims: "The chemical companies responded by suing the county rather than telling the community what they are doing." In fact, all the companies are disclosing restricted use pesticides on the state website, and some are doing direct disclosure to those living near their fields.

Take a look at the video and see who you recognize — aside from Councilman Tim Bynum, Malia Chun (Councilman Mason Chock's sister) and Elif Beall, who is married to Matt Beall  of the sleazy Hawaii Life Real Estate company.

Which brings us to the subject of financial backing. I haven't seen any of those involved in the movement publicly express concerns about their funders: Hawaii-based upscale Realtors and mainland-based oil and manufacturing heirs.

Besides the inherent hypocrisy, they don't seem to realize that the fundamental law of ecology also applies to funding sources: there is no free lunch. As with the money that backs politicians, at some point these funders will exact their due from the movement.

We know what the Realtors want: more land to develop, more sales. But with Center for Food Safety, a mainland-based group that has inserted itself quite forcefully into Hawaii elections, do we really know what their true agenda might be? Other than political power?

CFS has launched a political action fund that describes itself as “a non-partisan, not-for-profit, non-candidate committee.” But one look at the flyer for the Oct 25 “Rock Da Vote” event on Kauai makes it quite clear that they are indeed backing specific candidates.
First, there's Councilman Tim Bynum, who actually appeared on the CFS video. Then there's Councilman Gary Hooser, whose Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) is co-sponsoring the event. The HAPA board also includes many of those appearing in the video. So even while they're claiming "tens of thousands" have joined the movement, they're recycling all the same people.

Yes, Tim and Gary are closely aligned with CFS, whose very own website states: "Join our more than 500,000 members across the country saying no to industrial agriculture." And they wonder why they're pegged as anti-ag….

Another sponsor is Ohana O Kauai, the group led by mayoral candidate Dustin Barca. And one of the bands includes the son of Council Candidate Felicia Cowden.

So I think we know who CFS wants to "rock da vote" for: da "red shirt" candidates. 

The CFS video states:

Our demands are simple. We want to maintain our biodiversity. We want to have good jobs that are healthy and safe. We want to know what these chemical companies are growing and spraying near our homes, schools, and hospitals. We want a food system that feeds local people.

The demands may be simple, but their implementation and delivery is not, especially when you have some of these very same folks opposing local milk production by Hawaii Dairy Farms and both Tim and Gary pushing to remove 24,000 acres from the agricultural dedication.

It serves no one to minimize the challenges inherent in these demands, or to pretend they  will be automatically achieved with the demise of the seed companies.

I have no soft spot for the chem/seed companies, who brought much of this uproar upon themselves by walling themselves off and refusing to respond to questions about their industry and 10-year-old concerns about dust.

But neither do I have a soft spot for the anti-movement, which has seriously polarized communities across the state, offered no viable solutions for achieving its own demands and engaged in despicable tactics that undermine every tenant of aloha.

To regain some semblance of civility, address concerns with the seed/chem companies and find meaningful solutions to the many problems that face the Islands, voters need to start by rejecting politicians who have aligned themselves with the totalitarian “red shirt” movement. We aren't going to get anywhere with those extremists at the helm.

And then people need to stand up to the “red shirts” — just as they would a schoolyard bully — and say “hey, that shit don't fly.” Because if we don't nip it in the bud now, those jackboot strategies will continue to dominate the political arena in Hawaii, making civic engagement unpalatable and untenable for all but the die-hard ideologues.

It's election season, people. Use your power wisely.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Musings: Haunting Hale 2

Since some have expressed doubt about assertions I made in my previous post, here is evidence of debris left on Joe Brescia's property by the high wash of the waves.  Not a storm, just normal winter surf, as happens every year. I have seen it with my own eyes many times.  At the bottom are two pictures of the ocean on the November day that these photos were taken.

As you can see, the debris was deposited quite a ways onto his landscaping, sometimes broaching a naupaka hedge. Everything makai of that debris line is public beach that has been stolen from public use.









Sunday, October 19, 2014

Musings: Haunting Hale

Michael Schmidt of Coldwell Banker Bali Hai Realty has lowered himself a little further with a distinctive offering: the house that Joe Brescia built atop burials at Naue.

Yes, for a cool $5.5 million cash – or a mortgage of $25,100 per month — you, too, can have the pleasure of living in a cemetery, of resting your head upon a pillow, knowing that iwi kupuna lie beneath the pillars that support the house, of eating, drinking, pissing and shitting in a place where kanaka of long ago laid their loved ones to rest.

Until Los Angeles developer/speculator Joe Brescia desecrated them so he could build — and now flip — yet another house along that once stellar shoreline. And the county and state went along, because nobody wanted to risk a “takings” lawsuit by telling Joe, “No, you can't build such a big ass house on a lot with at least 31 burials.”
Neither  the real estate ad nor the promotional video make any mention of the iwi kupuna beneath its foundation and under its lawn, nor of the angst that accompanied every step of its 2010 construction — the protests, the lawsuits, the arrests, the vigils, the pain, the tears, the anger, the anguish.

Only that, "Years of planning went into building this newer, well-maintained home." Mmm hmm.
Nothing is said about the dreadful precedent this house set of undercutting the authority of the Kauai-Niihau Island Burial Council when the state interpreted its decision to “preserve in place” as meaning it's OK to build right on top of iwi kupuna.

As I previously reported in the Honolulu Weekly, Brescia's house marked the first time the State Historic Preservation Division overrode a Burial Council and permitted construction on a previously identified burial site. As Alan Murakami, the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. attorney who litigated the case, noted:

They just absolutely caved in response to development pressure. What is the point of having a Burial Council if they can only determine how high or how wide the buffers [around burials] can be? That’s a huge constriction on the power the Burial Councils previously had.

The ad does say “over 150' of white sand beach frontage wraps around the property which is widened by a legendary reef tombolo while also creating amazing privacy.”

But it doesn't disclose that Brescia stole much of that sand from the public with the blessing of Chris Conger — the same guy now advising the county on revisions to the shoreline setback law — and his “no history” approach to setting shorelines. Though that approach has since been thrown out by the Hawaii Supreme Court, Brescia has incorporated a large swath of public beach into his lot and landscaping, and we'll never get it back.
No, in the realm of advertising, it seems that Brescia's house also has no history. There's only the now of selling “this pristine home” for a hefty profit with the disingenuous promise: “Years of enjoyment can be yours today at Kaonohi Point.”

Really? What joy can ever be found in the heartbreak of others?

On a much happier note, let me close by saying the outpouring of support expressed in the comment section of my last post filled me with gratitude and appreciation for the wonderful readers who spend part of their day with Kauai Eclectic.
Mahalo to all of you!

[Note: This post was corrected to show that Coldwell Banker, not Hawaii Life, is the listing agent.]

Friday, October 17, 2014

Musings: On My Critics

It's been amusing to witness the efforts aimed at trying to make me stop dinging Councilmen Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum.

Like this Anonymous comment:

Joan. As a friend you should know people are talking. There are two stories going around. Sometimes they are intertwined and sometimes separate. Your fixation on Gary is attributed to either a jilted lover situation and/or your involvement with Jerry O. In any case, it is obvious to all that you [sic] entirely too obsessed with bringing Hooser down and it has to be personal. tc

Love affair with Gary? Gack. And while Jerry is one of my favorite people on the planet, we're not “involved" and I drew my conclusions about Gary without any influence from him.

Of course, I knew it was a fake because my real friends don't talk to me via anonymous comments. And anyway, they're pretty much all cheering me on to bring Hooser down. They know I've gone after Gary for legitimate reasons: he's a bullying liar who has seriously damaged Kauai County in his egomaniacal bid for political acclaim and national attention.

Still, it's odd that folks who consider themselves “progressives” resort to tired old stereotypical scenarios in trying to explain away a reality they refuse to see. Kind of like the commenter who attributed my disdain for Council candidate Felicia Cowden to us having “competed for the same guy.” WTF? It's like they can't imagine that a woman could possibly have the brains and discernment to identify disingenuous and dangerous politicians; it must be a bad romance.

But then, that's been my problem with many of the Bill 2491/Hooser/Bynum/Barca supporters. They fancy themselves progressives, but they've behaved so regressively that they've set progressive politics in Hawaii way, way back. And they don't even see it.

Which brings me to an email sent by a reader who urged me to stop “flogging” Gary and Tim:

Seems to me that the facts indicate these guys are sober and serious long-time public servants, with extensive histories of hard work and constructive legislation for the betterment of our island. With an election looming, it's also important to remember that both are progressive candidates: look at their whole track records, not just the issue on which you disagree with them.

Mmm, what's progressive about using lies and fears to spark a mob action, divide the island and pass legislation that is overturned while setting a legal precedent for state pre-emption?

As for track records, Tim's includes gutting the TVR bill to remove inspections and allowing TVRs on ag land, while Gary's includes dumping his Kauai Senate seat and powerful role as majority leader to make a doomed-from-the-start run for lieutenant governor, and then dumping his post at OEQC (after making all sorts of promises he couldn't deliver and leaving the staff there to clean up the mess) to get back on the Kauai County Council and issue his call for a “million little fists.”

Throw in Tim's lawsuit against the county, quavery victim voice and petty tantrums, Gary's penchant for deception and smug smarminess, and their current effort to remove 24,000 acres from ag dedication and it's a no brainer: those two faux progressives have got to go.

Then there was this Facebook message from a woman I know from yoga:

It's like you have a personal crusade going against Gary and Tim. Why not work it out with them and resolve it. Communicate with them personally.

To which I replied:

There is no way to "work it out" with Tim and Gary. I have communicated with them personally. They won't even acknowledge the wrongs they've done and the harm they've caused. One can't "work it out" with people who are in denial and who continue to do the same bad things, like lie. My interest now is in ensuring that as many people as possible know what they're really all about.

Which brings me to mayoral candidate Dustin Barca. It's apparent from this new “Fightland” video, which was also posted on the Surfer magazine site, that his candidacy isn't about serving Kauai, but getting exposure for himself and his anti-GMO message.

The video is filled with Dustin's bullshit — “Waimea Middle School, 50 kids falling down having seizures and bloody noses from pesticide exposure”; “We have the sickness, the cancers, the birth defects, but we can't prove the link because we don't know what they're spraying” — but fails to mention Bill 2491 was overturned by a federal judge. Instead, it claims “local politics have left it at a standstill.”

Most telling, however, was the revelation that as a “grom,” Dustin was taken in by the Northshore Oahu Wolfpack, a “notorious group that enforces the line up at Pipeline and other surf spots, sometimes through violence and intimidation.” Yeah, despite all of Dustin's rhetoric about love and respect, he just can't escape his thuggish roots. Dustin's the fist behind the “fistees,” folks.

The video, which curiously focuses on North Shore Kauai landscapes rather than the westside, features footage from the Haleiwa evict Monsanto march, where pro-surfer Kelly Slater weighs in with the comment, “Humans are kind of messing with science.”

It closes with a tagline that shows the wrong date for the general election, and then a shot of Dustin, front tooth missing, sitting on his board, wiping his nose. Classic.

Returning to my critics, there was also this Anonymous comment:

You really need to lighten up Joan and get back on track. Perhaps a long vacation is in order. People are talking and say you have gone way, way over the top and are "no longer the Joan we used to know and love". Truth - but am sure that is one thing you do not recognize any more. Sad.

Gosh. Abandoned by people who never knew me, and never loved me, but only liked me so long as I was writing what they wanted to hear. I can only take that as confirmation that I'm on the right track.

P.S. A real friend just emailed: "You forgot to mention that it's your head injury that led you to abandon the cause." Oh, yes, how could I have forgotten the theory advanced by dear Felicia, that I must have suffered a traumatic brain injury? Must've been the "GMO implants/GMO virus" that caused it to slip my mind.  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Musings: Unforeseen Consequences

It's odd that Kauai Councilman Tim Bynum wants to eliminate the ag tax subsidy for seed companies when it accounts for just $500,000 of the $8.5 million in annual ag subsidies countywide.

In other words, that particular subsidy is small potatoes, but removing it could have serious unforeseen consequences, as a number of Councilmember were astute enough to observe.

Tim thinks it's reasonable to charge seed operations market value taxes because the landowners are making good money off those leases. But Tim and his co-supporter Councilman Gary Hooser never bothered to determine how much folks are paying for ranching and diversified ag leases in order to compare.

Nor did they check to see how many of the multi-million-dollar TVRs on ag lands have ag dedications, which means taxpayers are also subsidizing those lucrative operations. It seems no one is being scrutinized but the seed companies.

But under Tim's double speak, he's not singling them out.

I'm being accused of targeting the seed industries,” he said. “Well, it's the seed industry that came in and made this dramatic change in use. It's not targeting that industry, it's just where that use has occurred.”

Huh?

Councilman Mel Rapozo didn't buy it. “We're targeting an industry and I'm not comfortable with that. There's got to be a rational basis. It's not the way to treat farmers when we say we're supporting agriculture.”

There's all this rhetoric about this is an attack on ag,” Tim said. “No, it's not. It's just that on Kauai it doesn't fit our ag dedication.”

How does he figure that? Tim himself acknowledged the dedication was conceived to provide “incentives for active use of our ag lands and keep ag lands in production.”

Aren't the biotech companies doing both, whether their crops are for the purpose of research or sale? Or as Mel noted, “We're helping farmers all over the world. We're helping farmers across the U.S. to produce food.”

Gary, who introduced an amendment specifying the bill applies only to research on crops with genetically engineered DNA, was clear about his motives: “We're here to address the appropriate use of our ag lands. In this case we're looking at major corporations that don't need the subsidy, don't contribute to local food sustainability and have a substantial impact on air, land and water.”

Gary brushed off the impact of pulling 24,000 acres out of ag dedication, saying even if it's developed, they could build only five units on a single parcel. But as Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura pointed out, dropping the dedication means a “tremendous increase in assessed value. If they subdivide, it's not just five units, it's multiple parcels with up to five units each.”

Or as Kilauea land agent/farmer Mike Dyer noted: “If you want to drive ag land to development, keep a nice high tax on it and you'll get it developed.” And with the recent sales of large ag parcels for hundreds of millions dollars, the assessed value of ag parcels could go way up.

So really, what is the intent of this bill? Especially when coupled with Tim and Gary's push to halt development in Lihue by designating it a groundwater management area?

I've gotten very scared where the state is headed with those commercials you see regarding the Maui [anti-GMO ballot] initiative,” Councilman Ross Kagawa said. “If we get away from big ag, I'm worried about how that westside, my home town, will look like.”

JoAnn wants to keep the seed land in an ag dedication, but charge them higher taxes, though not as high as market value. “There is the issue in my mind of the contribution of the seed companies to managing the water systems that are really important to the sustainability of our ag lands. I think it's really appropriate to have some input from the seed companies and others that are involved.”

Councilman Mason Chock, in a welcome departure from Tim and Gary's influence, said he is still “stuck on unintended consequences. I haven't heard enough from farmers and the public and the seed companies on the bill. I've heard things about infrastructure that might be a concern.”

Ross agreed, saying the seed companies are maintaining water systems that benefit the many farmers raising cattle, sweet potatoes, cattle, beans, mangoes and other crops in Kekaha and elsewhere on the westside.

Gosh, it seems agricultural co-existence is not only possible, but actually happening on the westside.

The bill was deferred until Nov. 12, by which time Tim and Gary hopefully will have been defeated.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. has announced he's working with the state Department of Ag to convene a joint fact finding group (JFFG) to examine the possible health and environmental impacts associated with the use of pesticides on genetically modified crops.

That's good news for two reasons: First, it's an opportunity to assess the issue and gather scientific data to offset all the anecdotal allegations that have thus far driven the Bill 2491 debate. It's where we should've started, but didn't. Second, it takes the process out of the County Council, where it was doomed to be politicized and biased, and thus of questionable value.

It's also interesting that the Administration gave JoAnn credit.

As it's now structured, a facilitator under contract to the state will choose at least nine panel participants after interviewing candidates. They will be seeking “knowledgeable local experts with pertinent backgrounds, experience or detailed understandings of agriculture, environmental health, epidemiology, toxicology, biostatistics, medicine or other related disciplines.”

The JFF process will presumably define the scope of further work and studies to be done...possibly an EPHIS (Environmental and Public Health Impact Study),” wrote county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka in an email. “We are hoping that we can again partner with the state on the follow up and avoid any legal pre-emption issues that might arise.”

Bill 2491, which included resolutions calling for a JFFG and an EPHIS was overturned by a federal judge on the grounds it was pre-empted by state law. That decision is currently on appeal.

The county and state each are kicking in $50,000 to fund the JFF process, which should be pau by December 2015.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Musings: Wonderings

I got to wondering, when I saw the New York Times article about the California farmer who developed a Frankenstein pumpkin, how he would have fared on Kauai, under Councilman Tim Bynum's bill to raise land taxes on experimental crops.
The farmer experimented for years, and spent about $400,000, before he mastered the technique of growing his “pumpkinsteins” in plastic molds. This year he grew about 5,500 "pumpkin steins," and they're wholesaling for $75 each. Now that's the kind of innovative, value-added product that would make any farmer drool.

But under an ag land tax proposal — advanced by Bynum and Councilman Gary Hooser to punish the seed companies — he'd be seriously dinged for experimenting on a non-edible crop, even though it was organically grown.

And I got to wondering what would have happened to that pumpkin farmer if he hadn't been able to experiment, seeing as how, according to the NYT:

For more than a decade, he mostly lost money as a small organic farmer, growing kale, lettuce, berries, tomatoes and whatever else he could on the fertile ground, selling primarily to nearby organic markets.

Then I got to wondering whether the eco-advantages of growing those fancy pumpkins organically were offset, even negated, by the environmental cost of producing those 5,500 plastic molds. Which got me wondering whether the eco-advantages of organic cultivation are also lost when that pretty produce is tucked into a non-recyclable clamshell and flown  from South America to Kauai for the virtuous to purchase at Papaya's.

Which got me wondering about the recent letter to the editor from Ned Whitlock,  the one intended to induce more fear by claiming women who lived within a mile of fields where organophosphates are used have a 60 percent higher chance of having kids with autism, based on an apparently flawed study; the one that singled out only the seed companies for their use of such products, as if, by some miracle, they don't have the same effect when applied to a golf course, or a park; the one that ended with a call for “the county to levy a stiff tax (100 percent?) on restricted use pesticides and glyphosate products, while urging our legislators to ban chlorpyrifos pronto.”

What I wondered was whether Ned and those who reprinted his letter on Facebook with the comment, “let's get rid of those companies, nuff already,” had heard about Judge Kurren's ruling, the one that found the county does not have the authority to regulate pesticides, much less boot out an agricultural operation.

I got to wondering how it is that they still don't understand the ramifications of Bill 2491, that they gambled and lost with a legally flawed bill and now pre-emption is codified and the county's hands are seriously tied until Kurren's ruling is overturned, which is, at best, a very long shot. 

I got to wondering how it is they still think Gary and Tim are heroes when they accomplished nothing but clarifying the county can't do shit when it comes to the seed companies and their use of pesticides, which got me wondering how it is that people can be so deluded, in such denial.

Which got me wondering how any thinking, conscious, moral person could possibly support Dustin Barca's mayoral candidacy, especially when he flat-out lied at Tuesday's candidate forum, claiming no one ever wanted to shut down the seed companies, when his very own website lists campaigns that include “evict Monsanto” and "GMO-Free Kauai," and at the previous forum, he said:

For me, I have no personal gain from going after these companies except for the health and well-being of the future of our people and our natural resources. So, 500 jobs is not worth 70,000 people’s health and well-being.

Later I got to wondering how it is that people are still bemoaning the lack of action on climate change when all of us, including me, are loathe to give up our cars, our AC, our travel, our worldwide shipment of goods, our ravenous appetites.  Who, exactly, is supposed to reverse the trend of carbon emissions if not each and every one of us? And why is it, I wondered, that people think marching in the streets — especially when one must fly or drive to a protest — is an effective way of demanding action when we citizens are so reluctant to change our own behavior, our own lifestyles, even when we know how much is at stake?

Then I got to wondering why people are so frigging freaked out about Ebola, which has killed just 4,447 people worldwide, when in 2011, some 73,831 Americans died from diabetes, a disease that is largely preventable and treatable, according to the CDC, and 596,577 died from heart disease, also largely preventable, and 39,518 died from suicide, totally preventable.

Just today I got an email from Avaaz urging people to volunteer for health care in Africa with this alarmist call to action: 

If Ebola spirals further out of control, it could soon threaten us all.  This monster threatens the entire world. 

Out of the darkest places come our brightest lights. Out of the depths of the Ebola nightmare, let's bring the light of a new world of one people, connected through love, and willing to fight, and sacrifice, for each other.

It sounded an awful lot like the call to action that urged folks to fight GMOs, a "one love" movement that was supposedly seeded with aloha, yet sowed divisiveness, polarization, death threats and hate.

And that got me wondering why Ebola (and GMOs) are getting so much more media play — including TGI's super silly story on the Ebola transport plane landing in Kauai — than diabetes or heart disease or suicides. 
I mean, it seems rather bizarre, considering folks are far more likely to die of almost anything but Ebola, even in Africa, where an estimated 627,000 people — most of them children — died from malaria in 2012, a disease that is both preventable and curable.

Which got me wondering, maybe people just like to be scared?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Musings: Sewage Seepage

With news that coral reefs in Hawaii are experiencing a severe bleaching episode — and yes, it's happening across the state, though The Garden Island makes it sound like a Kauai-centric phenomenon — it becomes even more important to crack down on coastal cesspools.

Because as Kim Hum, Hawaii Director of Marine Programs for The Nature Conservancy, noted in an article by the Associated Press:

The corals are animals, right, they're not rocks. So what bleaching is, it's a sign of distress. [People need to] make our coral as healthy as possible ... so that they can respond and they don't bleach and they don't die because of these additional stressors.

Sewage is a major stressor of coral reefs. Now, as part of a new overall water quality plan, the state Department of Health has proposed ending the use of cesspools in new housing and requiring existing homes to convert to septic systems upon sale.

As West Hawaii Today reported, emphasis added:

Hawaii is the only state in the nation that still allows construction of new cesspools. There are currently 90,000 cesspools in the state. The majority, some 50,000, are located on the Big Island. In addition, almost 14,000 are on Kauai, more than 12,000 are on Maui, more than 11,000 are on Oahu and more than 1,400 are on Molokai. Each year an additional 800 new cesspools are approved for construction, according to the Health Department.

Though the Board of Realtors has opposed the change, claiming it will make housing more expensive and unduly burden local people, they've said nothing about the numerous high-end oceanfront homes that operate on cesspools.

Many of these houses, as I've previously reported in the Abuse Chronicles, are used as transient vacation rentals. And that means three things: they're generating a helluva lot of waste; they're regularly flipped, so this new rule would force them to upgrade, and they can certainly afford it.

For a vivid illustration of what's at stake, check out this graphic (click to enlarge), which shows just the Wainiha subdivision:
As I reported in the Abuse Chronicles, the defacto resort known as Hale Makai has five separate TVRs, each with its own cesspool. They were dug in 1967, including two that were just 50 and 75 feet, respectively, from the ocean. No doubt they're much closer now, given erosion. Between them, they can accommodate 19 people per night. 

Then there's Swaying Palms. Its cesspool was dug in 1958 for a 320-square-foot, two-room cottage. It now serves five bathrooms — each with a Jacuzzi tub — in a seven-bedroom TVR that is 10 times larger the original house.

Other houses, though not right on the beach, expanded without converting to a septic tank. Rainbows End, for example, was upgraded to three bathrooms — using the original cesspool that was designed to accommodate one bathroom.

How can they possibly be allowed to continue operating on cesspools?

Hanalei Bay is another toilet, as this map depicts (click to enlarge):
No doubt the situation is the same at Anini, Kalihiwai, Moloaa, Aliomanu, Anahola, Kapaa and everywhere else that TVRs cluster along the coast.

So not only did most of these TVR owners acquire their permits improperly, they're now being allowed to degrade the ocean and groundwater with impunity. 

Yet curiously, the North Shore crowd that lives in the thick of this shitty situation has become obsessed with GMOs/pesticides on the westside rather than screaming about the crap, literally, that they surf and swim in daily.

Uh, hello, Ohana O Kauai? Is anybody home? Mayoral candidate Dustin Barca and sidekick Fern Rosenstiel — is this even on your radar? I saw nothing on your website. Don't you folks think that e-coli is a threat to the keiki and fisheries? Not to mention all the other stuff that people flush down the toilet. Or are the donations from the richy-riches and North Shore Realtors blurring your vision?

What about North Shore Council candidate and "red shirt" Felicia Cowden, who weighed in on everything from GMOs to cat licensing? Nothing but crickets on this important issue. Instead, she emphasizes only the impact of agriculture on water quality.

Yes, this new rule may be a hardship for some. But those crocodile tears shed by the Board of Realtors aren't for the poor peons. They're for the well-heeled clients who might find it costly or impossible to locate a septic system on some of these expensive coastal lots. 

If you care about Hawaii's reefs and coastal resources, take a few moments and submit your testimony to wqpcomments@doh.hawaii.gov. You have until Friday, Oct. 17, to weigh in. 

To borrow a slogan from Ohana O Kauai and the rest of the "red shirts," since they obviously aren't using it anymore: "Protect What You Love."
(Cartoon from the Big Island Chronicle.)