Thursday, May 5, 2016

Musings: Shattering Illusions

I'm attending a science writing workshop in Santa Fe, where spring is in full force, giving rise to such marvels as bushes choke with fragrant purple lilac:
One of the participants mentioned he'd bypassed the workshop hotel to stay in lodgings he'd found on Airbnb.  He'd taken to using Airbnb whenever he traveled, saying he preferred such accommodations as a way to meet locals.

Is it a legal rental? asked I, ever the kill-joy. He replied that Airbnb has all its own insurance. No, I said, is it a rental that's permitted by the city? It must be, he said, noting that were over 100 listed in Santa Fe, and surely, if they were illegal, the community would be up in arms.

I then offered a brief update of how communities like San Francisco, Aspen, Kauai — in short, pretty much everywhere that tourists like go — were up in arms over Airbnb and its promotion of illegal short-term rentals, but enforcement was tough, and often slow in coming. Meanwhile, the illegal short-term rentals were destroying the long-term rental market and skewing real estate prices.

He didn't look happy. But then, people never are when their illusions are shattered.

Speaking of illusions, I see that Mayor Bernard Carvalho has proclaimed May “Surfrider month.” It's great that they pick up nets and trash from the beaches and reefs. But they go off the rails with their political activities, which are consistently anti-ag: the honey-glyphosate junk science, joining the appeal of the court order overturning 2491/960, opposing the dairy before the EIS is even out, making all sorts of false accusations about how the dairy's grading had polluted Waiopili ditch.

And now they're joining their pals at Earthjustice and Pesticide Action Network in harassing the Agribusiness Development Corp. over its westside water permits. Instead of renewing its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, ADC is working with the state Department of Health to establish a memorandum of understanding on water quality monitoring. Meanwhile, ADC is continuing to do the same monitoring it did under the NPDES.

But the groups, using their usual inflammatory, half-cocked rhetoric, sent out a press release claiming that ADC had was refusing to sample water in its ditch system, which they characterized as “an open sewer, with no treatment or monitoring, carrying chemicals and other pollution through the towns and into the ocean along the west side.”

Could they possibly get any more over the top? Why is the mayor recognizing and heralding groups that engage in this sort of outright deception and fear-mongering?

Meanwhile, Big Island Democrats used their convention to pass a resolution that calls for a ban on spraying the herbicide glyphosate in public places. Unfortunately, they did not also adopt a resolution requiring all those who voted “yay” to get out there and weed-whack, mow and hand weed. The video of the meeting offers a clear example of Hawaii's changing demographics.

So the alleged monk seal beater is crying now that his bizarre tantrum/outburst has him looking at serious federal charges. I'm hearing that he wants to use a “Hawaiian defense,” as in he's not subject to American laws and protected by traditaional practices. Good luck on that. I don't know of any traditional practices that include beating a monk seal, and we've already seen repeatedly that the courts aren't buying the claim that kanaka aren't subject to American laws.

Say, what ever happened to the “taking” investigation that the feds launched after Dustin Barca was videotaped disturbing a seal at Kee when he launched his canoe and mayoral race? And let's not forget the bad behavior modeled by Terry Lilley:

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Musings: Gimme, Gimme

A friend sent me this Facebook thread with the comment, "bet you lunch you can't read it without laughing out loud."

Good thing I didn't take the bet:

Careful, Dustin. Once you move beyond a shovel and an o'o, you're officially an "industrial farm."

But hey, bring in Keone — the blind leading the blind. Though no doubt he would happily grasp any opportunity to grow his own tiny, grant-funded empire.

So he has no money or time. Welcome to the wonderful world of farming! But hey, surely somebody will just step in and make it all happen for him. Unless, of course, they're selfishly writing grants for their own purposes:
Yeah, that's the ticket! A kick-starter, go-fund-me approach to failed farming. Because you can't possibly make it if you aren't begging for handouts.
No, Shantee, what Kauai needs are realistic, hard-working farmers who do their homework and prepare carefully before sticking some animals on the land that somebody gave you and calling yourself a farmer. Smart and successful farmers start with a business plan, one that identifies equipment needs, anticipated income and expenses — before they start.

I don't know if it's  the entitlement mindset of so many millennials, or part and parcel of the dreamy view of farming that infects so many in the anti-GMO, gimme-gimme movement, but why do they think their ill-informed, unplanned, dubious actions should be grant-funded?

And how they gonna make it when the grants run out?

Meanwhile, real farmers are seeking greater understanding of what they do, and why, from the folks who populate these ill-conceived food and agricultural movements. As Modern Farmer reports:

Brian Ogletree

I think organic is great. We use chicken litter as one of our main fertilizers and all of our crop residue goes back into the ground. We are a no-till farm, which means we use a grain drill to plant the seed with the previous crop residue still standing. We use a rotation of soybeans in summer, wheat in winter, a non-soybean crop the following summer, such as browntop millet, cover crops the next winter, such as crimson clover, and then soybeans again the following summer. That every-other-year rotation keeps the disease and insect pressure down and makes the farm much more profitable.

With GMO soybeans we spray just one dose of glyphosate after planting. Then they form a canopy over the ground that outcompetes the weeds and we’re done with weed pressure from that point on. With the traditional [non-GM] soybeans, different types of chemicals that are based on chemistry from 30 years ago have to be used, which are less effective on weeds. So instead of applying just one application of an herbicide for everything, you have different chemicals for different types of weeds. And since they are less effective; you have to go out and reapply.

You also have to rely on more mechanical cultivation with non-GMO soybeans. That leaves the soil loose and exposed. With nothing holding it together, you get wind erosion and water erosion. To me, that is more damaging than using glyphosate. You’re losing your topsoil, and the chemicals are more likely to get into the watershed—when soil runs off it takes the chemicals downstream with it. Not to mention the fuel costs of doing all that cultivation.

A few years ago we tried some non-GMO soybeans, but easily used twice the amount of chemicals than with the GMO beans. A lot of people don’t understand the amount of chemicals and fuel that it takes to grow a non-GMO [soybean] crop. The whole reason these crops were developed is to be more efficient—to save money and fuel.

There are so many myths out there about GMOs, and what gets me is how many very well-educated people I’ve met who believe them.

Peter Stocks

I am a young farmer who recently returned to my family’s industrial corn and soybean farm in Illinois. I have a severely deformed right hand that is possibly related to my father’s exposure to pesticides. Glyphosate has never been linked to the type of deformity I have, but many past generations of chemicals have been. I would prefer not to have any exposure to these compounds, but we are paid an extra $1.10/per bushel premium for non-GMO soybeans. Not being able to utilize glyphosate forces my father, who still has a cavalier attitude towards pesticide exposure, to revert back to older, more dangerous herbicides, such as Paraquat.

Because glyphosate residue would damage the non-GMO beans, I am required to thoroughly rinse our sprayer tank multiple times per year when switching between chemical regimens. Many studies have indicated that cleaning tasks like this represent an acute source of chemical exposure. It is an unfortunate example of the perverse incentives created by an otherwise well-meaning group of consumers.

I suspect that many of the non-GMO commenters would accuse me of being a coward for complying with a production model I know to be detrimental. Often people speak of changing our farming methods like it is as easy as making a choice and waiting for the economics to settle themselves out. When I try to tell them about our farm’s conservation tillage practices or cover crop regimens they glaze over. When I speak about the enormous potential of decentralized biomass energy or recirculating aquaculture for fighting climate change they generally aren’t very engaged. When the subject turns to GMOs, however, they have a wealth of opinions.

The entire article is well-worth reading, in terms of helping people understand why farmers do what they do.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Musings: Choices

The “crabs in a bucket” mentality is playing out in the medical marijuana dispensary realm, with web designer Winston Welborn naming Green Aloha — the entity that won the Kauai license — in his lawsuit against former Hawaii Life Real Estate partner Justin Britt.

Welborn is claiming Britt took $375,000 more than he should have from a legal settlement. Britt owns Hawaii Life and is the principal of Green Aloha, with numerous investors raising some $3 million for the Kauai dispensary venture.

Though Welborn's lawsuit was filed in February, it only today made headlines in Civil Beat. Why? Because it's in Welborn's interest to have negative publicity surface now, and his friend, CB reporter Anita Hofschneider, was only too happy to oblige. Her article implies the disputed money is part of the $1.2 million that license hopefuls were required to have on hand when they filed their application.

The timing is clearly intended to push Britt into a quick settlement so the lawsuit doesn't derail the dispensary license. Of course, Welborn has already made piles of money pimping high-end Hawaii Life real estate. But I guess he wants more, even if he has to take down the Kauai dispensary license to get it.

I must say, I never expected Britt would beat out Charles Kawakami, with all of his connections. Still, it wouldn't have been good for Rep. Derek Kawakami, who is now running for Council, to have his dad in that particular biz. On a side note, Wally Rezentes Jr. has been tapped to serve as the mayor's administrative assistant when Nadine Nakamura leaves the post in her bid for Derek's House seat. Wally reportedly wants to be kept on when Derek aces the mayoral run in 2018.

Civil Beat, meanwhile, has an editorial advocating the Lege pass an industrial hemp bill, in part because about 4,500 petition signers want the crop grown on A&B's sugar lands on Maui. Really? This is how agricultural decisions are supposed to be made now in Hawaii? By petition? A&B's desires and economic viability are apparently rendered irrelevant. Since 4,500 non-farmers know how to sign their names, they get a say in a private company's crop production plans. Crazy.

If the Lege wants to approve hemp, fine. But don't try to shove it down A&B's throat.

Returning to medical marijuana, a farmer friend was disappointed that Richard Ha, the Big Island grower who recently announced he was shutting down his tomato and banana production, is the only farmer to be awarded a dispensary license. The state finally comes up with a way that farmers can make some serious dough, and the venture is instead co-opted by businessmen. But since the state required folks to have $1.2 million cash to even enter the game, that automatically excluded most farmers.

Another friend wondered how the state legally can create a monopoly, which will be the situation on Kauai, where only Green Aloha will be allowed to grow medical cannabis and open a dispensary. Good point.

One selling point of Justin's dispensary application was the promise of an all-organic product.

Which brought to mind a post I saw documenting the shift in several popular food products when they became “organic” and Non-GMO Project verified:

Watch vitamins disappear! While size drops! It's magic!
Of course, some of it enters the realm of the downright silly, especially when these products aren't genetically modified to begin with:
As the post notes:

Hey, if you want to pay more for less, that's your call. But don't force it on others.

Unfortunately, that's what's happening. As the Iowa Meets Maui blog previously noted, Costco is carrying more organic inventory, while jettisoning lower-priced conventional and GMO products from its shelves.

End result: Cash-strapped consumers have fewer choices, and are forced to pay more, as retailers cash in on the lucrative organic market that has been thrust upon us by anti-GMO activists  who, ironically, claim to be all about choice.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Musings: End Goal

The Guardian has posted a new bit of fantasy about Hawaii, this time efforts to secure land redistribution through agricultural utopianism.

As I've been saying all along, this “aloha aina” movement is a thinly disguised attempt to wrest control of land, and thus power, from those who currently have it. 

Problem is, those orchestrating the movement are characterized by a striking ignorance of agriculture, no moral compass or both. And it's still unclear who is putting up the dough, and what they expect in return.

In the category of striking ignorance, we have Tiare Lawrence, a Maui fashion designer who fancies herself an “activist for farmers,” even though a piece she wrote for Civil Beat shows she knows nothing about ag. 

Tiare's featured prominently in The Guardian piece, first whining about mono-cropping — uh, hello, what do you think the Hawaiians were doing with taro? — before casting out this laughable gem:

A lot of families want to return home and farm but they need water to do that, and HC&S still keep most of the water for themselves.

Does anyone actually believe that the folks who fled the high cost of living in the Islands for Las Vegas, Portland, Cali and points beyond are really waiting to give up their mainland homes, jobs and lives so they can come back and eke out a marginal existence farming in Hawaii? Dream on.

The article then quotes Rep. Kaniela Ing, who also disses mono-cropping, while simultaneously promoting hemp, which only has a prayer economically if it's grown on an “industrial” scale, and even then, it's questionable.

The article goes on to report that “Monsanto is thought to be casting an avaricious eye on the 36,000 acres about to come up for grabs.” 

First, the land isn't “coming up for grabs.” It still belongs to A&B. And second, the seed companies are shrinking, not expanding, their footprint in the Islands. But hey, nothing works to rally the fearful and ignorant like the big Monsanto demon.

The Guardian piece is filled with the same sort of one-side fabrication and revisionism hat characterized Chris Pala's Guardian piece on how GMO agriculture had supposedly caused a “spike in birth defects” — a claim that even the biased Joint Fact-Finding report put to rest.

But it is revealing to see the true motives finally laid out there, instead of hidden behind the veneer of "saving" taro farmers, the keiki and Maui itself. The article ends with this quote from Ing:

This is is an opportunity for these historically greedy missionary families who created the sugar industry to … give back what is owed to the people of Maui.

If that's the end goal, better find another approach. Because neither the Maui Tomorrow "Malama Aina" plan nor the "Maui Community Organic Farmland" ag land condemnation initiative will achieve it.

Speaking of condemnation, it's good that people reacted so strongly against the Salt Pond monk seal attack, resulting in a speedy arrest.

Still, it's not helpful when people like Sabra Kauka offer opinions without knowing the situation:

She said sometimes this kind of aggression toward the Hawaiian Monk Seals stems from the commercial fishing community and the mindset that the seals are stealing the fish from their nets.

That's quite an aspersion to cast upon commercial fishers, especially when the perp isn't one.

I hope this incident does encourage everyone to look at the real cause for these actions: the culture of violence and substance abuse in which we live. People who abuse animals tend to abuse people, and often they have been abused, too. Drugs and alcohol make it all worse. These things don't happen in a vacuum, and they won't end unless we all decide violence simply isn't acceptable.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Musings: Resurrecting the Past

No need go Vegas. The big gamblers can be found at the Kauai County planning commission.

Coco Palms developer Tyler Green said he and his partner, Chad Waters, were required to pledge all their own assets in an effort to secure an $18.5 million demolition loan from Utah loan syndicator Private Capital Corp.

A review of the company's website shows it typically charges interest rates of 12 to 24 percent for its short-term loans. Current mortgage lending rates are about 3.1 percent.

But the developers had to accept what Green characterized as Private Capital's “very, very hard terms” when nine months of negotiations with another loan syndicator fell through after the primary deal-maker was hospitalized.

Planning commissioners, who yesterday could have begun moving to revoke Coco Palms' permits, expressed skepticism about the lending process. After all, it wasn't the first time they'd heard a shuck and jive, "check's in the mail" story from the developers. Commissioners questioned why the first deal was dependent on just one person, and whether the developers ultimately would be able to secure the $130 million required to rebuild the iconic resort once demolition is pau.

“I'm losing faith in the process,” Commissioner Louis Abrams said.

Though commissioners didn't seem convinced by the developer's assurances that the money was coming any day, they did agree to wait for an update on Monday before launching the permit revocation process.

Which gives the developers six days to rub their lucky rabbit's feet, fondle good luck charms, breathe on the dice and pray.

Meanwhile, the 24-year-old ruins of Coco Palms continue to molder.

Yet another attempt to resurrect the past occurred yesterday when the KIUC board of directors tapped former member Allan Smith to assume a vacancy created when Karen Baldwin resigned. But Smith, who was elected to the Board in 2007 and stepped down in 2014 due to work demands, didn't fill Baldwin's seat.

Instead the Board appointed member Teofilo “Phil” Tacbian to finish out Baldwin's term, which expires in 2018. Smith was then appointed to Tacbian's term, which ends next year. Net result: Smith will be up for election in 2017, and Tacbian was gifted an extra year.

The Board justified its decision as wanting to give members the earliest possible opportunity to confirm Smith's appointment via an election, which is admirable. But its actions also deprived members of a say in whether they wanted to be stuck with Tacbian, one of the co-op's biggest duds, for an extra year.

And in still another effort to return to the good old days, when “water ran free, as nature intended,” a group of protestors converged on A&B headquarters in Honolulu to rail against HB 2501. The compromise bill allows A&B and others to continue diverting water under revocable permits for no more than three years while the Department of Land and Natural Resources updates the permitting process.

I understand that some East Maui taro farmers are frustrated. They've been fighting water diversions for a long time. But in their desire to stick it to A&B, they're forgetting that water users on other islands would also be impacted if all the permits were yanked. This would create hardships for many small farmers and ranchers, and their needs must be considered, too.

The protest attracted opportunists like Gary Hooser, who is always trying to latch on to other causes, especially those that involve Native Hawaiians:
And since Hooser gets to decide what constitutes “justice” — remember the "rescue game?" — you can be assured that it, and thus peace, will never be achieved.

Hmmm. “No justice, no peace; no water, no justice.”

Or here's another way to look at it: “No water, no food; no food, no activists.”

Which seems to be a good segue to this video:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Musings: Speak Easy

One thing that's long bugged me about the Hawaii anti-GMO movement is how a few people try to act as if they represent everyone.

Like Gary Hooser telling the Syngenta shareholders that he was delivering a message from his community about how “very concerned” we were with the company's activities on Kauai.

Like Phoebe Eng delivering theatrical anti-GMO testimony, supposedly on behalf of a couple dozen “well-known, long-time westside families” (who were never identified), as if they couldn't speak for themselves.

And like Ashley Lukens, director of Hawaii Center for Food Safety, pretending she is actually in the position to “share Hawaii's story” — with the help of Vandana Shiva and Pierce Brosnan, no less.
Pierce, as you may recall, endeared himself to Kauai folks by suing a now deceased Wainiha taro farmer to try and keep her water for his landscaping ponds, totally gaming the system to get a TVR permit for his house in Haena — one of two TVRs he owns on Kauai, like he really needs the extra dough — and landscaping the beach, replete with applications of chicken shit.
As for Vandana Shiva, what's with that oversized bindi? Since it's supposed to represent the third eye, the place of concealed wisdom, what does it say about her state of consciousness that she chooses one made of plastic? She's wrought nothing but trouble for the Islands and is certainly in no position to tell any story about Hawaii — except, perhaps, a fairy tale.

If those three scammers are the “heroes” of the anti-GMO movement, it speaks volumes — and none of it good — about the caliber of its membership.

Speaking of speaking, I've repeatedly dinged Hooser for using County Council resources to submit testimony on behalf of bills that benefit his nonprofit, HAPA, but have nothing to do with his Council duties. 

Turns out Councilman KipuKai Kualii has done the same thing, advocating for a state Senate bill that would “appropriate funds for the planning, design, construction, materials and equipment for the Anahola Hawaiian Homes Association (AHHA) for an East Kauai Community Recreation Center and the Anahola Pilot Agriculture Park.”

But KipuKai committed a double transgression in identifying himself only as a Councilman and failing to inform the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs that he is President of AHHA, and thus has a direct interest.

While we're on the topic of Anahola, what ever happened to the $1 million that KIUC gave the community last October, for hosting the solar project? 

Though Anahola residents gave the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands many suggestions about how to use the money, and asked for a community meeting to try and reach consensus on how to spend it, DHHL has been non-responsive. The money has apparently disappeared into the black hole that is DHHL, while the community has nothing to show for it.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Musings: Cheeky Buggahs

There's a new cheekiness emerging among agrarian romanticists. They're convinced they should dictate how A&B's Maui land is used once HC&S stops producing sugar.

On the one hand, we've got anti-GMO activists collecting some 10,000 signatures for an initiative that would allow Maui County to condemn the land, with a citizen's committee deciding who gets to farm it.

How did they collect so many, so fast? In part by lying, and telling voters that Monsanto had first right of refusal for all that acreage. I guess none of them noticed the seed companies have been shrinking their footprint in Hawaii, not expanding.

On the other, we've got Maui Tomorrow's new report — “Malama Aina: A Conversation about Maui’s Farming Future” — envisioning an idyllic, all-pastels landscape of cattle feeding on remnant cane amid organic veggies, poultry, pigs, and tree crops, with nary a livestock-hater in sight.
As the Star-Advertiser reports:

“Beloved Maui is at a crossroads,” the report said. “For 150 years Maui agriculture has been large-scale, mono-crop, chemical dependent, and export oriented. Can a new farming model bring both economic and biological benefits? The community has an opportunity to come together and help usher in a new era of farming on Maui.”

Gee, that's some nerve, commissioning a report from Oregon folks on what should be done with land that someone else owns. Does this mean that A&B, or any bloke on the street, should be able to dictate the activities of backyard gardeners, “yardners” and small farmers?

Of course not. It's only the big landowners who have been bad enough to warrant having non-farmers step in and tell them how things ought to be done.

Which always goes over a like a lead balloon. Especially since A&B has its own ideas, and no small amount of experience in implementing them. It's not like the company has never  considered diversified agriculture or tree crops. After all, it successfully transitioned sugar lands to coffee on Kauai, and has spent decades — and millions of dollars — trying to identify economically viable crops.

And that's key. In their push to pimp an agricultural Utopia, the dreamers always leave that really crucial economically viable part out.

The Maui farm initiative, which applies to all large ag land owners, not just A&B, flat out eschews profit-making. It offers no insights into how general obligation and revenue bonds used to buy the condemned land will ever be repaid, or the toiling farmers compensated.

The Maui Tomorrow report is equally long on fantasy and short on economic reality. As the Star-Advertiser reports:

Maui Tomorrow suggests that the regenerative farm vision in its report can yield far more profit than sugar cane farming for export while also employing more people than HC&S.

But the report does not provide any detailed financial analysis or feasibility assessments. It notes that ideas will need further research and require a large investment to carry out.

Ya don't say.

As the Star-Advertiser continues:

The nonprofit said in its report that profits for diversified agriculture are conservatively 100 times more than a sugar cane monocrop for export, or $5,000 to $7,500 per acre annually compared with $50 to $75 per acre annually. For 30,000 acres, that would amount to $150 million to $225 million compared with $1.5 million to $2.25 million.

Yet serious doubt has been expressed about profitable large-scale farming supplanting HC&S. Local economist Paul Brewbaker said recently that if significant money could be made on the thousands of acres of fallow former sugar cane land that already exist on Maui and other islands, then it would surely have already been done.

Like, maybe by A&B itself, before it lost $33 million last year alone, trying to keep sugar alive?

Here's another example of the report's pie-in-the-sky thinking:

If A&B would sell the plantation at market value, Maui Tomorrow’s report said a community farm cooperative could be formed with all Maui residents represented as either worker-members or consumer-members with voting rights and profit shares.

Never mind that even small cooperatives have failed around the Islands because people just can't get along. Getting farmers to work together has been likened to herding cats, a scenario that becomes even more challenging with the addition of “consumer-members.” Plus how, exactly, would you even ascertain the market value of a 36,000-acre plantation on Maui?

Returning to the Star-Advertiser:

One challenge the report points out is that Maui lacks skilled farmers and infrastructure for diversified farming on more than 30,000 acres.

Now there's a news flash. But hey, they've got it covered. You just tell other people how to spend their money — "The report suggests that Maui County, A&B and nonprofits will have to invest in jump-starting new farming, including providing incentives and assistance to local farmers" — and then begin “recruiting successful farmers from off-island.”

Yup. Nothing like bringing in thousands more mainlanders to help further erode local culture and shift political power to the malihini.

Are you starting to see now what this anti-ag, dreamy ag, make-believe ag, wanna-be ag, pretend ag movement is all about?

That's right. It's the newest land and power grab in Hawaii, orchestrated by the latest batch of missionaries — those worshiping at the organic altar — and colonialists convinced they can “save Paradise” by making it more like the place they left behind.

Because if this was truly about implementing new methods and models for agriculture — feeding Hawaii — they'd be on it already, using the thousands of acres of fallow land found throughout the Islands.

But they aren't. They only want what somebody else — A&B, the seed companies — has already got.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Musings: Earthy

It's Earth Day – that time of the year when we're supposed to become more conscious of how we're trashing the planet with our greed, thoughtlessness and ravenous appetites, and then do something about it.

Here's my small contribution:
Committed to eliminating food waste, Earth Day, every day.

Though many greenies have taken a stance against GMOs, the technology has numerous environmental benefits. I recently wrote about a study published by agricultural economists at Purdue University, who found that:

Eliminating GMO commodity crops in America would significantly boost greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions and have other environmental and economic impacts.

The Purdue researchers found that yields of soy, corn, and cotton would decrease, requiring some 252,047 acres of U.S. forest and pasture lands to be converted to crop production to offset the shortfall. A reduction in the export of U.S. commodity crops would also increase demand for cropland in other nations.

Though Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser recently pooh-poohed the contribution of GMO corn at a UH law school forum on GMOs — “you can't feed the world on Sugar Pops and candy bars” — he doesn't seem to realize that maize, as it's called elsewhere, is a major food staple across the globe. South Africa alone is needing to import 1.5 million tonnes this year due to drought. Fortunately, we've got enough to send.

GM crops that resist insect infestations, like like Bt cotton, Bt corn and Bt eggplant, have also reduced the use of pesticides, especially in developing nations. 

Yet the chronically befuddled, like Hooser and Lihue resident Linda Boethe, continue to insist that seed companies are “drenching” Kauai with pesticides. In a letter to the editor today, Boethe tries to bolster her drenching claim with a revelation about seed company pesticide use in December 2013:

Syngenta applied 13 RUP’s (restricted use pesticides) totaling 213 gallons and 366 pounds to 1,200 acres. 81 gallons of product contained Chlorpyrifos and 245 pounds contained Atrazine. Dow Agro-Science applied 10 RUPs totaling 139 gallons to 873 acres. Dupont/Pioneer applied 13 RUPs totaling 66 gallons and 13 pounds to 1,000 acres.

If you look at the raw numbers, yeah, it's kind of scary. But if you do the math —assuming her figures are correct — we're talking roughly a pint per acre. The seed companies have offered the analogy of one soda can of product applied to a football field. Is that being "drenched?" As a friend noted:

Overall, there's no common understanding of what these figures represent. Until there is, the numbers spur chaos in a public argument. And that's another failing of the Joint Fact Finding report: It doesn't put the numbers into the context of generally accepted agricultural practices to promote broader understanding of what the seed companies, and other farmers, actually do.

What some Kauai County Councilmembers do, on the other hand, is pull strings to help friends. At the last Council meeting, JoAnn Yukimura disclosed that she's "crafting" an amendment to one of the two homestay/B&B bills before the Council, as outlined in this dialogue with her colleagues:

JY: I have an amendment, a rough draft, but I would prefer, because it is a tricky amendment, I mean it's taken a lot of thought and conferencing with the legal staff we have. I'd like to work on it further before introducing it.

Is this amendment you are working on related to grandfathering?

JY: No. I don't think "grandfathering" is an appropriate context. The amendment is to create a class based on a rationale basis that is a legitimate class under the law.

So you are working on an amendment to create a class, a specific class that would allow for the planning commission to review applications for B&Bs outside of the VDA (visitor destination areas)?

JY: For a very small number of people that have been paying taxes since 2008, and have -- and have applied for home-stays.

You said it's not about grandfathering.

JY: Yes, because grandfathering... requires that the use was legal prior to being made illegal. That is not the circumstance we have here.

JoAnn is correct. The circumstance we have here is that a number of persons have been operating illegal B&Bs for more than a decade. The planning department has shut them down, and some are about to be hit with criminal charges. But JoAnn wants to let the scofflaws off the hook, give them preferential treatment, let them go on while others are denied the opportunity to operate.

As another friend observed:

Is this crafted or crafty legislation?

I'd go with crafty. Sleazy. And really inappropriate. Hasn't JoAnn learned anything from her earlier vote to legitimize all the illegal TVR owners, while burning those who had obeyed the law? 

Still, I imagine the amendment would come in really handy for Alexis Boilini — one of the aforementioned scofflaws who is now trying to sell her property for a cool $2.35 million. Perhaps so she'll have more time to spend at her Costa Rica B&B?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Musings: Crazy Women

As has been noted in comments recently, former Kauai Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri is threatening to expose the corruption of a Kauai County Councilmember.

In a letter to Councilman KipuKai Kualii, Shay wrote (click on image to enlarge):
Though her target isn't identified, there's been some discussion that it's Council Chair Mel Rapozo. It appears, from some emotional posts on Shay's Facebook page, that the two recently had a falling out.

Still, as one observer noted, what could Shay possibly say about Mel that wouldn't also incriminate her?
It's shaping up to be a rather interesting election year....

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Musings: Games People Play

Gee, I'm so glad that Fern Rosenstiel, now running for the 14th House District, has finally started noticing what's actually happening in her 'hood:
Gosh, and we've only been raising this alarm for how long now? Couple of decades? Too bad Fern and the other fistees couldn't have rallied themselves to actually speak up when the County Council allowed vacation rentals on ag land, which gave these McMansions a steady revenue stream.

But then, perhaps that's because so many fistees actually operate TVRs on ag land, or are busy selling expensive ag land to non-farmers. Who the heck does Fern think is funding the anti-GMO movement in Hawaii, Gary Hooser's re-election campaign, Dustin Barca's failed mayoral bid? Yes, it's the same “ridiculously rich arrogant people” she's moaning about.

And no, Fern, rezoning was not required to achieve this travesty. Instead, it's all about failing to enforce the agricultural dwelling agreement. Which is how so many of the North Shore “red shirts,” as well as former Coucilman Tim Bynum, one of of the co-sponsors of Bill 2491, were able to build houses on ag land, despite doing no farming.

While you guys are busily trying to destroy true farming because it doesn't fit your romanticized ideal of pure and pastoral, hundreds of acres of Kauai ag land have been lost forever to gentrification. So maybe you could go knock on their doors and ask why they aren't producing any food, instead of attacking the farmers who are.

Fern, you really need to bone up on land use laws, the financing of the anti-GMO movement and so much more before you run for office and start embarrassing yourself with inane pronouncements and hash tags.

Until that happens, here's one for you: #STFU!

But then, Fern's followers are equally misinformed, so they aren't gonna notice.

The rest of us, however, continue to hold out hope that Fern and her ilk will #wakeup and #wiseup before they try to #riseup and tell us how things should be.

Which leads to an interesting “game” that a friend told me about. It's called the Rescue Game, and I'm sure you'll recognize how it's being played by the anti-GMO/anti-ag folks on Kauai, and elsewhere around the state.

Each group of players is assigned one of three roles: Victim, Persecutor or Rescuer. The first two roles are allowed one move each: the Victim’s move is to suffer, and the Persecutor’s move is to make the Victim suffer. The Rescuer is allowed two moves: to sympathize with the Victim and to punish the Persecutor. No other moves are allowed, and no player is allowed to make a move that belongs to a different role.

In the Rescue Game, in other words, whatever a Victim does must be interpreted as a cry of pain. Whatever a Persecutor does is treated as something that’s intended to cause pain to a Victim, and whatever a Rescuer does, by definition, either expresses sympathy for a Victim or inflicts well-deserved punishment on a Persecutor. This is true even when the actions performed by the three people in question happen to be identical.

What’s more, the roles are collective, not individual. Each Victim is equal to every other Victim, and is expected to feel and resent all the suffering ever inflicted on every other Victim in the same game. Each Persecutor is equal to every other Persecutor, and so is personally to blame for every suffering inflicted by every other Persecutor in the same game. Each Rescuer, in turn, is equal to every other Rescuer, and so may take personal credit for the actions of every other Rescuer in the same game. This allows the range of potential moves to expand to infinity without ever leaving the narrow confines of the game.

It’s only fair to note that each of the three roles gets certain benefits, though these are distributed in a very unequal fashion. The only thing the people who are assigned the role of Persecutor get out of it is plenty of negative attention. Sometimes that’s enough—it’s a curious fact that hating and being hated can function as an intoxicant for some people—but this is rarely enough of an incentive to keep those assigned the Persecutor’s role willing to play the game for long.

The benefits that go to people who are assigned the role of Victim are somewhat more substantial. Victims get to air their grievances in public, which is a rare event for the underprivileged, and they also get to engage in socially sanctioned bullying of people they don’t like, which is an equally rare treat.

The vast majority of the benefits of the game, rather, go to the Rescuers. They’re the ones who decide which team of Victims will get enough attention from Rescuers to be able to start a game. They’re the ones who enforce the rules, and thus see to it that Victims keep on being victimized and Persecutors keep on persecuting.  Nor is it accidental that in every Rescue Game, the people who get the role of Rescuers are considerably higher on the ladder of social privilege than the people who get given the roles of Victims and Persecutors.

[A]ffluent white people [are] always in the role of Rescuers.

There’s one other rule: the game must go on forever. The Victim must continue to suffer, the Persecutor must continue to persecute, and the Rescuer must continue to sympathize and punish. Anything that might end the game—for example, any actual change in the condition of the Victim, or any actual change in the behavior of the Persecutor—is therefore out of bounds. 

The Rescuer also functions as a referee, and so it’s primarily his or her job to see that nothing gets in the way of the continuation of the game.

Which is why it doesn't matter how much monitoring is done, how many tests are run, how much disclosure is required. Gary Hooser, Earthjustice, Center for Food Safety, Surfrider, HAPA and all the others who fancy themselves Rescuers will never give up the game.

There's way too much money, power and sanctimony in it for them.