Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Musings: Naturally

At the grocery store today, the woman in front of me rejected one of two apples she had selected when she discovered it was not organic.

“It's a gift,” she explained to the cashier. “So I wouldn't want to give them something with pesticides on it.”

“Well, they [the Environmental Working Group] do say apples are one of the fruits that has more pesticide residue,” the clerk chirped. “Organic shows you care.”

I bit my tongue to keep from saying, “No, it shows you're a sucker for marketing.”

The EWG regularly publishes its “dirty dozen” produce list as a fundraising ploy, and the media — and ignorant store clerks — dutifully regurgitate it without question. But in reality:

Some pesticides are drastically more toxic than others, but the EWG's scoring system considers all pesticides to be equal, and they don't relate the pesticide amounts to known safety standards. Two food scientists did a reality check on the EWG's numbers from their 2010 list (which uses the same methodology as this year's). Their analysis was published in the Journal of Toxicology.

It turns out the "Dirty" foods are fairly clean, and organic foods aren't free of pesticides anyway. You'll notice that the EWG only mentions the pesticides found on conventional produce: that's because the USDA doesn't test for organic pesticides.

So why aren't the foodies screaming for pesticide testing and disclosure on organics? Is nothing sacred?

And why are some of the most vocal critics of ag pesticides now defending their use against the little fire ant [LFA]? Seems it's OK to use pesticides when their own comfort and economic interests are at risk. But they're not willing to allow farmers the same choices.

An example is the ill-informed, but very vocal, anti-ag activist Karen Chun. She used Facebook to aggressively advocate for pesticide use to control the LFA:

You folks know I oppose pesticides on our food, in our parks and along our roads. But there IS a use for pesticides and Little Fire Ants are DEFINITELY it. We really DO have to choose the lesser evil sometimes. And in this case pesticides are WAY lesser than LFAs!

Just like pesticides are WAY lesser than losing an entire crop to insect damage.

Everything has its upsides and downsides. Because of the corruption of the ChemCOs, there is a knee jerk reaction against any use of pesticides.

In this case, that reaction will lead to you abandoning your home lest your baby be blinded by ant bites — or at the very least your livestock or pets being blinded.

Gee. Still resorting to fear-mongering, I see.

Yes. Pesticides are not good and have negative effects. But a reasonable person weighs those negative effects against not using them and makes a judgement [sic] based on which course of action leads to the least negative effects.

Indeed. Which is why farmers prefer pesticides to crop loss and bankruptcy.

They are not using DDT nor PCBs. And they are applying only what is needed. This is SO different from the wholesale, careless pesticide application (that any homeowner could buy and use) of the 50s and 60s.

Uh, hello! That's what we've been trying to tell you about the sugar cane and seed companies, ya dumb ass.

The Maui News did a good job of covering the conflict between the Maui Invasive Species Council, which is trying to eradicate the destructive insect, and people who are opposed to the use of pesticides. Seems some folks are wedded to the idea of using “a more natural product,” like boric acid, even if, according to MISC, it's “more toxic than other chemicals and can kill people and domestic pets.”

The “natural” bit came up in Chun's Facebook thread, prompting Daren Ash to reply:

And your natural part? What bollocks. How do you think LFA got here? They hitched a ride with humans on unnatural forms of transportation, they didn't swim here on their own. Even if they had swum here on their own (they didn't) and were considered "natural," the devastation they cause to other natural things (native species) is massive, so it's more "natural" to use pesticides to eradicate them and save other natural things. Also remember that things like arsenic, Polio, Ebola, cobra venom, fire, death, pain, and misery are natural too, it doesn't mean they're good.

Which leads us to Civil Beat's promo piece today on Gary Hooser's HAPA Kuleana Academy. The article quoted Tim Vandeveer, chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, as saying it's a good thing when people run for office.

Which is true. Except when they are running on a very narrow platform — anti-ag, anti-GMO, anti-TMT — that appeals to only a small segment of the population. Then it's not so good.

But then, that's the sort of social engineering that Civil Beat funder-founder Pierre Omidyar endorses — he gives money to Center for Food Safety, which in turn funds HAPA — so his vanity pub promotes it, too. 

Which is why the article inanely asked whether Hawaii's “progessive movement” — since when have intolerance, bullying, fear-mongering and lying been defined as progressive? — has “staying power.”

It seems that question was already answered in the Primary, when voters rejected purt near everybody associated with HAPA and its Kuleana Academy. And that includes its pappy, Hooser, who ranked ninth in a race for seven council seats.

I did have to laugh when Hooser claimed his movement was about “food justice.” So then why are they focused on promoting high-priced organics? Why aren't they out there supporting the food banks and SNAP — programs that actually put food in the mouths of hungry Islanders?

I also giggled at this line about the "progressive" candidates:

They are often critical of business and development interests that pump money into local campaigns.

Except their own campaigns and nonprofit groups, of course. Then it's perfectly OK.

I was also interested to learn that Councilman Mason Chock is one of the trainers for the Kuleana Academy. Just something to keep in mind when you're voting come November.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Musings: Manufactured Perception

It's been some time since the Joint Fact Finding Group released its report on Kauai agricultural pesticides, but the spin shows no sign of abating.

Fact-finding consultant Peter Adler recently appeared on TechTalk with host Sen. Russell Ruderman, who asked him, “Did everybody leave shaking hands?” To which Adler, displaying a remarkable capacity for selective memory, replied, “Yes, I think so.”

Huh? Shoots, three of the nine JFFG members resigned in protest, disgusted both by Adler's own behavior and the bias they saw in other panelists. For example, member Doug Wilmore contributed $500 to the campaign of Gary Hooser, who introduced the pesticide/GMO regulatory bill that led to the group's formation,

Yet Adler never mentioned that unflattering outcome, even as he pumped the group's “diversity.”

Adler also urged folks to read the beginning and end of the report, “and then go to the recommendations and ask the question, do these recommendations make sense?”

Well, that's a convenient way to ignore the meat of the report, which doesn't actually support the recommendations. Indeed, one of the biggest complaints was that the recommendations don't make sense, given the scant evidence that pesticides are migrating off-site in anything other than trace amounts in isolated incidences.

But the recommendations do allow Adler and his fellow travelers to grind their shared ax:

We didn't see real evidence of harm. To make a link between those trace amounts and health impacts is pretty challenging. But the caveat is, we all felt the state hadn't done enough surveillance and studying of this. If the state wants higher levels of certainty it will have to do more investigation.

How exactly do you get "higher levels of certainty?" Either you're certain, or you're not. It's not a word that lends itself to gradations.

The interview was yet another reminder of how the report, conducted at taxpayer expense and now given undue credence as a “government study,” failed to ease community concerns, heal the rift or plot a reasonable path forward. Instead, Adler has used it as a promotional tool for his consulting services.

On a related note, The Risk-Monger blog has an interesting post about activist strategies employed in Europe. It turns out they're the same tactics used by anti-GMO and “environmental” groups in Hawaii:

NGOs have been successful over the last decade in presenting small groups as parts of big networks, pretending to speak on behalf of the “people” when in reality they are only a couple reactionaries in a room with a laptop and a web-designer, accountable to no one and driven by a self-centred emotional zeal.

Social media allows small organisations to make maximum noise at a low cost by exploiting the viral structure of online networks.

There are many tricks for these minnows to deceive clueless policymakers and the media. This is manufactured perception, what I have called “commonality” — the deceitful manufacturing of reality to create a perception that everyone agrees with your strategic message. Previously it was called brainwashing or propaganda; in the activist Age of Stupid, it is considered as “advocacy”.

[It is] a communications manipulation lacking in truth or integrity … but until now, it has worked. Kudos to the ethically challenged!

Which is why I could only raise my eyebrows when I read this newspaper comment from master-deceiver Gary Hooser:

Historically, my issue focus and core values have been based on environmental protection, slow growth and honest, open government.

One of the most effective ways for Kauai to achieve “honest, open government” is to eliminate Hooser's role in the process. His actions against the seed companies and agriculture have been grounded in fear-mongering and lies.

Speaking of seed companies, Syngenta has invited folks attending the IUCN World Conservation Congress next month to visit its Kunia farm and learn about the sustainable agricultural practices it's using around the world.

Though people like Hooser and the aforementioned activists love to portray the seed companies as craven corportions bent on poisoning paradise in the single-minded pursuit of profit, the reality is quite a bit different. But then, they wouldn't know, since they studiously avoid visiting the farms.

As I previously reported, the DuPont-Pioneer farm at Waialua employs cover crops, natural insect control, erosion control measures, farmer training, sub-leases and other sustainable ag practices.

Similarly, Syngenta has adopted a “good growth plan” that outlines “six commitments to increase the productivity of crops without using more water or inputs; to enhance biodiversity and rescue farmland on the brink of degradation; and to help improve the health and well-being of people working in agriculture and rural communities.”

It's hosting field tours at its Kunia farm on Sept. 6 so people can see its progress in meeting those commitments and learn more about crop rotation, cover crops, vegetative barriers, erosion control, nutrient management, water use optimization and other sustainable practices.

The tours are free, with sessions offered in both the morning and afternoon. If you have an interest in what really happens on a seed farm, and plan to be on Oahu that day, you can register here. The deadline is today.

As Ruderman noted on Tech-Talk, it's disturbing to see so many people accept someone else's take on things because "people will always tell you what you want to hear." 

Heck. Seems like Ruderman, an organic grocer who pushes self-serving anti-GMO/anti-ag legislation in the Senate, should go.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Musings: Sorry State

It's hard to understand why Hawaii wanted to host the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress meeting next month.

It's not exactly like the Islands serve as a great role model for effective and meaningful conservation strategies, though there are some bright spots. Indeed, when you consider that Hawaii is the endangered species capital of the world, it offers far more compelling examples of what not to do.  

And does anyone else see the irony of having hundreds of people fly to Oahu to ponder such topics as climate change and sustainable development? As the conference promo claims:

Hawaiʻi is one of the few islands with the capacity to host an event of this size.

Except, it really doesn't have the capacity. As a new report on the state of the environment, He Lono Moku, points out, Hawaii is consuming water and energy at unsustainable rates, in large part to support its economic drivers of military and tourism.

But the report doesn't address at all the concept of economic diversification to help wean the state's economy off these unsustainable industries. It doesn't even question them.

Perhaps most striking is Hawaii's cavalier consumption of water, which is nearly double the national average for non-ag uses.

With tourism on the rise, and rainfall down 22 percent in recent decades, the Islands' water supply is threatened, the report states. 

Reducing public daily consumption is necessary to allow Hawaii's water to go further. To that end, the state aims to double the area of priority watersheds under active management by 2030.

One sobering statistic: The United Nations estimates that in nine years, two-thirds of the world population will be living under water-stressed conditions.

In regard to energy, the state is challenged in meeting its mandate of generating 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. The report states:

Communities must come to terms with hosting large-scale energy projects in their backyards, and developers in turn need to appropriate a fair package of community benefits with each project.

The report makes no mention of the socio-economic impacts associated with rooftop solar systems, in terms of who should pay to maintain a grid that supports poor people, renters and others unable to purchase a home system.

And while it touts a bike-share program on Oahu, it says nothing about reducing the tourism-driven airline traffic to the Islands, which accounts for 27 percent of the state's petroleum use.

Other intriguing tidbits from the report: Hawaii is the only coastal state that does not mandate saltwater fishing licenses; 60 cents of every $1.05 from Hawaii's oil barrel tax is diverted to the general fund, rather than to engery and agriculture as was intended; and cesspools release 55 million gallons of untreated sewage into the ground each day.

Here's one from those who own oceanfront properties: Coastal erosion rates are projected to double by 2050. 

Sounds like a good time for the state to get super conservative on shoreline setbacks.

Though activists like to portray Kauai as a toxic waste dump poisoned by agricultural pesticides, the report lauds the island for its achievements in using renewable energy to produce electricity and adopting a community-based model of traditional marine conservation.

In fact, the report makes no mention of pesticides or agriculture adversely impacting Hawaii's environment. Indeed, it calls for the state Legislature to dramatically increase funding for both the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture.

DLNR gets just 1 percent of the state budget, even as it's charged with managing 30 percent of the state's land and water resources. And despite all the hue and cry for more local food, the DOA gets a measly .4 percent of the state budget, operating on a paltry $49 million annually.

The report notes:

In 1900, more than half of Hawai's labor force worked in agriculture. Today just 1 percent of the state's workers are in farming, and 90 percent of its food is imported.

Now, try as some folks might, you simply can't blame that scenario on the seed companies.

Shockingly, Hawaii wastes 237,000 tons of food annually.

The report continues:

New magazines like Modern Farmer and the soon-to-debut reality show Yardfarmer suggest a golden age of agriculture may be dawning. However, from 2007 to 2012, the U.S. lost about 100,000 farms and 7.5 million acres of farmland, and Hawaii is trending in the same direction.

Gee. I wonder why.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Musings: Red Herrings

Some 1,000 Hawaii classrooms will start the school year without “quality teachers,” including 600 for which there are no teachers at all, according to HPR's "The Conversation."

“Ten thousand kids will not have a teacher,” HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said. “They're using subs that don't have the background. We have pretend schools right now.”

He gave an example of how a substitute who could not speak the language was hired to teach a Spanish class.

The state is having a hard time attracting qualified instructors because Island teachers are the worst paid in the nation, when salaries are adjusted for cost of living, Rosenlee said. Hawaii is also last in the country in spending on school maintenance.

So why do the anti-GMO activists — Center for Food Safety, Councilman Gary Hooser, Hawaii SEED, HAPA, Earthjustice — keep making like seed company pesticides are the biggest threat facing Hawaii school kids?

Especially when none of the school evacuations between 2006-14 were caused by the seed companies, according to an analysis by the state Department of Agriculture.

Among those still touting the false claim of harm is the Waimea Canyon Middle School's Maluhia Group, which left this comment on the Garden Island article on the Kauai election results:

4,000+ people marched in the "Mana March," and an employee of a company suing the County of Kauai for the right to poison your children and land gets more votes than Gary Hooser? Stop posing and make the time you spent marching in the rain mean something by voting in the Primary.

First, that 4,000+ figure is double even the most generous estimate. But even if it was accurate, and every marcher voted for Hooser, it wouldn't be enough to get him re-elected. And how many of those marching were even Kauai residents, much less registered voters?

We know that people like Jen Ruggles — now running for Hawaii County Council — were brought in as paid political operatives to swell the ranks. Even now when I look at who is “liking” Hooser's Facebook posts, I recognize few of the names.

What's more, even though the Merck Fund gave Maluhia-WCMS $10,000 “to document health effects in Hawaii related to pesticide exposure," the group has been unable to find one shred of evidence to bolster its claims. Nor has anyone else. Yet the activists keep making those false charges because they want to destroy the seed companies

Following his dismal showing in Saturday's primary, Hooser finally showed face Monday with a social media plea for more money, more help. If he really wants to win, he should be asking, "Why do so many find me so repellant? How can I change myself, and my message, to appeal to more of the people I'm supposed to be representing?"

But that ain't gonna happen. And no doubt some of his well-heeled North Shore supporters will continue to pour dough into the black hole of Hooser, while ignoring more worthy causes.

I notice that Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice — despite their professed devotion to both the keiki and the aina — have also remained mum on the issue of feral cats. Civil Beat today finally took up an issue oft-covered in this blog, reporting that toxoplasmosis in cat poop is killing endangered monk seals, spinner dolphins and other critters. 

The parasite also infects human, especially kids who play in the dirt, and it can cause both physical and mental illness, including insanity.

Of course, EJ isn't interested because there's no government entity to sue — yet. And CFS knows there's no fundraising dough to be raised in a call to kill kittens.

Still, EJ and CFS do have something in common with the Hawaii Humane Society, which has declared that any cat culling is a total “non-starter” for them.

And that's a complete unwillingness to compromise, to approach an issue with a sincere desire to find the best way forward for all. 

So long as these groups refuse to budge from their extreme, entrenched positions, the polarization and political paralysis will continue. Which is why we might want to reconsider giving them a place at the table.

When Civil Beat reporters are too lazy to dig up news, they fawn over one another, which is how they came to produce the podcast “Hawaii’s News Business Takes It’s [sic] Licks From The Reader Rep.”

In it, CB “reader rep” and UH communications professor Brett Oppegaard revealed his biggest story ever was handed to him, and resulted in someone threatening to punch him in the face. I can see that. Especially after his hit piece on me.

Oppegaard then gushed:

I think Civil Beat is really a beacon of great journalism in this community and I am continually impressed with what is produced here and also the mission seems to be untainted by, obviously, advertising concerns or corporate special interests or any of the other things that tend to plague for-profit publications and journalism organizations.

Uh, except for the social-engineering, philanthropic elephant in the newsroom, as identified by my former editor at the Honolulu Weekly, Ragnar Carlson:

Everyone knows where Joan Conrow is coming from. It's right there in her work. Yet you are willing to denounce her as untrustworthy while the billionaire technocrat who signs your paycheck HAS A DESK IN YOUR NEWSROOM. Dude. What do the kids say?

Which is why the podcast would have been more aptly titled “Civil Beat shill too busy lapping at the Omidyar trough to give his own pub any licks.”

Monday, August 15, 2016

Musings: Wipe-Out

The Washington Post recently published a piece that claimed millennial voters — or at least, the 70 it interviewed — view the presidential race as a bad joke:

No matter who wins, they don’t think the next president will address their concerns or even have an impact on their lives. They have grim expectations for their government and have stopped looking to Washington for solutions. Why? Because they see it as too gridlocked — and its leaders too corrupted.

Uh, I got news for ya. That sentiment is not restricted to the under-30 set. Plenty of baby boomers feel the same way. Shoots, that same sense of alienation helped launched the “tune-in, turn-on, drop-out” mantra of the '60s.

But where boomers were into “do your own thing,” millennnials seem bent on ostracizing and shaming anyone with a different point of view:

This generation’s support for Sanders grew so intense that Allison McCartney recalled having to hide her Clinton favoritism.

People who liked Clinton or thought she had anything worthy to say kind of had to hide in a digital hole for a while to let it blow over. Any time you posted anything vaguely pro-Clinton, it was like immediate swamping — ‘You’re a horrible person,’ ‘She’s a criminal.’ ”

And they wonder at the political extremism, the demise of tolerance, as if they themselves, with their self-absorption, superficiality, super-sized sense of entitlement and lack of critical thinking, played no part in the Sanders' charade, or where the world now stands.

Turning our attention to the local elections, what do the returns tell us about Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser and the food/farm “revolution” rhapsodized by his nonprofit HAPA?
Well, turns out they didn't catch the wave of change so much as a snapping shorebreak that hammered their candidates head first into the sand — with no lifeguard in sight. 

Yes, every candidate trained by or affiliated with HAPA went down in defeat:

In the Senate 13th, Karl Rhoads beat HAPA’s Kim Coco Iwamoto 42-30. In the House 3rd, Ag Committee chair Clift Tsuji beat Kuleana’s Jonathan Wong 73-18. In the House 12th, Kyle Yamashita beat Kuleana’s Tiare Lawrence 51-44. In the House 13th, Lynn DeCoite beat Kuleana’s Alex Haller 56-36. In the House 14th, Nadine Nakamura defeated Kuleana’s Fern Rosenstiel 59-33. In the House 28th, John Mizuno beat HAPA’s Ikaika Hussey 68-27. In the House 48th, Ken Ito beat Kuleana’s Patrick Shea 68-25.

As for Hooser himself, he's clearly toxic. Perhaps even the most despised sitting politician in recent memory on Kauai.

Heck, he garnered less than half the votes of the top-runner for Council, and his support is pretty much concentrated in the predominantly white newcomer communities of Hanalei and Kilauea. When it comes to Hooser, the issue of race simply can't be ignored.

Hooser is obviously abhorred in central Kauai, where he ran 11th — behind political newcomers Norma Doctor Sparks and Juno Apalla — in Lihue, Puhi and Hanamaulu. Folks don't like him much in Hanapepe and Kekaha either, where he scored in the bottom three, or Waimea, where he was ninth.

Which leads to the question: Why in the world should Hooser be meddling in westside agriculture when the folks who live there clearly do not like or share his views?

Hooser was in the top seven, but barely, in his home precinct of Kapaa Middle School. They used to like him okay there. But not so much any more.

And apparently, people throughout the state hold a similar disdain for the revolution that Che Hooser is peddling.

So where does that leave us, now that voters are expressing their disgust for Hooser, and the three-year debacle he ushered in with Bill 2491? I liked the words of one anonymous commenter:

Let us not forget that while the strategy of dividing and pitting the community against itself to push an agenda seems to be foundering, it has nonetheless succeeded in dividing us. As good as it may feel to triumph, keep in mind that our success in wresting the focus of debate away from outside interest group agendas only leaves us at back at the starting line as far as addressing the real problems we face--drugs, affordable housing, waste management, infrastructure maintenance, economic opportunity and prosperity for the most vulnerable despite the crushing burden of our cost of living to name a few.

While I understand the sentiment, we cannot rightly ask a part of our community to "leave local politics" and "shut up". In returning to addressing our real issues, let us not now adopt the divisive, bullying tactics used to push 2491. Let us instead learn from that experience to strengthen our community against future divisive campaigns of that sort and find healthier ways to address our differences. There is no other way to succeed, and we owe it to both those who came before us and the future generations who will follow us.

Farmer Les Drent articulated a similar perspective on my Facebook post:

I'm hoping that they can now start to focus on matters of real importance to Kauai. Over development and abuse of Ag land, trashing of neighborhoods and communities by TVR's, education, traffic, drugs... I wish they would actually consider a serious capital gains tax to deter real estate speculation so that some of our extraordinary and well educated youth can return to Kauai and make a living. There is a horrible void of intellect with that generation on Kauai. Nobody can afford to live here but the wealthy and those limping by and on the edge of welfare.

Yes, there's much hard work to be done, and far more serious issues than the already highly regulated practices of the most successful agricultural enterprise in the Islands.

With Hooser, and his self-serving distraction on the way out, and a few new faces on the Council, Kauai is well-positioned to catch a wave, and tube it all the way to shore.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Musings: Anti-GMO candidates stumble in Hawaii

Anti-GMO candidates took a tumble in many Hawaii races, while others face a tough fight in the general.

On Kauai, Councilman Gary Hooser lagged at ninth place in a race that will elect seven members to that panel. He ended the primary with just 5,035 votes — a significant drop from his 2014 general election showing of 8,257 votes.
2016 Primary results
Despite spending more money than any other Kauai Council candidate, Hooser won less than half the votes collected by top vote-getter Derek Kawakami, who returns triumphantly to the Council after serving in the state House.

Hooser, who spent much of his war chest on the primary, faces a grueling bid to retain his seat. He's trailing sixth-place newcomer Arthur Brun by 1,035 votes and seventh place candidate Mason Chock by nearly 600 votes. JoAnn Yukimura took eighth, raising doubts as to her future on the Council, as well.

Hooser scored well in the Hanalei and Kilauea precincts. But he began to lose ground in his home region of Kapaa and totally tanked on the westside, where the seed fields are located.

Democrat Nadine Nakamura is poised to assume Kawakami's 14th District House seat after trouncing challenger Fern Rosenstiel. Despite support from the Center for Food Safety PAC, Rosenstiel took just 32.6 percent of the vote.

Rosenstiel was one of four candidates directly associated with Hooser's HAPA — and all of them failed. Rosenstiel attended HAPA's Kuleana Academy, a candidate training program, as did Tiare Lawrence, who narrowly lost her run for a Maui House seat. 

Meanwhile HAPA Board members Ikaika Hussey and Kim Coco Iwamoto were soundly defeated in their respective bids for Oahu state House and Senate seats.

Oahu Rep. Ken Ito easily beat contender Patrick Shea, who was endorsed by the anti-GMO crowd. But Sen. Russell Ruderman, a staunch anti-GMO candidate, defeated Greggor Illagan, the Big Island Councilman seeking his seat.

On Maui, anti-GMO candidates Richard Abbett and Alex Haller failed to unseat Rep. Joe Souki and Rep. Lynn Decoite, respectively. But Rep. Kaniela Ing easily fended off challenger Deidre Tegarden, even though Ing lied about the events that led to his recent arrest on various vehicle-related charges.

In the Maui Council races, where the top two vote-getters go on to the general, Dain Kane will square off against Alika Atay, Don Couch will face Kelly King, Mike White will go against Trinette Furtado and Yuki Sugimura will take on Napua Nakasone. Atay, King, Furtado and Nakasone, all of whom came in second, were endorsed by the anti-GMO crowd.

On the Big Island, Councilwoman Margaret Wille, who introduced the anti-GMO legislation there, is fighting to keep her seat. Challenger Tim Richards edged ahead of her by 78 votes. Jen Ruggles and Danny Paleka are in another tight race. Ruggles ended the night 302 votes ahead of Paleka, the incumbent. 

I wonder if voters know Jen lied about her role as a carpetbagging paid political operative in Kauai's Bill 2491 fight. Or maybe, as with Ing, a lying isn't a deal-breaker for some folks.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Hilario Murder Conviction Upheld

The Hawaii Supreme Court today upheld the 2013 conviction of Vicente Hilario, who gunned down crime witness Aureo Moore at Anahola Beach Park.

The high court ruled there was no lower court error in the trial, which found Hilario guilty of killing Moore to prevent him from testifying against one of Hilario's friends, who had robbed Moore of drugs at gunpoint in the Safeway parking lot.

Prosecutor Justin Kollar did the oral arguments in front of the Surpreme Court.

Hilario was sentenced to life without parole. He has remained incarcerated pending his appeal, serving a 10-year sentence on a separate weapons charge.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Musings: Bit of a Buzz

Maui state district health officer Lorrin Pang used his position and state email account to assist anti-GMO activists and organizations, according to emails released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The request — made by Stephan Neidenbach, author of the "We Love GMOs and Vaccines" Facebook page — sought copies of all emails exchanged between Pang and 16 individuals and groups highly visible in the anti-GMO movement over the past four years.

In response, the state Department of Health released records showing Pang had used his state email account to advance the agenda of Center for Food Safety (CFS) and GM Watch over the past nine months.
Pang assisted CFS in presenting its scientifically challenged “Pesticides in Paradise” report to the Maui Medical Society, prompting CFS staffer Alexandria Coutu to write:

[T]hank you so much for thinking of us and spreading the word in the medical community.

Pang also solicited publication of an anti-GMO paper in a European publication in association with Claire Robinson, an editor for the rabid GM Watch and member of the GMO Free USA advisory board.

Though Pang has long been active in the anti-GMO movement, he has always claimed that he was acting as a private citizen, and not in his official state capacity, which would pose a serious conflict of interest.

In other Maui news, Council candidate and anti-GMO activist Trinette Furtado filed a financial disclosure statement in which she claims she is unemployed, with no income other than food stamps. She also lists student debts in the range of $25,000 to $49,999.

Trinette is one of those who celebrated news that HC&S was shutting down, even though the plantation had employed three generations of her family, allowing her to attend UH.

It's unclear how she lives without income, or why she's devoting herself to fulltime activism when she has no work, but substantial debt.

Meanwhile, Center for Food Safety is gearing up to fight the federal government's approved release of genetically engineered mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, pending a citizen vote this fall. The “self-limiting mosquitoes” are intended to help suppress the spread of mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and Zika because their offspring die before they can reach maturity.

As Reuters previously reported — and my own interviews with researchers confirmed — the genetically engineered mosquitoes have been effective in reducing populations of disease-spreading mosquitoes in Brazil. Officials reported a significant drop in dengue cases in areas where the mosquitoes were released.

In Panama, Brazil and Malaysia, where the company has already released the GE mosquitoes, people could not avoid breathing in and swallowing mosquitoes due to the vast number of mosquitoes released.

Not that the group was able to document that any harm did, or even could, result from ingesting GE mosquitoes — assuming such a thing even happened at all.

It's interesting, because CFS wants the government to look instead at introducing Wolbachia, a natural bacterium, into mosquitoes to prevent the viruses from growing inside the insect.

Yet CFS has vigorously opposed use of another natural bacterium — Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt — to create genetically engineered crops with insect resistance.

Typically, government agencies use insecticides — including truck-mounted and aerial spraying — to control adult mosquitoes and larvae. But CFS is also opposed to pesticide use, and authorities said spraying is a “lost cause” that has no impact on the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits dengue and zika.

“We cannot spray our way out of this," said Umair Shah, executive director of Harris County, Texas, Public Health and Environmental Services, at a national summit on Zika preparedness in April.

Just something for Hawaii to think about as the Zika cases mount, along with opposition to GMOs and pesticides, putting both farm workers and the valuable tourism industry at risk.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Musings: Scorched Aloha

Interesting, how the Hunting, Farming and Fishing Assn. — the guys who really do feed Hawaii — have a totally different list of candidate endorsements than Center for Food Safety and the other non-farmers who want to dictate how agriculture is done in the Islands.

As the primary election nears, candidates in tough races are feeling the strain — even snapping under pressure:
Not long ago, Hooser was observed on Kuhio Highway, standing alone in the rain at 6:30 a.m., holding a campaign sign and stabbing at the air with an angry expression on his face. The last mad candidate was Bob Cariffe, picking up trash along the road with a sign and a scowl. He never did make the top 12.

Just when you think journalism can't sink any lower at Civil Beat, it does, with “reader rep” Brett Oppegaard telling us that comments are a form of “citizen journalism.”

Now that's a scary thought, if some of the cuckoo comments that come through my in-basket are any indication.

What's more, according to Brett, journalism isn't just a profession. It's “an ideology, and a way of being in the world, and understanding the world.”

Is that the sort of rubbish he's teaching his students at University of Hawaii? But then, it seems at least some of them are wise to his silliness, given their comments — excuse me, their “journalism” — on ratemyprofessor.com:

Smart guy, but inept teacher. Lectures in monotone for long periods.

[A] lot of times goes on long, irrelevant tangents that no one really listens to.

Indeed. Or as a journalist friend observed:

Anyone who uses the affected “dear reader” in their copy deserves to be slapped. Hard. And then ignored.

Which is likely what Civil Beat editors plan to do when it comes to Brett's admonishment:

If any person wants to express themselves in any media form, they have the right to do that. But if they are going to participate in journalistic discourse, they have basic ethical obligations, and one of those obligations is to disclose all significant conflicts of interest.

That would require Civil Beat to disclose that Pierre Omidyar — its funder, founder and editorial board member — is funneling large sums of money through the Hawaii Community Foundation to groups whose spokespersons and agendas are prominently featured in its stories. To wit, Center for Food Safety, Surfrider, Blue Planet Foundation.

Yeah, it gets a little messy when you're a billionaire social engineer with a penchant for starting vanity presses and people like me call you out.

Which is why Brett did his hit piece on me the other day. A few weeks ago, he began interrogating me about an exchange I'd had with CB editor Patti Epler in the comment section last April. I suggested that if he were keen to claim it's a conflict for me — or apparently anyone — to leave a comment that has nothing to do with how I earn a living, he might want to also look into Pierre's inherent conflict. 

Especially since every time I mentioned it on CB, my comments magically disappeared.

As Brett persisted, I pushed back: Was he going to write about Pierre?

Not in this column ... commenting is a big enough topic for one column, but I am looking into this issue for future columns. …

I kind of figured you didn't want to touch it.  But how can you not when it was at the core of my exchange with Patti?

It's not that I don't want to touch it; it's a complicated subtopic (within the topic I'm addressing) that is beyond the scope of what I want to deal with in this particular column (which therefore would muddy the theme of the piece), about commenting systems and disclosures of commenters. There's always another column, for something like that.

It wouldn't be complicated or muddy in the hands of a more masterful writer. Shoots, I even laid it out for him. But apparently, the will was lacking.

Anyway, I'll be waiting for Brett to publish that column on Omidyar — the day hell freezes over.

Cuz let's face it. The guy ain't got no cojones.

As for me, I tend to agree with Bronson Kaahui:

ALL journalists should be biased towards the truth, not “objectively” reporting BS with facts to get a more “balanced” picture.

On a related topic, yesterday I was telling a group of communicators in the agricultural field about how the anti-GMO movement had polarized Kauai, divided people into “reds” and “blues” based upon the color of their shirts. 

They were appalled, aghast, having no clue at how this movement has scorched aloha the way a blaze blackens the weeds in an abandoned sugar field.

It's a fire that Civil Beat has fanned and fed, both overtly on its pages, and covertly through the philanthropy that has ingratiated Omidyar into the community. That's why I've gone after both of them. And that's why Brett, like a good little toady, delivered their payback — at the expense of his own credibility.

Sadly, with the Star-Advertiser bleeding from a thousand cuts, the Islands may soon be left with only Brett, Civil Beat, Facebook and “citizen journalism” to inform its citizenry.


And thus began the reign of ignorance.